Ms. Deneuve

Dear Ms. Deneuve,

It is wonderful for you that you feel comfortable with male attention, that it does not make you feel unsafe or threatened, that it does not even annoy. It is wonderful for you that you feel so unthreatened by this behaviour, either solicited or unsolicited, that you feel the need to defend men and their ‘right’ to hit on women.

And don’t get me wrong; I realize where you’re coming from. It seems to be a reaction to a movement that may appear to you as contrary to what feminists of your era fought for: sexual freedom.

I can even, if I squint hard, see a little bit of your take on the #metoo movement being victimizing: women self-flagellating, re-opening wounds and re-triggering themselves may seem like martyrdom and victimhood. But look at it for what it was for many; women realizing they will not be heard until they scream. And realizing at the same time that whatever will elicit a scream loud enough will hurt and doing it anyway. The real pity is not these women and their unified scream, but your inability to see the courage it took.

Another real pity is that you are doing exactly what has been divisive in feminism – you’ve come at feminism devoid of awareness outside of yourself and therefore, coming to a conclusion that is ignorant and completely devoid of empathy. Though, how you managed to miss basic awareness of the state of women aside from yourself and your echo-chamber, is beyond me.

Your stance is tied to a single, narrow perspective: privilege. It is a privilege that you don’t see men as a real threat, that you can take pleasure from ‘a touch on the knee’ or even simply dismiss it as harmless.

Many women, don’t have that privilege: the men they’ve known have been actual threats. Their brothers, fathers, uncles, ex-partners or rejected suiters have all been threats. Like Qandeel Baloch, whose brother killed her for his ‘honour’, like Mukhtaran Bibi, who was gang raped because ‘an eye for an eye’, like Malala Yousefzai, shot for trying to get an education.  All the acid attack victims in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Ethiopia – attacked to protect family honour, community honour or as vessels for revenge. These women were not seen as human by the men, only as symbols of honour, as tokens of masculinity, as tools used to exact their twisted brand of justice.

What utter privilege and absolute ignorance it must take to even think the phrase ‘just a touch’. Oh, and the way you attempted to buffer yourself from the reaction to your letter: dragging another woman in front of you to take the flak. A classy move for a self-identified feminist.

And so, Ms. Deneuve stop denigrating the laurels from your feminist battles past and look at the context of the now for women outside the high walls of your wisteria-covered privilege.

Laughing till you cry: why rape jokes are never ok

IMG_0343-1.JPG

“That awkward moment when you randomly target a girl for rape and it turns out to be your sister….Christmas is going to be uncomfortable this year”

It’s that time of year again, so I felt inspired to share that lovely festive joke a male friend of mine told me recently. I may be bias due to my feminist sensitivities, but hearing such vile words, and from a friend I’ve known for nearly 10 years was both shocking and disappointing.

I challenged him about the inappropriate nature of the joke, but he proceeded to defend his statement vehemently – claiming that is was black humour, a little harmless satire that doesn’t hurt anyone. We debated furiously about the issue over the next week.

While his joke mocks a violent and unspeakable act experienced by 1 in 6 women during their lifetime, it was also his inability to understand the degree of damage rape jokes can cause that upset me.

The debate about whether or not rape jokes are ok is highly controversial. Understandably, no one wants to live an uptight, PC culture. Some say it’s freedom of speech, satire or simply “just a joke” and feminists should all have a collective un-bunching of our panties.

But researchers at Western Carolina University have found scientific evidence linking rapes jokes to the promotion of violence and prejudice.

“Humor, as a medium of communication, changes the manner in which we interpret a given message. The levity of humor invites us to treat a sentiment, whether decent or reprehensible, as a matter of play. Sexist humor—the denigration of women through humor—for instance, trivializes sex discrimination under the veil of benign amusement, thus precluding challenges or opposition that nonhumorous sexist communication would likely incur” (Boxer, Edel, Ford, 2007) Continue reading

Cry Me a River of Privileged Tears

male-tears

There has been much recent discussion about the “rise” of the empowered woman and its effect on young men, Kay Hymowitz’s appearance on the ABC’s Q&A last Monday night being a particularly good example. The common narrative goes something like this. Young women are growing up in a society with destabilised traditional gender roles and increased economic and sexual independence. They no longer “need” men and thus the “natural” equilibrium of centuries old gender hierarchy has disappeared leaving a gaping, murky hole. Men do not know what to make of these highly evolved modern women and feel unsure and suspicious about how to navigate their complex, contradictory desires and “mixed messages”. This results in them either “opting out” and remaining perpetual adolescents or becoming confused, lonely and sad because no matter how hard they try they just can’t get women to behave how they “should”. Continue reading

Welcome to the Age of Opportunity?

BY ALYSON GALE

A couple of days ago I had tea with my neighbour. She is disabled and has to visit the doctor frequently. She is on a range of medications. She can’t walk so she catches taxis everywhere.

We were having tea when she asked me “is the government were really going to cut the disability pension?”

It hit me how devastating that would be for her.

She could hardly afford food some weeks. She had no savings and she had never been able to afford a holiday in her adult life. I told her I didn’t know, but we would cross that bridge when we came to it. Then she asked me “will they really charge us to go to the doctor and put prescriptions prices up?” And then asked “if fuel prices would increase?” because that would mean that taxi prices would go up and “food will be more expensive too because the costs of transporting the food will be past on to the buyer”.

I literally didn’t know what to say.

After a few moments she started crying. I hugged her and said it would be okay. And when the federal budget was released it broke my heart. She was dealt such a hard life already. A life of suffering beyond anything I have ever experienced. Her only ‘entitlement’ was having enough money to live. She smiled when she told me if she had $6 left over from her pension it had been a good fortnight.

This budget will affect disabled people like my neighbour so drastically. People who find it hard to express their voice politically. The most vulnerable members of our community. The disabled who’s already low pensions will be cut. The people who ‘must’ see doctors regularly, who ‘must’ take medication to live.

If this is the ‘age of opportunity’ where is the opportunity for her?

The uncomfortable reality of Jaime Lannister’s sexual violence

2game-of-thrones

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence.
Contains Spoilers: Do not read unless you’ve watched S4E3 of Game of Thrones.

BY BRONWYN STANGE

Since Episode 3 Season 4 of Game of Thrones aired the Internet has exploded in response to Jaime Lannister’s rape of his sister Cersei Lannister. Articles have been written questioning the necessity of the scene and even whether the series will survive it. The scene was undoubtedly disturbing as, aside from the obvious element of incest, the rape occurred next to their son King Joffrey’s corpse. Nonetheless, the series has contained other graphic and confronting scenes depicting sexual violence, from King Joffrey’s murder of a prostitute by bow and arrow to Khal Drogo’s violation of Khaleesi. The response to Cersei’s rape vastly outweighed the latter and I believe this is partly because it challenges society’s basic assumptions about sexual violence. While some outrage was directed towards the altering of the book plot, in which the couple had consensual sex, and the use of rape as a plot device, I believe there may be more to the story.

What substantially differed here was that Jaime is the “wrong” type of man to commit sexual violence, leaving viewers incredibly uncomfortable and distressed. While Jaime Lannister is a character with questionable morals, who has committed a vast array of terrible acts, events in season 3 appeared to hint at his redeeming qualities. In particular his decision to turn back and save Brienne of Tarth from sexual and physical violence seemed to suggest that he was perhaps a “good guy” after all. When Joffrey commits sexual violence we are able to stomach it by positioning him as evil, deranged and sadomasochistic (of which he is all). Similarly, Khal Drogo was presented as a “savage” who perhaps “didn’t know better” and had not yet been enlightened by more “civilized men”. Conversely, Jamie’s violation of Cersei left viewers with the uncomfortable thought that a “good” man who saved a woman from sexual violence could go on to commit it himself. What this broadly touches on is something society still finds difficult to acknowledge; everyday, “normal” men commit rape.

Continue reading

Nice style, wrong message: my disappointment in Moxie

BY NEON DAMSELFISH

I have a quandary. Here I am, at my keyboard, ready to write a rant. It was going to be of those particularly fervent ones that include a lot of outrage and a fair few generalisations that I might edit out the following day, once the vehement conviction has subsided and a tweet from a stranger makes me reconsider my entire contention, and wonder if I should have written a mild-mannered letter to my local paper instead. The trouble is, I am currently looking at a pink stripy website and instead of feeling angry (the ideal emotion for a successful rant) I just feel disappointed. Disappointment is not so conducive to ranting.

The website in question is moxie.com.au. Moxie is an Australian company that makes tampons, pads and liners. The company was started by a young Australian woman, Mia Klitsas, aged only 22 at the time. Products are now sold in Australia, the US, UK, Scandinavia and South Africa. They are also sold at my local Brunswick Coles, Safeway and IGA. As someone with neither the skills nor desire to start my own business, this seems very impressive. When I was about the same age, I was being paid $14 per hour to work in after school care. There, my achievements included accidentally setting the kitchen on fire and not-so-accidentally facilitating a large-scale jelly-fight. The latter led to so many complaints from parents that my boss felt it necessary to articulate and enforce a new rule of “food is not to be used for any activity other than eating”, thus ending an era of the annual creation of macaroni Christmas decorations at the primary school. So, long story short, Mia is a bit of an entrepreneurial rock-star and undoubtedly is more skilled than me in workplace settings.

Which is why she should know better. As much as I wish it wasn’t so, the fact remains that the current advertising for Moxie tampons is downright sexist. Continue reading

Am I overreacting? No, actually, I’m responding reasonably to unreasonable treatment

BY JENNIFER DUKE

“This trollop is going to single handedly send Westpac to the dumps. That’s a shemale for sure.”

What you just read is a comment that’s currently online, in a property forum, about a senior female member at Westpac. I found it because I was mentioned in the same thread. It was rating ‘Australia’s hottest real estate agents’, and they’d thrown in property journalists and commentators into the mix. Just for fun, just for kicks, presumably without any thought that many of us would actually read these things. And, seemingly, without any trepidation that maybe real estate has nothing to do with how people look.

At my work desk, I opened up the thread and there it was. My photo, taken from my Twitter account or my LinkedIn or from somewhere, with my name and publication. Someone had then quoted the picture and underneath it they’d written: ‘Lipstick lesbians are always cute.’

Continue reading

Tony Abbott’s the Minister for WHAT?!

I’ve been meaning to ask you all how you’re feeling since our new Minister for the Status of Women was (self)appointed? How have your lives as women improved since MSW started? Personally, just knowing that someone so capable, engaged and feminist is in the chair makes me sleep oh-so-soundly at night.

tony-abbott_0

I jest. On a more serious note however, if you have come up with a strategy for dealing with the next three years please email it through to us at info[at]feminaust.org, we’d love to share it with the feminaust community!

I’ve been thinking about this a lot – not just from an individual perspective, but also what this means for the women’s movement. His public comments about women and their place in society are largely concerning for anyone with a brain and a belief in gender equality.

Continue reading

Welcome to Fashion Thursday! ~ 17th October 2013

tumblr_lzzsjnBHeB1r9nxebo1_500In a follow on from my advertorial on my cousin’s fashion label with an analysis on what might feminist fashion look like thrown in for good measure, I thought I’d have a look at what else is out there in the feminist fashion world. Just a recap on what I thought last week were feminist fashion credentials; social justice, environmental sustainability, rejecting gender boundaries, incluslive and genuine and practical. Feel free to comment on what you’d add to that list and any other feminist fashionistas that you know of (including yourselves).

Here’s what I found!

Broadist is a photo heavy blog (love this style of blogging, all visual treats!) that is clever and subtle. The author seems to love recycling/swapping clothes, ladies of all shapes and sizes and also likes to comment on social issues like fat shaming and the media. So basically this whole blog gets a massive LOVE from me! xxx Continue reading

feminist fashion? feminaust fashion!

a4bf221b-e869-4a1f-b201-0f9bb73007b0-4710So, like I said in my Welcome to Tuesday! I spent the weekend of Friday 4th/Saturday 5th October hanging out at the Finders Keepers Market in Melbourne helping my cousin out with her first market stall for her newly launched fashion label CharlieBoy. So naturally beware that there will be shameless-family-promotion in this article but also much analysis.

Hanging with my cuz and talking to her customers, many of whom knew the product already and came looking for it at the market, made me think about whether or not there is feminist fashion, and if so, what IS feminist fashion? Being a scientifically minded (sometimes) gal, I went about considering it in a linear, simple, list like way.

What is feminism and therefore what is feminist fashion?

For me feminism is (among many things) the following;

Social Justice

So feminist fashion would need to have a social justice element…. feminist fashion would have to be “no sweat“, with a zero tolerance approach to worker exploitation and a desire to support and enhance local manufacturing through fair wages, workers rights and quality products.

Continue reading