Monday, December 14, 2009

What is feminism and why should you care??? Two discussions.

Many people now argue that feminism has become irrelevant and obsolete. One of the most famous among them is John Howard, who said: "We are in the post-feminist stage of the debate... I find that for the under-30s woman the feminist battle has been won". The debate about post-feminism implies that there is no longer any need for feminism in Australia. That all the fights have been won. That the women who still call themselves feminists are trouble makers. That we are all equal.

But the numbers say something different. In the last year the gender pay gap widened from 13% to 17.4%.This will amount to one million dollars less income over a lifetime (ACTU, Chester J., Baxter J., Weston, M. 2008).

Women still undertake the majority of unpaid domestic labour, with Australian women doing 27 hrs/week of housework and Australian men doing 17 hrs/week. All the while feminised industries, like child care and disability care, are undervalued and underpaid. Migrant women in Australia are subject to the double disadvantage of sexism and racism, and are some of the most exploited and vulnerable workers in Australia.

Women's bodies are still regulated and ruled by government policy entrenched with patriarchal ideology. Abortion remains on the NSW Criminal Code and was only de-criminalised in Victoria in 2008, and options such as RU486 are still not available to Australian women. Women who fail to conform to stereotypical experiences of 'women' encounter significant discrimination. Transgender women are routinely excluded from services, and other aspects of society.

Women across Australia, and in particular Indigenous women, are subject to horrific levels of abuse, both physical and sexual. Escaping such violence is made difficult by a society that chronically under-funds the services that would assist women through this time. Women's refuges are forced to turn away half of all women who are seeking assistance due to a lack of available beds.

Feminism is a belief that all women deserve equal rights and outcomes to men; that they are entitled to control over their bodies and valuing of their skills and positions in life. The feminist movement has made significant strides in achieving equal rights for women, but we all need to recognise that there is still much gender inequity in Australia and throughout the world. There are many battles that still need to be fought. A strong and sustainable women's movement is essential to waging these battles and achieving the rights we need as women today and the rights that we wish our daughters and future generations of women to have access to.

Blog post by Melanie Fernandez and Gabe Kavanagh

Feminism – the dirty, dirty ‘f’ word; the word that some of us are curious about and/or are tentative about using; the word that some of us proudly embrace.

What is feminism?

Many, many persons have written about, lived and participated in feminism. Feminism is a challenge to define, and will be meaningful in different ways to various people.

For now all we need to know is that feminism is a social movement, a way of looking at the world, and a political framework. The aims of feminism change and are diverse according to those who consider themselves part of the movement. However at the root of this complex and ever-evolving social movement is the idea that feminism works toward social justice. Feminism aims to liberate us from strict gender norms, from the gender binary (i.e. you’re either a woman OR a man), and from sexism and misogyny. Feminism takes the autonomy and agency of women and trans* persons[1] seriously. Furthermore, feminism is not just about equality between women and men, feminism is also about an equality between women and women, women and trans* persons, and trans* persons and men.

While this conference is dedicated to reviving the feminist movement, feminism – just like any social movement – cannot exist alone in thinking about and acting creatively toward a better, more beautiful and just world. For as we all know, women do not just experience the world on the basis of gender. Our identities involve making our way through many social positions according to race, dis/ability, trans* or cis, age, class, sexuality, ethnicity and culture, religion, being part of the West or Global South, location (urban, suburban, rural), and recognised education and profession. We are also part of an earth that is being ravaged every day. To recognise all of this means that how we are active for justice and how we live with others can also depend on and be influenced by these social positions. We are never just women or trans* or both – and this conference aims to honour the differences between us while acknowledging our commonalities.

Whether you’re a dyed in the wool feminist, a beginner, someone who is very unsure about the word ‘feminism’ but considers her-, them- or himself as a believer in the human rights of women and trans*persons – there is a place for you at the conference. Maybe you’re someone who wants to get excited about feminism again or are just looking for a gathering of other feminists and gender activists to share ideas and learn new skills. Maybe you want to hear about gender-based campaigns. Perhaps you want to meet other wonderful people. Hence please join us, for social change and justice can only happen with and alongside others (who will be at various stages of their journey)...

[1] Here ‘woman’ refers to any person who identifies as a woman whether she is cissexual or cisgender (her body and gender identity is recognised by society respectively or transsexual or transgender. I refer to a trans*person as any person who may identify as genderqueer and/or trans*.

Blog post by Claire Nemorin