20 hours to go

TL;DR: Please support Crinkling News’ crowdfunder which is in its last day. 

**

Early in my days writing for Crinkling News, I submitted a story about Sydney Swans player Aliir Aliir. I thought it was pretty decent: it told the story of how he was born in a refugee camp, moved to Australia and became a footballer. Not long after I sent the email, the editor, Saffron Howden, called me.

“Where’s the interview?” she asked.

In the phone call that followed, she explained that Crinkling wasn’t just a newsletter. Our stories needed to be unique and have an impact. I needed to get an interview with Aliir.

So I did. And since, I’ve interviewed all sorts of interesting people: the youngest person ever to race V8s in Australia and the youngest Australian ever to climb Mount Everest and the then-top female fencer in Australia, who was only 16 at the time.

Other than a break after I had my daughter, I have written for Crinkling News throughout their first year, mostly about sport. It’s been challenging but incredibly rewarding. I’ve learned to interview 7-year-olds and reticent teenage boys. I spent years interviewing professional athletes, but I learned more about interviews in that time.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about how great Crinkling News is. And the fact that it might not exist next week, which would be a massive loss for Australian kids.

Crinkling’s growing and doing well, but the limited amount of seed funding has run out. Faced with shutting down unless extra funding was raised, the founders started a crowdfunding campaign that will end tomorrow, to raise enough to make up that gap.

I know the 200k is a big ask. But it’s a good investment.

If you look at the basics (the potential audience, the cost of production), it’s a really solid business. But with a really tiny team working seven days a week, the challenge of doing proper business development was a lot.

The money raised through crowdfunding will allow that business development. It will allow Crinkling to go from a close-to-break-even, growing business to a sustainable media outlet that kids will be able to read for years to come.

Most people know a kid who would love Crinkling News: why not pick the reward with a subscription and get one on their behalf? Or pick a school somewhere in a regional area that could use some help who might enjoy Crinkling News and send them a subscription.

You can support Crinkling News here. I really hope that next week, I’ll be able to pitch some awesome story ideas so that kids around Australia will be able to read about amazing athletes.

You can support Crinkling News here. Please consider doing so.

A personal plea for Crinkling News

For the last year, I have had the absolute pleasure of writing for Crinkling News. Crinkling News is a national weekly print newspaper for 7-14 year olds. Since the second issue, I have been writing for the Crinkling sport section, profiling amazing young peScreen Shot 2017-05-04 at 1.59.45 pmople from around the country and their achievements, but also explaining big issues: the risks of concussion, how the gender pay gap works in sport, the growth of women’s football. I even wrote a piece explaining how the US electoral college works, which many adults have told me was the first time they understood it. Here’s a link to my pieces for Crinkling, so you can get a feel for the diversity of what we do (most of it is behind a paywall).

One of my favourite things about Crinkling is that our sport pages have so many stories of young female athletes. One of my hopes is that by telling so many stories of girls in sport, we will help teach the next generation of sport fans to expect and demand equal coverage of women’s sport.

But Crinkling News is in trouble. Though it’s very close to being sustainable and growing every week, the seed funding is about to run out. Today, they launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund Crinkling so that it can keep going long enough that, based on current projections, it will be sustainable.

Crinkling is an amazing tool for teaching kids about media literacy and to think critically about the news. It’s also invaluable in this scary time to have a thoughtful source that helps kids understand without terrifying them. A lot of care and thought goes into making sure the stories are accessible and appropriate, without talking down to the kids.

But this is also very personal for me. Crinkling has been a regular source of income for me throughout the last year (except when I was on mat leave). It has helped me keep the rent paid and my baby in nappies, while I can do other writing that doesn’t pay so well. My Eddie McGuire story? That was written for free, while my rent was paid that week by my Crinkling pay.

I’ve never had to run a crowd funder or open a Patreon or anything to ask for support for my work because Crinkling has been the regular income that underpins the rest of what I do. So personally, Crinkling’s struggle is a bit scary. There are many other regular Crinkling freelancers who are passionate about what we do, yes, but also rely on Crinkling to help pay the bills.

So this is a personal plea: if you value my work, if you think it’s meaningful, if I have written something that has meant something to you in the last year or appeared in a podcast you love, please consider contributing to the campaign. Every little bit helps us get closer to the goal and keep Crinkling alive. Maybe you could pitch in with some friends and donate a subscription to a school library in a low-SES area.

Crinkling News is too important to let fail. Please, if you can, consider contributing today.

40 minutes with Mary

This morning, I met Mary.

Mary’s the same age as my Mum, but I would never have guessed it. She looks so much older. She has one child, a son, who is the same age as me.

Mary has had medical problems her whole life. Despite that, she sold her home of 30 years and left her community so she could look after her elderly father, who’d recently had a stroke. Two months later, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Four months after that, he died. Mary’s the sort of person who looks after others even through her own health problems.

Today, Mary drove her car to the local high street, because she can’t walk very far. She’s not even 60, but she’s already had two hip replacements on one side, three on the other. She parked in an accessible parking spot, then slowly started walking towards the bank, and then to the doctor, to talk about the possibility of having a third hip replacement on her right leg.

At the exact moment Mary was walking up the street, an elderly woman was finishing up her visit at the local podiatrist. As she was walking out the door, she caught her foot on the step and fell. Out the door, directly into Mary. The elderly woman stayed upright. Mary didn’t. She fell, hard, onto the ground.

I was walking nearby with my baby, on my way for a coffee, and I saw the whole thing happen. I walked over to them. The gentleman with the woman who had tripped and another gentleman helped Mary to a bench, but it quickly became clear she was in extraordinary pain. After five broken femurs, she knew what it felt like, and it felt exactly like that.

I called for an ambulance, took the details of the people who had also been involved (the poor woman was also very distressed- I found out later she was 87 and the gentleman with her was her neighbour, who takes her to the doctor when she has an appointment) and sent them on their way.

Then I sat with Mary and we waited.

Over the next forty minutes, I got to know Mary a little bit. We talked about pain and death and the existence of God and whether or not there’s a reason for everything. We learned we’d both had very unlikely pregnancies. Despite her pain, she worried about my time and the fact my baby was waiting with us. Didn’t I need to look after her? I assured Mary she was fine.

Mary’s the kind of person who worries about other people even when she’s in pain.

We both wondered at the cruel twist of fate that led her of all people to be in the way when the other woman fell. Of all the people to be walking by, it was someone who could least deal with the consequences.

Throughout the whole time, intermittently, Mary cried out in pain, or cried, or laughed darkly. I asked her if there was something she usually does to help with the pain. She showed me her morphine patch. “Pain is my constant companion,” she told me.

For forty minutes we sat there, waiting for help. For forty minutes, she cried and gasped in pain.

At one point, she said “This is what our society has become. Unless you have chest pain, you wait.”

I’m not someone who is starry eyed about medical care. I understand all care is rationed. We have finite resources But we have decided that we are willing to accept people being in pain rather than spend more on medicine. Our efficiency measures are more concerned with the amount of time an ambulance sits idle than the amount of time a woman sits crying on a bench on a footpath in agony.

Mary did nothing to deserve the situation she was in. She got dealt another bad card after a lifetime of them.

I called her son after she was in the ambulance, to let him know that his mum was heading to hospital. She’s spoken to him, but obviously had been a bit vague on details, so he asked me a bit more about what happened. When I said it was just extraordinary bad luck, he said that’s the sort of thing that happens to her. “She must have been born on an unlucky day.”

Mary’s fall might not have been avoidable, but her 40 minutes of pain without relief were. With more resources, we can improve ambulance response times. We more money for emergency medicine, we can turn 40 minutes into 20 or ten. We can stop believing that pain is an acceptable trade off for cost savings.

This might be who we’ve become. But it doesn’t have to be.

Mary kept telling me that there must be a reason this happened to her, but she doesn’t know what it was.

Nothing can ever be an adequate compensation for her pain and suffering, but I’d love to visit her in hospital in a few days time with some flowers, and to be able to tell her that because of her story, people are calling their local state members and putting pressure on them to improve funding for emergency medicine (which includes new paramedics and more emergency staff and beds). That other people care enough about her pain to say no, this isn’t ok.

I just got off the phone to my local member’s office. I hope you’ll join me in calling and demanding change.

Because Mary, and people like her, deserve better from us.

**Mary gave me permission to share her story

Meandering thoughts on Daisy Cousens

I’ll admit it, at the risk of supporting her cause: Daisy Cousens gets under my skin.

It’s not, as she’d probably claim, because she’s a conservative and an anti-feminist. There are plenty of women who hold those beliefs who I consider friends, even if I don’t agree with them.

And it’s not because I’m a snowflake or I’m “triggered”, in her gross misunderstanding of that term. There are plenty of others who write about similar things that don’t fill me with rage the way she does.

No, it isn’t her views that bother me about Daisy Cousens. It’s her lack of seriousness. It’s the fact she’s so open about courting controversy and attention. She shamelessly celebrates the worst of modern conservatism’s impulses while undermining the work of both people she agrees with and those she doesn’t.

So when the Sydney Morning Herald published an article by Jane Cadzow about Cousens and two other conservative women today, my first reaction was to be dismissive. I didn’t need to read about her, think about her any more than I already have (even now, I’m unconvinced that I should be spending precious writing time sharing my thoughts on the piece). My automatic and poorly-considered response was that any attention paid to Cousens was inherently wasted.

But as Amber Robinson pointed out on Twitter that she thought the piece was very good because, and I quote, “Cousens in particular comes off as a complete imbecile”, I had to rethink my response.  She was right, of course. The piece draws stark contrast between the three conservative women. The difference between Cousens and Helen Andrews was clear. I may disagree with almost everything Andrews says, but the fact she thoughtfully considers her views is clear.

Cadzow deftly gives Cousens just enough rope. If there’s one takeaway from the piece, it’s that she’s just not a thinker. She plays the provocateur — a time honoured tradition — without the requisite thought to make her positions in any way insightful. It’s not that she’s my political opponent, it’s that she’s a bad one.

And that’s probably why it enraged me so.

She’s often lumped in with Caleb Bond in the conservative wunderkind category – either ironically or seriously – but  I think that’s unfair to Bond. I think News Ltd do Bond a great disservice by publishing him and that most of what he writes is flimsy, poorly thought-out and easily contradicted, but I don’t doubt his seriousness. He believes what he says. I can imagine him having a serious change of heart when he’s older, in part because I thought similarly to him at his age, with similar levels of conviction, and now I disagree fiercely.

I should take a brief minute here to note the fact I know this whole complaint comes from a position of MASSIVE privilege. I am white, upper-middle class, cis-gendered, I am in a straight relationship, I have a child who I stay at home with most of the week in our house with a backyard in the suburbs, while my partner gets the train to work at his job.

I get to quibble with the things about Cousens that I find irritating because who I am is not fundamentally threatened by her and people like her. In fact, my life is probably closer to the conservative script of how you’re “supposed” to live than many actual conservatives.

Actually, you know what? I should just shut up now. There’s no point explaining the rest of my feelings about Cousens because, again, my life is not fundamentally attacked by her and people like her.

She can fully inhabit the role of the Manic Pixie Dream Fascist. She can treat all that as a joke and play the ingénue and think being young and pretty means getting a pass on doing the hard work of thinking critically about what you believe, but that’s far less of a problem than what she actually says. What she says offends me, but it doesn’t affect me* like it affects other people.

The real affects of what she and others with similar beliefs have on other peoples’ lives is by far worse than her posturing.

And now I’ll be quiet.

*”There’s a difference between what offends people and what affects people” is a Kellyanne Conway quote. I have been thinking about it a lot lately because I think it’s really important.

Choice, abortion, motherhood

Yesterday, I published an article on the ABC about how International Women’s Day — a day that is supposed to celebrate women — rarely makes room for women with caring responsibilities. I received lots of wonderful responses from women who felt the piece reflected their experiences. I also received this email, which I would not share except that it give me a reason to talk about something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

dear ms riley
i have never written to a writer such as yourself before but at this moment i felt the need to find you and write once i read your op-ed piece about feminism. as a mature, childless by choice, single woman, i have no sympathy for what you describe. in fact, i am fed to the teeth, after being in the full time work force for more than 30 years, covering for my pregnant/new mother/mother colleagues- and never a work of thanks from any. i assume the following: to have a child was your choice, even if the pregnancy was unplanned?? where the expletive-deleted do you get off? you have CHOSEN to do this. you volunteered. you had months to change your mind but you went through with it. (you probably had to set out to do a few things deliberately as well to achieve this). and you expect/want even more than what has been very generously assigned? i would like to do some full time study once again- very useful to my work as well for as myself- i dont get time off work/paid/job held for me while i choose to do this. feminism is not about this, at all. having a baby in the current state of the world is the ultimate self-indulgence and yet you sound annoyed and aggrieved at the fact that your life is not as easy/straightforward as it was before you chose to do this??!!!! you didnt think to factor in the presence of an entirely dependent for years and years individual in your life?? WTF!!! this relates to feminism how?? entitled younger generation is what it is.

There’s much I could respond to here. First, the idea that childless women and women with children are each others enemies is tiresome and self-defeating. I’ve written about that before, but it’s always worth repeating.

But this is the part that I think is worth thinking about a little further:

i assume the following: to have a child was your choice, even if the pregnancy was unplanned?? where the expletive-deleted do you get off? you have CHOSEN to do this. you volunteered. you had months to change your mind but you went through with it. (you probably had to set out to do a few things deliberately as well to achieve this). and you expect/want even more than what has been very generously assigned?”

It’s hardly a secret that my pregnancy was, in fact, unplanned. I was on the pill. But like many others, I didn’t realise how the risk of failure increases over time. In fact, in five years of typical use, 38% of women will fall pregnant on the pill. So when that second line appeared on the test, I had a choice.

But that choice is not made in a vacuum. My personal values and beliefs informed the choice that I made in this situation.

This is something I find it difficult to talk about as a feminist who is absolutely pro-choice: abortion is not something that I felt I could do. I have a certain personal beliefs about life and they were incompatible with me having an abortion.

I don’t think laws should be made based on those beliefs. I don’t judge other women for their decision to have an abortion. I think they should be entirely funded, legal and easily available. I support full decriminalization. While I did consider it a moral decision, I don’t think it is for everyone.

But it is for some people. And I think we should respect people’s decisions to personally reject abortion.

This is why I have a problem with talking about abortion as it is always purely a medical decision. No doubt, in many cases, it is. But in others, it is not and the consequence is that it’s it socially acceptable to demand women either have an abortion or live with the consequences — no matter how much those consequences are due to discrimination toward women. We’ve made child-rearing a *lifestyle choice* rather than something that is socially and economically valuable.

The choice to have a child is not the same as the choice to go on a holiday or buy a luxury car or quit your job and move to a commune. It is far more complicated than that. Demanding that the substantial number of women who fall pregnant accidentally every year (In the US, half of all pregnancies are unplanned) either accept the ways society fails to make accomodations for the work of parenting or get an abortion is not supporting women or choice. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the argument that if you can’t afford children, you shouldn’t have them. Forcing poor women to have unwanted abortions for financial reasons is not supporting reproductive choice.

I could make an economic case for the value of the work of raising children. I could ask who’s going to be your nurse and physiotherapist and librarian when you’re old and need the social support. But we shouldn’t have to do that.

We should absolutely support women to make the choices right for their lives. We should also understand that women should not be expected to accept the status quo outcomes of their choices.

*** EDIT***

I wrote a response to the letter writer — let’s call her K — but it bounced. Apparently she gave me a fake email address. So K, if you happen to find this, this is for you:

Dear K,

I’m sorry you feel that people in your life have not supported the decisions you’ve made. The way society treats single, childless women is often cruel and exclusionary.
I do not, however, think that mothers are the enemy. As women, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t, as I have written about previously here: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/news-and-views/opinion/when-it-comes-to-motherhood-women-cant-win-either-way-just-ask-gladys-berejiklian-20170124-gtxhlr.html
I do, however, take exception to the implication that as I did not choose to have an abortion, I should accept the way society treats motherhood. Abortion should be available to all women, but I do not believe any woman should be compelled to have one, nor punished because she didn’t. None of the consequences of having children I mentioned in my piece are inevitable. They exist because of how we have historically understood motherhood and the way our social and economic system has been built in response to that. But that does not mean they have to exist into perpetuity nor that they should go unchallenged.
I sincerely hope that the experiences of single, childless women like yourself, by choice or otherwise, improve as we expand our understanding of the roles of women. I would hope you could wish the same for women who are parents.
Kind regards,
Erin Riley

Men: do some work this International Women’s Day

Men who live with women, there’s a simple thing you can do to show your commitment to Women’s Equality this International Women’s Day: spend an hour doing housework you don’t usually do.

Find a job that needs to be done — don’t ask, just find one — and do it. And then commit to doing it every week.

Clean the toilet, scrub the shower, plan and supply dinner, buy the birthday gift for the kid’s party this weekend, take on an extra few hours of child care: whatever is appropriate for your situation.

Because even in couples where both partners work full time, on average women do a disproportionately large amount of domestic unpaid labour. And where they don’t, the total number of hours a women spends on work — paid and unpaid — still adds up to more than men, on average. This data from the ABS is the most recent I can find, but shows the difference pretty starkly:

 

 

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You can be bold for change this IWD by doing this simple thing. Return to the women in your life something invaluable: their time.

Grace and gumption

Seven weeks and four days ago, after 54 and a half hours of contractions, I gave birth to a little girl. We named her Abigail, a name from the very first page of the baby name book, a name we both loved immediately. Abby is a delight. She’s already so funny and inquisitive and loving. I had worked as a nanny for years and so had plenty of experience with babies, but nothing could have truly prepared me for the seismic shift that is becoming a parent.

I’m a baby parent. By that I don’t just mean I am the parent of a baby, but that I am a baby at being a parent. The last seven weeks have been exhausting not just because of the broken sleep, but because the learning curve is so steep. After so little time, I’d never presume to speak with any authority on parenting, but I would love to share some of the things I have been thinking about since October 28.

Abigail

Abigail

Parenting Abby is a daily lesson in accepting my imperfections. I’ve lost count of how many things I’ve done wrong in the last seven weeks. The first time I accidentally bumped Abby’s head on her rocking chair as I was putting her down- and I promise, I don’t make a habit of this — and she screamed, I was starkly confronted by my own imperfections. I had hurt my child. Not badly, nothing she wouldn’t forget in a moment, nothing that would cause any damage; but still, I had hurt her.

And despite my best efforts, I will continue to hurt her. There will be times I won’t be available to her as she needs. There will be times when I will brush her hair and hit a knot. There will be times when I say no and mean it and believe it’s best for her, but she will be disappointed in me nonetheless.

The love I feel for Abby, that consuming parental love I had been told about, came with fear. I have so much on the line. My capacity to be hurt, and to hurt, increased exponentially from the moment I first loved her, somewhere between when I found out she existed and when she was born. My failures could cut me deeper than they ever have before.

And so being a parent has not just been a lesson in humility, but also in grace: extending it to myself and to others. There is a degree to which it is self-kindness, but it is more than that.  It is learning to live with the fact I am going to fail, while also attempting to address my failures. It is apologising and accepting apology. It is recognising my own imperfections, but also being accepting of the imperfection of others.

This, perhaps more than anything, has been the rupture between my life before and after Abby. The all-consuming worries of before pale in comparison to my concerns about raising her to be a compassionate and good person. And my own past failures and failings to be a compassionate and good person are both clearer and more important. I need to be the sort of person I want her to be.

I have been wrong often. I am sorry to those I’ve hurt, intentionally and unintentionally. I will make more of an attempt to apologise where I can, but I know that’s not always possible. We can’t always make amends.

But at the same time, I am not going to let my failures, past or present, consume me. Because that is the thing about parenting for me: I can’t hide out, I can’t delay trying again. I have to pick the baby up again, I have to do the next night feed, I have to change the next nappy. There is no escaping from the consequences of my mistakes: I have to face them immediately.

The grace of parenting comes from living through that. Being forced to face and work through my failures every time emboldens me to do so in other parts of my life. It has taught me gumption. I will solve the problem. I will figure out how to handle this. I will do things I don’t want to do because they’re best for her.

Being Abby’s Mum means I now live with fears bigger than any I’ve ever known. But for me, the tools that have enables me to face this are grace — towards myself, towards her, towards others — and gumption. Grace is not letting my imperfections consume me. Gumption is not accepting that my imperfections are permanent, and working to do better.

Sports Writers Festival: A story

I was very excited to see that the Sports Writing Festival was happening again in Melbourne this year. I contemplated heading down for it, but as it starts exactly two weeks before I am due to give birth, I thought that probably wasn’t the best idea. But despite my general good feelings about the event, there was something I couldn’t help but notice when looking at the program:

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There are some great women on the program, but all but one have been pigeonholed into the “Women’s sport” event. Everything else was dominated by men.

Of course, it could be an oversight, so I was hesitant to be overly critical. Instead, I said I was disappointed. These were my tweets:

tweet

tweet-2

 

I also retweeted one of @Nichmelbourne’s tweets, that she’s since deleted, so I can’t link it.

So imagine my surprise when I opened my account to receive this direct message from the founder of the Festival, Francis Leach:

 

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I’m not going to lie: I was pretty angry about this. I was angry that such a mild criticism — which I specifically framed positively — received such an indignant response. And angry that it came to me directly, rather than publicly.

And I get it. I get that it hurts when someone criticises something you’re doing for free.

But you don’t get a pass on addressing the problem of women’s representation in sport because you’re already working really hard. There are plenty of us who would be delighted to recommend people who are able to speak about it. And maybe just take the criticism on the chin, say “fair point, we’ll try better next time.”

I was not a kind as I could have been in my response: I admit to that. I was fuming. Here it is:

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-4-17-36-pm

No response. Not surprising. But I did notice a couple of other people making similar criticisms and receiving (public) defences similar to the one I received. I briefly tweeted about it here.

Anyway, I thought that was that, until someone this morning pointed out that Francis Leach had been tweeting today about the difficulty of being a woman in sport and how that issue would be addressed at the Festival:

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Though I had to get my partner to send me that screenshot, because:

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I have many thoughts but, really, I think this whole story speaks for itself.

Dear S: A reply

S Letter

 

Dear S,

I was intrigued when I received your email this morning, both by the entitlement of demanding a reply from me, while also being both condescending and insulting, and also utterly incorrect. I’m not usually in the habit of replying to such emails, but since you were so eager to hear my responses, I figured you probably wouldn’t mind if I did so publicly.

I read your comments in an article on Triple j’s Hack website regarding the pay rates of women’s football (AFL), and was struck by your lack of understanding of the issue, in which you are certainly not alone.

Ok, I admit, this was a good opening. What didn’t I understand? I’ve spent fifteen years studying and writing about sport and sporting institutions, but hey, we all make mistakes. So I was eager to see what you had to say.

Professional AFL footballers are paid on a commission basis,

Wait, no they aren’t. They are paid a salary. Yes, there are bonuses that align with performance, but there are also base salaries.

they negotiate salary caps with the league as a percentage of projected income,

Hmm, have you read the news lately? There is talk about the next deal being proportionate to the TV deal, but that’s not the case currently. I’m starting to wonder if you’ve read the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is where all my information comes from.

the individual pay rates are then decided by the clubs and individual players, resulting in players being paid at a rate similar to their revenue raising skills.

Well… yes, there are negotiations between the clubs and players, but there are also standard minimum payment rates and conditions that are established in the collective bargaining agreement, both for Rookies (who were my point of comparison on Hack) and drafted players.

This is decided by the best people to do so, those putting on the show and those running it,

Hmm, hundreds of years of labour negotiations would suggest that employers alone aren’t the best people to determine wages…

your angle has no validity at all, you are talking about cutting male players wages, or benefits to junior football, neither of which is desirable or forward moving.

I didn’t say anything about cutting male player’s wages (though whether that’s undesirable to correct a 1:39 average pay discrepancy is highly subjective).

It strikes me as strange that you don’t understand this, given that you have a job you should understand the different ways people are paid and the reasons for this.

Well, my job is as a freelance writer who writes about sport, so my understanding is rather more based on research into this specific issue than the assumption my experience is universal.

I find myself questioning your motives, as I find your comments so naive or perhaps stupid.

Or perhaps just based in the actual facts about the way players are paid.

I would like to receive a reply from you to explain your view, particularly in relation to the points I make in this e-mail, I find them obvious, I would like to know why you don’t, after all you put your view out to the public, so please defend it.

Can I make a recommendation? Next time, before you email someone, maybe do a bit more research to make sure a) your “corrections” are, in fact, correct and b) make sure you’ve read the other things the person you’re writing to has written, as they may have already answered some of your questions. Also, maybe don’t call someone stupid when you, in fact, are incorrect.

Thanks for reading, I look forward to your reply.
Sincerely, S[redacted].

I hope you have found it instructive.

Dear Mothers: an apology

Dear Mothers,

I owe you an apology. I am sorry for being a crappy feminist and not including your issues in my fight. I’m sorry for not realising how significant those issues were until I faced them myself. I’m sorry for not listening to you as I should have.

I’m sorry for the times I, frustrated with the marginalisation of childless women, failed to realise those with children were marginalised too. I didn’t see we are damned no matter our choice. I didn’t see we are seen as less whether we are mothers or not. I felt judged for not having children, never realising you felt equally judged for having them. I didn’t see that women are often defined by our reproductive status, and that there is no winning.

I’m sorry for the times I didn’t realise how much the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood changes you. I’m sorry for when I thought you meant it made me less of a woman not to have experienced it, not just a woman with different experiences. I’m sorry for the times I didn’t respect your experiences or how much they can change you. They’ve certainly changed me. And I promise now I won’t expect that my experiences are yours.

I’m sorry for not realising how truly painful it all can be. I’m sorry for the times I have dismissed or minimised your pain, just because another friend told me it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t realise that every single birth and every single pregnancy and every single child is different. I should have trusted you.

I’m sorry for not believing you when you said you loved differently as a parent: not that you loved better than me, but you loved better than you had before. You were talking about yourself. I thought you were judging me. I thought you were saying I hadn’t experienced love like yours. And it’s true: you were. But I never will experience love like yours. Every love is different.

I’m sorry for not worrying enough about the financial implications of parenthood. I’m sorry for using “choice” as an excuse not to support you. I’m sorry that I didn’t realise the huge financial burden that biology has place on women, and that in a civilised society, we should be attempting to limit such burdens.

I’m sorry for every time I laughed “haven’t they ever heard of birth control”. I knew the odds but I didn’t realise how real the failures are.

I’m sorry for the times I took your choices as a judgement on mine. I know they weren’t. You did what was right for you. My choice to spend 14 years of adulthood child-free was right for me. Our choices were unrelated to each other.

I’m sorry for the times I was a bad friend. For the times I didn’t listen. For the times I thought that the gulf between us was impossibly large. It wasn’t. You were still you. I was just too wrapped up in my own experiences to listen to yours.

Now that I’m approaching the other side, I hope I can avoid making the same mistakes with my friends without children. To remember that their love is not better or worse than my love, just different. That their fights matter too. That their choices having nothing to do with my own.

To remember the gulf is not so wide, and that if we listen, our burdens can be shared.

And I’ll re-read this, regularly, to remind myself that we are all in this fight together.

 

Erin

 

 

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