Taking Action

Taking Action to Challenge Sexism, Inequality and Violence Against Women. Speech given at UN Young Women forum, Melbourne, 22nd October, 2012.

What an interesting time it has been for opening up discussions about violence, inequality and sexism against women in Australia. Debates and commentary in the media, in parliament, in public opinion and out on the streets, have really raised the stakes – as well as the questions: Is Australia Sexist? Is gender inequality still a problem in modern Australia? And, importantly, what can we do about it?

Some of the most high profile and recent examples of sexism, gender inequality and violence against women barely need mentioning.

Last month, radio presenter Alan Jones won the Gold Ernie – an award dedicated to Australia’s most sexist comments – for saying of several female leaders that “women are destroying the joint”.

Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a speech naming sexism in Australian politics that has sparked debate and made the news worldwide.

And how can I not mention the thousands who marched in honour of Jill Meagher – and against violence against women – in September, and those who marched again on Saturday for Reclaim the Night.

Together these, and other, high profile examples tell us something important about sexism, gender inequality and violence against women in this country.

These examples tell us that sexism, gender inequality and violence against women are still big social issues – and that a lot of Australians want to live in a society where they do not exist.

But these are just some examples and they are not the whole picture; they tell just one part of the story. Read the full speech here

Book Release- ‘Domestic Violence: Australian Public Policy’

Thirty years ago, the New South Wales Task Force on Domestic Violence identified domestic violence as ‘a deep-seated national problem’. Advertising campaigns in the intervening years have advised us to say ‘no’ to violence and explained where, if we experienced domestic violence, we could get assistance. However, we know that domestic violence has not been eliminated.

Today, around a third of women experience violence from their partner, but has violence been reduced? What policies and programs have been put in place to tackle the problem? This book provides some answers to these questions. Suellen Murray and Anastasia Powell review public policy responses to domestic violence in Australia. They consider how domestic violence has been understood and the policy approaches that have been taken.

This book is a foundational text which illuminates and questions our responses to domestic violence in Australia. It will be a ‘must read’ for all those working in the domestic violence field internationally.
– Professor Cathy Humphreys, University of Melbourne 

An important and timely contribution to the field ofdomestic violence policy.
– Heather Nancarrow, Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research

Read more at Australian Scholarly Publishing…

Sex, power, and the real problem with ‘raunch’

It has been called the ‘Age of Raunch’, ‘Generation Sex’, the age of the S.L.U.T (Sexually Liberated Urban Teen); so-called ‘raunch culture’ is a recurring theme of recent media and public debate.

Raunch culture, or the sexualisation of culture, is of course one part of a whole range of social changes that we’ve seen post the 1970s ‘sexual revolution’, and certainly many of those changes have been positive.

They’ve been associated with greater access to information about sexual health for example, and a somewhat greater acceptance of diverse sexualities. We can certainly talk more openly about sexual issues now than perhaps we could several decades ago.

Indeed, many claim raunch culture is itself representative of women’s newfound sexual freedom; evidence that the equality feminism fought for has been achieved.

In our current culture, everything about raunch – we’re told – is empowering for women. Stripping is empowering for women; pornography is empowering; exposing one’s naked body in public à la Lady Gaga is empowering; female elite athletes’ posing nude for FHM and Sports Illustrated magazine is, again, empowering.  All of these examples, we’re told, show women that they can be comfortable in their bodies and with their sexuality.

Engaging in raunch is taken to prove that you are liberated. After all, isn’t enjoying this new sexual freedom what women’s equality has been all about?

There is however another interpretation of raunch culture as a kind of ‘faux empowerment’ or ‘the new sexism’, and the emphasis on so-called liberation, on ‘free choice’, is part of its allure.

Read more at The Scavenger…

‘Post-Feminist’ or ‘Pro-Rape’ Culture?

We have been described as living in a post-feminist age: a time of “girl power” where young women are empowered to negotiate sex on their own terms. Today’s young women (like many young men) are free to actively embrace their sexuality, and to put their bodies on display without fear of sullying their reputation or experiencing sexual taunts and violence. They aim to determine their own reality and reject constructs imposed by society’s expectations.

The F-word has long been described as irrelevant to today’s young woman, who avidly exclaims “I’m not a feminist, but …”

“But …” is right. In last Monday’s edition of The Age (November 9, 2009) it was reported that a group of past and present students of the University of Sydney had set up a “pro-rape” page on Facebook describing themselves as “anti-consent”. Yet the public Facebook site (which has since been closed down) is apparently just one part of a larger counter-culture that is associated with the sexual assaults of several young women.

Read more at Online Opinion…

We’re Just Not That Into It

Within 10 minutes of watching the newly released film He’s Just Not That Into You, we had given out our names and telephone numbers to a hot looking man and been checked-out by several others. Of course, the telephone numbers were to secure a table in a busy Melbourne restaurant and the men checking us out were old enough to be our fathers. Reality? Check.

Of course women everywhere are not lining up in the cinemas or cramming into plush velvet seats for a dose of reality – they are lining up in the cinemas and cramming into plush velvet seats to escape from the reality of dating, millennium-style. What they get is an hour and a half of Hollywood gloss smeared over the all too real and highly gendered stereotypes and “unwritten rules” about love, sex and relationships that cause both men and women everywhere daily confusion – sometimes with tragic results.

Read more at Online Opinion…