Motherhood: sacrifice & love

Today is mother’s day. It is a day of recognition and appreciation for all that mother’s do. I don’t like to catch myself reflecting too much on the point because the realisation of what my mother has done for me can sometimes be crippling, with reference to everything that follows. Because when I think of her, the first word that comes to mind is sacrifice. Because in my mind, to be the recipient of someone’s sacrifice is the greatest form of love. 

My mother chose the name Siobhan because it was unique, unlike anything she’d heard before. And because it meant, in Irish Gaelic, “God is Gracious”. An odd name for a Polynesian woman but a poetic and strong name for the woman she wanted to raise.

Shortly after I was born, my mother took me to Mitiaro for some months. I’m not quite sure how many months, but she has retold stories of me running around our yard (beside the church) in nothing but a cloth nappy for weeks at a time.

In Aotearoa, she taught me my ABCs, 123s, how to spell simple words and write them. She would do this via a cardboard poster which she made, cello-taped to my red plastic children’s table and chair playset. I would hold the pen in my right hand, she would place hers over mine and guide the movement of the pen until I could spell my name on my own.

My mother also taught me how to dance; nothing extravagant but just the simple moves. It was not a significant focus for her, what she aimed to do was feed my mind with knowledge and discipline.

Although she was strict, she has a soft spot for me. When I cried at kindergarten because my mum wasn’t going to stay there with me the whole day, she decided that it wasn’t for me and I stayed at home until my 5th birthday. She did not work for a large part of this part of my life, and spent most of it with me. 

When I started primary, this obviously meant I wasn’t the best at making friends quickly. She would come to school during lunch time and see if I was ok. And naturally, I would spend lunch with her. This eventually waned until I was less socially awkward and made friends.

She structured her working hours so that it would fit in with me and so that there was always one parent at home in case anything happened. She would do shift work in the evenings and be available during the day for any school events and sick days needed.

As I got older, my mother would take me to my sports games and piano lessons. And when I got to high school, she would still help me make my lunch from time to time (this was when my sister came along so she was busy raising another child too).

At University, she would check in and make sure I wasn’t too overwhelmed with my work load. When I woke up early to study, and she was awake, she would make me breakfast. And when I returned home from work after University, she had left me some dinner, sometimes with my name actually spelt on the gladwrap covering the plate of food.

She told me to keep away from worldy distractions and focus on finishing my studies. To pursue something greater for myself and for us as a family. As an adult, and thankfully, a more liberal Polynesian woman, she no longer gives strict direction, but rather guidance and advice. The world’s we both grew up in are so different, and to a large degree, the world’s we currently experience in our working lives mostly are classes apart based on several socio-economic factors. 

This woman, did not have the same upbringing as me. She received beatings, for some tragedies that a woman should never be beaten for, was blamed for things out of her control and was made to leave school before she was 10. My mother was the carer for her other siblings and was kept home to do house chores while her brothers had their education prioritised. She didn’t relive these beatings on me (not in any great way past my primary years). She didn’t tell me to aim low because I was a woman but to be the best that I could be. 

My mother accepted what she couldn’t control but capitalised on things that she could and the best way she knew how. And she did that as best as she could for me. And throughout my entire life, more or less, she has sacrificed her own pleasures in life for mine and for the greater good of our family. She could have moved back to Mitiaro to look after her father at an earlier time before he passed, but she stayed here to help pay the bills and raise my younger sister. She could have spent her money on purchases that she wanted for herself, but instead she spent it on uniforms and laptops for my sister’s schooling. 

She has sacrificed, loved and raised me to be the woman I am today. But I don’t only owe my make-up to her. There are a handful of other women who have raised me, sharing their energy, time and guidance with me. The power to shape and influence another being, their identity, character and qualities, is a remarkable thing. I don’t take my mother’s, or these people’s influence lightly. You are the sum of the company you keep. 

I don’t know if I will get to experience motherhood one day. If I do, I know I will be eternally grateful to these women, including my mother, for showing me the strength, responsibility & power of motherhood.

And I know it’s not Christmas but, I love Kaitlin’s poem below, as a signal of the strength of a woman and (obviously in this case, biological) mother.

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Say No to the New Lands and Titles Bill

Sipping Koko

I’m not a lawyer and only took a business law class back in university, but even I can spot the holes in the newly proposed Lands and Titles Act Bill that is meant to repeal the 1981 Bill. There are a lot of opinions out there right now – many who are opposed to this Bill, and rightly so. This Bill will give the government power to slowly remove matais from the process, take declared or customary land, use smoke and mirrors as a way for the Head of State to make whatever rules he/she wants to, and so much more. So, with all this I’m going to break down some of my findings and why you should care and start calling your family on the island to protest this Bill. Also, before I dive in, there’s a petition you can sign opposing this Bill. Sign it here.


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Digital footprint & virtual reputations

I’m part of the generation that the internet became a thing; the transition phase i.e. Gen Y. So I remember growing up without laptops, smart phones/watches or tablets for most of my primary school years in the early 90s, and then venturing on to MSN messenger in the early 00s to pointlessly talk to the same kids I saw during the day. Desktops were becoming a thing in the 90s growing up. My computer experience consisted of SkiFree or 3D Pinball, some Carmen Sandiago or Magic School Bus adventure and whatever lucky dip CDs my Dad let me buy from the Duffy Book catalogue for our desktop at home.

Then as a teenager, social media was born.  Myspace was more popular overseas but Bebo was the buzz here in Aotearoa. My friends and I created profiles on both virtual playgrounds. Teenagers of the early 2000s could now re-confirm our insecurities around the clock. Sending hearts, asking to be in another person’s top 16 and posting grainy photos from some point and shoot camera.

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Then phones became more common, Kelly Rowland was able to send texts through excel spreadsheet and you get the rest of the story. I’ve been fortunate to have game consoles and desktops like most middle-ish class kids growing up in the 90s, so my digital navigation isn’t too shabby. But I dread to think what my initial search engine histories were like, let alone my general digital footprint since data and internet has become more and more accessible accessible, particularly during my pubescent years *cringe*. Don’t know how to do something? Google it. Too scared to ask your parents about it? Google it. Someone asking you something you don’t know? Tell them to Google it.

Fast forward to my 20-somethings, I started piecing together a patchwork career in spaces that I thought I could contribute some positive value to – that fit the story I wanted my life to tell. This meant connecting with lots of people I had no networks in and putting my best foot forward so they’d want to work with me.

Naturally when people get your CV for a work opportunity, they will complete a background check via your references, certifications and virtual presence. Because no one wants to hire someone that isn’t fit-for-purpose or at least doesn’t have the base attitude to be developed into fit-for-purpose. I didn’t have any serious cringe-worthy photos online or subscriptions to questionable websites. A google search of my name was mostly littered with articles or posts about the voluntary work I had done throughout university degrees. That being said, I did have:

  • A public video I edited of me and my girlfriend partying in Thailand – my attempt at trying to be influencer-esque (my edit was crap).
  • A few photos from some TFP contracts I’d done – including one with me dressed up as cat woman and one of me wearing nothing but the New Zealand flag.
  • Posed party-shots on my Facebook page that weren’t private.

Granted, one of my employers saw the first of those and I was still hired. I don’t know if that would’ve been the same outcome if he’d seen the TFP shots given the #MeToo climate. I had actually asked the photographer months beforehand to remove my photos from his online portfolio (THANK YOU PAST ME – but not past past me who thought that kind of photoshoot was a good idea in the first place).

I only properly started to clean up my online act toward the end of university. During my earlier years, I wanted to be “relevant and cool” with the crowds I mixed in. Now, I simply dgaf. I’m much more comfortable in my identity than I was in my early 20s, I like who I am and who I’m striving to be. That person doesn’t engage in TFPs and likes a whole lot of privacy now. However, even that being said, the decision to have an online presence at all is so easily made, without thinking of the layers and consequences of each digital decision one makes. I know I easily toss these decisions aside to get the information I desire whenever, where ever and from whatever agency/organisation is giving it on the other side.

This is definitely something I want to explore a little more given we’re in the age of big data, control over that data is blurry and all the policy implications on personal sovereignty (i.e. choice) that arise. For now, I’ll continue to clean up my online presence, try not to watch too many movies like Unfriended and check the encryption on any photos posted of myself online.

 

Rocky road

I tend to want sweet food when I’m experiencing more anxiety than usual – which I’m not going to deny, I’m feeling somewhat during this lockdown because my usual routine is slightly non-existent right now. I refuse to dress up in work gear to go to my living-room to do my work for the day. I haven’t been sleeping the best because I’m not working out as regularly as I am (I bought a boxing bag to change that though). There’s a multitude of things going on here but that’s not the point of this post.

This is a slightly useless post though because I don’t have a recipe – I just make it up every time I buy it (Samoan of me) but am intentional with the ingredients. The chocolate to other ingredient ratio is a lucky-dip.

Basically any rocky road recipe has the following:

  1. Chocolate (I prefer dark – pick your percentage)
  2. Marshmallows
  3. Pistachios

Extra add-ons that I like to include:

  1. Goji berries
  2. Freeze dried raspberries (if I’m feeling fancy)
  3. Popcorn (I haven’t added this usually but want to try it)
  4. Other dried berries or nuts of your choice

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Mea ‘ai – fa’apāpā

My Dad and I would joke about how this translates into “bang bang bread” because the words could also loosely mean fa’a (to do/to be) and pāpā (bang/hit), and that’s what you do before you bake it!

I haven’t actually made this before on my own but have made it with and watched mum make it (cook islander’s also make this food – so I’ve made it with her in Mitiaro when we would go over and spend Christmas/New year months there).

I like fa’apāpā. It’s not my favourite Samoan snack (I love masi saiga – a bit obsessively). I grew up eating this and know my grandmother used to make it when she was raising me. I’m pretty sure she would keep these handy in her handbag during church services or housie too – no doubt. My grandfather absolutely loved these too and during the school holidays when I would live with him, we would walk to the Mount Roskill bakery (or sometimes drive to other local polynesian shops) and buy fa’apāpā, along with kalo and other groceries.

A sweet snack when out and about, easy to store and easy to eat too lol. Also – vegan for those who are interested. Fa’apāpā is also used for fa’ausi, which I’ll make another time.

Recipe (makes 2 “loves” – taken from the Samoa Food blog):

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/3 cup shredded/desiccated coconut
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I used brown sugar but want to try this with raw sugar)
  • 200 ml coconut milk (I used light coconut milk for the fa’apāpā pictured below)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Grease two separate squares of baking paper to wrap your loaves in and a baking tray to put them on.
  3. Sift the flour in a bowl then mix in your desiccated coconut, sugar and mix evenly.
  4. Add your coconut milk and mix until you have your fa’apāpā dough.
  5. Separate into two “loaves” and wrap them in the two separate sheets of baking paper.
  6. Bake for 35 – 45 min.
  7. Slice and enjoy!

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How Some Pacific Women Are Responding to Climate Change and Natural Disasters

HUMAN WRONGS WATCH

Human Wrongs Watch

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Women in the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu are dealing with six crises currently – COVID 19, drought, scarcity of potable water, and volcanic ash, acid rain and sulphur gas as there are several active volcanoes on the island. But global women’s rights organisations are collaborating with regional alliances in supporting local women.

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Consent and Rape Culture

NIMISIRE

So, What is Consent?

Consent is the permission for something to happen; the willingness to engage in a sexual activity.

Consent is a voluntary, enthusiastic, and clear agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity.

Consent is:

Ongoing
You must have permission for each activity at every stage of a sexual encounter. Consent is about communication, and it should happen every time. Giving consent for one activity at a time is not automatic consent for increased or recurring sexual contact.

Note that consent can be withdrawn at any time: A person has a right to change their mind about engaging in, or continuing a sexual activity whenever they choose to. It is important to clearly communicate to your partner that you are no longer comfortable with the activity and wish to stop.

Coherent
Participants in a sexual activity must be capable of granting their consent. If a…

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Women, Race and Class by Angela Y. Davis

Fay Van Kerckvoorde

#onthisday in 1944 Angela Y. Davis was born. She is an American political activist, philosopher, academic and author. She wrote over ten books on class, feminism, and the U.S. prison system. She was a member of the Communist Party USA until 1991. Also, she was jailed for charges related to a prison outbreak, though ultimately cleared.

Women, Race and Class is an historical analysis of the women’s movement in the U.S. from abolitionist days to the present. Davis demonstrates how emancipation movements always have been obstructed by the sexist, racist and classist biases of its leaders. Unfortunately, to this day these exclusions still exist in a lot of social movements.

The book was first published in 1981, but it is not dated. If you want to read a coherent book that places the feminist struggle in a broader context from an intersectional view, I’d highly recommend it! In my opinion…

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Good Porn by Erika Lust

Fay Van Kerckvoorde

Years ago I wrote my master thesis about Feminist Porn. I researched the history starting from the feminist second wave. This debate held two opposed viewpoints: the anti-porn movement who argued that porn was anti-feminist because it exploited women’s bodies. On the other hand, the anti-censorship movement saw the potential to free (female) sexuality from patriarchal, misogynous and heteronormative social structures. I explored how the discourse developed to the contemporary debate and what the values and ethics of feminist porn include. (I wrote more about this in Dutch on this blog.)

‘Good Porn’ helped me during my research process. It is a very accessible book that’s writing with a humorous wink. Erika Lust is an independent erotic filmmaker, author and founder of Erica Lust Films. She has directed 4 award-winning erotic feature films, as well as the groundbreaking XConfessions short films.

Pornographic movies are traditionally very (white, cis-, hetero-)…

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