Stop giving me products to defend myself and start telling men not to rape

Georgia Kennelly is the National Women’s Officer for the National Union of Students.

Trigger Warning for Rape. 

In the news this week is a new product created by male students in the US – nail polish that will detect date rape drugs in drinks. As described on their Facebook page Undercover Colors – “We are developing a nail polish that changes color when it comes in contact with date rape drugs such as Rohypnol, Xanax, and GHB. With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong” 

I can understand that at first look this seems like a fantastic idea. Worried parents will be buying this for their daughters, universities will sell it discount on campus – the Daily Mail went so far as to say that this will save lives. With the reaction from commentators, I’m surprised nobody has given these boys a Nobel Prize yet.

But this product has missed the mark completely.

This is yet another product that time and money is poured into that focuses on what women can do to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted instead of teaching men not to rape. Usually when I leave the house on a Saturday night I think I’m covered safety wise; wearing my skirt that’s not too short, my shoes I can run in, the pepper spray in my handbag, sharp implement on my keys, anti-rape underwear, headphones out of my ears, emergency app on my phone, but hang on I forgot my anti-drink spiking nail polish!  I am so sick of it being our job as women to constantly protect ourselves with no effort made by men to actually change the culture. You have four men here who clearly care about this issue, and $100,000 and this is what they came up with? They could have pushed for consent workshops for young boys in schools, better policies at university colleges and sporting departments, education campaigns for the broader public, stricter regulation for advertising, tv, movies, & music that promote rape, challenging a culture that doesn’t believe women when they report rape, police that take women seriously when they report harassment that all too often turns into assault – but instead they chose to create a product that puts the onus on the victim.

By putting the responsibility on the woman to protect herself they’re contributing to the culture of victim-blaming that exists when a woman reports sexual assault. We already ask women what they were wearing, how much they’d had to drink, how sexually active they are, if they defended themselves and if they called for help. Thanks to this product, it’s only so long before a woman is assaulted outside a club after having her drink spiked and she is asked on the witness stand why she didn’t wasn’t wearing the nail polish. Rape is never the victim’s fault and this product is only going to exacerbate the problem.

Furthermore, this product is not actually that practical. The majority of drink spiking occurs not with drugs but actually with extra alcohol poured into a drink, something that you can’t trace. For the minority of drinks that are spiked with drugs, there is a large range of different drugs used and these drugs are constantly evolving, it is nigh impossible to trace all of them. Even aside from the fact that this is not going to detect the majority of spiked drinks – what happens when it does? In a scenario where a woman does detect a spiked drink by dipping her finger in it, what happens next? Does she call the police? Does she go home immediately? What happens if the perpetrator follows her outside and attempts to assault her anyway? More than likely, if she does escape safely, the perpetrator will turn his attention to a different woman sporting bare nails. Not exactly something that solves the problem.

Lastly, it’s important to note that the data shows that most sexual assault isn’t a stranger attacking you in a dark alleyway but is very likely to be someone that you know, a relative, a coworker, a friend. Someone that you never suspected would ever harm you. It’s unlikely that you’ll be on your guard around every man close to you, let alone checking the drinks they give you.

The boys behind Undercover Colors are asking for donations on top of the $100,000 they already have – and with the recent spike in interest people have been more than happy to donate. Once the product is on the market I have no doubt they will start raking in the profits. So now we have men profiteering off a rape culture in society that they; as men, already benefit greatly from, without doing anything to address the causes of rape. I would suggest to anyone keen to donate that they instead give money to greatly underfunded rape crisis centres that could really use it.

As someone who has had my drink spiked at a club, it’s a terrifying experience that is not solved by magic nail polish, but by teaching men that they’re not entitled to women’s bodies.

And if there are men reading this who really want to stop Rape – then maybe this will give them some handy tips. 

Some thoughts on the UCSB shooting

Steph Met is a student at the University of Melbourne. She is a proud Feminist who often finds solace in dogs and other fluffy creatures when she remembers that “WORLD IS FUKT.”

TW: Domestic violence, Rape culture, UCSB Shootings

Growing up in the US for the majority of my formative life, I’m no stranger to gun violence or misogyny. Every morning my Mum and I would watch the news before I left for school, and if only one person had been shot, it was a pretty good day for Philly. Too often the gun violence went hand in hand with domestic violence, further ingraining my understanding that misogyny leads to a dangerous descent into violence. However shooting after shooting, misogynistic rampage after misogynistic rampage, I found myself in an incredibly frustrating and infuriating position; if I wanted to stay safe, it was MY responsibility to avoid dangerous situations and the onus was entirely on me to not get raped/ assaulted/murdered/etc. It wasn’t until I watched a fantastic TedTalk by Jackson Katz many years later that I finally realised that although I had been conditioned to assume that violence against women and misogyny in general is a “women’s issue” it is in fact a men’s issue and more broadly, a human issue.

After years of being told that I “simply cannot understand” what causes mass shootings such as the one that most recently occurred at the University of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB), and consistently being drowned out by louder, more dominant (and often male) voices, I was yet again conditioned to resort to a sort of learned helplessness every time these atrocities occurred.

But this conditioning has gone on too long, and I have finally come to the understanding that my silence in these issues does not help anyone, let alone myself which is why I have decided to compose a sort of open letter to anyone involved in the discourse surrounding the UCSB shootings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusions that my Facebook-status-turned-open-letter-turned-blog-post will revolutionise anything. All I hope is that those who read it will come to the same realization that took me nearly my whole life to come to: no matter what the MRAs and other such douchenozzles say cloaked by the cowardly anonymity of the Internet, you are not alone. The sisterhood is still alive and well and will never stop fighting to secure your right to a safe space. You are not alone, please remember that.

After seeing the endless drivel in FB comments around the UCSB shootings, I would like to make something perfectly clear. To those who say it is a gun issue, you are not wrong. To those who say it is a mental health issue, you are not wrong. To those who say it is a misogyny issue, you are not wrong. However to those who try and excuse and explain away the shooter’s actions by completely ignoring the latter cause, you are all sorely misguided. These issues are not mutually exclusive, but rather, feed and further compound each other.

If you think for just one second that patriarchal constructs and macho-culture don’t contribute to men not seeking help for mental health issues, you ARE wrong. If you think that patriarchal constructs and macho-culture don’t contribute to the lack of gun laws, obsession with the second amendment and unfathomable rates of gun violence, you ARE wrong. If you think that the MRA- movement has not contributed to the spread of disgusting and vitriolic rhetoric against women and has nothing to do with this, you ARE wrong.

I have zero time for men who sit online and complain about how terribly unjust it is to be lumped in with another man who was “just a psycho,” when what you should be complaining about is how abhorrent it is that our society glorifies men like that and thus, perpetuates violence. This is no longer a “women’s issue,” it is very clearly a men’s issue. We should not have to try and frame any argument (let alone this one) around the rhetoric of “she was someone’s daughter/mother/sister/wife/etc” because that implies that in order for people to empathise with the female victims of this tragedy, we need to find a way to put a classifier on them to make it easier for people to feel some sliver of empathy.

For those of you who sit in cowardly comfort behind your computer screen while “trying to help by playing devils advocate,” let me be crystal clear; you are NOT helping anyone. By sitting on your computer and pushing people to persistently defend their point of view is selfish, misguided and traumatic. You do not know what the person on the receiving end of your pathetic, private school debating tactics has been through and you probably never will, but the most terrifying thing about that is through your ignorance and childish bravado, you can bring someone you may not even know unimaginable pains by reopening old wounds you were completely oblivious to just because you wanted to prove something to yourself and/or your mates.

And before anyone tries to derail this discussion by saying that there were male victims and I’m being selfish for not including them (I wouldn’t be putting this in if I hadn’t see it happen before), let me say this. All the victims of this shooting died tragic, senseless and most importantly, preventable deaths. But let me reiterate my previous statement; if you think this horrific act of violence was caused by one, oversimplified, reductive and narrow factor, you ARE wrong.

Karl Stefanovic is a misogynist

Jenny Stramilos is a second year student at La Trobe, she works as one of the La Trobe Student Union Women’s Officers and is a proud feminist.


Karl Stefanovic is a misogynist. Now please understand I do not make a point of calling

TV ‘celebrities’ misogynists or sexists every time I feel the fancy, however Karl wholeheartedly

deserves the title in light of his recent comments on the popular Channel Nine morning

program ‘Today’.

Anyway, if you can’t view that at the moment, here is the transcript of his outrageous,

sexist comments with the responses from co-host Lisa Wilkinson.

Karl: “if you pay for someone’s dinner, don’t you expect something in return?”

Lisa: “Like what?

Karl: “Like some action?”

Lisa: “What sort of action?”

Karl: “Action, action”

Lisa: “Be specific”

Karl: “Sex!”

He continues to repeat, “sex, sex, S-E-X with a capital S” while getting an incredulous look from Georgie Gardner, a news reporter until Lisa Wilkinson is made uncomfortable to the point where she is shuffling her notes and it is pointed out by Karl and throughout all of this, in the background you can hear raucous laughter from male camera crew.

I think it is a good idea to point out how outraged I am by this blatant sexism. The idea that a man can say this on national TV and it be posted to YouTube without so much of a protest from anyone is shocking to me. It has only 400 views. 

Nothing has been done about this. It’s time to act. This man is a media official, a national TV presenter on a popular TV show and has a daily influence on a wide audience. It is not acceptable. It is unjust. It is sexist, it is misogynistic and I personally, with many other women and men who are just as outraged about this man’s behaviour, demand better. I want an apology Karl.

#apologiseKarl – trend this on twitter and demand better standards from a man who evidently does not care for women’s rights.


International Women’s Day and the Continued Importance of Feminism

Heidi La Paglia is a student at the Hobart campus of the University of Tasmania (UTAS). She is studying majors in sociology and gender studies and is currently holding the position of Women’s Officer for the Tasmania University Union (TUU). 


In the week just gone by, University Unions around Australia ran social gatherings, political rallies and movie screenings to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). Held on the 8th of March annually, IWD is a day to recognize the inequalities and struggles faced by women, and allows us to remember the importance of continuing to support feminism.

In the last few decades’ women around the world have come a long way in their progress towards gaining autonomy and equality with men. In Australia alone, the successes are almost countless. Changes in legislation have allowed women to access affordable means of contraception, join the workforce in areas previously dominated by men and follow aspirations apart from getting married and having children. BUT… while women HAVE come a long way in their fight for emancipation, there are still many goals we’re yet to met.

For me, the yearly celebrations of IWD act as a reminder that there are many women around the world suffering from serious hardships and have no access to the services or resources required to change their situation. In 2014, girls and women make up 70% of the worlds poorest people and are much less likely than men to have access to healthcare and education. When I look at the facts it seems outrageous to me that people can say there is no more need for feminism. That’s why I organized an International Women’s Day afternoon tea at my University last week.

On Thursday the 6th of March 2014 I hosted an international women’s day afternoon tea outside the Union building at my university. As well as providing food and drinks to students, the afternoon tea included lots of information – in the form of flyers and pamphlets – about services around Hobart that are available to women. In order to provide these I contacted women’s welfare organisations such as the Hobart Women’s Shelter and the Hobart Health Centre. They allowed me to provide students with information about how to get advice and gain access to healthcare, accommodation and other living essentials in times of crisis. While I do not think that help in times of crisis is the solution for gender inequality, I do think they play a very important part in addressing issues that face women.

The Hobart Women’s Shelter predominantly helps women who have experienced domestic violence, or who need to escape from a hostile home environment. The Women’s Health Centre provides a free holistic health service to women and often deals with issues that indirectly effect women’s health such as stress and lack of money to access medication. While I think it is problematic that these organisations deal mainly with people suffering from serious hardships rather than using primary health tactics to prevent the issues, I think that they are nevertheless providing very important services to women.

Organisations that allow women to escape from domestic violence and centers that provide health services specifically to women were fought for by the feminist movement throughout the 60s and 70s. Thanks to feminism Australian women now have access to these services; but many people don’t really realise their history or significance.

As Women’s Officer for the Tasmanian University Union (TUU), I gathered information to provide for students about women’s focused non-government organisations (NGO’s) because I think that more people should recognize their importance. While they have become somewhat commonplace in Australia, there are no such services in many countries around the world. In developing countries like Nepal for example, there are no shelters for women suffering from abuse or violence, and the only treatment option for women suffering from health problems is to see an expensive practitioner who is usually male and NOT sympathetic to women’s social conditions. In January 2014 I worked with women in Nepal suffering from poor health and gendered violence. I talked to them firsthand about their situations; and this made incredibly clear to me why it is so important to have access to services such as women’s health centers and domestic violence shelters. This is why I promoted for IWD.

On the day of my afternoon tea, the promotion of women’s focused services was successful, and lots of the attendee’s talked to me about the important role that public service provision plays in addressing the inequalities that are faced by women. Through running my event I gained support for my views from some local female politicians and encouraged students to get actively involved with the issues.


Why I’m Shaw about choice

Sarah Christie is the Secretary of the Monash Student Association, and a student at Monash Clayton. Views are her own and don’t necessarily represent those of the Monash Student Association. 

Trigger Warning for Abortion

1939794_10152206373460926_589538339_nAbortion law reform has always been a contentious and hotly debated political issue in Victoria. Unfortunately, this statement is still as true today as it ever was. Conservative politicians, religious organisations and bigoted individuals without uteruses continue to view abortions as a procedure that should be criminalised, abolished and banished from society. These people, some of whom are currently elected representatives in the Victorian Parliament, stand between the freedom of choice of all women to decide what happens to their bodies and when. Whilst this is a fight many thought was won back in 2008, it appears that the right to choice is not over yet.

In 2008 the Brumby Labor government (alongside members of the Greens and some Coalition politicians) passed the Abortion Law Reform Act (2008), which decriminalised the act of having an abortion. No longer were women who sought out the procedure faced with the prospect of being a criminal or having to get doctor’s approval and argue their ‘psychological circumstances’ warranted the procedure. Women, for the first time, could choose to have an abortion simply because it was their choice. It was a momentous reform that had been fought for every inch of the way.

1924828_10152212130312996_1694387621_nFast-forward to 2014 and, disappointingly, whispers of winding back the clock are afoot. Disgraced ex-Liberal Party (now Independent) MP Geoff Shaw is using the issue of abortion law reform as a political football in a minority Liberal government, hoping to leverage his votes in return for amendments to the 2008 Act. Geoff Shaw is an evangelical Christian who had criminal charges of misconduct and fraud alarmingly dropped against him last year. After this disgraceful set of events, Shaw resigned from the Liberal Party. It was at this time that Shaw found himself in the uncanny position of holding the balance of power in the lower house. In order to secure Shaw’s votes and shore up the party’s numbers, Premier Denis Napthine granted and assisted Shaw in drafting a private member’s bill which will seek to amend the Abortion Law Reform Act- taking Victoria back to the dark ages (or as many of us would say, back to the backyard). Napthine has denied any moves to see the bill tabled, however only days ago Shaw flagged in an interview with the ABC that he would like to see the bill tabled this term. After securing legal abortions in 2008 with quite decisive and clear margins in parliament, as well as 65% of the general community favouring legal surgical abortions (Ray Morgan Institute, 2006), it is frightening how much influence this lone MP with his fringe values seems to be wielding and the years of damage it could cause.

There are two key areas that Shaw would like to see amended.

The first of those is Section 8. Section 8 (also a common name used to refer to this current issue) of the Abortion Law Reform Act requires that doctors with a conscientious objection to abortions have to refer women onto doctors or services that can assist them. Shaw would like to see this removed, allowing doctors with “conscientious” objections to get away with not assisting women at all. This change is abhorrent for many reasons. In particular this is problematic as, for women who are young and alone, not being told how to have an abortion is the same as being told that it is not possible at all. When a doctor is facilitated in pretending that abortion clinics and services aren’t available, the impression will be that they don’t exist at all. When impressionable women go to doctors for assistance, referrals, knowledge and help, they should be given every opportunity to have all avenues explained to them, not having one door (often the door they seek) closed in their face at the first instance.

1798815_10152212263737996_776694644_n The second reason that the amendment to Section 8 is problematic is that doctors with conscientious objections are often most highly found in regional and remote parts of Victoria. These are the same areas where abortion clinics and services are least available. Combined, this plays a huge factor in why the highest number of teen pregnancies tends to be in areas like Gippsland. It is not fair that women in these areas, due to the lack of accessible public transport, services and social attitudes in the region, should be disproportionately affected by these potential changes. There is already so little real choice in regional and remote Victoria, that to exacerbate it would be cruel.

Finally, Section 8 needs to be voted down because of the nature of conscientious objectors. Doctors, as practitioners of the state, have a moral and legal obligation to assist patients without bias or objection. As professionals, their personal and political beliefs should have no bearing on the way their conduct themselves in our state hospitals and places of work. Their primary objective should be to assist any patient that arrives at their office regardless of their political views on the matter. The counter side to this argument of course is that individuals should not be forced to assist patients with issues that they object to, as it overrides the autonomy of the doctor to have their own values and beliefs respected. This is precisely why the status quo, which requires doctors with conscientious objections to refer patients to doctors who can help them, is an admirable middle ground. It respects the wishes of the patient and the doctor, without reducing the freedom of choice of either party and ensures access to an abortion is still a reality.

The second amendment that Shaw proposes is equally as horrific. Geoff Shaw is said to favour an amendment that would result in emergency abortions not being performed when a woman in trauma presents to a hospital if the doctors so choose. In short, if a pregnant woman in grave danger was presented to a Catholic hospital for instance, the foetus would be prioritised over the life of the woman. It is quite easy to see why this is incredibly problematic. A foetus is not a person, it is not a living breathing being, it is a foetus; and the life of a woman should not be jeopardised or lost at its expense.


Whilst all these changes are incredibly scary and depressing it is important to remember why women and our allies have fought for so many years to win legal and accessible abortions.

The right of a woman to choose what happens to her body should be her choice. Not a politician’s, not a man’s, and certainly not Geoff Shaw’s.

There are many reasons why a woman may fall pregnant, and there are many reasons why she may not want to see the pregnancy through till birth. These reasons are as unique and individual as the woman herself. The list can often include socio-economic reasons, the wrong timing, falling pregnant out of wedlock, medical reasons, not being able to adequately support a child, falling pregnant as a result of rape, religious reasons, or simply just not being ready.

Supporters of Shaw often claim to be pro-life. However, a central tenant of the pro-choice argument is that this claim is a myth. Advocates of choice, myself very much included, argue that when women are forced to carry a foetus to term they do more damage in the long term to the child. One of the more prominent reasons that women choose to have abortions, as mentioned above, is because they are simply not at a time in their life where they can adequately support a child. Forcing women to carry to term often means that their child grows up in an unstable home environment, with parents (or more often one parent) that lack job security, financial stability, their own home, friends and family who are at the same point in life and can assist with raising a child, knowledge, preparedness, longer term savings, the ability to pay for the costs associated of a raising a child and much more. Whilst this is certainly not always the case and it would be ludicrous to suggest that all young parents aren’t ready for the task, it is overwhelmingly clear that parents should always have children when they are good and ready, or at the very least when they are not backed into a corner by conservative politicians with no way out.

The right to choice is a fundamental one. It is a policy stance that respects women’s bodily autonomy, whether they ever need or want an abortion or not. It is a policy stance that belongs in the 21st century, at a time when women are closer to gender equality than any time in the past. Geoff Shaw and his conservative ilk should not use women and their uteruses as political footballs. It is frustrating that this debate even continues. However, in this moment, there is more impetus than ever for supporters of all political persuasions (the left in particular) to be vocal about the right to autonomy. With any luck, if we all stand together and raise our voices loud and clear, this will be the last time that women will ever have to fight for the right to choice again.



No Space For You Here – MRAs Stay Away

Hannah Smith is the NSW President of NUS. She is the proud step-mother of a sausage dog Bronson and is failing her Political Science and Economics degree because of her passion for student unionism. All she wants in life is to be like Leslie Knope (without the recall).

This morning I woke up to a picture on my facebook news feed of a poster that has been plastered all over the entrance to Sydney University campus: “You don’t fear and hate men do you? DO YOU? MEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS”. After browsing their webpage [] I thought to myself that perhaps it wasn’t worth making a fuss about this obviously ineffectual ‘organization’: their “activism” tab is completely empty besides a poorly made poster with a range of men copied and pasted in from google images. I thought that wasting energy on pushing back on their feeble intrusion on our campus would only weaken more important fights we need to have in Sydney right now; specifically fights about our reproductive rights.

After talking to my housemates about it though, I realized that misogynistic “men’s rights” discourses start with a whimper and not a bang. A few years ago we would’ve not heard of such groups on university campuses, now we have proposals for entire courses on men’s rights at some universities. We have pro-life groups funded by our student unions and proposals for “men’s clubs” as well. When we let MRA posters onto our campuses (even those with poorly designed webpages), we are legitimating their claims that there is a ‘debate’ to be had about feminism and gender equality. As women’s activists, we know there is lots of debates to be had about feminism, but none of them should involve questioning the core premise; that women are fundamentally unequal in our society.

By allowing them a place in our intellectual institutions we are detracting from the fights that need to be had and allowing ourselves to be dragged back to square one of the movement- defending its existence. The person who saw these at our uni tore them down. I will be doing the same and encouraging others to do so also. Some will disagree with this tactic because it stifles “debate” and free speech. But I know there is no debate to be had. The stats and figures speak for themselves.

A Letter to the former Prime Minister


Louise hails from Queensland and Studies at the University of Queensland. She is the NUS Queensland State Environment Officer. She is a collector of tee-shirts and missing memories. However she is yet to learn how to vacate a shopping trolley without falling over. 

Dear Julia

Thank you.

I’m sorry that your prime ministership coincided with the worst of the national discourse. I’m sorry that as you paved the way, Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, and Howard Sattler tried to block the path for women. Even Germaine Greer was part of the blockade. I’m sorry that so many people gave credence to these people. It’s not much, but some of us cried and screamed and ranted. I’m sorry that we couldn’t destroy the joint. I’m sorry that our fight wasn’t limited to arguing with internet trolls. I’m sorry that we had to refute views published in the mainstream media just as often as we had to campaign to have a page removed from Facebook.

The depth of my sadness on Wednesday night was surprising to me. Honestly, I wasn’t your biggest fan in a policy sense. But, I wanted the opportunity to judge you on your policies – an opportunity which was consistently denied to me, and every other Australian. We wasted so much time talking about your shoes. As my housemates will contend, I spend enough time talking about my own. After we’d finished discussing your hair, your glasses, your clothes and your body, there were no column inches left to analyse your legacy. I wanted the Australian public to discuss why your government was wrong to process asylum seekers offshore. I wanted a national celebration when you introduced the legislation for the NDIS. Instead, we got endless speculation about whether or not your tears were authentic.  

Once some blokes decided that you were ‘illegitimate’ as a prime minister, the rest of the bullshit flowed faster than twitter on a Q&A night. We know that 17 of Australia’s prime ministers first ascended to the top job after a party room spill or a vote of no confidence. Though your company in this respect includes Menzies, Curtin and Keating, you were the first to be labelled illegitimate. Menzies and Curtin, the most celebrated prime ministers from either side of politics, led minority governments for a time. Yet, we remember them as Australian icons, free from the indignity of being called illegitimate. Maybe 1940s Australia had a better comprehension of the Westminster system, or maybe 2010 Australia simply couldn’t resist the pervasive lure of misogyny to accept you as PM.

I will never accept the idea that Australia is not ready for a female PM. It gives us an out. It implies that only an advanced society could countenance the idea of a woman in charge. Those who peddle this line use some of my favourite things about Australia, to prosecute an argument which crumbles under the most superficial of scrutiny. We’re larrikins and bogans, blokes and sheilas. We abhor pretention and snobbery. We’d prefer to watch the big men fly at the G than spend the evening at the opera. But accepting a woman in the top job is not a matter of altering our national character. We don’t have to pretend to be something we’re not. We can, simultaneously, embrace female leadership and our own brand of national kulcha. Let us never say “a place like ‘Straya is incapable of keeping our misogyny in check. Sorry ladies.” That’s absolute crap.

It’s important for us to acknowledge the shit you put up with. Equally, though, it is imperative that we recall the progress you made. Thank you for calling out sexism and misogyny in our national parliament. We still refer to it as ‘that speech’. Some of my friends claimed to have given up on politics. They saw that video and changed their minds. Finally, we had a prime minister who told the nation that she wasn’t going to put up with it anymore, and we didn’t have to cop it either. You inspired us to deliver our own version of that speech. We have had far too many opportunities to follow your example, and call out sexism in our own lives  – whether we’re naming and shaming sexist cowards at NUS National Conference, or dancing at a nightclub where we’re forced to assert that no means no.

Now, I recommend that you grab a beer. Avoid reading the Australian and watching Bulldogs games (except on August 30 – they’re playing Melbourne). You’ve earned a bit of break. The rest of us can hold the fort for a while. As you said, it will be easier for the next woman and the one after that. Thanks for being the first.
Love, Louise


Louise Scarce

NUS Queensland Environment Officer 

On Autonomy and the Role of Men in Feminism, and Wom*n Only Spaces or Events

Paper doll graffiti in a public street - Rome

I’m going to attempt to preemptively answer some questions that come up time and time again. These are often the questions that come from men who encounter the wom*n’s edition of a journal, a feminist-themed talk, or anything that is discussing things that are branded as “wom*n’s issues”. In a university specific setting such questions include: Who is the Men’s Officer? Where is the Men’s Room? And sometimes ‘I’m a Feminist Guy, let me in Your Freakin’ Wom*n’s Room Already’.

Why do we have a Wom*n’s Room?

Wom*n’s Rooms are safe places for those who are female-identifying to escape the daily grind of living in a sexist society, a place to chill out and a place to access resources, and to talk to and connect with other wom*n on campus. For wom*n students, there are lots of subtle (and often not so subtle) reminders that the university (and uhh the world) can be a bit of a boys club. Female students experience sexism and in their daily lives and this impacts on their work and study. Wom*n still make up the vast majority of violence, sexual assault, and domestic violence victims. On average, wom*n earn less than men. We also still don’t have full reproductive freedoms or accessible abortion.

Dale Spencer did an experiment on what happens when men enter what is designated as a wom*n’s feminist space as research for her PhD thesis.[1] She writes:

Present at the discussion, which was a workshop on sexism and education in London, were thirty-two women and five men. Apart from the fact that the tape revealed that the men talked for over 50 per cent of the time, it also revealed that what the men wanted to talk about – and the way in which they wanted to talk – was given precedence.


There is no doubt in my mind that in this context at least (and I do not think it was an atypical one) it was the five males and not the thirty-two females who were defining the parameters of the talk. I suspect that neither the women nor the men were conscious of this. There was no overt hostility displayed towards the females who ‘strayed from the point’, but considerable pressure was applied by the males – and accepted without comment from the females – to confine the discussion to the male definition of the topic.”

Wom*n’s Rooms aren’t perfect. I’m not here to tell you that. They aren’t a solution to the problem — but they’re a start to redressing those problems by giving wom*n a forum where men do not verbally and intellectually dominate conversational space.

When wom*n call a space or event ‘autonomous’ what does that mean?

 The word autonomy has been dissected and re-evaluated numerous times in academic literature. In terms of feminist and oppression politics, the term autonomy has a fairly unique meaning. Autonomy is by no means a simple concept and it means different things to different wom*n in the feminist movement. But, simply put it’s about reclamation of personhood and agency by being free to organise and collaborate exclusively with other wom*n, without the immediate influence of men. It also means decisions affecting wom*n should be made exclusively by wom*n.

c9437d68fc89b04f4616fa461349481eAnd I can hear you now with ‘men are important, too!’ and ‘the patriarchy hurts men as well!’ or ‘you’re being a “feminist elitist”. I agree with most of those statements, actually. But here’s why autonomy, wom*n’s only spaces and wom*n’s only protests and events are still totally fucking necessary.

Here’s the thing: feminists don’t necessarily want your help. Sometimes we would prefer to be only in the company of other wom*n. Sometimes we want to feel that our voices are truly our own. The truth is those male feminists are often seen as being way more brave, and way more valuable than female feminists. I’m kind of tired of that. Because the truth is that as a woman, being a feminist is much more difficult. You’re accused of being crazy. People might even stop being friends with you if you speak out too much. You’re told you should be an “equalist” instead. Because ‘liberation’ is a dirty word (like feminism); it has to about ‘equality’ rather, because men feel threatened by the word ‘liberation’. For many wom*n their feminism aligns with their subjective lived experiences, such as sexual assault and the different ways that their race, sexuality, (dis)ability, gender identity and class intersect with their status as a woman. For most men (and especially those whose gender aligns with their sex assigned at birth) their ‘feminist’ beliefs don’t have the lived experiences like these, which directly inform their feminism. However there are ways you can be constructive (and I’m getting to that, I promise).

This is why it may be requested that you do not attend certain events. Most wom*n who seek out wom*n’s only spaces might get a small amount of enjoyment out of feeling safe for half an hour or so. I’m not suggesting that all wom*n who desire this have had horrific experiences with men, but it might be helpful to think about what might cause someone to do that if you’re considering getting into to a heated argument with them. Topics discussed in what are designated as autonomous, wom*n-only spaces are often highly sensitive, and many wom*n who have experiences with these issues don’t feel comfortable discussing them in front of men.

I’m tired of trying to get men on side with feminism, tip toeing around and sugar-coating things, which might alienate male allies. I’m tired of self-professed feminist men thinking they are entitled to criticise wom*n’s approaches to feminism. I’m even getting tired of the numerous hours spent on articles rallying men to the cause with ‘The Patriarchy Hurts Men Too’ thing because yes, of course it does but, overall it is actually overwhelming good for men. That’s why it exists in the first place. Because the majority of men are invested in its continuation. The more time spent on men’s issues as feminist issues, the less space and time exists for issues, which directly affect wom*n in feminism and go to heart of how we can restructure our oppressive environments. Men who can appreciate the importance of feminism, because they understand decent human behaviour don’t deserve more room in feminism than currently exists.

Men who call themselves feminists are often looking to be part of your circle, in my view. They’re looking for a feminist card that gives them an equal voice in feminist circles, they’re looking for a feminist card when they screw up and get called out on being sexist. They have no role in feminism in my view aside from being pro-feminist or a feminist ally and getting the spaces they dominate and making them feminist. Ask how you can help out instead. Can you put up some posters for a feminist group on campus when they’re campaigning? I’m sure there’s not going to be a problem with that. Offer to help set up the Wom*n’s Collective’s stall. Have meaningful conversations with the other men around you about gender roles. Speak up when you hear something sexist happening or being said. Listen if someone is telling you about an experience they’ve had that they said was sexist. Listen and act if someone is telling you that something they think you said was sexist.

And after all this if you still feel threatened (albeit even slightly) by the idea of wom*n exclusively meeting in public for some purpose, feminist or not, then ask yourself why. You might be part of the problem.


By anonymous




[1] Results were published in Man Made Language, 1981.


Why I love the story of Mary Bryant



While I probably more than many can completely get around a movie or TV show with a super strong kick ass woman in the lead there is yet to be one that beats the story of Mary Bryant, and while my love with the show started with the fact the main character shares a last name with my mothers side of the family it certainly doesn’t end there, but with a huge amount of respect for what was an amazingly strong woman who never took no for an answer and would not let anyone else tell her how her life should be.


The mini series tells the story of a young woman who was convicted of stealing a bonnet and a small amount of money and was sentenced to transportation on the first fleet. She did what she had to do to ensure her own safety and subsequently lead to her doing the same for the offspring she had as a result. While she used her sexuality to get what she needed at times it her sharp intellect and resourcefulness that helped her many more.


She along with her husband, young child, baby and several men from the settlement become determined to escape as a way to save themselves from starvation. They steal what will be required and make a run for it to Timor where they pretend to be from a merchant boat that was shipwrecked on a reef. As one can image making such a huge journey and with so much at stake there are many occasions when some needed a good clip around the ears and others that need the word of encouragement. But mostly there were times when everyone else gave up and Mary did what needed to be done to save their lives. Of course their story doesn’t end there but I don’t want to ruin it for all of you who hopefully will go and watch the amazing show that it is after reading this.


For me the show significantly more than the real story reminds me that sometimes all that is needed to make something happen no matter how hard it is a woman on a mission. A woman who will stand up fight for what she believes and do what ever it takes to get it done.


It gives me back that sense of ‘girl power’ that most of the drivel on TV takes away from me. That drive, that reminder that I don’t need some dreamy strong man to do it for me- while it is nice to have him as well. I don’t need him to do it for me I can do it myself.


At the end of the two part mini series I feel uplifted and ready to grab the challenges life throws at me and overcome them where as I think I am supposed to feel sad for her, for her husband and for her children which I do must mostly I feel strong and empowered. And I hate the fact that I have to write this about a show because I am like ‘wow what a great show with a strong female lead who is just generally badass. That’s abnormal.’


And I guess I could write very similar pieces about Buffy the vampire slayer or Daenerys Targaryen  I feel that these are both characters that have  been well written about where as Mary I feel doesn’t get enough cred.

So yea I think that if your feeling a bit crappy, had a rough day full of asshats or are even sitting at home sick at any point in the near future have about two hours to kill and are looking for that little pick me up I can’t recommend it enough!


You can find the show on youtube here (frustratingly in ten minute clips but at least its all in a playlist)


You can find out about the true story of Mary Bryant here


‘you will run under blue skies and you will be with strong proud people, and no matter what happens to you, you will never give up its in your blood’


Mikaela Wangmann

National Womens Officer 2013

An open letter


Dear ABC News

Last night when you were reporting on the Governments decision to launch an inquiry into work place discrimination around pregnancy and maternity leave you decided to spin it as  ‘the Government attempts to reignite the gender debate’.


You are the damn ABC you are not supposed to be saying things like this. I mean I expect it from Andrew Bolt but I had higher hopes for you.

I mean the Government looking into the fact that women who are ‘of child rearing age’ don’t get hired for jobs simply because the employer doesn’t want to have to take the risk they may decided to have a child and then have to pay maternity leave, or the fact that many new mothers returning from maternity leave are told they must go full time or face redundancies. Or new mothers returning to the workforce not being granted more bathroom breaks or being put on less physically demanding duties. Its all obviously just the Government trying to restart the gender debate– not make life fairer and easier for women, not to ensure that the workforce is safe for women and certainly not to attempt to make a dent is the sexism that women in this country still face. It is most certainly just them trying to start up the gender debate once again.

266257282_640But seriously when did working towards equality end up being part of the gender debate. What even is the gender debate? All I think of when I hear you use this stupid term is arguments that were accompanied with boy germs and cooties being whipped from whoever was touched by the other sex onto some poor child who happened to not be holding their fingers in the ‘germ lock’ position.

And oh how you have me in a rant now ABC! Like the children I know who used to feel this way about other boys and girls, I wish you would grow up!

 Grow up and acknowledge that women still aren’t treated the way men do.

Grow up and realise that the ‘gender debate’ is not a real thing its what mens rights activists think feminism creates.

Grow up and stop viewing anything the Government does for women is not directly related to the fact that we have a women as Prime Minister.

Grow up and accept that the Government isn’t out to win brownie points but rather help women to have a fairer go at life.

And stop bloody breaking my heart with you ill informed, factually offensive, and down right disgraceful reports around women’s issues.

Mikaela Wangmann

National Womens Officer 2013