Strugs to Func: the case for social security and basic income

In the new reboot of Queer Eye, one of the case studies in season 1 was a gentleman by the name of Bobby Camp. Bobby lives with his wife and six kids in Georgia. Bobby’s biggest issue that the Fab Five tried to help him with was that he was struggling to function – or as Jonathan Van Ness (Mr Grooming) put it, he was “strugs to func.”

It’s a cute term, but why was Bobby doing it so tough? Because he was working 2 jobs to support his family, and consequently was living on 3-4 hours of sleep a night, and had been for quite some time.

I remember thinking (and tweeting) as I watched this episode that this lifestyle was just totally unsustainable. It’s not just about being “strugs to func” in the short term, it’s what working that hard does to you long term. It literally kills you (yes, this blog will includes references below.)

As I browsed twitter, I realised I wasn’t the only person worried about Bobby Camp’s health and longevity, and that many people were joining the same intellectual dots that I was: situations like Bobby’s are precisely why we should have social security, not just in terms of social security payments like New Start or the Family Tax Benefit, but also the broader welfare state apparatus, like universal health care, free education, protected wages that ensure a full time job is enough for a person and their family to survive, and so on.

The Fab Five did what they could to help the Camps get things together: Bobby the decor and home guy did his usual miracle worker routine and completely transformed their home into a much nicer space, and spent some time bonding with case study Bobby while planting some veggies in the garden (an activity to do with the kids, plus free food in the long run.) Jonathan (Grooming,) Tan (Wardrobe,) and Antoni (Food) took Bobby and the kids to Target to work on Bobby’s makeover and to find solutions for a time and cash poor big family. Karamo (Culture) introduced Bobby and his wife to a chore roster for the kids, and helped him plan a wedding reception reboot to make up for the disastrous original event.

They didn’t touch on the biggest problem: Bobby can’t keep working 2 jobs and only sleeping 3-4 hours a night. But the solutions to that problem are way beyond the scope of a reality tv show, even Queer Eye and its mission to make people happier.

Here’s the discussion they could have had on screen.

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Immodesty becomes her?

This is something that a number of my friends and acquaintances who have studied and worked hard to obtain their PhDs have had to work through…. is it “immodest” to claim the title Dr?

My advice to them has always been “you bloody well earned it. Use it. Stuff everyone who thinks it’s ‘weird’ for women and non-medical personnel to be Doctors.”

But the whole #ImmodestWomen thing blew up on Twitter and reminded everyone that all too many people, men and women with massive internalised misogyny, are not comfortable with women expressing their qualifications and expertise in the form of using their proper title of Dr.

Common tweets to this hashtag were things like airlines refusing to accept that Dr was gender neutral, and refusing to let a woman board a plane booked for Dr So and So, as they were expecting a man. Or the all too frequent “Dr and Mrs X” that never gets changed even when the couple have made it very clear that it is Dr and Mr X over and over again (or even more shocking for traditionalist…. Dr A and Mr B)

I want to do a PhD. And if I complete it, you can be damn sure I will be calling myself Dr. You get that degree, you’ve earned that title. It’s not immodest. It’s just a fact – if you have completed a doctorate, you are a doctor.

language: a feminist guide

When the Toronto Globe & Mail announced that in future only medical doctors would be accorded the title ‘Dr’, it probably wasn’t expecting to cause a stir. But then a historian with a Ph.D objected:


This tweet provoked an avalanche of criticism–directed not to the Globe & Mail‘s new style-rule, but to the arrogance and conceit of Fern Riddell. And as she later told the BBC, she couldn’t help noticing that her critics were mostly men. A lot of men seemed to be outraged by a woman claiming the status of an expert and expecting others to acknowledge her as such. ‘Humility Dr Riddell’, tweeted one. ‘There’s no Ph.D for that’.

But why should women humble themselves when other people are there to do it for them? As I explained in an earlier post, the treatment of women in the workplace is demonstrably affected by a ‘gender…

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Cartoon: treating mental health the same as we do physical health

Sometimes cartoons get the point across better than words. Related to this blog


I’ve recently cut ties off with a ‘friend’ who seemed to be using me as her pet social project – it got quite tiresome dealing with her “helpful advice” that was anything but helpful.

Before you give someone with a disability any advice, especially “helpful” advice to a person with an invisible disability, consider:

  • is it accurate, or did you just read it on the internet somewhere?
  • correlation is not causation, and anecdotes are not substitutes for clinical trials. Just because X thing worked well for a person you know, doesn’t mean it’s some wonder cure for all people with that ailment.
  • is it something that a person living with this condition is likely to be aware of themselves, or is it new research that is cutting edge and not well known?
  • are you saying something that is actually helpful or are you just talking for the sake of hearing your own voice?
  • have you tried to empathise with the person you are about to bombard with “helpful advice” – not just sympathise but empathise?

Empathy is not sympathy, and to be frank, sympathy without empathy is really annoying –  it’s patronising, it’s all “I know all the things, let me tell you all the things without stopping for a moment to consider whether you might already know all these things or have other barriers in the way to prevent you from doing these things.”

Reblog – Gender equity in rural areas

Quite an old reblog – oops. Found this in my unpublished drafts.

But I remember at the time reading this and thinking “Yeah, I remember this from growing up in a regional area and then living in a rural area as a young lawyer.”

Women in the bush do it tough. There is so much ingrained misogyny in rural societies. It has to change.

By Caitlin McInnis The 62nd session of Commission on the Status of Women will take place in March 2018. The Australian government will be present at the session and recently took submissions from experts and the public as to what it should prioritise and advocate for when attending the session. The Castan Centre’s Acting Director […]

via Rural women and girls deserve gender equality too — Castan Centre for Human Rights Law

Ireland Referendum – Vote Yes!

On 25 May, Irish voters are to vote on the option of repealing the 8th amendment of the Irish Constitution, which effectively banned abortion by giving foetuses the same legal rights as pregnant women. Background from the BBC here

Ireland’s Catholicism has had a large role in the historical development of strong anti-choice, anti-abortion laws, but the Church has been curiously absent from current debates. That doesn’t mean that the current debate in the lead up to the referendum has been respectful and fact based, not at all. Amnesty International Ireland has come in for strong criticism in particular from anti-choice campaigners for the ridiculous complaints that Amnesty received donations from the Soros International fund and is thus “a US abortion organisation meddling in Irish affairs.” (Never mind that Amnesty was founded in London, and has been campaigning on a range of human rights for over fifty years, and has only recently changed its internal policies on how it handles abortion rights to be a more rights-based perspective!) Disclaimer: I am an active member of Amnesty International Australia, and a former board director here. I do not bother to hide my sympathies for my Irish colleagues, nor my disdain for the utter garbage being thrown at them by opponents. 

Fake news is aplenty in the debates, with the anti-choice movement funded by donors within Ireland and overseas flooding Irish media and online with bots and misinformation presented as objective facts. This is extremely disappointing.

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Personality disorders and the self-fulfilling prophecy – why staff attitudes really matter

Some great observations and research here.

Dan Warrender's Mental Health Blogma

The room sighs as yet another person diagnosed with a personality disorder is admitted to the busy hospital ward, as a health service with limited resources and a skeleton staff (yet ever increasing expectations from an insatiable society) wheezes through another day. Unbeknownst to the staff team however, their sigh has already set the tone for what is to follow. The expectations are often of a ‘difficult’ patient, perhaps influenced by the memory of previous challenging experiences, or the unwelcome diagnostic baggage and stigma which accompanies people with these controversial labels. Negative attitudes have commonly seen people described as manipulative and attention seeking, with emotional dysregulation and impulsivity often unhelpfully dismissed as “just behaviour”. There is no doubt that working with people with diagnoses of personality disorders in significant distress can be extremely challenging, with self-harm and suicidality a common and understandable precursor to staff distress, as they undertake the…

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Mental health in the legal profession

CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of suicide, mental illness and discrimination against disabilities.

Last week, the Melbourne legal fraternity lost one of the good guys, Magistrate Stephen Myall. I didn’t know him personally, but many people that I know professionally did and have spoke about him with a great deal of warmth, respect and professional affection.

This job is hard. No matter what area of law that you practice, you will encounter a huge amount of stress and things that can trigger mental health issues. Many of us will enter the legal profession already dealing with mental health issues, whether we know it or not at the time. There is a certain type of high achieving, driven, stubborn type who study law and go on to be lawyers, the “Type A” personality… a stereotype which all to often masks deeper issues that may or may not be conducive to long term career sustainability.

I freely admit that I manage a mental health disability, two actually. As much as I enjoy being a lawyer, there are many reasons why I am looking for a job outside of legal practice now, and most of those reasons are to do with endemic discrimination across the legal sector for lawyers with mental health disabilities. Even though it’s common, and even though law societies and other professional bodies recommend better ways of supporting staff with mental health issues… the taint of having a mental health issue within our profession leads many of us to cover up the problem and plough on unassisted, rather than risk derision or potential career harm.

That’s a massive problem.

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