GROWING STRONG 2020
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY The University of Sydney Women’s Collective gathers and organises on the stolen sovereign land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, who were amongst the first to suffer and survive the violence of colonialism. We pay our respects to elders past, present and future, and extend that respect to all Aboriginal students and staff at the University. As settlers in Warrang (so-called Sydney), we are the privileged beneficiaries of colonialism. It is our duty to use this privilege to disrupt colonial peace and fight against colonial violence always. As we engage in another year of studies at USyd, we should remain mindful that beneath our feet lies tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal history. We must remember that this past summer, our skies turned grey with smoke, and we breathed in the ashes of ancient rainforests as we watched the sun turn red. Tens of thousands of years of Indigenous sovereignty was violated by over 200 years of colonial rule, and country has paid the price. The ongoing plundering of colonialism is unmistakably at the root of the current climate crisis. We also acknowledge that colonialism and patriarchy are inseparable. Larissa Behrendt, a Eualeyai/ Kamillaroi writer and academic, wrote that “Aboriginal women had a position of power within their traditional society that white women have never enjoyed. Sexist oppression by men started when the white invaders arrived. The misogyny of some Black men is an unwelcome addition to post-invasion Aboriginal communities.” As an intersectional feminist collective, we stand against colonial violence in all its forms, wherever it may exist. The history of feminism has long been entwined with the colonial project that began with European invasion. In our fight to liberate all women and gender diverse people, we must remember that First Nations women are far too highly represented in statistics of domestic violence, sexual violence, and incarceration. Though Kevin Rudd said “sorry” for the Stolen Generations in 2007, the rates of Aboriginal child removal has risen over 400%. All of the children who are currently incarcerated in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal. This is so-called ‘Australia’; racist laws, useless apologies, the celebration of violent invasion every January. It is crucial that we not simply include, but prioritise and centre decolonisation in our activism. Let this acknowledgement be the first step towards further decolonisation. There is no justice without Indigenous justice. There is no empowerment for a few without liberation for all. This land always was, and always will be Aboriginal land.
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q CONTENTS q Page 16: What About the Rapists? Georgia Mantle
Front Cover: Amelia Mertha Page 2: Glossary
Page 17: Women’s Movements in Latin America Marinella Rose
Page 3: What is the Women’s Collective?
Page 18: Becoming a Feminist Yang Wu, translated by Kira Xu
Page 4: Sandstone Doesn’t Burn (But College Culture Should) Vivienne Guo
Page 20: Liberation Can’t be Bought Alex Mcleay
Page 5: On Indigenous Deaths in Custody Allie Jackson
Page 21: The Use of Strip Searching Madhuraa Prakash
Page 6: A Resistance of Images: On Feminist Film Criticism and a Liberatory Cinema Claire Ollivain
Page 22: Internet Archival, People of Colour and the Climate Crisis Kiki Amberber
Page 8: The Bottom of the Ocean Genevieve Couvret
Page 24: Lost Dreams Maya Eswaran
Page 9: Laughing through Spaces Misbah Ansari
Page 25: Self Care under Capitalism Shania O’Brien
Page 10: Maria Clara Donnalyn Xu
Page 26: Misconceptions of Emotional Labour Kowther Qashou
Page 12: Our Mother’s Pain Elizabeth Jarrett
Page 27: Medusa, Monsters and Female Power Caitlin Scott
Page 13: Coming Out Anonymous
Page 28: Reporting Sexual Assault on Campus Ellie Wilson
Page 14: A History of the Women’s Collective Kimberley Dibben
Back Cover: Alex Mcleay
a note from the editors Hello readers, and thank you for picking up Growing Strong 2020! We as a collective believe it is important to educate, share ideas, and be critical of the world around us, and Growing Strong is the product of these beliefs. Like any publication, this edition was brought to you with weeks of hard work and a collective of dedicated writers, artists, and editors, who have endeavoured to paint this political portrait of current radical feminist discourse. We are so grateful to our editorial team - Kiki Amberber, Kimmy Dibben, Amelia Mertha, Jessica Syed, Ranuka Tandan, Donnalyn Xu and Kira Xu - for their unwavering dedication. The world that we live in now - under exploitative systems of capitalism, colonisation and patriarchy - is frightening, grim and most importantly, unacceptable. From discussions of police violence to misconceptions of emotional labour, Growing Strong encapsulates the intersectional, anti-capitalist, and anti-colonialist values of the Women’s Collective. Because, to end on the words of Arundhati Roy, “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” In love, hope and rage, Vivienne Guo and Ellie Wilson 2020 Women’s Officers and Convenors of the USyd Women’s Collective 001
GLOSSARY GLOSSARY GLOSSARY
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ABLEISM: Devaluing against people with or psychiatric disabilities.
and discriminating physical, intellectual,
BINARY: Relating to, composed of, or involving two things. When we use the term ‘binary’ in feminist discussion, it’s usually in relation to the gender binary and the limiting belief that there are only two genders. BIPOC: A term meaning ‘Black, Indigenous, and people of color’. This term exists to be more inclusive of black and Indigenous people whose struggles are often overshadowed by the umbrella term ‘people of colour’. CIS/CISGENDER: Relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their assigned sex at birth. COLONIAL: Relating to the invasion, violation and control of lands inhabited by other cultures and societies. DIASPORA: People dispersed or settled in a country far from their country of ancestral origins. EMOTIONAL LABOUR: The labour of managing your emotions for work (eg. retail worker, waitress, receptionist). Often misunderstood as the transactional ‘labour’ of being a friend/confidant/partner. GASLIGHT: To manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where the perpetrator makes the victim believe that they are imagining things, when in fact the perpetrator is manipulating the situation to gain control. GENDERED LABOUR: The way work is divided between men and women according to their gender roles is usually referred to as the ‘gendered division of labour’. This does not concern only paid work, but also the work and responsibilities that are assigned to women and men in their daily lives. GENDER ROLES: Expectations assigned to each gender (usually the binary male and female). HETERONORMATIVE: Relating to a world view that promotes heterosexuality as the normal or preferred sexual orientation. INTERNALIZED SEXISM: When the belief in women’s inferiority becomes part of one’s own worldview and self-concept. INTERSECTIONALITY: The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, creating overlapping and interdependent systems of oppression.
MALE GAZE: A way of looking at the world through a masculine lens that views women as sexual objects. MANSPLAIN: A man explaining something to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as patronising. MISOGYNY: Dislike, contempt, or ingrained prejudice towards women. MRAs: Men’s rights activists. Usually refers to those who veil their hate for feminism and women with the guise of ‘fighting for men’s equal rights’. NON-BINARY: An umbrella term for people who don’t identify as female/male or woman/man. PATRIARCHY: A system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. PRIVILEGE: A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group. RAPE CULTURE: A society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalising or trivialising sexual assault and abuse. SWERF: Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminist. TERF: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. TOXIC MASCULINITY: The limiting set of ideas about the male gender role, that defines masculinity as exaggerated masculine traits like being violent, unemotional, sexually aggressive, and so forth. TRANSPHOBIA: Prejudice toward trans people. TRANSMISOGYNY: A blend of transphobia and misogyny, manifesting as discrimination against “trans women and trans and gender nonconforming people on the feminine end of the gender spectrum.” TW/CW: Trigger warning/Content warning. WHITE FEMINISM: A brand of feminism centred around the ideals and struggles of primarily white women. WOMEN OF COLOUR (WoC): A political term to unite women from marginalized communities of colour who have experienced oppression. VICTIM-BLAMING: When the victim of a crime or harmful act is held fully or partially responsible for it.
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Art by Vivienne Guo
The University of Sydney Women’s Collective or WoCo is an feminist collective that organises activism and education both on and off campus. For over 50 years, we have organised campaigns against sexual violence on campus, for the decriminalisation of abortion, against the archaic systems of the colleges. We are the most active, left-wing and activist Women’s Collective in the country. As all oppression is intersectional, so must our activism be; we are unabashedly anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, and radically progressive in our activism. WoCo strives to work with and amplify the voices of all intersections of persecuted identities, fighting for a better world with liberation of all, not simply empowerment of a few. We are an inclusive and welcoming space! We encourage all feminist students to get involved with our collective. WoCo meet weekly to discuss activism, politics, current events, feminist theory and other related topics. We also organise protests, picnics, reading groups, social events, talks, film screenings and more.
The USyd Women’s Collective organise on the ancestral land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. Colonialism is not an isolated action but an on-going violation of this land that is perpetuated with every day of settlement. This always was and always will be Aboriginal land. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to know more or get involved! Facebook: fb/usydwoco/ Instagram: @usydwoco Twitter: @usydwoco Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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TW: GRAPHIC ACCOUNTS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, HAZING AND DEATH Vivienne Guo lights a match
In 1977, an 18 year old girl was found raped and murdered on the oval at St Paul’s College. In the decades since, throwing dead fish on first years, setting fire to pubic hair and ejaculating into shampoo bottles, have all remained part of a deep-rooted hazing culture at the University of Sydney colleges, St Paul’s, St John’s, St Andrew’s, Wesley, Sancta Sophia and the Women’s College. In 2012, 30 St John’s residents nearly killed a peer in a hazing ritual. And yet nothing has changed. WoCo’s Dismantle the Colleges campaign has been one of our most radical and necessary campaigns to date. The burning need for structural change was made clear by End Rape on Campus’ Red Zone Report (2018), which draws attention to the horrors that universities seek to keep out of the public eye for fear that they will impact enrolment numbers and thus the University’s revenue. Women and vulnerable students are forced to bear the brunt of this; that is the cost of the University of Sydney saving face. Simply put, the colleges are elitist and deeply sexist institutions that mostly house the wealthy and privileged. They are notorious for being hotbeds of sexual violence and hazing. Sexual violence is concerned with power and power structures not only enable the violence but fuel it by silencing survivors and protecting perpetrators. What has the University done? ViceChancellor Michael Spence, certainly doesn’t give a fuck. He’s previously said that the University is powerless to stop the violent hazing that happens at the start of every year. The lack of repercussions makes for a complete lack of accountability within colleges and a lack of support for survivors.
sandstone doesn’t burn
At the colleges, students pay $30,000 a year in rent, ensuring that only the rich are able to buy their way into their hallowed halls. Amongst this highly privileged demographic, most of the residents are white men, usually from a small pool of private schools in Sydney. It is no secret that boys’ private schools often allow for the misogynistic ‘old boys’ mentality. Case in point is the Wesley College journal from 2016 which ranked women on attractiveness and repeatedly called them “bitches”, “sluts” and “hoes.” This misogyny is enabled in elite private schools and it doesn’t end there; it is encouraged in the colleges and this experience is carried throughout a working life in positions of high authority in politics, business and the media. The existence of the colleges and their $30,000 entry fee is made even more abhorrent by the student housing crisis. Many students are forced to sleep in places like Fisher Library, where they live in a state of perpetual uncertainty and anxiety. There is no doubt that the colleges are a shocking misuse of resources. They sit on rent-free Crown land, protected by state legislation that is over 160 years out of touch, born of a time where universities belonged solely to the wealthy elite, allowing the colleges to thrive ‘in perpetuity’. These laws also enshrine the self-governance of the six largest colleges, ensuring that hazing and sexual violence are ‘handled’ by institutions whose best interests lie with public image and not with survivors.
but college culture should
In the knowledge of all this, I would happily chime into chants of “burn down the colleges.” But of course we don’t want to literally burn down the colleges. Nor do we want to physically tear down the buildings, brick by brick. But the colleges as they are, with their blase attitude to misogynistic traditions and rape culture, cannot be allowed to stand. The entire system must be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up, to provide safe, affordable public housing for students who need it most. Epidemics of rape, hazing and bullying won’t just vanish with the archaic colleges by themselves either. Universities still have a long way to go in terms of action, to pull these problems out root and stem, and it must start with the colleges. We don’t want to burn down the colleges. Sandstone doesn’t burn. But they must be abolished. Nothing short of closing the colleges will sufficiently address issues of student safety, sexual violence, hazing, misogyny and elitism. To survivors: we see you. We believe you. We support you. We will fight for a better world.
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ON INDIGENOUS DEATHS IN CUSTODY v
TW: Contains details of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths in custody, including names of the deceased.
On the second of January this year, as we were all rising from our post-NYE slumber, Ms Veronica Nelson Walker died in custody. Ms Nelson Walker was a 37-year-old Yorta Yorta woman who, as her family articulately put it, received a “life sentence” for allegedly shoplifting. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been prisoners on their own land in many forms, initially through the foreign imposition of the English common law in 1788. Beholden to this law, which had been created with the British population in mind, and forced to submit to a set of rules that had never been explained to them, they quickly discovered that survival meant understanding and engaging with a colonial legal system that was not built for them. This fight for survival in the criminal justice system has continued until today. Despite making up around three percent of the population in so-called ‘Australia’, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for over a quarter of the total prison population and represent 22 percent of total number of deaths in custody. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are the most likely demographic to return to prison, with over 85 percent of Indigenous women returning to prison for minor crimes. Vickie Roach uses her own experience as an incarcerated Yuin woman to illustrate the connection between colonisation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system. Ms Roach was only twelve years old when she was first imprisoned after running away from abusive foster homes and state institutions, which she had been placed in as part of the Stolen Generation. Ms Roach’s life, much like many of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody today, was impacted by the imports of colonisation – drugs, alcohol, domestic violence and a punitive justice system. The factors that lead Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to die in prison are complex and diverse. They range from medical neglect, as was the case for Tanya Day, to police brutality, as was the case for 17-year-old T.J Hickey. However, for every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person who dies in custody, systemic racism and ongoing white supremacy play an unacknowledged role. Ms Day was arrested for public drunkenness, reported to police by a transit officer who decided that calling
the police was the most appropriate response to a drunk woman who was fast asleep on a train. T.J Hickey died by becoming impaled on a fence whilst being pursued by the police, despite having committed no crime. Neither of these cases have seen satisfactory justice for the families to date and reflect the futility of relying on a colonial justice system to prosecute itself. The case of Ms Nelson Walker is no different. She was arrested for allegedly shoplifting and went on to represent herself in court without the assistance of a lawyer. She was then refused bail, remaining in custody where she was placed in an observation room. There are reports that her continued cries for help, as she lay dying in her cell, were ignored throughout the night, until she was found dead on the 2nd of January. Every part of this story cries of antiIndigenous racism; from Ms Nelson being refused bail, when there is significant evidence that Indigenous status is a direct predictor of being refused bail, to the ignoring of her pleas for help despite being in an observation cell, a reflection of the white disbelief in the severity of a Blak woman’s pain. Over 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in custody since the Royal Commission into Indigenous Deaths in Custody. Countless families have stood through painstakingly long and detailed inquests only to hear coroners absolve all parties of responsibility, instead making vague recommendations that do not have to be legally followed. Inquests are devastating and traumatising experiences for the families of those murdered in custody as they have to watch and listen to the footage and audio from their family member’s death on repeat. This year, the USyd Women’s Collective has made a commitment to join the local branch of the Indigenous Social Justice Collective (ISJA) and support the fight against the white supremacy and ongoing colonisation enacted upon Blak people in prisons. I extend this invitation to you, reader. Our responsibility, as accomplices to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is to support those families who have been jailed by an ongoing colonial system that we must actively fight. ISJA meets every Wednesday at 6.30pm in the Redfern Community Centre. Words by Allie Jackson
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Greta Gerwig’s film Little Women has drawn a lot of attention in discussions about the low number of Oscar-nominated films directed by women, which is unsurprising considering the patriarchal nature of the industry. While watching Little Women, the words honey-covered come to mind. It is aesthetically pleasing, heart-warming and heart-breaking, and Jo March’s arc continues to resonate with many aspiring women writers. Gerwig’s adaptation of the novel has been praised by some for highlighting its proto-feminist origins in the 19th century, and derided by others for looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses. While film doesn’t transparently embody the interests of the oppressor, the way its form is constructed has the capacity to reproduce social hierarchies. Genres, camera shots, angles, music, and montage are all tools with ideological potential. The Hollywood domination of the film industry is largely underpinned by the white-supremacist, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchal dominant ideology of the US. It has its own aesthetic language that encodes a certain way of looking at the world, often idealising patriarchal values to a passive audience.
However, a major problem with Mulvey’s dichotomy of “woman as image, man as bearer of the look” is that white women are the normative subject in her thinking. She fails to account for hotw women of colour have their presence negated by the Hollywood film industry. An example of how this negation operates is recognised meta-fictively in Julie Dash’s film Illusions, in which a young African American singer, Esther, voices for the white actress who is seen dancing onscreen. Esther’s contribution is made invisible, used to maintain white womanhood as the visual spectacle. Illusions goes behind-the-scenes to undo this violent erasure and draw attention to the racism in Hollywood industry.
Although we may not want to scrutinise beloved classics and the movies of our childhood, an abundance of liberatory possibilities open up once we become suspicious of how cinema has trained us to ‘look’. Not simply by who is represented in narratives, but how film techniques encourage our acceptance of the status quo. Changes to artistic form alone won’t lead to collective liberation from the patriarchy, yet there are films that oppose Hollywood style that encourage us to develop a critical consciousness, rather than be passive as audiences.
In Black Looks: Race and Representation, bell hooks criticises Mulvey for re-enacting the erasure of women of colour that occurs in films by making false universalisations about women’s experiences. hooks introduces the concept of an “oppositional gaze” based on a history of black women’s spectatorship, which disavows identification with both the male dominating gaze and white womanhood. Denied any access-point for identification, the oppositional gaze finds pleasure in resisting and scrutinising culturally dominant images. In Annette Kuhn’s words, “the structures of power which ask us to consume them uncritically and in highly circumscribed ways.”
Laura Mulvey’s influential Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema was my first introduction to feminist film critique at university. In her essay, she argues that the language of the patriarchy is encoded in Hollywood narrative cinema by catering to the ‘male gaze’. Film techniques, such as invisible editing (the consistency of time and space), create a windowlike illusion of voyeuristic separation that encourages us to identify with the male projection of fantasies on women. Consider how cinemas themselves are set up to promote this desire – a dark eroticised room, where you are given private glimpses of another world unfolding as though you are not there.
hooks’ radical intervention into feminist film criticism reminds us that Hollywood is not exclusively a patriarchal
a resistance of images
on feminist film criticism
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industry, but also a white-supremacist, capitalist and imperialist one. Hollywood is called a dream factory because it manufactures entertainment, but in order to experience this pleasure it entails some degree of acceptance of the capitalist narratives of happiness and prosperity.
“Hollywood is not exclusively a patriarchal industry, but also a whitesupremacist, capitalist and imperialist one.”
The politics of Little Women could be described as liberal feminist, as it centres individual acts of choice rather than collective liberation. For example, Jo asserts herself when she chooses to demand higher royalties for herself when publishing her book. While this is great, the problem is that countless stories about white cisgender women succeeding in maledominated society are regularly made and celebrated as peak feminism. If a film’s feminist ideas are accepted and amplified by the mainstream, it likely isn’t doing much that really challenges the patriarchy. Gerwig’s nostalgic vision often glosses over the harsh historical backdrop of Little Women while celebrating the structural advantages of the wealthy March and Laurence families. Their acts of philanthropy in some scenes are presented uncritically, with a saccharine aesthetic that presumes their innocent position in an unjust system.
of histories of violence. The audience as subjects looking at objects through a voyeuristic window is constantly disrupted as the window announces its own presence; perception is no longer immutable but taken as a material to be scrutinised for the histories embedded within it. Liberal feminist film discourse that focuses on women taking up roles previously held by men in the industry is not liberatory enough. Offered a seat at the table and an access-point to identify with dominant film imagery, white cisgender women, including myself, actively benefit from the matrix of oppression that the patriarchy is one aspect of. A world liberated from the patriarchy and joint structures of oppression would not just mean amplifying or diversifying women’s voices in the film industry — it would mean transforming the structure of institutions and audience engagement with films. Films are not just entertainment or storytelling; they can be a powerful means of promoting critical consciousness of our situation in history, and how we can act to transform it. Liberation is ultimately a creative endeavour, as much as it is a material struggle against violence.
Once we recognise that Hollywood spectator cinema and liberal feminist film discourse don’t have the tools to ‘dismantle the master’s house’ we are compelled to search out the under-appreciated work of more revolutionary feminist filmmakers. For example, films created in the ‘Third Cinema’ movement decry the Hollywood commercial system, and aim for the “decolonisation of culture”. A liberatory cinema develops a mode of desire that doesn’t allow spectatorial mastery over the visual field as a passive surface — it denies the dominating gaze at the root
Words and Art by Claire Ollivain
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THE boTtom of the ocean
words by genevieve couvret
TW: mentions of domestic abuse When I finally left, I felt like moving to Paris. I needed the idea of romance, the kind that only exists in movies, imbued in me, the way it’s carved into archways, winking at you like the sun slouching through shutters. I needed to feel the memory of something that used to be great. But as far as I could get was out the front door, and that was far enough. + He always wanted a dog. He thought it’d love him no matter what, a constant wave lapping at the shore of his affections. But he grew up in the inner-city without a backyard, with a single mother he treated like a mortgage, so he never figured out how to take out his anger, or take responsibility for things. That’s why I always ironed his shirts. I remember running late, I couldn’t find the iron, yelling about it, yelling about everything, yelling about nothing. It was a flash; lightning when he struck me. Magic trick, and the man I knew disappeared. The cold touch of the laundry floor tiles lingered on my cheek. I got up, crept downstairs, and saw him with that mystery iron, gently stroking away the creases in his shirt. I accepted the apology. When we got home, I saw the ironing board still in the middle of the living room, glaring like a shipwreck in a lonely ocean. I wanted to tell him to put it away, that he never puts things away, that it would take two damn seconds to put it away. But I was too afraid. I knew then that even if it never happened again, everything had changed. + When it happens, I don’t recognise him. Something changes in his eyes, a current runs through him, and then the water sweeps me up, and suddenly I can’t breathe. I started avoiding looking at myself in mirrors. Stopped tying my hair up so it would hang down over my neck. Stopped wearing mascara. Lots of concealer. Cheap scarves. Fake smiles. It’s the little things. I felt myself melt away, ice to water. Crying changed too. As a little girl, roaming in that dangerous empty space where the love used to be in a broken home, tears were bold. Their deluge reminded me that I could feel. Pain thrashed inside me like dissonant percussion. Hurt was heavy. But I never got angry at him. Soon, I forgot my own sadness. Powerless to even cry. Sinking. Drowning. + I hate that he’ll always have hurt me, even if I move on, reduce the memory of him to one fading scar. Things never really end, they just find new ways to hurt. Bruises only form once it’s over. When you finally look at yourself in the mirror again, and get angry, and cry, and don’t recognise the woman, the feminist, who stayed for so long. Who didn’t used to be scared that all men are wearing masks they take off when they get home, whose heart is clenched like a fist, who can’t let that grip go. The hardest thing to do is to leave. To choose your suffering. But there’s no more water in my lungs. I can breathe.
art by v iv ienne gu o 008 08
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laughing through spaces
Mound up. Fill in. Crush. Savor. This is a new process. The breed of women who scoop out wit in between car rides, swirling it inside the machine as the satire mixes with the dry skin corns tasting of lipstick fruit settles in; crushing between the brainchildren that she holds like itâ€™s a toy of new squeak. A newer smell still shedding its hue to stain her popsicles of anecdotes, too slow to melt. When she raises her brows and smirks as the popsicle freezes her before the trial of her new variant, she slowly turns into a vampire: dripping of thrown papers down the lane of her canines. She tries a waiter tablecloth trick, too afraid that the canned syrups will go below your palate but who cares â€“ it will still strike you when the joke touches your inflamed tonsils deracinating your stage flavours, when the light will be snorty - er, funnier, woman - ier.
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maría clara Poem and Art by Donnalyn Xu
In this first life, or later in the next one,
I imagine my face pressed hard against
the earth: swallowed by the soil & all its children,
my hair tangled in the roots of something older
than my ancestors, older than their womansongs
to the river always calling & even older
than that river, too. I imagine their angled shoulders
in butterfly sleeves, dressed in baro’t saya
when it was still nameless, before it was gifted
the word martyr or baptised in fiction, before
it was lover to María Clara in her bed of piña silk,
called terno, called mestiza. With my ear
against the ground, I listen to the drum of my
wild heart beating / breathing into the sigh
of wind chime. I slip into her bell-shaped embrace
wearing this dress called María as she turns over
like the dirt in my palms, passed from one mouth
to the other, a holy doorway to newness. Queen
of nothing, I feed the earth whatever part of me
it desires – what was lost, what was once loved;
all that is left & still leaving.
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our mother’s pain Elizabeth Jarrett is a Gumbaynggirr Dunghutti Bundjalung poet and activist.
Welcome to the land down under, Where all are welcome to rape and plunder.. The Australian flag that flies so high, Is one that represents terrorism and lies!! The national anthem states “we are young and free” But not if you are born a First Nation like me… Mining is rape against our mother’s will, Turning her into Mars with craters of land fill.. Drilling, digging and fracking with force, All for the supreme and privileged and their resource. Our custodians denied their sovereign right to voice, To protest now leaves fines and jail as our choice.. Rise up First Nations no more silence, The time has come to end the offshore and colonial violence..
Our land sold from right under our feet, To a corporate thief that can’t fill their greed. Our waters poisoned never again to flourish, Our communities destroyed n people being punished, Why is it they can’t understand She is our mother not just a piece of land. Their dollar beholds their ultimate power, But where will be it’s worth in our mothers final hour….
GROWING STRONG 2020
In recent times, ‘coming out of the closet’ has been a phenomenon that has been keenly observed within queer and gender non-binary communities, becoming far more common and being celebrated as the individual’s pinnacle of pride in oneself and their identity. The recent spike in the phenomenon can be linked to the wider acceptance of diverse identities within society, with huge wins in the fight for marriage equality internationally. Yet there is an inherent privilege in the act of coming out which tacitly dictates who can and cannot come out.
“If, for some reason or another, the individual cannot come out, their identity is viewed as half-formed, questioning or even illegitimate.”
The intersectionality of a being lies in their ability to express their identity to the public. If, for some reason or another, the individual cannot come out, their identity is viewed as half-formed, questioning or even illegitimate, and hence do not gain recognition for that identity. This is especially true for ‘intangible’ identities as it is impossible for one to be identified as gender nonbinary or queer without first identifying themselves as one or both of the prior. Hence in society, the concept of identity is not simply something that is personally determined but rather is an object of the public sphere. Coming out solely relies on the individual to publicly express their identities regardless of other factors, such as family and status at work. It is through these factors that arises a hierarchy of privilege as to who has the freedom to come out. Though the study of intersectionality can show the unique disadvantages that an individual faces, it also brings to light a more obscured reality; that along with those disadvantages, there are a multitude of privileges that an individual has. For example, for people like Pete Buttigieg, a wealthy white gay man who is complicit to the imperialist and oppressive system that suppressed the queer community in past years, it is a relatively easy task to come out as gay because the disadvantages of being openly gay do not significantly undermine his already incredible position of privilege within society. Contrastingly, a person of colour coming from a lower socio-economic background does not have the same luxuries to express their identity to society when compared to someone like Pete Buttigeig, as they have a lot more to lose when they come out. In many cases, it is quite easy for the individual to retain their privilege as a straight-passing member of society. Thus, this dynamic creates a hierarchical and very class-based conception of coming out, linking the act to a simple profit and loss calculus instead of the celebration of identity its meant to be.
THE PRIVILEGE OF COMING OUT
We must recognise our own personal privilege even within intersectional groups and recognise that many others simply do not have the means to express their identity. We must also recognise that class and race plays an integral role in the act of coming out; look up to revolutionaries such as Marsha P. Johnson for example, as they not only came out but did so against all odds, sacrificing much to do so.
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Kimberley Dibben gives you
A HISTORY OF THE WOMEN’S COLLECTIVE
Chronicling the history of the Women’s Collective (WoCo) is important. Our activism has spanned over decades, in the form of multiple campaigns, education workshops and publications. Women are too often left out of history that is predominantly written by men, and activist history is scarcely recorded. This means that WoCo’s history is often only shared orally, or through publications such as this. This article recognises that it is not a full extensive history, but a collection of recent milestones. If we do not record our own history, it will be forgotten.
a bort i on a cce ss WoCo has always believed in abortion as a human right for all, and necessary for one’s bodily autonomy. Abortion should be free, safe and legal. Nobody should be restricted from their right to decide on their own body. Abortion access has remained a major campaign throughout the past decade. On campus, WoCo has in recent years fought for the right of students to feel safe from those who wish to deny bodily autonomy, combatting their misinformation and intimidating presence. During O-Week in 2018, the Women’s Collective protested LifeChoice’s stall and their presence on campus during O-Week. Informational leaflets were dispersed, busting harmful anti-choice myths of abortion that often pour from stalls like as LifeChoice. The iconic ‘pro-choice heart’ was shared around to take pictures with and to help new students feel safe and supported to make their own choices on their own bodies.
abortion, villifying those who have had abortions. The USyd Catholic Society holds similar anti-choice events annually, titled ‘Life-Week’, which WoCo has counter-protested. During Life-Week in 2019, abortion was officially decriminalised in NSW. Off campus, WoCo has participated in similar community action to combat anti-choice rhetoric. For years, WoCo has counter protested the annual “Day of the Unborn Child” at St Mary’s Cathedral, wherein a mass ‘mourning’ is held followed by a march down St Mary’s Road. WoCo believes that it is a personal decision, not that of the church, when someone seeks to have an abortion, and that this ‘mourning’ is
Later in the year, WoCo held a snap protest in opposition of the Catholic Society’s event titled ‘Abortion: The Exploitation of Women’ during their annual Life Week, which again spread harmful misinformation around 014
nothing but a guise to shame and vilify those who seek abortions. It is not new information that the Catholic Church is a sexist institution that wishes to control women’s bodies, and this day reveals it as such. WoCo’s counter protest is always nonviolent, holding space for those whom have had abortions to speak to their experiences and show solidarity and to take back the sexist narrative of abortion by the church. However, our very presence is often met by police violence and intimidation. WoCo will continue to counter protest the Day of the Unborn Child until Catholics learn to leave people with uteruses the fuck alone.
GROWING STRONG 2020
en d r a p e on c a m pus
Rad sex an d consent
Sexual violence is one of the largest and longest running campaigns of the Women’s Collective, fighting to end rape on campus. Much of WoCo’s recent activism on this topic has been steered by research reports including the National Union of Students’ ‘Talk About It’ survey (2015), a report from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (2016), the Broderick Review (2018), and the Red Zone Report (2018). In 2016, WoCo held a silent protest against sexist college culture at Wesley College after it was revealed that me students from the college had developed a publication called ‘Rackweb’, wherein female students were ‘rated’, slutshamed, and objectified.
Radical Sex and Consent week has been one of WoCo’s most successful educational workshops, founded in 2014 by USU Vice-President Bebe D’Souza with the support of WoCo – until it was axed by the USU in 2019. This annual three days of workshops and lectures on Eastern Avenue aimed to teach students what their deficient high school sex-ed didn’t.
Later in the year, WoCo conducted its iconic mattress protest after the release of the AHRC’s report on sexual violence on campus. Members carried mattresses through USYD’s Open Day, that read “red tape wont cover up rape” and other messages supporting survivors and damning the known epidemic revealed in the AHRC report. Women’s Officer Anna Hush read aloud an open letter penned to the Vice Chancellor from the previous decade of Women’s Officers demanding action and accountability for the sexual violence epidemic, greater support for survivors, and more effective reporting procedures. During O-Week 2018, WoCo protested the colleges after the release of the Red Zone Report that revealed harrowing details of misogyny and rape culture at the residential colleges that enables high rates of sexual violence and hazing, particularly during O-Week. Over a hundred students marched alongside WoCo through the Quadrangle, and heard speeches from the authors of the
report Nina Funnell (leading journalist on sexual violence and consent laws) and Anna Hush (former Women’s Officer and member of EROC Australia). Later in the week, WoCo members disrupted O-Week college promotions by walking a long banner reading ‘dismantle the colleges’ through their stalls and reading the damning evidence
This included facilitated discussions on trans and queer sexuality, sexuality and Islam, sexual violence and healing, sex workers, safe BDSM practices. The University’s lack of support for this important education reveals its disinterest in students’ sexual wellbeing, and disregard for this event as an important preventative to sexual violence on campus. WoCo will fight for Rad Sex and Consent week’s return.
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of toxic college culture from the Red Zone Report. This drew attention to the Red Zone Report, advocating for a campus free of sexual violence that may only be possible through dismantling the colleges where rape culture is systemically ingrained and countlessly excused.
WoCo has run many of its own workshops over the years for members and other students. In 2016, many workshops were ran on and off campus, including those titled ‘Race and Feminism’, ‘Sexual Harassment and Assault’ (alongside Rape and Domestic Violence Services NSW), and ‘What Is Feminism?’ Since then, WoCo has engaged in other workshops such as last year’s Feminist Legal Perspectives panel on which WoCo convenor and autonomously elected Women’s Officer Jazzlyn Breen co-hosted a discussion on sexual violence on university campuses.
GROWING STRONG 2020
what about the rapists? Georgia Mantle explains why prison abolition is feminist
One of the first questions posed to me as a feminist prison abolitionist is: “What about the rapists?” This question is underpinned by the belief that prisons successfully protect people, especially women, from sexual violence and violence against women. Those posing this question imagine a world where rapists can live freely within our society and our communities. The reality is that this world already exists. We are living in it. Rapists live in our society without reprimand and continue to hold significant power within our communities. Prisons provide a veneer of safety whilst concealing the violence they inflict on communities. Feminist prison abolition challenges the violence inflicted by rapists as well as by the state. We seek to develop alternative models of justice through the building of strong communities. This article does not provide a roadmap of how communities can enact community accountability and alternative forms of non-carceral justive; rather, it seeks to challenge dominant feminist conceptions of violence and justice and encourage people to imagine a world without prisons for the benefit of women and communities. The role of prisons is so deeply embedded in the social imaginary that the idea of a world without prisons seems impossible. As author and activist Angela Davis writes: “prison abolitionists are dismissed as utopians and idealists whose ideas are at best unrealistic and impractical and at worst, mystifying and foolish.” Liberal feminists and antiviolence movements believe feminist abolitionists are working against our own cause of eliminating violence against women. But feminist prison abolitionists are not delusional in our understanding of violent crimes, especially against women and gender diverse people. We simply do not see prisons as a legitimate way of ending this violence. Sexual assault and related offences make up only 13% of the prison population in Australia, while only one in ten cases of sexual assault result in a conviction. It is clear that the threat of prison doesn’t work as a deterrent of rape and does not in any way remove rapists from our society. This failure of prisons to address rape and violence against women further justifies the pursuit of radically different modes of justice. Community accountability is one such alternative to state controlled systems, emerging from radical feminist thinking that is deeply embedded in decolonial movements led by women of colour. The community-based approach to justice seeks to address the needs of the community rather than the desires of the state. Community accountability and prison abolition seek a holistic view of people and communities while rejecting viewing ‘crimes’ and violence as individual acts. Structural change alongside community accountability means the possibility of stopping violence and rape before it happens. Though often dismissed as utopian, the abolitionist movement rejects the idea that violence is an innate facet of society. Rather, people, especially men, are socialised to be violent and use their patriarchal power to dominate women through violence. Other violent crimes can manifest as a result of poverty and in response to the violence of the state. Imagining a world without violence allows people to imagine the true liberation of women, free from patriarchal violence. Art by Emma Cao 016
GROWING STRONG 2020
Capitalism is a barbaric system, with a myriad of injustices structured into the status quo. One doesn’t have to look far to see the perpetual inequality, worsening climate catastrophe, and ever-deepening oppression capitalism begets. Considering this, it is not surprising that women’s oppression continues to assert itself in almost every aspect of life today, from the gender pay gap, to the inaccessibility of abortion, to sexual violence, and the sexist socialisation we are submerged in from the moment we’re born. However, people cannot be held down forever. In feminist movements across Latin America, specifically Argentina and Chile, we see glimpses of what kind of fight will be necessary to win liberation once and for all. The struggle for reproductive rights is central to the Argentinian feminist movement. There are 60,000 hospitalisations each year due to unsafe abortions, and infections caused by abortions are the leading cause of maternal death in the country. These material factors undeniably shape both the way women are socialised and relate to their sexuality. They therefore quite heavily reinforce the structural sexism that exists under capitalist societies. It is no wonder that calls for adequate education on sexual health, contraceptives, and safe access to abortion are all demands which resonate deeply with the Argentinian feminist movement. Over the years, the fight for abortion rights has been a much-needed antidote to the attempts of neoliberal capitalism following the retreat of earlier gay liberation and women’s movements. The intervention of organised revolutionary socialists was critical in arguing for the movement to maintain its radicalism and to continue to protest en masse. Importantly, progress has been made—accessible abortion is set to be made available to women who have experienced sexual assault. This gain is signifiant for a country in which abortion is still considered “a crime against a life and a person” and punishable by 15 years in prison. However, there is much more to be fought for and won, especially in this era of neoliberalism, which seeks to erode working class standards of living and the hard-won rights of oppressed groups.
Words by Marinella Rose
WOMENS’ MOVEMENTS IN LATIN AMERICA Over the past few months, ordinary Chileans have been rising up against the right-wing Chilean government and opposing thirty years of neoliberalism. This political system bears strong resemblance to the Pinochet dictatorship which, in 1973, brought a vicious end to the workers’ movement. This movement has been inspiring to watch — barricades are popping up across cities, general strikes and mass community assemblies are being called. Importantly, the movement has revealed the violence of the capitalist state as thousands have been injured and arrested, with horrific fates awaiting women who are forced to meet the police force. There is a long history of the police and the military perpetrating sexual-political violence in Chile, especially during times of heightened struggle, and the past few months have been no exception. 200 cases have been officially reported, and are sure to increase as the movement continues. Even so, women in Chile are not backing down — instead, they are rising to challenge the violence of systemic sexism. Performances of “The Rapist is You”— a song which targets the structures of the capitalist state for being responsible for the normalisation and perpetuation of sexual violence — have been powerful displays of the women’s movement in Chile refusing to be intimidated by the brutality of the state. With the poignant recognition of sexism as a systemic issue, it is no wonder that performances of this song have found their way all over the world, both in solidarity with the Chilean struggle, as well as part of domestic battles for women’s rights. Neoliberalism is in international crisis, and its proponents are desperately trying to re-entrench values of the capitalist status quo, which means the harshening of sexism ideologically and materially. However, those who are oppressed will not just sit back and take it forever, and resistance to sexism is inevitable and inspiring to witness. Every one of these movements, from the struggles against state violence in Chile to the fight for reproductive rights in Argentina, are important, as they give people the confidence to continue struggling, to push for more, to widen their horizons, and teach people lessons to take into the next fight. For these movements to progress beyond winning significant demands in the here and now, they must recognise the inextricable link between sexism and capitalism, and organise with other anti-capitalists to build institutions capable of tearing the whole rotten system down. Then, women’s liberation will be within our reach.
GROWING STRONG 2020
becoming a feminist “Hah, you use this kind of little bag for your coffee cup? This is a typical Chinese thing, right? After all, I always see Chinese people holding these things.” That is what my white classmate told me when he saw me and my friend using the takeaway bags from a cafe. I looked at the bags. Yes, they were some sort of combination between coffee cup sleeves and handles. But it wasn’t our fault that he had never seen other people hold this type of bag. Idiot. But I said, “Oh, I don’t think only Chinese people do that.” “Hah, girl I’m not sure…” he replied, muttering some more in disagreement, before walking away. “That’s his way of small talk, I guess,” I said to my friend. But there was another voice in my head that whispered, “Yeah, but he probably only talks to Asian women like this. You know this is wrong and you don’t speak up. So how can you still call yourself a feminist? Even worse, your response would reinforce ‘silent lamb’ Asian stereotype.” This is an inner struggle I have every day. Am I qualified to be a feminist? I am a sociology student whose specialisation is gender inequality. I can use several feminist theories skillfully in my research proposal focusing on feminist movements. But what should I do if one day I would face those racist and sexist assaults directly? I’ve mused over this a thousand times. Nothing worked. I just kept freezing, and then criticising myself for freezing. I felt so powerless. All the words, knowledge, theories… They cannot completely shore me up as an Asian woman and feminist. On the contrary, they are making me doubt myself in harsher and crueler ways. They fuel my anger. Anger towards myself, about the world, about everything. But later I realised I was wrong. In a research proposal that I pursued, I met with several Chinese women. They were from different professions, places and classes, but in my research proposal, I simply put them under the umbrella term ‘Chinese feminists’. In one interview, the interviewee who started the #MeToo movement in China said to me, “Don’t call me a feminist. That is not how I identify myself. To be honest, I don’t even want to be one of those people.” Another interviewee had helped many girls from rural villages avoid arranged marriages and make a living in cities. “I just let them know they can marry a better man here. Then after many years, people from villages will end up working for their children. Isn’t that better?” Are these women doing good or bad? Are they ‘real’ feminists? Are they more or less feminist than me? Are they actually helping the feminist movement or not? When I throw myself into the field, I never think about Simone de Bouvoir, Nancy Fraser or Patricia Hill Collins, not even once. Instead, what echoes in my heart is the reason that I came to Australia. Yes, I came here to study sociology. But more importantly, I came here to free myself of all the ‘secure’ paths that had been outlined for me in China. I came here to absorb all the culture and knowledge that this supposedly uncultured and bewildering country could offer me. I came here to embrace all my uncertainties, struggles, desires and ambitions. I came here to become my true self. So why was I using Asian feminist theories and knowledge to build another cage? I am me. Whether I do good or bad, it is me who makes the choices, not simply a feminist, not simply an Asian, not simply a researcher. Me. Is it the most genuine way of choosing to make my own place and connections in the world? Or is it just a self-intoxicating and ahistorical gesture? I don’t know. But I know I will keep fighting the good fight, and I will decide what is good for myself.
GROWING STRONG 2020
“诶，给咖啡杯套上这种带小把手的打包袋——中国人的老习惯，对吧？我总是看到中国人拎着这种东西 在悉尼到处转。” 当我的一个白人同学看到我和我的朋友在咖啡馆打包咖啡的时候，他这么告诉我。我看了看这个袋子。是 的，它们是手握咖啡杯套和把手的组合，这样既可以拎着又可以拿着。你这辈子从没见过别人拿着这种打 包袋又不是中国人的错。 但我只是答道，‘哦，我不认为只有中国人会这么做。’他回答说‘哈，小姑娘，我可不确定’，伴随着 不赞同的嘟囔走开了。 “我想他只是想闲聊。”我对我的朋友这样说。但我内心的另一个声音说道：“是，也许只是和亚洲女性 闲聊才会这样说话吧。你明明知道他是错的，却不敢反抗。你怎么还好意思称自己为女权主义者？更糟的 是，这种回应还会增强对亚洲人‘沉默无趣’的刻板印象，不是吗？” 每一天，我的内心都会有这样的挣扎。我是否有资格成为女权主义者？我学习社会学，研究方向是性别问 题。我可以在我的女权运动研究计划里巧妙地运用多种女权主义理论。我想过无数次：如果有一天我直面 种族主义和性别歧视的攻击，我该怎么办？想象中的所有策略都没奏效：我只是愣在那里，随即谴责自己 惧怕争端的怯懦。 我感到无力。所有的文字，知识和理论似乎都不能保护我，让我自信的去做一个亚洲女性和一个女权主义 者。相反，知识让我变得对自己更严酷，更失望。渐渐地，我对自己，对周遭，对一切的一切都感到愤 怒。但后来我知道，我错了。 随着研究的进行，我遇到了几位中国女性。她们有不同的职业、来自不同的地方，属于不同阶层。但在我 的研究计划书中，我只是把她们统一归入“中国女权主义者”。在一次采访中，中国“我也是” 运动的 发起者之一是这么告诉我的，“不要叫我女权主义者。我并不认为我自己是其中一员。老实说，我不想成 为那种人。”另一位受访者帮助许多农村女孩逃离包办婚姻，在大城市谋生。他们说“我只是让那些女孩 知道，他们可以在城市里嫁给一个更好的男人。以后从村里来的人都会给她们的孩子打工哩！这样不好得 多吗？” 这些受访者是在做正确的事吗？她们算得上是真正的女权主义者吗？她们有没有比我更“女权主 义”一些？她们的举动是不是能真正帮助女权运动？ 当我采访这些人的时候，我从未想到过波伏娃，南希·弗雷泽，帕特里夏·柯林斯或其他的理论家。我脑 中不断回响的是我最初选择来澳大利亚的原因。是的，我来这里是为了学习社会学，但更重要的是，我来 这里是为了摆脱在中国父母为我铺垫的 “稳妥”道路，我来到这里是为了看看这个号称“文化荒漠”和“ 荒野之地”的国家能够给我什么样的人文熏陶，我来到这里是为了拥抱所有的困难和不确定性、挑战自己 的欲望和野心。我来这里是为了创造和成为我自己。 那我为什么要用亚洲人和女权主义者的标签，抑或是各种理论和知识来给自己建造另一个牢笼呢？ 我就是我。无论我做什么，我都是“我”，不带着女权主义者，亚洲人，研究者这些标签，我只是“我” 。这究竟是一种选择自己立场并与世界建立联系的最真实的方式？还是仅仅是一个既自我陶醉又反历史的 姿态呢？我也不知道。 但我知道我会继续坚守信念并步步向前。只有我自己能决定我的战场在何方。
Written by Yang Wu / Translated by Kira Xu
GROWING STRONG 2020
liberation can’t be purchased Alex Mcleay says fuck liberal feminism!
In 2019, 35 of Forbes’ Fortune 500 CEOs were women – the highest number ever since the category began with Meg Whitman in 1998. The net worth of these women is over $1.5 billion. Women now head companies in industries such as energy, transport, cosmetics, IT, manufacturing, defence, and finance sectors. But this success has come at the expense of the three and a half billion women who did not make this list. In recent years, liberal feminism has suffered from the internal conflict of condemning the exploitation of women by rich and powerful men, while applauding women who do the same. The contemporary breed of commodified feminism has moderated conceptions and actualisation of feminist action, while validating the hoarding of wealth and power by a handful of female executives and politicians. Mechanisms of the patriarchy have often been co-opted to push a privileged few women into figurehead positions of authority, all in the name of ‘feminism’. Messages of solidarity are perverted by so-called feminists demanding support for female oppressors. The popularity of ‘lean-in’ feminism (a breed of reactionary feminism focused on corporate ambition, leadership, and economic empowerment) has done precious little to win any substantial equality for the vast majority of women. This movement has placed the mask of a woman’s face over the problems of exploitative patriarchal capitalism. Women may now purchase their liberation, if only they adhere to the same network of inequality embedded into the patriarchy. Marilyn Hewson and Phebe Novakovic have a combined net worth of $300 million, and head two of the largest weapons corporations in the United States. Lynn Good and Vicki Hollub have made millions in oil, gas, and petroleum. Rich women are allies of the ruling class, not of women as a whole, and it is in the interests of women of the ruling class to entrench and perpetuate commercial liberal feminism.
“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” Audre Lorde
Neoliberal feminism has cashed out on women’s anger and action by manufacturing commodified objects of solidarity and ‘progressive’ politics, with the function of stratifying capitalist kyriarchy. It purports that institutions are incidentally misogynist, rather than structurally and fundamentally unjust. Principally, liberation is conceived of as power and its exercise. Problematic implications of the exercise of power have been present since first-wave feminism. Emmeline Pankhurst, a suffragette, said “we are here not because we are law–breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law–makers”. The aim is still compliance with an overarching system, integration into and reform of what is thought to be principally just. Yet the problem still remains of these institutions. Law and order has constantly been a weapon wielded against the poor, mentally ill, people of colour and queer people. Aiming for a limited diversification of the minority who exerts power simply appropriates devices of repression for new purposes, instead of disassembling them. Liberation cannot come in conjunction with the continuation of exploitative economic paradigms, colonial structures, and the police. Indeed, truly radical feminism threatens rich women, as it does rich men. ‘Empowerment’ as the key verb of feminism is quite telling of the aims and limits of the movement. Loosely, each wave of feminism has had a defining aim: first wave feminism was concerned with women’s rights; second wave with women’s liberation; and third with women’s empowerment. ‘Empowerment’ positions the contemporary problems of women as a fault of character, the solutions coming from increased confidence, ambition, presence, participation. But very directly, the problems facing women, even the privileged white middle-class women of rich countries, are not rooted in women themselves. Women are not choosing unequal pay and illegal abortions and domestic abuse because they are unempowered. Liberal feminism fails women, then, on three main fronts. It misdiagnoses the root of the problem as existing within women themselves; it is not intersectional, disregarding the struggles against the connected structures of racism, capitalism, homophobia, and many others; and it purposefully prescribes the wrong solution with the intent of supporting existing power structures. Critically, an adherence to the mechanisms of the patriarchy will perpetuate the unjust treatment of the same women who have always been most vulnerable to the worst and most violent aspects of it. Angela Davis puts forward what is necessary for feminists to enact substantive change: “the challenge of the 21st century is not to demand equal opportunity to participate in the machinery of oppression. Rather, it is to identify and dismantle those structures.”
GROWING STRONG 2020
Strip-searching has been excused by police and prison authorities to ‘locate hidden contraband’ under ‘public safety.’ However, strip-searching is more commonly used as sexual punishment and humiliation rather than protection. It is an act of state-sanctioned sexual violence. Police powers regarding strip-searching are outlined within the Law Enforcement Powers and Responsibilities Act (2002), where it is permitted to conduct a strip-search if the officer ‘suspects on reasonable grounds’ it is needed or if ‘the seriousness and urgency of the circumstances’ make it necessary. This permission is vague and promotes over-use of an intrusive and demeaning procedure. Strip-searching is state-sanctioned sexual violence. The act is so invasive that it is used as a deterrent rather than a protective measure. For example, during a drug search at a festival last year, one woman was told to strip and stand legs apart as an officer proceeded to crawl under her and look up. If not performed by a police officer under the related law, this would easily be classified as sexual assault. Late last year, it was revealed that more than 100 underage girls, some as young as 12 or 13, have been strip-searched since 2016. These children are ordinarily under the age of consent, unaware of their rights, and understandably terrified in when confronted and violated by authorities. The sexual nature of strip-searching enables use of the wider power dynamic to violate consent and intimidate those being searched – including children. While New South Wales Police Minister David Elliot has stated he would let his kids get strip-searched ‘if it was needed’, it is children in low socio-economic areas or Indigenous youth – not the minister’s kids – who face the violence of strip searches.
Indigenous people and people in low socioeconomic brackets (SES). No matter the age, these procedures create lasting trauma. Strip-searching is used excessively as a humiliation tactic for people in custody, rather than an effective protective measure. Figures collected by the Human Rights Law Centre state that last year in two NSW youth prisons, there were 403 searches in one month, resulting in the discovery of a single Ping-Pong ball. Additional findings by a Victorian Ombudsman in 2015 showed that the practice of strip-searching women in incarceration is commonly misused. Many female prisoners are the victims of abuse themselves; the act of strip-searching survivors causes serious harm through re-traumatisation. Strip-searching in prisons is not only sexually exploitative but also ineffective and unjustifiable. Furthermore, the act of strip-searching as a punitive measure of the prison system is heavily racialised, as ‘reasonable grounds’ are defined by individual officers, and those whom are targeted and harmed by the practice. Last year, a report came out stating that Indigenous people made up 10% of field stripsearches and 22% of those in custody (whilst only making up 2% of the population). In June 2019, a six-months pregnant Yamatji woman was stripsearched before being incarcerated for ‘failing to obey witness summons’. Strip-searching is yet another tool of the racist ‘justice’ system. The ambiguity of strip-search laws as well as the insistence by authorities for its necessity creates countless unsafe circumstances which humiliates and inflicts trauma and mental harm onto women and minors – particularly those incarcerated. Police and prison authorities do not use strip-searching as a protective measure, but punitive one. It must be questioned: are strip-searches ever justified?
Children are routinely strip-searched within juvenile detention, as are adults within the prison system. Again, this disproportionately targets MADHURAA PRAKASH ON
THE USE OF STRIP SEARCHING 021
AND THE CLIMATE CRISIS
INTERNET ARCHIVAL, PEOPLE OF COLOUR
GROWING STRONG 2020
This summer is proving to be apocalyptic. My first. Something has shifted, even in the month-long space between first pitching this piece and beginning to write it. Initial rage and shock at the severity of the bushfires’ decimation of land and community has stilled, settled – replaced by something heavier. For me, knowledge of the climate crisis has taken on a bodily recognition of its cyclical and enduring nature — physical awareness, sticky-sour like dread or off-milk, that this crisis is not temporary and there is no end in sight. This knowledge sits weighted; fatigued, clouding everything, like smoke turning the sun a striking, eerie pink. Such a luxury of prior ignorance is one particular to certain bodies. As a settler on stolen, unceded land, my body was not aware of what has been bodily knowledge for First Nations people since colonisation: that attempted genocide enacted by British empire equates to apocalypse. For many, this apocalypse is not new, but old, and lived. What does it mean to truly engage with this timegap in understanding, bodily fatigue, and survival? Perhaps decolonisation, as a core requirement of climate activism, is about sharing this weight, and listening to those whose lived experience has always been survival. Black visual studies scholar Christina Sharpe has written about Black existence as a politics of survival in ways that make sense to me as a diasporic person of colour (PoC). Sharpe terms ‘the wake’ as the awareness that Blackness is always adjacent to death in a white supremacist world. This is the reality of living during an apocalyptic crisis: knowing that, at any moment, your physical body can end. This is a reality deeply known by First Nations people in this country, and one which I also recognise in the heavy mirroring of my own diasporic Blackness in global flows of Black death. It is recognised by many queer and trans people; amplified when those identities intersect with living in the Global South.
As a settler on stolen, unceded land, my body was not aware of what has been bodily knowledge for First Nations people since colonisation: that attempted genocide enacted by British empire equates to apocalypse. For many, this apocalypse is not new, but old, and lived.
Writing on ‘the wake,’ Sharpe directly invokes the weather as implicated in these structures of oppression through the motif of breathing: “Who has access to freedom? Who can breathe free?” In the current smoke-filled streets of Sydney, the answer is simple —no one can. How might we make use of PoC and First Nations historical ‘weathering’ of crisis, now that all bodies are under existential threat? I want to consider what role the internet could play in bringing about the kinds of knowledge sharing and survival practices we need. I have found the immediacy of social media to be tiring and overwhelming; a constant influx of blue-lit panic articulated by numbers, images and text. Yet I wonder if digital mediums might also hold potential as sites of considered, community-focused activism. A form of activism that, despite the urgency of taking climate action, could still engage in deep listening and space-holding. These attributes of attention and slowness in many ways feel antithetical to the nature of the digital world, which often seems to be moving at a far quicker pace than the physical world. Simultaneously, the internet operates as an environment in which communities can be formed outside of institutional structures; pockets of virtual breathing space. 022
GROWING STRONG 2020
Instagram in particular operates as a tool for sharing perspectives not available in traditional media spaces. It was on Instagram that a friend recently re-shared a story — a screenshot off an iPhone note — arguing that non-government donations are especially important to directly support communities in need, and to resist the colonial and capitalist government structures responsible for the climate crisis. It was more nuanced than anything I’d read elsewhere, and its circulation through linked online networks allowed people in crisis to slow down, to survive better and more meaningfully.
hover between still and moving images…that require the labor of feeling with or through them.” Campt lays out a ‘practice of refusal’ to consider the ways that by sitting and engaging with a loud silence of Black pain, “negation can be generative.” Campt’s practice of refusal is a form of archive; one that wishes to document loss, pain and crisis in ways that force engagement, reckoning and fluidity. It demonstrates the promise I locate in internet space: the ability to create an archive that is liminal and contingent, as uncertain as the climate crisis itself. Virtual existence, in this capturing of a shifting, blurry reality, is not without its flaws. The internet remains a capitalist hellscape operated by multinational corporations which are governed as much by oppressive structures as any other estern institution. Nonetheless, the internet provides a tool for sitting with a survival politics that centres the most marginalised, and for archiving the messy process it takes to engage with that politics. It opens space for the creation of real, physical communities in its wake; moments of community that are needed now more than ever.
Simultaneously, the internet operates as an environment in which communities can be formed outside of institutional structures; pockets of virtual breathing space.
In this summer of heightened climate awareness, the internet also operates as a highly practical means of redistributing money to directly useful community activist projects. Queer community activist Bhenji Rha, @newgenderwhodis on Instagram, recently launched the On The Ground emergency relief fund directly aiding South Coast families and community members affected by the bushfires. She has used Instagram to promote the fund, share highlights of the results, and give progress updates. In her strategy of “micro-personal and local level” community action, the internet becomes a space suited to effective urgent action.
I find that these aspects of the internet as a community space operate together to render it one of potentiality and utopian hope. Perhaps digital existence in the time of climate crisis can be viewed as an archival response, especially for people of colour and other bodies least welcome in systemically violent physical spaces. In allowing for the creation of virtual selves alongside real and impactful community, does digital space meaningfully protest the apocalyptic threat of physical death? Existing in an in-between space of virtual and physical space, internet bodies speak to the black feminist contemporary art theorist Tina Campt’s notion of ‘still-moving-images’: “images that
Kiki Amberber has logged on.
GROWING STRONG 2020
lost dreams MAYA ESWARAN SEARCHES FOR
My paternal grandmother was married at 15. She had 8 children, 7 survived. I’ve always known her as a warm, curious and strong presence in my life. She helped to raise my brother and I. As I’ve grown older, I’ve watched her navigate living in a foreign country with a quiet tenacity and strength. Yet certain moments starkly remind me of the privilege with which I have lived life, a privilege borne on her back and on the backs of all the women before me.
My paternal patti aged 26 at her home in Chennai.
I grew up dreaming of pursuing various careers and like most immigrant grandparents, my Pattis encouraged me to be a doctor. “I want a woman doctor in the family,” my Patti would say in her broken English. The sentiment was lost on me at a young age. I knew they wanted me to be successful, but now I realise it meant more than that. I carry the unmanifested dreams of my foremothers within me. I asked my maternal Patti over WhatsApp, no less, what she would have done with her life if she hadn’t been forced to leave school and marry at a young age by the realities of poverty and patriarchy. She said she wanted to study medicine along with singing. She loved singing. “Nothing happened,” she wrote. They have never been resentful for what could have been. It is so deeply accepted that their life of servitude to their families is all they could ever ask for. And they are genuinely happy. Sometimes it feels like all their hard work was for this and for me. And I cannot waste it. But my own success often seems like an imperfect goal too. Is liberation really just one family going from poor to rich in a generation? What is the value in gaining power within a system, when that power necessitates oppressing others?
Perhaps when I, too, am old, I will know the answers to these questions. Or maybe I will never know. Perhaps in another life these women are the acclaimed professionals and artists that they could have been. For now their dreams remain lost. This is an ode to my Pattis. I hope to make you proud. I hope to use my life which you have gifted me in service of the things that you care deeply about. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and love. I hope I can fulfil your dreams so that one day they will no longer be lost.
GROWING STRONG 2020
Words by Shania O'Brien
self care under capitalism I own so many things. I am constantly bombarded with advertisements of online shopping websites and targeted tweets about how I could do a little online shopping, as a treat. My indulgence in retail therapy is dopaminedriven and dependent on the ephemeral gratification granted by ‘checking out.’ But buying things as self care is only a band-aid solution to the niggling unsettling feeling that permeates every aspect of my life. Treating symptoms instead of the disease is only a distraction from the intersectional systemic issues that cause the need to alleviate one’s mental anguish. We cannot buy our way out of the patriarchy, epidemics of poverty, racist colonial government or the climate crisis. I was hiding, wasting time indulging myself instead of doing the hard work that would, apparently, help me reach the dream of shining green lights and white picket fences that had been shoved down my throat. We are told we must be productive and use our time wisely, but we aren’t told that the system is fundamentally exploitative. It takes and tells us that it is providing for us in return, when we are really only feeding ourselves to sustain the cycle of production. There is the pressure to make every second count and have every moment accounted for, always to be creating something better than the last; better than everyone else. And with all of this effort, I would make money to spend on more things and quench the neoliberal thirst for production and profit. This is the curse of productivity: I never asked myself what I was doing, just how much of it I could do because I believed I was worth nothing more than the sum of labor I produced. This is the root of all our problems, the hydra-headed monster of our lives: capitalism. But is not inescapable. American author Ursula K. Le Guin believed that any human power could be resisted and changed by human beings. Self care should not be tied in with consumerism. The capitalist society we live in will try its best to convince us that self-fulfillment can be purchased on George Street. Self care under capitalism serves as both a means to ensure that workers stay as productive as possible by avoiding burnout, and as a form of consumerism that
helps drive the economy through expensive shimmering relaxation oils and green satin dresses in store-front windows. It repackages the process by which workers fight the destructive effects of labour exploitation as a form of consumption, incorporating it back into the same poisonous system driving the need for alleviation. But self care should not have to be expensive: all it needs to be is restorative. You need to make time for yourself; to breathe, to sleep, to find reasons to live outside of being productive. You need to discard guilt and be honest about your boundaries and capacity. No one is useless or unproductive — there are only people whose contributions are not valued under capitalism. Most importantly, you need to get angry; at the world we live in which has forced us to engage with capitalism to survive, at capitalism that sustains other forms of oppression whether it be the climate crisis, gendered violence or racial prejudice. Political activist and academic Angela Davis once said, “you have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” In a world that demands obedience and silence, hope is a political act. Self care - real self care - should be rooted in the understanding that we deserve a better world than the one dictated by the demands of capitalism. Because it is possible to conceive of self care outside of its relation to capitalism and labour efficiency. Self care can be taking time off work because you need to recover; attending your doctors’ appointments and following up on your errands, saving your money instead of making impulsive purchases. Self care that does not feed capitalism views people as worthy outside of their capacity to work. While consumerism isn’t the answer to our mental anguish, neither is ‘self-care’ as we currently understand it. Much of self care today is individualistic and underpinned with the presumption that it will make us more ‘productive’ workers. We cannot disentangle self care from capitalism so long as it still exists. Hence, the only option we have left is to dismantle capitalism altogether.
GROWING STRONG 2020
Words by Kowther Qashou
In late 2019, a thread surfaced on Twitter, containing a text message template of what to say to your friends when you do not feel able to offer emotional support to them. The person who posted this tweet offered up this template as a way of “asking for consent for [a person’s] emotional labor.” The template instantly became a meme due to its formulaic nature. Emotional labour is often wrongly misconceptualised to mean the act of caring for others, or rather, the work we put into caring for loved ones such as family and friends. More broadly, however, emotional labour actually refers to the work labourers put into managing their emotions. But what is emotional labour? In her book The Managed Heart, American social psychologist Arlie Russell Hochschild coined the term 'emotional labour' to refer to the emotions put on display by workers, primarily service workers, as a form of labour. A specific example she noted was flight attendants who felt forced to smile as part of their job. There is no doubt that in a modern capitalist system, workers often have to sell their personalities in order to provide a positive customer experience. Hochschild takes this theory a step further and says that this is connected to emotion work and ‘feeling rules.’ Hochschild argues that emotions are constructed to fit societal standards according to these feeling rules. In other words, we shape our emotions to fit an appropriate time, place, and context. In her other works, Hochschild argues that these assist in maintaining particular structures. In the case of work, a customer’s feelings often come at the expense of the worker’s. She argues that adhering to such rules does not take into account the worker’s feelings, and instead reduces them into what is considered ‘acceptable.’ In a capitalist society, this is evident through the exploitation of worker’s emotions and energies in order to make profits for companies. Most sociologists also agree that friendships are non-transactional relationships. Treating friendships as ‘labour’ erases that emotion in friendships are not particularly linked to any sort of labour. Instead, friendships are often seen as a subset of society and communities, and are a mutual bond between two people. It can be argued that care and affection are an inherent part of this bond. Framing acts of care and love as ‘emotional labour’ also erases the fact that many of those who work in service work are women. There is no argument that women in their daily lives are expected to be polite, always smile, and be nonthreatening, and there is no doubt that this also applies to their public professional lives as well. It is also a reflection of glaring gender inequities. Whilst emotional labour in and of itself is not gender-specific, it is true that women are often tasked with taking on emotional work through caretaking (including, but not limited to, being expected to cater to others emotions). This is historically rooted in the labour gender-divide where women were expected to be housewives and tend to their families, and because patriarchal norms also defined women as being “too emotional” as their natural state. This is a prime example of how emotional labour discourse too often misses the materialist aspect of emotional labour. To attribute emotional labour to acts of care such as ‘emotional support’ obscures the larger picture: that emotions are inextricably tied to work and capitalism. It is, perhaps, due to capitalism’s transactional nature that emotional support for others is wrongly misconstrued as a type of ‘labour’ rather than what it is or should be; a form of communal and individual bonding and care.
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GROWING STRONG 2020
Hanging in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, a ceremonial shield painted by Caravaggio shows a monstrous creature. With a grotesque braid of writhing snakes, a fearsome glare and a bloody decapitated neck, Caravaggio captures a nightmare within his brushstrokes: Medusa. Stories of classical gods, heroes, and monsters from antiquity have captured the imagination of Western civilisation, seeing echoes of its stories and iconography across millennia. Even for those unfamiliar with her story, most know of the monster Medusa. However, Medusa was not always a monster. She was once thought beautiful, young, and innocent. Considered too beautiful for Poseidon to resist, the god of the sea pursued her to the sanctum of Athena and brutally raped the young woman. Rather than punish the perpetrator of this heinous act, Athena chose to condemn the victim. Medusa’s hair was transformed into writhing snakes, and her face became so horrific that any onlooker would turn into stone. She was cursed and her eventual brutal murder denigrated to a side quest for the ‘hero’ Perseus, who cuts off her head. These classical rape myths reverberate throughout contemporary culture, a portrait that conflates violence with heroism, and shows women as simply pawns, prizes, or villains to be defeated. Not unlike so many survivors of sexual assault today, Medusa was violated, she was abandoned, and she was demonised.
If a woman refuses to be obedient, to be submissive, to fade into the background once she has fulfilled her use, does she then become a threat? So often, victims of sexual assault and abuse are expected to take on a role of passivity and acceptance. However, those who do not, and that have the audacity to subvert the stereotype of docile victim, are dehumanised in order to be manipulated and controlled. Across the world, millions of individuals used #MeToo to stand-up against sexual abuse. The movement saw a surge of empowerment for victims of rape, sexual assault, and workplace harassment to come forward about their experiences. It began to erode the shameful stigmas of dealing with such trauma and instead revealed the true magnitude of sexual violence. However, once the movement gained traction with more perpetrators being held accountable for their actions, there was a violent shift. The world’s scale has always been tipped in favour of male dominance, long before Medusa’s rape was used as a plot device, and the challenge to this tradition saw major backlash. Many of these women, facing the emotional and physical trauma of what had happened to them, were accused of causing undue damage to a man’s reputation. Judges regularly obstructed justice to protect a perpetrator’s name, and criticised the survivor’s plea for accountability. Most common was the conflation of the #MeToo movement to a ‘witch hunt’, with many sceptics not seeming to understand that whilst witches are fictitious, rapists are very much existent.
Not unlike Medusa, these women were no longer seen as victims of assault, but rather monstrous entities seeking destruction. How dare they say no to sexual advances, over-enthusiastic hugs, and other non-consensual invasions of personal space? Don’t they realise this forces otherwise comfortable men to think twice about their actions? The media cursed these women to be seen not as the victims and activists they are, but rather men-hating leviathans, because, for a patriarchal society, demons and monsters are easier to understand than a woman who refuses to take on the impassive role moulded for them. But monsters, demons and witches are not such horrible things to be. When trauma has made a home inside you, a paradox grows like a tumour; you become strength and damage. You may become more raw, more human as well as more unforgiving and threatening–a steel enforced defiance within broken walls that were forced open. Whilst Medusa’s story is harrowing, it reminds modern day feminists to use our abilities to stand up, fight, and ensure accountability even when the justice system fails those who need it most. We may not have snakes for hair, but we have words, we have the capacity for collective action, and we have the capacity to provide support and fight for resources. We may not be able to turn our opposition into stone, but we can fight to hold perpetrators accountable, and to change cultural norms. We should not be disheartened when we are called monsters, as ultimately, 'monsters' are simply women that do not bend to a will that is not their own.
medusa, monsters and female power
Words and art by Caitlin Scott
GROWING STRONG 2020
reporting sexual assault on campus Words by Ellie Wilson If you have personally experienced sexual violence, you should first know that it is not your fault. Sexual harassment, assault, and rape are always entirely a decision made by the perpetrator that is not caused or in any way justified by anything you have done. It doesn’t matter where you were, what you did or didn’t do, whether or not you were okay with how things were going and changed your mind as things went on. Explicit, informed, and enthusiastic consent is not optional; it is necessary. If you need support, there are a number of services that are available to you. The University has a Reporting Module where you can directly report an incident that has taken place. You will need your UniKey to log into the module, but this will be held confidentially. Specialist staff who review a report will only see your UniKey if you’re making a formal complaint — if you’re just submitting a disclosure, they won’t see this information. There is no time limit, but you may want to type any information you submit into a separate word document in case anything goes wrong during the process of submitting a report. You don’t need to fill in the sections about gender and sexuality or about previous services accessed; these will just be taken into account to provide more targeted support services and recommendations if you do decide to fill them in. You can ask to have somebody follow up with you after you submit your report if you would like by requesting to be contacted in the ‘Preferred Outcome/Action’ section. You’ll also get a reference number once you submit the report. If you’d like to be able to follow up on the report, it’s a good idea to save a copy of the report and the reference number for later use. You can also call 1800 SYD HLP (option 2, then option 1) if you need help with submitting the report. You can find the reporting module by clicking the “Report an Incident” box when you scan the QR code.
USyd Reporting Module
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for anyone in Australia who has experienced or is at risk of sexual assault, family or domestic violence and their non offending supporters.
Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) If you would like to speak to somebody about how you’re feeling, there are free counselling services available to students through CAPS.
The organisation also provides counselling for women who experienced sexual assault in childhood from a number of Women’s Health Centres across NSW.
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services Commonly known as Aboriginal Medical Services/AMS Health services initiated by Aboriginal people, based in a local Aboriginal community, which deliver holistic and culturally appropriate health services.
Has a free telephone interpreting service available upon request.
ACON LGBTI health organisation offering information, referrals, counselling, advocacy and practical support for LGBTI people in NSW experiencing domestic and family violence.
Sexual Assault Clinic at RPA Hospital Provides face-to-face and telephone counselling services, as well as medical services such as forensic kits and STI testing. These services are offered to outpatients (so you don’t need to be checked into hospital).
Call (02) 9206 2000 or visit website.
Call (02) 9515 9040 for more info.
LegalAid NSW Provides means-tested legal support over the phone
The Gender Centre Provides services such as counselling, accommodation, outreach, and support for trans and gender diverse people in NSW.
Call 1300 888 259 or visit website for factsheets and more resources.
Call (02) 9569 2366.
Link2Home 1800 152 152 (24/7, free from a landline)
Twenty10 Provides housing services, legal support, and health clinics for young LGBTIQ+ people, and counselling and referrals for LGBTIQ+ people of all ages.
Information and referral telephone service run by the NSW government for people experiencing housing instability.
Call (02) 8594 9555 or visit website.
NSW Health Sexual Assault Services List of 54 other sexual assault clinics across NSW for people not around Camperdown.
Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Service Provides legal advice and support for a range of issues, including domestic, sexual, and family violence, to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, children, and youth.
All open 24/7. NSW Rape Crisis Centre 1800 424 017
Call 1800 686 587 or visit website. Women’s Legal Service Independent organisation in NSW providing women with free legal services.
Free hotline available 24/7 run by experienced professionals who can provide support, counselling and referrals to other services. They also provide counselling online.
Women’s Legal Advice Line: 1800 801 501 Domestic Violence Legal Advice Line: 1800 810 784 Indigenous Women’s Legal Contact Line: 1800 639 784
Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia Provides 24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling
Photography by Vivienne Guo
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GROWING STRONG 2020
WOCO BOOK CLUB
Art by Alex Mcleay
Presented by the University of Sydney Wom*n's Collective