Monica Lewinski – the price of shame

If you use the internet – in any capacity – read news online, tweet, comment on forums, you need to watch this.

Monica Lewinski gives a TED talk about the price of shame and it’s brilliant. I wanted to pull out standout quotes but there were so many that I couldn’t choose which one. But from now on I will think about public shaming as a bloodsport, it’s role in generating advertising dollars, and her brilliant quote of ‘ imagine walking a mile in someone else’s headline’.

Please take the 22 minutes to watch, it’s amazing.

I’m talking at the Melbourne Writers Festival

I am very pleased to announce that I will be a panellist and an interviewer at the 2013 Melbourne Writers Festival.

I spent some time helping the team from MWF as part of my role at Ballarat Writers and now I can announce that I’ll be involved in 2 events.

My first event is on Saturday as part of the M.A.D.E. by Writers Panel. I will be discussing how my life as a writer interacts with the ideas of freedom, power and democracy. I’ll be sharing the panel with some great writers and must confess to having what singer/songwriter Paul Kelly calls ‘the pretendies’.

On Sunday I’ll be hosting, In Conversation with M.J. Hyland. I’ve written about her work before and a few years ago participated in a workshop that she was running.  I’m looking forward to this event as it closes out the weekend of events and I’m hoping will have some great audience participation.

So let me know if you’ve got any advice, or any questions you’d like me to ask.

If you’re in Ballarat please come along to some of the events. It’s a great chance to encourage Melbourne arts groups to run regional events.

There are heaps of workshops and panel discussions so please book in.

International Day of the Girl Child

Today is the first International Day of the Girl Child.

Some people will sigh “Another ‘Day of The…’ Do we need a day for everything? Is it just another day for feminists to carry on?”

Over the last few week’s I’ve really been thinking about the rights of women.

I’ve read great articles on the political debate regarding our Prime Minister (see this fantastic article by Anne Summers but choose the vanilla version or the R-Rated version).

I’ve witnessed in shock the treatment of Kate Ellis MP on Q and A this week (see this article by Ben Pobjie )

And of course we have all been made aware of the terrible crimes against women (including rape and murder) we see on our news. Several of us would have seen the negative comments and victim-blaming that has emerged as a result of this. (I’m not going to link to any of these, however Clementine Ford has written an article about it – warning it is distressing)

When people ask me my thoughts on women’s rights and why I identify as a feminist I reply that I feel it’s my obligation. It’s something I’m passionate about. Simply because I was born in Australia I have had fantastic opportunities for education in safe environments. Not everyone is that lucky and I feel that it’s an obligation of mine to speak out for those women and girls who don’t have the same rights. So what’s the difference between feminism and supporting basic human rights? For me it’s acknowledging that some crimes and discrimination occur purely because the victim is a girl or woman. (I don’t believe you need to be a woman to be a feminist either)

Unfortunately the term ‘feminism’ is so loaded that applying it to an argument is sometimes detrimental, depending on your audience.

So if you’d rather let’s remove the term feminism and just look at a few facts to show why we need this day:

We’ve known for years that the Taliban is against education for women. In fact ‘against’ isn’t really the word is it? What is the word for a group of people so intent on supressing the basic right of education for women that they will shoot a 14 year old girl in the head? The strength shown by Malala and her friends is incredible. I can’t compare it to anything in my life, and I’m sure neither can many other women who were raised in Australia. A day like International Day of the Girl Child reminds us that as children growing up in Australia we (or our sisters, or our partners, or our mothers) didn’t experience this, and our daughters won’t either.

According to the UN:

  • 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience physical violence at some point in their lives and 1 in 5 women are victims of sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • In Australia, violence against women was estimated to cost the economy $13.6 billion in 2008-9 and is estimated to reach more than $15 billion by 2020.
  • In South Africa, a woman is killed every six hours by an intimate partner.
  • Early marriage is a form of sexual violence which sees 60 million girls worldwide (31.1 million in South Asia) forced into marriage before the age of 18.
  • Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is estimated to have been performed on between 130 and 140 million women and girls alive today.
  • In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an average of 36 women are raped every day.
  • In a national survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 15% of Australian women said they had experienced violence by a previous partner and 2.1% by a current partner.

And I’ve posted before about the Because I’m a Girl program which highlights that a woman or girl will reinvest 90% of her income into her family. Taking care of girls helps everyone.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard opened today with this speech reminding us how lucky we are and the commitments being made by the Australian Government.

So call it what you like, gender equality, supporting human rights, feminism…but just don’t ignore that we do need the International day of the Girl Child.

The Female Eunuch – 40 years later

2010 was the 40th anniversary of Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch. I decided to use the occasion to re-read the book and write a post about my thoughts. That was in November. The problem is that when I had finished I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. In conjunction with the The Female Eunuch I also read An Untamed Shrew, Greer’s unauthorised biography written by Christine Wallace. And of course at the start of the year I read that Louis Nowra piece in The Monthly.

I’ve been perplexed about which approach to take when writing the piece. An encompassing history of what the book means to Australian women? An historical perspective? The book’s flaws? All of these approaches felt too wide, so I have decided to write about my own relationship with the book. Continue reading →

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The latest of the Warner Brother’s Harry Potter films is out (for those of you under rocks). This year’s instalment is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the last book of the series which has been broken into two instalments. Here are a few of the articles that I’ve loved about the Harry Potter phenomenon recently. (If you have others please add a comment.)

The feminist in me loves the following:

An Unabashed Loved Letter to Ginny Weasley, by Chloe, via the Feministing website:

I realized that you, Ginny Weasley, are more awesome than Viktor Krum is surly. You are more excellent than Peter Pettigrew is cowardly. You are a badass feminist witch and I am so glad that you are around as a heroine for young women reading the Potter series.

This is great. I began reading the Harry Potter series when I was 25, and it makes me wonder what it would have been like to grow up with them.

‘Harry Potter’ – Why It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye, by Alyssa Rosenburg. She notes:

Harry Potter hasn’t just been a series for me: it’s the cultural framing device of an entire generation… My great love is for Hermione Granger, one of Harry’s best friends, a girl born to human parents with magical abilities, who I believe is perhaps the greatest and most progressive popular romantic heroine of a generation. When makeover narratives were the single most prevalent romantic storyline in popular culture, Hermione got the guy in the library, dressed up for the Yule Ball, and returned placidly to her regular routine. Hermione didn’t transform herself because she never particularly felt the need to be transformed.

I love Hermione too and if by some (dark) force I ever had to swap lives with a fictional character – she is my heroine of choice.

There is also Harry Potter and the Incredibly Conservative Aristocratic Children’s Club. This article does a great analysis of the politics of J.K Rowling. It begins:

The richly imaginative details of J.K. Rowling’s fictive world, it must be admitted, are pleasurable. The hot-rod brooms, the flowing robes and flying cars, the goth Heaven of the sullen Slytherins, the snake language and the magic wands enclosing phoenix feathers or unicorn hairs, the metamorphic potions, the leaping or fizzing sweets! All these have been fully and lovingly realized in the Warner Brothers movie adaptations of the Harry Potter books, including the most recent, which is a fine-looking but completely incoherent mess with a morally bankrupt and politically repugnant story at its core.

 Note: the last two references were found via Rachel Hill’s Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.

Amazon – actions speak louder than words

The free speech debate was reignited this week by Amazon deciding to sell The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover’s Code of Conduct. I decided not to check this out on their website, I wasn’t prepared to give them the hits and up their advertising numbers, but I did read quite a few articles on the topic. Continue reading →

Because I am a Girl

Last week I stumbled across Plan Australia’s Because I am a Girl program. To use their words:

‘Because I am a Girl’ is Plan’s global campaign designed to fight gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty. Across the globe, girls are at the bottom of the social ladder, deprived of the same opportunities as boys. For example,research has shown that girls are more likely to suffer from malnutrition; be forced into an early marriage; be subjected to violence or intimidation; be trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade; or become infected with HIV.

Take two minutes to watch this great video:

Here are two facts that motivated me to get involved:

  • Girls are less likely that boys to survive to their first birthday.
  • A woman or girl will reinvest 90% of her income into her family.

The other exciting news I was interested in this week was Kevin Rudd announcing that Australian has pledged $225 million dollars of foreign aid for women and children. This is great news and will be interesting to track how the UN’s  “global strategy for women’s and children’s health” progresses over the next few years.

Gender gap in retirement

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the difficulties faced by women being financially independent in old age. It seems I’m not the only one.

Marian Sawyer posted a great article on ABC’s The Drum about women and the 2010 election.  In it she discusses the recent change in the number of women in parliament and the need for a successful ‘women’s policy’. Her argument for this is:

Low pay is just one of the factors contributing to gender inequality and poverty in old age. The skewed distribution of paid and unpaid work is another, with women still far more likely to have interrupted careers in the paid workforce. Men are in the paid workforce for an average of 39 years, women only for 20 years.

The article, and resulting comments, are well worth the read. Continue reading →

Election 2010

Given that I blogged recently on the number of women in Australian politics, and got such an interesting response from it, I thought that I should follow-up with the likely statistics from this month’s elections.

I can’t articulate it any clearer than the Women in Boards media release from this week. It’s well worth the read.

Here is my first blog if you didn’t get a chance to read it.