Australia Day..Time For Change

Australia Day – What Does It Even Mean?

Is it really a time to celebrate what it means to be Australian or another day of faux patriotism.

I thankfully didn’t grow up with all the flag wearing, drunken behaviour that seems to mark the passage of this “national day” now. It was something of a non-event in our household really. Maybe coming from an Irish background extended family or maybe that it was taken as a given that Yes we are all Australian so what else is new.

In those days most of as children were blissfully unaware of the appalling treatment of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people.  We were taught in ’history’ that Captain Cook “discovered” Australia and Terra Nullius which is a sort of “finders keepers” approach to invasion. What we were never told was that Indigenous Australians were treated as “fauna”, denied citizenships and had their children violently removed in efforts of forced integration. It was only in 2008, that our government got around to apologising for this atrocity. Many, many other atrocities remain unresolved, unacknowledged and continue to be places of great pain for many people. We were also never informed of the reasons behind the White Australia policy (mostly hatred toward Chinese by miners which led to restrictions on Chinese Immigration). Nor we informed of the importation from the United Kingdom of unaccompanied children as young as three who could bolster our immigration and eventually supply Australian with lovely white Australian children. Many of their parents (mothers) had been told their children had died and spent years grieving for them.

For Australia Day to continue to have meaning for all, can we at least consider?

  1. 1.      For everyone’s sake can we have another day

Why are we continuing to hold a national day to celebrate the arrival of the first fleet and the planting of the British flag. I can hear people say “the day is more than that” but officially it is not. The day was proclaimed nationally in 1946 although Anniversary Day was celebrated in various states prior to this. I think the feeling of patriotism of post war 1946 would be a vastly different place to contemporary Australia.  The date of our national day needs to change to become something that has meaning for all Australians, at present it is divisive, exclusionary and lacks contemporary understanding. I agree with what Noely has to say at http://thinkyness.com.au/article-display/kid-logic-26-nov-for-australia-day,18

2          Lucky for who?

The term “The Lucky Country” was first coined by Donald Home in a book of the same name. He has since lamented that successive generations have misapplied this phrase. They were used as a wake up call not as an affirmation of the Australian way of life. It was an aspiration phrase of who we could become not who we currently are.

Have we arrived at the place of utopia..no.  Not when we are leaving so many behind. Not when politicians can win elections based on fear, suspicion and falsehood and catchy 3 word phrases. Not when we are more concerned with what we don’t have than what we do have and not when we are driven by rampant consumerism and capitalism that destroys our environment and wildlife.

We now have the most appalling treatment of asylum seekers and refugees than any country in the western world. Those that manage to survive the treacherous sea voyage in leaky fishing boats find themselves in prison camps on Nauru and Manus Island.  They live in conditions condemned by the United Nations. Children are born without the dignity of birth certificates, families are separated, women are humiliated and many Australians watch this unfold on their large screen plasma TV’s and cheer. This to them is the hallmark of a “good government”

What have we come to?

As Victoria Rollison says “Arent We Better Than This?”  http://victoriarollison.com/

 

3          Can we reset our moral compass

The first fleet arrived on these shores uninvited, unannounced and certainly without the correct documentation. British troops killed and mistreated Aboriginal people and Irish /Anglo “convicts” alike. Plenty of fabulous reading abounds on this score. Just a few of my favourites include:

  • Blood on the Wattle by Bruce Elder
  • The Fatal Shores by Robert Hughes
  • Females on the Fatal Shores by Susanna De Vries

This is our history and we can’t change that but we can learn from it. We need to have politicians who stop acting like they are colonisers off the first fleet and start building a country that is inclusive and tolerant of all people. Condemnation of racism, religious intolerance, homophobia and any other form of injustice towards people needs to come from our elected leaders. They cannot be the sparks that light the bush fires.

Lets work toward becoming a republic so that this will give us a new day in a new Australia.

 

 

 

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Excuse Me: Can I Have My Feminism Back!

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I have started writing this as a response to “Feminism & White Privilege” by Robyn Oyeniyi   http://teamoyeniyi.com/2013/12/27/feminism-and-white-privilege/

This thought provoking blog led me to think about my own understanding of feminism and how it has evolved and shaped my own life over many years. Many things, that I have always had clarity & certainty on.

Then comes a curve ball from http://ofcourseitsaboutyou.com/2013/12/27/white-feminism-and-the-denial-of-privilege-or-none-of-use-are-buying-your-book-robyn/  Quiet an angry & personal rant against Robyn and the views she expressed in her blog. So I ask myself can an article on feminism that dismisses the voice of another woman legitimately claim to be “feminist”? And how helpful is a view of feminism that becomes divisive and alienating.

The crux of the debate is that white feminists need to “check their privilege” claiming that many white feminists are oblivious of their position of privilege and ignore the intersectional issues of race and color. This is where my own hackles started to rise. The complexities of issues faced by women of minority status should never be brought down to such a simplistic equation of white vs black. I believe all women lose through such debate.

Chimamanda Adichie suggests we should all be feminists in this amazing must watch video

I have always been comfortable in identifying as a feminist. In all honesty it goes to the core of who I am as a woman. To me it is not a “label” I stick on myself (or others for that matter) but more a way of thinking, reflecting, acting and reacting to the world around me. I would best describe feminism as a way of viewing gender differences and how discrimination, sexism, inequality and interpersonal violence are imbedded in distorted gender relations. Of course issues of race, ethnicity, class, disability and age intersect with gender and many women do experience multiple levels of discrimination and disadvantage. My own feminist “framework” has been shaped by academic study, reading & research but more importantly by working for, with and beside hundreds of women from diverse backgrounds who have courageously shared their own stories of pain, abuse and disadvantage. It is in this sharing of experiences, we begin to understand what it means to be a woman in a “man’s world” and why we need feminism. Without it, I believe explanations and solutions to discrimination, sexism and violence become almost impossible. I am not implying feminism has all the definitive answers…but it can certainly ask the right questions.

To me, the women’s movement has always been a place of rich & robust discussions  with an acknowledgement of difference as well as divergence. Collectivism trumps  individualism, the women’s choir does indeed have many voices. I am concerned at current discourse which attempts to have a narrow definition of women’s disadvantage, at the same time publicly criticising and dismissing dissenting  voices.  The women’s movement is about giving women a voice…not been descriptive of what that voice should be.

In recent times we have seen the advent of on-line “feminist” magazines, Feminist Times and Mamamia as examples. While obviously cornering a niche on-line market of sorts both have come in for criticism for victim blaming editorials written under the guise of “feminism”.  Charlotte Raven takes a swipe at both feminists who wear high heels and women who stay with their abusers in a rather inane editorial http://www.feministtimes.com/a-feminist-in-high-heels-is-like-dawkins-in-a-rosary/

Similarly ,Mia Freedman came under fire for her blog  http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/sexual-assault-and-alcohol/  A victim blaming  piece suggesting women can avoid sexual assault by monitoring alcohol drinking. The common thread between both blogs is an attempt to define & prescribe women’s behaviour…at the same time keeping the focus off the very real issue of patriarchal power and privilege.

Classic examples of individualism trumping collectivism.

Well Sorry, I want no part of this version of feminism. You don’t speak for me and I would imagine you don’t speak for the tens of thousands of women who struggle daily with violence, abuse, poverty and homelessness. High heels shoes and vodka cruisers are far removed from the reality of their existence.

My response to Robyn’s blog included in her blog site.

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Reflecting on Beijing, Amrita Basu, political scientist at Amherst College, noted the increased participation of women from developing countries. Western women did not dominate the agenda. The acceptance of differences and acknowledgment of diversity transformed human rights into something useful for women the world over.

We are now 18 years on from Beijing and the struggle for peace, justice & equality continues. It may be the quiet resistance of women claiming safe spaces for themselves in their homes and workplaces while at other times it is voices raised that are too loud to ignore. When ex Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave her now famous misogyny speech in parliament, I visualised thousands of women across Australia screaming YES…not because they may or may not have politically supported her but because what she said resonated with us as women. Over 2.5 million views of Youtube would suggest the validity of this,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihd7ofrwQX0

The women’s movement is filled with millions of “sheroes’. Women of incredible courage, perseverance and resistance. Women working at the front line supporting, advocating, lobbying and organising. Most unrecognised except by those who understand and appreciate their efforts. Other women may rise to the prominence of recognition but can still acknowledge the collective work of their sisters who have been part of the struggle. In 2011 the Nobel Peace Prize was shared by 3 women….Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia  and Tawakkol Karman fromYemen. All three were recognised “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work” Worthy recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize for absolutely amazing women. The work of the women of Liberia is best described in “Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War “ by Leymah Gbowee

Other collective action worth mentioning has been  the establishment of Destroy the Joint. A Community Facebook page developed in response to sexist comments made by radio “shock jock” Alan Jones who bemoaned the fact that women were in fact “destroying the joint” and named several women who should be put in a chaff bag and dropped in the ocean. The response was incredible with close to 40,000 likes and corporate sponsors withdrawing advertisement from Alan Jones.

I believe the collective action of women to address sexism, misogyny, discrimination, inequality and violence is needed today as much as ever. If we exclude women’s experiences & voices based on race, ethnicity and class we will have a very limited lens to view women’s reality. Their struggle is our struggle. However I don’t support divisive and patronising views of feminism shaped to suit individual thought. I have a bit of the 3 Musketeers philosophy in me..one for all and all for one. What affects one woman affects all women. Their struggle is our struggle..it is this invisible thread of connecting women’s lives that draws us to continue to work toward making our corner of the world safer, more equitable and just for all women. We can all do what is needed in our own way to achieve this.

So yes I am a feminist…to quote Rebecca West 1911

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat”

I can gratefully acknowledge the hard earned gains won by women of past eras. I am a beneficiary of their struggle. I am also grateful for having the opportunity of playing a small part in the collective action of women to continue this work to make the world a better place for my granddaughters.

The ‘ privilege’ I feel as a feminist is to have meet so many amazing women from a diversity of backgrounds who have and continue to enrich my life in a myriad of ways.

Posted in Feminism, Violence Against Women | 6 Comments

Dear Minister Morrison …

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How’s the new job going?

It can be difficult settling into a new job so I thought I might make some suggestions that could  make things easier for yourself and us (your employer)

I guess your Position Description as Minister for Immigration & Border Security covers a large range of issues and we did have the expectation that you would look at your portfolio in the broadest sense. It does seem however that you have taken “Stop The Boats” to be all encompassing as if it is the only issue in your portfolio to consider

935211-navy-assists-asylum-seeker-boatSo serious are you about Stopping the Boats, you have turned your fight with asylum seekers into a military operation all overseen by a 3 star general no less. However, it does seem that this military operation of “illegal arrivals” ( your words not ours) is defined solely to those people arriving by dodgy fishing boats.  I guess we can be thankful that you aren’t using the military to round up all those pesky tourists and backpackers who overstay their visas. Or don’t you regard them as “illegal”. I guess it is up to you to judge the manner in which people arrive and the manner in which you demonise them although we, the people, would like to see some legal evidence of how seeking political asylum is “illegal”. Which bring me to another point…you have been told on a number of occasion by many people better qualified than myself…IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO SEEK ASYLUM.

AND…what’s with all the secrecy. The Cone of Silence worked out OK for Maxwell Smart but again we, the people, do not want to get our updates solely from the Jakarta Post.. fine newspaper that  it is. Your weekly updates fall a bit short of facts..and facts are what we are looking for. Thank goodness for independent journalists and online bloggers who are keeping the rest of us mushrooms informed.

Our own “shipping news” which tells us there have been 27 boats carrying 1883 people since the election. archiearchive.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/refugee-boat-timeline-updated-to-november-15th It’s not that we are obsessed about counting the boats but we are concerned about the welfare and rights of those 1883 people plus those already in detention. Some information on the number of individual men, women and children and their ethnic backgrounds would be most welcome..thank you. We know you like to call everything “operational matters” to justify your cone of silence but once people are already in Australia they are our responsibility and there is a little matter of “duty of care” which you seem to have let slip off the agenda. We have increasing concerns the more we hear of the appalling conditions on Manus Island & Nauru.  Not exactly the “family camps” you would have people believe them to be.  http://m.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/abbotts-new-world-order-20131114-2xji4.ht

It is too easy to demonise people when they are described in the broadest  terms of “boat people” or “illegal arrivals” so I can understand why you want to keep portraying them as a scary group of people that pose a huge security risk to Australia …hence the need for a military operation. However when we are able to see people as suffering,  persecuted individuals, then your entire “operation” gets a bit messy. Depersonalising people works well in war situations..don’t get friendly with the enemy. We know what happened during the Christmas truce in World War 1. This event was retold in the brilliant 2005 movie Joyeux Noel.  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0424205/  Many of the amazing people who visit the detention centres, work with refugees, advocate of their rights know there are other stories to be told. However most of the Australian public don’t. It is easier to view asylum seekers as a homogenous group who, once transported to off shore detention, become out of sight out of mind.

The Personal is Political

Latifa

Last week the story broke of the plight of Latifa, an asylum seeker who gave birth to a baby boy, Farus, at the Brisbane Mater Mothers hospital the previous week.

m.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/asylum-seeker-separated-from-her-sick-newborn-in-brisbane-20131113-2xh0f.html

Latifa had been moved from Nauru to Brisbane with medical complications. Her baby was delivered by caesarean section. On day four post birth, Latifa was returned to detention in Brisbane leaving her ill baby in hospital. She was only allowed to visit her baby for 6 hours each day. Latifa’s husband Niza and her 2 other children were not allowed to visit the baby at all. The plight of Latifa and her baby touched that place in most of us that allows us to view the world with compassion. We found this action on your behalf to be cruel, degrading and abhorrent . To add insult to the matter, you blamed the Mater Hospital for your decision. This fine reputable hospital was then forced to correct the record.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-15/asylum-seeker-baby-brisbane-hospital-rejects-scott-morrison/5093782

What do we know of Latifa and her family.

Latifa and her family are Rohingya, a minority race from Rakhine State in Myanmar (Burma). They are denied citizenship within Myanmar by a law passed 30 years ago, thereby making over a million people stateless. The United Nations has described the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted groups of people in the world. Many are killed, raped and tortured. The have been described as the forgotten people.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/08/201281684646546896.html

Latifa and her family had spent 10 years in a refugee camp prior to coming to Australia. They are political asylum seekers who have a right to seek protection from Australia.

Suthakaram and an Unnamed child with profound disabilities

Yesterday brought more bad news … http://www.theglobalmail.org/blog/morrison-offshore-camp-can-handle-a-profoundly-disabled-child/743/

Firstly reports that a man and his profoundly disabled 4 year old daughter are to be sent to Nauru. They are Tamils from Sri Lanka. The child was injured in-utero from shrapnel from a bomb blast. As they were leaving Sri Lanka, they were intercepted by military. The mother of the child was taken away with 2 other small children and jailed.

Suthakaram is a Tamil woman injured in the same bomb blast which killed her husband. She is now confined to a wheel chair. Suthakaram is to be sent back to Sri Lanka.

The majority of Sri Lankans are returned as they are deemed “economic” refugees ..with no acknowledgement of the suffering and persecution they have experienced. The torture and  persecution of Tamils within in Sri Lanka continues despite an end to the civil war. http://m.ucanews.com/news/sri-lankas-civil-war-is-over-but-tortures-still-go-on/69709

Thousands of other asylum seekers have their own stories to tell.

 In all seriousness I find it hard to believe that we need a military operation with your 3 star general and cone of silence to be waged against these desperate people. I for one do not sleep easy at night believing  you are keeping Australia safe. Quite the opposite. It weighs heavily on me that you are doing all of this in my name. It weighs heavily on me that you are sending unaccompanied minors to detention in Nauru. I know you have firstly denied this, then admitted there are 3. Now we know that Save the Children fund are recruiting staff to work on Nauru with accompanied minors aged 5 to 12 years.

Ex Prime Minister Malcolm FraserI know you still have your training wheels on, so perhaps you might like to take some advice from a former Prime Minster and former member of the Liberal Party.

So Minister Morrison how are you going in the job?…not so good. Your performance appraisal suggests plenty of room for improvement and perhaps even you are not suited to your chosen career.

I think your resignation would be in the best interest of our country and all who wish to keep it as a fair and just place.

Posted in asylum seekers, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

We’re Dying To Be Heard

I have often found it interesting to see what grabs media attention and what doesn’t. All sorts of “trivia” can be elevated to the status of “current affairs” while other more serious issues hit the cutting floor. In recent times, we have seen the role media has played in our recent federal election, promoting one party over another, promoting fear of “boat people” which has translated into an increase in racism in Australia. (http://www.humanrights.gov.au ) and now singing along to the “nothing to report” song sheet of government.

Similarly we are now seeing a heightened media focus on bikies with Premier Newman informing  that Criminal Motorcycle Gangs pose the greatest threat to Queensland today. http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-strong-antigang-laws-vital-to-shield-the-innocent-in-bikie-battle-says-cmc-boss/story-fnihsr9v-1226750041912

The hurriedly passed VLAD Laws have divided the community, receiving widespread criticism from many within the Judiciary and beyond. Media have almost become consumed with bikies and the government’s response to them.

Now I am no fan of bikies and I don’t like to see guns in my favourite shopping centre. However, I don’t agree bikies pose the “greatest threat” to Queensland. For thousands of Queensland women, the threat is so much closer to home. Family violence is still the silent ‘crime’ that steals the security, health and social well being of those who live with the reality of such violence. Tragically at times it ultimately ‘steals’ their life.

 Domestic Violence DeathThe “get tough on crime” paradigm promotes the notion that we are all at serious risk on the streets. I am not down playing community safety, but we also need a reality check. Between 2008 and 2010 there were 520 homicides in Australia: 36% of these were classified as family violence and a further 37% were classified as acquaintance homicides. Only 13% were homicides committed by strangers against someone unknown to them. In Queensland the scene is even grimmer where 41% of homicides were classified as family violence…5% above the national average. This trend for Queensland is not new. In 2004, some of us who were concerned about this homicide trend formed the Queensland Domestic Violence Death Review Action Group. Our goal is to advocate for the establishment of a death review board to review each homicide in an attempt to form better responses and interventions.

 In 2008 I wrote a discussion paper Dying To Be Heard. http://www.wdvcs.org.au/files/D315135830.pdf

 A quote I used in Dying To Be Heard sums up the risks many women face.
“ I thought he would kill us. He threw my son into the back of the van and dragged
me into the front seat. He punched and punched me until I passed out. He bit my
face like a ravenous animal. ……….He said he would hunt us down and kill us
both if I tried to leave again. It was no idle threat.”  (Beyond These Walls, p.17  1988)

 This women’s frantic plea for help is mirrored in the thousands and thousands of calls made to domestic violence services across Queensland every year.

Each time there is a death, we hold a Red Rose Rally to highlight this travesty within our community.

photoLast Thursday, we gathered outside the Brisbane Supreme Court to remember 5 women, 1 man and 1 child who had died in recent months. At the same time, within courtroom 16 of the Supreme Court the murder trial continues for Noelene Beutel’s “alleged killer”. It is reported that Noelene was killed, stuffed into a wheelie bin, dumped in the boot of her car, driven to bushland and the car then set alight with Noelene’s body in the boot. http://www.news.com.au/national/queensland/wayne-mcclutchie-accused-of-punching-partner-noelene-beutel-to-death-before-dumping-her-in-the-boot-of-a-car-and-setting-her-body-alight-in-bushland-at-tanawha-sunshine-coast/story-fnii5v6w-1226750178703

On the day of her death, Noelene wrote on her Facebook page “time to leave”

This is the end result of family violence. Women die for loving the wrong person and then having the audacity to leave. For families shattered by homicide, it brings a lifetime of grief and agony.

There were several journalists outside the Supreme Court awaiting “news” on the outcome of an appeal application to revoke bail for a bikie. This court case is certainly seen as controversial given the government’s approach to judiciary regarding VLAD and media were gathering on the scent of a “story”.

Journalists gathered outside the Supreme Court were asked twice if they were interested in picking up a story of domestic violence deaths. On both occasions, we were told that we were too “passive”…not news worthy. Just a group of 30 people gathered to say we do not want women and children dying in our community.

One journalist who did pick up this issue of late has been Paul Weston of Gold Coast Bulletin who has written a comprehensive investigative special ‘Fatal Family Fisticuffs: Why the violence in Coast Backyards can be more threatening than bikies” Couldn’t agree more. It is not bikies that are posing a threat to women & children (unless they are partners of bikies who are violent towards them) Violence lurks in the homes of the rich & well to do as well as within homes of those of the lower end of the economic scale. It is widespread and pervasive. Access economics estimates it costs the Australian economy $13.5 billion every year.

Those who endure abuse, grow up with abuse and survive abuse carry scars for a lifetime.

But not to worry no story here…carry on.

Posted in Violence Against Women, war on Women | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Where, oh where, are the women of calibre?

Highly recommended reading!

Random Observations of Life

There must be something really strange happening in the Liberal Party (and, I suggest, the coalition overall). Is there really NOT more than ONE woman of sufficient calibre in the Liberal Party to rate a cabinet position? The ONE woman that did make it has, effectively, been demoted. Julie Bishop was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and could reasonably have expected to be Deputy Prime Minister, but no, that position is now filled by yet another man. Well, there was a choice of 17 men in Cabinet other than the PM himself!

Tony Abbott made a big song and dance about ensuring we financially enabled “women of calibre” to be able to breed. Clearly breeding is much more important for women than being involved in RUNNING THE COUNTRY!!! Oh, dear, I forgot the ironing: breeding and ironing.

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Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Australian Women Deserve Better

Presenting Australia’s Minister for Women’s Affairs…Tony Abbott

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On the day that Tony Abbott is sworn in as Australia’s 28th Prime Minister, Australian women are informed he will be assuming responsibility for Women’s Affairs rather than appoint a specific woman as Minister for the Status of Women.

In a normal course of events this would be unacceptable but given Abbott’ s own sexist, demeaning attitude & behaviour to women, it is appalling and insulting.

Abbott has long been implicated in questionable behaviour towards women.

Starting in his student days when he was accused of punching the wall next to the head of Babara Ramjan, president of the SRC, other accusations of assaulting women,  to his appalling sexists degrading treatment of Australia’s first Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. His political career has been littered with so many inappropriate comments about women.

A few to consider:

“I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.” Four Corners 15/03/2010

” I think there does need to be give and take on both sides, and this idea that sex is kind of a woman’s right to absolutely withhold, just as the idea that sex is a man’s right to demand I think they are both they both need to be moderated, so to speak” March 2010

The problem with the Australian practice of abortion is that an objectively grave matter has been reduced to a question of the mother’s convenience.’ March 2004

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year….” Sydney Morning Herald February 2010

“While I think men and women are equal, they are also different and I think it’s inevitable and I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all that we always have, say, more women doing things like physiotherapy and an enormous number of women simply doing housework.” Herald-Sun 06/08/2010.

” I think she has considerable sex appeal” comment regarding Liberal Candidate now MP Fiona Scott

Abbott’s deplorable comments of Julia Gillard included:

” Should be hit with a baseball bat”

“Should have a target put on her”

“Should be grilled”

He made no condemnation when other disgraceful comments were made about Julia Gillard including one from Steven Ciobo MP who said she  “should have her throat cut”. Ciobo has now been promoted in Abbott’s team to a parliamentary secretary. Or Alan Jones who said “she should be put in a chaff bag & dumped at sea”

No man who has respect for women irrespective of political differences would have stood under those signs. It was an affront to all women. Women on the Labor front bench were often referred to as “The Handbag Hit Squad”

And now Abbott in presiding over a cabinet that has one woman amongst its ranks. However Abbott quickly assures us  there are ” talented women knocking on the door”. Not good enough.

The Office for Women in the previous government outlined their 3 key policy areas that needed addressing:

  • Reducing violence against women
  • Increasing women’s economic security
  • Ensuring women’s equal place in society

These issues remain critical for ensuring all Australian women irrespective of race, class, education, ethnicity, age & sexual preference are able to participate fully in Australian society without fear of violence, abuse & discrimination. These issues deserve serious policy decisions underpinned by a strong commitment from government towards ensuring justice & equity for all women.

We cannot afford to allow Tony Abbott to drag us backwards.

 A society that is not equal for all is NOT Equal or Just for anyone.

Posted in Violence Against Women, war on Women | Tagged | 18 Comments

Knock Knock Knocking on Abbott’s Door

So the coalition is to begin its first term governing for “all” Australians by thumbing their noses at 50% of the population….women. Tony Abbott’s cabinet will include one women, Julie Bishop.

Tony Abbott said he was “obviously disappointed that there were not more women in cabinet” but said there were some “very good and talented women knocking on the door”. Doesn’t Tony Abbott realise that this is 2013 and Australian women have earned their place at the table…we have had hundreds of years of “knocking at the door”.  A huge step backwards for women.

When the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard made a statement in June 2013 saying “under an Abbott government, women’s voices would be banished from political life” her comments received widespread derision in the media. Prominent feminist Eva Cox stated that ” women want the PM to stop assuming gender is the only issue” and Julie Bishop called on Julia Gillard to apologise for her comments. The Women’s Weekly stated that the Prime Ministers comments caused “confusion, outrage, and some embarrassment”.

A critical analysis of what the reality of Julia Gillard’s prediction may mean for good governance was largely missing in media reporting. The very elusive “gender card” became a very convenient way of dismissing any dissenting voices on women’s issues. Legitimacy was given to dismiss the voices of women who try to speak of the specific issues for women.

All the while Tony Abbott kept telling all who listened to his subterfuge ” he gets women”. We all witnessed him trotting his daughters around as some sort of “proof” that he was worthy of women’s votes. At no time during the election campaign was there ever a focus on what an Abbott government would offer women. Well apart from a very inequitable paid parental leave. My own requests to Kevin Andrews Opp. spokesperson for Families & Senator Michaelia Cash Opp spokesperson for Women for information on policies for domestic violence & sexual assault were ignored. Not the only issues affecting women, but considering 1 in 3 women will experience physical violence and 1 in 5 women women will experience sexual violence across their lifetime, very important to women’s health, autonomy & financial security.

Women’s work participation often sees women segregated into low paid, part time jobs. Evidenced by a 17.5% pay gap between men & women’s wages. Now the  coalition government is set to deny wage increases to workers in the age care & child care industries, jobs largely filled by women in part time positions.

Women are still  over represented in figures of poverty & homelessness.

Who now will be the political voice on these issues.

Certainly not Julia Bishop who has stated that Australian women are at no disadvantage to men. Because some women can gain position of power & wealth does not mean that ” all things are equal”. Only14% of the directors in the ASX are women, 22% of senior positions at law firms are occupied by women, 24.7% of the House of Reps are women. Nor Senator Michaelia Cash who has been appointed to the outer ministry as Assistant Minister for Immigration & Border Protection; Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women. Now there is a strange mix of roles if there ever was one. Does Senator Cash have a breadth of understanding of issues for women including immigrant women?

Australia was one of the first countries in the world to grant women full political rights, but it was one of the last Western countries to elect women to its national Parliament. One hundred and ten years after the first women contested a Commonwealth election, only one-quarter of Members in the House of Representatives and a little more than one-third of Senators are women.  Despite the presence of several high-profile women in Commonwealth, state and territory parliaments in recent years, including Australia’s first female Prime Minister (in 2010) and Attorney-General (in 2011), women continue to be significantly under-represented in Australia’s parliaments, within Cabinets, and in senior ministries and parliamentary positions. Under-representation remains a significant challenge, both structurally and culturally, for Australia’s parliaments. Academic studies suggest that the under-representation of women in our elected parliaments has a significant impact on how women generally perceive their level of inclusion in society. McCann & Wilson 2012

Now is not the time for Australia to be moving backwards. Advancement of women in all aspects of society requires a government that will address gender inequality not perpetuate it.

Women have fought long and hard for the gains they have made..  for the many thousands of women who are socially, financially and  physically disadvantaged

…..the personal is political.

No self respecting Woman should wish for or work for the success of a party that works against her sex”

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OK. Time to use my gender card!

Well I knew the day would come when I would need to call on that wonderful card that all women possess.The Gender Card. Mind you the instructions that came with mine say “only to be used in emergencies or you will be considered a shrill, a  femi-nazi or worse a member of the handbag hit squad” Maybe that is why so few women never actually use theirs.

But an emergency has arisen and I am angry enough to chance the risks of saying a few things about the reality of women’s lives.

I want to talk about ” sex appeal” and grubby politics but first I need to talk about my day. I attended the Brisbane Supreme Court to support 2 women who were called as witnesses in a murder trial. The murder victim was a young mother who had endured horrendous domestic violence before her death. She was found stuffed in the boot of her burnt out car. I witnessed the terrible grief of family & friends who couldn’t save her & counsellors who tried their hardest to protect her. Her only crime..loving the wrong man. This sadly is the reality for many women. Domestic homicide is at the end of the continuum of the abuse & hatred of women.

So mentally & emotionally drained, I headed back down to the Gold Coast only to be confronted by boys  from a local high school harassing a female student on the train. A few sharp comments from my self & they retreated snickering into another carriage. The young woman gave me a shy thank you with a shrug of her shoulders as if to say ” not the first time”. As the carriage regained a semblance of peace I returned to my iPad & Twitter to see this disgusting promo from The Project.

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I had just heard first hand in the Supreme Court where “Stand By Your Man” gets you. Stuffed in the boot of a burnt out car. I don’t need to watch The Project to understand this reality. Abuse & degradation of women should not be seen to have “entertainment value”.

Are ‘good wives” those who endure, forgive and remain subservient to their despicable partners? Are “bad wives” those who say Enough and leave? What sort of message is this sending to the community?

Which brings me to what has really been gnawing away at me. The current total disrespect for women in political discourse. When Tony Abbott described Liberal candidate Fiona Scott as having “sex appeal” I couldn’t believe it. Who in this day and age speaks like that? Certainly not the men amongst my family & friends. The matter was made worse when Abbots daughter fronted the media to say he was having “a daggie dad moment” Really! Someone needs to tell her that her “daggie dad” is seeking the highest office in the land, not auditioning for Father of the Year. Since then Ms Scott has said that it was a “charming” compliment. No Ms Scott it wasn’t. For an aspiring politician, a compliment would have highlighted your qualities suited to that political role you are seeking not whether you are seen as sexually desirable to Tony Abbott. The comment breached all known definition of workplace sexual harassment. The comment caused a few titters in the media. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd rightly condemned the “sex appeal” comments while former Prime Minister John Howard advised that those who criticized the comments should “get a life”. Little was said to highlight that the end result of the sexual objectification of women is domestic violence & rape. Some women unfortunately don’t get to have a life, thousands others have their own stories and experiences  of #everdaysexism. It is what we endure as women. My most recent experience was last night on twitter when I jumped to the defense of another woman who was being harassed. Ugly comments not worth repeating here.

Which brings us to to-days sexist servings by Kevin Baker Liberal candidate for Charlton whose web page contained hundred of jokes on incest, domestic violence, child abuse and racism. The page was referred to as “tit banter”. Kevin Baker has now resigned from the Liberal Party but not before Tony Abbott said “to his credit Baker shut down the site”. Is that supposed to earn him brownie points. Not in my world it doesn’t. And now we are all expected to move on!

Well not good enough! We need to know where our political candidates stand on child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and racism. If we are ever to clean up the mess into which our public and political  discourse had descended, it is up to us the voter, to ask the hard questions and ensure our vote will assist in resetting the moral compass to ensure women have safety within all aspects of their lives. Misogyny is alive and well and we can all take a stand in saying No More.

Enough.

Bettsie

Posted in Politics, Violence Against Women, war on Women | Tagged , | 18 Comments

The Backlash Continues

Excellent article on the backlash we are now witnessing

The Hatbox Soapbox

In 1991, two incredibly significant feminist texts were published, which helped to shape the politics and beliefs of a generation of young women and men. These were Naomi Wolf‘s The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women and Susan Faludi‘s Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women.

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In The Beauty Myth, Wolf argued that as women gained increased social power and freedoms, the expected standards for physical beauty had grown more demanding for women, and that women in the public eye were being discredited through undue emphasis on their appearance. She said, “We are in the midst of a violent backlash against feminism that uses images of female beauty as a political weapon against women’s advancement: the beauty myth.”

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In Backlash, Faludi argued that there was a media-driven backlash against the feminist advances that had been made by women since the 1970s. This…

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War on Women: The Reality

In his book War on Women, Brian Vallee says it is not the war on terror, the Iraq war or the war in Afghanistan, but the war on women which is most often ignored or distorted by the media. How true.

Over the past three years, we have seen a sustained series of attacks on a political leader such as Australia has never before witnessed. The attacks on Prime Minister Julia Gillard are very personal and most often sexual in nature and if you think this has nothing to do with gender, think again.

When Tony Abbott first appeared in front of signs describing Julia Gillard as a ” witch” and a ” bitch” I knew the war on women had become very public and very dangerous.

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Public because we still don’t like to admit how pervasive sexism, abuse and violence against women in Australia really is. Mostly confined behind closed doors, violence and abuse is perpetrated against women in alarming numbers. If you think this is an exaggeration consider this: One in three women experience domestic violence by an intimate partner across their life span and one in five women experience sexual abuse across their life span. ABS 2006 On average 80 Australian women die each year at the hands of an intimate partner. Australian Institute of Criminology. This does not include figures on women murdered by strangers, those listed as “missing persons” or those women who tragically end their own lives when the bullying and abuse becomes unbearable.

Dangerous because it gives permission for others to take up personal assaults on Julia Gillard not as the Prime Minister of Australia, not because they disagree with her policies but as Julia Gillard the woman. And this is exactly what has happened. Every part of her anatomy has been held up for criticism, ridicule or vile ‘jokes’.

What does this mean for women in this country? A lot more than we realise.

If a female Prime Minister is not safe from vile personal attacks how on earth can we work towards a safe equitable society for ALL Australian women.

The Personal is Political

 I am not denying that men can also be abused but the attacks on women are so pervasive and linked to notions of gender and sexism that is my specific focus. The attacks on Julia Gillard are spurred by the same beliefs that see women as “fair game”. Everyday in Australia thousands of women are physically, emotionally, verbally and sexually abused by partners, boyfriends, family members, work colleagues and strangers.

The violent language used in reference to Julia Gillard included drowning, stabbing, throat slitting, hitting with a baseball bat, being fed to the sharks, putting a target on her, wishing she would lay down & die, its the  killing season, strangulation, shot by the Taliban and finally cremated. Any wonder our attempts to end violence against women are a continued struggle. Ask abused women how often they would hear all of  this and worse.

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When you describe Julia Gillard as some man’s “bitch”, it mirrors exactly the description some men have of their female partners. Male ownership and control.

Leaving politics aside, the attacks on the Prime Minister have gone on unchecked for so long solely because our so called “civil” society sees violence against women as “trivial”, “she asked for it”, “entertaining” or just what some “men” do.  Women are fair game whether it is within the confines of their personal relationships, at work or in the public domain.

Visit anyone of the 400 + women’s shelters across the country and you will hear heartbreaking stories of unimaginable abuse perpetrated against the women who seek shelter there. Not convinced then maybe a visit to one of the hundreds of rape crisis centres. These are the women that can tell you about the everyday realities of the war on women that continues unabated across this country. We need the power of many women voices especially those women who are further disadvantaged and silenced by their race and ethnicity. The only voices heard on this should not be just those whom media consider spokesperson for the women’s movement.

Julia Gillard urged everyone to “join the dots”. Well that’s exactly what we need to do. The abuse of one woman diminishes all women. We need to face the reality that violence against women is pandemic in Australian society. Whether we are talking about the widespread abuse of women within institutions such as the military or the hidden abuse of domestic violence, it has the same foundations in distorted beliefs about gender & power.

How often do we jump into victim blaming?

  • Why was she out alone at night?
  • What was she wearing?
  • She wouldn’t stop nagging
  • Why doesn’t she leave?
  • She was drunk
  • She can’t take a joke
  • She was leading him on

Women are dehumanised and demeaned by language that describes then as a whore, slut, trollop, tart, floozies, cow, dog, bitch or witch.

When women try to speak out or fight back they are then accused of “pulling the gender” card. As if it were some magical credit card that women carry with them to use against men. Nonsense. No such thing exists except in the minds of misogynists and those who support them.

It has become so much easier to blame the victims than to seriously address the behaviours and beliefs systems that foster such abuse. Why do some men and other women, think it is OK to treat women in such degrading & dehumanising ways.

Probably because they can. Who holds them to account.

There are very few consequences for violence against women. How often have we seen high profile men abuse women with impunity? Very few cases even make it to court (except of homicide or serious assault) because we continually discount or disbelieve the victim. Women who recant prior truthful statements through fear or coercion are then further victimised by unsupportive police, courts and media.

Men need to be held accountable for their behaviour, whether it be the abuse of a partners or girlfriends, sexual abuse within the military, at sporting events, nightclubs or “private” political functions that have grubby menus. Enough is Enough.

Men need to be held accountable for their violence and men need to be held accountable for their silence. David Adams 2012

There are many decent men and women across Australia who see what is happening around them and are disturbed by it.

This week in the Canberra a group of women are unfolding a memorial quilt in the parliament forecourt to remember the many hundreds of women who have died in domestic violence. I urge all Federal politicians to stop and reflect on the symbolism of the quilt and where unchecked abuse and violence leads.

Our political leaders need to be public role models for human decency & respect. And we, the electorate, need to demand this of them. As Lieutenant – General David Morrison reminded us recently

“The standard you walk past is the standards you accept”

 

 

Betty Taylor

Posted in Politics, Violence Against Women | 9 Comments