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.)

Call for Submissions: 42nd Down Under Feminists’ Carnival

October 4, 2011

Down Under Feminists' Carnival logo

Submit posts here!

Pondering Postfeminism is going to be hosting the 42nd Down Under Feminists’ Carnival. The carnival is a monthly collection and celebration of blog posts of feminist interest from around Australia and New Zealand.

Topics include, but are not limited to, class, family, race, reproductive rights, disability, politics, the body, sex, reviews, media, violence and so on.

To share a feminist blog post by an Australian or New Zealand author during the month of October, please submit it to the carnival by clicking here or by emailing me at: drpen.robinson AT gmail.com

For more information check out the Down Under Feminists’ Carnival website.

Get writing, get reading, and start submitting!

Submit posts here!

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.

Pondering Princess Fever

April 29, 2011

A photo of Kate and Prince William smiling at one another. Kate, on the left, is holding up a white floral bouquet thing. The image has been captioned at the top with "Shouldn't you be holding this rubbish?" and at the bottom with "I've got a coat to wear."
[Image source: katemiddletonforthewin.tumblr.com]

Bloody hell I’m sick of hearing about this Royal Wedding.

Who the hell cares that a couple of rich farts from an outdated institution are tying the knot? To date, my favourite headline about the whole silly business is this one: “Unemployed English Girl to Wed Soldier from Welfare Family”.

I honestly don’t know what I find more sickening. Is it the over-the-top non-stop media coverage of the lead up to the Big Event? The atrocious wedding memorablia? Is it the absurd attention to every little detail about what soon-to-be-Princess is wearing? Her weight? How she’s going to wear her hair? Whether or not she’s going to don a tiara?

Or could it be the nauseating sentimentality, and the Princess-fever that seems to have swept everyone up. Do women really dream of nothing except the charming and remote possibility of becoming a princess one day? I think not.

I also don’t understand how the fairytale can remain such a buoyant fantasy when we saw, in the case of Diana, that becoming a princess does not guarantee the happy ending.

And don’t get me started on the problematic representations of Beauty, Bride, Feminine, White Heteronormativity, etc, that perpetuate limited roles and ideals for women.

Look, I’m not anti-wedding altogether. I love a good wedding as much as the next person. I’ve been to many a gorgeous event to witness various friends celebrate their love in a formal ceremony. It can be a beautiful thing. Good food, smart outfits, a perfect excuse for a party, and a chance to celebrate life and love with people you care about.

But surely the joy of a wedding, and the celebration of a partnership, only has real meaning if you actually know the two people involved?

I also have a bunch of reservations about the institution of marriage itself, particularly the fact that not everyone in Australia is allowed to marry their chosen loved one.

I’m also kinda disappointed that the Chaser’s pisstake coverage of the event has been canned. That would have at least provided a bit of relief from the earnest coverage the wedding has been receiving since they announced the engagement.

Heh, and I just found another cool headline. Whoah! No way! – ‘Couple Who Met at University to Marry’:

Two people who went to university together are to get married, it has emerged.

William Windsor (or possibly Wales or possibly Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) and Kate Middleton, both 28, met at St Andrews University eight years ago.

Mr Windsor is a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF – and also a prince.

Wall-to-wall, dewy-eyed hysterical coverage can be found in every other media outlet.

Indeed. Make it stop!

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!

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:

TOASTED SANDWICHES
Method
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!

2010 in review: some blog stats

January 3, 2011

Happy New Year, my fellow ponderers!

WordPress just emailed to tell me that my blog is healthy. Phew, what a relief. It gets a rating of “Wow”. Thanks to everyone who read and commented on Pondering Postfeminism in 2010. I intend to keep this blog going in 2011, and vow to write more often. I also thought I’d throw it open to my readers a little bit. If you ever come across something that you think might suit this blog (articles, links, videos, etc) please drop me a line. I’m always on the lookout for inspiration.

I thought I may as well share some of the email that WordPress put together for me. It doesn’t mention some of the more hilarious search engine terms that directed people to my blog. So here are some of the more memorable and amusing:
- what would buffy do
- doctor handsome sex
- sex and the city naked guy (variations of this add up to probably the highest number of searches)
- couregous womeninsex fuc
- predicament bondage
- leather bra xena
- sparkly vampires fuck off spike
- witches noses stereotypes

The rest of this post was compiled by WordPress software.
______________

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,100 times in 2010. That’s about 19 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 34 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 35 posts.

The busiest day of the year was March 8th with 161 views. The most popular post that day was Pondering Germaine Greer.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, badhostess.com, digg.com, and frankiephd.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for princess valhalla hawkwind, sexing the body gender politics and the construction of sexuality, princess valhalla hawkwind costume, what is post feminism, and and then buffy staked edward.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Pondering Germaine Greer March 2010
6 comments

2

Super women and the changing face of feminism February 2010
1 comment

3

So, what is postfeminism anyway? January 2010
3 comments

4

Princess Valhalla: postfeminist superhero August 2010
3 comments

5

The Power of Female Sex February 2010
5 comments

Hottest women musicians of 2010

January 3, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

You can also vote in the annual TripleJ Hottest 100.

Who will you be voting for?


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