• 11Oct

     

    When The Handmaid’s Tale first became available on SBS On Demand,  I binged-watched it. I am now watching it on live TV, an episode a week and taking notes with the idea of writing a series of blogs, identifying the underlying themes that occur throughout the series.

    I have recently seen Episode 8, “The Jezebels” and it is about a brothel.

    This is no dystopian scene. This happens here and now, in every part of the globe, where women’s bodies are bought and sold – for men’s use and abuse – through pornography and prostitution.  I felt compelled to write about this episode in particular because it is so relevant and current –it is what is happening in our world, today.

    This episode is where Commander Waterford takes June (Offred) to a brothel. He first prepares her. He shaves her legs  – he with the razor sharp weapon, in control; she the hapless recipient unsure of what is to come. He dresses her, preparing her like a doll – to be presented, objectified, to meet his standards of the sex object to his liking, to meet his needs.

    Throughout the scene, where he watches her put on the (illegal) make up he has supplied, June’s face shows fear, uncertainty, powerlessness. For him the process is erotic; of his making; in his control. And the subterfuge, the fear and excitement of doing the illicit, add further to his pleasure.

    It is the epitome of the ‘70’s feminist slogan

    “Rape is about power, not sex”.

    As they travel in the car, at Checkpoint 1 June becomes Mrs Whitford – only wives are allowed to travel past this point. At Checkpoint 2 she becomes invisible – needs to be hidden – for no women are legitimately allowed into this area. They enter the back way into the brothel.

    The contrast between the brothel and world June has just come from is vast. The world she has come from is ‘moral; asexual’; women are covered up, silent, confined to their strict roles of wife, biological producers of children, servants and the Aunties, the guardians of women’s morality and roles.

    Brothels are of course illegal. When June makes this point to the Commander, his response is ‘Officially but we turn a blind eye. We are human after all.” Well, apparently the men are!

    She asks who they are, and he describes the men – leaders of the community; international visitors being entertained.

    She replies: “I meant the women”.

    The women are those who could not be assimilated and he describes lawyers, sociology lecturers – the more educated women not conducive to being trained to be handmaidens or servants. But they too have lost their identity. They have become sex objects – to be used and abused physically and sexually by men.

    At one stage June walks alone down the luxurious hall of the hotel. She is assailed by the sounds of violence and abuse coming from the rooms. She catches a glimpse of a group of men anally raping women. She witnesses a man fetishing over a woman’s arm stump.

    These scenes are evidence not of choices freely made by women to sell their bodies. These women – all women – are not seen as human. There is no humanity in a woman’s body being sexually objectified where her personhood is made irrelevant, destroyed. She is just a body – a body that can be used, misused, abuse for male pleasure. And what kind of pleasure is this that finds excitement and satisfaction in violence and abuse of another human being. This is what happens in today’s prostitution industry, in our towns and our cities across the globe. The dehumanisation and humiliation of women.

    June finds her best friend Moira working there. She had been caught while trying to escape from the Handmaid’s enclave. She is unable to return because she is seen as a “corrupting influence”. Her choices are the colonies or Jezebel. Such are the choices that women have today – no choice. She has lost hope of escape.

    “It’s not so bad here”. “Forget about escaping. This is Gilead. No one gets out.”

    This takes me back to a previous episode where June’s companion Handmaid warns her not to cause trouble, to ruin this for her. Before Gilead was prostitution on the street for her – violence, abuse, poverty, homelessness. This is a better world for her – food, shelter, and a level of safety. This is not about real choice – it is choice in forms of victimisation.

    In the final scene of the episode, Mrs. Waterford gifts June with a music box with a ballet dancer. Alone June comments

    “A girl trapped in a box. She only dances when someone opens the box, when someone winds her up.”

    Prostitution is not legitimate work. It is degrading, it is humiliating, it is abusive and dangerous. It is not about choice – there is no such thing as real choice when there are only limited options. This episode of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ depicts the here and now of the prostitution industry in our world. The decriminalisation of prostitution only legitimises the degradation and exploitation of women, the sexual objectification and oppression of all women at the power of men.

    For more information about prostitution and the Nordic model visit my blog post

    “Why the Nordic Model is Safest for Women”

  • 19Mar

    Maria Mies         Patriarchy and the Accumulation on a World Scale

    This book provides a most important analysis of the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism. Maria Mies’ thesis is that patriarchy is at the core of capitalism, and in fact, capitalism would not have had its success in its accumulation of capital without patriarchal ideals and practices.

    She builds on Federici’s analysis of the witch hunts, which were instrumental in the early developments of capitalism and argues, convincingly and in-depth, that the exploitation and oppression of women allowed for its successful domination of the world.

    “The witch hunt which raged through Europe from the twelfth to the seventeenth century was one of the mechanisms to control and subordinate women, the peasant and the artisan, women who in their economic and sexual independence constituted a threat for the emerging bourgeois world order.” (p.81)

    I would like to focus here on the third chapter of her book, ‘Colonization and Housewifization’. Here we see how patriarchal capitalism’s power and domination flourished by colonialism. Capitalism’s mantra is continuous profit and expansion which is essential in the ongoing accumulation of capital. But this also requires new areas to exploit – thus the expansion into other countries – and the colonization of other lands, resources and people.

    According to Wikipedia:

    “Colonization is a process by which a central system of power dominates the surrounding land and its components.”

    Thus western capitalism became a world imperial power, colonizing what we now call “third world countries”.

    “One could say that the first phase of the Primitive Accumulation was that of merchant and commercial capital ruthlessly plundering and exploiting the colonies’ human and natural wealth.” (p.89)

    The success of this domination was to dehumanize the people of these colonized nations – to paint them as the “other” – as savages, uncivilized and lesser beings – to justify their oppression.  ‘Black’ people were deemed inferior, wild and in need to be controlled and therefore open to exploitation.

    The colonies were: “…lying outside ‘civilized society’” (p.75).

    Mies also described how the colonization process was gendered – and based on patriarchal ideals.

    What is central to Mies’ thesis are the connections between the patriarchal capitalist exploitations of nature, of land and property, of women and of those deemed to be “foreigners” or “heathens”.

    Mies makes connections between issues which have previously been seen as separate entities –

    “…I shall rather trace the ‘underground connections by which nature was exploited and put under man’s domination to the processes by which women in Europe were subordinated, and examine the processes by which these two were linked to the conquest and colonization of other lands and people.” (p. 77)

    In Europe the results of the witch hunts and what is described by Mies as the “housewifization” of women was in the process of becoming entrenched within western capitalism. Women had been separated from the public sphere; their work deemed unproductive and of no value to the production system. Women had become dis-empowered and subjugated into the privacy of the home. By the 19th century we have the “ideal woman” depicted as the weak Victorian woman with no power or autonomy.

    In the colonies it was necessary for capitalists to create a sexual division of labour, both as a means to control reproduction and thus labour and also to position women in the non-labour sphere and thus develop a class of cheap labour. Where there was evidence of any form of equality between the sexes or women’s independence and autonomy, this was held to be primitive and backward by the colonizers. Thus a sexual division of labour was actively instituted.

    There were good economic reasons for this ideology and practice to be embodied in the colonization process. Mies cites Annie Stoler’s work which tells us that in the plantations in Sumatra:

    “At different economic and political junctures in plantation history, the planters contend that (1) permanent female workers were too costly to maintain because of time they took off for child-birth and menstruation, (2) women should and could not do ‘hard’ labour, and (3) women were better suited to casual work.” Stoler 1982. (p.96).

    Mies argues that:

    “…the introduction of the ‘weak woman’ was a clear ideological move which served the economic purpose of lowering women’s wages and creating a casual female labour force…” (p.96)

    Like the European witch-hunts, women’s reproductive capacity was controlled under colonial power. In the Caribbean, slave women were not allowed to marry nor have children as it was cheaper to import slaves from Africa than pay for the reproduction of slave labour. However, once this source of slave labour was depleted, slave women were encouraged to reproduce.

    In Burma, for example, as in Europe during the development of capitalism, local home industries, usually run by women, were destroyed by the importing of commodities. Thus reducing the capacity for women to have economic independence.

    Mies also explores the impact of German colonialism in Africa. Because it was German white males who were the colonizers, sexual relations between these men and African women were encouraged and condoned. However, it soon became apparent that this may in fact raise the status of African women allowing them to become German citizens if they were to marry and have mixed-race children. This was obviously a problem under a racist regime. In 1905, inter-racial marriages became legally prohibited. However, as Mies points out, this did not preclude inter-racial sexual relations and men were encouraged to use African women as concubines or prostitutes.

    “Here the double-standard is very clear: marriage and family were goods to be protected for the whites, the ‘Master Men’ (Dominant Men). African families could be disrupted, men and women could be forced into labour gangs, women could be made prostitutes.” (p.98)

    This was also true for the British colonizers. Racism rears its ugly head when…

    “…the African woman is degraded and made a prostitute for the English colonizers, then the theories of racial superiority of the white male and the beastliness of the African woman are propagated” (p.95).

    It is important to remember that this racism and misogyny was not just based on immoral ideology, but had a sound economic base. In order for European capitalist growth there was a need for the resources, land and labour power of colonial nations. As Mies points out:

    “Wealth for some, means poverty for others.”

    Mies talks of the dual processes in the perception of European women and “other women” – the civilized and domesticated as opposed to the savage and uncivilized colonial black woman. But she argues this served a purpose for the accumulation of capital.

    The exploitation of resources and labour in the colonies meant that luxury goods became more available to the bourgeois classes in Europe. Part of that process meant that capitalists needed to create the demand for such goods and the role of the housewife as consumer was essential to this process.

    And so, Mies explores  the development of the nuclear family in late 18th and 19th century – the social and sexual division of labour, and the establishment of private (family) and public (economic and political activity) spheres – and the creation of housework and the  housewife as an “agent of consumption” (p.106)

    Thus colonialism and imperialism has created an international and sexual division of labour, whereby land and resources are pillaged for the profit of western capitalism; where labour is created by slavery and exploitation based on a sexual division of labour which leaves women dependent and vulnerable to further oppression; and the oppressed position of women in Western countries as housewives and consumers.

    Mies ends her chapter on Colonization and Housewifization with this:

    “It is my thesis that these two processes of colonization and housewifization are closely and causally interlinked. Without the ongoing exploitation of external colonies – formerly as direct colonies, today within the new international division of labour – the establishment of the ‘internal colony’, that is, a nuclear family and a woman maintained by a male ‘breadwinner’, would not have been possible.” (p.110).

    Mies makes very clear the convergence of these two structures of domination – patriarchy and capitalism and is central to seeing patriarchy as systemic and structural. As Federici summarizes in her Foreword these connections have been truly verified:

     “(there is)… a direct causal connection between the global extension of capitalist relations and the escalation of violence against women, as the punishment against their resistance to the appropriation of their bodies and their labour.” (xi)

     

     

     

  • 21Sep

    caliban-and-witch

    “Most important the figure of the witch…in this volume is placed at the center-stage, as the embodiment of a world of female subjects that capitalism had to destroy; the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeha woman who poisoned the master’s food and inspired the slaves to revolt.” (p.1)

    I have just finished reading this fascinating and excellent work.

    I am avid enthusiast of the need for the reclaiming of women’s history and the necessity to document and learn about women’s past roles in our history. So it was with excitement that I came across this important work.

    Federici gave me an interesting perspective on women’s history as she claims that it is not just about reclaiming women’s hidden history but understanding how women are often at the centre of historical events but their role has been diminished by historical accounts.

    She talks of the “enclosure of knowledge” whereby new generations of women are increasingly losing a “historical sense of our common past.”

    “Women then in the context of this volume, signifies not just a hidden history that need to be made visible; but a particular form of exploitation, and, therefore, a unique perspective from which to reconsider the history of capitalist relations.”

    This is a study of the witch hunts of the 15th and 16th centuries in which Federici explains how the witch hunts were a central aspect of the development of capitalism.

    “It is generally agreed that the witch hunt aimed at destroying the control that women had exercised over their reproductive function and served to pave the way for the development of a more oppressive patriarchal regime. It is also argued that the witch hunt was rooted in the social transformations that accompanied the rise of capitalism.”

    What this analysis is attempting to do is to revisit the transition from feudalism to capitalism from the viewpoint of women and argues that capitalism is “…necessarily committed to racism and sexism” (p.17)

    There are a number of issues that Federici raises to highlight the centrality of the witch hunts in the development of capitalism and the on-going misogyny and sexism which prevail today. She argues that this was a turning point in the history of women which led to:

    • Deepened divisions between men and women
    • Created the sexual division of labor
    • State intervention in the reproduction of labor
    • Control of women’s reproduction
    • Creation of women’s roles as housewives and mothers
    • Creating women’s dependency on men and employers
    • Family sphere separate from public sphere
    • Exclusion of women from paid work and therefore wages.

    “Witch hunt destroyed a whole world of female practices, collective relations and systems of knowledge that had been the foundation of women’s power in pre-capitalist Europe and a condition of their resistance in their struggle against feudalism” (p.102)

    The end of feudalism and the creation of capitalism involved land privatisation and, in Britain, enclosures, where land became privatised, and monetary relations began to dominate. It is women who were most affected by these developments – “…when land was lost and village community fell apart.” (p.73)

    And she argues that women were at the forefront of rebellion against such forces, and thus prime targets.

    It was also when paid labor force was developed, which excluded women, and where they were able to work, they were paid a pittance of men’s wages. So that by the 19th century full time housewives became the norm.

    “In the transition from feudalism to capitalism, women suffered a unique process of social degradation that was fundamental to the accumulation of capital, and has remained so ever since.” (p.75)

    Federici agrees that sexism and misogyny existed prior to the 15th century, and she describes how the power of the Church, which was the “…ideological pillar of feudal power, the biggest landowner in Europe, and one of the institutions most responsible for daily exploitation of the peasantry.” (p.33-34)

    She argues that this set the scene and prepared the ground for the witch hunts.

    “Without centuries of the Church’s misogynistic campaigns against women, the witch hunts would not have been possible.” (p.168)

    But Federici points out that it was collaboration between the State and Churches involved in the witch hunts, thus highlighting the political, as well as ideological, motives for the witch hunts.

    “If we consider the historical context in which the witch hunts occurred, the gender and class of the accused, and the effects of persecution, then we must conclude that witch hunting in Europe was an attack on women’s resistance to the spread of capitalist relations and power, that women had gained by virtue of their sexuality, their control over reproduction and their ability to heal.” (p.170)

    “Witch hunting was also instrumental to construction of the new patriarchal order where women’s bodies, their labor, their sexual and reproductive powers were placed under the control of the state and transformed into economic resources.” (p.170)

    Feminists were quick to recognise that hundreds of thousands of women could not have been massacred and subjected to the cruelest torture unless they posed a challenge to the power structure.

    Federici highlights the importance of our knowing this history, because the same forces continue in current day capitalism. As contemporary capitalist forces continue to accumulate capital in past-colonial countries, misogyny and the destruction of communities continues today.

    “But if we apply to the present the lessons of the past, we realise that the reappearance of witch hunting in so many parts of the world in the ’80’s and ’90’s is a clear sign of a process of “private accumulation”, which mean that the privatisation of land and other communal resources, mass impoverishment, plunder and the sowing of divisions in once-cohesive communities are again on the world agenda.” (p.237)

    Federici states that this study is an attempt to:

    “…revive among younger generations the long history of resistance that today is in danger of being erased. Saving the historical memory is crucial if we are to find an alternative to capitalism. For this possibility will depend on our capacity to hear the voices of those who have walked similar paths”. (preface)

  • 12Aug

    Nauru

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

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

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

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

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

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

      It is about male domination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

    And yet the reality is – rape is common:

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

    By men.

    And yet they are not believed.

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

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

     

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

    As Caitlin Roper has written:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

    we will never be silenced

    Yes Peter Dutton must go.

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

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

    We must hold them to account.

    This is unacceptable.

    roy

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

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

    Australian Women in Support of Women on Nauru

    Let Them Stay

    Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children

    Nauru files – Public Actions

     

  • 18Jul

     

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

    Are these iconic moments to be treasured?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

     

  • 24Feb

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Feminist practice, according to Davies, involves…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Visit WEAVE’s Facebook page

    Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

  • 04Jan

    Our latest Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull says:

     “Real men don’t hit women.”  

     

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

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

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

    thankafeminist

     

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

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

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

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

    Sarah Ferguson

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

    Domestic violence services continue to be de-funded.

    Tweed Valley Women’s Services recently forced to close

     

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

    SaveWomensRefuges recently conducted a survey of domestic violence victims

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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

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

    As reported to the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence:

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

    Media coverage of domestic violence

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

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

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

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

     

    Cuts to homelessness services

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

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

    Reported by the Guardian.

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

    Family Law

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

    I wrote about this programme previously on MairiVoice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Community Legal Centres lose funding.

    Funding for CLC’s have not been restored.

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

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

     

    Cuts to welfare benefits

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

     

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

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

     

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

     

    Anti vilification law

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

    wicked pickets van

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

    Refugee policies

    Headline the Saturday Paper in August:

    Nauru rapes: ‘There is a war on women’

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

     

    And from the Huffington Post

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

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

     

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Pornography

    ABC produced a discussion panel on Pornography – Porn Even

    As Laura McNally reports:

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

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

    Sexual Assault

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

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

    Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

    ditch the witch

    In Conclusion

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

    Well it appears that real men

    • cut women’s services

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

    • cut welfare benefits to women

    • refuse to change anti-vilification laws;

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

    • become MP’s so they can publicly vilify women

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

    • etc, etc

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

    first dog

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

  • 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.”

  • 13Oct

    The South Australian Parliament is currently seeking submissions for the Statutes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Sex Work) Bill

    Here is a summary of some the important points in an article I have written about this.

    For the fuller article:Why the Nordic Model is the only viable alternative

    It is important to recognise that decriminalizing the buying of sex has implications on the broader community. It is important to acknowledge that prostitution is a highly gendered industry. Women are in the vast majority of those who sell their bodies for sexual purposes. Men are in the vast majority who buy women’s bodies for sexual purposes.

    The sexual objectification of women as a result sends a very strong message to our community about how we perceive men and that it is permissible for boys and men to see women as objects for sexual use and that prostitution is harmless fun.

    The buying of women’s bodies implicates that it is normal for men to have entitlement over women as sexual commodities.

    “Legalising or decriminalising the entire industry of prostitution normalises an extreme form of sexual subordination, it legitimises the existence of an underclass of women, it reinforces male dominance, and it undermines struggles for gender equality. It is time to start tackling the attitudes which say that it is acceptable to view and treat women as sexual objects by tackling the demand for commercial sexual exploitation.” http://www.turnofftheredlight.ie/learn-more/

    If we are truly serious about addressing the inequalities and oppressions that women experience in our society – sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence and child sexual abuse – then decriminalising and legitimising the buying of women’s bodies and the sexual objectification of women will only exacerbate the current inequalities that women experience.

    I would like to address a number of the issues that have been raised in the community in the ‘prostitution debate’.

    1. Prostitution is not an issue of choice.

    It is very apparent that most women who enter and are involved in prostitution do so as a result of being impoverished and marginalised. Many do not have valid alternatives available to them in regard to alternative employment. For most women involved in prostitution they perceive this to be a temporary solution to the many problems that they face.

    1. Prostitution is harmful in and of itself.

    Mary Sullivan from Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Australia in her paper:

    “An Update on Legalisation of Prostitution in Australia” has stated:

    “Attempts to treat prostitution businesses as similar to other mainstream workplaces actually obscure the intrinsic violence of prostitution. This violence is entrenched in everyday ‘work’ practices and the ‘work’ environment and results in ongoing physical and mental harm for women who must accept that in a legal system such violence has been normalised as just part of the job. “

    She argues that the assumption has been made by Victoria’s OHS strategies are that women are able to negotiate safe sex.

    “Studies have shown that male buyers in Victoria will not use condoms, with one in five men having admitted to unsafe sex.” (Louie 1998, p.23).

    “Men have also become more demanding in the type of services they want. The demand for oral sex, for instance, has been replaced by the demand for anal sex.” (Arnett-Bradshaw 1999).

    “That these risk prevention strategies are considered normal safety procedures for women in prostitution expose how the prostitution work environment is unquestionably a place of extreme and constant violence that cannot be compared to other workplaces.”

    http://www.turnofftheredlight.ie/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/What-happens-when-prostitution-becomes-work.pdf

    Meagan Tyler has also argued that the traditional forms of legalisation and decriminalization do nothing to protect women from high rates of physical and sexual violence, as well as psychological trauma.

    “Systems of legalization foster greater demand and create an expanding illegal industry surrounding them, so it is a fallacy to pretend that in localities where prostitution is legalized, all women are actually in legal forms of prostitution. In addition, rates of trauma are similar across legalized, decriminalized and criminalized systems of prostitution.” http://www.feministcurrent.com/2013/12/08/10-myths-about-prostitution-trafficking-and-the-nordic-model/

    In fact there is valid research which shows that men who men who buy sex are more likely to hold degrading views of women, have misogynist attitudes and therefore are more likely to commit sexually coercive acts and other acts of violence against women”.

     Violence is a part of prostitution.

    “STILL, PROSTITUTION in itself means violence. All organizations working for the rights of prostituted women – whatever their opinion on prostitution is and wherever they’re located in the world – agree that prostitution is dangerous/harmful for women in prostitution. Those who want prostitution to keep existing usually speak of “harm reduction”, i.e. that it’s important to reduce the damage inflicted in prostitution.”

    http://www.kvinnofronten.nu/eng/speaking-of-prostitution.htm

     

    1. Legalising prostitution only benefits pimps, traffickers, and sex buyers.

    Mary Sullivan has successfully shown that legislation in Victoria has created a ‘prostitution culture’. In which it is the government, financial institutions and sex industry which financially benefit from prostitution industry. Their growth in profits from prostitution allows them greater economic power, gaining from the sexual exploitation of women.

    Legalisation has offered nothing for women caught up in this system of exploitation. Legitimising prostitution as work has simply worked to normalise the violence and sexual abuse that they experience on a daily basis. Victoria must not be seen as a model for other countries attempting to deal with the escalating trade in women and children for sex. Legalised prostitution is government-sanctioned abuse of women and violates their right to equality and safety.

    “Today sex trade is one of the largest and most profitable industries in the world. It includes street prostitution, brothels, “massage parlors”, strip clubs, human trafficking for sexual purposes, phone sex, child and adult pornography, mail order brides and sex tourism – just to mention a few of the most common examples.”

    It has also led to the growth of illegal activities within the prostitution industry. Illegal prostitution is more lucrative and profitable, and there is the ability to hide such illegal activities within legalised prostitution.  http://www.kvinnofronten.nu/eng/speaking-of-prostitution.htm  

     

    1. Legalising prostitution does not remove the stigma.

    It has been argued by those who support the full decimalization of the buying of women’s bodies that such legislation will remove the stigma of prostitution.

    This is not the case.

    “In the Netherlands, Germany, parts of Australia, and Nevada in the States, where prostitution is already viewed as “sex work”, women in prostitution are still just as stigmatized as they are here.

       The ones not getting stigmatized there are instead the perpetrators – pimps/brothel owners and buyers – who now have been turned into respectable “business men” and their “clients”. ”

    http://www.kvinnofronten.nu/eng/speaking-of-prostitution.htm   

     

    1. Legalisation or decriminalisation of the entire industry expands prostitution and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

    The Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Policy Department – Citizens Rights and Constitutional Affairs. Sexual Exploitation and Prostitution and Its Impact on Gender Equality Study have found:

    “The most conservative official statistics suggest that 1 in 7 prostitutes in Europe are victims of trafficking, while some Member States estimate that between 60% and 90% of those in their respective national prostitution markets have been trafficked. Moreover, the data available confirm that most trafficking in Europe is for the purposes of sexual exploitation, principally of women and girls.”p.6

    On the other hand, under Swedish legislation, also known as the Nordic model where the selling of sex has been decriminalized and the buying of sex is criminalized –

    “According to official evaluations, this seems to have effectively reduced demand and deterred traffickers.”

     

    1. Sex trafficking and prostitution regularly affects children; when legalised, even more so.

    As with sex trafficking, child prostitution occurs in all sectors of the prostitution industry.

    “ECPAT reported that Victoria has around 1,800 children used in commercial sex. This is the highest number for all Australian states and territories (ECPAT 1998, p.32). We need to ask why a state that promotes itself as having among the most advanced regulation for the prostitution industry in Australia, and possibly the world, has the largest child prostitution trade in the country?” df

     

    INTERNATIONAL STUDIES show that the most common age of entering prostitution is early adolescence, around 14 years of age. This is confirmed by the Prostitution Unit of Stockholm.

    “The basis for prostitution is sexual abuse of children. The majority of all who are bought in prostitution have suffered other forms of sexual abuse before entering prostitution, and the debut age of prostitution is often around 14 years. “ 

     

    1. Indigenous Women

     

    There are studies which suggest that Indigenous women are in higher proportions of numbers in prostitution. This can be directly linked to social and cultural disadvantage and oppression that Indigenous women experience in Australian culture. http://eprints.batchelor.edu.au/297/1/Homelessness_Report_v2_1_Print.pdf  ‘Captains’ and ‘Selly-welly’:

    “In doing so, it has revealed the extent of the atrocious life conditions experienced by this population, in particular, by women, who both endured and perpetrated violence. Women did not perceive there to be safe places for them to live and nor did they view police and police spaces as necessarily safe alternatives. This study has also revealed that women among this population were routinely subjected to sexual assault and rape from a range of perpetrators – one of the most significant findings to emerge.

    The study concluded that Aboriginal women’s involvement in prostitution reflected Racial oppression and disempowerment.”

    http://www.news.com.au/national/paul-toohey-darwin/story-e6frfkp9-1226634776568

     

    For a recent article please read: Legalized Prostitution in Australia: Behind the Scenes

    and to NORMAC, Nordic Model in Australia Coalition

    The Nordic Model Australia Coalition has been established to educate, to disseminate information, promote and research Nordic Model laws on prostitution, and in particular, for

    • The decriminalisation of all prostituted persons
    • The criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services
    • The education of the community, and particular men, about the harms of prostitution and the value of women.
    • The ongoing investigation and prosecution of crimes involving trafficking and sexual exploitation of the vulnerable.
    • The rejection of any form of commercialisation or corporatisation of the sex industry.
    • The provision of holistic exit programs for prostituted persons, including sustainable long-term funding.
  • 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