Category Archives: Feminist

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.


10 out of 40, ‘aint bad? Wait.

i need feminism because

I was talking with a friend of mine recently who spoke to me about how he thought that it really was bad how women were treated in the past but was super glad that they weren’t treated so bad anymore.


While I know he had the best of intentions and was not being malicious, he was merely ignorant and the discussion frustrated me. I spent a significant period of time explaining all the inequalities to him but the one that he could not get his head around was that we value men and their achievements significantly more than we celebrate those of women. I tried to come up with several examples that I thought he could relate to a really understand. I ran through a few examples and he couldn’t see what I meant, then as we got the bill for out coffees and we jostled over who would pay I realized the perfect example of sexism in our society.


Of the forty people who have been featured on Australian money only 10 have been women, while I acknowledge that it is better than I though it would be its still bullshit! Money which is one of the things that we value most in our society, and having your face brandished across it is one of the greatest honors that can be bestowed features thirty men and ten women. Thirty to ten. TEN.


So this is basically saying that of the forty most noteworthy people  printed on our money only ten were women. Yea because I am super sure that there have defiantly not been more cool, inspiring, hardworking or just generally boss women who could have been chosen.


This disregard of Womens achievement really bugged me, but at least I finally got my message across. Feminism win. It is little victories like this, explaining and recruitment to the cause that is what has kept our movement strong for so many years, and what we need to do to keep it strong and continue to progress. So I guess the moral of the story is don’t back away from these discussions and don’t give up if you can’t win someone over immediately keep pushing because we can never have to many feminists. And really- everyone who believes that women and men should be treated equally is a feminist.

Mikaela Wangmann

National Women’s Officer 2013

Axe The Tax!



Sophie is the 2013  UWA Women’s Officer .Only after her term started did she label herself a feminist but since she adopted the title she has decided that to her feminism is more about how she lives her life and how she allows other people, especially men, to treat her. She also has an astounding ability to fall over multiple times in a day for no apparent reason.


The Axe The Tampon Tax Campaign was born one Tuesday in the office of a colleague during casual conversation. I decided that, since I am Women’s Officer at the UWA Student Guild, I finally had the power to do more than bitch about it.

Since then, more menstrual puns than the world’s men can handle have been shared on social media, and the petition has gained more than 10,000 signatures in less than two days.

The whole argument of this campaign is that having a tax on tampons is fundamentally sexist.

I’ve had a lot of criticism on this, and I think a lot of it is because people (ok, men) don’t get the point of the petition. I don’t think there is anything wrong with taxing most products – even things like nappies and children’s clothes. Sure, in an ideal world we wouldn’t have tax, yaddyayaddya, but we do – and everyone uses these things. However, unless you are libra pad man, if you are a male, you will never use sanitary products, which means you will never be taxed for them. Having your period sucks enough without chucking a sexist tax into the mix. And to add insult to injury… condoms are already GST free – so men, the argument that you get taxed for your essentials? So INVALID.

You can get involved with this issue by signing the petition here:

And tweeting all the pollies you can – let everyone know what a #bloodyoutrage it is!!!


Sophie Anne Clare Liley

Women’s Officer at the UWA Student Guild

Girl Power: like feminism, but prettier and in a shorter skirt



Lorelei is an Arts Student at the University of Queensland, she is actively involved in the Womens Collective and was instrumental in its creation. She is a collector of cardigans and a lover of bunnies. In German mythology, Lorelei is a rock on the Rhine river.

For the average young feminist, being disappointed with the depiction of women in mainstream media is hardly novel. Western pop culture is and always has been a big old jerk where representation of ladies is concerned. In recent times though, it feels like we are slowly but surely catching glimpses of progress; every so often the F-bomb gets some airplay and feminism takes one teensy step forward from its reputation as a cult for girls with no bras and hairy legs (which is called ‘Saturday night’ in my house). Women everywhere are watching with relief as high-profile personalities, from Tina Fey to Julia Gillard to the woman who invented Feminist Ryan Gosling, bring the concept of feminism to the public sphere.

One role model in particular will, I predict, leave a lasting legacy to the feminist movement. She has taught us that being a Single Lady is something to dance about, that Honeys can make the Moneys and that in fact we Run the World. I am of course referring to Beyoncé. Beyoncé is kind of the face of the modern feminist: incredibly talented, incredibly successful, peddling a solid message of female empowerment. The icing on the cake is that she’s been named People’s Most Beautiful Woman 2012, her hair is perfect and her body is a wonderland. And she’s married and a mother so you also know that even though she’s wearing a leather leotard, she’s not, you know, loose. Morally. Or vaginally.

It’s kind of like she’s feminism, but heaps more palatable. She’s…well…she’s Girl Power. I know, I know. Girl Power was something the Spice Girls invented in that unfortunate period we sometimes refer to as “the 90s” if we’re being forced to remember it ever happened. Girl Power was pink and sparkly and adorned with 70s floral motifs and friendship bracelets. Girl Power looked like this:

girl power


Fistpump!! Billowing hair!! Skinny girls silhouetted against a cherry-coloured supernova!! Are we feeling empowered yet?

Well, just as we all exited the 90s and blossomed into adulthood, so did Girl Power. And now it looks like this:



That’s Bey-Bey in a recent GQ interview where she really outed her feminist sensibilities with quotes like “Equality is a myth” and “[Men] define what’s sexy. And men define what’s feminine. It’s ridiculous.” See? It’s feminism! Just topless in a men’s magazine doing fistpumps and having great hair! Are we feeling empowered yet?

I should mention here that the point of this piece isn’t ten minutes of gratuitous Beyoncé bashing. I still think she’s fabulous and it’s nowhere close to my place to judge any woman for what she does between the pages of a gentlemen’s magazine. The point of this somewhat tangential collection of thoughts was instead to vent my deep frustration at the tone of mainstream female empowerment in the second decade of the 21st century, which is always sexy and rarely has its clothes on. I know you all know what I’m talking about. I’m sick of the ad industry, the entertainment industry, the media industry and the fashion industry giving us ‘power’ via sexualisation. Beyoncé topped multiple “hottest chick eva” lists last year but no one called her the voice of 2012. No one bought GQ to read her interview. Her growing reputation as the spokesperson for today’s independent young women is supplemented and made acceptable by her other status as a sex symbol. If her GQ piece is a metaphor for the movement, I’m hanging out for the day we can read her quotes without also having to look at her breasts.

Sisters, our power, our talents, our strengths and our achievements bear no correlation to our bodies and what we do or don’t do with them. Our image does not need to be juxtaposed with a bunch of dudes (see below) just to demonstrate our agency. We don’t have to be sexually appealing or fit conventional standards of attractiveness to be an aspirational figure. And now more than ever, with feminism gaining traction in the mainstream, is the time to remember and emphasize these truths.

Girl power was fun when we were all eight but that was a whole other century ago.

2013, show me what ya got.


Lorelei Links

University of Queensland 

“I am not my hair“: one woman’s journey to loving her ‘fro

By Hiba

I’ve had a complicated relationship with my hair since I was 8 years old. That’s the age when I was erroneously called ‘spring onion’ by my classmates because short, frizzy strands of my thick North African hair would escape from the tight braid my mother put it in and would stand vertically like little springs. The bullying made me self-conscious of my appearance and begin to resent my natural hair, but more importantly that was the first time that I had a concept of ‘difference’ and that I was not like everyone else in my almost entirely Caucasian public Primary School. To stop the name-calling I tried to cut off the rebellious frizzy hairs, which was my first act of trying to change my body to fit other’s expectations of what I ‘should’ look like.

Only a few years later mother changed my hair colour with a gradual lightening product. I was confused as to why she did so and didn’t like pretending to be something that I wasn’t and how the lighter brown hair clashed with my tan skin, but my mother wouldn’t hear any of it. In her mind fairer and more Caucasian-looking was better, a concept remnant of her own upbringing in post-colonial North Africa where skin, hair and eye colour still corresponded to class and social status.

At age 13 I finally convinced my mother to let me cut my hair short. Up until that point my mother had never let me cut my hair, so it was long and grew past my hips and was a nightmare to maintain coupled with its thickness and frizziness. I convinced her on such practical grounds, but for me it was a symbol of finally taking some control over my own body and making a decision for myself about how I ‘should’ appear.

Over the next decade I subjected my hair to every hair product and device you can imagine to make my hair look more Caucasian: chemical relaxers, flat irons, curlers, serums, mousses, sprays, gels, waxes, braiding, thinning, extensions… if you can name it then I had tried it. I spent thousands of dollars and hours upon hours of my time and my mother’s time trying to change my hair into something different. I tried to rationalise and  justify it to myself on the grounds that it would be easier to manage if it were straighter, that it would look more professional or employable, that others would see it as more attractive, and so on. All the while I knew deep down that there was something amiss and that I wasn’t happy with the lengthy daily process of burning, stretching and moulding my hair.

In 2012 I took the plunge and stopped chemically relaxing my hair, cut off the remains of the straightened hair and left a curly, frizzy ‘afro‘. The main reason I did so was the simple fact that I could no longer afford both the money and time that went into chemical and physical hair-straightening process. I was also curious to see how my natural hair, unseen since I was a pre-teen, would look like. Neither of these reasons were particularly serious or heavy, but that decision would nonetheless still have a significant impact on my self-perception.

Considering how often I had changed my hair in the previous decade, I didn’t expect a change in the way that people would treat me after I went natural. However, I began to be subjected to ‘micro-aggressions’ in conversations where people would mean to compliment me on my “exotic” hairstyle, which as an occasional comment was fine, but would happen so frequently that by the end of a day I would feel ‘othered’ and constantly singled out as different and an outsider who didn’t belong. More damaging was my parents’ reaction to my new hairstyle which was of disapproval and shame, believing my hair to look “too African” and “ugly”, in denial of their cultural background and the lingering effects of colonialism on their self-hatred. Even more serious was that my personal space was frequently violated by complete strangers on the street, in shopping centres or at social events who would without asking for consent pat my head, run their fingers through my hair, or hug or embrace me while also touching my hair. In the first few weeks after changing my hair I felt dehumanised and reduced to an alien object on public display for Caucasian people’s amusement and whose consent was irrelevant.

That was the first time that I began to reflect on my relationship with my hair over my lifetime, how I had felt about it over the years, how people’s treatment of me changed with it, and how both I and others defined me by it. I began to see my hair as a site of resistance, where over the years I had fought myself, my mother and wider society for control over my body and on how I ‘should’ look. I began to understand why it was a site of such controversy, why hundreds of years of European colonialism has shaped what we deem as ‘beautiful’ and how that concept has never included my natural state. I questioned why my body was seen as a ‘public space’ that complete strangers had the right to comment on or touch without consent, and how that was compounded by the dehumanising way that this society views women’s bodies, people of colour, and fat people – all three of which were true of me. I began to realise that the very act of wearing my hair in its natural state was a political statement and a physical representation on my body of a “f*** you” message to a society that had warped my self-perception for most of my life. Most importantly, I accepted that I am not my hair and that I could define myself beyond just physical appearance and that how I wore my hair had nothing to do with how good a person I was or my potential as a human being.

Let’s hear it for the bitchez!

I was at an excellent Emily’s List event yesterday where we talked about women and writing. After the panel one of the participants approached the group to tell us about a book she was working on called ‘dealing with bitches’ (I looked it up and it’s not called that here). She wanted to get stories from us ‘nice women’ about times in our lives when we’ve had to deal with ‘bitches’

Her question raised a bunch of questions in my mind and I wanted to ask, what makes a ‘bitch’ and what makes a ‘nice woman’? Are they each sitting on either end of our perpetual women’s seesaw, where the angels dangle in the ear while we bitches are stuck with our feet in the mud?

I mean, it was pretty interesting because earlier we’d been talking about Julia Gillard and why people didn’t like her because she doesn’t fit into any of the stereotypes that we expect women to. Then here we were, an hour later, being asked about ‘bitches’. The ‘bitch’ is, of course, the ultimate traitor to womanliness and the sacrificial Madonna.

I did what any modern woman would I came home and asked twitter (or the twitter to some of you) what they thought. I got some great responses (including from Clementine Ford, that’s right, we talk) that have lead me to want to sing loud and clear.

Let’s hear it for the bitchez.

If what makes a bitch, a bitch, is being assertive (or aggressive, as so many ‘feminists’ seem to term it) being smart, being engaged, being honest and direct and (worst of all) being powerful then let’s hear it for the bitches.

I was watching Political Animals, a new miniseries in America, where the main character (the female secretary of state) says, “Never call a bitch, a bitch, us bitches don’t like that” but I’m not so sure.

I don’t think I much like the idea of reclaiming the word ‘bitch’ (though I’ve never been too offended by it) but I do think that we as women need to think about what we’re really saying when we talk about ‘bitches’

Are we saying she’s too strong, too assertive, too loud, expects too much or just has something that we wish we could have?  Or does a ‘bitch’ posses those ‘masculine’ qualities that women aren’t meant to possess?

If being a ‘nice woman like us’ means being feminine and quiet, beating around the bush and playing second fiddle then how is that nice at all?

What do you all think? Will you put your hands up for the bitchez?







You know what, sometimes totally clever, intelligent, interesting young women still spend a lot of their time talking about boys or girls, soz lol old ppl, it’s a fact.

So, I’ve been watching (except that I haven’t because I couldn’t do so legally) and reading a lot about the new HBO series Girls. From the moment that it aired there’s been a lot of criticism of the show. Some of it may well be warranted, particularly the parts about it being a ‘white wash’ (read here, here and here)  While I don’t want to gloss over the serious lack of women of colour on our screens as a white woman for me to focus on them would be disingenuous and wrong. If you’re interested in this aspect of the show please, please, please write a blog because we’re sorely lacking the perspective of women of colour within feminist debate in NUS women’  The criticism I’ve most taken annoyance with is the criticism that these are smart young women and they just seem to be spending all their time talking about their relationships.

WELL, I hate to break this to everyone, particularly since it seems that it will burst some people’s bubbles, but sometimes, a lot of the time even, young women talk about boys, or girls, or whatever it is that takes their fancy. Some of them will talk about it endlessly, some occasionally, all of them will talk about it in some way or another.

Young smart, attractive, interesting women do talk about politics and the environment and literature and television, but it’s rare that they don’t also talk about relationships and love lives and the rest of it. Mostly, because that is one of the things that you will go running to your girlfriends and talk about. That doesn’t make you any less clever or interesting, it just makes you human.

There are parts of the show (which again, I have not watched) which I really enjoy and think are really wonderful. There’s a scene (allegedly) in the first episode where one of the main characters is asked by the total dick that she’s sleeping with about her tattoos. She responds that when she was in high school she got fat and it was her way of taking control of her body. This idea, of taking control of being out of control, is a really powerful one for young women.

So much of being a woman seems to be outside of your control, you can control how big your tits are, or how pretty you are, or how much people will put things on to you. A lot of the problems that young women face are about reasserting control over themselves. Anorexia, Bulimia, Self Harm, Suicide, they’re all on some level about trying to regain control over a situation which you feel you cannot change. That is a part of patriarchal control, the feeling that you don’t have the ability to affect change outside of yourself, which means you internalize those feelings.

There are parts that I don’t like so much about the show. The relationships to sex and relationships sometimes appear to be sending young men in the audience contradicting messages. In particular the relationship of one young woman to her boyfriend, where his respect and attempts at egalitarian heterosexual sex are mocked in many ways, or portrayed as being less than desirable. This is contrasted with the uncaring, selfish sex engaged in by another character. I feel that the show finds both lacking but offers no middle path. That said, this is an issue that raunch culture has required us to deal with, young women are meant to be madonnas and whores, often in the same relationships at the same time. How young women can be expected to be pure and porn stars has always been beyond me. I hope that in the coming weeks there will be a better job done at exploring these issues.

Girls is not perfect. It is not a perfect reflection of the way that young women and society exists today. However, that doesn’t mean that the show doesn’t have any value or that there aren’t things that can be taken from it by young women. There is a strong vein of friendship and feminism throughout the show. These women try and support each other, and love each other, for the imperfect beings that they are. To ask the show to be perfect is to ask that young women are perfect, which they are not, we cannot ask them to be.

Have any of you seen the show? What do you think?

Where are all the women? Confessions of a disgruntled (woman) student union president/proud feminist

By Clare Keyes-Liley

Here are some confessions of a proud feminist:

I am in the fourth generation to attend university in my family.

Of these four generations we are all women (my great grandmother was the first woman to study Geology at the University of Queensland in the 1920s, my grandmothers both studied education in the 1950s and my mother studied law in the 1980s).

I am the first of these generations to not complete my degree at the University of Queensland. I chose to go to La Trobe University in Victoria. A big part of my decision to come to La Trobe was because they are one of the few universities that have a Gender Studies major available in Australia.

You’d think an institution that still funds the Gender Studies major would value women in positions of power?

La Trobe has consistently been ranked a top workplace for women. An accolade the University pulls out whenever and wherever possible. Well here are some more confessions of a disgruntled (woman) student union president.

I sit on various decision making committees across the University in my role as president of the La Trobe University Student Union. One of these is considered an advisory board to the Vice Chancellor. There are approximately 16 members on this committee. Have a wild guess how many are women? Five. That includes me. And the president of the LTSU is not always a woman. La Trobe has approximately 60% women enrolled as students. Yet when it comes to the crucial decision making groups in the University, it is still predominately men that make up these bodies.

Do you think that when my great grandmother started at UQ in the 1920s as the only woman in the room she even considered the fact that her great granddaughter would be one of the only women in the room in 2012? Probably bloody not, Enid Noela Harris (whose mother and grandmother were active in the suffrage movement at the turn of the last century) might have thought, “This is it, I’m in! We’ll have majority before you know it!”

I have had many discussions with various members of senior staff around the severe underrepresentation of women at this University (and ultimately in society) and the need to empower and train and create the kind of environment and workplace that celebrates and promotes women. After all, if there were no students there would be no university. And what would happen if 60% of students decided not to contribute financially, socially and academically to an institution that fails to actively promote their own gender within the institution?

I had thought that this was an internal struggle for women at La Trobe, but apparently not. On the 30th of April La Trobe University tweeted: “POWER : Demetriou, Flannery, Weaven and Manne. Which other @latrobe alumni feature?”. The link is to a list of famous La Trobe graduates. I hope you’ll notice that the top four POWERful graduates are all men.

Is anyone else picking up on a little discourse (note sarcasm: FLASHING, SKY WRITING B I G FUCKING DISCOURSE): Silence Women, Celebrate Men.

Hold up.

Silence? We have the majority, why should we be silenced? 60% isn’t a number to be sniffed at. Numbers speak volumes. This is not good enough, the University knows it. The women in my family didn’t work twice hard as their male classmates for half the recognition for me and my peers to be silenced in our education. No woman in the history of the struggle for equality ever did or ever will.

If La Trobe University wants to continue to be considered a grouse place for women to work then perhaps they should stop with the navel gazing and window dressing gender equality initiatives and actually create an institution that celebrates women and the achievements of the women students, women staff members and women graduates. It would be a start anyway

Thanks for reading

Clare Keyes-Liley.


Clare is the president of the La Trobe Student Union in Victoria. You can follow her on twitter at @ltsu_president 

URM… I’m like, totally a feminist man. Let me in to your friggin’ women’s room

By Kate James

At my campus – and many others – we have a space designated specifically for women. This space, sensibly enough, is known as the women’s room.

Apparently this is the worst thing that ever happened to equality.

This sentiment is incredibly frustrating to me. Most of the time I think it’s borne out of ignorance of just how much discrimination and oppression women still face. We exist in a social climate that promotes the idea that sexism is over, that men and women are on an equal footing (or even that women have gotten greedy and now men are the ones in trouble). This is, frankly, a load of shit.

I’ve heard the argument that men are being pushed out of the jobs they deserve to make way for women, however:

  • Women chair only two per cent of ASX200 companies (four boards), hold only 8.3% of Board Directorships, hold only four CEO positions and make up only 10.7% of executive management positions.
  • In 2008, women held 5.9% of line executive management positions in ASX 200 companies; a decrease from 7.5% in 2006. Line executive management experience is considered essential for progressing to top corporate positions.
  • Women make up a third of members on Australian Government Boards and Committees.
  • Despite comprising more than half of all Commonwealth public servants, women make up only 37% of the Senior Executive Service.

I’ve heard that violence against women is a thing of the past, a rare occurrence that is blown way out of proportion. Unfortunately:

  • One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
  • Nearly one in five Australian women has experienced sexual assault since the age of 15.
  • Reporting and conviction rates for violence against women in Australia remain low. Only one in three women who experienced physical assault by a male perpetrator in the last 12 months reported the assault to the police, while just one in five who experienced sexual assault by a male perpetrator reported the assault

I’m no mathematician, but I think it’s safe to say that these statistics don’t paint the picture of a fair and balanced society, let alone some sort of conspiratorial matriarchy.

A woman recently told me that it was unfair that men aligned to feminism, men who actually believe in and fight for the end of gendered oppression, could not enter the women’s room. Shouldn’t it be a space where everyone committed to equality could congregate? Well, the thing is, I don’t think that being a man and believing in feminism makes you special or awesome. It makes you a decent person. It also doesn’t mean you forgo your privilege. And if a hypothetical man is actually pro-feminist, then I’m not sure why he would deny any of that.

There is so, so much in our society that does constitute discrimination. There are so many important issues to address. I don’t want to stifle discussion; when I’m challenged on the women’s room issue I genuinely try to be informative rather than defensive or dismissive. I’ll be honest, though: I find the rationale behind the women’s room fairly self-evident, and I think that if you’re going to be passionate about something to do with gendered oppression there are more pressing topics – topics that actually do constitute oppression, for a start.

All statistics taken from the Australian Human Rights Commission Gender Equality Blueprint 2010, available at

Kate James is the Women’s Officer at the Monash Student Association. You can see their website here or join the women’s Facebook page here


A woman needs a man, Bettina Arndt, please stop a moment while I vomit all over you.


I’m usually not a religious women, but I swear, I will drop to my knees pray to God, Jesus, The Virgin Mother, The Prophet Muhammad, Buddha, the goddess or whoever, to make Bettina Arndt shut her mouth and crawl into a cave.

Honestly, if there ever was a woman who is more fascinated with the fucking shadows on the wall it is she. I don’t know if Plato would envision the form of the evil, gender traitor piece of rubbish commentator but if there is one, I have named the Bettina Arndt.

Please stop a moment while I vomit all over the women’s laptop (sorry NUS) because I’ve been forced to read Arndt’s stupid waste of oxygen/print/time piece in yesterday’s paper online (read it here). I usually avoid you due to your tendency to make me dry wretch but sadly, it’s past midnight on what is now technically Monday morning and I’m in desperate need of a blog post.

Okay, confession, I haven’t actually read the entire thing, I am a bad, bad blogger who will not sacrifice my dinner (a home made pastie if anyone is interested) for the sake of my craft. It’s the internet, so sue me. I got the gist of it, which was more than enough, it would appear that the lovely Ms Arndt is talking about the ‘buyers market’ which apparently exists for men on the prowl for a wife.

All these stupid women who are now in their thirties that spent their 20’s out ‘getting an education, a career and playing the field’ who are now totally fucked. ‘Cos they’ve gone out and done what my ex’s grandmother once told me was ‘getting herself over educated’ (the unspoken suffix of which was ‘for a woman’). Stupid, stupid woman. No one wants a lady that’s smarter than they are, your PhD makes it a bit to obvious to them love.

Arndt’s conclusion, which is a lesson to any of you single twenty somethings out there, is to be looking for your ‘Mr Right, right now’. Don’t wait, because once you hit the bit 3-0 then your life will be over, you may as well go out, adopt some cats and start getting your hair set in those curlers. Because your double degree is going to be the only thing keeping you warm at night. Sorry ladies.

Putting aside the heteonormative and offensive nature of this article I’m going to fall back on that old chestnut of the feminist movement. Namely, a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. What’s more if my generation of men turns out to be as intimidated by an intelligent, independent, educated woman then they’re a bunch of stupid babies anyway. If they don’t get to breed then it’s Darwinian baby!

I’m no more capable of being a purveyor of knowledge or advice as a commentator than one Ms Arndt, however, I would like to point out that I’ve been on this earth for some 21 years and I have a feeling that the level of respect and admiration that I hold for women that I’ve met is greater than anything that Bettina Arndt would be capable of.

This generation of women, those before and those that come after, are absolutely breathtaking. The brave feminists of the past did not fight for the vote, for the right of representation and education, for people like Bettina Arndt to tell us that we need to stop our education, our sexual liberation and our careers, for the sole purpose of gaining a husband.

In this generation of women there will be female prime ministers, premiers, there will be the women that lead the trade union movement, there will be Nobel Prize winners and novelists, there will be trail blazers and champions, they will take that glass ceiling and smash it into tiny pieces. Some of those women will be wives and mothers and some of them won’t be.

I hope that some of those women will have the opportunity to be the wives to wives when we end the injustice and embrace equal marriage. Some of those women won’t get married at all, Ms Arndt, and that will be completely fine too.

So, Bettina, Darling, I repeat that a woman needs  a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Now, excuse me while I vomit all over you.