I’m All Right Jill or Stuff The Sisterhood

Are women’s voices, once powerful and united (I am woman hear me roar) becoming quieter, quieted, singular and self focused.

There has been much discussion of late on who is and who isn’t a feminist. While some (self included) have pride in naming their feminism others shun such ideologies and values claiming feminism is just another ‘label’ women hang on themselves. Others see feminism as outdated as maybe individually they believe they have achieved ‘it all’ and can’t see what it has to offer them.

Last week the Guardian sought the opinion of four women on whether they identify as a feminist or not in a very superficial article entitled Am I Feminist: 4 Women Reply in the Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/14/feminism-liberal-women-australia

My initial response was one of extreme crankiness at some of the simplistic nonsense expressed in the article including the ridiculous notion the feminism is not a ‘value system’. The very essence of feminism is the promotion of equality, equity, justice, peace, fairness, non-violence and freedom. Some fairly strong values there I would think.

The article continued with opinions expressed as to whether feminism has lost it relevance in today’s society or whether ‘feminist’ is a label women don’t feel the need to hang on themselves. Interesting that Senator Michaelia Cash, one of only 2 women in cabinet gets support for her denunciation of feminism. Love the “I’m all right Jill attitude”. Not too much focus on the ‘sisterhood’ and our collective responsibility to look to the advancement of all women not just ourselves.

In summary, the reader could be left with the impression that feminism is a left wing socialist movement, not something embraced by women on the conservative side of politics or ‘everyday’ women for that matter.

When the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women is quoted as saying “I have never been someone who labels herself. In terms of feminism, I’ve never been someone who really associates with that movement. That movement was a set of ideologies from many, many decades ago now.”Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/minister-for-women-doesnt-have-to-identify-as-feminist-says-senator-michaelia-cash-20140307-34ata.html#ixzz2zUGfDpjf

‘That movement’ is as relevant today as it was 30 /40 years ago. Patriarchy is alive and well and full functioning in all levels of government across Australia. It affects women in the public and private spheres of their lives in a myriad of ways.What concerned me most about the Guardian article was, how will the portrayal of feminists as left-wing socialists play to the conservative federal & state governments as they go quietly about cutting funding to women’s health, women’s legal, women’s migrant & ATSI services, rape crisis and domestic violence services? In some case, it is the out right dismantling of services. Women working at the ‘front line’ of these services have been extremely concerned for some time at the direction of conservative state governments and their relationships and views of women’s services.

It is 40 years since Elsie, Australia’s first women’s refuge opened its doors. It was only possible through the collective action of women working for and with abused women. Since then hundreds of women’s refuges across Australia have opened their doors to provide shelter & support for thousand of women and children fleeing domestic violence. The awful reality is there is never enough….most are continually full with motel accommodation playing a critical part of providing an immediate crisis response. We also know that domestic violence is the major cause of homelessness for women with many women sleeping ‘rough’ rather than returning to an abusive partner. http://www.dss.gov.au/our-responsibilities/women/publications-articles/reducing-violence/women-domestic-and-family-violence-and-homelessness-a-synthesis-report?HTML#5d

Violence remains a major risk factor for women impacting on their health, safety and well-being. Women continue to experience high levels of physical, sexual & psychological abuse in the home, in public and in the workplace with #everydaysexism

Over this Easter week-end, 2 Queensland women have been murdered brining the total to 5 women murdered in Queensland alone during the past month.http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/police-investigate-murder-of-woman-26-at-bingil-bay-and-stabbing-death-of-woman-27-at-woree/story-fnihsrf2-1226890348192

I think of that saying “ if you are not outraged by this, you are not paying attention”.

It doesn’t matter how those women voted, their political leaning or if they called themselves a feminist. What does matter is that they were all killed by men, some of whom they were in an intimate relationships with. All but one of them were young women in their 20’s. More women who have died in the War on Women.

As a woman this outrages me. This is the face of patriarchy.

The survival of specific women’s services is vital to ensure that women can access safety and support when most needed. Most of these services survive on tight budgets already and certainly don’t need to face the prospect of funding cuts.

Individual opinions are one thing but without collective action they count for nothing.  If Senator Cash and others don’t want to identify as feminists fine, but you do have a collective responsibility to go beyond your own views to see the reality of other women’s lives. Feminist individualism may be fine for some women but leaves too many women at the margins of society. I fear of the recent commentary is a new form of victim blaming..if I have made it why cant you.

Together we must be part of the collective scream that says “enough”…

The Personal Is Political










About Bettsie

Writing on things important to me... Feminism Australian Politics Social Justice
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13 Responses to I’m All Right Jill or Stuff The Sisterhood

  1. Pingback: That damn feminist word again | Love versus Goliath : A Partner Visa Journey

  2. Team Oyeniyi says:

    Betty, you are indeed a world-class ranter. Excellent work!

    I loved reading the article about Elise, it was inspirational.

  3. Spagirl says:

    Fabulous! Totally forgotten feminism is by it every nature political! The personal is political has been the cry down the ages as feminist politics challenged then and continues to challenge now women’s experience of poverty, gender inequality, men’s violence, entrenched sexism and discrimination, access to affordable child care the list goes on. The key problem that Cash promotes is the “if I can do it so can you!” Completely underscoring the role that race, class and institutional sexism and patriachial oppression plays, thus creating the environment to blame individual women for whatever is happening in their lives.

    • Bettsie says:

      Agree absolutely..will add the comment about the personal is political. Tired of women making it about themselves. Its not. A new form of victim blaming

      • Team Oyeniyi says:

        I’ve broken the glass ceiling so I’m all right Jill? Too bad about the women suffering FGM, or the ones escaping domestic violence, or the attempts by men to control reproduction.

    • Team Oyeniyi says:

      Spagirl, I find that interesting: “Totally forgotten feminism is by it every nature political! ” I asked the question about suffragettes – the right to vote IS political in every sense. Yet somehow over the years women have, as you say, forgotten. Very sad.

  4. Davispg says:

    Thank you Betty, I find it scary and sad to think society continues to excuse domestic violence, or to be more precise, that men seem to excuse violence against women (either by words or through silence). I do not understand how there was a campaign in NSW after the unfortunate death of a young man (one-punch) yet no equal campaign about the unfortunate deaths of women due to violence brought upon them by their partners. I was moved by Tom Meaghers “the danger of the monster myth”. It challenge me to ask why is it we (men) seem to silently accept men’s violence against women? Perhaps changing the language from ‘violence against women’ to “men’s violence against women” will help change the narrative.

  5. Bettsie says:

    Paul, I believe this will only change with women and men working together. I remembering once that communities that are safe of women and children are also then safe for men..everyone benefits as many men are also victims of other men’s violence. It takes commitment at an individual level and political will by government. Many communities across the USA and Canada have had incredible results bringing to two together…I am concerned in Australia we are going backwards especially now that services to women are under threat..Thanks for your great comment

  6. cowper133 says:

    I was very disturbed when I heard Senator Cash state that the feminist aims were from another time! It showed a complete lack of understanding of lives outside her elite circle (and there are problems even there but not spoken about) and of her ability to represent her wider constituency. You only have to look at how the women in Labor were treated by conservative men over the last few years and now of conservative women in this govt to know we still have a long way to go. Lisa Wilkinson put it well on QandA when she said the women knocking on the door of cabinet were not there to sell Avon! This attitude coming from the very top of govt that women aren’t worthy, filters through very loudly to the wider society and gives permission for a variety of ways of expressing women’s “unworthiness”!

    • Bettsie says:

      I found the reference to women in the Labor Cabinet as the ‘handbag hit squad’ not only offensive but also dismissive and patronising. Now we have a Prime Minister who does not believe there are any women in his ‘team’ who can be Minister for Women so he carry the mantle himself. Not only patronising but also put down for women around him. I am concerned that women’s issues are slipping off the agenda

  7. abbienoiraude says:

    How many men died from ‘the’ hit during the same period? Yet no National outcry from our Nations papers to up the search, gaol time & preventative measures (education and financial support) for Violence against Women. Damn.

  8. abbienoiraude says:

    How many men died from ‘the’ hit during the same period? Yet no National outcry from our Nations papers to up the search, gaol time & preventative measures (education and financial support) for Violence against Women. Damn.

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