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6 Eid al-Adha





Remembrance Remembrance Day Day

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National Cancer NationalDay Awareness

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13 World Kindness Day

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EDITORS’ LETTERS Hello Grapey readers and welcome to our annual Women’s Issue! This issue holds a special place in my heart and hopefully your hearts too. It is intended to be a safe space for female identifying and non-binary people. It is intended to be a space that shines light on issues affecting women, champions women and seeks to tell our stories in all their complexity and diversity. This year the Women’s Issue is called NASTY, an homage to 2016 and the feminist uprising that ensued after Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” in a presidential debate. Trump is now up for re-election and while 2020 may have taken many things from us, the one thing I hope it hasn’t taken is our capacity to resist. These four years have been long. We have heard over 20 sexual misconduct allegations against the President of the United States, we have heard him insult and degrade women time and time again, and we have seen him actively try to strip abortion rights. It has been exhausting, it has made me and many women feel small. The challenges ahead feel insurmountable, when the public treatment of women is allowed to be filled with such degradation and vitriol. But, the only way out is to persist. And the way I think we can do that right now, is to channel the thousands, if not millions of women who rose up and reclaimed ‘nasty’ as their own. Nasty is not an insult, it is what we make it to be. It is a symbol of our power, resistance and refusal to be told that we are lesser than what we are. Our likeability is not our most important trait. Cast it to the wind and set it on fire. Nothing was ever won or gained by being likeable. Change has been fought for with grit, pain and fury. And now more than ever, with an election looming that we don’t know the outcome of (at the time of writing), we need to harness our nastiness. Win or lose, the damage that has been done by the last four years can only be reversed by our resistance, our rebellion, our work. It may feel daunting, but when I look inside the pages of this magazine and hear the voices of my fellow women, I believe we can do it. I believe we have the capacity now more than ever to use our voices and make lasting change. It will take time and struggle, but if not us, then who? In this magazine there are stories of brilliant, smart and strong women from a range of backgrounds, upbringings and understandings. These are stories of anguish, pieces of anger and celebrations of triumph. These stories that we carry with us, are our strength and our power. When we share our stories, use our voices, that is our greatest form of resistance. The power to persist is within all of us, it always has been, and will continue to be. So, be nasty. Be unabashed, loud and angry. Share your story and persist, persist, persist. The war will be won, with nastiness and hope. Happy reading, Katelyn (Editor in Chief) Grapeshot’s Women’s Issue is always an exceptionally unique and essential facet of our publication. By exclusively featuring women-centric stories we force a spotlight onto many of the gender disparities that go overlooked across cultures and on a global scale. In our patriarchal world, our small team of creative types is admittedly, a deftly run matriarchy – the female presence sitting at a solid 73%. For our ‘Pop Culture Rewind’ segment this issue, Gabby Edwards examines the prevalence of male-dominated comic books and the development of the ‘women in refrigerators’ trope. The birth of this problematic narrative harks back to tales from Greek mythology and Arthurian legend. Harpreet Kaur Dhillon, President of the Women’s Collective, tackles our ‘Challenge’ segment, and shares with us an intimate insight into her personal journey as a survivor of sexual violence, family violence, and alcohol addiction. Flip to our other regulars, ‘You Are Here’ and ‘Writing on the Wall,’ to hear more from the Women’s Collective and their conceptualisation and understanding of intersectional feminism. Not all women are the same, not all women think the same, or agree with one another. Intersectional feminism accounts for the diversity of women’s experiences and seeks equality on every level. We cover the gender beauty gap, why the frightening plunge off the fertility cliff might not actually be so frightening, what womanhood looks like in a conservative church, and so much more! Stay nasty, Jodie (Deputy editor)




EDITORIAL ASSISTANTS Rayna Bland, Rhys Cutler, Aylish Dowsett, Madison Scott, Ky Stewart, Eleanor Taylor

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Rebecca Barlow, Daisy Barltrop, Eloise Cansdell, Sara Choudhry, Harpreet Kaur Dhillon, Jasmine Kaur, Georgia Kent, Shomapty Khandakur, Amanda Matthews, Natasha Morson, Libby Payne, Shinae Taylor, Sarah Vanderfield


EDITORIAL REVIEW BOARD Sowaiba Azad, Harpreet Kaur Dhillon, Neenah Gray, Marlene Khouzam, Jay Muir, Ateka Rajabi, Angus Webber



Kylie Ebert

Melroy Rodrigues

GRAPESHOT acknowledges the Wattamatagal clan, of the Darug nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and meet. We acknowledge that sovereignty was never ceeded, no treaty was signed, and would like to pay our respects to Elders, past, present and emerging. We would like to extend those respects to all First Nations people reading. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.




NEWSFLASHES Sweet Home Australia

Watch Me Roar From Above

Alongside being confined to four walls, the pandemic also forced people to become trapped in the country they were visiting when the virus hit. Of the 38,200 Australians who have registered their presence overseas, 29,100 have expressed their interest to come back home to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

Helen Reddy, the legendary Australian 1970s pop star passed away on the 29th of September. The beautiful woman made it to the age of 78 before leaving this earthly realm and is survived by her two children, Traci and Jordan and her grandchildren. Helen Reddy was diagnosed with dementia in 2015 and her condition had gotten progressively worse.

On October 15th, the ABC reported that the Howard Springs Facility, 25 kilometres south of Darwin, will process about 1,000 international returnees a month on a fortnightly rotation of 500, beginning within a few weeks.

However, do not fret – before she left us, Helen imparted these beautiful words: ‘‘I see dying as going home... where we came from, where we all go back to. That is where we are loved beyond anything we can imagine here.” Helen Reddy was full of so many of these profound and intelligent sentiments that made her character so magnetic.

There will be a mix of commercial and charter flights available which will be available to fly direct to the RAAF Base Darwin, with passengers taken to Howard Springs for 14 days’ mandatory quarantine on immediate arrival. Prime Minister Scott Morrison was scheduled to make the announcement on October 16th after the National Cabinet meeting, but his arrival in Sydney had been delayed due to ‘technical problems’ with his plane in Cairns. It is expected that those who are returning will be paying for their stay at Howard Springs, and those who are unable to afford it will be provided HECSstyle loans. Under the current arrangements for quarantining at Darwin, individuals are expected to pay $2,500, and families of two or more are expected to pay $5,000. PM Morrison says that he expects more Australians to be brought home within weeks. “There have been extensive preparations undertaken on that matter and we’re in final stages of concluding those arrangements,” he said. “We’ve been working now for some months as we’ve been getting more and more Australians home.” As Australians find a way to come back home to the luxury of the summer sun and barbecues in their backyards, a dilemma still surrounds non-citizens residing in Australia who have the opportunity to go back home, but the uncertainty of not being able to come back. This includes thousands of international students who have to make the most difficult choice between visiting their family or being unable to continue their education as they might not be able to enter the country again if they leave. by Saliha Rehanaz


The star’s iconic song ‘I am Woman’ was championed as a women’s anthem during the second wave of feminism in the 70s. The song affirms the strength, wisdom and power of womanhood. The need to rise above and persevere; to roar above the noise. Her voice is so beautiful and inspiring. I highly recommend you not only listen to it but sing it along as loudly as you can. I promise your spirit will lift as you sing and affirm ‘I am strong, I am invincible…. I am womannnnnnnn.’ The recently released Australia biopic ‘I am Woman’ depicts the challenges faced by Helen Reddy all the way from distasteful husbands to misogynistic music executives. It is a definite watch as actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey elegantly represents Helen Reddy’s experience of the 1970s feminist movement and musical adventures in the United States. The success and triumph of Helen Reddy broke ground for women in the pop industry while her spirit inspired hundreds of thousands. Rest in peace Helen Reddy, you will be missed. by Rayna Bland

THE NOTORIOUS RBG “My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.” – Ruth Bader Ginsburg Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Notorious RBG. Even if you’re not that interested in American politics it is more than likely you have seen her name and face at some point in pop culture. From RBG inspired graffiti to in-depth biopics and feature films, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s image evolved to become one of the most important and identifiable cultural and feminist icons of our generation. News of her death on September 18th not only spurred global mourning and grief for the loss of one of America’s most influential politicians, but also intensified an already uncomfortable political climate. With under seven weeks left before election day, her death has instigated a political fight over the future of the U.S. Supreme Court. Aged 87, Ginsburg passed due to complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. According to her daughter, just days before her passing, Ginsburg stated, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Trump commented on her death saying “She led an amazing life. What else can you say?”, a slightly different tone compared to his 2016 tweet calling for her retirement, tweeting “her mind is shot”. Trump has also promptly begun endorsing the appointment of conservative judge Amy Coney Barret as the next Supreme Court nomination. Not only has this shifted the public narrative, minimising a heroic and historical lifetime of anti-discrimination advocacy whilst instead focusing on another Trump headline, but has once again highlighted the disparity of Trump’s political regime. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, has made it clear that he will attempt to support and push through Trump’s conservative endorsement, even if he is to lose the upcoming election. This is a stark contrast to his actions in 2016, when he refused to consider then-president Barack Obama’s own Supreme Court nominee, delaying the decision for almost a year and using the upcoming presidential election


as a strategic excuse. A key reason for this opposing reaction is the current balance of the Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death provides Republican conservatives a 6-3 majority. Whilst Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death will play a crucial role in the future of American Politics, her passing has highlighted how influential she was across the world. Ginsburg incited a revolution, not only changing the world for American women but changing the face of gender equality. Throughout her legal crusade Ginsburg strategically picked male plaintiffs to illustrate how discrimination effects both men and women and of the six cases she brought before the Supreme Court throughout the 1970s, she won five. Throughout her career, Ginsburg defied stereotypes whilst working her way up to a position within the Supreme Court. Ginsburg became the first female tenured professor at Columbia Law School, appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and spent 27 years on the Supreme Court bench. Ginsburg’s progressive opinions were not only centred around sex-based discrimination, with much of her career dedicated to fighting for the rights of the LGBT community, undocumented people, and disabled people whilst also expanding voting rights. Ginsburg was the first justice to officiate a same-sex marriage in 2013, was one of only


four female justices in history, and the first female Jewish Supreme Court Justice. She not only shaped American history, but influenced numerous generations, becoming a defining role model for female empowerment, justice, and perseverance. “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time,” she was quoted. Ginsburg’s legacy in pop culture was cemented by New York University Law student, Shana Knizhnik, who created a Tumblr dedicated to “The Notorious RBG.” This not only aided in Ginsburg’s transcendence from the legal sphere to mainstream pop culture, but shaped Ginsburg’s identifiable image as a fashion icon. Ginsburg utilised fashion to communicate her political opinions, incorporating a wide range of collars with her legal robes. In an interview with Katie Couric, Ginsburg revealed she had both a dissenting collar and a majority opinion collar, stating “this is my dissenting collar…it looks fitting for dissents.” This indisputable legacy of Ginsburg must not be forgotten amidst the current political climate. Whilst the upcoming election is undoubtedly important, Ginsburg’s death shouldn’t be overshadowed by the future state of the Supreme Court. Her influence and accomplishments in the face of gender equality under the law deserve to be celebrated, not overshadowed by a man she once called a “faker.” by Madi Scott

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS As people confined themselves inside their homes for protection against the deadly virus on the loose, what happened to those that lived with their scariest monsters? Almost one in 10 Australian women in a relationship have experienced domestic violence during the coronavirus crisis, with two-thirds saying the attacks started or became worse during the pandemic. A survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology also reveals more than half of women who had experienced physical or sexual violence before the pandemic said the violence had become more frequent or severe since the start of COVID-19. The research also showed that 4.6 percent of all women, and 8.8 percent of women in relationships, experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or former cohabitating partner between February and May. For 33 percent of these women, it was the first time they had experienced physical or sexual violence in their relationship. Additionally, it was also reported that one in three women who experienced domestic violence or coercive control said that, on at least on occasion, they wanted to seek advice or support but could not because of safety reasons. Alongside the fear of physical and psychological health risks, the virus brought multiple new stresses, including isolation, loneliness, the closure of many businesses, economic vulnerability, and job losses. The End Violence Against Children campaign reported that through

all of these stressors, children and their mothers would be particularly vulnerable to domestic violence. In a journal published in April, researchers Caroline Bradbury-Jones and Louise Isham state that domestic violence refers to a range of violations that happen within a domestic space. It is a broad term that encompasses intimate partner violence, which is a form of abuse that is perpetrated by a current or ex-partner. Quite early in the beginning of the pandemic, The Guardian reported the surge of domestic violence globally, and highlighted alarming figures, such as the rise of domestic abuse in Brazil by 50 percent. The government of Spain also claimed that in a particular region calls to a domestic abuse helpline service had increased by 20 percent in the first few days of lockdown, and there was a similar rise of calls to a hotline service in Cyprus. Home is not necessarily a safe place for everyone, especially for adults and children living in situations of domestic and familial violence, as this is where most physical, psychological, and sexual abuse occurs. Bradbury-Jones and Isham believe this is because home can be a place where dynamics of power can be distorted and subverted by those who abuse, often without


scrutiny from anyone external to the couple, or the family.

to worry they are not doing enough to earn their partner’s affection or that they should be punished.

Amidst the pandemic, the exhortation to ‘stay at home’ has major implications for adults and children already living with someone who is abusive or controlling. For victims, the lockdown shut down avenues of escape and ways of coping or seeking help. The restrictive measures are also more likely to play into the hands of people who abuse through tactics of control, surveillance, and coercion. This is partly because what goes on within people’s homes, and critically within their family and intimate relationships, take place ‘behind closed doors’ and out of the view, in a literal sense, of other people.

The final phase is the actual violent episode, the crime of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse towards the abused partner. The abuser will move back into the honeymoon phase from here, often apologizing quickly afterwards. This is what traps the victim in another heart-wrenching cycle of false hope, betrayal, fear, and pain.

Unintentionally, lockdown measures may therefore grant people who abuse greater freedom to act without scrutiny or consequence. For someone who has not faced any form of abuse, the thought might occur as to why the victim cannot simply get up and leave the abusive relationship. Jeanette Raymond, a licensed clinical psychologist, and relationship therapist, says there is an important psychological element keeping victims attached to their partners. Raymond also explains, “[Abusive relationships] involve the person [in] power offering the possibility of the longed-for desire to be the one and only, to be the one to light up the other, the one who is indispensable and therefore depended on.” The cycle is quite often broken down into three phases: “honeymoon,” tension or manipulation, and violence. In the first phase or “honeymoon” phase, the victim and abuser work well together and do not act violently or forcefully towards each other. This is the point at which the abused feels loved, and the abuser feels a sense of control or power over them. This can be either when the relationship has just begun, or the couple have gotten back together after the abuser has apologised for a past act of violence. Abusers can draw their partners deeper into unhealthy relationships during this phase by appealing to their senses of sympathy, love, or hope and by promising to reform. With time, the couple enters the tension phase, and the victims feel as if they are walking on eggshells to avoid enraging their partner again. Prior to using physical abuse, the abuser can build up this tension using emotional or verbal abuse, intimidation, violent behaviour towards pets or children, economic control, or forced isolation. Psychologically, these tactics contribute to the victim’s loss of power and control. They begin


“The abused has an incentive to allow the abuse, because the abuser then fears the loss of the abused, atones, wipes away the tears, and promises eternal worship,” Raymond also explains. “The abused gets the reward of having an apology, of promises of never being hurt again, and [of] being the apple of the abuser’s eyes.” The scars of domestic violence and abuse can have a lasting impact. The trauma of what victims have been through can stay long after they escaped from an abusive situation. They may be struggling with upsetting emotions, frightening memories, or a sense of constant danger that cannot just be brushed off. In July, the Morrison government pledged $3 million to provide more counselling and support services for women and their children who have experienced family violence during this global pandemic. If you or someone you know is trying to decide whether to stay or leave, feelings of confusion, uncertainty, or fear might be present. Maybe you or they are hoping the situation will change or there is fear of how your or their partner will react if they discover that you or they are trying to leave. Sometimes there can also be thoughts that the abuse is justifiable. Do not let yourself or others be trapped by confusion, guilt, or self-blame. The only thing that matters is your and your loved one’s safety. For confidential counselling and support services, please contact the national sexual assault and domestic family violence counselling service at 1800 737 732. For on-campus counselling services, contact Student Wellbeing at 02 9850 7497 or email For more information on how to cope with domestic abuse or get help, visit Always remember, you are stronger than your biggest fears. by Saliha Rehanaz

TO BE NASTY Trump, the war on women, and being nasty in 2020

*Trigger Warning: mention of sexual assault* “Such a nasty woman.” On 19 October 2016 Donald Trump used this insult against Hillary Clinton in a presidential debate. In response, women around the world rose up and reclaimed ‘nasty’ as their own, using it as a symbol of female power and resistance. We believed that no man with such blatantly misogynistic attitudes and accusations of sexual misconduct could be elected to the highest office in one of the United States. We were wrong. As the 2020 election looms, the question remains, will it happen again? And what will it mean for women? What was so striking about Trump using the word ‘nasty’, was the intensely personal nature of the insult. It did not go to Clinton’s leadership skills, policy initiatives or ability to be president. Instead it went to Clinton’s likeability. It preyed upon the internal misogyny rife within both men and women, that judges women based upon their likability as opposed to their skills. And it sought to undermine Clinton by suggesting that she was a bad person because she opposed Trump and dared to voice that opposition. Throughout Trump’s presidency, the use of ‘nasty’ as an insult against women has become a mainstay feature. Trump has waged a war on women that extends from his rhetoric, to his repeated attempts

to limit abortion rights, including appointing Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. But it’s Trump’s rhetoric where we most clearly see his consistent vitriol towards women who oppose him. In 2017, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz publicly criticized Trump for his administration’s inadequate response to Hurricane Maria and the devastation it wrought in Puerto Rico. Trump responded in a tweet, declaring the mayor’s behaviour ‘nasty.’ In an interview, Trump called Meghan Markle, ‘nasty’ after being told she once criticized him for being divisive. Trump said the Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen’s comments were ‘nasty’ after she declined to engage in talks about the sale of Greenland to America. During an interview, Trump called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “nasty, vindictive, horrible person” after she spoke critically of him in a closed-door meeting. The democratic candidate for Vice-President, Kamala Harris, has similarly been the target of Trump’s labelling as ‘nasty’. After Joe Biden announced Harris would be his running mate, Trump wasted no time using his favourite insult against her, an echo of the fate of the last woman to run against him on a Democratic ticket. Trump said, “She was extraordinarily nasty to Brett Kavanaugh — Judge


Kavanaugh then, now Justice Kavanaugh.” He used the word ‘nasty’ or some version of the word no fewer than four times as he referred to Senate confirmation hearings held in 2018. Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List (which works to elect pro-choice Democratic women across the country) stated that, “Calling a woman “nasty” “tries to put her in a place that is unacceptable to society”. She told the Washington Post that, “Our society allows for poor behaviour by men but has little acceptance for anything but perfection by women, and so a term like ‘nasty’ really is just coded language, at least for a certain piece of the population.” Trump has often defended his troubling history with women by pointing to the senior women he has surrounded himself with in his administration. However, this only proves that he is not sexist (a low bar for the President of the United States). He his however, a misogynist. Cornell University philosophy professor Kate Manne explains in her 2018 book, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, that “sexism taken alone involves believing in men’s superiority to women in masculine-coded, high-prestige domains (such as intellectual endeavours, sports, business, and politics), and the naturalness or even inevitability of men’s dominance therein.” But misogyny, is another story. Manne argues that misogyny involves punishing women who don’t act the way men want them to. This is precisely what Trump does to every woman who publicly opposes him. Clinton, Pelosi, Harris: all ‘nasty’. All punished with this insult for speaking against Trump. The most egregious facet of Trump’s war on women however, is the 25 sexual misconduct allegations against him, ranging from inappropriate touching to rape. These allegations are highly credible, fact checked and supported by a wealth of evidence. Yet, Trump remains in office and is up for re-election. The most recent allegation came in September of this year, when former model Amy Dorris alleged Trump forcibly kissed and groped her at the U.S. Open in New York on in September 1997. Dorris stated that, “He just shoved his tongue down my throat and I was pushing him off. And then that’s when his grip became tighter and his hands were very gropey and all over my butt, my breasts, my back, everything.” Trump denied the accusation via his lawyers in a statement to The Guardian. This has only been the most recent in a long line of accusations, including one from his former wife. Yet, as quickly as they hit the news cycle, they fade into the background. There is no sustained outcry, no evidence of widespread public dissent.


This most recent accusation has been swamped by those that came before it, overwhelmed and lost. The sheer number of accusations has exhausted the public and instead of being increasing evidence as to Trump being unfit for office, have instead become white noise in the background. A man with 25 sexual assault and misconduct allegations against him may be re-elected as president. There will be people who vote to re-elect him and who believe that those women’s stories do not matter. That the violence perpetrated against them did not happen and the allegations mean nothing. And the message that those votes send to all other women is that they do not matter. That a man can perpetrate violence against over 20 women and still be elected to the highest leadership position in the world’s leading superpower. That no matter the violence, the disrespect, the vitriol, women’s voices will never truly be heard, nor will their safety or dignity matter. In 2016, in response to Trump’s labelling of Clinton as ‘nasty’, then Senator Elizabeth Warren said, “On November 8th, we nasty women are going to march our nasty feet to cast our nasty votes, to get you out of our lives forever.” She was wrong then, but we can only hope that her words ring true now. Despite Trump’s potent racism and sexism, 267 women of colour are running for Congress in 2020, an all-time high. Nastiness is not dead. Women are still resisting, still fighting back. And the only way that we really truly lose, is by letting ‘nasty’ become the insult it was meant to be and not the badge of honour we made it into. We need to show that our voices, our stories, our bodies, matter. That they cannot be dismissed by a single word and that men who perpetrate violence against us will be held to account. Now more than ever, it’s important to be nasty. And whether Trump is elected or not, we need to take on the legacy of the women who survived this insult and persisted anyway. Who came forward with sexual misconduct allegations, knowing the odds and their country were against them. The only way to shift the tide and the repercussions of Trump’s war on women is to show that our nastiness will outlast his. To show that he and all men like him, should be afraid of ‘nasty’ women. by Katelyn Free

HUMANS FOR SALE Under the false hope of better opportunities, millions of vulnerable people leave their homes to never return. Rebecca Barlow discusses the prevalence of human trafficking in Cambodia and AusCam’s Freedom Project to prevent girls from falling into the hands of exploitation.

The year is 2015. Bopha* lives in a rented singleroom house in Phnom Penh. She shares the space with eight of her family members. The owner could force her family to leave at any time. Her father and three older brothers work in poor conditions at a nearby sewage construction site. None of her brothers have ever gone to school. Despite their hard work and multiple sources of incomes, Bopha’s family can barely cover expenses for basic living necessities, such as food or clothing. Bopha’s father wants a better future for his daughters than for them to end up like his sonsworking hard for very little money. He took out a $2,000 loan from the local bank so that he could send Bopha and her sister to school. Already struggling, and now burdened with the commitment to pay back a high interest loan, Bopha was on the verge of dropping out of school to find work. And finding work would likely mean exploitative work or even worse, falling prey to trafficking. Her school director heard about her plans to drop out, so he advised her to contact AusCam Freedom Project. Since then, Bopha has been enrolled with AusCam Freedom Project and received psychosocial support, educational support, school materials, and rice support for the whole family. Her barriers to education have successfully been removed so she can realise her full potential.

Bopha is now pursuing a Marketing Degree at the Cambodia National Institute of Business. When she graduates, Bopha will be the first university graduate in her family, realising both her father’s and her own dreams of being educated and having professional opportunities. In 2019, Sydney-based organisation AusCam Freedom Project conducted an independent investigation into the factors that rendered girls most vulnerable to human trafficking. School dropout was identified as the leading indicator of a girl’s risk of trafficking. AusCam also found that access to educational support and legitimate job opportunities are key to mitigating a girl’s risk of trafficking. For vulnerable girls in Cambodia, the promise of an adequate job with good pay is as glorious a prospect as the promise of eternal youth is to the world’s wealthy. Sadly, many girls who attend what they believe will be a job interview never return home, and those who survive human trafficking face a lifetime of being haunted by their traumatic experiences. Human trafficking is not confined to the borders of Cambodia. It is a practice that affects approximately 40 million men, women, and children, who, according to the Walk Free Foundation, are forced


into hard labour, sexually exploited, or coerced into marriage. In 2016, The Global Slavery Index found that an estimated 25 million human trafficking victims are from the Asia Pacific region. In 2019, the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons placed countries in different tiers according to the prevalence of human trafficking in each country, with Tier 1 having the least occurrences of trafficking and Tier 3 having the most occurrences. Cambodia, Malaysia, and Vietnam all fell within the Tier 2 watchlist, while China and North Korea were classified as being Tier 3 countries. The main destination for trafficking victims from Southeast Asia was found to be Thailand, which is only classified as a Tier 2 country surprisingly. Despite recent economic growth, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries on Earth, suffering from endemic corruption both in the government and in the education system. Corruption permeates every level of Cambodia’s education system, and the result is a high percentage of students, particularly girls, failing their exams and dropping out of school. According to the ASEAN Post, Cambodian teachers are required to pay facilitation fees to schools in order to receive their salaries. Furthermore, low teaching salaries motivate Cambodian teachers to charge students additional money for classes which are essential for passing their exams. This unofficial system of corruption discriminates against students from families with a low socio-economic status. For financial reasons, these students are barred from accessing the classes in which their peers are taught content which is crucial to prepare for the exams. In late January this year, a Cambodian student posted a video on Facebook in which he claimed that senior officials in the Ministry of Justice had accepted bribes of up to US $150,000 from students who were desperate to pass their exams. The consequences of such corruption have a greater impact on girls than on boys. This is because Cambodian social norms place a higher value on the education of boys, and so boys are more likely to remain in school regardless of their academic performance. Comparatively, girls and women are expected to complete household chores and financially support their families. A woman’s role in Cambodian society is largely defined by the Chbab Srey; a code of conduct for women. The Chbab Srey upholds problematic gender roles and was formally taught in schools until 2007.


Girls in Cambodia face a multitude of barriers to receiving an education and the outbreak of COVID-19 made a bad situation worse. In an interview with the Development Director of AusCam Freedom Project, Jessie Teerman, COVID-19 was described as the ‘greatest challenge’ AusCam has ever faced in its eight years of operation. The organisation previously operated through partnerships with government schools, but when COVID-19 reared its ugly head, schools across Cambodia closed overnight. Ms. Teerman believes AusCam’s greatest achievement was a direct result of the crisis, stating ‘achievements are measured against the greatness of the challenge’ and AusCam ‘decided not to give up’, instead launching the country’s first antitrafficking hotline for adolescent girls called the ‘Freedom Line’, which is now a permanent feature of AusCam’s operational strategy. Human trafficking in Cambodia is preventable. According to Ms Teerman, the majority of trafficking networks in Southeast Asia prey on girls ‘without resources, opportunities, or a support network’ and that is why AusCam’s approach is all about girls having agency and choice. Asking Ms Teerman how, if they chose to, Macquarie University students could support the anti-trafficking work of AusCam. She replied: ‘ if they have time, we will be hosting a one-hour virtual tea on the 25th of October where they can learn more about the organisation and the launch of our new Shine Centre. If they have money, they can join a committed group of monthly partners through our website. If they have a birthday (which most of us do), they can pledge their special day to support anti-trafficking efforts and ultimately change a girl’s life forever.’ Please visit to learn more about AusCam’s vision to sustainably prevent human trafficking in Cambodia. *Names have been changed for protection and privacy reasons. by Rebecca Barlow

TURNING YOUNG GIRLS INTO BRIDES Handing young children the reigns of marriage instead of toys, Shomapty Khandaker explains the impact and trauma of child marriage and why it still continues to exist in our society today. The semblance of who we are as individuals is closely stated to who we were and how we were treated as children. It is true to an extent that we spend our childhood in haste and when we look back one day, it is nothing but a string of blurred memories. Yet these often forgotten moments in time are what we spend the rest of our lives reacting to, either subconsciously or deliberately. However, what happens when the earliest of memories are the most terrifying aspect of your human existence? Suborna is a young girl living in the Muksudpur district of greater Khulna in Bangladesh. She studies in Year 10 and that itself is considered a miracle in her family. When she was only eight years old, her father was determined to look for a groom for her. World Vision, an organisation that works to provide child protection, education, and many other resources, had reached out to her family and made them aware of the law and legislations against child marriage. They were convinced and allowed her to go to school for a few more years until she was in Year 6. Soon enough, her family again became fixated on the idea of setting up an arranged marriage for her. Eventually, she had to elope from her parent’s home and her village to her uncle’s house further away to remain unmarried.

Child marriage is a custom performed that arranges the marrige of two children below the age of eighteen. Girls, as young as seven and eight are also the victims of this traumatic experience. It also ensures a repetition of indigence and gender inequality to the next generation. According to UNICEF, the areas where child marriage is the most concentrated are Sub-saharan Africa and South Asia, where 35% and around 30% of girls are betrothed before reaching the age of 18. 24% of child marriages are also found in Latin America and the Carribean, 17% in the Middle East and North America and 12% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Poverty and economic conditions play a major role in marrying off a daughter, as she is considered a ‘burden’ since she cannot contribute to the household expenditure of the family in comparison to sons. Marriage of young girls is also justified with the idealised notion that families are saving their daughters from a life of hardship and poverty by marrying them off to more financially stable men. Additionally, child marriage also helps families from having to pay a larger sum of dowry during the wedding, as older and educated girls are less desirable in certain societies.


In other cases, it is simply carried out as this has been going on for generations and generations and continuing the cycle is imperative to preserve the tradition. Subsequently, after girls start menstruating, they are often considered women and are then sent to the next phase in their lives as ‘wife’ and ‘mother’. Often to form economic or social alliances between families or to pay off debts, young girls and boys are also married off as well. As reported by the International Women’s Health Coalition, the impact and consequences of this custom are myriad. At the point of marriage, childhood ends for both the bride and groom. When the girl has household responsibilities, it reduces her chances of education and elevates the risk of domestic violence in her life along with recurring pregnancies at a premature age, which endangers her life. Furthermore, child brides are more vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases due to the lack of understanding about sexual protection. The problems do not only impact the young girl but any children she gives birth to; the babies of child brides are 60% more likely to perish in the first year they are born in contrast to babies born to women who are above 19 years of age. The child bride’s family is also likely to be sickly, feeble, and impoverished. UNICEF and UNFPA united in 2016 in the form of ‘a Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage in 12 countries with the highest rates of child brides.’ This programme has been executed in South Asia in Bangladesh, Nepal, and India. It hopes to bring together sectors which include health, education, and protection of children along with clean water and hygiene which would work to achieve their objectives. Another organisation working tirelessly towards the prevention of this custom is Girls Not Brides, which is a global partnership that has over 1300 organisations in more than 100 countries to end child marriages and let young girls have the chance to live up to their potential. According to UNICEF, more than 115 million boys are married globally before they reach 18 and even though the types of consequences adhered by girls and boys due to child marriage are not the same due to biological and social differences, they still violate human rights. Child grooms are also coerced into taking adult responsibilities with the sacrifice of their childhood. The marriage may result in having


offspring and the young boy being pressured with having to deal with its economic repercussions and that of being a parent which can also affect the development of education and career. The countries that are abundantly high in child marriage for boys vary from those that have a high density of child marriage for girls. Being a child one day and ending up married the next, a concept which may even be lost on the child, it is crucial to understand what the child must feel to live a life that was decided by others at the time when school and playing with toys is all that mattered. The parents of these children often tend to believe they are doing what is best for their offspring and their families. The traumatic experiences that these young girls and boys face will be forevermore; the consequences of which they will deal with always- be it lack of education, poverty, health, or raising children while they themselves are growing up. Suborna is now fifteen years old and is a child forum member of Muksudpur Area Development Programme (ADP) of the organisation in Bangladesh that saved her future and possibly her life, World Vision Bangladesh. She continues to learn about the impact of child marriage with her friends and envisons a world where it will not destroy any more lives. She has prevented the marriages of many young girls along with her ‘Bandhan’ child forum members and has encouraged them to go back to school. She aspires to be a teacher in her village one day. “World Vision has made my parents be proud of me. I finally made my father understand that his daughters could be his support in old age. And I succeeded. My youngest two sisters are now also going to school,” Suborna has animatedly reported back about her life. From running around on the grass one day to raising their own children the next, will young girls finally have a chance to seek a better life where they are not considered a ‘burden’ based on their gender? by Shomapty Khandaker




A personal disclosure of my experiences as a survivor, post severe family violence, sexual violence and alcohol addiction. In order to have the ability to keep going, fit in, keep my head above water, be normal and to function and survive, I have needed to either minimise and/or box and pile away experiences of abuse. There is the challenge of survival and trying to regain normalcy after traumatic experiences. Pretending everything is okay – putting on multiple masks, faking a smile, being strong for others. This leads to never putting yourself first or being truthful to yourself, thus the authentic version of you is lost in a spiral of conscious/unconscious lack of feeling and being grounded. This is particularly evident when starting the process of trusting others again, of being vulnerable again, and hoping I will not be taken advantage of again. All this whilst re-learning to love yourself. It is a challenge.

Here I share with you my journey of survival. I do not want you to feel sorry for me. I do not want to receive an “I am so sorry this happened to you” after reading this. I instead ask you to keep an open mind when you meet someone or see someone with a mask on, not to judge them or label them as fake. There is a lot going on beneath the surface for all of us. And for those that have a similar story to mine, I want you to know that you are not alone. I am thinking of you and am always here if you ever need someone. It has taken me a while to come to terms with my past, a journey I know will always be an ongoing process. *

Healing while also using the experiences, the pain, and the invisible and visible scars as fuel and passion to fight against the systemic gender, climate and racial injustices that exist, can come, at least for me, at a cost. Especially if strong boundaries are not put into place. As activists, we so often advocate for others, but fail when it comes to ourselves. Often, we are the worst advocates for ourselves, for our wellbeing and what we deserve. Regaining trust, love, respect and hope again is the challenge of survival. * Survival can be seen as a short term, life threatening or ephemeral occurrence. Survival can also be long term, life long in fact. Particularly for those that have experienced so much trauma in their life. When it comes to switching off survival mode, it may never be an option. As young as I can remember, I have needed to survive. To be independent. I come from a long line of survivors. Trauma in my family has been intergenerational, passed down over the past century. It is for this reason that I understand the actions of my family and how over time, I have learned to forgive them. Their wounds were never healed themselves. Therapy in my culture and family is seen as shameful – frowned upon, as is speaking out. Nevertheless, my experiences: the privilege of having an education, being the first female in my family to finish high school and go to university, my passion for gender justice and fighting against the system, led me to rebel, to speak out and break the taboo, shame, silence and stigma of social issues in my family and in the communities I am


apart of. To do this in the hopes that I can help others to do the same.

When I was 16, I lost my childhood innocence. Taken away from me in a moment. My trust was taken advantage of, my naivety was taken advantage of and my body taken advantage of. A piece of me, ripped away by sexual assault. Trapped at a house, tricked by someone I looked up to after meeting at a leadership event held at NSW Parliament House. I still hear his laugh. I still feel the panic of seeing him in public. I am still fighting to survive him and the amount of appeasing I did to get out of there alive. I was just starting my final year of high school, my whole life ahead of me. I knew I could not, and would not, let it end there. The biggest pain of all was not the event itself but what followed. My trust was again misplaced, in a close friend, the first person I told. They told my family, not understanding the level of cultural shame that exists when this happens and especially for people to know about it. I, myself, was not ready for them to know. No choice of my own, but the choice of another. The response was violence – something to be further punished by, I had no choice other than freeze, appease, and to be released. Hit with a shoe. “Your fault, your mistake. Never speak of this again.” It took years to be released from these words. This all happened at the beginning of my HSC, in the middle of an assessment week. I felt lost, ashamed and numbed to the point where it felt like there was no light left in me. Almost like a zombie. I had no motivation, no desire within this continuous mode of survival, wanting for the pain endured to not go to waste. Seeking justice for what occurred to me. To have the choice as to what and how the justice would occur.

The day after the rape, I went into work, as the nerd in me loved the work I was extremely privileged to do. I was a young women’s policy adviser for New South Wales Council of Social Services – back in my NGO days, I didn’t know grassroots activism was an option. I was told by my boss that there would be a meeting with the sex discrimination officer wanting consultation on sexual harassment policy. At that moment I knew that I could not stay home or be afraid to leave home. I did not want what happened to me to happen to someone else. If there was a way I could prevent this from happening to someone else, I would do it. I left my room, where I felt the safest and most protected. I travelled on public transport, hypervigilant, scanning my surroundings every minute. The consultation was around sexual harassment and later, of my own doing, turned to a discussion on the prevalence of sexual assault. It was obvious to others, though I tried to act otherwise, that I was not my normal self, bubbly, happy, goofy. Survival numbed everything, good or bad. * A year later, just before I turned 18, my brother nearly killed me out of anger. The scars, both physical and mental, have never gone away. My mother watched it happen and just stood there, not knowing what to do. My father to this day blames my mother for provoking him, which she did not. It was not her fault that he was furious, it was not mine. But we were made to feel that it was. That day – the room where I felt the safest and most protected was lost. It is now a room where terrible events occurred. I lost my innocence and happiness, my safety net. My journey and experiences of secondary homelessness – also known as couch surfing – began. It was ‘only’ a couple of weeks, but those weeks were when I was already trying to survive again from the events that occurred a year before; regaining trust, love, and happiness.

us if we ever need to speak up/call out about it. We do not want anyone to help us on what to do – we are not helpless. We do not need anyone to advocate on behalf of us, we have a voice. We just want and need people to listen to us for ourselves to verbally understand what the fuck happened to us. For it to not only be in our head. But to also be acknowledged in society. Recognise our story, don’t erase it for someone else’s comfort. People should sit with the discomfort that this exists. Because it does. And I hate to say it, but we will not be the last unless proper changes are made, accountability exists both legally and in communities. Break the taboo. Break the cycle. End the pain. The trauma will exist with us forever. At the end of the day, all we really have is ourselves, so it’s up to us on what we do. The choice of survival is the one we have made. The challenge is each day living with that choice. *

Carrying the blood and bones of those that came before me Pain repeating itself through each generation Oh it will end with me, It will end with me I promise it will And I shall fight anyone/thing that gets in the way of that promise. by Harpreet Kaur Dhillon

I could not look at myself in the mirror. I was numbed to the point where it was completely easy to trick others and myself about where I was, who I was. People – friends, lovers – thought I was fine, that I was normal, that I was no longer affected by it. Unfortunately it never works out like that. Survival challenges us to adjust what is fine/what normal looks like. Seven months later, struggling with alcohol and drugs, I went to a house party with friends I’ve known for ten or so years. I got drunk, black out drunk, vomiting drunk. But that was no excuse, no fault of mine for the events that occurred straight after. Three guys took advantage one after the other. They can say I was asking for it. But no, no one does. No one deserves to be treated the way women have been treated. No one should be taken advantage of – yet in this culture, the mass media we see, the music we listen to, we so often, unknowingly support this by being bystanders to it. By making it completely shameful for those that speak up. Yes it is incredibly important for survivors to seek professional help. As it is so incredibly important for



Have you ever written a wildly successful young adult fantasy novel series that took off and got made into an even more successful movie franchise? There are theme parks and spin-off films and even a theatre production. You created a universe so intriguing and magical it captured the imaginations of youth around the world.

Then you started talking shit on Twitter about trans people and now the youth are having to reconcile this with the aforementioned beloved cultural phenomenon. If you didn’t do all those things, then you might wonder why someone would do that. That’s fair. This issue for ‘I Don’t Get It,’ we’re going to deep dive into an idea with many names, TERF/gender critical/biological feminism, to find out why some random white ladies butter their bread with anti-trans activism. The term TERF stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, which will give you a hint as to what’s coming. The label TERF carries with it some derogatory undertones, so other labels have popped up in its place, like gender critical. Regardless of what you call it by, this idea revolves around the central argument that gender is a patriarchal institution (I’m with you so far) and therefore the only true indication of whether you are a man or woman is biological sex.

inclusion of trans women, and forcibly includes trans men in the category of woman. On a sidenote, the inclusion of trans men is often used as an argument against the label TERF, because they aren’t excluding trans people, but rather including them (although only trans men). While technically, TERFs are including trans men, I think we can agree that including someone in a category they have sought to reject by way of no longer self-identifying with it is not what is meant by inclusivity. While the term TERF can be construed as problematic and potentially misleading, the alternatives are not much better. Feminists who deny trans recognition much prefer to be called gender critical. While more palatable for those who identify with those beliefs, this label is equally, if not more misleading. Feminism as a whole, encompassing all the various different strands that exist within it, is inherently gender critical. That is basically the whole point. Feminists all agree that gender ultimately should not disadvantage anyone. No feminist could be found arguing that conceptions of gender are just fine as they are.

So much promise in critiquing the patriarchal institution of gender only to fall back to biological essentialism. Such a letdown ngl.

To then imply that only those who are anti-trans activists are critical of gender is to say that other feminists, including trans feminists, are not. This is plainly incorrect. While there is no ideal label for adherents of anti-trans ideas, TERFs is the shortest and least misleading, and I’m conscious of my word count.

A brief caveat: I am not a gender studies expert. I took one course in first year (we stan Professor Sheehan) and there are people out there who know much more than I. One key resource (which I would highly recommend) is Natalie Wynn and her YouTube channel Contrapoints.

From what I can gather, much of the anti-trans activism revolves around the perception that debates cannot be had around ‘gender ideology.’ It’s hard to deny that it is becoming more and more challenging to have meaningful discussions around complex issues.

Over the past couple of years, there has been growing debate between groups of feminists that diverge as to the status of trans women in particular. Just for clarity, trans women often include those who identify as a woman and use she/her pronouns. Trans men should not be overlooked, but much of the discussion revolves around trans women.

Discriminatory laws and policies, negative and damaging cultural depiction as well as high rates of family rejection faced by trans people are enough to put anyone on the defensive. Every interaction, particularly in public, is a battleground. No compromises can be made, the marginalised must stick together and protect themselves with protective aphorisms: “trans women are women,” or “trans rights are human rights.”

On one side of the debate are feminists who advocate and support trans women by supporting their recognition as women and believe that feminism necessarily involves defending the rights of trans women. On the other side are those who question and deny the recognition of trans women and characterise trans men as lost or the product of a patriarchy-fuelled identity crisis. To the latter group, TERF is considered a slur. Whether or not it is a slur, TERF denotes a distinctive stream of feminist thought that does two key things: it denies the


These statements are undeniably true. However, the issue arises when people who know nothing of trans issues, i.e. a very many people, can be left without the details of what it means to be trans, including those well-versed in feminist theory, but not trans feminism and queer theory. I want to make it unequivocally clear that I am not suggesting that the onus for educating the general public about trans issues rests solely on trans people. As noted above, trans people face a stunning array of intersecting challenges that far too often have devastating consequences. The

average life expectancy of a trans woman is 36. 1 in 3 trans teenagers attempt suicide. 72% of victims of anti-LGBTQ related hate crimes were trans women. The reality for many trans people is that life is arduous. I would argue that being defensive of your right to exist and be recognised is a fairly natural reaction. Moreover, it reflects a saddening fact that at least some public support is needed to extend a marginalised group dignity and basic human rights. The point in bringing up the fact that feminist theory has in the past failed to include trans issues I think provides insight for understanding where TERFs get their ideas from. Many of the typical arguments directed towards trans women have their origins in key tenets of feminism. These include the experience of growing up female or reinforcing damaging stereotypes of womanhood and femininity. While this definitely does not justify their anti-trans views, it does help to deconstruct why many feminists like Germaine Greer and Janice Raymond think the way they do. Consider the oft-used criticism that trans women, by wearing feminine clothes and putting on makeup, reinforce problematic gender stereotypes of what it means to be a woman. There are two issues this throws up. Firstly, it seems unfair and hypocritical to target an already marginalised group for adhering to standards of femininity and womanhood when many cis women do the same. I’m not saying that stereotypes are not a problem, but the solution does not lie with targeting trans women’s expressions of their gender identity. This leads me to the second issue, the reason that many trans people conform to gender stereotypes is because it enables them to be recognised as who they are. That is to say, some trans women conform to female stereotypes so as to align more closely with what a patriarchal society considers a woman to be. By doing this, trans women are engaging with society in a language of gender expression it recognises. Unfortunately, we still live in a world hung up on binary gender and gender essentialism, the idea that we are innately a man or a woman at our core. Without delving into gender performativity and queer theory, the reason that a trans woman wears ultra-feminine clothes and flawless makeup is because in order to be recognised as the gender you are, you have to play the game. Being misgendered is demoralising and disheartening. If it can be avoided, I would bet that anyone would do the same. No one is going to call you sir if you dress like a woman and vice versa. Our societies rely on gender performances to signify a gender identity. You dress like a man, walk like a man and go to your car at night without fear and that makes you a man. The same is true for trans people. If they don’t conform to established gender expressions of woman and man, they risk being further marginalised. Cisgender women who present a masculine expression of gender are often displeased with what they consider to

be unhelpful hyper-feminine stereotypes that trans women adopt. They have been resisting these stereotypes their whole life. What’s more, if anyone can empathise with the experience of coercive gender expression, it’s trans people. It’s almost like trans people and feminists (and those who identify as both) have been fighting the same system of oppression. Interesting. Ultimately, the issue is with patriarchal performances of gender, not the people who must perform them in order to gain a semblance of acceptance in society. If culturally, what it meant to be a woman or a man was more fluid, everyone would win. An additional accusation lodged at trans women is that they did not experience female oppression for much of their life, even so far as enjoying male privilege prior to their transition. They didn’t grow up being talked over, worrying whether a date would become a life-threatening situation or experiencing sexual harassment. For some trans women, there may be truth to the fact that they enjoyed some form of male privilege at some point in their life. However, it is extremely relevant to point out that trans women are one of the most violated and brutalised populations. Simply because one possesses a Y Chromosome does not mean they continue to be immune from the misogyny all too prevalent in patriarchal societies. If a trans woman does not pass, (that is, pass for a cis woman), she is not treated as a man and all the privilege that entails, but something else. Less than. It is therefore highly inappropriate to characterise the experience of trans women as one of male privilege. Another important thing to note is that not all trans people have the same journey. For example, Kim Petras who transitioned quite young, spent many of her formative years living as a woman. Contrast this with Caitlyn Jenner, who lived most of her life as a wealthy, white man. Each would have experienced varying levels of female oppression during their lives. Ultimately, there is nothing to be meaningfully gained by excluding and demonising trans people, especially trans women. It is clear that all women, regardless of whether they are cis or trans are adversely impacted by the patriarchy. Even men are damaged. It seems to me that we should be united in striving for a better society that places far less value on gender and allows greater freedom of gender expression. There is nothing to be gained by feminists targeting a marginalised group of women struggling for recognition and facing extreme systemic oppression. A shared experience such as this should be something to unite cis and trans women, as they share a common enemy. Letting ourselves be divided like this does nothing to further our aspirations and activism, only hinder it. by Harry Fraser



Superman. Batman. Iron man. Spider-man. Aquaman. Antman. Comic book spaces have often felt extremely male-dominated, and it’s not hard to see why. With the most celebrated characters being predominantly men, there are already few female characters for fans to aspire to and see themselves reflected in. To make matters worse, examining the treatment of these few women brings up even further concerns. In 1999, writer Gail Simone, alongside other comic fans noticed this issue and created the website ‘Women in Refrigerators,’ particularly in response to Green Lantern #54. In this issue, Alexandra DeWitt, the hero’s girlfriend, was murdered, with her body shoved into the fridge for Green Lantern to find. Hence, the term ‘fridged’ was adopted to describe female characters in popular culture who were injured, depowered or killed to advance a male character’s arc. While this might seem like a harmless trope, considering we’re just talking about fiction, the implications are a lot stronger. When audiences are continuously given representations of women whose lives revolve around the men they are associated with before being violently disposed of, it perpetuates them as lacking autonomy and independence, therefore making them seem less human. With so many popular examples, specifically across comic books, the phrase quickly took hold amongst fans who were disappointed with these continual depictions. Simone summarised the issue, saying, “If you demolish most of the characters girls like, then girls won’t read comics.” Beyond comics, the trope has revealed itself across popular culture for plenty of years. Examples from Greek mythology and Arthurian legend continuously portray threats toward women as plot devices that incite further violence from the men around them, driving the narrative. In modern popular culture we see it everywhere from James Bond, Game of Thrones, Star Wars and many more. Similar to fridging, is the trope of ‘The Lost Lenore,’ which refers to a deceased love interest whose death significantly impacts the protagonist and their journey, meaning they remain relevant to the story. This term originated from the Edgar Allen Poe poem, ‘The Raven,’ where a mysterious figure haunts the narrator. While the two tropes appear quite similar, an argument can be made that female love interests who fall within this trope have a deeper impact on the story, asserting their character’s importance and agency. One of the most popular examples of fridging in the superhero world was seen with Gwen Stacy, Spider-man’s girlfriend. In the 1970s comic, Gwen’s neck was snapped as Peter Parker attempted to save her. This was similarly portrayed in the 2014 movie adaptation, starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. It wasn’t until a 2015 comic where her character was revived in an alternate universe as Spider-Gwen, where she was awarded with similar powers to Spider-man himself and was given her own arcs and adventures.


Today, things may appear to be better. There are definitely more female characters across most popular superhero comics and in their subsequent adaptations on film and television. Though, to say the trope is a thing of the past would be inaccurate. The 2018 film, Deadpool 2, came under critique for the supposed fridging of Deadpool’s girlfriend, Vanessa. Though, the writers insisted this was not their intention since her character appears later in the movie, particularly when her death is reversed in the post-credit scene. She is further described as a ‘spiritual guide’ of sorts for Deadpool throughout the film, meaning she still, in a sense, exists within the story after her death. Regardless, many fans were still disappointed, questioning why her death had to happen in the first place if it was going to be reversed anyway. An even more recent example is the box office hit Avengers Endgame from 2019. Similarly, there has been some debate over whether this instance counts as fridging or not. Regardless, the death of Black Widow’s character and subsequent portrayal of Hawkeye’s life having more value than hers solely because he has a family carries plenty of negative implications. In the end, her death allows the heroes (the majority of which are men) to save the day, though is ultimately overshadowed by the death of Tony Stark who receives a full funeral while Black Widow’s passing only receives a few passing lines of recognition. This is particularly concerning considering the relatively poor way her character has been treated throughout the franchise. In Avengers Age of Ultron, her character is thrown into a romance with Bruce Banner, surprising many viewers. She then refers to herself as being a monster just like him due to her simply being infertile. Not to mention, she’s one of the only original Avengers who hasn’t had her own solo film until its initial intended release earlier this year, ten years after her character was first introduced to the screen. Though of course, her character is central to many of the film’s storylines and has received development over the course of the franchise. And, due to her death being a sacrifice based on a personal choice she made, her character clearly shows some sign of autonomy. Still, having to see the dead, broken body of arguably the most popular Marvel female superhero was incredibly disappointing. Especially since another female character, Gamora, met the exact same fate in the previous film. Another iteration of the trope has been the depowering of a female character and often subsequent death. This is best demonstrated through Jean Gray’s character in the X-Men comics. During the Dark Phoenix saga, originally published in the 80s, Jean Gray’s character undertakes a great amount of power after summoning a cosmic entity to help save her husband and friends. This force gives her immense power, leading to her rebirth as ‘Phoenix.’ Though, as the saga continues, the power overwhelms and corrupts her making her a key villain for the rest of the series. It’s only when she renounces the power through suicide that she is able to return to her old self and save the world. This reinforces yet another tired stereotype of women with power being an uncontrollable threat that must be put down. There are a few who still question the existence, and therefore impact of this trope. For example, a common defence is that there is just as long of a list of male characters who have died in many of these stories, as well as women. While this may be true, their deaths typically aren’t as violent nor act as a motivating factor for the other male characters. Additionally, within comic series, male characters who have been killed typically return in some way, usually even stronger and more powerful. As representation of women across popular culture diversifies and improves, it can definitely be harder to identify whether specific examples can even classify as fridging. It’s important for viewers to continue questioning and analysing the media they consume and be prepared to discuss or call out poor representations and their potential negative impact. Making sure female characters are treated respectfully within fiction is one step closer to ensuring the same respect and empathy is directed toward real women today. by Gabby Edwards



Siren – The Temptress Sirens are a warning from one sailor to another to beware of pretty and sweet-tempered girls with melodic voices and manipulative ulterior motives. They are meant to steer a hero off his course and to tempt him away the quest at hand. In Greek mythology the powerful enchantress Circe warns Odysseus that they “enchant all who come near them. If anyone unwarily draws in too close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song.” Translation: don’t let hoes seduce you away from yo wife and yo kids but if she does, she’s the monster, not you.

Witch – The Feminazi Our cultural and historical views on witches have drastically changed over the centuries. In medieval times early witches were believed to be satanic cults that practiced harmful magic. Perceptions of witches changed with the foundation of universities in Western Europe during the 12th and 13th century whereby systems of magic were discovered and translated from ancient Muslim texts. The idea that rudimentary forms of medicine which involved combining herbs to make “potions” or reciting healing or protection spells, as natural healers or “wise women” did, took on a harmful connotation. From the 1400s to the 1700s witch hysteria continued to grow with around 50 000 people, predominantly women, being executed in Western Europe during this period. The 1692 Salem witch trials marked the beginning of the end of such practices. In the 1970s toxicologists noted that the symptoms of “delusions, vomiting and muscle spasms” exhibited in Salem may have been due to the fungus ergot, found in rye and wheat. Lately with shows like The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the 2018 reboot of Charmed, witches have become a feminist icon. The ethos being that throughout history women who demonstrated extraordinary capabilities have been punished by small minds in small towns. Remove the fantasy element in these stories and they are simply about women of power.


Harpy – The Scorned Woman Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. In Greco-Roman classical mythology Harpies are fearsome “maiden-faced” bird creatures with “taloned hands.” Like many other female monsters their unholy form is made up of both beauty and animalistic horror. These creatures function as punishers and abductors of men. In the legend of Jason and the Argonauts they leave the blind king Phineus of Thrace starving to death after having stolen his food, the King’s punishment for ill-treating his children. In this story the harpies are dangerous nuisances killed by Jason in his quest for the Golden fleece.

Banshee – The Nag Hailing from Celtic folklore, the Banshee is a restless and angry spirit with a grotesque appearance and piercing wail. Typically she will either appear as a weathered and cloaked ‘hag’ with tangled white hair or as a flawless and youthful ethereal woman. Her ‘shrill’ call is an omen of death. Her name ‘banshee,’ is derived from the Irish ‘bean sídhe’ and the Scottish ‘bean nighe,’ which translate to ‘fairy woman’ and ‘fairy washer woman’ respectively. Hag, shrill, shrew, weeping, and keening, are all negative descriptors associated with this heavily gendered monster. Despite the unpleasantness of the sounds of her sorrow, a banshee’s foresight was, according to Irish legend, welcomed.

Medusa – The Other Woman Medusa is most famous for her head of snake-hair and steely gaze that turns anyone who looks directly at her to stone. Her origin story begins when Medusa is a young and beautiful human maiden. The god Poseidon rapes Medusa in the temple of Athena and as a result Medusa incurs Athena’s wrath in accordance with ancient standards of victim blaming. As punishment for the rape which defiled the goddess’ temple, Athena turns Medusa’s hair into snakes so that she will never again attract another man. In his own separate quest the hero Perseus decapitates Medusa, the blood from her neck giving birth to her mortal son Chrysaor and the winged horse Pegasus. “The stories of Medusa suggest that female powers include procreation, magic, and art—alluring properties that threaten to transform men and their world in ways they cannot fully control (Classical Mythology In Context, Lisa Maurizio, pg. 550).”

by Jodie Ramodien



Harpreet – President The Women’s Collective is a dedicated community space for all women and non-binary students and staff of all degrees and backgrounds at Macquarie University in addition to activists outside the university community. We fight for gender, racial, and educational justice. We break the shame and silence of social issues impacting women and non-binary people in Australia. We create spaces to hold dialogue on ‘taboo’ topics, sharing the freedom to express, learn, and grow our passions and dedication; progressing the safety, sustainability, and security of our future. Always paying our gratitude and respect to the traditional owners of this land, elders past, present and emerging and our own ancestors who’ve led and fought for us to get us where we are today. We are a space that will not accept sexual harrassment, sexual violence, ablism, racism, transphobia, discrimination, oppression or tokenism. The Womens Collective is today an activist community built upon intersectional feminist principles and values. Established in 2016, the collective has done a lot of restructuring to be what it is today. Previously it was a collective with white feminism principles, unawareness, tokenism, and racism. I’d like to apologise on behalf of the Women’s Collective members who have come before and/or have experienced tokenism, racism, or patronising behaviour by either collective members in leadership positions or by general members. I too stand with you, having experienced tokenism in this collective when I first became an executive member with the role ‘diversity and inclusion officer.’ We are continuously working hard on our journey of learning and unlearning, to be a collective that is inclusive, that will not further discrimination of any kind. We fight for our right for political, educational, and social spaces, and dialogues on race, gender, sexuality, social justice, feminism, and against the oppression of our campus and the communities we are a part of. Hegemonic masculinity, toxic masculinity, white hegemony, white supreamacy, neoliberalism, hierarchy, patriarchy, racism, discrimination: Be. Gone. Libby – Secretary I got my Australian citizenship in 2017. I breezed through the process, the person reviewing my application waved me from doing the citizenship test. Some of my papers weren’t original copies but they processed my application anyway, stating that I lived here my whole life so it was obvious that I was practically a citizen anyway. As a young white woman it was an easy tick box process. Those in the application booths next to me were questioned about name changes, the countries they had lived in, and then asked to do the citizenship test. My white privilege was never more apparent than in that process. Last semester I did the Anthropology and Indigenous Australia unit (ANTH3005) and I cannot recommend it enough. This class encouraged me to visit sites in my local community, and to reach out to people who may know information about them. During this pandemic this has been my source of reconnection, both with the land I grew up on, and with the elders in the area that provide a wealth of knowledge. We also tend to only consider Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory, pretending we did something to help them by undertaking (frankly) super colonial internships in a community for 6 weeks. I have been working through this tendency of believing that Indigenous people only live in this imagined far away community. A community that doesn’t exist in your local area. This is bullshit. We, as colonisers, need to start looking around us and appreciating the land we are on and the people it belongs to. My biggest learning experience has been in connecting to my community, to the Darkinjung land, and visiting whale carvings, and birthing sites, listening and learning.


Being an “activist,” I am cautious of how I post online and the ways in which it can be seen as performative. I think this was clearly seen in the amount of people who jumped on the #Blackouttuesday hashtag, drowning resources in a sea of black tiles. To avoid this I have often not said enough, or not known how to engage properly to avoid tokenism. I think as students we are often afraid to put our money where our mouth is, but sharing the same Instagram post is not enough, it’s time to pay the rent (put that youth allowance to good use), to show up to protests, to sit and listen. I am still only at the start of my journey, and I don’t ever expect to be finished, but that’s okay. I need to own that in order to do better, and ensure places like the Women’s Collective don’t continue to be exclusionary, but a place for all women and non-binary folk to come together, connect, and learn from one another. Jasmine – Treasurer White feminism refers to feminist actions which majorly or entirely focus on white women whilst excluding minority groups. The Seneca Falls convention was the first women’s rights convention in America and was held in 1848, however not one person of colour was invited to the event. Near the end of the suffrage battle leading activists utilised racism in order to appeal to legislators. It was argued that allowing white women to vote would help to maintain white supremacy. It was only in 1965 with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that it was illegalised to discriminate based on race. Intersectional feminism on the other hand recognises feminism as a movement for all races, ages, sexualities, clases, ethnicities and religions. It transcends the idea that all women are the same and instead celebrates their individuality and focuses on progress for ALL women. As a woman of colour who is part of the LGBTQIA+ community, LGBTQIA+ rights have always intertwined with feminism for me. Marsha P. Johnson for instance was not only an activist for the LGBTQIA+ and drag community but was one of the most prominent figures of the Stonewall uprising, with close friend Sylvia Rivera. Stonewall, even though not the first or only riot of its kind, was one of the most defining. Unlike previous movements, Stonewall was pioneered by women of colour within the LGBTQIA+ community and in this way became the start of a more inclusive branch of feminism, which still impacts feminist movements to this day. The Women’s Collective in the past has, much like feminist movements in broader society, been focused on white feminism. As a proud woman of colour and member of the LGBTQIA+ community I would like to see WOCO committed to the eradication of stigma around female empowerment and strive towards inclusivity and equality for all women, as well advocating for creating safe spaces, open discussions around feminism and promoting diversity. Georgia – Marketing and Communications Director Feminism is the innate belief that all people, regardless of their sex or race, should be given equal opportunities. This concept has been ingrained in me during my upbringing and I am extremely grateful for that. Growing up with a brother, my parents always encouraged us to pursue our interests, regardless of gender. They raised us with the perspective that nothing was ‘off the table,’ that opportunities, experiences and expectations were the same regardless of our gender identities. For this, I am exceedingly appreciative and hope this is an attitude that can extend to all. This is where my journey with feminism began.


Although I have always been passionate and interested in learning about equality, at the age of 19, I still have a lot to learn. In order to do this, I plan (and encourage others) to listen to the experiences of others with a receptive and interested mindset. Some of the most useful knowledge I have gathered thus far has been provided by listening to the powerful and resonating experiences of other women and men of all ages, sexualities, and race. Unfortunately, racism is a topic I understand from experience. I was adopted at the age of 6-months-old from South Korea and grew up on the Central Coast where I have encountered numerous racist comments and attitudes. It is an unfavourable experience to have had but my hope is to take that experience, be a supportive ally to all and use this to further drive my passion for equality. Finally, as a part of my journey, I want to acknowledge that I do not completely understand all areas of feminism, but I am committed to continuing to educate myself: through books, resources, people, and podcasts. I want to ensure that gender equality is an issue we continue to talk about, and that no voices are excluded from the dialogue. Tash – Events Coordinator Feminism should be for everyone. I am ashamed to admit I once believed equality in feminism was one in the same. It was not until I started to really listen that my eyes opened to the heartbreaking reality that equality in feminism is not so black and white, that tokenistic white feminism exists. Feminism is not just about disarming the patriarchy. It is about fighting for justice and equal opportunity for all, regardless of differences. This year alone we have seen how powerful we are when we stand in unity, to fight for justice. There are a multitude of complexities that female-identifying women face and that I admittedly, cannot relate too. For now, I choose to be an ally. To take further responsibility and pay closer attention to my words and actions. To educate myself, truly listen, and not talk over those who need their voices heard. I also want to learn how I can truly support others. WOCO’s principles are to create a safe space for ALL women and non-binary individuals and to celebrate who they are, together. Interwoven social engagements and interactions with women and non-binary people of all backgrounds creates less segregation and more awareness of the journeys of others. I am proud to be part of a committee who is striving to maintain and fight for equality and justice for all. True power is not hiding behind ignorance but is educating yourself, having uncomfortable conversations, and listening to those that can teach you. That is striving for true equality.

To read more writing from the Women’s Collective, flip to our ‘Challenge’ article by Harpreet, President of the Women’s Collective, and ‘Writing on the Wall,’ written by Amanda, the collective’s External Relations Director.



My name is Amanda, I am 31-years-old, a law and psychology student at Macquarie University and External Relations Director of the Macquarie University Women’s Collective. I want to start by taking accountability for my actions. I am embarrassed to say that I used to be a bigot, an elitist, a homophobe, and a white feminist. When I was 7, my neighbour invited me to a baptist church. I continued attending throughout my adolescence and into my early twenties. The church provided a sense of unity, family, and an escape from the bullying and loneliness at school and domestic violence at home. For a bible college course I went on a mission trip to Fiji to “reach out” to “unsaved” tribes and villages. I cringe because I realise now what we were doing was trying to colonise the people. We were being classist and elitist in going into these peoples homes which were huts made of coca cola signs and acting as if we had something they needed and we were going to be the ones to save them. We were white saviours. I didn’t leave the church because of the white saviorism though, which I am ashamed and embarrassed to admit. I left because I realised that the patriarchy dictates that women are subservient to men. Marriage is put on a pedestal as a status symbol so people continue to uphold the tradition. Once you are married the church teaches wives to “obey” their husbands and husbands to lead their wives because God ordained that there is a hierarchy in the family where the wife and children are led by the husband who is led by God. So basically, from birth, women are always subordinate to men, just as Eve was created after Adam to be his “helper.” Women are the property of whichever man is in charge of them (father/husband). This is illustrated in the marriage ceremony where the woman is to be walked down the aisle by her father and given to her husband. I am ashamed to admit that if people asked me what I thought about homosexuality, I was taught to say that I “love the person but do not support their lifestyle.” I was THAT Christian. A bigot. A homophobe. Ironically the church teaches that to understand the world better, you just have to look at nature (Romans 1:19, 20), but ignore the animals who choose same-sex mates. It was one day in the women’s room that my friend and former WOCO president, Lydia Jupp taught me that being a feminist isn’t the goal, being an intersectional feminist is. I have learnt that white feminism is someone excluding themselves from racism because they have some proximity to people of colour. It is a refusal to acknowledge their white privilege in a conversation about oppression. It is assuming the race of people in a conversation and taking it upon themselves to whitesplain terminology as if they are an authority. It looks like asking people of colour to perform emotional labour in explaining concepts instead of taking personal accountability for their own education and recognising the need to come to discussions only after they have done the research.

One of my biggest personal challenges in my intersectional feminist journey this year has been recognising that western society socialises us to believe that the person who is the most calm in a conversation is the most rational and the person who gets emotional is unhinged. In my law and psychology studies, I have been taught to think that aggression is to be avoided in a discussion because it is uncivilised. The more I reflect on it, the more I realise that this is just another tool of respectability politics that ignores the experiences of people of other cultures. When people of colour become justifiably angry or frustrated about their oppression, rather than listening to the person of colour, white people who feel fragile take aim at the tone of the comments and not the content of the comments. Tone policing is used to disarm the person of colour in order to bring the conversation to a more palatable “safe” place for the white person. I have learnt that performative, virtue signalling allyship in the form of hashtags and sharing social media posts like the black tile for the Black Lives Matter movement to “raise awareness” is harmful if this is where your activism starts and stops. I have learnt that it is more effective to share anti-racism resources, post about businesses owned by people of colour, sign petitions, and donate money. I learned these things from women of colour performing emotional labour on social media; the threads in the Shameless Podcast discussion group, It’s a Lot with Abbie Chatfield podcast discussion group, episodes of Here’s the Thing Tho, with Soaliha Iqbal, and the lives of instagramers @dancingwater_ and @8983aj. Presently, I am fortunate to be undertaking a placement with Anti-Discrimination NSW where I am developing a tool kit for staff about best practice for inclusivity with an emphasis on unconscious bias, written, spoken and body language, stereotyping and workplace culture. I am using the placement as an opportunity to reflect on my vocabulary and communication and replace inappropriate language with sensitive, inclusive language. I plan to read Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy, Ruby Hamad’s White Tears Brown Scars, Mikki Kendall’s Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women White Feminists Forgot, Robin Diangello’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism and Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race. I also recommend listening to the Bobo and Flex Podcast. Moving forward, I want to see an executive made up of predominantly people of colour and the LGBTQUIA+ community and women who are disabled, and I want to see the entire collective take ongoing personal responsibility and accountability for our ongoing education and activism wherever and however we can. by Amanda Matthews



Feminist and Female-focused Resources

The Grapeshot team and Women’s Collective give you a list of the feminist media that shaped and inspired them!

Books • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski Plucked: A History of Hair Removal by Rebecca M. Herzig Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given See What You Made Me Do: Power, Control and Domestic Abuse by Jess Hill Beauty by Bri Lee The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf All About Love by Bell Hooks Witches, Witch Hunting and Women by Silvia Federici Gender Trouble by Judith Butler Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism by Julia Serano Anything by Jane Austen

Movies • • • • • • • •


13th Period. End of sentence. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette Disclosure I Am Woman On the Basis of Sex Bridesmaids Thelma & Louise

TV Shows • • • • • • • • •

The Handmaid’s Tale Schitt’s Creek Deaf U I May Destroy You Parks and Recreation The Let Down Get Kracked Fleabag Watchmen

Podcasts • • • • • • • •

Shameless My Favourite Murder She’s on the Money I Weigh with Jameela Jamil Bobo and Flex Ladies, We Need To Talk Big Sister Hotline Here’s The Thing, Tho with Soaliha

Youtube • •

Contrapoints For Harriet

Instagram • • • • • • • • • • • • • @dancingwater_ @8983aj @barkaa @carlyfindlay @soalihaofficial @lauren.lately @thenastywomanclub @thebodzilla @apryl_louise4 @sar.ra_ @raejohnston @flex.mami



PERFECT, PRETTY AND POISED The Hidden yet Visible World of the Gender Beauty Gap

Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, or so the saying goes. Attractiveness is subjective, prettiness means nought. But behind these romantic ideas hides stifling beauty standards which women are faced with every day. Clearly no one saw who was whispering to the beholder. Known by many names including the ‘grooming gap,’ and ‘the beauty expectation gap,’ the Gender Beauty Gap is a term used to describe the expectations placed on a woman’s appearance; in that, there is a significant gap between what men and women can look like. Take, for example, a man who looks a little bit untidy, with messy hair and unkempt clothes. You might think “oh he must be in a band,” or “he’s some cool hipster,” and maybe even “gosh, he looks so manly with that wild hair.” This, however, is a big no no for women. A scruffy appearance means you don’t take care of yourself and have most certainly lost the plot. But, in actual fact, we don’t look scruffy at all; we just couldn’t be bothered to put makeup on that morning. Like many women, I have definitely felt societal pressures to look a certain way. Trends go in and out all the time, but I’m always aware that to look put together, I should be wearing makeup and form-fitting clothes. This fact is particularly evident when it comes to corporate environments, interviews, dates and any time we step within a metre of another human being.


Don’t get me wrong – I love high waisted jeans and heels are great on the rare occasion, but the problem arises when I’m expected to wear these things, instead of it being a choice. And this is what irks me. According to a 2016 study, Australian women spend $15 billion a year on grooming, whilst men spend a measly $7 billion. Yes, 7 billion is still a lot but that difference is huge. Think of all the things we could be doing with that extra cash! But cash isn’t the only thing we’re spending – it’s our precious time too. Journalist Tracey Spicer says that women spend on average 27 minutes each day getting ready in the morning. This, scarily, totals up to 10 full working days over the expanse of a year. “Over our lives, on average, women will take 3,276 hours in grooming; for men it’s 1,092 [hours],” says Tracey. So looking the part is expected of us, but in a world that rewards beautiful women, and belittles ‘plain’ ones, this can be difficult. “[I was told to] put on some blush for work,” says Yumi Stynes, author, podcaster and radio presenter. At 19-years-old, Yumi was working as a chemist shop assistant and was questioned about her appearance. “Use some rouge and some eyeliner… you want the customers to look at you and think that you’re using the products we sell, maybe even want to imitate you. I felt both mortified and flat-

tered,” she tells the ABC. Aside from makeup, women are also expected to change their hair with dyes and chemical treatments. A man with grey hair is seen as a ‘silver fox,’ but on a woman it means that she no longer cares about her appearance. Author, former model and human rights activist Tara Moss says women of colour are particularly targeted. “Curly hair, and especially naturally curly hair, must be straightened and ‘tamed’ to look more professional,” she says. “Women’s grooming is… often an expectation, with career consequences for those who don’t ‘look the part’.” Although we’re expected to look a certain way, apparently there is a fine line between looking good, but not too good. I’ve most certainly felt this pressure and have worried that people will judge me for my makeup choices. Marketing officer Kate has also experienced this concern. After uploading an image of herself to the internal system at her work, she was told by a female manager that her photo looked “too glam.” “She said ‘People may think you are just about makeup and looks and not really take you seriously’,” she tells the ABC. Kate, understandably, was taken aback and the comments affected her greatly. “It impacted my mental health… I couldn’t wait for the day to leave my job.” Sadly, this treatment doesn’t surprise me. We have to look good, but not too good, otherwise people will judge us. A study completed by Harvard Univer-

sity in 2016 confirms this problem, finding that women who wear some makeup are deemed as more “likeable and competent, but those with ‘glamorous makeup’ are not.” Don’t wear enough makeup and people will think you’re not qualified to do your job. But wear too much and you’re seen as incompetent and untrustworthy. We really can’t win, can we? So, what can we do about the Gender Beauty Gap? Well, the best thing is to stay informed, support other women and be aware of your actions. I wanted to write this article to educate other women about this issue, which I knew existed, but didn’t know its name and how much of an impact it has on us. Beauty standards will continue to change and evolve, but with awareness, we can learn to recognise when we’re playing to them or acting for ourselves. The next time you reach for your makeup, stop and think to yourself “Am I doing this because I want to, or is it just what people expect me to do?” Thinking this through will help you make better, informed decisions. But remember to also have some fun! Makeup and clothing are great tools for self-expression and I completely endorse experimenting with your style (I know I have and will continue to do so). So wear those high heels, rock your natural hair and amaze people with your perfect winged eyeliner – only if YOU want to. by Aylish Dowsett


Almost anyone who calls themselves a feminist in the year of Miss Rona 2020 is familiar with intersectional feminism. The inequality of inequality; acknowledging how race, socioeconomic status, disability, and many such factors play a role in one’s experiences as a female identifying person. For example cis women may not understand the way trans women are oppressed differently to them, or how black trans women specifically are further oppressed differently and so forth. It sounds straightforward but can often be an elusive and complicated concept to grapple with. Discussions of intersectionality often come from the critique of ‘White Feminism,’ a colloquial term for feminism that focuses exclusively on the experiences of middle-class white women while failing to acknowledge other experiences. My own experience as a woman is defined by several different elements, each with their own complexities. However, the one which takes up the most of my internal reflection regarding feminism – especially in today’s social and political climate – is being a South-Asian woman. This one category alone will show how intricate intersectionality can be. Brown women, like all women of colour, are


negatively impacted by the exclusivity and singlemindedness of White Feminism; which again, is an issue which becomes even more complex once we add other factors like religion, sexuality, and so forth to the mix. Often, WOC – though in this case I can only speak for myself as one individual brown woman – will fight the fight alongside white women, our voices as loud as any. However, mainstream feminism can in return often leave issues specific to us in the dust, glossing over the role white supremacy plays in combination with the patriarchy to put down WOC in a way different to white women. Often these minority-group-specific topics may not even be acknowledged as existing or being a feminist issue in the first place, let alone being placed on the agenda. In combination with this struggle of addressing issues specific to us as brown women within the greater movement, we must also address sexism, colorism, casteism, and other such issues in the context of feminism within our specific traditions and cultures. Now I’m not labelling South-Asian culture as being more flawed or misogynistic than any other, but I am pointing out that brown women – like all women who stem from diverse cultural backgrounds – are tasked to be both Western feminists and also feminists within our

own cultures. We must tackle the patriarchal standards of our cultural backgrounds, as these affect us as much as ‘mainstream’ patriarchal issues do. This is even further complicated by the fact that our cultures are susceptible to racist criticism. We must address sexism in our communities while not giving racists the greenlight to utilise us or our talking points to spread their hatred. On the other hand, while we do face issues of our own, something else we have to address is our own contribution to unjust ideals. Oppressed groups contributing to the oppression of others is a complex and at times controversial issue. This is the idea that you can be a gay person of colour and perpetuate harmful ableist rhetoric, that you can be a white trans person and contribute to racism, or that you can even contribute to hatred towards your own community. These are all things which occur, and yet can be a point of disagreement. In recent times the subject of antiracism has been sparked with the mainstream resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. With this many have rightfully prompted white people to analyse how they contribute to antiBlackness, in Australia in specific relation to Indigenous people. However, many non-Black people of colour have also had to look at how they contribute to these issues. During this time, among other things, I have grappled with the ‘model minority’ myth, something often attached to those from various Asian backgrounds. The idea that if you are a ‘good’ minority, if you work hard, if you assimilate well, and you don’t get into trouble, then you’ll be fine. You’ll achieve social and financial success and be treated as an equal. These ideals are not only thrust upon us but often we ourselves embrace them. However, they are also oppressive tools. These stereotypes not only grant us conditional and false respect but also allow us to overlook the inherent inequality of how those from backgrounds different to us are treated. As a South-Asian woman I experience various inequalities, but they are different to those experienced by Black people in general, and Black women further. By perpetuating or embracing systems of oppression such as the model minority myth we further the oppression of those who aren’t stereotyped into these categories.

Further, our own communities can contribute to racist principles. One of these is colorism which is abundant in the South-Asian community particularly among older generations. Stemming from years of British rule and white supremacist ideals that have been left behind and imbedded through colonisation, its link to racism stems from the idealisation of white features and demonisation of dark skin and non-Western features; this is further complicated by casteism and how that contributes to these ideals too (another little something the British left behind). Along with this, our communities often prescribe to Western anti-blackness, buying into the model minority myth and not acknowledging the way in which Black people are oppressed differently to us. If you want to get even more complicated, if we look to the aforementioned issues of sexism in our communities in combination with antiBlackness, that creates further issues to address on how we are pitted against women from other ethnicities in a way which either paints them as the ideal – usually white women – or demonises them due to their proximity to Blackness. All this jumble of ideas is to say that trying to be an intersectional feminist is complicated… and all I’ve touched on so far are general ideas of race and feminism. We have a million different things to consider, the rights of others and ourselves to address, the anxieties of these and other social issues to deal with along those of regular – and currently not so regular – life. It’s not always easy, it can feel like fighting a losing battle to not only be up against centuries of patriarchal ideals but their interconnectedness with racial inequality, homophobia, transphobia, religion, and so much more. These are also the very reasons we keep going, the rights of ourselves and others, the years of injustice experienced by so many. But dear reader, they should also be the reasons we’re easier on ourselves. No one person can change the world, and no one generation can either. Those before us fought for what was right, and so will we. Like them we won’t see all the change we want to in our lifetimes, but we will see change. by Sara Choudhry


“Is this caption okay?”


It’s the summer of 2017 and I’m sitting in a newly furnished office space in Surry Hills. With exposed brick, bold pillars and even a real tree grown under the artificial nurture of UV lighting, the space is a real treat for an unpaid intern. It belongs to a health-focused startup, and as a fresh-faced second year student, I’m the newest addition to the team and by far the most exuberant. The question comes from *Matt* a popular Instagrammer with a chiselled jawline and a body to rival Adonis himself. Having received his $300, Matt is ready to post. Well, almost. First he must get my approval. Being an ‘influencer,’ or ‘influencing’ if you will, is a tough business. Each sponsor requires the influencer to follow strict guidelines. They must contort their body in a certain way, wear particular clothing, write a specific caption, promote a certain lifestyle. These rules are non-negotiable, and with the exception of ‘big’ influencers, finding a sponsor is hard work. Most of the struggle is tackled by agents, normally from modelling or PR companies. These guys act as a buffer to negotiation, often claiming set post prices for their clients with little to no wiggle room. Smaller influencers manage their bookings, and as a result are much more likely to accept offers below their normal price. It’s much, much harder for new players; social media is a vicious game where the odds are stacked in favour of the rich and beautiful. As an intern my task was to scope out potential influencers and, if they met our carefully maintained brand image, to negotiate a price. If they agreed to this amount the next step involved informing them of our posting guidelines. Firstly, and most importantly, the brand label has to be clearly displayed. Next come the strict rules about the photo’s contents. No other products are to be displayed in the photo. The photo has to be of a high resolution, and must be taken during the mid to late afternoon to ensure the best lighting. With every feeling of playing God, I look at the photo Matt has sent. He’s shirtless. The camera has managed to catch him at a most precious moment – drinking our health beverage (label facing the camera) post workout (explains the shirtlessness, of course) with perfectly timed golden hour lighting. Excellent. I know my supervisor will be happy with the photo.


It makes the product look great. His caption, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. I spend five minutes crafting a caption then click ‘send.’ Matt is just one of the thirty or so influencers that I contacted over the summer. Out of this large number we ended up with just five or six posts. Price was the primary obstacle. It was my job to assess each post price against what kind of results the photo would deliver. ‘Engagement,’ the ratio of likes to comments, is the most important tool. Followers are the next most important measure. A large following, however, should not be mistaken for genuine interest in the account holder. Some influencers have been caught out purchasing ‘fake followers.’ For this reason, it’s my responsibility to check the ratio of likes and comments. Doing this will tell me if the influencer is indeed ‘genuine,’ if such a thing exists in a world of carefully-constructed artifice. Fast forward to September 2020. As of today it’s been a whole week since I deleted all the social media apps off my phone to amend the recent deterioration of my body image. While the feelings have probably been building up for a long time, I feel like this year the toxicity of social media pushed me into a dark labyrinth of insecurity and self-criticism. Sadly, I’m not alone. Mission Australia’s 2019 Youth Survey found that 42.8% of young women were “extremely or very” concerned about what their body looked like. Considering the well documented impact of social media on mental health, it’s worth looking at where influencers fit into the mix. Are they to blame for the low self esteem of young people today? According to the Butterfly Foundation: “individuals—particularly children and adolescents—who are exposed to role models who demonstrate unhealthy attitudes and behaviours in relation to body image, eating, and exercise are at greater risk of developing body dissatisfaction.” In other words, role models play an important role in our attitudes to our own health, and this particularly is the case for young people. Social media influencers, as well as other kinds of media figures and pop culture icons, are therefore pivotal in how we see our bodies. While this article so far has been focused on negative aspects of Instagram culture, social media undeniably holds some potential for improving body positivity and promoting various kinds of social progress. Some niche influencers, for example, emphasise body and racial inclusivity, while others might prompt discussions about social issues such

as racism or body shaming through sharing their own experiences. My problem is this: as a retail worker I wear a brightly coloured uniform, a name badge, an overly eager smile and “let-me-help-you” demeanor. My role in the sale process is clear; I’m there to serve customers to make profit for the company. That much is clear. When it comes to influencers, these boundaries are not so obvious. Fitness models might be earning sales commissions, but that’s not always apparent to their followers, many of whom are likely young and perhaps somewhat vulnerable. Sadly, the use of inclusive language, the act of masquerading as a ‘gal pal,’ as well as the relentless promotion of nonessential products, are all common yet insidious features of influencer posts, particularly in the fashion and beauty categories. While some influencers describe having a genuine relationship with their followers, I remain highly critical of any friendship where one member profits from the consumption activities of the other. It makes me sad to think there are people who place a high degree of trust in influencers, particularly in the health and fitness categories, where often influencers are unqualified and highly motivated by the pursuit of impossible body standards. Disturbingly, upon entering “social media influencers impact” in a search engine I came across pages of marketing websites encouraging businesses to use influencers as a tool for profit generation. I couldn’t help but find the impersonal characterisation of influencers as “human brands,” as mere instruments of making sales, rather depressing. The dehumanising language used to describe social media influencers, many of whom are young women, leads me to question where influencers fit into the employee-employer relationship. Are they the exploiter, or the exploited? According to WINK Models, influencers charge an average of $1000 per post for every 100,000 followers. This represents a lucrative opportunity to earn a high income, but at what cost? As someone who was formerly involved in the creation of social media artifice, I can attest to the commitment behind the influencer role. In 2019 journalist Jenni Gritters interviewed twelve Instagram influencers to learn more about the psychological impact of the app. Overwhelmingly the influencers felt constant pressure to not only spend time online, but also to perform within the bounds of “a static, inauthentic identity.”


In their dependence on Instagram as a source of income, influencers get caught up in the intricacies of engagement ratios and popularity strategies. This limits the potential for authentic creativity and self-expression, not just for influencers, but for average users as well. As it grows in size and power, influencer culture therefore impedes on the ability of other users to engage in artistic expression outside the bounds of conventional health and beauty trends. Danielle Wagstaff, a psychology professor researching social media, argues that the anxiety caused by social media usage is nothing new. She points to the well-documented evidence linking poor body image to representations of beauty across a variety of media sources, such as magazines, TV and films. While this association predates the world of social media, research such as the aforementioned survey by Mission Australia show that young people are increasingly insecure about the way they look. I can’t help but think we’re dealing with the same problem – social pressure to look and act to fit a narrow social mould – albeit on an unprecedented level and of increasingly destructive proportions. Before I was involved with influencer campaigns I was obsessed with having the ‘perfect’ Instagram account. I craved validation from my followers, a small collection of friends, coworkers and acquaintances from high school. Nights out were an opportunity for a photoshoot, as was a ‘girls lunch.’ My outfits were selected with careful precision, my makeup perfected to a photo-ready standard, ready for cyber-immortalisation. Social media was a game and I wanted to come out on top. The irony is that I had less than 150 followers, and I knew all of them in real life. Nonetheless, I had this innate compulsion to broadcast a certain image of myself. Exposure to the bronzed, toned bodies of models, their glamorous holidays, their semi-candid photos of beautiful friends – I wanted all of it. It wasn’t until my experience working with influencers that I realised the true artifice of social media. Strangely after finishing my internship I almost felt a kind of loss. I found that I no longer enjoyed posting on Instagram. The validation I had once received from ‘likes’ had disintegrated into the hollow recognition of social media for what it is, a shiny, sparkling world of artifice. Instagram functions like a two-way mirror. The power lies in the hands of brands, who, possessing access to the rich collection of user data, can see into the minds and souls of everyday scrollers. Blind


to what’s happening on the other side of the glass, Instagram users, particularly young women, easily fall victim to the paralysing yet intoxicating algorithm of body-focused images. Today, I regret being a part of the problem. I despair for the people who get entangled in the web of media-imposed body insecurities. I also feel concern for the female and male influencers who rely heavily on their body to maintain a steady income from sponsorships. As independent contractors who work for brands, but do not receive employee benefits, I can’t help but think we should shift the blame to the broader system of commodification. Media-related insecurity is on the rise, and I have no doubt that this represents a major challenge for current and future generations. At the same time, I can’t help but feel we blame the apps themselves as a means of absolving or avoiding acknowledging the destructive nature of our hyper-consumerist culture. After all, Instagram is a platform created by humans, for humans. All content is user-generated and there is always the choice to delete the app if one wishes. While it has become common practice to lament the artifice of social media, we should also consider why, despite this widespread criticism, we are motivated to both maintain and actively pursue this fake world. What is it that draws us, like moths to a flickering light, to a luminous yet shadowy universe of fictional identities and commodified creations? Is it that we are exploring ourselves, or escaping from darker elements of our existence?

by Shinae Taylor

PREACH Let me chronicle my experience as a woman for you. I grew up in a conservative church where, by the age of 17, I was already looking for prospective husbands because I was afraid of being left on the shelf. As my friends began to get married, I was so worried that I would run out of options, that deep down I was simply looking for the best choice. I wasn’t looking for qualities that I liked, I was just looking for the nicest looking goldfish in a very small pond (you see, it was taboo to marry outside the church). I felt like my existence was solely predicated on the value I could add as a wife and mother. Growing up, I was naturally inquisitive and grappled with the concept of feminism, attempting to marry it to the beliefs of my church. I would ask: “Why can’t women preach?” over and over and over, to different men and women, and got answers ranging from, “It’s not their place” to “God hasn’t given them the ability,” to the real kicker – “They’re too emotional.” All of this I accepted with teary eyes and something stuck in my throat. I didn’t want to question what I was being told, I wanted to submit to a god and future husband. But I just didn’t know why. Then one day, in the back of the car, I was arguing at the age of 13 or 14 about the rights of women. I don’t remember how the argument started but I do know that it was recurring, especially on the way to church. This particular event stands out in my memory because this statement still rattles around in my mind from time to time, bobbing up when I am confronted with barriers set up only for women. My stepfather turned to me and said, “Women are important, but men are vital.” That closed the argument because how can you come back from that? When the man in power tells you outright that you truly are lesser than, how can you argue? My church would go out into the streets and hand out flyers. I remember the wife of a Pastor once mentioning that not a lot of women had been responsive to the marketing. “Oh well,” she remarked, “I guess it’s more important to have more men in church anyway.” WHY? I thought. At the time, I believed this outreaching to be a matter of life and death, the choice between Heaven and Hell. Why was she so flippant about the lack of women going to Heaven? I asked my stepfather on our way home, and while I can’t remember his words, I remember the sentiment, “Men are more important.” The church would often hold male-only events. Once a month, a men’s night was held to which women were openly not welcome and the running joke was that when wives asked their husbands what had been done that night, the answer was “Nothing interesting.” Over quarantine, these events were held online. Before beginning the message, the preacher made an announcement to ensure that women weren’t watching. Upon checking the statistics after the video was posted,

NASTY he remarked that 2-3% of viewers were women (shock horror), to which one woman blushed and admitted it was her who had sat in on the secret men’s business. When I enquired as to why women couldn’t sit in on these talks and seminars, the preacher replied with “Aww, probably 1 out of 100 meetings would just not be appropriate for women.” Women, on the other hand, were afforded few womens-only meetings a year, and these were not periodically scheduled, but individually organised events for specific purposes. During high school, when I wanted to organise more events for women, I was told that I would be organising it myself and when I wanted to know why women didn’t have the same access to events, I was met with 2 answers, “They don’t need it” or “They’re too busy for it, with kids and stuff.” Pastors would preach on Mother’s Day about the hope single mothers have in finding a husband. “It’s not too late for you!” they’d claim as they point out other women in the crowd who found themselves in similar positions and got married to men who accepted their kids, my mother included. These men were dashing heroes, portrayed as Josephs, champions of faith and family. Feminists were sidelined along with witches and gays. They were dangerous, heathens, and spiteful. Why would you want to be bitter when you could sit happily in submission to the man that a male god chose for you. God told him he had to love you – aren’t you happy with that? When I asked some of the men in church why and how women came to be in these positions, I was met with notions of God’s plan and the importance of different roles. But when I asked women, the resounding response was that we are too emotional, and we should trust men more than we do ourselves. Since leaving the church, my mindset and attitude towards other women and being a woman has changed more than I could have anticipated, and at times with shocking force. As I moved away from religion and leaned into questions I had been asking for years, I found myself being ripped from a place where I didn’t expect answers and sat in tepid waters of mediocrity, soundproofing my life from possibilities outside of what was known. It was dangerously comfortable, and hard to escape. My experience as a woman in the past is nobody’s fault. It is not the fault of ignorant men, nor of ignorant women. But my salvation can be accredited to men and women who encouraged my questions and helped me find answers to the best of their ability. “What am I doing here?” I bristled at my Pastor’s wife a few years ago. “There’s no need to be nasty,” she retorted. Well actually, there is, because being nasty gets shit done. by Anonymous


DIVING OFF THE FERTILITY CLIFF What is common knowledge about fertility now? If you have a uterus, you’ve probably heard of the fertility cliff. Maybe it went by another name, or perhaps it was never named, but we hear the facts behind it echoed repeatedly. From the moment we hit adulthood, through to our late thirties, women are constantly bombarded with pressure and messaging about motherhood. We all know about the biological clock and have had it ticking since our first periods. Women over the age of thirty-five are geriatric pregnancies, and once you hit forty, it’s game over. The idea of the fertility cliff is that after you hit thirty-five, your fertility rapidly drops off and the window to have children shrinks with it. Not only does it become difficult to get pregnant, but the chance of having chromosomally abnormal children is sky-high. Not only is this the common knowledge we have now, but it’s the approach that is still often pushed by doctors as well as our friends and families. While all these people undoubtedly mean well, the lack of transparency about where fertility data comes from means we should not accept it uncritically.


Where did we get this data? Where do we get statistics like “one in three women over the age of thirty-five will not get pregnant within a year of trying?” It would be perfectly reasonable to assume these facts, as widespread and accepted as they are, originate from well-researched peer-reviewed studies and reflect the health outcomes of modern women. The mainstream perspective of the fertility cliff has surprising origins: Church birth records from an eighteenth century French village. Researchers put together birth data from a French town and saw notable declines in childbirth after a woman reached her forties. Because it was the seventeen hundreds, and healthcare was of a lower standard, women often tried to avoid having children after forty; it was risky enough when they were younger. Because of the immense changes in healthcare and a reduction in maternal mortality rates since this data was recorded, we should not view these statistics as applicable to us now.

*Oprah voice* “So what is the truth?”

Appealing to women’s deepest insecurities

The idea that thirty-five explicitly is “the cliff” stems from old medical guidelines on when invasive medical testing for chromosomal abnormalities was least risky for pregnant people. Doctors recommend women under thirty-five get ultrasounds and blood tests as their children are at a lower risk. The recommended practices for women over thirty-five include amniocentesis and are far more invasive and carry an increased minor risk of causing miscarriages. Thirty-five was chosen as the cut off for this testing because that was when the risk of miscarriage equalled the risk of having a child with chromosomal abnormalities such as down-syndrome. This rule relied on the assumption that women would view miscarriages and chromosomal abnormalities as equal risks; this is obviously an insane assumption to make and rooted in deeply complex ideas. These outdated guidelines were updated in 2006 to reflect a modern understanding of fertility, but the impact of these ideas have shaped how our society views women and motherhood. A paper by David Dunson published in 2004 found that 82% of women aged between 35 and 39 fell pregnant within a year of trying. This paper is widely regarded as one of the best articles on the topic. From up to date evidence (ya’ know the stuff that isn’t 300 years old) it is clear that fertility declines as women age but this occurs far more gradually than women have believed. Fertility remains high in the mid-thirties, and while it declines during the late thirties, fertility is still relatively high. There is a notable increase in the risk of chromosomal abnormalities for women over thirty-seven, but even this is often overstated, remaining at under 4% of births. Ultimately women’s fertility changes depending on the woman involved. Some women will continue to have children with no problem once they turn forty, other women will need IVF treatments in their thirties. Data showing fertility cliffs is based on averages, and this means that some people fall on different sides of the spectrum. Every person has a different body, and this means we all have different health outcomes including when it comes to fertility.

As with any expectation, the pressure to have children intensifies when there’s a time limit attached. By perpetuating the idea that not only will all women have children, but they need to have them by thirty-five, we have created a culture where not being able to have children is often a woman’s most profound insecurity. We have created a culture where some women will have children before they feel prepared because they believe that their time is running out. To take advantage of female health concerns to make a profit is cruel and disingenuous. The Australian fertility industry is worth over five hundred million dollars per year and its major players are Monash IVF, Genea and Virtus Health. Monash IVF claim women over thirty have a 20% chance of pregnancy, while women over forty have a 5% chance, Genea and Virtus health both push similar narratives. SBS reached out to these companies, asking them where they sourced these facts from, and none of them were able to give them studies which would prove what they were stating. In fact, Genea provided a study from the 1950s they claimed supported them, but those findings were inconsistent with what Genea had presented. In fact, not only is this particular study outdated, but it represents a small group of two hundred women from an obscure religious community who don’t believe in contraception. This lack of transparency should concern us all. If the fertility cliff was as harsh and real as we have been led to believe, then we would expect copious amounts of research to support it. There is nothing wrong with IVF or seeking medical assistance to become pregnant, and for many people, these are necessary processes. However, people should only consent to these treatments when they are fully informed about their fertility. by Eleanor Taylor




I GOT YOU My sister’s room is next to mine I wondered if she could hear me crying At night When I was alone with my body That no longer felt like my body It’s a weird feeling To want to escape the thing that sustains you. My friend lent me a red jumper I wore it every day for three weeks It was comforting to have something big Covering me Separating me from my body Separate mind from body Separate mind from body I went to work the next day After I’d found out I had to stop And sit down on my walk there Four times I dropped the bread loaves I went home early. I watched all the Pirates of the Caribbean movies I watched Avatar the Last Airbender I watched Sweet Home Alabama I slept A lot. I could already feel spirals of shame Winding down through my ribs And settling deep in my uterus. The misoprostol slid down with it Carving out a burning reminder, You deserve this pain. I found moments of solidarity With each time the bleeding was too heavy And it fell onto a seat And I had to apologise There was a caring word A certain nod A ‘I have been there’. To the woman who ran into the bathroom to give me another pad Thank you To the driver who asked if I was okay instead of how to clean up the mess Thank you To the friend who had been through this just two months before Who stayed on the line and talked me through the process Thank you To the friend who called me two months later and needed to talk I hear you.

To the receptionist who smiled and explained how to fill in the forms To the GP I saw on Valentine’s Day who nodded ‘termination yes?’ To the woman taking my blood who maintained her gentle composure While I was crying everywhere To my family who made me laugh because what else To my manager who told me she could cover me if needed To my work colleague who gave me a hug To my friend’s mum who ran to the shops to get me Kool mints after I vomited Three times To the doctors and staff who stayed open during the pandemic To the activists who fought for abortion rights Thank you.

I know we must keep fighting to defend the right. To my gran who had to do this a much harder way I’m sorry To those who we failed to provide health care I’m sorry To my best friend – who slept next to me while I cried, sat next to me at appointments, called the 24/7 nurse line for me, calculated when I could take my next pain killers, set alarms so I would not wake up in pain, gave me a safe space when I needed one, Thank you. And to anyone reading this I got you If you need. by Sarah Vanderfield

Words to my lover’s wife When the first drop of rain hits the soil And the smell of dust, dirt, and despair fills the air, All you might think about is How could I even dare? His subtle gaze, his smooth touch; Perhaps I am asking for too much. You savour him in sunlight, And I steal him in moonlight. He thinks of me when he kisses your lips And I have to pretend it is all a bliss. When he tells me you make his mind a mess, I truly believe that I am not less. He comes to me with your smell But showers and leaves, so you cannot tell. He runs his fingers across my shoulder, But holds on to you when the weather gets colder. I have to remind him to hush his tone I bet you cannot even make him moan. But he is always gone when I open my eyes, And always there for you, despite my cries. He tells me he does not love you, But even you know he is lying too. Because even if he keeps asking for time, We both know he will never be mine. by Anonymous




Mother by Rayna Bland

l was born from her An energetic combustion, Which is the seed of life Mother; She breathed me. And from this Breath The balance and chaos was born and the universe became, a reflection of me: a reflection of you. Mother, She raises us so. Us brothers and sisters in all the ways we go. Mother. I love you so. Strong as the mountains, and as resilient as the sea consistently creating a space for us to be. Mother. Radiant as the sun and as loving as the moon. The love you provide is eternal, for which I know because it is you that gave me a beating heart. And, Mother; I know For, I love you so In all your form: In all your Beauty.




REVIEW OF THE HBO SERIES WATCHMEN Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who Watches the Watchmen? Before 2020 the word WATCHMEN, as it pertained to the 1986 graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, had been on the periphery of my popular culture radar. I’d mainly heard of it in passing comments, about how it was so much better than the 2009 Snyder movie disaster that failed to adapt it well and consistently received lukewarm reviews. I knew of the lone symbol of a yellow smiley face marred with a single splat of blood but knew nothing of the context, character, or meaning, behind the symbol. A neophyte in the truest sense of the word to one of the most popular comic series ever written, I downloaded a free trial of Binge to watch the adapted HBO series; entering this universe of retired vigilantes and mutant space squids for the first time. Episode 1: ‘It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice,’ sets the tone for a show that addresses the roots of racism that exist in the foundation of modern America.


The season opens with the Tulsa race massacre which took place on May 31, 1921 and lasted two days. In his book The Burning, Tim Madigan summarises the incident: “A uniquely prosperous community of African Americans, called Greenwood—thirty-five square blocks and literally thousands of homes, businesses, churches, and schools—had been obliterated by a white mob in Tulsa that numbered in the thousands.” What was one of the worst racial atrocities committed in US history was scarcely mentioned or taught in the decades that followed until the Tulsa Race Riot Commission was formed in 1997 to have the incident formally documented and investigated. Encyclopedia Britannica notes that: “The event never received widespread attention and was long noticeably absent from the history books used to teach Oklahoma schoolchildren.” In 2019 many viewers of Watchmen experienced a shock at learning of this hidden piece of black history. Having missed the initial Watchmen hype, I began watching the show in 2020 and instead first heard about the incident on the news when Trump decided to hold a rally at the site of the massacre, Tulsa, on June 19th or Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the final freeing of all slaves in America. The show chooses to address this history in the opening scene, and gives us an honest depiction of the black experience in America. Watchmen uses the superhero genre to reflect on the concept of heroism as it relates to race, exploring how the same act can be framed as white valour and black violence but not black valour and white violence. This is largely done through the character of Hooded Justice who in the comics has no known identity, but is given one in episode 6: ‘This Extraordinary Being.’ With no discernible identity there’s a bias of white


assumption, that he will be a caucasian cisgender heterosexual male, because aren’t all superheroes—bar tokenistic attempts of the one female in a superhero team with her tits out, and recent moves towards diversity like in this phenomenally good series. We navigate this world of Watchmen through a black female protagonist, Angela Abar otherwise known as Sister Night, played by Regina King. This show skyrocketed to being one of my favourite series of all-time because of how women are represented in it. Angela Abar, Laurie Blake, and Lady Trieu, are all nuanced and extremely compelling characters that never fall prey to being the tired stereotypes of a male-dominated genre. They are all extremely intelligent, stoic, and badass, not there to be romantic interests, trophies, or sacrifices that ultimately provide emotional arcs for their male counterparts. Nor are they young and dressed in thigh high boots and skin-tight leather for the male gaze, each of the three actresses is in their forties or older. At the core of Watchmen is the question: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who Watches the Watchmen? This line is scribbled in graffiti across corners, shops, and streets, in the comic book. Phrased another way, the adaptation seems to be asking, who watches the police? An institution that is rife with white supremacy and prone to an abuse of power. Rallying calls to “defund the police,” aren’t at all new. Disdain for the police has appeared in popular music, namely hip-hop, since the birth of the genre in the Bronx of New York city in the 70s. Songs like N.W.A.’s ‘Fuck tha Police’ were recorded in 1988 alongside outcrys to “abolish the police.” This same song was used by Black Lives Matter protestors who this year hacked into the Chicago police radio and played the song. Another song ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five,

released in 1982, similarly highlighted the relationship between black people and the police. In the song’s music video the police see the singing group walking on the sidewalk and arrest them under the assumption that the group is a gang. In an interview with The Guardian Flash synthesises hip-hop’s message and the message in his song: “We matter. We stand for something.” The first scene of Watchmen that takes place in the present day of 2019 begins with a member of the Cavalry—the Watchmen equivalent of the Klu Klux Klan—driving and listening to hip-hop/rap music. This perhaps points to the popular consumption and love of black art with the irony that what the art is actually saying or representing may go unheard by its wider audience. The song being played in this scene is ‘Crushed Up’ by Future. In it the artist boasts to “narcs” of his wealth and success, “I got some’ to say to the pigs, yeah / I just got an M for a gig, yeah / I just blowed an M on my kids, yeah.” An ‘M’ is slang meaning a millionaire dollars. The first two scenes of the show tackle and reveal so much about the current state of America and the following episodes maintain this same level of critique, observation, and excellence. Sister Night is a superhero unlike any other I have seen on-screen. You can check out Watchmen on the streaming service Binge. by Jodie Ramodien





Ladies, We Need To Talk: Podcast Review There are a lot of things we don’t like to talk about. Often, we’re too afraid, embarrassed or concerned about how people will react. Our secrets stay as secrets, and tricky questions are left unanswered. But what if there was a podcast that dived headfirst into the gooey, complicated realm that is our lives?

Ladies, We Need To Talk is an ABC podcast that isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty. Described as a podcast “for women, by women,” everything is up for discussion including foreplay, body image, discharge, alcohol, abortion and our insane obsession with youth. I’ve been listening to Ladies since it released its first episode ‘You say Vulva, I Say Vagina’ in 2017. And since then, I have learnt so much. Yumi Stynes hosts the show and, whilst being hilarious, is able to approach sensitive topics in a knowledgeable, kind way. Yumi talks to experts and everyday women to find the answers to our burning questions. Want to know how the clitoris actually works? Listen to ‘Clitoris 101.’ Worried you’ve moved too fast with a partner you met during COVID? ‘Coronavirus – Are We Panic Buying Partners?’ is your go to. All the episodes are amazing, but some of my favourites have been ‘Being Single and Owning It,’ ‘The Answer’s No,’ ‘The Gender Beauty Gap,’ ‘Footloose and Childfree,’ and ’50-Shades of Erotic Literature’ (you’ll definitely want to listen to this one). Even though the podcast is designed for women, many men would benefit from listening to the show. In particular I’d check out ‘Foreplay – Getting What You Want,’ and ‘Closing the Orgasm Gap.’ Trust me – you’ll learn so much.

Ladies, We Need To Talk will finally get you chatting about all the uncomfortable, squishy aspects of womanhood. I absolutely love podcasts and if you’re yet to try them, you should. I’m still shocked that the clitoris isn’t just a small nub but is actually a huge sexual organ inside you (google it, it’s insane). So sit back, relax and fill your ears with knowledge – you won’t regret it. Listen to Ladies, We Need To Talk for free on the ABC listen app, Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts. by Aylish Dowsett


GIRL POWER PODCASTS Eloise Cansdell reviews two contemporary feminist podcasts that have come into the mainstream in 2020.

The Michelle Obama Podcast Following the success of her Netflix documentary Becoming, adapted from her best-selling memoir, Michelle Obama has curated a platform to channel her thoughts and worldview in her podcast, The Michelle Obama Podcast. What is enticing about this podcast are the raw and open conversations the former First Lady is having with her guests. From talking about the challenges she faced growing up as a person of colour and the gritting story of her career, to stepping into the lush life of the White House, Obama digs deep and takes her listeners on a meaningful journey into the everyday struggles of women, particularly women of colour. Notably, Obama went to lengths to break down the taboo surrounding women’s health, menopause and aging in her sixth episode, What Your Mother Never Told You About Health. It’s no secret at this point that women and girls struggle to talk openly about menstrual health and often even have reservations about confiding in others about it. Obama and Dr Sharon Malone discuss the heavy emotions and physical symptoms of menopause and how the work environment can be supportive in order to normalise these inevitable parts of life. My personal favourite episode thus far is The Gift of Girlfriends, where Obama is joined by her three closest friends and they discuss the ins and outs of female companionship and the importance of having friends to

get you through the challenges life throws at you. Be it adjusting to life in the White House, balancing children and work or even having a friend to listen to the ups and downs of family life, these ladies express precisely the true gift a girl pack can be. Michelle Obama also tackles the topic of Black Lives Matter, opening up on the effects that waking up to news stories of continual racial unrest has had on her. Despite her own experience representing progress and hope in a world that was and continues to be plagued by racism, Obama expresses her upset towards the disparities in society that still don’t see people of colour as human beings. In the eleventh episode, Across Generations, Michelle is joined by three young women from her team as they discuss navigating the pathways to success. The women discuss the self-doubt that comes with being a black woman working in this particular arena. Furthermore, their take on the notion of self-doubt that women often experience when climbing the ladders to successful and enticing careers is relatable. Women too often feel like this and it leads us to withhold reaching our full potential and we succumb to the idea that no matter how much triumph and effort we put in over the years, we are still not good enough or worthy of our positions. Notably, Obama points out how in society men often do not overlook and are not overlooked on the basis of their own capabilities in the same way women do and are. Overall, this podcast is full of thought, power and curiosity for the listener to learn and grow with. Michelle Obama has provided a powerful platform to share her own personal thoughts and worldviews and invite others to exert their own ideas and opinions on the topics that circle our world today.

It’s A Lot by Abbie Chatfield This podcast feels totally revolutionary to me. The positivity and goodness that exerts from the details in each episode is an absolute burst of joy and comfort. Set up as a ‘thoughtful conversation with your girlfriends over wine’, Abbie Chatfield covers topics that every vulva owner can relate to. Namely, the focus is on feminism, dating and sex. Chatfield received a lot of backlash for her time on The Bachelor for being overt and unapologetic about her sexuality. Yet it seems she has attracted many like minded young women who crave this sense of confidence in themselves. Be that our feminism, health or beliefs, Abbie is opening up the conversation on these topics and normalising even the most closeted ideas.

A fan favourite is her episode with pal Ellie, founder of Comfortable in My Own Skin, a body positivity project that helps those with a vulva accept their labia despite the notion that there are ‘normal’ and ‘irregular’ kinds of vulva. Did you know that labiaplasty is the fastest growing cosmetic surgery in the world? It’s a shocking and sad fact to unveil when this magnificent part of our bodies is the means by which all human beings came into existence. Nevertheless, Abbie uncovers the truth behind why women and those with a vulva are often so insecure about their genitalia and how it can completely deplete your self-confidence and ability to maintain a healthy relationship with your body and your partner. The act of accepting your body as it is, particularly the portal from which you came, is ultimately a form of rebellion in this world that profits off us feeling ashamed and disgusted by our own bodies. The information Abbie feeds to her listeners is the kind of thing you hear and think, “I wish I was taught this in school”. Abbie continues to break down the walls of stigmas from STI’s and even the common diagnosis of Bacterial Vaginosis which most vulva-owners will experience numerous times in their life, to deep-diving into mental health, therapy, modern relationship shenanigans and more. If you are looking for a way to explore topics that are absent from mainstream media, in your social life or even things that are hard to confront on your own. It’s A Lot is the perfect safe place to find comfort. These meaningful thoughts and ideas that Abbie brings to light in her podcast, has the power to make one feel less alone in the quirks we often feel about ourselves but don’t realise others are experiencing too. Abbie has created a safe space to feel comfortable with these kinds of conversations that are often regarded as ‘controversial’. I especially love and appreciate this because we need women to be more honest and vulnerable about what unifies us in order to create a more equal and accepting world. It’s A Lot encourages this and Abbie sets a prime example of the confidence women should carry in owning every part of our being. Whether you are feeling weird or uncomfortable about your body, having relationships issues or concerns or you even just want to hear a rant about whatever the media is criticising women for today; It’s A Lot is the pod for you. by Eloise Cansdell


FEMINISM AND WAP To all the bad ass women out there, this article is dedicated to you.

Since 2020 is now no longer a mood, I’ve decided to rename this year the ‘year of WAP.’ Wet Ass Pussy for those who are not yet acquainted with Our Lord and Saviour Cardi B. This song is catchy and it’s entertaining. The costumes combined with the dancing is exactly what we needed this year. Instead of letting women’s rights become silenced due to the global pandemic, this song has brought discussions of empowerment and women’s rights to the forefront of the world’s attention. This is amazing considering how preoccupied the world is with Covid-19. This song immediately gets everyone’s attention. When it blasts from the speakers in the room next door at the studio, I immediately start singing along. Yet this song did not have the most positive reaction when it first released–in fact it’s still being described as too explicit and vile. When WAP first came out, all of a sudden politicians and public speakers were revolted by the lyrics and claimed that it ‘set women back 100 years.’ Rather, I believe that the way men spoke about Belcalis Almanzar and Megan Pete (the artists) is what sets women back 100 years. People ask me ‘how can women find this song empowering?’ My answer to that is it’s every woman’s choice what they want to do with their body and how they want to make music and perform. That is what is empowering. Women’s rights are being fought now more than ever before around the world. Freedom for women and the ability for them to have a choice over their own body is becoming widely discussed and a global movement. Female empowerment is allowing women to have choices and not live in a world where making a song called WAP leads to


widespread negative media attention, countless social media trolls and politicians degrading them. In response, women let’s get nasty. If you’re playing WAP and there are people complaining about this song who also listen to other explicit music–play it louder. We live in a time in history where we can have such in-depth and prolonged discussions online, yet some people can hide behind anonymity and spread hate on behalf of protecting feminism. Allowing male rappers to create explicit music without any controversy, but when female rappers do the same thing there is an outcry. It’s a double standard. I argue that when you assign double standards to women, you’re saying that ‘women can do whatever they want as long as it’s not something I’m personally against,’ and that completely takes away from a woman’s choice. There are many benefits to social media- it raises awareness, builds communities and we can stay connected. For example, the #metoo movement. However, what there needs to be more of is mutual support and encouraging other women to be themselves and love themselves. Be each other’s cheerleaders. So, let’s get nasty and freaky…or don’t. But either way support your fellow women in the personal choices they make. by Daisy Barltrop

horoscopes by Rayna Bland and Rhys Smith




Equality must be hard for you, never having to share anything. Sometimes your scales can be tipped without you even realising it. Take a moment and check in. Are you in a privileged spot in society? This determines your outlook.

I know sometimes the world is overwhelming, but just take a deep breath and know that there are so many people in the same situation. Call a friend and see if they are okay. Take a deep breath and enjoy listening.

I know you’re angry but try not to be aloof – discuss your feelings. I know a bit of escapism is what you need from time to time but one day you will have to be frank with your feelings. It is okay to cry.




Careful not to trample over other people to reach your goals. Your objectives might feel all-important but be mindful that you respect the good and reasonable ideas of others. Other people have a lot to offer you.

I know you wanna run the world buddy, but it’s time to take a step back. Just know that your ideals aren’t the only reality. Doesn’t mean your hopes and dreams aren’t valid, it just means they are that. Hopes and dreams.

Stop worrying! Everything is going to be fine. Your place in the world is perfect as it is. Take a breather and know that you are safe – she’ll be right.




Oh so you haven’t cried in 3 years? I love my men emotionally crippled.

Now now men, I know you don’t want to change, but the world is cruel and will force you to change anyways. Oh don’t frown – you look so much prettier when you smile.

Slow the fuck down. Take some time to smell the roses – develop that sense of self you crave. You need to reflect on yourself rather than constantly worrying about the expectations of others.




They told you to kill with kindness, but I reckon you were doing well with the spite.

Get over yourself. We know you’re talented but that isn’t a personality. Let others shine too and know that you are still worthy of love even when you aren’t in the spotlight.

Confrontation is a part of life Virgo, learn how to deal with conflicts. It’s time to discuss your problems before they become too big. Don’t be mad! We are telling you this for your wellbeing.


“Such a nasty woman” - Donald Trump, 19 October 2016


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