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Sexism in sport never seems to go away

Posted by Nic Heath on January 26, 2011

Sexism in sport never seems to go away.

Three members of the Sky Sports football commentary team in the UK have been taken off air for a variety of actions deemed unacceptable by management – perhaps a saving grace in the story.

Andy Gray, “the face of Sky Sports’ football coverage for the past two decades”, has been fired for offensive behaviour directed at colleague Charlotte Jackson (a harsher penalty than that given to our very own Sam Newman in a similar incident).

Gray’s colleague Richard Keys “had been reprimanded and removed from duty on Monday for making derogatory comments about lineswoman Sian Massey, former referee Wendy Toms and West Ham executive Karren Brady”, while another member of the Sky Sports football team, Andy Burton, was taken off air on Tuesday for his comments about a female official.

Closer to home, this week Network Ten ended the ‘two-year experiment’ that saw Kelli Underwood commentate top-level AFL for television. Underwood was the first woman to call football on Australian television.

Underwood has not been completely cut away. She will commentate netball and the AFL boundary-line for Ten and football for ABC. To Underwood’s credit, she has put on a brave face, telling “I was the first to do it but hope I am not the last. I would say to every girl out there you should go for it.”

That said she has faced an uphill battle trying to be accepted as a football commentator, polling as ‘most annoying commentator’ in the Herald Sun Footy Fans survey last year.

It is dispiriting that schoolyard notions of women in sport – like whether we can understand the offside rule, or call a match – still have currency in certain circles.

Lately women have been making short work of the glass ceiling, particularly in politics. Only last week Lara Giddings became Tasmania’s first female premier. A look at Crikey’s Friday editorial – a series of sexist headlines pertaining to stories about female politicians – shows all is not quite as it should be, yet*. But with most of the top positions of power in eastern seaboard filled by women at present, a sense of hope seems warranted.

In Australia and overseas, sport offers a less positive outlook.

*For more on the topic read Amber Jamieson’s interviews with Cheryl Kernot, Natasha Stott-Despoja and Fran Bailey at Crikey.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Feminism Has Failed, not really, however, it will be debated tomorrow night

Posted by Rhiana Whitson on September 21, 2010

Don’t miss this event!

Tomorrow night! 6.30pm!

Feminism Has Failed

part of the Wheeler Centre’s Intelligence Squared debate series…


Author of The Feminist Denial Monica Dux, ABC journo Jennifer Byrne, journo Gay Alcorn and a few guys also…

I’ve gotta run, however, here’s what the Wheeler Centre has to say about tomorrow nights event…

After generations of effort, women still bear a disproportionate burden of domestic labour. Women are under-represented in the senior ranks of politics, business and the professions.

Women continue to be denied equal pay for equal work.

Perhaps more troubling still is the fact that the basic structures of power and influence bear the cultural marks of masculinity. In all significant ways, it remains a man’s world.

However, it could be argued that If feminism has failed, then it is because it has failed to mobilise women and that female acquiescence rather than male determination has preserved the status quo.

Or should feminists be celebrating a deeper victory in which a new generation of young men and women take equality for granted thanks to feminists who ushered in a deeper concern for justice – irrespective of gender?

Want more info? Check our Clem’s great interview with Monica Dux and Zora Simic posted here on TDC way back in 2008…


Tomorrow night 6.30 – 8.30pm


Melbourne Town Hall

90-120 Swanston Street
Victoria 3000

Tix are  $20 full and $12 conc.

and are available online

Posted in Dawn Chorus Library, Interviews, Politics, reproductive rights, sex, Uncategorized, women we love, Women's Health | 2 Comments »

Matthew Newton: He did it again

Posted by Rhiana Whitson on September 5, 2010

Matthew Newton has committed domestic violence. He is a criminal and needs to go to prison.
Matthew Newton is a drug addict and mentally ill. He needs our pity and our help.

I’m no psychiatrist, but I do know this:

However, troubled or drug addled Matthew Newton may be,  he’s committed a serious crime, and it’s not his first offense.

As we wait to see whether Newton will be held accountable for his latest actions, we should ask ourselves why a man who just three years ago went to court over a similar incident was allowed to re-offend, and, why he was allowed to grace our television screens.

Even before this latest incident, It’s been a sorry decline for Matthew Newton.

Not that Channel Seven seemed to mind. After checking himself out of rehab earlier this year, Channel Seven offered Newton a $200, 000 contract to host their brand new reality-TV series, The X-Factor.

How quickly the commercial networks forget!

The question posed by Media Watch is this: why was Newton offered the job in the first place?

Or indeed, any other acting jobs following his court appearance in 2007?

(If you haven’t already, make sure you watch this episode – it just confirms how lucky we are that journalism like this still exists to keep the mainstream media accountable, especially in the current climate of horse-race journalism)

Just in case you’re as forgetful as Channel Seven, here’s a refresher: in 2007 Newton was charged with two counts of common assault, one count of stalk/intimidate with the intent of causing physical/mental harm and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. According to media reports at the time, the catalyst for Brooke Satchwell to bravely speak out, occurred after she was repeatedly punched  in the head by Newton whilst she yelled for him to stop.

Um, Channel Seven, is this really the type of guy you want to host your network’s answer to Australian Idol?

Unfortunately, Channel Seven clearly held the same opinion as Newton’s star struck appeal judge.

What should have been an open and closed case, rather strangely (or perhaps not, considering Newton’s connections) ended with Newton walking away innocent man.

Newton’s lenient 12-month good behavior bond was quashed by a Sydney judge on appeal.

According to the judge considered Newton an “utmost gentleman” who had committed the offense because of severe depression.

Apparently he was unlikely to re-offend.

The justice system’s handling of this case was another slap in the face for Australian women: the career of a well connected actor is more important than your right to safety.

At the time of the charges a number of recognisable faces sprang to Newton’s defense, offering character references for what they saw as an unfairly targeted Newton.

At the time of the court hearing, Newton was dating Gracie Otto, Barry Otto’s then 19-year old daughter.

Barry Otto:

“Matthew is a great friend and a great person. I don’t understand why people are trying to destroy his reputation with this sort of stuff,”

Sue Hill, mother of Gracie, wife of Barry:

“Matthew is the sweetest, nicest person in the world. He would never hurt a flea”.
“He would be absolutely devastated about all this becoming public.”

(How about the devastation Satchwell endured through firstly, the incident(s) itself,  facing the public with her allegations, and finally dealing with the miscarriage of justice performed by a  judge who rendered her abuser innocent)

The Otto’s must be eating their words now.

It certainly didn’t take the commercial networks very long to become convinced of Newton’s supposed innocence either.

Although, you’d think that even despite an overturned conviction, an actor who’s name had become synonymous with domestic violence would be enough to keep the commercial networks away…

As the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity – and with that, Newton’s career was resurrected to play the role of Terry Clark in Channel Nine’s Underbelly.

To tidy Newton’s image up, although as Media Watch pointed out, the role was rather apt,  News Ltd. got to work on some cross promotion last year with this hard-hitting piece of journalism.

It’s good to see Newton doing what he does best — acting. It’s easy to forget, amid the swirling controversy of the past couple of years, what a good actor he is.

Yes, indeed, great actor. The Hun’s Erin McWhirter sure fell for the shameless PR coordinated by the Herald Sun and Channel Nine.

Contemplating his life in the past two years has brought Newton some sense of inner peace. He hints that turning 30 has played a major part in turning things around.

‘‘Mistakes of your 20s, professionally or whatever, you just come into your own a little bit in your sense of understanding, ” Newton said.

Newton’s reintegration into commercial television was a success, so much so, Channel Seven chose to ignore a couple of tense moments between Rachel and Newton earlier this year and a stint in rehab when it decided they wanted him on board to host X-Factor.

Following Seven’s announcement, another bout of cross-promotion ensued, handy seeing as many Australian’s are unaware that mainstream media is pretty much completely owned by a couple of key players.

“My New Start”

“A changed man
. Putting the past behind him…
…a refreshingly honest interview…

— New Idea, 9th August, 2010”
(as cited on Media Watch website)

Today Tonight were keen to get in on the action also.

Matt White: You haven’t been boring, have you?

Matthew Newton: No, no… I’ve just always done my thing.

— Channel Seven, Today Tonight, 2nd August, 2010
(as cited on Media Watch website)

Why the soft treatment? Vested interests of course. Today Tonight, on Channel Seven. Who publish New Idea? Why,  Pacific Magazines, of course. And who are they? Why, they’re apart of the Seven Media Group.

Fair enough when you consider Channel Seven spent 22 million dollars to buy the rights for it.

But how’s the media treating Newton now? Surely he’s not going to get the soft treatment again?

Think again.

The lack of focus on domestic violence in the media since breaking news of Rome, has recast Newton as mentally ill. Apparently Newton has a series of problems stemming from his childhood spent growing up in the limelight. It’s all a bit ‘poor Matthew.’

A source quoted on the Herald Sun online even went as far as this:

“He’s just got that typical tortured artist’s mind.”

Oh god, really?

To summarise, I’d like to quote Neil (not in relation to ACA, but appropriate nonetheless) who left this comment on the Media Watch website last week:

Wonderful how the vested-interest media are turning “Matthew” into a victim here. “Matthew” now has a mental health issue and “We” in this country are not doing enough to help people with mental health issues. Cleverly, we’re now partly to blame for this maggot’s tanties.


‘Schizophrenia’ fears for Matthew Newton

UPDATE 12:49pm: TROUBLED actor Matthew Newton is suffering schizophrenia-like symptoms from dangerous use of hard drugs such as ice.
Newton, 33, who is undergoing treatment at Sydney’s Northside West Clinic, has been dumped by leading acting agency RGM, which represents Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne and Anthony LaPaglia.
It tops off a week in which Newton was sacked from the TV show The X Factor and dropped by his manager, Titus Day.
Newton is understood to have been taking a cocktail of ice, marijuana and cocaine.
His drug use was known to his family and to some senior employees at the Seven Network, when it hired him.

Absent from this update is any mention of the incident which sparked Newton being dropped from by his management. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
Because of this omission, I guess it’s no wonder Daryl posted this at the bottom of the article:

Daryl Posted at 4:47 AM August 30, 2010
Matt has taken a brave step forward and is getting treatment, good on him. As a sufferer of depression for many years myself, it’s not easy to admit to a problem and to seek help. Don’t give up Matt, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Channel Nine, aired this interview with Bert and Patti Newton.

I’m certainly not criticising Patti or Bert for sticking up for their son, after all they’re just being parents. Yet we should not let their parental defense cloud our view of what Newton has done, and therefore deride the seriousness of what happened to Rachel Taylor, Brooke Satchwell and other victims of domestic violence.

Yet, it seems ACA did exactly just that.
At the end of ACA Tracy Grimshaw says this:

We urge anyone suffering from mental illness or depression to call beyondblue or lifeline.

Absent from this is any mention of how women affected by domestic violence can get help.
Again, Bert is under contract with Channel Nine, so perhaps this is why Grimshaw gave the issue the soft touch, and after all, we can’t blame them for their sons behavior. However, regardless of the reasons, ACA is doing their female viewers a disservice by ignoring the issue of domestic violence.

Too many women die each year as a result of domestic violence. I’m hoping that this time around, we’re going to see justice served for Rachel Taylor and Brooke Satchwell (who must be observing the current events with sadness and anger – she knew the seedy underbelly of this “utmost gentleman” all along).
Like all men who abuse their partners, Matthew Newton should be held accountable for his  actions.

Because really, how many women does a man need to assault before he’s convicted and his celebrity career is over?

Posted in Celebrity, domestic violence, Family, Film & Television, Media Watch, Relationships, Sex And Love, Uncategorized, violence against women, Women's Health | 9 Comments »


Posted by Mel Campbell on May 24, 2010

There is currently a MONSTROUS DEBATE brewing in the US surrounding female genital cutting*. The Academy of American Pediatrics is reviewing its policy on paediatric genital surgery in girls, and has caused uproar for mooting the idea of a “ritualistic genital nick”.

The committee aims to address the ethical dilemmas of doctors dealing with East African families who say plainly that if the American doctor does not perform the procedure, they will fly their daughter to Africa to undergo the surgery there, where it is likely to be much more radical, painful and life-endangering.

The committee’s chair, Seattle paediatrician and bioethicist Dr Doug Diekema, says the putative ‘nick’:

“would remove no tissue, would not touch any significant organ but, rather [it] would be a small nick of the clitoral hood which is the equivalent of the male foreskin – nothing that would scar, nothing that would do damage”

The ‘nick’ is being hailed as a major capitulation to politically correct cultural relativism, as a legal step backwards for America (where FGC is totally illegal), and as an undermining of feminists and community activists who have campaigned against the practice.

Two members of US Congress are proposing a bipartisan bill called the Girls Protection Act that would make it illegal to transport a minor outside the United States for the purposes of undergoing FGC. Many European countries, beginning with Norway, already have similar legislation.

FCG is illegal in Australia, but an ABC report from February 2010 suggests that the surgery is being performed illegally as children are sometimes admitted to hospital with post-operative complications.

Zeinab Mohamud, who works at the Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital, says that the practice is cultural, not religious. “When something is cultural and the people have been doing it for so long, it’s not easy to either eliminate it or to say, ‘you have got a bad culture’,” she told ABC News.

As a feminist, I find it difficult to articulate a position on this. I am strongly against genital surgery for any reasons but functional ones (for instance, repairing fistulas). I find clitoridectomy and infibulation to be mutilative procedures aimed at destroying women’s sexual pleasure and autonomy, and I do feel uneasy about any move that could be interpreted as officially sanctioning the cutting of otherwise healthy minors who are legally unable to consent.

But at the same time, I find it ironic that there’s such an outcry against a proposed, hypothetical and (it seems to me) minor surgery in a country where it’s becoming increasingly mainstream for women to pierce, bleach and surgically reshape their own genitals. If we’re starting a debate about genitals and feminism, I would be uneasy for it to focus only on ‘primitive’ practices endured only by African and Muslim girls.

* I’m using the term “female genital cutting” or FGC here in order to create a neutral tone. “Female circumcision” has been criticised for understating the invasiveness of clitoridectomy and infibulation, whereas “female genital mutilation” has been criticised for increasing the stigma for patients who’ve had these procedures. See here for more information.

Posted in Faith and Religion, Uncategorized, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Lara Bingle, Michael Clarke and Peter Roebuck sitting in a tree

Posted by Katie Olsen on March 10, 2010

From The Age article by Roebuck

The Age online today published another in the list of its growing collection of out-dated and apparently un-subbed features. And it wasn’t even in Ask Sam or Essential Baby, it was right there on the front page (by Peter Roebuck): “Michael Clarke needs to choose between a fraught personal life and his career in cricket.” As far as pullquotes go, that one is a doozie.

Firstly, it was amazing to see that for the first time this reader of The Age has ever seen such an old fashioned denial of ‘having it all’ directed at a man. Rife in Australia (and echoed in rom-coms, chick flicks, chick lit, and other rhyming forms of entertainment) is the belief that for a woman to be super successful in her career she must sacrifice. Sacrifice any chance of a functioning marriage (certainly no man could want to be groom to some power-suited, heartless, soulless, manlike Career Woman); sacrifice a family (not enough hours in the day to hug a child and write emails); sacrifice her looks (surely one can’t be both attractive and clever unless witchcraft is involved). This was the first time a man was told he had to sacrifice. So I clicked and read the rest of the article. Speculation and sexism ensued.

“He [Clarke] is locked into a love affair with a beautiful young woman…. Lara Bingle stumbles from public relations disaster to public relations calamity. Restaurateurs complain about her manners and the poor company she keeps. Fashionistas talk of her headstrong ways and dubious customs. Moreover she seems intent on boosting the sales of all those magazines purchased by the female of the species. In short, she craves attention and courts controversy. Yet Michael, the class act of the pairing, seems besotted. Beauty and danger have always been a potent combination.”

“She stumbles from public relations disaster to public relations calamity” – seems unfair: the cancelling of the Where The Bloody Hell Are You? campaign wasn’t her fault, she didn’t write the script; and she certainly wasn’t to blame for Fevola’s behaviour int the camera phone fiasco. “Locked in”? “Beauty and danger”? He may as well have called her a Black Widow and Photoshopped a Scarlet Letter on her image. The unsubstantiated claims about her manners and “dubious customs” have little or nothing to do with the Fevola scandal or Clarke and Bingle’s relationship and have no place on the homepage of a newspaper. Adding that Clarke is the “class act” of the coupling was just another immature and transparent dig.

But it gets better (read: worse).

“Maturity is the issue. From a distance the romance has all the traits of a schoolboy crush. Clarke has scored a stack of runs for his country, has travelled to many places, has seen and done a lot, has become accomplished. By now gilded youth ought to have given way to adult sensibility. Perhaps it has. Perhaps the problem is that Bingle remains the same waif-like figure supposedly in need of protection.”

So not only is Bingle a media whore, she’s also damsel in distress and Clarke is apparently some egghead sports-dude who has succumbed to her feminine wiles. As somebody who very rarely pays attention to the good bits of sport in Australia, even this moi can see that aside from being sexist, it’s neither an educated nor researched argument. All we know is that Clarke left a sports game to be with his fiance, whatever the reason. Quite the opposite of being some weak little boy, isn’t Clarke being a Real Life Grown Up by supporting his partner?

And then: “Her chivalrous partner rode to her rescue. Nothing in her life, though, suggests that she has ever emerged from the chrysalis of youthful beauty. It’s a dilemma. Clarke yearns to fulfil himself yet remains in thrall to a lass living in a celebrity time warp.”

Just, WOW. Mostly I like how he not only used the word “lass” but then accused her of being in a “time warp”. Oh irony, missed you. PS. You misspelled ‘fulfill’. [I’m wrong, that’s the American spelling. My bad.]

In his article, Roebuck has painted Bingle (who may or may not be intelligent, kind, funny, whatever – we don’t know and doubt he does either) as a femme fatale, a Jezebel, an unstable, untrustworthy, unworthy, hysterical woman. Clarke got off lightly, he’s just been reduced to an juvenile simpleton who has been caught in a spider’s web, driven only by sexual desire and a Prince Charming complex.

What’s bigger than a trifecta? Quinella? Whatever it is, Roebuck got one in the worst possible way.

UPDATE: Here’s another charming screen-grab from The Age. Nice Photoshopping. From 11th March.

11th March 2010

Posted in Media Watch, Sport, Uncategorized | 20 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 »

Dr Elizabeth Blackburn Becomes Australia’s First Female Nobel Prize Winner

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 6, 2009

Hearty congratulations are in order for Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, who last night was announced – along with her colleagues Jack Szostak and Carol Greider – as the winner of the Nobel prize for medicine. The San Francisco-based Blackburn’s work concerns the study of telomeres, cellular “caps” that protect chromosomes; ”You can think of a chromosome as a shoelace with a telomere as the aglet,” she explained, “the tag or sheath at the end of a shoelace that prevents the end from fraying.”

Here’s some background info from The Age‘s coverage:

Australia’s 11th Nobel laureate, Dr Blackburn is a vocal advocate of independent scientific thought, and fell out with the Bush administration over cloning and stem cells. She was dropped from the president’s Council on Bioethics in 2004 after questioning its bias.

A colleague and friend, Melbourne University dean of science Rob Saint, said Dr Blackburn chose her career at a time when women were starting to become much more involved in the sciences. ”I think she would be representative of a change in that gender balance,” Professor Saint said. ” ”She is a very down-to-earth person, intelligent and wise. She stood up for not letting politics intrude into discussions about science.”

Fellow Australian geneticist Jenny Graves said the Nobel prize would serve as great encouragement to young women. ”It’s quite inspirational to those [who] realise we’ve all struggled and persevered to do fantastic science,” said Professor Graves. ”Liz’s time was definitely coming. Her work was just becoming more important as time passed.”

Couldn’t agree more. You can read more about Dr Blackburn and watch some of her lectures over at the University of California San Francisco’s Blackburn Lab Research page.

I think, however, I do need to briefly mention The Age‘s choice of headline:

Picture 25

The headline is contextualised in the article’s introduction:

EARLY in her tertiary education Elizabeth Blackburn was asked by a family friend: ”What’s a nice girl like you doing studying science?”

Unfortunately, choosing to riff on it via the headline misses the point (i.e. that Dr Blackburn has triumphed over such outmoded, sexist and infantilising statements) and instead perpetuates such inanities – girls can’t study science; when are you going to get married and quit work; yes, but you’re not a real scientist, girlie – for the sake of a tittersome headline. So, “thanks”, The Age, for continuing a century or so of sexist rhetoric.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

Guest Post: Kyle & Jackie O & Rape Victims & The Public’s Reaction

Posted by Clem Bastow on August 4, 2009

This guest post is from Rachel Hills, a journalist and blogger who writes about gender, politics and culture.

A couple of months ago, when the Matthew Johns/Clare/gang rape/group sex scandal was all over the media, I wondered what circumstances would be required for the general public to give a rape victim the benefit of the doubt.

In Kyle and Jackie O, it seems, we have our answer. The Australian public has, quite rightly, responded with disgust to the breakfast radio duo’s on-air questioning of a 14-year-old girl about her sex life, a questioning which culminated with the revelation that she’d been raped when she was 12.

Like Johns before them, Kyle and Jackie O have been stood down from their roles (temporarily, at least). But unlike the Johns case, this time everyone is on the victim’s side.

Now, as some of the people I’ve spoken to this about have pointed out, these are quite different cases. In one we’re talking about a girl in her early teens, who was questioned about her sexual history on a high rating radio program by an unsympathetic mother who knew she’d been raped. In another, we’re talking about a woman in her twenties who spoke out about her experience at the hands of a popular football and television star in her late teens, seven years after the event (she also spoke out about it at the time – to both the media and the police – but no one listened and most people don’t know that).

Matthew Johns and his Cronullla teammates were accused of sexual assault; Kyle Sandilands and Jackie Henderson were accused of being insensitive, exploitative dickwards. Matthew Johns was quite – his support groups suggest very – well liked; Kyle Sandilands is pretty widely despised. We have audio evidence of Kyle and Jackie’s offence; for the Cronulla players, it’s essentially one person’s word against another’s.

But those factors aside, I think the public reaction to the two incidents reveals a lot about our treatment of rape survivors, and who is and is not permitted to wear the mantle. Most people are sympathetic to rape survivors in the abstract (or at least, I hope they are!), but the proportion of people who implicitly trust the victim seems to go way down whenever we begin to deal with specifics.

In these two cases, part of the discrepancy comes from who’s delivering the message. The girl on the Kyle and Jackie O show was a child, was presumably a virgin at the time, and was cajoled by her mother and a pair of media celebrities to talk about it on one of the most popular radio programs in the country. It’s almost impossible to shame her. Would we have seen the same response if she was five years older, if she wasn’t a virgin, if her rapist wasn’t an anonymous figure but someone she already knew.

Why is it that the only sexual assault victims we, as a public, trust are those who have been most obviously, black and white, wronged? The virgins, the children, the young women attacked by strangers while jogging at night.

Sydney Morning Herald writer Lisa Pryor touched on the “gray rape” issue in a recent column, responding to a South Australian judge’s comments that a man who “continued sexual activity with a woman after she passed out drunk” had committed only “technical rape”.

“I would put this offence at the lower end of the scale because the sex act began as a consensual one before the victim passed out and became incapable of consenting,” he said.

“To mark this man with the grave offence of rape for the rest of his days will stop him travelling to some countries and prevent him getting jobs.”

Lisa argued that “ghastly as it is for the victims”, some rapes were worse than others; and “[that] the public clamour for higher sentences for certain types of crimes – higher for gang rapes compared to other rapes, higher for murders of police officers compared to other murders – also suggests the public recognises the need for nuanced sentencing.”

I understand what she’s getting at, but it deeply disturbs me that, as a society, we seem to consider any rape bar the most brutal as “gray” or ambiguous. For woman to be “rapable” she has to be considered capable of inspiring lust (think the treatment of Diane Brimble by her attackers), and simultaneously lacking in desire herself. As soon even the possibility of desire enters the equation – if she was on a date, if he was famous, if she was drunk or wore a low-cut top or had engaged in casual sex before – we cast doubt upon her claims.

It’s great that the Australian public has so clearly communicated that Kyle and Jackie’s behaviour is unacceptable. But it’s a shame we can only muster that empathy for the most uncontroversial of victims.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

Morons On Radio

Posted by caitlinate on July 29, 2009

I’m not really sure where to start with this one. There’s so little analysis need, it’s just fucked.

The rather odious team of Kyle Sandilands and Jackie Henderson host the 2DayFM radio breakfast show “The Kyle and Jackie O Show” out of Sydney. One on their segments on the show is a lie detector test, publicised on their website as:

“Cheating, drinking, lesbian marriage – we’ve revealed it all as we strap Sydney into the dreaded Lie Detector.”

A brief survey of the website also brings up other segments of, uh, interest. I won’t link to them but there is a photo gallery featuring shots of Sandliands’ wife – Tamara – from a recent Ralph magazine shoot, a segment where they scare their boss with a snake and he “screams like a girl” and a competition for ‘Sydneys smallest man’ where if you show the on-air duo your penis and it’s small they will give you money.

This morning for the well hyped lie detector segment a woman brought her daughter in to interrogate her about her experiences with sex and drugs. Before the interview even started the young woman said to Sandilands:

“I’m scared … it’s not fair.”

The interview should have stopped here. It didn’t.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Media Watch, Parenting & Family, sexual assault, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Behind Every Brilliant Writer…

Posted by Mel Campbell on April 20, 2009

Claire Walsh (right) with Michael Moorcock (left) and JG Ballard (centre), in September, 2006. Image: Linda Moorcock, via Ballardian.

This is just a quick, fragmentary and unfinished musing, since I’m technically on deadline today. As you may know, game-changing British author JG Ballard died yesterday of prostate cancer, from which he’d suffered since 2006. This is a real tragedy: Ballard was a man of letters who wasn’t just controversial for the sake of public attention, nor out of the nihilism that I tend to see in his heirs such as Michel Houellebecq and Chuck Palahniuk. Rather, in writing things that were deliberately repugnant and offensive, Ballard provoked readers into considering the savagery that underpins our tenuously civilised society.

But more curiously, amid all the obituaries I haven’t read very much about Ballard’s partner of over 40 years, Claire Walsh. Many obits have mentioned that Ballard’s wife, Helen Matthews (referred to as Mary in some obits), died suddenly of pneumonia in 1964 during a family holiday, leaving Ballard to raise their three children alone. (Her death seems to be represented as some kind of dystopian watershed for Ballard, whose most notorious work, The Atrocity Exhibition, was written in the years immediately after her death.)

I only found out about Claire’s existence in an interview that Ballard’s friend of many years, the SF novelist Michael Moorcock, gave to Amazon following Ballard’s death.

“He leaves a partner, Claire Walsh, who was his companion for over forty years and nursed him through his long illness,” Moorcock said.

From what I’ve been able to piece together in the one-line mentions of Walsh in various Ballard obituaries, she is a journalist, and she and Ballard didn’t live together until very recently, when he left his Shepperton home to move in with her. Presumably Ballard was very ill by this time.

There’s a telling paragraph in an interview Ballard gave in 1991 to Canada’s Sunday Times, that hints at the dynamic of their relationship:

Engaged in writing far from the mainstream and bringing up a family singlehanded, Ballard had to rely on women coming to him. “I didn’t have the freedom to move around a lot. I was not passive in my private life. It was just a matter of time-tables. Women had to take the initiative with me out here.” The female characters in the book are very strong.

Ballard has written fondly of Claire in his autobiographical novel The Kindness Of Women and in his straight memoir Miracles Of Life. As he revealed to author Iain Sinclair, he also fictionalised her in his novel Crash: “Claire is the basis of the character Catherine. Catherine Ballard. I remember, when I was writing the book, I said, ‘Shall I call the character based on you Claire?’ She said, ‘Umm, perhaps not.’ So I called her Catherine.”

Skimming through the mountains of online material about Ballard’s life and work, Claire appears as a hazy but shrewd presence. In the final years of his life, she became his representative, travelling internationally to meet exhibition curators when he was too ill to do so himself.

Claire’s simultaneous cultural presence and absence makes me wonder how much we still cling to that figure of the female “muse”. In an era when women didn’t have much political or cultural agency, being a writer or an artist’s muse must have carried its own kind of power.

However, these days it’s a feminist orthodoxy that women should pursue their own creativity rather than exercising it through men, especially when women in intimate relationships with creative men become their de facto representatives or assistants.

Here, I’m also thinking of the current film Summer Hours, in which a family matriarch has spent her entire life managing the artistic legacy of her beloved (and long-deceased) uncle, a famous Impressionist painter. There’s a strong sense in the film that this woman loves the dead man more than her own living children, and that being his muse has overshadowed her own life.

Still, should we criticise women who choose to maintain private lives and let their acclaimed partners have the limelight? Claire Walsh does not seem like a downtrodden or dim person; perhaps there is no media conspiracy involved in whitewashing her out of Ballard’s public life, but rather it has been her own choice not to participate in that particular circus.

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