Category Archives: Feminism

IWD

It’s International Women’s Day.

So, instead of reading yet another fucking article about Why I Am A Feminist or Is This Woman A Feminist – which is still just making women argue amongst ourselves, putting the Feminists on one side and the Not-Feminists on the other – you should read these two pieces:


All about able women at Blunt Shovels
:

I was told I needed to ask about accessibility in private, out of the public eye. Perhaps I am not part of the public? A disabled woman couldn’t possibly be made welcome by publicising how easy it would be for her to take part.

And

I don’t effing care if you call yourself a feminist or not, at No Place For Sheep:

I have a dream. In my dream every woman with a public voice just for once refuses these speaking and writing engagements and instead throws her weight behind a National Day of Mourning on March 8, for the women world-wide, and particularly in Australia because this is our homeland where we can best have influence, who are murdered and abused by intimate partners, as well as the children who witness and suffer.

Why aren’t we angry enough?

The special women’s section

The Guardian has a new women’s section, called She Said:

Bold, insightful and provocative, She Said is here to bring you a fresh perspective on what’s going on. The Observer’s female writers, and some occasional special guests, will post reaction to breaking news along with thoughtful, witty analysis and general musings on life. No topics are off limits – from politics and world affairs to sport and culture, food and fashion. Not to mention our daily irritations and celebrations.

Making an explicit effort to include women’s voices in the news is an excellent idea, but it is a terrible idea to put them in a special section that men will never read. It’s the same complaint I have about Daily Life (another complaint being that the content is often indistinguishable from the lifestyle and entertainment sections), and about the All About Women Festival at the Opera House, where well-off women will pay to see other well-off women talk about stuff they already agree with. Some of the festival will be interesting – Ilwad Elman and Mona Eltahawy are speaking – but is unlikely to lead to any real change because it’s pitched as an event for women. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a lot of benefit in women talking with each other about how to change things, and in writing for each other about our opinions and lives. We do that all the time, and I enjoy it and learn a lot from it. But if cultural change is the goal, then it won’t happen this way.

Events pitched at women and special sections on news sites would be fine if talks and conferences and tv panel shows weren’t just a parade of white men talking to white men. How often do you see episodes of QandA or The Project in which women outnumber men? And they’re just there talk about stuff, not necessarily “women’s stuff”? How many news stories in which women are expert voices on something other than parenting? As long media organisations continue to quarantine women’s voices from the “real stuff”, then they can kiss my arse.

The Guardian, like smh.com.au, has realised there are clicks in publishing women’s voices, but they clearly don’t see them as being a part of the “real news”. The news where men write 70 per cent of the front page stories, are the focus of 72 per cent of the stories, and appear as experts in 78 per cent of the stories (figures from The Blokeyness Index and to be fair, they pre-date The Guardian‘s Australian arrival). It’s not hard to find female experts, but it’s apparently too hard for most journalists to look for them. If news organisations were serious about including female voices in their news cycle, then editors would simply send copy back to the journo if it doesn’t include a female voice. It’s not rocket surgery. (And it might mean we stop seeing so many one-voice stories. But that’s another post.)

Get your marching shoes on

On Sunday, I will be marching for my right to control my own body.

We only have a few weeks left. Next month, the NSW Upper House will vote on the Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2013 (No. 2). It gives a foetus (20 weeks or more) the same legal rights as a person.

For background, in 2009 Justine Hampson was driving under the influence of drugs when she hit Brodie Donegan, who was 32 weeks pregnant. The child (Zoe) was stillborn as a result of Donegan’s injuries. Hampson was convicted for causing grievous bodily harm to Donegan, including the loss of her foetus, and jailed for nine months. At the time, Donegan seemed to accept the result, but grief is a funny thing. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, but I do know what it’s like to lose a baby sibling, and that grief fills up all the spaces in a room.

It is understandable that Donegan and her husband Nick Ball want their loss acknowledged. But this is a bad law. That Fred Nile drafted the first version in Zoe’s name without even speaking to the family makes me pretty damn sure that their loss is being exploited by people who want to remove women’s rights.

The Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Family Planning NSW, Women’s Health NSW, Domestic Violence NSW, Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia, NSW Bar Association, The Law Society, the National Foundation for Australian Women, Reproductive Choice Australia, and the Women Lawyers Association are all against the bill. They say it’s unnecessary and may harm a woman’s access to an abortion after 24-weeks – usually carried out for quite serious reasons. As Sarah Krasnostein writes, this affects:

Those who are in denial or too traumatised to find out because the pregnancy resulted from rape, from incest. Those too young to know the signs. Those who have a mental illness or an intellectual disability and do not understand that they are pregnant.

But it’s not always a question of not knowing. There are those who know too much. Who must make an excruciating choice after test results diagnosing severe foetal abnormality. For instance, the test for Anencephaly happens at 15-20 weeks. Babies with this neural tube defect are born without a forebrain and the remaining tissue exposed. If not stillborn, they die shortly after.

The proposed law has an exemption for medical procedures, but according to Women’s Legal Services NSW, that will be open to interpretation. Keep in mind that abortion in NSW is a crime for women AND doctors, unless the doctor believes the woman’s physical and/or mental health is in serious danger. Faced with this new law, it’s easy to imagine doctors becoming reluctant to perform medical procedures that are legal.

For more info on the legal ramifications, read this excellent piece by law lecturer Hannah Robert:

Once the foetus is defined as a legal person, the law has a direct relationship with it, and the mother’s consent becomes irrelevant. She becomes invisible in the eyes of the law, despite the physical realities of pregnancy meaning that any interaction with the foetus necessarily involves her.

Chilling, isn’t it? As far as the law is concerned, once you get halfway through a pregnancy, you are irrelevant.

This great piece at Hoyden about Town lists some of the potential problems, such as compromising medical care, coercion, and prosecuting pregnant women who don’t follow dietary guidelines.

Make no mistake, this bill is about moving us closer to making it impossible for women to access safe abortion. Women’s Legal Services NSW called the bill “a clear attempt to undermine women’s rights by changing the legal status of a foetus”. Please read that WLS piece, because it deals with the current law, and the emotive and incorrect language of the proposed bill.

In the US, foetal personhood laws are being used to stop women accessing safe abortions and even emergency contraception. Republicans have tried a few times to change the law so that when a man rapes a woman, resulting in pregnancy, that woman is forced to continue the pregnancy and have the baby. They’ve also tried to legalise the murder of doctors who perform abortions. And they are running a war on contraception. Think that won’t happen here? Albury pharmacist Simon Horsfall tells women that if they’re buying the pill so they don’t get pregnant, they should go elsewhere because he doesn’t believe in contraception. He doesn’t sell condoms or the morning-after pill. Melbourne pharmacist Stephen Mulqueeny also refuses to sell the morning-after pill because of his religious beliefs. I have no doubt that there are many more pharmacists who refuse to sell these legal products. (Not that these products are good enough. The majority of abortions in Australia are the result of contraception failure – about sixty per cent of women were using at least one form of contraception at the time.) The Victorian Premier Denis Napthine is willing to remove women’s rights in order to do deals with Geoff Shaw, the MP holding the balance of power. Shaw is an evangelical Christian. The first two things he wants to do are to make late-term abortions illegal, and to remove the legal requirement for a doctor who is a conscientious objector to abortion to refer patients to a doctor without an objection. If he gets those two things, you know he won’t stop there. Having religious/conservative politicians who want to control the bodies of every single woman in Australia is one thing, but it’s disgusting that we have so many other male politicians who are willing to trade away women’s rights to do deals on infrastructure and asset sales. And people like Fred Nile and John Madigan are rubbing their hands with glee.

In November, the bill passed in the Lower House 63 to 26. Here is a list of those MPs who voted for and against it. It goes to the Upper House in March. We don’t have a lot of time.

This is why I’ll be at the protest tomorrow. See you at midday at Martin Place.

Update: Restricting our access to safe abortion is not an unintended consequence of this bill, it is THE intended consequence. Zoe’s Law is not an accident.

Update: You can email your MP here. Debate on the Bill in the Legislative Council starts at 10am on Thursday 6th March. MPs who oppose this Bill said it helps if we’re there. See you then.

I am a girl

I get why women say that roller derby changed their life. I tried out for the Inner West Roller Derby League last year because I couldn’t bear the gym being my only physical activity. My desk is just eight steps from my bed, so I’m not even getting the ‘walk to the station’ exercise that comes from commuting. I’ve always been uninterested in sport (watching and playing), so joining a team was completely out of character.

I was expecting to get really good at skating, get some impressive bruises, and to wear hotpants. What I wasn’t expecting was to be instantly welcomed into a family of fabulous people with excellent hair, gorgeous tattoos, and great names.

Before I started playing, life had become pretty blah. It wasn’t particularly bad, it just was. I’d been sick for a while, and there was a sameness to each day. But the energy and laughter from playing derby spread to the rest of my life. I started wearing more colours. I met a bunch of awesome women I admired on twitter. I started hosting a writers’ night (next one in April, by the way). Derby marked the point where I got my mojo back. So yeah, when women say that roller derby changed their life, I totally get that.

But – and this is the point of this post, I was just giving you that feel-good stuff to hook you in – we don’t just smash each other on the track and then go for beers afterwards. We’re also trying to do some good shit for other people. Which is why we’re holding a charity screening of I am a girl on Thursday 27th February:

The film follows six young women from Cambodia, PNG, Cameroon, Afghanistan, USA and Australia. It explores what it means to be born a girl in the 21st century.

There’ll be a Q&A session with the award-winning filmmaker Rebecca Barry, and because it’s a derby event, there’ll also be delicious cakes.

The money raised is going to Twenty10, an organisation that supports young people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities.

Date: Thursday 27th February
Time: doors open 7pm, film starts at 7:30pm
Venue: Red Ratter, 6 Faversham St, Marrickville
Tickets: $12 (get ‘em here: http://bit.ly/1nFHbLp)
Here’s the Facebook page.

Come along, say hi, get to know your local derby team, and watch a great film. We’re doing freshmeat soon so perhaps you’ll join us on the track. It might just change your life.

Today in ‘What Mia Freedman has done now’

WARNING: THIS POST DISCUSSES MALE SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN.

Mia Freedman’s at it again, blaming women for stuff and calling it feminism: This isn’t victim blaming. This is common sense:

Let’s say you have a daughter. Or a little sister. And let’s say there was something you could tell her that would dramatically reduce the likelihood of her being sexually assaulted during her lifetime.

Would you tell her?…

I’ll tell her that getting drunk when she goes out puts her at a greater risk of danger.

Look, I get it, I really do. Telling women that there are things they can do to prevent sexual assault seems like common sense, but it’s really not. I’m sure it’s well-intentioned advice, but it simply doesn’t stand up to logic: if women could prevent sexual assault, then we’d all prevent it and there’d be no sexual assault. It’s a no-brainer.

Telling women that if they don’t get drunk they’ll “dramatically reduce the likelihood” of being sexually assaulted is also telling them a massive lie: Women are at more risk in their own homes, from men they know, than they are from someone they meet while drunk.

We’ve been telling women for an awfully long time not to get themselves raped and yet, men are still raping them. Could it be – gasp! – that this ‘women take responsibility for your actions/don’t make yourself vulnerable’ message is utter bollocks?

Freedman’s article perpetuates pretty much all of the rape myths – that rapists are creepy dudes in dark alleys, that she was asking for it by drinking too much, that guys can’t control their urges and roam the streets looking for victims, that nice sober girls don’t get raped, that it’s not rape unless she tries to run away – and she would know this by now. I mean, it’s not like it hasn’t been pointed out to her before. By hundreds of people.

Let me be clear: sexual assault is never the fault of the victim… But teaching girls how to reduce their risk of sexual assault is not the same thing as victim blaming. It’s not. And we must stop confusing the two.

Now Mia, I know you’ve learned the term “victim blaming” but you haven’t learned what it means. It’s like the time I thought “reactionary” meant someone who reacted to things. Boy, was I embarrassed when I discovered it meant someone who opposes political/social progress. If we teach girls that they can reduce their risk of sexual assault by not getting drunk, and then they go out and get drunk and someone assaults them, then what? It means that if she didn’t get drunk then it wouldn’t have happened, right? That means she’s kinda responsible for what happened, right? Hello, victim blaming! You can’t possibly say in one breath that “sexual assault is never the fault of the victim” and then in the next breath suggest that something she did caused the assault. That seems pretty bloody obvious to me. Some might say it was common sense.

Will I also teach my sons about this connection between alcohol and sexual assault? Sure. I will teach them that binge drinking will obliterate their ability to make good decisions – about getting into cars, getting into fights and having sex.

Hopefully you will also talk to your sons about not being rapists, since 93 per cent of offenders are male. As Carina Kolodny writes, you need to have the “don’t rape” conversation with your sons “because so many parents have thought they didn’t need to and so many people have suffered because of it”.

Somehow, in some quarters, the right to get wasted has become a feminist issue and this troubles me greatly.

I haven’t seen any feminist argue that the “right to get wasted” is a feminist issue. Fighting myths that give rapists excuses, now that’s a feminist issue.

Freedman then mentions the study that was in Emily Yoffe’s piece that “almost 20 per cent of college women will become victims, overwhelmingly of a fellow classmate. More than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol”.

So, what you’re saying is that a large number of college guys are sexually assaulting their female classmates. And they think it’s ok to rape someone if she’s drunk. That shit is scary, but no no Mia, you should continue to use your privileged position in our society to suggest that it’s women who are the problem here.

This is not an issue of morality. If you want to have casual sex, go for it. Safely. Just make sure it’s your decision and one you’re still comfortable with the next day.

You know, I’m gonna give Freedman the benefit of the doubt here and believe that she’s not suggesting that rape is the same as sex you might regret.

Here’s what you are responsible for when you get drunk: your hangover; losing your phone; falling over and smashing your knee; spending too much money on booze. Here’s what you are not responsible for when you get drunk: someone else commiting a crime. To suggest you are responsible for that is just ridiculous. So I’m gonna repeat the point I made earlier: if women WERE actually able to prevent sexual assault, there’d be no sexual assault. Ever. There’s your fucking common sense, Mia.

Ah Mia Freedman, it all makes sense now

Hey look everyone, look what I did for you. I read Mia Freedman’s latest piece of shaming nonsense so you don’t have to: Are you a mother or a porn star?

Because porn stars are bad, donchaknow, and looking like one is the worst thing in the world and mothers should never, EVER, look sexy or like they know what sex is, even though we all know they’ve done it at least once because there’s a baby.

Freedman’s wearing her shaming pants because Kim Kardashian isn’t wearing any. Kardashian posted a damn hot photo to instagram. Freedman reckons the photo is “ridiculous”. I reckon it’s SPECTACULAR. To quote @Msloulou77, “if my booty was bangin’ in a skimpy white cosi you guys would have more pics of that than hot dinners”. Hell yes.

You know, call me overly sensitive but starting your piece with a quote about burning the place down – when hundreds of people have lost their homes in fires in the last 24 hours – is a dick move. Justifying the quote later by saying it was written months ago doesn’t make it less shitty.

The thing that cracks me up the most about Freedman’s piece is that it demonstrates how little she understands the pop culture she’s been writing about for decades. Like this bit:

Why did you need to do this? Why does the world need to see up your bum and inside your top?

This has nothing to do with need. It’s about want. Kardashian instagrammed a photo for people who want to see her photos. It’s pop culture, not a meeting of the Security Council. If Freedman doesn’t want to see photos like this, it’s pretty easy to unsubscribe. It would mean she’d miss out on opportunities to shame other women, but surely that’s a small price to pay for no longer having to look at bodies she doesn’t like.

Why not just cut to the chase and post a link to the sex tape (you know, the one you claim to be mortified about while disingenuously ignoring its role in your fame)? Are you really that desperate to reclaim your hotness that you’re happy to discard your dignity and that of your daughter?

Woah, woah, woah, there’s a lot going on here. By Freedman’s logic, if you’re wearing a pair of swimmers – at the beach or the pool or in a change room – you might as well be having sex. Um, Mia, if that’s what you think sex is, then you are actually doin’ it wrong.

Now to the sex tape nonsense. The sex tape didn’t make Kim Kardashian famous – journalists creamed their jeans and made it a huge news story because she was already famous. Do you really think journalists would care about a sex tape made by unknowns? For fuck’s sake, it’s not rocket surgery.

As for the last bit, apparently once you have a baby it’s undignified to look good in a swimsuit. Particularly because it will discard your daughter’s dignity. I’m not quite sure how that works, but that’s probably because I don’t have a daughter.

I’m not suggesting that being a woman comes to a screaming halt when you become a mother. Nor being sexy, if that floats your boat.

Actually, that is EXACTLY what you’re suggesting. In your own words, you headlined your piece “Are you a mother or a porn star?” and you wrote that you got “whiplash” because Kardashian has posted a sexy photo AND a photo of her baby. So you’re either bullshitting and hoping that no one notices, or you don’t actually know what those words mean. Which is it?

But putting on a transparent and gaping white leotard, shoving your arse in the air and taking a rear view selfie (with extreme side boob) is not the action of a woman comfortable in her skin.

Gonna have to disagree with you here, Mia. I reckon it’s the action of someone who is incredibly comfortable in her skin. You can’t seriously believe that a woman who doesn’t like her body would take a photo of herself in a pair of swimmers and put that photo online for millions of people to see, do you?

I don’t have the ovaries to post a photo like that – probably because I read Freedman’s magazines when I was a teenager and learned that the most important thing I could do was to “Drop a dress size by Saturday!” then I’d be able to “Buy the swimsuit to suit my body!” (even though none of the models had a body like my body), so finally I would be able to use those “Sex tips to blow his mind!”. I don’t recall seeing anything about my pleasure, but seeing how icky Freedman is about sex workers and women recording the sex they have and women being sexy, it all starts to make sense now. After all, if you’re comfortable with women’s bodies and women being sexy (and if you understood social media) then you wouldn’t think it was so “weird” for Mariah Carey to tweet a photo of her boobs. Hey Mia, just to freak you out, here’s a photo of my arse and my boobs that I’ve tweeted. It’s no big deal, they’re just parts of my body that I happen to like. I’m 37 which means – going by what you wrote about Carey – you’ll probably suggest I tweeted these photos because I’m old and desperate. Whatevs, love.

wait, what’s the purpose of Kim Kardashian again?

Oh wow. Could there be a nastier comment than saying there is no point to a person being alive?

“Mia stop being a bitch about Kim Kardashian” some commenters will say in 3….2…..1……

“Stop judging and slut-shaming.”

Yeah but no. Because Kim is the canary down the mineshaft. Kim is simply a magnified reflection of society. In this photo – by taking it and publishing it and thinking it’s a good idea to do both – she is merely tapping into this sick societal obsession with women having to look hot at every moment in their lives – from child to cougar.

And I, for one, have had a gutful. New mothers are more than their arse. Stop reducing everything to that.

Oh, sweet jeebus, what a mess. I love how Freedman demonstrates that she doesn’t understand the criticism she gets over and over again.

If Kim Kardashian is “merely tapping into this sick societal obsession with women having to look hot at every moment in their lives”, then where’s the bit where society is blamed for it? Sure, let’s talk about the pressure on women to look hot – fuckable but not slutty – and let’s talk about how Freedman’s magazines and tv appearances and website have contributed to this pressure. But let’s not pretend that this is actually Freedman’s point. Because if it was, then that’s what she would have written about. Her article is nothing more than shaming a woman for posting a sexy photo of herself online. How dare she? She’s a mother!

As for reducing women to just their body parts, this is exactly what Freedman has done. The swimsuit photo and the baby photo show that Kardashian is a woman and a mother. Freedman just wants her to be the latter.

And you know the bit that makes Freedman look like a real goose? At the end of her piece she has a gallery of 98 photos of Kim Kardashian. Obsessed, much?

Update: Freedman is a goose AND a hypocrite. Check out this tweet from September 12. I guess now that Kardashian is being sexy in her body, instead of growing a baby in her body, then it’s ok for Freedman to define her by her body.

Each woman must be assessed

This thing that’s going on lately, where women in public roles are assessed one by one and declared Feminist or Not Feminist, is a bit shit.

Gina Rinehart, Julia Gillard (many articles in The Australian which I’m not linking to), Taylor Swift, Marissa Mayer, Beyonce. And now, Margaret Thatcher (in a piece that fails to explain why being a bad-ass Prime Minister makes her a feminist, but if you’re going to read it, make sure you read this Hadley Freeman one afterwards).

Don’t get me wrong, it is important for feminism to be a natural part of our public discussion. And it’s important that our public discussion includes rad fems and lib fems, because feminism isn’t a monolithic beast. There is still so much to fix and I think we benefit from having different voices focus on reproductive rights, violence, everyday sexism, women in management, equal pay, women’s voices in the media, parenting, and poverty. For one person to fight on every issue would be exhausting. Attack from all sides! But I just think that whether or not individual women identify as feminist is less important than talking about the other shit we have to fix. Besides, holding women up, one by one, for the public to assess them isn’t all that different to the “who wore it better” and “stars without make-up” sections in celebrity magazines.

The thing is, while we’re discussing whether or not Gina Rinehart is a feminist, who’s writing articles about how women account for only 13 per cent of managers in the mining industry, and what can be done to fix that?

While we’re talking about whether or not Julia Gillard is a feminist, who’s writing about the fact that the LNP and ALP support so few female candidates in winnable seats that in federal parliament, women make up 24.7 per cent of the House of Reps and 38.2 per cent of the Senate.

While we’re talking about whether Marissa Mayer is a feminist, or criticising Sheryl Sandberg because her book is for some women and not all women, there’s less space to talk about sexism and misogyny in the tech industry. Yes, these things are talked about on twitter and on blogs, but I mean in the mainstream media so it reaches a wider audience. There is precious little room there so we shouldn’t waste it by judging women who are at the top of male-dominated industries, rather than looking at those industries and why so few women make it to the top.

Over the last 18 months, feminism has become mainstream – largely thanks to the middle-class feminists who are now being mocked for their efforts because apparently, in the she-pee contest about who is doin’ it right and who is doin’ it wrong, being middle-class means your opinion doesn’t count. Are we really going to use income levels to judge who has a right to speak and who doesn’t?

We have a great opportunity here. Feminism isn’t going to be mainstream forever, but while it is, we need to get in there and fix shit.

(There’ll be a delay in pubishing comments this evening – I’ll be at the very first Tipsy Rabbit, a panel discussion with Sevana Ohandjanian, Caitlin Park, and Richard Cartwright talking about music and writing about music. Doors at 7pm for a 7.30pm start, Red Rattler, Marrickville.)