2013: A Bad Year for Women.

Not to discount Wendy Davis’ reproductive rights filibuster in Texas, abortion drug RU486 being added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and feminism trending worldwide thanks to Beyone, Miley et al. clamoring to claim the movement for themselves, 2013 was a very bad year for women. But what year isn’t, really?

On Valentine’s Day in South Africa, Paralympian Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead, claiming he thought she was an intruder. Abusive relationship whispers abounded, but all the media could talk about was that Steenkamp was a hot, blonde model, and many news stories didn’t even bother to mention her name.

While Melbourne woman (by way of Ireland) Jill Meagher was brutally raped and murdered in 2012, the trial of her killer, Adrian Bayley, dominated the Aussie news this year. It was revealed that Meagher was the latest in a long line of rapes and abductions spanning a twenty-year period due to the failure of the parole system. Bayley was sentenced in June to 35 years in prison.

Many of Bayley’s rapes were targeted at St. Kilda sex workers, which brings us to the murder of Tracy Connelly in her van on 21st July which made news in the wake of Bayley’s sentencing. Melbourne writer Wendy Squires furthered Connelly’s story by writing about the woman she never knew by name, but with whom she became friendly as she passed her in her neighbourhood most days.

In the mid-year political uprising in Egypt, up to 43 women were sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square, but they’re just collateral damage when the larger issue of political freedom is at stake, am I right? And while the brutal Dehli gang rape and bashing of an Indian student and her male friend which resulted in the student’s death from internal injuries happened late last year, 2013 has been rife with other sexual assaults. (It’s important to note that these are just the rapes that have been publicised and picked up by the Western media. Countless rapes have been and are continuing to be committed that we just don’t hear about.) Most recently, a 15-year-old Indian girl committed suicide after being gang raped six months ago.

The U.S. has seen a spate of woman-hating crimes come to light this year, too. In May, Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Berry’s six-year-old daughter were rescued from a house in Cleveland, Ohio after being held captive by Ariel Castro for up to ten years. At trial in August, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus and addition 1,000 years. One month later, Castro was found dead in his cell.

The football town of Steubenville, also in Ohio, made worldwide headlines for the rape and kidnapping of an unconscious teen by members of the town’s high school football team. The teenaged victim, whose identity is protected, was transported from party to party whilst she was unconscious (resulting in later-dropped kidnapping charges, in addition to rape and child pornography charges), had photos taken of her and shared on social media, and had her case picked up by vigilante hacking group, Anonymous, which forced the authorities to take the case seriously. The teenaged perpetrators, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, were given the minimum sentences of one and two years, respectively, in juvenile detention while investigations have been launched into the role school officials played in covering up the case.

In another -Ville—Maryville, Missouri—two teenaged girls were raped by boys on their school’s football team… Sound familiar? One of the victims was left passed out on her porch in minus temperatures, has attempted suicide and allegedly had her house burned down as a threat. The case was dropped due to “insufficient evidence” but has recently been reopened as a result of public pressure.

Back at home, the deaths of two young girls and the abuse they suffered their whole lives at the hands of their parents were in the news. Kiesha Weippeart’s mother, Kristi Abrahams, was sentenced to up to 22-and-a-half years in prison in July for the murder of her daughter in 2010. Her partner, Robert Smith, was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years for being an accessory to the crime. It’s no excuse for the brutal murder of a six-year-old, but this Good Weekend article is a harrowing account of the cycle of abuse in the Abrahams family that Kiesha was a victim of. Also making headlines was the sentencing for the murder of toddler Tanilla Warrick-Deaves. Donna Deaves had earlier in the year been sentenced to 12 years in prison for doing nothing to save her daughter from the fatal beating inflicted on Tanilla by her partner, Warren Ross. Ross was found guilty of Tanilla’s murder on 5th December.

But probably the two take away moments of misogyny in 2013 are Robin Thicke, who has been named sexist of the year, for his rape anthem, “Blurred Lines”, and its accompanying god awful video, and the ousting of Julia Gillard from the prime ministership. Now, before all the MRAs get up me for deigning to insinuate that a poor leader shouldn’t stay in that role because she’s a woman, I’m not talking about just her ousting. It was everything leading up to that: the “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” placards; the sexist menu in which Gillard’s body parts were likened to meat; Alan Jones’ comments; the questions about her partner’s sexuality; the misogyny speech… Hell, Anne Summers didn’t write a book about it for nothing! I don’t necessarily agree with all of her sentiments, and she did make some bad decisions in parliament, but when we look back at Gillard’s time as the first female Prime Minister of Australia, there has been at least one positive development to come out of it: Gillard is now a feminist hero!

What have been some of the worst moments for women in 2013 that I haven’t included here? I would love to get your thoughts in the comments.

Related: The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers Review.

Anne Summers in Conversation with Julia Gillard.

Elsewhere: [The Age] An Innocent Woman Slain. Where’s the Public Outcry?

[Sydney Morning Herald] Duty of Care: What Happened to Kiesha?

[The Guardian] Robin Thicke Named Sexist of the Year.

Book Review: Never, Ever, Again… Why Australian Abortion Law Needs Reform by Caroline de Costa.

Abortion activist Caroline de Costa gets the name for her book from the Queensland trial of young couple Tegan Leach and Sergie Brennan, who were charged with procuring an illegal abortion by using the “controversial abortion drug”, RU486, which is a situation that should happen “never, ever, again” (p. 24).

This unique case garnered so much media attention because it was the first time since 1959 that a woman was charged, under section 225 of the Queensland Criminal Code, with procuring her own abortion. This section of the criminal code hasn’t been changed since it was written… in 1899.

The couple were declared innocent after the trail came to a close on the 14th October last year, but it brought to a head the debate surrounding the aforementioned “controversial abortion drug” RU486.

de Costa has also written another book on RU486, and a lot of that material is rehashed in this publication. Before this case, I only ever thought there were surgical abortions, performed in a hospital using suction. I supported them nonetheless. Now that I’m aware there is an “abortion drug”, which not only assists in the safe termination of pregnancy, but “could help treat, among many other things, certain inoperable brain tumours, breast cancers, burns and, ironically enough, the fertility-inhibiting condition of endometriosis” (p. 151), I’m even more in favour of allowing access to abortion to women who don’t want to be pregnant.

de Costa continues:

“Mifepristone/misoprostol [RU486] is also an effective way of starting labour in women when it is found that the fetus has died in the uterus at any time up to mid-pregnancy, and this is now recommended practice in many countries overseas.

“Mifepristone has also been shown in trials to be useful for Emergency Contraception (EC)” (p. 152).

de Costa is quick to point out that RU486 is not the same as EC, as one assists in abortion while the other prevents an egg being fertilised in the aftermath of unprotected sex.

The drug has also been seen to be effective in small doses as a contraceptive pill, assist in the treatment of Cushing’s syndrome (the “over-production of glucocorticoids”), depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s, arthritis, “certain types of hypertension”, glaucoma, and even HIV and AIDS (p. 152, 154).

But RU486 is only available from a few medical practitioners in a few locations in Australia, hence why Leach and Brennan decided to purchase theirs from overseas. It is also a fairly recent development.

Before medical abortion was available, women tried all sorts of treatments and home remedies to abort their foetuses, a cacophony of which are detailed in Never, Ever, Again. Most of these cases resulted in the desired death of the unborn child, but also in the death of the mother.

Whilst Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Territories have abolished abortion as a crime, Queensland still considers it an illegal and punishable offence. So do, to a lesser extent, Tasmania and South Australia. Seriously, people: when some third world countries have no problem with mifepristone, why should a progressive country such as Australia?

The book talks about the majority of Australians who think abortion should be legal, and how Queensland residents and the media came out in support of Leach and Brennan during their trial. For example, “as journalist Emma Tom wrote in 2009:

“Like many people who believe women should have the right to safe, affordable and legal terminations, I don’t like being described as pro-abortion because it sounds like I think terminations are fabbo things that women should hop into as often as possible. The truth is I’d like to see a whole lot less of them, but via sex education and contraception rather than by robbing women of their right to decide whether they’re up to seeing through a pregnancy” (p. 24).

Now that’s something everyone can agree on, no?

In the final chapter of the book, a recent addition to this second edition, de Costa writes in a much more relatable and personable tone than the rest of the book. Perhaps that’s because the final chapter is an account of the trial of Leach and Brennan, which de Costa attended.

de Costa also repeatedly writes the assertion that abortion should be a matter that exists between a woman, her partner and her doctor, and not the government, the police and the legal system. In the final sentence, de Costa writes:

“It [the second chapter of abortion law reform in Australia] will be written when finally State Premiers and Attorneys-General have the wisdom and courage to remove abortion from the too-hard basket and agree on uniform decriminalization of abortion law across the country. Then, and only then, can abortion truly be a matter for a woman, her partner and her doctor.”

Amen to that!

 

 

 

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Melbourne Writers’ Festival: Never, Ever, Again: Why Australian Abortion Law Needs Reform by Caroline de Costa Book Launch.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Feminism Respects Women More Than Anything, Including the Catholic Church!

Image via Fishpond.

Event: Melbourne Writers’ Festival—Never, Ever, Again: Why Australian Abortion Law Needs Reform by Caroline de Costa Book Launch.

Last year’s Melbourne Writers’ Festival was pretty lackluster, and I didn’t attend any events.

This year, however, is jammed packed with hard-hitting seminars, news-related talks and all-day workshops. There are more events I’m interested in than there is money in my pocket.

But to kick things off was a free, no-bookings-necessary book launch at ACMI’s The Cube on Friday afternoon for Caroline de Costa’s second edition of Never, Ever, Again: Why Australian Abortion Law Needs Reform (review to come in the next few weeks).

Honestly, I didn’t think I’d heard of de Costa before, and just saw the word “abortion” and knew I had to attend!

However, when the author began speaking about the abortion drug RU486, I remembered reading her work a few weeks ago on MamaMia, and featuring said article in “On the (Rest of the) Net”. It is an article I recommend checking out wholeheartedly.

In this article, De Costa asserts that we need to increase sex education and access to contraceptives in order to bring Australia’s high abortion rate down.

In de Costa’s address at the event, she said no woman enjoys having an abortion and that there’s “no such thing” as “pro-abortion”, an assertion that I don’t 100% agree with, but I do think it is a damaging label pro-lifers sometimes paint pro-choicers with.

Ultimately, de Costa says we “should be concerned about the health and safety of every pregnant woman” as opposed to the biologically dependent mass of “unwanted tissue” in her body.

The other speakers at the event—the MC whose name I didn’t catch, long-time pro-choicer Dr. Jo Wainer, former Minister for Women’s Affairs from 2007 to 2010, Maxine Morand, and Dr. Chris Bayly from the Royal Women’s Hospital—reiterated de Costa’s sentiments in her book, that the “hidden business that is women’s business” of abortion needs to be destigmatised and legalised in order to increase access to safe pregnancy terminations.

Finally, the revised edition of the book includes an extra chapter on the Queensland trial of Tegan Leach and Sergie Brennan, who were charged with procuring an illegal abortion in 2009 when they purchased the drug RU486.

Dr. Wainer noted that when Leach was on the stand being questioned as to why she felt the need to abort her baby, it was the “21st century equivalent of putting women in the stocks”. Or burning at the stake for her “crimes”, if you will.

It’s something that, as the book’s title suggests, should happen never, ever, again.

That’s why abortion law in Australia needs to be reformed.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] On the (Rest of the) Net 19th August 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Grey’s Anatomy Final Asks “When Does Life Begin?”

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Private Practice: Pro-Choice?

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] RU486, Sex Education & Contraception. That’s All We Need.

[MamaMia] The Couple Facing Jail Because They Tried to “Procure an Abortion”. Hello, Queensland? It’s 2010.

[Televisual] The Changing Economics of the TV Abortion.

Image via Melbourne Writers’ Festival.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“If Male Superheroes Posed Like Wonder Woman.” [The Bleeding Cool, via Jezebel]

“An Open Letter to Fred Nile”, member of the Christian Democratic Party, who said the baby being expected by Federal Finance Minister Penny Wong and her partner, Sophie Allouache, has “human rights” and should not be brought up in a home with two mummies. [MamaMia]

The anti-child-model argument. And it’s a good one. [The Guardian]

The navel-gazing of the Gen Y writer. [Harvest Magazine]

Latoya Peterson “On Being Feminism’s ‘Ms. Nigga’”. [Racialicious]

The old Hollywood deception that was Rock Hudson. [The Hairpin]

The case for spoilers. I’ve been guilty of giving away the ending of movies and TV shows, saying things like “Oh yeah, and then it grows back” about Jessica’s broken hymen in her first sexual encounter—as a human or vampire—with Hoyt on True Blood, when I asked a friend which episode they were up to. Oh, you haven’t seen it? Whoops! [Jezebel]

The (Real Life) Help. [Jezebel]

And if The Help, the DSK case and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child have taught us anything, it’s that domestic workers are treated like shit. But hope may be on the horizon… [The Houston Chronicle]

As per Beyonce’s suggestion, a new word for feminism: equalism. Though one suggestion seems to have been submitted by Voltron… [Jezebel]

Where have all the good men gone? Not posting on Twitter thread #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend and not being all “Post Gender Normative”, that’s for sure! [Tiger Beatdown, McSweeney’s]

Reproductive rights, consent and organ/egg donation. [Feministe]

Feminism and superheroes conference in Melbourne? So wish I was there! [The Age]

Six myths about terrorists. [MamaMia]

It’s (not) all about popular(ity) at Girl with a Satchel.

Rachel Hills on motivation and the fear of failure. And success! [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Classism on True Blood. [Tiger Beatdown]

Caroline Da Costa on why we need RU486 (the “abortion drug”). [MamaMia]

A step in the right direction to welcoming asylum seekers to Australia. [MamaMia]

Still with asylum seekers, along similar lines as my post this week. [The Punch]

Larry David as “feminist hero”? [Jezebel]

“Revolution” is what we call riots we like:

“… Guilt ridden white first-world bloggers… love protests in Syria and Iran and elsewhere because they can cast those people, members of an alien culture, race, and religion, as the perfect representations of resistance while totally stripping them of the actual thorny reality of political rage. Theocratic preferences are stripped away; violent behaviour… is ignored; the re-instantiation of sexist Islamic doctrine within the structures of protest movements are conveniently elided. This is the way of all patronising attitudes from the overclass towards resistance: in order to preserve its romanticized view, it has to occlude the particular grievances and goals that make the protest meaningful in the first place….” [L’Hôte]

In the wake of the death of a toddler attacked by a pitbull, The Punch’s Anthony Sharwood decrees “pitbulls should all be killed. Every last one. It really is as simple as that.” Hmm, not sure I agree…

Do zoos have a place in 2011? [The Punch]

This profile on 2012 Republican presidential frontrunner Michele Bachmann makes me want to pray to the God she so staunchly believes in that there’s still a little bit of sense and belief in President Obama left in the U.S. [The New Yorker]

Image via Jezebel.