Archive for the ‘"Feminist of the Week"’ Category

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.

GENERAL FEMINISM & SOCIAL JUSTICE

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.

INTERSECTIONS
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.

RACE/RACISM

* 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.

LIFE/HEALTH

* 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

FAMILY/WOMEN’S WORK

* 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?

MEDIA & POPULAR CULTURE

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.

LGBTQIAU

* 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.

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

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

THE BODY

* 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?

VIOLENCE

* 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).

DISABILITY

* 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

ARTS/CULTURE

* 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.

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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!!!

Reinventing Feminism

March 18, 2011

I’m handing out one of my oh-so-prestigious “Feminist of the Week” awards to Courtney Martin, author of a new book called Do it Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, and editor at Feministing.com. If you’ve got a spare ten minutes check out this fantastic TED presentation by Courtney Martin called “Reinventing Feminism”.

In her inspiring and entertaining speech (embedded below) she outlines many of the differences between so-called ‘second-‘ and ‘third-wave’ feminism, as well as highlighting their similarities. She also points to the diversity of contemporary feminist activism, as well as the ongoing relevance of feminism in young women’s lives. Excellent stuff.


(Thanks to S. for sharing the video with me!)

Hottest women musicians of 2010

January 3, 2011

Don’t forget to vote in the Hottest 100 Women 2010 poll.

It was started last year by Naomi Eve in response to TripleJ’s Hottest 100 Of All-Time poll which had almost no female artists in the final results. No Blondie, no PJ Harvey, no Clouds, no Salt n Pepa, no Sarah Blasko, no Portishead, no Aretha Franklin, no Kate Bush, no Courtney Love, no Magic Dirt, no Veruca Salt, no Madonna, no Yeah Yeah Yeahs, no Bjork, no Emiliana Torrini, no Ani DiFranco, no Patti Smith, no Garbage, no Tori Amos, etc, etc. You get the point.

The top 110 from the female-friendly “Of All-Time” poll from last year can be found here. I’m awarding Naomi Eve a ‘feminist of the week’ award for establishing this poll. You can read more about the project at her blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

And now voting is on again for songs released during 2010! Voting closes on Jan 7th. Vote now!!

The guidelines for what counts as a ‘woman’ song go like this:
Songs must be performed by:
– a female artist
– a band with a female lead singer, or
– a band with at least 2 female members (ie neither of whom are the lead singer).

You can also vote in the annual TripleJ Hottest 100.

Who will you be voting for?

Learning Gender

November 28, 2010

I’ve got another video for you to watch, Feminist Frequency: Toy ads and learning gender.

It’s by Anita Sarkeesian from Feminist Frequency, a video-blogger I’ve linked to before.

Hoyden about Town and Blue Milk have already linked to this video, but I wanted to share it too because it’s really good and shows so clearly the way children are socialised into limiting gender roles from an early age.

[There’s a transcript of the video available here]

This weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald has a section on Christmas gift ideas for boys and girls (children and teenagers). Annoyingly, they seem to follow a similar logic to the toy advertisements above. You only have to glance at the two pages to notice the differences in colour. The girls’ page is red/pink and the boys’ page is blue. But here are some of the gift suggestions.

Girls: bikini (pink and red), red Nintendo DSi, pink stationery and lip gloss, a red skateboard and a red scooter (at least there are some active things, I suppose), pink rollerblades, a handbag with red cherries, a necklace, sandals with pink ruffles. The only things that are not so stereotypical and worryingly coloured are a black digital camera and a copy of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.

Boys: star-gazer kit, a game of quoits, a cubby house (blue roof), model aeroplanes (mostly blue), blue and white checked sandshoes, a telescope, a planetarium (also blue).

The gifts for the teenagers are also heavily gendered.

Teen girl: lip-shaped telephone, high heeled shoes, a pink purse, make-up, a necklace (with a pink flamingo pendant), a pink watch, a pink dress, a floral bikini, and Gossip Girl on DVD.

Teen boy: Red sneakers, red skateboard. And the rest of the things are mostly black – electric guitar, an amp, a bicycle, sunglasses, earphones, a skateboarding magazine.

Sigh.

Princess Valhalla: postfeminist superhero

August 24, 2010

Not too long ago I posted a link to a rather odd video called Princess Valhalla Hawkwind. For readers who don’t know the television series The United States of Tara, the youtube clip would have made absolutely no sense. I awarded it a ‘postfeminist heroine of the week’ prize, but without explaining why. So perhaps it’s time to try put Princess Valhalla into context.

First, let me explain a little about the series. Don’t worry, there won’t be spoilers. In Australia the ABC is screening Series 2 once a week. (Except it has been rudely interupted mid-season by The Chaser’s election show. Boo!) You can also watch the series online via iView, but only one or two episodes are ever up at one time. The series is executive produced by Steven Spielberg, written by Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) and features Australia’s Toni Collette in the lead role.

Toni Collette is absolutely fantastic in this. So good that she has won Emmy and Golden Globe awards. She plays Tara, wife to Max and mother of teenage kids Kate and Marshall (perhaps my two favourite characters). Toni Collette also plays several other characters, in the form of Tara’s “alter egos” or Alters, because Tara suffers from dissociative identity disorder.

I’m not a psychologist so I don’t know how accurate a portrayal of the condition this is. But this is television, and as a piece of drama, it’s fantastic. I really love it. The acting is brilliant, the scripts are moving and hilarious and the relationships between the characters always strike me as believable. Each character copes with Tara’s mental illness in different ways, painting the complex story of a family in all its quirks, its tensions and its humour.

So where does this whacky Princess Valhalla Hawkwind character come in?

I’m glad you asked. Princess Valhalla Hawkwind is a fictional character within the series. We first come across her when Kate (in her new job as a debt-collector) has to track down a woman called Lynda P. Frazier. Lynda turns out to be an artist, and the creator of a comic-book featuring feminist super-hero Princess Valhalla. Kate and Lynda quickly become friends, hanging out and smoking pot. Kate becomes fascinated with the Princess Valhalla character, and in one episode she raids Lynda’s wardrobe to dress up in full Princess Valhalla costume.

(more…)

Princess Valhalla Hawkwind

July 21, 2010

Our feminist of the week, or “fictional post-feminist superheroine” of the week goes to Princess Valhalla Hawkwind!

Fangirl feminism

June 4, 2010

Whoah, another new post. Two in the one day!! Perhaps I’m avoiding something. Like that mega pile of essays over there on my desk. The pile that contains about 160k words. But wait, this blog is for pondering feminism and pop culture. Not pondering procrastination! Right then. Here we go.

I recently stumbled across a wonderful woman on Teh Intertubes. Her name’s Anita Sarkeesian.

You can find her work at http://www.feministfrequency.com: Conversations with Pop Culture. An ongoing series of videoblog commentaries from a fangirl/feminist perspective.

I haven’t had time to check out all of her stuff yet, but she’s getting my vote for “feminist of the week” because two of her videoblogs (embedded below) are simply fabulous. They align so neatly with both my academic and fangirl interests that I just have to share!

(The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies)

One of my students discussed the Bechdel Test in class the other day. I had not heard of it before. You may not have either. This short 2-min clip neatly describes what the Bechdel Test is. Watch it, if you haven’t already!

Basically, to pass the Bechdel Test (or the Mo Movie Measure, as it is sometimes referred) a film has to meet these three very simple criteria.

1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.

It is incredibly eye-opening to realise how many films don’t make the cut. A film might meet one or two of the points, but it cannot pass the test unless all three points are met. As pointed out in the video, the Bechdel test highlights systemic problems with the way women are portrayed in movies.

The maker of this fantastic videoblog won my heart and cemented herself as this month’s “feminist of the week” after I watched another of her clips: “Why we need you Veronica Mars”!!

Just this week I have started (re)watching Season 2 of Veronica Mars in all its funny, sassy, feminist brilliance. And then I happened upon this gorgeous youtube clip offering brilliant and insightful commentary about Veronica, popular culture and feminism. What’s not to love?

(Why we need you Veronica Mars)

Like, Anita, I urge you to get your hands on some Veronica. It’s brilliant television.

on “Throwing Like a Girl”

April 18, 2010


[image source: AlphaPsy blog.]

Feminist writer and philosopher Iris Marion Young once wrote a rather influential essay called Throwing Like a Girl*. It was originally published in 1980, but I first came across it in a gender studies course I did at university about ten years ago. I remember it striking a chord with me, and as it is still a text used in gender studies courses today – we read it this week – I thought I’d share some of it on my blog. I still have the original dog-eared course ‘reader’ from my undergrad days, so I pulled it out recently to see which bits I had highlighted and what sort of comments I’d written in the margins. There are quite a few asterisks, exclamation marks and “yes!”-es scribbled in the pages, alongside Young’s words, attesting to the excitement I felt when I encountered this essay for the first time.

I remember being struck by how much of it rang true for me, particularly Young’s description of the ways women tend to be self-conscious and cautious about their bodies, leading to a feeling of incapacity within themselves. Beginning with the different ways girls and boys throw a ball, Young’s essay is a philosophical (and phenomenological) investigation of embodiment; of how we live in our bodies.

She argues:

“We often experience our bodies as a fragile encumbrance, rather than the media for the enactment of our aims. We feel as though we must have our attention directed upon our bodies to make sure they are doing what we wish them to do, rather than paying attention to what we want to do through our bodies” (146-7).

Young is making a generalisation about Western women and obviously there are exceptions to her claims, but in her words I could (and can) see myself. So often growing up I mistrusted the ability of my body to do things. “Oh, I can’t lift that, I’m not strong enough”, or “I won’t be able to get the ball in the net”, or “I might get hurt”, or “What if I look stupid doing that?”. A self-imposed “I cannot”, is how Young describes it. These are also things that women are taught about their bodies by society. For example, “sit with your knees together”, “that sport is for boys”, and the fact that “you throw/run like a girl” is an insult. These rules and ideas about what’s appropriate and inappropriate for the female body have implications.

Iris Marion Young argues that by looking at the different ways men and women embody their bodies – the way they live in them, move them, sit in them, understand them, how they take up space, etc. – we can get some insights into the way gendered differences play out in our society, to the detriment of women.

“Typically, the feminine body underuses its real capacity, both as the potentiality of its physical size and strength and as the real skills and coordination that are available to it” (148).

The quote above is one that, on first reading ten years ago, I underlined and asterisked. “Yes!”, I realised, “this is how I live my body”. In fact, it is only in recent years that I have begun to truly appreciate and make the most of the capacities of my body. In 2008 I trained for and completed a half-marathon, which was something I never even dreamed I’d be able to do. I was a complete non-runner before I began. I hated sport and anything resembling exercise, largely because I mistrusted my body’s abilities. So it was quite a revelation to discover that, in fact, my body could run, and with training, it could run long distances. Similarly, by attending “Body Pump” classes, where I lift weights on a barbell to music, I have noticed myself feeling stronger and more confident in my body’s abilities.

But it’s not just lack of physical training that leads to women under-utilising their bodies, according to Young. She argues that it is also manifested in the way women sit and take up space. This is easy to observe in daily life. Check out the different ways men and women use their bodies. Public transport is a good place to do this. Men take up more space when sitting, they generally take longer strides when walking. Women tend to sit cross-legged and hold their hands and arms close to their bodies.

Young attributes these differing modes of movement and use of space to a number of factors. She argues that women are conditioned by sexist society to limit their bodily capacity. For example, she says that girls play games that are largely sedentary and enclosing, and that they aren’t encouraged to develop bodily skills in the same way boys are.

But her key argument is that women are trained into fragility and self-consciousness because they are objectified.

“the fact that the woman lives her body as object as well as subject. The source of this is that patriarchal society defines woman as object, as a mere body, and that in sexist society women are in fact frequently regarded by others as objects and mere bodies. An essential part of the situation of being a woman is that of living the ever-present possibility that one will be gazed upon as a mere body, as shape and flesh that presents itself as the potential object of another subject’s intentions and manipulations, rather than as a living manifestation of action and intention. The source of this objectified bodily existence is in the attitude of others regarding her, but the woman herself often actively takes up her body as a mere thing. She gazes at it in the mirror, worries about how it looks to others, prunes it, shapes it, molds and decorates it.

This objectified bodily existence accounts for the self-consciousness of the feminine relation to her body and resulting distance she takes from her body” (155).

She goes further than this to suggest that women in contemporary society experience a constant tension and contradiction between their subjectivity and their existence as a passive bodily object, an object of the gaze, a sexual object. Here she is discussing philosophical ideas of immanence (being-in-itself) and transcendence (being-for-itself), and drawing upon Simone de Beauvoir’s discussion of these terms. For Young, the way women move – the way they throw a ball – can be explained with reference to the “tension between transcendence and immanence, between subjectivity and being a mere object” (144) that women experience.

“To the extent that a woman lives her body as a thing, she remains rooted in immanence, is inhibited, and retains a distance from her body as transcending movement and from engagement in the world’s possibilities” (150).

Young also points out that as well as the threat of objectification that women live with, “she also lives the threat of invasion of her body space. The most extreme form of such spatial bodily invasion is the threat of rape. But we daily are subject to the possibility of bodily invasion in many far more subtle ways as well. It is acceptable, for example, for women to be touched in ways and under circumstances that it is not acceptable for men to be touched, and by persons – i.e., men – whom it is not acceptable for them to touch. I would suggest that the enclosed space that has been described as a modality of feminine spatiality is in part a defense against such invasion” (155).

One example I can think of here occurs quite frequently when meeting new people. Often, I find, when men are greeting one another, a handshake will suffice. But when greeting/meeting women, a kiss on the cheek is the norm. I don’t always find this offensive, but it is sometimes alarming when it is presumed okay to kiss me when I’m meeting you for the first time! Get out of my space, person I don’t know! Does this happen to anyone else? Someone told me the other day that I should just insist on a handshake by offering my hand assertively. I think I’ll give it a try. But I think it’s a useful illustration of the way women’s bodily space is considered different to men’s.

There’s probably a lot more I could say about Iris Marion Young’s essay – perhaps something about how I don’t think women are rooted in immanence in the same way as they were before feminism came along – but I’ll leave it there for now. Please share your thoughts about gendered differences in bodily comportment. Would love to hear your experiences. Do you throw like a girl?

*Iris Marion Young, “Throwing Like a Girl: A Phenomenology of Feminine Body Comportment, Motility, and Spatiality”, in Throwing Like a Girl and Other Essays in Feminist Philosophy and Social Theory, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1990.

more Germaine links

March 8, 2010

Some more linky links. Lots of feminist bloggers and writers have also defended Greer in wake of Nowra’s irritating piece in The Monthly.

* Helen Razer sums up our anger perfectly, I think: Louis Nowra needs a good vajazzling.

* Maggie Alderson writes about how important The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer was to her.

* Felix of the amazing adventures of felix and limpy writes: That time of the month?

* Caroline Overington in The Australian writes, Loved or hated, but still Germaine

* And Germaine Greer herself writes in The Age: Change is a feminist issue.

Every new generation of women struggles to define itself. Very few young women want to turn into their mother, and even fewer want to be their grandmother. There is no need for today’s women to march to a 40-year-old feminist drum.

Amid the seeming chaos of intergenerational conflict new lifestyles and family forms are coalescing. The feminist revolution has not failed. It has yet to begin. Its ground troops are fast developing the skills and muscle that will be necessary if we are to vanquish corporate power and rescue our small planet for humanity.

Thank you, Germaine! 🙂