mordwen: (feeding)
There are many things I want to be writing about (the disgusting pro-rape culture at one of Sydney University's colleges, how Twitter and journalism intersect — specifically, the Trafigura case and the shootings at Fort Hood) but I don't have time. You go read. In the meantime, I bring you our adorable daughter, standing (bracing herself against my calves) and bashing blocks together.

If you don't already know the password for these videos, comment with your email address and I'll send it to you if you're not a crazy stalker.


mordwen: (Default)
I wish I'd been able to birth at home. I still feel like I should have fought harder to do so. I didn't because my doctor suggested it was a bad idea for a first time mum at 38 and because I broke my back three years ago. If I'd had the cash to pay for the midwives without blinking and if I'd been even three years younger, I would have fought for it.

As it turned out, I think going to the birth centre, which was my compromise, was a very bad idea and what landed me in the hospital and then having a C-section. I was the classic cascade of interventions and I don't believe they were necessary. There's a chance they were -- a small chance. If something had gone seriously wrong, we could have got from here to the hospital in 12 minutes. As it was, my "emergency" C-section was delayed two hours while other, more urgent cases were taken care of. Mine was not an emergency until *after* they doped me up with Fentanyl and caused problems for Harper. Before the drug, she was doing fine.

In countries like the Netherlands, home birth is the standard and hospital births are unusual. Their neonatal and maternal death rate is one of the world's lowest. If I'd been at home, my "I don't think I can do another seven hours of this!" would have been met with encouraging, "Yes, you can!" not "Let's get you drugs".[1]

Anyway, you may not know that home birth is about to be functionally illegal in Australia. You may not know that there is a rally of women and children tomorrow morning in Canberra and that many of my friends will be there. I wish that I could have been there. If it had been on a weekend or I hadn't just started a job, I imagine I would have been there.

What you are doing is incredibly important, my friends. Birthing is one of the most fundamental acts of a woman's life, if she chooses to experience it. And although some of us don't get to have the full experience for whatever reason and may mourn it, it's up to us and our partners to choose how we birth. Birthing is not a disease that needs medicalising. For most women and most babies, it's something that can be safely done at home with a midwife. What's more, C-sections have a *higher* rate of maternal death than home birth.[2] Babies die. There are still births in hospitals too. And when that happens, it's absolutely tragic. Taking birth out of the home and into the operating theatre does NOT solve that problem.

Australian parents should have the right to choose a safe, natural birth in their homes. Come on, Minister Roxon. Put aside your own fears and prejudices and listen to the science.


[1] I do understand that everyone in my birth team was under a bunch of stress and little sleep. This is not a criticism of anyone. Those of you who've read my birth story know that the evil bitch hospital midwife Melissa is who we blame.
[2] Really recent research: "Outcomes of planned homebirth with registered midwife versus planned hospital birth with midwife or physician", "Planned homebirth attended by a registered midwife was associated with very low and comparable rates of perinatal death and reduced rates of obstetric interventions and other adverse perinatal outcomes compared with planned hospital birth attended by a midwife or physician" http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/rapidpdf/cmaj.081869
mordwen: (activist)
This morning, at Flinders Street station, a young woman pushed a card and some chocolate at me, hoping to promote a shiny new web site.

The address read whatwouldyouliketochange.com.au. Intriguing. I asked whether this was corporate or non-government or what and she said corporate but didn't know any more.

She pointed me to the people outside the turnstiles who were filming vox pops and a guy who was obviously the team leader. I asked him and discovered that this is an exercise by PriceWaterhouseCooper to garner the opinion of Australians... why? To help their clients market to us better.

I'm torn between being outraged and being cynically unsurprised (after all, it wasn't that long ago that the girlfriend of a good friend said, "I totally support your idealism so long as you're comfortable with the idea that people like me will try to monetise you."[1])

I talked to him for a short while about greenwash and how little faith I have that any of their clients will actually change their ways, but rather will work out how to convince us that they've changed their ways. Westpac's recent advertising comes to mind. BP is the famous case study. Shell. Desperate attempts to regain ethical ground in the aftermath of damaging campaigns about, oh, you know, funding uranium mines and sending the army in to kill indigenous people.

There are videos of the vox pops on the site and it's a brilliant idea. I'm just sad that it's for such a shallow purpose and that those who might get excited about it and *do* something might waste their tiny token effort for the year on this, get a big dose of feelgood about their conspicious compassion and then go back to being do-nothing couch potatoes.

Sigh. When did I grow up and can I go back to being a young, passionate teenager please?

[1] Yes, she actually used that word. [2]
[2] No, amazingly, I didn't thump her.
mordwen: (Default)
For those who haven't seen this segment on the Gruen Transfer, go and watch it first. Be warned, it's offensive and designed to be. (For overseas readers, the Gruen Transfer is a TV show analysing advertising with competitors creating ads for outrageous briefs.)

The discussion following this segment is terrific: robust, serious and exactly what is needed about these issues. At first I thought the issues were too complicated for me to distil into a post but I've just realised something vital. The first three jokes in the ad -- about blacks, gays and Jews respectively -- centre on the habit racists/homophobes/anti-Semitics have of murdering those they despise: they refer to historical events, sterilisation and forced abortion; 'poofter bashings' that lead to death; concentration camps. The fat chick joke -- the ad aims to end shape discrimination by equating it with other forms of discrimination -- centres on someone not sleeping with her, which is very different from kiling her.

The ad not only fails to make its point because its viewers are either too shocked by the first jokes to make the needed connection or so prejudiced their views are simply reinforced but also because the equation is not actually made in the ad. Fat jokes are NOT equivalent to the other jokes because they do not call for the extermination of the target. Shape discrimination is enormously problematic and has similar emotional impact on the recipient; it may even be more isolating because there is no equivalent community to turn to as a haven in the way that blacks/gays/Jews have insular communities where they can reinforce positive psychological tropes; but it is not the same thing and I don't think this ad works for all these reasons.
mordwen: (activist)
It's official...


Please spread the word. The message is important!

mordwen: (academic)
Went to the Human Rights Charter consultation in Dandenong today. Was very interesting -- lots of discussion at my table on political rights vs social and cultural rights, the framework for rights in Australia (constitutional vs legislative), discussion of the need for remedies and enforceability and so on and so forth. Not enough brain to detail at the moment... besides, I plan to write a submission to the consultation (you can too: submissions due May 29, and don't use the GetUp site to do it unless you're really time poor -- write your own, considered, multi-page submission).

I'm involved with this for a number of reasons: it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to participate in the establishment of a human rights charter in this country; I've always been interested in global governance and this is a stepping stone to helping shape my world; I want to be able to tell Harper I was involved with it and didn't sit by and let others do it; I strongly believe civic participation is a duty we all share; even more so after yesterday, I'm worried about those who argue we don't need a charter, either because they think God will take care of it or because they think we are subjects of the Crown or because they think that laws restrict rights (yes, all of these points were raised by people at the consultation) [1]; and selfishly because I hope my participation may lead to a career change that I find fulfilling and challenging.

Still on the human rights theme, it turns out I won the video competition! Since I don't own the rights to the Bob Marley song I used, I have to replace the music by next Tuesday so they can play it everywhere and promote the human rights charter. To say I'm thrilled is an understatement of massive proportions.


[1] Well, what do you know? I'm less of a libertarian than I thought. I've been comfortably aware that I'm more an anarcho-syndicalist than a 'pure' anarchist for many years but recently I've been moving more towards liberalism on some issues, at least for the duration of my lifetime, as I can't see a complete lack of laws as workable *yet* given stuff like honour killings and child brides. I still believe education and not punishment is the key to eradicating these things but I think having these things be 'legal' or having no laws made about them gives the wrong message. It's very complicated.

mordwen: (Default)
[livejournal.com 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: (pregnant)
Jack & I went to Pure Baby's factory outlet yesterday and I bought two organic muslin swaddles. They're gorgeous. They're also ridiculously cheap, as are all the other clothes there, despite being organic cotton. Why? They're made in China.

The web site says that as of the winter 09 range, they'll be using factories that have "social codes" which is terrific as I don't want to choose between organic and labour conditions. It does make me curious about how others make these decisions...

[Poll #1372785][Poll #1372785]
mordwen: (Default)
I may have mentioned to some of you that there was a video competition to promote the campaign for an Australian Human Rights Charter.

Doug very kindly took care of Harper for a few hours so I could make this. I would have liked to do more, but there's only so much you can do with a time limit of two minutes and no spare time in which to make the thing.

mordwen: (Default)
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 [livejournal.com profile] anthologie , who gave birth today to yet another little girl. Strength to you, Mama. Welcome to the world, baby girl.

mordwen: (Default)
Every week, a journalist somewhere is killed or assaulted for simply doing their job.

This extraordinary editorial by the murdered editor of the Sri Lankan Sunday Leader was apparently written just a few days before his death.

May these brave souls continue their work. May I one day be able again to help defend them through working, as I have in the past, on press freedom issues with the International Federation of Journalists. (Download the 2007-8 report on press freedom in South-Asia -- I helped copy-edit the 2005-6 version.)

mordwen: (Default)
This is hugely important. It's the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

The Australian Attorney-General has just announced a consultation panel to investigate the possibility of a Human Rights Act for Australia. We are one of the only democratic countries in the world without one.

The panel will be headed by Jesuit priest Father Brennan and will take written submissions until May next year.

Needless to say, GetUp has created a public submission page with some talking points to make contributing really, really easy. Go on, try it!

If you'd prefer to go to the source, read the terms of reference and write a full submission (as I will probably be doing in between feeding a baby! Yay! A project!), head on over to the official website. You can also get more information from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Imagine being able to say to your children that you helped draft our national charter of human rights. Now imagine telling them you were alive at the time but didn't get around to it or couldn't be bothered. This is one you don't want to miss.

mordwen: (Default)
I've been meaning to do this post for a while now.

Amnesty International recently promoted 16 days of an end to violence against women. One in three women in Australia will be victims of violence by someone intimately known to them in their lifetimes. I count myself as one of those people thanks to my relationship with Simon Brewster when I was 17. Mine was mostly psychological, although I did have things thrown at me. I was lucky: no broken bones, minimal post-traumatic stress (my subsequent partners may disagree with that bit). We are relatively lucky in Australia, we think. We look at the stories of women overseas and most of us get to be thankful. It's dangerous though, because the women who are experiencing intimate partner violence (and the victims are still overwhelmingly female and the perpetrators are still overwhelmingly male) are surrounded by this culture of silence.

The Victorian study of regional areas earlier this year that revealed one woman's back was broken by her husband as she was anally raped is one example. Many of the women in the study hadn't talked to anyone before.

If you are experiencing intimate partner violence in your life right now, and no one knows about it, please talk to someone. It's not your fault and you can do something about it. Comment here anonymously if you like. E-mail me. My address is on my profile.

And for those of you who think the advancements women have made in the West mean that we can stop fighting, here are a few things to think about elsewhere:

Men fling acid on women's faces in Pakistan
10 women in eight years killed by male relatives in 'honour killings' in one family group

And of course, the 13 year old who was stoned to death because she was a rape victim.

We can do something about all this. We can talk about it. We can stand up and say it's not okay. We can fund education for women and girls. And it's easy to do something: why not start with contributing to Australia's National Plan of Action to reduce violence against women?

mordwen: (Default)
One of my concerns recently has been the issue of Michelle Obama and her role in the new American administration. [livejournal.com profile] blithespirit  mentioned the other day that she has said she won't have an office in the West Wing, unlike Clinton before her. I said I hoped that was because she was going to just find herself another job in Washington as the high-powered lawyer she is... but that's not looking likely.

This Salon article sums up a lot of my concerns: the regression to an image of wifely, motherly duties that merely involve the propping up of your man's career to the detriment of your own career and identity. I don't envy Obama right now. She has a lot of challenges ahead of her. And I'm not talking about choosing which dress to wear to the inauguration.

mordwen: (Default)
KQED reporting that McCain has called Obama and conceded. I almost don't believe it.

We're bringing Harper into a world that might actually be worth being in after all.

*cries*
mordwen: (Default)
A couple of people responded to my last post (either on the post or elsewhere) with direct questions about how we can stop these things from occurring or with expressions of helplessness.

I've decided my best response is to make a new post here for maximum visibility.

What can we do? There are a few things. I'm sure you can come up with others.
  • Join an organisation like Amnesty International and use our letter-writing power to write to those in authority in countries where these practices are legal, pressuring them to change their laws or release individuals. This may seem small, but we have evidence that it has worked over the years. The most famous recent case was Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman whose death sentence was overturned thanks to public condemnation. You can join Amnesty's campaign to end stoning in Iran.
  • If you live in a country where a fundamentalist minority is attempting to introduce Shari'a law under the guise of multiculturalism, you can oppose it and publicly campaign against it. The most famous case where this succeeded was the campaign against the Shari'a court in Canada. Despite the rhetoric, such courts are desired only by a small, non-elected minority of patriarchs who do not represent the whole Muslim community. Ask why the courts mostly want to impose the laws about women's behaviour but aren't interested in enforcing hand amputations for thievery, a crime committed mostly by men.
  • On an international level, we can campaign for the various types of international relations tactics to be employed. While I'm obviously not in support of the classic military tactics, and while I'm aware that many of the other tactics only function due to being backed by the threat of military action, I still think these are useful.
  • Economic sanctions are complicated: they are often seen to punish the populace as much as the government, but they worked to end apartheid in South Africa.
  • Diplomacy is another option, so we can campaign our own governments to issue a condemnation of such behaviour and laws. We can refuse to accept diplomatic visits from such countries until they comply with international treaties on human rights that condemn such laws.
  • We can campaign to alter our refugee laws so that being a woman in a country like that is classed as a category to claim refugee status and get some acknowledgement that it really is a risk to your life just to be a woman in some countries.
  • Talking about international human rights, we can join international feminist efforts to change CEDAW so that it doesn't just have an "optional protocol" for complaints but has all the force of other human rights documents with the International Criminal Court as the appropriate venue for prosection of perpetrators.
One of these days, I'm going to get an actual job doing this stuff. It really frustrates me that so many of my applications are overlooked because (I'm pretty sure) they hire from their volunteer cohort and I have a sense I'm too old for the entry positions and not experienced enough in the field for the senior positions. I'm absolutely going to keep trying and if any of you work in those areas and know of positions going, please, please let me know. I'll be starting to apply for roles like this again in around June 2009.

In the meantime, I'll be writing a letter to KRudd asking him to issue a condemnation of this event.

Any other ideas?
mordwen: (Default)
This makes me cry.

13-year-old girl stoned to death because she was raped. That makes her a dirty adulterer, of course. The three men who raped her? Not even charged. Still walking free.

Oh, yeah, post-feminist world my bloody arse.

mordwen: (Default)
Via [livejournal.com profile] owlcatowl :

Vale Mohammed Hussain.

John Howard, this man's blood is on your hands. How many more must die?

mordwen: (Default)
I feel somewhat remiss in not having promoted the Reclaim the Night march here. I keep forgetting most of you don't work at a University across which posters are plastered promoting such worthy events.

Nonetheless. the awesome [livejournal.com profile] nihilla  made it and we hung out. Many,many of my students were there (I'd remembered to remind all of them to come). It was smaller than I remember these things being in Sydney but it was good. I now have a very sore throat. But hey, I got to wear a hot pink baby doll T-shirt that says 'go girl' (from the 1996 Sydney Women's Festival I helped run) over a very pregnant belly and hang out with an incredibly hot woman with hot pink hair that rivalled my T-shirt for vibrancy.

All is good.

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