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Dissent: Edition 3

not-your-thinspo-print

 

Dissent, first published 1993, is brought to you by the Women’s Department. These pages are dedicated to giving voice to the women of Monash. Dissent aims to raise women up by giving them a stage to voice their reality, experiences, opinions, frustrations, wants and needs. We Dissent by speaking out when the world expects us to remain quiet. We Dissent by standing up for ourselves despite getting knocked down. We Dissent by talking back, asking questions, giving answers, telling stories, drawing pictures, writing poems, broadening horizons, singing songs, making art, climbing mountains, signing petitions, filming videos, laughing loudly, changing the world and in a million other ways every single day. We invite you to join us by reading, sharing, writing, designing and submitting your own work to msa-womens@monash.edu

Artwork by Baby with a Nail Gun

 

Fear

Words by Constance Wilde

Content warning: Rape, rape culture, sexual assault, victim blaming, acquaintance rape, friend-zone, torture.

 

I am afraid of boys. Attracted to, but afraid of men.

Terrified that if I’m too polite to this stranger,

He will turn my words against me,

And tell me that of course he raped me.

I gave permission with my sweet nothings and attention.

I was asking for it.

So he gave it to me.

 

These are the thoughts that cross my mind when I meet men:

My smile is a bullet in your gun with my name on it.

You’re either a rapist or you aren’t,

But I can’t tell the difference as you pass me in the supermarket.

Is your laugh genuine or something sinister?

How do I know there isn’t a monster lurking beneath your patterned jumper?

Because rapist aren’t just monsters,

Lurking in dark alleyways;

They are ordinary people and so are you.

Please don’t hurt me just because I was nice,

I could be rude,

But of course, but that’s a catch 22.

Making you angry would just be handing you another excuse.

 

The responsibility is inescapable.

It’s there in the morning when I dress,

Telling me that my skirt is far too short;

Could I show my body any less?

It’s with me when I lock my car,

And when I’m walking home.

Clearing my throat in case I need to scream.

Or dialling the number of a friend into my phone.

I’m not wondering what if?

I’m waiting.

 

I set my sights on men I know would never look at me,

To protect myself from actually being seen.

I am queen of an empire filled with women,

I keep boys at arms-length as if it is part of my religion.

Somehow fearing rapists means I’m afraid of all men,

They make it difficult to tell them apart,

When they jump to each other’s defence.  

Yet I am desperate… to fall in love.

To have my own piece of magic that will hold me in his arms,

And say he loves me.

But how do I know I’ve found the right one?

He is sweet, but is he safe? What will happen when we’re alone?

What if he waits for doors to close?

Or for me to let him take me home?

Is there something in his smile?

Some way I could know?

It is lonely on this throne I have created.

 

How am I supposed to fall in love if I can’t even make friends?

I call my mates up for coffee without thinking,

But I won’t call them if they’re men.

In case my invitation is all the consent they need.

I am sorry, but not sure that I should be,

When people still have the nerve to say:

“You invited him over. What did you think was going to happen?”

 

I pinpoint cameras in the parking lot,

But hyper-vigilance doesn’t help.

I am not the only woman,

That is living in this hell.

I must look desirable, but not irresistible.

Show enough skin to get your attention,

But not arouse your inner demon.

I must make you want to date me,

Without making you want to

rape

  1. me.

I tell my friends,

And they agree with me.

This fear of men is all I ever see.

Rose-tinted glasses, except they’re tinted red.

Screaming “DANGER: that man’s appetite needs to be fed”

I feel consumable, overpower-able, and weak.

What if my body is the answer to whatever it is you seek?

Of course nice guys exist but are they the men that I know?

I am powerless to stop this but I’m still holding onto hope.

I’m not afraid of commitment, but I am afraid of dating.

It seems ridiculous, but I spend night after night waiting.

In my mind, it’s not a question of what if but when.

And when I meet someone else it just starts all over again.

 

A boy in class told me being in the friend-zone counts as torture;

Told me the pain was unimaginably overwhelming,

As if it was on par with electrocution and waterboarding.

When I asked if he was joking,

He exploded in my face as if my question was a detonation.

Every boy I pass daily could be a rapist or a harmless stranger,

But he’s the one complaining.

 

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The Sea

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Sunset

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Jim & Julie

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  Staring, catatonic at the screen; before him, young men jumped and ran, crowds cheered their heroes on, and in
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Coffee: The Rise of Modernity: Book Review

Coffee Review (Joanne Fong)

 

‘Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc. …’

Frederich Engels, 1883

So begins Dmitri Gallo’s spirited and sometimes controversial history. Adopting the dusty Marxist thesis that ideas and social forces in history are ultimately at the mercy of economic and technological developments, Gallo suggests that the centre of world history is actually your morning brew. With characteristic energy (no doubt from indulging in his subject matter), Gallo puts forward the radical thesis that “for the past three centuries, coffee has had the power to make and unmake the modern world as we know it.”

Gallo’s story begins in 16th century Europe. I was somewhat disappointed that Gallo barely touches upon the coffee bean’s mythical origins, and its popularity in the Middle East he neglects some good stories but I suppose the book was already long enough at some 600 pages.

According to Gallo, it was the Venetian merchants that brought coffee from Turkey to the Continent. Originally a luxury commodity, it soon became more widely available across Europe, from 16th century England and the Netherlands’ roaring maritime trade, and the caffeinated military spoils from Turkey enjoyed by 17th century Austria.

Wherever he looks in the past few centuries, Gallo sees coffee everywhere. Before the onset of the 18th century, Europe was already overcome by the coffee-infused ‘public sphere’, from the Parisian café, the Austrian Kaffeehaus and the ubiquitous London coffeehouses. These public haunts allowed the middle classes to remain informed of daily affairs through spirited discussion, and as a result coffeehouses became a refuge for dangerous ideas to percolate. Political radicals would assemble and conspire together, and it was no surprise that Charles II had earlier attempted to shut down all the London coffeehouses in 1675. Gallo suggests that drinking alcohol and public discussions don’t mix well; coffeehouses provided people with greater energy to discuss new ideas at length, and with a newfound clarity. “I can only speak from experience,” says Gallo, “but when I drink cheap wine with my friends, I’m not up for discussions about restructuring the economy by the seventh glass… well, not a decent discussion, anyway.” Coffee allowed a portion of the London public to distance themselves from the ‘gin craze’ raging at the time, says Gallo, and talk soberly about modern affairs.

Gallo quite rightly points out that the spread of coffee didn’t just influence the anonymous social scene across Europe. It also had an enormous impact on the intellectual figureheads of the 18th century Enlightenment, from the urbane coffeehouse discussions of Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe, to the pathological coffee addiction of Voltaire. Much is made of the fact that Bach composed a libretto on coffee addiction, titled Be Still, Stop Chattering (yes, really). Gallo makes a strict connection between Voltaire’s penchant for caffeine and his enormous output of writing: “…The man’s writings could fill 200 volumes. You don’t achieve that by drinking water.” Immanuel Kant, another coffee enthusiast in his time, receives the same treatment: “…It is manifestly impossible to stay awake unaided and read The Critique of Pure Reason. Imagine writing the thing.”

Two-thirds into the book, and all these historical tidbits are finally cobbled together for Gallo’s grand thesis: “the development of the modern world would be inconceivable without the aid of caffeine. No coffee, no modernity.” Without coffee, intellectual chatter at coffeehouses and salons would have been cut short or entirely non-existent; without the widespread consumption of coffee, European bourgeois capitalism would have enjoyed less prosperity and power to undermine the older landed nobility; without coffee, the 18th century canonical writers would have written a quarter of their works; without coffee, seditious ideas that triggered the French and American revolutions would have perished at birth. “No revolution,” says Gallo, “means no Romantic reaction. Without coffee, we would have no Napoleon, and no conservative movement to inveigh against the destruction of the Bastille in France. Without coffee, our political landscape today would be unrecognisable. No socialism, no conservatism. No coffee.”

By this point in the book, Gallo’s contention that he develops becomes extremely overwhelming. To my disbelief, he suggests in a footnote that he wants to start a new research program based on ‘Caffeinated Historical Materialism’. Exhausted, I flip over a few pages. Now coffee has become one of the most popular commodities by the 19th century, as the mid-19th century moralist campaigners prescribe tea and coffee over alcoholic beverages for the masses. Later still, coffeehouses begin to allow women’s admittance later in that century he credits it as the dominant social force that puts women’s emancipation into motion.

I had to put the book down for a while, but it had already incurably distorted my view of the world. Every morning, all over the world, there are millions servings of coffee that are consumed; would everything be different if that wasn’t the case? I am seized by a fresh paranoia as I try not to look at the regiments of coffee jars in the supermarket aisles. I pointedly avoid the cafés that plague and determine the intricate workings of Melbourne life.

I pick up the book one last time. Gallo promised in the introduction that he would explore coffee’s role in contemporary world history what, then, does he say?

“It is clear that coffee has become the scaffolding that supports late capitalism. Without daily stimulation, entire workforces predicated on long, irregular and nightly hours would collapse. The workers, in their fatigue, would no longer sustain the hulking and swollen carcass of our technological age. We would have a revolution, but a slumberous one, where there is not a dictatorship of the proletariat, but a worldwide slumber. Industrial modernity would perish a quiet death.”

I do not recommend this book.

Published by Sidgewick University Press, Coffee: The Rise of Modernity is available at major booksellers at $39.99 in paperback (ISBN 0740700251).

 

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The Greenhouse

greenhouse
  The white roses are her favourite. Delicate snow petals, spilling out from the centres, like a ballerina’s tulle frozen
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Cabin 85

Man in Train Compartment1

 

Emanuel K had missed his stop. Hat over his eyes, en route to his job at the bank, he had fallen fast asleep the moment the train left off.

Jolted into consciousness, Emanuel snatched his satchel and dashed for the door at the next station, fearful of being late to work. Waiting impatiently for the train to stop, Emanuel tapped his foot over and over as the carriage pulled into the next station, . Again, the dragging wait for the light to flash above the door played on his patience, eager was to alight the train and catch a cab in the hope of making it to work.

But it seemed this would be denied to him.

A tall attendant, dark hair and surly moustache, as impeccably groomed as his pressed and cleaned uniform, held his hand before the door

“I am sorry sir, but you cannot get off at this station” he said impassively. Emanuel’s mouth fell open with a look of doubt. The attendant, Monsieur Jean by his nametag, had directly refused him leaving the train. Had there been some emergency he had not become aware of? When Emanuel pressed Monsieur Jean, who looked in no way French, he was told to simply to:

“Wait in your cabin for the time being, sir.”

Assuming nothing serious had occurred, Emanuel returned to his room and began the newspaper he had originally planned to read on the trip down.so to his newspaper. He had no way of contacting work about the train, and would have to explain his lateness as the result of a delay, or a particularly overzealous attendant who had putting his bags in the wrong compartment. One of them would see him suitably forgiven.

Again the train pulled off, but evidently no one had boarded either. Something must have been wrong with the station then? Renovation work, or repairs. He recalled one of the stations being scheduled for something like that earlier that month. They must have been mid-way through it by now then. Yes, that must have been it.

Emanuel heard the sound of the train’s horn again. They were nearing the next stop.

His worn, khaki suit felt stiff as he pulled himself peeled himself from the seat. The wait between stops was long, and his back felt as equally as inflexible as it did after a day in his cubicle. Emanuel pulled the sliding door open to the passageway, again it seemed he was the only person who wanted to exit. This did not surprise him, most rode this line directly into the city, and this was just a minor pause. The passageway was free even of the crew as he made his way toward the door. Activating the door, a familiar voice spoke.

“I am sorry sir, but you cannot get off at this stop,” spoke Monsieur Jean, whose sudden appearance and close proximity made Emanuel pull back his hand back in shock. Monsieur Jean now kept his whole body between Emanuel and the doorway, politely, but firmly, barring the way. A look of uncertainty, and even mild concern spread over Emanuel’s face, but Monsieur Jean was soon to console him with the words, “wait in your cabin for the time being sir”, repeating the phrase as before. Emanuel raised his voice to speak, before clenching his fist around his newspaper and returning to his cabin. He did not hear Monsieur Jean leave, though when he turned round again to demand an explanation, once more conjuring his courage in the hope of receiving an explanation, Monsieur had left the doorway, presumably returning to his duties aboard the trains other carriages.

The train rocked as it pushed on toward the city. There were scarce few articles left in the paper for Emanuel to read through now, limited now to advice columns and the personal ads, both areas he tended to avoid. The steady rocking of the train threatened to send him to sleep again, though the desire was staved off by the ever-increasing anxiety he felt as he moved further and further away from the bank. It was a commendable position, though with few prospects for higher employment.  The branches location and overall obscurity ensured the highest Emanuel could see himself rising was general manager, a man of modest hours and an equally modest salary.

A third time the train jolted to a stop, a third time Monsieur Jean barred his way. Taken with frustration, Emanuel attempted to occupy his time by visiting one of the other passengers with whom he shared this carriage. Shuffling past his cabin, he knocked on the door to its left. A sour voice answered back to him.

“Yes?” A woman — many years his senior — bid him inside her compartment. Clearly not one for travelling lightly, a selection of fold- out suitcases furnished her with everything she could need for an extended field journey, including mirror, iron, and washbasin. She sat meekly on the seat, as if her seemingly perfunctory frame merely hovered over the cushions rather than displacing them with any weight.

Her enviable collection of luggage was matched only by the wealth of jewellery she kept within them, much of it spilling over the sides as if she’d been unable to decide what to wear that morning and had haphazardly thrown them back in into drawers as one does with clothes when rushing for a party. She was a Dowagess, she explained, her voice harsh voice cracking as she spoke. Emanuel said little during the interaction, the Dowagess apparently quite content to spill her opinions at a moment’s whim, the deficiency of the cabin service, the length of the trip, all to her were equally detestable as they were topical. The train was deathly silent; and despite the soundproofing of the cabins, it felt as if they were the only two in the carriage, if not the whole train.

The Dowagess’ conversation droned on: “never free” she was, “now she could finally be herself,” she said. Emanuel increasingly desired the sound of the next train horn, unable to think of a polite reason to depart. Instead, frustration, a question quite simply burst out of him: Why could they not get off the train?

Before the Dowagess could answer in her sandpaper voice, the cabin door slid open.

A whirl of movement found a pair of lithe hands tightly gripping his arms. Sleeves pulled taut, he was spun back to face the carriage. Monsieur Jean stood straight-backed before him.

“I am sorry sir, but you cannot visit the private cabins of others,” Monsieur Jean rattled off. Emanuel K. did not protest, and chided himself for not predicting this outcome. He was held in place by two men — the train guards presumably — whose freshly pressed uniforms held a surprising stiffness as he was pulled up against them.

“Wait in your cabin for the time being, sir,” he heard Monsieur Jean calmly say as he was escorted back, the guards promptly opening the door and tapping him inside in one efficient movement, drawing the exterior blind as they left.

Sealed inside his cabin, Emanuel considered why he was continually denied exit. Nothing was mentioned of it in the paper, which, within the next few minutes, he would have succeeded in reading cover to cover in order to distract himself from the preposterous situation he was in.

Emanuel rhythmically tapped his foot against the bottom of his seat, reading through the statements for his late afternoon appointment, familiarising himself with the facts so that when he arrived, if he arrived, he could attempt to make up for lost time. It did not hold his focus for long. The situation on the train had become increasingly present in Emanuel’s mind, his thoughts over and over: what in fact could be going on? Was there even an issue outside? Was it something happening on board? One possibility sparked his mind. He had not looked properly into the other carriages, he was not sure if this was isolated simply to his.

He would find out.

Emanuel K. slid across the chair toward the door. He would ask, nay, demand an answer from this Monsieur Jean who continued to impede him. Emanuel burst into the hall, only to find it deserted.

Emanuel K. was awfully ambivalent about this fact. Initially brimming with purpose, such energy now deserted him. The emptiness left him on edge. The blinds were drawn to the dining carriage, leaving Emanuel no way of knowing if Monsieur Jean was there.

Emanuel K., however, had forgotten to check behind him. The sudden bump of another body against him sent a shriek from his lungs as he jumped around to face what had hit touched him.

Before him stood a short, pudgy looking man whose shirt sagged under the weight of an impressive collection of medals, bestowing upon him an air of authority that singled him out as the train’s captain. Flanked by the same two guards, and Monsieur Jean behind him, the Captain and his crew had effectively barred his way. The captains bearded chin lowered just enough for the words,

“I’m sorry sir, but you cannot change compartments” to flow familiarly from his mouth and into the ears of a disconcerted Emanuel K. The man’s honey-coated voice did little to calm him as the guards walked forward and promptly lead him back to his room, the Captain repeating that familiar phrase,

“Wait in your cabin for the time being, sir.”

So flustered by these events was Emanuel K. that it did not cross his mind that trains do not typically have a Captain. Thoughts swirled in his head. Surely such peculiarities could not be isolated to him alone.

Was it that the guards had a special interest in him, or was there simply some issue they refused to announce? Either way it played on Emanuel’s nerves.

The Dowagess, he would ask her as to his predicament, perhaps her position would make her privy to information he was not.

Stepping into the hallway, Emanuel’s head darted around. Satisfied the crew were out of earshot had moved on, Emanuel K. turned toward the Dowagess’ compartment.

Again, the girth of the train’s captain blocked his path, backed again by the silent guards and the implacable Monsieur Jean. He was not even surprised to see them this time. Emanuel heard no sign of the Dowagess in her compartment, no babbling to herself as last time. Angered, Emanuel K. listened to the Captain speak.

“I’m sorry sir…” Emanuel K. cut him off, he knew the rest.

“Wait in your cabin for the time being, sir” The Captain continued in that polite tone he imagined a diplomat would use during negotiations; exasperation behind a cordial façade.

Padding back into his cabin, Emanuel K. threw himself onto the seat beside the window, the familiar rattle of the tracks underneath rumbling through the walls. Emanuel had lost complete track of time now, his inability to leave the carriage leaving him lost within the walls. How far along the line was he now? What station would he be refused next? Emanuel’s arms shook with rage as he reached out to draw the blind.

His eyes darted up, a startling sight beheld him.

A hand, tight around the string held the blind in check over the window, plump fingers gripping its coarse length. Turning his face up, Emanuel K. noted the crew bending down across his window, bodies tightly packed into the cabin, who, from Emanuel’s lowered position, now seeming impossibly tall and impossibly wide. Weary of the coming words, Emanuel K. looked on in complete horror as the crew announced in unison.

“I’m sorry sir”

Emanuel screamed.

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