Category Archives: Relationships

Time Magazine’s 16 Most Influential Teenagers.

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BY ABBY MAC

Time Magazine has released their annual list of “16 Most Influential Teenagers of 2013”, which notably only includes 15 names. This list is not necessarily the most successful or most empowering teenagers, just incredibly influential. Take a look at the list and the biography of each teenager from Time Magazine, and tell us what you think.

1. Hailee Steinfield, 16
“Steinfeld had nearly no previous acting experience when she was nominated for an Academy Award at age 13 in 2010 for her role in True Grit. Now she’s playing a student at a military space academy in the sci-fi film Ender’s Game. “I still consider myself very much a beginner,” she told the Guardian.”

2. Chloe Grace Moretz, 16
“Chloe Grace Moretz is a leading lady for the first time in Carrie, but the blood-drenched horror film is hardly this 16-year old’s first rodeo. The Atlanta native has had supporting roles in (500) Days of Summer and Hugo, and she’s an up-and-comer in the fashion world, too. Next, she’s starring opposite Kiera Knightly in Laggie, out in 2014.”

3. Beth Reekles, 17
“The Welsh high school student was looking for something to read other than stories about vampires and werewolves when she decided to write her own teen fiction book. The then-15-year-old used story-sharing site Wattpad to release her novel, The Kissing Booth, which earned more than 19 million views and caught the attention of Random House Children’s Publishers U.K. The author, now 17, scored a three-book deal with the U.S. arm of Random House and has since appeared on the Today show. But writing remains a hobby for the teenaged literary sensation, who plans to major in physics in college.”

4. Justin Bieber, 19
“The Canadian-born pop star has become an industry to himself, valued by Forbes at $58 million. He released his first single at age 15, and in 2010, he became the youngest solo male artist to hit #1 on Billboards Hot 100, with My World 2.0, since Stevie Wonder. His high profile breakup earlier this year with fellow star and girlfriend of two years Selena Gomez landed him in gossip sections the world over, as did an altercation in March with a photographer.”

5. Maya Van Wagenen, 15
“The 15-year-old author rose to fame for keeping a diary in her quest to become popular, following antiquated tips from the 1950s self-help book, Betty Cornell’s Glamour Guide for Teens. Her musings about applying lessons such as always wearing white gloves and pearls as she navigated the social scene of a small Texas town landed her a six-figure Penguin book deal for, Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, last month DreamWorks optioned the rights for the novel, making the budding author the “youngest non-actor to ever make a deal” at the film studio.”

6. Malia Obama, 15
“At high-profile events, like her father’s second Inaugural Address, Malia and her sister, Sasha, act with the poise of adults. Thanks in part to Michelle Obama, they seem to lead as normal lives as they can while still meeting the demands of being in the limelight. (Such as 15-year-old Malia’s satirical send up in the Onion.) President Obama often mentions his daughters in speeches, and says that they influenced his stance on gay marriage.”

7. Ionut Budisteanu, 19
“The 19-year-old scientist’s design for a low cost, self-driving car won first place and $75,000 at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for high school students in May. The prototype signals the potential of manufacturing autonomous driving vehicles to the masses, costing only $4,000 to build as opposed to Google’s $75,000 self-driving car. Budisteanu, a student in Romania, used artificial intelligence technology and a mounted camera on the car to identify traffic lanes, curbs, cars and even people.”

8. Kiernan Shipka, 14
“Mad Men’s Sally Draper is the sassiest character on TV, all thanks to Kiernan Shipka. The 14-year old actress has been playing Don Draper’s rebellious daughter since she was six and a half, but she’s still not allowed to watch the hit AMC show. Shipka also nails her red carpet appearances, with a quirky but age-appropriate style that gets her raves from the fashionable set. Watch out for her performance as incestuous Catherine in the Lifetime adaptation of V.C. Andrews’ Flowers In The Attic.”

9. Malala Yousafzai, 16
“In 2012, Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by the Taliban on the bus home from school in Pakistan. Malala was a target because of her vocal activism to better the education of girls under Taliban rule. After surviving the attack, the now-16-year-old didn’t hide in fear but strengthened her voice. “I speak for education of every child, in every corner of the world,” she said, and the world has been listening. This year she received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and a Clinton Global Citizen Award. She was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.”

10. Danta de Blasio, 16
“Bill de Blasio might be the Mayor-elect of New York, but his 16-year-old son Dante is the city’s latest fashion icon. Dante’s now-iconic afro has starred in a campaign ad, inspired a New York Times Style section piece, and even gained President Obama’s attention. “Dante has the same hairdo as I had in 1978,” he said. “Although I have to confess my Afro was never that good. It was a little imbalanced.” A junior at Brooklyn Tech, Dante and his sister Chiara (known for her floral headbands) were front and center in their father’s campaign.”

11. Kendall and Kylie Jenner, 18 & 16
“The younger sisters of the Kardashian clan are no strangers to the spotlight. They’re featured in Keeping Up With The Kardashians with their half-sisters Kim, Khloe and Kourtney, but they’re making their own waves as well. Kendall, a swimsuit model, and her 16-year-old sister Kylie have raised eyebrows for their precocious behavior. Perhaps more importantly, they’ve shown an early talent for deal-making: the pair launched a clothing line with PacSun this year.”

12. Missy Franklin, 18
“The 18-year-old won six gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and in doing so not only claimed the title of winningest female swimmer ever at a world meet, but also became the fifth swimmer to capture six or more golds at Worlds or the Olympics. She won the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year award this year. And, she joined the Cal swim team, turning down millions of dollars of endorsements to get a college degree.”

13. Nick D’Aloisio, 18
“When Marissa Mayer decides to buy your app for $30 million, you know you’re doing pretty well. When you’re only 17 at the time, “doing pretty well” is an understatement. Programming whiz kid Nick D’Aloisio sold Summly, a news-reading and summarizing app, to Yahoo in March. Other investors include Wendi Murdoch, Yoko Ono, and Ashton Kutcher.”

14. Lydia Ko, 16
“A New Zealand golfer born in South Korea, 16-year-old Lydia Ko has multiple LPGA wins. She turned pro this year—the LPGA waived the age requirement for her to join—and she’s already fifth in women’s world rankings after just 23 tournaments. She’s the youngest person ever to win a professional golf tour event and the youngest person ever to win an LPGA tour event (and the only amateur to ever win two LPGA Tour events).”

15. Lorde, 17
“The just-turned 17-year-old New Zealander rocketed to international fame this year with the release of her first album, Pure Heroine. Proof: New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who won the election on a message railing against economic inequality, walked onto stage to Lorde’s defiant “Royals.” The child prodigy—she signed with a label at 13—is already competing with pop’s biggest stars, surpassing Miley Cyrus in September for the top spot on iTunes with “Royals.” The singer-songwriter, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor, is forging her own path, turning down an opportunity to join Katy Perry on tour because, as she said at the time, it ‘didn’t feel right.'”

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So, there’s a couple of huge names. Quite interesting to group significant figures such as Justin Bieber and Malala Youfaszai together, however, it is the most influential. I thought there were a couple of names missing from this remarkable list, so I have added my own incredible teenagers.

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Who do you think deserved or did not deserve to be on Time’s List? What teenagers are influential to you?

To read more of Time Magazine’s List, click here: http://time100.time.com/2013/11/12/the-16-most-influential-teens-of-2013/

To read more about the film, Girl Rising, click here: girlrising.com/

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Urgh. Is This All Teenagers Are Interested By?

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BY ABBY MAC

When I started Growing Pains, it was intended for teenagers. I published this blog because I felt there was gap in the market for online sites providing real, educated and down-to-earth opinions on issues affecting teens and issues that teens are thinking about. It’s a blog written by young women who are actually experiencing being a teenager, not a professor with a bunch of letters next to their name who references studies when talking about what it is like to be a teen and pretends to have a clue. Growing Pains is real.

That’s why I talk about topics that seem broader than teenage issues, such as GoldieBlox toys, advocacy and domestic violence. There’s a misconception that teenagers only think about Instagram, themselves or the opposite sex and to be frank, that’s just rubbish. Sure, plenty of teens are addicted to themselves but there’s also a good lot of us that think deeply, critically and carefully. Often, these teens are lessened, ridiculed and silenced for wanting to learn and think, not just by teens but adults as well, such as the case of conservationist, Bindi Irwin who spoke out against over human population. At this age, teenagers are immediately associated with brains incapable of thinking and it is this thought that angers me and from there, Growing Pains is born.

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Apparently, this is all teenage girls do.


Once a week, I research ideas for posts and under the websites I investigate, there are many teenage-inspired ones. I am not typically blown away with content or ideas from these websites, in fact, I rarely get anything at all, but posts to be angry at, such as “The How-To Guide On Getting the Sexiest Boy at School”. You know, that sort of stuff. Most of the time, I sit in anger about these “How-To Guides” for 5 minutes, consider writing a post about it and then find a great, INTELLECTUAL idea on another website and write about that, instead. But today, I am not. Don’t worry, I have written all those intellectual ideas down, however, I finally need to let some steam off about these embarrassing, degrading, condescending, absurd and disgusting (EDCAD) posts that you find on those other teen websites.

To avoid legal matters, I won’t name these teenage sites but I have compiled a list of the Top 10 EDCAD posts from the most prominent teen websites (in no particular order).

1. 10 Sex and Hook-Up Tips From Our Fav Reindeer, Rudolph
2. Guess the Celebrity Legs
3. The 24 Most Important Selfies of 2013
4. If Male Celebs Wore Make-up
5. Meet Your Next Date At The Airport
6. Things to Never Tell A Directioner
7. 10 Secret Things You Do During Sex You Don’t Want to Admit
8. I Can’t [Get] This Guy Off My Mind, Will We Hook Back Up? (Ask a Dude)
9. 10 Ways To Tell That You’re A Bad Kisser
10. Jamie Dornan Will Go Full Frontal in 50 Shades of Grey

growingpains

This is all I ever dream about. Not.


Urgh. These are all teen websites which promote themselves as covering all the issues and problems relating to teenagers. Sure, occasionally tongue-in-cheek posts can be written, such as my one on Teenage Fashion Judgement, but do we really need thousands of websites telling young adults all the ways to be better kissers and score the person of their dreams? My answer to that is no.

It’s time to boycott these ridiculous sites which take advantage of this culture that teenagers are limited to only thinking about their hair. As adults, encourage teenagers to discuss and debate politics, human rights and society etc. and as teens, promote among your friends and family that you are more than the clothes on your body.

I’m sick of it. So, for heaven’s sake, I’m going to do my best at stopping it. Join me, whatever age you are and tell the world that teenagers are beyond reading “How to Find The One” even though we’re only 15.

What do you think? Are teenagers beyond those sorts of posts?

Education is Far Beyond Toys.

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BY ABBY MAC

You may have heard recently of the new girls’ toy, GoldieBlox, designed to encourage young girls into engineering and thinking beyond pretty pink Barbies and dolls.  As the GoldieBlox website words it, they desire to “Get Girls Building”.  The whole concept is quite original and has attracted support world-wide for providing girls with a broader range of toys than the typical “Pink Aisle” offers.  Now, before you stop reading because you think I am going to either criticize the toy or totally jump on board and go way over the top with what a cultural revolution this toy is, I’m not.  I have an immense amount of support for this addition to the girls’ toy aisle, it supplies options to those who aren’t interested in playing dolls or caring for babies, however, this is about something a little bit different.

When I was investigating for this post, I read quite a bit of research stating something along the lines, that continued lack of interest for science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) subjects by girls, is due to culture, as in the toys they play with.  Other studies revealed that if you don’t expose your girl child to toys such as Goldieblox, which promote building and engineering, before the age of five, then they will be less likely to show interest in any STEM subjects or career options.

GoldieBlox

The GoldieBlox Toy.

Don’t call be pessimistic about the whole idea of GoldieBlox or showing young girls the importance and value of STEM subjects and careers in life because I’m not.  What I deeply worry about is that parents and significant adults in children’s lives will feel “complete” after letting their girl child play with a GoldieBlox toy and feel no obligation to nurture their learning more.  Adults might enter a stage of complacency thinking if they have let their girl play with GoldieBlox before five, then their world will be open to an infinite world of career options and abilities in the building field, and if they haven’t, well then, let’s go back to Barbies.

As I have grown up, I watch parents stress about missing events in their child’s lives such as their first word, first steps or first day of pre-school, however, once they enter mid to late primary school, events in their child’s lives aren’t as important and missing every music recital or sports games don’t seem that bad, when it is quite the contrary.  This is when the child needs and wants the parent the most and a continued interest in their child’s life should be never-ending.  Hence, I am concerned that with all these new studies and statistics claiming that exposing your child to toys such as GoldieBlox before five will almost guarantee them an interest in engineering, that parents will just stop playing, teaching and quenching the child’s want to be always learning; right from cooking, to engineering, to swimming.

With the release of GoldieBlox, many generic girls’ toys have been criticized with their limiting features of pink, make-up, dolls, pink, pretty, pink or caring for babies dressed in pink clothes.  Parents, the media, experts and general commentators are appealing that having this depleted options of toys for girls are instating in their minds that all they are made for are being housewives.  And, I agree, however, just like thinking that the GoldieBlox toys will solve the answer to girls’ lack of interest in STEM, nor are pink toys the direct reason for some girls thinking they are limited to cleaning.

When I was small, I played shopkeepers and teaching and with my dolls but did I grow up thinking that all my skills encompassed caring and interacting with other people and in fact men were more capable?  No.  My dad use to tell me that he worked in the Poo Factory, as a joke, and for years that’s all I wanted to do was work in the Poo Factory.  Now, I want to work as a writer, author and in diplomacy but I don’t remember ever playing with a Barbie who internationally worked and wrote.

Children are influenced by their toys, but most of all by the people and places they are exposed to.  Growing up, I have been guided by people from all ranges of life that have taught me ambition, simplicity, health, your own personal influence, kindness, humor, knowledge, the power of questioning, success, equality and integrity.  My doll didn’t teach me that.  People did.

I am not trying to undermine the incredible advancement that the toy industry have made with developing something for girls beyond pink and dolls.  We have begun a step to empowering girls with more knowledge about building and creation but toys do not donate all factors to success or the likelihood of being an engineer.  As a society, we can actively enrich girl children to positive culture, people and places and in turn, enhance more positive movements to a girl’s personal self-belief and career diversity.  No doll, Barbie, GoldieBlox, My Little Pony or Lego block could ever do something as powerful as that.

It’s Grade Four Long Jump. Not The Answer To Stop World Hunger.

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BY ABBY MAC

I stand on the sideline of the long jump pit measuring the scores of each grade four girl, at the school athletics carnival.  I smile and tell them well done and try to dismiss the obsessive parent in the background who insists in telling each girl their exact measurement, how far behind or in front they are from the previous girl and the exercises they need to do to be a better long jumper.  Then, the teacher makes a crucial mistake.  She asks for volunteers.  That parent I was trying to ignore is now in my face, her necklace jangling and earrings swinging side to side.  She’s bouncing up and down to be selected.  She’s the only one volunteering.

Now she has a job at the long jump.  All she has to do is measure how long each girl jumps.  Round it off to the closest centimetre and if you really want, millimetre.  The first girl jumps, she starts measuring and for the next five minutes debates whether she jumped 1.02 metres or 1.03.  Her two year old son, Miller (???) who is a great “helper”, jumps out in front of the girls each time they’re jumping.  Miller, seems to have trouble to know what the word “no” means, but I am reiterated to that he is a great “helper”.  The mother starts talking to me again, trepidation and excitement mixed in her voice.   Her daughter is about to jump.  Will she meet her PB?  Oh, how nerve-racking?  Her daughter jumps, and just like her brother Miller, doesn’t seem to understand me when I speak.

“You fouled.  I’m sorry.”

This is where you're meant to jump from.

This is where you’re meant to jump from.

 

“I did not foul,” yelled the little girl!

“I don’t think my Lily* fouled,” yelled the mother/volunteer.

“I’m sorry but the rules are you have to jump before the white line.  Lily jumped whilst she was in the sand.  That is way over the line,” I informed them.

 

This is where the little girl jumped from.

This is where the little girl jumped from.

This debate continued for another five minutes, arguing that we could just grant her with the benefit of the doubt.  Eventually, the little girl stormed out of the pit (she actually walked to where she was meant to jump from, which I could technically measure her from there because that was the last footstep in the pit, but I didn’t because it wasn’t the OLYMPICS) and her mother ran over to the tantrum-ing little girl  and reassured her that she was still the best – she would do better on the next jump.  Once their little pep talk was over, the mother raced back over to me where the following conversation took place.

“My Lily, she just gets really sad when she fouls so I just have to make sure she is okay.”

“Right.”

“Yes.  Yesterday, she was doing discus and she threw a really good shot but it was a foul, as well.  The sports teacher there, Mr Clohe*, said that was the best shot he had ever seen and if it wasn’t a foul then it would have been the best discus throw ever.

Because Grade Four discus would compare to something like the Olympics.

“I can imagine.”

“Grace was just great!”

This mother continued with her fascination of being the coolest, most knowledgeable and completely over-rated mum there.  She compared kids in my grade with each other (how does she even know their names?  Her own child is in grade four???) and went on to measure every jump to 1.03792 exactly.  And she annoyed me.  A lot.

I stood at that athletics carnival and had a look at the parents who were there.  I listened to their conversations such as, “I cannot believe the technique they are teaching for shotput!” (Grade Three) and “I was so angry that my child did not get a PB in high jump, yesterday!” (Grade Three, again).  I looked in utter disbelief and thought:

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO THE WORLD?  WHEN DID ANYBODY CARE IF A SEVEN YEAR OLD DIDN’T MAKE A PB?  THEY’RE SEVEN?  WHEN DID THEY EVEN GET A PB?

Initially, I was just struck in absolute shock and then I became quite angry.  These parents, these obsessed and pressuring parents, are become so fanatical with their child and minor achievements such as the extra 0.000001 they added to their long jump PB that one day, that child will just give up.  That child will feel so much anxiety and pressure to win or get a PB that their fuse will just burn out and in turn, so will they.

This constant obsession that our society seems for our children to be able to play Grade Five piano when they’re five, winning nationals for swimming, cross country and netball, academically receiving A++ in every subject and being socially perfect is just rubbish.  I cannot understand why a parent would choose to inflict such pressure onto their child – such pain for a child to endlessly desire to live up to their parents’ growing, changing and heightening expectations and let their child run until the ends of the Earth just to please, but, nonetheless, it happens.  I see it every day.  I see what the parents want and what the child wants.  I see the polar opposites trying to meet and then one day, everything that child has ever done and the person they have become is stripped.  They get to a point where they can no longer cope with any pressure at all so they let everything go.

 

Let your child grow up.  Let your child lead their own life and nurture their talents, gifts and weaknesses.  Your child should be the most beautiful thing in the world to you, no matter their PB in Grade Four long jump, and if you can’t appreciate them just as they are, then you’re not being a true parent.

 

Did you know any parents who pressure their children?  Do you do it?  Why?  Do your parents pressure you? 

When Did Society Start Opposing Others’ Achievements?

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BY ABBY MAC

A few weeks ago, my school attended a sustainable business conference, initiated for high school students to see alternative methods of doing business to achieve ultimate sustainability.  One of the aspects to the program was each school being lectured on an individual topic and ours was Coal Seam Gas.  At the end of the presentation, we were again split into groups of four to answer questions about Coal Seam Gas.  The answers we submitted would be provided to a panel of judges who would select a winner from all the schools.  Surprisingly, the group I was in were announced as winners of the business conference.

We were the youngest  students to attend the conference and have only just begun studying Business in school, compared to Grade 12s from other schools who have been studying for two to three years.  Definitely a shock winning the conference, though, a very happy one.  We donned our small prizes, caps and water bottles, and proudly walked back to school with our trophy.  For the five minutes that we were oblivious to the world, being overtaken from immediate euphoria, we didn’t notice our fellow classmates snidely looking down on us.  After being told “to get over ourselves”, we woke up and came back to Earth to see a sea of class members scowling at us and refusing to respond to our questions if anything was wrong.  One girl turned around and gave us the finger.  How endearing?

We were quickly “put in our place” and shown that our “achievement” wasn’t even “that big”, according to them.  Now, after years of bullying and many mistakes, I have learnt to quietly accomplish and not live off the accolades of others to feel successful, thus, when we were awarded the prized, I didn’t jump up and down and bombard people with my feelings of absolute accomplishment and joy.  No, I smiled and congratulated the other group members for their prize and hard work.  Yet, I was still told to “shut up” and “get real”.

So, my question is, when did everyone reject the achievements of others?  Has this always been the case or is our society forming into one of feeling cheated if another person wins or does better than you do?  When did people just not accept that sometimes there will be a winner and a loser, or to not hurt their feelings anymore, almost winners?

Sometimes there will be times when you feel like you deserved something more than other person, but life is not about winning all the time.  Life is not about the end result but how you recover from it or enhance it.  I still can’t believe how our classmates reacted to our achievement.  We weren’t from an opposing school, we were on their team.  We were meant to be their friends.

I ask everyone to acknowledge that life’s not always fair but it is critical that we don’t reject our fellow mates, acquaintances, countrymen or whoever you are.  Follow the well-known saying – “treat others how you want to be treated”, ensuring that when you are the one deserving praises for success, one isn’t “congratulated” with the back of another’s finger.

Are you happy for other people’s achievements? Have you encountered negative response to accomplishment? 

When Did “Rape” Become Fashionable?

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BY ABBY MAC

Every person has either said or heard a joke around a touchy subject.  A subject that most people wouldn’t dare venture into, let alone joke about.  For a very long time, I thought one of those subjects were rape.  Other people don’t seem to agree

I have noticed, been slammed in the face with an alarming trend joking about rape.  Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you.  Teenagers and young adults, and I stress that I have only found it in us youths, are joking about rape.  I am usually one to try and defend teens or help to understand us a tad easier, but here I am fleeing for the hills and leaving them all on their own.  Actually, I’m more the person when has started the fight against them and making others flock elsewhere.  The plain truth is, it’s not right and it needs to stop now.  Right now.

These are the sorts of statements I hear on a daily basis.

“If you don’t give me a …….., I’m gonna rape you.”

“Oi!  Come over here or I’ll rape you.”

“I love you so much I could rape you.”

“I would love to rape your mother.”

My google search

This is what my Google search came up with when I looked for rape. Initially, “rape statistics australia” was below “rape seed”.

Yes.  Re-read.  And re-read again. I hear this every day.  Girls say it to girls.  Boys to boys.  Boys to girls and vice versa.  Sometimes it is said with insignificant intimidation but most of the time as a joke.  In fact, just on the weekend I heard a girl mutter to another girl on the sideline of the hockey game, “If you don’t score a goal, I’m going to rape you.”  Unfortunately, the girls talking were actually nice girls and it’s sad to admit that those who toy with rape aren’t just the typical people who always go over the top, but it’s being said by, to and about almost everyone.

So when almost everyone is joking and accepting jokes about rape, we create a rape culture.  The most unfortunate part of it all is while we joke and see light in rape, a horrific and mortifying criminal offence, every 152 seconds in the U.S. someone is sexually assaulted, 1 in 6 American women have been the victim of attempted or completed rape. So, in context, there is a high chance and you will drop a joke about a person being raped and someone who has actually been raped or who has been affected by rape will be standing there.  Maybe they might blow up and let you know that what you had just joked about wasn’t so funny and then maybe they won’t say a thing.  And you will continue going on and making your unfunny rape jokes.

Only 20% of sexual assaults are reported to police when nearly 100% of motor vehicle thefts are reported to authorities, in Australia.  17,757 people were sexually assaulted in 2010, remembering only 20% are actually reported so really there are around 88,785 people who were sexually assaulted in 2010.

This is not a technological failure.

This is not a technological failure. I would prefer not to show the disgusting memes centered around rape, like “rape sloth”.

Now, this isn’t a story completely based on rape and hurling at you all the statistics but it is one to let you know and your friends that it isn’t okay.  I am closely connected to a person who has been raped and it is not okay to joke about what they went through.  And this goes for all the other words that you think are hilarious to use like;

“Come here whore!”

“You’re my bitch!”

“I just love you nigga.”

All of things insults demean, degrade, undermine and trivialise important events which have occurred in the world’s history like the fight for equal rights between black and white and then men and women.

 

Rape will never be and is not something to laugh at.  It hurts the victim and family and friends.  So stop think it’s funny and truly recognise what an idiot you are for thinking so.

 

Do you or have you heard someone joke about rape?  Do you really think it’s funny?  If you have been affected by sexual assault and someone does joke about it, how does it make you feel?

 

Definition:

 

Sexual assault and abuse: actual or threatened, including sexual assault and the sexual abuse of children, that can be a single incident or a series of incidents that are located on a continuum of behaviours from sexual harassment to life-threatening rape;

  • any form of pressured and unwanted sex or sexual degradation by an intimate partner or ex-partner, such as sexual activity without consent;
  • non-consensual sexual acts;
  • causing pain during sex;
  • assaulting genitals;
  • forcing or coercing a person to have sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease;
  • making the victim perform sexual acts unwillingly (including taking explicit photos);
  • criticising, or using sexually degrading insults;
  • forcing a person/child to take their clothes off or remain naked against their will;
  • forcing a person to watch pornography or sexual activities;
  • lewdness or stalking;
  • indecent assault;
  • date rape;
  • drug-assisted sexual assault;
  • child sexual abuse or incest;
  • deliberate acts that groom children for sexual activity or exploitation ; and
  • exposure of a person/child to pornography, use of a person/child in the creation of pornography

The Way to Solve Bullying Is Not Through Awareness

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BY ABBY MAC

Through all the seminars, awareness programs and group chats at school that revolve about bullying and the urge to stop it, none have succeeded.  I am probably bursting dreams of many of the motivational speakers which have come to schools trying to convince various people not to bully and how to cope with bullying best, but the fact of the matter is; THEY’RE NOT WORKING.  I am sorry to break it to you but unfortunately, the hours spent promoting and having various “Say No to Bullying” days is not putting an end to bullying.

I have been severely bullied most of my schooling life (so far this year there has been none – let’s not jinx that) so I think it is fair that I have an opinion on this.  There are many different ways to attack the issue of bullying and each method will work better for a different victim and put a stop to the bullying faster.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” and sometimes that can be the largest problem with teachers, adults or anybody trying to solve bullying.  Approaches have to be different depending on the situation, type of bully and who the victim is.

Before writing this post, I questioned what I thought could end bullying and to be honest, I don’t know 100%.  I can provide advice and how I would have liked to seen the bullies be dealt with but they aren’t definite answers either.  Who knows what goes through the mind of someone that openly chooses to demean, degrade, criticise, inflict pain and damage another person?  Sometimes, nothing at all.  Below are a few things that I think need to be actioned more and unfortunately, more harshly.

1.       Accountability

Throughout the years that I have been bullied, not one person who has bullied me has ever had to apologise.  Not one.  Ever.  Quite frightening?  Not once have that had to admit to bullying me and apologise.  People not being made accountable for their actions means that haven’t had to see any fault in their behaviour.  It means that they aren’t being told that they’re behaviour they are showing is wrong.  Consequently, no effort has to be made by them to change.

Most time incidents of bullying has occurred, I have reported it to a teacher or if matters become worse, a year co-ordinator, deputy principal or headmaster.  Each time, they have either denied the bullying is occurring (Yes, because they would know sitting in their offices) or promised some sort of action which has never been followed through with.

Ensuring that bullies become accountable for their actions can firstly help to recognise their behaviour is wrong and in doing this, it tells them they have been caught and an excuse is not going to be provided for their behaviour.  Hopefully, this will lead to a cease in the bullying.

2.       Identifying all types of bullying

Bullying is not just punching someone.  It is not just calling them fat.  It is not just writing them a mean message.  Bullying can also be being a bitch.  At my last school, bitchiness, what the prime type of bullying I received, however, bitchiness is sometimes the hardest to identify and the easiest to cover.  Many people underestimate the power of people, particularly, girls being bitches to each other because bitchiness, is most of the time silent and adapted to directly hurt the individual intended.

Bullying is not okay

Bullying comes in all forms. And none of it is okay.

For instance, I was standing in line at school waiting for a class and a group of girls came up to our class and waved and said hello to everyone standing there.  Apart from me.  They did this every time we had that class for one and a half terms.  To an adult, it’s something you should just get over.  But when that happens every day, in front of everybody else, it hurts.  Or a group of girls playing “What Do I Hate” in class.  They were all sitting around me and it started with, girls with blonde hair, girls who wear their hair in plaits (I was wearing my hair in plaits), girls in White House (I was in White House), girls whose names begins with ‘A’.  It’s bitchy.  And it sucks.

Trying to tell an adult that them simply death staring you every time you go to your locker and following you to your next class but they aren’t in your next class, can just sound petty.  Most of the teachers I told said that I was just interpreting their behaviour wrong or for me to just grow up.  And that’s because they just don’t understand that bitchiness hurts and is hard to stop.  Identifying this and all types of bullying is key to stopping it.

3.       Why?

Most of the bullies that I have encountered they either suffer from issues at home or have reasons (not always directly linking to the victim) for why they bully.  Some have been bullied at home by parents or siblings, are acting by rumours they have heard or from friends and jealousy.  None are justifiable for the bullying but it helps to understand why.

Identifying and fixing the biggest question of all – why, is the greatest milestone of stopping individual cases of bullying.  Though it is the greatest achievement, it is often difficult to discover.  In some circumstances it is embarrassing, not yet understood or they are found out to be wrong.  As an example, in grade one I was bullied by another girl and it started because she was being bullied and abused by her mum.  Now, what she was doing to me wasn’t acceptable but it helped to explain why she was acting in the way that she was.  She clearly wasn’t cared for or had any control over her own life and so she needed to inflict the pain she was on me.

Questioning and attempting to understand the thought process of the bully can also be hard for them as speaking their reasons aloud can be embarrassing on their part.  Now, embarrassment isn’t always the solution but it aids in ceasing the bullying.

4.       Enforcing punishment and change

I don’t always source complete agreement on this point, however, I believe enforcing stronger punishment is crucial to stopping bullying.  Solving the root of bullying, which I addressed above, is the real solution to stopping bullying though this process is time consuming and in the meantime, we solve the more immediate issue with direct punishment – showing that for every action there is consequence.

As an example, I came out of the gym one day to the sports notice board.  For a couple of days, photos from our school touch football team were on the board and there happened to be one of me about to pass the ball.  As I walked out towards the board a group of girls from my team were standing around the photo of me.  When they saw me, they looked back, giggled and walked away.  The photo of me was now a photo of my body with my head ripped out and in the team photo, my face was scribbled out with pen.

Nothing happened to those girls.  The photo was simply taken down and replaced with a new one after I reported the incident.  These girls continued their parade with refusing to pass the ball to me on the field and different tactics to get me out of the team.  There was no punishment.  No consequences for their actions.  In this incidence, immediate punishment would have stopped their behaviour.  The school instigating that they will not play any games until their torments stopped.  I can almost guarantee I would have no longer been bullied if quick enforcement of the rules had occurred.

More action needs to be taken to bring an end to bullying instead of pitying the bully for the punishment that they might get or giving them one more chance when they have clearly abused the amount of rope you have already supplied them with. In cases like this, how much the victim suffers and will continue to suffer without punishment towards the bullying, is far worse than small punishment for poor behaviour.

5.       Becoming real.

Many teachers, parents and adults don’t like to believe that the perceived Good Girl is oh so bad.  As parents, I can imagine it would be hard to think that the son or daughter you brought up could not be the person that you thought they were.  Though, it is better to make small admissions and fix their behaviour than letting it continue and escalate.  At my last school, they refused to admit that girls were bullying each other and preferred to live in a perfect world of perfect people.  Such action caused the dux of their grade, most valuable hockey player, needed touch player for the undefeated team and competitor in swimming and athletics to switch to a different school.  Just because they didn’t become real.

Having pictures around the school with a big, red zero around it does not stop kids from bullying.

Bullying

These sorts of posters. They don’t help.

If schools think this is a good enough solution to bullying then they are very stupid and frankly, partly responsible for bullying.  I have witnessed first hand the commence of “Bullying Awareness Week” and having a discussion in class about actively trying to stop bullying, and kids walked out and impersonated and bullied a boy in our class.  Bullying awareness isn’t the answer.  It also isn’t completely invaluable.  It helps in some aspects of bullying, but it does not solve it.  When the world works this out, so will bullying.

Have you been bullied?  Was it fixed?  If so, how?  

Being Careful: It’s Not Victim-Blaming

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BY ABBY MAC

After recent tumultuous events involving women being violated, hurt and even murdered, a fight for women, but not limited to, to be safe on our streets, has ignited.  People from all ages, no matter what their gender should be allowed to walk down the streets at any time of night, by themselves wearing whatever clothing they choose and not be frightened of predators.  As women, we should be allowed to feel safe walking wearing high heels and a skirt, at 11:00 p.m. down a shadowy alley.  That would be wonderful.  I would never feel afraid again.  However, expecting this is unrealistic.

Girl Alone

We live in a world with many positive aspects and many rapidly improving negatives, from the fight for gender equality to environmental considerations.  We are constantly changing and with these changes, I enjoy seeing parts of our world blossom.  And as much as I would like to add to the list, women feeling comfortable on weird streets late at night, I can’t because it’s simply not true.  Sure, there might be some exceptions to this rule but generally, I stress this generalisation, I would be called a liar. 

We see horrifying stories flash on our television screens describing the despicable acts committed to women whilst trying to walk home or to their parked car.  We are then reminded of the reassuring statistics such as that it is more likely than not that, that women will sexually assaulted a male they know than a stranger.  80% of sexual assault victims know their perpetrators (Better Health Channel).  We are then falsely placed in a sense of security.  Why?  Because there is still that chance that we can be hurt by a strange man on the street.  True, right?

Being oblivious to the fact that you can still be attacked by a strange man is surely just being ignorant?  There are tips my mum and other adults have given to try and be safe on the street like holding the sharpest key between my fingers, how to stop and quickly defend myself against attacks, not wearing high heels and if I am, how to use them and other implements as weapons.  I know, I know.  Some may say slightly over the top, however, it is being equipped with the best possible plans of attacks and knowledge if I was to be put in a similar, unlikely situation.  It is not victim-blaming.  It is being real.  And living in the world that not following safety measures is your way to be a feminist or show the world that not being a victim-blamer, then you’re not being real.  

I am outraged that people suggest that women need to stop going out at night or have a drink in case a man attacks them.  There is victim-blaming.  This is where the line stops, where people suggest it’s the women that need to change than the indescribably contemptible men who commit such acts.  That is victim-blaming.  Being careful is not. 

Mia Freedman, author of mamamia.com.au, conducted a controversial interview with feminist and fellow author Caitlin Moran about the idea of victim-blaming, where the real and on-line world was erupted by their thoughts.  Outraged by their opinions.  Criticising their positions as feminists for their comments.  Here is part of the interview:

Mia and Caitlin

Mia Freedman and Caitlin Moran

“M: There was a very tragic case in Melbourne recently, about an Irish girl who was walking home from a bar, and who was married and lived 800 metres from a bar, and was walking home and was just randomly abducted and raped and murdered. And it’s really been one of those watershed moments for the whole country.

There have been peace marches, and reclaim the night marches, because it is that thing that we all fear, a woman walking alone, randomly taken from the streets, and it’s really divided a lot of women. Because there have been those who have said, “don’t blame the victim, we need to be free to walk the streets at any time, it’s men who need to be taught not to rape and murder.”

And of course it should never be about victim blaming but I worry about the idea of saying to women “don’t change your behaviour, this is  not your problem!”. I feel like that’s saying, ”You should be able to leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition, or leave your front door unlocked, and expect nobody to burgle you.”

C: Yes. It’s on that basis that I don’t wear high heels – other than I can’t walk in them – because when I’m lying in bed at night with my husband, I know there’s a woman coming who I could rape and murder, because I can hear her coming up the street in high heels, clack-clack -clack.  And I can hear she’s on her own, I can hear what speed she’s coming at, I could plan where to stand to grab her or an ambush.

To be honest, I agree with them completely.  There are definitely times where victim-blaming occurs.  Where people assume that just because a woman gets raped means that she is a slut.  Definitely.  No doubt.  But helping yourself be safe is not.  We don’t live in a perfect world surrounded by perfect people who all want the best for us, so we need to stop treating it that way.  Not recognising this is simply lying to yourself.  It’s not blaming the victim.  It’s helping you not become the victim.

What is your perspective on victim-blaming?  Is being safe victim-blaming? 

I love my sisters. It doesn’t mean I get to see them.

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BY ABBY MAC

When I say sisters, they’re not my full sisters.   I sometimes say step-sisters or half.  Though, to me, it doesn’t matter whether we don’t share the same blood or family tree, they are still my sisters.

I dearly love my sisters and everyday I cherish the moments I did get to spend with them, however, just because I love them doesn’t mean I can see them.  Just like my dad, I haven’t seen my sisters for four years and that isn’t going to change in the near future.  The eldest of my two sisters is eight and the yougest is five.   My brother has had brief contact with my dad and he says that the eldest one remembers me and the youngest one doesn’t but she knows of me.

Every Christmas and birthday I receive a card from them and I rip open the envelope, shut the door to my bed room and sit and have a cry.  I sit and cry a mixture guilt, love and sadness.  I feel guity for not being with them, watching them grow and nurturing them.  I am sorry for not being the sister I should be.  I can only watch both grow through their handwriting skills, from just scribbles to carefully copied dotted lines and now legible writing that slides downwards.

The last letter I wrote to them I decided to add photos of my brother and I.  I know this may seem a minute step to most, but I never receive a reply to my letters where I ask a thousand questions.  The worst they could do is not reply and possibly stop talking to me forever, but I was willing to take the chance.  If they accepted this step, it would hopefully see the end to my unanswered question and a progression in our relationship.

I know that it is not their choice to not reply.  I understand that is my dad and his wife that limit the contact but it still hurts to never hear anything back from them.  When I decided to not see my dad anymore, it wasn’t a hard choice.  Part of our difficult relationship stemmed from his new family and he preferred to spend time with the girls than me.  For a long time I resented them over his choice and so when I left, I was definitely saddened that I couldn’t see them anymore because I did love them, but I did think that I could move on from whatever a one year old and ten year old could share.  Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful.

As I grew up, I found that I did not resent the girls, I resented his choice to priortise them over me.  I no longer resented my sisters but deeply missed them and felt a sense of guilt from choice to leave them.  Even now, I would still choose to not see my dad but I know the decision would be harder for me.  I know that if I stayed with my dad, I would have continued to become an angry and unhappy girl which is something that would be hard to undo however, I hope that I will one day rekindle a relationship with my sisters when they aren’t influenced my dad or his wife.

A part of me understands that there will come a time where we won’t talk.  I am predicting that my dad will try and persuade them to lose contact with me and he will tell his side to the long and complicated relationship we had.  Though, I do hope that they will want to one day find out for themselves what really went down.  That is something I have to accept.

Everyday I miss my sisters more and I will never stop caring and loving them.  I feel like I should be painting their nails and combing their hair.  Helping them with school work and talking about movies, friends and boys with them.  But I can’t do that.  I don’t know what school they go to, what type of clothes they like or want sport they both play.  I sometimes feel as though I have failed them.

For the first time yet, the girls have replied to my letter.  They sent back photos of themselves.  As usual, I cried.  I stuck the photos up in my room and I feel grateful for what I have now been granted.  I know that the youngest one has brown curly hair and the eldest likes tie dye clothing.  It’s minimal information, but it still feels like too much.  I can now compare how much they have grown from the images of the their baby faces in my mind, to their now grown-up ones.

Even though I love my girls to pieces, it doesn’t mean I get to see them.

From one the cards the eldest sister wrote to me:

‘…Dear Abby….I miss you so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so much and I will love you forever.   I can’t wait until I can see you again…roses are red, violets are blue and I will never stop loving you.’

Accompanied by a beautiful drawing of the day we see each other again.

Have you been separated by a loved one by choice? Do you still keep in touch, if so, how?  How do you feel on this topic?

She died. But I knew her.

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BY ABBY MAC

A few weeks ago, a girl I knew, got into the passenger seat of a car and went joy riding. She was 16 and the driver, also drunk, was 18. Then, at 3:30am the car they were driving slammed into a power pole and tore half the car apart leaving one half at the power pole and the other 10 metres further up the road. What followed was the most frightening. Silence. Those who lived on the road or close by didn’t hear screams for helps and the girls moaning in agony. It was totally silent.

Both the driver and passenger were killed which left police reporting it as a ‘horrific’ scene and one that is unforgettable. Unlike all the crashes broadcast upon televisions, newspapers and the internet, I knew that girl. I knew that girl, who I know was judged for being an out of control teen who couldn’t identify the fine line that ran between right and wrong. I knew that girl who left parents tutting and lead as a model to everything that the child shouldn’t be.

At the time of the accident, I was holidaying and so I wasn’t aware of the crash until three days ago. I was told by a friend that a girl from my previous school had died in a car accident but she didn’t know and so I was left to mull over taking second guesses and who it was.

I knew the girls were drunk and at a party so I quickly created a profile of what I thought the girl was like; untamed, popular and risky. At that stage, I didn’t know who had died but I judged her, nevertheless. As soon as I arrived home, I scoured the internet for anything on the two girls or the crash.

Then, I saw her face. I knew her. I knew that girl. I read story after story, describing what type of girl she was. The media painted her a profile that sickened me. They ensured parents would only feel more comfortable tutting her. By the way the media painted her, people think they know her. They know her type. But, they did not know her. Everyone was happy to accept that she was just another teen who got drunk, jumped in a car and crashed. Just like I have in the past, people think that there is only one type of teen that gets drunk and crashes a car. But there’s not.

I think that there is a naivety in how many teens did what that girl did. The naivety spread across other teens, parents and adults. Before I hit high school, I didn’t know that people in grade eight were getting drunk, smoking and having sex. Before I hit high school, I thought the law and common sense could stop this. I know girls who are loved and adored by parents and teachers, represent their school as a captain or leader and also the girls who get drunk Friday night, smoke pot and end by having sex.

I am not saying that all teenagers get drunk, smoke or have sex. Not at all. I don’t do that. But what I trying to stress is that there is not one type of teenager who does that. It is not necessarily the teen whose ear is decorated and earrings and runs the popular crowd nor can we rule out that it is the middle school captain who is adored by everyone in the community. Eventually, our naivety spreads to ignorance. We don’t want to believe that the good girl is also the bad one. Truthfully, it is easier to believe that it is the bad girl and feel safe knowing that your friend, son or daughter or pupil isn’t them.

The way the media portrayed this girl, she was the bad girl. But she really wasn’t. I didn’t know her very well, but she definitely left and imprint on me when I did talk to her. We both played hockey at school and since some trainings different teams trained together, I started to get to know her. I particularly dislike training with her team due to the criticism I would receive for being fitter, faster and more skilful than them. While I ran laps around (literally), her and all her friends, she was the only one that wouldn’t try to trip me as I ran or would yell different taunts at me as I ran. She was that girl who stuck up for me. However, the media failed to portray this side to her. Because it was easier if she was the troublesome girl.

For the sake of her privacy, I will call her Elizabeth. Elizabeth wasn’t troublesome, she was just troubled. Like everyone, she had multiple different faces and sides which only certain people would see certain sides. At school, with her friends, she was the one everyone liked. At home, she created trouble. For me, she was very kind and thoughtful.

A part of me feels wrong for grieving for her loss. I didn’t know her that long. I think that it isn’t my right to cry and feel a sense of loss for someone I only talked with weekly and eventually stopped because we no longer trained together. Though, sometimes I cry not just for her loss but for other things as well. I cry because of the way she has been portrayed in the media. I cry because she is now helpless to defend herself against the tuts and the stories her family are now telling the media. I cry because the last face being shown is the troublesome one.

I cry about death itself. I have never really experienced it and I don’t even know if this loss counts as an experience but death is inevitable. For me and everyone I know. Death is something that cannot be stopped yet we dance around the idea of dying. We place an age on death, when really death is not an age but the end to your story. For Elizabeth, death was an age and not the end to her story. Death was not a car slamming into a power pole at a high speed and the car being torn apart.

I still find it hard to get my head around this loss of life. Not life as in her heart stopping beating and her body no longer functioning but how her spirit and her essence is so easily taken from this world. How can that girl who once galloped around the hockey fields, limped to her semi-formal because her foot was broken and stood up for me now gone? Before Elizabeth died, I placed an age on death as well.

It’s not anyone’s fault that she and her friend died. If we blame someone for it, it is much the same as judging what Elizabeth was like. I wish from the bottom of my heart that what happened didn’t happen. I really do. But, that wish is impossible and I think the best I can do is learn from this event and portray Elizabeth in a light so many haven’t. I have decided to write her a letter.

Dear Elizabeth,

I hope you are feeling okay. I hope you don’t feel wrong that I am grieving for your death even though we haven’t talked for a while. I want you to know that what you did for me was really special and eased the pain of going to those trainings. I can’t really repay you now for what you do but I am doing my best. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that you’re gone. That slamming into a pole could take away all of you. Your essence of life and kindness but that’s what death does.

I am sorry for assuming the type of person you were in that car. But I know now that you were so much more. I am sorry you didn’t even get to finish school and be proud of your achievement. I am so incredibly sorry for your death.

Your life and death has changed me.

Abby.