Down Under Feminist Carnival

Welcome to the May 5, 2010 edition of the down under feminists carnival. It is also the 24th edition which means the carnival has been going for TWO YEARS! Happy Birthday DUFC.

The optional theme for this edition of the carnival was “community”. Many of the posts in the carnival discuss gendered experience of public space, family life, and the workplace, the way women are perceived and treated in the community, and the different expectations placed on women’s behaviour.

Family and Women’s Work

Spilt Milk posted Dishing it out. on her blog Spilt Milk, questioning the representation of motherhood on Masterchef and people’s responses to a contestant’s decision to go on the show with very young children at home, and her decision to leave the competition.

Perhaps pursuing a ‘dream’ when you have young children to care for is self-serving — but if it is, where is the criticism of self-serving men who do this? Reality shows are full of them.

Blue Milk also wrote about differing expectations for mothers and fathers in Arguing with your partner, and other feminist work at blue milk. She discussed the difficulties of negotiating parenting work when both parents are working.

I am five years into this working mother thing, and I am still shocked about how unfair the work-family split is – all the work of getting it to happen, getting it to work, and keeping it running smoothly is done by mothers. It seems ridiculous – two people working, two people are parents – the organisational workload should be shared, but that isn’t how it happens.

Deborah posted Tell me something I didn’t know already at In a strange land, saying, “Getting good quality inexpensive child care is what makes the difference for women who want to be in paid employment” according to a report prepared by the Australian Treasury.

Well, that’s a no-brainer result. It seems perfectly consistent with my own experience, and with the reported experience of women in my family, and my friends.

On The Hand Mirror, stargazer asked who cares who had it harder? in response to a Herald article about women in the workplace.

the whole tone of the piece seems to have an undertone (or perhaps an overtone) of women today whining and complaining too much when they have things so good.

pissweak parent posted Oh 1963! When retro comes with a hefty side serve of sexism at Piss-weak Parenting in which she writes about the representation of gender roles in retro children’s books.

Case in point: Man do outdoor labour – Woman do indoor domestic duties. And it isn’t helped that I happen to enjoy cooking, gardening and am a stay at home mum. So even though Dad does lots of cooking, plenty of cleaning and looks of kids duty I still feel an extra burden to work at breaking down the stereotypes.

Pages of children's book

[Image Description: A two page spread of a retro children's book. The left hand page shows a man in a checked shirt and hat carrying two baskets of tomatoes, with a row of tomato plants behind him. The right hand page shows a woman in a dress and apron stacking produce on kitchen shelves]

[image source: Piss-weak Parenting]

Tammi Jonas at Tammi Tasting Terroir writes a post about the implications of gender, class, and sustainability for the local food movement in Feminists Don’t Have to Eat Fast Food.

It is obviously not just white middle-class privilege to have a thriving home garden, it’s for anyone who cares about their own, their families’ (if they have one) and the planet’s well being. It is also not just drudgery, and a new way to chain women to the kitchen sink. Our culture’s sense of entitlement to a life of convenience and uber-consumerism is neither making us happy nor providing our children with a future.

General Feminism

Queen of Thorns wrote an explanation of why women’s rooms are not sexist with A room of one’s own at Ideologically Impure.

It’s a room.  Usually (from my experience of two major NZ universities) it is a pokey little room completely off the main thoroughfare with minimal signage.

Pay disparity?  Actually affects women’s lives.  Lack of childcare facilities, getting fired when you get pregnant, expectation of having to work fulltime AND be Supermum, massively disproportionate rates of sexual violence and family abuse?  Actually affects women’s lives.

Gentlemen at Penguin unearthed questioned the practice of group emails being addressed to “Gentlemen” in the workplace.

any email addressed to “Gentlemen” (whether I’m in the to or the cc list)  says to me that the author’s default (and probably entirely unconscious) assumption is that his (invariably his) work colleagues are male.

Deborah featured a discussion with Marilyn Waring on her post Marilyn Waring is awesome posted at In a strange land, providing some links to videos of a panel discussion with Marilyn Waring. In particular, see the wonderful comment from Carol.

The Body

With on “Throwing Like a Girl” at Pondering Postfeminism DoctorPen looks at Iris Marion Young and her ideas about how women are socialised to experience their bodies.

Iris Marion Young argues that by looking at the different ways men and women embody their bodies – the way they live in them, move them, sit in them, understand them, how they take up space, etc. – we can get some insights into the way gendered differences play out in our society, to the detriment of women.

Retro poster

[Image Description: A retro poster shows a male soldier about to throw a grenade. The poster is headed above with "Oh, Lord, why do I throw like a girl?" and below with "Parents - Please! Let your son play Little League!"]

[image source: AlphaPsy blog via Pondering Postfeminism]

Zero At the Bone‘s A Small Story echoes some of these ideas with a story of negotiating public space.

I wonder why I moved and let those men take up that space where I could have told them what’s what. Or, better, they could have moved aside, not treated me like a piece of furniture, been conscious of the space they take up like women are supposed to do.

Spilt Milk responds to a discussion about weighing children at  with her post Scales of Injustice:

Concerned parents, teachers, public health authorities and popular culture commentators with successful blogs take note: We must not make the mistake of letting some children think that they are worth less — worthless — because they weigh more. Numbers on a scale are not nuanced, they are not intelligent, they are not loving, they do not listen.

You can’t bully me out of my skinny jeans at definatalie.com is Natalie’s response to having her photo reposted without permission in a hateful and fatphobic Facebook group.

Firstly, you know how I feel about body shame that is dressed up as fashion advice. It’s bogus. No one should be harassed, mocked or attacked for wearing clothes (or NOT wearing clothes). There is absolutely no weight limit on leggings or skinny jeans. There is, however, an abundance of people who are falling into a trap of being way too invested in what other people do, and wear.

Media

Related to the previous link under the body section, Spilt Milk links fashion policing with body hatred, fat phobia and slut shaming in the media with If you’re part of the problem you’re not part of the solution.

Daile Pepper of the WA Today calls jeggings “a crime against jeans. And leggings. And women.” Which is funny really, because whilst jeggings might be silly and they might even be seriously ugly, they’re no crime against women. They’re a clothing item. What is a crime against women? Writing a few hundred words of vitriol against women’s bodies and calling it a fashion piece.

Helen takes down Paul Sheehan’s mansplanations with Douchebag attends feminist conference, with predictable result at Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony.

One of the ways in which Sheehan could help all women would be to support feminism instead of pulling it down. And that doesn’t just go for Sheehan, who after all is a sad clown of the rightwing shock journo pantheon, but the editors who are continually running this sort of thing, because it gets a reaction.

Race & Racism

a shiny new coin wrote a critique of racist jokes and the use of humour as a defence for racism with racism, humour and the perception filter.

People who want to babble their privilege unthinkingly into the world have an arsenal of defences at their disposal. Humour is one of them. It constructs racism as something that other people engage in, not us, hence we can be as offensive as we feel like. By using humour alongside racism we’re othering both racists and the people of colour they are racist towards. We’re setting ourselves apart, in a lofty neutral terrain.

GLBTI

Lissy posted I really dislike Transphobia at Thinking about my kink….

Now… it is with much distaste that I approach the following topic… the one that most boils my gizzards…  the “Transgender women retain male privilege and transgender men are all sell outs to patriarchal privilege” meme.

Politics & Activism

A dangerous piece of fabric posted at the news with nipples discusses the contradictions of banning the niqab in France.

I am fundamentally opposed to the idea that because women are forced to wear the niqab, then the right thing to do is force them not to wear it. How the fuck is that not also oppression?

This month, suggestions by an Iranian cleric that womens’ immodest behaviour causes earthquakes led to facebook demonstrations such as “boobquake”, “brainquake”, and “femquake”.

On this subject, Spilt Milk posted Did the Earth Move For You?:

Clearly, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi’s comments were offensive and also stupid. And the response – a day dedicated to showing off cleavage to prove that a whole lotta boobs won’t cause a natural disaster – was at best a fun way to show a little solidarity and at worst, a little bit misguided.

Lissy posted Making the earth move in your own way at Thinking about my kink…

One of my biggest frustrations with factionalism feminism is that it divides feminists and in doing so strengthens patriarchy… so while boobquake wasn’t my kind of thing personally and I was put off brainquake… femquake is/ was a feminist action I can support….

Sex and Relationships

Rachel Hills posted two articles about contemporary popular culture and the concept of raunch culture, with Lady Gaga: Gen Y sex icon? at Musings of an inappropriate woman, saying,

Gaga’s world is one in which “anything goes” – but that means literally anything goes. You can be gay, straight, trans, cis, sexually active, virginal, temporarily celibate… Gaga doesn’t care, so long as it makes you happy. She accepts and embraces you, and she wants you to accept and embrace yourself.

as well as Raunch culture: it’s not 2005 anymore:

In 2010, public discourse around young women and sexuality is in a very different place. The loudest message women are getting now is that they are too sexual – offensively so.

Violence

(TRIGGER WARNINGS on all of this section, and the posts linked to here)

a shiny new coin posted trigger warning about triggering headlines and the media’s responsibility in how it reports rape cases.

In a way, reporting rape in full, reporting any violent crime in fact, is as disrespectful of victims, survivors and potential victims as ignoring it altogether. On another note, is throwing out a horrific example a further way to erode the distinction between lack of consent and enthusiastic consent?

Fuck Politeness responded to the story of a rape case in which the jury questioned whether the rape of a woman wearing skinny jeans was possible with a giant What. The. HELL?.

Do I sound angry? Sorry. I am FURIOUS actually, I hope I didn’t mislead you. What a woman wears has jack shit to do with whether she was raped, and a pair of skinny jeans can be removed by another person much more easily than they can be removed by the wearer. This sudden resurgence of a variation on the ‘look what she was wearing’ argument is simply astonishing and frankly has no place in a court of law whatsoever.

Spilt Milk links rape culture with abuses in obstetric practice with her post When fighting rape culture means changing birth culture.

The problem is that in a culture that allows the bodily autonomy of women to be eroded, denied, violently erased in any setting, bodily autonomy only exists as a value that is demonstrably vulnerable to attack.

Rebecca presents This is why we need relationship training posted at bluebec.com, which was an article she wrote after the findings of VicHealth into societal attitudes regarding violence against women about the need for a redesign of sex education to include relationships.

I’ve been a long believer in the fact that sex education in Australia is completely inadequate to prepare people for not just sex but also relationships with the people they’re having sex with.

Lauredhel posted On what we talk about when we talk about “domestic violence” at Hoyden About Town which highlights the exclusion of children in many discussions about domestic violence.

Why do we, as feminists (collectively), and as anti-violence activists in general, typically ignore the largest group of victims when we talk about domestic violence?

Sex offender dad gets access to daughters: Why? at Melinda Tankard Reist highlights a Tasmanian case in which a father who had been convicted of possessing child pornography was given visitation rights to his daughters.

[D]espite fully understanding and acknowledging the sexual threat the father posed, Justice Benjamin ignored the pleas of the girls’ mother and awarded a sex offender fortnightly access to his daughters. How did Justice Benjamin arrive at this decision? The reason he was able to believe the girls, while still deciding to grant a sex offender access to them, seems to rest in an implicit belief in a biologically determinist ‘hydraulic model’ of male sexuality.

That concludes this edition. I hope you enjoyed reading the posts that were linked to here. Submit your blog article to the next edition of down under feminists carnival using our carnival submission form. The next edition will be hosted by Rachel Hills. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Logo for the Down Under Feminist Carnival

This is a very quick post to say that I will be hosting the Down Under Feminist Carnival for this month (April). The optional theme is “Community”, specifically of the online feminist variety, but this theme can be broadly interpreted or ignored completely if you wish!

Submit posts at Blog Carnival throughout the month, but if you can’t access blog carnival, please email me at franceshaw AT gmail DOT com.

I’m very excited to be part of this Carnival, and look forward to seeing all the submissions. I welcome new and different voices as well as blogs that have been regularly featured.


Fieldwork

18Feb10

Although I’ve been doing a few interviews in dribs and drabs since November, I am only just really getting stuck into the fieldwork section of my research. This means that I’ve kind of stopped reading books and theories, writing preliminary papers etc., and have started to talk to people. I’ve already met some incredibly interesting (and kind and lovely!) people and gained many different perspectives on people’s experience of blogging. Thank you to all of those people who’ve shared their stories with me!

Last year I was wondering about, I guess, the partial nature of research online – you click on the links that interest you, and it’s no different if you’re a researcher, even if you’re subscribed to everything. I did a case study on the Triple J Hottest 100 debate from last year because it’s something I feel passionate about, and the activism that came out of that debate was remarkable, particularly the @Hottest100Women twitter vote. The same often goes for posts around issues of disability, discussions about race and racism in Australia, home birth-related or feminist motherhood related posts and blogs, some pop culture stuff more than others, and issues around fat acceptance. These are things that I will always click on and follow, because of my own interests in these things. Research is often partial, and the recognition of that is integral to feminist standpoint theory – but so is the centreing of women’s experience and women’s points of view (as opposed to my point of view!). So in my attempt to overcome a skewed vision of the community I used network analysis, a supposedly objective mapping of the community as it’s constructed through links and so forth, but this can only go so far.

In talking to women with blogs, I’ve realised two things; first – that everyone’s experience and understanding of the feminist blogosphere is different – for example, some people have come from a starting point of reading big US feminist blogs, and finding Australian blogs from there, while others remain largely uninterested in blogs outside the specifically Australian feminist blogosphere. Others don’t read a lot of other blogs at all. So answers to questions about whether the Australian feminist blogosphere exists as an entity become highly subjective. Secondly, that the blogs and discussions that have caught my eye and seemed most significant and discourse-challenging to me are also the posts that people repeatedly bring up as examples of important moments in the community for them. Which makes me hopeful that my reading of the community is not quite as skewed as I thought it might be.

I’m excited and nervous about the next part of my fieldwork, listening to bloggers all over Australia talk about their personal experience of both blogging and feminism. Although I have a basic theoretical framework worked out, so much of what my thesis will say will come from these interviews and what people tell me about what blogging means for them (which of course is part of that methodology and theory).  So this where it really begins!

I’m also helping my supervisor to re-write a chapter for publication in a new edition of an edited collection. Which is difficult because I’m not really in a writing frame of mind, more of a listening/gathering ideas frame of mind. So I’m having some trouble with that, but trying to get it at least partly done before I head off around Australia next Wednesday.

Just moved house the weekend before last, so that’s also been disruptive (and expensive). In late March my partner and good friend / flatmate are taking me to the USA, a trip we’ve been planning for about a year now. Of course it comes at terrifyingly bad timing, but if I can get a lot of things done before we go then I can relax and enjoy myself.

I also wanted to write, at some point, about how much reading feminist blogs has changed my identity and my feminism, but that will have to wait for next time.


Conferences

01Oct09

This week I went to the APSA Conference at Macquarie Uni to give the first of my papers. I did my first year of uni at Macquarie, and it’s right near where I grew up, so it was kind of nice to be back there for a few days. It’s a beautiful campus (imho). I also met some very lovely and likeminded people.

Now I’m back at UNSW, trying to complete plans and preparations for next week’s travel while at the same time trying to ignore the fact that I seem to be sick AGAIN. Am looking forward to settling in to my Hilton bed in Milwaukee. Yeah. Not so much the 6 nights in an overpriced Chicago dosshouse. I bought a guidebook to Chicago yesterday and it looks like fun. I am a lucky kid.

But before I get back to travel planning, I want to address something that I noticed at the conference. There was a lot of papers given that were relevant to my research. The first day was chock-a-block with media politics stuff. The second day was chock-a-block with feminism and gender studies related stuff. In particular, I shared my morning session with two other young feminist scholars talking about (more or less) the state of contemporary feminism, and then in the afternoon there was an “intergenerational conversation” between Anne Summers, Marian Sawer and Emily Maguire.

The most worrying thing about this conversation (which I suppose was inevitable from the way it was framed and the people chosen to participate) was the development of a discourse in which contemporary feminism was framed in the following way: young women are alienated from feminism, young women are not angry (if anything they prefer to be/feel “empowered” rather than angry), there is no longer an external movement (as opposed to femocrats). Many people made excellent points, in particular Marian Sawer in saying that “empowerment” is no alternative to rage, and that anger is really necessary for social movement action. And also I was in agreement with a lot of what Emily Maguire said. But I was incredibly disappointed by the pervasiveness of (as someone said to me afterwards) this language of young women’s deficits. Also worrying is the repeated concept that young feminists should be considered as somehow separate and distinct from feminists who aren’t young. Also that if there are many young women who aren’t feminists (which I don’t deny), it follows that there is NO active women’s movement at all. I put up my hand and said, basically, young women ARE angry, and there IS a movement, but the conversation moved on very quickly from that. It’s a very unpopular position to hold, when the media constantly says that feminism is dead, but it is disappointing when feminists say it too. Because it brings up, again, the issue of INVISIBILITY. Young (and I hate making that distinction, because it seems less than meaningful to me, to distinguish between younger and older feminists) women, when they do engage in politics, are erased. Even in my session, the first speaker was basically reiterating the claim that young women are politically inactive, and when I stand up afterwards and say, well, look at all these feminists doing amazing things online in overtly political and active ways and then for there to be a conversation afterwards about how young women aren’t active in feminism…

I don’t know, cognitive dissonance. Am I being a crazy idealist in thinking that was is happening in the feminist blogosphere is huge and amazing? I don’t think so. And I thought that all that is necessary is for people to be aware of it and see the incredible activism that is going on. But perhaps I was wrong, and the investment in the idea that feminism is in abeyance has a much greater hold. You understand, I am not disagreeing that there is a lot of hostility to feminist ideas at this point in time, but I strongly disagree that feminism has been rendered inactive as a result.

See also: Women have not been silent and blogging IS activism.


First of all, today is my Uni presentation / Postgrad seminar / practice-run for the conferences I’ll be attending over the next few weeks. That’s in 2.5 hours. I am totes hanging out for Beta Blockers, but am pretty happy with the written-up speech itself.

Secondly, the first paper has been accepted and I’ll be giving that at APSA on the 28th of September I believe. Here’s that paper, and also the second paper for the US conference. Both papers are available for viewing on Scribd.


Blog fail

20Aug09

So I guess this blog has failed as an academic blog.

To be honest I am not comfortable (after 10 years of personal blogging) excluding my self, my life from blogging style writing. Attempts to separate the personal from the academic on this blog meant that I diverted academic stuff to my academic work, and personal stuff to my personal blog, which left nothing left for this page.

So the focus of this blog is going to change, to include more of my experience of writing a phd, and other things that I care about. This seems a hell of a lot more authentic. A lot of my academic notes are in dribs and drabs rather than fully formed posts (if something is fully formed, then wouldn’t I just write it in a paper or something?). A more personal style allows me to bring these dribs and drabs together without committing to them intellectually.

So I will do that.


While recognising the importance of culture in the process of social change, Melucci (1996, 36-37) artificially separates the cultural from the political. In his view there are social movement actors who prepare the public for political change through cultural discourse, and other actors who then “process” the issue through “political means”. But cultural politics is itself part of political change. Politics can’t be divorced from everyday life, from the opinions expressed in living rooms, from the discourse that occurs in classrooms, workplaces and online forums.

He celebrates the way that contemporary movements “challenge the modern separation between the public and the private” (Melucci 1996, 102) while maintaining a corresponding dichotomy, that between the cultural (private) and the political (public). This seems like an unnecessary distinction to draw, especially in light of his analysis of the way in which political conflict is bred of personal experience. He explains how “society […] intervenes in the very roots of individual life”, breeding “crucial social conflicts, in which new powers and new forms of resistance and opposition confront each other” (Melucci 1996, 106). In light of this explanation, the distinction between the cultural and the political is superfluous, since politics takes place at the level of everyday life.

Melucci (1996, 121) describes power as “so finely interwoven with the structures of daily life” that “the call for the power to be rendered visible, for the asymmetry of social relationships to be laid bare” is therefore itself antagonistic to power. And yet this apparently occurs at the level of “culture” rather than “politics”. Feminist discourse carries this call to lay bare the foundations of inequality, yet the discourse of women is elsewhere described as a “useless surplus” of “cultural production” (Melucci 1996, 138). While Melucci here is arguing, in fact, that this apparently useless surplus has productive results in the women’s movement, he is also constructing women’s politics/discourse/culture/surplus in an unnecessary subdivision which removes women twice from approaching political agency. He does this first by separating women’s cultural production from the intentional cultural work of social movement actors described above – the surplus of women’s cultural production (the “waste”) unintentionally or even accidentally leads to discursive change. He then does this again by separating the cultural from the political, locating cultural change in people’s heads.

Something I find very frustrating about social movement theory in general is the tendency to break social movements up into increasingly abstract constituent elements which are also defined abstractly in terms of “processes” and “structures”. We need to find a balance between the abstract and the specific; an approach that is conceptually rich but not bogged down in term definition and term coinage or the division of “processes” into their various “aspects”. Such a theoretical approach actually conceptually removes us as theorists from the reality of people-in-social-movements and obscures rather than clarifies our understanding of social movements. This is partly because the reification of social processes removes social agency from individual actors but also because the division of social movement “processes” into “aspects” through the use of abstractly defined terms which are then repeated mantra-like in social movement literature is essentially the reproduction of meaninglessness.

We need to use words which have meaning in and of themselves, to describe social action, i.e., the ways that individuals act to change their worlds. This is an inherently interesting subject, so there is no need for papers to be cluttered with double-barrelled abstractions.

Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity: So Bauman’s conclusion that society has become individualised to the point that an individual blames herself for her problems rather than blaming the system is a useful one. However, Bauman’s other conclusion that network communities are ‘peg’ communities (Bauman 2000, 37), momentary and thus meaningless, erratic responses to temporary anxieties, is premature. Firstly, this conclusion, in its denigration of the value of sharing intimacies (described here as the invasion of public space by “the private”) fails to note that recognition of systemic failures will never be understood without the recognition of shared private problems (since he has already argued that social problems have been privatised). It also reifies the notion of “public life” as a space free of emotion etc. and thus a rational space, a problematic position that yearns for a return to a neat division of these spheres, a position that leads to the exclusion of those who are associated with “private” concerns – the affective and the emotion (i.e. women).

Thoughts on reading In a Winding Snarling Vine:

It’s important to understand people as the primary agents in social processes, rather than reifying the processes themselves. Such a reification leads to determinism, whether technological, structural, linguistic or otherwise. The recognition of the agency of people is a guiding principle in my approach.




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