Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

July 23, 2016

Down Under Feminists' Carnival logo

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

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

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

Advertisements

Pink stinks

November 19, 2013

Pink stinks. It really does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hot water and milk

January 23, 2013

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

[image source: strawberry mohawk]

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

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

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

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

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

He said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Precarious employment in academia

December 15, 2011

sandstone university building with jacaranda

A large proportion of staff employed at Australia’s universities experience high levels of job insecurity and poor working conditions. Anyone who has ever been employed as a sessional/casual/contracted teacher or researcher will be familiar with some or all of the following stories: Not being paid for marking or attending lectures, nor compensated for hours spent replying to student emails. Having wages cut if a class is missed due to illness. Filling out fiddly casual timesheets in order to get paid. Little or no access to professional development. Short contracts with no long-term stability. Wages that fluctuate week to week. No access to a desk or computer facilities. Exclusion from staff meetings and decision-making processes. And the list goes on…

These kinds of stories differ depending on departmental and institutional contexts, but the overarching picture emerging about the casual workforce is one of dissatisfaction and uncertainty. And the proportion of casual academic staff is increasing. Sessional and casual employees make up the bulk of the academic workforce. A new study by Robyn May (2011) uses superannuation records from Unisuper to estimate that casual staff comprise 60 per cent of the academic workforce. The casual labour market is also highly gendered, with 57% of casual staff being women (May 2011: 6).

A recent study (Bexley et al. 2011) investigating the attitudes of academic employees points to some of the problems facing the Australian university workforce. The study received responses from over 5,500 university employees, including session and casual staff, across 20 Australian universities. While there isn’t the space here to outline all their key findings, here are a few of them:

  • Less than one third of academics believe their workload is manageable.
  • “60 per cent of early career staff are dissatisfied with their job security compared with less than one quarter of late career staff” (Bexley et al. 2011: xi).
  • “Close to 40 per cent of academics under 30 years of age plan to leave Australian higher education in the next five to ten years, with 13 to 18 per cent intending to leave in the immediate future.” (Bexley et al. 2011: xii).
  • Short-term and casual academics are typically assumed to be postgraduate students, however this is not the case: many “are already PhD qualified, and many work in roles that are ongoing in all but name. Nor are they predominantly young people, who may expect a period of insecure employment before moving into more permanent positions. Over half are aged over 40, and are therefore likely to have families and other adult responsibilities” (Bexley et al. 2011: 43).

    As May points out, the increasingly casualised workforce in Australian universities must be seen in the “context of wider economic, regulatory and labour market changes that have taken place over the last three decades” (May 2011: 2). While academia is certainly not the only industry to be affected by casualisation, the reported levels of dissatisfaction about working conditions is something that needs to be addressed. There are no easy answers to these difficult dilemmas. Improved funding for the higher education sector would help, but we also need to see institutional and structural changes to ensure fair working conditions for all university employees.

    ___________
    References
    Bexley, E. James, R. and Arkoudis, S. (2011) “The Australian academic profession in transition: Addressing the challenge of reconceptualising academic work and regenerating the academic workforce”, CSHE, Centre for the Study of Higher Education, report prepared for DEEWR.

    May, R. (2011) “Casualisation here to stay? The modern university and its divided workforce”, in Markey, R (Ed.), Dialogue Downunder, Refereed Proceedings of the 25th Conference of AIRAANZ. Auckland (available from: http://www.nteu.org.au).

    Further reading: http://www.unicasual.org.au/publications/external

    [Casual, sessional and contract staff reading this may be interested in sharing their work stories with the inquiry into insecure work in Australia, currently calling for submissions: http://securejobs.org.au/independent-inquiry-into-insecure-work-in-australia/]

    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.]

    First post!

    December 20, 2009

    Welcome to Pondering Postfeminism!

    Stay tuned for more.