• 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.”

  • 16Oct

    Update: ABC television did a programme on Muriel Matters on Sunday: http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/muriel-matters/

    Muriel Matters
    This information comes directly from the Muriel Matters Society

     

    Muriel Lilah Matters (November 12, 1877 – November 17, 1969) was an Australian born suffragist, lecturer, journalist, educator, actress and elocutionist.
    Matters was an extremely prominent member of a critical mass of people agitating for women’s suffrage in London.
    Matters is most recognised for chaining herself to the grille of the Ladies’ Gallery in the British House of Commons on 28 October 1908. The ‘grille’ was a piece of ironwork placed in the Ladies’ Gallery that obscured the women’s view of parliamentary debates. A symbol of the oppression of women in a male-dominated society, it was her firm conviction the grille should be removed.

     

    Her non-violent solution to chain herself to the grille was the centre-piece of a larger protest conducted by the Women’s Freedom League. While attached to the grille Matters, by a legal technicality, was judged to be on the floor of Parliament and thus, the words spoken by her that day are still considered to be the first delivered by a woman in the House of Commons.

     

    votes for women

     

    Matters is also identified with attempting to shower King Edward VII and the British Houses of Parliament with handbills dropped from an airship on 16 February 1909.
    The South Australian Parliamentary Library Reading Room has been named in honour of Muriel Matters on 5 August 2014.

    Muriel Matters room
    A docudrama Muriel Matters!, featuring the suffragette’s story, premiered at the Adelaide Film Festival on Sunday, 13 October, 2013 and screened on ABC1 .

    film of muriel matters
    Photo from The Guardian

     

    For more information: https://www.facebook.com/murielmatterssociety
    https://twitter.com/MurielMattersSA

  • 09Oct

    shelta-logo

    Women’s House Brisbane recently highlighted their concerns about the potential loss of women’s only services in Queensland.

    “Women’s House is outraged at the recent loss of many valuable services for women and children, in particular, domestic violence refuges in New South Wales. Staff at Women’s House believe that women’s refuges in Queensland will be put out to tender next year.”

    This issue was raised in my previous post on this, where Women’s refuges were put out to tender earlier this year in NSW.

    This has led to smaller specialist domestic violence refuges losing their funding to larger generic welfare organizations – many of them religious. And as the article points out, they “have an appalling record in relation to survivors of violence” – just take a look at Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
    Over 20 refuges in NSW have been de-funded. Larger generic organizations are able to offer cheaper services by cutting specialized services for women and children.

     

     

    Australia is not alone in this backlash against feminist services.

     

    Karen Ingala Smith has been interviewed by Socialist Resistance.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Karen is the chief executive of nia, a charity with a feminist ethos supporting women who have suffered sexual and domestic violence in the U.K.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
    “We’ve lost too many specialist women’s organisations and it is continuing. It’s harder and harder for independent women-led organisations to survive, and the fight to survive takes away energy that we should be spending on supporting women, girls and children and campaigning for change.”
    Tenders are going to large organizations that aren’t specialist women’s organizations. She gives an example:

    “The local area did not lose refuge spaces but in order to meet the lower contract value, the new organisation managed to circumvent employment protection laws and made all the existing staff team redundant, offering them new contracts at lower rates, more hours per week and less annual leave. Most accepted. Since then, as staff left and new ones were recruited, salaries were offered at lower rates. With this sort of contracting the central focus becomes not ‘What could we do for women and children with this money?’ but ‘How could we deliver the specification outlined in this contract – and nothing more – for the least possible cost?’”

    Both articles point out the importance of feminist, women’s specialist and women-only services.

    “It means that our work names male violence and that services are provided in a framework which recognises that there are inequalities between women and men in society, and that male violence against women and girls is both a cause and a consequence of inequality. That we don’t see male violence against women as reducible to individual acts perpetrated by individual men, but as a key instrument of men’s domination of women, supported and normalised by patriarchal institutions, attitudes and social norms and values.”

    It is not just about delivery of services but about activism and awareness-raising about male violence against women and children. It is about recognizing that male violence against women and children is not about individual pathology – it’s a social problem embedded in our patriarchal society.

    “Women’s refuges in Australia have a proud legacy and wealth of experience and skills in working with women and children who have experienced violence and abuse. Refuge workers have a well-developed understanding of the nature and impact of violence against women and children. They understand that women are not to blame for the violence perpetrated against them and that rather, it is part of a much wider systemic problem.”

    “For the sake of women and their children who are desperate to break free from abuse, Women’s House urges the Queensland government not to follow the course taken by NSW. It is essential that the Queensland government funds refuges that have a specialised focus on women and children and a diversity of services which meet the variety of needs required by those affected by violence.”

    Women’s House opened the first domestic violence refuge in Queensland in 1974. It has a public office in Woolloongabba and provides services for women who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault.” .

    Woollongabba Womens House is a cooperative that runs Women’s Shelters in and around Woollongabba in Brisbane’s inner South.

     

    Karen also runs a blog which counts women who have been killed.

    counting-dead-women-montage

     

    And here is the updated number from Australia’s Destroy the Joint

    dtj counting dead

    Good enough reason one would think!

  • 06Sep

    It was great to see an all-female panel (except of course for Tony Jones) on Q and A on Monday night. (1st September).

    anc qanda

     

    Unfortunately we know that not all women are feminists or are willing to promote women’s issues.

    The research that Kay Hymowitz was propagandizing sounded very familiar.

    Her research posits that the family unit is suffering

    – that single motherhood is causing high levels of poverty and inequality

    – that the destruction of the nuclear family unit is toxic to boys’ well-being.

    She links single motherhood to high rates of delinquency and criminal activity in boys.

     And of course we have heard this all before. Fathers’ rights groups have been pushing this line of the crisis of manhood and the destruction of the nuclear family.
    It fits in very well with right wing ideology:

    “children’s interests are met best in a heterosexual, two parent family, where the mother says at home to raise her children” Cohen and Katzenstein

     

    And of course they blame feminism.

    Kay Hymowitz reflects common views held by right and neo conservatives.

    For example, it is claimed:

    “the feminist movement…has caused certain changes in the family which further the dissolution of society. He suggests that the family and the independence of women cannot exist together.” Lasch (1977)

    It was ironic and interesting that later in the discussion on Q and A, Jane Caro linked prostitution with marriage. This has created quite a commotion in the mainstream media.

    Michelle Smith from The Conversation provided us with a more realistic exploration of the issue.

    “In 1790, the English writer Mary Wollstonecraft argued that for women to “marry for a support” was “legal prostitution”. Other British feminists made connections between the male dominance inherent in both institutions, as well as the ways in which both could “enslave” women’s bodies.”

    Marriage in the not far past did involve economic exchange of women’s bodies. Women depended on men in order to survive economically.
    Male heirs inherited property, women were expected to marry.

    At the beginning of last century, the legal status of married women in Australia reflected English common law.

    Women were unable to vote or hold public office. Married women did not have legal guardianship of their children and a wife could not hold property. Divorce was rare. Husbands had complete legal powers over their children and extensive powers over their wives.

    “Marriage, for many women, was a necessity to ensure that they would be housed and fed into old age.” Michelle Smith

     Radical feminists have argued convincingly how the nuclear family is oppressive for women.

    “It may be expressed through its physical manifestation in assault, its economic manifestation in male control of resources and decision-making, its ideological control through the socialisation of women and children, and/or its control of women’s energy in emotional and physical servicing of women and children.” Robyn Rowland and Renate Klein

    radically speaking

     

    It also is a site of socialisation where children learn the gender rules. Where boys learn that to be boys they need to be aggressive, whereas girls learn that being feminine is being passive.

    “The pressure on women to undertake the mothering role is intense, yet it is only admirable when the mother is attached to a legal father.”Stacey (1993)

     As marriage has become less obligatory, particularly for women, we have seen an increase in the rhetoric about the destruction of the nuclear family and negative critiques of single mothers.

    Ellen Friedrichs cites research which shows that negative views about single motherhood tend to stem from a conviction that there is something inherently wrong or damaged about a single mother as a person.

    As I have written in my previous post: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY – WELL MAYBE NOT.

    “If you are a single mother you are likely to face discrimination and condemnation – and lesbian mothers even more so.
    Government policies push single mothers into poverty.”

    Research which promotes the view that the two-parent patriarchal heterosexual family is the only way to raise our children is ultimately damaging for both women and children.

    We must continue to resist this right wing conservative ideology that seek to lock women into traditional patriarchal nuclear family relationships.

    Michelle Smith sums it up:

    “Ultimately, Caro’s comparison has a real historical basis. The facts of traditional marriage should not be forgotten as we continue to address the vestiges of sexism in a culture that was once grounded in the economic exchange of women.”

    Lasch, C (1977) Haven in a Heartless World, Basis Books New York

    Stacey, J. (1993) Good Riddance to “the Family”: A Response to David Popenoe Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55 pp 545-547

    Robyn Rowland and Renate Klein in  Radically Speaking. Feminism Reclaimed eds Diane Bell and Renate Klein (1996) Spinifex Press

    Cohen and Katzenstein (1988) The War over the Family is not Over the Family In Dornbusch, S.M. & Strober, M.H. (eds) Feminism, Children and New Families. Guilford Press New York

     

  • 11Jul

    Update:

    Child sex abuse within families rampant

    Victoria Police wants to open a new front in the fight against family violence as frightening new data reveals a 43 per cent jump in child sex abuse cases in the past five years.

    Detective Superintendent Rod Jouning, head of the Victoria Police sexual and family violence division, said the true rate of child sex abuse by family members and others known to the victim was horrifying. He said Victoria Police’s campaign to tackle family violence had encouraged unprecedented reporting of partner on partner violence, but too many child sex abuse victims were still not coming forward.

    child sexual abuse vic

     

    The Latest News from the Royal Commission

    Cardinal George Pell disputes evidence of his closest advisers at the inquiry at the royal commission into child sex abuse.

    George Pell’s truck driver analogy veers into hostile territory by Tammy Mills of The Age

    And again from the Age: Vatican refuses to hand over files on accused pedophile priests

    cuts to royal commission

     

    The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is probably one of the most noteworthy legacies of the Gillard Labor Government.

    German-priests

     

    It was established to be serious and important – the way it was set up, its structure and its operation – it was no empty gesture to the concerns being expressed by the community in response to child sexual abuse allegations which occurred and are occurring within our large church and government organizations.
    During this we have some high profile child sexual abuse allegations against men such as Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris.
    In January of this year a new research study was released (Profiling parental child sex abuse by Jane Goodman-Delahunty)
    Just a quick glance of some of the research findings:
    • High prevalence rates of childhood sexual abuse in Australia—38 percent for women and 13 percent for men.

    • Only 10 percent of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by strangers.

    Most parental child sex offenders were men in a father–child relationship with their victim.

    More than three-fifths of the victims were under the age of 10 years at the time of disclosure of the abuse, and overwhelming were exclusively female (91%).

    • Parental sex offenders are among the successful and productive sex offenders who tend to be classified as low risk and to receive shorter sentences.

    •  One in every four victims experiencing sexual abuse it was accompanied by threats of extortion, or violence.

     

    This research clearly shows us that the incidents of child sexual abuse that are currently hitting our headlines are not the majority – that the majority are occurring in our homes.
    However, what the headlines are capturing is that this is about power and control.

    The power and control offenders have over children – in homes, in churches and in institutions.

    The power to do harm.
    And this power and control is enacted with impunity – because they are protected by powerful institutions – whether it is church organizations or those protecting the sanctity of the family.
    Be very clear that the sanctity of the family is at the heart of this impunity.

    Our family law system fails to acknowledge or hear victims, and punishes mothers for raising their concerns about the safety of their children.

    Our child protection system is more likely to punish mothers for failing to protect their children, than take action against offending fathers.

    wsas
    Our media portrays these men as “pathological or aberrant”, placing them as out of the norm.

    But how abnormal can it be when over a third of women are victims of child sexual abuse?
    Suzanne Power has written an excellent article about this in which she talks about the absence of the discussion about gender, patriarchy and male power.

    “Many would prefer to take refuge in the idea of the paedophile as pathological and aberrant. Those who work with victims of abuse will tell you that as with rape, most abusers are known to the victim. Home is where the hatred is and that is why abuse rips apart the boundaries between love and trust and intimacy in families and is so devastating.”

    She talks about sexual politics, men in positions of power, cover ups and a culture of culpability. And the refusal to examine this in terms of patriarchy and how male power works. As she says:

    “We are called feminists. Child abuse isn’t a new story for us.”

    The questions that Suzanne Power asks go to the very reason why child sexual abuse is such a major problem and why there is so much silence surrounding it.
    And the answers are that it is about patriarchy and male power and our “collective refusal to contemplate how patriarchy works.”

     

    I will leave it to Suzanne to conclude:

    “But it is absolutely negligent to talk about power and abuse without any context, in some gender-free vacuum. If we cannot talk about historical abuse and how male privilege operated to make it so risk-free, then it won’t go away. Abuse is always an expression of power. Not acknowledging that power is another way of silencing its victims.”

    Update

    Another useful reference is Rocking the Cradle of Sexual Politics: What Happened When Women Said Incest by Louise Armstrong. A very good article she wrote in 1994, ‘Who Stole Incest?‘ is still very relevant 10 years later.

  • 26Jun

    Emma Miller

    Happy birthday to Emma Miller

    One of Australia’s first leaders in women’s suffrage, and a major fighter for women workers’ rights, Emma Miller was the foundation president of Queensland’s Women’s Equal Franchise Association.
    She campaigned for equal pay and equal opportunity for women in the workplace.
    Along with May Jordan, she formed the first women’s union in Brisbane in September 1890
    The Women’s Equal Franchise Association fought for the right of women to vote, under the banner “one woman, one vote“. The Association triumphed in 1902, with women allowed to vote in federal elections. Women were enfranchised under the Federal Electoral Act on 9 April 1902, becoming the first women of the world to win the right to vote for a national parliament. (Women in New Zealand won the right to vote in colonial elections in 1893)
    Members of the Woman’s Equal Franchise Association actively canvassed for the women’s vote for the December 1903 Federal election, by forming the Women Workers’ Political Organisation with Emma Miller as president.
    On 2 February 1912, 73-year-old Emma Miller led a contingent of women on a march to Brisbane’s Parliament House.
    She was also involved in anti-conscription activism over the course of World War I by joining the Women’s Peace Army when Cecilia John and Adela Pankhurst visited Brisbane in 1915.
    A memorial statue is in King George Square, Brisbane. There is also an Emma Miller Place located off Roma Street in Brisbane. The Emma Miller Award is presented each year by the Queensland Council of Unions to women who have made an outstanding contribution to their Union.

    Information from the Australian Women’s History forum    and Wikipedia