In Praise of Play School

I can’t believe the fuss caused by a 15 second segment in Playschool showing a young girl being taken to a fair by her two “mummies”.
Both Prime Minister John Howard and Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson have accused the ABC of being ‘politically correct’.
It’s a while since I watched Playschool (my youngest is now 16) but I used to watch it quite regularly with my four children. Playschool has always shown diversity without comment or sensation. Presenters have diverse ethnic backgrounds and the segments show people from all walks of life.
The rationale is that children get used to the world being made up of lots of different people who look different to each other, live different lifestyles and work in different occupations. There is nothing to explain to children. It’s just the way it is.
It’s a pity we ‘grown-ups’ can’t see the world the same way.

Breasts – one man’s perspective

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Breasts – The Women’s Perspective on an American Obsession

I believe that sexuality is really important in the world of work. It is
there and denying it denies part of who we all are. However we need to be able
to express our sexuality that builds relationship rather than to build personal
power at the expense of others. One of the themes of this weblog is about how
we might go about doing this. This book by Carolyn Latteier is pointer to one
aspect of this quest.

I have been fascinated by breasts for as long as I can remember. However, for
the life of me I don’t understand why.

I was having breakfast with a male colleague the other day and I asked him
"Why are we so fascinated by breasts?" His face lit up and he replied
"Oh mate, they’re just awesome!" I understood where he was coming
from but it didn’t shed any light on the question.

Most of my female friends and colleagues know that I, like most men they know,
am fascinated by breasts. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t but whichever
way the pendulum swings (excuse the pun) they don’t understand it.

This puzzlement is encapsulated in a story from my teaching days when I was
a Year 11 form teacher. During this particular year I took form assembly each
morning to call the roll and give the daily announcements. One of the girls
in my form was a truly delightful young lady by the name of Mandy. She was also
a very attractive young lady. This day it was still early in the year and the
girls were wearing their summer dresses (which are probably the same cut in
every school in Australia). Our form assembly was held in the Chemistry room
which meant I stood at the elevated desk at the front of the room while students
who wanted to discuss anything stood on the lower floor at the front of the
room (so you already know what’s going to happen next…). I was fairly strict
about uniform. Boys wearing their ties with shirts tucked in and girls having
their top buttons done up. One morning Mandy came to the front desk and her
top button was undone. Given our relative positions I couldn’t help noticing
what was being revealed and in another situation I could have enjoyed it for
a moment. But I just said "Mandy, do your top button up please." Her
response has lived with me to this day. Some girls would have said this as a
throw away, just a tiny bit teasing line. But Mandy did not, at that time, have
an ounce of the tease or seductress in her. She said, almost quizically, "Why
does it matter? It’s just another part of the body." She was genuinely
puzzled why we men are so fascinated with breasts. I hope she learned to appreciate
her own beauty and the mystique that her breasts held. But at that stage, as
a young emerging woman she just wanted to be a person with everyday ordinary
part of the body breasts. So what!

In an ongoing quest to understand my own fascination, I came across this book
by Carolyn Latteier. I snapped it up as soon as I saw it and read the chapter
on "Breast Men". It was comforting and interesting to read the various
accounts of men she interviewed but did not fulfill my fantasy that at the end
of the chapter she would solve my puzzle.

The book is however a very good read. I should point out that if you are looking
for titilation you won’t find it here. Rather Latteier’s rich stories about
women’s quests to regain control of their own bodies is moving reading. I would
recommend it for both men and woment for that reason alone. Men would do well
to read it to help us understand some of the effects on women of our attention
to breasts. About how we have made breasts more our property than the women
whose bodies they happen to be attached to. Here are two passages from the book.
One from near the beginning and one from the last page:

For a growing girl, the advent of body consciousness often comes with the
first appearance of breasts. … The body is no longer the me of childhood
– that bundle of amorphous pleasures and pains, the me that loves to run and
jump and eat ice cream. The body becomes my equipment, my display, and something
I own, something for which I am responsible. My body is a quantity to be judged
by others who draw conclusions about me based on what they see.

The great American breast fetish is alive and well, but more people are aware
of it, and that means that things are changing. I would like to see us face
up to this obsession. By that I don’t mean that breasts should be desexualised
or that breast men should all go in for attitude adjustments. I would, however,
like to see the majority of women feeling OK about their breasts. I would
like to see breast-feeding become a natural and easy choice. I would like
to stop seeing women being judged by the size and shape of their breasts.

I would like to see that too.

A Small Dance

Over the last few weeks I have been watching a small community run organisation
try not to tear itself apart.

It all started when one of the closeknit and well established group of four
staff members went on maternity leave. ‘Trish’, the replacement person did not
immediately fit in and started to make some errors of judgement. Complicating
the situation, the existing director had taken over from Trish around ten years
ago when she left to have a family. Only one of the assistants remained from
Trish’s previous tenure and no-one from the previous committee of management
remained.

From the outside and hearing everything second hand it seemed like the new
person had become incompetent in the situation.

Also from my perspective hearing how everyone reacted, it seemed like the anxiety
in the organisation rose to extreme levels when Trish started.

  • The existing director had never had such an experienced person in the more
    junior position
  • The existing director had known Trish in a previous environment and appreciated
    her professionalism
  • The one person who had previously worked with Trish had reservations about
    working with her again. Mainly because of this, the appointment committee
    more would have appointed someone else if there had been a suitable candidate.
  • The existing director is very close to the one person who worked with Trish
    when Trish was the director
  • The preferred candidate for the position declined to accept the appointment
    (she could not negotiate special employment conditions.)
  • The personality difference between Trish and ‘Nadia’, the person she replaced,
    was extreme. Nadia was highly organised and efficient but lacked people skills.
    Trish treated the clients extremely well but lacked confidence and could sometimes
    put her co-workers off by appearing to be aloof.

I am not there, but from what I hear, Trish is making a lot of mistakes. She
is not exercising appropriate duty of care, she seems to forget to do elementary
things that everyone expects would be second nature to someone of her experience
and does not seem to be able to manage her time appropriately. Is Trish being
scapegoated? Does Trish want to be scapegoated.

When Trish first started making errors, everyone else retreated and hoped that
she would just get better with time. But she didn’t. I encouraged the director
to take Trish aside and say something like "Look Trish we know you are
better than this. What IS happening for you." But she didn’t.

The management committee considered terminating Trish’s probationary period
but felt they had not worked openly enough with her and given her sufficient
opportunity to respond to their concerns.

After a lot of heartache, Trish is still there and has responded significantly
to the concerns raised by the management committee.

However, there is precious little generosity and a lot of mistrust around.
I keep thinking that generosity would go a long way to improving the situation.
But the anxiety still seems to high.

I wonder what comes next.

If you can’t measure it then you need to manage it

We were at a breakfast recently (we do eat sometimes you know) when we heard the familiar refrain “If you can’t measure it then you can’t manage it.”
Oh so sad to hear that tired old catchphrase beeing trumpeted again. Even sadder to reflect how many people believe it so strongly. Education is a topic dear to our heart here at chriscurnow.com. We weep with despair when we see our political masters spending so much of their time and energy trying to ‘measure’ the results of education rather than trying to understand it.

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Commentary on ‘Three Cars’

chriscurnow.com has had enthusiastic feedback to the first installment of “Three Cars in the Garage.” Please keep coming back for further installments. We think it will take us about a week to edit each part. In the meantime, we will be posting shorter stories and opion pieces.