Rewriting the story: The power of feminist narrative

As the daughter of a staunch feminist, I genuinely expected to grow up into a culture where gender equality had been achieved – or, at least, that it would be a lot closer. Instead, in 2018, women in Australia are still likely to be paid 15.3% less than their male colleagues, to be discriminated against at work (especially after pregnancy), to suffer from sexual harassment, to be the victims of violence, and to end their lives in poverty.

And, as Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins has noted, ‘women who experience intersectional inequality often experience higher rates of [discrimination and] violence, and face additional barriers to seeking help and support’.

Given all this, it would be reasonable to ask why I spend my spare time running a feminist writers festival? Aren’t books and writing somewhat trivial concerns when compared to Australia’s shocking rates of domestic violence or coming ‘tsunami of homeless older women’? It’s a fair point, but I’d argue just the opposite. Both are actually central to shaping the narratives that we tell ourselves about our culture, our heroes, and ourselves.

… Read the rest over at Broad Agenda.

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The day I bought my son ‘beautiful gold shoes’

I have an article up on Essential Kids about the challenges of raising our son to be free of the constraining effects of gender stereotypes.

I’m driving to the shops with my four-year-old to buy a pair of ‘beautiful gold shoes’. He desperately wants a pair just like his big sister’s.

When we find them – a pair of sparkly gold slippers with fluffy white bows – I wait for the sales assistant to say something. She does double-check that they are actually for him, but then appears to swallow her objection and smiles nervously. I breathe a sigh of relief. He has a lifetime to deal with the weight of other people’s gender issues; he doesn’t need to hear them now.

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Transgressive breastfeeding and the rules of the public sphere

In case you missed it, there has been some controversy in Australia over the last few days over the issue of public breastfeeding.

A mum in Queensland was breastfeeding her baby at a public pool while supervising her two elder children. A staff member approached her to say that another family had complained, because they were offended by her breastfeeding. She then asked her to move to a private area of the pool or cover up. The mother, rightly, refused and said that this demand was illegal discrimination. Nonetheless, the pool attendant insisted and so the mother ended up taking her three children and leaving the pool in tears.

On Friday, a morning television show, Sunrise, decided that it would be a great idea to debate the issue of whether breastfeeding in public is offensive and whether the pool did the right thing. [As an aside: do we often debate whether someone breaking the law and discriminating against another person did the right thing? Why is this OK when it comes to breastfeeding women?] One of the hosts of the show, David Koch (or Kochie, as he is apparently called), expressed the opinion that the pool had done the right thing and that if women are going to breastfeed in public then they ought to “be classy about it.” Later on Twitter, he explained that it was “just common courtesy” to “be discreet” when breastfeeding.

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Birth plan – a response to Mia Freedman

When I was pregnant with my first child I tried to do all the right things. I got a spot in the public Birth Centre and discussed my preference for a water birth with my midwife. I also attended the birth preparation classe (although I did leave one class before the subject of medical pain relief was discussed, because I’m scared of needles and figured that wouldn’t change anytime soon). Besides, I told myself, labour only goes for a few hours, how bad could it be?

My midwife gave me a video of a water birth to watch to prepare for my own, but I felt uncomfortable with the intimacy of it all and never watched it. Instead I guzzled parenting books and focused on the long term – the task of parenting the baby I would be birthing.

It was early in the morning and 11 days past my due date when labour finally started. I was so over being pregnant and so ready to hold my baby that I greeted the pain warmly. I told my partner that my contractions had begun and we started to record them so we’d know when they were regular enough to justify going into the Birth Centre. Hours passed.

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