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

[insert female condom here]

Contraception eh?! Fun stuff, for some people it’s an everyday part of their existence. A pill they take day in day out for a massive chunk of their lives. Others implant something in their arm or their uterus and don’t think about it again for several years. For some people it’s a conversation every time they get their kit off, an expectation or negotiation for the best possible outcome each time. And until recently it’s always been a male centred device.

The female condom was originally made using a polyurethane which made it a) very expensive and b) akin to the sensation of having sex with a crisp packet. The newer model, FC2, is made with much cheaper (and quieter) nitrile but has struggled to overcome the stigma connected with the first model. 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

HIStory Sucks: Language, Sexism, and Betty White

So I was sitting at a bar with a friend the other evening when a language/sexism epiphany dawned on me. I hadn’t had one since attending a lecture on HIStory (“practically every ‘historical’ document ever is HIS story, OMG!”) Anyway, I was saying something ‘sucked’, and in my leisurely state, I rather uninspiringly recalled that ‘suck’ and ‘blow’ amount to pretty much the same meaning – you know, widespread terms to describe something negative, pathetic, lacking in amiability, respectability, etc. What I hadn’t yet pondered was the derivation of both terms from their origin: the performance of fellatio. So, by speaking these terms, I was inadvertently degrading those who perform the act of fellatio (namely women and homosexuals, how surprising!) by unconsciously linking the two definitions together. What’s worse is that after I realised, I struggled to come up with an apt alternative – the word ‘suck’ for negativity is so ingrained in my vocabulary.

This is what scares me about language: as EJ Cook wrote in her Settle Petal article Word of the week: Spanking, language is behaviour. It is also the most powerful form of thought control. My little epiphanies have taught me that language infiltrates: we are capable of perpetuating gender stereotypes (amongst other ones) quite unconsciously. Feminine or homosexual behaviours in males are ostracised from a very early age through words like “poof”, “homo”,  and “sissy”, or sentences like “be a man”, and “you’re crying like a girl”. Such ostracising is a continual social warning for males to act masculine, lest they forfeit their privileged social position and endure a second-class status like the rest of us. Similarly, for girls, gender-specific words like: “slut”, “mole”, and “whore” attempt to scare us back into sexually passive social roles. 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

Welcome to Monday ~ 19th September 2011

No women, no peace

Ah a spring Monday in Melbourne. How many kinds of weather shall we get today? Seven? Ten? SOCK IT TO ME I can take it.

Here’s our Monday round up of interesting, perplexing, and annoying links from the previous week.  Art in India, the danger of women in leadership, and the utterly terrifying changes occurring in Mississippi; its all here! Enjoy reading, and remember these links do not necessary reflect our views, arguments strengthen us all etc etc.

Panther Award

So here’s something interesting; you can change your gender on your Aussie passport without having to undergo surgery, which seems to be a pretty important symbol of the increasing acceptance of what Rudd call’s “sex and gender diverse people”. Actually awesome. Go Australia!

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Representation: children in art.

Most Australians will probably remember the Bill Henson debarkle back in 2008 when a number of photographs of children were removed from an art gallery and labelled as “disgusting” and pornographic, despite having no intent to arouse and there existing no evidence of abuse of the children.

The debate that followed was heated, often ill informed and caused a great divide among the community. There were those who believed that whether abuse was present or not the images could arouse some viewers and should therefore be removed. There were those that said this was censorship gone mad, that children were a legitimate artistic subject and should be allowed to be so. Many people felt torn by a desire to protect children from abuse and an understanding that this was not such a case, that it really was art and that the pictures really were beautiful and not at all pornographic. The debate sort of reminds me of the sex worker debate that has been raging on feminaust over the last few weeks. The conflict between people who want to protect trafficked women and do so by vilifying the entire industry to “rescue” them and those who recognise that it is not the industry that is evil or immoral but individuals and groups within the industry, much like any other. The gut reaction to want to protect children from abuse is noble and justified however the censorship of legitimate art is not the solution. The Bill Henson case is not the first and will certainly not be the last. Continue reading

Panther Responds ~ Real Men and Newspaper Fillers

Where have all the real men gone, laments Bryony Gordon?

Well, if you are looking for a knight in shining armour, a Heathcliff, a Mr Darcy or, lets cut to the chase, the freaking cavemen that Gordon appears to favour, then you might indeed be in trouble. Gordon bemoans the disappearance of such figures, which makes this Panther desire to whack her own head against the wall. Because when Gordon wails “where have all the real men gone”, she really means she’s a wee bit freaked out by the fading strength of gender stereotypes over both men and women. And however much she and her editors might pretend this is a puff piece, a wee little column designed to fill in gaps in the newspapers that they couldn’t sell to advertisers, Gordon’s column is harmful and dangerous and represents a worrying rise in attacks against men who dare to move beyond traditional masculine definitions of themselves.

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Welcome to Monday ~ September 5 2011

Dear Monday, you suck. Please go away and send Saturday back in……now! Damn it, why are my time traveling powers failing me now when I need them most! Here’s some links to what the feminaust’s have been reading this week – hope you enjoy them! And remember, these links don’t necessarily reflect the views of the feminausts, in the name of objectivity I’ve included some really, really irritating links.

Article of the Week!

The good men project was on a roll this week – here’s a post by Jason Sperber about what it means to “be a man”. The radical basis of second wave feminism was the way in which the concept of what it meant to “be a woman” was investigated and analyzed (or at least, that’s what I think).  It’s great to see the same kind of analysis being applied to the masculine gender roles  in a serious way.

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