• 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)

     

     

     

  • 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

     

  • 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.”

  • 11Aug

    Harper Lee

    This book sat on my coffee table for a week. I was too scared to read it.

    As I have written previously, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee is one of my all-time favourite books.

     

    And I had heard of the controversy surrounding the release of ‘Go Set a Watchman’.

     

    I was concerned with the suggestion that she had not given full permission to have the book published; that she was a victim of greedy publishers taking advantage of her age and the possibility that she is not mentally well enough to give her permission. After all, she had said she would never publish another book.

     

    There were also reports that the Atticus in this pre-sequel was not the champion asserted in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.  Did I really want to lose my hero in Atticus?

     

    But I have finally taking up the courage to read it. And yes, the Atticus in it is racist.

    When Scout (Jean Louise) returns to her home town of Maycomb, she learns that boyfriend and father are active in anti-NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) organisations.

     

    This new book has allowed me to revisit ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and examine its racism.

     

     

    Atticus is portrayed as a good man – a good, white, middle class man in Southern America in the 1930’s. Being racist at this time was the norm. And Atticus does the right thing in defending a black man against rape charges that are obviously wrong.

     

    atticus

     

    His defence in ‘Go Set a Watchman’ against Jean Louise’s accusations of racism are that the:

    “Negro population is backward”

    “You understand that the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why?”

    “Do you want them in our world?”

    Paternalistic and racist.

     

    But let us get back to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Jean Louise is right when she says:

    “I remember that rape case you defended, but I missed the point. You love justice, all right. Abstract justice written down item by item on a brief – nothing to do with that black boy, you just like a neat brief.”

    Catherine Nichols writes an interesting article in Jezebel about this. She claims that Atticus and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ has always been racist.

     

    “It’s about white people within white culture making Tom Robinson’s life and death about themselves.”

     

    Ursula Le Guin has a kinder take on it:

     

    “Atticus hasn’t changed. We saw him through his young daughter’s eyes as faultless. Now, seen by his grown daughter, we can see him as imperfect: a good man who, being fully committed to living, working, and having friends in an unjust society, makes the compromises and performs the hypocrisies required of its members. He’s a lawyer — not a judge — with a lawyer’s complex relationship to justice.”

    I worry that we will see Atticus and Scout as being of a different era, when racism was acceptable and the norm.

     

    But it is wise to remember. Black people are still being shot and killed in America – by state-sanctioned authorities. The ideology behind Atticus and the people of Maycomb still exist.

     

    It is also this ideology that exists in Australian society towards our Indigenous people

    As Stephanie Convery writes in Overland:

     

    “In the last decade alone, remote Indigenous Australian communities have been subjected to military intervention, alcohol bans, pornography bans and restricted internet access (remember that internet filter we’ve been fighting for years? All computers provided by any organisation in controlled areas that received public funding had a mandatory internet filter installed as part of the Intervention). Plus welfare recipients in many communities had their income contingent on their kids attending school, and then restricted by the paternalistic Basics Card which allows purchases of particular goods only from particular retailers.”

    And

    ‘What’s important,’ said our esteemed Prime Minister in response to all of this, ‘is that we ensure that remote communities, all communities, are being properly policed.’

    “Right. ‘Policed.’ There has been a 57 per cent rise in Indigenous incarceration in the last fifteen years. This time last year, 27 per cent of the imprisoned population was Indigenous despite Indigenous people making up a little over 2 per cent of the adult population in the country. Not a single police officer has ever been convicted for one Indigenous death in custody (there have been over 1400 of those since 1980). Just last week saw the anniversary of the death of a 22-year-old Indigenous woman after being jailed for the heinous crime of unpaid parking fines. I’d say there’s more than enough ‘policing’ happening.”

    I will still continue to read and enjoy ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – but with more knowledge and awareness – and with a more appreciated understanding of Jean Louise. Because she, and Harper Lee as her narrator, become the heroes in these stories.

     

    As Ursula Le Guin writes:

     

    “So I’m glad, now, that Watchman was published. It hasn’t done any harm to the old woman, and I hope it’s given her pleasure. And it redeems the young woman who wrote this book, who wanted to tell some truths about the Southern society that lies to itself so much. She went up North to tell the story, probably thinking she’d be free to tell it there. But she was coaxed or tempted into telling the simplistic, exculpatory lies about it that the North cherishes so much. The white North, that is. And a good part of the white South too, I guess.

    Little white lies . . . North or South, they’re White lies. But not little ones.

    Harper Lee was a good writer. She wrote a lovable, greatly beloved book. But this earlier one, for all its faults and omissions, asks some of the hard questions To Kill a Mockingbird evades.”

    My next post will continue with Scout and how we can be proud of the woman she has become.

     

  • 09May

    stop intervention

    Racism and misogyny are at the heart of our two major parties.

     

    But what else would we expect from a white imperialist, capitalist, patriarchal system.

     
    Policies of both of the major parties over the past ten years have gone to new depths in their attacks on our First Nations peoples – their culture, their way of life and their very lives.

    And it is women and children who inevitably have suffered mostly as a result of these policies.

    The latest move is the threatened closure of remote Aboriginal communities.

    The threatened closure of Aboriginal communities comes as a result of the Federal Liberal coalition government cutting funding to Aboriginal communities and handing responsibility for these communities to State Governments.

    The Western Australian government has stated that it plans to close over 150 Aboriginal communities.
    PM Tony Abbott’s racism and disdain for our First Nation’s people is evident in his sneering comment in relation to the forced closure of communities.

    “It’s not the job of the taxpayers to subsidize lifestyle choices.”

    This is at a time when both Federal and State governments are rolling out the Welfare card.

     

    “Women and particularly indigenous women are the most impoverished in the world.”

    Eachone has written an excellent article about this: “Cashless Welfare to target Violence Against Women in Australia? Not in my name. Sexist, Racist and Unacceptable”

     

    On a recent Late Night Live panel heard Marcia Langton describe the situation for Indigenous women as a ‘national crisis’
    “Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence than their non-Indigenous counterparts.”

    And some of the problems for Indigenous women include:
    – Reluctance to report
    – Mistrust between police and indigenous women
    – Racism within authorities

     

    The instigation of a welfare card practice leads to a greater exploitation and vulnerability for women and children.
    “Removing control of money from recipients is a dangerous practice. What the outraged or concerned media and general public call ‘paternalism’ is actually far worse. It is a means to ensure an expanding class of people vulnerable to exploitation. That the majority of the victims are women, indigenous and the young is not just an extreme act of ‘paternalism’, it is an extreme commitment to profit from the abuse of the bodies and lives of those most marginalized, by taking away what limited independence we may have.”Eachone

     

    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.

    land grab

     

    “WA Premier Colin Barnett is using “child protection” as an excuse to forcibly remove entire communities from their lands, recycling the same lies about child abuse used to justify the NT Intervention. These forced closures will be systematic child abuse on a massive scale, putting families into destitution, more kids into foster care, more adults into prison.” Stop Stolen Generations

    These policies and actions have in fact had a devastating impact on our First Nations people, particularly women and children.

     
    And this is all being done under the well developed and over reported fabrication that our Indigenous peoples and communities are dysfunctional.

     
    The Eachone article highlights the racism and misogyny that these policies incur.

    The allegations of violence and abuse show no details of who and why such abuse occurs in Indigenous communities – and shows little information about how this compares to white Australia.
    Who is abusing young girls in these communities? Is it the same white men who commit violence and abuse in Australian society generally?

    “There was, and is, no acknowledgment of who does this to girls and women (men do this to them). There was no acknowledgment of more than 200 years of ongoing genocide in this country. Certainly, not a word about the prostituted as a class nor the acknowledgement of what the underlying structure of capitalism and male entitlement does to girls and women.”

    We know that young girls who are impoverished and vulnerable are more likely to be targets of abusive men – “the worst of those committing predatory behavior and violence.”

     
    Interestingly, two years after the Northern Territory Intervention, The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs’ report Closing the Gap in the Northern Territory reveals that

    • convictions of child sexual abuse involving Aboriginal perpetrators have “barely changed”,

    Source:Creative Spirits

    This is a worldwide problem for Indigenous girls and women.
    And despite PM Rudd’s National apology to the Stolen Generation in 2008, children continue to be removed from Aboriginal families.

    “Since 1997 however, the number of Aboriginal children being forcibly removed has increased more than five times, with more than 15,000 Aboriginal kids in foster care today. In WA more than half of all children in ‘care’ are Aboriginal, despite being less than 5% of the population.” Grandmothers against Removals

    cropped-GmarMcGrady

     

     

     

     

     

    After 5 years of the intervention,Creative Spirits notes these astonishing statistics.

    The rate of suicide among Aboriginal girls has “greatly increased” since the intervention was launched. Girls accounted for 40% of all Aboriginal suicides of children under 17 years, a rate which is “the most in the Western world”. Prior to the intervention the suicide rate was “significantly lower” and in 1980 it was zero.

    There was a 69% increase of children getting taken into out of home care compared to 2007 figures.

    There has been a 40% increase in Aboriginal incarceration.

     

    Thousands of Australians marched in Australia last week against the forced closures of remote Aboriginal communities.

    stop closures                               stop closures1stop closure4
    It received little media attention – except in the Murdoch press where they were described as “a selfish rabble” – see report from Junkee 

     
    Since the British government invaded this land we have declared war on our First Nations People – and we are continuing to destroy their traditions, their cultures and their lives.

     
    This is not going to stop soon.

    We will need a revolution to stop this.

    And all Australians need to show our support for our First Nations people.

    Resources:

    SOSBlackAustralia/Grandmothers Against Removals: https://www.facebook.com/supportsosblakaustralia

    Stop Stolen Generations: http://stopstolengenerations.com.au/

    stop intervention

     

  • 04May

     

    This is an article written by Marcus Waters in The Conversation.

    I have quoted certain aspects of this article:

    “I have seen firsthand how child sexual abuse is rife in every part of the Australian community – but only sometimes is that abuse reported in full colour.”
    “The Royal Commission on institutionalised child sex abuse is shining a light on dark corners of systematic abuse of Australian kids over many generations. In the vast majority of the terrible cases we’ve heard about, the perpetrators and those who protected them have been seemingly upstanding, often senior, male community leaders.
    Old white men, in other words.”
    As human rights lawyer Anne Gallagher comments:
    “Cheap labour, cheap sex and cheap goods are woven into the fabric of our economy, our community and our individual lives within Australia.”
    “Stories like these are important. Yet too often, the fact that the abusers in these stories are not just western men, but white western men, goes unremarked.”
    “International research has shown that people who suffer the worst abuse are often in positions of helplessness or poverty.”
    “The reality is that the majority of my own Aboriginal people who have had to deal with abuse are struggling with these same issues of uncertainty, poverty and alienation that we know compound sexual violence and abuse.”
    “I can’t help but wonder: what would happen if white Australian children, women and men spoke up about the hidden abuse in their families, the way that Aboriginal people increasingly are doing?
    I honestly believe if this was to happen, the true statistics of those suffering would send shockwaves through this country.”

    Read the full article here

  • 28Feb

    “”I thought you might like to hear a man’s voice,”

    Senator Barry O’Sullivan’s voice boomed during a fiery Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday morning.”

    Sarah Whyte,The Age
    Australian Human Rights Commission president, Professor Gillian Triggs has been the subject of harassment, abuse, and bullying.

    “The Human Rights Commission recently completed a report on children being held in immigration detention in Australia.
    The Forgotten Children report examines the treatment of children under both the current Government and the former Labor Government. It makes a number of recommendations designed to improve the welfare and protect the human rights of children.” Senator Penny Wong, Mamamia

    There has been almost a hysterical response to the report with claims of political bias. All aimed at intimidation and silencing.

     

    Professor Triggs was not the only subjected to the misogynistic behaviour of the Liberal Party Senators at the Senate estimates hearing. Both Senator Penny Wong and Sarah Hanson-Young were also bullied and shouted at. They even made a bit of a joke about possibility of being accused of sexism. Because after all, they are real men – and real men are sexist, misogynistic – and they don’t care about being perceived in this way.

    “Macdonald joked with fellow senator Barry O’Sullivan about the damn ladies taking up all the panel speaking time.
    Because if there’s one problem with the current state of parliamentary politics in Australia it’s that women are given too much airtime, of course. Remember the kind of free reign Juilia Gillard was given over the airwaves? Despicable!”  Max Chalmers, New Matilda

     

    But what can we expect from this Liberal government. We all remember the treatment that our first female Prime Minister was subjected to by the Liberal government when in opposition.

    ditch the witch

    It would seem that these men just don’t like women expressing their opinions; having their say; or even, dare we say it, opposing their viewpoints. It is pure misogyny and patriarchy at work here.

    “The speed with which supposedly adult men have feverishly rushed to turn into braying schoolboys has been astonishing; they are no longer even bothering to conceal the enjoyment they take from making it known to their female colleagues just how little they respect their presence in public life, telling them instead to “settle down” (as O’Sullivan pompously did to Senator Penny Wong) and quipping with each other to be careful what they say lest they be “accused of sexism”, presumably by the silly biddies who overreact to everything and can’t take a joke.” Clementine Ford, The Age

    blue ties snakePhoto: Andrew Dyson – blue ties

    “Appointing himself Minister for Women after the LNP’s election to government wasn’t an example of his total lack of self-awareness. Rather, it served as a deliberate and final f… you to the woman who had unapologetically called out his misogyny in Parliament, and who received great fanfare from the countless Australian women who had identified so strongly with the moment.”  Clementine Ford, The Age

    And the saddest part of this is that the Human Rights Commission’s report is highlighting the dreadful inhumane treatment of refugees by the Australian government (on both sides of politics).

    “She was something far less: a woman defending powerless children with the truth. And it is for that Gillian Triggs is being punished.” Richard Flanagan

    detention

    Read those statistics again. 233 assaults against children; 33 incidents of reported sexual assault; 128 children who harmed themselves.

    Children, fleeing for their lives, fleeing from torture, violence and war. And the Australian government locks them up in detention.

     

    “For all their cant about families, this is a government with no pity and much contempt for the families of the poor and the powerless. In this government’s new Australia the strong can be needlessly and endlessly rewarded, and the weak endlessly attacked and punished.”  Richard Flanagan

    Their racist and misogynistic policies are not confined to those from outside Australia. If you have any doubts that our politicians’ policies and behaviour to asylum seekers is not racist, we need only look at their treatment of and policies in relation to our First Nation people.

     

    I would recommend this moving article about the impact on the Northern Territory Intervention byThe Northern Territory Emergency Response: Why Australia Will Not Recover from The Intervention”

     I have also written about this in a previous blog post.

     

    cropped-GmarMcGrady

    The biggest challenge for Australians is that this misogyny and racism has become the norm in political discourse today. Both major political parties are responsible for the appalling treatment of asylum seekers and our First Nations peoples.

    And as Clementine Ford has stated:
    “… the bonds of patriarchy often bind tighter than those of political allegiance or loyalty. Some men simply do not want women working alongside them; it makes them feel their naturally ordained spaces are being suddenly invaded by people whose existence they don’t really understand, other than within the realm of being mothers and wives. And so they make jibes and jeer, the bravado and entitlement growing alongside the gang of merry men willing to join them in it.”

    So whilst our media is excited and hyped up about the potential de-throning of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister – patriarchal in-fighting for power and control – they continue to use this power and control to oppress, intimidate, harm and abuse women, the dispossessed, asylum seekers, our Indigenous people.

    CartoonAIM

    http://theaimn.com/immigration-detention-try-living-life-changing-effects/ Robyn Oyenini The Aim Network

    See also:

    https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/istandwithgilliantriggs?source=feed_text&story_id=10203976645202136&pnref=story

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/106908392834476/?fref=nf – Stop Offshore Processing of Asylum Seekers

    https://www.facebook.com/CombinedRefugeeActionGroup

  • 15Oct

    Sexual assault, rape, child sexual abuse – whatever it is called is about power not sex.

    safe_image.1php

    (From Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young)
    And nowhere can this be exemplified but at Nauru where reports of sexual abuse of children in the Detention Centre have come to light.

    “The claims included that women inside the centre were being forced to strip and exchange sexual favours with guards so they could have access to the showers.
    There were also claims that children were being forced to have sex in front of guards at the centre.”

    Vulnerable and traumatised women and children.

    Refugees who have escaped horrific situations – war, torture and civil conflict – who have often spent years seeking refuge and safety.

    The most vulnerable of humanity. Locked up in concentration camps (detention centres) on a foreign, alien remote island.
    And those charged with their ‘care’. Working in an organisation whose structure is developed under an ideology of racism and misogyny which attempt in every way to dehumanise these vulnerable people.

    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.”

    Morrison

    For centuries women’s and children’s claims of male sexual violence have been met with suspicion, disbelief and contempt.

    When women and children have raised concerns of rape and sexual assault they have been dismissed, demonised and vilified.

    Called liars. Blamed for asking for it.
    This is a culture where the most vulnerable of women and children are dehumanised, called illegals, their human rights ignored.
    Treated with such inhumanity.
    It is therefore believable that those charged with “guarding” them would abuse their power to rape women and children – to treat them as less than human.
    This is patriarchy at its worst – misogynistic, racist and inhumane.
    When will this stop?

  • 22Sep
     burqa
                               (Lana Slezic produced a body of work on women in Afghanistan for the World Press) 
     

    Malalai Kakar

    She was murdered by the Taliban.

    “She was the pinnacle of strength in Kandahar at a time that was extremely difficult for Afghan women. She was the first female police officer in Kandahar and stood for the rights of women.
    “All the women of Kandahar knew who she was and knew they could come to her with their problems. Problems like domestic violence, rape forced marriage.”

     

    But PUP Senator, Jacqui Lambie uses this image for the purposes of creating fear, bigotry, racism and violence.

    She depicts this brave woman who gave her life in her struggle for freedom for Afghan women as a violent threat to Australians.

    Next to this photo she calls for the banning of the burqa.

    Not because the burqa is a symbol of oppression for women but for security reasons.

    She is saying we should be afraid of this woman; we should be afraid of those who are not like us.
    I wonder what Jacqui would say to this image.

    nun habit

    And if we are talking about the oppression of women let’s not forget the Catholic Church and its opposition to abortion and divorce.

     

    Cardinal_George_Pell
    The image of this man is a reminder of the Catholic Church’s protection of child sexual abusers. What is hiding underneath his cloak?

    What does Jacqui and our Australian government say about the extreme right Christians in America who have bombed abortion clinics.

    Or what the Judaist religion says about women.

    In Judaism there is a daily prayer which says “I thank god that I was not born a woman.”
    I once had a Jewish colleague refuse to shake my hand in case I was menstruating and therefore deemed dirty.

    Let’s face it all of our major religions are patriarchal.

    And this is what this is all about. It is about patriarchal power and control.

    It is about competing patriarchies and their quest for control of resources and power.

    It is about patriarchal militarism and their intent to destroy.

    It is the women and children who are the victims of such wars. Women have been considered the spoils of war in so many conflicts.

    Women as collateral damage in men’s wars.

    So back home to the “degrade and destroy” Australia.

    Jacqui Lambi is not alone in creating fear and hatred in our community.

    The Australian government has led the world in its determination to go to war – to send troops to Iraq; to kill and maim, to degrade and destroy.

    And part of that process has been instilling in the Australian people hatred of the “other”.

    Their goal is to terrify and to create widespread fear.

    Mamamia has reported  – “So frightened are some in Australia’s Muslim community that a Facebook group dedicated to support for victims of hate crimes against Muslims was set up this week. Group members use the page to report instances of abuse and swap tips on how to stay safe. Posts like these feature on the page:

    “Early last week in the early evening A sister (was walking home) when a few guys came upon her and tried to burn off her hijab… She was a international student and is now wanting to go back home due to feeling traumatised and insecure.”

    “Two days ago, a group of men tried to rip the hijab off a sisters head at Garden City.”

    “Yesterday at 5pm, a sister from Logan was threatened by a guy that he would burn her house down.”

    And it is the women in their burqas, hijabs and their headdresses who will the focus of the bigotry and racism that is being invoked in Australians.

    Yes the burqa is a symbol of women’s oppression.

    Yes I will celebrate the day when no woman is required to cover herself and become invisible.

    I will also rejoice when women are not the victims of war, of rape, of violence and abuse in their homes
    There are many forms of oppression against women. We will not overcome this oppression by violent oppression of those we consider “others”.

    To quote a friend:
    “In her pursuit of populist media trumpeting, Lambie has desecrated and insulted the memory of this honourable and courageous woman.
      If women choose to wear a burqa, bikini, religious habit, goth gear, high fashion, low fashion or nothing at all, that is their decision.

    Our courts are not over flowing with woman wearing burqas but they are full of men in everyday clothes who have committed some fairly heinous crimes against women and children.

    Can we please turn our attention to the ‘real’ terrorists hiding in this country.

    The Malalai’s of this world speak for me not the bigots and racists. The world needs more Malalais and less Jacqui Lambies.”

    sept 11

    Women are murdered, raped, mutilated, humiliated, imprisoned, impoverished, appropriated, manipulated, marginalised and any one of a number of acts of violence, all over the world.” (Browyn Winter in the excellent book edited by Susan Hawthorne and Bronwyn Winter, published by Spinifex Press)

       unmaking warAnother book worth reading by Kathleen Barry

  • 03Sep

    This is an amazing, compassionate book.

    book-halfyellow

    But it is not easy to read. It is set during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war of 1967-1970.
    As I began to read distant television images from that time (when I was still a teenager) came to me. I only recall images of starving African children and the feelings of horror and shock that accompanied them.
    But I had no idea what these images related to.
    Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche took me there in this book and showed me graphically and poignantly what this war was about and its horrific impact on the Biafran state – the violence, the abuse, the slaughter – and the starvation and death of so many when they were deliberately cut off from many supplies of food, water and basic needs.
    She takes us on this journey through the eyes of two sisters, their partners and families, their houseboy and an English writer. Chimamanda creates these people so vividly on the page that I grew to care for them deeply, as they struggled with their emotional relationships through this horror.
    She cleverly outlines the impacts of British colonisation and its creation of the country Nigeria. The Igbo people, one of the oldest kingdoms in Nigeria, lost its sovereignty to the British in 1911. Following independence from Britain, they sought to establish a separate country from Nigeria, the state of Biafra. This led to civil war, with Britain and Russia providing military support to the Northern Nigerians.
    What she shows us is that everyone is a victim in wars – the women and children raped, slaughtered and starved to death; the creation of hatred between people when they don’t know who they can trust and when they compete for meagre amounts of supplies; the soldiers who learn the culture of murder, rape and hatred.
    It has left me pondering deeply about so many people, in so many different places, attempting to survive in their worlds where war continues – In Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, parts of Africa, Syria, the Ukraine etc. – whilst Western capitalists (men in blue ties) send weapons, drone fighters and bombs to protect their own interests.
    Here is a quote from an interview with Chimmanda Ngozi Adichie
    “I wrote this novel because I wanted to write about love and war, because I grew up in the shadow of Biafra, because I lost both grandfathers in the Nigeria-Biafra war, because I wanted to engage with my history in order to make sense of my present, because many of the issues that led to the war remain unresolved in Nigeria today, because my father has tears in his eyes when he speaks of losing his father, because my mother still cannot speak at length about losing her father in a refugee camp, because the brutal bequests of colonialism make me angry, because the thought of the egos and indifference of men leading to the unnecessary deaths of men, women and children enrages me, because I don’t ever want to forget.”

    This is an unforgettable book which I highly recommend.

    Here are two more of her books which are also very good.

    Purple Hibiscus -Based in Nigeria about catholic fanaticism and domestic violence
    Americanah – A powerful, tender story of race and identity