In which I consider a career in hip hop. For realz.

Last time we met I mentioned that I go to the gym. This is true. I am one of these annoying people who is actually addicted to exercise, specifically I just love pumping iron. True fact. I love answering questions from the audience at writers’ festivals, but what I’m really waiting for is someone to challenge me to an arm wrestle.

The key to a good weights session (stay with me, the light’s coming, I swear.) Is music. As I previously wrote, I attend a gym largely patronised by blokes, many of them (so-called) professional athletes. This can be a touch intimidating. The weights room is completely male dominated. A lass can feel like she’s trespassing on some primitive male ritual. I stick out amongst all the bronzed, oiled (eww) biceps. I am a gangly, fluro-white girl in glasses. But like I said, I like doing weights and Fernwood is about twice as expensive as a mixed gym so I have developed an effective method for keeping my cool (I use this term only as strongly as can be applied to someone who works out in an old maternity bra and tattered ‘Overland literary journal’ t-shirt.) What’s my secret? Hip hop, peeps. Rap. That cray cray ghetto thayng. Mos def.

Yes, in order to feel on par with the super-tough titanium lifters (Do they lift titanium? Is it even heavy? Let’s leave that little illustration alone.) I recruit the help of the Beastie Boys, sometimes De la Soul, and more often than not, a heap of Gwen Stefani. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

I don’t feel intimidated if I have Mike D rapping in my ear. It makes me feel like I have a little posse following me around telling these annoying 20 year old posers to get off my leg press, man. Never mind that the remaining beasties are now in their late forties.

The problem is, I have run out of music. I have listened to Hollaback Girl 68 times in the last month and I now know every word of every Beastie Boys song that’s got a fast enough beat to elevate the heart rate. Massive Attack? I know every thought that ever entered Tricky’s mind. Same for Jurassic Five. I am in that weird place where I am out of the loop and don’t know what to listen to. This is a problem exacerbated by the fact that I refuse to listen to anything misogynistic. That rules out about 70% of hip hop. Also, I have kids, so there can’t be too many expletives. Or if there are, they have to be easily masked as something else. For example, you can sing along to Hollaback Girl if you pretend Gwen is really passionate about her ‘ships’: ‘OooOoo that’s my ship, that’s my ship.’

So, I hear you say, why not try something else, there’s a lot of hip hop out there. Modern stuff: Jay Z? Kanye? That Snoopy Dog fellow?

Yeah. But the problem is, it all sounds very plastic, slick, sharp. I was a teen in the 90s. I cut my teeth on a grungy, fuzzy, rough-around-the-edges sound that comes from people making music it their parents’ garage. Without Pro Tools. I made the jump from guitar driven grunge to hip hop via the Beastie Boys’ Sabotage, which owes more to Nirvana than it does N.W.A. That song was my bridge. I was able to ease myself in. I don’t want no computer generated, auto-tuned, slick sound. Also it seems that most people in the hip hop business today have lost their sense of humour. It’s all very earnest, either about popping caps or using hoes. It all sounds rather fake to me. The only caps I pop are Panadol and I use a hoe in the garden from time to time, but generally I just can’t relate.

I’m going to sound old now, but I remember De La Soul rapping about poor hygiene and the beasties mentioning their grandmas. Gwen Stefani had her tongue firmly in cheek on a permanent basis, as did Charlie Tuna. I miss those days. Now everyone seems super keen to prove how tough and mean they are and how much cash they’ve got.

What about Aussie hip hop? You may ask. The Pez Dispenser chappie? 360? Look, I’m going to be brutally honest, and I realise this is some cultural cringe thing I need to overcome, but I can’t stand rap with an Australian accent. I have an Irish friend who says I need to get over this. Easy for him to say, he’s Irish.

Recently I came across Iggy Azalea. She’s Australian, but you wouldn’t know it from her accent. She raps like Kelis or Nicki Minaj. She is clearly inhabiting an imaginary persona, but I don’t see the problem, musicians have been doing that for years. No one blames David Bowie for being fake because he never lived on a space station. Aside from the Minaj-esque accent, ‘Fancy’ sounds like it could be Gwen Stefani, so that’s a win. It’s also got a sense of humour about it. ‘I’m so fancy’ is a funny line, if for no other reason than it uses the word ‘fancy’. Iggy claims to be in the ‘murdder business’, but we know she’s making it up because she makes no secret of the fact she’s from Mullumbimby.

In fact, I like that song so much I bought the album. Trouble is, the rest of the tracks maintain the whole, ‘I was poor, now I’m a rich and l might shoot you’ narrative, funny for one song but tiresome over a twelve track album. Yes, yes, Iggy, you started out on your own with no friends and now you’re a success everyone wants to come around and drink your champagne. That aspect may be true, but it’s not entertaining. There’s nothing lyrically clever about it. While we’re talking white rappers, I have a lot of respect for Eminem. He’s a clever guy. But I can’t buy an album which glorifies beating up a woman and stuffing her in your car boot. No matter how linguistically sophisticated it is.

(It made me consider making my own hip hop. I would rap about books, a really nice skirt that I bought from Cue a few weeks ago and how much I love Spike Jonze movies. Maybe also horses and how expensive they are to maintain. But I’ve kind of committed to the whole writing thing for the moment and besides, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t make a very convincing rapper.)

rapperIt seems that the only stuff around that doesn’t feature expletives does feature a fellow called Pit Bull, who is so manufactured he makes me want to shout expletives, which kind of defeats the purpose of listening to clean stuff in the first place. I have a big problem with music that’s marketed as family friendly and clean, but features a guy in a suit surrounded by gyrating semi-naked women. Call me picky.

On the upside, The Roots have released a new album, ‘And Then You Shoot Your Cousin’ which harks back to Faithless and other trip hoppy stuff like DJ Shadow, it even has a flavour of Portishead to it. It is largely a response to the shallow, braggy, materialistic hip hop which is so prevalent. If you want to read more about the comment it makes on hip hop and black America today, The Roots’ drummer, Questlove (he of the fantastic hair) wrote this piece for Vulture. It’s pretty freaking great. As for me I know it’s risky to cast any judgment over contemporary hip hop, both Lorde and Lily Allen have been accused of racism because of comments their music makes about mainstream hip hop culture. But that issue is another blog altogether.

 

Oh the places you’ll go: on clothes and shoes and eating my words

A few weeks ago I made the declaration that ‘You can’t be a feminist and buy fashion magazines’. This is the bit where I backpedal.

My grandmother was a dressmaker. To be more specific she made couture gowns for high society in the 60s and 70s. She also made a lot of wedding gowns and taught pattern making at East Sydney Technical College. I have a memory of standing next to her in a department store, probably David Jones, while she made sketches of designer gowns so she could copy them later.Image

I inherited her love of a well cut frock and was a little obsessed with clothes as a child. This was back before you could buy voluminous tulle skirts in any kids clothing store, she made made them for me herself. I would do drawings of dresses that I dreamed up and she would make them for me. My strongest memory is of standing on her coffee table while she took pins from between her lips and pinned the hem of the calico toile she had made for my First Holy Communion dress. She later made the final dress from taffeta and lace that we chose together from a fabric store in Cabramatta. I wanted a strapless sweetheart neckline with a fitted bodice and full, billowing princess skirt. I got my wish, with the compromise of a long-sleeve lace overlay which was deemed more suitable for ones first communion with the Eucharist.

Later, when I was fifteen, I bought my first fashion magazine: a September issue of Harpers Bazaar with Christy Turlington on the cover. I sat at the dining room with Grandma and we poured over the pages together while she used the nebuliser which was keeping her alive. (She called fashion magazines Wish Books.) We discussed the dress that she would make for my year ten formal, folding the corners of pages for later reference, we would take this hemline, that neckline, this waist. She passed away soon after and I went to the formal in a store-bought dress: fitted bodice, flared skirt, black lace overlay.

I suppose what I am saying is what so, so many women have said before: some items of clothing are much more than items of clothing. I was taught to look at clothes the way an architect looks at a buildings. Some clothes are invested with meaning and carry the ethereal power of possibility. Yesterday I went to the sales with my dear, London-dwelling bestie. We tried on designer labels and I got that giddy light-headedness that one gets when one stands before an iconic painting or meets a super-duper movie star. For a few moments, in the changing room, I wore McQueen. It has never happened before and probably won’t happen again. My bestie bought McQueen and DKNY at ludicrously low prices. I bought a pair of outrageous canary yellow heels by Sass and Bide. They’re not really the sort of thing that will fit into my day to day existence. I won’t wear them to do the groceries. But that is clearly not the point. I may not spend much time strolling by the Eiffel Tower in incredible shoes, but I now have some ready to go should the occasion arise.

Lest to say, trying on clothes like that is not something I do often. Magazines remain my only regular portal into the Fashion Dreamland which I will only ever fleetingly inhabit, even then with a security tag attached. So for now I shall dismount from my high horse (his name is Fred, he’s a bolter). I shall try and remain self aware and on guard to the risks associated with repeated viewing of images of very thin people. And in a little while I will probably backpedal again.

What you looking at? On being a dickhead.

Well hello, dear readers. It’s been a while. I was going to spend this blog reminiscing about my top five books of 2013, but instead I am feeling quite cranky about the world and I know that I do my best writing whilst I have a bee in my bonnet*, so here goes.

Hey Australian young men, why have you turned into a bunch of aggressive dickheads? Seriously, what’s your beef, exactly? You used to have the reputation of being friendly, ‘laid back’ and slightly inebriated if there’s a cricket match on. Now you’re known primarily for your tendency to punch other people in the head for no particular reason.

On New Years Eve an eighteen year old guy was punched in the head for committing the offence of WALKING DOWN THE STREET. He’s now in a coma. This comes after this other guy was punched in the head for the even more heinous act of walking down the street whilst wearing a pink shirt. And of course after the tragic death of Thomas Kelly in 2012. It really makes one wonder what is going on with the psyche of young Australian males. Why is it that their sense of self-worth is so utterly fragile that they feel the need to randomly punch other guys in the head?

And it’s not that these punchy guys are picking fights. It not a case of ‘Do you bite your thumb at me, Sir’ but without swords and Leo’s tropical shirt. We know that chaps have been punching on, as it were, since the dawn of time – and I’m not about to wax lyrical about the philosophical aspects of Fight Club. This is completely different, this is a premeditated, brutal attack akin to shooting someone in the back. Fist or bullet, there’s no difference. The family of the latest victim have urged the media to stop referring to this kind of attack as a ‘king hit’ and call it what it is, a ‘cowards punch’.

So what’s going on? The defining factor that emergency department doctors point out is alcohol. These people are pissed out of their brains (the youth, not the doctors). Yes, Australians have always liked a drink, but rather than drinking as a means to facilitate merriment, youngens are drinking specifically to get staggeringly drunk. Which seems odd to me in many ways. And sad. Are they so utterly starved for conversation points that there is nothing else to do? Is it perhaps because they don’t know what to do with themselves now that no one dances anymore?

One psychologist blames a generation of under-fathered men. These guys have no decent role models beyond NRL players and ‘(no) respect for authority, little exposure to tradition or ritual and few, if any, skills in anger management.’ Now there’s an interesting thought: little exposure to ritual. It used to be that in nearly every culture there was some sort of act which served to pronounce a boy had become a man. I saw a show called ‘Tribal Wives’ where one Ethiopian lad had to run over the backs of five cows to mark his transition to manhood. (Let’s not get all romantic about other cultural practices, though. The same ritual involved whipping the tribal women until they were covered in open welts and gashes.)

I’m not too sure what the ritual used to be in Western society. It could have been something as simple as a guy getting a slap on the back from his father whilst said father smoked a pipe and said, ‘Well, son, now you’re a man.’ (Let’s not get too romantic about the olden days though, because this sentence was probably followed by ‘Woman, where’s my dinner?’ or something.) Or maybe boys were simply more exposed to the tradition of walking down the street with their father or grandfather whilst observing the way in which said grandfather refrained from punching anyone in the head.

So it seems we have a bunch of broken, fatherless people who don’t know how to relate to each other or define themselves beyond a proverbial masochistic big-dick contest. We also have a society that is as individualistic as it has ever been. We have no sense of being a part of anything greater than ourselves. If life is all about self-gratification there’s no reason not to punch someone else in the head if you feel like it.

And of course, as a woman I can’t help but think of the fact that if this is the way some guys are behaving toward each other in public, one can only imagine what their partners cop behind closed doors.

*This is only half a metaphor, I do actually wear a bonnet whilst writing. Jane Austen etc. etc.

You can’t be a feminist and buy fashion magazines.

This week a study reported that seventy-five percent of men, when they see a woman, don’t look at her face, they look at her body.* I for one an neither surprised nor enraged. I fact, I think that sounds quite healthy and imperative to the human race’s survival. I do like to imagine, say, Prince Charles trying to keep his eyes above the shoulders of every of the two hundred women he might greet at an average afternoon tea.

Meanwhile this video has been floating around. And it’s made me wonder about the opposite. Not women looking at men (everyone knows we are a bunch of salacious perverts and there is no hope for us) but rather women looking at women. Heterosexual women looking at women. That is a study that would be worthwhile.

I went to the beach this afternoon. I could tell you about ten different women I saw and what their bodies were like in detail.

I don’t think that’s healthy.

Ask any parent of young girls and they will tell you that girls start worrying about and evaluating their bodies as young as five. FIVE. I don’t need to tell you about the problems with the representation of women in the media. But just for good measure I challenge you to name more than three women regularly seen on television who aren’t the ‘conventional’ image of attractiveness. (i.e. a size eight) Now try men, yes, think of all the men you see on television who aren’t totally bangin’. List them. It should take about half an hour.

(Later, go and read Lisa Wilkinson’s Andrew Olle lecture on women in the media. She was the second woman in fifteen years to be offered the gig! Girl Power!)

I can’t help but wonder how this kind of visual onslaught affects the very physiology of the female brain. But chances are you could do a study and find out it damages us beyond repair and nothing would change.

So what can be done?

I recently went on a three-week beach holiday. My great weakness on holiday is Vogue magazine. Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, InStyle, Vanity Fair, Elle, I freakin’ love them because I love clothes. There are people who say they can see the magisty of God in a sunset. I saw God in Prada’s Spring/Summer 13 collection. I’m not joking. Some people think that clothes are all about vanity and trying to look good. To me, appreciating a well cut garment is no different to appreciating great architecture. My favourite labels are Prada, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Dries Van Noten and Miu Miu, in case you are interested. Do I own any garments by these said designers? Are you kidding? I’m a WRITER. (i.e. poor by western standards.) The closest I am likely to come to a Prada dress is gazing at a picture in a magazine. (Unless The Sky So Heavy sells like, 500,000 copies. Hop to it people!)

I only read fashion magazines on holiday because I’m a bit like a social smoker: I know they are going to do bad things to me, but if I don’t get my occasional fix I’m going to lose the will to live. And surprise, surprise within two days of gazing at these freakish women who just look amazing in McQueen, I decided I would give up dairy. Who cares about osteoporosis? I want to be skinny. When I realised there was dairy in chocolate I decided instead I would fast two days a week because I’ve heard that’s, like, really good at, like, flushing your body of toxins. (AND YOU CAN LOSE 10 KILOS.)

Never mind the fact that eating tissues is a known strategy used by models to manage hunger and maintain weight. Yep, when you’re next sitting down to a chicken sandwich (on wholemeal!) spare a thought for the fifteen year-olds who have replaced food with disposable snot-management products. And yet we snigger at the Victorian convention of strapping women into corsets. Those poor women! Someone pass me a tissue.

Never mind the fact that my body is perfectly healthy the way it is. Never mind the fact that I can swim two kilometres of freestyle. After two days of Vogue, I don’t care if I don’t have the energy to walk, I want to be thin! Yeah!

Keep in mind, I am a fairly intelligent person. I have a sound sense of self-worth. I have a dreamy husband who loves me the way I am and tells me so regularly. But, I know that the moment I pick up Vogue is going to be the moment I start to obsess about the size of my thighs. You want to talk about achievement? I would feel a greater sense of achievement if I could fit in to a size ten pair of jeans than I do about the fact I HAD A BLOODY NOVEL PUBLISHED.

Magazines are a fraction of a problem that infests every form of media. It stretches from the kinds of women who read the news to the kind that appear in music videos. If two days of Vogue reading can have such an effect on me, imagine the effect the kind of images our media is saturated with has on the mind of a thirteen year-old. She doesn’t stand a freakin’ chance. And if I starve myself and teach my sons that a woman’s worth is equal to her hip width, I am just as bad as the fashion editor who puts a forty-five kilo model on the cover. And she would have been airbrushed with Photoshop to get rid of that lump in her tummy area, WHICH SHE USES TO STORE THE TISSUES SHE EATS FOR SUSTENANCE.

If Marilyn Monroe were around today she would not get a single published anywhere except Who magazine, where they would have an arrow pointing to her stomach, asking ‘Baby bump?!’

Seriously what the FUCK, people?

So what’s it going to take, I wonder? This blog is just another voice in the chorus. It’s nothing you haven’t read before. So what can we DO?

As far as magazines go, bans on catwalk models under fifteen aren’t going to make a difference. Committees of fashion editors sitting around talking about the seriousness of the issue aren’t going to make a difference.

The power lays squarely with the consumer. Imagine what would happen in the fashion industry alone, if every woman in the country said enough is enough and stopped buying not only fashion magazines containing doctored images, but tabloid magazines that publish pics of post-baby bodies and highlight patches of cellulite with arrows.

Because I don’t think it’s an ethical issue any different to buying fair trade coffee or chocolate, or refusing to buy garments made in sweatshops.

This issue is no different to any other major feminist battle throughout history.

You can’t be feminist and buy magazines which fuel an industry that serves to make women feel inadequate, that peddles a body ideal constructed from digitally enhanced images that are no way realistic or obtainable. There, I’ve said it. I understand the love of Vogue and the like. I REALLY, REALLY do. But can you imagine if architects decided that buildings looked better with impossibly narrow doorways, so that the only way an average person could enter would be to have bits of their body surgically removed?

Something has got to give.

*Your going to ask where those results were published, aren’t you? I don’t know, I saw it on The Project. So lets just say the results are available for viewing on The Internet.

On Safety

I’m pretty tall. I’m also fairly physically fit and I like to think that if chased I would have a chance of outrunning any potential attackers. I could maybe stand a chance of fighting someone off. Maybe with enough eye-gouging and groin-kicking. Maybe.

I don’t really walk anywhere at night, anymore. I have small kids and hey, I live in Wollongong, not really known for its night life. The last time I walked through city streets after dark was in Paris a few months ago. I was with two female friends and we would go out to a bar or restaurant in the evenings and walk back to our apartment afterward, like people without children do. (What larks!) Maybe it was because we were staying in the gay-district (I have a sort of reverse homophobia where I assume that all gay men are lovely, friendly folk with excellent hair.) but I felt totally safe, even in heels and a pencil skirt which really only allowed for movement below the knees.

A few years ago I lived in inner Sydney and like so many other women, would often walk home alone from the train station at night. The possibility that I could be attacked by a lurking stranger would flit about my mind, but I would tell myself I was physically strong enough to fight someone off. Plus my bestie who lived in Redfern showed me this great way of carrying ones keys so they poked out between ones fingers when held in a fist. I would walk quickly and hold myself with what I imagined to be confident posture.

As if that would make a difference.

Last night, at the same time I was making dinner for my kids, another thirty year old woman was standing on a bus stop in Hunters Hill. Hunters Hill is gentrified suburb on Sydney’s lower North Shore. Probably the safest place you could imagine standing on a bus stop at six in the evening. Cate Blanchett lives there, for effs sake. Yet this woman was attacked: bashed and stabbed while her attacker tried to take off her clothes and rape her. This happened on the same day Adrian Bayley was sentenced for the rape and murder of Jill Meagher. She was attacked walking home at night. I don’t know if she carried herself in a confident manner. She probably did.

As far as last night’s attack goes, there is the small consolation that neighbours and passers-by came to help the victim. One guy in particular was driving past at the time and pulled over to help. He may well have saved the woman’s life.

I do know that tonight, after darkness has fallen, many thousands of women will make their way home from work or study. They will catch trains and buses. They will walk quickly through dark streets.

I don’t know if many will do it with confidence. And I hate that. I hate that women are the victims of these crimes because of the very fact that they are women. I hate that many will feel unsafe tonight because of their gender.

Condolences if you happen to be a woman

Hey there readers. What a week. My condolences especially to any Australian women who might be reading this, for it has been a truly awful week to be female in this country. Although maybe we should all take heart in the positives – maybe if one hasn’t had ones body mocked by a creatively titled menu item, one should be grateful. If you happen to be fortunate enough to have spent the last 48 hours under a rock, let me enlighten you as to the great state of gender equality in this lucky country of ours. At a Liberal fundraiser a few months ago someone (who exactly is the subject of much conjecture) felt it would be a laugh to include the following item on the menu:

“Julia Gillard Quail: small breasts, large thighs, comes in a big red box”

I don’t think I really need to explain to you why this is offensive, dear reader. In the words of SMH‘s Jacqueline Maley it is ‘So vile it makes you want to shout and throw things’ and if I had the energy last night I probably would have done so. But I was tired. I am tired. I don’t want to blog about this stuff, I want to make jokes about the hairstyles in Game of Thrones. I want to tell you about my book cover. But I can’t get this crap out of my head, so I guess you’re going to have to wait me out.

Of course the Liberal party has since spun all sorts of nonsense about how they aren’t actually responsible for this and it’s all the result of some ill-advised hijinks by a restaurateur with too much FaceBook time on his hands. (I think we can all agree this is a lie. Anyone who has watched MasterChef knows that restauranteurs don’t have time for sleep, let alone FaceBook. It’s all cooking and yelling and sweating and writing cookbooks.) It wasn’t supposed to be made public, people, this little nugget of misogynistic hilarity was for private consumption. (I did not intend that pun, but I find it very difficult to rewrite. Sorry, I’m not sorry.)

Which reminds me of another little gem from this week, made by Socceroos coach Holger Osiek when he relayed a ‘private’ joke between he and his wife – which when said in Latin (or German, depending on which news outlet you listen to) sounds eccentric and exotically excusable, but when translated to the English (‘Women should shut up in public’) slightly less so. Interestingly enough, Osiek went one further than the blame-the-chef route taken by the Libs and chose to blame God, sighting 1 Corinthians 14:34 ‘Women should remain silent in the church.’ As if to say, ‘God thought it was funny, too!’. Channel Seven News went further in an effort to embroil God in the gaff by showing the quote on screen written in ye’olde font like we all know God uses.

Theological debate aside (If you should want to investigate what Paul is actually saying, let me know and I can point you in the direction of stuff written by people far smarter than I on the subject), it seems that it’s okay to have a chuckle about this stuff in private, just don’t go sharing your one-liners with recording-device holding journalists. We are a nation of free speech and so on and so forth, and one must accept that along with free speech comes tasteless (Ha!) jokes involving fast food and women’s figures. We all have the choice to choose our choice and say that choice that we chose, or whatever. CUE SEAMLESS SEGUE the the disaster that was Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown of the last 20 years. (It was a poll, people made their choices and voted. See what I did there?) In which out of 100 songs voted for by almost a million people, FOUR were by female vocalists. Four. Out of ONE HUNDRED. Now, others have already ranted about this including Eliza Goetze on The Vine and my friend Clare Woodley on her blog. I am not going to chime in on what as already been said so eloquently by others, but I will say this: we have a problem. Maybe it really is just a collection of songs people voted for as their faves and we should leave it alone. But have a horrible feeling it is a symptom of something more sinister in our culture.

We have a problem with a culture that brushes off grossly sexist comments made about our Prime Minister. We have a problem with a culture that allows Tyler the (so called) Creator to fill the Enmore Theater in an all-ages gig and glorify the rape and murder of women. We have a problem with a culture where ONE in THREE women will be the victim of violence. We have a problem with a culture in which a woman can not walk home at night without risk of being murdered by a guy who was repeatedly paroled for rape.

Maybe I’m wrong to lump all of these things together and say they are indicative of culture with an increasingly sick view of women.

I hope I am.

POST SCRIPT

I had just finished writing this when news of sexist derogitory emails circulated within the Australian Defence Force broke. Enough said.

Modern Fail?

Like most of the Western world, I’m a fan of Modern Family. I’m also a fan of Instagram. What happens when these two collide? Crazy hijinks? Insightful glimpses into behind-the-scenes larks? New season clues? Well, sometimes. But today it was a selfie of one of the teen stars in her bikini. Yep, Ariel Winter – who plays studious, bespectacled Alex, who is fifteen years old and has 120,000 Instagram followers – posted a picture of herself in a skimpy yellow bikini for all to see on the photo-sharing site. Now, as I write this about three hours afterward, it has been removed, along with all the comments that alternated between ‘You’re sooo hot’ and ‘You’re a whore’.

I was going to comment on the photo, I was going to write that by posting such an image she was perpetuating the idea that women are passive creatures to be objectified, and providing a pretty lousy role model for her fans, to boot. I didn’t because a) I didn’t want to get into an instawar with random teenagers telling me I was repressed, b) the girl is fifteen, she doesn’t need some 30-something mum in Wollongong dissing her, and c) I was caught in that murky land between a female’s right to wear whatever she likes and the idea that by doing so we can inadvertently add fuel to the fire that is our hyper-sexualised society.

Personally, for what it’s worth, I believe that whether we like it or not, we send messages with what we wear. Some of the messages might be unintentional and maybe it’s asking too much of a teenager to analyse every possible way a picture she posts could be interpreted and evaluate these possibilities in light of feminist theory. And I’m not saying the girl should cover every inch of her skin, either. But where’s the line? Where’s the middle ground? Where’s the thing that separates a fifteen year-old’s unrelenting desire to show off and impress anyone who’s watching from the fact that everyone is watching, including the weirdo guy with a thing for teen and preteen girls? And what about the fact that there are fifteen year-olds in bikinis on the beach and in every December issue of Dolly?

And what about the fifteen year-old who looks in the mirror and compares her body with the girl from Modern Family?

She’s the one I’m most worried about.

But after all of that, it’s never a debate about what a guy can or can’t, should or shouldn’t wear, is it?