Archive for the ‘Generation’ Category

Links: pubes, ejaculation, sluts & good mothers

June 26, 2011

Some Sunday reading to let you know that I haven’t completely forgotten about this blog.

[image: ‘red skies’ by redserenade]

* Blue Milk discusses class and the idea of the “good mother” in ‘Classism and mothers’. There’s a great collection of essays edited by Sue Goodwin and Kate Huppatz, called The Good Mother: contemporary motherhoods in Australia.

* 90s Woman discusses the 1998 Times article “Feminism: It’s All About Me!” that generated debates about postfeminism in the popular press and sparked generational conflict within feminism: “‘Postfeminism’ Backlash Flashback, 1998”.

* Roger Friedland at the Huffington Post investigates the disappearance of female pubic hair in “Looking Through the Bushes”. This topic fascinates me… so much so that my Honours thesis was about body hair removal. Remind to write about it here some time.

* Jesse Bering investigates the mysterious and under-researched world of female ejaculation: “Female Ejaculation: The Long Road to Non-Discovery”

* the news with nipples is justifiably angry at male Slut Walk commentators who take it upon themselves to criticise the movement but who just don’t get it: “The stupid, it burns”.

* For more awesome feminist reads, check out the “37th Down Under Feminist Carnival” hosted by Boganette.


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 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!)

Yoof revolution and the Doc Martens boot

March 7, 2011

(Docs image from redserenade's flickr)
[image source]

Long time, no write. I’ve been away for a variety of reasons but I really should get back to writing here regularly.

It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow, so there’s an awful lot I could write about regarding the state of feminism. However, I’m currently researching and writing a short piece about Dr. Martens boots (strangely enough, in relation to feminism), and I’m on a deadline, so I can’t blog much at the moment.

Just quickly, though, in the spirit of revolution, I want to share a video with you. I found it via the Dr. Martens website – so in many ways it is marketing material. But it actually traces the history of Docs in a really cool way. It’s a fantastic brief history of youth counter-cultures (working class, skinhead, punk, grunge, etc) over the last 50 years.

Check it out! (Runs for about 9 minutes):

Garnish suitably

January 16, 2011

Whenever I watch Mad Men I find myself feeling incredibly grateful that I was born when I was, and that second wave feminism came along in the 1960s and 70s to improve opportunities for women, and to improve gender relations more generally.

When I marvel at the period depicted in Mad Men, all retro and cool in its whisky-slugging, cigar-smoking, no-such-thing-as-sexual-harrassment-laws way, sometimes it’s easy to forget how recent that era was. I sometimes have to remind myself that this level of sexism (and racism and homophobia) is not something from back in the dark ages. Sure, it was last century, but it really wasn’t that long ago. My thought process often goes something like this: “Oh yeah, my mum lived through this. She was a teenager in the 60s. Wow, I’m so glad things have changed!”.

For me, one of the best things about Mad Men is that reminder. But I don’t mean to set up a distinction between the bad old days of the sixties and some sort of feminist utopia of the present. I’m certainly not suggesting that sexism, racism, homophobia are things of the past.

In fact, some of the most powerful moments in the series – the ones that turn up the dial on my melancholia or my rage – are the reminders that, actually, things have not changed as much as they could have. As much as they should have.

One theme that came through quite strongly in the interviews that I did with young women for my PhD, was the idea that women had more to fight for in previous generations; that the inequalities were much more stark, more obvious, more urgent. And I suppose this is what Mad Men helps to highlight for me. That is, the sheer awfulness of the misogyny depicted in the program gives me a hint of what it was like ‘back then’, and helps me understand what second-wave feminists were battling against.

But my interviews with young women also uncovered a sense among this generation that although lots of things have been achieved for women, there is still a long way to go. This sentiment was summed up really well by one of my participants, who I nicknamed Katrina. She said:

But I don’t know, it’s not really an equality that’s you know, “I’m not allowed to do this but he is”, kind of thing. I think it’s more an inequality in that women get raped more than men, and women are in domestic violence situations more than men. And women report sexual harassment more than men. So in that way we’re not equal because there’s still this divide in what’s acceptable to do to a woman and what is acceptable to do to a man. And so that’s unequal. But in terms of, kind of, yes we get paid equally. However women experience the glass ceiling. So yeah, it’s kind of an unequal equality, if that kind of makes sense.

Katrina, and a number of other participants, recognised that issues such as domestic violence, sexual harassment and barriers to women in the workplace are still important and worthy of our attention. In my thesis I used Katrina’s phrase “unequal equality” to unpack the complex relationship that young women have with feminism, and also to discuss the idea that equality discourses alone cannot adequately deal with the issues and pressures they are experiencing.

But having said all that, I was recently, hilariously, reminded of how attitudes to gender have changed in recent decades. At my mother’s house a little while ago, we were flicking through her copy of the The Commonsense Cookery Book, an Australian classic that was first published in 1914. My mum’s edition is from the 1960s and is filled with all manner of weird-sounding delights, such as Apple Snow – a recipe involving stewed apple, sugar, beaten egg-whites and red food colouring. Mmm, delicious!

Besides being grateful for advances in gastronomy, looking through that cookbook made me think about the generational aspects of gender relations. My mother and her sister were both given copies of The Commonsense Cookery Book when they started high school in the early 1960s. My grandmother told us that she too was handed a copy of the book when she began high school!! In the 1930s!

If my grade-seven classmates had been handed a recipe book on our first day at big school in the early 1990s, we would have laughed in the teachers’ faces. In the years between my mum’s first year at high school and my first year, something shifted. No longer was it a woman’s primary role to be a housekeeper, a wife and a mother.

The image at the top is a photograph of a page from the Commonsense Cookery Book with a recipe for “toasted sandwiches”. I had to take a photo because I found it so amusing. The text reads:

1. Make the sandwiches.
2. Toast on both sides and cut into small triangles
3. Serve on a hot plate and doily
4. Garnish suitably

I laughed for minutes when I first came across this recipe. I particularly love how there are no actual instructions or ingredients for the sandwich, but there is detailed information about doilies, garnishes, and the shape that the sandwiches should be cut into.Thank goodness we’ve moved on from teaching school girls how to make toasties!

Some thoughts on ‘The Social Network’

November 9, 2010

Last week I saw The Social Network, a film about the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. I’m currently buried under a pile of undergrad essays, so the best I can do is provide some linkylinks to articles that resonated with my interpretation of the film. There are spoilers in these pieces, be warned.


Digital makeovers for “Aussie mums”

September 1, 2010

The following is based on a paper I gave at this year’s AWGSA conference in Adelaide.

“Mum 2.0”: Gender and generation in the new media landscape

While waiting for a bus not so long ago, I noticed an advertisement with the headline “Mum 2.0”. It featured a large photo of a mobile phone, and underneath the tag-line read “Does your mum need a digital makeover?” Having recently completely a doctorate that, in part, examined the mother-daughter debates within feminism – I’d been thinking and writing a lot around issues of ‘gender’ and ‘generation’. I’d also been thinking that I’d like to do some research in the field of new media. This advertisement caught my attention because of the way it played into gender stereotypes and set up a generation gap. But it also grabbed me because it quite neatly tied together my older research interests with some of my new ones.

On closer inspection of the billboard, I noticed it was a Telstra advertisement for a competition to win a mobile phone. But ‘What is Mum 2.0 supposed to mean?’, I thought to myself. And what the hell is a ‘digital makeover’?

The ad can be read as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek twist on the now banal, almost meaningless phrase “Web 2.0”. It both draws on our communal understanding of Web 2.0 to mean the “next generation of the internet” and throws in new generalisations about generations of women. This ad plays into the sexist idea that women are technologically illiterate, suggesting mothers are often un-cool and that they need help navigating this strange new digital landscape in the form of a “makeover”. And of course, there are the allusions to the traditional meaning of makeover as a physical transformation involving cosmetics and a new hairstyle. Women are never good enough – they need help. This time mothers are to be made-over with the latest consumer gadgets and some lessons in how to be more tech-savvy.

This Telstra billboard and the related Mum 2.0 website raises a number of questions about the way women are positioned within ‘new media’ spaces, particularly the way a particular type of “motherhood” is constructed.

The Telstra bus-stop ad was a competition to win a new phone. It was tied in with a broader advertising campaign called “Digital Mum”. The accompanying website has a section called “Dob in your mum”. It says, “Mum starting to become part of your online social network? Give her a crash course in tech etiquette and dob her in for a digital makeover.” The campaign encourages people to ‘dob in their mum’ for the chance to win a free phone, and at the same time your mum will also be offered free online lessons in how to use social networking sites like Facebook. So it’s not just about selling mobile phones, but about ‘educating mothers’ about proper online etiquette.

The website also includes six short video tutorials, hosted by YouTube, that were designed to teach ‘mum’ how to use Facebook without embarrassing her teenaged children and without making a fool of herself online. These brief tutorials are fascinating and quite funny because they ‘act out’ scenes from Facebook in real life. Each clip is hosted/narrated by Australian comedian Tim Ross (better known as Rosso) and feature a white middle class suburban family: mum, dad and three teenaged children.

As Rosso points out in the introductory clip, “We’ll teach you lessons other people have had to learn the hard way: The etiquette of social networking. We’ve brought an online family into the real world, so getting up to speed won’t take long.”

Introductory video:

There are six video lessons all up, but the following two clips are my favourites:

Lesson 4: Joining a Group

I love this one because it helps to highlight the generational specificity of popular culture (ie. one of my the main themes of my thesis). A mother is seated in her daughter’s bedroom with her daughter’s friends and they’re all wearing “I heart Edward” t-shirts, referring, of course to the vampire heart-throb of the moment.The joke comes from how uncool the Mum is as she tries to get in on the Twilight fandom action. While she attempts to mirror what the young women are saying in the Edward fanclub, it backfires because she doesn’t quite “get it”. She uses the wrong lingo and she embarrasses her daughter. Rosso helpfully suggests: “It’s important to connect with your kids online, but give them some space. And be yourself.” Thanks Rosso!

Lesson 6: Privacy

Lesson number six warns ‘mums’ about privacy online, and that they have to be careful who they add as a friend and who has access to photos. The family are seated around the table having dinner. A strange man is in the house peering inside the fridge and nosing around the framed family photos on the mantelpiece. The father and the kids are confused and ask who he is. The mum replies “Oh, that’s Jacques. I met him years ago when I was backpacking. He asked me to add him. I couldn’t say no”.

The strange man joins them at the table and starts speaking inappropriately in French to the mother. Rosso’s voiceover warns about adding people from your past to Facebook and suggests adjusting your privacy settings so that not everyone has access to your profile and photos. This one is really interesting as it ties into wider concerns about online safety and privacy, especially since Facebook is rather notorious for dubious privacy policies.

According to a media release on their website, Telstra commissioned a nationwide study last year that surveyed 1200 “Aussie mums”. It says:

Despite Aussie mums’ desire to use social networking sites to stay connected with their family, their children don’t see these sites as a way of connecting with their parents. Children over 16 years old are most likely to decline friend requests from their parents to avoid the embarrassment of baby photos and grammar corrections ending up on their homepage.

Telstra Brands and Marketing Communications Executive Director Amanda Johnston-Pell said, Aussie mums are online and using social networking sites, however there are definite fears and insecurities about how to approach their own kids online and what acceptable etiquette in this space is.

“Following on from our ‘Call Mum’ campaign, we have launched a new program to help mothers up-skill in the social networking space to stay in touch with their family online with our new program called Mum 2.0,” Ms Johnston-Pell said.

“Online social networking is quickly becoming the norm for staying in touch with family and friends and the Telstra Mum 2.0 free of charge program is here to help Aussie mums make sure they never lose face online.”

Telstra State of the Nation report revealed nationally:

* 81 per cent of Aussie mums have fears and insecurities about their use of online social networking.
* 61 per cent of Aussie mums use Facebook regularly – 47 per cent of these mums use it daily and 14 per cent use it at least once a week
* 65 per cent of Aussie mums contact their immediate family via online social networking at least once a week.
* More than 47 per cent of mums aged 45-65 used social networking websites to view their children’s pages.

One of the first questions I had was why dads weren’t included in this study? I’d be really keen to do some research on whether mothers are more interested than fathers in learning how to use these technologies. The Telstra ad is successful in setting up (or playing into) the notion of a generation gap. (There’s a long history of the idea of the parents being ‘clueless’ about the latest technology – eg. Not knowing how to program the VCR). But why must it be so gendered as well? If the desire to learn about Facebook is to be able to better stay in touch with offspring, are fathers not interested in this too? Is it assumed that fathers will automatically know how to use Facebook (because they’re men and men can ‘do’ technology). Or is it assumed that they’re not interested in Facebook for its communicating-with-family abilities, because that that is ‘mum’s job’?

This advertising strategy also severely limits what the idea of “mum” can mean. For Telstra, “mum” apparently means: White, middle class, with 2 teenaged kids and a husband. What about younger mums? I know a number of mothers who have been using Facebook since it began! What about single mothers, lesbian mothers, working class, indigenous mothers, etc?

I’m only in the early stages of thinking through some of these issues. I’m contemplating whether or not it could make up part of a larger research project examining the ways in which digital technologies are shaping the way we communicate and exploring how gender relations are being played out in new media spaces.

Perhaps I should at least turn my paper into a journal article. But at least for now I’ve blogged it!

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! 🙂

Pondering Germaine Greer

March 7, 2010

This year marks 40 years since The Female Eunuch was published. Its author, Germaine Greer, is easily Australia’s most famous feminist. Whatever your opinion of Greer, there’s no denying the power of this book.

But I have a confession to make. I haven’t read The Female Eunuch. Not all the way through, anyway. I have a browning paperback copy that I picked up at a second-hand bookshop once. It sits on my bookshelf alongside my copies of The Second Sex and The Feminine Mystique in the “Classic Feminist Texts I Should Have Read By Now” section.

I hope I don’t have to surrender my PhD after making such an admission.

While I’ve not read these books cover-to-cover, I’ve dipped into them and I think I’m still alllowed to write about the importance of Greer’s work. Especially since men like Louis Nowra are allowed to write annoying pieces in The Monthly criticising Greer for not knowing what make women tick. Apparently Greer got it all wrong.

Nowra reckons Greer was wrong in the way she criticised the trappings of femininity and consumerism. Wow, she really didn’t know what she was talking about – Look! – “young women today love shopping more than ever”, he says. And they get Brazilian waxes and “Botox injections are virtually a woman’s rite of passage”. Yes, he actually wrote that! Gee, Germaine, you really messed up. How silly of you to claim that these things might be oppressive, when actually, it’s what women really want! Lucky we have Nowra to tell us how things are.

In the same piece he has the gall to say “she looks like a befuddled and exhausted old woman” who reminds him of his “demented grandmother”. There was no way I could take his article seriously after that.

Germaine Greer was a member of the Sydney Push, a group of left-leaning anarchists and libertarians that used to hang around in Sydney pubs and talk about intellectual stuff. Quite a few other prominent Australians were also associated with the Push. It sounds like a pretty fascinating period in our history.

The Female Eunuch was published in 1970 and it really did have a big impact. There are stories of wives leaving their husbands after reading it, and women hiding the book from their husbands. The things she argued were that radical. But mostly you hear stories about how women’s eyes were opened and how they became drawn to feminism, after reading Greer’s work.

A combination of erudition and swagger made The Female Eunuch stand out from other feminist texts. Littered with literary, sociological and anthropological references, its central themes are that women are taught rules which disempower them and that the nuclear family perpetuates female subjugation and is a pernicious environment for the raising of children.

source: “Germaine Greer: Mother of all feminists”, Scotland on Sunday

While I don’t agree with everything Greer has to say, there’s a power and a passion to her words that I admire. As Gabriella Coslovich writes in “Clarion call to a new generation”:

The work is a rousing, flamboyant and flawed polemic, which remains as seditious and confronting as ever. Greer wrote the book in the hope that “women will discover that they have a will”. She incited a generation of women to ponder the significance of their lives and some literally went wandering after reading it, leaving stifling marriages to forge a life beyond domestic servitude.

She encouraged women to think beyond their social conditioning. She challenged the concepts of marriage, the nuclear family and the obligation to breed. She pointed the finger at the prevailing culture of sexual harassment and wrote about the well-known television producer who “sneaked in a wet kiss and a clutch at my breasts as an exercise of his power”.

Greer also urged women to study, to become doctors, pilots and even fashion designers, holding up the likes of Mary Quant as proof that women could succeed in business and that being successful was not incompatible with “femininity”.

[image source: silversalty’s flickr.]

Greer has always been controversial. She’s loud, audacious and she has the abiilty to polarise people. Even people with little knowledge of feminism will have heard of Greer. She is often considered synonymous with feminism, even though, of course, she never claimed to represent feminism as a whole. The women’s movement is much too diverse and complex to have a “leader”. It’s just that she was one of the most outspoken and feisty. And she pissed people off. The world needs people like Greer. Without people like her saying unpopular and controversial things – challenging the establishment – nothing would ever change.

The media love Germaine. She is probably more well known than lots of other feminists who were doing important and good things in the women’s movement in the 70s and 80s – eg. women like Eva Cox and Anne Summers and others who were on the ground making practical changes at the policy level (remember the term ‘femocrats’?). There was lots of stuff happening for women then and the popularity of Greer’s book is just one example. Anne Summers has written about Germaine Greer and the influence of The Female Eunuch here: Liberty Belle. (Read this instead of Nowra’s piece, would be my recommendation!)

As Summers points out:

Whether you admire Greer or find her infuriating or, like many people including myself, you have both reactions, often simultaneously, there is no getting around the fact that she was and remains a brave and passionate advocate for liberty, especially for women.

She has always been a flamboyant figure, not afraid of upsetting or shocking people, willing to be assertive and argumentative and to stride in polemically where others are too timid to tread. At the same time, she has chalked up impressive scholarly achievements as both a teacher and a writer of books on literary subjects including female artists and Shakespeare’s wife.

But her greatest achievement is, of course, The Female Eunuch, published 40 years ago, still in print, translated into 12 languages and a book whose influence is impossible to exaggerate.

Sometimes a book changes everything, and this was such a book.

I suppose I better get around to reading it then! 🙂

Linkages: There’s something about Germaine

March 4, 2010

There’s something about Germaine Greer that stirs people’s emotions. People love her or hate her. Everyone has an opinion about her.

In the March issue of The Monthly, Louis Nowra has an essay about Greer and her influential book The Female Eunuch which was first published in 1970.

I have a subscription to The Monthly this year but this edition hasn’t arrived so I am yet to read Nowra’s piece. I think it’s going to make me cross. Judging from some responses in the feminist blogosphere, the article dismisses Greer’s work and even criticises her appearance! Why they got a man to write such a scathing and negative piece about Greer is beyond me. Sales presumably. Greer sells. And Greer-bashing sells more, I suppose.

* Kathy Marks in The Independent, criticises Nowra’s piece: ‘Germaine Greer? She has no idea what makes women tick,’ says Nowra

* Hoyden About Town: “Louis Nowra? He has no idea what makes sexists tick”

* Larvatus Prodeo has also weighed into the debate: “Germaine Greer trashed in The Monthly”, attracting lots of comments.

* Even Quadrant online has jumped to Greer’s defence: “Offending Nowra, defending Greer”

I’m now inspired to write this week’s ‘Feminist of the Week’ about our Germaine. Stay tuned.

I’m banging on about generation

February 18, 2010

Dr Penelope Robinson has a piece published in today’s!!! 😉

To quote:

We must be careful not to oversimplify generational difference, but the concept of “generation” can reveal things about our society, past and present. These media-generated categories of generation have the tendency to pigeonhole individuals according to their year of birth, but they are not meaningless.

Sociologist Karl Mannheim, writing in the first half of the 20th century, gives us some pointers about how to think about the concept of “generation” in a more complex way. He argues that major events and political currents of a period come to shape a group of people of a similar age because they experience those moments at the same stage in their life-course. For example, for Gen Y this might be the September 11 attacks in 2001. For Baby Boomers, perhaps it was the Vietnam War; and for their parents, the Great Depression.

This concept can be extended beyond major socio-political events such as wars and recessions to include other important cultural moments and cultural products such as songs, fashions, films or hairstyles. Certain moments of popular culture become so talked about that they come to define the era. In a sense it doesn’t matter whether we loved or loathed a particular celebrity or film or album. What matters is the way these cultural products resonate with us. They are worth investigating and celebrating because they can reveal much about our shared social history and ourselves.

For the full article: Why do we keep banging on about generation?