• 12Aug

    Nauru

    The Guardian recently published leaked documents of hundreds of pages of abuse and sexual assault of women and children on Nauru’s off-shore refugee detention centre. Much of this abuse appears to have been at the hands of the Wilson’s security guards at the facility.

    There have been articles since condemning the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers and its blatant disregard of these abuses, such as that written by Jennifer Wilson.

    The Immigration Minister, Mr. Peter Dutton’s response to the publication of the leaked files was:

    “some people do have a motivation to make a false complaint”…”I have been made aware of some incidents that have reported false allegations of sexual assault,” 

    Whilst our focus must be on stopping our government for perpetuating such abuse on women and children, women and children who are fleeing from horrific wars and violence in their own countries, it is also important to put this in the context of the patriarchal world that we live in.

    It is all based on patriarchal ideology, where white men with power see the rest of the world as the ‘other’, as less than human and therefore unworthy of our concern. As Denise Thompson writes:

      It is about male domination.

    And women and children are always the victims of the oppression of male domination: sexual abuse, violence…and if you are not of the white man’s race then you are doubly open to white male domination and abuse. Women and children refugees are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse – and it is happening all over the world.

    Of course Peter Dutton would rely on the persistent mantra that allegations of sexual assault are false, because patriarchy has created the fictitious doctrine that women lie about sexual assault. They come up with many reasons why women make up false allegations. In this instance, their motivation apparently is to seek refuge in Australia.

    Basically when you live in patriarchy as a woman then you are a liar, a manipulator, a vindictive woman. Your motivations are always suspect.

    It’s not the first time the Liberal National government has used this line when allegations of horrendous abuse on the off-shore detention centres have come to light.

    In a previous blog I wrote of the horrific conditions where refugees are being detained in off-shore facilities and the abuse that was being brought to light. In that particular instance the motivation was politically motivated and designed to discredit the off-shore processing policy.

    “Every aspect of the detention of these people has been designed to humiliate and demean.

    So it is no surprise that in such an environment those in charge will abuse their power and sexually abuse women and children.

    And Scott Morrison, on behalf of the Australian government has responded in a typically patriarchal pattern.

    “The public don’t want to be played for mugs with allegations being used as some sort of political tactic in all of this.”

    “However, we note that the allegations by Senator Hanson-Young have been made publicly and in the context of broader political statements to discredit the government’s involvement in offshore processing.”” 

    “Dutton well knows that the government’s own Moss review confirmed the reports of physical and sexual abuse that were uncovered in 2014. That review also exonerated the Save The Children staff who were the authors of many of the reports.” Refugee Action group 

     

    It is a common occurrence in our legal system as well – to label women as liars.

    Rape is the “most under-reported of serious offences”  for that very reason.

    And yet the reality is – rape is common:

    “One in three women will be sexually assaulted at some time in their lives”  (Fergusson & Mullen, 1999).

    By men.

    And yet they are not believed.

    “Police statistics reveal that ‘false’ reporting of sexual assault is minimal, representing 2% to 7% of all reported assaults. These statistics also include statements withdrawn by victim/survivors due to fear of revenge and the impact of the legal system.”

    “1 in 6 reports to Police of rape and less than 1 in 7 reports of incest or sexual penetration of a child result in prosecution (Victorian Law Reform Commission, Sexual Offences: Final Report, 2004)” 

     

    Women’s experiences of the court system often as traumatic as their rape when they are accused of making vindictive allegations; of ‘asking for it’.

    As Caitlin Roper has written:

    “My friend sat in court day after day, forced to recount, in excruciating detail, her experience of being groomed, manipulated, and eventually sexually assaulted by a predator 30 years her senior, over a period of 18 months. She then endured a vicious cross examination as her wealthy boss’s QC top lawyer tried to tear her apart and assassinate her character for more than two full days. She teased and seduced him, he argued. She made it all up. They had a consensual sexual relationship. She was obsessed with him — her balding boss, old enough to be her father — despite having a boyfriend (now her husband). John’s lawyer even argued her claims were financially motivated and said she was punishing the accused for refusing to buy her an extravagant apartment.” 

    And it happens in the family law system too. Parental alienation syndrome is premised on the same ideology that women lie about rape and sexual abuse.

    PAS is grounded in misogynistic views and reflects a mother-blaming ideology. This ideology persists within the family law system, enabling men to continue to abuse women and children at will, with no protection from the legal system.

    However when it suits their needs, men will make their own allegations of abuse and violence and nothing says it more clearly than the child sexual abuse reported to be occurring in Northern Territory aboriginal communities. When it suits their political ends, they can demonise and punish a vulnerable, marginalised population and make vicious claims of ‘dysfunction’ within that community.

    Dutton says these current allegations of sexual assault in off-shore detention are not based on fact and yet when let’s compare the response that led to NT intervention, as I have written in a previous blog

    “In 2007, the federal government staged a massive intervention in the Northern Territory on the basis of the report, “Little Children are Sacred” as a result of a government inquiry into child sexual abuse in the Northern Territory.

    “The fall-out was a full-scale, (including army), intervention which resulted in the reinforcement of the unwavering, systemic stealing of children from their arms, to who knows where? The Department of Childrens Services have lost the files on some 8,000 children who are thus just “disappeared”.”

    The intervention in fact has done little to address child sexual abuse or violence against women.

    It is horrendous that our white male politicians use (abuse) the concept of protection women and children from violence and abuse for their own ends – mining of traditional lands is a suspect in this – whilst they go about destroying lives and communities.”

     

    So men can rape at will – at the personal level, in our own homes, in our neighbourhoods – and at the State level where they lock up innocent women and children seeking refuge from violence in their own countries and knowingly expose them to violence and sexual assault.

    There is no recourse for women – patriarchal law does not protect them; does not prosecute abusers; does not believe women.

    we will never be silenced

    Yes Peter Dutton must go.

    His behaviour and attitude is callous, cruel, racist and misogynistic.

    But he is not the only one. Both major parties in Australia are responsible for the on-going mistreatment and cruelty towards vulnerable women and children refugees.

    We must hold them to account.

    This is unacceptable.

    roy

    There are a number of organisations which are challenging the Government’s refugee policies.

    I urge every Australian to take action and stop this horrendous victimisation of innocent women and children.

    Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru

    Let Them Stay

    Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children

    Nauru files – Public Actions

     

  • 03Aug

    denise thompson

    I have just had the pleasure of reading Denise Thompson’s book. It is my part of my personal on-going exploration of feminist theory and thought.

    Although I have worked for many years as a feminist activist, particularly in the field of male violence against women and children, and have thus read and discussed feminism, I hold some trepidation in writing this blog.

    I claim no expertise in feminist theory – but am in the process of learning and developing my knowledge and want to share my journey with you. I can only hope that I can do justice to Denise Thompson’s book which I highly recommend.

    This blog is not going to cover all the range of issues that are discussed in the book. Rather I will attempt to focus on her understanding of radical feminism.

    What is feminism?

    One of the initial statements that Denise Thompson makes is that the question is not ‘Who is a feminist?’ but ‘What is feminism?’ She goes on to define feminism as the logic of feminist theory and practice. It is a theory which at its core is the recognition and acknowledgement of male domination, where the male represents the ‘human’ norm at the expense of a human status for women.

    “It is the opposition to male domination which makes feminism relevant to women wherever they are situated, however differently they are excluded from recognition as human…and for deciding the extent of our limitations and constraint” (p.69)

    Feminism is therefore not an identity; not a lifestyle choice. Neither is it a pronouncement or dictatorial or a dogma teaching us how to live one’s life. However, we are responsible for how we behave within our oppressive conditions. Therefore feminism does not “…lay down rules, regulations, prohibitions and prescriptions for individuals to follow.” (p.50)

    “To define feminism as an identity as a ‘feminist’ is to remain caught up in the ideology of individualism” (p.71)

    The Personal is Political

    Denise Thompson accepts the concept that the ‘personal is political’ in that it acknowledges and challenges the dichotomy of the ideological construction of public/private distinction. But she also argues that personal experience must be informed by an understanding and acknowledgement of the social order of male domination and its impact on this experience.

    “There is no sphere of personal life which escapes relations of domination” (p.25).

    We must acknowledge the social conditions within which experience is already embedded.

    Feminist Theory and Practice

    Feminist theory and practice is consistently evolving as research, discussion and debate continue.

    “Theory is vital if feminism is to clarify where it has come from, its meanings, its values and aims if it is not to become bogged down in dogma, infighting, irrelevance and eventual silence”. (p.33)

    We do not want equality

    Thompson also argues that it is not equality that we want. We do not want to enter that male world, where hierarchies of power exist. That does not free us from male domination.

    “None of the feminist standpoint theorists, unequivocally identifies agreement with male supremacy as the link which ‘transforms ‘women’s experience’ into feminist politics.” (p.17)

    We have a long history

    Thompson also critiques the idea of waves of feminism. She argues that this is due to the loss of women’s history. Women’s struggles against male domination have rarely been documented.

    “Feminism, in the sense of women defending their own interests in the face of male supremacy, is of much longer duration than the last three decades, and hence to call this latest manifestation ‘second wave’ does an injustice to the long history of women’s struggles on their own behalf.” (p.2)

    Race and Class

    She also discusses, in depth, issues of race and class, and how feminism is central to “politics and race and class”. If it is not central, women will be excluded.

    “As long as feminism is conceived as commitment to human decency and dignity for all, it is already a commitment to opposing race and class oppression.” (p.93)

    Thompson continually returns to the concept that male domination is central to feminist politics. She also acknowledges that “…women experience male domination differently depending on where they are situated in relation to race, class or any other social location.” (p.93)

    ‘Radical Feminism Today’ was first published in 2001, but many of the issues that Thompson addresses are still very relevant today. I have covered only a brief snapshot of the range of issues that are discussed in ‘Radical Feminism Today’. They are the ones that have caught my immediate attention and I believe are still worthy of feminist attention. I strongly recommend it.

  • 18Jul

     

    Australia had its first female Prime Minister in 2010. Britain has just acquired their second female Prime Minister Theresa May. And it looks likely that the United States may elect its first female President in Hilary Clinton.

    Are these iconic moments to be treasured?

    On the one hand yes. For those suffragettes who battled so hard to gain women the vote; to those who fought to have women represent us in parliament these are moments to celebrate.

    But does having a female as leader of your nation really help women?

    Well we all know that it didn’t with Maggie Thatcher. But then she was a right-wing neo-conservative.

    Julia Gillard did not do a lot for women either here in Australia.

    “That same day she made her (famous misogyny) speech the government was cutting access to the Single Parenting Payment and forcing more single mothers onto the dole, substantially cutting their income.” Judy McVey

    And her continuation of the Northern Territory Intervention policy and practice was appalling and racist.

    She also continued with the off-shore refugee policy which continues to lock up vulnerable women and children in inhumane off-shore facilities.

    And she supported sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and the devastation on innocent people in those countries.

    But then she was better than the alternative, Tony Abbott.

    As the United States moves toward their presidential elections much has been written about whether voting for Hilary Clinton is a step forward for feminism.

    Looking at Ms. Clinton’s international policies and her support of American aggression on other countries is perhaps enough for radical feminists to recognise that a vote for Hilary Clinton is not a vote for women’s rights. As Kelly Vee writes:

    “As a Senator, Hillary Clinton voted for the Iraq War, and in 2008, defended her vote, saying, “I believe in coercive diplomacy.”

    “As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s record is horrific. Clinton aggressively pursued regime changes in Libya and Syria, leading to the creation of ISIS, war in Mali, and the strengthening of terrorist group Boko Haram.”

    The fact is that in Western countries such as Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States voting does little to challenge patriarchal capitalism. The women who are part of the major political parties are part of the patriarchal capitalist system. They will continue with their imperialist policies which destroy women’s lives. Radical feminism is about the destruction of patriarchal capitalism. Supporting the likes of Hilary Clinton is only supporting the continuation of it.

    But don’t get me wrong. I abhor the misogyny that is inherent in many of the attacks on women leaders. Julia Gillard was the target of dreadful misogyny that was both violent and aggressive

    And it is up to feminists to rally against such misogyny.

    It is also apparent that what we know about our so-called democracies is that we really have very little choice.*

    It is understandable that in our limited choices we sometimes vote for the lesser of 2 evils – and having Donald Trump as President of the United States is quite a horrifying thought.

    But in recognising that a vote for Hilary Clinton is really a vote against a worst evil, let us not go down the path of assuming that her imperialist policies will not harm many women, both internally and internationally.

    “Violence and imperialism do not liberate women. External force and rampant destruction do not liberate women. Hillary Clinton’s incessant war mongering and disregard for the basic human rights of non-Americans do not liberate women. Women liberate themselves when they take control over their lives and their futures against all odds. Kurdish women defending their families from ISIS and US airstrikes are feminist heroes. Hillary Clinton is a violent oppressor. Know the difference.” Kelly Vee

     

    *In Australia we have the advantage of preferential voting. Thus I voted for the Greens rather than Julia Gillard and Labor Party. Preferential voting means that my vote was not wasted.  There is an alternative for those in the United States, as outlined in this article   about voting for alternatives to the two major parties in safe seats.

     

  • 13Mar

    natural way of things

     

    I have just finished reading this harrowing and powerful novel.

    Set in the near future it is about a group of young women who are abducted and imprisoned in an outback facility somewhere in Australia. They are abducted by a corporation – to be punished, to be silenced because they have dared to expose their sexual exploitation at the hands of powerful men.

    They include a victim of a football-buddy pack rape; another is a “lover” of a high-profile politician; a woman assaulted whilst partying on a cruise ship, and a woman, a contestant on a TV reality show who is singled out for sex by the producer of the show.

    All very familiar stories which we far too regularly hear about on our news media.

    The literal abduction and violation of these women is reflective of how our society treats women who dare to speak out about sexual assault, coercion and sexual intimidation.

    And how we vilify – by calling them sluts; promiscuous; liars and publicity seekers. How they are ostracized and silenced for calling out the abuse of powerful men.

    The women in the novel are drugged and taken to this isolated place. They are kept locked in old shearers’ quarters. Their heads are shaved; they wear shapeless clothing, are shackled together and made to do hard labour. Their three prisoners, two men and a woman beat them and humiliate them constantly. And there is always the underlying threat of sexual violence, which comes to fruition during the novel.

    It is a story of survival – how each woman in their individual way learn to survive (or not).

    Charlotte Wood evokes a bleak, nightmarish landscape in this novel. I was reminded of ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding. Because these women have to learn to live off the land – to kill, skin and gut rabbits as their food source runs out and the electricity is turned off – but not to the giant electric fence which encloses them. And there are disputes and fights between the women.

    But I was moved by the sense of interconnection and commonality between the women, despite their differences and disputes.

    Verla and Yolanda are the two women we follow most closely. Yolanda, in particular, finds her escape by becoming part of the landscape, the environment and as time progresses she becomes almost wild– an unsentimental relationship with the land.

    Their relationships are not romanticised by Charlotte Wood – this is not a story where female bonding and communion occurs. It is not a sentimental novel. Each woman finds her own way to survive. Each however brings their skills to the group and they are able to work cooperatively to survive.

    What struck me most however was the sense of commonality of oppression that these women understood about each other. Despite their differences and in some instances the need to compete for necessary food and resources, they take care of each other.

    I had the privilege of seeing Charlotte Wood speaking at the recent Adelaide Writer’s week and one of her observations related to the lack of solidarity of the women and how this is reflective of patriarchal socialisation of women.

    Interestingly in a Sydney Morning Herald interview Wood describes how the idea came from learning about the Hay Institute:

    “Wood heard a radio documentary about women who had been locked up as teenagers in the Hay Institution for Girls, an offshoot of Parramatta Girls Home that was reserved for the 10 worst offenders in the state in the 1960s and ’70s. They were drugged and put on a train to the decommissioned men’s prison in south-western NSW, where they were forced to march, look at the floor, never talk to each other, and endure rape and other violence.”

    “One reason many of them were there was they had been sexually abused or assaulted in some way and they told someone about it, so then it was ‘they are promiscuous’.”

    Despite the hopefully unlikely scenario of this novel, I was struck by how it is replicative of our patriarchal society. We punish and vilify women who dare to speak out against male violence.

     “Would it be said they were abandoned or taken, the way people said a girl was attacked, a woman was raped, this femaleness always at the centre, as  if womanhood is itself were the cause of these things. As if the girls themselves somehow, through the natural way of things, did it to themselves.”

    And at the end of this interview Charlotte Wood is quoted:

    “A couple of men who have read it wanted to know where it came from and I said, ‘I think it just came from 50 years of being a woman’.

     

     

     

  • 09Mar

     

    Happy International Women’s Day!

    womenday

    A little late, I know. I meant to write an International Women’s Day post – but you know – life gets in the way sometimes.

    I love International Women’s Day. I love that we celebrate women. I love that women everywhere write and post about women’s activism, feminism, women’s history and women’s achievements.

    And I think it also takes me back to 1975 – International Women’s Year. I was a young woman then – knew very little about women’s liberation and what oppression of women meant. But I remember being awed and excited about future possibilities and what it might mean to have a year for women.

    So I have celebrated International Women’s Day every year.

    Back in 1975 we were in the era of what is now known as the second wave of feminism. Back then we called it women’s liberation.

    But according to Eva Cox: Feminism has failed and needs a radical rethink. 

    She’s right when she says that second wave feminists were pushing for radical change:

     “We understood that real gender equity would require radical changes to macho cultural power structures. So we planned and discussed the ways we could revalue what matters and eliminate gender-biased, macho-designed cultural dominance.”

    And she is also right that women, in Simone de Beauvoir’s words, are still the ‘other’.

    Women are still being killed by male violence; women are still impoverished; discriminated and oppressed!

    But to blame feminism – to decide that feminism has failed us? Feels like blaming the victim.

    Do I wish that we had rid ourselves of patriarchy? That we had fundamentally changed the structure of our world so that oppression of everyone no longer existed? Yes I do. Believe me there are still plenty of women working on this.

    Identifying as a feminist does not mean that one understands what feminism really means.

    In fact what has happened is that patriarchal capitalism has fought back. It has usurped the word feminism to mean something that women’s liberation would not accept.

    As Meghan Murphy has recently written:

     “Whereas, in the past, our fight against male supremacy and towards women’s liberation meant something radical — and therefore frightening — to those who preferred the status quo, recent decades have brought a distinctly “feel-good” approach. Feminism hasn’t escaped a neoliberal, consumerist culture that offers self-help books and positive mantras as a solution to social problems and presents individual “choice” as the epitome of freedom. What was once a class struggle – a fight for women’s collective rights and towards an end to the oppressive system of patriarchy – and certainly a political one, became a hashtag, a selfie, a backdrop, a selling-point, a buzzword. Anyone could say, “Yes! I’m a feminist!” and be applauded, without really understanding what that should mean.”

     

    It is neo-liberals’ capturing of the word feminism and using it to their own ends that has altered what is assumed to be feminism. Eva Cox conflates what neo-liberalism has done, in their backlash to feminism, with a failure of feminism.

    It is just more of the same from patriarchy – at every step patriarchy will fight back against women’s liberation. It is not feminism that has failed – it’s just more of the same from patriarchy.

    To quote a feminist friend – rather than a failure of feminism it is the success of male domination.

    And Eva ignores the continued struggle of radical feminism.

    “Our once radical social movement has been diverted into good works such as women’s refuges, counting female victims of violence and calling out sexism. While all these are necessary, there is little focus on offering serious alternatives.”

    Cox’s article dismisses and diminishes the work that feminism has achieved, as “good works”.

    The establishment of safe places for women escaping male violence, highlighting the horrific deaths of women at the hands of men and raising awareness about the everyday sexism and misogyny that women experience and are damaged by  – this is the vital work that has been achieved by the feminist movement. And feminists are still contesting prostitution, sex trafficking, surrogacy, female genital mutilation, pornography amongst many other harms to women etc, etc…

    We are very aware of the neo-liberal attempts to undermine the important work that feminists have achieved –

    “…the defunding of progressive women’s services; the growing divisions between different types of services; funding and output measurement tools focusing on individual change; and the sharp shift in the provision and focus of services, away from a social recognition of men’s violence against women and towards an individual pathology of women’s poor choices and victimisation.  In fact women’s services are currently at serious risk of being de-politicised.” (Hume, McInnes, Rendell & Green 2011)

    And no doubt, as Meghan Murphy has outlined, the individualising of feminism – the idea of individual choice and empowerment has reconfigured feminism as a populist term turning it into a “depoliticised” concept.

    “It’s no coincidence that a term directly associated with women has become depoliticised, coopted, and associated with personal empowerment. Women have always been the target of the self-help industry and “empowerment” is a vague enough term that it could be (and has) been embraced by industries that couldn’t care less about fighting systemic oppression, in part because they profit directly from said oppression.”

    Unfortunately Eva Cox’s article reinforces this co-option of feminism – by blaming feminism for its “wrong direction”. The article fails to address this co-option of ‘feminism’ by patriarchal, capitalism.

    “The feminist movement is a political movement that fights towards women’s collective liberation and towards an end to male violence against women. That is to say, if you don’t support those goals, what you are doing is not feminism, no matter how many times you claim otherwise.” Meghan Murphy

    And the danger of Eva Cox’s analysis is that this can be used against us – against women, against women’s liberation.

    Her question – “Can some good feminist ideas reignite the light on the hill…”? fails to understand that only good feminism (i.e. radical feminism) is “reigniting” and has been throughout feminist history.

    As Finn Mackay has commented, our movement is based on complex political theory and continues to be developed and defined but always working towards change.

    International Women’s Day/Month gives us the opportunity to celebrate our history and achievements. Eva Cox has unfortunately by making the claim that feminism has failed has fallen into the patriarchal trap of the misappropriation of feminism.

    In doing so she is discounting our history and our achievements and the on-going struggles of radical feminism and has become part of the backlash against feminism

     

    “Because the mere presence of our language in the mainstream, does not mean that it is correctly used, much less widely understood, sometimes the very opposite.”

    “As feminists we need to be aware of what feminism means for us. Just having the word in regular usage does not mean that the revolution is on its way. In fact it can mean that feminism and women’s oppression becomes diluted and meaningless. And of course that is what patriarchy would really like. It then becomes part of the backlash against feminism.” Finn Mackay

    problems-with-feminism-234x300

  • 24Feb

    This is an article that WEAVE  wrote for Parity in 2013. Still very pertinent for today.

    How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?

    By Marie Hume, Dr. Elspeth McInnes, Kathryn Rendell, and Betty Green (Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination Inc.)

     

    It is well established that a significant percentage of homeless people in Australia are women and children escaping male violence. According to Homelessness Australia, just over two in every five of the estimated homeless population are women. More women than men seek assistance from the homeless service system each year. Two-thirds of the children who accompanied an adult to a homeless service last year were in the care of a woman, usually their mother, escaping domestic violence. Domestic violence is the most often cited reason given by women presenting to specialist homelessness services for seeking assistance.

    The majority of people turned away from specialist homelessness services are women and their children. One in two people who request immediate accommodation are turned away each night due to high demand and under-resourcing.

    However, homelessness is not the only problem for women escaping male violence. Male violence against women and children is a complex dynamic which needs specialist women-only services, and we would argue, feminist responses to help women be safe and be empowered.

    Many organisations providing services to women attempting to escape from all forms of violence are hampered in their ability to operate from a feminist perspective.

    There are a range of reasons for this, such as the defunding of progressive women’s services; the growing divisions between different types of services; funding and output measurement tools focusing on individual change; and the sharp shift in the provision and focus of services, away from a social recognition of men’s violence against women and towards an individual pathology of women’s poor choices and victimisation.  In fact women’s services are currently at serious risk of being de-politicised. (Hume, McInnes, Rendell & Green 2011).

    In order to provide support and help to women escaping male violence our services must firstly listen to and respect women’s experiences of violence. Women are the experts in this experience and over years have learnt survival mechanisms. They are experts of their own survival. Our role is to help women find their own pathway to safety and to help them negotiate the systemic barriers to such safety.

    Feminist practice, according to Davies, involves…

    “…‘woman-defined advocacy’: …advocacy that starts from the woman’s perspective, integrates the advocate’s knowledge and resources into the framework, and ultimately values her thoughts, feelings, opinions, and dreams—that she is the decision maker, the one who knows best, the one with the power.” (Davies et al., 1998, pp. 3-4, cited by Laing, 2001))

    Women’s services throughout Australia are struggling to maintain a feminist perspective in supporting women escaping male violence. They labour against systemic structural barriers; and ideological and policy determinants.

    Policy determinants have led to many domestic violence services operating in an increasingly medical model, where the responsibility for their safety is placed on individual women and focus for change is on victim, rather than perpetrator. Often male perpetrators become invisible in service provision.

    An example of this is the South Australian Homeless 2 Home (H2H) client and case management system.

    All specialist homelessness agencies in South Australia are required as part of their funding agreement to use this system. In the assessment process workers are required to assess women.

    This covers areas such as “Anger and mood management; emotional, educational and employment stability” and sets out goals that should be addressed in providing a service to women. The domestic violence status of the woman’s exposure to violence is minimised in the assessment process, with the focus on her individual deficits. Practitioners are not directed to any mention of the structural inequities that women face when escaping from domestic violence. Rather the assessment process seems to be operating on a deficit model of service provision, where the woman, identified as “the client” is judged as deficient because she is a victim.

    The focus in the provision of services for women has shifted from the structural to the individual. Rather than being sites of political activism, based on the sharing of common experiences and self-help, women’s services have become sites of professionalised therapeutic intervention. Women are increasingly being treated as victims in need of professional help – and even seen by some services as the source of ‘the problem’ of violence against women.

    As community providers increasingly replace government provision there has been an accompanying trend away from consulting the people using the service, to those providing the service. Services report to governments about what their clients need, positioning themselves as experts on the issue, rather than the people going through the situation of need. The voices of professionals are increasingly privileged at the expense of those needing the service.

    Karen Webb in DVRC quarterly article states that there are “higher demands from funding bodies to demonstrate measurable outcomes” which impacts on how services operate.

    “McDonald (2005) argues the feminist analysis of family violence has experienced ongoing silencing due to an increased accountability attached to government funding in addition to an increased focus on individual empowerment. Due to human services being subjected to a competitive market, family violence programs are forced to produce measurable outcome-based data.”(Webb, 2012, p.6)

    For homelessness services this translates into reducing the numbers of women victims of violence by professionals working to reduce their assessed pathology, as expressed in ‘mood problems’ or ‘unemployment’. This trend can be seen to be broadly linked to policy and funding decisions of governments over time, as well as the backlash against both feminism and women which has become evident in public debate.

    Increasingly, particularly during the years of conservative government, funding was directed away from many progressive women’s organisations and towards men’s rights groups and conservative organisations. In addition, government policy was such that funding agreements with recipient organisations prohibited funded agencies from challenging government policy and practices.

    Davies et al. (1998) trace the impact of responses to domestic violence over the last 30 years, which have resulted in what they term ‘service-defined advocacy’ in which ‘advocates fit women into the services available without understanding their plans’ (p. 17)(as cited by Laing, 2001)

    Increasingly, services for women are being outsourced to generic, and often faith-based, organisations. The result of such outsourcing is that women-only services are becoming less available. It also means that many of these non-government organisations are often providing broad based family services. Not only do they not have a feminist analysis of violence against women, but ideologically their faith defined pro-family stance operates to discount or deny women’s experiences of violence.

    Dr Lesley Laing cites a number of theorists who argue that there has been a shift away from a feminist, social and advocacy response to domestic violence to a medicalised, psychological view of domestic violence. She cites Gondolf who attributes these changes…

    “…to both the growing involvement by mental health experts with the issue of domestic violence and to the pressure experienced by some refuges to secure funding by developing their services in line with more conventional social welfare agencies. Via processes such as these, it is argued that ‘a severe and political problem has been transformed into a psychological one’” (Gondolf & Fisher, 1988, p.2 cited in Laing, 2001 p. 3.)

    We would also argue that the increase of the professionalization of women’s services frequently has resulted in professional practice paradigms that have not been grounded in feminist theory and practice.

    Alongside of this has been the medicalization of women’s issues which has occurred concurrently with the decline in political activism. Medical/ therapeutic models of service delivery have become increasingly forced upon the women’s sector, with an emphasis on women’s pathology, individual therapeutic responses and personal healing. (See South Australian Homeless 2 Home (H2H) client and case management system.)

    An example of this is the recent introduction of the Empowerment StarTM into the Victorian family violence sector. This program is described by Karen Webb as a casework outcomes measurement tool designed specifically for programs aimed at supporting women who have experienced family violence. Karen Webb:

    “…primary focus of the tool is to measure and document the changes in a survivor’s attitude, motivation and behaviour toward an end goal. The language used in the tool reflects a number of problematic assumptions.”(Webb, 2012, p.6)

    She argues that the assessment tool “privileges the worker’s ‘expert’ view over the survivor’s.” (p.7) and tends to make women responsible for creating change and being responsible for establishing safety for herself and children. She argues that the use of such a tool is…

    “Reinforcing the idea that each individual woman needs to be ‘empowered’ in order to avoid violence only lowers the accountability of abusers and society. This is not empowerment nor does it fit in within a feminist framework: this is silencing and maintaining the status quo.”(Webb, 2012, p.9)

    This is an example of neo-liberalism’s co-option of the word ‘empowerment’. It implies that women expose themselves to violence by making poor choices of relationships with violent men, or by displaying irritating behaviour which provokes men to violence against them. It creates a perspective wherein the role of services is to ‘fix’ women’s desires to make poor choices and cure them of being irritating to men. Men’s use of violence remains invisible and the targets of the violence become responsible for causing it.

    The Federal Government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has created a data collection programme (S.H.I.P) which collates personal information in relation to women who seek support from women’s shelters. Many women’s shelters are required to provide such confidential and personal information if they wish to continue to be funded.

    The information gained in this data collection is used to enable governments and the community “to make informed decisions to improve the health and welfare of Australians”.

    However, much of the data collected is framed in terms of housing rather than domestic violence, which results in the core business of women’s domestic violence services moving away from domestic violence to homelessness. Placing women in a “safe” home does not mean that women are safe.

    The reality for women escaping male violence is that there exists a range of systemic failures which prevent women from achieving real safety. For example, it is well documented that separation is the most dangerous time for women and children and that women can be subjected to ongoing abuse, harassment and stalking for years after their separation (Bagshaw, Brown, Wendt, Campbell, McInnes, Tinning, Batagol, Sifris, Tyson, Baker & Fernandez Arias 2010 p77). Despite this, the Australian family law system consistently fails to acknowledge and account for domestic violence and child abuse. In the majority of cases the family law system continues to expose women and children to ongoing violence and abuse by forcing women and children to maintain relationships with their abusers as a result of court orders for access between children and their abusive fathers.

    “To maximise the effectiveness of interventions with women who have experienced violence, it is important that practice models emphasise women’s safety and perpetrator accountability; explore and validate women’s experiences; acknowledge strengths and avoid pathologising women; attend to the diverse cultural and social contexts of women’s lives; and locate the range of interventions within the wider socio-political context.” (Laing 2001, p 14-15)

    If a collective feminist consciousness of men’s violence against women is to be regenerated, politicians, policymakers, human services professionals and managers need to once again listen to women’s voices. Women’s experiential knowledge of male violence must inform collective action that commands government attention in demanding social change.

     

    Visit WEAVE’s Facebook page

    Bibliography

    Davies, J., Lyon, E., & Monti-Catania, D. (1998). Safety Planning with Battered Women: Complex lives/difficult choices. Thousand Oaks: Sage as cited in Dr Lesley Laing, 2001 “Working with women: Exploring individual and group work approaches. “Australian Domestic & Family Violence CLEARINGHOUSE Issues Paper 4 2001

    Gondolf, E. W., & Fisher, E. R. (1988). Battered Women as Survivors: An alternative to treating learned helplessness. Massachusetts/Toronto: Lexington Books.

    Hume, M., McInnes, E., Rendell, K. & Green, B. (2011). Women’s services in the 21st century: Where are we heading? Australian Domestic & Family Violence Newsletter, 46, pp.3-4.

    Laing, L. (2001). “Working with women: Exploring individual and group work approaches. “Australian Domestic & Family Violence CLEARINGHOUSE Issues Paper 4 2001

    Webb, K (2012). “empowerment or compliance? making women responsible for change” DVRC Quarterly (Domestic Violence Resource Centre, Victoria) Spring/Summer

    http://www.homelessnessaustralia.org.au/UserFiles/File/Fact%20sheets/Fact%20Sheets%202011-12/Homelessness%20&%20Women%202011-12%288%29.pdf

    http://www.sa.gov.au/subject/Housing,+property+and+land/Customer+entry+points+and+contacts/Homelessness+services+provider+entry+point/Client+and+case+management+system

    http://www.sa.gov.au/upload/franchise/Housing,%20property%20and%20land/Housing%20SA/h2H_manual_section_4.pdf

    http://www.aihw.gov.au/privacy-of-data/

     

     

  • 04Jan

    Our latest Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull says:

     “Real men don’t hit women.”  

     

    In Australia, violence against women raised its profile in 2015.

    Rosie Batty our Australian of the Year has been a strong advocate during this year in raising awareness and bringing it to public attention. She has been (and continues to be) a strong advocate for women. She has shown much strength and courage in bringing violence against women to the forefront of Australia’s consciousness.

    As Real for Women has shown there have many women and women’s groups throughout Australia this last year standing up for women.

    thankafeminist

     

    The Australian Government  announced a $100 million package of measures to provide a safety net for women and children at high risk of experiencing violence.

    Of course, they didn’t announce that they had previously taken away $300 million dollars from women’s services and organisations.

    The Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence was initiated in 2015 by the new Labor government in Victoria.

    The ABCTV’s  ‘Hitting Home’2 part series on family violence received high acclaim.

    Sarah Ferguson

    But let us look at the reality of what is happening in Australia for women.

    Domestic violence services continue to be de-funded.

    Tweed Valley Women’s Services recently forced to close

     

    “I was shocked and outraged that this forced closure has occurred as the Tweed Valley Women’s Service provides vital services, particularly for those women and children fleeing from domestic violence,” Ms Elliot said.

    SaveWomensRefuges recently conducted a survey of domestic violence victims

    “Our survey results are telling us heartbreaking stories of women and children forced to return to live in violence, of sleeping in cars, in stairwells and on public transport. We need the Prime Minister to fund domestic violence refuges now. Sign and let Malcolm know it has to be a priority!!”

     

    Womens Electoral Lobby have also raised concerns about the loss of secure funding for women’s refuges.

     

     “Women’s refuges save lives. We request that the Prime Minister act swiftly to agree to a long-term secure separate national funding program for women’s refuges to ensure women and children escaping family and domestic violence have a safe haven and access to specialist services to enable them to rebuild their lives.”

     

    The Guardian in June 1914 reported that the Liberal State government redirected $6m funding from inner city to rural NSW, predicting that up to 20 shelters will have to close their doors.

    “The tendering process is completely new for this sector. We’re talking about an established network of women’s services across Sydney that have been operating for 30 to 40 years and never had their funding come under threat from any government – Liberal or Labor – until now.”

    “You can’t provide quality care for women unless you’re operating from a specialist framework. We’re all operating on evidence based models.” There is also the likely outcome that women, including those escaping domestic violence, will have to seek shelter in mixed accommodation.

    As reported to the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence:

    “For victim support, historically underfunded (and recently suffering cutbacks and closures), needs adequate funding to cope with current demand, because DV is not going to be resolved or reduced overnight, these are life-saving services, and pay for themselves in reducing homicides and serious injuries. As for social workers and child protection agencies, better education and better case management is needed.” 

    Media coverage of domestic violence

    A study recently showed that the media often distort domestic violence.

    “The report, published by Our Watch and Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (Anrows), found there were widely established patterns of reporting in Australia and internationally that were overly simplistic, distorted and inadequate and increased the public’s confusion.”

    Many reports also shifted blame from the male perpetrators to their female victims.

    “One common theme across much of the media reporting in Australia and the US was that the social context in which male-perpetrated violence against women occurred was often excluded.”

     

    Cuts to homelessness services

    “Several peak organisations that provide policy advice and research into homelessness and housing services received word from the Department of Social Services on Monday that they would no longer receive funding.”

     Homelessness groups were informed just prior to Christmas in 2015 that the federal government reportedly pulled funding from a number of advocacy organisations.

    Reported by the Guardian.

    It is well-known that women and children fleeing domestic violence make up the majority of homeless people.

    Family Law

    In 2015 Background Briefing presented a critique of family law – ‘In the child’s best interests’

    I wrote about this programme previously on MairiVoice

    It would seem that parental alienation syndrome and father privilege is still the ideological underpinnings of our family law system.

    Notably, the programme interviewed one specialist family law assessor, Chris Rikard-Bell and he was true to form.

    “One cannot just depend on what the child’s statements are.” 

    When asked specifically about parental alienation syndrome, which appears to be the basis of his work:

    “The concept of alienation, by which a parent consciously undermines the child’s relationship with the other parent, is still a valid concept.”

    ‘I refer to alienation if it specifically occurs and describe it but I avoid using the Parental Alienation Syndrome label, even though it is often useful, as it has now come under such scrutiny that it often creates more debate than is helpful.’

    Apparently you can follow the principles of parental alienation – just don’t call it that.

     

    Community Legal Centres lose funding.

    Funding for CLC’s have not been restored.

    ‘Community legal centres will lose 30 per cent of their funding by the end of 2018 at the same time as police in Australia are handling one domestic violence matter every two minutes’The Federal Government is once again punishing victims of domestic violence with the toughest measures it has ever imposed on women seeking legal help.”

    “Pockets of funding at all levels are under threat. Some are not being renewed, others are being reduced. In 2017, the sector will see a 25 percent cut in Commonwealth funding across the board. Funding cycles are now reviewed annually rather than every three years, making it difficult to plan ahead further than a single financial year. As a result, new employees are generally put on 12, six or even three-month contracts, which makes it hard to attract top talent.”

    “However, CLCs do turn away tens of thousands of people a year. The demand is so high that the Productivity Commission has recommended an injection of $200 million into the sector, but with the Government seemingly ignoring the report, cuts remain a part of daily life at the RLC.”

     

    And Daily Life reports on how legal help is now being means-tested.

     

    “In a shock move just days after this year’s federal budget, community legal centres learned they would be compelled to means test those in need of legal support.  Eight months of consultation were pushed aside to make way for just one measure to get help – financial hardship.”

    “Gone were categories such as the risk of physical violence. Gone from the list were Indigenous women seeking support or people at risk of homelessness. The only thing which matters now is money.”

     

    Cuts to welfare benefits

    Families face cuts in welfare payments under the Federal Government’s changes to Family Tax Benefit rules.

     

    The biggest changes are hitting Family Tax Benefit Part B (FTB-B), which will be cut for families when their youngest child turns six.(ABC news).

    “The federal government has reintroduced to parliament cuts to family payments including abolishing annual bonuses.”

     

    Families will no longer receive family tax benefit supplement Part A of about $726.35 and Part B of $354.05 under the measures which Labor previously rejected. https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/30249637/family-tax-benefit-cuts-return/

     

    Anti vilification law

    Wicked Pickets have done a wonderful job in raising awareness about A community action to extend anti vilification law to include ‘sex’ as a ground for complaint.

    wicked pickets van

    So far they have had no luck in convincing our politicians about this.

    Refugee policies

    Headline the Saturday Paper in August:

    Nauru rapes: ‘There is a war on women’

    “One woman lies catatonic in hospital after being raped and beaten. Another was raped and immolated. This is the world awaiting refugees released from detention on Nauru.”

     

    And from the Huffington Post

    “At least two Iranian women detained on Nauru claim they were strip-searched by male security guards from an Australian firm who laughed as they ordered the women to remove their clothes, with allegations male guards are telling female detainees they have the power to conduct strip searches.”

    And for the Somali woman who had been raped on Nauru and was seeking an abortion, shows us that Peter Dutton, our Immigration Minister lied about what occurred when she was brought to Australia,

     

    Documents from the Department of Immigration and Border protection show that officials knew a Somali woman who had been raped on Nauru had not outright refused an abortion despite claims she had by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton after she was sent back to Nauru without the procedure last year. Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said at the time that Abyan had changed her mind about the abortion and that she was to be returned to Nauru. It is unclear from the documents why Abyan was removed when she had not rejected an abortion, as claimed by the Minister, however a note in the FOI documents from Australian Border Force warned: “There is a risk that once in Australia, [Abyan] will seek to join legal action which would prevent her return.”

     

    “Ms Tranter said the fear expressed in the comment that Abyan would use the abortion to try and stay in Australia, was disturbing, given the matter involved a rape victim. “http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/01/02/departments-claim-raped-refugee-rejected-abortion-wrong-foi-reveals

    “From the multiple reports of abuse, rape and sexual assault, to the awful treatment of pregnant rape victim Abyan; it seem increasingly obvious to the general public of Australia (as well as the recent United Nations Human Rights forum delegates) that Nauru and Manus Island are not safe places.”

    Meanwhile our Immigration Minister Peter Dutton wanted to make it known that he was in support of White Ribbon Day, and that he is someone who publicly denounces violence against women.

    “Unfortunately, he also happens to be the bloke who effectively sentenced a bunch of women and children to mandatory detention centres where sexual assault, rape, and violence against women runs rife.”

    “Sending women and children to harmful and dangerous detention centres means you’re kinda okay with horrendous acts of sexual assault and violence against women, and are more or less part of the problem – otherwise you’d stop it happening, right? Which makes Peter Dutton a big fat hypocrite. “http://www.pedestrian.tv/news/arts-and-culture/peter-dutton-shoots-self-in-foot-with-tweets-about/8bfbbf0f-73c6-44ea-996e-da84fda5618b.htm

     

    Pornography

    ABC produced a discussion panel on Pornography – Porn Even

    As Laura McNally reports:

    “Even in follow up to the panel, Tom Tilley continued to press the idea that porn is healthy, saying, “the personal experiences [expressed by the panel] weren’t extreme, it was just the broader generalisations and the theories people were making that got extreme.” Tilley apparently sees empirical data as theory and anecdote from half-a-dozen porn users as fact. With a sample size of one couple, the show seems to have concluded that porn is changing sex lives, and only for the better.”

    “After a careful, nuanced and sensitive approach toward domestic violence on Hitting Home, the ABC has shown all the nuance of a train-wreck in examining the role of porn in sexual violence. Survivors of sexual violence, including the many performers harmed in the production of pornography, deserve better from the national broadcaster.”

    Sexual Assault

    Federal Minister Briggs has stood down from his position on the front bench after complaints of sexual assault from a junior public servant. To top this off he then sent a picture of the young women “to several people” which ended up in our newspapers.

    And to start our new year, today’s news is that our esteemed Peter Dutton sent a SMScalling a female journalist  a “mad f … king witch” in a text.

    Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

    ditch the witch

    In Conclusion

    So Mr. Turnbull you say “real men don’t hit women”.

    Well it appears that real men

    • cut women’s services

    • lock up refugee women in detention centres, subject them to strip searches and to rape, fail to provide them with access to abortions after being raped;

    • cut welfare benefits to women

    • refuse to change anti-vilification laws;

    • do nothing to change the family law system to protect women and children from violence;

    • become MP’s so they can publicly vilify women

    • become MP’s so they can sexually assault women.

    • etc, etc

    Perhaps First dog on moon best expresses the hope that women have for 2106

    first dog

    First dog on moon: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/picture/2015/nov/25/this-white-ribbon-day-lets-raise-awareness-of-our-awareness-raising

  • 30Dec

     

    Suffragette_poster

     

    I had the privilege of seeing this film yesterday. I thought it was brilliant. My heart was in my mouth for most of the film, and by the end when they showed the real footage of women marching in white and purple at the funeral of Emily Davison (Natalie Press) the tears were running down my face.

    Suffragette_film_v_3430096b

    One of the most pleasing aspects of the film was that it was centred on a working class woman, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan). I always had the impression that the Suffragette movement, particularly in Britain, was a middle class white movement. So it was interesting and informative to see it from a working class woman’s perspective. I understand that she is a fictional character so was interested to learn more about working class women and the suffrage movement and came across this article by Missjones4history:

    “The working class, working women who became involved in the suffragette movement have, for the most part, been written out of history. A fact which is astounding considering the hurdles the working class women had to jump in order to secure their right to an involvement in politics.” 

    She writes about the  women of the Lancashire Cotton Mills.

    “ At the turn of the twentieth century, working women increasingly found their work, and their right to work under attack from the ever increasing, male dominated trade unions who wanted to protect jobs for men. They therefore began to organise themselves into unions to protect their rights in the work place and to campaign for the enfranchisement of women. An example of this is the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trade and Labour Council…”

    “In terms of an organised suffrage movement, the working women of Lancashire have been called the ‘original inspiration’ behind the formation of the Woman’s Social and Political Union, the WSPU, infamously known as the militant suffragettes.[4] This was due to a petition that the North of England Society organised, a petition for female enfranchisement; signed exclusively by women working in the textile industry of the North West. By the spring of 1901, the petition was taken to Westminster containing 29, 359 signatures; Mr Taylor, the MP for Radcliffe said that he’d heard of bigger petitions, but had ‘never seen a larger one’.[5] This petition aroused the active interest in the suffrage movement among working women, an interest which was to make many women politically active, a role hard to fulfil taking into account the many different roles a working woman already had.”

    This article, as does the film, highlights the great sacrifices that working class women in particular, made to fight for their rights.

    Maud Watts was born and worked from the age of seven in a laundry. The scenes in the laundry highlight how difficult these conditions were. She is also, as a young child, subjected to sexual abuse by her employer, who continues to sexually abuse the girls in the factory.

    We also see domestic violence when Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff) arrives to give evidence in Parliament with a battered face. There is no horror or shock at this from the other women – an acceptance that this male violence is a part of their lives.

    Violet also withdraws from the most violent acts of the activism, because she is pregnant. In the scene with Maud, she cries – she is worried that she will be unable to cope with yet another child. An example of the lack of options for women in controlling their own fertility. And a reminder that this is still a large issue for women all over the world today, even in our so-called progressive Western countries.

    I was astounded at the level of violence meted out to the women as they demonstrated and held rallies. They were beaten, kicked, belted with police trugeons. And then the mounted police would move in and trample the women with their horses.

    It also showed the humiliation the women experienced when placed in prison – strip searched and demeaned – something that women prisoners continue to be subjected to today.

    And the torture involved in force feeding the women was horrific to watch.  The missjones article argues that this violence was more extreme for working class women:

    “Despite official lines stating that all women were treated the same by the authorities, regardless of social background; it soon became apparent that this was not the case. It was noticed that middle class and upper class suffragettes were receiving preferential treatment, for example, if they resisted being fed, they would only be force fed a few times before being released. On the other hand, the working class suffragettes, who the prison authorities thought to be anonymous, were often subjected to the torture of force feeding on a daily basis for the full term of their sentence.”

    The sacrifices that Maud was forced to make to continue her activism is heart-breaking. She is kicked out of her home by her husband – for bringing shame and social stigma to the family. She loses her son. He is her husband’s property and so he is able to determine that she is not to have contact with him. In another painful scene she is confronted with the fact that her husband has given him up for adoption. A memorable quote to her son

    “Your mother’s name is Maud Watts.”

    Whilst the laws around custodial rights to children have changed since then, I have written extensively about how the family law system continues to punish ‘bad mothers’ and privilege fathers’ rights. http://mairivoice.femininebyte.org/the-fault-that-is-family-law-part-1/

    The film has been criticised for its whitewashing of the suffrage movement and its lack of inclusion of women of colour.

    “Britain was a white society in the main,” Dr Bartley tells me, “and the movement reflected that.” Dr Sumita Mukherjee, a fellow at King’s College London researching Indian suffragettes, notes that the women’s suffrage movement in Britain was “very different from the American case or the Australian case or the New Zealand case, because although there were ethnic minorities in Britain at that time, there wasn’t the same scale or the same questions of citizenship as there were in other countries”. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11914757/Racism-and-the-suffragettes-the-uncomfortable-truth.html

    Anna Leszkiewicz  has written an interesting article about the composition of the British suffrage movement.

    “Anita Anand, author of Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, tells me that there were women of colour working alongside more famous white suffragettes, most notably the subject of her book, the Indian princess Sophia Duleep Singh. “There were many overlaps between the Indian suffrage movement and the British suffrage movement. Sophia Duleep Singh had every reason to hate the British. They had taken everything from her: her father’s kindgom, wealth, future, everything. But she believed in this sisterhood, and she sacrificed everything to fight for British women’s vote, and also then fought for Indian women’s emancipation as well.””

    asian_suffragettes

    Dr Mukherjee adds:

    “There’s a popular image of Indian women in 1911 involved in a suffragette procession [see above]: they were Indian women living in Britain at the time living with their families. What’s interesting about that photo is that they’re part of a procession campaigning for the vote for British women, but in that procession they had an Empire section with Australian women, New Zealand women and Indian women. British suffragettes tried to convince women from other areas of the British Empire that if they got the vote, they could look after Indian women and other women in the other communes of Britain.

    “There’s an implication that white women felt they were more able to speak for Indian women than Indian women themselves. So although I’m not sure I’d say it’s overtly racist, it is imperialist.”

    This article also briefly raises the issue of lesbian women in the movement, which the film fails to address. An issue which has been controversial in women’s movement then and since.

    “There are many other suggestions of gay relationships within the movement, including Mary Blathwayt herself, Christabel Pankhurst, and Dame Ethel Smythe. “Dame Ethel had realised early on in life that she loved women, not men, and was fairly bold about things,” Pugh adds.”

    Whilst the list of when women were given the right to vote in different countries at the end of the film was informative it should be noted that this really does not cover the full picture. For example in South Australia until 1973 the Legislative Council vote was available to any person who owned, rented or leased any dwelling house(thus excluding many women who did not own property) and it excluded joint occupiers, which effectively allowed only one vote to a married couple, disenfranchising one partner – inevitably the woman. It was not until the 1975 elections that voting for the Legislative Council was open to all adults.

    Aboriginal Australians have had full voting rights at all levels of government in Australia only since the 1960s.

    Aboriginal Australians had first begun to acquire voting rights along with other adults living in the Australian colonies from the late-19th century.[1] Other than in Queensland and Western Australia, Aboriginal men were not excluded from voting alongside their non-indigenous counterparts in the Australian colonies and in South Australia, Aboriginal women also acquired the vote from 1895 onward.

    Following Australian Federation in 1901 however, the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 restricted Aboriginal voting rights in federal elections. For a time Aborigines could vote in some states and not in others, though from 1949, Aborigines could vote if they were or had been servicemen. In 1962, the Menzies Government (1949-1966) amended the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to enable all Aboriginal Australians to enroll to vote in Australian federal elections. In 1965, Queensland became the last state to remove restrictions on Aborigines voting in state elections. By 1967 Aborigines had equal rights in all states and territories.

    So the film had flaws. But this does not prevent me from feeling great admiration for the strength and courage of these suffragettes.

    I was also struck by how the film raised issues for women that are still relevant to our struggle today – violence against women; child sexual abuse; poverty; women’s rights to birth control and abortion; lack of economic parity and independence; lesbian visibility and freedom from discrimination. All these issues remain significant to real freedom from oppression for women.

    This film acts as a commemoration to all the women throughout history who have sacrificed, who have shown strength and courage, who have given up their lives for the freedom of women everywhere. As the film quotes Emily Pankhurst:

     “Never surrender. Never give up the fight.”

  • 24Dec

    xmas

    I’m wishing you all a Merry Christmas – because that is part of my history and culture. Although I am an atheist, I was fortunate to grow up in a happy nuclear family and Christmas has always been a time of love and warmth for me.

    But for those who don’t celebrate Christmas I wish you a happy and safe holiday.

    Christmas is not happy for everyone. For many women it evokes memories of trauma and abuse. For many women and children the patriarchal nuclear family is the site of male violence and abuse. For those of you who were physically and/or sexually abused as a child; those of you who witnessed male violence against your mother and whose Christmas time is fraught with distressing and painful memories, I wish you a safe and peaceful holiday.

    trauma tree

    Trauma and Christmas

    As a result many women are ostracized or  estranged from their families and face a lonely and isolated time. I send you much love at this time.

    There are many women and children who continue to face trauma and abuse at this time of year. The holiday season sees an increase in calls for help from women facing male violence from their partners. May you find safety at this time and I hope that the support services that are so desperately needed are available to you.

    Picture1

    Many women face Christmas without their children. Children who may be forced to visit or live with their abusive fathers. May you have the strength to continue to fight to protect your children and provide them with the support and love they need.

    wsas

    There are also women, particularly indigenous women,  whose children have been forcibly removed from their care because of the racist and misogynistic policies of our society. May you have the support of the community behind you to give you strength and love at this time.

                                                      cropped-GmarMcGrady

    It is a difficult time for incarcerated women who are often locked up for reasons of poverty and male violence.

    sisters inside

    http://www.sistersinside.com.au/

    And our refugee women who as a result of our draconian and inhumane policies are facing years of imprisonment, degradation and assault in their bid to flee from war, violence and abuse. Be aware that whilst our government is enacting such inhuman treatment, many Australians are advocating for change.

    safe_image.php

    I have also been fortunate to have in my life many strong and committed feminists who have given me strength and support over the years. It is important to know that throughout the world women are gathering , meeting, sharing and struggling – across many and varied issues – to end the oppression of women; to end male violence in all its forms; working towards the demise of patriarchal rule.

    So may next year be one of hope, joy and strength as all women continue in their struggles against patriarchy.

    women-hold-up-half-the-sky-annastaysia-savage

  • 29Oct

    I am Woman Hear Me Roar

     

    feminist sign

     

    Helen Reddy sang this song in the 1970’s and it became an anthem for Women’s Liberation.

    I sang it loudly and proudly. I was a University student in the early ‘70’s and I was just beginning to learn about Women’s Liberation. I cannot say that I was part of the so-called ‘Second Wave’ of feminism. I was not actually involved in the movement. But I was inspired by it and benefited from it.

    It enabled me to reject the notion of becoming a wife, mother and housewife and to recognise that I could have a career.

    It wasn’t until I began working in the field of social work that I began to realise that women’s liberation meant more than achieving equality and individual choices. This was when I began to learn about the true extent of male violence against women and children – child sexual abuse, domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment. I learnt this through talking to and working with women and children who had been traumatised and victimised by male violence – their lived experiences of surviving in a patriarchal world.

    So began my quest to learn as much as I could about women’s experiences in this patriarchal world. My feminist education began – and continues.

    Now in my sixties and I read about the attempt to no-platform Germaine Greer.

    The_Female_Eunuch_(first_edition)

    “no platforming” is a rather modern phrase which is “… where someone is removed from the list of speakers at an event because someone else has objected to what they might say or what they have said in the past.”  Jean Hatchet

    This was an attempt to stop Germaine Greer from speaking to Cardiff University students on Women and Power. And it was trans-activists who were attempting to silence her.

     

    Does it seem strange to anyone that men who claim they are women are silencing a woman for a talk on woman and power? Sounds like male privilege is at work here.

     

    What concerns me in the fanfare about this on social media has been the criticism of Germaine Greer because she is “an older woman”, “past her time”, a “second-wave” feminist.

    Meghan Murphy has written eloquently about the ageism and sexism inherent in these critiques.

    “Stereotypes about second wave feminists abound — they are “stuck in the past,” “anti-sex,” dowdy, no-fun bra-burners. “That’s so second-wave” is not perceived as a compliment among many younger feminists. The problem with these sweeping accusations is not just that they are untrue, but that they are sexist.”Kicking against our foremothers: does feminism have an ageism problem?

    One of the important things that I have learnt in my feminist journey is the importance of women’s history. I have written about this before on this blog.

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    “I have become extremely interested in learning about women’s history since I discovered Gerda Lerner’s work on women’s history. Her books ‘The Creation of Patriarchy’ and ‘The Creation of Feminist Consciousness’ are ground-breaking in their analysis of women throughout Western history.

    She documents how throughout history women have been present, have contributed to the development of society and have challenged their restricted roles in society.

    They have written and fought for women to have a voice. However, their voices have been silenced, ignored and unrecorded.

    She argues that women have been denied knowledge of their own history.

    This lack of awareness of our struggles and achievements – and exclusion from theoretical thoughts and ideas – has maintained the subordination of women in patriarchy.

    This has resulted in women being alienated from their own collective experience.

    She outlines how women can be shown to have, throughout generations, developed intellectual thought and ideas and resisted the constraints of patriarchy.”

    Gerda Lerner was instrumental in the development of women’s history and Women’s studies in Universities in the United States.

    Sadly such courses have now been relegated to “Gender Studies” and the idea of teaching women’s history and feminism seems to be rapidly disappearing.

     

    I don’t have much time for the concept of waves of feminism. It appears to me, as argued by Gerda Lerner, that throughout history there have been women challenging patriarchy and the constraints placed on women by patriarchy.

     

    It also seems to me that those young women today who reject ‘second-wave’ feminists, who focus on individual choice/empowerment and who reject the theoretical feminist analysis that comes before them have in fact been captured by patriarchy.

     

    “What depresses radical feminists (don’t get scared of that word – it just means “root” as in “getting to the root of the problem”) is that young feminists are being force fed a version of feminism that is shaped and defined by men.”  Jean Hatchet

     

    It suits patriarchy very well to denounce and ridicule the ideology of radical feminism; to create divisions within feminism and to alienate us once again from our own history.

    It is radical feminists who first challenged the notion of gender – how women and men are socialized in different ways such that men are the oppressors and women are the oppressed.

    Simone de Beauvoir said it very succinctly

    “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.”

    I don’t agree with everything that Germaine Greer says or does. I don’t have to. But we must be able to have serious, critical discussions about gender and what it means to be a woman, in safe spaces.

    Meghan Murphy cites Astrid Henry, the author of Not My Mother’s Sister: Generational Conflict and Third-Wave Feminism:

     “There has never been just one kind of feminism that ‘gets it right’ and many of the same debates have always been present,” Henry says. When people make sweeping generalisations about the second wave, it erases the reality, diversity, and work of women who were there, as well as the lasting and immense impact they had on society.

    “It ignores the huge range of feminism and feminisms that have existed for ages,” Henry says. “I can see why it’s effective to simplify history in that way, if it serves your purpose, but I think we should be more critical of that.”

     

    Do not forget our history. Do not allow patriarchy to divide us. We must work together, collectively – to discuss, to argue, to find ways to dismantle patriarchy together.

    Finn Mackay stated it very well in her closing speech at the Feminism in London conference:

    “Women’s Liberation is serious, it is revolutionary, we are not tinkering around the edges here, we are not interested in leaving a brutal and backward system intact, we don’t want equality with inequality.

    One of the ways we get there is through our own activism and through our activism together as women, is through women-only space. Because we are not our own worst enemy, because we are not each other’s enemies, because it is a lie that women cannot work together, one of the many lies told to hold us back. But we are not fools, we look through the herstory of our Movement and we know that women-only space is a tried and tested method of activism from which great ideas have grown. From small meetings in kitchens and playgroups and community centres sprung Women’s Aid, sprung Rape Crisis, and came the political theory which our Movement was built upon and still rests.” 

    Freedom Fallacy pic

    Update

     

    A very interesting article from Caroline Norma:

    “This comparison of male hurt feelings with the violence, poverty, ridicule, disgust and social erasure that older women inevitably endure goes to the heart of the Left’s misogyny: never in history have we seen a broad-based progressive social movement dedicated to championing the rights of the group of human beings who are devalued in male sexual terms as no longer having perky breasts or youthful faces. Even though these women make up the most impoverished and despised of all social groups, Greer reminds us that we instead worry about hurting the feelings of men who embark on extreme feminine beauty practices, and champion them as “a better woman than someone who is just born a woman.” In other words, anyone is preferable to an old woman, even a man parading as one.

    Transgenderism is not a political movement motivated by progressive concerns – it’s just the latest weapon in the Left’s covert battle against feminism. Women like Greer, Raymond, Jeffreys, Bindel and Brennan who authentically concern themselves with the condition of women at the bottom of the pile are the feminists being purged in the twenty-first century version of the Leftist wedge.”