Review: No Such Thing as Normal, Off the Wall Youth Circus Troupe at the Melbourne Fringe Festival

News Flash: Off The Wall Troupe will be performing No Such Thing As Normal at the Adelaide Fringe Festival from the 25th Feb to 4th March 2012. Get your info and tickets now! And meet the cast at Festival Fishbowl.

I just got home from the Melbourne Fringe Festival with my brother and had to write about the show I saw IMMEDIATELY.

Those of you who know me will know that I’ve been involved with Westside Circus through my work for a while now. Those who don’t should check out the work that Westside does straight away and everyone should grab tickets to go see the newly formed Off the Wall youth troupe’s Fringe Festival performance: No Such Thing as Normal.

From what I understand, Off the Wall is a new troupe, consisting of former Behind the Wall performers. I also understand that the troupe is entirely organised, directed, produced, planned and everything else by the young people involved. Very impressive, not least because the show was absolutely awesome. Continue reading

friday feminaust ~ Chelsea Lewis

Chelsea Lewis is our friday feminaust

What is my feminism?

I’ve always been an activist from leading a protest to the Headmaster’s office in grade four, to Amnesty and Clean Up Australia Day, and ten years volunteering for a queer community radio program, to being an ardent letter to the editor writer and talkback radio caller and the family member who is guaranteed to generate powerful dinner table discussion.

Looking back, I realise I have also always been a feminist but my feminism truly arrived along with the birth of my daughter and I learned a vocabulary for it when I began working at a women’s organisation. Continue reading

YWCA World Council ~ Women, Peace and Security

No women, no peace

Tuesday was the last day of the International Women’s Summit in Zurich, Switzerland as part of the YWCA World Council. The theme on Tuesday was Women, Peace and Security. This is a theme that I’ve been interested in since university, where I studied international relations.

The speakers were all fantastic and mainly spoke about Security Council Resolution 1325 which mandates women’s involvement in peace and nation-building, while denouncing violence against women during war-time. It also calls for peace with justice.

I’ve heard people speak about why SCR1325 is important but I’ve always wanted to find out what the next step is. Continue reading

YWCA World Council ~ Waking up to your sexual and reproductive health and rights

(left to right): Billington; Betty Naomi Goldstein Friedan; Barbara Ireton; and Marguerite Rawalt

Today I had a sexual awakening. Don’t worry, the rest of this post won’t read like the lyrics to a Marvin Gaye song. I’m talking about waking up to the concept of SRHR – sexual and reproductive health and rights.

At the 2011 International Women’s Summit (IWS), much of the program is dedicated to the work being done by women around the world to combat HIV, and other issues related to SRHR. I was excited to hear the stories of these leaders (who are often women younger than I am), but I didn’t see SRHR as relevant to me. After all, way back when I had braces some awkward male teaching graduate in Reeboks showed me how to put a condom on a banana. Sexual education? Tick! But yesterday I attended the session on SRHR at the World YWCA’s Young Women’s Leadership Dialogue and the young woman facilitating the session started asking a lot of questions I couldn’t answer. Sure you know how to not catch an STI when you have sex, but what about your emotional health? You know you have the right to say no, but what about your right to privacy – who finds out about your sex life? We’ve all sat through lectures on the seemingly endless negative consequences of sexual activity (unwanted pregnancies, scarlet letters, hairy palms), but how old were you when someone first gave you a positive message about your sexuality? Has that ever happened?

Hmm. Perhaps more relevant than I had thought. Continue reading

friday feminaust ~ Ranty Pants

“Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience”

Mary Wollstonecraft

When MsElouise asked me to write a short piece on “my feminism” within 72 hours, I figured it was a pretty easy assignment. Hey, I’ve owned a copy of The Female Eunuch since my mum gave it to me as a present for my 16th birthday, I own all of Ani Difranco’s albums, and I’ve been wearing Doc Martins for over a decade. Feminist credentials clearly established. How could it be difficult to put it into words, add in a joke or two, and brag about my generalised awesomeness?

Yeah. Not so much. Continue reading

Sexuality Gender and Rights Institute: Make No Assumptions

So for those of you who don’t know me personally, or haven’t heard my unending ranting about the incredible institute I’ve been attending in Istanbul guess what… I’ve just been attending an incredible institute in Istanbul!

The focus of the institute was to develop the skills and understanding of activists, project coordinators and advocates from around the world (with a focus on the global south) to deal with issues of human rights in sexuality and gender. The participants are wildly variant from sexuality educators from Kyrgystan, queer film festival innovators from China, journalists from Syria and women’s rights activists from South Africa. On the first day, we learnt our very first lesson, first thing in the morning.

Make no assumptions

Or, if you must make assumptions, make as few as possible

Or, at least know what assumptions you are making

This mantra would be seriously put to the test over the next 9 days with no topics closed to discussion (except maybe the development of a new framework other than the human rights one to talk about this issues through – I think that was just too much for the organisers to even contemplate!). Conversations ranged from, is adult-child sex always abuse? What is the standard of sexual legitimacy that we want to work with (currently the accepted standard is “consent” but within that word lie many sleeping assumptions and challenges). What is the sexual hierarchy in your part of the world and how can it be changed/challenged/rejected? Does gender really exist outside of the collective societal mind and if not how can we campaign for trans and intersex rights without relying on a gender identity framework? Woah was my brain spinning every night with the ideas and discussions flying around the meeting room at the Hotel Erboy in Istanbul! Continue reading

Relational Feminism and Non State Torture: An Australian-Canadian Connection

Linda and Jeanne protesting against Non State Torture in January 2010

Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson

Phone calls, emails, web links, SKYPE and written letters from mainly women, describe this Canadian-Australian connection which relates to voicing similar ordeals of non-state torture (NST) victimization. Professionals from both countries also consult us. They seek support for their work with women’s suffering due to NST victimization, which predominately begins in childhood and often continues into the adult years. Because this category of torturers, if possible, generally persist to harass, intimidate and assault the women they victimized as children.

Non-state versus State torture. Globally, human rights language distinguishes torture as being either non-state or State actor inflicted. State-actor torture refers to torture committed by a State, for example, torture that is perpetrated by government officials such as police, military personnel, or prison guards. It is generally referred to as torture that happens in the public sphere, in places such as prisons, police lock-up cells, in an embassy, or on military bases or posting in or outside a country. Conversely, non-state actor torture refers to torture committed by a spouse, by parent(s) and intergenerational family members, guardians, and like-minded others such as pedophiles, human traffickers or gangs, that occurs, for instance, in the private sphere of home, cottage, private buildings, warehouses, or in out-of-door spaces on farms.[1] Continue reading

Welcome to Monday ~ 13th of June

Welcome back to another Monday public holiday! We hope you’re all enjoying your day off and that the weather stays glorious.

The feminausts were crazy busy again this week preparing for our official launch. We’ve managed to line up Raven to perform burlesque for us, for a taste check him out here: http://tiny.cc/nrmh9. We’re looking forward to seeing you all on Wednesday at Loop in Melbourne! Be sure to RSVP to info@feminaust.org to get your name on the bar tab.

Below is a little of what we had time to read this week. Please a) don’t shoot the messenger and b) feel free to add what you were reading to the comments section. See you on the other side. xxx feminaust

Why men are superior writers

Had to take this opportunity to throw in another photo from the roller derby

Vengeful woman syndrome. To be included in the DSM5?

Aboriginal Women vs Feminism

Gaddafi orders troops to rape.

Hexpletive was at Feminist Futures TOO! Check out what she has to say.

Yes our kids are growing up too soon, but blame capitalism, not sex.

Would women in power behave in the same way as men? A great little discussion which generally avoids too many gender sterotypes and talks about science and research instead.

The continuing story of the Texas cheerleader forced to cheer for her rapist.

If Lady Gaga says it, it must be true! Full equality for same-sex couples!

Gay Girl in Damascus is a man called Tom

Feminists for Choice tell us about wedding planning

Nearly 10,000 people have signed up to stop child marriage. Have you?

Indigenous Feminism and Cultural Appropriation in the US, if anyone knows of anything similar to this in Australia please drop us a line at info@feminaust.org.

“from the mouths of babes” Power and Influence part 2

I was going to use Part 2 of this post to discuss influence and young women but a dinner with my mum and her current home stay student from China has changed my mind.

Tim, the student, has become involved with a church here in Melbourne since arriving and has been enjoying the challenge of listening to English and interpreting what he hears. One of the stories he heard during the service on Sunday was about the importance of every individual. As far as I could gather, the story went, that;

A university professor set a test to his students for which they had to receive 100% to pass. When the results came through, not one of the students had successfully answered all the questions. It was revealed that the final question on the test was “what is the name of the cleaner”, which no one was able to answer correctly.

My mum explained to Tim that this was in reference to Jesus’ teachings that every individual was important, from the most conspicuous (the professor) to the least conspicuous (the cleaner). This reminded me of my discussions with young women of power and influence so I started to talk to Tim about my lessons, which proved to be an excellent opportunity to clarify my own thoughts (as trying to explain something complex to someone whose first language is not English sometimes is). Continue reading

“from the mouths of babes” – Power and Influence part 1

Used under Creative Commons License from Flickr user atomicshark

The conversation continues around safe spaces with my young students. This time, talking about power and influence in spaces and how that changes the impression of safety. If you ask the average 14 year old whether they have any power or influence, the chances are, they’re gonna say NO, NONE, not at all, none whatsoever, ok, well maybe over my little brother.

I start the conversation about Power and Influence (emphasis required) by asking the girls to place a number of name cards in order of most to least power, as they see the world (this is an activity I stole off the facilitator of a young women’s consultation, THANKS!). The cards say Girl, Boy, Young Man, Young Woman, Adult Man, Adult Woman, Old Man, Old Woman, Police, Honourable (elected leaders), Chief (unelected leaders) and God. Continue reading