Hold on – #100meters

Hold on -#100meters #100meters documents a one hundred meter stretch of road and the life that unfolds within that space. My one hundred meter location is on Lazimpat Road, Kathmandu. #100 meters is part of a wider project documenting human life in developing countries.

Hold on -#100meters
#100meters documents a one hundred meter stretch of road and the life that unfolds within that space.
My one hundred meter location is on Lazimpat Road, Kathmandu. #100 meters is part of a wider project documenting human life in developing countries.

The Road Wideners

The road widening of Lazimpat Road, a pivot commuting route of about 10 kilometers,   so far has taken 18 months and the project is no where near completed. Locals deal daily with mud,power and telephone wires fallen over the street and sidewalk, huge holes into the sewerage system. Locals and expats have fallen into the sewers and open manholes during various stages of the road upgrade. One expat fell in after new year's celebrations and was up to her neck in shit going the the stories circulating about the incident. A local woman is known to have fallen down an electrics access hole while walking her son home from school. Allegedly her leg snapped as her momentum into the shallow hole carried her forward. The road widening and improvements will be of significant benefit once completed but shop owners and others spoken to along the road express a resigned frustration. "It is very bad for business, but this is how it is for now." Sidewalks are now being laid which is improving things significantly for walkers and businesses.

The road widening of Lazimpat Road, a pivotal commuting route of about 10 kilometers in Kathmandu, so far has taken 18 months and the project is nowhere near completed.
Locals deal daily with mud,power and telephone wires fallen over the street and sidewalk, huge holes into the sewerage system. Locals and expats have fallen into the sewers and open manholes during various stages of the road upgrade.
One expat fell in after new year’s celebrations and was up to her neck in shit going the stories circulating about the incident. A local woman is known to have fallen down an electrics access hole while walking her son home from school. Allegedly her leg snapped as her momentum into the shallow hole carried her forward.
The road widening and improvements will be of significant benefit once completed but shop owners and others spoken to along the road express a resigned frustration.
“It is very bad for business, but this is how it is for now.”
Sidewalks are now being laid  in sections, which is improving things significantly for walkers and businesses.

There are things I should not read

As a woman there are reports and articles I should just stop reading. The majority of main stream media with its casual gendered slant would be a good start.

Since the beginning of this year, New Matilda, an independent Australian online media outlet, has been researching various aspects of gender representation in Australia’s MSM with their Women in Media study.

The results have been  from the obvious to the  depressing.Coinciding with the “normal” dismissive arguments or the twisting of findings, if the outcomes do not fit the convenient operating models of the industry and wider society and culture around women. Essentially though women are more represented across the medium they are still under represented in bylines, as sources, as primary content and in the upper echelons of the industry. And as the media is the filter through which society views itself this has a knock on effect to how women are perceived and valued.

What is particularly depressing about the whole thing is the attacks work like this comes under. It is unfortunately normal when women or anyone dares to speak out to the on-going and systematic imbalance women face in daily life and how they are represented. Fairfax’s Clementine Ford aptly summed up the situation in her Daily Life piece ” It’s considered a weakness to be a woman in Australia”

The battle for liberation is apparently the last refuge for women unable to participate in an economy that places their sexual availability at a premium. Having someone want to fu*k you is evidently more of an aspiration than wanting them to see you as an equal human being in your own right, with opinions and thoughts worthy of consideration and an autonomy that is yours and yours alone.

But this merely symptomatic of a larger war against women in the developed world. Rights over women’s bodies and what happens within them are being systematically eroded.  Our bodies our health and how we want to live our lives is surely our own decision? But if  legislation such as what passed in Texas today becomes more normalised ,the legislation basically shuts down legal abortion clinics within the state and severely restricts access to abortion no matter what the circumstances, we women are in trouble.

We may have a perceived sexual freedom but it is not true freedom, we do not have equal representation, equal pay (Pay gaps between men in women are Australia are actually increasing and sits between 17 and 25 percent depending on where you live), equal support systems and we are always negotiating our lives through the male objectified gaze or how we are in relation to men’s wants, desires and power structures.

You are “equal” as a woman if you are slim, sexualised, live within the construct of what a woman should be rather than is, are  prepared to earn less , let others make the decisions about your body and what you are allowed to do with it, and learn to live with the subtle pervasive sexism inherent in daily life as a woman.

The Everyday Sexism Project  has powerfully documented what the female sex  live with through collecting the story of everyday incidents women experience around gender.

Obviously this is a very nuanced and complex issue and the above are general indicators of a growing trend of increasing issues for women legally and otherwise. Progress was made but now with terms like feminist becoming increasingly disparaged or distanced from,where are we heading?

Is there anyway to have a rational discussion about the inequities of this without being gaslighted or being told to get over it? How do we address and change our gendered interactions without further harm?

Or is it time to give up, put on the blinkers, shut the ears, climb into the imposed box, and stop reading the news and live life knowing these are the limitations. Living these imposed limitations not from a place of victim-hood but  of acceptance. This is how it is, it is getting worse in many subtle aspects…. or is it we are just starting to talk about how fed up we are with pseudo equality, an equality that does not exist in real life?

Dancing with gender anger II – the audacity of women who dare to speak up to gender inequity

A few months ago I wrote a piece here about my growing frustration at rape terminology  being used as part of the American election campaign. The piece also touched on the general slippage occurring around gender issues. Or perhaps in a more nuanced explanation, how there seems to be a reluctance to engage with the gender issues that still remain in our society and culture.

This reluctance ranges from dismissal or that old classic in gender debates; a twisting of everything to make those speaking out about discrimination etc dance to prove the negative. And when you do, this is dismissed or an excuse is found not to engage with the evidence presented.  When these people are challenged to prove gender equality, equal representation, the twisting becomes more profound and in many occasions the debate then becomes personal.

A few days ago I posted Clementine Ford’s  International Women’s Day article Are Women’s Voices being Gagged to a New Zealand journalism Facebook forum Kiwi Journalist’s Association (KJA).

Essentially Ford argues the following;

 “If the media is a portal through which we see the world, how does the conspicuous  absence of women and their voices skew how people experience the world around them? Across the board, the facts show that women are significantly absent from that mirror the media reflects back onto society. Women operating in the public space are constantly reminded that their presence is a privilege, not a right – and that privilege can be taken away any time they break the rules.”

My reason for posting an Australian Fairfax created article in an NZ journalism forum was two-fold. One, the NZ media does not work in blessed isolation despite some of the protestations of those who objected to the article ( Fairfax owns a large percentage of the NZ media market), it’s posting and my defense of it. Secondly, the content of Ford’s piece is indicative of some of my experiences working in NZ media until I left the country in 2010 and I strongly believe illustrates the boy’s club type structure the media generally speaking operates from.

To clarify, my posting of the article wasn’t denying progress around gender issues but it was a statement that there are still considerable issues around gender  that the media industry in NZ has an obligation to address.

In some ways a majority of the reaction to my posting of the story is indicative of what I feel is the boy’s club mentality in action. That I should be grateful for what I have and to raise my head above the parapet and question the status quo isn’t the done thing. I am aware of the ramifications of speaking out and continuing to do so. There is an implicit risk to  speaking on gender issues; I will be labelled as difficult and I feel there are possible career implications.

In the discussion I was constantly asked to prove the inequality, which I along with a few other brave women journalists did. These studies were predominantly international and therefore were declared invalid by those protesting against Ford and our support of her argument. When NZ studies were produced these were also largely dismissed and then the statistics of the Massey University study were used as a justification for why there would not be parity and gender equally in NZ media for about 30 years ” because of the statistics.” When I asked, repeatedly for evidence of the gender equity and pay parity in NZ media none was offered and, in what I feel was a rather patronising tone, I was told I didn’t understand the argument.

I would like to post the thread in its entirety here but the KJA Facebook group is closed and by invitation only. Out of respect for my colleagues and the group  I will not post screeshots nor I will identify those who were particularly unhappy with my call for proof of equity in the NZ media industry. That said the administrators ironically proved Ford’s argument by closing the thread and “gagged” the female voices speaking out with evidence and experiential knowledge of how the NZ media can work for women.

I admit I hold KJA in far lesser regard due to the exchanges that took place in the forum and their lack of framework around gender issues that daily effect a large number of their membership. It also, from my perspective, speaks to the state of the industry that very few women spoke out about their concerns in an open forum and some male journalists felt free to behave in an unprofessional and sometimes bullying manner.

A number of women did contact me privately  and thanked me for speaking up and for confirming that they weren’t “going insane”. To those women, thank you for your support, it was an unpleasant run in which ultimately proved Ford right – I am appreciative of that. The article is not as one person stated “facts obscured by emotive, partisan twaddle.”

Here are some further links speaking to the  issues and general position of women in media. Please note all of these links were used  in the KJA discussion thread.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/media/for-women-newsroom-remains-a-battleground/story-e6frg996-1226563067616

http://www.knightfoundation.org/grants/20120284/

http://changetheratio.tumblr.com/

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1112/S00093/women-journalists-flee-newspaper-careers.htm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2012/oct/15/shocking-dearth-of-women-in-journalism

http://journalistcomplaints.com/article/2012/07/meaa-needs-act-gender-bias-newsrooms

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/media/how-women-journos-stake-place/story-e6frg996-1225713076068

http://mro.massey.ac.nz/handle/10179/2780

Living on the moon – Melbourne vs Kathmandu.

Arriving in Australia to live ( abet temporarily) in one of the country’s most affluent suburbs after four months in Nepal is like moving to the moon.

In Toorak, one of the most wealthy suburbs of Melbourne ,Australian Tax Office figures (2010) indicate the average annual income hovers around $132252. In Nepal the average income, according to World Vision, sits around $200.  Rather astounding that on average one Toorak resident earns the same as 661 Nepali’s. This coincides with a huge disparity in population density. In Kathmandu 13,225 people live per square kilometer, urban Melbourne is light weight in comparison  with 2010 Australian Bureau of Statistics figures placing population density  at 530.

But this is nothing if you look at quality of life, various pollution indicators, working conditions, access to medical care and education. The comparisons are actually pointless. Toorak is alien to the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and the political miasma that engulfs Nepal’s capital, that said Ted and his resignation shenanigans last night is a step in the right direction.

It can be challenging coming back into the developed world and seeing all the blatant abundance and people having far more than they actually need. Do you really need a car in Melbourne that can take on all terrains in siege conditions? If your children are at Geelong Grammar’s Toorak campus apparently you do. School pick up time is projectile money flung on asphalt.Is that much car necessary beyond the point you are shouting your wealth at everyone else on the road? Not only is that excessive in comparison to Nepal but also to the majority of Australian’s. Particularly in Victoria as the state officially entered recession this week.

But I am being judgmental.

There is something very nice staying in a  safe leafy suburb cushioned in comfort. I understand why people aspire to live like this. And I am very appreciative to the friend who has facilitated this time of luxury. It is a time out from the raw honesty of daily life in Nepal though vaguely surreal. A time to charge the batteries, no load shedding here.

But I say this knowing I will be back working and living in the Global South in two months. For me Toorak is the moon or Disneyland.This is not real life, is it?

Bovine freedom

A three legged cow negotiates an early morning intersection in Pokhara

A three legged cow negotiates an early morning intersection in Pokhara

Bovine in Nepal will stand in the middle of busy intersections, in peak traffic, expressing their religious given power. I have witnessed peacefully sleeping herds as frenetic local buses and micros, filled to the hilt and beyond with humanity, navigate around their resting.They know space is made for them here, despite their cardboard and plastic eating ways. Cows and their ilk are the street cleaners of dis-guarded food and the plethora of street debris that accumulate after the early morning daily sweeps made by the ladies of the broom.

The ladies of the broom are a sight in themselves, if you awaken early enough. Groups of four or five women shrouded in yak wool scarves, armed with a short natural fiber broom, hunch over and systematically clear the dust and rubbish. They work in a practiced rhythm leaving a temporary order in their wake. An order that is quickly disturbed as the city awakens and the waste of this developing nation occupies the street once more.

I do not know how much these women earn for their daily labours but it cannot be much more than around 60 rupees per day. Labourers on building sites earn around this amount, for what I perceive to be back breaking work, carting building supplies in cane baskets, the weight held by the head. Life can be hard here but these people have a wage which many in villages do not. Especially if it has been a bad year and the monsoon rain came late or early leaving small yields or none at all in it’s wake.

Subsistence life is tenuous at best and even worse if you are one of  landless in Nepal flocking to Kathmandu to inhabit the banks of the Bagmati River. Life then is not tenuous, it is a dance from moment to moment. In some ways more space and respect is given to the holy beasts of the road then the landless here. For cows do not have to negotiate with the politics of caste, nor cope with the ever present threat of being moved on if land is ear marked for development or they are unwanted in an area. There is always space for holy animals, for people sometimes there is not.

I may be wrong about this, and please correct me if this is the case. I want to be wrong. These are the observations of an outsider and perhaps this correlation is incorrect and unfair.

That said I have read of Bandhas ( strikes) to protest the moving, by the Government, of landless communities in Kathmandu into a new area. I am yet to hear of a bovine bandha protesting the cows impeding traffic and smooth passage through the city or any area of this beguiling country.

Cows are holy, the landless are not.