Tag Archives: feminism

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.

 

Advertisements

An open letter

gender

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’.

ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME!

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

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

On the Offensive: A Case for Furious Feminism

its ok to be angry

Alison is just a really angry person who has been blessed with being UTS Wom*n’s Officer for 2013. Alison liked to write letters to the editor before the internet made it the bastion of time-rich conservatives. In leiu of this, Alison likes to be an advocate and, short of a serious criminal record or parking fine, will hopefully one day be of the silk or in a suit, yelling at people for a living.

 

Wom*n’s bodies have been the site of patriarchal conquest for aeons, and if you’re reading this blog, I’m sure I don’t have to delve much into that conquest. But how often do we think about the conquest of more abstract rights, bodies and expressions of wom*nhood and feminism? And how do we negotiate these when, as wom*n, we have internalised a great deal of social boundaries regarding what conduct is proper?

I’m talking about emotions, specifically, anger, and its expression in feminist circles.

Why is it that a man’s anger on wom*n’s issues (read: White Ribbon Day) is noble and righteous, but a wom*n’s (read: Every Other Frickin’ Day) is unreasonable, embarrassing and laughable? For a man to sway with rhetoric and quaver his voice with passion was the sign of a good speaker. A wom*n’s furious vibrato is nothing but hysteria.

For an embarrassingly long time, the man thinkers of the day treated a wom*n’s unruly emotions in the most patronising, pathological and bizarre way. It was considered that an angry, upset or noticeably emotional people with egg-producing reproductive organs had the condition hysteria, and for some time, it was thought that egg-producing reproductive organs were malfunctioning, spurting hormones everywhere or leaping about the body, inducing within the wom*n some unnatural and perverse state in which she expressed unpalatable feelings, often relating to grief.

The vibrator was invented as a more automated treatment after doctors subjected wom*n to manual stimulation (read: sexual assault) in order to ‘cure’ this grave condition and the scourge on society that an angry wom*n was.

In particular WOC and ATSI wom*n have suffered significantly under this construct, denied rights and believed to be racially inferior due to their non-complicity with colonialism (see: Sapphire caricature). It’s apparently funny, even meme-worthy, for a WOC or ATSI wom*n to express fury or upset. Some of my un-favourites include “Aboriginal Woman Yells at Man on Train Lolz” or, if you want to delve into history “African-American Woman Gets Angry When She’s Catcalled ROFLMAO”.

We have a long and grievous history in which we have been subjugated, bodily, ideologically and physically based on our anger for an infuriatingly long time.

Cut to today and one would guess that this would be an issue solved and lain in our past.

I wish it was so.

Feminism has this bizarre lateral trend which I have noticed where we call out people for calling out, we bring shame and scorn upon those wom*n who yell at the patriarchy. We are happy to make subversive bunting, but very unhappy to back a wom*n up in a confrontation against her cat-caller, a misogynist bro in caucus or in a fight with a microagressively sexist friend.

And I’ve tried this ‘Nice Wom*n: Please, Sir, I Can Haz Rights Nao’ thing, and it is soul-destroying. I grew sick of explaining things to people for whom patriarchy and feminism was a series of non-sequiturs and strawman arguments. When people would see a wom*n’s cheeks become flushed as they pick apart her experiences under a lexical microscope and laugh because she takes it too seriously. But a Daily Life, Mama Mia, Kochie’s Angels brand of feminism is riling against that, saying that we’re something more, that Angry Feminism is something that we should move beyond, that it’s a stereotype and that Feminist Killjoys and Misandrists are forcing everyone to shy away from the big F word.

I’m not for a second going to tell you what to feel or how to act, and I can tell you that acting on my feminist anger has won me exactly zero friends, zero jobs, and zero Mama Mia articles on my nifty range of cunt-cakes, yet has stirred within me a huge affirmation for my ideas, an understanding of my self-worth, a more complex contemplation of intersectionality and my role in the activist realm. My anger is a great enabler, it drives me to get things done, it drives me to examine privilege and it drives me to consider my feminism in forever changing lights and to temper my anger with pragmatic empathy, not to those who perpetuate ‘-isms’, but with those who are subject to them.

This is not a free-for-all pass to screaming. We must also consider the safety of others. But we must also consider substantive violence. A yell here or there may be nothing compared to years of lateral ideological subjugation and cruelty. A yell may be just and furious and fitting in all the right ways for a person who has been subject to this cruelty and, though it is not the focus, may bring a shameful call to action for the receiver. A yell, though, may also trigger a stander-by with significant history, and so we must be careful.

But these things haven’t really been mapped out yet, or set for negotiation, because respectability politics and the cringe of the modern feminist at the howling, unshaven, buzz-cut hulk of a feminism supposedly passed, have yet to really shift and make space for such a discussion. The answer has always been a resounding ‘No’, even from our own, an ejection from the feminist table.

It’s alright, if you want to, to be that rabid, furious, screaming, crying feminist, because it is nothing else but your prerogative, your right, and potentially, your joy.

And, in the face of things, there’s a lot to be furious about (here’s a sampler of some pretty standard run-of-the-mill bullshit).

  • With every student/pensioner/everything discount you can pull, the average cost (excluding transport, accommodation, time off work, recovery and pain medication) of a medical or surgical termination from a not-for-profit is $300;
  • Forced sterilisation of (dis)abled wom*n is still happening;
  • Revenge porn is a thing;
  • Sistagirls (trans* ATSI wom*n) are still dying in custody in men’s prisons and no-one’s saying a word;
  • Nice Guys ™ are everywhere right now, and they’re going undercover, without their fedoras and chain wallets;

And my un-favourite;

  • We’re encouraged to be polite in the face of all this.

 

By

Alison Wonderwound

UTS Womens Officer 2013

 

 

 

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

article-2201053-14F0AE6C000005DC-149_634x362

 

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:

GQ

 

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.

By

Lorelei Links

University of Queensland 

.

No Turning Back

Hola,

So! As O’weeks start to roll around, it’s time to re-launch the new look blog and start looking forward to the rest of the year. This will be a very busy year for Womens departments around the country; not only because the national gender pay gap widened last year, but because sexual assault rates are still disgustingly high, childcare remains inaccessible to many, there are groups still actively campaigning to remove women’s right to autonomy over her own body and women are still facing domestic violence. Women are still far less likely to be CEOs, Members of Parliament, published authors, be signed to major record labels or reach the top of any of their chosen fields BUT Tony Abbott has a legitimate chance of being our Prime Minister.

This is the reality that I find the scariest; Potential Prime Minister Abbott. The man who supports the return of  ‘at-fault divorce’. The man who, when legislation that would allow parents to view their teenagers Medicare consults and claims said “children should not be presumed to be the best judges of their own long-term interests … it is the responsibility of government – and doctors – … to support parental authority.” The man who, when Health Minister, attempted to keep the authorisation of RU486 under his complete control. The man who also misrepresented statistics and regularly attacked and demonised women who sought to access abortions. He said abortions were a ‘National tragedy’ and left a ‘legacy of shame’. The man who, last time he was in government, said “Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this Government’s dead body, frankly.”

This is a year that we need to put our differences aside and work together to further the cause. We need to continue our work to close the gender pay gap, to put an end to sexual assault, to campaign for accessible access to childcare, to ensure that on September 14 when Australians go to the ballot box they know what is in store for them if Tony Abbott is elected.

Right now I think it is important to not only look forward, but also to consider the past to see where we have succeeded and where we can grow. The Womens department has been one of the most active in recent years- this is something that I am very keen to continue with campaigns running throughout the year which will tackle sexual assault, societal sexism, equal pay and of course – Tony Abbott. With the assistance of campus Womens Officers, feminist and Womens collectives and student organisations as a whole, I want to have an open dialogue with every Womens Officer around the country so that we can work together to tackle the issues affecting women on each and every campus and around the nation.

It is also important for us not to focus solely on womens issues on university campuses but to acknowledge that many issues women face on campus are because they are prominent in society as a whole, and this year is proving to be jam packed with events and ways for each of us – no matter where we live – to get involved. Upcoming events include

1 billion Rising. 

http://onebillionrising.org

Is aiming to have 1 billion women and those who support women rise up on Valentines Day to end rape and rape culture all around the world.

International Womens Day -THE GENDER AGENDA: Gaining momentum.

http://www.internationalwomensday.com/theme.asp#.URjsabTjZUQ

Every year IWD is celebrated on the 8th of March to celebrate the political, economic and social achievements of women while continuing the fight for true equality. There will be fundraiser breakfasts in Perth, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane as well as other events throughout March.

To those Womens officers, leaders of Feminist and Womens collectives, Womens rights activist around the country who I have not had a chance to speak with yet, please give me a call, flick me an email, tweet at me hell send me a letter I really want to hear from you so we can have a dialogue and work together.

Talk About It! For those of you who don’t know Talk About It is a survey that is ran biannually that looks into assault, sexual assault and rape that is perpetrated against women and women identifying university students. It is a 100% confidential online survey that only takes 15 minuets to fill out and will help provide statistics for the report to outline the problem and make universities and colleges stand up and take action. Please take the time to fill it out as it is really important that we get as many responses as possible.  You can find the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=phTDc3vHxzLaWfL3F%2fiXldMT%2bbTZKzTy7g2AnVGckgU%3d

Finally I would like to – on behalf of Women around the country – thank Noni Sproule (2012 National Womens Officer) for her hard work and dedication to the position in spite of the personal attacks and demonization she faced at times. I know that I have learnt a lot from her as many have and hope to continue on her hard work in the department.  We wish you the best of luck in your post NUS endeavours. Thank you Noni!

Cheers

Mikaela Wangmann

NUS National Womens Officer 2013

These streets are ours- and other words you never thought you’d hear coming out of ‘left wing’ male mouths.

 

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?

On anxiety and the feminist movement- how mental health issues made me a ‘bad feminist’

Image

 

 

By Hannah,

This week is mental health week and I wanted to reflect on something that has been bothering me within feminism for a while. While I believe feminism has made amazing inroads into facing up to intersectionality and integrating various oppressions into its movement, I believe there is a fundamental issue which is consistently ignored: mental health issues.

I want to write only on anxiety because that is where I have personal experience. I should state that everyone experiences anxiety (and all mental health issues) differently- and my experiences may be different to others. I acknowledge that anxiety, along with depression gets alot of attention in the media and public discourse, at the expense of other illnesses that are just as important, however with this article, I do not want to generalise about mental health experiences, but instead use my own experiences to hopefully start a larger dialogue.

My first example is from a collective I was involved which was organising events around violence against women. During one meeting in particular, I left quite upset as a result of the discussion we had around sexual assault. One of my friends recommended to me that I simply leave the room when I found discussion triggering. I think I can generalise to say that this is a common recommendation given to people suffering from PTSD and anxiety. Personally, I found that suggestion inadequate. By having to leave the room I am highlighting to everyone that I have problems with these issues. While there is nothing wrong with being upset or triggered by particular topics, and alot of people feel comfortable speaking about their experiences with mental illness; some people don’t- and having to out themselves as suffering from anxiety certainly isn’t going to alleviate it.

But more importantly, it shouldn’t simply be the person who suffers from anxiety who has to ensure that a space is safe for them- it should be everyone’s responsibility. As I stated earlier, I believe feminism has made significant progress in ensuring intersectionality and the removal of language which is offensive to particular groups- but I don’t see that in regards to anxiety.

To use another example, I recently had a discussion with some women about an upcoming rally in Sydney. These women were frustrated that the rally would also have events that were not traditional protests as they believed it would detract from the importance of the march. When I stated that I was happy with the new format because it made the event accessible to people with certain physical disabilities and people who may feel uncomfortable marching at night because of anxiety, I was berated as not being committed to ‘real’ feminist protest. Obviously, I found this offensive. I think re-examining the way we go about protest is definitely called for. While I enjoy rallies, they can be alienating for a range of people, and I don’t think it is too much to ask that we run other forms of protest alongside rallies so that all voices can be heard- regardless of abilities.

I have been thinking about things that can be implemented to make feminist organising and protest a safer space for women with anxiety. I personally believe progressive speaking lists should be implemented and upheld to ensure that everyone’s voices can be heard and anxiety-inducing conflict can be minimised. I also think that electing a grievance officer no matter how informal a collective/event is, ensures that we are all constantly considering how spaces can be kept safe and inclusive. These are, however, only from my own experiences and I want to reiterate that each experience is different. I encourage you to start a dialogue with any collectives you are involved in and consider implementing simple steps to ensure that the invaluable opinions of people with anxiety continue to be heard.

Blue Stockings Week Dance!

Are you ready for Blue Stockings Dance? Or Blue Stockings?

We’re pretty excited because we’ve put a dance-o-mercial or dance lesson (to be boring) on youtube to teach y’all how to do the dance! You can learn it alone, with your collective or as a flash mob and record it and send it to us so we can cut it all together!

If you’re from Victoria you’ll have two exciting opportunities to do the dance with other people from around the state. First will be at the launch of Blue Stockings at Eagle Bar, La Trobe University Bundoora for the launch with Jane Garrett MP and Jeannie Rae, NTEU National President! Then on Friday the 10th at 10am on the steps of the state library on Swanston street in the city we will be flashing our stockings and dancing up a storm!

Are you ready for Blue Stockings?

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?