Julia Gillard & Feminist Freedom Fighters

  • Monday, October 29, 2012

    Socialist Alliance activist and feminist Liah Lazarou gave the speech below to Adelaide’s Reclaim the Night rally on October 26.

    * * *

    I’d like to say a big thank you to the Reclaim the Night Collective for organising this important event and everybody who is here tonight to reclaim the streets and to fight against the violence and sexism women face on a daily basis. Tonight is our night, to unite as women and to bring attention to the struggles of our sisters, mothers, aunts, cousins, grandmothers and the structural oppression that is so embedded in our everyday lives.

    Tonight has come in a really interesting time. It has come when the recent political landscape has been suddenly concerned with the language of feminism, no more evident than when Julia Gillard proclaimed Tony Abbott a misogynist, something I’m sure many of us were delighted to finally see and hear and a message that spoke to many of us – Tony Abbott the misogynist called out in parliament for what he really is.

    But what was hardly reported was that on the same day the Senate passed through a new law cutting single parent payments by between $56 and $150 a week, which will mostly affect women, women from the already marginalised sections of our society and putting them more at risk of violence. As a single mother myself, I was outraged at this blatant contradiction because further entrenching poverty is violence against women.

    So when we rejoice at Julia Gillard’s speech against sexism, let us take it for what is really is. Fighting against sexism is not about making one speech in parliament and in the same day attacking some of the most vulnerable women in our society.

    The reason Julia Gillard was able to make that speech was because of the feminist movements of the past. It was because of the feminist freedom fighters who came before us and who struggled and fought for women’s liberation.

    Women have been saying for a long, long time that discrimination against women and sexism does not just exist in a bubble: we are subject to oppressive gender norms at all levels of society and it is completely institutionalised in the home, the workforce, the media, the judiciary, religious and educational institutions and of course in parliament.

    Today women still only earn 82% of a males wage, the majority of unpaid work is done by women,
    most sexual violence is perpetrated by men against women, 1 in 3 women will experience intimate partner violence in her life time, violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness of women aged 15 to 44 years in Victoria, the police don’t take women’s claims of violence and harassment seriously and that most rape cases that go to court don’t end up with a conviction.

    On the back of the horrific Jill Meagher crime and the recent murder of a young South Australian woman by her partner, we have seen rising concerns around rape and male violence reigniting public concern around women’s safety.

    But more CCTV cameras will not stop violence against women. Male violence begins in the home, in the institution of the family. The cornerstone of class society which treats women like property, allowing them to be owned, used and exploited. This is where our first conceptions of sexism are learned and this is reinforced by the sexualisation and objectification of women and girls and by our sexist corporate media.

    For decades we have been sold the myth that feminism is no longer relevant. That we have gained equality. We know this to be false. We know that this is false and that it works to stifle our voices and our ability to be organised and fight back.

    A new study on violence against women, conducted over four decades in 70 countries, reveals the mobilisation of feminist movements is more important for change than the wealth of nations, left-wing political parties, or the number of women politicians. So the onus is on us. It is up to us to keep coming out on the streets and to create a strong feminist movement.

    Feminism is not just about calling out sexism. We need a feminism which makes real demands. We need to create a feminist movement that aspires for real change, which challenges the exploitation and oppression of women and of all people by the wealthy minority and the system which profits from our suffering. Solutions will come from women coming together, educating and organising towards this end for there is nothing more empowering than the act of solidarity and women involved in collective action together. Unity is strength. Until we have created a world where we are not attacked, abused and discriminated against because of our gender, where gender is irrelevant and we are recognised with respect as human beings, our struggle continues.

    Until there is no wage gap, until we have complete control over our bodies, until the police and the judicial system takes domestic violence and sexual assault seriously, until there are adequate facilities for all women in need, until there are compulsory education programs against violence, until we create a culture where men are taught to respect women, until we do not invade other countries and kill our sisters, until no refugee is locked in detention centres, until our indigenous sisters have their culture respected and true land rights, until we have a safe climate future and our global sisters are no longer the victims of the big polluters who are destroying the earth and its ecosystems and until there is no more violence in the street and in the home…

    Until then our struggle continues. But I believe that if we fight, we can win!

Girls, Guergis, Guns & Armageddon

UPDATED BELOW

Marci McDonald’s 2006 article in The Walrus, Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons, gave us the first systematic analysis of the hidden Christian fundamentalist agenda of Stephen Harper’s goals for Canada – the establishment of the conditions necessary for the Second Coming of you-know-who.  Who knows if Harper is such a fantastical fool that he really believes in all that anti-evolutionary, anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-Israel STFUness.  What matters is that a bunch of nutbars has such power in the corridors of Canadian political power.

Harper has cemented a partnership with people who have become astonishingly powerful in the US and whose religious ideology nicely parallels social conservatism.  Harper is known to be a fiscal conservative, but has needed the support of old-style Progressive Conservatives who haven’t necessarily had the ability to attract the support of the far right wing – if they had, they wouldn’t have lost their Party.  Each time Harper throws an anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-Israel, law and order dog biscuit to this crowd he wins votes that would not necessarily fall into his lap via fiscal conservatism alone.

Is all this becoming more clear to Canadians?

Antonia Zerbisias’ interview with McDonald, now the author of a book on these issues - The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada  – provides us with a startling (to some people) collection of issues that have come to the fore of late that certainly substantiate the writer’s painstaking research, from the cancellation of Paul Martin’s national daycare programme to the introduction of  private members’ bills that would limit women’s free reproductive choice to Harper and company’s otherwise inexplicably over-the-top support of Israeli policy towards Palestine and general opposition to same-sex marriage.

That’s a cartload of issues and each one deserves it’s own discussion.  I’m going to have a brief look at how acceptance of the Fundy Formula effects women or, for the sake of the almost alliteration – teh girls – and how “liberals” have failed to appreciate the significance of CON policy and legislation.

From the outset women and women’s advocacy groups have had no difficulty apprehending HarperCON’s anti-woman agenda.  As McDonald points out, he began with the cancellation of a national daycare programme, moved on to a systematic assault on women’s equality-seeking groups and from there to defunding NGOs with specific focusses on providing reproductive services to women in developing countries and anti-violence initiatives.  He has also engaged in a vicious public assault on his former Minister for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis, whose portfolio had been all but disabled anyway.

These issues share many common characteristics and some that are not so obvious.  For instance, though most of us here understand quite well that the lack of a national daycare programme hurts not only the children of Canada but also women who are still their primary caretakers, we were probably less aware that, as McDonald points out, Harper “was also pandering to social conservatives who don’t believe that the government should have any role in child-rearing, who believe that mothers should be at home bringing up their children or who send their children to religious daycares and schools.”

Speaking for myself, I got the “women at home” aspect but missed the part about the children of working mothers placed in religious daycares and schools and the concomitant threat to public education.  As McDonald concludes:

 It was one of those policies that cut across both of his constituencies, economic and social. That would characterize most of his policies.

But McDonald misses something – that the struggle for a national daycare programme is something that not even Liberals will take to the wall – making it much too easy for Harper to hand out gifts to his social conservative base.  Maybe libs and lefties will take daycare if they can get it but it’s certainly nothing to bring down a minority government over.  Few issues that are perceived to be or actually are those that effect primarily teh girls are that important.  Or none.  In fact, when these issues are raised what I hear most often from the libs and even the left, such as it is, is that these issues are “distractions”, diversions from primary purposes, that they might be worth a few jabs in question period and an opportunistic media punchline here or there, but they are really window-dressing issues, dog bones thrown out or removed with little political, social or economic meaning beyond the moment.

For instance.  When the cabal reconvened after prorogation, Harper threw one of his bright shiny things into the Throne Speech, promising to make our national anthem “gender neutral”.  Quite apart from the discussions about what that would take and the general hue and cry about history and national treasures, what interested me was the response from the centre and the left along the lines that language doesn’t matter, sons are “generic” and Harper is just trying to trick you stupid broads into accepting this bright shiny thing as if it’s something real.  Down the toilet went the respectable and now historical feminist argument that yes, language does matter and under the bus, ground into the ruts, went teh girls.  Of course Harper had no trouble dumping the proposal and looked like he was responding to the outrage from social conservatives and liberals all in one fell swoop.  How nice for him.

I’m beginning to see a similar modus in operation with respect to Helena Guergis.  She’s a young, childless woman married to a brown man in political difficulty (even though he’s no longer in office) who “managed” a portfolio that men, conservative and otherwise, don’t care much about.  She wasn’t and isn’t worth much to anybody it seems.  Any attempt to point out the rampant sexism of the attack on Guergis result in shouts from the left that Guergis is a loose cannon, mythically and powerfully destructive and possibly a blondly stupid disaster with whom we should not concern ourselves one teensy bit.  STFU girls.

I was never a Guergis supporter.  But did she ever have any supporters?  And is there a liberal or left dude that gives an elderberry fart about what happens to women in politics?

It’s also been clear in the past that the abolition of Canada’s long-gun registry is an issue used as a political football by left, right and centre in attempts to prevent the alienation of “rural voters”, all of whom are assumed to be men.  Both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton failed to whip their parties before the vote on the abolition bill in the last session of Parliament, resulting in an easy “yea” result for the legislation.  It remains mighty unclear that anything has changed this time ’round, despite Ignatieff’s attempts to revise the legislation.  Will Jack Layton whip?  Who the hell knows.  So it’s not only girls under the bus on this one, it’s dead girls under the bus.

As for the progressive defunding of women’s equality-seeking groups and NGOs, Ignatieff is perfectly content to use this issue as a political chip – but where the f**k has he been for the last four years while it was happening?  Where was he in December 2009 and early 2010 when a Liberal/NDP coalition would have brought down this anti-democratic, anti-woman, homophobic, pro-Israel and the Rapture government and, for instance, its attempted assault on pay equity?  As for the Libs failed attempt to underscore the reproductive rights of women with their Parliamentary motion?  I actually will stfu on that one.

Women have allowed themselves to be used thus for too long, hoping to get bigger prizes in the end.  Or perhaps any prize at all.  I’m beginning to hear heartening rumbles from girlfriend-land that none of these hopeless pols ought to rest comfortably in the beds their wives and girlfriends have made for so long, and so patiently.

The Theocons so well described by Marci McDonald are the focus of renewed realizations, discussions and organizing among awakening and already fully conscious women – and a few pro-feminist men.  Take care liberal and left doodz.  Move out of the crosshairs of that metaphorical but very well-aimed long-gun.

 

UPDATE:

HarperCON whines

“Last night’s dominant CBC story … featured an attack on the religious affiliation of some government members and supporters,” the Tory missive says. “Apparently, the CBC thinks it newsworthy that some Conservative Ministers and MPs practice their faith. Even more scandalous, some members of the Prime Minister’s Office go to church!”

Pale is peeved.

And on the Helena Guergis story, there’s this from the PI who started it all:

“I have nothing — I have no evidence, or no information, with respect to the conduct of Ms. Guergis in my possession or knowledge,” he stated.

Instead, he said the mere threat of bad optics, coming after a string of embarrassing gaffes by Guergis, may have been enough to force Harper’s hand.

“This is an issue of optics,” Snowdy said.

Sex & The Divine (Not Divine Sex)

The sinfulness of sexual pleasure has always had more than a fair bit to do with the sinfulness of woman.

From an essay by Francine Prose at Lapham’s Quarterly:

The debate over sex with the beautiful versus sex with the ugly had its twisted roots in the belief that there was an almost mathematical ratio between pleasure and sin. The greater the pleasure, the worse the evil. Apparently, too, there also was considerable worry about ejaculation as something that drains and weakens the male, a dangerous process in general and particularly in the presence of the predatory woman who, unlike her mate, doesn’t lose in sex a life-sustaining fluid. The rabbinic admonition to think of a woman as “a pitcher of filth with its mouth full of blood” was echoed in the work of the twelfth-century theologian Petrus Cantor. “Consider that the most lovely woman has come into being from a foul-smelling drop of semen; then consider her midpoint, how she is a container of filth; and after that consider her end, when she will be food for worms.”  [too much more]

Robert George on  heterosexual marital sex and hating anything else:

… the argument for marriage between a man and a woman can require “somewhat technical philosophical analysis.” It is a two-step case that starts with marriage and works its way back to sex. First, he contends that marriage is a uniquely “comprehensive” union, meaning that it is shared at several different levels at once — emotional, spiritual and bodily. “And the really interesting evidence that it is comprehensive is that it is anchored in bodily sharing,” he says.“Ordinary friendships wouldn’t be friendships anymore if they involved bodily sharing,” he explained to me. “If I, despite being a married man, had this female friend of mine and I said, ‘Well, gosh, why don’t we do some bodily sharing,’ and we had straightforward sexual intercourse, well, that wouldn’t be friendship or marriage. It is bodily, O.K., but it is not part of a comprehensive sharing of life. My comprehensive sharing of life is with my wife, which I just now violated.” But just as friendships with sex are not friendships, marriage without sex is not marriage. Sex, George said, is the key to this “comprehensive unity.” He then imagined himself as a man with no interest in sex who proposed to seal a romance by committing to play tennis only with his beloved. Breaking that promise, he said, would not be adultery.

The second step is more complicated, and more graphic. George argues that only vaginal intercourse — “procreative-type” sex acts, as George puts it — can consummate this “multilevel” mind-body union. Only in reproduction, unlike digestion, circulation, respiration or any other bodily function, do two individuals perform a single function and thus become, in effect, “one organism.” Each opposite-sex partner is incomplete for the task; yet together they create a “one-flesh union,” in the language of Scripture. “Their bodies become one (they are biologically united, and do not merely rub together) in coitus (and only in coitus), similarly to the way in which one’s heart, lungs and other organs form a unity by coordinating for the biological good of the whole,” George writes in a draft of his latest essay on the subject. Unloving sex between married partners does not perform the same multilevel function, he argues, nor does oral or anal sex — even between loving spouses.

Infertile couples, too, are performing this uniquely shared reproductive function, George says, even if they know their sperm and ovum cannot complete it. Marriage is designed in part for procreation in the way a baseball team is designed for winning games, he says, but “people who can practice baseball can be teammates without victories on the field.”  [ewww more]

From Johann Hari at the New Statesman:

After all the arguments for subordinating women have been shown to be self-serving lies, what are misogynists left with? They have only one feeble argument that is still deferred to and shown undeserving respect across the world, even by people who should know better: “God told me to. I have to treat women as lesser beings, because it is inscribed in my Holy Book.”

Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom are the editors of Butterflies and Wheels, the best atheist site on the web. In Does God Hate Women? they forensically dismantle the last respectable misogyny. They argue: “What would otherwise look like stark bullying is very often made respectable and holy by a putative religious law or aphorism or scriptural quotation . . . They worship a God who is a male who gangs up with other males against women. They worship a thug.”

Every major religion’s texts were written at a time when women were regarded as little better than talking cattle. Their words and commands reflect this, plainly and bluntly. This book starts with a panoramic sweep across the world, showing – with archetypal cases – how every religion has groups today thumping women down with its Holy Book.  [the review carries on]

A Christmas Gift for America’s Women

From Senator Ben Nelson:

NOW‘s Terry O’Neill on the latest manifestation of the desire to control women’s bodies, particularly their sexuality and reproductivity, in the United States:

The so-called health care reform bill now before the Senate, with the addition of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Manager’s Amendment, amounts to a health insurance bill for half the population and a sweeping anti-abortion law for the rest of us. And by the way, it’s the rest of us who voted the current leadership into both houses of Congress.

Yes.  By the way …

UPPITY-DATE:  From Women’s Rights at change.org –

Take a look at Senate Majority leader Harry Reid’s new manager’s amendment’s proposal to keep innocent federal dollars from being tainted by helping to cover abortion through a separation of private and public funds. (I’d much prefer to see a little separation of church and state.) Of course, insurance companies aren’t known for enjoying added hassle or a positive approach to women’s health, so faced with the administrative nightmare of setting up two bank accounts to deposit two checks from each woman electing abortion coverage — one payment for the abortion pot and one for everything else —  insurance companies likely to chuck that option altogether. Hey, that’s just what anti-choicers wanted in the first place!

More on women’s bodies as bargaining chips – everyone under the bus!

Ya Can’t Find Equality from the Kitchen

Family structure in the United States magnifies class-based inequality and undermines the human capital of the next generation. Yet, the ideas that helped secure a Nobel Prize in economics for Chicago economist Gary Becker still provide the starting point for every discussion of the economics of the family, and if followed, would produce an economy that looks like Yemen’s.Becker won the Nobel Prize at least in part because of his identification of marriage with specialization and trade: men “specialize” in the market and women in the home. His critical prediction: with the wholesale movement of women into the labor market, the gains from marriage would decline and family instability would rise. Yet, it is the blue states — and the families who combine dual careers with egalitarian relationships — that show the biggest drop in divorce rates and brightest spots in in a failing economy.

Yeah baby!  More from June Carbone

And then there’s Feminomics at New Deal 2.0

Somehow, Someday, Somewhere

… a reporter or editor will realize that they aren’t explaining anything with this:

In Piedmont, Quebec a rich and reputable cardiac physician appears to have murdered his children on Sunday.  He was pretty well off – he had shared a $275,000 home with his wife.  So we know he didn’t kill his children because he was “frustrated” by unemployment or underemployment.  We also know his new house in Piedmont is “just minutes from the Saint-Saveur ski hill”.  Hmm.  I don’t think that was the problem.  What else do we know?

Well, he’d just broken up with his wife, also a successful doctor, and she’d gone off on a ski trip leaving him with his five-year old son and three-year old daughter.  Dr. Turcotte was “apparently distraught”.  So he killed his children?  Hmm.  What else do we know?

Some people are concerned that doctors are “too reluctant to seek help for psychological distress”.  Now if Dr. Turcotte had only sought psychological help.  I’m sure he’d have told a counsellor that he was contemplating killing his children and then he could have been helped and then … Hmm.  What else do we know?

Dr. Turcotte and his children were supposed to meet family members for breakfast with his children but he never showed up.  Relatives immediately called police via 911 (emergency!) who broke into the doctor’s home and found him unconscious and his children dead.  His relatives were instantly freaked out when the doc didn’t show before breakfast because they knew he was suicidal?  Oh for fricking Christ-on-a-cracker sakes!  They were so worried about his suicidality that they panicked when he didn’t show up and they left a five-year old and a three-year old in his care?  Don’t they read the newspapers?  Don’t they have any imaginations?  Haven’t they heard this pathetic story before?  Hasn’t somebody?  The doctor’s family must feel just terrible and finding fault will likely do no good.  Still, if we don’t realize that this was a critical missed cue, we will continue to see this kind of result.  We will continue to see this kind of result.

Before this dreadful occurence, Dr. Turcotte was “a much-appreciated cardiologist” who  “was extremely dedicated and had a very good reputation”.  Because only under-appreciated men with bad reputations kill their children so what a surprise?

You know, people like Dr. Turcotte,  “like other figures in position[s] of authority, can develop a sense of omnipotence. ‘They almost feel they have divine power, as if you are not allowed to question them. They do anything to hold onto that power…’

Throngs and throngs of men in positions of power kill their children.  So that explains it.  No?  Not yet?

Try this.  Psychologist Pierre Faubert says:

Some fathers in breakups target children to seek revenge on the mother… ‘The children become an extension of the mother. The father attacks her through them. The children become missiles aimed at the mother, who will be stricken by pain, guilt and shame.’

Now that sounds closer to an explanation that makes some sense, even though it’s virtually a throw-away line at the end of the article.  It’s not the father’s power at work and in society that precedes these terrible events, it’s the father’s power within his family.  Try this:

‘The profile of a family annihilator is a middle-aged man, a good provider who would appear to neighbours to be a dedicated husband and a devoted father,’  [Professor Jack] Levin said. ‘He quite often tends to be quite isolated. He is often profoundly dedicated to his family, but has few friends of his own or a support system out with [sic] the family. He will have suffered some prolonged frustration and feelings of inadequacy, but then suffers some catastrophic loss. It is usually financial or the loss of a relationship. He doesn’t hate his children, but he often hates his wife and blames her for his miserable life. He feels an overwhelming sense of his own powerlessness. He wants to execute revenge and the motive is almost always to “get even”.’  [emphasis mine]

Research from the States shows that family annihilators rarely have a prior criminal record. However, many experts believe there is often a prior pattern of domestic abuse. A report published two years ago in Britain by Women’s Aid, called Twenty-nine child homicides, found that, out of 13 families studied, domestic violence was a feature in 11. In one of the other two cases, the mother spoke of her ex-partner’s obsessively controlling behaviour.  [emphasis mine]

Control, you see.  Power.  Wife-hating [or woman-hating] abusive and obsessively controlling behaviour – it doesn’t need to be physical abuse.  When a woman leaves, she asserts a power that some men feel they have to take back by any means possible.  He feels emasculated, de-manned, he’s a loser, as M. Gary Neuman pointed out in his book about why men cheat.  Men have to feel like heroes, they have to feel like winners and if not, look out for the destruction they will cause.  And yes, it is men and not women who are by far more likely to perpetrate these crimes – 95% of the time.

Why must men feel in control of their women and children?  Why must they hold power over them?  The answer is simple and complex.  The answer is patriarchy.  Read about it on the web.  Google “feminism fathers who kill children” and you’ll find a kit-load of shit from the men’s rights and father’s rights “side” of this issue and you may wish you hadn’t.  Here’s a taste from Angry Harry.  His website came up first in my search.

Research from the States shows that family annihilators rarely have a prior criminal record. However, many experts believe there is often a prior pattern of domestic abuse.

Hardly surprising, eh? After all, these killings usually occur when relationships are breaking down. And so they do not come out of the blue. As such, one might well expect the amount of interpersonal abuse to escalate during such insecure times.

In fact, only a fool or a feminist would suggest otherwise.

I certainly cannot really imagine how I would feel if it looked as if my wife was going to leave me; taking away the home and the children – especially if these were my ‘everything’.

But I reckon that ‘murderous’ would very likely be a good description of how I would feel.

Notice, however, how Ms Lorna Martin tries to fob off the very idea that men have any justification for becoming enraged over the prospect of losing their homes and their children.

I suppose she reckons that they should just shrug it off! …

‘To the outside world, these crimes seem to come out of nowhere,’ continued Levin. ‘The perpetrators have not previously been involved in criminal behaviour. Nor do they tend to be on drugs or drinking heavily when they commit the crime. However, if psychologists had seen them in advance, they would have spotted the warning signs. They would have noticed how the person reacted to things not going his way – the irrational rage and the blaming of others. These people often also regard their partner and children as their own possessions.’

These men are ‘irrational’!

These men treat their partners and children and, presumably, their homes as their ‘possessions’!

How outrageous, eh? How strange! What kind of insanity possesses these men?

And women, of course, would never do or feel such things, eh? 

No Sir. When women fight tooth and nail to keep hold of their homes and their children – through fair means or foul – they are not treating them as ‘possessions’. No Sirree. They are victims

But here we have Ms Lorna Martin and the Guardian newspaper trying to demonise men for reacting badly when they are undergoing almost unbelievable torment.

Men “reacting badly”?  Be still my heart.  These stories are unbearable.  The Guardian article cited here tells stories so very similar that you could change the names and not know the difference.  The stories are all the more unbearable when they are reported as though there is no critical work that leads to an understanding of what’s happening in this patriarchal frickin’ world.  It’s fucktaballooned.

I’m as mad as Angry Harry but I wouldn’t dream of trying to rationalize murder just because I’m pissed!  And you know what?  If I did, I wouldn’t feel free to hang my rationalizations up on the web.