Archive for the ‘Human rights’ Category

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/INTERSECTIONS

  • 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?

FAMILY/PARENTING

  • 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.

LIFE/HEALTH/DEATH

  • 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.

THE BODY

VIOLENCE

  • 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.

DISABILITY

  • 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.

MEDIA/ POP CULTURE/ ARTS

  • 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.

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.”

ARGH!

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.

Indeed.

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!!!

42nd Down Under Feminists’ Carnival

November 5, 2011

Welcome to the 42nd edition of the Down Under Feminists’ Carnival!

Down Under Feminists' Carnival logo

Compiling the edition has been an absolute pleasure. It is so inspiring to observe the strength, diversity and passion of feminist voices in Australia and New Zealand. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this collection as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.

So, push your weekend newspapers to one side and sink your teeth into a smorgasbord of deliciously insightful and thought-provoking pieces from October 2011.

October Highlights

Relatively new blogger Contradictory Multitudes has written a beautiful and insighful piece titled Feminism, colonisation and migration: a tale of caution. Here’s an excerpt:

“Let me be clear here: this is not a post about how feminism is bad. It’s not a post about how Indian women can’t be feminists. It’s not a post about how because the practice of feminism has been subject to the same flaws and power-imbalances as the practice of all political organising everywhere – it needs to be abandoned and/or reviled. For me, living in Australia, identifying as a feminist is a protective, productive and strategic decision. What I am highlighting here are the radically different meanings of identifying as a feminist in India and identifying as a feminist in Australia. What I am further trying to tease out are the consequences and effects of identifying as a feminist in Australia if you happen to be a non-indigenous woman of colour.”

 

In a piece titled Food, fear and power, New Zealand blogger Letters from Wetville talks about the famous food writer Elizabeth David and delves into some interesting discussion about Western society’s relationship with food:

“The ‘good’ person chooses his or her food carefully and modestly, just as they choose their mate carefully and just once. It is no accident that the narratives focusing on the control of food intake focus on women; in a patriarchal society the need to control the physical urges of women is paramount. A woman entirely at home in her own body is a dangerous thing to a power structure which requires endless expenditure on diet foods, gym subscriptions and fashionable clothing.”

 

Over at The Hand Mirror LudditeJourno sparks a fascinating discussion about pubic hair removal: So how does your lady garden grow?

“A couple of years ago in Wellington’s Comedy Fest, the only humour in common from all the wonderful female comics I went to see were “jokes” about their pubic hair being revolting. This is the bit that is anti-feminist as far as I’m concerned – cultural norms which tell us our ordinary bodies are disgusting and a return to a pre-adult look for our genitals is a must. But our bodies, including our pubic hair? Ours to do what we wish with, of course. Kinda a baseline for feminism.”

 

Class/Poverty

In a piece titled The Colour of Poverty, stargazer asks:

“We never get the image of wealthy people of colour giving aid to impoverished white folk. why is that?”

 

Family/Women’s Work

blue milk writes passionately about the need to continue fighting for the right to breastfeed without harrassment or judgement, in A word about breastfeeding nazis. She writes:

“Until mothers everywhere can incorporate breastfeeding seamlessly into their lives, until mothers can breastfeed and be whole members of our society, until mothers can breastfeed and talk to the leaders of their country at the same time.. we will not have gone far enough.”

 

In Part 4 of her series on how to plan a feminist wedding, Musings of an Inappropriate Woman argues that the “imaginative work”, and also the bulk of non-imaginative work, involved in putting together the Big Day, is disproportionately done by women: Weddings as Women’s Work.
 

Posted at feminethicist is a refreshingly honest piece about the difficulties of mothering: Motherhood: Expectations vs. Reality.

 

General Feminism & Social Justice

Julie from The Hand Mirror talks about the need for strong leadership in activist communities when dealing with issues of rape and sexual abuse within an activist circle: A ramble about unacceptable behaviour in activisty groups. (trigger warnings apply)
 

Mindy from Hoyden about Town has a go at columnists who ask ‘where are all the feminists?’ in Feminism – we’re doin it rong #1568454876.
 

Posted at Penguin Unearthed is the extraordinary life story of an exceptional woman who “took her own course through life, and enjoyed the adventure”: Travelling Feminist: Dona Catalina de Erauso who lived 1592-1650.
 

Maia at The Hand Mirror writes passionately and personally about women and the prison system in New Zealand: Repost: A Feminist Issue.

 

Intersections

Zero at the Bone talks about her experiences of racism within the online feminist community and raises some important points about intersectionality and identity and how they are visible (or not) online: Identity, visibility, and the Internet.

 

LGBTQIAU

At Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear, Chrys Stevenson contemplates: what if “same-sex marriage were reframed as a (circa 1960s) argument against inter-racial marriage” in order to highlight narrow-minded homophobia: Allan takes aim at same-sex marriage but he’s shooting blanks.

 

Life

bluebec talks about feeling like an imposter in study and work situations: Imposter syndrome. She writes:

“The annoying thing, for me anyway, is that this even happens. That many people (often women) have their abilities, knowledge and skills questioned to the point where they don’t feel confident about them, that they question their own worth, abilities, knowledge and skills. I want to live in a world where people’s worth is not questioned, that’d be nice.”

 

Posted at :- The Conversationalist -: are some useful thoughts and strategies for combating feelings of guilt: My Anti-Guilt Force Field.

 

Media & Popular Culture

At the news with nipples the media are called out on their sexist bullshit. In this case it’s a story about Qantas strikers and a Playboy model, and a story about Prime Minister Gillard kissing one of her colleagues: MSM finds the big stories just too damn hard.
 

Posted at bluebec is an analysis of a rather transgressive video clip by Australian band, Bluejuice: Growing older.
 

A Bee of a Certain Age highlights the lack of gender diversity in Radio NZ’s choice of panellists on its afternoon program: Diversities.

 

Race/Racism

At Hoyden about Town, tigtog discusses some of the racist and exclusionary practices of the SlutWalk movement: Slutwalk: why can’t it be better than this?
 

Over at Zero at the Bone Chally writes beautifully about being absorbed into whiteness: Translating ourselves back to ourselves.

 

Reproductive Rights

In a week of pro-choice posts over at The Hand Mirror there are some great articles, including this one which highlights some awful global statistics, attributed to the lack of safe and affordable access to abortion services: Guest post: Let’s have a look at those statistics.
 

Ideologically Impure rips to shreds an article about the contraceptive pill that appeared on stuff.co.nz: Stuff fail o? the day II: side effects say what?.

 

Science

As part of Ada Lovelace Day, Mary from Hoyden About Town profiled Mahananda Dasgupta, nuclear fusion researcher.
 

Mary also presented a fascinating round-up of other prominent women in science and technology: Ada Lovelace Day blasts from the past: the science and technology Hoydens.

 

The Body

The A Large Pink Woman takes aim at a male academic for his fat-hating comments about The Muppets’ Miss Piggy: Stop harshing my squee with your ignorant fathating, world.
 

Fat Heffalump begins her series of interviews with women she finds inspiring by talking to Inspirational Women: Bri King, Australian fat activist and Fat Lot of Good blogger.
 

Fat Heffalump also writes about claiming fat as a positive identity: Breaking Down Fat Stigma: Criticism of Fat as Identity

 

Violence

At Geek Feminism Blog Skud talks about the disturbing prevalence of online harrassment of women: On being harassed: a little GF history and some current events.
 

Over at the news with nipples there is a critique of the latest anti-rape advice being espoused by the head of NSW Police: If you’re drunk and get raped, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself, says NSW Police Commissioner. She writes:

“Yes, telling people – not just young women – to look out for your mates is a good thing, but most people already do that. It’s a bit frightening to think that NSW Police’s anti-rape strategy is “hey women, don’t get drunk and you won’t get raped, but if you do get drunk and raped then you should take responsibility for your actions”. Not only is that offensive victim-blaming, but it’s telling women that they will be safe from sexual assault if they don’t get drunk, and that is simply bullshit.”

 

Occupy

October has seen the Occupy ‘X’ movement gain momentum around the world, including cities in Australia and New Zealand, so I’ve taken the liberty of adding another category to this month’s carnival.

Rush of Sun shares some thought-provoking material about what Occupy Sydney is about and her experiences of the first week of the protest: Occupy Sydney Day 9 – notes. You might also like to check out her notes from other days. I liked reading about her visit to Penrith (an outer suburb of Sydney) and you can check out a video of a fantastic flash mob that took place in Pitt Street Mall last week: Occupy Sydney – Day 15 – Penrith, flash mob, conversations. Inspiring! She writes:

“Occupy is about giving public voice to the voiceless in our society. Most people understand 1%/99% is not broadly representative, but it can be used to rally. It can be used to start a discussion.

Occupy is not perfect, and does not claim to be.

Occupy is not the only method, and doesn’t claim to be.

Occupy inspires me.

Inequality exists in Australia. We must be able to publicly talk about it. Australia is part of a global financial and political system, we do not exist in a bubble.”

 

At Pondering Postfeminism I shared some of my thoughts during the first week of Occupy Sydney, drawing on some material by scholar Mackenzie Wark to help contextualise the Occupy phenomenon: Occupying Sydney: some initial ponderings.
 

stargazer discusses Occupy Wall Street from a New Zealand perspective, touching on the raced and classed aspects of the protest: More Occupation.

 

[Check out the Down Under Feminists’ Carnival website for information about the 43rd edition to be hosted at A Bee of a Certain Age. Submit your November blog posts at blogcarnival! Submissions to dfr141 [at] hotmail [dot] com for those who can’t access blogcarnival.]

Occupying Sydney: some initial ponderings

October 19, 2011

On Saturday afternoon (15th October 2011) after a receiving an encouraging text from a good mate of mine, I decided to head into the Sydney CBD to check out Occupy Sydney.

I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have a clear goal in mind about why I wanted to go. I just wanted to learn more about what is an increasingly global Occupy phenomenon. And to experience it myself rather than read about it on the Tweets or watch it on the television news.

small children frolicking in a fountain at Martin Place, Sydney
image source: redserenade

What I found when I got to Martin Place – a terraced space in the centre of the business district of Sydney – was a congregation of all sorts of people. It was peaceful, joyful and party-like. There were lots and lots of banners. Lots of photographers (myself included because the sunlight at that time was amazing!). People from a range of political persuasions: socialists, unionists, religious groups, people wearing eureka stockade flags, hippy yoga types doing some chanting, families with their children. And so on.

I wanted to check it out because I had questions about how Occupy Sydney might be copycatting Occupy Wall Street, when the Australian and US national contexts are vastly different. Indeed, that seems to be where a lot of the anti-occupy-sydney criticism lies… eg. Australia is not doing it as tough as the US, so what is there to complaint about, really?

I agree that the national differences are vast, but I don’t think it is as simple as that. And it’s not as if Occupy Wall Street started all by itself. Unrest and revolution has been going on all over the world in recent times. I’m thinking here, largely, of the Middle East. But also the London Riots and rallies, riots and political protests in various parts of Europe.

These things don’t happen in a vacuum. And the Occupy X tactic/movement/whatever we want to call it, is now happening in over 1500 cities worldwide.

Despite vastly different national and regional contexts, there is clearly a sense of revolution in the air.

Another question I had (and I think this is a common question), is What are the demands of Occupy Sydney? What is the ultimate goal of occupying public space in your city?

This is a difficult question, and one I am still thinking through, but my gut feeling at the moment is that it’s not about “demands” as such. It’s not as straightforward as “we’re going to sit in this public square until the people in power meet our list of things”.

A peaceful crowd of people gathered at Martin Place in Sydney. Tall buildings to the left and right. A low setting sun illuminates the space.

I had the good fortune of being able to see scholar McKenzie Wark speak last night. He spoke about the historic precedents of Occupations and answered some questions about how Occupy Wall Street compares with Occupy Sydney. He’s an Australian-born guy who now lives in New York, and has been to both sites.

Wark said lots of inspiring and fascinating things, but one thing that really stood out for me was when he made a distinction between a “social movement” and an “occupation of public space”. [I’m paraphrasing here, from my hastily scribbled notes]. His take on it is that a social movement – like a protest march – tends to have clear demands. Whereas these “occupation” strategies are all about particular places.

“What are the demands?”, ask the media. “There aren’t any!”

While I think there are actually some demands, every interest group has their own specific set of goals about what they want to see change so there is no clear consensus. My initial understandings of Occupy X, and my brief experiences hanging out in Martin Place on a beautiful sunny afternoon gives me a sense that “Occupy” is less about a list of demands, and more about re-thinking how we might use public spaces, how we can come together to make the world a better and more equitable place.

There is a deep sense of anger and frustration at the ways in which the global financial system is not benefiting the majority of people. There are no easy ways to change the system, but with peaceful Occupations like these gaining momentum, some of the difficult questions are at least being asked. The overall feeling on Saturday (at least for the few hours I was there) was one of joy: friends, laughter, political conversations, spontaneous musical performances, children frolicking in fountains.

The parallels between the various Occupy sites seems to be as much about asking “what do us public do with this public space now that we have claimed it?” as they are about challenging financial institutions and global inequalities.

As McKenzie Wark said asked last night [paraphrasing again]: “What do you do when you’ve taken a space? There’s no-one to confront, nowhere to shop… what do you do?!”

You talk. You play. You laugh.

You get together to discuss how things could be done differently.

A handwritten sign, posted on a tree reads: "Entertain yourself. Boredom is not a reason to fail democracy."

You can read more about Wark’s work and his reactions to Occupy Wall Street here: Zuccotti Park, A Psychogeography. I particularly like his closing paragraphs, which I will quote as a conclusion to this post:

When there’s nobody really watching, when there’s nothing to confront, when there’s nothing to debate—this is what’s left: How is it possible to create forms of life for ourselves, even if it’s in the shadow of tall buildings that cast long shadows?

I left the Park and headed back to the subway. I had to get up the next morning to get the kids off the school. People were drifting away, although it was clear that a fairly large group would stay on for most of the night. And others would be back in the morning.

Not many people can inhabit this place outside of work time, but a lot of people come to visit, and to glimpse something of another way in which the city might function. Other lives are possible; sometimes they even actually exist.

No matter what happens here next day or next week, I just wanted to record the fact that this actually happened.

(note: photographs in this entry were taken by me. If you’d like to use them, go ahead, but I’d love it if you attribute them to “redserenade” at flickr.)

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!)

100 Years of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2011


[A vintage postcard from 1916, image source]

A few IWD linky links:

* Carol Pateman’s essay reflects on the progress of the women’s movement and the difficulties still facing women: “Securing women’s citizenship: Indifference and other obstacles”.

* Fuck Politeness writes angrily about the lack of IWD coverage in the mainstream press: “Happy Fucking International Women’s Day”.

* This was posted last month at Blue Milk; a short video about a Sydney boy’s school tackling issues of gender inequality: “What if boys cared about gender inequality?”

* Sociological Images takes a look at a few vintage posters for women’s suffrage: “Facets of the Women’s Suffrage Movement”. Similarly, an earlier post examines vintage postcards (like the one above) in “How Suffragist Postcards Got Out the Vote”.

EDIT: I’ve found a few more links worth sharing.

* In The Age, Eva Cox writes: “Macho economics still rules the agenda”.

* At The Drum, Clementine Ford cheekily writes: “Simple steps to become a real femininist”.

* And perhaps my favourite for the day, by Annabel Crabb: “Behind every successful woman there’s a wife”. She writes:

The problem is that it’s still just as hard for men to get out of paid work as it has been – historically – for women to get into it.

After a long hard slog, paid parental leave for women is starting to become accepted.

Paid parental leave for men – hell, any sort of leave beyond the routine two weeks of patting and burping that most working new Dads in this country take – is still something of an exotic event.

Why are our discussions about women in the workplace always about the barriers that block women’s entry to it, and almost never about the barriers that block men’s exit from it, when practically speaking, the latter phenomenon is such a significant cause of the former?

Why are we always talking about women’s rights to work more, and hardly ever about men’s rights to enjoy the same workplace flexibility that we have amassed?

How can women ever have equality in the workplace, when there are still so many barriers standing between men and equal opportunity in the home?

Got any good links to help celebrate International Women’s Day? Send them my way! Comment below! Happy IWD everyone!

Pondering the ‘boat people issue’

July 8, 2010

In reference to that boat people image with the tallship from a few years ago, I’d like to propose a new t-shirt:

If you can’t see the image above, it’s a photo of young Australian sailor Jessica Watson with the words “Boat Person” over the top in black lettering.

All this scare-mongering about “boat people” is making me sad. It’s like having Howard back in office. I am so disappointed that Gillard’s government is doing the ‘tough on refugees’ thing. Actually, disappointment is a massive understatement. But I am having trouble expressing just how angry I am about the way Australian governments continue to treat asylum seekers. I’m fed up with the way asylum seekers and refugees are demonised, while the racist, ignorant and fearful sections of our nation are pandered to by both major parties in the lead-up to the Federal election. It’s fucking disgusting.

For more information on this topic:

* Hoyden About Town has an Asylum Seeker Fact Sheet and Myth Buster.

* The Refugee Action Coalition has a number of campaigns and rallies.

* The Refugee Council of Australia has a facts + stats page.

* Archived online resources can be found at Refugees Australia.

Some commentary on this issue:

* Barrie Cassidy at The Drum writes, Gillard, asylum seekers and more appealing logic.

* And I love what John Birmingham had to say at his Blunt Instrument blog:

I know I am totally in the minority on this. That Gillard, and Abbott for that matter, are actually speaking to, and for, the majority on the boat peeps issue. But you know what? The majority can kiss my arse.

EDIT: I just found this piece in the National Times by Associate Professor Jane McAdam: Gillard’s asylum policy smacks of ‘burden shifting’.

She writes, and I agree wholeheartedly:

True leadership is not about pandering to insecurities based on ill-informed assumptions and fears, lurching from poll to poll. It is about transcending the chatter to educate, enlighten and take the nation forward through meaningful, informed conversation.