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Tag Archives: Women

Hey! Fat White Women! Ya Clowns! Stop Marching!

Overtly racist, Anti-Muslim, Right Wing Nationalist-Populist Pauline Hanson yesterday announced in a coded message that she has redressed all the issues for women which underpin feminism. We no longer need feminism! Cancel the next Women’s March!

Five Million Women

The Women’s March on Washington was held on 21st January, 2017. This was an international event with over five million women and men marching world-wide. The Unity Principle of the movement is defined as:

We believe that Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights. We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.

Women, men and children marched to raise awareness to end violence against women. They marched for reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, workers rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights and environmental justice.

Australian women, men and children also marched in solidarity. This is what they marched in solidarity for:

womens-mission

I Stand for all Aussies – Except Fat White Clown Chicks

Pauline Hanson expressed outright anger yesterday at Australian women marching in solidarity with another five million women worldwide.

Now we all know Hanson insists she is not racist. Despite still saying racist things about them, she now loves Indigenous people, Asians and Muslims. She stands for all Australians.

That is, except fat, white women who chose to march in the biggest women’s march in our history, because human rights are women’s rights.

Hanson described these women as clowns, who needed some sun and exercise. I know many will think that this is just an unplanned rant by Hanson, because she is just an ignorant and angry woman. No, not at all. This is very planned and strategic.

This is simply a strategic tactic to appeal to her main demographic voter base – white men over 40 and to plant herself firmly into the spotlight by saying something divisive about feminism. Being a woman herself, this just legitimises her as a ‘strong woman’ in the eyes of her voter base – white men over 40. A woman standing up to fight against the ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ women who are attempting to share equal space with ‘good’ or ‘strong’ men and have men relinquish some of that power they hold dear, is most certainly a beauty to behold and to vote for.

hanson-women

You Can Tell a Dumb Clown by Its Frown

Dumb clowns are confused. These dumb clowns are stupid. Silly dumb clowns always frown. The saying that we say back to bullies, “it takes one to know one” is quite apt here. Hanson is openly stating that she thinks women are marching against democracy. She thinks they are marching against a process to elect a Government democratically.

Think before you speak might be another one that fits here.

Because dumb clowns are stupid, another one that does fit very well is “educate yourself”.

This is normally used towards people who make claims about feminism. However, they are super dumb, just shaking and crying all over their keyboards angrily hammering out myths and propaganda, rather than actual facts.

Hanson in this rant is the epitome of the clown, she accuses other women to be. A dumb clown at that.

These women were not marching to protest against democracy. Women were marching for an entire gamut of human rights and women’s rights. They were not marching to over-turn a democratic process of electing leaders. Or insisting on authoritarian rule. They were however, sending a message that women’s rights are human rights.

Bumping Up and Down in My Little Red Bandwagon

Bandwagon jumping is when someone pops into an online cause or trend for personal ego trips. Normally, reserved for social justice, these bandwagon jumpers are often louder and drown out the voices of the legitimate minority group that need to be heard. They do it for personal gain, for followers, for ego pumping.

Regardless, they see a trend and they jump right on that bandwagon. Just like Pauline did.

Trending online opposing the women’s march were two groups – Trump supporters and men who oppose the rights of women. Often referred to as MRA’s.

One of the main arguments used against the women’s march was the use of the “Divide and Conquer” strategy. In all fairness, this is Hanson’s primary tactic in obtaining voters for her own personal gain in her pursuit of power. This may explain why this bandwagon was so appealing.

This particular bandwagon had so many jumping on it to pit Muslim women against white women. They did it by trying to delegitimise the many struggles women face. This is done by championing the fact that Muslim women in Muslim Majority countries have it far worse.

That is, pitting the oppressed against the oppressed. Veterans and homeless before refugees! Sound familiar?

Having women question their compassion for all women, to incite them to turn on one another in competition between race, gender status, geography, is a tried and true tactic of those who seek to destroy the feminist movement.

Those in power or who seek to be in power, like Pauline Hanson, do this because facing the enormity of not only the legal discrimination women face, but discrimination by default and the ingrained sexism and misogyny women face daily, is simply too difficult.

For leaders to be sincere about women’s rights issues, would mean that they would need to invest or actually think about solutions. That is far too hard.

Instead, they do things like this to divide and conquer:

Muslims, Muslims everywhere!

Sorry, didn’t mean to scare the Hanson voters reading this with that headline. My point of that headline is that there are two takes on this: Hanson either purposely did this as a tactic, or she is purposely ignorant, which is not a fitting quality for any leader.

The leader and organiser of the Women’s March is a very famous Muslim-Palestinian – Linda Sarsour. Sarsour is a strong advocate that women of colour should lead the women’s movement.

The other fact that Hanson seems to apply her ignorance to, is that the March was an inter-sectional march. That means that women were marching for all women, regardless of where they come from or if they do or do not fit into a minority sub-group of women. They were marching for Human Rights for all. As women’s rights are human rights.

The HUGE fact that Hanson ignored was that thousands of Muslim Women marched. Yes, even in Saudi Arabia.

womens-march-saudi

No Need to March – I’ve Got This!

Perhaps I am being far too pessimistic. Maybe Hanson thinks that women do not need to march because she has all the answers. Has she redressed all the issues women face? In all fairness, she does claim to have the answers to everything.

The problem is, Pauline Hanson never tells us what those answers are. She just mirrors a problem and agrees with it. She says she will do something about it. That she is standing up for it.

This is the era of ‘Fake News’. We are also asking ‘should the media hold politicians to account or should the politicians hold the media to account’? Therefore, it is the responsibility of the media to put some decency back into their profession and ask Hanson the tough questions.

Ask her questions about her reasons why a women’s march in Australia is a waste of time.

The media can start with similar to these:

Does she think it is appropriate for her followers to burn mosques, interrupt sermons and scare women?

How much does she think her rhetoric impacts on white-on-Muslim women violence in the streets?

If she can tell us her solution for violence against women, longer questioning and scrutiny of sexual assault victims in court and wage inequality, that may be an interesting start.

The media questioned Gladys Berejiklian yesterday about why she was childless. This infers she is not a ‘whole woman’ and is an attack on all women.

They might want to question Hanson if her hyper-masculine, anti-women attitude is a front to protect herself from this type of attack the media inflict on women in politics.

Or is Hanson actually just an anti-woman woman, who gets her jollies from fat shaming other women?

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Will women lose the right to vote?

Impossible, you say? Women could never lose the right to vote, you say? I am reasonably concerned there will be an attempt to stop women voting in the USA during the next four years and if that happens in the USA . . .

I first felt my gut wrench when, back in October, #RepealThe19th was trending. Essentially, if only men voted, Trump would win. Back then, the counter argument was if only women voted, the result would be very different. No-one expected Trump to actually win: if reports post-election are to be believed even Trump did not expect to win. Then the election happened and 53% of white women voted for Trump. Admittedly, only about 55% of Americans exercised their right to vote, a shocking statistic, but not a topic for consideration in this article. How many white women didn’t vote at all?

It is of concern there seems to be some difficulty voting in the USA at the best of times: long queues at polling booths, arguments over keeping booths open to accommodate the numbers – and yet this was nearly the lowest voter turnout in two decades. Surely a nation that can spend billions on wars can afford a billion or two to ensure every eligible citizen can actually vote.

Aside from the practicalities of the election process, what we have seen since the result has been some very frightening behaviours. Neo-nazis running rampant, misogynists feeling they now have the right to attack women in public, bigots leaving notes on people’s cars telling then to go back to Africa. All of a sudden the KKK is almost an acceptable institution again.

It isn’t so much Trump personally I am worried about, it is his “Sieg Heil” followers. Trump will no doubt merely become (or is already) a pawn in a carefully orchestrated return to white male supremacy.

White male supremacy requires the removal of the rights of over 50% of the population – women. Yes, women are more than 50% of the population of voting age. Once women are suitably put back in their place, it isn’t much of a stretch to take away the rights of black Americans, LBGTI people, anyone not born in the USA: in fact anyone that is not a white male born in the USA. Look at who Trump is surrounding himself with – or being told to surround himself with: some very inhumane characters. Many of whom would prefer that women were put in their place.

Read very carefully many of the beliefs expressed by many of the men surrounding Trump. Some are totally weird – not just strange or old-fashioned – weird.

Women in the Middle East are fighting for the right to drive and vote, women in Turkey are fighting a law absolving men of statutory rape if the rapist marries the victim. If you think these neanderthal white men running rampant in the USA aren’t cut from a similar cloth, I suggest you take off the rose-coloured glasses. Try this “rape activist” from the good ol’ US of A.

There are even women in the USA who suggest/believe women shouldn’t have the vote – Anne Coulter, for one. Great way to make a lot of money, of course, for her.

Now this lot are in power. Will your daughters retain the right to vote?

 

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Pauline just attacked women and I don’t like it!

In her latest sick attempt to grab votes so she can secure a seat in the Senate and claim her holy grail – a bigger pay cheque for herself; Pauline Hanson has stooped to yet another low – attacking female victims of domestic violence.

If you can stomach it – her outlandish claims that women make frivolous claims about domestic violence and women, wasting police resources and tying up the court system can be seen here

To those who think that Pauline Hanson “speaks for me” she “speaks her mind” and “she says things people are not game to say.” No. Just no.

She isn’t trendy or cool or ‘speaks her mind’, she doesn’t represent the ‘views of the people’. She is a puerile, inane, mendaciously lying, antagonistic, self-aggrandizer who flies on the coat-tails of creating hatred and division where-ever she can sniff it out.

In short – she wants to drive you to hate others, just so she gets a bigger pay cheque and give herself an ego boost.

Her entire history is about creating division and hatred for personal gain, not to make this country a better place. She never talks about inclusiveness or harmony, just divisive rhetoric about us and them – the ‘normals’ and the ‘abnormals.’

Ms. Hanson has ridden on the back of negativity and fear mongering of Asians and Indigenous Australians to create groups who can be bracketed as, not fitting in, not like the rest of us, different – ‘abnormal’.

Ms. Hanson’s 1996 Maiden speech to Parliament warned Australians of the damage that Aboriginal people and Asians do to our society. Now the fear and hatred in the 2016 campaign has turned to Muslims and she is milking that cow until it is dry. She is the Jimmy Swaggart of the Nationalist set.

If you are still thinking of voting for her then why is her platform in 2016 not about stigmatising and creating division between white Australians and Indigenous People or Asians? It was so important last time she put her hand up that ‘Australia is being swamped by Asians, or Aborigines get too many privileges.” Why not now?

Answer: Because Pauline Hanson knows there are no votes in it. She knows people will be outraged in these days of reconciliation and people know that Asians have not swamped Australia.

However, there are still many people who are fearful of Muslims, do not understand their culture, are not ready to accept them as Australians and underneath that is fear and that fear equals votes where she can get them.

Indeed, there are always pockets of men who feed off ensuring women are kept weak, meek and not heard. There are always pockets of men who think they deserve a bigger space than women in the world; even if an epidemic is so severe that women are the focus first; these types of men simply must insist that the experiences of men must be the primary focus, regardless of the implications for women or the burdens or consequences women suffer.

Pauline has pricked her ears up and she is listening to these men. Even where the system does recognise men are victims and there are men specific programs (many created BY women), and the language is changing to intimate partner violence to be more inclusive.She simply does not like it.

Pauline won’t speak to any of this because she wants people to believe this is a gender issue. She wants people to believe that men are the most hard done by and women are ‘winning’ tax payer funded supports over more deserving men like it is some sick contest.

If the welfare bludger who gets it all versus the hard working tax payer who gets nothing could be an uglier colour – this is what it looks like.

So apparently there must votes in appealing to this group. To get these votes, today’s latest target (bullies have targets) are victims of domestic violence.

Hanson’s allegations that women victims of domestic violence make frivolous claims, is the same divisive, attack dog, them and us mentality of those who seek to stigmatise those on welfare as dole bludgers, cheats, lazy and frauds. Or those who seek to label people of different ethnicities as ‘bludgers and job stealers, murderers and rapists.’

The main aim of Hanson’s breed of politician is to stigmatise a particular group. Today that group comprises of women who are emotionally tortured to the point of self-worthlessness, beaten, threatened, stalked and killed.

Stigma aims to socially discredit a group of people. Stigma seeks to bracket people so they are not ‘normal’ and when people are seen as ‘not normal’ people who think they are ‘normal’ are afraid of the ‘abnormals’.

When people are afraid, opportunistic, egocentric politicians put themselves forth as ‘the protector’ of the ‘normals from the ‘abnormals.’ No one needs protecting from women victims of domestic violence.

No Pauline, you do not need to protect anyone from women victims of domestic violence.

No Pauline, you do not need to plead a case for less tax-payers money going on women’s services.

No Pauline, women victims of domestic violence will not be threatened by your ignorant rhetoric and be bracketed as ‘abnormal.’

No Pauline, just because men experience domestic violence, it does not invalidate the experiences of women and make their claims frivolous.

No Pauline, women victims of domestic violence will not be shamed into thinking they are ‘wasting the big strong policeman’s time and not speak up.’

No Pauline, women victims of domestic violence will not sink to the depths of silence when so many people around them are trying to lift them up to speak up.

Instead of giving examples of why or when men are not believed, or what services we need for men; Hanson’s ignorant allegation is that women are frivolous in their claims.

This is to give the impression that women are creating a false epidemic with their mendacious lies and this gives no real space for male victims. (Just read the comments following the original article linked above.)

We do not need to shame or silence women, or make them think that they are a burden on the system, so women shrink even more and create a bigger space for men who are victims of domestic violence.

If Pauline Hanson is unable to argue a bigger space for men in domestic violence services, without putting women down, then why does she deserve anyone’s vote?

If you are still thinking of voting for Pauline Hanson up to this point, ask yourself, “How does it benefit our country to start a narrative which is only meant to stigmatise and shame women who are victims of domestic violence and make it harder for them to speak up?”

To appeal to enough people to win votes with this latest outlandish claim; Pauline Hanson will want this message of ‘women victims of domestic violence making frivolous claims’ to get louder and louder and the following to grow bigger and bigger. Just like she did back in the 90’s with Indigenous people and Asians.

Imagine the same aggressive, hateful, divisive rhetoric raising its ugly head as Hanson has done to Asians, Indigenous people, those on welfare and now Muslims; towards victims of domestic violence. Imagine that kind of Australia.

The more aggressive, the more hateful, the more divisive the rhetoric, the more doubts that are created in people’s minds, the more women remain silent because of this narrative and the more perpetrators believe women will not speak up, then the more women will die. Is this what you really want to vote for?

When Pauline Hanson attacks diversity, she doesn’t recognise how other cultures enrich us and teach us and how we can learn respect for customs and traditions. Multiculturalism helps us to stop being insular and selfish and gives us the gift of inclusiveness. Now she wants to widen the gap between women and men. She wants to give the impression that women are getting more in this space than men are. She wants us to position men and women victims to compete. She wants us to think about how unfair that is and how she can help correct that ‘unfairness.’

It would be a safe bet that if people started to be doubtful of cute kitten owners or didn’t understand them, Ms. Hanson would jump on that bandwagon as well to serve her own ego. I don’t believe any nationality, sexuality, gender or religion or anyone who is slightly different than in Pauline Hanson’s world of what is ‘normal’ is safe from being a target, if she thought it meant more votes.

The growth of this type of Nationalist, divisive and hateful politician, can be summed up in the words of Aboriginal Elder and former Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, Senator Patrick Dodson:

“In a climate of uncertainty and fear, without strong and visionary leadership, people panic.”

On July 2, we will decide the Prime Minister and his Government. This Prime Minister and his MPs and Senators must listen to Mr. Dodson’s words and work hard to build a future where Australians live with certainty, hope and inclusiveness of all Australians and put an end to politicians pitting us against each other.

That future Australia will not be built with any contributions from Pauline Hanson.

…and if you are still thinking of voting for Pauline Hanson: Hang your head in shame.

stigma goffman

Originally published on Polyfeministix

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Power Rules, Men, Sex and Politics

sex harass Jamie Briggs, Minister for Cities and the Built Environment in the Abbott/Turnbull Liberal National Coalition Government resigned from the Ministry on the 29th December, 2015, citing his behaviour was an error of professional judgement. A female public servant has submitted a formal complaint, complaining of Briggs’ sexual behaviour. No one knows the exact nature of the complaint made, as we are not privy to any specific details at this time. Newspaper reports indicate that this complaint relates to unwanted sexual advances and/or sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment by men is the “Unsolicited, non-reciprocal male behaviour, that asserts a woman’s sex role, over her function as a worker (Benokraitis & Feagin, 1995).

Seeking “The Wife’s Opinion”

A number of articles written in various newspapers seek the opinion of Jamie Briggs’ wife. I will not link these articles, as I will not reinforce this distraction from Briggs’ behaviour. In fact, Jamie Briggs’ wife should be left out of this altogether.

When I read the various articles in newspapers focusing on his wife’s opinion and acceptance or condemnation of Briggs’ behaviour, I cringed. My mind went back to late 90’s and Hilary Clinton immediately. Hilary Clinton is still harassed about her husband’s behaviour today. Hilary Clinton is still expected to take responsibility for her husband’s behaviour and men in politics try their hardest to use this as a source of shame for Hilary Clinton.

No sooner had the ink dried on Briggs’ resignation, the media immediately turned their attention to his wife.

In doing so, this takes the focus off the man’s behaviour. It gives us something else to talk about other than the man who used his power on a woman who did not consent, nor did she welcome such behaviour of a sexual nature. Briggs abused his position of power. His ethical behaviour is also questioned.

Public Hat or Private Hat

Many argue that Bill Clinton had his ‘private ethics’ hat on, in his interactions with Lewinsky. Many argue there is a fine ethical line between a private ethics hat and a public one for politicians. However, in the case of Briggs, his ethics hat at that time was a public hat, as he was representing Australia in all his actions at that time. His reflection that this behaviour was not up to the standard of a Minister is accurate. He has made the correct decision to step down from his position in the Ministry.

Power Rules

In all organisations, including politics, there is a system of power rules in play. These power rules, like most other rules in society, have been developed through the powerful positioning of white men over a long period of time. (Please note, this article is about the sexual harassment of a woman. The Author recognises such power rules can impact on men, women of colour, men of colour, LGBTI people and people with a disability and other marginalised and disadvantaged groups).

Some of the “Power Rules” in play for the case of Briggs are “Legitimate Power” (power given to a person due to their position) and possibly “Coercive Power” (this is power where the holder of this power may have an influence on career choices etc., Coercive power is often used in a negative way, such as threats of demotion or non-recommendations etc.,). This is a little more complex, as it has many dynamics. Even if coercive power is not direct; a woman needs to face the decision if her complaint will be detrimental to her work-life due to the coercive power of those associated with the aggressor. This is intensified when the aggressor displays the perception that they have such power, (perception of power) even if it is not legitimate.

Unwanted sexual advances and sexual harassment of women, intimidates and creates fear at a personal level and has implications at the work level. In cases where unwanted sexual behaviour and the workplace collide, intimidation and fear may also impact the victim’s work-life. Often, this is a source of non-complaint, where women feel reporting an incident of sexual behaviour is not worth the risk. The use of power rules, particularly coercive power in workplaces can have a dramatic impact on a woman’s self efficacy to report unwanted behaviour in the workplace. This should not be delegitimised by shifting the focus of attention to the opinion of the Briggs’ wife.

How women can be used to deligimitise other women’s experiences

Turning the focus to Brigg’s wife takes our attention off the victim. It takes the focus off the victim’s discomfort, powerlessness and distress. The victim should remain the most important person in relation to Briggs’ behaviour, not his wife, mother, aunt or any other women who may be used take the attention off Briggs’ own behaviour.

Also, bringing a third party (wife) into the scenario, this act of abuse of power resulting in humiliation, discomfort and distress, for the victim, diminishes Briggs’ behaviour to the opinion of the third party (wife) and not the opinion of the victim.

Turning the focus to the opinion of the wife, also diminishes the behaviour of the aggressor, when we ask, “What does his wife think about this?”

If Briggs’ was a single man would the media or other male politicians diminish his behaviour by using excuses such as, ‘he was only looking for a soul mate’ ‘She (the victim) must have read him wrong’ etc., etc., as we have seen many times before.

If the behaviour of sexual advance/harassment by men in power cannot be diminished or excused due to ‘bachelorhood’, the next step is normally, to seek to diminish the behaviour through the support of other women in their lives; usually starting with the wife.

As with Bill Clinton, question’s raised in people’s mind’s about Hilary Clinton, “Is it her fault?” “Is she not being ‘good wife'”, “Is the wife ‘not meeting his needs'” etc., etc., All these questions raised in various people’s minds puts the onus on a third party (wife) and lets the male aggressor off the hook.

Referent Power

All politicians and the people who market them desire for them to have ‘Referent Power.’ In a nutshell, referent power is about charisma and using that charisma to influence others and build loyalty (voters). When men are in public life, it is very important for others to try to re-establish referent power for the (fallen) individual male in question as soon as possible. The culture of sexual harassment is still dominated by the needs of the male (ie how complaints about their behaviour will affect their career. What will happen to the man now?). Seeking the opinion of supportive wives, other supportive women and supportive prominent men who may reinforce the ‘goodness and wholesomeness’ of the aggressor, reinforces this culture.

Focusing on male behaviour paves the way for a cultural shift

As a woman, I will not pass judgement on wives of men, where the men have a question of sexual behaviour or any other indiscretion associated with their power above them.

As a woman, I will not pass judgement on wives of men who are in positions of significant power. “Power Rules” exist in the wife’s external environment (political face and an extension of the husband’s work-life) and internal environment (power and control within a relationship). The layers of ‘power rules’ women, as wives of men in power must negotiate, is complex.

For people judging Briggs’ wife’s support for her husband, the illusion of how high her own moral bar is held, simply cannot and should not be judged. She could very well be subject to power rules and her ‘morals or ethics’ could be set at a very different level in private. (In saying, that her moral bar is completely irrelevant). In making any judgements about the wife’s opinion and her morals, we are simply condemning another woman caught in the same power rules as the victim. Power rules created by powerful men. We also remove support from the victim, by shifting our focus away from the unwanted, unsolicited sexual behaviour perpetrated by a man in power.

The only woman I have concern for, and the only woman who should be in our focus is the victim.

It should be continuously acknowledged that Briggs’ behaviour and men who display the same behaviours make women feel uncomfortable in their own spaces, fearful, frightened, powerless and even ashamed.

It should be continuously acknowledged that Briggs’ behaviour and men who display the same behaviours make women fearful, intimidated and distressed about how these unwanted behaviours will impact on their own career progression and work.

It should be continuously acknowledged that Briggs’ behaviour and the men who display the same behaviours view women, not as workers, but as sexual objects. This diminishes a woman’s entire gamut of knowledge, skills, abilities and personal attributes a woman possesses in her workplace. This in turn, diminishes the value of a woman’s labour at work. These men should not be part of public life, particularly where they influence legislation pertaining to women and work, such as Briggs was in the Howard era. (Chief advisor in the Prime Minister’s office on Industrial Relations / Work Choices).

(On an aside note, It brings to question, if Briggs’ Work Choices work, is the motivation for Turnbull promoting an Abbott supporting right wing man.)

Briggs, a man, so hell bent on the idea of Merit as opposed to Quotas, in particular really needs this reinforced over and over and over again, until he ‘gets it.’ Ironically, Jamie Briggs’ own behaviour makes him a shining example of why we do indeed need quotas for women in politics.

The focus in the case of Briggs’ resignation should always be about condemning Briggs’ behaviour and concern and empathy for the victim. Sexual Harassment by men, particularly by men in positions of power needs a cultural shift and that shift should start now.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

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Listening to voices of domestic violence and other talking points

John Paul Langbroek brought me to boiling point the other week with his comments about domestic violence. This shows how out of touch and neanderthal the QLD LNP’s thinking is on this issue. Langbroek blamed the QLD economy for Domestic Violence. He had the audacity to use the serious crime of domestic violence to take a political stab. If any issue needs to be bipartisan, it is this one. Mr. Langbroek, domestic violence can happen to anyone. It is caused by controlling and violent behaviour by the individual perpetrator. Nothing else. There are no excuses.

For Langbroek to say this sickens me, as it gives the perpetrator an excuse for their violence. To use the recent tragedies as political point scoring deeply disturbs me and his own party should question his leadership and personal character.

I think it is important that many people speak up about how we as citizens see what important changes are necessary to develop an effective system to eradicate domestic violence. Many victims, survivors and their family and friends need a safe space to share stories and provide recommendations. I have outlined some of the changes I feel that need to occur to protect victims, below. These are simply talking points and do need further debate:

National Domestic Violence Portal – Listening to voices
Although domestic violence is receiving a lot of attention and progression and enhancement of services is now in the spotlight, I believe we need to hear more. I have discussed this issue with many women and some men and everyone’s story is different. We need to gather data about the stories and concerns of victims who have suffered and are suffering and listen – really listen to their recommendations. I say this because our country is a diverse country. Something that may work for people in the inner city in Melbourne, may not work or be enough in my town of Rockhampton in Central Queensland or further out west in rural communities.

There are so many antecedents of domestic violence, so many antecedents of victims not receiving the support they need and so many factors which prevent victims from remaining safe from harm. There are many victims who do not want to speak up about their own ordeal in public or online and that should be completely respected. The fear of domestic violence for some never goes away. For some people in small towns or close knit suburbs, there are family and friends to deal with, as well as the ex-partner forever more. If a victim is suffering from domestic violence in their current relationship, it is highly unlikely these victims will speak up. Sometimes for child custody reasons, or caring for aged parents, both people from the relationship need to remain in the same town.

I believe a National Domestic Violence online portal will also capture the men who do not want to publicly speak up. The issue of men as victims of violence is relatively silent. We need to understand the underlying constructs of domestic violence for both genders in heterosexual relationships and also same-sex relationships, as well as many men and women from different ethnicities. These people should have a confidential voice, which is linked to a Government Department with professionals working in this area to receive their stories and recommendations. Alternatively, Universities could be paid to collect this data and analyse findings for recommendations.

Violence is violence
Domestic Violence perpetrators need to be viewed the same as a stranger. Government, agencies, law enforcement and our justice system need to stop looking at domestic violence through a lens of ‘a personal situation.’ If it was a stranger who committed these violent acts, then they would be arrested and charged and the victim could probably even sue them as a victim of crime. Police and the legal system need to treat this as individual violent behaviour on another. Justifying the violence within the relationship as not as important as if committed by a stranger, gives the perpetrators even more power and it says that violence within a relationship is acceptable in our society.

The line of questioning
I hope this doesn’t happen now; but if the police still ask questions about what the victim did to provoke the violence (do you make his meals on time for him etc.,), that needs to cease immediately (this example is from a story from a victim of domestic violence more than 20 years ago). A review of the line of questioning needs to be undertaken so that victims are understood and supported. A victim should never feel that the violence is their fault, or the violence is acceptable due to the line of questioning developed through a gender-role lens, a religious lens, a disability lens or a culture lens.

Rape is Rape
Rape and excessive violent rape within a relationship have been crimes for a long time. It needs to be treated that way in all cases and the perpetrator arrested and charged and complaints taken seriously. Domestic violence agencies, need to promote advice about the safest procedure to victims. The authorities need to treat this as serious violence inflicted onto an individual. Victims of rape need to be supported. Legislation needs to be scrutinised and court processes need to be scrutinised. For example, if a woman was raped and remained in the relationship out of fear, would the police drop the case or pursue it? This is a question I do not know the answer to, but I fear at times victims of rape are not supported due to current procedures in our police work and legal systems. However, considering the current climate, a review in my opinion would assist as well as collating and analysing the data from stories from victims, who have gone to police or the court process with rape as a factor and improvements could be recommended from there.

Media portrayal of domestic violence
The portrayal in the media of domestic violence using pictures of women with black eyes etc., does disturb me. There are many techniques a perpetrator can use which show no marks. For example, being dragged around the house by the hair and given Chinese burns, placing a plastic bag over a person’s head, being locked in cupboard and covered with vile filth etc., does not give a woman a black eye. Making a woman beg does not give a black eye. Controlling every move a woman makes and not allowing her to have any of her own thoughts or decisions or autonomy does not give a woman a black eye. My main fear with this is some women will think they need to be battered, bruised and bleeding before they are in a domestic violent situation. My other fear is that there is such a gender focus on women, that this will make men even more reluctant to speak up if they are victims.

The way societies belief system is shaped so quickly through intense media, I fear, will have some victims not be believed by people they reach out to if they ‘don’t look like a victim.’ I am concerned this will reduce the self-efficacy of victims to use the complaints system. The Government through the media needs to be more three-dimensional and tell people what exactly constitutes violence and the many different forms of violence and use strong words to explain the actions. “This behaviour is a crime and we will take you seriously.” The Government through the media also needs to discuss all relationships including male victims and LGBTI victims in same sex or various gender-spectrum relationships.

Dedicated response units
The Government needs to have special dedicated response units for immediate response in every single town. This should be their only job. There are so many anecdotal stories by victims who say that the police did not show up, or there wasn’t an officer available. My concern is for regional and rural communities where they often have skeleton police staff. I understand some people think a surplus is the most important thing for our country; but I would be happy to excuse the debt or pay extra into a levy to fund a dedicated domestic violence response unit in all towns. It should not be something that ‘we desire when we get the money.’ It is an absolute necessity right now.

There are also many victims who flee to another town and live in constant fear they will be found. If we established dedicated response units, we have the technology to enable victims to register with these response units to be on high alert. A victim is not always safe just because they have left the immediate area where the perpetrator lives.

Safety is paramount
Many times victims are embarrassed to go to the police and they just think everything will be OK – they can deal with it, there are children and extended family to worry about too and the judgements passed by family and friends. It is a complicated situation and everyone’s situation is different. Police need to put in place a process where a victim is immediately counselled by a professional (not a police officer) about their safety needs. It should not just be a statement to the police and you go home. The threat of violence and the violence towards men by other men or women also needs to be treated seriously.

A network needs to be set up so victims are removed from their town immediately if they are in immediate threat of their life. Being in the same town is unsafe. The Government needs to pay for flights and immediate accommodation in another town. Victims should not have to save on no income until they can have enough to get out. I knew a woman once who told me that she had an allowance from her husband of $10 per week and she saved out of that for six years to get out. This is not acceptable.

Safety rights versus custodial and access rights
There are victims forced to remain in towns due to custody arrangements. If violence has been a factor in the relationship breakdown, this in no way should apply. The safety of the victim and children must be the only concern. The custodial and access rights of the perpetrator should not ever be given a higher priority than the safety of the victim. I understand this is a complicated issue and I do have a concern that some will use this as a tool to prevent access from the non-custodial parent in a non-genuine case. However, it is a point worth debating and solutions provided by those within the family courts and domestic violence systems.

Relationship Awareness
Relationship awareness needs to start in Primary School. I think if girls and boys are educated about how we should treat each other in relationships all through primary and highschool, warning signs will be evident and it will strengthen people. Relationship awareness must include the cycle of domestic violence. Victims must be made aware that some perpetrators will continually be violent, plateau, adorn the victim with gifts and love and then back to violence and how to recognise these signs and how to respond.

Often, domestic violence is a slow progression in a relationship, from manipulation and control, complete erosion of self-esteem, to financial dependence to physical violence, some victims do not understand that what is happening is not normal, as it is gradual. They do not understand the violence they experience is a crime. What goes on within a couple’s walls sometimes, some women and men think is normal and they are reluctant to go to the police when the violence starts to occur. If relationship education was put into place early in life and continued throughout, warning bells would occur and hopefully many will end the relationship before physical violence occurs.

Disclosure to religious organisations and other organisations or professionals
Victims disclosing to professionals such as doctors and counsellors must have an obligation to act. Domestic Violence agencies also need to work with churches and other organisations and professionals to educate them on the advice that should be given to victims of violence. It is not helpful to a victim if a religious organisation, doctor or counsellor encourages a victim to stay and ‘work it out.’ It is my concern that there are some organisations or professionals who victims feel comfortable to disclose to, but the response is ill advised and harmful. I do not know the answer to convincing a religious priest or pastor or a deeply religious doctor etc., that the sanctity of marriage is more important than the safety of the victim, but the conversation does need to be started and solutions need to be recommended from the hierarchies within these establishments in conjunction with the Government and penalties should be applied where appropriate.

Parents
It is our duty as parents to speak to our children about what a respectful relationship means. I am not going to say how this should be done as each family is different and each family has different dynamics; but it should be as essential as driver safety, drugs and alcohol and stranger danger. It is a continuous conversation we must have.

Be a real friend
Speak Up. There is no point being sympathetic after the victim has left the relationship. There is no point recounting the number of times you thought about how wrong it was the way the perpetrator treated your friend after the victim has left the relationship and is probably in more danger now than if they got out earlier. Tell your friends that what is happening is wrong at the time and support them to speak to someone who can help them leave the relationship and stay safe. Don’t just sit back and think you are interfering.

Mental Health funding
Some survivors of domestic violence can spend the rest of their lives suffering from PTSD, Anxiety and Depression and other illnesses. Mental Health funding needs to increase so victims can access services that can assist them to heal. This is critical for victims and perpetrators for not only self-healing but also for future healthy relationships. Once again, this is not something we ‘should do when we have the money’ it is a necessity now.

Perpetrators
There are undoubtedly going to be some perpetrators who are violent and will have an intent to cause harm regardless and our legal system does not keep offenders jailed indefinitely. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that there are many antecedents which do enable controlling and violent behaviour in people and that there are some perpetrators who can be rehabilitated and never offend again and go on into healthy respectful relationships. Sometimes this could repair a family and sometimes they may move onto another relationship. If we want a collegial and civil society, we must invest in community education and programs to assist perpetrators in changing their behaviour and thought patterns forever and provide any other treatments they need. This must be treated in the same way as other offenders for other crimes. Like other offenders rehabilitation must be a consideration and a commitment from Government and funding to community organisations provided. As with other suggestions, this is not a ‘we will do when we have the money, we need a serious investment in this now.’

Conclusion
These are my suggestions, built from my own awareness of domestic violence and discussions with many people over many years. I welcome any further suggestions or continuation of a discussion on any of the points I have raised. I have purposely kept this post gender neutral, as I do not want to discount any individual who may be a victim of domestic violence or discount their lived experience or what they may recommend.

 

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The Challenge for the New Minister for Women

Today we welcome a new Minister for Women – Senator Michaelia Cash. In December 2013, I wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Tony Abbott. I outlined quite extensively my concerns for legal discrimination and discrimination by default. I received a very prompt response from Senator Claire Moore of Labor which was very comprehensive and addressed all of my concerns.

However, I still awaited a response from the Minister for Women who said that “Women do not suffer legal discrimination in Australia.” After months of requesting a response, Senator Larissa Waters from the Greens took up my case via email to me. Finally, in April 2014 I received a response from Senator Michaela Cash, Minister assisting the Minister for Women. I thank Senator Waters for her tenacity and persistence.

Senator Cash advised me in her letter that the Liberal National Coalition is “committed to delivering policies that ensure both women and men have equal opportunities to contribute to society and live free from all forms of discrimination.”

In her letter to me, she also praised the work of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick and noted, “Elizabeth Broderick has demonstrated leadership on a number of issues raised in your (my) letter.”

Elizabeth Broderick’s term as Sex Discrimination commissioner ended in September 2015 and to my knowledge a replacement is yet to be appointed. The Attorney General, George Brandis told the Debrief Daily, that a replacement was under consideration, but no announcement at this point. This is just two days prior the Commissioner’s post being vacated. The Office for the Minister for Women does not appear to be keen to source and push for a replacement, knowing a vacant chair was immenent, for a Commissioner who has done such great work.

Senator Cash also advised me in her letter that her Government has also “Made a number of commitments that will seek to drive forward gender equality in Australia.” Senator Cash then outlined a number of policy priorities. As this is 15 months after this letter was penned, let’s have a look at Senator Cash’s responses and how they stack up. I see these as challenges for the new Minister for Women:

Relocating the Office for Women – This was advised by Senator Cash to be one of the “first priorities and a key election commitment.” Senator Cash advised that this will “Strengthen a whole-of-government approach to providing better economic and social outcomes for women and sends a strong message across government about the need to consider women in the development and implementation of policies and programmes”

How did this stack up? – Unfortunately, this priority has not achieved the outcomes it said it would. The strong message sent across government with one, then two women in Cabinet reduced this strong message to a whisper. When we take into consideration the number of women in Cabinet who identify as a feminist and actually sincerely believe in gender equality then this strong message is merely tokenism and placed on mute.

At the time of Senator Cash’s response, women in leadership roles were sparse. However, today, the new Prime Minister has now in increased the number of women in cabinet to six, which is now a makeup of 22% women and 78% men. This still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of commitment to policy input by women.

The better social and economic outcomes are not evident from this move and there are quite a number of budget cuts and policies, which are harmful to women. Cuts to family payment, the attacks on government paid parental leave, cuts to funding to community services such as “Girls Time Out” in my community, which assists young pregnant mothers to name a few. (GTO has since been refunded after a fight brought on by the State Labor member for Keppel).

Pregnancy discrimination, Paid Parental Leave and Lifetime Earnings – Senator Cash agreed with me that we must reject discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. Senator Cash then outlined the Liberal’s panacea for all things women – the Paid Parental Leave Scheme and directed me to a report by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner’s Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to work National Review.

However, Senator Cash did not mention in her letter that this review was instigated by the Attorney General on 22nd June, 2013; which at that time was Labor’s Mark Dreyfus.

On 22 June 2013, the Attorney-General’s Department asked the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, on behalf of the Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct a national review on the prevalence, nature and consequences of discrimination in relation to pregnancy at work and return to work after parental leave

How did this stack up? – As we know the Liberal’s panacea to all things women, the PPL, was abandoned by the Government and they also went on an attack on women who had already bargained with their employer for PPL and screamed that they were ‘double dippers.’ This is a derogatory term, aimed to stigmatize women. Not the Government’s greatest achievement.

As per the pregnancy discrimination issues raised in my letter; as discussed above, it appears the Liberal Government has done no work of its own in this area and the work was commissioned by Labor. The findings certainly have not been in the forefront of the Government’s agenda and to this point remain relatively silent, unless you make an active choice to read the report.

Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare – Senator Cash directed me to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into childcare. At this point, it was in the early stages and was not expected to be finalised until February 2015. I found this inclusion a little confusing. I had not raised any specific concerns about childcare affordability etc., in my initial letter. My concerns were mainly specific to the discrimination of pregnant women in the workforce, the impacts of the casualisation of women and the impacts and discrimination experienced by women returning to work from maternity leave. The questions I raised were not specific to the childcare framework, but more focused on missed opportunities for training, promotion and leadership, breastfeeding discrimination and negative and inappropriate comments from managers and supervisors. However, after a review of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Childcare recommendations, none of these recommendations addressed my concerns.

How did this stack up? – In this instance, the Minister assisting the Minister for women, read my concerns as affordability of childcare and did not address some of the ingrained cultural issues within workplaces, enabled by existing legislation to redress discrimination for women in the workplace. Although, the recommendations have not been developed into policy at this stage, some of the recommendations concern me within the wider framework.

The recommendations aim to encourage all mothers to return to work. There is little support in terms of policy direction from the Government for women to stay at home. Under both the Liberal and the Labor Governments, the choice to mother at home has been taken away from women who want to provide a stable, continuous home environment for their children, by forcing mothers to return to work. In regional areas, there is not the support structures, transport infrastructure or jobs to place this additional burden on single mothers. Some mothers from low socio-economic backgrounds do not have their own transport or support network. This policy direction does not place women at the centre of the debate and should be a supported choice to return to work, not a regulated forced requirement to obtain income to support self and child/ren, which in my view discriminates against women who want to make the choice to stay at home. This choice is afforded to wealthier women, who have the privilege of a second income that can sustain both mother and child at home.

The entire policy framework of women and work is from one of ableism and is not supportive of women with a disability. With no Disability Commissioner and none named in the new Turnbull Cabinet Ministery, I fear this will not be redressed.

Another concern is that child care payment is always viewed as a combined income situation. To overlay this against the concerns we have at present with the rise of domestic violence, I strongly believe it would be pertinent for the government to review this to support women to be able to independently earn their own income. Not all women, have access to income or shared income in all situations and financial control is a common factor amongst victims of domestic violence. Please view the recommendations linked above.

Women on Boards – Senator Cash outlined in her response that “the Government is committed to supporting women into leadership roles, and we are engaging with the business and community sector to support women’s representation of leadership and on boards.” Senator Cash also informed me that the government is engaging with the National Women’s Alliances.

How did this stack up? – Senator Cash advised they were working with the National Women’s Alliances. This alliance was formed by the Gillard Government in 2010. Senator Cash may not have known at the time of her response to me, but regardless, this alliance’s funding will now cease in 2016. As a woman from a regional community, I hope as Minister for Women she will announce the refunding of this alliance.

Violence against women – Senator Cash assured me that, “A key priority of our policy agenda is to ensure that women and their families are safe from violence.” Senator Cash also reassured me that they are continuing with the previous Labor plan to reduce domestic violence. I also note that Senator Cash advised that they have increased funding to White Ribbon.

How did this stack up? – The nation is aware that we have a domestic violence epidemic with a very high number of women violently murdered in a domestic violence situation so far this year. The Government has remained relatively silent on this issue and has not championed any real commitment to assisting women at risk of or fleeing domestic violence. Some of my concerns: cuts to family payment, increasing financial pressure in homes, the four week waiting period for Newstart, which will see young women at risk of homelessness and violence, the cuts to Indigenous legal aid (now refunded), cuts to community programs which are vital to support for young women. The increasing casualisation of women in the workforce, providing little stability for families and the lack of seriousness in responding to developing a committed immediate framework and funding much needed and required services.

Women at Risk – This is a response to women fleeing as asylum seekers and the discrimination within the current processing framework (for more detail see original letter linked in the opening paragraph). Senator Cash advised that they have a “Continuing objective of the empowerment of women” and they have increased 1000 places for women at risk in their humanitarian intake.

Senator Cash also advised that “the Government will ensure that Australia’s refugee and humanitarian resettlement program provides places to those we can help most and those most in need.” Senator Cash did recognise that women and children are the most vulnerable in this group and “deserve to be given a very high priority in Australia’s refugee and humanitarian program.”

How did this stack up? – To date, the Government has been marred by accusations of the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. The Human Rights Commissioner’s report and Senator Hanson Young’s vocal reporting into the conditions in camps and other professionals speaking up about ill-treatment and abuse, physical and sexual of women in camps, the secrecy and lack of empathy by the Government gives me no confidence at all that the Office of Women considers women seeking asylum, with any seriousness or commitment. This needs to be urgently addressed, in light of recent developments.

What was not addressed in Senator Cash’s response

There were a number of areas not addressed at all in Senator Cash’s response to my original letter. These are discrimination for women pertaining to the areas of:

  • Rape and the Justice System
  • Denial of right to safety
  • Casualisation of the workforce and insecure employment
  • Gender Pay Gap, including lower wages in ‘traditional women’s industries’
  • Superannuation
  • Marriage Equality
  • Indigenous specific issues I outlined relating to many of the above areas and support for mothers and children of the stolen generation.
  • Abortion Law
  • The under-representation of women in Parliament

How did this stack up? – Frankly, I felt a long-awaited response from the Government, which took the tenacity of Senator Larissa Waters to take up my cause and finally receive a response from the Office of Women months later, was disappointing to receive so many areas not addressed. Also, as you can see in the other responses outlined above, I was disappointed that the Government claimed ownership of Labor initiated programs and reviews, through absence of this information and 15 months on, no real progress in policy to redress discrimination for women.

I will never know if the former Prime Minister and Minister for Women, still believed that “Women do not suffer legal discrimination” after considering the matters raised in my original letter, as this was not addressed.

Where to now? – I hope that the new Minister for Women does believe that women do indeed suffer legal discrimination and discrimination by default. Personally after Senator Cash’s tirade on the ‘sisterhood’ in the senate, my personal preference would have been Marise Payne to take on this role, as I believe Senator Payne has spoken out on a number of occassions with seriousness on issues that women face. I hope as Minister for Women, Senator Cash changes her rhetoric and attack as displayed in this video. Otherwise, she cannot be taken seriously in this role.

I hope that now Senator Cash is the Minister for Women, she has more scope to tackle head on some of these areas that need to be addressed urgently.

I fear that the impacts from the Government’s wider policy in welfare, humanitarian programs, social support programs, education and health are ingrained in an ideology harmful to women. I seriously doubt many of these areas I have outlined as my concerns for equality for women can be redressed, as these wider policy frameworks coupled with the rhetoric and narrative of the Government can and do act as antecedents and enablers of discrimination to women.

I strongly believe that the liberal and conservative ideology of the Liberal National Coalition impedes and prevents proper progress in the area of equality for women and a change of Government is the only solution. However, only time will tell.

Originally posted on Polyfeministix

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Boys Club Beneficiary Gives Opinion On Quotas and the Quality Of Women

This week we have witnessed white people instructing Aboriginal people about what is or is not racism. We have witnessed the Speaker of the House who has been exposed to be a serial breaker of rules, receive backing from the Prime Minister to remain in the job which will decide who else breaks the rules. Now we have Jamie Briggs, Member for Mayo, a former PM staffer elevated into a blue ribbon seat by The Boys Club, giving his opinion on ‘quotas and the quality of women in parliament.’ Has the world gone mad?

Just like Ron Boswell on Q & A last week; Jamie Briggs, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development – is the perfect example of an ignorant, shouty, self-important, narcissistic male politician who thinks they can either talk over the top of women, or view what women have to say as irrelevant. Politicians such as Briggs think that the only opinion that matters is the opinion of conservative men. Politicians like Briggs believe that politics is the rightful place of men. Such audacity coming from a man who was projected into a safe Liberal seat by the Liberal Party Boys Club. You can read the expose of Briggs’ trashy comments by Max Chalmers in New Matilda.

Politicians such as Briggs take a dig at a Quota system, but he doesn’t stop for a minute to acknowledge ‘jobs for the boys’ as quota based at all. He must have a short memory or must be extremely ignorant if he believes that Springborg was appointed Leader of Queensland LNP over Fiona Simpson, based on merit. He must have amnesia if he can’t remember The Liberal Party Boys Club – the prominent and powerful men who backed his own candidate bid for the seat of Mayo.

Let’s have a quick look at the members of the Boys Club who helped out their mate Briggs:

Downer stepped down from the front bench after the election and announced his resignation from parliament on July 14, 2008, initiating a by-election on September 6. The Liberal preselection was won by Jamie Briggs, whose work in the Prime Minister’s Office as chief adviser on industrial relations linked him closely and perhaps dangerously with the development of WorkChoices. Backed by John Howard, Alexander Downer and state party operative Chris Kenny, Briggs won the pre-selection vote in the seventh round by 157 to 111 over Iain Evans, former state Opposition Leader and member for Davenport. The Australian reported Briggs was pushed over the line by the preferences of third-placed Matt Doman, a former staffer to Right faction warlord Senator Nick Minchin. (Exerpt Courtesy of Crikey)

So there we go, a PM staffer winning a candidate bid over a former experienced State Opposition Leader. I’m sure it is all merit based. Let’s weigh the candidate bid up: Giving advice to the PM on the worst Industrial Relations Policy Australia has ever had (Briggs) versus experience as a former State Opposition Leader and experience as the Minister for Environment & Heritage, Industry & Trade and Recreation, Sport and Racing (Evans). Yep, checks out as merit based. Nothing Boys-Club-Smelly about that at all.

I often think of ‘jobs for the boys’ like this:

Hubby and his mates are sitting on the couch watching the television. His wife has just cooked a delicious meal which hubby and the boys have just finished. His wife has just baked a chocolate cake for desert and places it on the coffee table in front of them. His wife goes off to clean up all the dirty plates, wash up, sweep and mop the floor. When his wife finishes all the work, she goes into the lounge-room for her piece of cake. There is one piece just sitting there. She steps towards it. Hubby puts his hand over the top of the cake. “Hang on love.” He says. “Any of you boys want another?” The boys all nod in agreement. Hubby then has a joke and a tussle around with the boys and they all decide which one of boys gets the last piece. It was Dave.

The moral of the story is: No matter how great a woman’s work is, or how much hard work women do, often, when men are in power to decide what women get for their efforts; they will have a woman’s cake and eat it too.

At the ALP National Conference last weekend, the ALP decided to raise the bar and achieve 50% of women in Parliament by 2025. In light of this, some Liberal Party women are also pushing for an increase. This is not a new push for Liberal Party women. Liberal Party women have raised this issue many times before. In light of this fact, I question why this is not a prominent topic for discussion, considering the Liberal Party are in Government and the leader of their party is indeed the Minister for Women. It could possibly be that the boys are too busy eating cake.

I have outlined some of the reasons why we need to redress the imbalance of women in politics and I have outlined some of the challenges faced by women in the Liberal party. I have also briefly outlined my personal view, that we need to ensure that we use quotas in a fair and just way.

It is concerning that not only are women under-represented in Australian politics, but Australia is ranked number 44/142 countries for women in national parliaments. According to UNWomen in Politics 2015; Australia only has 26.7% of women in Parliament.

The Australian Government Office for Women, which is part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; aims to ensure a whole-of-government approach to providing better economic and social outcomes for women.

However, the analysis by Waring et. al. of the Inter-Parliamentary Union of women in politics; would indicate the Australian Government Office for Women is not well placed to achieve these aims, due to under-representation of women in Parliament, and an absence of a system to redress the imbalance.

I have outlined the reasons below:

    • If women are not present at policy and decision-making levels, there is a democratic deficit. Decisions taken without women’s perspective lack credibility in a democratic context
    • The participation of women leads to a new perspective and a diversity of contributions to policy-making and to priorities of development, and it gives the female population a role in deciding the future of their country and the rights and opportunities for their gender.
    • A democracy which excludes women, or in which women are represented only marginally, is not a real democracy. Women’s participation in policymaking is a question of justice and equality
    • Women’s greater participation would impact upon the traditional values held by men. Sharing of power and responsibilities would become reality. Political meetings and programmes would be scheduled to take into account domestic responsibilities of both men and women.

In the current Government we are now faced with very little representation of women in Government. Margaret Fitzherbert’s lecture (APH, 2012) outlines many reasons why the Liberal party lags behind in representation. The main reasons are:

    • No persistent pressure to pre-select women
    • Liberal party culture – a culture which largely tolerates branch members asking women candidates for preselection questions about their parental and marital status.

Margaret Fitzherbert sums up with, “It’s time for the Liberals to take a lesson from the past – acknowledge the problem, and stop relying on a blind faith in ‘merit’ to somehow provide a sudden increase in numbers of female MPs.”

I believe a holistic approach is required. To achieve equality, it is essential to determine the issues for women electorate by electorate, branch by branch. Not just review the policies and procedures and place a blanket decision of quotas on all. What may occur in an inner-Melbourne seat, may not occur in a far north QLD seat for example. The reasons women may or may not put their hand up for selection, may also differ from seat to seat. To achieve a redress of the imbalance, this issue cannot be looked at in isolation, nor can it be looked at from a top down approach.

To redress this imbalance, all parties need to have an in-depth look at the culture within each branch and determine branches where this is an issue. Although there will be branches where women simply will not feel empowered; there will be some branches or electorates for all parties where there may not be a problem for women to feel encouraged to nominate, or be selected. There is no point going in blind and hitting electorates willy-nilly with quotas. I’m all for quotas, but quotas need to be used as a respectful tool, to redress the imbalance. All parties need to understand the underlying constructs of the problem by fixing the imbalance from ground level as well.

We also need to use quotas in a fair and just way so talented men do not get shut out either, or it defeats the purpose. If a tool such as quotas was used as a power-play to politicise the selection of a seat, that is not fair, nor just, nor used for its rightful purpose. For example, if the tool of quotas was used to keep an Indigenous male out of the race, or a homosexual man out of the race or a male candidate who may champion green energy, where many branch members supported coal based energy; I would feel very strongly that this makes a mockery of all the women who have fought for equality. This is why it is very important to understand this issue from ground level as well.

Prominent leaders and executives cannot lead this change with a laizze-faire leadership style. They need to roll their sleeves up and meet with women in branches to understand the culture at ground level, as well as revise policy. A risk management system, along with a system of appeal needs to be put into place.

A review of the 2013 federal election, indicates that The Green’s party ran slightly more women candidates, but no party had more than 50% of women candidates. The number of candidates run also needs to be contextualised into ‘seats that can be won’ against ‘seats that never will be’. There would be no point increasing the number of women candidates in a left party and allocating them to blue ribbon seats and vice versa. A holistic approach is required.

Some positive steps are occurring, but I wait in angst in the hope that a fair, well informed and inclusive system is achieved to redress this imbalance.

Jamie Briggs also needs to go check himself if he thinks for one second that women find his opinion on quotas valid or important.

Originally Published on Polyfeministix

 

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The Agenda of Stigmatization is alive and well in Budget 2015

One of the main themes I have addressed over previous blog posts in regards to the 2014 Budget is the “Agenda of Stigmatization” by the Liberal National Coalition Government. The Agenda of Stigmatization is alive and kicking in Budget 2015. The targets? Women, single parents and working mothers.

The stigmatization narrative of the Liberal National Government’s Budget 2015 is like a passive aggressive snarl, rather than the brazen punch to the face we received in 2014.

Rorters and Double Dippers

On The Insiders, ABC (17/05/2015) Barry Cassidy interviewed Joe Hockey on a variety of budget related matters. The first area that piqued my interest was the matter of Paid Parental Leave. This policy assists parents, predominantly young women to care for their new born babies for a period prior to returning to work. This was hailed as a major initiative of the Coalition Government. One where they built on Labor’s Paid Parental Leave Policy and had ‘achieved better and greater than Labor ever could, where it comes to women.’ In fact the coalition stated that:

The Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme will result in a woman earning the average full-time salary of around $65,000 receiving $32,500 – and they will be around $21,300 better off under the Coalition’s scheme relative to Labor’s scheme.

Tony Abbott also famously stated on 3AW in September, 2013, that

“I don’t think women suffer legal discrimination and I don’t think anyone these days sets out to do the wrong thing but it is very difficult for women to combine work and family if they don’t have a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme and that’s going to change very soon under the Coalition.”

So now they don’t have a “fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme” – what has the Coalition got to offer women?

Now the Coalition has back-flipped on this policy; stating the reason for the back-flip was that they have listened to the community. Yes, the community needs reliable, affordable childcare, but not at the detriment of already hard fought for entitlements at work.

The negative narrative of parents, primarily women, being ‘rorters and double dippers’ is meant to stigmatise this group so the public believe that working mothers are getting more than their fair share. The Coalition would like the voting taxpayer to believe that mothers are essentially stealing the nation’s taxes.

The narrative here is set to stigmatise, so if they are returned to Government, there will be little outcry from the public, when they reduce or abolish Labor’s Paid Parental Scheme altogether.

Single Parents

Single parents, particularly single mothers are another favourite target group for the Liberal National Government’s agenda of stigmatisation. We have already had in Budget 2014 attacks on FTB reducing family income for up to $6,000 per year and a the abolishment of FTB once a child has turned six. In addition, return to work and education supplements, which have been vital in the past to transition single parents into work will also cease. These changes still need to be passed in the Senate and are now linked as savings, which will fund Childcare, in addition to savings found from those on Newstart under 25 having no income for one month.

When the Prime Minister and Minister for Women was challenged in Question Time about these cuts by Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, the Prime Minister accused Labor of supporting welfare as “pseudo-generosity. This is a prime example of the Coalition’s narrative that they see welfare as a ‘generosity’ to be given or taken away rather than an essential need.

Now we have the “Have A Go” Budget of 2015, where the Coalition ‘Has a Go’ at Single Parents by comparing apples and oranges to convince the public that Single Parents are not only having their cake and eating it too, but eating hard-working people’s cakes as well. The message here is that single parents are greedy bludgers, who get more in hand-outs than a hard working voting taxpayer.

The following table was discussed on The Insiders, ABC Sunday 17 May, 2015. Barry Cassidy queried Joe Hockey as to why it was necessary to compare the two. Hockey’s response was that he thinks it is important to advise tax payers where their money is going. (It is also interesting that the pictures on this graph pegs a single mother with two children against a hard-working single man.)

As you can see the “Age of Entitlement’ Graph demonstrates that a hard-working person working five days per week, is actually worse off than a sole parent with two kids. This is a dynamic display of the ‘Lifters and Leaners” narrative we were accustomed to in 2014 although the actual words are not used in Budget 2015. The subliminal messaging is what is used to be effective here.

However, the graph does not take into account the cost of raising children, which I have added below:

joe single parents 3

As this table now shows, regardless of what the Coalition want you to believe, when you take into account the cost of raising children; a sole parent working part-time is not better off than a hard-working individual working five days per week on $80,000 per year.

As Barry Cassidy put to Joe Hockey “But you may be creating resentment though for no purpose” Of course, Joe Hockey disagreed and responded with “Why anyone would resent helping a single parent?”

After the last 18 months of stigmatizing those on welfare, including single parents; along with the Kevin Andrews’ mantra that married couples are more valued in society; this really speaks volumes of how out of touch Joe Hockey and the Coalition are. Maybe the Treasurer should follow commentary on social media and main stream media to understand what many people think of those on welfare.

Joe Hockey knows and the coalition knows that their negative narrative about those on welfare for the past 18 months has already increased resentment. Taking an under-handed swipe at single parents, whilst butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, is beyond reproach.

The narrative here is set to stigmatise, so if they are returned to Government, there will be little outcry from the public, when they make more harsh cuts to welfare and single parents in conjunction with a more Liberal friendly Senate.

The 2015 Budget has given little to no hope for those already doing it tough on welfare. The Budget failed to deliver a vision for our future and has painted an even bleaker future for women. It is essential that the vision we have for the future is to say “NO” to a Coalition Government at the next election and always, always, put Liberal & National last.

“Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.”
―Erving Goffman

 

Originally Published on polyfeministix

 

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Some thoughts on the gender pay gap

Shannon Fentiman, QLD Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety and Minister for Multicultural Affairs has announced today that she supports ‘positive discrimination’ to close the gender pay gap. Ms. Fentiman said this is ‘definitely something we should have a conversation about. This has struck up a fair bit of conversation across social media. There are a lot of people who are genuinely concerned that this will cause undue discrimination for men; and that there is not really a gender pay gap to consider. Life does seem pretty fair at times, right?

I have detailed at the end of this blog post some information regarding discrimination against women in the workforce. The information below was previously sent in a letter to the Prime Minister and Minister for Women, in 2013, but it appears he has made no progress on this matter and to my knowledge has not even attempted to start a conversation about this type of disparity women face.

I know there are a lot of jokes out there on social media about Abbott being the Minister for Women. It would be great if we can just stop laughing about it now; because it isn’t funny when he is stifling progress.

I have a few concerns with how we approach this issue of gender disparity in pay and the workplace:

The first issue is that it was very evident when I completed this research for the initial blog post; that Indigenous women experience more disparity than non-Indigenous women. I feel that this needs to have a specific focus from the Government.

The second issue is the high unemployment rate for Youth. Particularly in regional Queensland areas. For example, there are very limited administration opportunities in regional communities. The public sector, since the cuts from the Newman Government has seen a sharp decline in any recruitment for administration in the public sector in regional communities; particularly entry level administration. Small business has struggled since the GFC, with some improvements being noted in recent times; but small business needs a hand up to give young people employment opportunities as well. Not enabling our youth to access employment now, will increase the existing disparity for women; but also increase generational disparity for both genders in years to come.

The third issue I have is how we approach positive discrimination so that it does not enable disadvantage for men. When we view inequality, we need to view every step of the process and not just the end process of the ‘job interview’ or selection process. We need to view every step towards securing employment, rather than believing everyone is equal at every point of the process. For some who experience other social marginalization, the disparity inequity widens. This is where I feel the argument of “the best person for the job” does fall down.

In communities where there is little administration recruitment occurring and a lot of mining or laboring recruitment, it does create disparity for what women can apply for from the outset. Many women are not suited to the types of laboring or trades jobs advertised in regional QLD communities, but some women most certainly are suited. Where women are the primary care givers, it creates further hindrances to securing employment in a traditional male field. I acknowledge that there are many traditional male jobs and industries not suited to all men, and I also acknowledge that disparity exists for some men to enter into traditional female fields of employment. I also acknowledge that social disadvantages affect both genders.

Therefore, a holistic approach needs to be used to ensure that ‘equal footing’ at the point of application is achieved. This includes identifying hindrances to women and men in individual communities and tailoring Govt assistance to business, encouraging investment or examining the capital city focus of the Public Sector. In addition, the community sector lost a lot of funding in regional communities and this also needs to be looked at, to bring funding back to small local organisations, rather than granting of tender funding to larger national organisations, where most of the senior management, human resource management, accounting, administration or clerical work is done in their head office. Education and training opportunities from high school, vocational and university level also need to be scrutinized as contributors to hindrance.

The fourth issue I have is the differences between metropolitan, regional and rural communities. The Government needs to focus on individual communities, rather than Queensland as a whole to address the issues individual areas face. This goes back to my point that there are simply not the same administration and management opportunities for women in regional areas in the Public Sector as there are for women living in a capital city. No woman who wants to progress in the QLD Public Sector should have to consider moving to Brisbane to do so. This is inequity in itself.

The fifth issue I have is that we need urgent Industrial Relations reform to review the award wages attached to jobs identified as traditional women’s jobs; whilst not impacting adversely on these industries. However, this will be a challenge with a Federal Liberal Government at the helm and the length of time that these wages and industries have been seen as lesser value. This will require not only an Industrial relations change, but a cultural/societal change. This will not be an easy fix nor a quick fix.

I look forward to suggestions from readers on how we can address this issue in a positive and progressive manner.

******

For those who doubt that women experience discrimination within the workplace a pay; please view the information below:

 

Discrimination against women arising from casualisation in the workforce and high numbers working in insecure employment and
Discrimination against women through the continuation of lower wages in ‘traditional women’s industries’, and the general availability of fewer opportunities of penalties and overtime. Please note that in 2011, the gender pay gap was 17.2% for full-time workers and
Discrimination against women in the workforce, or who are job seeking who either cannot access or cannot afford childcare
    • More women than men in Australia continue to work in jobs that provide less security and stability
    • Some of the lowest paid industries in Australia such as Accommodation and Food Services, Arts and Recreation Services and Retail trade tend to employ the highest proportion of female employees without paid leave entitlements (61 per cent, 48 per cent and 34 per cent respectively
    • 30 per cent of female employees who are lone parents with dependent children, are casual employees without paid leave entitlements
    • In 2012, the total cash weekly earnings by gender were $1189.00 (Men) $852.00 (Women) (Source Australian Bureau of Statistics)
Discrimination against women in achieving leadership and management roles and
Discrimination by default, due to under-representation in management and board positions in Australia
    • In virtually all sectors of the paid workforce, women are underrepresented in leadership roles.
    • Women account for over half of academic staff, however only 27% of women are Senior Lecturer or above.
    • 64% of law graduates are women, however only 22% of women hold senior positions in law firms. Only 16% of women are on the bench in the Federal Court of Australia.
    • Women chair only two per cent of ASX200 companies (four boards), hold only 8.3% of Board Directorships, hold only four CEO positions and make up only 10.7% of executive management positions
    • In 2008, women held 5.9% of line executive management positions in ASX 200 companies; a decrease from 7.5% in 2006. Line executive management experience is considered essential for progressing to top corporate positions.
    • Women make up a third of members on Australian Government Boards and Committees.
    • Despite comprising more than half of all Commonwealth public servants, women make up only 37% of the Senior Executive Service. (Source Australian Human Rights Commission)
Discrimination by default suffered by women who, as primary parental care givers, end up with reduced superannuation earnings in retirement and
Discrimination by default suffered by women, will receive less superannuation over time, through the continuation of lower wages in ‘traditional women’s industries’
    • Only 60% of Indigenous women have superannuation coverage compared to 80% of women in the general population.
    • Many women work more than one casual job across different employers and do not receive super from any individual employer, due to earning less than $450 per month.
    • The mean super balance of men earning under $5400 per year is just almost double the amount for women in the same group. (Source ASFA)
    • Women have significantly less money saved for their retirement – half of all women aged 45 to 59 have $8,000 or less in their superannuation funds, compared to $31,000 for men.
    • Currently, the average superannuation payout for women is a third of the payout for men – $37,000 compared with $110, 000.
    • In Australia, women working full-time today earn 16 per cent less than men.
    • Women also receive less super across the board, due to the gender pay gap of 17.2% (Source Australian Human Rights Commission)
The under-representation of women in parliament, amounting, in the absence of any system to redress the imbalance, to discrimination

It is concerning that not only are women under-represented in Australian politics, but Australia is ranked number 43/142 countries for women in national parliaments.

The Australian Government Office for Women, which is part of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; aims to ensure a whole-of-government approach to providing better economic and social outcomes for women. However, the analysis by Waring et. al. of the Inter-Parliamentary Union of women in politics; would indicate the Australian Government Office for Women is not well placed to achieve these aims, due to under-representation of women in Parliament, and an absence of a system to redress the imbalance.

I have outlined the reasons below:

    • If women are not present at policy and decision-making levels, there is a democratic deficit. Decisions taken without women’s perspective lack credibility in a democratic context
    • The participation of women leads to a new perspective and a diversity of contributions to policy-making and to priorities of development, and it gives the female population a role in deciding the future of their country and the rights and opportunities for their gender.
    • A democracy which excludes women, or in which women are represented only marginally, is not a real democracy. Women’s participation in policymaking is a question of justice and equality
    • Women’s greater participation would impact upon the traditional values held by men. Sharing of power and responsibilities would become reality. Political meetings and programmes would be scheduled to take into account domestic responsibilities of both men and women.

In the current Government we are now faced with very little representation of women in Government. Margaret Fitzherbert’s lecture (APH, 2012) outlines many reasons why the Liberal party lags behind in representation. The main reasons are:

    • No persistent pressure to pre-select women
    • Liberal party culture – a culture which largely tolerates branch members asking women candidates for preselection questions about their parental and marital status.

Margaret Fitzherbert sums up with, “It’s time for the Liberals to take a lesson from the past – acknowledge the problem, and stop relying on a blind faith in ‘merit’ to somehow provide a sudden increase in numbers of female MPs.”

I would like to end this post to give thanks to the Queensland Labor Party for making history for succeeding in appointing more female Ministers than men in a Queensland Government and the first female, indigenous woman MP and Minister in a QLD Government.

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Julie Bishop and the privilege of not self-identifying as a feminist

Originally published on http://polyfeministix.wordpress.com/

Is standing up and proclaiming to be a non-feminist a sign of personal success, or is it an insular subconscious privileged rejection or blindness to the existing failures in our system that still affect women in Australia today? How does the absence of self-identifying as a feminist affect policy issues at Government level?

Julie Bishop, MP & Foreign Minister, only woman on the front bench in the Australian Liberal (conservative, neo-liberal, right-wing) Government stood in front of the National Press Club on Wednesday and declared that she was not a feminist. She doesn’t reject the term, but she feels no need to self-describe herself that way. Her main argument was that she doesn’t define her success or failures through a prism of gender. Bishop also does not acknowledge the glass ceiling and says for her, she ‘will work hard and set her mind to it and if it comes off that is great.‘ If it doesn’t, she will try to understand if she was ‘competent enough or whether she worked hard enough or if the breaks went her way.’ She doesn’t look at this as gender specific.

Julie Bishop also spoke of feminism in the past tense, the role that it (feminist movement) has played,’the barriers they faced and the challenges they had to overcome. This further re-enforces her position that feminism is no longer a necessity in today’s society. That we somehow have all ‘made it’

If we contextualize Julie Bishop’s stance of non-identification as a feminist, we need to understand her position in society. Julie Bishop is a white woman, raised in South Australia, went on to study law, practiced law, became a partner in a law firm at 26, married a property developer and has had relationships with a senator and former Lord Mayor (source: JulieBishop.com.au).

Is it justified to say that she holds this view, because she is a woman submersed in an environment of privilege?

Julie Bishop doesn’t believe it is a big deal. However, as a woman in Australia, I feel it is a big deal for any politician not to identify as feminist. They are the policy makers. It is their ideas, beliefs and experiences that lead them to policy decisions. Even people who are from positions of privilege attempt to engage with women from all walks of life, so they develop an understanding of barriers, discrimination, injustice and inequities women face and take a feminist position and advocate for equality for women. If someone doesn’t truly value equality for all women and identify as a feminist – someone who advocates for equality for women, then where does this leave us in terms of policy development, towards a more equitable future?

One of the main themes I heard in Julie Bishop’s narrative that I found concerning, was that feminism is irrelevant as because it is ‘all about her’ She never spoke of other women, only her own personal situation. Feminism is about inclusivity of all women.

If Julie Bishop could de-contextualize herself from her personal situation, upbringing, background and privilege; I wonder if she was another women in another situation, would she self-identify as a feminist?

Would Julie Bishop as an Indigenous woman, when faced with cuts to Indigenous Legal Aid Services, contemplate a future of staying in a violent situation, because maybe she didn’t work hard enough?

Would Julie Bishop as a teenager, faced with pregnancy discrimination and terminated from her traineeship, self attribute blame that maybe she wasn’t competent enough?

Would Julie Bishop as a woman returning from maternity leave, and missing out on training and development opportunities still not acknowledge the glass ceiling?

Would Julie Bishop as a woman and a victim of rape in our justice system, experiencing accusatory questioning and double the length of questioning than for other assaults, or as an Indigenous woman experience significantly worse questioning, with racist imputations being made in court – would she still not look at this through the ‘prism of gender?’

Would Julie Bishop as a woman working in two casual jobs, in a lower paid traditional woman’s field of work and experiencing non-secure work and a gender pay gap of 17% still truly believe that the feminist movement should still be spoken of in the past tense?

Would Julie Bishop as a woman seeking Asylum and fleeing from sex slavery, rape, sexual abuse and attack, fear of honour killings, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, one-child policies, discrimination due to sexual orientation or feminist political activism, children being under threat, general religious restrictions on women, sexual harassment, denial of education, forced marriages, slavery, trafficking, and imprisonment – and then sent back to that situation, due to poor policy on the processing of women and the legitimate attempts to understand their history and claim for asylum, still shrug and reflect on “if the breaks went her way?”

Would Julie Bishop as a retired woman discovering that she has substantially less superannuation than her male counterparts due to breaks in work, lower paid work and casualisation of work; or as an indigenous woman realise that as one of 40% of Indigenous women, who actually has no superannuation at all – still not feel the need to self-identify as a feminist and advocate to right this wrong?

Does Julie Bishop, as Julie Bishop reflect that 64% of law graduates are women, however only 22% of women hold senior positions in law firms. Only 16% of women are on the bench in the Federal Court of Australia. Does she truly believe that all of these women simply just did not work hard enough?

Does Julie Bishop, as Julie Bishop try to understand if there are inequities within the Australian Liberal Party for pre-selection of candidates, such as questions about parental and marital status? Or does she truly believe that she is the only woman of calibre and of suitable merit in the Liberal Party, capable of a position on the front bench?

Does Julie Bishop also stand with the Prime Minister and Minister for Women, hand on her heart and truly believe that “Women do not suffer legal discrimination in Australia?”

I see Julie Bishop’s announcement that she does not self-identify as a feminist a huge gap in policy decision making in Australia. Increasing the representation of women in Parliament should lead to a new perspective and a diversity of contributions to policy-making and to priorities of development, and it gives the female population a role in deciding the future of their country and the rights and opportunities for their gender. However, if one is not in touch with the inequities present in contemporary society for all Australian women, policy development towards equity will be very slow and still permeated with male voices and perspective.

Many people have touted Labor of late as ‘Liberal-Lite’ however, this is an example of a very stark contrast between the Liberal National Party and the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Labor Party has a policy platform on equality for women in Australia. They understand that equality for women is not only good for the economy, but essential for the progress of our country. Recently in my hometown, Bill Shorten gave a very powerful speech on the necessity of equality for women. Tim Watts, Member for Gellibrand as a male politician, advocates very strongly on domestic violence issues, as does Claire Moore. These are only two notable MP’s amongst many. Similarly, the Greens also have a strong platform for women, with Senator Waters a very proactive advocate for women.

What we hear on the Liberal’s side of the fence in terms of equality for women is silence and symbolic gestures from the only woman on the front bench, that ‘feminism is in the past’ and “is not a useful term today.’

As former Prime Minister Mr. Keating famously said about Tony Abbott (and I’ll extend to the team he leads) – “God Help Us, God Help Us!”

Note:

A) The sources for the claims for legal discrimination and discrimination by default in this post, can be found here

B) This post is not intended to take away from or de-legitimize any of Julie Bishop’s personal achievements or successes,
but to decontextualise her position, as a women in a position of privilege, to attempt to challenge her position on feminism and what it means for our country.

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You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

Tony Abbott looking . . . stupid (image by ozpolotic.com)

Tony Abbott looking . . . stupid (image by ozpolotic.com)

As Tony Abbott once said, “politicians are gonna be judged on everything they say”, (May 2010), and goodness knows, Tony has said some rather controversial things in the past. We are told that many of his more outrageous statements were those of a callow youth in different times, that he has learned a great deal, and changed his views on many things (some of them several times).

Now it’s not as if I expect Tony to be an expert in all fields. After all, “No one, however smart, however well-educated, however experienced, is the suppository of all wisdom,” (August 2013), and I realise that “sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark”, but Tony is rapidly clocking up an impressive list of recent quotes that makes one question whether a sow’s ear can be made into a silk purse.

To be fair to the new Tony, I have only included a selection since he took over the leadership of the Liberal Party thus becoming a prospective Prime Minister. The first quote below is an exception to this in that is was made a few months before Tony became leader but I have included it as being relevant to today’s “toxic tax” chorus.

Here are some of Tony’s pearls of wisdom on a range of topics – I call it my cringe list:

Action on climate change

“If you want to put a price on carbon, why not do it with a simple tax?” – July 2009

“The argument is absolute crap. However, the politics of this are tough for us. Eighty per cent of people believe climate change is a real and present danger.” – December 2009

“”The carbon tax is socialism masquerading as environmentalism…” – May 2012

“It’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no one,” – July 2013

”Well I think the official in question (head of the UN’s climate change negotiations, Christiana Figueres) is talking through her hat, if I may say so,” – October 2013

“We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest….When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental vandals; I see people who are the ultimate conservationists” – March 2014

Women

“What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price and their own power bills when they switch the iron on are going to go up, every year…” – February 2010

“If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well, we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so” – May 2013

“They’re young, they’re feisty and, I think I can probably say, have a bit of sex appeal,” – August 2013

”A bit of body contact never hurt anyone,” he told the teens, sounding less daggy dad than dodgy uncle. ”Nothing wrong with a bit of modest sweat” – August 2013

‘If you want to know who to vote for, I’m the guy with the not bad-looking daughters” – September 2013

“Ok, let’s have a bloke’s question.” – March 2014 to students from Newtown High

‘Where are the ladies, by the way?’ he asks. ‘There are some ladies in this delegation.’ – April 2014 in China

Foreign Affairs

“It’s not goodies versus baddies – it’s baddies versus baddies,” – September 2013 re Syria

“He knows that we play our politics very hard in our country. And I think he understood.” – October 2013 re apology to Malaysia

“People seeking to grandstand against Indonesia, please, don’t look to do it in Australia, you are not welcome. The second point is the situation in West Papua is getting better, not worse” – October 2013

“sometimes in difficult circumstances difficult things happen”. – November 2013 re human rights abuses and torture in Sri Lanka

Indonesia is in many respects Australia’s most important overall relationship.” – September 2013

“As far as I’m concerned, Japan is Australia’s best friend in Asia and we want to keep it a very strong friendship,” – October 2013

“New Zealand is Australia’s closest friend” – December 2013

“Australia and Papua New Guinea are more than friends – we are family” – March 2014

“Australia is not in China to do a deal, but to be a friend,” – April 2014

Economy and finance

“Mates help each other, they do not tax each other.” – Tony Abbott, February 23, 2011.

“We have always as a Coalition been against compulsory superannuation increases.” Press Conference, 23 March, 2012.

“Well, um, climbing mountains is a marvellous thing” – January 2014

“We do not want to clutter up the G20 agenda with every worthy and important cause, because if we do, we will squander the opportunity to make a difference in the vital area of economic growth,” – February 2014

“to get rich is indeed glorious” – April 2014

Unemployment

“Some of them will find it difficult, but many of them will probably be liberated to pursue new opportunities and to get on with their lives” – December 2013

Marriage equality

“I’m not someone who wants to see radical change based on the fashion of the moment” – August 2013

First people

“The first lot of Australians were chosen by the finest judges in England” – January 2013

Forced adoptions

”We honour the birth parents, including fathers, who have always loved their children.” – March 2013

 

Part of being a Head of State is to be able to think on your feet. Tony often does that by inserting his foot into his mouth. No wonder Credlin always sits within pinching distance.

Update: I forgot to include

“I was an opposition leader myself for four years; I know that that position has some exhilarations and some frustrations,”- November 2013 to Myanmar’s opposition leader, who spent 15 years under house arrest before she was freed in 2010

 

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Women go back to the future.

In 1975 I was asked to take part in the Lions Club Youth of the Year Quest. The competition was in two parts. Firstly we were asked for our views on current affairs. I remember East Timor was a hot topic at the time. Secondly, we had to give a speech on a subject of our own choosing.

The Lions Club had an interesting rule stating that, even though girls could compete, they could not go on to represent their district at the next level. This had to be done by a boy, so if I won, the boy who came second would go to the state finals rather than me. As it was International Women’s Year, I chose to make this the topic of my speech, pointing out that the word “youth” was defined as “the time of life between childhood and maturity” regardless of gender.

I’m not sure if they were shamed into it, or if I was a token, but I won the public speaking section and the headlines in the local paper the next day said “Schoolgirl pours scorn on sex bias” – something I copped quite a razzing for from my friends.

So why am I sharing this self-indulgent piece of personal history with you? Because almost 40 years later I am still having the same arguments.

Politicians like Cory Bernardi and Fred Nile still accuse women of using abortion as “an abhorrent form of birth control” and label those who advocate pro-choice as “pro-death”.

We have a Prime Minister who thinks that men and women have different abilities – and he considers that position to be evidence-based.

Mr Abbott said in the 1970s: “I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons.”

In 2004, he said: ‘‘Abortion is the easy way out. It’s hardly surprising that people should choose the most convenient exit from awkward situations.’’ If the rumours I have heard are true, it is a “convenient exit” that Mr Abbott took advantage of as a young man, well before the much publicised time that he left his girlfriend just after she had given birth.

In 2006 we were greeted with this headline.

“IT took 15 years for Gardasil to make a national hero of its creator, Ian Frazer. But it took just three days for the world’s first cancer-preventing vaccine to make a national dill of federal Health Minister Tony Abbott.”

The gatekeeper of the federal drugs budget rejected Gardasil for PBS subsidy and the application by the drug’s promoter, CSL, for a three-stage national immunisation program. While justifying his concerns about the price on radio, Abbott floated the bizarre idea that a misplaced confidence in the effectiveness of the vaccine might actually result in “an increase in cancer rates”.

It took just another 24 hours for the Prime Minister to put an end to the nonsense. John Howard, alert as ever to the public mood, delivered sparkling prime ministerial endorsement to Gardasil along with a clear direction to Minister Abbott that the immunisation program should proceed. And pronto.

“There is no lack of desire to get this wonderful drug available and the mass immunisation campaign to start as soon as possible,” Howard told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

Despite the fact that, in Australia, cases of human papilloma virus infection have dropped nearly 60 per cent since the immunisation program against the virus which causes cervical cancer began, Mr Abbott, whose views on virginity as a gift are well known, said no. ‘‘I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated [for cervical cancer], maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.’’ Maybe it’s because he has the ridiculous notion that it will encourage his daughters to be promiscuous without taking precautions?

He has led the Liberal Party at the same time as the Party has experienced a decline in women’s participation at top levels. Senior Liberal women have publicly protested over the systemic sexism in the party. Good people like Judi Moylan, who had the courage to cross the floor on the asylum seeker issue, are ignored in the Liberal Party, with preference shown for fawning sycophancy and dramatic histrionics.

When Tony Abbott announced his Cabinet with only one woman there was justifiable outrage. We are back to girls not being able to represent at the next level, back to the old Lions Club rules. If there are no “women of merit” in the Liberal Party, they should be asking themselves why that is. If this caused outrage, Tony’s self-appointment as the Minister responsible for women’s policies and programs was the ultimate insult.

To be represented by the man who says he “gets” us, like we are some homogeneous group with clearly defined views and aspirations, the man who, when asked about the merits of the candidate he was campaigning with, could only come up with “She’s got sex appeal”, the man who uses “ironing” to explain carbon pricing to “the housewives of Australia”, is really just too much.

Don’t you worry your pretty little heads about that. The middle-aged white males have it all under control. “Women of calibre”, go forth and multiply. Single mothers, get off your butts and get a job you bludgers, and why haven’t you got a husband anyway? And all you fakers on the Disability Pension can do likewise – we know you are spending all that money on golf lessons and martinis. We will no longer be contributing to superannuation for those of you who fail to earn a large amount of money as you have obviously not taken advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunities on offer. And don’t think you will be getting an old age pension either. Why should those of us who earn a lot subsidise the workers who make us our money and the carers who are too lazy to get a job and provide for their own retirement.

Time to go find my apron and polish up on my darning.

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The modern day Aussie woman is a phenomena, not a relic

When will all those attention-seeking, headline craving sexist males accept that the modern day woman is not a relic? Nor an object. She is a phenomena.

Let’s face it; the treatment of Australian women from the good ‘old Aussie blokes’ is appalling. No woman is immune. It matters not if they hold the highest office in the land or one far less prestigious. Equally as appalling is the alleged calibre of the perpetrators: those that espouse to be pillars of society. Those who seek respect from others but themselves offer none. It is the public display of sexism from political figureheads or aspirants that disgusts me the most. Do these people realise that their behaviour towards the Prime Minister – clearly a person they dislike – is degrading to most women – not just the Prime Minister – as well as being considered grossly offensive by an equal number of men?

Menugate is the latest in a long line of sexist degradation aimed at the lady at the top. Just being a woman with a job makes her vulnerable. She should be at home ironing.

It seems that some hold old values that not only demean Australia women but pretend to know what their place should be in our society; both economic and cultural.

Tony Abbott, for example, is one of those.

He had his audience in raptures a year or so back with his comment that women should stay home and iron, or something to that effect. Although the laughter has died down, the image has not. It is an image that was all too familiar in this country: the barefoot and pregnant housewife. There’s nothing like a good old fashioned stereotype to remind women of their subordinate roles.

He never retracted that comment, which suggests he still carries that ideology. His ideology is stupid and out of touch with reality. He is not alone, however, as we have seen recently.

Mr Abbott is a fool if he thinks the modern day woman wants to stay home and iron, and a bigger fool for saying it. His party faithful and media friends have displayed equally breathtaking foolishness over the last week. Women should not be stereotyped, especially into the role model they expect of them. Instead of barking at everybody how the carbon price is going to destroy the universe or the refugee boats destroy our country, try grasping something in the real world. Here’s a start: woman don’t want to stay home and iron. They want to work. They want jobs and careers. They want what their mothers fought for. It’s been that way for 40 years. Try recognising them in today’s world.

A number of reasons could be proposed that explain the prejudice. The obvious is that women are seen as less capable as white Australian males, or perhaps it is a power struggle that excludes women because of the historical social construct of male dominance.

This is where I will discuss why they are a phenomena, not a relic. To do so allow me the liberty of putting on the teacher’s hat and give a history lesson on how they have fought for their rights to work and belong in an environment and society that has always wanted to exclude them. Society wanted them to stay home and iron. But here’s something some people need to wake up to: the modern day woman doesn’t. She wants to be treated as an equal.

And so begins the history lesson.

Not many women had jobs until World War 2. During the war female participation in the workforce was buoyed by the necessities of the time, however, at the conclusion of the war in 1945 the workforce returned to male domination.

Feminists groups could easily considerthat capitalists, unions and governments had conspired to discourage employment opportunities for women, and indeed, the unevenness of the gender balance in employment was not seriously addressed until the 1970s. Two significant events that opened up opportunities for women were equal pay and the efforts to remove sexual discrimination.

The gender distribution has also been evened by two other agencies. Firstly, the life expectancy of women has increased as has their availability to work. Secondly, and more significantly, many traditional male jobs have become redundant due to automation, especially computers. Women are now the skilled workers in this new work culture.

The employment nature in 1945 was influenced by the demands of World War 2, creating in Australia one of those moments in history where women were brought into the workforce because their labour was needed and not because of their own desires in the matter.

I could put my head on the chopping block here by claiming his indicates that women were used as only a reserve of labour – and discarded at will – that governments and capitalists have historically maintained the subordination of women in the workforce for capital’s interest.

Whatever the argument, immediately after 1945 the gender composition of the workforce was extremely male dominant. Over the next fifty years this dominance was addressed and moderated.

Without transgressing too far from the issue of gender composition, it is worth considering what my female friends argue is behind the traditional male dominance. Some claim that work conditions had been regulated to exclude women from areas of male dominance, adding that governments pursued policies that have either re-enforced women’s dependant position in the home or locked them into dependency on welfare. The Australian labour force was highly segmented against women. There was a huge gap in inequality of employment (that would delight Mr Abbott and his ilk), being:

  • differences in access opportunities;
  • differences in job tenure and security;
  • segregation within jobs and industries; and
  • differences in earnings and benefits.

From 1947 a steady growth in the percentage of women in the workforce has been recorded. Possible causes of this growth in women’s labour force participation can be attributed to the following events:

1949: Female pay rate fixed at 75% of male rate

1949: Women admitted to the Australian Public Service

1966: Abolition of Marriage Bar in the Australian Public Service (married women now able to be permanently employed)

1972: Equal pay for work of equal value

1984: Sex Discrimination Act

1986 also is significant as the federal government introduced the Affirmative Action Agency to administer the Equal Opportunity for Women Act due to continuing concern in the workforce participation and income disparities between men and women.

If women had been deliberately kept from the workforce, then this period represents a push for employment opportunities. Up to the 1960s in particular, women were considered mentally, physically and intellectually inferior to men and thus unable to perform men’s traditional tasks. Since the 1970s, feminist’s movements have won new freedoms for women. The right to work has been one as has equal pay for equal work.

Given the steady increase in female participation in the workforce it indicates that the gradual introduction of equal pay/opportunities and the removal of discriminatory practices have affected gender distribution.

But there is another dimension: the social factor, that is, the opportunity to be able to seek employment. Contrasting a woman born in 1945 with the scenario of that of the particular woman’s grandmother, on average, the grandmother married when she was aged twenty-five, had her last baby when she was forty, and died aged not quite sixty. By contrast, her granddaughter married when she was aged twenty-two, had her last child when she was thirty and expected to live on to seventy. In other words, the granddaughter would have at least twice as many years to work after her last child went to school as did her grandmother.

The social factor is also considered important. Steadily over the past fifty years the working woman, and in particular the working mother is a more familiar role than prior to World War 2, as are the socialisation processes that working encourages. Without work it is difficult to participate in community life, and this is reflected in women’s increasing participation in work as an explicit response to their marginalisation in society.

Gender differences in the workforce are now also influenced by economics rather than political or social factors.

There has also been a massive change in the nature of the Australian labour force. Whereas most people had been employed in the primary sector (farming and mining), secondary industries (manufacturing), and in tertiary (service), the last fifteen years has witnessed growth in the quaternary (information processing) services.

Male job displacement had a very humble start. The introduction of the typewriter brought women into the workforce at the expense of men writing by hand. It was only natural from there that women progressed to computing and other clerical or office positions.

Workplace discrimination against has decreased significantly since 1972. That year saw the introduction of ‘equal pay for equal work,’ and the Sex Discrimination Act (1985) further provided women with greater employment opportunities. Minority groups have also benefited from various State and Federal anti-discrimination initiatives. However, evidence suggests that discrimination exists beyond equal pay and equal employment opportunities. This is an issue for concern as over seventy percent of all complaints lodged with the Commissioner for Equal Opportunity are about discrimination in employment.

Despite the changes in the social context of society, there still exists a degree of negativity towards working women. I’ve heard mention of a ‘glass ceiling, or wall of subtle discrimination’ as a barrier to jobs or career advancement, while a more feminist’s view would suggest that women’s experiences are associated with oppression in the power structure. Both these have merit, whilst others would argue that work conditions have traditionally been regulated to exclude women from areas of male dominance.

Other views are less ‘radical’, suggesting that males assume they are less interested in the job and more tied to their family, such as staying home and doing the ironing. These ‘familial ideologies’ that place women into a ‘narrow band of expectations’ which oppresses them, has not disappeared into history, but lives on in the likes of Tony Abbott and his pack of loyalists.

Well, there’s my take, a simple view from a male. We have evolved into a society where women are now major players on the employment, economic, political and social landscapes. We need them there. We would collapse without them.

Don’t be surprised if the modern day woman doesn’t want to stay home and iron. They might prefer to keep what they’ve fought for.

So please, show them some respect. It’s not man’s world . . . anymore. Women own it too. They don’t deserve to be treated like they were in our grandparent’s day, a relic to put on a menu or to stay at home doing the ironing.

The modern day Aussie woman is a phenomenon of the times. Our times.

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