Monday, December 30, 2013

Not a rant. Just a site update

I would like to apologise to a couple of people who had written comments for me via the "note about this proudly biased site" tab. Unfortunately, this page, being my adopted site guidelines page, was never intended to be open for comment. It was an oversight and one which I have now corrected via the page settings. As such, the comments people had written have been hidden, regardless of whether I allowed them in the first place. 

I still have a record of the comments left, but again I apologise for their removal. My blogposts are always open for comment (moderated though, as is my right) and will continue to be. If you do wish to contact me directly, rather than leaving a comment on a more general part of this site, I suggest you drop me an email via blackfeministranter@hotmail.com. Thanks!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Why I prefer "black"

Earlier this week I had the question put to me regarding what term I prefer to use when describing my background from Dad's side of the family. My answer was "Black". Previously when I have stated this I have been queried by non-Indigenous people, some who have even deemed the term offensive because it focuses on appearance; or so it has been interpreted anyway. I have, however, long preferred "black" and the many associated terms. Because of how things can be misinterpreted, and because correct terminology is contentious at this time in the community, I thought I would take the opportunity to state why I prefer "black" and what it means to me.

In the first instance, when referring to my identity I would say "Arrernte Australian". "Arrernte" is my tribal background and comes from three branches of my father's extended family. "Australian" is from my mother's side. My father wasn't considered Australian until he was 17 years old, so I find the term "First Australians" particularly irksome and historically inaccurate. Aboriginal people were the last people to be considered "Australian" in this country, and even the last people to be considered "people" and to gloss over that by using the term "First Australians" washes history clean. Plus it's a term used in a Seekers song which I find irritating and which Pauline Hanson was once filmed singing...

I've digressed. At this point in time, a lot of our community organisations are dropping the term "Indigenous"; which came into popular usage when Amanda Vanstone was the Minister for Indigenous Affairs (amongst other ministries, all of which suffered) and returning to "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander" with the acronym "ATSI". We've talked about doing the same at work. The logic behind this change back is twofold and understandable:

  • There are two broader groups of Indigenous people of Australia and to homogenise these distinct groups by using an umbrella term like "Indigenous" is limiting and offensive
  • The term "Indigenous" itself is nondescript meaning "native to the land". Rednecks like to appropriate the term stating that as they were born here so they're native as well and therefore indigenous. "Aborigine", on the other hand means "an original inhabitant of a country or region who has been there from the earliest known times" therefore making the distinction "original" where the term "indigenous" does not.
When it comes to either of these terms, I use them both as umbrella terminology; for sheer convenience when talking of the population as a whole, or when making the distinction between mainlanders and islanders. I will also use them to describe myself when talking to mainstream people who would be confused by the term "Arrernte". I would rarely use the term "Aboriginal Australian" though because whilst "Arrernte" refers to a tribal nation, "Aboriginal" does not and as someone who is in the sovereignty/treaty camp I prefer reinforcing sovereignty by stating my "nationhood" (for want of a better term). "Australian" is exclusively, in my case, used to refer to my mother's side of the family and I never identify as just Australian. Personally though, I have no real love for the term "Aboriginal" nor for the term "Indigenous" and a lot of the discussion now on correct terminology to use for our orgs and ourselves is not something I passionately align myself with.

I do like many of our regional collective terms eg: Koorie, Goori, Palawa, Murri etc and am generally happy to be referred to by them for convenience, but being Arrernte and coming from a region where we don't use collective terms apart from greater tribal groupings, I am technically none of those. These terms, however, are all derived from language and therefore come from our own entomologies which is preferable to the imposed "Aboriginal".

When referring to myself, though, and when not using "Arrernte", I tend to use the term "Black". Why? Because in this country the term "Black" carries a lot of political weight. It is a term that we're reclaimed. After years of removal policies and stolen generations based on the tone of one's skin and their alleged blood quanta, to state that you are "Black" regardless of what your actual tone is is defiant. It reinforces otherness in the face of assimilation policies proudly. People fear that otherness, as has been illustrated by some media columns, when what they should do is embrace it and recognise that it is important and something to celebrate. 

I don't use the term "person/woman of colour" for myself because, from an Aboriginal perspective, this phrase does not carry the same political weight and indeed, to be "of colour" to me is to also be comfortable with people defining my background by those old blood quanta percentages, which I reject. Additionally, I also quite like other reclaimed terms such as "mob" whilst also referring to non-Indigenous people as "non-mob". That a term used pejoratively when we were under the Flora and Fauna Act can now be a colloquial reclaimed collectivist term is something I quite like. 

Now here's the thing: this is not a how-to guide when defining people's backgrounds. As I have stated earlier, we are not homogenous, and whilst I've stated and defined why I like and dislike various terms, other people do not feel the same way. And nor should they. It's up to the individual, the family, the community to define what they are most comfortable with and for others to respect that. Too many times I have seen non-Indigenous people state what the preferred terms for Indigenous people are based on what they have been told at one point or what they assume from their gathered knowledge, and I have shuddered at what they have come up with. Don't tell; ask! Then go from there. You can bet after years of being defined by the government we have some very strong opinions.   
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EDIT: I have been asked questions re: Flora and Fauna Act, and fair enough too. I have not published these questions. I am referring to state Acts such as the one that existed in NSW and mentioned by Linda Burney in her maiden speech, but have worded this badly. In light of this, I have asked them to remove this line in the Daily Life version to avoid confusion

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Further to my piece on sexism, racism and the AFL

After my article went live on Monday, I received a lot more attention than I anticipated. Being critical of the AFL is apparently a sure-fire way to generate some hits. Apart from appearing on The Drum; which was a wonderful and terrifying experience for me because I was a live cross and all I had was an earpiece (no screen to watch the panel) with my woeful ears; I dodged a lot of questions and comments and went to ground by concentrating on my day job. The joys of being an INFP...

The reasons I write this are two-fold. Firstly, whilst I am happy with my piece there is a lot more that I could have written on the topic but we are always limited by word counts. Interviews are supposed to create an opportunity to expand, but I'm still learning to accept the fact that I have published articles now, let alone the fact that folks may wish to talk to me. Secondly, some of the questions raised created interested points for further discussion. Some of this discussion would have been stuff I would have definitely covered in a longer piece and some of this was additional.

Last night on Facebook, I posted up a status update, highlighting some of the additional stuff I would have covered. Here they are:


1. I would have included a part regarding the LFL talking about how it is that even when women engage in high profile sport, how they look playing it is perceived as being more important


In addition to the Brownlow Night point, I also feel it is important to look at women's sport as a whole. Women work their guts out on the fields constantly. They work just as hard, if not harder, than the men. In comparison though, they receive very little recognition for their efforts and dedication. Their sponsorship is chicken feed and their professional earnings, with only a couple of exceptions, amount to pocket money in comparison to what men in AFL will make. In addition, society itself, due to a deeply embedded culture of believing women's sport is not as good due to their lesser physical capabilities (or something) or that a woman's place is not on the field. For further information, please revisit the kind of slurs you hear directed to male players when they are perceived to not be playing their best game. Our amazing Australian women's cricket team which continually brings home the trophies gets zero recognition compared to our currently mediocre men's team. Our almost unbeatable netballers get paid about $15k in their rookie year, compared to the $130k AFL players get. Each year, the Deadly Awards offer three sports categories for men to win in, one unisex category and one for women. You get my drift.

And this is where the Lingerie Football League, or "Legends Football League" as it has now been rebranded (to stop the evil feminists howling, I assume) comes in. Like the Brownlow, how women look becomes the main reason to celebrate them. Most women's sports can barely get coverage, yet throw some flimsy garments on the athletes designed to "expose" if they get ripped and suddenly there's interest from the commercial stations in broadcasting it and the beer companies in sponsoring it. Suddenly, hoards of drooling neanderthals wish to view women's sport. One of the more idiotic comments I have heard on the LFL is that these women "choose" to undertake the sport so who am I to judge? Frankly, I'm not judging these women. I am judging a socially-embedded culture that ignores women's sporting achievements unless they're playing in their knickers. I'm judging TV stations for deeming this game to be of interest. I'm judging sponsors for only supporting exploitive and titillating women's games.  And I am judging male sports' stars for buying into the culture that they are utter gods and not generally assisting in the push for equality.

2. I would have also mentioned how when race and sexism intersect, St. Kilda consider it too hot to handle and move straight away to dismiss players even when that player is eventually acquitted


I talk here of course of the case of Andrew Lovett and how quickly he was stood down when he was charged with rape. Why was it that he was treated differently to Milne? Or rather, why was Milne treated differently to Lovett and not also stood down immediately without apprehension and without the teammate sideshow? It may be as simple as Lovett not being around as long as Milne and therefore not considered as valuable a player, but I also have to speculate whether the intersection of race and sexism made him too much of a hot potato to handle; by the club and by his teammates. Lovett was eventually acquitted but he was not brought back into the fold. Was he still considered too hot to handle despite his acquittal? Although Milne has now retired, it will be telling to see what happens beyond his case when it comes to his old club. 

Despite their many strides towards combating racism, I wonder whether the AFL is adequately equipped to address when issues intersect. My article title stated that "The AFL is doing great when it comes to racism" but this was a hook and I didn't write it. If this were the case we wouldn't have the moronic Eddie McGuire making comments about King Kong promotions. My honest belief was furthered a bit in my interview that night, and is that whilst the AFL has made great strides, it still has a long way to go. They will continue learning and racism will keep pushing the boundaries and that's just the way it works. A place to start will be looking at how Aboriginal players are treated differently when issues such as sexual assault arise and developing a consistent policy that is applied to such players, but also shows the general public that they take such accusations seriously and have an actual process for dealing with it. This would additionally assist in combating the football player culture of entitlement to women that seems to permeate so many of the football codes.

I need to additionally stress that male football players are not helpless victims of evil female accusers here even though they are painted and perceived as such. The reality of the situation is that 70-85% of sexual assaults go unreported. For every 10 cases that actually get to trial, only 1 will end in conviction and indeed, rape has one of the lowest conviction rates of all crimes. The false report rate is thought to be only 2-3%. The likelihood, therefore, that women who report being assaulted by football players are "making it up" is incredibly low and accusers are very unlikely to be successful if they do try and fight for justice. The system IS NOT against football players, it's against female victims.   

3. I would have found more players who have shirked the culture to highlight as examples of what the code should aspire to.
 

Heritier Lumumba continues to amaze me. I have never seen him play yet I have followed his journey. I have seen his posts on asylum seeker rights. I have followed him and his numerous stands against homophobia, sexism, racism etc. He seems to have developed more consistency in these stances as he's grown. I have seen him openly suffer pain in the public eye using his platform to draw understanding of mental health issues. He has been on a journey and I believe he is going to continue to be an inspirational leader well into the future.

He's probably not the only one, but when comes to naming others I am truly stuck. I would dearly love it if people took the time to point me to a few people via the comments section. In Rugby Union, I can name David Pocock immediately who, with his wife Emma, does amazing work. But finding pro-feminist footballers in any code seems to be like finding a needle in a hay stack. Oh, and don't bother suggesting White Ribbon Day endorsers. I've already said enough about them in my article...

4. I would have highlighted how sexism also fuels homophobia in the code

Why has no football player come out yet publicly? Why is it such a risk for them to do so? Why are we yet to see a boyfriend of a player join the women on the Brownlow Night rotisserie? (That's a joke. I never want to see a poxy rotisserie ever again). Only a couple of years ago, when Akermanis made those comments about shower rooms, there was talk of a player gearing up to make an announcement and this never eventuated. I wasn't surprised by this. A homophobic culture is bad enough, but what about a homophobic culture within a hypermasculine culture? Not just within the clubs either, but within society itself? 

Women have no place within football culture bar being ornamental, and when they do make in-roads, such as by joining a commentary team, they're usually treated by the public as if they're intruding. They're excluded due to this hypermasculine culture. Gay men also threaten this hypermasculine culture because they don't live up to the stereotype of the conquering burly hero who has women chasing him and ends up landing a supermodel wife. This is a simplistic explanation, but gay men are still stereotyped as effeminate; their sexual activities still seen as an act of submission to men which is considered the traditional realm of women (regardless of whether we women actually live up to that expectation). While sexism is still an issue, so too is anything that is seen as "feminine". Men who break the hypermasculine mould via their sexuality will find it difficult to be open in the AFL, and other football codes, until some of this embedded sexism is broken down and to be a woman, or woman-like by virtue of the fact that you sleep with other men rather than "conquer women", is not to be considered second class.

Two final notes: Firstly, society is definitely still racist and sexist. It doesn't always work this way, but I think that those who are "othered" have a unique opportunity to break moulds because they don't generally fit them well to begin with. Their very presence challenges the embedded cultures and stereotypes. Therefore I think those that who are marginalised within the game by virtue of race; and yes, I do believe people are still marginalised because of race regardless of what moves the AFL has made; have the ability to challenge other boundaries. They have a greater capacity to join forces and show solidarity with other marginalised groups, challenging "the establishment". A minority which joins forces quickly becomes a majority. And the AFL has a responsibility to listen and learn.

Secondly, I never again want to hear anyone excusing the behaviour of men in the AFL. They can play football, but they are still responsible for their actions. Women are blamed because AFL players are not seen as being responsible for their actions. Laddish, thuggish behaviour is excused. People are still idolised no many how many violent incidents they're involved in, how many women they've sexually assaulted, how many drugs they've snorted, how many times they're bailed out. The ability to kick a football is not more important than justice and human rights, and a person does not become above facing justice or respecting another person's human rights if they can kick a football. Making football a place where women are celebrated as much as men is a huge part of this. Shifting society's views dramatically is also a huge part. 

I think that's all ;)
 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why, why, why, "vagina"?

This has been bugging me for a while. What I'm about to rant about is nothing new. Thousands, probably millions, of feminists have ranted about it before me, and will have ranted about it better too. But this has been building for a long time, and it may be therapeutic for me to finally just write this down and emancipate myself from the rage. So here goes:

I AM SICK TO DEATH OF THE WORD "VAGINA"!

Now that that is out of the way, allow me to clarify. Vaginas are wonderful, magnificent parts of a woman's anatomy. They can give birth; give pleasure. They're strong and resilient. And somewhere along the way they have managed to become the only part of a woman's genitalia that's worth mentioning. In fact, the word has morphed and the wonderfully complex variety of folds, nerves, mounds down there are all collectively and colloquially as "the vagina". At the end of the day, that's the only really important bit, right?

Well no. It really isn't. To suggest it is is about as heteronormative and misogynistic as you can get. It undoes a fair chunk of work those feminists back in the 70s did of not only ensuring women knew their genitalia had different parts that are all important, but also re-including clitorises in medical textbooks after they had been omitted for decades. I'm not being over-the-top here, I promise. It's just that I can't think of a single time where I have heard the entirety of a man's genitalia referred to as "the penis". Generally speaking, we tend to acknowledge that there are other bits there that have importance and refer to them accordingly.

Yes, occasionally we do hear about the other parts of female genitalia, but at this point in time, they hardly seem to be being celebrated. Sometimes the clitoris is mentioned as a source of pleasure, but if women's sexual pleasure was actually central then I have to wonder why we don't hear the entire area being referred to as the "clitoris" rather than the "vagina". To be crude about it, I feel it's really no coincidence that the bit that gets a penis inserted into it in good, clean, heterosexual, reproductive sex is the part that is centralised. 

Sometimes this manifests in funny, or rather shallow ways. The Great Wall of Vagina; supposed to be celebrating the amazing variety and uniqueness of women's genitalia; doesn't actually feature a single vagina. The artist states
For many women their genital appearance is a source of anxiety and I was in a unique position to do something about that" yet ironically chose to use the name of the bit you can't actually see in his moulds because it is internal as the title for his work. 101 Vagina does actually go to great lengths explaining the choice of the title of this word in quite a valid way, until you get to the claim that the term "vagina" carries more stigma than the term "vulva". I don't actually agree with that claim. Sure, I think society is utterly terrified by vaginas and their bearers. At least though vaginas seem to be seen as essential. They're not seen as expendable like the poor vulva-situated labia minora seems to be according to the vast increase in labiaplasty over the past 10 years.

101 Vagina also argues that the word "vagina" has both anatomical and colloquial meaning and that both these meanings have validity. I agree with that, but would argue that there is no point acknowledging there is a colloquial understanding of a term unless you're willing to examine why this may have came about and what it signifies. Additionally, it seems to me that proudly using the word "vagina" is part of a reclamation exercise many feminists are undertaking to remove shame from the term and actually celebrate women's genitalia. Considering that the most offensive swear word in the English language at this point in time is a word used to describe women's genitalia, it's a perfectly understandable reclamation. But what exactly are we reclaiming here? And why wouldn't we reclaim the lot of it, proudly naming each and every part and celebrating their unique functions?     

What I'd argue we're reclaiming is a simplistic understanding of women's anatomy that is also quite heteronormative and potentially quite harmful. Previously mentioned, I do have to wonder if a lack of pride and reclamation of the other parts may contribute to some severe body issues. The rise in labiaplasty has been well-documented, and a great deal of it has been attributed to pornography where short labia minora are zoomed in for a close-up. Other sources include Australian decency laws which deem that the female genital area needs to be “neat and tidy”. Of course if the main sources of comparison are either chopped or “shopped”, women may start to believe they're not normal, but could the idea that these are secondary parts when compared to the vagina be contributing? What about that wonderful pleasure centre; the clitoris? A great percentage of women have never experienced an orgasm in their lives, and I have to wonder again if the view that the clitoris is somewhat secondary to the vagina might be interfering with the sexual enjoyment of a lot of women.

Admittedly, when I have heard of women getting their “vagina waxed”, I may have giggled to myself picturing an extraordinarily contortive woman, or alternatively mused about odd medical conditions. I hardly claim to be mature... I also admit that I have previously been curious about these many artistic works geared around celebrating women's anatomy, at one stage even pondering taking part in such a project. I eventually decided not to after thinking on it because ultimately I do think it is more powerful to emancipate ourselves entirely from the notion of any sort of “normal” here. None of us look the same anywhere else so why do we need to prove that we're not the same when it comes to genitalia by putting it on display? Can't we teach acceptance and diversity by reinforcing body positivity all over from the time a girl is young? For me, the real issue is how female bodies are continually scrutinised from the time they are born into this world, and perhaps less focus on how any woman looks anywhere may assist.

But I've diverged. The crux of the original matter for me is this: we need to start naming and understanding the entirety of a woman's genitalia. Focussing on the vagina ends up framing it as the most important bit. It also possibly frames PiV sex as the most important type, and it potentially leads to the rest of the area being seen as secondary. Words do have colloquial meanings, but those meanings always come from somewhere. Frankly, when it comes to my own anatomy and the anatomy of other women, I'd prefer not to reinforce the ideas that led to the colloquialism forming as I think it's limiting and potentially damaging. I'm all for reclaiming terms related to women's anatomy but I would prefer that it is done comprehensively and accurately so that we're celebrating an entire area and informing women of the importance of these parts. Referring constantly to “the vagina” doesn't do this.

Reckon that's about it ;)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

On black feminist bungee jumping

Found my photos of this the other day, and thought I would share the video.

Before I go into it, some context. The year was 2005. I was 27 years old with rather normal hair, a few additional kilos, and the same attitude. I was in a quite horrible relationship, at the time. This was also the first time I had ever been overseas.

A slow developer on the globe-trotting side of things, I went to NZ for the World Indigenous Peoples' Conference in Education (WIPC:E). It was an incredibly transformative experience for me, and whilst I was always politically-motivated and engaged prior to that point, I think after experiencing all those Indigenous cultures from across the world, and also seeing how much more Maori culture was embraced in Aotearoa compared to Aboriginal culture in Australia, I became somewhat more radicalised. There is nothing quite like overseas travel for opening your eyes and your mind.

Following WIPC:E, I hired a car and travelled around the North Island of NZ solo; staying in many backpacker hostels and having a brilliant time experiencing the culture, the land, the food, and the thermal pools. The sheer freedom of solo travel is something I have replicated a few times since, and truth be told, I actually wonder if I would be able to stand travelling with anyone else!

But what's NZ without a good bungee jump, hey? Yes, there was a feminist tale behind this jump. I had planned to do something extreme sport-y whilst there, and was driving around Taupo when I came across a nearly 50m cantilever platform jump. I went to have a look and saw three blokes all line up for their jumps, but no women. I figured I couldn't let the patriarchy have all the fun, so paid my money and took the leap. The rest is in the video.

It's quite an amazing moment for me. I don't think I would be able to do it now, because water-plunges are not exactly brilliant for bad ears. Also, post-car accident, I would probably cause myself even more injury. Knowing though that I could do it, and that I did do it, has stayed with me ever since, and I am really proud that I took that impulsive leap. If anything, it means that I learnt that pushing boundaries and stepping outside comfort zones, whilst sometimes terrifying, can lead to wonderful experiences. I had always been good with pushing boundaries (mainly because those boundaries were usually crap) but this heightened it.

Anyway, enjoy, and listen out for the corny line as I talk to the people in the dingy ;)


Thursday, September 26, 2013

4 days until Frocktober!

I'm not doing Frocktober this year, as an entire month of wearing dresses, shaving armpits/legs and putting on bras was just far too much for me! Thanks to the generosity of so many though, I raised over $2700 last year for ovarian cancer research. People also got a good giggle at my expense which is always wonderful ;)

For more information on the cause, check out the Frocktober websites:


FACEBOOK


OFFICIAL SITE


Additionally, if you wish to read about me whinging about adhering to socially-enforced femininity for an entire month, check out my blog entries:

YES, YES, I WEAR A DRESS


FROCKTOBER - A CHECK IN

FROCKTOBER #3 - WHY I HAVE CHOSEN MY HIGH SCHOOL UNIFORM AS MY FINAL FROCK

And finally, here are some pics just to prove what a flippin' awesome op-shopper I am! You can't generally get me to go clothes shopping at the best of times, yet snaffling through an oppy? No worries!


One or two or three sneak peaks just for your amusement:




Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On being a black lefty feminist with a "posh voice"

I remember when I first moved from Canberra to Melbourne; when I was nearly 14 years old; I kept on saying stuff wrong. For starters, I kept on talking about "Carstlemaine" and mentioned that I was in the "8th grade" ("Year 8", I was sternly corrected). But it was more than that. Apart from being an identifying Aboriginal girl going into an outer suburban public school, I was also told that I had a "posh" accent. It was apparently so refined that I remember once that I was asked whether I was from England.

Possibly the funniest guess I have ever had at my heritage, I have to say.

Anyway, the point is that my alleged accent has been considered a bit of an anomaly over the years, when paired up with the blackness, the working-classness, the incessant left-wing politics and, well, the everything. Whilst now I find those who consider it an anomaly to be quite hilarious, it, like so many other things that make up me, has been part of a bigger journey that today I feel triggered enough to jot down.

See today, I am sitting here, pretty much hanging by a thread. Not only do I seem to be on the longest insomnia curve of my life (we're into the third week now), but I have extraordinary Tinnitus. At this point in time I have another perforated left eardrum; something that has happened to me so many times in my life that I have lost count and now consider it a normal occurrence (twice a year, say). I also have a damaged middle ear that was quite badly infected, or so I was told when I last saw my ENT Specialist two weeks ago. When my ears are ringing like this, the only thing that seems to give relief is sitting with headphones on and blaring music to drown out the noise. Conversing on the phone, or in any other circumstance, is difficult because I get distracted and can go so far as to temporarily forget basics like people's names. I am not entirely sure why I am struggling so much today, and tomorrow will more than likely be better, but I never quite know. 

Ear problems have been an issue I have had for as long as I remember. Whilst it's something that generally children grow out of, mine are going to be an issue for the rest of my life. My Eustachian tubes, thanks to years of infections and a couple of operations along the way, are quite badly scarred which makes them infinitely more susceptible to everything. It's hereditary, and whilst people with Aboriginal heritage are much more likely to have issues with their ears, I also get it from my Mum's side with two close relations having lifelong ear problems as well. Generally, I end up having 1-2 hearing tests per year, and this increases if I get a cold because colds can knock out 50% of my hearing for up to three weeks. When I clear again, it's rare that my hearing will go back to the exact same level it was prior to the cold; usually there will be a minute loss. I have had two operations (grommets at 7 and a dual eardrum repair procedure at 14) and am in line for a third one should current conditions continue to deteriorate. At this stage, both my eardrums are retracted (bowing backwards) due to being severely weakened over the years, and my left middle ear is more damaged. DESPITE ALL THIS THOUGH, my hearing, should I have no other issues at the time, is not much below what a normal person's would be! It will get a lot worse over time, but for now, I don't need the TV up too much louder.

So what on earth does this have to do with my posh accent then? Well basically, that comes down to two things: the first being that my mother flatly refused to ever speak "baby talk" to any of us kids and was quite hardcore on correct pronunciation, and the second being that my ear problems didn't actually get diagnosed until I was 7 when a teacher at school picked them up. For years, I had had difficulty and because I'd hear a lot of "fluffy noise", I actually mumbled a lot because that's what it all sounded like to me. I also developed as a reader and writer earlier because I found listening and talking far more difficult, and for as long as I can remember I have preferred communicating in written forms. I am still a complete introvert, but back then it meant that I developed socially slower than children who had better hearing and so I would isolate myself or hang around one or two friends that I trusted. I am actually incredibly glad that I had an aptitude for reading and writing because I hate to know how far I would have slipped behind without those things. 

Once I had had my first operation, I also attended speech therapy to help me better form my words. We worked together for a while, if I recall correctly, and since then (along with the influence of mum!) I have always spoken in a way that may be a little, well, "posh". It was absolutely drilled into me that well-formed sounds and clarity were the key. I think I also became aware that others around me may also have ear issues and so it was incredibly important to be clear for them. I don't really know any different. It means that I can pick up languages quite well because I hone in on the correct sounds, but it also means that perhaps there's a bit of a mismatch between the ranting black lefty feminist business and the way I articulate it verbally. Does one sound ranty when they're clearly articulating their swear words, for example ;)

Whilst speaking better is something I learnt from childhood, dealing with my ear problems is something I don't always do particularly well. It's frustrating to lose hearing when you have a cold and feel like you're in a bubble for a couple of weeks. It's completely annoying when two people are speaking to you at the same time and their voices mash in together. It's embarrassing when someone is trying to whisper something to you in a more intimate setting and you end up yelling "sorry?" because you can't hear a bloody thing they've said. It's irritating when your headphones start to go on the blink and one of them is louder than the other when you're already off balance. It's tiresome when excessively loud music becomes a method of health-and-sanity management rather than a good excuse to mosh. I still struggle a fair bit, and like today, sometimes it will just get to me. 

So if I want anything to come out of this it would be that many more young people, and particularly young Aboriginal people, end up with posh voices with which to do their future ranting because they have had their ears checked and they're on their way to a better, and clearer, future. My stupid voice is actually a source of pride to me; that despite an early setback, I was still able to learn and eventually get to where I am today. I also like that it has that "friggin' what?" factor where people, knowing other stuff about me, may be wrong-footed when they hear me go all "refined accent". When you're frequently underestimated due to your gender or racial background, it's always fun to mess with their heads a bit. Plus, I always sound good on recordings, no matter how deaf I may be that day ;)

Onward and upward all! 


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Andrew Bolt: The "new racism" is so last season!

Andrew Bolt, who was found to have contravened the Racial Discrimination Act in a court of law, has been going to profound levels to prove just how racist he is not. Funnily, his tactic seems to be to point out just how racist the left are rather than apply any level of introspection and perhaps examining why his actions may have been found as such. Not only that, he's brilliantly coined himself a buzz phrase to flog at every opportunity, particularly when he is promoting the virtues of his favourite conservative and moderate Aboriginal people. Yes, thanks to Andrew Bolt we now have “The New Racism” (TNR).

And gee, does he love to promote this idea. One simple Google search shows just how much he is promoting TNR as a concept (which incidentally, he seems to have pinched from the writings of Indigenous conservatives Dallas Scott and Bess Price but put a catchy phrase on). How he defines it seems to be that the Left, in all their folly, are promoting the division of us all by virtue of race leading to lower aspirations and neglect of Indigenous communities. This is because the left wish for the preservation of some sort of Indigenous "authentic" and therefore resort to stereotyping because they see races, and not individual people, and argue that there are common issues suffered by people of the same race. To pinch a quote from him: "I’ve long thought there’s a lot of projection in the Left’s obsession with racism. The rise of the New Racism - this offensive harping on differences of “race” which are all but invisible to the naked eye - is but one manifestation of it".

Apart from his extraordinarily lazy focus on the left in his analysis, I have but one thing to say: Congratulations Bolta, you've discovered "structural racism"! Have a biscuit, lad. Some of us have been talking about this for a while, and the thing is, it's not exactly "new". Nope, the discussions have been going on for a long time now, but we're glad you've joined us! The left and the right may talk about structural racism and its manifestations in different ways as you have "amply" shown us, but it doesn't mean that we are not talking about the same thing. Yes, the idea that a person may end up being oppressed and have their agency diminished by structural and social forces, even if there is some argument over what those forces might be, is nothing new at all.

When paring down Bolts arguments, I come up with the following:

1. To consider people different by virtue of their racial and/or cultural background is racism
2. Tailoring support programmes differently to address different racial and/or cultural groups rather than an individual's circumstances is racism
3. The left, due to its fascination with "equity" for different groups, rather than its focus on the situation of individuals, is responsible for perpetuating racism

In other words: the ones calling out "racism" are the biggest "racists" of all because they draw attention to race when this divider doesn't even occur to good right-wing folk who are most interested in a person's individual merit. Which is, of course, rubbish. The fact that there are different life experiences due to issues of race when there is a situation of a "dominant culture" is well-established. The right has also been no stranger to using race rather than individual merit as a divider (for more information, see Nazism, Apartheid, Segregation and, oh, Stolen Generation). What's more, structural racism faced by Indigenous peoples is so recognised as a global issue that the UN have set up a special committee and a set of rights to address the common issues. 

Racism is not a left-right issue; it occurs on both sides of the political spectrum because structural racism is a well-embedded cultural phenomenon. Regardless of whether people are left-wing or right-wing they will perpetuate it in their own ways if they are not self-aware. Indeed, 11-odd years ago when I wrote my honours play I included an incident of racism experienced within left-wing circles and many could relate to coming up against stereotypical ideas of what Indigenous people "should be". Bolt's rather strange idea that we can all go colour-blind, join hands and skip around the globe is not going to become a reality until we're honest about the historical, cultural and other factors that cause racism to be a feature of this country. The key is collaboration and education, and arguing anything else is just misdirection.

One final point: I question Bolt's motives for harping on about "the new racism". I cannot help but think he does so to try and wriggle off the hook of racism he created for himself when he wrote his fateful columns and got called out legally. What's more, his positioning of himself as the champion for right-wing Indigenous opinion is particularly distasteful. He may see his role as promoting this opinion as an alternative to the Indigenous left-wing voices, but if he truly believed in the merits of the arguments of these people then I have to wonder why he doesn't step aside and let them speak for themselves. If they have something that should be said then let them have the floor rather than taking up that space with rubbish theories about "new racism". Regardless of what I think of the opinions of the Indigenous right-wing he promotes, I believe that most have shown themselves perfectly capable of stating their arguments and certainly not in need of a "champion" with his own agenda. Let's face it: they're politicians, academics, accomplished bloggers, bureaucrats. I'd prefer to read these opinions unfiltered by the likes of Bolt, personally, because they're part of the Indigenous political landscape.

Just as a little aside, I wish to highlight the following: back in the day, I used to write many letters to the Herald Sun refuting the arguments of Andrew Bolt. Some were even published although very heavily edited. It is so much fun having my own space to refute his arguments AND being my own editor :D 

Monday, September 2, 2013

On being a feminist with period pain

Period pain. A perfectly normal part of a woman's lifespan. Most menstruating women will experience it at least once in their lifetime and some, like myself, experience it regularly and strongly to the point where it can reduce their capacity to participate in everyday life. Sometimes it's not completely normal. Sometimes it's a part of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment, and this is particularly the case if it comes on later in life with no previous experience of pain. Generally though, it's harmless if not somewhat inconvenient.

So if it is so damn normal and average and stuff, why is it so hard to talk about? Why is it that this hardcore black feminist, when confronted with pain and depleted energy as a result, finds it so difficult to say "I think my uterus is actually twisting itself into an infinity symbol in four different directions and I simply need to rest"? I mean it is that normal for me that, generally speaking, most months I will need a day away from society or work to rest, and it has always been that way. I hate to say it, but in the quest to be the all-conquering feminist ready to take on the world, I think I unfortunately sometimes see my own body's needs as a sign of weakness and a thing to be overcome. And that, quite frankly, is ridiculous.

Part of the reason I got involved in the trade union movement is because I saw what it was trying to do to achieve equity in the workplace for women and for Indigenous people. Workplaces are still very much set up based on a mainstream man's lived experience, and this is evident by the fact that we are still fighting for parental leave schemes, cultural leave and other such things that will allow for optimal participation in the workforce of people who are not white men. Rather than being seen as opportunities for workforces to grow their capacity and skill pool, a lot of the time these clauses are seen as disruptions and inconveniences at the bargaining table and the reason for this is that they upset a dominant workplace culture. So they damn well should too, because if it wasn't for these dominant cultures being challenged, we would still be having to deal with bosses in the vein of Gene Hunt but lacking any of the residual charm.

Whilst great strides have been made, we are still walking that tightrope of trying to change embedded cultures whilst also trying to achieve as much as we individually can in the existing environments. That whole "women are just as capable as men, if not more" argument will occasionally run aground when the entire system is set up around men and women's experiences are still fringe considerations. This leaves women with a dilemma: do they change to adhere to the current system thus proving how capable they are at succeeding in it, or do they own their own experience and push for recognition of that experience. From the time I was young, I was told that women, and Aboriginal people, could do whatever they wanted but for the most part I have found that this is only true if they wish to do so completely within a white male paradigm. If they don't wish to be swept up in a great big wave of assimilation then we have a problem.

This is where period pain comes into it. Like I said, this is part of my lived experience. I know most months I will be confronted by it. I know that generally it is manageable but sometimes it won't be. I also know that it will abate by the end of the second day because that's what happens. I may have to deal with pain but one thing I have never had to deal with is irregularity and on comparison with other women friends I have found I have clockwork precision; every month, average 28 days between, ovulation smack bang in the middle of it. What's more, knowing my cycle and and all its quirks means that I am pretty in tune with what's going on and I can, and have, used the Billings Method for extended periods of time because of this knowledge. I honestly don't know many women who would be able to do that without having to read up extensively and fuss about with thermometers.

I have though, at times, sought medical assistance for period pain, just to make sure that there isn't anything more problematic going on. They have had suspicions: endometriosis was talked about 10 years ago but nothing was conclusively found. I've had borderline scans for PCOS for years but hormone levels are all within the normal range. When I had a laproscopy a couple of years back for an ectopic, they routinely checked to see if there may be any further complications and found utterly nothing. The short of it is, this is just me. Medical professionals have, however, suggested "remedies". Painkillers of course, but they always suggest the contraceptive pill and I always refuse. I've tried it before and not only does my normal cycle not particularly like being synthetically regulated and tries to stubbornly push itself through, but, like many other women, it effects my moods drastically. Additionally, seeing I have the rare benefit of being regular, then regulating synthetically seems just a tad ridiculous to me. So does cancelling my completely natural cycle so I can wholly participate in a male-focussed society.

So why dance around it then? Because this IS my life, and because all of the workplaces I have ever worked in have had this embedded masculine culture to varying degrees, it still seems like weakness to admit that one has a very female problem in this environment. At times this has led to other people making assumptions about what my physical limitations may be based on other issues I have (eg: ongoing injuries from a car accident) rather than them knowing that I have varying needs. Additionally, because there are certain regulations regarding days off and the like, it sometimes means I have to waste time going to the doctor for a certificate for something I experience consistently and know exactly what to do about. Perhaps it's the fault of those poxy white swimsuit ads because there can be an implicit understanding that women will just "get on with it" and admitting when we can't flies in the face of our perceived capabilities. If we keep pushing on through and not admitting when our bodies are telling us we need a break are we really changing or challenging workplaces, perceptions, society or, well, anything?

Food for thought; for me, and for anyone else who is similarly afflicted. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Murdoch Press improvement








May add more of these as I feel inclined. Feel free to share and spam onwards

Thursday, August 15, 2013

When do we get to be the stars of our own stories?

I gave a similar talk to this at a Bluestocking event this week and have decided to write it up.

In my line of work it is not an uncommon occurrence to be sent invites or advertising stuff to various conferences and events centred around Indigenous knowledge and politics.  I try to get to what I can when it is relevant but there are a lot of events and it can be tough.

Recently though, I received information regarding a conference that attracted my attention for all the wrong reasons. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big supporter of men and women having separate spaces to share information and organise. As Indigenous people, I think we have always seen the value in this and therefore I was happy to see a conference that offered that option. So I checked out the information to see how these streams were being framed. Firstly, this is a slightly edited version of the information for the men's stream:

"This conference presents a unique opportunity for men to participate in an event which is devoted to the sharing of information and the empowering of men.  In our everyday working environment, the day to day stress of our positions tends to limit us in expanding our knowledge and network whether you work at a community level or at government level, the opportunity to network and gain contacts outside your local region tends to be limited."


All good. Next I read the information for the women's stream: 

"This conference presents a unique opportunity for women to participate in an event which is devoted to the sharing of information and the empowering of women.  In today’s society, Indigenous women are developing careers while maintaining a home and family life. Indigenous women are empowered to determine their future nowadays. It is said that women can multitasking(sic) far more easily than men. However when it comes to equal rights for Indigenous issues, women tend to walk together with Indigenous men to fight against social injustice for indigenous people. Indigenous women play vital roles on community boards from grassroots level through to national levels"

I was a fair bit gobsmacked. Whilst the men were referred to as autonomous human beings engaged in their career, women were defined by their relationship to the home, to the family and to men (underlined for emphasis).  To rub some further salt into the wound, men "work" whereas women play "vital roles". Men have "positions" whereas women are "developing careers". And then there was the incredibly biological deterministic comment about women's alleged ability to multi-task. I may have given this a pass (okay, probably not) if this were just a small, grass-roots event but it's not. It's a large-scale conference for health workers in a number of different fields.

How on earth is seeing black women in this way even remotely empowering for us? Further: why, with a description like that, would I want to sign on up for this event? I've been relegated to the roles of "home maintainer", "family maintainer" and "man supporter" when my actual life includes none of this. Nor does it for a bunch of other black women I know. What's more, even if my life did involve all of those roles, do I not have the right to be defined as an individual and not as someone who exists to support everyone else? Do I also not have the right to have my qualifications, contributions, achievements and experiences seen as valid and equal and not just as a work-in-progress?

It seems to come back to an old adage I have been hit with over the years. I have lost count of the amount of times I have heard "our women are the backbones of our community". People say it reverentially as if it is a compliment regarding the role black women play in our society. The problem is, I've never actually wanted to be a "backbone". I've never wanted to be the supporting part that is in the background providing structure and strength and holding everything else together. If I could pick a body part to be, it would be the brain or the entire nervous system; the bits that create thought and action. And I should have the right to be that. Additionally, some women may actually want to be a backbone and may revel in their ability to provide strength and support to those around them. They should, however, be allowed to choose this path and not have it thrust upon them by social expectation. And they should also be seen as people in their own right rather than by the role they play.

The truth of the matter is that our women have been accessing tertiary education at a rate of nearly twice that of our men and have been for quite a while. We work in the higher education sector again at a rate twice that of our men. We tend to have more qualifications and we also apparently earn more than non-Indigenous women when we graduate from University. We're not "empowered to determine (our) future nowadays"; we've been setting the pace! These achievements by our women need more recognition in their own right because they are amazing.

It does make me wonder when black women will get to be the stars of our own stories. Whether it's stuff like this that comes from within our community or whether it's a DVD cover where we've been relegated to the tinted background because a white male being in a film is considered a greater achievement even when the story is actually a true one about us. We seem to be relegated all the time by both white and black patriarchy and it diminishes us, our contributions and our achievements. If we're continually relegated no matter what we do then what is the point of us striving for more? 

I think it is completely probable that the content writers for this conference were trying to be inclusive and respectful, and I do believe that they were trying to highlight that there are additional difficulties faced at times. By defining black women in such ways though that explicitly tie their roles to others when men are not defined like this, they have instead managed to be reductive and offensive. Aboriginal women are diverse people and we deserve recognition on our own merits.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why I love Donna Noble

There has been an awful lot of Whovian banter over the last few days. Most, I note, were excited when it was announced that the wonderful Peter Capaldi would be taking on the role of The Doctor next. Yes, I do admit that I would have loved to see a woman, who was preferably black and possibly a lesbian in the role (Norma from Shameless springs to mind) as having a female Doctor is well overdue. I was, however, glad that Capaldi, who is a great actor and who is an older Doctor, was up next. Plus, I do quite like the idea of this guy being The Doctor (NSFW!):


I just wish that they would put as much thought into the role of the Companion as they do the Doctor. I admit here my far better knowledge of the later series than the earlier ones as the earlier ones are fuzzy memories from my childhood which I need to revisit. In these later series though, I have pretty much loathed all companions bar one.

Donna Noble. Doctor Donna Noble. The one companion who, for me, shines above all others. I have watched and rewatched Season 4 more than I have any other season for the sole reason that it's Donna's season. It's not just about the fact that Donna was portrayed by the wonderful Catherine Tate either. No, there are so many reasons.

For starters, she was so bursting to go traipsing around on adventures with the Doctor that she had her suitcases packed and shoved in the boot of her car for ages before she met him again. As someone who drives around constantly with a sleeping bag in her boot ready to roll if adventure strikes me, I could relate too well. Then she was loud and bossy, but with an amazing amount of compassion that could effectively counteract the Doctor's darker side and convince him to act in kindness (like when he saved Peter Capaldi's life, for instance ;) ). The middle-aged directionless bit did it for me as well, as did her wonderful relationship with the world's coolest granddad. There are many many more reasons.

If I had to put the top reason though why Donna Noble is "my" companion, it would be that out of all of the companions she is the only one that seems to have not been put in to act as a romantic foil to The Doctor. For one whole season we got to watch a strong woman hanging out with her male friend and going on amazing adventures. It was brilliant, and SO DAMN REFRESHING after series full of moon-eyed companions to have this be the case. The fact that they returned to the moon-eyed companion formula the following series just made me groan. Let's be honest here: Rose's story was all about loving the Doctor and getting him in the end. Then Captain Jack came in and he too was smitten. Martha Jones came next, and I had such high hopes because she was a medical student AND black (that's like "double points" in black feminist world!). But alas, she had to leave because her unrequited love for the Doctor made it unbearable for her to continue. FFS! Then following Donna, we had Amy Pond who skipped out on her wedding day to gallivant with the Doctor, attempted to seduce him and then has this whole conflicted Rory/Doctor/Doctor/Rory love storyline which went on until she and Rory departed. Of course, during her time as companion Amy also gave birth to River Song, the Doctor's future wife. Cue the "hello sweetie!"s. Finally Clara Oswald who, whilst having a fascinating backstory, has also not been allowed to just be a companion without having moments of flirtation and awe directed toward the Doctor.

Why? Was it because it was too tough to continue to write a female companion who was situated almost as an equal? Was it that the romance of the whole time and space travel idea is made more apparent when romance is emanating from the sidekick? Is it almost impossible to see a female as anything other than a woman with a crush? Was it that the show needed to stay young and sexy and therefore the older female friend character just did not have longevity? I don't know what their logic was but I'd hazard a guess of "all the above". It's a real shame because, as I mentioned, Donna Noble is the only companion out of the new episodes that has resonated with me in a real way. I have met so many other Whovians that have said the same. There are bits and pieces they liked about other companions, sure. But as a package deal it seems a good many of my peers reckon Donna wins, hands down.

I loved it when Donna rocked up to tell the Doctor that she was going travelling with him and that she was not going to be "mating" with him. I loved it when she said "Oi! Watch it, Spaceman!". I loved it when she talked him into saving the family in Pompeii. When she was kind to the rather slow woman in the library, my heart warmed. Hell, I even like that she chose to sit by a pool sunning herself rather than hop on a train ride from hell. If you asked me to pick a favourite moment from the other companions I would actually be hard-pressed, not because they were not brilliant in their own ways, but rather because I would blank when they started going all lovey-dovey.

Here's the thing, Doctor Who writers: men and women can be friends and do become friends all of the time. A man who offers a woman time and space travel does not become automatically sexy to her. They can just have excellent adventures and enjoy eachother's company. Yes, they really can. And older women really can resonate with viewers as much as younger women can, and perhaps even more. So consider diversifying the formula a bit more. Please? For this dedicated feminist Whovian?

I look forward to the next Donna-Noble-like character. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Big Blatantly Moronic Brother again

I have another oh-not-so-good confession to make: I am a reformed Big Brother-aholic. Back in the first four years of the show I was rather obsessed. I never missed a show, taping it on the nights that I was going to be out and about. Even worse than that though: I was an avid online forum-hanger. This was partly because I was procrastinating in writing my honours thesis and partly because the forums provided a creative outlet for me to make fun of the housemates. 

I remember, for example, creating a thread using words written exactly as one of the more "bogan" housemates said them. And then there was the charity drive I started because the poor blokes on the show desperately needed some clothing and had been reduced to walking around shirtless constantly. Oh, and I went to town one day when the website moderators decided to run a poll on which was the preferred pubic hairstyle for women housemates to have. Yes, I was addicted, and I am well over that addiction now. I don't regret that time wasted because I met some amazing people through those forums and am still in contact with many of them now. I will never, however, end up back in those forums nor will I be an avid show viewer again. The time has long passed for me; petering out slowly after the fourth season before completely ending.

For me, BB had a limited lifespan. There are, after all, only a certain number of years that you could put the exact same people in the exact same environment before it gets frightfully boring. I watched last night to see whether the reboot had changed anything and was not pleasantly surprised. The housemates are all, of course, aesthetically-pleasing and all but one are well under the age of 40. All the female housemates entered the house in required slinky dresses, full make up and calamitous heels. Naturally there was a firefighter, a couple of models, an ex-army dude (complete with Southern Cross tattoo; I'm not even going to start on that...) and an ex-policewoman. These are stock-standard inclusions for Big Brother. My hopes that they would include a 70 year old deaf homosexual-yet-homophobic black communist vegetarian bloke and his pet iguana in the house were dashed. And then they announced that they were going to put a "married" couple in the house. So endeth my brief interest in BBAU 2013.

There were two reasons why I watched last night that I feel the need to explain lest you worry I have been lobotomised: firstly I was dared to apply to be in the house by a friend this year and so I hopped along to the Melbourne Auditions for a gawk and secondly, because I heard that there was an Aboriginal housemate in this year and I wanted to see her. See, Big Brother has traditionally done Aboriginal inclusion utterly woefully and I was actually curious to see whether anything had changed.

Back in the 8th season, the genuinely wonderful Dixie Crawford was billed as the "first Aboriginal housemate" and much fanfare was made of this fact. I remember seeing this in various papers at the time and they covered it a lot in the show itself. The trouble with this was that Dixie was not, in fact, the first Aboriginal housemate. She was definitely at least the second one, and may have even been the fourth. In my opinion at the time, Dixie's identity had been completely exploited by the show as a ratings pull. They did have a right-wing "proud Australian" in the house that year so a proud, strong and visible Aboriginal woman would, in the producers' eyes, have been the perfect foil in a show that remains interesting only so long as there is conflict present. 

The conflict dynamic was not the only reason I believe that they highlighted Dixie's heritage, but ignored Laura's ancestry; a housemate from the previous year who had actually made her Aboriginal heritage known in the application process. The Koori Mail (see page 25), following the engagement of Dixie as a contributor when she left the house, ran a small correction on this. This correction was, of course, totally ignored by Big Brother and the producers. Laura had previously modelled for an Indigenous agency and her heritage was not something she hid (page 18). In short, I think it is undeniable that the producers made a conscious decision here.

Dixie was a wonderful housemate from the snippets I saw that year and I never wished to take anything away from her experience in the house. Again I ask the question though: why was it so important at that juncture to highlight a housemate's Aboriginal heritage when they had completely ignored it in previous years? Was it their inherent racism because they had, this time, chosen an Aboriginal housemate that was more immediately visible? Was it, as mentioned earlier, a deliberate ploy to increase ratings because they had filled the Hansonite character as well? Or were they just stupid? 

So I did tune in this year to see if their handling of Aboriginal representation in the house had improved. Tahan seemed to enter the house with little drama on the intro show. One glance at her online profile makes me shake my head however. I was led to wonder if the people behind Big Brother had bothered with cultural appropriateness training since those earlier seasons? "Part-Aboriginal", for example, is not a term many of Aboriginal heritage use.  Even if a couple in the public eye do find it a perfectly fine way to describe themselves, many more others find its links to blood quanta theorems used to remove children under previous government policies a little raw. Also, how correct is it to refer to someone who has descent from the first peoples of this land as "exotic"? Cracking open a dictionary before applying words might help, content writers. It's early days yet, but I don't hold out much hope.

I hope Tahan has a wonderful time in the house. A lot on Facebook from the mob were rooting for her that night, and there are many keen to see much more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inclusion in our mainstream shows. I just hope that throughout the course of this season the people behind this show learn a thing or two about appropriateness and inclusion and take the opportunity to educate themselves further. I doubt they will though.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The pending royal birth - Thoughts by CL

I wrote this one on Facebook, and thought I would share it here for the sake of it.
I hope the royal baby is a girl. And that they choose to name it "Vashti Karl Voltairine Germaine Shirin Doris Moon-Child". And she is born in a birthing pool whilst a punk rock lute player serenades with each contraction. And she grows up, turns vegan, dyes her hair black, and snubs all palaces in order to live in a converted shirt factory that has a fireman's pole running straight down the middle of it so people can slide from floor to floor with ease.

In other words: STFU already!
 
You're welcome.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Some more cataloguing

Today I had two of my pieces published in two separate publications! I'm a little excited. Never thought when I started this blog that it would lead to this, so I just want to put a quick "thank you" out to the wonderful people at Daily Life (Fairfax) and The Guardian for reading my stuff and giving me a shot. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it.

Here's a few of my recent works, collected for convenience:

11/07/13 

1/07/13



28/06/13
 
5/06/13

26/05/13

4/03/13

As soon as it becomes available, there is also a podcast from when I was on Joy FM with the wonderful "Lefty Pinkos" Bryan and Kath! Thanks to those two for having me on board. I LOVED every minute! 

Thanks again, everyone. Onwards and upwards, hey?

Some other cataloguing links are available here and here if you wish to read more! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

A little sister going her own way

It has been a horrible week and I don't have the strength to write about it all at this point. I do, however, have the strength to celebrate this little sister who is going her own way. Thank you, Aaralyn. You've brightened up my day no end!


Monday, June 17, 2013

The biggest rob in all this political sexism

It has been a particularly vile week or so of public and political sexism. It really just seemed to be one incident after another. To recap for those who have been living in a remote cave with no electricity, carrier pigeons or mental telepathy, it went down like this: Firstly some soccer jock talks about how women should shut up in public. Then we had the wonderful “Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail” menu item developed for a Liberal Party Fundraiser that is now so reviled that it has its own Wikipedia entry. Then we had Gillard being questioned over her partner's sexuality by Howard Sattler, a radio shockjock. Of course, all these incidents were "jokes", but I must have a different sense of humour... Oh, and let's not forget the wonderful Grace Collier, who, on clearly wanting equal rights for women to be misogynists, tried to outdo "teh menz" with this puzzling focus on Gillard's boobs. Granted, there have been some highlights such as Sattler now being sacked for his grossly unprofessional conduct, and this amazing speech from Lt-General David Morrison taking a stand against sexism in the Army and stating that it will not be tolerated. All-in-all though, it has been a rather exhausting week or so.

The thing is though, all this has, by no means, been "out of the ordinary". When it comes to the sexism directed towards our female Prime Minister, this has been a constant feature. It was so constant that it led to Gillard giving this now world-famous "I will not be lectured on sexism and misogyny by this man" speech in the House of Representatives. It led to this completely amazing and horrifying lecture from Anne Summers entitled "Her Rights at Work: The Political Persecution of Australia's First Female Prime Minister" (watch this. You need to). The cartoonist Larry Pickering has pretty much made a career of promoting his disgustingly sexist pictures of Gillard, usually naked and sometimes being gynaecologically interfered with. But it's more than that. It's the daily commentary I have heard from peers, family, the broader community that reinforce my view that the sexism has been constant. 

What's more, people really don't seem to give it much thought. They have genuinely looked surprised when I have called them out after they have used some sexist trope to refer to Gillard as if this "fact" has some bearing on her politics. It seems to be so damn unconscious that it speaks volumes about how society views a woman in charge. People don't even think twice before referring to Gillard's allegedly annoying voice, or the size of her backside, whilst talking about her role in the country. An entire media campaign appears to have been built on these "criticisms" in order to topple Gillard from the leadership and get a more popular male reinstalled, yet not many seem to be too discerning as to where a great deal of misgivings toward the PM seem to have come from. A lot of it is sexism, pure and simple. If you doubt that then I suggest you really do click on the link of Anne Summers' speech above and watch it from beginning to end. Gillard's politics have been continually conflated with her gender, and it shows just how immature this country is when it comes to gender relations. Many women rule countries across the world and are treated as rulers, rather than great impostors, so when the hell will this country grow up?

Here's the real rob for me: I fell off the ALP bandwagon years ago. This fact is still a sore point for my poor mother. I come from a strong ALP family yet broke ranks over a decade ago because I felt, and still feel, that the party my parents so strongly believe in is not the one that actually exists. I am critical of their policies, disgusted over their continuation of the NT Intervention (however rebranded), their asylum seeker stances, their cuts to tertiary education, their non-complete roll-back of WorkChoices legislation, their watering down of a promised Treaty in the 1980s to mere constitutional recognition at this point in time. And I openly criticise these things. Yet at times I have felt disempowered to openly criticise what does actually need to be criticised. Why? Because the sexist mud-slinging kicks in from others and it is difficult to be objectively critical of the Prime Minister's policy standpoints when you are busy having to defend her as a woman.

On more than one occasion I have written a post on some social media platform that is critical of a Gillard government standpoint and the conversation has been derailed by sexism. If I had a dollar for every time I have written something critical only to get back "well what do you expect from a backstabber like her?" I'd be buying up that desert island and relocating with 10 dogs, no problems. FFS, people; Julia Gillard is not Lady freakin' MacBeth! She mounted a leadership challenge in a party which is historically rather infamous for such challenges and she came out victorious. The reasons for why that challenge was mounted (sating the whining of those poor struggling mining moguls) might not have been much to brag about, but that doesn't change the fact that she is not the first to do so. It's that simple, but because she's a woman, her leadership tilt was seen differently to, say, the two challenges Keating mounted against Hawke. She's a "ranga bitch" apparently, or so I've been told, which I'm certain has nothing to do with the fact that her government detains people trying to escape persecution. I should also add that whilst the right-wing has been relentless in their sexism, it's fairly safe to say that a huge majority of people who read and respond to my stuff are not from the right. What's more, the sexism isn't only coming from the men. So why are left-aligned people, particularly women, buying into this?


This is where the true sexism lies for me. Myself, and similarly-left-aligned and usually politically-intersectional people across this country, due to some deeply socially-embedded sexist attitudes, are denied the ability to judge the Prime Minister on her own merits as a leader. We are denied the right to criticise her failings as a leader, praise her gains as a leader, criticise her party, and to objectively analyse anything. We are drowned out by the stupid and inane gender-related comments, rather than simply being able to take to bits some policy that is inherently discriminatory. And if we're not in there criticising some policy items because we are frankly exhausted from having to deal with the misogyny then we run the risk of being accused of being blind to the ALP's failings because we are too busy sticking up for the sisterhood. Oh yes, this has happened to me, despite the fact that I think I have made it rather clear that I am no ALP supporter. It really feels like a damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario right now, and I would be understating things if I said I was a little over it.

What do I want? Well, in a nutshell, if people could get conscious of, and then get over, their embedded social misogyny that would be fabulous. It would be wonderful to have a good clean debate about the current ALP policies without hearing the "ditch the witch", the "blood on her hands" and the other, more subtle comments. I want to be able to open a newspaper and not read Gillard being judged in harsher and more arbitrary ways than her male contemporaries. I don't want to have to be sticking up for Gillard as a woman because I SHOULDN'T BLOODY HAVE TO! It shouldn't even be a factor as she is the elected leader of this country and deserves THE RIGHT to be able to do her job without this abuse. Whilst she can't just do that job though, you can bet your backside I will be doing the sisterhood thing and sticking up for her because she shouldn't be having to deal with sexism, and nor should any woman who comes after her. If Gillard was from the Liberal Party and was copping the same I WOULD STILL be sticking up for her as a woman who should not be having to deal with sexism. I will always be critical of her policies, but I want better for our women than what Gillard has been copping due to her gender, and what she is copping publicly at the top is a snapshot of what women face every day; from men and laterally.

So then: who's up for a discussion on why I think Constitutional Recognition is selling ourselves short?