Sport Hijab

Sports brand’s hijab sparks “violent debate”

It’s advice as old as time itself: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

My mum told me this when I was little. I tell this to my kids. It’s common knowledge.

So why does it feel like our world leaders need to be reminded of this?

In France, the country’s biggest sports retailer has decided to cancel its plans to release a sports hijab (a hair covering worn by Muslims) after a massive backlash. Hijabs are legal in public spaces in France – as well they should be – but incredibly, they have been banned in French state schools and in some public buildings since 2004.

Here’s the thing about France: when it comes to food, fashion, art, history and architecture, France is one of the most spectacular countries in the world.

However, it seems that their tolerance towards other cultures needs some serious attention.

The hijab was canned following threats to boycott the company. And this is where I scratch my head – as the majority of the pressure is coming from politicians. Senior politicians. Senior female politicians.

Aurore Berge, a member of President Emmanuel Macon’s centrist party, tweeted her opposition to the hijab.

“My choice as a woman and citizen will be to no longer trust a brand which breaks with our values. Those who only tolerate women in public spaces when they are hidden are not lovers of freedom,” she tweeted.

And Health Minister Agnès Buzyn commented, “It’s a vision of women that I don’t share. I would prefer if a French brand did not promote the headscarf.”

“A vision I don’t share?” What does this even mean? How can you have a problem with a product that simply allows other people to make decisions in their own lives, in a way that doesn’t impact you whatsoever?

This particular product is designed for athletes and runners – so they can participate in athletic activities without overheating. I don’t understand the controversy…

The Decathlon brand said they were forced to cancel the product in the face of “violent debate” and “threats” that were “sometimes physical”, made against some of the company’s employees in its French stores.

So much outrage, over a flimsy piece of fabric.

I guess the new advice line should be: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, just say it on social media. Then everyone can see your true colours.”

Mum and Children

Does having kids make you happier?

A friend posed this question this week, and let me tell you – it left me floored.

“Of course my kids make me happy,” came my immediate response.

My other friend, a fellow parent of three kids aged under 10, chimed in with a similar reply.

But then I thought about it. Really thought about it. Has having kids made me ‘happier’?

I’m not sure.

Having children hasn’t made me a happier person, per se. Depending on the day you catch me on, parenthood has contributed to me becoming busier and more overwhelmed, proud, frustrated and fulfilled than I was pre-offspring.

It has definitely cracked my heart apart and opened me up to a range of emotions that I don’t think I’d have come close to experiencing, had I not had children.

When they were born: I was flooded with raw, primal, unconditional love.

When they’ve been really, really sick or hurt or in danger: I’ve felt pure blinding panic, coupled with an urge to do immediate deals with the devil in order to restore them to good health.

When they’re not sleeping, sick or grizzly overnight: I have reached a level of outrageous exhaustion that, hand to God, I didn’t even know was possible. Brand new parents should be given free cake, kindness and hugs from every person they encounter for three months after bringing the baby home, because holy moly, that newborn phase is the real deal.

When they’re “challenging”: I have known what true frustration and fury is. My need to dig deep for patience, tolerance and kindness peaks in these moments.

When they do something unexpectedly sweet or kind, or get rewarded for effort or behaviour: my heart swells and I’m overwhelmed at the joy they bring to the world.

Interesting, a recent study found that parents in Australia (and Great Britain, and the US) were less happy than their counterparts who didn’t have children.

But I suspect that perhaps, striving for happiness misses the point completely. Kids don’t necessarily make us happy (and what a burden we place on them if this is what we expect them to do!)

Rather, as ‘The Happiness Doctor’ Dr Mark Holder comments, “I wonder if happiness is the best outcome measure. Perhaps instead, research should also examine the relationship between having children and meaning in life.”

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson – friend or foe?

“Michael Jackson is either the most maligned genius to have ever moonwalked the earth, or one of the most depraved, cunning paedophiles we have ever known.”

So says Sunday Night reporter Matt Doran, who has been investigating child sexual abuse allegations against the late pop icon ahead of the new documentary, Leaving Neverland.

Doran’s words cut right to the core.

Because he’s right.

It’s something I have personally struggled with over time, especially once I had children of my own, and introduced them to the King of Pop. My kids adore his music. My eldest daughter’s face lights up when she hears the first few bars of “Blame it on the Boogie”. His music transcends time, generations, trends and genres.

And yet…

There is a cloud. A really big, dark cloud. Because as much as we try to ignore it, we all know that something fishy was going on with Michael Jackson and his relationship with children.

I’ve tried to keep my head out of the details, because, honestly? I didn’t want to know them. I didn’t want to wrestle with my feelings around being a massive fan of his music, whilst also not wanting to support a child abuser.

But I think the time has come where we can no longer ignore the facts.

Doran got into it all on Sunday Night, where he shared a lot of uncomfortable truths.

For instance: we know that Jackson fed young boys wine, calling it Jesus Juice. That in itself is enough to raise serious suspicion about his intentions – who gives a child alcohol?! – and that is at the lower end of the scale when it comes to his alleged offences.

Other things we know for sure?

Jackson also had a collection of softcore child porn; his fingerprints were found on one of the books. One of his accusers was able to tell police about unique marking on Jackson’s genitalia. And one of his employees, a security guard called Melanie, told Doran she once saw Jackson cupping the genitals of an 11-year-old boy.

The reality is this: if Jackson wasn’t famous, he likely would have been convicted.

“If you’d stripped the celebrity and fame away from the defendant in that dock… [an ordinary man] facing these ghastly allegations would be unlikely to see another day of freedom,” Doran says.

And that’s a fact we can no longer ignore.

Diet Softdrink

Diet soft drinks increase risk of “dying young” by 16%

There are plenty of things that doctors warn pregnant mothers against consuming once they discover they’re “with child”: raw sushi, soft cheese, deli meats, alcohol.

But when I was pregnant with my first child, there was one item on the prohibited list that surprised me.

Diet soft drinks.

“They’re a total no-go,” my mother-earth friends warned me, “because they contain aspartame, which has been linked to birth defects.”

Birth defects! Hold the phone.

As it turns out, there are other risks of diet drinks too. Risks like “dying young”.

A new study has revealed that drinking two cans of any artificially sweetened drink each day will significantly increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.

In fact, your risk jumps up by almost a third, according to the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, and the risk of early death is 16 per cent higher for those who consume diet drinks, compared to those who don’t.

It’s enough to make you give up the syrupy sweet concoction for good – something that Coca Cola and its compadres clearly want to avoid!

For what it’s worth, though, the news isn’t all bad.

Yes, consuming diet soft drinks every day could make you “die young”.

But aspartame hasn’t been proven (yet!) to be the ghastly death trap ingredient for pregnant women that its reputation proclaims it to be.

There was a study performed over 15 years ago that “showed that aspartame causes birth defects”, confirms obstetrician Dr David Elmer from Massachusetts.

“But if you really flesh out what that study did, it looked at a breed of rat that’s prone to birth defects, and the rats were fed a dose of aspartame that you would reach if you had 70 diet sodas per day. As long as you don’t drink 70 diet sodas – and you’re not a rat – you don’t have to really worry about aspartame.”

Meanwhile, the American Cancer Council says reputable studies “have not found a link” between aspartame and cancer.

So for diet soft drink fans, there’s a little respite sprinkled amongst the negative truth bombs. But the bottom line is: this stuff ain’t good for you. Treat it like a “sometimes treat” and you should be okay, but make it part of your daily life, and you’re punishing your insides on the daily.

Dinner Date Pay

Should men still pay for dinner on the first date?

A debate is raging online about first dates – specifically, about who should pay for them.

In this age of #metoo, of gender pay gaps and striving for equality, singles are getting (understandably) confused about the state of play when it comes to paying for dinner at the end of the date.

Is it chivalrous for the man to pay, or sexist?

Should he offer to pay? Should she at least reach for her purse?!

It’s a minefield. And while it’s not a new topic of discussion, comment boards have picked up steam recently after a number of people began sharing their “experiences” during a date.

There was the woman who had a drink with a guy, and when she texted afterwards to say, “Thank you but, there were no sparks” – he sent back his bank details and asked for her to repay him for her gin and tonic.

There’s the guy who went on a date with a girl, who ordered lobster and expensive champagne, while he ordered pasta and beer. When he baulked at handing over AU$175 for her share of the food (his was $28), she refused to see him again. She ended an entertaining text thread with, “Gentlemen ALWAYS pay for girls’ food.”

These are both at the extreme end of the dating scale. It’s this missive from prolific dater Peta that has me scratching my head.

After listing 5 reasons why she thinks the man should always pay for the first date, she says, “I’ll always take money on a first date and I’ll always offer to pay for my share of the meal – but whether my date accepts my offer or not will be the deciding factor as to whether we ever see each other again.”

Come again?

So, if the sparks are flying, you find him attractive, he’s funny and sweet, and you enjoyed spending time with you – you’ll let all of that go, if he wants to go dutch on the bill? That doesn’t make sense to me…

My view is: who cares. If he pays for dinner, you pay for drinks at the bar afterwards. If he pays for cocktails, then you split the cost of the meal. Or he pays for dinner, but you pick up the Uber tab. It’s only if he whips out his calculator to work out his exact change that you should start to get worried.

That said, there is one occasion when I think the man should definitely pay for dinner – and that’s when he’s invited his date to a super fancy, expensive restaurant. If he decides to show off by taking charge of the wine menu and ordering a $90 bottle of wine, he should foot the bill. Otherwise, I don’t see any problem with splitting the bill.