• 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

     

  • 14Aug

    “A frank, intimate, urgent voice.” (Maggie O’Farrell)

    I have just finished reading the collection of short stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman titled after the first short story

    “The Yellow Wallpaper”

    Written in 1890

    yellow wallpaper

    I was amazed at how this short story has resonance for me, as a woman, in 2014.
    The story is assumed to be autobiographical and describes a young married woman who is suffering from “temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency”.
    As a result she, her husband (John) and her husband’s sister (Jane) spend some time in a rented house in the country. She is mostly confined to the upstairs bedroom with yellow wallpaper. The young woman becomes fascinated and obsessed with this ugly, yellow wallpaper, which in many ways symbolizes the oppression under which she lives.
    Her husband is a medical doctor and takes control of his wife and her illness. He has legitimate patriarchal power. He confines her to the bedroom and she is told to have complete rest. She is forbidden to do any work, including her beloved writing.

    “He is careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.”

    As a result she is forced to write secretly. Writing stories she is informed by her husband will stir up “all manner of excited fancies”.
    Despite her initially desire to please and obey her husband, we learn of her frustration and anger with his oppression and control of her…

    “The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John”.

    And the sister-in-law’s role is that of monitoring her – the role of all good patriarchal women. She is … “so careful of me.”

    As Anne Summers (Damned Whores and God’s Police) highlighted these are the women who are placed in the position of being the moral guardians of the community – to ensure that women follow the patriarchal line.

    Damned whores

    Maggie O’Farrell writes in her introduction to the book this is an angry story:

    “…fury crackling off the page”.

    It is the writer’s relationship with the yellow wallpaper that is so creatively told. She begins to see things in the wallpaper that nobody else can and a woman begins to emerge.

    “It is like a woman stooping down and creeping behind that pattern” and the woman becomes many women… “…trying to climb through”.

    This story is about oppression – the oppressive nature of marriage and power and control of men over women.

    It is also about mental illness. According to Maggie O’Farrell, Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself suffered some form of mental illness following the birth of her child. It is suggested that we may now know this as post natal depression. Charlotte was also forced to go through draconian treatment similar to the woman in her story where she is virtually imprisoned and not permitted any activity including writing.

    Phyllis Chesler wrote a ground breaking book in 1972 (revised in 2005) “Women and Madness”

    phyllis cheslerin which she documents how women are labelled as “mad” when they do not comply with the feminized norm or are unable to cope with the effects of patriarchal domination – and the harrowing treatment that has been imposed on women in the name of healing. There are many examples of this treatment of women throughout history – mad or bad – and it continues today.

    The uplifting aspect of this story is the powerful ending.

    She locks the door and peels off the wallpaper.

    “’I’ve got out at last’, said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back.”

    “What the Yellow Wallpaper does is give the mad woman pen and paper, and ultimately a voice of her own” (Maggie O’Farrell)

     

  • 24Jun

    Going…going…gone – women-only services are in the process of closing down.

    SOSwomen's services
    SOSWomen’s Services  have highlighted the plight of women-only refuges in NSW.
    Under the ‘Going Home Staying Home’ program, the NSW government is failing to support women-only domestic violence services.
    “336 individual services have been consolidated into 149 packages operated by 69 non-government organizations.” Sydney Morning Herald

    And it is not just women’s shelters, but women’s legal services, women’s health services, women’s sexual assault services – along with other marginalised groups such as services for our First Nation’s people, refugees, migrants, disability services and many more are at risk with cuts to funding and tendering processes which ignore the real needs of women.

    When we lose women’s services then we lose our voices.

    From SOSWomenServices

    10464058_1447817408808832_1810247233436499230_a

     

    Women experiencing violence and abuse will no longer have a place to tell their stories; there will no longer be a women’s sector to bring these stories, these voices, to society’s attention.

    We are at risk of losing local women’s networks;  regional women’s networks;  state-based women’s networks and national networks, representing the women’s sector to advocate on behalf of women.
    How can we have national networks representing the women’s sector when we no longer have a women’s sector?

    And not only in NSW.

    Because beware – the Queensland government has already signaled its intentions to follow the same path and concerns are being raised in SA about the closure of women’s health services and Victoria too is watching on with interest. We can predict that other states will follow.

    Our Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse which actively engaged with grassroots women’s sector has already been closed down and replaced by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety with its focus on academic research.

     

     Large Generalist Providers
    “Some services have decided to close their doors after decades; others will continue to operate under the management of new generalist providers such as St Vincent de Paul, Mission Australia, the Salvation Army and Wesley Mission.” (Sydney Morning Herald)

    Make no mistake these generalist services are corporate organizations where quantity, not quality are what matters; where the managerial focus is on key performance indicators and inputs and output targets and who operate from a ‘case mix’ model.
    “Women’s refuges don’t do ‘case mix’ models, they do real women and children with real life problems who need safe places to sleep and the environment to improve their lives.” (SOS Women’s Services)

     

    What’s so Important about Women’s Services?
    I have written before about the importance of women only, feminist services in providing specialist services based on years of experience and also being informed by a feminist perspective.  (see post on Women’s Services)
    We are losing the ability for women escaping domestic violence to collectively meet in an environment where their stories of violence are placed in a broader social context.
    It is their experiences which inform the need for political and structural change.
    This will likely be replaced by a corporate system where only homelessness is addressed; and where violence and oppression will be treated as an individual personal pathology and women will be redirected to family therapy and individual counselling.
    At the heart of all of the significant and structural changes that have occurred for women in the last 40 years has been the stories of women’s experiences and women working together to create change.

    Our advocacy in regard to changes in criminal, civil and family law to protect women from violence and abuse; changes in police practices; changes in how our health systems respond to women victims of violence –just a few of the changes that have come about as a result of the advocacy of the women sector – all have come from the grassroots of experiences of women who have been involved in the women’s sector.
    We will no longer have a women’s sector.
    Why would we need organizations such as WESNET, the National Women’s Health Network, and National sexual assault services? They would be operating in a vacuum because they would have no sector to represent.
    Silencing Dissent

    During the Howard era much of the funding directed towards non-government services came with a clause preventing services from criticizing government policy.
    The most recent example – Community Women’s Legal Centres have lost funding for advocacy work.
    We are in this era again.
    In a neo-conservative, patriarchal era the concept of democratic critique and dissent is being destroyed.

     

    Sheilas-black

     Tim Dunlop has written in ‘Sheilas’ An Initiative of the Victorian Women’s Trust’ of the silencing of dissent and how it is being re-enacted under the present Liberal-National government.

    This is not only happening at the Federal level but also at state levels.

     

    Once these services have been lost, once women’s voices have been silenced a change in government at state or federal levels will not bring back these services.

    It will take years for women to win back what we have now – and there will be no avenues which will be available for women through which women will have their voices heard. And once lost they may be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to recover.

     

    WOMEN’S VOICES ARE BEING SILENCED – NOW, ON OUR WATCH, IN OUR TIME!

  • 16May

    So what did Christopher Pyne call Bill Shorten in the Australian Parliament?
    Well watch the video and decide for yourself.
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/may/15/what-did-christopher-pyne-call-bill-shorten?CMP=twt_gu
    But is this what we would expect from Australian politicians?
    Are we surprised by this?
    Here are some examples of the Liberal National Coalition when they were faced with a female prime minister in the last parliament.

    • Mr. Abbott: “Are you suggesting to me that when it comes from Julia, ‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘No’?”
    • Joe Hockey “Wayne Swan is to surpluses what Paris Hilton is to celibacy”.
    • Bill Heffernan [re the PM] “I mean anyone who chooses to remain deliberately barren …”
    • Convoy of No Confidence with the famous photos of 3 Liberal MPs including Mirabella, Bishop the elder and Tony Abbott, in front of signs –“Ditch the witch” –“ Bob Brown’s bitch”.

    ditch the witch

    But this isn’t just about misogyny in the Liberal National Coalition government.
    It reflects the misogyny evident in Australian society.
    It is this kind of disrespect, misogyny and sexist, abusive language which is at the core of male violence against women; rape and sexual assault; harassment and abuse of women.
    Where is the public outrage about this?

    Where is the public condemnation of this behavior and blatant sexism?

    Why isn’t this major headline in every major media outlet in Australia?
    Enough is enough!

  • 09May

    No Blue Ties Here
    Since Julia Gillard made her speech about the blue ties taking over, I have been seeing them everywhere – whenever I switch on the tv, there they are, filling my screen – telling me lies and screwing not only women, but the poor, disabled and disadvantaged.
    Of course, the blue ties are part of the uniform of the dark coloured suits. I have had nightmares about the white men in dark suits that run our world.

    The newly sworn in Ministry of the Abbott government

    It’s a scary world! (Thank goodness Quentin Bryce wore such a lovely bright pink – she does stand out, doesn’t she?).
    I grew up in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. I grew up with feminism. I grew up believing in the future for women – that we had managed to raise awareness about women’s oppression and patriarchy and that whilst there were many changes to be made, we were on a forward moving path.
    I think it was Anne Summers who said in her ‘Misogyny’ book that when feminists were able to effect changes in the laws and challenge sexist practices we did not believe that we could lose these changes. And yet that is what we are facing today.

    John Howard in 2006 said he thought that we had moved into a post-feminist era.
    So really we didn’t need feminism anymore? – take a look at the photo above before you make any rash judgements about this.

    And perhaps this could have been believed when Julia Gillard became our first female prime minister – perhaps things were looking up for women.

    Then came the shock of the vitriol, the sexism, the misogyny that was directed at our first female prime minister.
    I have been a feminist activist for a long time – I have advocated on behalf of women who have been victimised by domestic violence, sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse. I have worked towards creating legislative change to help provide protection and remove structural barriers to women achieving safety from violence. So I’m not unfamiliar with the level of both physical and emotional violence that can be directed towards women – the level of hatred against women that exists in our society.

    But I was shocked. Shocked and appalled about the public nature of such misogyny – that men in the media and politicians felt that it was ok to express such vitriol and hatred at a woman in a power position. I thought we had moved past that.

    Regardless of what we think of Julia Gillard and her leadership of the Labor Party and the country; regardless of whether we think her policies were supportive of women – what was done to her as a woman resonated for women throughout the country.

    And when finally…finally…Julia Gillard said enough…and made her misogyny speech it reverberated for women throughout the world. Finally a woman was standing up against sexism and misogyny that women face every day.

    This is from something I wrote after Julia Gillard was deposed and the context in which her misogyny speech was made and why it resonated for so many women.
    Each of us:
    • Fear rape and sexual assault which impacts on our behavior every day
    • At least 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence in their relationships
    • We experience sexual harassment at work, at home and in the street
    • Violence against women is the biggest health problem for women in Australia
    • Our legal system – family law, criminal law etc. all fail to protect women from violence and abuse. It discounts and denies violence against women – it calls women liars.
    • Women and poverty – single mothers are the most impoverished group in Australia
    • Families, which are described as the “core of our society”, are not a safe place for women. When commentators and politicians talk of the importance of families they inevitably fail to identify the oppression that many women experience in families
    On a regular basis, another male sporting hero is found to have raped, sexually assaulted or violated women.

    But women are beginning to speak out, to challenge the blue ties and the dark suits. We may not have a voice in cabinet; we may be dismissed by the mainstream media but we still have a voice.

    And Mairi’s Voice is one more.