• 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

  • 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.

    images

    “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.”

  • 04Jun

    I have had the pleasure and privilege of reading the ‘Freedom Fallacy: The Limits of Liberal Feminism edited by Miranda Kiraly and Meagan Tyler.

    Freedom Fallacy pic

     
    Apart from the fact that it has a large number of Australian contributors, which is pleasing in and of itself, this is an excellent book exploring the problems with liberal feminists.

     
    I have been madly making notes from the book since it came into my life.

     
    So it was very interesting, as I finished my note-taking, Destroy the Joint posted about prostitution.

     

    Their focus was on International Sex Worker’s Day and cited an article by Tilly Lawless who “asks us all to check our whorephobia”.

    That’s enough to raise the heckles.

     

    DtJ asks its readers “why do we struggle to recognise that sex workers have rights?”

     
    The robust and even aggressive discussion that followed in the post, reflected very much the chasm between liberal and radical feminism.

     
    Many of the protagonists in the discussion claimed that as sex workers their voices were the only legitimate voices to be heard. (They vehemently dismissed the voices of those who have exited prostitution and are now activists against it).

     
    Meghan Murphy writes in the Freedom Fallacy:

    “Of late, it has become standard to talk about ‘choice’ in terms of individual choice rather than collective choice”

    These alleged sex workers claimed their individual choice in their “profession”.

     
    But as Meaghan Murphy goes on to say:

    “Choice without politics or theory behind it doesn’t hold power. ‘Choice’ at the expense of others – particularly the marginalised – is not radical nor does it promote equality.”

    A liberal approach to prostitution argues that decriminalizing prostitution allows for the protection of women prostitutes, and is reflective of an “individual freedom” ideology.

     
    Caroline Norma explores this in the chapter ‘A human right to prostitute others?: Amnesty International and the privileging of the male orgasm’ in Freedom Fallacy.

    She begins the chapter with this statement from Amnesty International:

    “Sexual desire and activity are a fundamental human need. To criminalise those who are unable or unwilling to fulfil that need through more traditionally recognised means and thus purchase sex, may amount to a violation of the right to privacy and undermine the rights to free expression and health. – Amnesty International”

    I must admit to being rather astounded by this statement. It is a stunning example of a declaration of men’s rights and totally ignores women’s rights – rights

    • Not to be purchased,
    • Not to be raped,
    • Not to be harmed,
    • Not to be degraded,
    • Not to be violated.

     

    Caroline Norma goes on to tell us of how Amnesty International may have been:

    “ potentially influenced by the activism of Amnesty UK member Douglas Fox, a founder of, and business partner in, one of the UK’s largest escort agencies.”

    The prostitution industry is a global industry – which makes it a powerful industry. How can anyone dismiss the power of such an industry to influence/manipulate public opinion and governments making legislation?

    And liberal feminists have swallowed this male entitlement argument and reinterpreted in terms of a woman’s right to choose.
    However there are countries which are now moving towards what is known as the ‘Nordic Model’

    “It decriminalizes the selling of sex and makes paying for sex a criminal offence. It is designed to end the demand from a minority of men who pay for sex – the demand that drives the prostitution trade and the trafficking of women into it – and to promote specialist exiting services.” Diane Martin (The Independent)

    Diane Martin talks of her reactions in being in a country where the Nordic model exists:

    “What I was unprepared for, however, was the personal impact of being in a country where access to my, or anyone else’s, body could not be legally purchased.”

    However, the Nordic Model is being vehemently challenged by the prostitution industry – and was forceably rejected by many on the Destroy the Joint post.

    “The Nordic Model, on the other hand, poses a genuine threat to the long standing ‘right’ of men to exercise sexual dominion over women through prostitution, and to profit from this dominion. It represents a legislative vehicle for abolitionists to reckon over the question of male sexual rights.
    What the liberal feminists fail to realise is that the prostitution industry focuses specifically on the most vulnerable and marginalised women in the world. Women who rarely have the option of choice.” Caroline Norma

    Meghan Murphy in Feminist Current writes about the intersection between race and class in the subjugation and prostitution of Canadian Native Women.

    “That indigenous women — the most marginalized people in Canada — are the ones funneled into this industry, groomed via sexual abuse from the time they are children, offered no options for escape, no housing, no education, no support services, are ignored when they disappear and are murdered, and are dehumanized by men want to think of and treat them as non-human should be one of the most significant aspects of this conversation. It is unacceptable that the voices, experiences, traditions, and realities of these women and girls are left out of debates and decisions around prostitution and prostitution law.”

    Liberal feminism’s defence of prostitution can only be seen in terms of neoliberal patriarchal capitalism. As the Amnesty International policy identifies men’s rights to use women in whatever way they choose is the prominent discourse of liberal feminism. Individual liberal feminism can never free women from male violence and abuse. It is only through collective action and an understanding of the political and ideological context of patriarchy, will women be free from male violence.

    “By framing a system that funnels women—particularly marginalized women—into prostitution as not only a choice that women make but as a potentially liberatory one, these groups are able to disguise the way in which pornography props up male power, placing the onus for women’s subordination on women themselves. By framing the societal pressure to self-objectify as empowerment, society is permitted to ignore the reasons women learn to seek power through sexualization and the male gaze. By focusing on women’s agency, we ignore men’s behavior.
    What is truly being defended by groups that claim to lobby for “sex-worker rights” is not, in fact, women’s human rights but the financial and sexual interests of men. This is why the discourse deliberately avoids addressing the harms caused by these men.”

    Meghan Murphy writes in truthdig

     

  • 09Feb

    The problem with a liberal feminist view of the world is the lack of recognition of the structural nature of the oppression of women and the need to challenge patriarchy.

    An article was written in The Australian today titled:

    “THERE is too little acknowledgment of the importance of male disempowerment in debates surrounding domestic violence.”

    It was written by Tanveer Ahmed described as a psychiatrist and White Ribbon Campaign ambassador.

    mens-choices
    Male dispowerment is a problem then! We’ve had our moment in the sun, gender relations have changed – too far it seems. So when women begin to have a voice, when women begin to demand to be noticed – we have men claiming that the voices of women are disempowering male voices – that there cannot be a shared stage.
    Mr Ahmed is denying exactly what feminists and ant-violence campaigners have been arguing for. He argues exactly against any idea that men have to change; that the socialization of men as aggressors is something positive and that feminists arguing against this are thus disempowering men.

     

    This is such a backlash against feminism, against all the work that has gone into domestic violence campaigns. It is exactly this kind of ‘thinking’ that seriously undermines our attempts to challenge male violence.
    And it is why liberal feminism can never be successful in challenging the oppression of women under patriarchy. Because in patriarchy the male voice always has to win, always has to be heard, always will be louder and stronger than women’s voices.

     

    As was recently commented on in an article by Glosswatch:

    “People don’t want to hear about how women think and feel. They don’t want to picture women as people whom others might actually have to negotiate with. They want “equality” insofar as they want the erasure of all measurable signs of women’s oppression (because let’s face it, these get a bit embarrassing). They do not, however, want this to come at the expense of being allowed to see women as whatever they want them to be at any given moment. We just don’t have space to accommodate the humanity of women as well as that of men. Sisterhood might be powerful, equality might be a fun badge to wear, but casual, unacknowledged misogyny is a hell of a lot more practical.”

    n-WOMAN-IN-THE-SHADOWS-medium

    Yes you are right Mr Ahmed – we do want to disempower men – this is what it is all about – and the reason is because men use their power to control, abuse and violate women. Yes we want to dismantle men’s roles – we want to dismantle patriarchy – we want to stop women being abused, controlled and violated.

     

    Mr. Ahmed argues that radical feminism…

    “defines normal maleness as a ­risible kind of fatuous and reactionary behaviour.”

    Yes Mr. Ahmed ‘normal maleness’ is toxic to women and we do want to get rid of it.
    After centuries of male being the norm, Mr. Ahmed now complains when women start to challenge men – he argues (through his male tears) that women are now the norm. Last I heard women were still being raped, abused, controlled, and oppressed by men.

    He argues:

    “But as the Left increasingly dilutes the notion of biological differences in sex, amusingly illustrated by Greens senator Larissa Waters imploring parents not to buy gender-specific toys for Christmas, we are downplaying the notion that fathers are even desirable.”

    Mr. Ahmed complains about the de-gendering of children’s toys – effectively arguing that disappearing gender – disappearing the differences between men and women is essentially disempowering men. Well yes he is right – disempowering men is about ensuring that the power differentials which are essential to patriarchy are dismantled.

     

    Mr. Ahmed’s article is a sign of backlash and fear – fear of losing male privilege and power.
    So let’s talk about the White Ribbon campaign.

    “White Ribbon Day was created by a handful of Canadian men in 1991 on the second anniversary of one man’s massacre of fourteen women in Montreal. They began the White Ribbon Campaign to urge men to speak out against violence against women.”

    Remember the man who killed 14 women because he hated women – he hated feminists – he resented them and blamed for his own failure to be accepted into engineering at the University.
    The White Ribbon campaign is male-led and receives significant funding from the Federal Government.
    But this article makes us really question what this campaign really aims to achieve. It certainly doesn’t appear to want to address the real issue behind male violence. And it raises the question of how much liberal feminism and its efforts to affect equality within patriarchy can really challenge the oppression of women.

    As the article “Choosing between misogyny and feminism: A practical guide”

    “You couldn’t have racial equality and slavery co-existing, this is obvious and offensive to anyone – so why do people think we can achieve equality of the sexes under patriarchy? How can we have equality in a system that defines all worth as that deemed masculine? When the male and the masculine are the default, and female and women are Other, there can be no equality, only a delusion that we are diminishing or rejecting Otherness by an adoption, a performativity of the default masculine.”

    Posted by glosswatch Jan 24 2015

    fem

     

  • 03Jan

    “Domestic Violence does not go ‘awry’

    Louise Pennington’s article challenges the idea that women making contact with police authorities is the simple answer to stopping domestic violence. She points out that the reality is that the system consistently fails to protect women from abuse, violence and murder.

    “Women know that the greatest risk to their life and that of their children is leaving the relationship. Several reports on research in the US suggest that the majority of physical violence resulting in hospitalisation occurs after separation and that the majority of male offenders are not living with women they abuse.”

    “Neither the family court system, criminal justice system nor government services are adequate to deal with domestic violence. Like the tweet above which suggests that one phone call will render everything hunky-dory, the system does not prioritise the safety of victims. Instead, it holds the victim responsible for ‘allowing’ the abuse to continue and completely erases the perpetrator.”

    She also contests the use of language by commentators, including the authorities, when domestic violence leads to deaths. It is common in media reporting of murders in domestic violence situations – murders committed by violent males for discussions centre on mental health issues, fathers’ rights and the regular excuses made by domestic violence perpetrators and the systems that support them.

    We will hear a lot about father’s rights and nasty women preventing fathers from seeing their children, as though domestic violence has no impact whatsoever on the emotional and physical wellbeing of children in the house. We won’t talk about men’s entitlement to women’s bodies. We won’t take about the fact that police are statistically more likely to be perpetrators of domestic abuse than the general population and that it is these very perpetrators who are being sent out to investigate domestic violence in the wider community.

    Louise Pennington is a feminist writer and activist who works as the development officer for the campaign and training organisation Ending Victimisation and Blame.

    She blogs at My Elegant Gathering of White Snows and the Huffington Post (UK).

    She has recently founded A Room of Our Own: A Feminist Network  which aims to combat cultural femicide by archiving and sharing the work of women who self-define as feminists and womanists.

    A Room of Our Own collects blogs, Tumblr, YouTube channels art, music, photography and any other medium in which women express themselves.

    room of our own

  • 08Dec

    I watched two programmes on ABC television this weekend which caught my interest.
    The first was a re-run of “Call the Midwife”. I have loved both series of this feel-good programme about life in post-war, poverty-stricken London.

    call the midwife

    It is about a group of midwives working out of a nursing convent, which is part of an Anglican religious order.
    When it was first advertised I was reluctant to watch it because of it being based in a religious convent. And the religion is a core part of the storyline.
    The series takes a positive slant on how religion impacts on the community.

    Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I believe the reason is that its focus is on women – and women as a community.

     
    (As an aside I also wonder whether women find some kind of sanctuary in convents – away from men’s gaze. I have also often thought if convents, at some time, may have acted as women’s refuges do today, in providing a safe haven for women escaping abusive men. Rather ironic given that Church organisations are increasingly taking over women’s shelters here in Australia.)

     
    The programme does not shy away from the hardships and poverty that the women experience in this part of London. It tackles issues such as domestic violence, abortion (backstreet of course), teenage pregnancy, racism, miscarriages, poverty and the challenges of disability.

     
    For example, Saturday night’s programme was about a woman tramp, living on the streets in extreme poverty and racked with disease and illness. We learn that she has spent 30 years in a workhouse in London. She is forced to go there with her 5-6 children as a result of poverty. Her children are immediately removed from her – put in another section of the workhouse. She never sees them again – but knows that they have died because she can no longer hear their cries. The programme makes no effort to romanticise the terrible treatment that such women received under the Workhouse conditions.

     
    It is the heartbreaking stories that are handled both realistically and sympathetically which makes this such a successful programme.
    For me, however the success of the story is that it is about women – told from their perspective, highlighting their lives – and whilst it may romanticise the relationships in this community of women, and their relationship with the church, this is what I find most empowering about the programme. This is how women survive oppression – by standing by each other, by supporting each other, by being a community together.

     
    However, I am quickly brought back down to earth by watching on Sunday night – ‘World without End’. I understand that it is based on a book by Ken Follet, which I have not read and know nothing about.

    world without end

    It is set in the aftermath of a civil war in Medieval England, during the 1300’s. And aptly shows the difficulties, the violence and frailty of life in these times.

    The programme presented strong female characters – but also illustrated how misogynistic the society was. A woman is sold to a man for a cow; another is forced to marry in order to secure her father’s business interests – and is subjected to violence and rape; and the female healer of the town is labelled a witch and executed.

    And the backdrop of these happenings is the powerful church – and its blatant misogyny.

    I couldn’t but reflect on the different images of the church that these two programmes show.

    For centuries the church has demonised, ostracised, condemned and oppressed women. The Medieval Church helped lay the groundwork for the current misogyny of religion today. There is no doubt that the church today continues to be misogynistic. The oppression that women in the 1950’s faced, and continue to face today – such as anti-abortion laws; demonising of single mothers and teenage pregnancy and the cruelty shown towards women who don’t fit the norm – stem from a long history of oppression of women by the church.

    But somehow women survive; they create communities and allegiances and they struggle against their oppression.

  • 18Nov

    NOBODY GAVE US ANYTHING – Gerda Lerner

    feminist sign

    Our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who is also our Minister for Women, is a feminist.

    (He claimed his daughters helped him become one – http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/tony-abbott-is-a-feminist-because-daughters-20140305-3467l.html)

    Yes he is male and he is the one our first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard aimed her famous misogyny speech – at – because he undoubtedly behaved like one.

    ditch the witch
    But he has three daughters and a wife – so he must be a feminist, mustn’t he?
    However, our Foreign Minister – who is female – is not a feminist. After all she has enough white, upper class privilege to get her into the boys club.
    And neither is our female junior minister assisting the Minister for Women – she doesn’t want to be labelled as a whinging feminist either.
    But lots of famous people are coming out as feminists. Even some men want to be feminists too.
    It is nice to see that feminism is getting airplay again – that feminism is being noticed.
    Feminism has become mainstream!

    But be aware – be very aware.

    We do not want feminism to be captured by patriarchal, capitalist system – the very system that is at the core of the oppression of women.

    “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. Our language is often used against us, as Feminism is turned into a brand, as our complex political theory centuries in the making is reduced to catch phrases and slogans, manipulated to sell us everything from trainers to gym membership, manipulated to sell us lies; lies about our bodies, lies about our selves, lies about our potential, lies about our power.”  Finn Mackay

    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.

    “And in such a culture, everything becomes Feminist; and anything can be Feminist, and as a consequence Feminism becomes nothing, becomes meaningless.” Finn Mackay

    Feminism is about resistance to male dominance.

    Language is important.

    Some have framed feminism as about prejudice, hatred or fear.
    But this individualizes the issue and hides the patriarchal nature of subjugation of women.
    Describing violence against women as “hate crimes” makes invisible the structural and systemic nature of oppression.

    “In the radical framework, prejudice is not the cause of systemic oppression but a consequence or by-product of it.” Debbie Cameron

    She cites Liz Kelly:

    “Domestic violence, child sex abuse and rape are not rooted in fear and loathing of women or children as a group, but have more to do with men’s feelings of superiority and entitlement, their assumption that women and children exist for their benefit and may be controlled, exploited and abused with impunity. These are not crimes of hate, they are crimes of power and domination; but that in no way diminishes their impact on the lives of those who are or may become their victims.”

    Some would argue that feminism is about equality.
    But feminism isn’t just about equality – as Karen Ingla Smith so aptly puts it:

    “Equality is a condition of a just society, not a cure for an unjust one. So when I say feminism isn’t about equality, it’s about women’s liberation from men’s oppression, this is what I mean. Ending inequality is a big part of feminism, of course it is. But equality is impossible in the society that we have. That’s why feminists talk about smashing patriarchy because we need to think bigger.”

    The importance of language and how we use it.
    The importance of how feminism is framed and defined.
    Equality; choice; empowerment; agency – all words which have been usurped by patriarchy.

    Pornography and sexual violence is now about empowerment.
    Prostitution is about choice.
    Sex trafficking is liberating for third world women.

    And now we hear the call to include men in our feminism – to “invite men to be part of the solution”.
    Because “Not all men” movement has to be appeased.

    Because men have always been important.

    Because we live in patriarchy.

    ‘But it is also ludicrous to ask a liberation movement to frame itself in ways that will please or appease the beneficiaries of oppression. All men do and have benefited from patriarchy and the systemic oppression of women, whether they wanted to or not. Being unwilling to accept this is a serious obstacle to social change.” Michael Laxer

     

    “The silencing of women by men in the public sphere is deafening; the habit of overlooking and failing to respond to women’s subordination is entrenched, structural and serves men as a class. By insist on inclusion in feminism, once again, men’s wants and needs are prioritised over women’s and women’s subordination is reinforced.”Karen Ingala Smith

    Feminism is not about or for men; it is not about what they think.

    fem

     

    It is about giving women a voice.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    “The fact that the dominant culture has shifted from denying our existence and telling us our movement is dead to trying to tell us what our movement is and should be, is a sign of our success, is a sign of our momentum. We cannot be ignored any more, so now a new tactic is to acknowledge and incorporate, to celebrate and saturate, to dilute and water down our Movement and attack it at its radical roots all the while claiming to accept it – or at least a certain version of it. But ask yourselves what our Movement has to look like in order to be accepted by a culture that looks like this. Ask yourselves why we would ever want to fit in with a brutal, violent, compassionless system. Ask yourselves what truly revolutionary movement is ever going to be anything but threatening.” Finn Mackay

    Articles worth reading:
    Don’t blame Emma Watson’s speech for liberal feminist failures. Laura McNally
    Part of the problem: Talking about systemic oppression. Michael Laxer
    I would be ok with sticks and stones: Rebecca Mott.
    What does it look like, this equality that you speak of? Karen Ingala Smith
    Thanks and all, but no thanks: I don’t want men in my feminism. Karen Ingala Smith
    It’s time for feminists to Get In, not Lean In. Finn Mackay
    Minding our language. Debbie Cameron
    The Trouble with “Hate” Liz Kelly

    problems with feminism

  • 07Nov

     

    the awakening

    I have just finished reading this moving and absorbing book.

     
    My immediate impressions were that of loneliness, alienation, confinement and oppression. Kate Chopin reflects women’s oppression and alienation in their roles as mothers and wives at the end of the 19th Century.

     
    But sadly it is far too familiar for women in the 21st Century. It is a battle that women still struggle against.

     
    Interestingly, Kate Chopin’s original title was A Solitary Soul, which highlights the loneliness of women recognising that the role they are confined to, not only does not fit but is oppressive.

     

    The book is about Edna Pontellier‘s awakening to her authenticity as a woman and her inability to continue in her restrictive and false life as a mother and wife.

     

    “As the critic Per Seyersted phrases it, Kate Chopin “broke new ground in American literature. She was the first woman writer in her country to accept passion as a legitimate subject for serious, outspoken fiction. Revolting against tradition and authority; with a daring which we can hardy fathom today; with an uncompromising honesty and no trace of sensationalism, she undertook to give the unsparing truth about woman’s submerged life. She was something of a pioneer in the amoral treatment of sexuality, of divorce, and of woman’s urge for an existential authenticity. She is in many respects a modern writer, particularly in her awareness of the complexities of truth and the complications of freedom.” Rosemary F. Franklin 

     

    It is interesting to compare this with the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

    Both address the issue of women’s oppression and alienation within patriarchy. Both of the women central characters find that their only option is to rail against this oppression.
    I was discussing “The Yellow Wallpaper” with two other women who had different interpretations of the ending. One thought that Jane finally went crazy; the other saw her as committing suicide. I saw Jane as finally being able to liberate herself.

    Edna Pontellier finds her only solution is to commit suicide – to swim into the ocean, naked. This is her liberation.

    “She wanted to swim far out, where no woman had swum before.”