[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The female condom was originally made using a polyurethane which made it a) very expensive and b) akin to the sensation of having sex with a crisp packet.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.


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

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

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.

Continue reading

Can I stand on your face? Is it ok for social advocates to shit on each other?

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) rose to promenance in 1981 when they were successful in getting the first conviction of an animal tester on the basis of cruelty to animals. Since then they have been involved in cases and campaigns as diverse as convincing McDonalds to introduce animal treatment standards and new training regulations introduced in the US for entertainment animals. I’m not here to talk about the good of what PETA has done for animal welfare however, I’m here to discuss whether or not it’s ok for one social advocate to kick another social advocate in the face, to achieve their own goals. Whose face is PETA kicking right now? Well us, feminists.

For some time now PETA has been using nudity in its campaigning. Starting with the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” project, it has increasingly used the sexualisation of its models, not just their nudity, to garner support, particularly with one of its most high profile supporters, Pamela Anderson. Anderson has been involved in a number of PETA campaigns, most notably the “all animals have the same parts” project which pictured Anderson in a bikini and a sexualised pose with her body segmented like an old fashioned butchers diagram. This was just the start however, earlier this week PETA announced its plan to launch a fully fledged porn site, with an animal rights flavour.

So, is it ok for one social activism campaign to shit all over another social activism campaign just to get hits? Should the animal rights activists be using the sexual objectification of women for their own benefit, effectively stamping all over feminist and women’s rights campaigners in the process? Continue reading

Welcome to Monday ~ 15 August 2011

What a week! This Welcome to Monday includes tampons, some potentially big changes in the comic book world, war heroines and of course the big one down under, Fred Nile being an idiot about the general awesomeness of Australian finance minister, Penny Wong.There’s so much news I’m minimised the commentary on them, which obviously took an unprecedented level of self-control. Enjoy the links, tell us what you think, and remember we aim to include an overview of feminist news this week; these articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the feminausts.

Continue reading

Super Ted made me a feminist

Super Ted!

It’s often hard for people to pinpoint exactly when they became or rather, realised, they were a feminist. Reading some of our friday feminaust pieces reflects that. Usually becoming a feminist is more like a journey of discovery, evolving out of certain events or experiences.

Personally, for me there are two clear events that define my ‘feminist journey of discovery’ (don’t worry, this piece won’t start talking about ‘yonis’, though I sense your trepidation). The second event was one of confirmation and horizon-expansion: my first Sheila Jeffrey’s lecture on feminism at the University of Melbourne. “Ahh, yes, Sheila” I hear you murmur. It’s hard to be a student of Melbourne Uni and not have something to say about Sheila. And mostly people say that she gave them their feminist ‘lightbulb’ moment – even if they don’t agree with everything she says.

However, this post is actually about my first memory of being unfairly limited by my gender. It was a definitive experience, and it started with SuperTed. 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