#MeToo

This is one of the most well-written and easy to understand posts I’ve found for awhile. Everything she says is true. I know because I’ve been part of the #MeToo campaign and then wondered afterwards, “So what?”

The other night after reading a week or so of Harvey Weinstein-inspired news and articles, I realised that I was re-living all the same anger I felt last year. I finally succumbed to it and posted something on Instagram about it, naming and shaming my ex. I’ve done that before. Big deal.

But this time, it said where he worked.

Nothing changed.

And so I removed it.

Because despite the few emails, comments, messages and letters I’ve received from people, still others have said, “Get over it,” or, “Yes, sometimes that happens.” (I’M SORRY, BUT IT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN!)

Some of these people are women.

Nothing changed.

He’s still working for the school that didn’t fire him, despite knowing what he’s done to me (and hearing other people’s stories too). That’s their way to deal with it. Don’t disrupt the harmony. Sometimes chaos is needed to bring about change. But unfortunately, reputation, especially for companies is paramount.

I wasn’t asked to leave. I chose to.

But still, nothing has changed.

I’m skeptical too.

I’m glad that it’s become something women do talk about though. I’m glad there are so many men who are jumping on board and saying that this is not normal male behaviour and that not mean all men are like that. I’m glad that people have been inspired to tell their stories and get it off their chest.

But there needs to be some fundamental ACTION in saying this will not be tolerated by anyone in ANY industry. Without that, it’s all just words.

 

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A Haircut to Remember

Oh yes. It is definitely one to remember.

It’s been just over a week since I had it done and although my personal excitement may have dimmed slightly (meaning I’ve stopped looking at my reflection so much and thinking, ‘fuck I’m beautiful!’), the reactions of others is still coming.

My friends love it. Random strangers have stopped me on the street to say how beautiful it is and my students (the girls) won’t stop running their hands over my head.

Oh and then there’s the staff from all the places I go regularly.

The 7-Eleven ladies’ faces lit up, the kaiten-sushi (conveyor belt or sushi train) staff said, “Wow, you look so stylish!”

But my two favourite comments came from two men I know. 

The first was from the Master at my favourite okonomiyaki restaurant. I sat there in his restaurant for an entire hour before he realised I had indeed had a haircut. 

His simple response of, “Sugoi!” meaning, ‘amazing!’ in Japanese was priceless. 

The second comment happened this morning when I ran into a Japanese friend of mine. 

His question, “Is your mind okay?”

I assured him yes, it was not a Britney moment. In fact, it was a moment of clarity. 

And with that, knowing I was happy, he was too. 

A ‘Vegemite’ Night to Remember

Last night I was the host of a Vegemite-inspired, Australian night at the rental space and kitchen, 20T in Hiroshima.

This is a link to their blog with a run-down of exactly what happened as we got creative and used Vegemite as a miso paste substitute in Japanese recipes. I detest Vegemite and yet dare I say, I actually enjoyed it! The company of course helped too!

The website is in Japanese, but you can use Google Translate to help you read it. Then again, the photos are pretty self explanatory. 🙂

 

Vegemite: the star attraction of an Aussie-themed night at 20T

Vegemite is an Australian icon and one of those things that many Aussies miss desperately if they move or even travel overseas. I say, ‘many,’ not, ‘most,’ because since speaking out (loudly!) and declaring my disgust for the food, I’ve found fellow ex-pats who hate it too. Unfortunately, most of them seem to be from countries other than Australia. Oh well…

That aside, let me describe Vegemite and give you a bit of a rundown on the product that can be found in every Australian house.

Vegemite was first created back in 1922 by a man named Cyril Percy Callister in Melbourne. He made it from sludge he found on the floor and added vegetables and salt. Okay, so I made that first bit up, but to be honest, it does look like sludge or perhaps something you’d find under a dodgy car. It does contain vegetables (according to the ingredients on the label anyway), but it’s always been a mystery as to exactly what else is in it. It’s like the Colonel’s ‘secret recipe,’ at KFC, except nowhere near as, “finger lickin good.” I think in the case of Vegemite, perhaps it needs to remain a secret because if we were to discover exactly what was in it, I suspect no one would eat it ever again. As for the taste… imagine eating miso paste or the saltiest thing you can find and times it by about 100 or maybe 1000. I’m not really sure. It prides itself on being high in Vitamin B, which it is, but it’s also extremely high in salt. It’s also rich in what the Japanese refer to as, ‘umami,’ or what us Westerners consider to be the fifth taste. The only thing I think it has going for it, is that being rich in Vitamin B, it is THE perfect hangover cure.

A Vegemite sandwich can be found in nearly every school-age child’s lunchbox every single day of the week. Think of it as the equivalent of an onigiri (riceball) in a Japanese bento. For some kids this brings great excitement. For me, I was always hoping that one day I would bite into my sandwich and discover that it was the sweet hazelnut taste of Nutella, rather than the salty vegetable taste of Vegemite. It never happened. It was truly one of life’s biggest disappointments or at least the life an eight year old has lived up to that point.

Vegemite is primarily used as a spread for sandwiches, toast or crackers but can also be used as a marinade, a stock base or in perhaps what scarred me for life thanks to my mum, soup. Yes, whenever I had an upset stomach she would insist on making me Vegemite soup. Basically, this consists of taking a HUGE dessert spoon of ‘black tar’ aka Vegemite and adding it to boiling water. I prayed desperately never to get a stomach bug and often pretended I was fine just to avoid having to eat it. If you know anything about Vegemite, it’s never, ever to eat that amount in that way. Arsehole Australians will often tell naïve and unsuspecting, trusting travellers that the way to eat Vegemite is to take a big spoon and eat it right out of the jar. It’s akin to telling a gaijin that the way to eat wasabi is to eat it like avocado. For the record, Vegemite is best eaten when it’s spread very thinly over a layer of margarine. It’s also good with cheese or avocado on bread or toast. Or atop vanilla ice cream. I kid you not. Even I was pleasantly surprised and possible even enjoyed it.

That’s why, after careful consideration, I spoke to Eiko Nishida, the owner and brainchild of 20T, a co-working space in Hiroshima. We decided to investigate whether Vegemite could be used as a miso paste substitute and thus, introduce it to the tastebuds of Japanese people through a ‘Vegemite/Australian Night.’ She declared it to be a great idea and so Vegemite will be the VIP of its own event next month in May. Stay tuned for details here or check out the 20T website.

The Survivor: Part II

Last year I wrote a piece for my blog about my experience and posted it soon after. I also sent the link to my ex who I felt needed to know what I thought about it. 

His reaction and I quote, “It’s insulting to those who really experienced it.”

Now at the time and in my confused and traumatised mind I thought maybe he was right. Was what I experienced the same? I mean I had been in a relationship with him and people who cared about you and loved you didn’t do those kind of things did they? 

Wrong.

Remember the 65 to 85% from my last post? Yes, exactly. But it is true; people who really do care about and love you would never do those things. 

The next thing he said was that I had come to his apartment on my own accord and I was drunk so what did I expect to happen? Oh man, in my current, clear thinking, sane mind all I can say now is, “You sir, are a fucking pig.”

I don’t have to justify anything here because there is no excuse for his behaviour. You know what I mean. Drunk or sober, it doesn’t matter. If you can’t say yes and you can’t say no, it’s not consensual. And the fact that he was completely sober makes the whole thing a lot worse. 

At the time, however, I was still so frightened I took the post down and deleted it. 

Now before I go any further, I would like to clarify the use of my language in this post and point out that I don’t like the word, ‘victim.’ To me it makes the person sound weak and they are anything but. Thus, my preferred term is, ‘survivor.’

I remember I used to think that people should speak out as soon as possible after it happened but I had never been in their shoes. I didn’t know that not only was your brain trying to process what had happened, it was also trying desperately to rationalise, justify and explain why it had happened. In the case of knowing the person, you also have a whole mix of emotions fighting with your head. 

People don’t speak out for various reasons and sometimes when they do, it is months or even years later. I never understood that either but I can now explain why. 

Speaking out about what happened to me is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Keeping quiet would have been easier but it was also a burden I didn’t want to carry for the rest of my life. I also have a responsibility to the young women I know who come into contact with him every single day. 

When a survivor of sexual assault or rape chooses not to stay silent she (or he) is first and foremost terrified that people won’t believe them. 

The second fear is that the person who did it will try and get revenge. 

So why did I choose to speak out?

The reason was twofold: 1) to prevent future women, especially young ones from having to be put in the same situation. I had heard stories and realised that perhaps I was the voice for all the ones who stayed silent because they were afraid, shamed or felt guilty (again, all emotions that are legitimate and that you do experience). The second reason was to get it off my chest and thus as a way to heal and move on. 

I’m extremely lucky. People not only knew I was telling the truth but two of my male co-workers who knew what had happened spoke up before me. I simply confirmed their stories. The support and resolution I also got were amazing and beyond any of my expectations. I was offered counselling and I was offered a lawyer if I wanted to take it further. 

It was then that I truly realised how much people I work with, know and am friends with, love me and respect me. A strong support network is essential for getting over something like this. 

Whoever you are and wherever you are, remember that there is always someone who is willing to listen to your story. People will believe you and if they don’t, then you are speaking to the wrong people. Find someone you trust implicitly and tell them and together seek help. 
Love to all the survivors out there; your story will not be forgotten. xxxooo

The Survivor: Part I 

When you hear stories of sexual assault and rape, for some reason you often think of unknown men in deserted side streets in the dodgy area of town. Sure, they do still happen but the statistics for actually knowing the person are far higher at 65 to 85%. The second thing you often think is that it won’t happen to you. 

Last year I had the experience I never thought would happen and yes, I’m one more statistic in that range of 65 to 85%. 

I think in this case the hardest thing to deal with is that this was someone you trusted, cared about and in many cases, even loved. For me it was someone I had been in a relationship with. To try and comprehend that someone who you were once sexually intimate with will drive you mad. You will question every look, move and thing they said and wonder whether any of it was genuine. Worst of all you will question yourself, feel disgusted you got sucked in and wonder if you had done something differently if it would have turned out this way. You will also feel disgusted at yourself that despite what they did to you, that even now, sometimes you find yourself wishing that they could touch you like they did before all that happened. 

On the other end of the spectrum you will at times also want to do the same thing they did to you, to them, to make them feel pain, shame and belittled. You may even feel like killing them and imagine how you would do it and the pleasure you would get from that. All of these emotions may be experienced in the course of one day and I assure you, they are normal reactions. They will pass. 

Don’t be too hard on yourself and try to forgive those who don’t understand and who say things like , “Get over it,” or “You need to move on.” There is no time frame for something like this and only you can decide when you’re really okay. 

Perhaps my biggest insight is that it doesn’t matter how many times you rehash the scene or the memories. There is no method to their madness. You did nothing wrong and you cannot think about this logically. It defies explanations and any type of reasoning. 

The person who did this if you’ll pardon my French (oh, this is more ironic than you’ll ever know!), is fucked in the head. They are mentally ill and nothing you did or didn’t do will change that. You cannot reason with a madman (or woman) and even though this may sound strange, you cannot keep blaming yourself because truthfully, that is what we do. In most cases you cannot and should not try talking to them about it because they will shift the blame onto you and will justify their behaviour. This of course makes you feel worse than you already do and you will wonder if maybe they are right after all. It is a major waste of your time, energy and breath. They are beyond your help and remember, you cannot save or help someone who doesn’t think they are wrong or need it in the first place. 

On the other hand what you can do is surround yourself with a supportive network of family and friends and live each day. You will be surprised at the support you do get and realise that you are worth more than you ever thought you would be. You will also see that you actually love and respect yourself because you didn’t allow yourself to see this as the end of your story, but as the beginning of something new where you emerge stronger and more beautiful, just like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. You will smile and even laugh when you realise the person who did this is weak and doesn’t have any power over you because you are stronger and wiser than they will ever be. And you will go out and tell your story in the hope of healing yourself and others and maybe even be the voice for all the silent women who cannot yet speak their truth. 

Love to you all. xxxooo