The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Do it anyway

Last week saw the beautiful city of Sydney transformed into a military zone that could have come straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. Fences were erected and streets were cordoned off for the APEC summit. Big Brother was watching all (although apparently not looking too closely at the Chaser guys who pulled off a spectacular coup and made the Police Commissioner and his cronies look like the plonkers they are). In a stunning display of propaganda, John Howard and the boys in blue told the public not to blame the federal government or police for the inconvenient ‘security’ measures enforced to protect Bush and his 800-strong entourage from dissenting voices, but the ‘violent’ protestors who were expected to cause havoc on the streets. While this rhetoric has been exposed as the rubbish that it is, it still had the effect of terrorising a lot of people into not attending the big demonstration last Saturday.

“Oooh, be careful” and “Don’t get arrested!” were among the responses I received when I said I was going to the APEC protest. “You’re going on the protest?” said one otherwise intelligent colleague, in an incredulous tone. I should have replied, “There are 21 world leaders in the CBD looking to exploit poorer countries and line their own coffers under the guise of ‘free trade’ – not ‘fair’ trade note – led by a man who invades countries for oil, who prizes profits over human lives and who, along with our own Prime Minister, refuses to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, instead coming up with an alternative agreement that has been slammed by environmental experts as ‘an empty gesture that may actually undermine efforts to halt global warming’. How come you’re not going to the protest?” – in an equally shocked manner.

Many people I spoke with had expressed disdain, even outrage, at the extreme security measures inflicted on the city – but few of them actually bothered to put their money where their mouths were and turn up to a rally whose issues stretch far beyond equal rights for same-sex couples. After all, what’s the point of tax breaks and other fiscal benefits if we’re bombed to smithereens by insurgents pissed off at our troops taking over their lands, or if the planet, under constant destruction by multi-national corporations possessed with the spirit of greed, stops sustaining and instead kills us?

I can understand people being concerned about their safety, but one of my favourite sayings is ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. Kudos to the several thousand people who did bother to turn up on Saturday and march through the streets in support of peace and equality, despite the oppressive presence of 3,500 NSW police officers and 450 federal police, including snipers on rooftops (funny how ‘resources’ can stretch to this, but not a few extra coppers on Oxford Street at the weekends, eh?). For those of you who weren’t there, I have another saying: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing’. Mission accomplished.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fat and Thin

The thing about opinion pieces is they will often induce a strong reaction in readers. Whether it’s Germaine Greer lambasting Steve Irwin in The Guardian or Jason Foster proffering his views on butch-femme gender roles in SX, some people are likely to take offence, even becoming incensed enough to contact as many magazines, newspapers, online media and other public forums as they possibly can to refute the writer’s comments.I’ve done this myself, especially on Fairfax or blogs where the original blogger has waffled on about how they believe humans need to eat meat and why vivisection is nothing to get excited about. I’ve gone through the gamut of emotions from extremely upset, deeply disappointed, to utterly furious. I’ve forwarded the articles to my friends and networks so they can experience the same flood of strong feelings and add their own comments. But while I may disagree vehemently with the writer of the original article, I don’t dispute their right to publish their views.

Now before anyone thinks this is a precursor to me wading into the butch-femme debate that has now made it into every GLBTIQ magazine in Sydney and beyond, thanks to Jason Foster, it’s not. I’m going to take up the perhaps equally controversial fat/thin dichotomy and ask: Why is rock chick Beth Ditto being held up to be such a role model for lesbians and even women in general, simply because of her body size?

The Gossip frontwoman was named the coolest woman on the planet by British music magazine NME; dyke magazines across the world have either featured her on their cover or are chasing her for that purpose; even Greer praised Ditto: “Her intention is to force acceptance of her body type, 5ft tall and 15 stone, and by this strategy to challenge the conventional imagery of women,” Greer said.

It all sounds well and good, but quite frankly it stinks of hypocrisy. On the one hand, we denounce the media’s and society’s pushing of thin as the ideal body shape for a woman to be, on the grounds that it’s ‘unhealthy’. Fair enough. So why go to the other extreme and champion fat? Because fat is just as unhealthy as thin. And before the Fat Pride people take aim at me, I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t be fat and proud of it.

But it’s nothing short of hypocritical to wave the political-correctness banner around by denigrating thinness as a ‘dangerous’ model for women to aspire to, inducing all manner of eating disorders, while celebrating fat and claiming it as a feminist issue, when both extremes pose health risks. Ditto may be cool for many reasons – a great voice, an awareness of queer theory and gender roles – but watching clips of her perform, she looks like she’s about to have a heart attack on stage. Good on her for wanting to break the conventional imagery of women. But 5ft and 15 stone is no more cause for celebration than 5ft and 4 stone.

Well, someone had to say it.