A journey into openness and honesty… Distilling truths about ourselves, others and life from shared experiences… Learning to live consistently with that truth… Becoming free to be who we truly are…

Archive for July, 2016

How we value women… a distorted ideal

Mannequin on strings

The Experience…

Recently I was on a train crawling out of Richmond Station. My attention was caught by two big signs on a clothing factory wall. Together they proclaimed “Today’s Woman” and “Slim Form”.

Below the signs was a row of bare windows.  In one window stood a mannequin in a bathing costume. In another stood a naked mannequin with big bare breasts facing out the window for thousands of passing passengers to see.

The message…

It struck me that the signs and the mannequins sum up the distorted, damaging demand our society places on women…
You must be physically beautiful and have the ideal figure if you want to be valued.

Slim female bodies and big breasts are not a common natural combination and yet men in our society generally believe this is the ideal. No wonder the cosmetic surgery industry thrives on transforming perfectly normal, healthy breasts into the ‘perfect’ C or even D size.

Women generally believe a slim body with shapely, attractive breasts is the ideal. Unfortunately however, ‘slim’ usually means ‘I’m not slim enough’.

But body shape is only the beginning.

The problem…

It’s not wrong for women to be physically attractive. We can all appreciate women who are beautiful, and, let’s face it, physical attraction is one of the fundamental drivers for men and women to form relationships, and ultimately perpetuate the human race.

What IS wrong is that physical attractiveness has become the basis of how women are valued by our society. Little or no consideration given to a woman’s personal qualities, capabilities, values, attitudes, goals and achievements in life.

The true value of women has been undermined by a lie. The lie is so pervasive and powerfully reinforced that most men and women have come to believe it. The insidious result is that we, the victims of the lie, perpetuate it ourselves.

What drives the ‘ideal’ female image?

The ideal female image has been created to achieve one thing… to make money.

Advertisers use highly effective, research-based strategies to form our beliefs about women and our attitudes toward them. We are constantly bombarded with carefully crafted messages compelling women to reshape, re-clothe and ‘beautify’ their bodies, literally from head to toe, in order to attain the ideal image and the supposed benefits it offers.

The strategy for manipulating women is very simple and seductive…

  • Play on women’s natural human needs for love, acceptance, security and significance.
  • Create in women the fear of ‘not being good enough’.
  • Convince them that attaining the ideal appearance will ensure their deepest needs and desires are met.
  • Convince them that spending their money on the endless range of products and services promising beauty and attractiveness will enable them to approach the ideal.

The strategy for manipulating men is even simpler…

  • Create an image of the ideal female body in men’s minds.
  • Use sexualized images of women to get men to focus on whatever product you want to sell.
  • Sell almost anything!

These strategies are highly refined and totally deliberate. There is no innocence on the part of those using them. Behind the scenes the corporate owners rub their hands with glee as the products roll out and billions of dollars roll in.

The damage…

  • The self-worth and confidence of women is being undermined by fear.
    Very few women can attain the ideal image. Every other woman is told they risk being undervalued and missing out because they not attractive enough. The self-worth of women is being attacked at the very core of their beings.
    How much anxiety do women from teenage years onward experience because they fear not being “attractive enough” to make friends, get the job they want, find a partner?
  • Women are pressured to spend huge amounts of money trying to achieve the ideal appearance. The demand to be attractive drives endless spending on clothing, makeup, jewelry, beauty treatments, cosmetic surgery, exercise programs, weight loss treatments and much more. Consider the amount spent constantly updating wardrobes (already full of perfectly good clothes) with the latest fashions.
  • Women are pressured to spend hours each day ‘beautifying themselves’.
    Every hour of our busy lives is precious. Why should women have to spend an hour or two every day maintaining their appearance instead of doing activities that would add true value and enjoyment to their lives?
  • The ideal female image is even being used to manipulate the buying habits of pre-teenage girls and their parents. Fashion for “tweens” has become a thriving industry as young girls are sold the lie that they too must look like the adult women even before they’ve reached womanhood!
  • It distorts employment opportunities. Discrimination based on appearance is illegal, but also very difficult to prove. How many employers (both male and female) rank ‘attractive’ women ahead of women with better capabilities? This discrimination may not even be conscious because “attractiveness = value” has been so deeply scripted into our thinking.
  • It destroys our appreciation of the natural beauty of the broad spectrum of female appearance. Everyone loses when we can no longer see the beauty in woman of all shapes and sizes. And we lose far more when we only see beauty in terms of external appearance and stop appreciating a woman’s personal qualities and capabilities.
  • It distorts how men view and treat women.
    • “Attractive” women get more attention. They are more likely to be spoken to, listened to and included by men in all arenas of life.
    • It encourages men to sexualize women and view them as objects to be used, rather than seeing  and appreciating the whole person.
    • Seeing women as objects helps men ‘justify’ violence against women.
  • It distorts how men choose women to date and partner.
    Men usually agree that a wise choice of partner is based on the ‘total package’ and not just appearance. In practice however men are powerfully driven by hormones to choose women they find visually attractive.
    Distort men’s definition of ‘attractive’ and you distort and narrow the range of women that men choose to partner. Sadly ‘less attractive’ women with whom they could have a stable, long-term relationship based on love and a deep intellectual and emotional connection can all too easily be overlooked.
    How many relationships and marriages end in grief when men discover that physical ‘beauty’ does not guarantee relationship compatibility? Or because a ‘more attractive’ woman comes along?

What can we do about it?

We need to get our values straight…

  • All women (and men) are immeasurably valuable human beings worthy of being loved, accepted, respected and appreciated for who they are.
  • “Love one another” does not include any conditions regarding appearance… or abilities, social standing or achievements.

These values are easy to acknowledge but are very difficult to practice.

Grow your awareness…

  • Don’t underestimate the extent to which your thinking has been conditioned.
    It’s very easy to enthusiastically agree there’s a problem, and not realize how thoroughly conditioned we’ve become to judge women by their appearance.
  • When you’re next in a group relating to women observe your own thoughts and actions. Which women do you tend to gravitate towards? Why?
  • When you’re watching TV ask: Would I still enjoy this program if the female characters were plain looking? What if they were ‘ugly’? This question did my head in last night when watching one of my favourite comedies “Friends”.
  • When you see advertisements look for the subtle (and blatant) ways attractive women are used to sell the products. Question it. Object to your thinking being manipulated.

Choose to think and act differently…

  • Choose to reject your association of a woman’s value with her appearance. Choose to value women for who they are. Appreciate their qualities and capabilities as people. The theory is easy. Practicing it with integrity can be very difficult (for men especially).
  • Keep an eye out for women who are being left out of the group. Actively choose to talk to them and appreciate them as people. (Keep an eye out for men who are being left out too!)
  • Where appropriate, let the women in your life know why they are valuable. Start with the women you love and respect (e.g. family members and close friends). This will help you redefine your own measure of what makes a woman valuable… it will also encourage them!

Help others to become aware…

  • Discuss the issue with friends, family and other people to help increase their awareness. You will also learn from their experiences.
  • Where appropriate, ask women in your life how this issue impacts them. Not only will you gain valuable first hand insights, you will also be affirming their value and worth. You may even open their eyes to the lie and encourage them to free themselves from conforming to it.
  • If you have children or grand-children talk to them about what makes women (and men) valuable. Develop their awareness of the distorted standards and advertising pressures being foisted on them by the media and advertising.
  • If you have daughters and granddaughters reinforce that their own self-worth does not depend on conforming to an unrealistic ideal appearance.

You CAN make a difference…

Stop believing the lie.

Change your thinking. Women are valuable for who they are, not because of how ‘attractive’ they are.

Break the scripting and conditioning of your own mind.

Change your actions. Work at valuing all women. Appreciate each of them for their unique personalities and capabilities.

Grow your own awareness.

Increase the awareness of others.


You can still appreciate physical beauty… but keep it perspective. The true beauty of a woman is in who she is, not her external appearance. 

Keep working to break free from the lie.
Deeply scripted thinking and habit patterns require hard work and practice to change.


Ian + dingo


Ian James


Discovering the new Ian…

A reflection on the last 18 months since losing Rosie… prompted by events of the last 6 weeks…


The last 6 weeks have been difficult and challenging.
Losing my step-mum Dot brought its own grief. It also caused the even deeper grief of losing Rosie to resurface, along with the pain of many other life events going right back to my childhood.

However, this time has also given me two profound gifts…

  • The opportunity to face and deal with unresolved issues in my life.
  • Something I have never experienced before… surrounding the grief and turmoil… a deep overriding sense of peace.

Losing Rosie thrust me into an unfamiliar, empty place.
I had no choice but to go there. Much of what defined ‘me’ disappeared.
Alongside grief I was faced with the need to redefine myself and my life.

This recent turmoil has also helped me see how many changes have already occurred. I’m standing on the threshold of a new life and I’m so grateful to be here.

However I dare not take it for granted and so remain vigilant. Life never stops challenging us with tough times and I have no desire to take the ‘downward’ path again. 

My life is changing…

The grief of Rosie’s death is slowly giving way.

An energy I’ve never had before is creeping in.

I’m beginning to discover a new identity;
the freedom to make choices and set a new course.

I’m filtering my beliefs about life and myself…
Keeping the beliefs that are life-giving,
Discarding the beliefs that brought decades of fear and depression,
And giving myself freedom to question them all.

I’m learning what it means to love and accept myself for who I am right now.

I’m forming new relationships and deepening existing ones.

Peace is replacing anxiety,
Insecurity is giving way to quiet confidence.

For the first time ever…

I’m starting to dream of the future,
and wake most mornings with
Hope and Anticipation.

And occasionally,
I experience two strange new feelings…
Excitement and Joy!


 Ian JamesIan + dingo

Nana / Nana-the-Great… …alias Dot James

Rachel is Dot’s first-born grandchild and gave this touching reflection at her funeral on 6th June 2016.

A Reflection on the life of Dot James by Rachel Ploegsma

For those that don’t know me, I’m Rachel, Dot’s eldest granddaughter. Today I would like to share some special memories of my grandmother who we called Nana, and her great-grandchildren called Nana-the-Great.

When my oldest daughter was born, my sister Miriam, coined the name Nana-the-Great instead of Great Nana. Everyone else had a Great Nana but ours was special so we had a Nana-the-Great.  This was a lasting term of endearment that Nana was especially proud of.

And great she was for so many reasons, including her gentle nature, kindness, acceptance of all people, along with an attitude to life to simply get on with things without complaint. Sometimes I think how amazing it would be to emulate all these qualities.

Something most relatives and close friends here today can relate to is how Nana always remembered our birthdays. She had a unique way of making each person feel special after carefully selecting the words for each card. Hers was usually the first card to arrive and always by mail even if she was seeing you for your birthday. Nana knew the exact number of grandchildren she had, as well as the ever changing number of great-grandchildren who she was always proud to tell people about.

As a child, my sisters and I spent many weekends staying in Healesville with Nana and Grandie. These were happy times where we were given money to spend at the shops, which usually culminated in us having enough provisions for a midnight feast. Nana would spend time lovingly brushing our hair and always obliging when we asked for a longer hair brush. She would supply us with fruit loops for breakfast and cook pikelets for lunch and marvel at how many we could eat in one sitting. We would giggle away when Nana would iron our socks and undies yet enjoyed the warmth of putting on these freshly ironed garments.

There was a huge a tree in Nana’s backyard where I’m sure most of the grandchildren would remember climbing and making their own fun and games amongst the branches. One time we even had a family Christmas gathering under the tree. Much time was also spent at Queens Park just down the road, and being so fond of this place I chose to have my 11th birthday party there.

A special treat was to take a ride on the ‘diesel’ train that ran from Healesville to Lilydale, and scare each other as the train went through the tunnel. Nana enjoyed watching the rabbits scamper along the tracks and loved pointing out varies sights along the way.

Sometimes on these weekends, we attended church services which I believe were held in this very church. Nana would provide so many of her handmade items to the church fetes such as her fruit jams, her lacy coat hangers, lavender bags and potpourri bags made from her own flowers from her well kept garden.

One thing I do still feel bad about though was a time when Nana and Grandie took us to the local swimming pool. I was a fairly competent swimmer, whilst Nana was very hesitant around water. This resulted in us only being allowed to swim in the shallow pool, much to my annoyance. One time, and probably the last time we were taken to the pool, I took it upon myself to swim down to the forbidden deep end. As I was swimming I saw the panicked look on Nana’s face and pretended I couldn’t hear her calling out to me. When I reached the end, I decided to hold my breath for as long as possible at the bottom of the pool and act as if I couldn’t swim. From the bottom of the pool I could see both Nana and Grandie leaning over the edge. Needless to say I was in trouble and must apologise to the subsequent grandchildren who probably weren’t taken to the pool.

I really also need to apologise to Nana for one other thing. When  Nana was offered a glass of wine as a bottle was being shared, Nana would always say “No thank you, I’ve never put alcohol to my lips!” We all knew this, but also knew that Nana loved to be included and was always offered a glass just like anybody else. What Nana perhaps should have said was that “I have never knowingly put alcohol to my lips!” At my 40th birthday party, Nana came up to me with a glass of punch in her hand, remarking how lovely it was and “What do you put in it?”. I didn’t have the heart to let her know about my secret ingredient, except that it was noticed that at the age of 89 she took to the dance floor and karaoke machine like someone half her age.

For the last 21 years my husband and I have run a football tipping competition from home, and from its beginning Nana has always been a member, including this current season. In the earlier years Nana wasn’t necessarily an avid football supporter despite always having a loyalty to Footscray, now known as the Western Bulldogs. As the years progressed, when I would either ring or see Nana to put in her tips, she would enter a tip before offering an explanation of why she was tipping a particular team. She would use terms like “they are injury plagued”, “not enough inside 50’s” and “the coach has them rattled”. It soon became apparent that Nana was keeping herself well informed and when I asked her how she knew this she said “Well on Thursdays I stay up late and watch the Footy Show!” Having never won a major prize in the competition, I felt Nana loved just being a part of things and being included in what the family was doing. Interestingly, Nana’s chosen password when the competition went online was ‘Nana-the-Great’.

Nana will leave a lasting legacy that will shine on through the generations. One grandson described Nana as being ‘accidently inspirational’ after she inspired him with her love of fine fabrics, sewing and corsetry. My sister Catherine tells how her passion for flowers was ignited by watching Nana arrange her beautiful floral arrangements for the mantelpiece. For others it was her love of God and her quietly encouraging ways that inspired them. Another grand-daughter mentioned the endless love in her heart. This love extended to our spouses and friends who also described Nana a kind, gracious and elegant lady.

Finally, I would like to thank my mother Del, for overseeing Nana’s care for the last 6 years whilst she was in residence at Monda Lodge.

It would be remiss not to mention that incredible smile that captured every essence of Nana’s happiness whenever a loved one walked into her room. Even on the morning that I said my final goodbye to Nana, she  still mustered one of her smiles. This smile is how I will always remember my amazingly kind-hearted Nana. Thankyou.Rachel+Nana1

Rest in Peace Nana



Rachel Ploegsma
6th June 2016

NEGATIVE GEARING…why I can’t support either major Party…

This post outlines my thinking on  NEGATIVE GEARING and why I can’t support the policies of either major Party in the 2016 Federal Election.

Negative Gearing and its Impacts…

  • Negative gearing is a tax deduction for people who already own their own house and are buying another house as an investment.
  • By definition it cannot be accessed by first home buyers.
  • This inherently favours those who have accumulated enough wealth to both own a house and invest in a second house, i.e. it favours the the wealthy in our society and is mostly inaccessible to poor
  • Many people who invest in buying or building a second property do so with the intent of renting it out so that the rental income pays off much of the mortgage for them. The ‘ideal’ situation is to have the tenant pay off your investment property for you. This is a perfect example of using money to make money… at the expense of other people.
  • High house prices along with high rental costs (particularly in Australia’s cities) mean that many of the young in our society, along with those who don’t earn high professional salaries, will never be able to save enough money for a house deposit while paying rent.
  • As a result many of our children and grandchildren will never be able to own their own home and will spend their lives paying off investment properties owned by people at the wealthier end of society, i.e. the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

My conclusion:

  • At a personal level, negative gearing is making it more difficult for my own children to buy their own homes.
  • At a national level negative gearing contributes to the growing divide between the rich and poor in our society.
  • I therefore believe negative gearing should be stopped for the purchase of both existing properties and building of new homes.
  • The substantial tax revenue saved can then be diverted to implementing other policies that will benefit our children and grandchildren instead of harming them, e,g, reducing the accumulated deficit we are leaving them to pay off.

The bottom line (for me):

I cannot support either the Coalition’s or Labor’s policies to retain negative gearing in any form.

Have I got it wrong?

Have I got it wrong? Is my understanding too simplistic?
I’d welcome your feedback on this.
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Ian James