Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Excerpt from My Novella

As I mentioned a little while back, I'm currently writing a novella (definitely not patient enough for a novel you know), and I thought it could be good to share a little excerpt from it. The passage is roughly from the middle of the story, but I thought it was a good one because it doesn't give too much away from the main plot. I threw in a visual stimulus because why not. "YOLO" as the youth of today say. Lend me your thoughts, don't be too brutal (please, I'm sensitive), it is a work in progress and a draft of a draft of a draft. 





She’d woken up a few times that morning. It was a sort of ethereal outer-body experience. She’d dreamt she’d gotten up, pulled on her sweatshirt, slid her spectacles carefully onto the bridge of her nose and walked into her little kitchen to make herself a cup of coffee. She dreamt this a few times, almost as if it were on a loop, and every time she felt as if it were actually happening. It felt so real, too mundane and typical to be a dream. She’d had trouble falling asleep recently, and her mornings became harder to deal with. These dreams had become a sort of staple to her morning routine. When she finally shifted from the dream, her eyes opened slowly. The morning light pried itself into her eyelids. Meg’s eyes opened up to a blurry view of her room, lit with a warm and hazy hue. She picked up her sweatshirt off the floor, and pulled it over her body. Grabbing her thick-framed glasses off the nightstand, she slid them on, adjusting her eyes to her newfound vision. As she walked into her kitchen, she saw her fridge door wide open. An unknown man was arched over and peering into it. 
  “Uh, hi,” she stood there awkwardly, her hand stuck in the air, mid-wave. 
  “Oh hey, sorry, I’m Freddie, you must be Meg. I’m Petra’s...well, we went on a date, before. Last night, I mean. Hi. Sorry. I’m Fred.” 
  He looked at her, perplexed as to what to say, still holding the fridge door open. Meg tried to ignore the fact that he was only wearing tight boxer briefs and remained calm as the fridge door alarm started to go off. She’d talk to Petra about this later.
  “It’s fine, we can save the formalities. I just got up to make myself some coffee.”
  “Oh great, thanks, I’ll have a cup. Let me ask Pettie if she wants one,”
  Blatantly ignoring Meg’s irritated and dumbfounded expression plastered on her face, he quickly disappeared down the hallway into Petra’s room. Meg, in a mild form of shock that only ever occurs after witnessing a complete lack of etiquette, reflected on what had just happened. What the fuck? Who is this guy? Pettie? 
  Meg stood disgruntled in her kitchen, begrudgingly preparing more coffee than she’d initially intended to make, and wondered how acceptable it was to nickname a girl you’d known for no more than 12 hours. Meg had been Petra’s roommate for almost two years now, and it had never crossed her mind to nickname her ‘Pettie’. What a fucking awful nickname. Have some imagination Fred.
      His earnest desire to desperately be more than Petra’s one-night-stand was showing through a little too vividly. Sure, Meg sometimes enjoyed observing all the ways that men could be smitten over Petra, it was cute and sometimes even funny to witness. But Fred wasn’t being cute. Meg wasn’t sure if it was her lack of sleep or caffeine influencing her take on the situation, but she felt he needed to understand his temporary place in Petra’s life. Or at the very least that he was in Beta mode and still being assessed. 
  She heard giggling coming from Petra’s room as her door opened and Fred emerged once again. As they both waited for the coffee to brew, Fred attempted small talk to fill the silence. He mentioned how much he liked the apartment, and inquired about the water pressure in the shower, going off on a tangent about how he had once tried to learn plumbery. By the young age of 25, Meg had already mastered the skill of replying with non-committal sounds to give the illusion of conversation.
  “Oh, er...” She pretended to look busy, checking out the different angles of the French press, as if it were complex machinery, “um, yeah, sorry–” she stretched over Fred and took out three mugs from the cupboard above and started pouring the coffee. 
  Having barely finished pouring the second cup, Fred reached over, taking the two mugs in his hands.
  “Thanks for doing that babe,” he said as he disappeared once more into Petra’s room. 
  Meg looked blankly in front of her, as Petra’s door shut. Ew. Babe? Where did Petra meet this self-important idiot? 
  She took out her phone, already drafting a message to send to her apparently delusional roommate. Ever since Petra and her boyfriend had split, she’d paraded an endless collection of suitors throughout the apartment, almost every weekend. Whilst their cantankerous neighbour Geraldine – a 74-year-old woman and proud miniature pig owner – certainly disapproved of being awoken in the early hours of the morning by Petra and her Friday-night dates, Meg was mostly fine with it. Every self-help book she ever read would have told her it was, after all, Petra’s life, and she had every right to deal with the break-up in whatever way she chose. But, unlike the others who had considerately remained anonymous in all their morning-after glory, Fred had been the only one to make his incredibly grating presence known.  



// Margot Ana

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Feminism + Not Hitting Girls

I was once forced to have a conversation about feminism with this random guy I didn’t really know, called Bob.* 

*Name changed for anonymity purposes but also because Bob is a hilarious name and I mean, heck, why not, it was either that or “Random Guy 1” – I chose wisely. 

Now by forced I mean, I myself brought up feminism and Bob said something, and I just chose to remain in the conversation for the sake of humanity and educating him. So, as I said, I was forced. You’re probably rolling your eyes like, “Margot, have you learnt nothing from online debates in the YouTube comment section, choose your fucking battles you obnoxious tit”. So to all who are premeditating hate on my life choices, it actually didn’t go down how you assume it went. He didn’t rant about how unfair this whole “white dude privilege” thing is, or how “women are already equal anyway lol”. Here’s a rough paraphrasing of the premise to the feminist discussion to come:

Me: I don’t really understand anyone who is against feminism, I would be really interested to hear a compelling argument for why we all shouldn’t have equal rights and opportunities. 
Bob: You know, I actually totally agree with you. I am so sick of these double standards. Like, if a woman hits me, I should reserve the right to hit her back. All this “you can’t hit her because she’s a girl” crap is basically just saying I can get violently assaulted and I can’t even do anything to defend myself. 

My first thought was, “??????? sorry wat?????” and my second thought was that Bob must be literally translating his own feces into words, because that is absolute shit.

I assume most of you would be reading this and thinking, no buddy, that’s just wrong. But maybe some of you are confused, maybe you’re thinking, wait a minute, does he have a point? 





Not really. Let me share with you, roughly, what I said to our pal Bob. First of all, of all the benefits that Feminism provides, the one takeaway from it really shouldn't be "oh cool I can hit girls back now lol". Second, violence is wrong, period. Don’t hit people. I don’t care if you’re a man, a woman or a llama. Don’t do it, it’s a crappy thing to do, and it’s just not on. Thirdly, let me explain a few reasons why there is this “don’t hit women” rule etched in our society’s code of conduct. 

To condense a few thousand years, women have been routinely reinforced and portrayed as the weaker, submissive sex, and as a result have been assigned this perpetual trope of the ‘Damsel in Distress’ in our society. Enter the macho, all-conquering male, the protector and saviour of aforementioned Damsel. The issue with this, is it can contaminate the every-man with a sense of absolute power, invincibility and a sense of entitlement, which is unfortunately often exercised over women (who do not have such power). This is why women are more likely to be the victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence. This is also why there is no “don’t hit men” rule, because while there is no denial (at least not from any feminist I know) that men could be victims of domestic violence or sex crimes, it is statistically much more likely for women to be such victims. Furthermore, it is a fact that men have much more trouble inhibiting impulses than women, which is why random acts of violence (like fights that erupt in pubs) are much more common between men, and it is rare for it to occur between women. That is to say, it would be extremely unlikely for you, as a man, to find yourself in a position where you are being violently assaulted by a woman. Obviously, if you were, I doubt the "don't hit girls" rule would really matter to you in that moment, and you would probably have the natural instinct to defend yourself. My point is, this really shouldn't be your one takeaway from Feminism. 

Feminism fights against so many things that occur just in everyday life, it seems completely absurd to bring up this trivial "bonus". If anything, that says more about who you are as a person, and our society, if the one upside you see – from a gender equality movement that fights against institutionalised sexism and oppression towards women – is being able to hit girls back. 

So, if I were to directly respond to each point that Bob mentioned it would probably be as follows: 
  1. Yeah Bob, I know double standards are lame, I’m a woman.
  2. A person in general, regardless of sex/gender, shouldn’t hit you. That is assault. 
  3. “Don’t hit girls” isn’t just crap, it’s actually the product of institutionalised sexism. 
  4. In the rare situation that you do find yourself being physically assaulted by a woman, you do reserve the right to defend* yourself. 
  5. *Defending means protecting yourself, not using it as an excuse to be unnecessarily violent to somebody else
  6. Fucksakes Bob, is this seriously the only thing that you deduced from Feminism?
  7. I really thought this entire post went without saying. 

#throwpartiesnotpunches 

// Margot Alais

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Privilege in 3 Parts

I spent the past week in Melbourne, namely for my birthday but also for the footy and the comedy festival, and I got to see my all time favourite comedian: Wil Anderson 

*cue girl-in-red-dress emoji x5* 

I absolutely adore this person. He always makes me laugh myself to the point where I wrestle with the idea of going to the toilet to pee or not, and he is also manages to address various social and political issues in his shows (with a little comedic edge clearly). So in the current show he's doing, he talked about himself as a feminist and a certain observation he made over International Women's Day. On IWD, Anderson tweeted a general 'Happy International Women's Day', to which he received a lot of praise for. Then Anderson looked through his feed and saw women he followed saying exactly the same thing and noticed that their feedback was mostly negative. There was a lot of anti-feminist backlash, but mainly a lot of men angrily tweeting the same words "When's International Men's Day"*.

*If those men had spent the same amount of time typing those tweets into google instead, they would have found out that there is an International Men's Day and it's on the 19th of November. Unofficially it's also on 365 days of the year (a whole extra day if it's a leap year too!!! Yay!!!).



For me this gave me enough fuel to continue Anderson's discussion and address privilege. So what is privilege, why is everyone so defensive over having/not having it, why does its very concept anger/annoy/frustrate certain people? Well let me break it down for you, in 3 easy parts.





What is NOT Privilege?
In this sense privilege is not having a multi-million dollar water-front home, with its own personal jetty and yacht to match. It's not even attending a way-too-overpriced private school. Privilege isn't living in the nice parts of town. Privilege isn't even a stress-free, happy life. Actually, you can even still have privilege if you live in your mama's basement at 32 year of age. You can also still have privilege despite your "started from the bottom now we here" story. With this sort of privilege, it is irrelevant how many bad cards life has dealt you. So, ladies and gentlemen, if you would like to find out if you're eligible for Privilege, carry on to Part 2!

What IS Privilege? 
Privilege is the harsh reality that we all live in. Privilege is the fact that men have more opportunity than women. Privilege is the fact that White people have more opportunity than other racial and ethnic groups. Privilege is the fact that able-bodied people receive more opportunity than those living with disabilities. Privilege is the fact that straight, cis-gendered people never get fired over their sexual identity. Privilege is the fact that Muslims or those of Middle-Eastern appearance are almost guaranteed to be searched at airport security. Privilege is the result of a society that thrives on the hierarchy of race, socio-economic background, gender, sexuality, religion. But it's important to look at it with an intersectional point of view. The best way to explain this would be to look at it this way. A white, cis-gendered (i.e. not transgender), middle-class male has the most privilege, because his description works in favour of society's pre-programmed ideals. A white, cis-gendered, middle-class woman has less privilege than the former as she faces sexism as a draw-back, that the former does not. However, a black, cis-gendered, middle-class woman holds less privilege than both, as she not only faces sexism but racism also. You can continue this pattern, adding in disability, non-binary gender etc. 

Accepting Privilege
Don't fight privilege. Privilege isn't mocking you for how "good you've got it". It's simply telling you how many aspects of the system are working against you, and how many are working for you. Your personal life is irrelevant, when it comes to privilege it's a harsh, straight-forward statistic. If you've got it, then be happy you have it. But use it to your advantage and as an eye-opener. Because if you understand the system, and how you're part of it or where you fit in, then you can make the decision to fight it. 

Some additional material to clarify: 

 "...it's impossible to deny that being born with white skin in America affords people certain unearned privileges in life that people of other skin colors simply are not afforded. For example:
'I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.'
'When I am told about our national heritage or about 'civilization,' I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.'"



"There is the mistaken belief that the only 'privilege' that you can have relates to skin colour. This is not the case. You can be privileged because of your class, educational background, religious background, the fact that you’re able bodied or cis-gendered. A lot of black women can and do have privileges too."

-'Intersectional Feminism'. What the hell is it? (And why should you care)

// Margot Ana

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Social Media, Fashion & Perfection


From my own Instagram.

Appearances are very important to our society. This is why social media thrives so much. We have an obsession with letting others know how amazing our day/food/holiday/workout etc. was. And it's a vicious circle because, oftentimes, we feel this inherent need to do so because we are surrounded by other people who do the same, and whenever they upload, we feel that urge too. Their life looks perfect, so I'm going to upload a photo to prove mine can look that way too. And it goes further than that. It's all about the right filter, and if the photo can get enough likes. Or when you go to your profile, do all your photos work together, do they sit there in perfect filter/crop/subject/style harmony, do they all align perfectly? Social media like Instagram breeds a new form of perfectionist that inhabits most of us who take a liking to the platform. Your success on Instagram is entirely dependant on whether or not you can persuade people that your average, everyday, mundane routine is in fact a continuous flow of perfection; a world where only the best coffee is drunk, the trendiest clothes are worn and the prettiest sights are seen.




I understand this, because I am one such user of Instagram. I'll admit that another's perfect Instagram weirdly instills a sense of competition and challenge in me to be able to achieve the same. And it's hard to do things your own way, careless of other's opinions, of likes and followers. You'll never be completely satisfied because there is always going to be somebody else out there that you perceive is doing it better. And you don't need me to tell you that a little victory like having a nice Instagram isn't going to make you happy or any happier. We all know that, so why do we keep acting like it will, why is that?

Trends in fashion and how they exhibit themselves in our social circles share an effect similar to that of social media platforms, like Instagram. We let our personal style be influenced by people we socially interact with, we consciously (or sub-consciously) make the decision to dress a certain way to blend with our friends, to fit in. Not just socially but visually. There's something comforting to many in a uniform, which is what trends often manifest themselves into. Go to Sydney University and people watch for a bit, and you'll see everywhere the USyd uniform of the season that so many students are attracted to. We become attracted to an image, a type, a style. Similarly to Instagram, we feed into this new form of perfectionism where everything we now wear needs to fit the image we are trying to establish. You can't wear a certain article of clothing because it won't blend well with whomever you are being seen with that day. Or you can't wear something in particular because it doesn't flow with the style you feel the need to uphold.




It all ultimately comes back to this odd importance we place on appearances, even more so our attraction and obsession with labels and categories. The problem is so much bigger than just clothes and social media; our infatuation with labels can be harmful – notably in sexuality, a very fluid affair that can be difficult to pin down in any one category. But labels, as absurd as they are sometimes, ironically are quite an understandable and rational concept. They provide security, comfort, and more often than not, a community. 

However, our society is (knowingly) flawed. Its core message of altering or cutting away parts of yourself to fit in to the ever-changing norm is both impossible and limiting. Here's a radical challenge we can all take on: Dress in whatever speaks to you, post what you want regardless of its 'like' possibilities and feel free to identify as as many things as you want. You don't have to restrict yourself to any one specific style. You can be a part of more than one group, you should try and you will grow. The sooner we all embrace that, the better (and happier) we'll all probably be. 

// Margot Ana

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On Being a Newbie

I'm a very proud person. I don't like not knowing things. I don't like admitting that I'm wrong. I am stubborn. I'm someone who will act like they've been there before, like they know it all too well, and you definitely do not need to explain anything to me (because, you know, I know everything). On top of that, I'm also very well versed in the art of being the "New Girl". In my life thus-far I can say I've lived in four different countries, I've been to eight different schools, I've travelled alone for extended periods of time and also my parents were part of the sadistic few who sent their child to camp every Summer even though said child knew absolutely no one. Who knew Summer camps had pre-established cliques made up of childhood best-friends and camp regulars.  #kidsarecruel 


The issue with being the newbie repeatedly is, while you develop some great befriending skills and abilities to comfortably eat alone (the cafeteria will suck you in when you are most vulnerable), you begin to resent it. You don't want to be the newcomer who doesn't know as much as everybody else, who is in a vulnerable place and consequently has to rely on others to get by. You want to know what you're doing, where you're going, how to go about things. And questions are possibly the most daunting idea, you really just don't want to think about it. You definitely do not want to admit you may need some help. But it's time to let go of that, because its fundamentally contributing to your own close-mindedness. 

Being a beginner, a novice, a newcomer – it's perfectly okay and everybody goes through it. It doesn't make you any less intelligent, independent or mature. It's easy for people's advice and insight into your situation to come across as condescending or belittling when you are focused on the negative aspect of being new to something. Sure, sometimes people are proud to show off their know-how, it makes them feel important (and useful). But if you go deeply into it, their advice was born out of the mistakes they made, the lessons they learnt, when they were a newbie. In a way, this is the way they validate those lessons learnt, they pass down their knowledge to someone who could use it. And that advice could be absolute gold. It could also be absolute shit, let's be honest young adults don't always have the brightest ideas. But it could be gold.




So fight every single inch of pride you can feel inside of you, accept their advice and think for a moment. Asking for help, listening to advice, and accepting your current rookie status will do a lot more good than maintaining the facade that you know it all. Because the truth is, you don't. Nobody really does. 

Sometimes you need to suck it up and realise that there will always be something you haven't tried, you haven't experienced, that somebody else has. Starting a new job, going to university for the first time, learning a new instrument, travelling to a new place, being a parent...You will never be done with being the new kid on the block, no matter how old or what stage of life you're in, and (at the risk of sounding sappier than your favourite soap opera) wouldn't life be a lot less interesting if there was nothing new to discover?

Don't hate the corn, appreciate the truth in it.

// Margot Ana 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Gather.



Mango + Capsicum Skewers 




Coconut and Lemon Syrup Cake





// Margot Ana 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Be My Tinderella

This week on Margot Ana: A fun and educational story for the whole family on Tinder; what you should know, what to expect and letting go of its stigma.


I got on Tinder probably around mid to late December last year (not a date I really noted in my diary you know, sorry for the vagueness). Before that point, I had mixed views about Tinder. I'd beg my friends who were on Tinder to get off it, but then I would bad-date-bail-out them and relish in their hilarious stories. I would tell them it was so shallow, but then I would have insane amounts of fun helping them in rejecting 3/4 of their matches. One day, I was sprawled onto my best friend's bed, whining about matters of the heart when she enthusiastically suggested I get on Tinder, 'It's so fun Margot, seriously you will love it,' she said. I decided it couldn't be too bad, I mean a few of our friends were definitely enjoying it, so why not. The worst outcome at this point was that I'd hate it and consequently delete the application. So I joined – and boy was it fun. I went on some dates, I met some cool people (I met some weird people too), some I let into my social world (shout out to the new instagram followers) and some I opted to not see again. Now we've all heard the mixed stories about Tinder. You hear about that cute couple who have been together for almost a year now and how they met on Tinder. But then you also hear stories about the ├╝ber weird dates and how there was that one dude who was desperately looking for his future life partner and he wouldn't stop quizzing you about your genes, how many kids you want to have and wether or not he should prepare for a family pet. But  that's someone else's story to tell. 

So now, as a recently retired Tinder veteran – that's right I deleted Tinder – let me give you some insight into some things I learnt; a combination of my own and others' experiences. 

*

WHAT TO EXPECT vs. WHAT NOT TO EXPECT
When it comes to Tinder, it's best not to expect to find your future husband/wife/partner. Great if you do, that could happen, sure, but maybe don't go into it thinking you'll meet the mother of your children. Furthermore, when it comes to swiping right, try to resist the urge to say yes to everybody just so you can see who likes you and who doesn't. I know getting a match feels awesome and fun... but having to unmatch 138 people because you were curious, isn't the best way to spend your evening. Once you do get a match you legitimately wanted, prepare to be completely unsure of how to proceed. Oh yes. I have been there – I believe for a while 'Hey :)' was my go-to before I, you know, developed actual wit and banter. And don't expect everyone to message you either, sometimes people just like to have their matches sit there like weird little trophies. Now, if you're a lady after the ladies, brace yourself for the exhaustion of all the matches in your area. It's absolutely wonderful and not at all frustrating. Tinder is 60:40, men to women. Of those women, only a fraction are gay. See what I'm saying? If, however, you're a straight female, I would get yourself ready for your share of obscene messages laden with profanities. Come on, it's only the 21st century, did we really expect any progression? 

FIRST DATES 
There will be weirdos. There might be some successful dates. The upside to either of them is you'll improve your social skills especially in the area of small talk. The way I always looked at it was, if it goes well, then that's good for you, and if it doesn't you will have ranting material for your friends or at least a hilarious story to tell. Go into it with low expectations, the first date is always the worst. And speaking from experience (sadly), don't get carried away planning too many dates in your week. You will get emotionally exhausted. Do you know how tiring it is to get to know someone and then do it all over again with another stranger two days later?! It's very tiring, 2/10 would not recommend (the 2 is for the free coffee or drink you hopefully enjoyed). 

COMMON QUALMS
There's always been a bit of stigma surrounding internet dating. And Tinder is just that, if you think about it. But it might just be time to let go of that stigma. We aren't Napoleon Dynamite's older brother who "talks to hot babes on the internet all day". We aren't Debbie making an eHarmony video about her love for cats. We live modern fast-paced lives, sometimes we just don't have time to meet people organically, and court them, and maybe work up the courage to confess our feelings to them. Tinder is convenient, and if this era we are in is anything it's the Age of Convenience. Embrace it. 

A lot of people also don't like the idea of Tinder as a whole, mostly because it promotes a superficial and shallow approach to dating. I find this a bit comical because in my head, people have always dismissed the "unworthy" based on looks, especially in the dating world. Sometimes it's a combination of personality and looks. This is not a new concept, we're just being more honest about it. Dating has always been ruthless and shallow. It's the relationships that are wholly accepting and see your inner beauty. Sex and the City taught me that (Charlotte and Harry, I'm looking at you). 

*

I hope you found my Tinder insight helpful, maybe entertaining and perhaps even makes you a bit  curious to try it out for yourself. I don't know if I would recommend it as this incredible dating tool that will have you meeting cutie after cutie after eligible bachelor/ette, but it's not completely bad and I wouldn't not recommend it... So there's that I guess. Who knows, Tinder might even do you a solid and you'll meet someone totally rad. (I did)

// Margot Ana