Monday, August 17, 2015

Lunch with the suits

King Street is Perth’s swankiest street but it also has a special place in my heart. Until a couple of years ago, King Street Café was the iconic café on the strip and it was the place that started my coffee obsession.

Since it now closed, I wanted to check out a La Veen which has been on King Street for a few years now.



The good news is that they do good coffee but since it is in Perth’s CBD it attracts lots of office workers but also the odd creative.

They have a good range of cakes and their Carrot Cake looked amazing. As it was lunch time, I went for Potato Rosti with a potato patty, poached eggs, smoked salmon and avocado. It was perfectly presented and very appetising. The coffee was well made and while being full of flavour, was not too overpowering.


La Veen is a nice little café that has great coffee and good quality food. The staff are friendly and efficient which make lunch at La Veen a perfect experience.





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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Getting the concept of Structure and Agency is a good way of understanding people better

Recently I read Emer O’Toole’s Girls will be Girls and one aspect of the book that made me think was the concept of structure and agency.

Understanding structure and agency are a good way of appreciating how people make choices and navigate the society in which they live. Individuals are said to have agency and structure refers to the society or culture in which they operate.  

What makes structure and agency so interesting is that there is a conflict in how much power structure has in a person’s ability to make decisions.

As Emer O’Toole argues, ‘the first thing to know about structure and agency debate is that it is always political. If you believe evangelically in agency that – that the individual is entirely free to choose whatever she [sic] wants to do –then you’re unlikely to see the social factors that influence a person’s action…On the other hand, if you believe devoutly in structure – that an individual’s actions are always the product her [sic] social situations – you can fail to recognise and honour people’s achievements’.

I had obviously been vaguely been aware of it as a concept but it wasn’t until I read Girls will be Girls that I understood it better. As with every new concept I discover, I go around analysing everything around me through the prism of structure and agency.

So when I started reading Freedom Fallacy – The limits of Liberal Feminism, I couldn’t help but think about structure and agency. This is quite dense collection of essays that questions the notion that gender equality has been achieved and women are solely reasonable to connect with the opportunities.  As Miranda Kiraly and Meagan Tyler argue, ‘This collection aims to challenge the limits of key liberal feminist concepts and to critique the idea that it is possible to find freedom simply by exercising ‘choice’ in a world in which women, as a class, are still not considered to be  of fully human worth to men’.
         
Put simply, society’s structure prevents women to have an equal choice as they are not considered to have comparable worth to men.
      
Structure vs. agency in a critique of Naomi Wolf ‘The Beauty Myth’

Most feminists have heard of this seminal work and while I won’t go into the details I will note that Wolf argued that women are expected to adhere to strict rules in regards to their appearance. These rules disempower women rather than liberate them. She argues that the structure is the problem and it is up to women to use their agency to challenge this myth.  

In her essay, Natalie Jovanovski takes the view that ‘when it comes to providing solutions and potential ways forward, Wolf’s work, disappointingly, falls back on a kind of unhelpful, individualism that verges on blaming women for their own situation…. It also represents a missed opportunity, as it ignores the possibility of collective action, agitating for women’s liberation, and an end to the patriarchy, as ways forward for helping women to develop healthier relationships with their bodies’.

It show how complex the relationship between structure and agency. In many ways culture is pervasive and doesn’t provide individuals with many authentic choices.

What Wolf’s book does as well as those of other writers is that they acknowledge the limited agency of individuals but fail often unite them to challenge the structure in order to increase their own agency. It is often easier to acknowledge a problem than to create a new path.                     

Do Mail Order Brides have a choice?

In the Freedom Fallacy, Kaye Quek writes a very interesting essay that looks at how agency Mail Order Brides possess.

We have all hard about Mail Order Brides and there is a debate regarding how much choice these ladies have in deciding to move to another country to marry an unknown man. Is it something that they genuinely want or are they making the decision for other reasons?

Kaye Quek argues that ‘far from being based on equal partnership or reciprocity of care, the Mail Order Bride Industry promotes and facilitates a particular kind of marriage that is characterised by sexual, racial and class inequalities between the men and women it involves’.

Some people argue that they are in complete control and the choice to enter into such an arrangement is done so with their eyes wide open and their complete consent.

However, Quek doesn’t agree with that attitude and believes that ‘far from being based on an equal partnership or reciprocity of care, the Mail Order Bride industry promotes and facilitates a particular kind of marriage that is characterised by sexual, racial and class inequalities between the men and women’.

I can see her point, since these marriages are organised by companies that operate on a basis that men pay to be linked up with a lady (that they have chosen often from a website, catalogue or speed dating event) who lives in a developing country.

Coming from a position of economic hardship and to be almost purchased, it is easy to see how such a marriage that could be what Quek considers unequal and which ‘seeks to advance the interests of men while actively minimising women’s ability to exercise agency and resistance’. I    

Why read this book?                

I will always find structure and agency riveting and this book continued to fuel my interest.

While it is super academic and very dense, it is very interesting and has opened my eyes to a lot of things. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Precinct’s a good place to do Sunday Brunch

The Precinct is a famous Victoria Park restaurant. It is funky cafe that does breakfast as well as doubles up as a wine bar. It has an extensive wine list and lunch/dinner menu but that’s not why we were there.  

I’ve been there several times and have always loved their food. I have always found their staff to be keen, attentive and knowledgeable.


Today, we went for breakfast. It was busy but not overly so and we were shown to a table straight away.    

We ordered drinks while we chose what we were going to eat. My friend picked the Avocado Smash which had a generous serving of avo. The bacon was very smoky, tasty and I would highly recommend it.


I chose the slow cooked eggs on sourdough bread with an Italian sausage. It was beautifully presented and sausage was nice. The locally sourced eggs (from Baldivis) were a bonus as too was the in-house produced sausage.



My Long Mac (topped up) was lovely.

The Precinct is a great place to visit regardless of the time of day. 

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lunch with Felix

Felix and Co is one of my favourites on the Hampton Road strip.

I have been here several times and have always found the coffee to be excellent. They have several different roasts on offer which they rotate. Felix and Co also sell beans for you to take home which is a great way of enjoying good coffee at home as well as continuing to support local businesses.


Today I had an appointment that I really wasn’t looking forward to so I decided to do lunch at Felix to ease the pain.

I chose “The Vego” toastie from their rather limited menu (which I assume is because of their small kitchen) and I added some ham to my sandwich. Since I have some Swiss heritage I was very excited about the Gruyere cheese that was going to be alongside the Antipesto mix, Siracho sauce and BBQ mushrooms.


I wasn’t disappointed(although the sourdough would have added a little extra quality)and none of the flavours were too overpowering.

While the menu isn’t extensive, the pastries at Felix’s are lovely. The Friand was beautiful, it was moist and fluffy.


I look forward to many more great cups of coffee from Felix and Co.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Lunch in East Village



Before you start thinking that I’ve hit the jackpot and ran away to New York City, East Village is one of the many new restaurants opening in Perth.

East Village is located above Perth Underground station in the 140 Murray St complex. Much has been made of this area over the past few days as there have been many new places and is well worth a visit if you haven’t checked it out recently.

It has been a bit of a strange week so I was keen to chill a little and catch up on a book while enjoying a leisurely Saturday brunch.

It was quick to get a table here at the East Village and the staff were quick to give me a menu and take my coffee order (I know what I want J). It came out first and it was perfect temperature.  

Their menu has the whole range of American food as well as an American take on Italian and Aussie favourites such as pizza and an Avocado Smash.



I love Avocado so I went straight for an Avocado and Fetta Smash that also included lots of tomato. It wasn’t long before it appeared and the avo Smash was a generous size with slightly grilled fetta, avocado (obviously) and tomato in equal proportions.      


East Village’s décor could be described as Industrial Chic. With its booth, lighting and general set up makes it’s cool interior is impressive and I will defiantly be back to try more of the East Village.   



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Monday, June 22, 2015

Girls will be Girls but it’s all an act

We’re all born naked and the rest is drag

RuPaul

Emer O’Toole’s book Girls will be Girls has to be one of the best books on gender issues that I’ve read this year. Her discussion on how people perform their gender has a strong theoretical grounding while being funny and relevant.

Emer’s premise is that being male or female is a performance and how the body is ‘used to define and socialise us’. She puts the things that we do all the time under a microscope to analyse them in order to understand what she calls “Performativity”.

 It is a testament of how society’s norms and double standards govern every part of our lives right down to the hair on our various parts of our body, but more of that later.


Gender as performance

While much of this book is based on the theories of American Philosopher Judith Butler, she begins by referring to work by Lise Eliot and Cordelia Fine on the neuroscience of gender. She doesn’t spend much time on the neurology of gender but Emer concludes that the plasticity of the brain and nurture allows people to transcend any slight differences between the brains of men and women. As Simone de Beauvoir once said, ‘one is not born, but, rather, becomes woman’.     

From the day we’re born and the doctor declares ‘it’s a girl or it’s a boy’, our body influences who we are. It influences how we are expected to dress, behave, interact with others as well as have our hair. Whether we are male or female, the choice of subjects at school and the division of labour in the home are impacted.  As Emer argues ‘our bodies are coded and costumed to turn us into easily identifiable men and women, creating artificial divisions in society and limiting the identities that people of any gender feel confident performing’.

As Emer continues to discuss, all is well as long as we continue to play the parts assigned to us by our gender but trouble starts when we deviate from this script. Society has many punitive measures to inflict on those who digress from the expected social norms.

As the great Judith Butler argues, ‘gender is a performance with clearly punitive consequences….. we regularly punish those who fail to do their gender right’.

You can see examples of this everywhere ranging from the guilt trip that society dumps on mothers who go back to work to men who choose to put family before their careers. But these are two examples, there are many things that we might lose privilege for happen on a micro-personal level.

Emer is famous as being the girl who challenged the cultural narrative and not shaving for a whole 18 months.   


The politics of hair

I’ve often wondered about the difference in gender expectations surrounding body hair and how opposite the cultural norms.

Emer dedicates a whole chapter on the relationship that society has with women’s body hair. Her argument looks at what is considered feminine and response to something that is natural.

Both men and women have hair but for women is considered unhygienic and also something to be ashamed of. Emer points out that ‘Body hair seems to be a potent symbol of the way in which we teach girl children that the changes their bodies go through at puberty are shameful’.

It seems really odd to think that something that everybody in society has is considered unhygienic for half the population and normal for the other. To make it worse, hair removal for women has turned into big business as women spend hundreds of dollars and hours to remain hair free.            

Emer’s experience was interesting and a lot tougher than she thought. She felt self conscious and adjusted her wardrobe to cover the ‘offending areas’. She believes that ‘hairless females look better is a culturally conditioned one. We think that bald female legs equal beautiful female legs because we’re not used to seeing beautiful women with leg hair’. Until it changes, I will continue to participate in hair removal and respect Emer for doing what I am not brave enough to do

Why read this book?

This blog post has just touched the surface of what Emer O’Toole discusses in Girls will be Girls. I loved her discussion on Agency vs. Structure and it helped me to understand how people make choices and the power that the social structures have on all of us.


Emer is super smart and is well equipped to put gender under the microscope in ways that is effective and witty.            



Thursday, June 18, 2015

Perfect Masala at Bengal Indian



I’ve often past this Indian restaurant and, since I love Indian food, I have always wanted to try it.

From the outside Bengal Indian looks very ordinary but once inside the well presented tables, with their table cloths lifts the standard a little and saves it from being your usual ‘cheap and cheerful’ eatery.

My order was taken from the waiter who was relaxed and easy going but almost too much so.   

I chose the Beef Masala which was cooked perfectly; the beef was tender and the capsicum was soft. I am a great fan of coriander loved how you could taste it without feeling it was over powering the other spices.


The Naan was crisp, fresh and perfect in every way.


Bengal Indian is a nice place that is slightly out of Fremantle and not a bad place to go if you want somewhere quiet and authentic.





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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Good leadership is hard but possible

Life has sent me several things that have recently made me think about leadership and what it means to be an effective leader.

I’ve been wanting to do more in my community so I’ve applied to do a leadership programme. As I prepared for the interview, it made me think of the concept of leadership that the programme was built on was different from the kind of leadership that I learnt about as part of my master’s degree.

The required readings of my Leadership unit focus on the more traditional sort of leadership, the kind that you assume involves running an institution or organisation. This unit spoke about different sources of power such as Reward, Coercive and Legitimate power which are the kind of power that I’ve often seen at work.

Most often the Coercive and Legitimate type is used to make sure the wheels of the team go round and everything runs smoothly, so the theory goes. My old text book defines Coercive Power as the ‘capacity to punish or withhold positive outcomes as a way of influencing other people’ and Legitimate power as the ‘capacity to influence other people by virtue of formal authority, or the rights of office’.

But as you can imagine these are the basic tools that new mangers refer to in attempt to ‘lead’ their teams but we all know that it take more than coercion and a job title to get respect from those below you.


I must admit that effectively leading a team at work has to be one of the hardest jobs around as there is a real skill to it. But either you’re good with people or you’re not! I am always surprised when people who have weak emotional intelligence put their hands for such positions of power. It leads to a toxic environment that brings the worst in people and a miserable place to be.

I am sure that many of you have had jobs that were tough or dull but because the manager was good and the other people were cool you didn’t mind.   

What makes it hard for everyone (including the ‘leader’) is when those who aren’t gifted with good people skills are so often promoted beyond their interpersonal skill level. The effect is that people become unmotivated and disengaged but somehow this is ignored by those who hire and fire. It seems that the only requirement for promotion to these roles is having hubristic tenancies. 




One of the questions that I had at the interview for this leadership programme was to describe a leader at work that I admired. The person that I immediately thought had a senior position but isn’t a leader of a team but because she had great skills in this area I used her as an example. She is supportive, respectful and doesn’t purposely go out to shame and humiliate. She also understands the tough work environment as well as has the ability to bring out the best in people and to motivate staff.  

But don’t fear people!

Leadership is more than just telling people to pull their socks up.

It seems that the whole notion of leadership has evolved overtime from the ‘Boss’ at work or in the home to include advocacy on behalf of those whose voice isn’t loud enough to be heard.


One man who ran a youth development camp I went on when I was at uni describes leadership as “action that makes the world I touch a better place”. As you can see it is a general definition and could include anyone that stands up for minority groups or for a colleague that is being bullied.

I hate to be Captain Cliché but “I want to be the change I want to see in the world” and I am to improve the lives of other people with disabilities.  

This is the kind of leadership I that I want to get involved with.

I have no interest in being a manager or leader in the work environment but to do want to do this program so I can learn how to advocate for others and make a difference in the community. I look forward to starting and developing the skills to improve the lives of others who aren’t so fortunate.   

LIST OF REFERENCES

Campling. J., Poole. D., Wiesner. R., Ang. E.S., Chan. B., Tan. WL., and Schermerhorn. J.R. (2008) Management (3rd Asia-Pacific edition) (Brisbane, Qld: Wiley Publishing Company)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Fit for a prince


The Stables Bar became famous earlier this year when HRH Prince Harry paid it a visit because and if royalty go there then it must be good.  Since it was also my birthday my friends and I wanted to go somewhere nice.

Despite it being a sunny lunch time we were quickly shown a table outside a table. It took a while to choose what to eat as there the menu was relatively extensive.

I always like unusual food so I went for the Pigs Ears which I had never tried before. They came out in small bite size pieces with a deep fried batter and a dip. These ears were crunchy and slightly chewy but not overly so.

My friend had the lamb and loved the flavour profile of this dish. She especially loved how the spiciness of the dish wasn’t overpowering but still provided each mouthful with a little kick. The Fries were perfectly done.  




We were especially impressed by the desserts. My deconstructed lemon meringue pie looked like something out of Master chef and I loved the lemon ice cream and how it complimented what would be the lemon filling. 

My friend chose a Wagon Wheel which she enjoyed and it wasn’t like the ones you pick up for a dollar at a local newsagents. It was well presented and came out with strawberry ice cream.


Some of our other fiends joined us later and enjoyed their dished but since we were enjoyed our dishes I can’t remember what they were called but they seemed to enjoy them a lot.



There is an extensive international wine list plus cocktails and beer. The coffee wasn't bad. 



I really the location of this bar as it felt part of the city but not part of the hustle and bustle of the CBD. I loved the historical aspect of the venue and how it used to be a working stable in the past. It is nice to know that Perth hasn’t knocked down everything of historical value.



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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Labelling gender

Tara Moss’ The Fictional Woman is a diversion from her usual literary contributions. It is a semi autobiographical book combined with social commentary on gender issues that acts as an important catalyst for a discussion around these issues.

Tara Moss is more than just a model and a crime writer; she is a mother of a young daughter, a PhD candidate in gender studies, an ambassador for UNICEF and works to reduce violence against women. She has been on the receiving end of violence as well as worked in an industry that thrives on objectifying women. Now she has switched roles and works as a theorist who looks at women from a different perspective and encourages debate.

The first few chapters of The Fictional Woman are about Moss’ formative years and life as a working model. Modelling has a really glamorous image but her story really shows the struggle and the often dangerous situations that people trying to break into this industry find themselves in. But the violence that she experienced and the pressure to be super skinny are some of the factors that have been her biggest influences.

What is in a name?

I wondered why she had chosen the name The Fictional Woman. The cover has many of the labels that women get given such as wife, mother, party girl, bitch and gold digger to name a few.  So this book focuses on the many labels that society uses to create the ideal woman or to describe women when they step outside the boundaries of what is expected of them.  

Women exist to be beautiful

As Tara Moss worked as a model, she knows all about beauty and understands the subtleties and nuances of women’s appearance. She understands that given the context women are expected to be trophies, invisible, “sluts” or appearing to be “asking for it”.  She looks at women appearance from different perspectives such as from Famme Fatale and in juxtaposition to “The Beautiful Man”. She acknowledges that these labels are socially constructed and how women are portrayed in the news media and film are constructed by the male gaze although she does use that term directly. 
  
She argues that ‘women exist to be beautiful and to compete for the attention of men, without whom they are lost. Women’s looks are their most valuable assets in this quest for a man, an asset they’ll do anything to retain’. The quest for beauty over brains is all encompassing as a woman’s value is derived from how attractive they are to men.

In addition, she discusses how commentators argue that women are to blame when they dress in a way that men think ‘asks for it’. Somehow society has this expectation that women have to look good but when they dress in a way that receives unwanted sexual attention from men, it is women that are at fault. This is in conflict with the idea that adults are responsible for their own actions. Why are women somehow responsible for the actions of men?

She makes an interesting point when she says ‘the problem is not women (or men) in revealing clothes. The problem is the entitlement some people feel over other human beings and their bodies’. As we have seen in places such as Afghanistan and India, where violence against women is high despite a culture of dressing modestly.

Women in storytelling

For centuries, storytelling is an important part of societies everywhere. In western societies Moss believes that woman have been portrayed in one of three ways – ‘the innocent virgin maiden, the temptress who manipulates men with her sexuality and leads them to ruin and the evil knowing witch, embodying the “unnaturalness” and danger of power in the hands of women’.

I agree with Moss who argues that the use of these archetypes serve as a kind of “moralising” or a cautionary tale to those thinking of behaving in the same way. Why do there have to be hidden meaning behind any female portrayed on screen and why are there such a small variety of archetypes? 

It would be really nice to see more a diverse representation of women in film and TV as well as including seeing less from the prospective of the male gaze.        

Why read The Fictional Woman?

This is an interesting book written by a woman who has experienced a lot. She will always be known as an ex model who had to take a polygraph test to prove that she was the true author of her books. Her contributions to the debate are valuable and The Fictional Woman offers an interesting insight into what it means to be a woman in a society that dominated by the patriarchy.  



Saturday, June 6, 2015

Loving Pho


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I love Vietnamese food and I love eating out with friends. So I was extra happy on Saturday when I got to spend eating with the various members of my posse and the highlight was going for pho with my BFF.

We just wanted some that was cheap but fulfilling and satisfying so Viet Hoa was the perfect spot.

When we first arrived, the place was packed and we had to wait until there was a table free. There was some sporting event at a near sports stadium and Northbridge was teeming with people and Viet Hoa’s staff were flat out.

Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long and we were soon able to see the menu and decide what we wanted. I decided on the Braised Duck Pho while BFF went for the standard Pho.


Soon my steaming bowl of Vietnamese goodness arrived with hers coming shortly after. At first I wasn’t sure how I would eat the duck with chop sticks but it was tender enough to just fall away from the bone making it really easy to eat.


Viet Hoa is not fancy but the food is nice for the price.  It is a good place to visit if you want to share a meal with friends that won’t cost a fortune. If you want somewhere that is swanky and opulent then Viet Hoa is not a place for you.   

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