The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘opinion’

Best of the rest on PM Gillard

Posted by Nic Heath on June 25, 2010

Australia might be ‘tickled pink at having its first female prime minister’, but what else is being said about the dramatic leadership change that saw Kevin Rudd suddenly ousted by Julia Gillard this week? 

Eva Cox at Crikey sees Julia Gillard’s achievement as the first step, rather than the end point, for those desiring gender balance in positions of power: 

‘We will know we really have made progress when women in top positions become normal and not worthy of comment. It will also mean we get better leaders, not just because many are women, but because we no longer exclude good people because of their gender.’ (register to read) 

Also at Crikey Shakira Hussein warns us that Gillard’s ascension to the top job means that some will think that feminism is finished: 

‘The danger now (well, one of the dangers) is that feminists will be told that the battle is won, that anyone who is still on the battlefield is just a whinger, that if a woman can become prime minister, then we have no further reason to complain.’ 

Annabel Crabbe acknowledges the sense of hope that has accompanied Gillard’s promotion:  

‘The approbation of her colleagues, seasoned with a groundswell of genuine delight at the elevation of Australia’s first female prime minister, give her an opportunity to make the sort of progress that eluded her predecessor.’ 

Catriona Menzies-Pike at New Matilda considers Gillard’s momentous caucus win and is left seeking answers: 

‘Once the fuss dies down, some of these questions will be answered and a bigger one will emerge: are Australians really ready to elect a female prime minister? 

‘There’s no doubt that Gillard’s promotion is an important symbolic victory for Australian women. But is this the exemplary trajectory for female success? To act as deputy until those whom you have vehemently opposed act to support you?’ 

 The Australian’s Caroline Overington sees evidence of change stamped all over our new PM: 

Julia Gillard is a woman, but that’s not the only extraordinary thing about her rise. 

She’s got a de facto. 

Imagine that, 30 years ago: an unmarried woman, living in sin with a man. Who is a hairdresser. And aspiring to high office. 

Leo Shanahan at The Punch believes Gillard could be the person to get the government back on track: 

Call me a honeymooner if you want, but in both policy and rhetoric Prime Minister Gillard made a lot of sense today, and that’s something that’s been missing from the Federal Government as of late. 

In Josephine Tovey’s piece at SMH, Gillard’s fruit bowl runneth over, Tovey wants women to stay on their toes: 

Just being a woman in power is not enough. There will be questions, rightly so, from women across the feminist spectrum. 

Will she, as Prime Minister improve the lot of other women, and make their paths to equality easier? 

But these are all questions for tomorrow. For now at least, we should all celebrate this landmark moment. 

 More excitement over at Femisting, with another reminder that all is not yet equal:

Julia Gillard, our new WOMAN PM – sorry, I can’t stop writing that in delighted caps – is a very impressive woman, and I have high hopes that this ouster will get voters’ approval in the upcoming Federal election. But one woman leader does not an egalitarian society make. 

At The Drum Helen Razer, enjoying ‘a little gynaecological bloat as Her Majesty’s female representative swore in the female representative of the people’, writes: 

‘A colony founded in masculinity, Australia can still feel like the land that feminism forgot. On this “historic” day, perhaps Overington, Wilkinson and co can be excused their greeting card gush.’ 

Mia Freedman briefed her readers about their new PM, adding: 

Julia Gillard is a remarkable woman. A fighter who has fought and won against many odds. A self confessed feminist and socialist, Gillard has survived the many attacks from the media and conservatives in Australia to become the Prime Minister of Australia, put in the position by the right wing factions that have previously tried to tear her down. 

Catherine Deveny sees Julia Gillard’s win as ‘a victory for all who do not fit into the category of white, middle aged, middle class, straight (or acting), god fearing (or pretending) university educated males granted a priority pass access to power (and therefore money, control, leisure and choice) at birth.’ Deveny affirms her faith in Gillard, writing: 

I believe in Julia Gillard. Not because she is a woman. But because she’s Julia Gillard. Smart, brave, strong, experienced and independent. I believe in equality and diversity. Which means knowing she can be a maggot and a mongrel when necessary. Delight and disappoint. Her promise not mine.  


If you have read any great comment or analysis that I have missed feel free to post it in the comments.


Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Love & Marriage… Don’t Go Together Like A Horse & Carriage

Posted by caitlinate on September 16, 2009

So, I know it’s lazy to just post a link and say ‘go look here’ but I think this piece by Catherine Deveny in the Sydney Morning Herald today is a worthy excuse for such an indolent act. I also think it’s a good kick off for a fun TDC discussion about marriage and it’s place and purpose in our current day and age.

The article begins:

I AM against gay marriage. I’m against straight marriage. I’m against marriage full stop. Why are we hanging on to this relic of an anachronistic system (which still reeks of misogyny and bigotry), established so men could own women to ensure their estates and titles were passed on to their kids – sorry, their sons? Time to ditch it.

Go read!

Posted in Faith and Religion, Family, glbt, law, Media Watch, Parenting & Family, Relationships, Sex And Love | Tagged: , , , , , | 55 Comments »

Crikey Wants To “Pull Chicks”

Posted by Mel Campbell on August 20, 2009

Online media outlet has been doing some audience research and is dismayed to realise that subscribers to its daily email service are 70 per cent male. Deputy editor Sophie Black points out today that this is despite a 50/50 gender balance in its editorial staff. Meanwhile, editor Jonathan Green says (tongue in cheek, I’d assume) that even the male staffers have “considered carefully the advances of feminism over the last few decades and placed ourselves within that context, while still pulling chicks.”

Initial fact-finding missions via Twitter uncovered a mix of potential reasons, which seemed to fall into recurring themes:

  • Women are too busy fulfilling myriad domestic responsibilities, on top of their work commitments and social lives, to sit around reading about Australian politics, media and business;
  • Women are not interested in the minutiae of party politics and the Canberra press gallery
  • While Crikey’s staff may have an even gender balance, freelance contributors are largely male
  • The editorial tone is blokey and macho, from the topics chosen to the way headlines are phrased
  • The industries covered in Crikey tend to be male-dominated
  • Women aren’t prepared to pay money for Crikey subscriptions, preferring to get Crikey’s emails forwarded from others, or getting their comment and debate for free on the web

I contribute occasionally to Crikey (and some of my writing at The Enthusiast gets picked up by their new aggregator-style website), and I feel a little embarrassed that my articles about stuff like fashion, media and advertising tend to look lightweight compared to the ins and outs of the Liberal leadership. Even though these are my professional interests, I feel worried that this kind of writing is considered “female-friendly” because, to be frank, many of my Crikey stories are deeply, gleefully silly. Although it’s come to seem that way, silliness is not “women’s interest”.

Crikey is considering starting a political blog written by women, possibly similar to Double X. But is the answer to its gender woes simply to increase its coverage of  “women’s issues” – and to ghettoise these on its website – when the original problem was an imbalance among its email subscribers? Perhaps a more pertinent issue might be Crikey’s definition of ‘politics’ – and its subscriber model.

In general I find Crikey’s current policy-wonk focus quite dry and boring. For instance, it does not intrigue me in the slightest that “ASIC, normally the country’s most timid regulator, is calling for bans on commissions and a slew of tighter regulatory requirements to end conflicted advice and impose greater responsibilities on financial planners.” (from Bernard Keane’s story in today’s email, Canning advisor’s commissions would be super start to reform.)

Perhaps women are more interested in social, cultural and sexual politics – that is, real-world politics. These are not just issues directly involving women, such as sex crimes, workplace and media sexism, consumer culture and work/life balance. Instead I’d suggest that women also respond passionately and empathetically to human rights and ethical issues of all sorts, from the environment to policing tactics, health funding to drugs in sport. These are not abstract policy debates but rather humanist debates.

Crikey’s email subscription model is also a linear method of content delivery – it’s sent out to subscribers, who can write back with comments, which are then sent out in the next issue. However, Sophie Black cites studies showing that women are heavy users of blogs and social media technologies. These are not linear but use metaphors of networks and communities. (In the past, Crikey subscribers have vehemently rejected the jocular name for the site’s community, “the Crikey Army”.)

In my experience as a woman (but, sadly, not “as an athlete, and a mum”), women like to share information by emailing their friends and joining in discussions at favoured online locations, whether these be Facebook, Twitter or The Dawn Chorus. Perhaps Crikey does have more female readers – but its 30 per cent of female subscribers are forwarding the emails to their friends. Perhaps online debate among women is happening in places that don’t have paywalls.

Why do you think women aren’t subscribing to Crikey? What kind of politics do you think women want to read about? And if you don’t read Crikey, where are you heading for your political reading?

Posted in Media Watch, Tech & Net | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

One more thing about the Hottest 100

Posted by Nic Heath on July 31, 2009

Triple J’s Hottest 100 (OF ALL TIME!) has generated a lot of comment for its rather mannish aspect. I don’t mind, obviously, that it is last fortnight’s news (and now it is another radio station in the news) – I’m all for an ongoing conversation about where women figure, and how well they fare, in popular culture. And if it is even an issue at all.

There is a good list of links to various articles and posts on the topic at Hoyden About Town. Clem Bastow covered it for The Age, listing the women who did make it into the poll, while Mel Campbell, at The Enthusiast, worried that ‘the Hottest 100 also legitimises radio industry strategies that ignore women.’

The skewed result may seem like a blip on the radar when viewed in isolation, but I think it becomes more like a worrying trend when considered alongside other cultural lists – like this year’s Miles Franklin Award shortlist. All men there too. And again, it isn’t like there are no books written by women worthy of being included in this particular shortlist. Pavlov’s Cat posted a great response to this ‘aberration’.

So that is mainstream popular culture. Away from official recognition of cultural pursuits there are women being creative and garnering interest – anecdotally, I went to a day-long gig on Sunday which was headlined by Beaches, an all-female group who I don’t think identify as being unusual because of that.

Sophie Best, from Melbourne’s Mistletone (which released Beaches’ album), gave me a fresh perspective on the skew last week – citing shocking conservatism – and I’ll give her my last word:

There’s obviously so many great female artists. I get really mad when people do articles about women in rock, I find it really patronizing because women have been making music, women have been a huge part of music since the music industry began. Before there was even an industry women have always played music! I find it really strange when people act as thought there’s something unusual about women playing music.

I’ll give you my personal theory if you like. I think it’s because the very idea of music being a competition, you know that there’s a ladder, and that there’s a contest and someone’s going to come out on top, is inherently a male idea. To me that seems to come from the sporting world, you know, the idea that someone’s the best, they’re going to win, they’re going to be on top, it sounds like footballism to me and to me it’s nothing to do with what music and art is about. I said I didn’t blame Triple J but maybe I do blame them for actually making music into a sport like that..

I always hate those lists, they’re always really bad…they always come up with the most god-awful winners. And if you think about it even yourself if you had to do a list, it’s really hard to do, to say what are the best songs. It’s a ridiculous question…My assessment of that is that the whole concept of having a hottest 100 is male, in that clichéd way of the male way of being competitive. I don’t think music is about that, I don’t think music is about whose best. I don’t think it’s a competition.

Posted in Interviews, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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 »

Just How Much Does The Age Value Catherine Deveny’s Contributions?

Posted by Clem Bastow on March 18, 2009

Not a whole lot, it would seem.

Two weeks back, Deveny wrote – in honour of International Women’s Day – a stunning piece about the lack of female voices in the Australian media. Her weekly columns may be polarising, but there are many who turn to the Opinion page come Wednesday morning just to see what she has to say. Those of us who love her do so because we love her wit, passion and honesty. Two collections of her columns have been published. In other words, you could be forgiven for thinking that The Age would want to hang on to her for dear life – but you’d be wrong.

Since last Wednesday, Deveny has been on strike:

[New] editor Paul Ramadge declined to honour an agreement Deveny had struck with his predecessor Andrew Jaspan for a pay rise that, according to one Age insider, would have taken her into the stratosphere.

The Age (and Fairfax as a whole) has a recent and rich history of stuffing around its editorial staff, but such behaviour is even more injurious to its freelance contributors, of which Deveny is one. She is a contractor who recieves no super, benefits, holiday pay, maternity leave, sick pay or long service leave. The blokes at the top get paid performance bonuses for cutting costs. The last thing Deveny wrote about the was the lack of strong female voices in the media (and only 13 of the last 69 opinion pieces in the paper were written by women). Now she’s not there.

Complain and tell your friends – tell The Age (and Ramadge) that you don’t approve of their dealings: call 9600 4211 for reader feedback, or send a letter to the editor.

Posted in Business, Media Watch, Weekend Love-In | Tagged: , , , , | 24 Comments »

She Kissed Me And It Felt Like A Hit

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 10, 2008

For some time now I’ve been meaning to discuss Katy Perry’s I Kissed A Girl, but find the song (and its reprehensible predecessor, Ur So Gay – I hope Hilary Duff pays Perry a visit) but I find her songs so odious I haven’t been able to bring myself to get into the zone, so to speak. To listen to UR So Gay – and this is speaking as a long-term defender of pop music – is to experience the joy drain from your life like Mosquitor sucking the life-force out of He-Man, only less entertaining. (On that note, you can have a schadenfreudetastic read of this interview with Perry, conducted by TheNewGay, in which she attempts to argue that lyrics like “I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf” are, like, not meant to be insulting to gay men.)

Back to the topic of I Kissed A Girl, though – and fortunately, SameSame founder Tim Duggan has spurred me on with his opinion piece, “The dangers of fauxmosexuality“, in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

In interviews, Perry implies it’s just all a bit of fun. But when up to 30 per cent of teen suicides in the US are by lesbian or gay teens, it’s very a dangerous game for celebrities to play.

The gay equality movement has gradually, thankfully, started to take hold across the world. And then along comes a simple, straight singer with dollars in her eyes who takes us back to a fantasyland created by video-clip directors.

It’s time for Perry to stop kissing girls and start taking responsibility for the knock-on effect of her thoughtless lyrics.

Duggan’s piece is not the first on the topic of the apparent boom in “celesbianism”, though not many have discussed how shrewdly Perry is pitching her material not at lesbians, or even confused teens, but at men. As Jude Rogers said in the Guardian (on the topic of I Kissed A Girl and its video clip):

[…] When she says “it felt so wrong”, she’s pandering to your thoughts. And when she adds that she hopes that her “boyfriend don’t mind it”, she’s not exactly laying the groundwork for a radical lesbian revolution.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Celebrity, glbt, Media Watch, music, Sex And Love | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Tick Tock Goes The Biological Clock

Posted by Clem Bastow on September 11, 2008

The idea of women having a ‘biological clock’ when it comes to having babies has long been a favoured punchline in the battle of the sexes (not to mention television situational comedy and chick lit). But is it a compelling reality (for some women) driven by, well, biology, or simply a societal pressure that has made its way into our collective subconscious? A group of NSW researchers seem to believe it’s the former:

The Garvan Institute of Medical Research is targeting professional Sydney women aged between 25 and 35, warning that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not enough to preserve fertility, and IVF cannot be considered a fail-safe back-up plan.

Newtown gynaecologist Gabrielle Dezarnaulds said women have a fixed number of eggs to last them a lifetime and fertility drops sharply from the late 30s as the number and quality of eggs dwindle.

Success rates for assisted reproductive technology also decline the longer a woman’s biological clock has been ticking, she said.

“I’m not saying you should get pregnant before a set age, but go and chat to your GP, even if you’re not aiming to get pregnant immediately. Work out a time frame when you might start to, and if you are ready to have a baby, get on with it.”

Generally speaking, when research/opinions like these are aired, there is always a bristling amongst women (myself included) who sometimes feel it paints them as little more than baby factories who need to get cracking; the former Howard Government’s “one for you, one for the country” initiatives did little to ease these worries.

But is it worth considering what bearing waiting to have children may have on those of us who choose to have babies? There is something to be said about scientific (rather than societal) ideas of when the female body is most fertile. What are your thoughts on the issue – do you have a biological clock, and is it ticking?

Posted in Family, Media Watch, Sex And Love, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

I’m A DIY Cupcake Feminist

Posted by Cate on August 26, 2008

I quite enjoyed this article in The Guardian recently by Viv Groskop. It’s about the apparent ‘resurgence’ of feminine pastimes such as baking, knitting and sewing. The article details the ‘rise’ in retro and ’50s kitsch and pastimes traditionally enjoyed by stay at home mums such as tea parties, baking cakes and having a liking for tablecloths and aprons and debates whether this is a throw back to pinny imprisoned women of years past or an example of women spending time together engaging in ‘feminine’ crafts because they want to. I have divided opinions on this.

I should state my personal bias up front. I have always been crap at sports and elected to participate in all things crafty from an early age as a sanctuary from physical exertion. I run my own craft business and I run workshops on crafting. I’m in the middle of organizing a sewing bee making pads for women in Africa. But onto the article…

Firstly, the article offers numerous examples of ‘subversive’ crafting such as a cupcake drop, burlesque and naked afternoon teas and the like. Is there anything that can’t be made sexy? Sexing craft up doesn’t necessarily make it any more subversive an activity if the focus is still on the fetishised, sexualised women. But is it any better if the crafty burlesque is for a female audience? Is the wearer of those DIY nipple tassles a crafty crusader or does her presence serve to offer women yet another opportunity to compare their body to other women’s and find their sadly inadequate? But fear not readers, there’s a whole spectrum of subversive and radical crafts out there that you could do knitted or otherwise really (here’s a pattern for a knitted vagina if you feel the urge and you might enjoy this site whilst waiting for the GST on tampons to lift.

Secondly, there the issue of context as the author offers the typical contrast between second and third wave feminists. Is baking such great fun if you have to do all the cooking?.

According to a 2008 study by the [UK]Institute for Social and Economic Research, for instance, men do four to five hours of housework a week, compared with 12 hours for married women and live-in partners (single women do seven hours a week). And when it comes to cooking and washing-up, 2005 figures from the Office of National Statistics show that women spend double the amount of time in the kitchen that men do.

I can’t say this is my experience. My feminine crafting hardly extends to an immaculate house of my own efforts. Actually, my partner kindly vacuums up my dropped threads from the carpet and makes me cups of tea whilst I’m crafting. But I do agree that some crafts such as knitting and cross stitch can take a long time. I think that in some respects traditional female crafts are the luxury of middle class women who are meaningfully employed. With time to go and trawl the charity shops for their ‘reusable’ materials of course. Any woman who’s checked out the prices of Japanese or retro fabrics knows that it isn’t a cheap hobbby.

I would have liked the article to go a bit further into the ethical considerations of crafting. Is DIY baking and crafting still a valiant attempt to have a social conscience? Is it better to buy handmade if it is made from fabric woven in sweat shop factories? Are my labours as a crafter any more valued since I don’t have to sew to survive? (Perhaps not, judging by the masses of painstakingly cross stitched dollies residing in charity shops all over Australia).

I agree with Jazz D Holly statement that craft is about

”a chance to carve out their own space away from men, a place where they can gather to celebrate and enjoy traditionally female crafts”.

It can also be a good time to talk about your vaginas and plans for anti-beauty burlesque.

Posted in Blog Watch, Fashion, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Pink Pastel Princesses: Gender Conditioning And Girlhood

Posted by Clem Bastow on August 13, 2008

Melbourne Author Monica Dux had a fascinating piece in The Age this week questioning whether dressing daughters as fairies, princesses and ballerinas – in a range of pinks that would make “blush and bashful” Shelby from Steel Magnolias reach for a sick bag – is healthy, or even whether it might be at the root of the issues surrounding the apparent sexualisation of teens.

We’re living in a period of growing sensitivity about how we depict our girl children, revealed most tellingly in the commotion surrounding Bill Henson’s art, and restated in the objections raised against the July cover of Art Monthly. We have also heard a chorus of commentators passionately condemning the rise of “raunch culture”. We are warned that girls are losing their innocence prematurely in our media-saturated world. Bratz dolls, pole-dancing kits marketed to children, and even David Jones catalogues have all been censured for intensifying the sexualisation of young girls.

Yet amid all this anxiety, we seem to be overlooking the pink elephant in the nursery, the one in fairy wings and a tiara. Like raunch culture, the fairy princess aesthetic and its associated paraphernalia serve to entrench an extremely narrow idea of femininity, impressing on young girls that they are pretty, flighty little objects to be admired and marvelled at, rather than active young things seeking out adventure.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Family, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , | 21 Comments »