The Dawn Chorus

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Feeling assailed by feminism

Posted by Mel Campbell on September 28, 2010

As part of the Wheeler Centre’s merry non-question “Feminism has failed”, the literary centre asked Michaela McGuire to write a piece on questioning whether she was a feminist.

Basically, McGuire’s contention was that she doesn’t want to give much consideration to feminism, because in the past she has felt assailed and alienated by other women who called themselves feminists.

“This was the reason, I realised, that feminism, at least as I had encountered it, does not seem relevant to me. It has rules. Qualifiers. Hundred-year-old mottos that I am meant to apply to my own life.”

On one level, I totally get where she’s coming from. Several times in the past I have offered my honest opinions about women and have been greeted by a backlash from feminists whose views I found ideologically rigid.

I stopped posting on my personal blog for nearly four months after various people weighed in on this post, suggesting that I clearly didn’t love my vagina enough. (I’ve since switched commenting systems, so none of the Vagina Luv comments are there any more.)

And I stopped blogging at The Dawn Chorus for nearly a year after feeling as though the entire feminist blogosphere had turned on me because of this (admittedly, mischievously titled) blog post.

But these responses never led me to the conclusion that I wasn’t a feminist.

Here’s how I define feminism. It’s the belief that nobody should be denied dignity, respect or opportunities – personal or professional, in public or at home, as a citizen or in relationships – solely because of their gender. If you believe this, and you don’t like seeing people disrespected or disempowered because of their gender, you’re a feminist. That’s it. That’s the only rule. The only qualifier.

Most of all, feminism is not about consensus. Feminism is a personal commitment, and it’s worth pursuing even though individual feminists, and groups of feminists, may have vastly differing beliefs and engage in robust debate. Put it this way: men are not deterred from having convictions simply because not all men agree with each other.

I’ve felt assailed by feminists. I’ve felt personally attacked. I’ve felt crushed. I’ve felt ignored. But I have never abandoned my conviction that I am a feminist, or become less willing to point out and condemn gender-based inequity as I see it.


Posted in Blog Watch, Media Watch | 16 Comments »

The Twenty-Eighth Down Under Feminists Carnival

Posted by caitlinate on September 4, 2010

Oh my gawd, hi everyone. So this is the first time I’ve done a blog carnival and I put my hand up for it 6 months ago not realising that this was going to be like the busiest two or three weeks I would be having all year. So! There is no theme and things might be organised a little incoherently but I hope I’ve done a good job and you like…

WELCOME to the 28th Down Under Feminists Carnival!

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Announcements, Blog Watch, body image, domestic violence, Family, glbt, Interviews, law, Media Watch, music, Politics, porn, Relationships, reproductive rights, sex, Trans, violence against women, women we love, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

xkcd On ‘Porn For Women’

Posted by Clem Bastow on March 15, 2010

My rage at the abominable “gift book” (you know, those irritating little confections that litter bookstore point-of-sale areas) Porn For Women is still so white hot, years after its release, that every time I’ve tried to write something about it the keyboard combusts.

Thank god, then, for the wonderful xkcd, whose take on the topic I stumbled upon today:

Finally, I can breathe out.

Posted in art, Blog Watch, porn, sex | 3 Comments »

Christmas Chooks

Posted by hannahcolman on December 27, 2009

A Mom For Christmas!

Catherine Deveny, inaugural subject of The Dawn Chorus’ Women We Love bit, wrote a special Christmas message for Defamer Australia this year. You can read the whole thing here, and I strongly suggest you do, because Deveny’s yuletide musings are funny and relevant. I thought this part in particular would strike a chord with The Dawn Chorus readers.

I have for many years said having children and a vagina means December is spent being a slave and an emotional potty for most of the month. Yes that’s right. Christmas, turning back feminism 150 years.


The amount of unpaid labor done by women at this time of year is astonishing. The blokes may pick up the ice, mow the lawn and carve the ham but I challenge you to look around on Christmas day and seriously work out how much of the food, thought, purchasing, organizing, cleaning, wrapping and social lubricant is provided by the women. Take away the woman’s effort and then see what you’re left with. No wonder they all chuck barneys, do their block and double their medication.

Merry Christmas, ladies!

Posted in Blog Watch, Family, Parenting & Family, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Intersex Australians Classified Under ‘Sexual Deviant’

Posted by caitlinate on October 16, 2009

Anti-androgens are drugs that restrict the release of hormones – primarily testosterone – in the body. They can be used as a treatment for prostate cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), acne and male pattern baldness. They also work to suppress the male libido/sexual drive and as such is used to ‘treat’ sex offenders. Additionally, intersex people that identify as female might take anti-androgen medication to help with hormone imbalances and some trans women (that are transitioning medically, sometimes in the lead up to surgery) will take it to suppress testosterone so that introduced estrogen can work more effectively on their body.

In Australia the main/only anti androgens I could find available are Cyprone, Cyprostat, Cyproterone Acetate (the generic name), Procur, Cyprohexal and Androcur. If you follow any of those drug links you’ll see they can only be prescribed for:

1014    Advanced carcinoma of the prostate;
1404    To reduce drive in sexual deviations in males.

You have to fit in to one of these two categories to get the drug. So, unless you have pretty much incurable prostate cancer, if you need an anti-androgen in Australia – and can’t afford a non-subsidised prescription – your doctor has probably had to get a little inventive with the prescription and classify you as a ‘sexual deviant’. What’s in a label, right? Well, if you are classified as a ‘sexual deviant’ and prescribed this medication then the Therapeutic Goods Administration will put you on their list of possible sex offenders. That’s right. In Australia we like to classify intersex and trans women as possible sex offenders. It can’t just be argued away as a bureaucratic list. It’s dehumanising for people who already have enough trouble being treated as human beings.

And, seriously, who knows how the TGA information is being shared or with who. Does Centrelink? The DOCS? Next time we have another sex-offenders-not-in-our-neighbourhood panic are we going to start pulling TGA files and combining them with the various state sex offender lists?

Credit where credit it due, first heard about this here.

UPDATE. It seems you can access the medication under:

1230 Moderate to severe androgenisation in non-pregnant women (acne alone is not a sufficient indication of androgenisation).

As seen here. (Click on the ‘conditions for prescribing’ link.) I apologise for having not seen or mentioned this before. There are still worries though. If the previously reported isn’t the case why are intersex and trans women being lead to believe it is true? Why are their doctors not aware they don’t need to be classified as sexual deviants? As Wildly Parenthetical says:

I have, however, heard of at least two trans or intersex people who were advised that they would be placed on a sex offender registry if they were prescribed the drug under the PBS, which raises the question of what role physicians play in a potentially scaremongering style of gatekeeping.

Posted in Blog Watch, Intersex, Trans, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Religion and the law

Posted by hannahcolman on September 14, 2009

I got along to a session at the Melbourne Writers Festival a couple of weeks ago called ‘Writer As Activist,’ which featured Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah on the panel. Her debut collection of short stories, An Elegy for Easterly, is published by Faber. Gappah won Zimbabwe’s Mukuru Nyaya Award for comic writing, and was a runner-up in the SA/PEN HSBC short story competition judged by JM Coetzee. She has law degrees from Cambridge, Graz University and the University of Zimbabwe. She lives with her son Kush in Geneva, where she works as an international trade lawyer. She speaks English, German and French, as well as her native language, Shona.

I’m still trying to figure out when on earth she finds time to write fiction.

In the panel discussion, Gappah came across as an extremely intelligent, funny and sensitive woman. She did point out that she struggles with being referred to as “The voice of Zimbabwe” in the media. She also mentioned that she doesn’t necessarily consider herself an ‘activist’; rather, she identifies as a short story writer whose fictional characters inhabit contemporary Zimbabwe. She lamented that because of the nation’s current political situation and the overwhelming interest in Mugabe, she had never been asked, as a non-fiction writer, how she crafted her characters. (Later, during Q&A, a lovely man up the back did ask her this, which was met with appreciative laughter from both the audience and Gappah).

Anyway, I decided to have a look at her blog. She had posted about a story which appeared on the BBC news website regarding a new law in Mali which gives women equal rights in marriage. Here’s Gappah’s post in its entirety.

First they want an education, now this. This, right here, is exactly why women should remain poor and illiterate.

The irony of this story, pinched in its entirety from the BBC news website, is that the woman inveighing against “intellectuals” in this story will never appreciate the irony of that last sentence.


Tens of thousands of people in Mali’s capital, Bamako, have been protesting against a new law which gives women equal rights in marriage.

The law, passed earlier this month, also strengthens inheritance rights for women and children born out of wedlock.

The head of a Muslim women’s association says only a minority of Malian women – “the intellectuals” as she put it – supports the law.

Several other protests have taken place in other parts of the country.

The law was adopted by the Malian parliament at the beginning of August, and has yet to be signed into force by the president.

One of the most contentious issues in the new legislation is that women are no longer required to obey their husbands.

Hadja Sapiato Dembele of the National Union of Muslim Women’s Associations said the law goes against Islamic principles.

“We have to stick to the Koran,” Ms Dembele told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme. “A man must protect his wife, a wife must obey her husband.”

“It’s a tiny minority of women here that wants this new law – the intellectuals. The poor and illiterate women of this country – the real Muslims – are against it,” she added.
Gappah is right. Irony WIN. The reality is pretty frightening, though.

Posted in Blog Watch, Faith and Religion, law | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Fifteenth Down Under Feminists Carnival

Posted by caitlinate on August 6, 2009


The Fifteenth Down Under Feminists Carnival (July 2009) is now up at Hoyden About Town. I always forget to mention it here but you should all definitely go check it out – and have a look through some of the older Carnivals too!

Posted in Blog Watch | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Fairfax Still Loves Bettina

Posted by caitlinate on April 4, 2009

A short while back The Age published this piece by Bettina Arndt (an anti-feminist pro-rape sociopath masquerading as a sex therapist). There were, you know, some disgruntled people as a result. Their way of restoring balance isn’t to publish a well written, articulate and composed response (of which there are so many available) but to instead publish this piece of crap. An article that presents itself as a rejoinder to the fucked up notions that Arndt is pushing but, in actual fact, does nothing to explain why anyone would find Arndt offensive or why her women-blaming misogyny is, you know, not okay. Instead it tacitly legitimises Arndt’s arguments by publishing a juvenile, confused and completely fucking stupid response involving something about men being old, fat and bald and that’s why we don’t wanna fuck em. I suspect the author of the article is trying to be funny (forgive me for not getting the joke) but the whole article is based on the premise that, yes, women are to blame, women are doing something wrong, it is the fault of women that men aren’t having sex… but here are some reasons why. Why are we still coming up with fucking reasons why it is okay for a person to say no to sex? Why can’t we just accept NO!?!

Part two of my outrage involves the ‘Your Say’ page for this article. First off they refer to women as “fairer sex” in the blurb. I kid you not. Hello, calling Fairfax, are you aware we’re in 2009? Arriving at this page I then made the fatal error of scrolling down and actually reading some of the comments and I’m so choked with anger and jaw-to-the-floor I can’t even type straight so will rely merely on quotes. Here is the very first cab off the rank comment for your perusal:

“I think the photos of the men in the Age and the Heading Implying that men are to blame is In appropriate.

Women also are looking overweight and gross..”

Yes. It is inappropriate to suggest men are to blame because that would mean we weren’t blaming women and brain explode for Andrew.

The next best one is about ten down:

Wow what a bitter and biased article. I find it particularly suprsing that this article is written by Wendy Frew, who I put politely will certainly not be challenging the next Miss Universe contest.

The point of the initial survey is that after having children many women focus too much on themselves and the children, and not enough time on the relationship with their husband. It doesn’t have to be the bitter slant Ms Frew put on it but it is a very real issue.

I find her comments particularly stupid considering out of the group of friends that my wife and I spend time with I’d say as far as appearance goes this would be a fair indication. Out of 10 males only two would be considered overweight and none would be considered obese. Out of the ten females I’d say 5 of the women would be over weight and 2 would be considered obese. I’d also say that of these seven over weight women, only the two who are obese would actually think they are are over weight. Yes it is true that most of these women have had children but we are purely talking about attractiveness here, not how it happened.

Many women have what I call the “David Brent” opinion of themselves. They delude themselves to thinking that being overweight is just normal and still attractive.

Now are the men in the survey complaining about their overweight partners? On the contrary they want more sex and their overweight wives are not giving it to them.

As far as I can tell this guy can be summarised as saying: “fuck fat bitches, you’re a fat bitch, fuck you”. Which is quite a thoughtful and considered argument really. I wish that guy would bring his thoughtfulness and consideration over to my neck of the woods. We could have a beer, go for a walk, maybe kill a little time in the park kicking a ball around. It’ll be swell.

This is all just another reminder of why I find myself regularly boycotting The Age… isn’t it meant to be better than the Herald Scum? At least the HS aren’t pretending to be something they’re not.

– Edit – In the comments Amber mentioned a Lateline interview with Bettina Arndt. It’s 17 minutes long and you hear some pretty yuck things from Arndt but it’s worth taking a look at – Emily Maguire and Tony Jones (the interviewer) do a great job of bringing light to and discounting some of Arndt’s more questionable assertions and placing them closer to the context of reality. You can read the transcript or stream the video here.

Posted in Blog Watch, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Quotation Marks, Saving The World From Pesky “Assault” Victims, One At A Time

Posted by Clem Bastow on February 28, 2009

We have discusssed newspapers’ use of rogue inverted commas in reportage and headlines before, and fellow feminist blogger Audrey has just provided a fine reminder of why such a seemingly simple editorial tool can be so punitive over at her Audrey & The Bad Apples. As she puts it:

‘I’ ‘do’ ‘not’ ‘understand’ ‘why’ ‘it’ ‘is’ ‘that’ ‘so’ ‘many’ ‘news’ ‘reports’ ‘about’ ‘rape’ ‘include’ ‘quotation’ ‘marks’ ‘as’ ‘if’ ‘somehow’ ‘already’ ‘preparing’ ‘for’ ‘the’ ‘moment’ ‘when’ ‘they’ ‘can’ ‘gleefully’ ‘reveal’ ‘the’ ‘female’ ‘bitch’ ‘boner’ ‘killer’ ‘was’ ‘lying’ ‘as’ ‘chicks’ ‘do’ ‘because’ ‘they’ ‘want’ ‘to’ ‘see’ ‘men’ ‘suffer’.

Well, it’s good to see that such pointless “reportage” continues across the pond (and then some). Witness The Daily Mail‘s follow-up piece on Rihanna today:

picture-51Okay, as I discussed in my last piece on the spurious use of quotation marks in headlines, it’s true that right now, Chris Brown is “only” (see? I can use them, too!) accused of assault; he hasn’t been found guilty. Thus, I can only assume the Mail‘s use of inverted commas has something vague to do with Brown’s being considered innocent until proven guilty.

But you would think, based on the leaked police photos – which, in true classy style, The Daily Mail has helpfully re-printed (Feministing’s Jessica Valenti efficiently sums up why Feministing, The Dawn Chorus, and many others have not shown said photos) – of Rihanna taken immediately following the assault that led to Brown’s arrest, they could leave out the quotation marks, just this once. Whether or not it is found that Brown was the one who “assaulted” Rihanna that night, there’s no questioning the fact that the woman was viciously beaten.

(All of this is to say nothing of “…but she can’t raise a smile”; hmm, you think? A young woman is – “allegedly” – assaulted by the man she thought was her whole world, who then goes on to issue piddling excuses for an “apology”, and she doesn’t look very happy? Stop the presses!)

Wake up, sub-editors of the world: stories like this (and so many others) aren’t Kevin Smith movies, so put away your air quotes.

Posted in Blog Watch, Celebrity, Media Watch, Relationships, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Challenges against Pink…

Posted by Cate on February 24, 2009

280I was excited to read about Pink Stinks, a campaign created by a couple of woman in the UK  which aims  aims to counteract the slurry of media obsession on women who are ‘famous’, ‘thin’ ‘rich’ or ‘married to famous men’, by celebrating those women that we see as inspirational, important, ground-breaking and motivating.

The campaign includes a media watch, websites for young women and their parents respectively and an extensive list of positive role models for young women across a diverse range of life areas (modelling and acting thankfully excluded).
PinkStinks posits a variety of stats which highlight he need for positive media role models for young women, in particular that

44% (of girls questioned) admit they can name more WAGS [wives and girlfriends of professional footballers] than female politicians.
Girlguides survey 2008 (I can’t remember the Guides ever doing surveys when I was involved, interesting…”

And also this charmer:

A poll of people under 25 found the Amy Winehouse was the ultimate Heroine, with Pete Doherty voted second most popular male hero. Poll

 It’s an encouraging effort and I’ll certainly keep reader’s posted.

Posted in Blog Watch, body image, Media Watch, Parenting & Family, Tuesday Morning Inspiration, Uncategorized, women we love | 4 Comments »