• 30Dec

     

    Suffragette_poster

     

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

    Suffragette_film_v_3430096b

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

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

    She writes about the  women of the Lancashire Cotton Mills.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Your mother’s name is Maud Watts.”

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

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

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

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

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

    asian_suffragettes

    Dr Mukherjee adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     “Never surrender. Never give up the fight.”

  • 10Oct

    Here are a list of articles about the Australian Family Law System.

    These articles have been written over a period of over ten years and may not include any subsequent changes to family law in that time. However, the issues outlined continue to be of relevance for women now.

    Parental Alienation -Fact Sheet

    Fact Sheet 1 Parental alienation

    Family Law         November 2009

    The family law reforms which were made law in July of 2006 have been described as the most significant reforms since 1975. We have considerable concerns about these reforms which we believe take the focus away from the best interests of the child, and place the emphasis on parental rights. In particular it is non-residential parents who potentially have won the greatest gains with these reforms.

    Escaping Gendered Violence: The role of Family Relationship Centres.  Help or Hindrance in Providing Safety for Women and Children      November 2009

    Escaping Gendered Violence

    Myths and Facts               Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in the Context of Separation and Divorce May 2009

    Myths and Facts

    Barriers to Women and Children’s Safety in Family Law system                May 2009

    Barriers to Women and Children’s Safety in Family

    No Escape from Violence: The Silencing of Women and Children                             April 2008

    This article outlines the significant barriers that women and children face when they attempt to escape from male violence within the family and the barriers within the family law system.

    No Escape from Violence presentation

    “Barriers to Safety: Proposed Changes to the Family Law System” April 2006

    This paper examines the proposed reforms to family law as a result of the Government’s inquiry into family law which resulted in the report ‘every picture tells a story’ (2003).

    It is important to examine the political context of these reforms and the political agenda of fathers’ rights groups to gain an understanding of what these reforms are about and how they reflect a right wing shift in political thinking away from creating safety from women and children towards fathers’ rights.

    DVIRC Family Law Forum

    The Relationship Between Child Sexual Abuse, Domestic Violence and Separating Families April 2003

    This paper examines the relationship between child sexual abuse and domestic violence and highlights the research that indicates the coexistence of these two forms of violence in families.

    This paper will examine how the mutual existence of these two forms of abuse impacts on families who are separating. Australian research will be cited which highlight those cases involving all forms of family violence are an integral part of the work of the Family Court. It will be argued that the legal system needs to take into account that both domestic violence and child abuse are significant problems in the separating family and that issues of gender both in the context of child sexual abuse, domestic violence and separating couples are integral to our understanding and the way we deal with these concerns.

    csaconfpaper03

    CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE ALLEGATIONS AND THE FAMILY COURT    February 2003

    A study was conducted at the Adelaide Registry of the Family Court of Australia into 50 cases where child sexual abuse allegations had been made in the context of proceedings before the Family Court. The results of the investigations into the child sexual abuse allegations show that child sexual abuse was confirmed at a similar rate to such allegations made to the South Australian statutory child protection agency. More significantly when specific child sexual abuse allegations are made against fathers, then confirmation rates of child sexual abuse are substantially higher than those in the general population. The results of this study confirm the hypothesis of this thesis that child sexual abuse allegations in the context of Family Court proceedings are not more likely to be false than those in other contexts.

    Child Sexual Abuse and the Family Court

  • 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.

  • 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.”

  • 06Sep

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

    anc qanda

     

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

    The research that Kay Hymowitz was propagandizing sounded very familiar.

    Her research posits that the family unit is suffering

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

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

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

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

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

     

    And of course they blame feminism.

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

    For example, it is claimed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    radically speaking

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Michelle Smith sums it up:

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

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

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

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

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

     

  • 21Aug

    Update:

    An excellent article by European Women’s Lobby

    Surrogacy: a global trade in women’s bodies
    Sweden’s leading feminist lobby regards surrogate motherhood as a revival of serfdom for women

    “Becoming a surrogate mother is a way for women in socially vulnerable positions to sell what fundamental human rights should protect them from selling – their own bodies.

    A study of surrogate mothers in Anand, India, revealed that 50 percent were illiterate and that many could not read the contract that they were signing.

    The Swedish Women’s Lobby views surrogate motherhood as a contract of temporary serfdom, where the surrogate mother waives her rights to bodily integrity during the pregnancy.

    We must privilege the right to bodily integrity and fundamental human rights over a supposed right for parents to have children. Children always have the right to have parents, but there is no human right for parents to have children. Every child has the right not to be a commodity on a market. We must renounce the view of a liberal market-approach to surrogacy which privileges paying buyers while women’s rights are negotiable.

    Having a feminist approach to surrogacy means rejecting the idea that women can be used as mere vessels and that their reproductive capabilities can be bought. The right to bodily integrity is a right which should not be able to be negotiated by any form of contract. However the contract is worded, surrogacy is still trading with women’s bodies and with children. The rights of women and children, not the interests of the buyer, must be the focus of the debate surrounding surrogacy.”

    “Surrogacy doesn’t liberate us from biological constraints — it turns women’s bodies in factories”

    Great article by Kajsa Ekis Ekman

    Margaret Atwood wrote a ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ in 1985.

    Handmaid's Tale

     

    Almost 30 years ago she forecast, as a future dystopia, what is the reality today.

     

    In her book the religious right have taken over her society. The state has taken control of women, reducing their role to that of reproduction alone. The state has complete ownership and control of women’s bodies.

    Due to some unknown widespread environmental catastrophe there exists high infertility and sterility rate, and a higher birth defect rate. So reproducing has become a high priority.

    The state ensures that those in power and with higher status have control over reproduction and the raising of children. A selected group of women, the Handmaids, who have potential to reproduce, are forced into being reproducers for the elite.

    “The Handmaids themselves are a pariah caste within the pyramid: treasured for what they may be able to provide – their fertility – but untouchables otherwise. To possess one is, however, a mark of high status, just as many slaves or a large retinue of servants always has been. Since the regime operates under the guise of a strict Puritanism, these women are not considered a harem, intended to provide delight as well as children. They are functional rather than decorative.” Margaret Atwood

    Margaret Atwood has written a number of novels which she describes as ‘Speculative fiction’. That is, in these novels

    “…nothing happens that the human race has not already done at some time in the past, or that it is not doing now, or for which it has not yet developed the technology.”

    The concepts expressed in her novel are reflective of the current situation with surrogacy.

    Rich western couples now have the ability to rent women’s bodies to satisfy their own desires for children. Women’s bodies and children are thus commodified.

    Women from poor third world countries – are forced as a result of their poverty – to sell their bodies for reproduction.

    “Many surrogates are from very poor backgrounds, have little or no education and certainly limited or non-existent financial literacy. There are concerns that some are pressed into the industry by their husbands and families as a quick way to make an otherwise unimaginable $7000AU per birth.” ABC Foreign Correspondent 

    What does this mean?

    Journalist Susan Ince went undercover as a potential surrogate mother in the USA.

    This is what she discovered.

    It means that women are subjected to multiple intrusive physical examinations and multiple drug treatments. They are restricted in their freedom.

    “She may not have intercourse, smoke or drink. She has to submit to all of the physical examinations and treatments the program prescribes.”

    Once pregnant, women have an Amniocentesis examination and are forced to have an abortion if results show abnormality.

    “If the doctor prescribes a Caesarean section, the surrogate has no right to refuse it.”

    “Women have become infertile as a result of serving as surrogates.”

    ABC Foreign Correspondent program “The Baby Makers” explored some of the conditions in India where surrogacy has become a booming industry.

    “100 surrogate mothers live in a house for the term of their pregnancy. They lie in single bunks.”

    Restricted in her freedom for the duration of her pregnancy. And this is a good agency!

                      Renate Klein

     

    According to Renate Klein, the assumption on which surrogacy is based is that the “surrogate” mother will not have a relationship with the developing baby as it is “not her child”. “

    “An absurd notion for any woman who has ever been pregnant.”  Renate Klein

    The sad reality is that women’s fervent desires to have children are reflected in our society’s view of women and motherhood.

    Women’s worth is still measured in her ability to have children. And so we have developed industries such as IVF and surrogacy so that rich western women can fulfill society’s expectations of them.

    And in the process we treat women and children as commodities who can be bought and sold.

    “Surrogacy is a heartless, exploitative, capitalist enterprise.” Renate Klein

     

    Kajsa Ekis Ekman is the author of Being and Being Bought. Prostitution, Surrogacy and the Split Self (Spinifex Press 2013).

                                                                                                                                                           being and being bought

    She draws a link between prostitution and surrogacy.

    “The parallels between prostitution and surrogacy were immediately evident to me. Two industries profit from women’s bodies: one from her for sex, the other from her uterus. Two industries commercialize basic human phenomena: sexuality and reproduction. And these, as it happens, are also the basis of the historical oppression of women and the ongoing division of women into ‘whores and madonnas’.”

  • 19Jun

    wsas

    Equality before the Law – you think?!
    When the Family Law Act came into being in 1975 it was hailed as one of the most progressive pieces of family legislation in the Western world. Australia was one of the first western nations to bring about ‘no-fault’ divorce. And it was a momentous moment for women. At last they could leave unhappy and abusive husbands without the trauma of proving fault.
    However, there remains one significant fault with the concept of equality within the family law arena – the fact that men and women, mothers and fathers are not equal.
    Just look at the recent figures that came out from the Hilda survey  in the last couple of weeks.
    Male breadwinners continue to dominate within heterosexual couples with 75% of men continuing to earn more than their female partners. Women were less likely to earn more money than their partner if the couple had dependent children.

    hilda report breadwinners
    And women continue to do the bulk of unpaid work.
    Women are considerably more likely to be unpaid carers than men, with 9.1% of females aged 15 and over providing unpaid care on an ongoing basis in 2011, compared with 5.8% of males aged 15 and over.
    The survey also found that gender roles in households are persisting, with women doing 15 hours more housework each week than men, and 12 hours more child rearing.
    Check out the article in the Guardian

    guardian re hilda

    Women constitute 69.9% of all part time employees, according to the Australian government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
    Once separated many women as single parents are left in poverty. The cuts to single-parent payments over the past decade have coincided with a rise in child poverty.
    So when a couple separate women are at a disadvantage economically and often socially and physically. They take on the responsibility of parenting both emotionally and physically at a greater rate than men. This often involves sacrificing their own careers and future financial stability. They make an emotional commitment to parenting that men are not obliged to make. Men have the option of opting in or out of parenting, which women do not.
    We hold women responsible not only for ensuring the care of children, but also of maintaining the family. We herald women as mothers as the core of the family unit – “Good on you Mum”. But when things go wrong we blame women – for not holding a family together, for not being available to their children, for aiming for more than motherhood.
    And yet even when families separate women are held responsible for ensuring that children continue to have a positive relationship with their fathers. And when they don’t do this – most often because of fears of their children’s safety in the care of an abusive father, or concerns for the children’s well-being with a father who has shown little interest in parenting in the past – they are punished by a family law system that hails fathers’ rights as being paramount.
    We hold the concept of the mother-child bond as being on the highest pedestal – but only when she is firmly ensconced in a relationship with the father.
    We know that a child’s bond with its primary parent is essential to a child’s ongoing emotional and social development. And yet the family law system is deliberately structured to ignore past behaviors within the family and focus on the future – a future which often involves damaging the attachment between the primary parent (mother) and the child to ensure that fathers maintain their patriarchal rights over children.
    We need to examine the basis of the patriarchal family and how this is the driving force behind such inequalities for women and scrutinize how the structure of the patriarchal family can be a perilous place for women and children.
    I will be writing more on this issue – there is so much more to write!
    For more information see articles and research at the WEAVE website.
    And Women’s Safety After Separation website.