• 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.”

  • 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!