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Linda R Brooks

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Member Since: Sep, 2009

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Commies feminism and ignorance
By Linda R Brooks
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

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Life in Australia in 1973 and the adventure of leaving home for the first time.

 

1973 was a great year to be leaving home and heading off into the world.  Australia was withdrawing our troops from Vietnam.  This made monumental sense to me even at the ignorant age of 17, not because I was full of political savvy, but because my brother had been drafted.  His number had come up.  He had been able to defer until he finished his apprenticeship but then he was due to do his ‘Nasho’ service.  He was saved by the election of Gough Whitlam and the Labour party. 

     I had been stiff with anxiety about my brother going to war as he appeared to have none of the qualities that would make him of any use in any army.  He was shy and gentle and although he enjoyed using the 22 shotgun to shoot aluminium cans off the back fence I had grave doubts about his enthusiasm or commitment for shooting people.  Besides mum could never get him out of bed in the morning, and if my mother couldn’t get someone up and going there was no Corporal or Sergeant on earth who could. 

     Don’t even mention the option of becoming a medic because when a complete stranger fell off the back of his friend’s motorcycle outside our house and was quite hearty but had his face covered in blood, it wasn’t the victim needing to lie down and have a drink of water but my brother.  The victim sat calmly in the middle of our lounge room enjoying the attention of all and talking ninety to the dozen.

       I experienced an initial period of fear and dread about the election of the Labour party because my mother had expostulated that “the end of the world was around the corner because we now had an atheist Commie government and would soon fall into Godless anarchy, forcing God to intervene Himself.”  When nothing remotely fatalistic appeared on the world horizon and no-one was even struck by lightning I calmed down, thinking perhaps she had it wrong and began to relax.

     When I overheard my mother calling Gough Whitlam a stupid man because of his quick wit, I developed a great fondness for him as I had also suffered at her hands for ‘smart aleck remarks’.  Later I went even further and decided that he was obviously a man of superior intelligence when my mother watched him on television decrying loudly that ‘sarcasm is the lowest form of wit’.  She was fond of conversing with the television, perhaps with the vain hope that the person she was addressing would hear her and wither into silence.  This character denunciation had often been thrown at both my father and I, so Gough’s position in our affection was assured.

 

Equality had arrived for women.  The government had just given women equal pay.  I was thrilled to find out about feminism and the new freedoms for women until I discovered that it bore little difference to my mother’s own philosophy of  ‘no man is going to damn well tell me what to do, or when to do it’.   She had worked as long as I could remember as manager of the corner grocery store.  She constantly expressed amazement at the women of her acquaintance who allowed men to ‘rule the roost’, go without cars and driver’s licenses and generally take a blind bit of notice of anything just because it came from a man. 

     Her pithy ‘what would they know’ had more effect on me than the most compelling lecture on Modern Feminism.  As my father was relied upon and greatly respected by her in all matters where he was superior, I wondered what all the fuss was about.  Equality of the sexes had been effectively functioning in our house as long as I could remember.

     I can remember a social gathering of some of my aunts and several other women from our church.  One elegant Stepford wannabee folded her daintily gloved hands and declared, “I rely on my husband for everything, I don’t even know how to use the washing machine.”  My mother was thoroughly stunned by this remark and regarded the woman with a look that she normally reserved for the criminally insane.

     “How’s that going to work for you after he’s dead, Elaine?” said my mother, who would never be sent on a diplomatic mission to any country other than one where war was considered necessary and immediate. 

     A tense silence filled the room.  The woman my mother had addressed blanched at the introduction of such crude remarks over afternoon tea and clattered her cup to the saucer,   suddenly finding something of interest to focus on out of the window.

     “They do you know, die I mean,” added my mother emphatically, never knowing when to leave well enough alone.  “Might as well face facts.”  My mother felt that it was her Christian duty to prepare this woman for reality, but the poor soul gave every appearance of being scarred for life.

 

I was delighted to go off into the world to broaden my mind after small town country life.  I left home to train as a nurse in the city with all the optimism and enthusiasm of Christopher Columbus.  This feeling lasted all of one week.  I found that Columbus was a great deal more prepared than I.  Then it was ‘oh dear God this’ and ‘oh dear God that’.  I had no idea what I was taking on and often wondered how I had survived life so far.  Every day brought a new shocking disease or aberration of bodily functions that I had previously been unaware of; not to mention body parts that I didn’t even know existed.

     Having completed Year 12, I should have been prepared in the Science class but our effusive and outgoing science teacher seemed to mysteriously run out of time at the end of the year and significant parts of the Biology curriculum were covered with a hasty ‘just read the blooming text book’.  The poor man slumped into his chair with his head down, his fingers raveling and unraveling his long black beard with the tension slowly draining from his lanky frame.  I am sure as he sat there he muttered grateful thanks to the Almighty on having survived another plague of rambunctious teenagers and bypassed the Anatomy section with the inherent snorts, giggles and questions.

     Home life had been no help either.  My mother embraced the philosophy that children would learn all things in life by means other than her having to take on the daunting task of explaining anything more complicated than how much salt to add to scones.  This set me up for the most embarrassing experiences of my young life.

     I was bitter and angry with her.

     “You told me nothing about life!” I complained loudly one weekend when I came home from the city. 

     “Don’t whinge to me,” she said, undeterred.  “My mother told me I came from the cabbage patch.”


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