Apr. 15th, 2009 08:30 pm
mordwen: (Default)
It's not often I 'advertise' for someone but two separate people have given Harper toys I'm completely thrilled about (Lizzie the aqua lizard, gifted by Jo Sumner and Ellie the Elephant gifted by [ profile] anthonybaxter ) and they both turn out, completely coincidentally, to be from Barbara Sansoni's Barefoot project. So they're not just fair trade, they're helping women be independent, plus they're hank-dyed cotton and filled with kapok. I have no idea where these were actually purchased, but I just wanted to promote them.
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[ profile] silverblue  linked to this precis of a report into the false accusations of rape. It reminds me I've been meaning to write a post on the false rape accusation that is central to To Kill a Mockingbird. We watched the film of it recently (having named our daughter after the author of the book it was based on, it seemed appropriate).

I remembered it as a story about racism and about class (well, poverty and education levels in America, which amounts to class). If there was a feminist aspect to it, I would have said it was in Scout as the narrator, a young tomboy who Harper Lee is supposed to have based on herself.

Listening to Atticus's closing remarks during the trial, I suddenly realised there was a very advanced feminist statement about female desire in there, about the way that society polices women's desire and how Mayella's father has punished her for having that desire. To cover up patriarchal violence against women and control of women (literally the rule of the father), Mayella falsely accuses the object of her illicit desire of having taken what she was profferring (or in those days, what a kiss promised to proffer). The issue I have is about this false accusation: is this a feminist defense of false rape accusations? I can't imagine a feminist author today being comfortable having this as a central moment for a key character. Yet it's hard to imagine another option for Mayella given her time and circumstances. An English teacher I spoke to on the weekend about this actually sees Atticus as defending his client using the "victim was actually asking for it" defense, which I hadn't considered (mainly because I don't think Atticus is implying that sex occurred and is clearly blaming Ewell for her bruises, so he doesn't seem to me to say she was asking for anything).

Anyhow, I wonder if it would be possible to make the points of To Kill a Mockingbird without a false accusation and I wonder whether that is an artefact of the time or something else entirely...

And if Ewell is in fact a metonymic representation of the patriarchy, then who is the object women falsely accuse to disguise the battering we receive for daring to display our desire?

mordwen: (tapestry)
I was thrilled to find out about this pledge by being named in Rachel Chalmer's post. She is definitely one of the geeky grrls who inspired me in the early days, when we were the difficult, smart women in computer journalism in Sydney before the Internet was a big deal. And of course, Rosie X, who even made Geekgrrl T-shirts (I still have mine).

I think one of my geek heroes would have to be Rosalind Franklin, who even today is under-celebrated. I also have to name my wonderful friends with their science PhDs who inspire me daily: Dr Christina Flann, systemic taxonomist, running a worldwide project cataloguing daisies; Dr Krystal Evans, working in York on malaria; Dr Lizz Kopecny, working on HIV epidemiology; Dr Hilary Hoare, working on immunology; Kate Conroy, working on her cognitive science PhD concerning memory; Bonnie Alexander, working towards her neuropsych PhD. I'm sure there are others. I love you all.

Also, Sandy Stone, who inspired me to write theory again and who complicates this by challenging the category "women". Here's to a future where it's no longer relevant.

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My Dad used to have a book with this title... I have no idea what the content was, as I never read it, but while 'fat' is obviously something that occurs in both the male and female population, I have to agree with the sentiment that fat is an issue that feminists need to address. These days, we'd call it body image. Unless you're writing a blog for The Age, in which case you clearly call it fat. I'm not actually going to go into the backward-mindedness of this woman who thinks a size 14 is fat, but I do want to examine something [ profile] nihilla  said to me the other day, which is "do you really mean it when you say you think you're too thin?" (I'd just asked her to take the seven bags of spearmint Suga lollies left over from [ profile] raven_'s bonbonnieres away from me as I'd just eaten a whole bag).

Cut for far too much detail )

When I say I'm too thin, I mean, "I'm 67kg, and that's a kilo under my regular weight but I'm carrying all this extra saggy belly fat right now, which I assume is about 2kg worth. I want to lose that which I'll do slowly through exercise, but that means I'm 'really' around 65kg right now. My arms look very thin right now. My face is a little more angular than usual. I definitely need to eat healthily and heartily to make sure I keep my weight up, especially as I'm breastfeeding." I don't mean, "Oh wow, I'm so skinny I can eat whatever I want!" and I don't think there should be a wildly swinging relationship with fats and sugars anyway (that is, I think "I'm skinny! I can eat chocolate and sugar and cake!" and "I'm fat! I have to diet and avoid chocolate and sugar and cake!" are pretty unhelpful thought patterns). I also don't mean, "I think my shape is perfect and I don't need to do any exercise".

Now, back to the feminist aspect of all this. First is the question of whether my weight and my attitude to it would be so carefully scrutinised if I were male. The answer depends on the culture: these days, rather than succeeding in removing body shape/weight from the public agenda, gender equality has simply transferred body image concerns onto some men as well. The multinational companies that depend on lack of self-esteem had to engineer that transition or they would have gone out of business. I don't think people tell men they "look good" depending on their weight so much though. People constantly said to me, shortly after Harper's birth, that I "looked amazing". I think this partly related to how "skinny" I looked given that many new mothers still have a lot of pregnancy weight on. I also think it related a little to the fact that I sleep very well so I didn't look as haggard as I might otherwise. I'm often told I look good when I've lost weight and I don't get those comments when I put on a little. The comments mostly come from other women. I think that's a problematic thing, not only the reinforcement of thin=beautiful, but also the fact that it's women, the policing of each other's bodies that we're encouraged to do.

Saying out loud that I think I'm too thin when I am is partly about giving Harper a good sense of body image. It's a delicate line to walk, between anorexia/bulimia on one side and obesity on the other. Both affect women more than men, I believe. And there are all the stories of nine year olds on diets and the rising issues of diabetes and obesity in our children. I fight self-image all the time, because I was brought up in this consumer magazine culture reading Dolly as a teenager just like anyone else, even though by Uni I was a honking feminist and have never read adult women's magazines in anything other than a critical context. I'd love it if she doesn't have to.

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Another International Women's Day and no rally in Melbourne. Hmmm. Do people think the work's all been done? I don't have time to do the sort of extensive research I'd usually do for a post like this and quote stats at you all and provide links for all my references; suffice to say violence against women is still an enormous issue, from men all over the world who beat their wives and lovers to men in Pakistan who throw acid at girls who dare to go to school or walk the streets unveiled to men in England who kill their daughters and sisters for daring to love or dress in a Western way to men in Brazil only this week who get their nine-year-old step-daughters pregnant and the priests who say that nine-year-old girl should have borne the children rather than have an abortion because it's God's will. I have the statistics somewhere for the percentage of teenage pregnancies in Brazil that are due to incest. I seem to recall it's above 70%. It's disgusting.

As usual, this is not about "man bashing". It's not about all men -- we need our allies. It is about a world that's broken, a system that's broken. It's about needing to build relationships based on respect and helping girls and women grow to respect themselves enough to walk out, to stand up, to fight back.

Education is a huge part of that. Again, normally I'd get hard facts for this but educating women has one of the biggest impacts on development. That makes it even more important to help girls get to schools and help families understand that keeping girls in schools (rather than marrying them off in their early teens or bringing them back home to work) is really vital.

I'm looking at my sleeping six-week-old daughter in the arms of her father and I want a better world for her. She is so incredibly lucky -- she has books already and lives in a country where education is free, right up until University (well, completely free till high school and almost free after that). Her father is so supportive of gender equality and helping her be her best self that this morning he reminded *me* that I should remember to tell her she's smart and strong as often as I tell her she's beautiful.

For all my amazing women friends, a glass of wine I raise to you. We still have work to do, perhaps not so much for ourselves now, with our jobs and our computers and our relatively comfy lives, but for our sisters elsewhere, maybe only next door, who are suffering still.

And a special shout-out to [ profile] anthologie , who gave birth today to yet another little girl. Strength to you, Mama. Welcome to the world, baby girl.

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Overheard in Fenwick St, Clifton Hill:

Construction worker A to construction worker B: Nah, mate, it's easy! You just look them in the eyes instead of the knockers!


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