The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘events’

Cherchez La Femme

Posted by Mel Campbell on May 10, 2010

I’m not sure how many of you know about a new feminist salon called Cherchez La Femme, organised by Karen Pickering. I’m writing this as a hearty encouragement for you to go if you’re in Melbourne. It takes place on the first Tuesday of every month, and is a free-form panel chat and group discussion about feminism in pop culture, current affairs and everyday life.

Last Tuesday’s kick-off event featured The Dawn Chorus‘s own Clem Bastow, “arts tsar” Richard Watts and broadcaster Namila Benson in conversation with Karen Pickering. There was no predetermined agenda: audience members submitted written questions and the panellists drew them out of a hat to direct the discussion. The questions also acted as tickets for the door prizes – a book and a CD.

There was no designated audience Q&A time – instead, roving reporter Kate Boston Smith stood in the crowd with a mic to field contributions from the audience at whatever point people decided they wanted to say something. (Oddly for me, I barely said a word – because I was busy thinking.) And it was a massive audience; the room was absolutely packed.

Pleasingly, there were lots of men there too, proving that feminism isn’t just a women’s project. This is a topic dear to my heart, because a lot of the time, in feminist organisations as well as in the media, I see a conflation between feminism and ‘women’s issues’, as if feminism is good for women but is a nuisance or killjoy for men. I was worried that this event was going to be a Womyn’s Room ghetto, but it was really heartening to look around the packed-out room and see men (hot men!) who’d decided that this was a great way to spend their Tuesday night.

Another reason why I love Cherchez La Femme is that, unlike some other panel events involving women, the focus is authentically on feminism. Although some of its participants have public profiles, it’s not a celebrity circus. And while it’s a hilarious and thought-provoking night out, it doesn’t talk about women’s experiences purely to titillate or entertain. It costs $5 to get in and that money is spent on promoting future salons and providing thankyou drinks for participants.

Cherchez La Femme isn’t trivial, either – it’s deeply invested in talking about the things that matter to its panellists and its audiences. Some of the topics mentioned on Tuesday included whether and for whom wearing the burqa is a freely taken choice, why the advertising industry is obsessed with women’s digestive systems, and how to stay professional in workplace scenarios when your boss shakes your male colleague’s hand but kisses you on the cheek.

I just can’t recommend this event enough. Future salons are going to be themed – next month’s event is devoted to that vexed topic in feminism, raunch culture. It’s at 7pm on Tuesday 1 June at the Fox Hotel (a great pub run by women!), which is at 351 Wellington St (corner Alexandra Pde) Collingwood.


Posted in events | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Reclaim The Night 09

Posted by caitlinate on October 25, 2009


Reclaim The Night is this week! Some events are on Thursday evening and some are on Friday but it’s THIS WEEK. You can find your local event here.

If you’re wondering what RTN is Mel Campbell gave a great round up last year of what it is and why it exists which you should go (re)read.

I’m in Melbourne so I can only speak from experience about that but I thought the rally last year was great. It really got away from the sort of cliquey activist crew event that it can be and there were a lot of women from all walks of life present. Hopefully it’ll be even bigger and more open this year. I find it really thrilling and empowering to stand with so many different women and walk the street with them in a big group, laughing, talking, yelling, chanting, listening and more. It definitely felt like a really positive experience that celebrated the collective strength of women and our right to not be afraid or experience violence. It’s not about heavy handed feminist dialectic (as much as I love the stuff) but just about standing together, voicing a belief and feeling good about doing so. Anyway! I hope to see you all there!

Disclosure – I’m not part of the organising collective but I emceed the rally part last and am doing so again this year. Give me a wave! c

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Reclaim the Night!

Posted by Mel Campbell on October 29, 2008

The first Reclaim the Night rally took place in Rome in 1976 in response to skyrocketing numbers of reported rapes. Women in England marched in 1977, when a series of murders in Leeds led to women being advised to stay indoors. Australia’s first rally was in 1978, and similar events take place across the world wherever women want to protest violence against women, or rail against the ‘curfew’ mentality that leads to ‘commonsensical’ beliefs like the ones my mother is constantly spouting at me:

  • Women shouldn’t walk alone at night
  • Women should avoid dressing and behaving ‘provocatively’ at night
  • Women should avoid parks, dark streets and deserted places at night
  • Women shouldn’t get drunk at night because they’ll be more vulnerable to attack
  • Women shouldn’t speak to strangers at night

While I was definitely spooked last year after getting mugged around the corner from my house, generally it really pisses me off that women are expected to be personally responsible for potential violence against them, to modify their night-time habits and to feel worried and afraid whenever they venture out at night, whereas men can just do anything and go anywhere, unobserved, unharmed and uncriticised.

Of course, women don’t want to think of themselves as powerless or vulnerable, but at the same time there are also blasé attitudes about the things that happen to us in public. Sometimes we don’t interpret them as harassment or assaults, or we’re worried about looking silly, prudish or hysterical if we do. It’s easy to look at statistics (according to CASA, one in three women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime) and think, “That’s not me, I haven’t been raped”, but almost everyone has a story about being followed along the street, flashed at, groped at gigs, in bars or on public transport, or generally feeling creeped out by someone else’s treatment of you.

That shit is not normal. We don’t have to stand for it, and when I say that I’m not advocating taking arse-kicking classes to learn how to fight off attackers. These just feed into the attitude that violence against women is inevitable and it’s women’s job to anticipate it. We need to highlight the fact that everyone has a right to feel safe at night and that public safety is a consensual social contract, not the sole responsibility of one gender.

I say this because sexual violence isn’t only a concern for women, and it isn’t the only reason the night doesn’t feel safe. A (female) former workmate of mine got decked by some guy earlier this year in a fight over a cab, and on Caulfield Cup Day, my brother saw two men harassing a woman and when he told them to cut it out, he got bashed and ended up in hospital. A male friend of mine also has an eye-opening story of being stalked down the street late at night by a man in a car who was jerking off the whole time, and when he reported the licence plate number to the local police, this stalker was already known to them from several previous incidents.

Reclaim the Night takes place at the end of October every year. See if there’s an event happening near you: some are happening on Thursday, some on Friday. The Melbourne event kicks off at 7pm this Thursday at the State Library; the march itself ends up at Trades Hall, where there’ll be an after party from 8pm with free food, live performance from local musos, stalls and a zine fair. The march itself is for women and children only, whereas everyone is welcome at Trades Hall.

I must admit to being kind of ambivalent about these events, because they tend to take place in an ‘activist’ context that can seem daggy and offputting for people who don’t identify as activists, whereas this is an issue for everyone. At the same time though, I’m pleased to see the Bella Union bar used as a space of solidarity. I have been extremely unimpressed to see this historic site degenerate into just another indie and comedy club, with its labour movement heritage aestheticised for the appreciation of apolitical (yet left-leaning) local hipsters.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Women On The Line Fundraiser

Posted by Mel Campbell on August 12, 2008

If you’ll be in Melbourne on Tuesday 26 August, how about catching a cool movie and raising funds for feminist community radio? “Yeah!” I hear you chorus.

Persepolis is an award-winning animated film based on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel about growing up against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. Through the eyes of precocious and outspoken nine-year-old Marjane, we see a people’s hopes dashed as fundamentalists take power — forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands. Clever and fearless, she outsmarts the “social guardians” and discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden. Yet when her uncle is senselessly executed and as bombs fall around Tehran in the Iran/Iraq war, the daily fear that permeates life in Iran is palpable.

The movie fundraiser supports Women On The Line, a women’s current affairs program on Melbourne community radio station 3CR. Since 1986, it has featured women’s voices, issues and commentary. The show provides a gender analysis of contemporary issues, as well as in-depth analysis by a range of women around Australia and internationally.

Cinema Nova, Lygon St, Carlton
Tuesday 26 August at 7pm
Tickets are $20.

For bookings or more info, email womenontheline [at] hotmail [dot] com. There’s also a Facebook event for this, because truly the age of over-information is upon us.

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Celebrate Vida Goldstein!

Posted by Cate on August 8, 2008

August 15th sees an opportunity to view The Art of Suff-Rage traveling art installation for a one off special event in celebration of Vida Goldstein. Vida was one of Victoria’s most colorful and courageous suffragists whom passed away forty nine years ago on the 15th August 1949.

Artists Fern Smith and Ursula Dutkiewicz will be on the steps of the St Kilda Town Hall with their installation and special guest speakers between 11AM and 1PM on that date.

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