On the (Rest of the) Net.

orange is the new black pennsatuckey teeth

What Orange is the New Black‘s Pennsatucky’s dental health says about class. [Bitch]

The history of the sex education film. [Alternet]

Most women have periods at some stage, so why are we so afraid to talk about them? [The Lifted Brow]

There should be a Bechdel test for mothers in kid’s movies: “Show me an animated kids’ movie that has a named mother in it who lives until the credits roll.” And when mothers are present, they act as a sort of Manic Pixie Dream Mum, paving the way for the main characters—and their fathers—to carry out the rest of the narrative. [The Atlantic]

Duke porn star Belle Knox writes about her experience being slut-shamed from within the industry she works. [Jezebel]

Image via Bitch.

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.

TV: Sexist Tropes on The Mindy Project.

mindy project pretty man

Last night’s (or very early this morning, if you’re still keeping track of when it airs) episode of The Mindy Project dealt with Mindy’s tendency to date douchebags. And who’s douchier than a prostitute, amiright?

Mindy certainly has sexism and racism problems, and the former was never more evident than in “Pretty Man”, in which Mindy picks up a guy, Adam, in a bar who turns out to be a sex worker.

Mindy is disgusted by this and kicks him out of her apartment before they actually engage in what Adam is employed to do, but that doesn’t stop him showing up at her office the next day to get remunerated for his time.

There are lots of ill-thought out jokes about prostitution (even Adam refers to himself as a “prostitute” which I’m not so sure is the preferred term amongst the sex work community), trustworthiness and Pretty Woman (after all, The Mindy Project is a sitcom born out of its protagonist’s love of romantic comedies).

But what the Adam storyline really serves as a metaphor for, whether intentionally or otherwise, is the desire to change a man.

While Mindy is encouraging Adam to pursue is real dream (because no one could ever really want to be a sex worker) of being a singer/songwriter and buying him clothes à la Pretty Woman, Mindy’s friend Alex is trying to mould new boyfriend Danny into the partner she wants him to be: more outgoing and less uptight.

So while this episode is not necessarily man-friendly—it is a change to see a male sex workers portrayed as negatively as female sex workers are—, it’s more detrimental to the womenz: we’ll find faults with any man, whether they’re a prostitute or a rich doctor.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Mindy Kaling Only Makes Out with White Guys on The Mindy Project.

Image via Fox.

Mother to Daughter: Second- VS. Fourth-Wave Feminism.

While I’ve only begun calling myself a feminist in the past few years, I think I’ve always had feminist tendencies: I’ve always believed in reproductive rights, I’ve tried never to judge a woman based on her choices and it’s been instilled in me that, as a woman, I can do and be anything I want to.

A lot of this is thanks to my mum, who is a ’70s bra-burning hippie feminist through and through.

Though recently, as I increasingly immerse myself in current readings of feminism, I see just how far we’ve come, baby, and how the second-wave feminism of my mother’s era is worlds apart from today’s discourse on gender equality.

There have been many debates between second-, third- and fourth-wavers about who did, and is doing, more for the movement.

At a 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival presentation on why we still need feminism, Sophie Cunningham asserted that feminists under 25 can’t really grasp the concept because they’re still young and beautiful and have men falling at their feet. She also observed “a sort of ‘bottleneck’ in modern feminism”, where white, Western feminists aren’t able to incorporate intersectionality into the fold, which was a criticism of SlutWalk, one of latter-day feminism’s most high-profile conquests. Pardon me, but wasn’t it foremother Betty Friedan who was accused of being racist and homophobic with The Feminine Mystique?

Perhaps the most contentious issue is the constant bickering amongst young feminists as to what, exactly, feminism is. You’ve got women undertaking such obviously feminist tasks as Marissa Mayer overseeing Yahoo! and Beyonce nearing total world domination, yet they’re reluctant to call a spade a spade. And the non-feminist media would have you believe there’s infighting going on about who is allowed to be a feminist (definitely not Taylor Swift!).

But, I think, the feminist movement of today would like to believe it’s accessible to all kinds of women (and men): straight, gay, bi, male, female, trans, black, white, mixed-race, rich, poor, able-bodied and non-able-bodied, sex workers, etc. Can second-wave feminism of yesteryear say that?

This divide is illustrated by Germaine Greer’s infamous comments about Julia Gillard’s clothing choices and how they accentuated her apparently undesirable body shape last year on Q&A and feminists everywhere taking to their respective platforms to mostly disagree with her. One such vocal detractor was Mia Freedman, who said Greer “broke my heart a little bit” when she took herself “down in a hail of self-inflicted friendly fire while the world watche[d] in embarrassment.” When the two women appeared together on a recent episode of Q&A, Freedman was asked to clarify her response: did it mean she wasn’t a fan of the “ground-breaking, arse-kicking lightening rod for social change who ignited a feminist movement from which every woman in the western world has benefited” anymore? Was this an example of the abovementioned feminist in-fighting?

Freedman responded that while she has nothing but respect for the woman in whose water she grew up and who influenced her mother’s feminist awakening, “feminism needs to have a lot of different voices… It should be really, really broad and inclusive.” Essentially, feminism should accommodate both the foremothers and their daughters.

Freedman went on in that same episode of Q&A to—what some would describe as—shame sex workers, or “prostitutes” as she archaically called them, which ignited a backlash of her own. So much for that broad inclusion she waxed lyrical about…

While liberating housewives of Germaine and Freedman’s mother’s era from “the problem with no name” and ushering in the birth control pill are milestones women of today must be thankful for, they’re very much narrow-minded accomplishments: The Feminine Mystique appealed to white middle-class women and many women can’t afford the birth control pill, a predicament that still exists today. And second-wave feminism was very much responsible for the sexual liberation of a generation of people, but I’m not so sure that transfers to the hook up, raunch and porn culture/s of today (as Freedman’s comments about sex workers above would indicate).

For example, when I was living at home and Girls of the Playboy Mansion came on the TV, my mum would make me turn it off (keep in mind I was 22 by the time I moved out and this was not long before that). When I brought this up recently as an example of her generation’s reluctance to embrace sex positivity, she launched into a tirade that ended with her calling into question the women who pose for Playboy’s sexual promiscuity.

We must acknowledge that media like Playboy is an inherently patriarchal construct, but I think making the assumption that any woman who uses her sexuality as a commodity is a slave to said patriarchy is buying into the notion that feminism works against: women have no autonomy. Much like the debate over women in Islam (and don’t even get me started on the fight I had with my mum about asylum seekers that, similar to the Playboy exchange, ended with her defensively inquiring about the legality of people seeking asylum via boat), certain kinds of feminism need to broaden their scope to take into account the lives of all women, whether we agree with their choices or not.

This close-mindedness comes from a lack of access to new information and technologies and willingness to learn from and hand the reigns over to the feminists of today, I think. While many feminists of all ages count the works of Greer, Friedan and Naomi Wolf amongst their collection of feminist tomes, how many second-wavers can say the same about the musings of Jessica Valenti, Clementine Ford, Rachel Hills and the myriad feminist bloggers? That face of feminism has certainly changed to make it much more accessible. What once was narrowly accessible at rallies, underground meetings and in academic journals is now available wherever you look: Gillard speaking up against sexism in parliament, movements like SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint and all across the interwebs.

So on this Mother’s Day eve, it’s important to acknowledge the gender equality path paved for me by my feminist foremothers, including my actual mother, but also to recognise that we have, indeed, come a long way, baby. Maybe that’s something that second-wavers need to consider, too.

Related: Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way to Go” In the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

Taylor Swift: The Perfect Victim.

Elsewhere: [The Atlantic] 4 Big Problems with The Feminine Mystique. 

[The Guardian] The Tragic Irony of Feminists Trashing Each Other.

[MamaMia] Germaine Greer: You’ve Lost Me.

[MamaMia] No, I Won’t Apologise for My Sex Worker Comments.

[Daily Life] Stoned for Having Short Hair.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

rh reality check not like other girls feminism

Saying “I’m not like other girls” just buys into the myth that all women have a defined set of attributes and that those who aren’t “feminine”, “girly”, “bitchy” and don’t have many female friends (just to list some of the tropes associated with “other girls”) are somehow better than other women. I’ve been guilty of uttering those words before, but that was before I came to the above understanding. I believe I’m different from other girls, just as I’m different from other humans. We all have different character traits, values and interests; it’s just that some we can relate to more and are closer to the surface than others. [RH Reality Check]

In defence of sex work. [Daily Life]

Further to that, Mia Freedman clarifies her position on sex workers voiced on Q&A last month. [MamaMia]

“Why Would Anyone Have a Late-Term Abortion?” [New Matilda] 

Ahead of its publication in new (and, might I add, awesome!) zine, Filmme Fatales, editor Brodie Lancaster writes in opposition to the Gwyneth Paltrow haters. [TheVine] 

More Gwyneth: she was my thinspo. Beauty and putting women on pedestals. [Mirror, Mirror OFF the Wall]

On the merits and drawbacks of “Hashtag Feminism”, “destroying the joint”, the news sources “to whom [we] choose to listen” and the “personalised newspaper” that is social media, through which we “see only views [we] agree with”. [The Monthly]

Jennifer Aniston, ourselves. [Thought Catalog]

Is Amanda Bynes that different from us? [Clam Bistro]

Are we too old to “get” Girls?  [One Good Thing] 

Why talking about sexism in pop culture is important. [The Age]

How can disabled women “Destroy the Joint” when they can’t even access it? Stella Young on feminism and disability. [ABC Ramp Up] 

Image via RH Reality Check.

TV: Domestic Violence, Prostitution, Abortion, Women Proposing to Men, Gay Marriage, Euthanasia… Who Knew Winners & Losers Would Be So Progressive?!

winners & losers

The season finale of Winners & Losers aired little more than a week ago on Channel Seven, and the issues of domestic violence, prostitution, co-parenting, abortion, women proposing to men, gay marriage and euthanasia got me thinking about just how progressive the show is.

What started out as an entertaining little serial about four high school friends who decide to enter the lotto—and win!—after a particularly traumatic ten-year high school reunion has proved to be one of the only Aussie soaps tackling the hard issues.

While the first season was more about the romantic ups and downs of four Melbourne girls and how they dealt with their lotto win, whispers of what was to come in season two were heard in the finale, when Bec married Matt only to discover that she was pregnant with Doug’s, who’d finally gotten it together with med school bestie Sophie, baby! Phew!

With Bec being entangled in such a messy love square of course the “tender issue”, as Ann Romney would put it, of abortion would be brought up. It was disappointing that the non-existent abortion only received a one-episode story arc, but I was proud of the series for showing the nuanced ways different people deal with terminating a pregnancy, namely Sophie, who last episode found herself embroiled in an unwanted pregnancy situation of her own.

But it goes to show that as many views on abortion as there are IRL, there are in Winners & Losers. So far we’ve only seen the reactions of Bec (staunchly pro-life when it comes to herself, but supportive of the choices of other women), Doug (who expresses disbelief that his virile sperm has resulted in two unplanned but ultimately wanted pregnancies in the past year!), and Sophie (who chose her choice of abortion and underwent the procedure the same day in last fortnight’s episode. Oh, if only abortion were that easy to obtain for so many women…), but judging from the alternative lifestyle of Frances and the tumult of Jenny’s existence recently, they’ll see beyond the political mess that abortion has become and empathise with their friend first and foremost.

The irony of bringing a “bandaid” baby into the world to heal the wounds between the two doctors is not lost on Doug. Sophie reasons that she’s “taken the morning after pill before; it’s not that different” (except that the morning after pill prevents implantation while an abortion is literally terminating an already implanted pregnancy. So, not entirely accurate W&L writing team.) and Doug retorts that he’s “not some one night stand”, insinuating that pregnancies that result from casual sex can only be and are the only unwanted ones.

Season two has been jammed packed with human rights matters like there’s no tomorrow. Flirty Cat came on the scene only to die a medically-assisted suicide a few episodes later. It was revealed that not only was high school mean girl Tiffany suffering physical abuse at the hands of her rich, Brighton-dwelling partner, but she was receiving money from him in return for her sexual services. Unfortunately, only on television could this come to light in a custody hearing and the mother still be able to see her children. On a not-so-well-though-out whim Sophie decided to propose to Doug because she knew how much marriage meant to him, only to break off the engagement two weeks later. While that storyline might not have turned out for the best, at least the show gave the notion of a woman proposing to a man without stigma a go.

Winners & Losers is certainly not faultless, and it has a long way to go when it comes to racial diversity and tackling stereotypes of non-straight people (Cat kissed women in a slightly male-gazey way, while Jonathan is a walking gay man trope), but it has to be given props for at least attempting to unpack the issues that many Australians face every day, but are so seldom seen on our screens.

Image source unknown.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

What it’s like to be an empowered sex worker. Yes, they exist. [MamaMia]

Stella Young prefers to be called a “disabled person” than a “person with a disability” despite the government’s Reporting It Right guidelines, thank you very much. [The Drum]

A recent altercation with a friend over something I wrote about them on this here blog has formed the basis for an “Ask Rachel” post. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

The opinion piece in last Saturday’s Good Weekend by food critic AA Gill about how men think women should dress was one I skipped over—I don’t really need to read yet another article about what men think women should do. Lindy Alexander takes Gill to task for it, though, saving me from having to rummage through the newspaper stack in my pantry to retrieve said article and get all riled up about it. [Daily Life]

Leave Lindsay Lohan alone! [TheVine]

“The A to Z of Freelancing.” [The Loop]

On the older virgin. [Daily Beast]

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is the latest woman of note to shun feminism. [Daily Life]

TV: 2 Broke Girls Aren’t So Broke That They’d Turn to Sex Work.

You know, ’cause hookers are gross and have herpes. Caroline thinks she’d make a horrible prostitute because, “I have a heart and soul and dreams and wanna fall in love and have a family,” and sex workers don’t and won’t have any of these things. Never mind that many sex workers don’t have any other prospects due to the cycle of poverty and abuse and sex trafficking. And what of those in the industry who—shock, horror!—actually want to be in it and enjoy what they do? Does this mean their heart, soul, hopes, dreams and love life go down the drain?

Just to throw in some racism for good measure, Max and Caroline’s upstairs neighbour, Nirham Shadouri (excuse my abhorrent spelling. I was sounding it out.), dies, and Max remarks that “she wasn’t even on the right continent” when guessing his name. Oh, and Jennifer Coolidge (who, if you’ve ever seen Legally Blonde or American Pie, you know is American) plays a Polish suspected madam. Not well, might I add.

Related: 2 Broke & Tampon-less Girls.

I Went to See American Reunion & I Didn’t Hate It…

Image via Putlocker.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Check me out on The Good Men Project!

On sex work by a sex worker. [The Age]

“Have you lost weight?” is not a compliment. One of my close male friends has recently lost a lot of weight, and the resounding comment that seems to follow him wherever he goes is, “You look so hot now that you’ve lost weight,” or something to that effect. Firstly, what did he look like before? Hideous? Unlovable? Gross? And secondly, is he worthy of affection and admiration now because he’s not fat anymore? Just. Plain. Wrong. [Broadist]

Rick Santorum, the Iowa caucus and what the 2012 Republican landscape could very well look like. Hint: not good. [The Punch]

And some more on Santorum’s scary reproductive rights views. [Jezebel]

AND, a rundown of what the Iowa caucus actually entails, anyway. [Jezebel]

How my heart warms: a child with Down Syndrome is modeling for Target in the U.S.! [Jezebel]

Mia Freedman on Deborah Hutton’s nude posing for The Australian Women’s Weekly. [MamaMia]

Sometimes it’s okay to be a quitter. [Gala Darling]

Camilla Peffer on street harassment. [Girls Are Made From Pepsi]

How to really talk to girls about beauty. [Jezebel]

Images via The Good Men Project, MamaMia.