Forever Not Yours ~ an open letter to the random sleaze

To the older man at the Abbotsford Convent who pinched my thigh,

I’ve been experiencing some form of sexual dynamics, power or outright abuse, since at least the age of 6. That’s when the most problematic, and lasting, memories begin anyway.

You spoke of your two young daughters

And I wonder…

When contemplating the world they’re growing up in,

do you ever stop to consider the role and responsibility you hold in how it takes shape?

Gender “norms” are perpetuated every day by men like you Continue reading

Babes on Bikes ~ my new experience of street harassment

Last week (or maybe the week before, it’s been a bit manic chez feminaust lately) Tara wrote about being told to smile on the street and contemplated the relationship with looking feminine and “pretty” and being expected to always appear happy and appealing to passers-by. It got me thinking about my own experiences of street-harassment. They’re fairly unusual but they certainly do happen. I’m hesitant to put their rarity down to my demeanour or dress choice as I know that street-harassment rarely has anything to do with what the individual actually looks like however, as I ramp up my bike time in preparation for a big bike tour I’m undertaking in May I’m starting to notice that the street-harassment aimed my way is also ramping up. Something about being a chick on a bike causes the male of the species to get very excited and assume our intention in such behaviour is to attract their attention and solicit all manner of observation muttered, hurled, crooned and chorused across the street/footpath/pedestrian crossing/from moving vehicle. Continue reading

Personhood = Patriarchy

2011 was a strange year for American uteruses. I’m hoping that 2012 proves more fruitful (in an entirely un-fertility pun sense) for the rights of women to make basic choices for their sexual and reproductive health and rights however in the mean time I want to have a little think about the concept of personhood (an attempted constitutional amendment which would legislate that human-ness starts at conception) and how it equates to not only bullocks-iness but also massive patriarchy-ness.

Why?

Because if a human begins at conception it means that the MAN is responsible for life, not the WOMAN. Conception is the moment at which the sperm enters the egg and voila! human-ness. At this point, all the woman has had to do is sprout a little egg out a folicle (oh and of course spread her legs, willingly or unwillingly). While I would never support any similar legislation that suggested life begins at implantation or at foetal heartbeat or any other meaningless moment in time that the woman’s body has more control over, I feel like the concept of personhood beginning at the moment of conception is particularly rancid precisely because it takes away all control from the woman. Continue reading

Welcome to Monday ~ 2 January 2012

The Spire on Fire - bring on 2012 (Photo: Michelle Griffin)

Oh. My. God. It’s 2012! Welcome to the new year feminausts, we hope you had a great NYE and are looking forward to a fulfilling year ahead.

She who must not be named Award

I love any post that makes it obvious that in most mainstream discussions about gender equality it is men who are absent from the discussion – and that is a major factor for why we aren’t going towards the Feminist Mecca very quickly. While men are absent in these conversations in many ways, the most damaging way is when they are not discussed as solutions/agents for change to solve the gender inbalance. It puts the emphasis on solving this gender equality thing on women. I.e., how do we fix gender equality in boardrooms? Quotas for women (not caps for men), or, make it easier for women to work longer hours through childcare, flexi time (not ask men to provide equal support in the domestic sphere), or my favourite – maternity leave (not paternity leave).

And the Award goes to News With Nipples who points out that “she who must not be named” is actually a “he”. (And no, she doesn’t just mean Voldermort, though he could start cleaning up after himself once in a while).

Continue reading

Welcome to Monday ~ 12 December 2011

Roller Derby in Victoria

Happy Monday feminausts! We hope you’ve had a lovely weekend and a fabulous Meredith Music Festival (if you were so lucky to attend). I haven’t done one of these for quite a while so bear with me… and as usual, we do not necessarily endorse the content but want you to have a good think about it all the same!

‘She who must not be named’ Award… the winner is Vaginas!!!

This has got to be my favourite title for a feminist protest event… MUFF MARCH! On 10 Dec (Saturday morning) in London, a group of fabulous people marched against ‘designer vagina’ surgery. The protest is marching against the growing (and terrifyingly fast at that!) trend of women having cosmetic surgery on their lady bits due to dissatisfaction at what it all looks like – or doesn’t look like. For a fabulous documentary about this very issue please don’t hesitate to watch The Perfect Vagina. And if you’re still enthused, check out MONA (down in Hobart) for some more work on the diversity of everyone’s map of tassie.

Durex… giving women another reason to worry about their vaginas.

Birth control, it’s all about vaginas. So get angry ladies, these manufacturers are taking your V-Jay-Jay’s on a ride…

Powerful vaginas… in pretty clothing. Continue reading

Review: Cairo 678

When feminaust co-founder isBambi and I were in Zurich earlier this year for International Women’s Summit and YWCA World Council we met an amazing young woman Sandra from YWCA of Egypt who spoke at one of the plenery events about the greatest challenges she saw the women of Egypt were facing, even since the revolution. Primarily she was concerned with the astronomical levels of street harassment that women face in Egypt, harassment that goes largely unreported and unpunished due to shame, fear and lack of political, judicial and police interest. She showed us a short clip for the film Cairo 678 and we were all struck by the feeling of utter helplessness of the women coupled with the brazen nonchalance of the perpetrators.

Street harassment in Egypt isn’t like that which we face in Australia. Here at home, my experience of street harassment is open, it’s men calling from their cars, honking their horns, yelling obscenities and reacting aggressively, but generally remotely, when my response isn’t positive. In Egypt, the street harassment is far more widespread but far more covert. It’s physical, it’s hidden, it’s not spoken of and it literally has the power to immobilise the women who experience it on a daily basis. The word harassment in my mind doesn’t even cover it, I believe it’s assault, in Australian legal terms it would be assault, it’s unwanted touching, groping, fondling and the women who experience it have little option but to move away or put up with it. Neither the law, society nor even their own families are interested in protecting them. Continue reading

Powerful women and the diversity of feminisms

A little unscheduled rock climbing in the Gobi Desert

For those regular readers who haven’t guessed yet, I’m a feminist and proud of it. As my bio says, I’m a sort of “take no prisoners, you’re either with me or against me” kinda feminist and while this doesn’t always win me friends, the ones that do stick around are loyal and just as proud of me and my achievements as I am. The people for whom my enthusiasm causes the most angst therefore, is my family. The people who can’t choose to walk away and remove themselves. The result is most commonly, my mother and my brother asking me to tone myself down a bit around certain people, well let’s be honest, around pretty much anyone except them and even sometimes then. For them, my loud, passionate and defiant activism and altruism can be embarrassing, conflicting and challenging. This can be hard for me to accept sometimes, thinking that as my family, they should be able to be as proud of me as my friends are, however recently I started thinking about whether or not I reciprocated the support that I expected and often, I think perhaps I don’t. Continue reading

Redefining Professionalism: bringing the post-patriarchy one step closer

Does this look professional to you? feminaust co-founder MsElouise at the official launch of feminaust.org

What do you imagine when you think of professionalism. What does it look and sound like to you? Dark suits and ties? Nice language? Good education? Handshakes and jugs of water? Good reporting and accountability? Until a few recent events culminated in a radical change in me, that’s pretty much what I had in mind. Professionalism was about having the answers, good research, well written reports and measures of accountability. It looked like a dark suit, maybe a few touches of colour. It sounded well educated, well thought out and respectful. I’m not so sure anymore though.

What if professionalism could be whatever we wanted it to be and more importantly, as women, what if we could redefine it entirely? In feminist studies we sometimes talk about the post-patriarchy, the promised land of gender equality and the redefinition of traditional patriarchal values. I think that post-professionalism is one step on the road to the post-patriarchy and I’m excited about exploring what that means, particularly for young women. Continue reading

Feminists are Better in Bed ~ 19th October, 2011

Yes I said it and I stand by it. Ever since I read Full Frontal Feminism by the spectacular Jessica Valenti (of feministing awesomeness) I’ve loved the way that you can bring feminists concepts like enthusiastic consent, relationship equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights to make unforgetable bedroom antics. And the best bit? There’s definitely no exclusivity here, male, female, queer, straight, all ethnic groups, anyone can have better sex if they’re a feminist. Why? because the basic tenant of feminism, that women shouldn’t be treated like doormats, equals better negotiation, better collaboration and better conversation, all desired ingredients for good orgasms.  Continue reading

Panther Responds ~ Fashion, Beauty, and a Wee Nerdsplosion

Beauty...no high heels. Hmmm

Recently, the Good Men Project published a piece by Tom Matlack, one of the founders of the fabulous Good Men Project, questioning if “women are addicted to beauty”, which initially seemed odd to me. He wasn’t talking about beauty so far as I could see, but rather, if women can be addicted to fashion. And that set me off thinking – why do we accept the fashion industries argument that fashion is at its base about beauty? Why do I disagree so much with that assumption? And does it lead us up any interesting paths if we detangle the two?

Continue reading