Redefining Professionalism: bringing the post-patriarchy one step closer

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

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

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

Safe Spaces: Does Language Matter?

feminaust recently published an Open Letter to Gail Kelly, the CEO of Westpac, in relation to the financing of a brothel in Sydney. In this letter she argued that prostitution is violence against women and an abuse of human rights a sentiment held by many people around the world. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest that in her letter she was speaking in defense of the rights of women and in advocacy for their protection from violence.

Or was she?

In her letter, the author used the term “prostituted women” when referring to women in sex work. If you were a sex worker would you feel protected or advocated for by being referred to in such a way? I certainly wouldn’t. The use of the term “prostituted women” is infantalising and paternal, two attitudes which are both disrespectful and deeply insulting to the people for whom the author takes responsibility for speaking. Firstly, as advocates do we not first and foremost have to demonstrate respect for the objects of our advocacy and secondly, surely a lack of respect indicates a fundamental failure to understand or appreciate the autonomy, agency and independence of ALL women, no matter their circumstances, behaviours or beliefs? 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