When I arrived at the rally for abortion rights on Saturday I noticed a lot of things. I noticed that it was small, I noticed that it was covered in the posters and banners of socialist parties and the sex party and I noticed that what these parties had brought to the table was a whole heap of men. Men holding signs demanding that Julian Assange be brought home, holding megaphones and leading chants.
Now I’m all for a broad church of a feminist movement, and when it comes to equality for women and reproductive rights we need as many allies as we can get, but a woman’s right to bodily autonomy begins and ends with women. While we need supporters and there is a place for men within this issue men cannot be leading this issue. To arrive at a rally organised by the left and find that the speakers in particular are all men is a pretty big problem.
The man that was leading the protest decided to start a chant about women’s right to walk freely on the streets (why at a pro choice rally this was a thing I don’t know) and he said “we like to say, these streets are ours!”. No one chanted back (small victories). While I’m sure he had the best of intentions his actions pointed out all the reasons why progressive men sometimes really don’t get it.
Melbourne is still on edge after the tragic events that happened to Jill Meagher, women in particular are on edge, the chant about taking back the streets is a powerful one when spoken by women, a menacing one when chanted by men. A reminder when one isn’t needed.
Left wing men seem to think that they are above reproach in their actions of support. Their actions time and time again, most recently on Julian Assange, show that there are many who believe they have as much right to speak on women’s issues.
When men think they have more of a right to speak than women on our issues we our autonomy and they lose all of the context.
There were many men at this protest wearing the masks of ‘anon’ a mantle which is used every day to harass and abuse women on the internet. So many men covered their faces with scarves. This was meant to be a pro choice protest, not a soap box opportunity for the issues of men.
What struck me most about these men was that they had hijacked our protest, our issue, when we asked them to take down their Julian Assange posters, or let a woman go on the megaphone they ignored us. Proudly chanting ‘our body, our choice’. Our bodies theirs, our issues and our protest theirs. The left had taken over, but don’t call them sexist because they’re really progressive.
What do you think?
This is beyond belief, how the hell could anyone think this was a good idea is beyond me. Let’s hijack a women’s issue and make it all about us, the men, and our hero Julian Assange. It’s sickening.
“What struck me most about these men was that they had hijacked our protest”
As one of the CWRR organisers of the rally – and a male – I am dismayed by your outrage. It was after all a CWRR organised rally, not a NUS rally.
I am a member of the Australian Sex Party and was the only male speaker listed for the day.
We had one male MC alongside a female MC.
Feel free to look at my speech as one of those posted on the CWRR blog.
The pro-choice movement consists of men and women – and the more men who are prochoice and listening to women the better. I hope you’d agree. There are too many antichoice men as it is.
While wearing a Sex Party tshirt I approached one of your members with a leaflet for the next CWRR action at Parliament House. Without even looking at the leaflet your member rebuffed the approach saying she did not want “any of your propaganda”. It seems she took offence at my Sex Party tshirt and didn’t have the politeness/decency to even consider I might be offering her a CWRR leaflet.
The prochoice majority in Australia consists of woman and men. Standing together we will win reproductive rights for all women. The broader the coalition of groups advocating for women’s choice the better.
You will find me at the monthly clinic defence on Wellington Parade at 10am on the 4th Saturday of every month. Feel free to join me and others from CWRR, Radical Women, Freedom Socialist Party and the Australian Sex Party there.
As for the Assange poster I didn’t see it but I think it was out of place. There were a few out of place signs but by and large the signs were great and supportive of choice.
There were a few idiots among our supporters on the day and as the Police Liaison and a marshall I had to deal with a few of them.
Wow that’s really stark! The points you make are spot on. I hope other men are reading them too. I mean, it’s really not controversial to say that Indigenous people should lead the rallying and speaking on Indigenous rights, refugees on refugees rights, workers on workers’ rights and women on women’s rights.
And to hijack a rally on a clear women’s issue with rhetoric about Julian Assange is outrageous. I mean, fair enough to support WikiLeaks despite what’s said about the man, but seriously, if there’s one circumstance where Julian Assange is not the appropriate side issue to bring in, it’s at a rally on women’s rights! How can that be any more blatant?
Chris Johnson, your comment would be extremely compelling if it wasn’t for the fact that the “pro choice rally” was used as a vehicle for a different issue. That is extremely disrespectful and to say “well I attend Wellington st protests so this issue is mine to distort” is entitled to say the least.
” the “pro choice rally” was used as a vehicle for a different issue.”
How so? It was organised by CWRR for two reasons. First of all to celebrate the passage of the 2008 amendments, and secondly to counter the March for the Babies.
CWRR invited participation by the Sex Party and I have put my hand up for the last two years. If you would like to help organise next year’s event please join in.
I see no disrespect in helping to organise a rally for a cause I believe in.
In no way do I see this as an issue to distort. I offer support to the cause of female bodily autonomy. As a male I can provide a prochoice voice to contrast against men such as Bernie Finn who seek to control a woman’s reproduction.
Men shouldn’t replace women in the prochoice arena, but men can certainly support and complement women’s prochoice voices.
I saw four anon masks, only one person that had one was male. Yes, there where men wearing bandanas on there faces, but I also more females with them on.
At pretty much every event theres people that arrive with signs for other events. I know it’s bad manners, thats why I only showed up with a black n red flag. Next event you make, I suggest stating in the invite to not bring signs n banners for other causes.
Yup, I know. That’s why you didn’t see a big ‘war is terror’ banner 😉
It’s not that hard Moo Kau. If you see an event demonstrating about a specific thing, then bring signs which are relevant to that specific thing. You may have signs which relate to some Other Thing but that is not the time to display them, although it would be really terriffic to display them at *another* event which is about that Other Thing. Otherwise, you’re hijacking and also diffusing the message to the extent where the demo is rendered useless. Simple, yes?
helenbalcony Global Noise was invited by CWRR to join the rally. We recognised solidarity in many issues. Members of CWRR had been active in the Occupy feminist discussions and we have shared legal advice regarding right to protest.
It coincided a good deal with Global Noise hence a lot of male anarchists… I was there at the rally, one of the females affiliated with ‘those socialist groups’
A question: What rally were you at?!
I’m one of the abortion rights rally organisers. I am also a member of Radical Women, a socialist feminist women’s leadership organisation that helped found Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights (CWRR) in 1989. From its beginnings, CWRR has been a united front of organisations and individuals working together to build a broad, militant grassroots reproductive justice movement. This is what it will take to defeat the far right that would have women confined to children, kitchen and church (Kinder, Küche, Kirche). Men have always been active in CWRR, because they understand that a society which denies women our rights is not one they want to live in. This misogynist system, which would relegate women to breeders, housekeepers and cheap labour, is also anti-union, racist, xenophobic and homophobic (half this population being men). The magnificent number of men at the rally showed what solidarity looks like — something you find distasteful.
I’ll correct your sexist distortions about the rally. Of the two MCs, one was a woman — whom you disappeared, maybe didn’t notice. Of the six speakers, five were women — again, disappeared.
The sexism that underlines your red-baiting is offensive. And your hostility to linking obviously inter-connected struggles is downright mindboggling. Women’s control of our bodies and our lives doesn’t encompass walking freely and safely in our streets? Really? I’ll go further: control of our bodies and lives also means to take our place as leaders in public life, not holed up in a privatised house. Didn’t you hear the loud chanting, “Whose streets? Our streets! Whose world? Our world!”?? As for the poster demanding freedom for Julian Assange — Yes!! The capitalist State, which is ready to waste Assange for telling the truth about its depraved inhumanity, wants women chained to the kitchen sink, bed, playpen and church! It’s so connected!
CWRR did broad outreach for rally endorsements. We contacted the NUS, and we didn’t get a reply. Look at the rally endorsers: unions, feminist, socialist, anarchist, LGBTI organisations, women’s health services, university women’s departments. No NUS. Why?
You’re clearly hostile to the Left — the very movement that consistently hits the streets for women’s rights. You seem phobic about hitting the streets — ie militant grassroots leadership. You fool no one.
“there is a place for men within this issue men cannot be leading this issue”
Putting men in their place!
Because men shouldn’t be politically active
Because i’m a sexist sow