Stories that will help you put faith back into humanity

Heart warmer

 

Often, the media — including myself — get caught up in things that make your blood pressure rise. Too often, bad things happen and the media highlights it constantly.

Too often, we get into petty ‘debates’ — a.k.a culture wars — and we fight to the death. We attack our opponents, tear them to shreds and allow the petty things destroy relationships. The media, in particular, seems to do this ad nauseum.

So, when you hear about a story that’s so touching that it makes Andrew Bolt choke up on his show, it’s a welcome relief.

Here are two of these stories.

Newcastle Knights player, Trent Hodkinson took terminally ill girl, 15 – year – old Hannah Rye to the her Year 10 formal after her school, Kurri Kurri High, agreed to move the date so Hodkinson could take her. She looked gorgeous. I think the Newcastle Knights and Kurri Kurri High should be commended for doing something to special to a beautiful young girl who needed something to put a smile on her face.

The second story I want to talk about was published in Mamamia. 94 – year – old Shirley Batchelder from Nashville, Tennessee, completed her ‘bucket list’ by doing something amazing. She told WSMV that she wanted to do an ad for TV. The TV station granted her two – minute slot for free. What she wanted to do took much less time. On the advertisement, she left a simple and profound message:

Love one another. Love one another.

So beautiful. And, unfortunately, simple to forget in the era of tension and just general busyness. Love one another. Just gorgeous.

These two beautiful souls, each at the opposite ends of the age spectrum are people we should never forget. A terminally ill girl who touched a community so much that she was granted her dream formal. And a beautiful old lady who wanted to put out a message that can easily said, and yet so easily forgotten.

It just goes to show that there is still beauty in this world.

What uplifting or touching stories have your read or heard recently? Feel free to tell me in the comments below. Leave links, too, if you like. 

LGBTQ+ people don’t need ‘allies’ like Eugene Peterson

Author and Presbyterian minister, Eugene Peterson caused a stir when he told Religion News Service that he’d happily perform weddings for a same – sex couple.

While he was praised by LGBTQ+ Christians, he received backlash.

When the news broke of his retraction, progressive Christians accused Peterson of retracting his statement to the RNS for financial gain.

Screen shot of Facebook - reaction of Eugene Peterson's retraction on gay marriage on Facebook
Eugene Peterson upsets progressive Christians retracting his earlier statements on same – sex marriage.

While progressive Christians accuse Peterson of retracting his statement for financial gain, I wonder whether it’s the other way around — whether he said he’d perform a same – sex wedding because he thought it’d actually increase his popularity and the popularity of The Message if he said he’d perform a same – sex wedding.

IBook copy of Eugene Peterson's The Message Bible
The Message Bible – a controversial paraphrase of the Bible

I just wish Peterson was honest from the start. Does he support same – sex marriage? Apparently not. Therefore, I don’t think he should have said that he’d be happy to perform a same – sex wedding.

Allies of convenience

In the heat of the same – sex marriage and the broader question of LGBTQ+ rights both here in Australia and the U.S, the Eugene Peterson and Christopher Pyne controversy over his comments on same – sex marriage have left me really annoyed, frankly. Neither of them should have said what they did. Why? Because they didn’t mean it… at least not strongly. I don’t think we need that, especially over something that is often quite sensitive to LGBTQ+ people.

Most LGBTQ+ are well aware of the conflict that many Christians have when it comes to LGBTQ+ issue and — from what I’ve read — don’t expect churches or religious ministers to perform same – sex weddings against their conscience. It’s (understandably), when the issue of secular businesses, services and celebrants becoming exempt from anti – discrimination laws that there’s a problem. I’m becoming increasingly sympathetic on LGBTQ+ people and advocates over that one, especially after laws have been introduced to make mental health professionals exempt from treating LGBTQ+ people except for emergencies. One thing that made me respect the medical and mental health industries was their stances on anti – discrimination. But… not sure what to think about this.

That aside, I think it’s fair to say that most LGBTQ+ or allies don’t expect Christian or any other religious leaders to go against their own will. This is what makes Peterson’s retraction so pathetic, frankly.

I truly believe that LGBTQ+ don’t need that. I believe that we need allies that are going to stick by us, even when a backlash is imminent. Of course, no one should put their lives in danger, but being an ally does carry a certain risk. There are people who have taken that risk, got backlash and stood their ground. To be fair on Peterson, he may have (or have had) genuine questions and may have had debates in his own head. Coming out, so to speak, and say what he did to Religion News Service probably wasn’t easy. But, to be honest, the fact that he backtracked so quickly gives me the impression that his heart wasn’t fully into supporting same – sex marriage to begin with.

What are your thoughts on people who retract support from things like same – sex marriage? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

The Biggest Loser has come to an end

Woman standing on scales with measuring tape draped around feet
After 13 years, the American ‘The Biggest Loser’ comes to an end (image: iStock)

Content Warning: dangerous weight loss, disordered eating and emotional abuse. Please proceed with care if any of these issues are triggering for you.

According to women’s site, Ravishly, NBC’s The Biggest Loser is may be dumped. This year, Australia’s TBL Transformed was moved from Sunday evenings to weekdays due to plummeting ratings. 

Since it’s debut in 2004, The Biggest Loser has had it’s fair share of condemnation from the media, health professionals and former contestants. In 2016, New York Post published a damning article in which former contestants alleged that they were, among other things, forced to put on weight when applying and taking drugs, one which is condemned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and were encouraged when they became physically sick.

The tactics used in the The Biggest Loser, including their doctor, Dr. Rob Huezenga (a.k.a Dr. H). has been condemned in the medical community. Canadian obesity specialist Dr. Yoni Freedhoff slammed the show, calling it an ‘atrocity’ and vehemently saying that the tactics of the show are not endorsed by the medical community.

In 2014, The Biggest Loser was rocked by a scandal when winner Rachel Frederickson became unhealthily thin. Even trainer Jillian Michaels admitted to E News that Frederickson had lost too much weight after weighing in at 105 pounds (47.6 kg).

 

In Australia, The Biggest Loser has also copped criticism from fitness experts as well. Trainers went as far as to say to Fitness Enhancement that if they employed the same tactics as they do on the show, it’d get them fired. The types of exercises that the often – morbidly obese contestants to do without proper techniques. Trainers and health experts were also concerned at how injuries were handled.

In 2014, The Biggest Loser (Australia) was dealt a public relations disaster when it was reported by Daily Mail Australia that 2012 winner, Margie Cummins faced health issues due to rapid weight loss during the show. Cummins revealed that she had to be hospitalised for an infected pancreas and issues with her liver after she’d lost 73.2 kg (161 lb) during the show.

Emotional abuse accusations

It’s not just the strenuous exercise, alleged illegal drug taking and dangerous weight loss that has stained The Biggest Loser brand in the U.S. Blog Dance with Fat has condemned the trainers, especially Jillian Michaels of emotional abuse. In response to a YouTube video (which the blogger didn’t post, and neither will I), of Michaels  screaming at contestants.

The trainers of the Australian series weren’t exempt from similar condemnation. Trainers interviewed by Fitness Enhancement accused the Australian trainers, Michelle Bridges, Shannan Ponton and Steve ‘Commando’ Willis and Tiffiny Hall of ‘fat – shaming and ‘downright bullying’. While the 2017’s series TBL Transformed tried a holistic health approach, it wasn’t without controversy. with concerns that one of the contestants, Nikki being deemed by some viewers not heavy enough to be on the show at 78.1 kg (172.18 lb).

 

In reality, I think that the Biggest Loser was probably never going to be about health. It was about drama, pushing the limits, and of course, weight loss. And it seems like the public, both in Australia and the U.S. has spoken. They’re not buying it anymore.

Did you watch The Biggest Loser? Did you have any concerns about it? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comets below.

 

 

Asexuality is becoming more visible in the media!

Anyone who had read my blog Asexuality in A Sexual World would know that I followed media coverage on asexuality very closely.

The years between 2012 and 2016 really saw a surge in media stories about people who identified as asexual. One of the first stories I remember was on Johanna Qualmann in Cleo in 2012. I remember that being a big deal. This was the first time that I saw a mainstream media organisation do a story on asexuality. It was limited, and Qualmann admitted that at the time (i.e, there was no mention of romantic orientations or social issues that many asexual people face).

I also remember The Project doing a story on it. While the story they did was good, I was disappointed at 2GB’s Steve Price’s response. I wasn’t the only one as I found out later. Vitrix from the blog Reflective Ace critiqued a number of his comments very well — a lot better than what I did. I think I came off as a sook. I was grateful at Carrie Bickmore’s defense of the asexual community, though.

I think Mamamia’s post on asexuality that year hit me and made Mamamia’s publisher and founder Mia Freedman one of my heroes in the media.

Screenshot of story featured in Mamamia on asexuality in 2014,written by Jo Qualmann
Jo Qualmann had a story published in Mamamia on her experiences being asexual.

Asexuality visibility broadens

Reporting on asexuality in Australia has suddenly broadened. What I mean by that is that the reporting on asexuality is starting to cover people who are not aromantic or hetero – romantic. well, that’s starting to change. On Friday 7 July, Queenie of Aces of blog Asexual Agenda posted the weekly Linkspam. One of the links was an article from Huffington Post Australia about a British homoromantic couple who were planning to marry on 21 July this year.

Screenshot of Huffington Post Australia article
Huffington Post Australia does an article on a homoromantic asexual couple.

It’s bit more of a coincidence with tge timing of the article, considering what’s been happenibg in Australia recently. But I am so glad that homoromantic asexuals are also starting to gain vosibility. Hopefully, in the future, they’ll gain acceptance along with the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. I think that this article added another dimension to the same – sex marriage debate. No, it is not about sex — that is literally true in this case.

This week, Queenie of Aces linked a Buzzfeed article 19 things asexual people need you to understand about asexuality. Rather than focusing on a particular couple, the article exposed some myths and challenges faced by members of the asexual community. I think, the more of that, at the moment, the better. Hopefully, one day, things like this article won’t be needed.

 

So, what now? I’ve read that some asexual people want more depictions in fiction — accurate depictions of asexuality. Not like the damning storyline of the controversial episode of House in 2012 or the more recent accusations of asexual erasure on Netflix’s Riverdale. Just as a disclaimer, I didn’t see either show. It’s just what I’ve read. Itvdoes seem that there should be better representation of asexuality in fiction. I’m hopeful that this will come. In my opinion, the mainstream media has made leaps and bounds in a few short years when it comes to asexuality.

What have you seen/ read about on asexuality lately? Feel free to drop a link in the comments on what you’ve found! 

How do you think the mainstream media has reported on asexuality? Do you think improvements have occurred over the years? What more do you think can be done? I would love to know what you think.

 

Bring LGBTQ+ people and allies into the same – sex marriage debate!

I love watching Paul Murray Live, but to be honest, I’m sick of the whole line ‘if the plebiscite wasn’t voted down by Labor and the Greens, we’d have same – sex marriage/ marriage equality (depending which term they use) in Australia by now”. Even Daily Telegraph’s Sharri Markson jumped on that bandwagon last night. Host Paul Murray then parrots statistics by “The Essential Poll”, which suggests that 61% say that there should be a national vote and 60% want same – sex marriage to be legal. OK, The Guardian Isn’t a ‘right – wing’ publication, true, but can anyone tell me how many people were polled?

I am not a complete opponent of plebiscite and in an earlier post, I did say that Labor was guilty of treating the LGBTQ+ community like a political football. But here’s the thing, if a plebiscite was such a good — and harmless — option for the LGBTQ+ community, why was it sold so poorly? Why did a poll by PFLAG (however small), show a fall in support for a plebiscite when people were told (correctly), that it was legally non – binding? Why didn’t the Coalition ensure that the result would be respected?

People, like former Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Peta Credlin kept saying that the government would respect the result, but why didn’t an MP say that? It’s easy for her and on Paul Murray Live and the like. How many of them have felt fear holding their partner’s/ spouse’s hand in public? I’m not sure many, if any have — at least not recently. How many times have they had their sexual orientation linked to paedophilia and bestiality? (you see that all the time on social media) and the whole “they’re luring young girls to parties and things” comments. Not to mention a lack of reporting  and commentary after an LGBTQ+ radio station in Melbourne was faced with a bomb threat last year. To be fair, Dee Madigan commented on it on Paul Murray Live and, Paul Murray did say that he was going to condemn it. But no comment from others — including those who constantly accuse the same – sex marriage supporters for mob attacks on same – sex marriage opponents (which, unfortunately do happen). I guess I should be fair and say that this year, commentators have picked up their game and condemned homophobia. There have been a few incidents that have been condemned and let’s hope it keeps on happening (the calling out, I mean).

Going back to the first point, I believe that LGBTQ+ need to be included in the debate, preferably without being screamed down. Seriously, why shouldn’t gay/ bi people like Molly Meldrum have a say about issues like gay marriage and the Margaret Court controversy if straight people are demanding the same? That’s what a ‘debate’ is — people expressing opposing views. Yet, we hear echo chambers of people mostly saying that the plebiscite should have happened. They can have that view, sure, but what about have a member of PFLAG or an LGBTQ+ add to the discussion and maybe expressing some worries that they have? Why not have a counsellor/ social worker, etc who works with LGBTQ+ people? (I’ve seen the ABC do that once). I’m not saying that people like Paul Murray, Andrew Bolt, Rita Panahi or anyone else shouldn’t have a say. They can. But I think there is another side. There is concern on how it may have turned out, and I think they need to be heard as well. Because ultimately, LGBTQ+ people will be the ones affected by the result and, possibly, the process.

Gay couple just married
Image iStock

For Australians, do you think the same – sex marriage has been hijacked? Leave your thoughts below. 

We need to stop demonising men

Former UK football star, David Beckham was slammed after he shared a picture of him kissing his daughter, Harper on the lips. Each to their own when it comes to affection. I’m more of a hugger myself. But this outrage over this non – sexual (can’t believe I had to write that) act of affection doesn’t do anyone justice.

This isn’t the first time a father has come under attack and their relationship with their daughters has been scrutinised. Last year, Arizona – based photographer, Heather Whitten was at risk of being charged with neglect when a photo she took in 2014 went viral. It was of a father nursing his sick daughter in the shower.

There is no doubt that child abuse is a scourge on society that needs to be eradicated. Demonising parents falsely — especially fathers — doesn’t help anyone.

Father with newborn baby
Image: iStock

 

Yes, there are men that do terrible things to both their partners and children. Same can be said for women, too. But to hit the roof and demonise men that aren’t abusive doesn’t help anyone and is proven to be detrimental. A lack of male teachers is a well – known problem.

Family law often leave fathers high and dry. While there is more awareness and pushes to change family law so this gender bias isn’t so strong, it still has a tragic effect. Fighting what is often a losing battle can take a toll on them and result in suicide.

Unforunately, the media plays a role in the demonisation of men. I’m not talking about fictional fathers like Homer Simpson. Earlier this year, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article from a woman who wouldn’t leave her daughter with a man. That included a male relative.

The majority  of men are good. A majority of husbands/ partners and fathers want to do the right thing by their loved ones, including children. Are they perfect? Of course not, but the majority don’t deserve this demonisation.

How do you think this mentality affects young boys? How can boys not feel horrible about who they are when their gender is constantly under fire. How can this not backfire — you tell someone how terrible they are long enough, they’re going to end up, not just believing it, but living it. How can a straight man be expected to commit to a woman? I think feminists are shooting themselves in the foot.

For the men who do their best to look after their loved ones, good on you. For those who want to commit to their partner/ spouse — *applause*. For the fathers who are committed to looking after children, regardless whether they’re with the mother or not, good on you and keep going! Step – fathers, same thing.

 

This post just got me thinking – in the U.S. it was Father’s Day not that long ago (was it last weekend?). Hope all the fathers in the U.S. had a good day.

 

What do you think about this? Do you think men are unfairly targeted, especially when it comes to children? Feel free to left your thoughts below.

 

 

 

Harry Potter turns 20!

Harry Potter and the Philospopher's Stone in new cover
Harry Potter celebrates 20 years sine it’s oublishing debut

 

 

This week, it was twenty years since arguably one of the most successful fiction series began. This was followed by six other successful books and eight movies, starring Daniel Radcliffe,  Emma Watson and the late Alan Rickman.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (alternatively called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) alone has sold over 100 million copies since it’s release. The series has been translated into over sixty languages and been distributed to over two – hundred countries worldwide.

I think it was about 2000 when I first read the first Harry Potter. I was about eleven (if my date is right). I remember thinking it was very good. Very imaginative. That was when the Harry Potter franchise boomed. I remember the parts about Harry’s parents were quite sad. I cried when I saw the movie near the end.

I liked the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets more. I just loved it; the mischief, the mystery and the overall plot was fantastic. The movie was equally as good.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2nd Harry Potter book

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had the greatest surprise, when Harry Potter found out who is godfather, Sirius Black, was falsely convicted of being ally of Voldemort (a.k.a He Who Must Not Be Named) and sent to serial wizard prison, Azkaban.

The fourth and fifth books; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows were also good and very well – written. To be frank, the sixth one Harry Potter and the Half – Blood Prince was my least favourite (and my least favourite of the movies). I think it dragged on too long and the end of the movie in particular was a downer. As a result, I haven’t bothered to read the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the movies, which apparently is quite good, funnily enough. Since this anniversary, I might read it after all one day.

 

Of course, the series hasn’t been without its critics. In the height of Harry Potter’s fame, there was worry about its ‘promotion’ of witchcraft, something that is frowned upon in some religions, including some parts of Christianity. That was short – lived. Since I’ve read the books, I haven’t turned to witchcraft, so it’s all good, I guess.

Harry Potter has been a revolution in children’s literature and Rowling has been commended for sparking an interest of reading in young children. I think that’s a great achievement!

So, what makes the series so popular?

Here’s my take based on what I’ve read (which is all but the seventh).

Obviously the fantasy element was a big hit. Children have always been attracted to fantasy and magic. I remember that as a kid how popular Disney’s films were, many of which included magic. Beyond the magic, the overall fantasy of the books have been great and quite original.

Secondly, the characters, while fictional and largely witches and wizards, are characters that people can relate to. Everyone can relate to rebellious teens, friendships, high school competition and more. Plus, there are universal themes: good versus evil (that’s a controversial one, I know since some people think magic is bad period, but bear with me), friendships, betrayal, family, youth rebellion against authority and family are all themes explored in the books and movies.

I think it’s hard not to argue that the Harry Potter franchise is one of the most revolutionary series of fictional literature in the 21st century. It has sparked the imagination of young and old. I don’t think there will be another series that will be as influential as what Harry Potter was – not in the near future anyway.

What is your favourite Harry Potter book and/ or movie? Feel free to leave your thoughts below.