Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Book of the Week

Princesses & Pornstars : Sex Power Identity
Emily Maguire 
Text Publishing


After forty years of feminism where are we? What has 
happened to women’s rights in an era of girlie magazines, 
plastic surgery, crash diets and desperate celebrities?

A feminist author looks for a way towards more equality 
for women in their public and personal lives. A mix of 
personal story, interview, and political analysis. A call 
to arms for young women who grew up thinking the 
struggle was over.

Emily Maguire is the author of the novels Taming the Beast (2004) and The Gospel According to Luke (2006). Her latest book is Smoke in the Room (2009). 

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Feminist Because

I’m a feminist because of a tea towel. 

I was young and small and saw it flapping on our clothesline, two children standing next to each other and looking down their knickers. (Down! Their! Knickers!) 

The caption read: “Oh! So that explains the difference in Our Pay”

I remember asking “the adults” what it meant.  

The best response: “It’s about tea towels and what gets done with them. It’s about what we think of the people who mop up spills and wash and wipe dishes, who polish glasses and mop our floors and what we think of them when they don’t. When women don’t just cook dinners and clean up messes. It’s about how women get treated and about changing it.”

Good answer (& like all the best answers one immediately has more questions. Then more. And more still). 

It is good answers like these and the continual questions that keep me in the movement, that are of the Feminist Movement, that are of my dreams.

I’m a feminist.

Because of bell hooks who writes with characteristic brilliance, “Feminism is a movement to end violence. Feminist struggle takes place anytime anywhere any female or male resists sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. Feminist movements take place when groups of people come together with an organised strategy to take action to eliminate patriarchy.”[i] 

Because of Judith Butler,[ii] Liz Grosz[iii] and Sara Ahmed[iv] who ask in different ways what it means to be a woman in the first place. Who ask us who we mean when we say “woman” anyway?  Who is the “woman” of our imaginings? Who are we leaving out, who are we excluding, what are we taking for granted when we say “woman,” when we say “she”?

Because of Le Tigre.  Nina Simone. Maybe even Lady Gaga.

Because of Aileen Moreton Robinson, who talks about the racist legacy of Australian feminism and with immense generosity urges feminists to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander struggles for justice. [v]Because of visual artists like Tracey Emin, like Nan Goldin, likeCindy Sherman, like Yayoi Kusama, like Catherine Opie who are unafraid. They, like those kids on that tea towel, look down their own knickers. They flesh out their bodies. They make art. 

And Because of the F Collective, who are organising this conference, who are always inspiring and challenging, always busy, calling each others bluff, thinking about feminisms, learning from legacy, holding meetings, passionately licking envelopes, organising a festival, writing books, working, laughing, reading books, creating a zine, blogging, tweeting, facebooking and, with millions of others around the world we are fighting for our lives.

Your turn! Finish this sentence: 

I’m a feminist because...

Blog post by Rosa Valerie Campbell

[i] hooks, bell. Feminist Theory From Margin to Centre. South End Press: 2000. xi.
[ii] See Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble. Routledge: 1990.  for a brief introduction to Butler’s work see:
[iii] See Grosz, Liz. Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism. Indiana University Press: 1994.
[iv] See Ahmed, Sara and Jane Kilby, Celia Lury, Maureen McNeil, Beverly Skeggs. Thinking Through Feminism. Routledge: 2000.
[v] Moreton Robinson, Aileen. Talkin’ Up to the White Woman: Aboriginal Women and Feminism. University of Queensland Press: 2002. 

Monday, February 1, 2010

Being a "difficult" woman

One of my favourite topics: difficult women! I am one, as I discovered in my local library. I was flicking through biographies of women stirrers which usually started with ‘Florence Nightingale.. (or whoever) was a difficult women’. My conclusion was that any woman who made some political difference was usually defined as “difficult”. So women need to fit the feminine stereotypes of "nice" or lose out. And it is not only with men but it is often other women who discipline stroppy women. It is not surprising that women who get to the top make few feminist changes as they are often judged more severely than men. Raising feminist issues is not “nice” so those women become supporters of the status quo that let them get there, and are not defined as difficult.  

Gale Edwards, an internationally respected theatre director who claims she can’t get work here, because she is difficult, works overseas. Australian (Anglo) culture is particularly prescriptive: anti-conflict and pro subservience.  So locals do over most outspoken women: women who stir publicly, women who push radical agendas…. ie most public feminists. Labelling us as difficult effectively limits those who are prepared to be identified with us, and acts as an explanation as to why we are going backwards in many areas.

Being “good girls” and being “nice” may create feel-good links, and I am not advocating that we should all become stroppy and rude, but more women need to recognise that change means that some of us need to take risks, stick our necks out and push the boundaries.  We need support, so labelling us as difficult, avoiding conflict and being “nice” plays into patriarchal rigidities.   

Blog post by Eva Cox