99th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival

August 5, 2016

Down Under Feminists' Carnival logo

I’m excited to be hosting the 99th Down Under Feminist’s Carnival. This is my third time collating – and I’m always blown away by the quality and strength of the feminist blogosphere. Feminist writing in New Zealand and Australia is so broad and diverse and it’s always exciting to find out what’s being written and analysed on a whole range of topics. Get your browsers/phones/e-readers ready because there’s a lot of fabulous and interesting and inspiring material to get through!

I’ve been a bit slack as a blogger. I must admit to being generally disengaged with politics and to reading feminist politics for a while now. I haven’t meant to go so long between posts. There are a variety of reasons for my blogging absence (mostly: small children; but also: needing to save my mental health by not turning on the news!) but engaging with all these amazing writers, I’m inspired to get back to blogging again. Please, someone, hold me to this.🙂

But enough waffle from me. Lets get onto the good stuff. Without further ado, I present the July 2016 DUFC. Get your reading gear around these awesome links:


  • Racism in Australia seemed to reach new lows of atrociousness this month, with 4 Corners exposé of the assault, tear-gassing and abuses of indigenous children in a Northern Territory youth detention centre. This article from the SMH outlines some of the horror if you haven’t heard about it already. Gillian Triggs calls for Inquiry into Youth Detention Abuse. [warning: graphic images in that article] Triggs, who is President of the Human Rights Commission has argued that this kind of systemic abuse in NT are part of a wider culture of human rights abuses and cover-ups currently occuring in Australia, both onshore and offshore detention.
  • With the Federal election, we’ve also seen the return to the political spotlight of Pauline Hanson. At Daily Life Celeste Liddle writes about the current political climate and why We shouldn’t be surprised by the return of Pauline Hanson. Liddle writes:

    Since Hanson’s first election, rather than simply avoiding backlash, politicians have actively drawn on the racist undercurrent of Australian society to win elections. The deliberate focus on “stopping the boats” following the Tampa Affair in 2001 is one jarring example of this happening. Worse, it proved successful and has become a standard tactic used by both the Coalition and the Labor Party in subsequent elections.

  • No Place for Sheep responds to political commentator Waleed Aly’s discussion of primetime chatshow host Sonia Kruger’s bigoted comments about banning Muslims from migrating to Australia: Pray for the Bigots.
  • Ann Deslandes wrote a fantastic piece for New Matilda about white privilege in Australia and abroad, in the context of the upcoming Olympic Games: Australia Packs Its Prejudice And Heads To Rio.
  • Celeste Liddle writes at Daily Life: Magnolia Maymuru wasn’t the only Aboriginal finalist of Miss World Australia. Why weren’t the others recognised?


  • At Flip That Script is a great post about inappropriate adult comments about children. I love this piece because I’ve heard quite a few of the Yucky Adult Comment examples, usually while at the playground with my little ones, and I never know what to say… I’m guilty of just leaving an awkward silence, or smiling along while thinking “did you really just say that?” when hearing comments like these. Let the children play. Don’t let yucky adult comments get in the way.
  • Over at Wonderously Other is a lovely piece about how hard it can be returning to paid work after having a baby: The Life of a Working Mother.
  • There’s a fantastic piece at ABC News site by Samantha Selinger-Morris titled Scratching beneath the surface of motherhood regret. This one really struck a chord with me, and it’s a topic that I’ve pondered writing about myself for this here blog, but because it’s so personal I keep putting it off. However, the personal is political, as the saying goes, so one day I will write about my own experiences of maternal ambivalence (as the above article calls it) and how tricky it feels to even admit to that in public. Someone needs to hold me to it though because I will procrastinate.
  • Elswhere, at Cesca at MyFlatPackLife discusses how patronising and irritating it is to be judged for formula-feeding your baby: Bottle vs Breast.


  • Over at Write Handed, Sarah Wilson writes a very personal piece about how phoning Lifeline helped her and why New Zealand funding for it should be reinstated: Lifeline: It Literally Is
  • Scarlet Harris writes at SBS about the positives of singledom: Sometimes it’s just easier being single
  • Ginger Gorman writes a a touching tribute to blogger Elizabeth Caplice, who passed away last month from cancer: ‘I get to do it on my terms. I like that’. I hadn’t come across her blog before but her words are powerful and honest and although I’ve not read many of her posts, I’m sorry to hear of her death.



  • Van Badham writes passionately about her appearance on the ABC’s panel show, where she didn’t get a chance to argue the need for greater funding and support services for women fleeing domestic violence, because one of the panellists kept interupting and making it all about himself: I’m still reeling from Q&A but not because I was called hysterical
  • Jane Gilmour published her piece about the privitisation of the 1800-RESPECT crisis hotline for domestic violence because no news sites considered it newsworthy enough. That says a lot. Great and important read here: 1800 RESPECT, risking women’s lives for ideology and “women’s issues” in the news. Gilmour writes:

    Earlier this year, 1800 RESPECT asked the government for an additional $2.1 million from the government to provide resources to meet rapidly increasing demand. Instead, the Turnbull government has decided to spend $5 million ($2.9 million more than 1800 RESPECT need) to contract Medibank Health solutions to provide a triage service.
    This new service, announced by the Department of Social Services (DSS), is not only predicted to dilute services to women in crisis, but it also poses serious, potentially life threatening, risk to privacy of data collected by the newly contracted provider, and significant safety risks to counsellors working on the hotlines.


  • In this post Please Call Me Disabled, Sarah Wilson writes beautifully about the process of accepting and identifying oneself as disabled.
  • Blogger WillowDove urges people to consider wheelchair accessibility issues: Wheelchair ramps 101 – first steps. She writes:

    If you are inviting someone who uses a wheelchair somewhere that they don’t know, but you do (or to your house/workplace), volunteer to talk about the access. Think about the venue and your guest ahead of this conversation but try not to draw too many conclusions for yourself. See yourself as the constable gathering information for the detective.


  • Over at Kill Your Darlings, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas writes about the latest Ghostbusters flick, which has three (gasp!) female leads: The first woman Ghostbuster. I particularly love this paragraph, especially for my new favourite word, misogybile:

    With all the hype surrounding Paul Feig’s women-fronted Ghostbusters reboot, you’d think by the volume of misogybile from the Internet’s self-appointed guardians of male nostalgia that some great crime had been committed in the hallowed realm of contemporary light entertainment.

That’s all from me for now. I hope you get as much out of reading these pieces as I have. A big thank you to everyone who helped me put this together by sending me relevant links.

Interesting in hosting a carnival? Want to know more about the DUFC? Check out How it Works

The next edition of the Carnival – the big One Zero Zero – is planned for 5 September, 2016: by Chally at Zero at the Bone. Please help her out by sending submissions to chally.zeroatthebone [at] gmail [dot] com.

Until next time, femmo friends. Pondering Pen signing out.

Call for submissions: 99th Down Under Feminists Carnival #dufc

July 23, 2016

Down Under Feminists' Carnival logo

It’s been over a year since I’ve written here. Last time it was to host the 74th Down Under Feminists Carnival, a wonderful monthly roundup of New Zealand and Australian feminist blogging and writing.

It is my honour to be hosting the 99th edition of DUFC.

But I need your help. Please submit your favourite feminist blog posts and articles from the month of July. I look forward to receiving your emails: drpen {dot} robinson AT gmail [dot] com. Send all your links my way!

74th Down Under Feminists’ Carnival

July 8, 2014

Down Under Feminists' Carnival logo

Welcome to the June 2014 Edition – the 74th – of the Down Under Feminists’ Carnival! A feast of fantastic feminist ‘frightbat’ awesomeness. Grab yourself a cuppa and get reading.

There’s such a breadth and depth of feminist writing and criticism out there. It has been an absolute pleasure collating this edition of the DUFC. Hope you enjoy reading these great pieces as much as I have.


In NSW many women’s refuges are under threat due to changes in funding to homelessness services. It is an appalling state of affairs, to put it mildly. There’s lots of campaigning under way to save these important services. Read about them at Hoyden about Town, where tigtog writes: Signal Boosting: Mass Closure of Women’s Refuges in NSW.

* At Global Comment, Chally Kacelnik writes about this urgent and important issue: New South Wales Decimates Women’s Shelters.

* At xterrafirma Ann Deslandes writes about the problems of the policy context of the women’s refuges and homelessness shelters in the light of the recent funding changes in NSW: Did Elsie get it right the first time?

Also check out the SOS Women’s Services Facebook page for more info about how you can get involved.

* At Writehanded, Sarah Wilson shares a fantastic ‘Feminist Treehouse’ image created by one of her friends in response to an anti-feminist commenter: Welcome to the Feminist Treehouse.

* At The Travelling Unicorn, Ebs writes about the whiteness of Australian feminism in the light of the ‘Frightbat’ poll at the Daily Telegraph: #Australianfeminismisforwhitewomen.

At the Daily Life website, Celeste Liddle argues strongly for more support for young Indigneous women: We need to do more for our indigenous girls.

She writes:

Right now, there are only a handful of programs that focus on the unique circumstances of young Indigenous women. Initiatives like Girls at the Centre by The Smith Family and the Multi-mix mob (a playgroup catering for children and their mothers) are few and far between. And most seem to be offered through not-for-profit groups or foundations with limited governmental support. A programme like Clontarf, by using sport as a way to reach them, also gives our young men so many other options by teaching them to aim high and value education. Couldn’t our women also benefit from such a well-rounded approach?

The issues faced by Indigenous girls are diverse and their needs are wide-ranging. There is a demonstrated need for a range of programs geared around educational empowerment, health and well-being, parenting support and skills, sports and recreation and general leadership.

Her article refers to a recently released report from The Smith Family which can be found at the bottom of this page: “Improving educational outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls”.

Somehow I don’t think Australia’s “Minister for Women” (I’ve put it in quotes because I don’t believe he can or should be in that position) has young indigenous women anywhere near the top of his priority list. Earlier this week our increasingly offensive and ignorant Prime Minister (is it even possible for him to get any worse!?!) declared to an economic conference: “I guess our country owes its existence to a form of foreign investment by the British government in the then unsettled or, um, scarcely settled, Great South Land”.

There are so many wrong things about this statement I don’t know where to begin. Argh, just…no.


* Celeste Liddle writes at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist about racism in Australia and how tired she is of the whitemansplaining: I’m just so damn exhausted.

* Ebs at The Travelling Unicorn writes about Blackface fatigue, after trying to explain why blackface is racist to a bunch of young people from the Gold Coast.


* At Writehanded, Sarah Wilson shares some tips about mindfulness, something I think we can all benefit from: Walking down the other street.

* At No Place for Sheep, Jennifer Wilson writes movingly about losing her husband, in: The House of Widows.

* Avril e Jean writes beautifully about the first experiences of menopause: The Hot Flush


* Angela Priestley suggests that women delete the cost of childcare from their partner’s salary instead of their own: Should mum or dad pay for childcare?


There’s lots of great writing about Orange is the New Black. It’s a brilliant show, currently in second season. I wish it had been around when I was writing my thesis on postfeminism and pop culture. I probably should blog about it, except that I’m too busy just enjoying it.

* Scarlett Harris discusses the second season of Orange is the New Black, a television series that features a large cast of diverse and interesting women: Physical & Mental Health in Orange is the New Black.

* Brocklesnitch writes this hilarious piece in response to a male journalist who totally misses the point about OITNB by arguing that it doesn’t have enough men in it. Yep, someone actually wrote that. Check out the smackdown here: Orange is the No Ah No.

If you’ve not seen OITNB yet, I suggest you get your hands on season one and start watching.

* Tasha Robinson writes scathingly about the problems with ‘strong female characters’ and the lack of them, in: We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome

She writes:

“Strong Female Character” is just as often used derisively as descriptively, because it’s such a simplistic, low bar to vault, and it’s more a marketing term than a meaningful goal. But just as it remains frustratingly uncommon for films to pass the simple, low-bar Bechdel Test, it’s still rare to see films in the mainstream action/horror/science-fiction/fantasy realm introduce women with any kind of meaningful strength, or women who go past a few simple stereotypes.


* Continuing with the Orange is the New Black theme, at The King’s Tribune, Rebecca Shaw discusses OITNB and argues that bisexuality is routinely diminished and dismissed: Safe spaces in the LGBTQIA alphabet.


* Julie at The Hand Mirror’ writes about access to abortion in Aotearoa New Zealand: Not what abortion ‘on demand’ looks like, folks


* blue milk writes about the way we police teenage girls’ bodies in: My latest column is on dress codes and teenage school girls. Link to her Daily Life article here: Fighting against dress code sexism at school.

* Rosanna Stevens writes beautifully about the culture of shame surrounding menstruation: The right kind of blood

* Kath at Fat Heffalump writes wonderfully about: Unruly Bodies

An excerpt:

I learnt that instead of focusing on what my body is not, I need to focus on what it IS. And what it is, is wonderous. Flawed and weird yes, as are ALL bodies, but also amazing.

Why must women be small, tidy, contained, unobtrusive? Why must we spend our lives trying to disappear, be invisible, to not take up any space, to keep out of everyone’s way? Why can’t we inhabit our bodies as they are, find comfort and joy in them?


* At The Hand Mirror, Scuba Nurse writes: ‘Why I think you are creepy’. She quotes some twitter conversations about rape and ‘rapey behaviour’. [trigger warnings apply]

She writes:

And I suddenly thought… why the hell they are fighting SO HARD for their rights to someone else’s body.

* Jennifer Wilson at No Place for Sheep asks: Should Uthman Badar’s talk “Honour killings are morally justified” have been cancelled by the Festival of Dangerous Ideas?

* At A Bee of a Certain Age Deborah discusses some of the myths about domestic violence: “On the radio, talking about domestic violence” (There’s a link on the page to a recording of the radio show).


* Over at Ramp Up, Stella Young talks about the lack of agency young women with disabilities have over their bodies: ‘Life skills’ program teaches wrong lesson


* Jane Gilmour writes about the whole Frightbat fiasco in “Bat Country for Old Men“.

* Jenna Price, co-founder of the feminist action group Destroy the Joint also wrote about this issue: Be very worried, Tim Blair – we are all fright bats now.

* Over at Geek Feminism, there’s an interesting discussion about What would a feminist payment/funding site look like?.

* Anita Heiss writes about the end of Australia’s cultural cringe: Is the cultural cringe over? YES IT IS! |

And that just about wraps it up for June. Thanks to everyone who submitted links, it made hosting that much easier.

Edited to add: The next edition of DUFC will be hosted by Rebecca from bluebec.com. If you can’t access the submissions form, email: rebecca [dot] dominguez [at] gmail [dot] com to submit a post.

Re-entering the femmo blogosphere: Call for submissions

June 11, 2014

Long time, no write.

My only excuse is parenthood, but I really should make more time for blogging because when I get into it I enjoy the writing process (well, some of the time). If nothing else, blogging is good for venting, and there’s certainly been plenty to get angry about recently. Especially since the government released their appalling Budget, which – as far as I can tell – goes out of its way to target the poor, the sick, the unemployed, the vulnerable… and make their lives more difficult.

I think I end up not writing about these political issues because I get so cross that I feel like any critique I write on here will end up sounding like a helpless crazy rant.

Anyway, the reason I write today is not to rage against or critique the pitfalls of contemporary Australian politics, but to announce that I’ll be hosting the 74th DUFC (Down Under Feminists Carnival)!!

The carnival is a monthly round-up of the best feminist blog posts from Australian and New Zealand writers. I have hosted it once before, way back in 2011: the 42nd edition.

The 73rd is being hosted by Ju over at The Conversationalist: 73rd Down Under Feminists Carnival. Check it out for some great reading.

I need your help to collaborate the next edition. Throughout the month of June, please submit links to fantastic feminist blog posts that you think are worth sharing. At the end of the month I’ll collate the best and share them here on 5th July.

How to submit:
* Click this link and fill in the brief form, including the category the article falls under from the drop-down menu.

* If you can’t access the form, email me: drpen [dot] robinson [at] gmail [dot] com

I welcome any and all submissions. You can nominate yourself. You can nominate others. You can nominate new bloggers. The more you submit, the better the carnival.

For more info, and to read over previous DUFC carnivals, click: Down Under Feminists Carnival.

Down Under Feminists' Carnival logo

Pink stinks

November 19, 2013

Pink stinks. It really does.

Before I had my daughter, I was already annoyed at the quantity of pink clothing that was out there for girls. But now that I shop for baby and toddler clothes on a regular basis, I find myself getting more and more frustrated.

Some shops are worse offenders than others, but sometimes there is no choice except pink or blue. There’s such a stark contrast between the boys and the girls clothes. Where’s the variety?

And it’s not a colour issue, it’s the designs of the clothes themselves. For example, boys t-shirts get trucks, trains, dinosaurs, spaceships, animals. Girls get butterflies, flowers, stars, princesses and love hearts. Oh god, the love hearts. Why?!

A little while ago I was trying to find a rash-vest for my daughter – now 16 months old. The blue and pink divide was very clear, as always. But worse, I think, were the choice of animal logos. Boys (or, I should say, the blue and green swimwear) had turtles and starfish. The girls were in various shades of pink and mauve with a choice of: seahorses or flamingoes. Except they weren’t just seahorses and flamingoes. The seahorses had glittery sparkles and bows on their heads. The flamingoes made the shape of a love heart and were captioned with the words “Summer Love”. This is clothing for a one-year-old.

Kmart clothes are particularly bad in terms of their baby clothes. If it’s not the stereotypical gendered colours, it’s all their naff phrases. “Daddy’s little princess”, or “Mummy’s little angel”, etc. They make me want to puke.

Oh, and don’t get me started on all the tassels and frills. The limited colours are bad enough, but the selection of say, t-shirts, for girls, always tend to have puffy sleeves. Or the swimming cozzies have tassels around the legs, or the trousers have ruffles across the bum or lace around the hem. I just don’t see how those kinds of frills are necessary on a baby or a child. On occasion they might be cute, but they just seem to accentuate the idea that females are there to be looked at. Why have ruffles across the bum or tassels on the legs if not to draw attention to those parts of the body? What does a toddler want with these things?

And if the clothes for girls must be pink, why can’t their tees at least also have trains or trucks or tennis rackets or planets?

In the UK, there’s an organisation called Pink Stinks that is working to redress the pinkification. In Sweden there are schemes underway to make marketing to children less stereotypically gendered. I think we need to start something like that in Australia**.

I’m sure some would argue that I am being overly sensitive, and that it doesn’t really matter, they are just clothes. But the thing is, they are not just garments. Right from birth we are told what is appropriately masculine or feminine. Certain colours or toys or roles aren’t seen as appropriate for girls, and certain aren’t seen as proper for boys. Right from the beginning both boys and girls are stereotyped and limited by society. And this is where it is problematic.

I don’t know what the answer is. I try to avoid purchasing pink clothes for my daughter, but I can’t avoid it completely. And actually, I wouldn’t want to ignore pink altogether. I don’t want to dress my baby as a political statement. Pink is a fine colour…in moderation. What I would like though, is greater choice in the colours available. Where I could go to the shops and instead of there being boys’ and girl’s sections, there was a children’s section... with green, purple, yellow, orange, red, turquoise, and everything in between. Where pink was just one option among a rainbow of colours.


** I wrote all of the above last week, but just this morning came across an Australian lobby group, Play Unlimited, who have begun petitions to try and change the way retailers like ToysRUs market to children! Fantastic! We need more like this.

Please have a look at their petition and look at their website: http://www.playunlimited.org.au

If you think their following three points are a good idea (YES YES YES!) please take a moment to sign their petition.

1 – Remove ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ headings from their website and marketing and sort toys by theme.

2 – Be diverse in their marketing – let’s see examples of both girls and boys playing with all sorts of toys

3 – Stop using pink and blue as proxies for ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ sections within marketing materials; let children know that a world of colour is available to them.

Hot water and milk

January 23, 2013

image of a woman in the 'Rosie the Riveter'/We Can Do it pose while breastfeeding her baby

[image source: strawberry mohawk]

I was initially reluctant to weigh in on the debate about public breastfeeding that ignited last week around comments from television host David Koch. Mostly because I think he has had plenty of air-time and column inches to defend his offensive and old-fashioned comments about how women should and should not breastfeed their babies. ‘Why give him and his stupid remarks any more thought?’, I thought to myself.

But the more I think about his comments, the more they enrage me.

I’ve been breastfeeding my daughter, my first baby, for about seven months now. I am angered by David Koch’s comments about how women should be “classy”, “modest” and “discreet” if they’re going to breastfeed in public.

When I first saw the segment on his Sunrise program that sparked the public outrage, I was willing to give Koch the benefit of the doubt – particularly because in that segment where he interviews three women about a ‘topic of the day’ his role is to play devil’s advocate. I figured he was just being a troll for the hell of it. Roll your eyes. Move on.

But since the original comments went to air his opinions have angered me further and I feel the need to protest. In the aftermath of his offensive comments (and yes, they are offensive!) a “nurse-in” was organised to protest outside the television studio. About 100 mothers breastfed their babies and the organiser of the protest, Amy Ahearn, was invited into the studio to discuss the matter further. She did a great job staying cool, calm and collected in front of Koch who, in response to the protesting mothers didn’t back down from his argument that women who breastfeed in public need to be careful about how they do it.

He said:

“I totally agree with breastfeeding in public, but I think you’ve got to be a bit classy about it”

His comments that women need to be modest and classy make me angry because they reinforce the idea that women’s bodies are constantly being judged. Even when doing something as natural and vital as feeding our children, we have to look “classy”?? Are you serious!?

Breastfeeding is difficult. Especially in the beginning. Breastfeeding in public is also quite tricky a lot of the time. I don’t love doing it. But when I have to feed my baby, I have to feed my baby. Running off to try and find a parents room or trying to put a cover over the baby is not always possible, nor desirable (Hello, Sydney summers. Hello, baby who loves grabbing at all kinds of fabric.)

Every single breastfeeding mother that I know is actually quite “discreet” about it – as Koch so lovingly puts it. We don’t just have our boobs hanging out all over the shop. But that’s not the point! It’s hard enough breastfeeding in public as it is, but when a male media personality with a large platform for espousing outdated opinions tells us we better cover up with a “muslin” or to turn our chairs around, or that feeding an infant by the side of a public pool is unacceptable, then we are getting the message that breastfeeding is something to be ashamed of, something to be covered up.

If you’re not presenting yourself in a classy way, ladies, then watch out! Careful not to offend any middle-aged men by letting some breast tissue be exposed while you’re feeding your child her lunch.

Koch dug himself further into his hole by making ridiculous comments such as this gem:

“I don’t mind if women sunbake topless as long as they don’t do it between the flags in a high traffic area.”


The double standard here is mind-boggling. Sunbaking topless and breastfeeding are vastly different activities, even though both may involve some amount of breast flesh being visible to the world. But why even mention sunbaking topless? It’s completely irrelevant.

In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, “Breastfeeding, Kochie and double standards”, Amber Robinson writes:

Telling women to feed their babies in a smelly nappy-change area or to inhibit feeding with a cloth cover (babies usually yank it off in 5 seconds anyway) is discrimination. Motherhood is isolating enough without being forced out of public spaces because of the way you feed your child.


Fortunately in Australia it is a woman’s legal right to feed her baby anywhere anytime. So basically, if a mother breastfeeding a child in public bothers you, LOOK THE OTHER WAY. It’s as simple as that.

There are some other issues troubling me about this whole debate, and thanks to a link shared by Blue Milk (who blogs a lot about breastfeeding and feminism), I think I now know why I have been so pissed off by the comments from David Koch.

Blue Milk links to this great piece: “Transgressive breastfeeding and the rules of the public sphere“, written by an Australian living in Hanoi. I think she has a really interesting take on why breastfeeding in public is so, apparently, controversial. And why men like Koch think they have the right to complain about mothers not being discreet enough.

She writes:

You see, according to Sharwood (and his ilk), mothering is an ‘intimate’ and ‘private’ activity that should not be taking place in the public sphere. If somehow it does stray into that public sphere then it really ought to be careful not to become “a public spectacle.” This means that if for some reason a mother of young children does have to leave the house (which, by implication, is a transgresssive act in itself), then she should take every measure to ensure that her ‘private, intimate’ work of mothering young children does not take up public space, because it does not belong.

I think she’s really onto something here!

She goes on to write about the way the language of modesty and discreteness is actually about women’s body language rather than covering up… I quote again:

I have been wondering for days now what “discreet” even means in the context of public breastfeeding. I now realise that what it means is that the woman in question must show through her body language that she knows that she is in breach of the rules of the public sphere. The specific position of her body, or her cover, is not really the issue. The issue is the body language of apology (I think the code word being used is modesty). She needs to show that she is sorry for taking up public space with her private activity. Then it would be OK. Then she could be excused.

Being proud or even nonplussed about breastfeeding our babies is an issue, not because we are being public exhibitionists, but because we are (even if we didn’t realise it) openly challenging the rules of the public sphere. We are being unapologetically, overtly female it what is still, essentially, a male space. That is what is so offensive – the brazen transgression of these long-standing, unwritten rules.

Fascinating! I think this is such a big part of why Koch’s comments irk me so much. As breastfeeding mothers we have to seem as though we are apologising for doing something “private” in the public domain.

Well if feeding my daughter in public is being brazenly transgressive, bring it on!

Sexism is not a game

December 7, 2012

You may remember a while ago that I awarded a “feminist of the week” award to the delightful Anita Sarkeesian for her incredible Feminist Frequency videos. If you haven’t seen her, you should check them out. She discusses representations of women in popular culture in a really accessible way.

Anyway, recently she’s been the target of an online hate campaign because, get this, she had the gall to try and raise money to make a video about the treatment of women in video games.

Below is a ten minute Ted talk she delivered, outlining the disgusting sexist, violent and hateful harrassment campaign directed personally at her.

I cannot believe the level of hatred aimed at her. Absolutely rage-making. I am in awe of how she can keep on fighting the good fight. For example, [trigger warnings apply] some of the “gamers” created a “game” with pictures of Sarkeesian that awarded points for how bloody her face got. Can you believe that!? It’s the sickest thing I’ve come across on the internet this week.

On the positive side, her fundraising has raised 25 times more than she ever hoped or wanted and she’s creating fantastic resources for further educating people about sexism and gender. Go Anita!!!

some November linkages

November 29, 2012

Some cool things I’ve read this week:

* This fantastic piece about the absurd gendered nature of toys: “Sweden makes my gender-free toy Christmas wish come true. To just quote a little bit:

In 2009, the Swedish equivalent of the Advertising Standards Authority sanctioned retailer Top Toy for producing a catalogue that “preserved an anachronistic view of the sexes” and showed both sexes in a “disparaging way”. So this year, the company has responded with advertising designed to confound every gender prejudice. Behold: a girl … with a Nerf gun! A boy … holding a doll! A girl … in a blue T-shirt! Eat it, patriarchy.

Since I now have a child, these kinds of things have become even more obvious and annoying to me than they were before. Trying to find baby clothes that aren’t either pink or blue is frustrating as hell for this feminist mum. Ugh.

* Robin Barker has a go at the anti-vaccine tribe in: “Immunisation debate hijacked by flat-earthers”.

* Over at Flat7, Ana Australiana writes beautifully about gentrification and home, and her recent move into a “studio” apartment in the innerwest, in: “Roaches and restitution.

Pondering new projects

August 1, 2012

Wow, long time, no write!

But not to worry – I haven’t completely abandoned Pondering Postfeminism.

Photograph of a derelict abandoned train carriage.
(abandoned train carriage, image source: redserenade)

There are a number of reasons for the lengthy gap between my posts. Firstly, I suppose I became a little bit sick of pondering postfeminism. Having spent several years writing a thesis on the topic, it is sometimes difficult to summon enthusiasm to keep writing about it.

I also haven’t taught any gender studies for a while, which was a good source of inspiration. Teaching sociology and gender was a great way to keep me thinking about feminist debates, and helping me discuss them in a straight-forward (and hopefully engaging) way.

Of course, a large reason for my absence has been a distinct case of writer’s block. For the last eighteen months or so, I have found it challenging to write entries for this blog of mine. I suspect that the primary cause was the fact that I’d begun to include the URL on my resume. In applying for academic jobs and grants, I’d mention this blog as evidence that I have the ability to engage with the public – something that is an increasingly important part of an academic’s job. The downside to this, though, was that I then imagined the audience of my blog to be potential employers. Every word had to be perfect and every post needed to be a dissertation-quality argument. Hardly conducive to productive and carefree writing!

So, they are my excuses.

My final reason is a much more exciting one. I am now a mother! My daughter was born in June, so I am in the early stages of first-time parenthood. It’s certainly a rollercoaster ride. It’s amazing and challenging and beautiful and exhausting and life-changing… and well, there aren’t really enough words to describe all my recent mothering experiences.

I am considering turning this blog into a bit of a motherhood/feminist blog – Pondering Post(natal)feminism?! – but I’m not sure at this stage. There are so many mummy bloggers out there, I’m not sure what my contribution would be. Perhaps I’ll just continue with similar themes as before. I like the idea of a mini-project to get me writing again, even if it’s once a week or fortnight.

My one idea at the moment is to write a series of critiques of advertisements that target mothers. I’ve been watching quite a bit of television in recent weeks (couch time while breastfeeding!) and there are so many questionable ads regarding women’s roles and women’s lives. I’m inspired by the very clever and very funny series of videos by US comedian called Sarah Haskins.

She challenges the sexism of television advertising in America. Watch some of her clips – they’re fantastic!

One of my favourites is this one about the way advertising markets yoghurt to women:

I thought I might pick an advertisement from Australian TV to pull-apart each week. It won’t be an amusing Haskins-esque video, but hopefully it will get me writing again.

I’m also open to suggestions about what this blog should be about and what projects I could start. Comment below!

Bechdel Testing the Oscars

February 25, 2012

This week, as Oscar fever heats up and the red carpet is rolled out, and the leading ladies are donning their pretty frocks, I thought it might be a good time to have a bit of a look at the portrayal of women in Hollywood.

Over at Women and Hollywood, Melissa Silverstien asks why there is so little recognition for women working in the film industry: To the Academy: Consider the Women.

Could it be because of this? “Old white blokes get to decide who the Oscars go to”

Of the 5765 voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences,

94 per cent were white, 77 per cent men and their average age was 62, with only 14 per cent under 50. Black and Hispanic voters accounted for only 2 per cent each.

On a similar note, Sociological Images looks at the breakdown of those who vote for the Oscars: “Who are the Oscars voters?”

And at Feminist Frequency, video-blogger Anita Sarkeesian applies the “Bechdel Test” to the 2012 Oscars:

(Transcript of the video available here)

I’ve mentioned the Bechdel Test before. It’s a fairly simple test to gauge the presence and significance of female characters in a film.
1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

Sarkeesian concludes that of the nine films nominated for Best Film, only two clearly pass the Bechdel Test. Interestingly, she then uses a modified version of the test to examine the portrayal of non-white characters in Hollywood films.

This was first devised by blogger Alaya Johnson at The Angry Black Woman: The Bechdel Test and Race in Popular Fiction.

To pass this test, a film/television series/book must meet the following simple rules:
1. It has to have two people of colour in it.
2. Who talk to each other.
3. About something other than a white person.

Not surprisingly, Sarkeesian discovers that the Oscar nominees for this year don’t fare too well. She argues that even a film such as The Help, about the civil rights movement in the 1960s, only just scrapes through. It passes the original Bechdel test, but is problematic when it comes to the modified version.

As Sarkeesian notes:

The percentage of films that pass the modified test is extremely small, even a movie like The Help which stars multiple named women of colour in prominent roles, passes by the narrowest of margins because characters are almost always talking to or about white people.

This variation of the test exposes the fact that Hollywood still basically refuses to make movies for a general audience that focuses on the lives of people of colour, unless it also stars a sympathetic white character.