We acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation.
We stand here today as the beneficiaries of racist and unreconciled dispossession. We recognise both our privilege and our obligation to remember the mistakes of the past, act on the problems of today and build a future free from discrimination. We recognise the continuing dispossession, discrimination and genocide committed against Indigenous people, from which all material benefits held today by non-Indigenous Australians have come about. We acknowledge that the racisim that permeates our society is also present in student organisations.
Own Your Sexuality
Bey(ing) a Feminist
10 Disability Feminism 12 Magpies 13 Super Skinny 14 Control 15 Buds of Spring 16 Art
This publication is an annual collection of works by wom*n, compiled by the University of Sydney’s Wom*n’s Collective. It provides a rare opportunity for expression, collaboration and dialogue about the complex experiences of being a wom*n in contemporary society. You may notice that the pieces included here aren’t telling one story, but rather it’s lots of personal and political threads to make up the intricate patchwork of wom*n’s experience of the world. You may have lived many of the stories included in here; others may seem completely new to you – but that’s okay, because we need to listen to each other, and recognise there are not only a few opinions and ways of being a woman, but many. Listening to each other’s stories is how we will make our voices stronger. This is why wom*n speaking and listening to each other is an inherently political act. It gives us power – and that’s why we are “Growing Strong.”
18 The Sexual Assault Committee 21 Asylum Seeking is a Feminist Issue 22 Radical History of International Women’s Day 24 A Case for Wom*n’s Self Defence 25 It Was Then US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
Editors: Georgia Cranko, Phoebe Moloney, Verity Cooke, Stella Ktenas and Julia Readett
Some themes and topics discussed in this publication may be distressing for some readers. We would like to advise that sexual assault, body image, abuse, human rights violations and racism are discussed.
The Wom*nâ€™s Collective meets every Wednesday at 1pm on the second floor of Manning House. For more info, or to get involved, contact email@example.com PAGE 2
A non-exhaustive list of Tricky terms and exceptional explanations
Ableism: Ableism is a way of thinking and making value-judgments about human bodies that serve to marginalise, other, and oppress disabled people. Autonomy: The right for women to organise around issues that affect them, without input from men. The need for autonomy stems from historical traditions in which women were denied an input into decisions that affected their lives. The women’s collective is an autonomous organisation and the women’s room is an autonomous space. Cisgender: Individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies and their personal identity. Feminism: The advocacy of wom*n’s social, political and economic equality. Gender Binary: The popular narrative in which there are only two distinct genders; masculine and feminine. The gender binary sets these two genders in opposition and negates one while the other dominates. It also obscures any other form of gender expression. Gender Queer: A term that refers to an expression, identity or presentation of gender that is outside the normative gender binary. Heteronormativity: It is the body of lifestyle norms that holds that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in life. It asserts that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation or only norm, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes. Intersectionality: A conceptual way of explaining experience wherein facets of an individual’s identity such as race, sexuality, gender and ability intersect to form multiple and unique experiences of oppression and privilege. Misogyny: The hatred or dislike of women. Patriarchy: A system in which men posses social and political control. Queer: A term for individuals who identify as not heterosexual in their gender or sexuality. Rape Culture: A concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalise, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape. Sex: The biological make-up of a person’s reproductive anatomy. Trans*: A broad umbrella term referring to people, whose gender identify and/or presentation transgress traditional gender norms. US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
In 1959, Norman Mailer famously stated that, “the sniffs I get from the ink of the women are always fey, old-hat, Quaintsy Goysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic, crippled, creepish, fashionable, frigid, outer-Baroque, maquillé in mannequin’s whimsy, or else bright and stillborn.” The notion that men and women are inherently different writers is a dangerous one and although we have arguably come a long way since 1959, the literary world does not seemed to have purged itself of Mailer’s sentiment. In 2010, a study by VIDA, an organization advocating for women in literary arts, exposed the gender inequality in the literary sphere through a count of the female-authored books and female reviewers in a range of publications. The list included Harper’s Bazaar, London Review of Books, New Republic, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The New Yorker amongst half a dozen others. Across the board men dominated these pages. The significance of the VIDA study is that it made people stop and question the culture of the literary world, to ask if what we may have perceived previously as a mere coincidence was in fact something greater? As VIDA points out, “these statistics are simply the beginning of a conversation we believe is necessary—not an end point, but a way to think about the more nuanced questions such numbers beg to be asked.” Unfortunately, Australia’s book-reviewing publications mostly follow this pattern. In 2011, The Age reviewed 344 books. Men authored 59 per cent of these books and reviewed 62 per cent of them. At the Australian Literary Review, only 18 per cent of the books reviewed were authored by women. Thirty-six reviewers were men. Seven were women. On the other hand, literary journals like Kill Your Darlings and Voiceworks were more balanced. Rather interestingly, Voiceworks read their submissions gender blind. Nevertheless, it seems safe to say that the overall picture is not promising for female writers.
An emerging response to this difficult climate has been to introduce literary prizes specifically for female authors, since winners and shortlists help to generate sales and thus enable women writers, who may have otherwise been overlooked in the current system, to continue writing. However, it is also argued that by doing this, we relegate women’s literature to its own category and further perpetuate the notion that women’s writing is inherently different. In her 1998 article, Scent of a Woman’s Ink, Francine Prose points out that although subject matter may be affected by the lived experience of a particular gender, “there is no male or female language, only the truthful or fake, the precise or vague, the inspired or the pedestrian.” She conjures up a dreamlike scenario in which our libraries were genderless, in which the only binary was good and bad writing. Of course this is not, logistically speaking, a world we will be able to create and Mailer’s gynobibliphobia, as Prose dubbed it, still exists in the expectations and presumptions surrounding what women write about. Meghan O’ Rourke of Slate writes, “The world of novels, we often hear, is a feminine one—book buyers are predominantly women; novels and memoirs by women and about women’s lives often do extremely well commercially….but VIDA’s study raises questions about how seriously women writers are taken and how viable it is for them to make a living at writing.” It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where specifically female prizes were not needed to counteract the disparity of the current system. These prizes seem to be a practical response to a less than ideal situation as they may help to financially alleviate the struggle women writers face in an unequal publishing environment. However, the task of challenging the notion that women and men are somehow inherently different writers, that women’s writing is ‘fey’ and frivolous, is an ongoing battle. It is a subtle confrontation and exists in such a way that numbers on a pie chart may not be enough to measure it. US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
Creative Communities Elizabeth Mora
“We will not succeed in navigating the complex environment of the future by peering relentlessly into a rear view mirror. To do so, we would be out of our minds.” (Robinson, 2011, p. XII)
Creative Change: Re-imagining Creativity in our Complex World It is through the engagement between society and creativity that we can evaluate notions of difference and diversity which are continuously shaping and beckoning changes within our contemporary world. This case study will investigate how notions of social and cultural consciousness – such as tradition and identity- can be explored through emerging and established rhetorics of creativity. However, it is important to note that whilst the project of this case study embraced creativity as a multidimensional phenomenon, the rhetoric of creativity as a process of social change and innovative thought was used as the main criteria by which the project was evaluated in terms of its ability to realise its aim of fostering a cross-sectional network of ideas, people and communities. The planning and actualisation of a community event organised by The Australian Ecuadorian Cultural Association (2013) to celebrate International Women’s Day is used as an example to illustrate how this rhetoric of creativity can engage specifically with South American Women- a community of people which due to social and cultural renditions of identity have been disadvantaged by the established frameworks or institutions of our society. As the coordinator of the event, I reflected that through the creative mediums of dance, music and art- performance acts which involve collaboration and direct participation the Australian Ecuadorian Cultural Association ( AECA) could uphold renditions of culture and society specific to the life experience of South American Women without compromising the main objective of the event which was to use mainstream strategies, such as counselling and education, to alleviate the continual process of adjustment or disconnection often attached to immigration. This, as well as redefining the compounded effects of this process (such as isolation) through a creative framework, was the intent of our event.
Establishing the Basics: Creating a Collaborative Creative Culture The concept of the AECA International Women’s Day Event which was later renamed and translated to “Dia De La Mujer Festival” began as a response to the increased isolation felt by South American women on account of increased experiences of social and economic disadvantage. As an ‘inalienable human potentiality’, I hoped that the rhetoric of creativity would provide the elements for a new synthesis between diverging notions of self-hood and collective identity. However the conceptual use of creative rhetoric in resolving experiences of “otherness” was further compounded by the limitations of individual agency which often prevent small community groups from progressing past deeply entrenched societal problems. AECA had never organised an International Women’s PAGE 6
Creativity is a practice of life which enables us to constantly create and re-create our world
Day event before, and had not yet found a way of positing the feminist framework of International Women’s Day celebrations alongside the cultural experience of South American women. As the coordinator of the event, I viewed these challenges as an opportunity for AECA to collaborate with like minded organisations with the aim of improving their capacity to create an event such as this one. This transformed the organisation of the event into a creative process whereby experiences of continual exchange enabled different organisations to inform and reform their understanding of creativity against the objective of social change. The outcome of this collaborative process which also involved the input and support of artists and interested professionals, both within and outside the South American community; was a kind of illustrated sociology by which the dilemmas of otherness and disadvantage worked as an impetus for collective problem solving. The nature of exchange equally transformed and increased the multiplicity of ways interested individuals and organisations used different modes of communication to strengthen their capacity and ability to address social concerns in general.
Realising a Creative Rhetoric: Dialogue between Creators and Consumers. Given the collaborative process involved, the format of the event reflected an innovative approach to the series of dilemmas which had compounded its realisation from the beginning. For example, it was established that an effective way of situating cultural experiences within the feminist framework of International Women’s day celebration would be a direct engagement with the creative disciplines of art, dance and music. Local South American Artists and professionals which were friends, relatives or well known role models to South American women were invited to encourage an intersectional dialogue between society and self-hood. By providing a space where women could perform their social experience through the creative disciplines of music, art and dance, AECA as a community organisation was equally fostering the language of social change through the personal stories and overarching historical narratives of culture, tradition and identity.
An Aspirational Future: The Role of Innovative Thinking in the Realm of Community Engagement As a system of thought which encourages the discourse of ideas within contextualised subjectivities, creativity as a rhetoric of change and innovative thought has transformed community organisations such as AECA into active agents of our globalised world. The collaborative creative culture through which the Dia De la Mujer festival emerged both as a creative community and as a proactive organisation, enabled AECA to re-orientate its purpose as not only reference point for the unpredictably of human affairs, but also as a knowledge base of skills and ideas loaded with the capacity to “create new ideas…and products within and for the ‘creative economy’ of the 21st Century.” It therefore becomes evident that community engagement as a milieu which fosters “creative knowledge production” can effectively anticipate a reformed society “that values ideas, difference, and even eccentricity and idiosyncrasy”. US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
Own Your Sexuality (Excerpt from an article originally from Birdee article)
Lily Frances Pratchett You will be made to think of sex as either something you should wait for because of its supposed link with your moral validity, or something you should get over and done with so that you may gain that much lusted-after ‘coolness’ that comes with experience. Probably both. People will be interested in your sexual status. Virgin, slut, prude. You will be made to feel as though your body is not wholly your own; it is, in essence, a product of society. You will be made to feel like a commodity to be sold to men. Do they want a ‘pure’ woman: someone they can dominate and teach to pleasure them in just the right ways? Or do they want someone who’s already been taught: who they won’t have to bother with too much? Just, like, do it already. Is it a big deal? Are you getting too emotional about it? After all, ‘sex is just sex’. You will be made to feel stupid to think that sex equates to love. You will be made to feel like a ‘slut’ if you think they are wholly separate. Sex is normal, so they will tell you. Everyone does it. It’s ‘natural’, ‘human’. Lack of sex drive is ‘abnormal’, ‘wrong’. You should have sexual feelings. You are the product of people having sex, and you are to one day carry a child who is the product of having sex, because that’s just the way it is, right? You are a woman, you have the body parts, so why not? But be careful, you are a young girl, not a young boy. Too much sexuality and you will be berated all the same. You might start to get the feeling that you are to desire sex, but only innocently, never fully consciously. So why not fuck the shame, fuck the standards, fuck it all. You are a person with your own unique identity and desires and your sexuality is nobody else’s damn business… as much as they might make it feel like it is sometimes. PAGE 8
Now You Know... Stella Ktenas Karver growing strong
I laid my head in your lap, and thought I might call this love. I could hear your blood rushing through your limbs, your veins thin, all tangled together, mapped out like city streets beneath your skin.
A Letter to a Girl I Once Loved Nicky Cayless
It was beautiful. Your heart was trapped beneath breasts those days, mountains more insurmountable than Everest, than Kilimanjaro. your curves, a muscle memory that you despised. I could have sketched your hips on a page in moments, but you had spent your life wishing for straight lines & desert plains. Lonely evenings, I practiced kissing with the bathroom mirror. You practiced smiling, learning to move the lips that never felt your own. Two weeks ago, you changed your name. I have been training my tongue in this new language, all these pronouns I never loved. I stumble. I fall. The echo of hurt in your eyes reminds me of the butterflies I have locked in my stomach. I haven’t needed them since you. You tell me your mother will not call you the name you’ve had carved into your bones since the day you were born. Names, she says, are immutable. “A rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. My daughter, by any other sex, would be my daughter.” I look so closely at your bound ribs, the rosy cheeks you tried to carve into like apples. I see so much of the woman I learnt to adore. But now, with your smooth chest, your close-cropped hair and brogues on slender feet, you are more beautiful and more you than ever. US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
What is disability feminism?
What is disability feminism? How is it different to mainstream feminism? These are all questions I seek to answer for you, but I want to do so in a way that is accessible and the way of doing this which is most effective is through the idea which has proven fundamentally important in my life: the personal is political. Note, that I will be focusing on the experience of physical disability as it is my personal experience and my academic focus. I came to feminism when I read The Beauty Myth when I was 17 and although I will be forever grateful for the activist/political awakening it started in me, there where many things about a straight, white, able-bodied feminist discourse which did not address my experience as a young, queer disabled woman. It would take me a long time to find a feminism which spoke to parts of my identity but not all, as how to be a proud disabled queer woman has not been written…yet.
Jax Jacki Brown PAGE 10
I did however discover the disability rights movement and the Social Model of Disability which views disability as socially constructed by an inaccessible built environment; inaccessible buildings inadequate transport and housing, and lack of equal access to employment opportunities. These external barriers which limit people with non-normative body’s full and equal participation in society are maintained through negative attitudes or stereotypes of disability, such as disability is a personal tragedy where it is assumed people with disabilities are in need of help or pity instead of better access. Although disability politics ramped my mind I began to become aware that it often focused on the voices and concerns of disabled men who, when hearing of women with disabilities issues dismissed them as ‘personal’ and not political. In response in the early 90’s authors such as Jenny Morris, (1991,
Pride Against Prejudice: Transforming Attitudes to Disability) began exploring how the concerns of disabled women and the lived experience of the body is inherently political and disability feminism emerged. Disability feminism shares many of the fundamentals of feminism: an analyses of gender, power, the body and patriarchy. However disability feminism also focuses on ‘the politics of appearance, the medicalization of the body, the privilege of normalcy’; favouring the normative body, and argues that it is society which needs changing not the body (GarlandThomson, 2011, p.16; emphases added). Interestingly, some of the issues of concern to disabled women are the opposite of mainstream feminism. Sexual objectification is one such key issue. Women with disabilities struggle to be seen as sexually desirable at all. Mainstream feminism fights against being seen sexually, whereas by contrast many women want to be seen as sexual and be given the option of fulfilling gender roles which as partner and potential mother. Women with disabilities are often viewed as lacking a sexuality or in the case of women with intellectual disabilities as hyper-sexual or uncontrollable. These perceptions have wide spread ramifications for our self-confidence, body image and future choices. Extensive research by Women with disabilities Australia reveals that women with disabilities are subject to extremely high instances of violence and sexual assaults. We are ‘at least twice as likely to be sexuality assaulted as nondisabled women’, studies indicate that up to ‘90% of women with intellectual disabilities are likely to have been sexual abused before they reach 18’ (http:// www.wwda.org.au/snapshot.htm). In this context of systemic abuse it can be difficult to find relationships which are growing strong
healthy and respectful. Even acquiring a hot pash on a Saturday night can be hard when you are viewed as not belonging in a bar or club, and told, which has happened to me many times, that you are brave to be out at all and pattered on the head like a child. This difficulty finding sexual partners due to this pervasive and unsexy attitudes results in there being less likeihood of becoming a parent, or having equal access to reproductive services and if we do become a parent of being provided with the support to enable you to parent effectively. Newell reports that a third of children are removed from the care of disabled mothers due to lack of support in the home combined with the presumption they are going to be ‘bad’ parents (2008, p.6). Also of concern to disability feminists is the significant gender gap in employment and income between men and women with disabilities with over 50% of women with disabilities live on or below the poverty line (http://www.wwda.org.au/snapshot.htm). So what can women with disabilities offer mainstream feminism? An insight into how it is to live with difference which would prove useful to all women as we are all only temporally undisabled; we will all age and live with levels of pain and discomfort of a changing body. Developing the capacity and knowledge from which to traverse these changes is fundamental to feeling good about oneself in a world which continues to value youth and a particular kind of ‘beauty’. It is these issues which women with disabilities have complex valuable knowledge of and can offer to our sisters, lovers, friends and allies.
References Garland-Thomson, R, 2011, ‘Integrating disability: Transforming feminist theory’ in K Hall (ed), Feminist Disability Studies, Indiana University Press, Indiana. Newell, C, 2008, ‘From Others to Us: Disability and Human Rights Education’, in C Newell & B Offord (eds), Activating Human Rights Education: Exploration, Innovation and Transformation, Australian College of Educators, Canberra, pp. 75-84. Women With Disabilities Australia, 2013, ‘Gender and disability: An overview of the status of women with disabilities in Australia’, viewed on 5 January, 2014, <http://www.wwda.org.au/snapshot.htm>
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PA G E 11
Super Skinny Sara Amorosi “Buy some scales,” the doctor told me And I felt it stir within me And I knew that I would feel it Coming on and coming surely My science mind said “Yes,” Tracking does make sense But my body disagreed And felt it was penance
Magpies, Cassandra, Sydney, 2009
The holiday season is waning
And now the world expecting Desire to shed kilos And a girly face presenting But I awake to fatness
Horizons of silver-green eucalypts Are set ablaze with honey glow outlines. The warmth glances upon my fingertips And face; e’er fickle but remaining mine.
And hairy legs besides I don my super skinny jeans
Then, under a cherry blossom shadow,
Give the rest, all my goodbyes
I’m plunged into a damp and cool false dark. It’s another world. Suppose some don’t know The clarity of a contrast so stark. My Primrose darts about the neighbours’ cars And rubbish bins. She’s nearly out of sight, I call out to her and she turns just so far. My everlasting pea, my world of light. Racing into the golden sunset sky, She is gone within the blink of my eye.
Right: Deck of Cards, Auth Kash Karver PAG E 12
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PAG E 13
My eyes cannot shut. The mirrorâ€™s accusations suffocate my thoughts. The prying eyes violate every curve of my diminishing frame. Analyzing, judging, criticizing my every feature. Superimposing my figure against the marketed desire, taking hostage my mind. It controls each and every action to keep me to this bed. The mirror selects its targets and unleashes an endless offensive of condemnation. My hands flatten down my thin bed sheet around me, sticking to my skin, illuminating every flaw. A skeletal frame contorted amongst the sea of polyester. Mechanically, I begin to dissect the day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner.The failures of the day outweigh any of the feats: the hour of imprisonment. Our movements being monitored by the men in white coats. We sit. We wait. They watch. No one can move during this hour. Our dinner is forced into digestion. The shame returns to me now as the mirror has control of the hallways. It feeds each indistinguishable inmate identical dark imaginings. The darkness seeps around my pupils and penetrates the back of my skull, as I wait for the hours to escape. I wait to make my escape, to repair the damage that the day of observation has done. As my eyes are tempted to sleep the mirror shakes me awake. It incites a sign of life, cutting down my paralyzed frame. The demands dictate my actions. I reach for a corner of the sheet and, avoiding sound, peel my protector away. I sit up. My eyes strain to form figures through the black. Endless bodies stretch out parallel beside me, infinite prisoners of the mirror. The fitted sheet twists underneath my elbow as I shift towards one of the captives. My fingers stretch out searching for skin and without words, I communicate our crime. Our toes make contact with the cool linoleum and we make our way through the maze of sterilized hallways. Each corridor carries us closer to control, the decreasing numbers echoing our intention. Sharp air bites our emaciated bodies as burst into the suburbs. We run. Our feet beat against the pavement. Waves of pain rip up our shins. We push past overwhelming inertia, the sound of our attack reverberating through the darkness. The pain ascends my legs, turning each muscle stiff and sore. It invades the right side of my neck and my head pounds, focused on the burning. I sift through the endless mess of my mind to uncover my motivations. I want control. The mirror has stripped me of any form of control. Expectations are made of me. Pressure weighs down upon me. And as our bodies race past the silent houses, my mind is momentarily free, body, for once, relaxed. The mirrorâ€™s accusations escape my mind. I have subdued the mirror for a short time. A wave of achievement washes over me, I feel in control. Yet my eyes roll back as my feet press forward, capitulating to the mirror. Faster. Faster. Faster. The girl beside me looks to me to validate our rebellion. Her incarcerated mind orders her muscles to contract and relax. The mirror controls her limbs in the cold air. Our feet pound in time down the identical streets. The saturated colours blind us. I knew her while she was living, living just like me, in a blur of colour. This blur of colour we now pass with our feelings repressed. As she strides forward, she stifles the memories of warmth that these houses induce in her. Her throat constricts with the taste of normalcy.
PAG E 14
The rhythm of our steps screams mutual understanding. We are escaping the mirror, we are going home, and we are recapturing our consciousness. With the flood of hope we sprint through the streets, flying past familiar families to return to where we fit. Our calves stretch, flirting with pain, around the tight last corner. Our steps dramatically decelerate as we reach the pair well-known doors. We act out the movements in a fine-tuned routine. My hand grasps the steel handle. She places her hand on top of mine, in an attempt to suppress the sound. Click. One by one, I position each fingertip against the laminate, allowing them to find balance and grip before taking the full weight of the door against my exhausted body. Our toes make contact with the cool linoleum and we make our way through the maze of sterilized hallways. We pass by the bureaucracy, past the patients ordered according to length of stay. We reach the final ward, filled with those caught in the futile cycle of rehabilitation. The harsh morning light intrudes on our attempt at a few hours rest. My eyes pass over the girl lying next to me, surveying the success of our midnight movements. Her numb cheeks concave into her face. Her skeletal shoulders penetrate the stiff hospital bed. Her ribs jut against her emaciated chest. My eyes cannot shut.
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PAG E 16
Buds of Spring The Spring buds are dying; October fresh, melting in a wave of human breath. Lovers falling apart, Petals pink-stripped, The Agapanthus weeping. Deflowered, Ravished by the lusty sun, and the Men No longer seem as Men, but sticky In crimson transparency: limbs seeping sap.
Super Skinny Sara Amorosi
“Buy some scales,” the doctor told me And I felt it stir within me And I knew that I would feel it Coming on and coming surely
My science mind said “Yes,”
Cold hearts, the yearn to forget
Tracking does make sense
But my body disagreed Freedom; we suck And felt it was penance
Poison from breath, this night-slick Feeds our wickedness.
The holiday season is waning
And now worldvows expecting Yet the chosen forget
Desire to shed kilos
Once touched, now sewn
And a girly face presenting
Within still and watery dreams But I Our awakefreedom to fatnessflows. And hairy legs besides I don my super skinny jeans Give the rest, all my goodbyes
Left: Self Portrait by Elizabeth Mora US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
Lucia Moon PAG E 17
Sexual Assault Awareness Committee Who: A group of Sydney University students committed to fighting sexual assault, abusive relationships, sexual harassment and gendered violence on campus and off. Why: To raise awareness and educate university students about the importance of consent, the prevalence of abuse and the need for change concerning sexual assault. Events: There are a whole range of events set this year including
Speakers night with the Sexual Assault Service and Rape
Fundraising Day selling baked goods, badges and t-shirts
USU Consent Day on the 6th of September. How to Get Involved
This group welcomes all students who recognise the need to fight for gender equality and destroy rape culture. Simply join the facebook group ‘Usyd Sexual Assault Awareness Committee’ or add your email address to the sign up list in the Wom*n’s Room. Please keep your ears open for events and get involved!
Definition of abuse and abusive relationship Abuse is an act of cruelty, manipulation, violence or force against an individual. This can be physical, emotional, psychological, or all three. Abuse is just as detrimental to the wellbeing of an individual, no matter what form it takes. A family member, friend, partner or stranger can inflict abuse. Abuse in a relationship can be one incident of this nature or a series of incidents. It can be carried out by either partner or just one and can be present in all kinds of relationships, not just inflicted by straight men against straight women. Physical abuse is the act of using physical force against another, not necessarily hitting or kicking. Emotional and psychological abuse can involve; bullying, derailing a persons self worth, manipulation, acts of cruelty and taking away the individual’s sense of control. Physical violence is often excused if the perpetrator does not always commit the acts in anger, if the acts do not involve hitting, kicking or punching, or if it is done as part of a sexual scenario. However, if these acts are detrimental to the individual, committed after coercion or manipulation, or against their will, it is abuse. Unwanted physical contact, grabbing, shoving or throwing of objects all come under the umbrella of physical abuse. Emotional and psychological abuse can be more difficult to define, as in less extreme cases society socialises its members, particularly young men, to accept and perpetuate abusive treatment as ‘natural.’ But as in all cases, abuse is defined solely by the effect it has on the receiving individual.
Talk About It Survey: The Talk about It Survey was first launched in 2010. It was started in response to the events at St Paul’s College at our very own university in 2009 - events that still occur in colleges and in campuses across the country. The NUS Women’s Department initiated and released an online survey for all women students to fill out. The results were grim but unsurprising; they showed that sexual assault against women is a reality rife within Australian universities. The Talk About It Survey has been an incredibly important tool in lobbying for change in the culture of our Universities and has provided a sobering effect on people not aware of how prevalent gendered assault is at university. Written by Amy Knox, the NSW Women’s Officer for National Union of Students. For more ways to get involved in the campaigns by NUS contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org or the 2014 National Women’s Officer Georgia Kennelly at email@example.com US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
PAG E 19
Victoria King PAGE 2 0
Seeking Asylum is a Feminist Issue
In recent months we have witnessed the intensification of harsh asylum seeker policy, spurred by the PNG solution under the second Rudd government and exacerbated by the conservative Liberals in an effort to outdo the brutality of Labor’s policy. The major parties’ shameful behaviour only confirms the blatant lack of concern for human rights and feminist progress. There is no doubt that the ongoing mistreatment of asylum seekers is a feminist issue. While men, women and children should not have to suffer under mandatory detention, it’s important to acknowledge the extra fight that female refugees face in a white male dominated society where opposing voices are consistently ignored and silenced. Female refugees’ experience of deprived freedom stemming from gender-related persecution is further exacerbated when one attempts to claim asylum in Australia. Instead of providing protection, respite and relief from trauma and subjection, women asylum seekers continue to be supervised and governed, their autonomy and self determination refused and suppressed. Women in both mainland and offshore detention centres are made to follow demeaning and arbitrary rules. A refugee detained in a centre near Darwin observed that sanitary pads and tampons are doled out one or two at a time, forcing women to ask or plead guards to request these items. Pregnant women or those with small children US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
face distress and frustration with a lack of maternity clothes and having to beg for extra nappies if children get diarrhoea. The extreme callousness is appalling. It is not a matter of inadequate supplies; Serco, the privately contracted ‘service provider’ that runs detention centres (as well as prisons in Britain and Western Australia), certainly makes plenty of money. There seems to be the belief that some people have no right to basic, minimum resources for well-being. (It is already problematic that pads and tampons, essential health products, are seen as ‘luxuries’ and not exempt from GST, while condoms and nicotine patches are.) Moving personal stories in written letters from Manus Island tell of mothers who feel powerless watching their children go through severe depression; how hopeless it feels to have a son with no desire to live.This kind of dehumanisation is the result of policies based on deterrence and punishment. Australia’s refugee policy, determined by petty party politics, is a form of violence against women, causing physical anguish and psychological trauma. There is no crime in seeking asylum.
The Radical History of International Women’s Day
Anna Sanders Robinson, Socialist Alternative
“Their stories have a lot to offer to those of us trying to continue the fight against sexism today.”
The champagne breakfasts and $100-a-ticket gala dinners that go on these days to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) couldn’t be further from its radical beginnings. The socialists that initiated IWD would be horrified to see right-wingers from the Chamber of Commerce to the Liberal Party of Australia holding events to mark the day. IWD actually finds its origins with an illegal meeting to discuss ‘the women in the working class struggle against women’s question’. This meeting was broken up by the police oppression, and against the system of capitalism but this did not stop women continuing to organise. which breeds it, exploitation and inequality. Australia has similar stories of mass marches, Uncovering the forgotten history of IWD is to meetings and rebellion marking IWD. The Militant reclaim the day from the grips of the political Women’s Organisation called a rally in Sydney in Right, and to remember the heroic struggles of March 1928 demanding an 8-hour day for shop working class women in history. Their stories girls, no piece work and paid annual leave. The have a lot to offer to those of us trying to MWG established important networks for women continue the fight against sexism today. activists around the country and created a platform International Working Women’s Day (as it was for women to fight for equality and act around political issues. first known) was established by Clara Zetkin, a German socialist and leading member of the German Social Democratic party in 1910. The first IWD in 1911 saw more than a million women and men take up the idea enthusiastically, with rallies and marches in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark and other major industrial cities of Europe. The slogan for IWD was : “The vote for women will unite our strength in the struggle for socialism.”
Stories of many inspiring women activists came out of the MWG’s actions including that of Jean Young, a barmaid and the first elected female organiser of the Liquor Trades Movement. She organised amongst workers in hotels, campaigning around the issue of equal pay, despite the union executive attempting to restrict this as hotels ‘weren’t suitable places for women to enter’.
IWD events took on many issues, with many of the marches centred on the demand for peace. In Switzerland, secret manifestos were distributed detailing women activist’s opposition to the Swiss war effort, and in Russia female members of the Bolsheviks packed out a hall
So International Women’s day has a long and active history of political struggle against the system and shows the strength of women in these movements. This is very different to the International Women’s Day we see today in Australia and all over the world. Much like everything under capitalism, corporations
Anna Morgan is another inspiring female activist According to the Russian revolutionary socialist that came out of the MWG tradition. Morgan Alexandra Kollontai, “Germany and Austria denounced the ‘black flag of the Aboriginal were one seething, trembling sea of women… Protection Board’ at the 1934 Melbourne Meetings were organised everywhere – in the International Women’s Day rally calling for legal small towns and even in the villages, halls were changes and access to social welfare for indigenous packed full.” people.
use this historically militant day as yet another way to try and squeeze money out of ordinary people or worse still, celebrate big businesses with million dollar functions. The UN Women website suggests ‘fun’ events to celebrate International Women’s Day, which include ‘An Afternoon of Opera and Song’ at Lerida Estate Winery if you live in NSW, at a casual $75 a ticket, an IWD breakfasts hosted on the day in major cities for an easy $90 a head. Even Gina Rhinehart gets in on IWD, with the Chamber of Minerals and Energy hosting The Women is Resources Awards to ‘champion the WA resources sector’ and ‘recognise individuals and organisations working to build worldclass industry’. Hosting ridiculously expensive functions that ordinary, working class women cannot afford to attend and championing the mining industry which exploits thousands of workers is a far cry from Zetkin’s dream of an International Women’s Day that was about fighting for equality and against the corruption of capitalism. The major political parties are clearly not the answer to achieving equal rights for women. Under the Abbott Liberal Government Zoe’s Law no 2, a law
which grants personhood to a foetus over twenty weeks old meaning harming it is manslaughter, has been pushed through the NSW State Parliament and laws like it are emerging in states all over Australia. This is clearly an attack on women’s reproductive rights. Julia Gillard, in her term as ALP Prime Minister, on the same day she made her famous anti-misogyny speech denouncing Tony Abbott for his sexist behaviour in parliament forced over 100 000 single parents (90% of them being women) off the Parenting Payment onto the Newstart Allowance. This cut meant parents lost approximately $60 to $100 a week and also forced single parents with children over eight years old off Newstart onto the dole. In light of these attacks it is clear the fight for women’s rights lies in the hands of ordinary people. It must be fought the way in which Zetkin and other’s after her championed: through taking to the streets in protest of sexist policies and through fighting the governments and the whole capitalist system that create them. March 8 2014 marks 104 years since Zetkin purposed the first International Women’s Day in August 1910. The radical history of this day should be remembered through a continued fight for women’s rights.
Join the International Women’s Day rally Sydney: Saturday March 8, 11am at Sydney Town Hall. US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
The Case For Wom*n’s Self Defence By Bridget Harilaou In Australian society, the prevalence of gendered violence is both shocking and horrifying, particularly for wom*n aged 18 – 24. The Australian Institute of Family Studies states that in their 2012 report, 55 000 Australian wom*n had been sexually assaulted in the last year and that 1.3 million had been sexually assaulted since the age of fifteen. Almost 20% of attacks were by their current partner and 28% were by a previous partner. These statistics prove that sexual abuse is an issue that needs to be addressed today through education, gender equality, destroying every aspect of rape culture, and empowering wom*n through knowledge; knowledge on how rape culture is perpetuated through victim-blaming, knowledge on how to recognise sexual assault and abusive relationships, and knowledge on how to overcome attackers who are larger, stronger and more violent than themselves. The human body is an amazing organism, but it has undeniable weaknesses. No matter how tall, muscular or aggressive a human being is, their system can be shut down by targeting vulnerable areas – eye sockets, throats, jaw lines, sternums, knee caps, groins and spines. These are all target areas that can incapacitate anyone, if struck. By giving this knowledge to wom*n and teaching them how to have the survival mindset to use this knowledge, they can feel safer on the streets, they can know exactly how to take down any opponent and they can have more options on how to escape from a violent attack. There is no singlehanded way for one individual to prevent sexual assault. Telling wom*n to avoid or stop asocial predators is a pre-condition that starts the cycle of victim-blaming because it places responsibility of the attack onto the victim. You’ve all heard wom*n being told, “why were you so drunk?’ “she should have said no,” “she was asking for it.” Thinking of self defence as an escape tactic, rather than ‘stopping an assault’ keeps self defence away from victim-blaming arguments – and that is what the Sexual Assault Awareness Committee is bringing you this year.
Starting in the 3rd week of Semester 1, and running until Week 12, this course in Wom*n’s Self Defence seeks to give wom*n the tools they need to face the reality of our society. The workshops run as one hour of physical self defence training, and one hour of a feminist discussion group covering the ethics of self defence and issues surrounding sexual assault. By addressing both theoretical and practical elements of self defence, these workshops will run in a horizontal learning structure so you do not need to attend the first classes to be able to participate at any given week. The mindset you need once someone has threatened you with violence is something that civilised socialised human beings never usually need to access, but with supervised training, a safe autonomous environment and the support of experienced self defence instructors, we hope that wom*n will leave our 10-week course feeling empowered. Confidence in the movements and abilities of their individual bodies will help boost the more important confidence in their minds. Fitness, ability, and experience are of no consequence in these workshops, they are open to anyone willing to participate, so don’t be shy! At the end of the day, learning self defence can be equated to learning how to swim. If someone pushes a non-swimmer into the deep end of a pool hoping to drown them – it is never the non-swimmer’s fault. ‘She was wearing a swimming costume’ is not an excuse, because they just tried to freaking drown someone! Let us burn victim-blaming in a fire until it is dead and gone. If you are a woman who wants to learn how to ‘swim’, then this is the workshop for you. Please contact Tenaya Alattas or Bridget Harilaou through the Wom*n’s Collective group on Facebook. You can also join the ‘Autonomous Wom*n’s Self Defence Workshops’ Facebook group to keep updated on class times and discussion materials. PAGE 24
it was then: your dreams held close just as your mother once held you only in hands not as gentle and that crushed their contents with every flinch from the world around you discovered that if you curved in on yourself the ridges of your spine were carved deep enough to make you a cog in someone else’s machine guns ringing the day you learnt that ‘sisterhood’ played by the same rules as genetics your worth was not your own so to the mountains you ran and there found neither silence nor solitude only simple facts: there is no need to smile at every camera lens docility is not dues paid for occupying space or the slantt of your eyes and apology for apology is not self- preservation but erosion which made the valleys on the other side dusty flatness boldly grasping in all directions over which you presided with knees scraped and realised that
Poetry: Patricia Arcilla Art: Madeleine Pfull US Y D Wom•ns collec tive 2 014
for all that the world is open there is no reason for you to fit in such a small space ever again PAGE 25
S t u d e n t s ’ R e p r e s e n t a t i v e c o u n c i l u n i v e rs i t y o f S y d n e y
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