On the (Rest of the) Net.


On U.S. Cosmopolitan naming the Kardashian’s “America’s first family”:

“If our first family is supposed to be an accurate representation of the American people, who’d be a better choice than this absurd, problematic and inexplicably wealthy crew of bad-rapper-enabling Instagram mavens from Hidden Hills, Calif.?” [The Root]

But where’s Caitlyn? [Go Fug Yourself]

Amber Rose’s SlutWalk changed the game for women of colour. [HuffPo]

Reproductive coercion in rap music. [Broadly]

Why do we decry artistic women for being “fake” but praise male artists for the same thing? [The Cut]

White #MasculinitySoFragile is the cause of so much gun violence. [HuffPo]

Why Kim Kardashian West’s pregnancy admission is revolutionary. [Daily Life]

And for more links from Aussie and NZ feminists, including yours truly, check out the latest Down Under Feminists Carnival. [Opinions @ BlueBec]

Image via Time.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Kim Kardashian Rolling Stone

Kim Kardashian’s Rolling Stone cover story:

“… [The Kardashians] also exhibit an attitude toward their bodies that can only be called revolutionary. Women have long asked for fair vagina representation in media, for their vaginas not only to be sexual objects but to smell and bleed and pop out babies, and on their show, Kardashian vaginas do all that and more, which is very different than other pop-culture vaginas.”

Speaking of Kim, is she becoming more political? [Fusion]

And Kanye West could actually be the best president the United States has ever seen. [The Guardian]

How SlutWalk Melbourne has evolved in the past four years. [Spook Magazine]

HIV on HTGAWM. [This Ain’t Livin’]

“I Feel Bad About My Nose.” [Broadly]

“How Political Was N.W.A., Really?”

“When asked if racism existed outside of Compton by SPIN magazine in 1990, Eazy-E replied, ‘The black police in Compton are worse than the white police. Chuck D gets involved in all that black stuff, we don’t. Fuck that black power shit; we don’t give a fuck. Free South Africa; we don’t give a fuck…We’re not into politics at all.’” [Talking Points Memo]

You can’t decry Straight Outta Compton for its misogynoir while also consuming Tyler Perry products. [The Root]

Move over #DivasRevolution: WWE is in the midst of a black revolution and it’s been right under our noses this whole time. [Uproxx]

Disability advocacy campaigns need to be inclusive of the people they’re claiming to help, not pitying of them. [Junkee]

Is Justin Bieber’s new song a pro-consent anthem? [The Cut]

In praise of gender-neutral public bathrooms. [Daily Life]

Women can be pedophiles, too. [Broadly]

Image via Rolling Stone.

Stella Young: 1982–2014.

I didn’t know Stella Young too well. We worked together for a few years but it wasn’t until she started getting heavily involved in—or I just started noticing on social media—feminism, disability advocacy and social justice in general that we realised we had more in common than we thought. She even commented on this when I bumped into her at a party.

I enjoyed getting a chance to catch up with her at events such as SlutWalk and the Melbourne Writers Festival, otherwise I kept up to date with the goings on in her world on social media.

I was quite shocked to get the news of her passing yesterday morning, as it seemed like only a few days before she was live tweeting Four Corners and posting pictures of lunch with friends.

As others, most notably Stella’s good friend, Clementine Ford, have written, Stella wasn’t interested in being your inspiration. (Though when discussing her death at work yesterday, that word was thrown around a bit.)

In addition to me checking the language I use to speak to and about people with disabilities, though, Stella did teach me a few things, whether directly or through her important work. They are:

Make noise about inaccessibility. It’s shocking to come to the realisation that not only are the majority of places and services inaccessible but that most people don’t even think twice about it. For example, Stella spoke at a Melbourne Writers Festival event in 2013 about the book Destroying the Joint. Stella managed to get in the joint but the event started late because it didn’t occur to the organisers that she couldn’t get onto the stage. She told a story of some of the hired help offering to lift her and her chair onto the stage, but she’d long since stopped accepting such assistance. Why should she be made to feel infantilised when the embarrassment should fall to the event organisers?

A few months ago Stella traveled to the U.S. in pursuit of her work (what exactly I wasn’t privy to). I remember seeing something on her Facebook or Twitter about how proactive the U.S. is about accessibility and that returning home to Melbourne made her realise how far behind the eight ball we actually are. I was shocked at this revelation as, looking back on my trip to the U.S. last year, I don’t remember accessibility standing out to me. This proves my above point that so many people for whom accessibility is not an issue are oblivious to it, even those who claim to be allies.

One of the more popular rants Stella went on on social media was about an accessible toilet at a Melbourne bar being used as a storage area. The pressure she and her followers put on the bar (whose name escapes me) saw them making changes almost immediately.

And just a couple of weeks ago, when Stella was live tweeting Four Corners, she influenced the language I use to describe support workers. In my job, I have to interact with support workers quite regularly, whom I’d always referred to as carers. From the point of seeing her tweet onwards, I now call them support workers.

Stella left us with an impressive body of work including comedy stylings and written words in addition to her advocacy. Perhaps most touchingly, her final piece was published recently as part of the book Between Us: Women of Letters. It was a letter to her 80-year-old self.

Related: Destroying the Joint? at Melbourne Writers Festival.

Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Elsewhere: [ABC The Drum] Stella Young: Farewell from a Heartbroken Friend.

[ABC The Drum] Stella Young: A Letter to Her 80-Year-Old Self.

Event: Destroying the Joint? at Melbourne Writers Festival.

The opening paragraph of disability activist and writer Stella Young’s chapter in the recently released tome Destroying the Joint begins thusly:

“Destroy the joint? Shit, I’d be happy just to be allowed in the joint.”

And on Sunday, when the Melbourne Writers Festival event Destroying the Joint? was held in Deakin Edge at Federation Square, Young might have been able to get in the joint, but she was certainly not able to get on the stage.

While inexcusable on the part of Fed Square and MWF, Young’s imposition did serve to remind us of a very important point: as a disabled woman, she cops a double-whammy of discrimination.

The event started only a few minutes late as organisers scrambled to move the stage to an accessible level, and Young explained that sadly, she’s come to expect things like this. Whereas when she was younger she might have consented to being lifted onto the stage and having a little cry about it, as a disability activist she will not allow ignorance to infantilise her anymore.

I definitely take my able-bodiedness for granted, but I can sort of relate in the sense that as a woman, I’ve come to expect to be harassed when I leave the house. This isn’t an everyday occurrence, to be sure, but it happens far too regularly for my liking. I’m sure many women can empathise.

This is why I will be attending SlutWalk this weekend; to have an opportunity to strut the streets in solidarity with likeminded people who won’t put up with street harassment, victim-blaming, slut-shaming and just plain bigotry and discrimination. Young will also be there as a speaker.

But back to last Sunday’s event, in which a show of hands indicated the amount of people who’ve protested or engaged in activism in some form in the past six months. Young and her fellow panellists, Destroying the Joint editor Jane Caro and author of The Activists’ Handbook Aidan Ricketts, stated the importance of physical protesting, like marching for refugees or marriage equality or attending SlutWalk, as opposed to slacktivism, which movements such as Kony 2012 and Destroy the Joint itself. Young even joked that she fantasises about chaining her wheelchair to a W-class (well, pretty much all except C- and D-class) tram in protest of their inaccessibility.

There has been much maligning of Destroy the Joint, with vocal opponents of it, such as Gretel Killeen and Helen Razer, deriding its angry tone. While I think getting outraged about things you’re passionate about can be useful, Caro asserts that spewing outrage doesn’t work. Young tended more towards my way of thinking, in that outrage as the primary emotion can be moulded into more constructive outlets and avenues: like SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint.

Caro also noted that it’s important to set small goals and always be moving the goalposts. Small aims are easier to reach, engender positivity and allow you to always be setting new victories to achieve.

Related: Hating Kony is Cool.

Women Say Something: Should We Destroy the Joint?

Book Review: The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers.

anne summers misogyny factor

“Misogyny” seems to be the word on everyone’s lips after newly ousted former PM Julia Gillard’s famous parliamentary lambasting of Tony Abbott last October. It was certainly on Anne Summers’ when she spoke at the University of Newcastle in August last year about the then-Prime Minister’s rights at work and how, “… if she were an ordinary worker, she would have a case for sex discrimination and sexual harassment.”

That quote appears on page five of Summers’ recently released The Misogyny Factor, born out of the above two speeches.

Gillard was quick to be criticised for intimating that Abbott is a misogynist; after all, how can you be a misogynist if you’re happily married and have three daughters? (That line of thinking was employed in a recent Facebook debate I had with a friend over Robin Thicke’s hit, “Blurred Lines”.) While the dictionary definition of misogyny is hatred of women, Summers explains the reasoning behind calling her book The Misogyny Factor:

“… [T]he misogyny factor is that set of attitudes and entrenched practices that are embedded in most of our major institutions (business, politics, the military, the media, the church, academia) that stand in the way of women being included, treated equally and accorded respect… I am not sidetracked by strict dictionary definitions of ‘misogyny’. Sure, it can mean, ‘hatred of women’ and we still see far too many instances of that. But it is more complicated and far more widespread than the prejudices of individuals, which is why I use the term ‘the misogyny factor’… I am talking about systemic beliefs and behaviour, which are predicated on the view that women do not have the fundamental right to be part of society beyond the home… Such views can be, and are, held by women as well as men… Why they defend misogyny is mystifying, yet plenty of women do.” [p. 7–8]

Essentially, “sexism goes hand in hand with misogyny. Sexism provides the rationale for misogyny.” [p. 8]

There is sexism and misogyny to be found almost everywhere you look, but The Misogyny Factor primarily focuses on the realms of politics and the economy. For example, we’re all (well, those who have a vested interest in the pay gap and who don’t buy into the misguided notion that we now have gender equality. If anything, we’ve regressed, and Summers addresses this specifically in the book, too.) familiar with the fact that a post-graduate degree-holding woman entering the workforce today will earn $2.49 million over her working lifetime, while her male counterpart earns $3.78 million [p 53–54]. For being a “young woman in Australia today,” “there is at least a million dollar penalty.” [p. 54]

And for those women who do manage to crack the glass ceiling and rise to the upper echelons of the corporate world, they mustn’t show an ounce of femininity lest they be deemed “too emotional” for the job:

“If women brought onto boards are expected to behave like men, what is the benefit of their presence? It is the worst of all possible worlds: the company is denied the different perspective women directors might bring to its governance…” (emphasis mine) [p. 89]

I’m glad Summers was sure to include “might”, as without it she might as well be buying into the very idea she’s trying to debunk: the belief that women are so inherently different from men that they can’t possibly execute jobs traditionally held by the opposite sex, or if they are granted employment in them, they’ll do a vastly different performance than the menz. They’ll “destroy the joint”, if you will.

Speaking of Destroy the Joint, the feminist social media movement, and now a book, born out of Alan Jones’s comments that female politicians and business leaders were “destroying the joint”, Summers explains:

“[Alan] Jones’s intended insult, that women were ‘destroying the joint’, was turned on its head. It wasn’t the first time that women had transformed what was intended to be a belittling comment into a triumphant battle cry. In 1905 the Daily Mail newspaper in Britain ridiculed the suffragists— those, mostly women, who were fighting to get the vote for women, by calling them ‘suffragettes’. The more radical of the suffragists embraced the term. They started using it with pride to describe themselves, and to differentiate themselves as radicals from those who used more moderate tactics. They created a publication, The Suffragette. More than a century later in another country, Australian women also took the disparagement and created the modern-day equivalent of a campaign newspaper, the Facebook page and the Twitter handle @JointDestroyer. Yes, that’s right, women responded. We are going to destroy the joint. We utterly reject a joint whose sexism and misogyny is so ingrained that far too many people see it as perfectly normal behaviour. We will no longer tolerate a joint that systematically excludes women from its ranks, that insults us as a matter of course when we stand up for ourselves, a joint that sees something wrong with spending money to stop violence against women. If that’s what the joint is, we don’t want it.” [p. 139]

The modern-day equivalent of the suffragettes? SlutWalkers and Joint Destroyers.

Some feminists have expressed concern that these movements are too radical and scare off more moderate feminists from the cause. When you look at the fact that “… In 2012… 21 per cent of people in Australia has been sexually harassed since the age of 15, a slight increase the previous report in 2008 (20%) and that a majority (68%) of those people were harassed in the workplace… [and] most of these were women.” [p. 97], it becomes pretty clear why we need such “radical” movements. Personally, I’ve been sexually harassed too many times to count, and a handful or two in the workplace. I need SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint.

Many of these grassroots campaigns occur online, to match the spate of online abuse women on the internet receive. I just received my first rape/death threat for views expressed (about To Kill a Mockingbird, no less!) on this blog: I can now officially call myself a feminist blogger. But when Kickstarter sees nary a problem with raising funds for a sexual assault manual, Twitter is used as a forum to berate women who don’t fit the mould, and Facebook bans breastfeeding photos but keeps rape memes and pages, misogyny is plain for all to see online. For example, former political cartoonist for The Australian, Larry Pickering, who most recently depicted Julia Gillard with a big black dildo, a strap on slung over her shoulder (“It seems that Pickering cannot envisage a Prime Minister without a penis—so he has to five Gillard a strap-on” [p. 125], Summers notes) and animations of the former PM topless, had the latter deleted by Facebook but the strap-on images were allowed to stay. Seems like Facebook has a women (or just female breast-) problem…

It’s not just online, as the sound bites from fellow politicians and menus from Liberal fundraisers will attest, that Gillard experiences sexual harassment. “It says something about our country and about us that we could subject our leader to such vile abuse” [p. 130], Summers writes. Look at the U.S.: while they arguably have more problems with misogyny than we do, at least the Office of the President is viewed with respect, regardless of the figurehead who occupies it.

Still with Gillard, “Can it really be the case that a tax—a carbon tax—could really spur so many people to such levels of hatred? I find that impossible to believe, so I have had to conclude that the persecution of Julia Gillard has to be about something else. Is it just the simple fact that she is a woman?” (p. 130-131)

In the fallout from Gillard’s ousting, and the subsequent gendered abuse I heard and saw thrown her way in the media and on Facebook and Twitter (which lead me to unfriend certain long-time-coming people), unfortunately I think Summers is right. The misogyny factor is alive and well in Australia.

If you’re after some similar content from Summers, check out her recent Emily’s List oration and this Meanjin piece.

Related: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Event: Midsumma Festival & Women Say Something’s Should We Destroy the Joint?

Elsewhere: [Do Something] CEO of Kickstarter: Refuse to Fund How-To Guide on Sexual Assault.

[Jezebel] If Comedy Has No Lady Problem, Why Am I Getting So Many Rape Threats?

[HuffPo] Breastfeeding Photos on Facebook Removed From “Respect the Breast” Page.

[Gawker] Facebook Removes Pro-Rape Pages, Kicking & Screaming.

[Anne Summers] Emily’s List Oration 2013.

[Meanjin] The Sexual Politics of Power.

Image via New South Books.

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.


To pay tribute to the emergency and service personnel who helped in Hurricane Sandy, Vogue does a fashion spread inspired by the superstorm. Naturally. [Daily Life]

Apparently young Australians just aren’t into protesting the injustices we face today. Um, hello? Reclaim the Night, the Occupy movement, SlutWalk, the Arab Spring… all activist events started by Gen Y on social media which encouraged Time magazine to name the Protestor as its 2011 Person of the Year. Writer Alecia Simmonds does make a fair point that Aussies are particularly apathetic towards causes, but her assertion that online petitioning, blogging and social media doesn’t compare to on-the-ground activism kind of undercuts fellow Daily Life columnist Kasey Edwards’ argument last week that “Big social changes don’t just happen… Social and cultural change evolves out of a meandering path of small victories. Seeds need to be planted and ground needs to be fertilised.”

The latest trend in labiaplasty: the Barbie, in which the entire labia minora is cut out. [Jezebel]

And, in an attempt to counteract the alarming trend of wanting your vulva to look like a plastic doll’s, check out this (NSFW) Tumblr, Show Your Vagina.

What is it about our twenties that make us who we are? [Slate]

Miss America and race. [NYTimes]

Is freedom of speech overrated? Personally, I think so, as it allows those with abhorrently narrow-minded views to spill hate speech. This article makes the observation that free speech only seems to be defended when people like Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt put their foot in their mouth. [Daily Life]

Lena Dunham thinks that perhaps Rihanna should have been the one to sing “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” to Chris Brown. [TheVine]

American Horror Story: feminist or anti-feminist? [Jezebel]

Jane Roe—of Roe v. Wade fame, which had its 40th anniversary this week—ain’t what she used to be: now she’s an anti-choicer. [Vanity Fair]

Glee‘s Puck is a rapist, allegedly. [TheVine]

Nine of the ugliest feminists. [Return of Kings]

Breast feeding-shaming. [Daily Life]

A photojournalist documents an abusive relationship. Should she have stood by and photographed an incident of domestic violence or does her work portray an important aspect of lower socio-economic partnerships “unflinchingly”? [Fotovisura, Kiwiana (Inked)]

Image via Daily Life.