THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY WOMENâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S COLLECTIVE 2021
Acknowledgement of Country The University of Sydney Women’s Collective meets 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. Beyond campus, our collective’s members live and work on many other sovereign First Nations lands: Dharawal, Bidjigal, Gandagara, and Cammeraygal, to name a few. We pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging. For those of us who are settlers at this university, we bear an active responsibility to do anti-racist and anti-colonial work within this institution. As an intersectional feminist collective, we stand against colonial violence in all its forms, wherever it may exist in the world, but most importantly here in so-called “Australia”. Indigenous justice and feminist justice are inextricably linked and we recognise the vital importance of Indigenous and Bla(c)k knowledges and organising in feminist movements. In our fight to liberate all women and gender diverse people, we must remember that First Nations women are massively overrepresented in rates of domestic violence, sexual violence, incarceration perpetrated against them. Sacred women’s sites, such as the Djab Wurrung birthing trees in Victoria, are often desecrated by colonial governments in the continuing quest to amass capital on stolen land.. We must reject silence and consider our complicity in the context of settlercolonial repression even if we ourselves are marginalised in other ways. When we, as a collective, say “decolonise”, we mean to abolish prisons and police, to end the forced separation of families, to collapse that which is the lie of Australian statehood, to return land. We mean to not only actively challenge racism and white supremacy, but to work at dismantling its structures; structures that include colonial gender norms and gendered violence. This land always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.
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2| What is WoCo? Kimmy Dibben 4| Can we recuperate identity politics? Amelia Mertha 6| ‘Rituals’ Donnalyn Xu 7| That’s Hot: The Bimbo Renaissance Kimmy Dibben 8| Sex Work is Work! Analysing Stigmatised Labour Under Capitalism Anonymous & Honey Christensen
19| ‘Cinder’ Brianna Bullivant 20| A History of the SDA Alex Mcleay 22| Women’s Shelters: A Closer Look Lia Perkins
Cover | Ellie Wilson
24| Ecofeminism 101 Kate Scott 25| ‘crush’ Anh Nguyen 26| Designing Disparity: Sex Workers and COVID-19 Keira Fairley
10| Stitching History: The Palestinian Thobe Kowther Qashou
28| Reflections on the Black Lives Movement in 2020 Anie Kandya and Kimmy Dibben
12| Mourning Misbah Ansari
29| On feeling stupid Ellie Wilson
14| Higher Education Access: A Gendered Issue Jazzlyn Breen
30| Abolition in Practice: Don’t Call The Police Shani Patel
15| ‘You’re a body of water I want to sit beside’ Amelia Mertha
32| Reporting Sexual Violence on Campus Ellie Wilson
16| Criminalising Coercive Control is Not the Answer: An Abolitionist Critique Georgia Mantle and Mali Hermans
33| WoCo Health and Services Directory Backcover | WoCo podcast recommendations
A note from your convenors Hello, and thank you for opening up this copy of Growing Strong. The bad news is that we’re in for another year in this hellscape colony called “Australia”, at a university institution that often takes more than it gives. The good news, however, is that we have each other. Our collective remains committed to radical feminist education and organising whether that be learning how to respond to crises in our communities without police and prisons, global feminist histories, or anticapitalist futures. Our deepest gratitude to the editors, writers and artists who pulled this edition together over the summer: Alex Mcleay, Anh Nguyen, Anonymous, Anya Doan, Brianna Bullivant, Donnalyn Xu, Ellie Wilson, Ellie Zheng, Emma Cao, Georgia Mantle, Honey Christensen, Iggy Boyd, Jazzlyn Breen, Kate Scott, Keira Fairley, Kowther Qashou, Lia Perkins, Mali Hermans, Misbah Ansari, Priya Gupta, Ranuka Tandan, Shani Patel, Vivienne Guo We hope this edition brings you a new perspective and ignites new possibilities for your 2021. Here’s to all the good trouble-making ahead for us. Amelia and Kimmy xoxo
What is WoCo?
The Women’s Collective is a horizontal autonomous organising space for radically leftwing feminist activism. We are one of the most radical and active campus feminist collectives in the country. WoCo has organised at the University of Sydney for over 50 years, primarily focusing on activism against sexual violence on and off campus, and for abortion access and reproductive justice. We fight to free all who suffer under patriarchy.
the foster care system that continues the Stolen Generation to this day. First Nations women also bear the brunt of state sanctioned destruction of sacred country, such as the sacred birthing trees of the Djab Wurrung people. There is no feminist justice without Indigenous justice and decolonisation.
We are an unapologetically abolitionist and anticapitalist collective that fights for true liberation from police, prisons, and capitalist exploitation. As a collective which meets and works on the It is at these intersections where the worst stolen land of the Gadigal people of the Eora patriarchal violence resides. WoCo does not Nation, in a colonial state of ongoing racial settle for neoliberal or reformist incremental violence, we must centre Indigenous justice reforms, and actively organises against carceral in our fight for feminist justice. WoCo fights feminism in our fight for true liberation from alongside the First Nations peoples of Warrang patriarchy, imperialism, and capitalism. and the many other countries that make up this land to decolonise the illegitimate settler society of so-called ‘australia’. Indigenous women are at the forefront of colonial and patriarchal violence What is carceral feminism? as the fastest growing prison population in the Carceral feminism seeks to expand the power world, and face deeply gendered state violence as of police and prison systems in response to mothers and community caretakers of children sexual violence and domestic violence. Carceral who are incarcerated, brutalised, or murdered by feminism seeks justice for victim-survivors in the racist police and prison systems, or stolen by the colonial criminal system that is itself a site of gendered violence. Police are often perpetrators of violence, and prisons are inherently violent, themselves having high rates of sexual violence. A focus on punishment does not centre victimsurvivors’ healing, and ignores the underlying issues driving gendered violence.
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WoCo is a place of activism and radical change, and an integral part of this work is community building and liberatory education. Alongside our individual pursuits of knowledge, we seek to learn and care as a communal space together. Liberation is achieved through community, and it is a community that we are building. To care for one another is a radical act.
of Honi Soit. We work to build and strengthen our collective as a community and have various social events throughout the year. Please donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t hesitate to get involved. Our main point of contact is our closed Facebook group, just answer a few short questions first!
Facebook: facebook.com/usydwoco WoCo is an autonomous collective, which means Instagram: @usydwoco that membership and entry to meetings is open Twitter: @usydwoco to anyone whom is not a cisgender man. Our Email: email@example.com events, however, are generally open to all. The Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Collective meets weekly to discuss the current landscape of feminist issues, and to strategise and organise our activism accordingly. We host many rallies and organising events, as well as community education events such as panels, reading groups, and open discussions. This publication, Growing Strong, is put together by collective members, and shared during Welcome Week. In Semester 2 of this year, we will be editing our autonomous edition
WoCo and the university institution The university will not stand after feminist liberation from capitalism and colonialism - this type of knowledge production and learning is far too entrenched in these systems. As feminists, we do what we can to work within them whilst also working towards more liberatory and non-hierarchical means of knowledge formation and learning. Those most affected by patriarchy are often excluded from the university and campus organising. That is, working class and Indigenous struggles are often a blind spot of campus organising, but it is these struggles which are central to the liberation of us all.
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C a n we recu p erate i d e nti ty p o li ti cs? by Amelia Mertha If identity politics was ever revolutionary, can we recuperate its radical politics? Or are the original intentions of the term forever lost, obscured by neoliberal and right-wing misuse? Admittedly, 800 words could never do such a variously understood and messy concept justice so I want to frame this piece mostly within feminism, at the roots of the term. Active between 1974 and 1980, the Combahee River Collective (CRC) was a Black radical feminist organisation based out of Boston, USA. Of course notions of “identity”, whether individual or collective, within and for political action, existed far before their Combahee River Collective Statement (1977) but any critique against or in favour of identity politics, needs to engage with this piece of writing. It is believed that the phrase “identity politics” was first used in their 1977 statement:
This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression. In the case of Black women this is a particularly repugnant, dangerous, threatening, and therefore revolutionary concept because it is obvious from looking at all the political movements that have preceded us that anyone is more worthy of liberation than ourselves.
The Combahee River Collective described their politics as anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist socialism, understanding that such a socialist revolution would also necessitate a feminist and anti-racist revolution. Their statement also tells us that, whilst flawed and not without internal issues, the CRC’s organising structure was based on a “collective process and a nonhierarchical distribution of power”. So then, identity politics in this key context was borne out of locating material, social and cultural oppression and violence in the lived experience of Black womanhood. It was vocalised as part of a critique of existing working-class and civil rights movements in which Black women were invisibilised by poorly analysed intersecting race, gender and class lines: “We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us.” In looking towards universal liberation, the CRC argued this was only possible in the liberation of Black womanhood (not an essentialist womanhood mind you). I think in many ways the term has met a similar fate to the second-wave feminist slogan, “the personal is political” — meaning that the personal and private experiences of women (i.e. the domestic sphere) are rooted in misogyny and other oppressions but misconstrued by third-wave feminism to mean that any personal action is inherently political or politicised. Similarly, contemporary identity politics precludes keeping one’s identity to oneself where
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the move to identify oneself — to say “I am” — is the bar for empowerment, apparently. Thus, unbalanced by an emphasis on “identity” over “politics”, identity politics may seem far too gone — arguably co-opted by neoliberal language, reductionist, dangerously removed of materiality and class analysis by people who claim to be in the left. This is to the point that “identity politics”, via Walter Benn Michael, is “not an alternative to class politics but a form of it: It’s the politics of an upper class that has no problem with seeing people being left behind as long as they haven’t been left behind because of their race or sex”. Asad Haider notes, “there is a real political antagonism here between the emancipatory project of the CRC and contemporary identity politics, which are about individual recognition and recognition from the state”. From all corners of the political spectrum, identity politics (as it manifests without its CRC context) is considered as the driving force of representation politics that lauds women of colour (sometimes the “first” of their demographic) at the helm of violent imperialist projects, #girlboss lesbians and “authentic” representations in mega-media conglomerates. Here, identity politics = who has the right to speak at the right time. And yet, in expressing their identity politics and oppression under capitalism, the CRC wrote, “We reject pedestals, queenhood and walking ten paces behind.” In a 2019 New York Times op-ed, Barbara Smith, the founder of CRC and cited as the individual who coined “identity politics”, rejected the mainstream queer rights movement and its calls for marriage equality, gays in the military, and elitism. Smith highlights how persistent issues such as homelessness and food insecurity suggest that “political agendas focused on unquestioned assimilation” do not bring justice for all. Audre Lorde was also a member of the CRC for some time. In her piece “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” Lorde noted that “unacknowledged class differences rob women of each others’ energy and creative insight”. Claims that identity politics forces “tribalism” and fractures the left into in-groups (thus devastating any chance of the universal emancipation of the working class), appear antithetical to the intentions of Combahee River Collective’s term and praxis. Insofar as there isn’t really any instance, in their statement, that advocates liberation only for Black women by just Black women. We could/should actually interpret “the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity” line as such: • One’s identity is not the vehicle of one’s politics but a vehicle for relationality inside and outside the group • One’s identity is not essence/biology/“baby i was born this way”, instead one recognises how they are taxonimised (racialised, gendered, dis/abled) by the structures of capitalism
Furthermore, “as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression” does not indicate a refusal to organise or act for others if we understand that Black women are not a monolith but are universally oppressed and disregarded. “Somebody else’s oppression” may necessarily still be something Black women, somewhere, experience. Their statement further describes how they grappled at one point with a “Lesbian-straight split but which were also the result of class and political differences” but rejected “the stance of Lesbian separatism because it [was] not viable political analysis or strategy” for their collective. The Combahee River Collective also note that “as BIack women we find any type of biological determinism a particularly dangerous and reactionary basis upon which to build a politic”. “Depending on who you ask, our Women’s Collective either is or is not identity politics at play, and, again depending on who you ask, that is either a good or a bad thing. WoCo rejects any notion of an essential womanhood: anyone who is not a cisgendered man, not just cis and trans women, can be a member of WoCo. This is part of our autonomous organising strategy — less about excluding cis men and more about centring those most materially affected by the colonialpatriarchy in our organising. In fact, as my co-convenor Kimmy reminds me, “we want to visualise our own liberation but don’t want to and can’t do it ourselves” — the wider community is always called upon for action. So I ask again, if identity politics was ever revolutionary, can we recuperate its radical politics? But then also, do we actually need to recuperate its radical politics or is this a dead-end and — as Robin D G Kelley gently alludes to — a misplaced priority over anti-capitalist and working class movements if class is not part of the identity question? (I think it should be) As feminists, how do we best enact and grow forms of care and accountability across strongly-formed identity lines? Is it naive of me to think that perhaps the issue of people on the left refusing to participate across identity lines,enacting some kind of oppression Olympics (where class is often forgotten), is a “them” problem and not an identity politics problem? We know that successful working class movements have needed to blur boundaries and form solidarity across identity lines. This is sometimes half of the struggle but is the only way we’ll have a revolution. The CRC’s identity politics is absolutely not the only tool offered for analysing and organising around oppression, towards universal liberation. They offered a politics very specific to Black women’s lived experiences, championing the collective over competition and inspiring their on-theground work and education: “we know that we have a very definite revolutionary task to perform and we are ready for the lifetime of work and struggle before us”. The answers to these questions might not come easy, but I encourage us to sit in the discomfort that we all have so much to learn. Photo: Verso
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rituals by Donnalyn Xu
my mother cuts mooncake into quarters with a plastic knife, against the slow release of sweet lotus seed paste. she hands me the slice with the yolk as the kettle sings from the kitchen where we sit. a child again, i lick the golden centre, let the taste of salted egg coat my tongue, tongue the hollowed pastry echoing its round edges, as i revel in this simple pleasure & my girlhood. i wonder where the whole of me begins. in the kitchen, where the quiet work is done, my motherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s face is my face. is the low hum of the refrigerator light & its magnets & the leaking faucet no one has bothered to fix. the neighbourâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s magnolia tree is starting to wilt, but the small cry of changing seasons still moves me. how does everything know to keep going? even dried chrysanthemum flowers still blossom in water. their shallow petals open to warmth like a palm unfurls to this relentless life, over & over. 6
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The bimbo renaissance The traditional bimbo is an age-old sexist trope. She is the hot girl with big tits and no brains; she is the butt of the ‘dumb blonde’ joke. Founded in the ‘blonde bombshell’ trope of Old Hollywood cinema actors such as Marilyn Monroe, the bimbo has evolved and reached its second peak since the early 2000s, adapting to shifting heteronormative archetypes of femininity and attraction. The bimbo is the cultural embodiment of hyperfemininity and sexualisation,; of intelligence and beauty as mutually exclusive. Bimbos and their emergent ‘not-like-other-girls’ counterparts pit women against each other, constantly perpetuating and replicating a madonnawhore complex. Bimbos are both the standard of femininity – hot, sexy, soft – and the criticism of femininity – frivolous, vain, slutty. The bimbo is desirable whilst also evil; the epitome of the feminine paradox. Many similarities may be drawn between ‘camp’ and the bimbo. Both centre their satire on a disregard for intellectualism and the structures of taste. They mirthfully mock the elite. The bimbo ramps up the blonde bombshell archetype to the extreme, laughing in the pleasure she is not meant to take. Camp refers to the exaggeration of kitsch, to frivolously bad art and fashion—coined and dominated by queers. Camp is drag queens and Dolly Parton. Not exclusive to femininity, camp is tacky exaggeration itself. Like drag queens, modern bimbos merge hyperfemininity with camp, as a spectacle for queers. Through its extremity, the ridiculousness of the feminine ideal is revealed. The bimbo archetype is sexist because they are a depiction of heterosexual desire. To shift away from the male gaze is to queer femininity and feminine expression itself. So much of the expression of femininity is tied to male perception and desire, that the modern bimbo may be more alike to a drag queen than her forebear, the Old Hollywood blonde bombshell. The modern bimbo’s audience is not a man, and her aim is not to please. Bimbos are a spectacle, not a seduction. Stupidity is deeply gendered in its cultural and social perception, as explored in the Queer Art of Failure by Judith Halberstam. In examining gendered perceptions of stupidity, nothing illustrates the dichotomy more clearly than a comparison between the charming, goofy dad trope, and the vapid, selfish perception of the traditional bimbo. Stupidity for white men is alluring, comforting, and innocent; he retains his agency without the need for intelligence, perceived as still capable without it. Stupidity in a man functions as a tool of charm and vulnerability; for women, it is to justify their social standing under men. The bimbo trope is designed to engender stupidity and incapability by her aesthetic: long fake nails and high heels imply impracticality and thus—under the intelligence-beauty binary—stupidity. The bimbo is not only subject to gendered structures of intelligence, but also classist and imperialist structures of academia and pedagogy. Education in this country operates on a two-tier system, from the public and private school, to the university and TAFE. Knowledge is hierarchized, with the university academy sitting at the very top, and Indigenous knowledge tens of thousands of years old barely recognised at all. The university has corrupted knowledge, now existing to create new productive participants in the market, not to critique and broaden pursuits of knowledge. Skills and knowledges coded feminine are vastly undervalued unless they are professionalised, such as hairdressing, cosmetology, makeup artistry, caretaking, and other feminine coded work. Even still, these professions are valued less than other skilled work and knowledge. Feminine coded skills and knowledge are trivialised, but the bimbo brings their importance back. This includes knowledge about fashion history and crafting skills, but also extends to emotional intelligence and introspective skills, which are also coded feminine and thus undervalued. The bimbo recognises and celebrates the deep value and purpose of feminine knowledges and skills, even if the market or patriarchy do not. The modern bimbo is not unknowing. The bimbo challenges how knowledge is valued according to imperialist structures and market values. And she’s hot.
Written by Kimmy Dibben Art by Ellie Wilson
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Historically, the discourse surrounding sex work has been, ironically enough, rather voyeuristic. Patriarchal institutions both legislative and academic, women’s movements, and other liberal and conservative forces have at different times tried to diagnose sex work as an individual failing, a symbol of degeneracy amongst the lower classes, and, perhaps most significantly, a symptom of broader societal anomie, exemplified in a line used by conservatives to denounce anything progressive, from queer liberation and civil rights to marijuana legalisation: “It’s corrupting the youth! Think of the children!” These forces cite concerns of morality, sexual purity, and patriarchal exploitation as the reason for their opposition to sex work as a practice. This propensity for conservatives, leftists, feminists, and misogynists alike to be concerned solely with the spectacle of respectability politics surrounding sex work is regressive and tremendously reductive for two key reasons. Firstly, it reinforces a binary and rigid conception of sex work as an inherently heterosexual, cisgendered profession under which female exploitation is an inexpugnable requisite. In reality, sex work has long been inextricably intertwined with the LGBTQ+ community, particularly the trans community. Sylvia Rivera, iconic gay liberation and transgender rights activist, poignantly summed up the subversive potential of sex work under a heteropatriarchal capitalist system as “the only alternative we have to survive, because the laws do not give us the right to go and get a job the way we feel comfortable. I do not want to go to work looking like a man when I know I am not a man.” Thus, sex work has historically been one of the few avenues by which society’s most marginalised could not only earn a living but also overcome entrenched economic barriers through the direct extraction of profit from typically wealthier men—a radical notion in itself. Secondly, and most critically for leftists to understand, is that sex worker exploitation is labour exploitation, and the rights of sex workers are as valid as any other workers in the anticapitalist struggle. The fact that global capitalism induces the conditions necessary for survival sex work and trafficking to take place is often erased in favour of a reductive narrative of patriarchal oppression. A common misconception perpetuated by industry outsiders is that the dynamic between a (presumedly)
female sex worker and the male client is inherently exploitative. This simplistic analysis is indicative of a reductionist view of sex between cis men and cis women that places the power imbalance in the physicality of the interaction rather than the patriarchal systems and institutions within which it is situated. This assumption entirely erases the existence of the deeply entrenched, punitive legal and social structures that are imposed upon sex workers and are chiefly responsible for the the industry’s propensity for violence and exploitation. Violence and death are not inherent to the job; criminalisation and stigmatisation, enacted by the legislative and managerial forces that extract surplus value from the labour of sex workers, permit and exacerbate it. Because of this, sex work is by and large more precarious than licit forms of labour, though it may not be any more exploitative, financially speaking. The system under which this violent exploitation is enabled and thrives is, of course, capitalism.
What can revolutionary sex work look like?
The ‘exploitation’ narrative Women’s rights activists have varyingly denounced and championed sex worker rights movements throughout history as they align with their interests. However, this support has often been performative and come at the expense of actually engaging with demands of workers themselves. In many cases, particularly prior to the decriminalisation movement, this has materialised in ‘activists’ co-opting narratives of exploitation in the sex industry to push a liberal bourgeois agenda. The inclination for feminists and leftists to perpetuate whorephobia via the advocation of sex work abolition is to embrace the very same archaic moral notions first derived from patriarchal organised religion. Sex work as synonymous with exploitation is a false equivalency that is constantly pushed by allegedly well-meaning liberal and radical feminists with paternalistic, condescending ideas about ‘saving’ workers. Those who are more concerned with issues of the ‘ethicality’ of the sex industry as a whole than addressing tangible labour issues within it are complicit in sex worker oppression and often advocate for and enact policy that directly endangers workers. This is clearest in the regressive ‘Nordic model’, under which sex workers themselves are not criminalised but their clients are, reproducing the same industrial conditions for exploitation as under criminalisation models.
History has provided brief yet powerful visions of such cooperation. In 1975, for example, sex workers occupied the Saint Nizier church in Lyon for ten days, which resulted in the birth of International Sex Workers Day, celebrated each June 2nd to highlight the overwhelming oppression and violence still suffered by sex workers worldwide. When looking for examples of sex worker unionisation, the legacy of the Lusty Lady co-op peepshow in San Francisco proves how a cooperative model founded upon worker solidarity, antiracism, and anticapitalism can dramatically improve worker quality of life and lessen, though not entirely eradicate, workplace exploitation and inequality.
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A truly radical conception of sex worker rights is one that recognises industry exploitation as a multifaceted phenomenon stemming from capitalist, patriarchal and colonial hegemony. Prioritising decriminalisation as a starting point rather than an end, the next step in sex worker emancipation is the reframing of sex worker rights as primarily an issue of labour exploitation stemming from capitalism at large rather than one singular mechanism of oppression, since sex work comprises various identities and professions. Perhaps the most radical yet underacknowledged dimension of sex work is that sex workers innately control both the means of production and the product themselves. Criminalisation, however, has been very effective at isolating and alienating workers from one another, diminishing the opportunities and conditions necessary for militant worker solidarity and organisation.
Whilst not a perfect solution by any means, there is strong evidence that the implementation of a co-operative model throughout the sex industry is by far the most feasible and natural step in creating anarchist structures through which workers can self-determine under and in spite of capitalism. A co-operative brothel, parlour or strip club would drastically tilt the scales of power back towards the workers themselves, who even under decriminalisation still face exploitation at the hands of capitalists. Under the decriminalised industry in NSW, the main issues experienced by sex workers stem from exploitation at the hands of bosses. With an estimated 60% of NSW sex workers employed in brothels, parlours and strip clubs amongst other regulated establishments, illegal and
SEX WORK WO RK IS WORK! WO RK!
exploitive practices such as obligatory ‘shift fees,’ late fines, lack of provision of free safe sex supplies, underpayment, and withholding of pay still remain rife under a system entirely lacking unionisation and job security.
Sex workers are also legally categorised as ‘independent contractors’ and are therefore ineligible for paid sick leave, work place compensation, and any guarantee of continued employment. At the crux of the issue is that workers themselves have no say in the percentage of payment that goes to the employer and possess no collective bargaining power to negotiate for higher rates, as well as zero agency over business operations in which they have a significant stake. A radical co-operative model would cut out the profiteering and exploitative middle man entirely. Brothels could operate much the same day to day, since business owners are frequently distant and establishments are often managed by ex-workers themselves who have regained employment as receptionists. A co-operative brothel could feasibly operate in much the same manner, however with the key difference that sex workers themselves would be equal stakeholders in the business and have full democratic agency over the proportion of profits redirected towards the maintenance of the co-operative and the management of these funds. Co-operative workers would also have full autonomy over services provided and hours worked, as well as employee status and job security.
Analysing stigmatised labo lab our u n der In an industry that is already radical in the fact that profit is often ca p italism extracted directly from the ruling, patriarchal class by workers of economically and socially marginalised backgrounds, it is no wonder that punitive criminalisation and oppressive structures of capital seek to suppress the conditions necessary for such industrial action. Whilst the existence of co-operative brothels alone will not dismantle capitalism and do contain inherent limitations inexisting under such a system, leftists and sex workers themselves must recognise the tremendously radical potential such a structure could provide and seriously consider the disruptive ramifications for the capitalist patriarchy at large.
Like all professions, post-revolutionary sex work must be markedly removed from its current existence under the capitalist structures present in the industry today. Sex work as an individualised, isolated, alienating spectacle is an inherently capitalist experience, distilled to a greater extent under neoliberalism. However, its existence as a societal practice is of course not dependent upon the capitalist project. Our understanding of labour as value-based and exchangeable limits our ability to conceive of a revolutionary practice of sex work—no, sexual services should not be mandatorily provided to comrades in the name of mutual aid!—but that doesn’t mean we should avoid considering the needs of sex workers in our struggle against the capitalist project now and into the future. Anarchist principles of grassroots democracy and worker selfmanagement and self-actualisation can be applied to the vast majority of industries to positive effect—and sex work is no exception!
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by Honey Christensen and Anonymous
S titch i ng H is t ory: The Pa lest in ian T h obe by Kowther Qashou Illustration by Ranuka Tandan Women’s fashion in Palestine has evolved thoroughly over time, ranging from the traditional cultural dress, known as the ‘thobe’, to contemporary clothing being worn by generations of women. The thobe has rich cultural roots and is one of the biggest signifiers of Palestinian heritage and history. It traces its origins back to the early 19th century, when village women would embroider dresses, a signifier of important periods of women’s lives such as puberty, marriage, and motherhood. Although the most identifiable thobe associated with Palestine is the black and red one with tatreez (embroidery) around the neckline, thobes vary in designs and colours throughout Palestine, incorporating many different elements and details. These designs, like embroidered patterns, were dependent on status and origin such as where you hailed from, whether you were a villager, Bedouin, or townsperson, your marital status and time period. It is historically and traditionally hand-sewn. Dyed silk threads were traditionally imported from Syria, but since the 1930s threads have commonly been imported from Europe. Dyes were made from native natural ingredients and they were created from a process of fermented herbal mixtures, used to create an indigo colour which formed different shades of blue. Red dye was created from carmine, obtained from the root of the madder plant. Purple and orange tones, meanwhile, were created from mixing indigo dye and madder together, while yellow was made from saffron. To make darker colours, pomegranate rinds were added to the dye. Red is a prominent colour, varying in different shades from the rich red of Hebron to the darker red of Bethlehem, Jaffa, and Ramallah. Thobes from Jaffa would contain oranges to represent the orange trees that the coastal city was famously known for. Jackets were also worn with thobes, also varying in design and embellishments, depending on the region of its origin. Thobes were also matched with stunning accessories, such as jewellery, headdresses, and 10 U S y d Wo C o 2 0 2 1
veils, donned by Christian and Muslim women alike. Most headwear was embellished with silver and gold coins that a woman acquired from the bridewealth which indicated a woman’s wealth and prestige, depending on the amount of coins. For instance, in Bethlehem and parts of Jerusalem, married women wore a unique headwear known as the Sha’weh, a hat similar to the tarboosh in shape.
Traditionally, the jewellery that accompanied women’s clothing was made from silver. Jewellery consisted of necklaces, bracelets, rings, and much more and were made by local blacksmiths, however, jewellery was also imported from Egypt and Syria. In addition to being used as embellishments, talismans and amulets were also worn. From the 1920s onwards, women started wearing gold jewellery as it became more available.
Although it is not inherently political, a contentious history since the Nakba in 1948 has turned the thobe into a form of strong affirmation of Palestinian identity and one of cultural resistance, resulting in it being a political symbol in contemporary times. In more recent history, US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib wore her mother’s thobe during her swearing-in to Congress in 2019. During the First Intifada in the late 1980s, Palestinian women would stitch the Palestinian map, flag and its colours into their thobes as a way of defying Israel’s ban on Palestinian flags at the time. Thobes also contained doves, guns, and flowers during this time. In the diaspora, elements of Palestinian fashion such as tatreez or the keffiyeh have been implemented into modern fashion designs such as headbands and jewellery or even regular clothing as a way of maintaining their connection to Palestinian culture and even displaying their heritage. Today the thobe is worn, both in the diaspora and Palestine, as a symbol of national pride. Even in areas where it is less traditional, such as northern Palestine, it is being embraced in modern times as a way of cultural reclamation. It is strongly present during special occasions such as weddings, representing a lasting connection to the land and culture.
Images: 1. Women in Bethlehem 2. Postcard of Women of Ramallah 3. Intifada Dress from the collection of Tiraz: Widad Kawar Home for Arab Dress. Photo by Tanya Traboulsi for the Palestinian Museum 4. Bedouin woman 5. Dress purchased in Ramallah 11 U S y d Wo C o 2 0 2 1
MOURNING b y
M i s b a h
A n s a r i
Art by Ellie Zheng I reminisce frantically penning down these lines last year at the funeral of my aunt. Women from the paternal side of my family are characterized by their widowhood, a case of uncanny marital fate, they say. When my aunt passed away last year, they said that she witnessed two demises—one her husband’s suicide and one her own. The two deaths built in her slowly and she died of a sudden breathless fit, my family suspects that her intestines burst due to the pressure of her death. Mourning is a wellpunctuated political act that dictates the grief of widows in hegemonic ways, thus, making the act of grief a highly dictated one.
empowering processes, but the transformative impact of loss is hardly planned. It is sudden, inalienable, and in the case of widows, forced. My aunt, just like me, a lover of the darkest lipsticks, fanciest hair clips and stitching the best clothes for herself, knew of happiness in her own life. She loved my uncle immensely, but in independence and comfortable isolation, however, people mixed their deaths. The way mourning is arbitrated for people who have lost their husbands makes us wonder: how is it that someone’s loss is so heavily mediated that the society decides what their mourning should look like? How does the transformation happen, and when does it stop? For widows, a husband’s death is less of a longitudinal change, but a short, tumultuous one followed by stagnancy. It is a declaration that your husband is dead, so now you give up all your worldly matters, move away from your family, and live in a stupor as governed.
Butler claims that perhaps mourning means “submitting” to a transformation, and it is worth questioning the intricacies of transformation concerning widowhood. The institution of marriage moulds women’s identities, and the hegemonic patriarchal system governs all the changes that take place in their lives in place. The position of widows in Transformations are otherwise Indian society perpetuates the 12
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adamant societal structures in controlling their bodies and identity. Nash (2013) grounds her argument about black love-politics in Affect theory, investigating how bodies interact with different emotional phenomena. The sexuality of widows is set in place by rigid norms to contain their high libidinal energy, and they are expected to lead a life of celibacy, utter modesty, or sex work, depending on their caste status (Ahmed-Ghosh, 2009). Apart from the erasure of identities, the sexuality of the lower caste is allowed as they are endowed with the labour of upholding the purity of the upper caste. The deployment of the sexuality of minorities is a way of controlling their image as sexually deviant and impure individuals, and this hierarchy is advertent in the lives of widows quite a lot. Their bodies interact with the vulnerable phenomena of longing and desire in hegemonically mediated emotions, for their sexuality is not their own. It is laboured, strewn, and empty. Butler elaborated on our bodies never being our own and
“I think mourning is an abbreviation for a longer, well-punctuated feeling. It is simply grief with precision.”
scrutinized to others’ violence, gaze, and agency. For my aunt lost, or was made to lose, her trinkets of enjoyment that she associated with deeply and her mourning was said to be a lifelong one. In my poem, I count the amount of time I mourned the losses of different things —I mourned about the death of my only plant for exactly 2 minutes today. Then it was automatically slurped by my vacuum cleaner. To be able to not hold your grief permanently and to dictate your own sadness is a privilege; I let there be temporary changes in my life post losses because this sadness is mine, and I decide its importance. My aunt, in her widowhood, had to hold a funeral to her intestines all her life and become distant from her own love. To summarize, I am tempted to quote Butler — “Individuation is an accomplishment” (16). The sheer privilege of getting to lead individual lives and having community intervention in its truest sense is a rarity,
and maybe that is why I called it an abbreviation for a longer feeling in my poem. Not to call it a masquerade, but maybe it masks the complicated politics of love and belonging. Arundhati Roy (1997) coined the term “Love Laws” that decide who should receive love, and Butler inquired about who lives are considered mourn-worthy (22). The lives of widows, or the forced performance of sadness inflicted upon them, maintains the pompousness with which patriarchy decides that some life must be grieved forever. Men, especially married men, get the privilege of being put on a pedestal even after death. Furthermore, empowerment is such a vague concept with a certain archetype that creates a false image of state-run love in our minds. It glorifies waiting for the non-reciprocal, and long waiting period a multicultural state makes people go through, further strengthening the nation’s power dynamics. Thus, widowhood is placed under the realm of vulnerability which is reflected in the Indian setting immensely.
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Ahmed, S. (2014). In the Name of Love. In Cultural politics of emotion (pp. 122-143). Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press. Ahmed-Ghosh, H. (2009). Widows in India: issues of masculinity and women’s sexuality. Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, 15(1), 26-53. Butler, J. (2003). Violence, mourning, politics. Studies in gender and sexuality, 4(1), 9-37. Ehlers, N. (2011). Onerous passions: colonial antimiscegenation rhetoric and the history of sexuality. Patterns of Prejudice, 45(4), 319-340. Mehta, A. (Director). (2005). David Hamilton. United States: 20th Century Fox. Mastey, N. (2009). Examining empowerment among Indian widows: A qualitative study of the narratives of Hindu widows in North Indian ashrams. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 11(2), 191198 Nash, J. C. (2013). Practicing love: Black feminism, love-politics, and postintersectionality. Meridians, 11(2), 1-24. Roy, A. (2001). The god of small things. Pune, India: Mehta Publishing House. 13
Higher education access: a gendered issue
by Jazzlyn Breen Last year the Liberal-National party successfully passed a higher education amendment bill, increasing the cost of particular degrees while decreasing others, and introducing a variety of new parameters on students’ access to government loans to cover the cost of study (HECS-HELP loans). The bill was passed by one vote after a staunch campaign against it by staff and students alike. The bill was framed by the LNP as a move towards encouraging more students to study in ‘employable’ subject areas such as science and engineering, while economically disincentivising students away from the humanities, communications and law. The bill also included changes to who can access HECS-HELP loans, with new restrictions seeing those who fail 50% of their subjects unable to access the low interest government loans most students use to access higher education. While the government spun the bill as an improvement to higher education, the campaign against it argued that these changes will make it harder for those facing any kind of systemic disadvantage to access higher education. Students from low socio-economic backgrounds wanting to study the humanities will have to make the choice between a lifetime of debt, or a degree they aren’t passionate about. The campaign against the bill particularly highlighted the disproportionate impact the changes will have on women trying to achieve a university degree. In their submission against the bill the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences stated that “HASS [humanities, arts and social science] fields that face the largest fee increases tend to have substantially more women than men enrolled in them.” The council raised the argument that because these are the subject areas which have been increased in price, a greater percentage of higher education debt will fall onto women. Women statistically already pay back this debt slower than men due to a number of systemic reasons, namely lower average pay and extended time away from the workforce due to gender disparities in childcare. Critics of the bill argue that this is a clearly gendered failure of the policy. Changes to the accessibility of HECS-HELP loans have also been criticised for the way they will disproportionately impact students struggling because of systematic disadvantage. The changes, which see students who fail 50% of their units in a year denied further access to HECS-HELP, will financially punish students who aren’t privileged enough to have the support they need at university. Students who work to support themselves, those with caring duties and especially students affected by sexual violence will be hit hard by this new change, which effectively sees their disadvantage punished monetarily. A campaign launched last year by The University of Sydney Women’s Collective highlighted the impact the HECS-HELP loan changes will have on survivors of sexual assault trying to complete study at univeristy. The collective argued that more needs to be done to systematically help survivors navigate trauma recovery; kicking them off of government support for education due to a drop in university performance is a step in the opposite direction to this. Reform around universities responses to sexual violence has long been a fight of feminist organisations, as it has been well established that this gendered issue significantly impacts the ability of survivors to continue studying at university. Failure and drop out rates of survivors of sexual violence are higher than the rest of the student population, which speaks to an existing systemic issue around the support available for students in need. While there are allowances made at many universities to apply for a non-fail grade due to difficult circumstances, these systems are often not good enough, or not easily accessible to the average student in need. These institutional problems will only be exacerbated by policies which further punish struggling students. This new bill, while framed by the LNP as ‘future proofing’ higher education, will really see those from the most disadvantaged sections of society systematically barred from accessing a university degree.
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Before ocean, there was wasteland peeling away from itself rotting like collar sweating from bones wide-eyed cryptids / sighborgs / my mother were the only bodies of water back then called the bending arcs of our waking forms: horizon (her eyes on) called our waking forms
Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re a body of water I want to sit beside
a humble gesture nine hands exoskeleton a certain salting godless Before ocean, to gut feelings was to take a knife to detritus bowed gatherers picking at anything left too long out in the sun a glitch a scab a shimmer & distant lovers could only sing the stretch between
by Amelia Mertha
So we asked the birds for guidance (Remember they showed us flight path & play?) (Remember we called the flurry of wings swim?)
Art by Emma Cao They said, liberation is to make a sky in your image Becoming ocean, we discarded the border skin and belly-up lazed all over this wasteland in the tiny mouths of crevices and caves opaque and naked
all these bodies of water, a new sky belowâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; chanting
show me show me
Criminalising coercive control is not the answer: An abolitionist critique by Georgia Mantle and Mali Hermans On Thursday 24 September 2020 , Labor MP Anna Watson introduced a private members bill to the New South Wales Parliament to amend the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007. The amendment seeks to criminalise coercive control in domestic relationships. Coercive control refers to the use of controlling and manipulative behaviours including psychological, emotional and financial abuse within domestic relationships. Coercive control is committed to gaining and maintaining control over another person. This bill will make it an offence to engage in coercive control over another person in a domestic relationship. Carrying a maximum penalty of imprisonment for five years and/or a fine of $5,500 and, in cases deemed to be aggravated, a prison sentence of ten years imprisonment and/or a fine of $13,200.
Anna Watson is not alone in proposing legislation to criminalise coercive control with Green’s MLC Abigail Boyd giving notice for similar legislation in June this year. Women’s Safety NSW, a statewide peak body for women’s specialist services, have said that “criminalisation of coercive control [is] essential if Australia is to achieve a substantial reduction in violence against women and domestic homicide.” While domestic violence services and some advocates have praised the move to criminalise coercive control, criticism of the bill has emerged from prison and police abolitionists, who have labelled the proposed legislation as embedded in ideas of carceral feminism. Carceral feminism refers to a response to gendered violence which calls for increased policing, law reform and harsher prison sentencing for perpetrators. Though originally coined by Elizabeth Berstien in her discussion of sexual labour and calls to criminalise sex work, it has come to refer more broadly to feminists reliance
upon the criminal justice system for safety and protection. Feminist anti-violence movements fought for the social and legal recognition of domestic violence and an increase in punishment for perpetrators of this violence. Historically, the criminal justice system — whether via the police or the courts —saw domestic violence as a discrete and interpersonal family issue. Feminists fought to have the system recognise domestic violence as a political issue that the state needed to address. In doing so, many feminist anti-violence activists failed to recognise the violence rooted in the criminal justice system itself. In her book Decriminalising Domestic Violence, Leigh Goodmark argues that while criminalisation of domestic violence brought tangible benefits to some women, the criminal justice system has failed to prevent intimate partner violence by trying to solve what is fundamentally a social issue without broader investment in social services and infrastructure. A broader community response that incorporates housing, health, economic security and structural change to gender relations and patriarchy is imperative. In failing to recognise the violence inflicted by policing and the prison system, carceral feminism relies on the idea that violence can be prevented or ‘fixed’ through punitive measures, reinforcing and empowering these violent systems. The proposed legislation relies on women being willing and able to involve the police in situations of violence. For many women, involving the police can lead to additional violence, with the police acting as another perpetrator of violence in denying support, inflicting further harm and compounding existing trauma. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait
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“A b o l i t i o n i s t f e m i n i s m d e m a n d s o f u s , as women and people deeply embedded in our communities, an optimism in our own ability to respond to violence without reproducing h a r m .” Women’s Strike UK poster
Failures of the police to respond to gendered violence is well documented. Statistics from police data, as reported by the ABC in their investigation of police failing sexual assault victim/survivors, suggest that while approximately one in five women have experienced sexual violence, only 19% of female victim/survivors of sexual assault in Australia reported the incident to police. Further, only 30% of all sexual assault reports led to an arrest or other legal action. For many marginalised women, there are extensive barriers to reporting violence. Research published by ANROWS, for example, highlights the challenges to reporting women with disabilities face, with Islander women, disabled women, poor women “substantial” abuse occurring in spite of, and and other women living on the margins, police because of, systems that are intended to provide pose a very real threat to our lives. Policing and protection. With this knowledge in mind, it is prisons serve only to provide a veneer of safety. paramount we pay attention to the way calls for criminalisation of coercive control - intended to Supporters of the push to criminalise coercive provide protection - may similarly cause harm. control and reform the criminal justice system to respond to domestic violence have argued that We must also consider that, whilst in some cases, opponents of the bill are defeatist and “nihilistic reporting may stop future acts of violence, police about the ability of the justice system to protect and the criminal justice system cannot be relied women.” However, as abolitionists, opposition to upon as the answer to violence prevention, and the criminalisation of coercive control does not often are complicit in compounding the trauma stem from pessimism. Instead, our resistance to of victim/survivors. Police failure to respond to it has developed from a thorough understanding acts of violence in a meaningful way often leaves of the inherent oppressive nature of policing victim/survivors re-traumatised and without and the criminal justice system, in addition to resolution. Even when police involvement leads the limits of the system in responding to deeper to an arrest or other legal action being taken social issues. Abolitionist feminism demands of against the perpetrator, victim/survivors are left us, as women and people deeply embedded in our without material support, as the justice system communities, an optimism in our own ability to is unequipped to respond to acts of violence respond to violence without reproducing harm. beyond the state’s legal mechanisms. While some Modern policing and incarceration have become supporters of the bill may believe that expanding so naturalised that there is immense difficulty police powers through criminalising coercive in imagining and conceptualising how violence control will improve the literacy and skills of could be addressed outside of these systems. police in responding to violence, abolitionists Abolitionists’ optimism and creativity is situated understand that the issue is not with literacy and within our ability to imagine alternatives outside skills, but with the limitations of the police’s role disempowering hegemonic systems. within the community. 17 U S y d Wo C o 2 0 2 1
colonial context in reproducing violence via the policing and prison systems.
poster by N. O Bonzo
As feminists we don’t refute that coercive control and intimidation tactics lie at the heart of domestic violence and pose a serious threat to women’s wellbeing and safety. However, coercive control and intimidation can not be isolated and detached from the broader structural, patriarchal violence that exists. While seeking to expand understandings of gendered violence, this bill poses the very real risk of seeing violence against women as interpersonal and not structurally situated. This fails women whose lives cannot be detached from the structures we live within - whether they be disabled women living in institutions and experiencing abuse at the hands of violent service providers, Aboriginal women subjected to police brutality or criminalised women subjected to sexual violence within prisons.
Current rates of domestic and sexual violence prove that the threat of police involvement and incarceration is not a deterrent for those who commit violence against women. Yet, if we understand gendered violence as a social issue, alternative approaches of both alleviating and responding to violence can begin to be imagined. Supporters of the proposed legislation believe that the enactment of similar laws in England and Scotland provide a valuable roadmap for their introduction in Australia. However, what supporters of the bill must be acutely aware of, is that as a settler colonial state, Australia’s approach to criminalisation functions differently than in Europe. While supporters of the bill have refuted the idea that police will mistakenly identify women as the perpetrator this is already a pressing issue. In particular, misidentification affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, migrant and refugee women, women who don’t speak English and other marginalised women already over criminalised and threatened by the police. By referencing empirical evidence of this not occurring in Scotland and England where coercive control has already been criminalised, advocates fail to recognise Australia’s unique
In questioning the push to criminalise coercive control, we want to make clear we are not disagreeing that coercive control is a form of violence. We do not wish to invalidate the experiences of women who have been subjected to coercive control, and honour victim/survivors sharing their stories — we all want justice. We also acknowledge that the debate happening amongst feminists has become highly polarised in response to this issue and we do not want to be complicit in drawing attention away from what is at stake, which is the lives and livelihoods of women. However, what we hope to present is a radical alternative to dealing with violence within our communities. Ultimately as abolitionists it is from a deep love, hope and belief that we as a community, especially those subject to multiple forms of interpersonal and systemic violence, hold the answers and can continue to work towards a world that does not rely on carceral systems. In building strong communities, developing collective care ethics and struggling for structural changes to housing, health and social services we will end violence against women. This piece originally appeared in Honi Soit in October 2020
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limbs like spider’s legs hands, like a grandmother’s that have been s t r e t c h e d lines that began in youth twirled outwards at first then found their way back in, to crease fingers like a piano -ist tightly packed keys skin woven into clothes a spinal zip with a curved stitch to her side she was forged one depth greater than us in a chasm of salt and ash and burning tastebuds her first memory: being squashed under a cooing meteor
Cinder Poetry and art by Brianna Bullivant
she grew one level down from the sticky, bright substance of devotion in the pit where her eyes were made she looked up at the falling soil — damp with bodily passion — cruel to her unsoftened iris so they glazed over with cement, until no salt sprang from muscle until she learned no master but fire for it was hot in the crater but not hot enough unearthing herself anew; a femme fatale – fatal to who? there is a body at the bottom of the staircase but she does not materialise at the top, like a soap operan widow she is already there, beside it beside ghostly remorse a shadow of a self that might feel like a silhouette retreating in dances and ripples they used to marvel at the things her hands could do: puppetry, and making a prism into her mind but being known is a mortal desire and not one she ever learnt dormant now, she is in front of a volcano uncurling: the warmth is better than anything to her
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A HISTORY OF THE SDA by Alex Mcleay
As broadcasted by dozens upon dozens of headlines over recent years, wage theft is rampant in Australia, and despite audits, investigations by the ombudsman, and inquiries by the ACCC, appears to be persistent in current labour relation environments. In 2019, it was estimated that over one million workers, around 13% of the workforce, had been affected, resulting in $1.35 billion in underpayment. In 2015-16, the Fair Work Ombudsman reported the average rate of compliance with Australian labour laws was only 61%. Particularly prevalent in the scourge of wage theft scandals that have been exposed in the past few years have been Coles, Woolworths, and Wesfarmers (the parent company of Bunnings, Kmart, and Officeworks). While these retailers claimed, for the most part, that underpayments were unintentional, the lack of employee security and unreliable industrial relations in retail begs examination. Wage theft disproportionately affects part-time and casual employees, migrants (especially those holding temporary visas), young people, and women. UnionsACT reported in 2018 that seven in ten women under 25 have experienced wage theft. Understanding the insecurity of retail work and the nature of exploitation, especially in tandem with sexist and racist employer practices, elucidates the conditions of wage theft and industrial relations more broadly in Australia. Retail is one of the largest sectors of Australian industry, employing over 1 million people, about 10% of Australia’s workforce. Of this, around 57% are women, and more than 1 in 4 women under the age of 25 are employed in retail. Retail has low profit margins of around 5% before tax, and is a labour intensive industry with over 70% of value added by service workers. In such an industrial context, employment practices become of paramount consideration, productivity and flexibility of primary concern for management and executives. This has seen the overworking, underpayment, exploitation, and abuse of many vulnerable workers. Across Australia, almost a third of casual workers earn less than the minimum wage. Some migrant workers have reported rates
of pay as low as $10 an hour, manifold forms of workplace bullying and racism, and disregard of award conditions and superannuation payments. Women in Australia - especially young women have reported disproportionately higher rates of managers ‘hustling’ them and encouraging unpaid overtime. Neglecting legal superannuation payments has the knock-on effect of senior poverty; the average woman will currently retire with $90,000 less than a man. The rostering system has enabled higher levels of flexibility that ostensibly has benefits for parttime and casual employees in the provision of penalty rates and scheduling considerations. It was introduced in 1971 as part of an agreement between the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA), the union covering most retail and fast food workers, and the six major retailers of Coles, Woolworths, Myers, David Jones, Grace Jones, and Waltons. Rostering initially allowed full-time employees to maintain full-time hours in the context of extended trading hours, but increasingly saw the use of casual staff to pad ‘peak’ trading hours. This enabled more women to enter or return to the workforce in conjunction with domestic responsibilities that would have otherwise conflicted with full-time employment. However, it set a trajectory for the continuing precarity of retail employment. The legacy of full-time, career employment in retail was significantly undermined by short-term, casual, and high turn-over employment in the industry. The shift in employee demographics of retail also promoted a feminised characterisation of retail work, which has fostered cultural undervaluations of labour. The gender dynamics of sales work often function to restrict women to lower paid assistant and clerk positions, while pay equity remains a persistent issue. This agreement occurred at a time of change for Australian unions. In the 1970s, national levels of union membership dropped below 50%, and Bob Hawke, then head of the Australian Council of
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Trade Unions (ACTU), was pushing for attention in the growing white-collar sector of industry. The high-turnover character of retail employment, especially with a growing number of casual employees, and many women who would depart or halt employment due to shifting domestic obligations, had discouraged some employees from joining the union. Many other unions have and continue to oppose the casualisation of workforces as an issue of employment security, with an implicit understanding that permanent, full-time employees are more likely to join and participate in their unions. The 1971 agreement introduced the employer deduction of union fees, rather than individual members, effectively introducing compulsory unionism in a large portion of the retail industry. When negotiating with employers, the SDA had argued that a fully unionised workforce would lead to more moderate members and leadership. Compulsory unionism in retail, by automatically extending membership to casual employees, no longer necessitated this consideration. This shift in member demographics reorientated the character of the SDA, and the increase in membership numbers increased the voting strength of the SDA in the Labor Party. Today, the SDA is a significant voting bloc within the ALP, and continues to lobby parliamentarians to adopt conservative positions on conscience votes. The leadership of the SDA, in contrast to its membership, is majority older, white men, many of whom have held positions for decades. Joe de Bruyn, National President of the SDA, fought against Labor binding MP’s to vote for same-sex marriage in 2015, stating “marriage is between a man and a woman; always was, always will be. It is based on what is innate in human nature.” While the ‘closed shop’ arrangements ended in the 1990s (wherein employers would sign up employees to the SDA themselves), the SDA
maintains a close relation with employers, and much of the industrial work of the union is dependent on organiser and executive action, rather than membership or ‘store floor’ organising. As the SDA derives its power from aggregate membership numbers, recruitment is a predominant consideration. Due to the often short-term, unstable nature of retail employment, the union needs to recruit around a third of its membership each year to maintain this. While collective agreements negotiated by the SDA are quite extensive in scope and coverage (including non-union employees), the majority of workers in retail are passive in terms of union engagement and services. This character of provision enforces, rather than challenges, conceptions of industrial relations. Employees in precarious work arrangements can feel disempowered to engage with forms of organising, exacerbated by the distance of negotiating. The SDA’s submission to the Senate concerning wage theft recommended more comprehensive oversight and penalties, visa protections, and the establishment of a small-claims jurisdiction for wage theft. While all helpful, the underlying issue of individual, immediate security perists. Indeed, a UnionsACT survey reported that 39% of women felt “unable to discuss their pay and conditions with their supervisors/employers due to a fear of risking their job”. The business model of the SDA has not fostered active engagement with trade unionism, nor provided genuine security for precarious and vulnerable workers. Top-down service provision, distanced negotiation, and capitulation to employer interests (with the effect of shoring up political power within the ALP) has created an industrial environment that is nominally the highest density of unionism in the private sector, but continues to suffer exploitation, wage theft, and sexism. Art by Amelia Mertha
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WOMEN’S SHELTERS: Women’s homelessness, exacerbated by domestic violence, is often (inadequately) met with the solution of women’s shelters by feminist organisers. Women’s shelters, often over capacity and under-resourced, cannot adequately respond to the problem of women’s homelessness. They do not tackle the core issues of capitalism and colonialism which inevitably create homeless and dispossessed people. Homelessness is inherent to capitalism because public space is commodified to create profits, so housing is bought and sold, rather than existing as a basic provision to the people. The ongoing colonialism of so-called Australia dispossesses Aboriginal people from their land and country. Family violence is at least 45 times more likely for Aboriginal people, exacerbating housing insecurity. Without a safe place to live, educational opportunities, health and wellbeing decline. When activists make attempts to address homelessness and emergency housing, especially for victims of domestic violence, we need to be clear that without ending capitalism and colonialism these problems can’t be solved. Capitalism necessitates a reserve army of labour whereby there will always be a percentage of the population who are un- or underemployed to maintain low wages. Housing functions in a similar way; despite there being an excess of housing in relation to the population needing to be housed, houses remain empty and the rich own multiple
properties while others sit on the streets. This bleak situation is exacerbated by neoliberal governments reducing welfare assistance and cutting funding to public housing. Women’s refuges are an example of a temporary, feminist solution to certain homelessness situations which are created by private property and patriarchy. Despite their usefulness, women’s refuges are a strong example of how, short of dismantling capitalism and colonialism, no attempt to solve homelessness will be ultimately successful. The first women’s refuge in Australia was established in Glebe in 1974 by Anne Summers and other women involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement. They squatted in a church-owned property and cleaned it to create ‘Elsie Women’s Refuge Night Shelter’, a temporary, safe home for women and children who were victims of domestic violence. Elsie’s opening coincided with growing consciousness around family and sexual violence, the ‘Women in a Violent Society’ forum and the first Royal Commission into the topic happened that same year. In the following years, dozens of women’s refuges following similar models were established in major cities across Australia. Today, family and sexual violence is a universally held feminist concern, and these shelters continue to exist and provide an
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important service. There are intrinsic problems in the provision of services and the women’s liberation movement of the 70s and 80s which ran the refuges. The people involved were primarily white, middleclass university students and didn’t accommodate the needs and difficulties of people outside this singular, largely privileged group. Ultimately, the refuge movement could be classist, racist, and unwelcoming to some groups of people who needed their services most. While there was a growing consciousness towards gay and lesbian rights, embodied in Australia’s first Mardi Gras in the same decade, trans women were unwelcome and the movement was largely cis-normative. Additionally, while there are no official statistics of the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people accessing the service, anecdotal stories suggest that few felt able to use the service. Safe and stable housing was, and continues to be, more critical for Indigenous people who have had their homes destroyed, land stolen and children removed since colonisation began. Homelessness disproportionately affects people who face multiple axes of oppression, but forms of oppression other than being a woman were often ignored.
A CLOSER LOOK Despite not being perfect solutions to the issue of domestic violence or sexual assault many women have found refuges safe places to live when in danger, and public opinion has changed on the matter due to the positive media the refuges have received. Therefore, today there is a broadly empathetic public view towards women experiencing domestic violence. The refuges are an attempt to alleviate the burden of insecure housing, but they are ill-placed and insufficient to meet the broader need of universal housing. They do not fix the root of the issue which arises from the capitalist colonial state where property is a commodity and Indigenous people are violently dispossessed. Despite women’s refuges and public housing not directly contributing to the broader goals of abolishing private property and dismantling capitalism, they shouldn’t be shut down. In Australia, public housing should be the service that addresses this issue, however, it is inadequate in supply, disrespected by politicians and society, and undermined by private property interests. Increasing the number of public housing dwellings is urgently needed, as well as ensuring that women’s refuges aren’t run by people who are personally removed from the struggles of those who they try to serve. Communitybased transformative justice, socialism and Indigenous sovereignty
are long term goals for housing activists. In 2014 the NSW Government introduced a series of controversial policies that centralised the control of housing services, including the Going Home, Staying Home bill. The University of Sydney Women’s Collective campaigned against this bill as part of a NSW inter-university campaign in July 2014; Students for Women’s Only Services. The campaign focused on ensuring that services are still specialised and specific to women, without external intervention of groups whose beliefs are contrary to the intended aims of the refuge. This campaign was unsuccessful, and the passing of the bill saw disastrous implications which had been predicted by activists. Smaller organisations were forced to compete with larger organisations, and unable to receive direct funding themselves. The bill forced the closure of some homelessness services, and many independent refuges changed ownership. Elsie’s women’s refuge was one such service and is now run by St Vincent de Paul, an organisation with a significant and continued history of homophobia. While it still operates as a shelter for women who have experienced domestic violence, the centralised management by the church is
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by Lia Perkins
contradictory to Elie’s historic activist aims. Feminists should pay more attention in housing-related issues so that any provision of services accompanies an activist campaign that fights against homelessness and sexual assault. To do this we need to engage in building a militant, community-based, direct action approach to the issue, joining renters unions or organisations fighting similar things, putting more pressure on the government for women’s services. Women’s shelters are currently necessary, but they can’t be relied on to solve the housing crisis, nor sexual or domestic violence. Addressing colonialism and capitalism are major tasks, but feminists should be clear that their constant theft and dispossession makes housing for all and ending sexual assault impossible.
crush by Anh Nguyen
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what is ecofeminism? In the words of the United Nations Environment Programme, “Around the world, environmental conditions impact the lives of women and men in different ways as a result of existing inequalities. Gender roles often create differences in the ways men and women act in relation to the environment, and in the ways men and women are enabled or prevented from acting as agents of environmental change” (2016). In its most basic terms, ecofeminism is a form of feminist theory that looks at how environmental issues are fundamentally linked with gender inequalities. Thus, ecofeminists seek to dismantle how traditional gender roles and the patriarchy dictate our interactions with the environment.
why is it necessary? The goals of ecofeminism are rooted in two key issues: The unequal impact of ecological problems upon women: The effects of climate change are disproportionate across the world, heavily exacerbating existing inequalities. A critical part of ecofeminism is understanding how women specifically are more often disproportionately affected by climate crises such as drought, famine, and extreme weather events. For example, in developing countries and rural areas women are often deprived of political and financial agency and are therefore unable to relocate when affected by natural disasters or climate change. Likewise, when there is a environmental disaster, these women are far more susceptible to gender based violence, human trafficking, or being forced into sex work in order to provide for themselves and their families (Tower, 2020). Eco-sexism and the responsibility of climate action: On top of these physical inequalities, there is the socio-political tradition that conflates environmental responsibility with femininity, and destruction/consumption with masculinity. As such, the onus of climate action has repeatedly been delegated to women. One example in a survey from the United States found that women make up 76% of vegans, and 75% of animal rights groups (Hunt, 2020). Similarly, minimalism and zero-waste products are marketed almost exclusively towards women. In direct contrast, fossil fuel usage has acted as a historical platform for white patriarchal growth, imperialism and expansion, seeing environmentally insensitive activities such as coal rolling and carnivore diets intrinsically linked with masculinity.
how do i practice ecofeminism in my own life? There are many ways one can be climate conscious in their everyday life, whether that is choosing to cut back on meat and animal products, using more minimal-waste and reusable products, or even using public transport or walking more. However, practicing ecofeminism is employing that climate consciousness and creating discussions surrounding a universal responsibility. You can practice Ecofeminism in many ways; by listening to Indigenous voices on sustainable practices, joining your enviro-collective on campus, chatting to your friends about climate issues, and doing what you can to educate yourself. Remember, not everyone can quit their lives and join an off-the grid commune in the mountains. Seek to progress rather than to be perfect and keep yourself open-minded to learn more.
by Kate Scott
UNEP 2016. Global Gender and Environment Outlook The Critical Issues. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, Kenya. pp. 90 Röhr, U., et al., (2008). Gender justice as the basis for sustainable climate policies: a feminist background paper. German NGO Forum on Environment and Development. 6 Tower, Amali. 2020. “The Gendered Impacts Of Climate Displacement — Climate Refugees”. Climate Refugees, climate-refugees.org/perspectives/ U S y d Wo C o 2 0 2 1 genderedimpactsofclimatechange
‘Health disparity’ is a concept created by governments and social institutions, and systematically enforced to reproduce the hegemonic conditions under which they thrive. It is an ethical judgement of which resources can be reasonably withheld from certain communities; namely, a judgement of which people’s disadvantage is socially acceptable. For sex workers, globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified existing disparities, and exposed the underlying foundations of structural violence which predispose these workers to ill health through restricted access to crucial healthcare and neglect in the formation of government policy. According to the World Health Organisation, sex workers are among those most susceptible to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), due to the nature of their profession and the lack of accessible HIV prevention services. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified these foundations of inequality, as HIV testing facilities were scaled down in 44 countries to reduce community transmissions. These closures are detrimental to the health of many sex workers in the Global South. Susan Gichuna found in her study of sex workers in Kenya that during COVID a six-month disruption in HIV
supplies and treatment in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to lead to 471,000–673,000 AIDS-related deaths in a year. This neglect constitutes structural violence and reproduces cycles of disadvantage, as vulnerability to HIV has enforced the stigma that sex workers are conduits for disease, further hindering sex workers’ access to healthcare services during COVID. Furthermore, access to contraception is one of the most
crucial aspects of healthcare for sex workers, and this accessiblity is still limited worldwide, as many countries have defunded and criminalised birth control and abortion services. In a decade of austerity, the reduction of specialist services has led to a crisis in provision of health and support services for sex workers, exemplifying the ways in which disparities are manufactured to enforce hegemony. Planned Parenthood is one of the largest providers of sexual and
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reproductive healthcare worldwide whose services were hugely impacted by COVID-19; they were forced to close 5 633 clinics and community-based care outlets across 64 countries. 47 million women in 115 low and middle income countries were in a position at the beginning of the pandemic where they could lack access to modern contraceptives if COVID-19 restrictions, specifically lockdowns, continued for 6-monthsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;for many this has become a reality. It is estimated that this restriction will result in about seven million unplanned pregnancies. These statistics are exceptionally concerning considering that 41 countries have scaled down contraceptive care services and 23 countries have reduced availability of abortion care services during the pandemic, closures which will disproportionately impact sex workers. In Australia, government responses to COVID have consistently disproportionately impacted sex workers. Access to federal income support was limited on a large scale by many sex workersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; difficulty to provide proof of employment and income documentation as well as the fear of legal repercussions, discrimination, or increased surveillance of their workplace after disclosing their sex work to a government body. Furthermore, both
JobKeeper and JobSeeker were not extended to visa holders, thus completely denying support to migrant sex workers. As an extension of this, many sex workers are facing greater housing instability, as under most jurisdictions, discrimination against sex workers in the housing sector is either explicitly lawful or enabled by lack of access to anti-discrimination protections. The Australian response to COVID-19 has been heavily reliant upon policing, which has been felt heavily by sex workers. In Sydney CBD, police used their increased powers the morning they came into effect by the Public Health Act to target massage parlours, resulting in several sex workers from migrant backgrounds being the first people in New South Wales to receive COVID-19 fines. To adapt to police targeting, many sex workers are faced with the choice between working safely and employing harm reduction measures and avoiding law enforcement, placing them at even greater risk to COVID-19. COVID has not created these disparities, these injustices are been long standing forms of structural discrimination against sex workers globally, the only change has been their amplification and acceleration to a devastating extent for these communities. These inequities are considered acceptable by institutions and governments because they fit perfectly into their own stigmatised biases against sex work which need to be dismantled.
Sex Workers & COVID-19 by Keira Fairley
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reflections on the black lives matter movement in 2020
CW: Names of deceased Indigenous people.
On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was brutally murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The widespread reactions and protests across the globe that came in the wake of Floyd’s death highlighted the unrelenting nature of white supremacy, and how deeply it resonates with the Indigenous and Black populations of every settler project. Soon, similar Black Lives Matter protests sprung up in so-called ‘australia’ too, with more mainstream support than their efforts had ever seen before. The Morrison government and Australian police force made feeble attempts to distance themselves from the issue of police violence, labelling it a foreign issue deserving sympathy, not reflection. However, one cannot ignore the decades long Stop Black Deaths in Custody campaign that localised BLM in australia. It only takes listening to the words of Leetona Dungay, mother of Dunghutti man David Dungay Jr., who was killed at the hands of Long Bay prison guards, to realize that this common thread of white supremacy is directly responsible for the violence it
continually and relentlessly manifests upon First Nations people on their land. “I can’t breathe” echoed throughout the streets of major cities across the country to recognise not just George Floyd’s last words, but David Dungay Jr.’s too. Nothing could sharpen the reality of white supremacy other than COVID-19; smoke rung in the new year, heavy with the devastation that bushfires had wreaked on Indigenous communities most acutely, only to then to be plunged into a global pandemic, in which, once again, Indigenous communities felt the brunt of resource scarcity the hardest. It had become evident that the police served to surveil the people, and to punish the poor. The eruption of BLM protests across so-called australia indicated not a new problem, but a boiling point. Protest organisers were taken to the Supreme Court and denied their permits to hold actions under the guise of Covid safety, whilst large crowds were able to gather for brazen patriotic pacifications such as football games. Protest-goers were threatened by the Police Minister with “the
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full force of the law” before police arrived to protests by the hundreds, decked out in riot gear, with pepper spray and sound cannons, kettling and macing the crowd of young people attempting to do the sinister act of getting home safe via Central station. The picture is painfully clear; this colonial state—and its footsoldiers, the police—exists only to stifle and subdue First Nations people and profit off their land, all whilst distracting the masses from their brutality. The spike in international solidarity and collective momentum from the BLM actions occurred alongside a widespread demand for police and prison abolition like never before. In 2020,anti-racist and anti-colonial campaigns and organisers alike looked for a cohesive vocabulary and direction. This was found in abolition. Whilst not a new concept by any means, police and prison abolition mobilised on the greater focus on popular criticism of police. In the wake of this Invasion Day, and looking back on this past year of activism for Indigenous justice, there is one thing that proves itself over and over; the colonial state cannot be reasoned with, cannot be negotiated with, and justice for First Nations peoples cannot and will not be achieved so long as the colonial state is standing. Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.
by Anie Kandya and Kimmy Dibben
on feeling stupid by Ellie Wilson University is not for poor people. It is not for survivors of sexual violence. It is not for the neurodivergent, mentally ill, or disabled. This isn’t a radical claim; universities are known to be elitist, inaccessible, and unaccommodating. We know this. Or do we really? I’ve participated in and lead campaigns as a Women’s Officer and member of WoCo for years on how hard it is to continue to study and graduate as a survivor of sexual violence, especially on campus. I know these issues inside out on paper. I’ve read the data, I’ve heard strangers’ stories. But it was different when it happened to me. I looked around, and didn’t see the same empathy for these issues day to day. Support for these issues didn’t seem to make it from the abstract into personal praxis for others like it did for me. People look at you differently here when you admit that, rather than choosing to revel in the joyful whimsy and spontaneity of deferring by choice, you’ve instead been ungracefully dumped out of your degree. “I’ve chosen to pause my studies and work instead” is the kindest euphemism I’ve found to avoid the alltoo-frequent conversation about my degree pathway that ultimately leads to uncomfortable pity, if not visible disdain. I couldn’t help but notice that after friends of mine at this university found out that I had been suspended and wasn’t quietly thriving like the rest of them, they interacted with me differently. Sometimes I wonder if they think I’m just too dumb to keep up. Sometimes I think the same. But maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world if, even if I used to be able to, I can’t really keep up with uni the way I wish I could. Maybe it’s just not for me. Maybe it is, and the fact that I can’t seem to get access to a psychiatrist that isn’t awful might actually be having a negative impact on my quality of life, and I could perhaps be doing much better with a proper diagnosis, treatment plan, and better medical support for chronic health issues. The reason I was so drawn to this collective’s work was because it was one of the first groups I saw actually standing up publicly for survivors of sexual violence on campus after years of feeling alone in my experiences. I sometimes wonder if, had I not faced sexual violence while at uni, and perhaps if I’d also gotten the support I needed earlier, if I might have kept up a little better over the years. Not only is it okay, but it is very common to struggle at university. As a litany of university campaigns will tell you, the university is an incredibly hostile environment that makes getting an education really hard if you’re not incredibly well off and wellsuited to the learning style. If it’s an inevitable condition of the corporatised neoliberal university, why are people attuned to this so ill-prepared to handle it in their personal spheres?
The idea that “uni isn’t for everyone” is a commonplace saying, but it feels more often like a veiled insult at people who struggle or choose to opt out of the system than an offering of genuine support and understanding, or of a true belief in the value of other forms of learning and of career paths not involving university qualifications. If uni is known to be harder for some than for others, then why is every person who leaves uni treated so similarly? There are a few descriptors typically tied to dropouts: words like lazy, stupid, and undisciplined come to mind. It doesn’t really matter why it is that you dropped out, or how “legitimate” the barriers were to you continuing your studies. The prevailing archetype of a dropout has no nuance, even among many who pride themselves on understanding the vast structural problems of the university as an institution. I’ve spent a number of years as a university student, making my first debut at USyd in 2016. In that time, I’ve taken a number of different courses across numerous faculties, and found myself encountering a number of roadblocks throughout. I’ve learned a significant amount while at university, both inside and out of the classroom. I may not walk away with a degree, but I am a very different, much wiser person than I was after I graduated from high school. A lot of the learning that I’ve done has not been within the scope of undergraduate courses I’ve enrolled in. One of the core issues with the increasingly corporatised university is the aggressive peeling back of all supports that enable people to attend university and get anything out of their experience other than their coursework - a lack of affordable student housing, inaccessible funding support, declining campus life, a hostile and increasing security and police presence, and skyrocketing course costs that force people to use all of their spare time to commute and work instead of getting to simply exist as a student and member of the community. There is so much value in what you learn from fellow students, from student organising, from discussions and experiences had without assessment schemes to place a value on them. All I can say is: if you find yourself struggling with uni (like, really struggling); you’re not alone. It’s not because you’re a failure, because you’re stupid, because you’re not enough. University is just really hard. Hard for some in a few-stressfulall-nighters kind of way, hard for others in a way that makes it completely overwhelming and entirely out of one’s grasp. You’re not a failure just because your university has failed to support you or provide what you actually need to thrive. “Real learning” doesn’t start and end within USyd’s sandstone walls, and it’s way past time to genuinely challenge our internalised elitism and devaluation of other forms of knowledge sharing and skill development.
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ABOLITION IN PRACTICE: DON’T CALL THE POLICE Prison abolition, as defined by academic and activist Angela Davis, recognises that carceral systems (prisons and, by extension, policing) are both an ineffective and harmful solution to societal problems. This idea finally reached the mainstream in 2020, with anti-police sentiment becoming more prevalent than ever before. As an unapologetically and unwaveringly abolitionist group, the USyd Women’s Collective advocates for the active practise of abolition in everyday life. However, those who have engaged with it might agree that this is not a straightforward feat. Abolition as a movement is a patient one, working tirelessly towards a goal that sometimes feels miles away as it continues to counter liberal calls for simple reform, and rightwing claims that “blue lives matter”. Abolition is a long term goal, but it can be enacted everyday, as we slowly untangle ourselves from a punitive system that does not serve us. Abolition is idealist - but exciting! -, pushing us to look for creative alternatives and strategies within our own communities.
Abolition does not have to wait, it happens every day, as we are constantly unlearning day-to-day reliance on policing. This means to embody our abolitionist values even when we are under pressure or afraid, perhaps acting against our ingrained instincts. More specifically, to stop calling the police, whether this be for your own assistance, or with regards to the behaviour of another. Overall, this practise evokes the idea that strong communities make prisons obsolete. In a Western capitalist society, we are raised at opposition with this notion, being taught to champion individualism and protect economic value above all else. This leads to an over-reliance on police powers and settler legal systems, which in turn reinforces these norms, and creates a selfperpetuating loop which can be difficult to break free from. Indeed, in writing this guide, I reflected on my own experiences with reaching out to the police for help, including when my family home was broken into. There is a commonality to the times that this has occurred: I was never made to feel safe, reassured, or given any indication that they could (or would) help me. I am fortunate that disappointment was the only result — just last year, Claudette Korchinski-Paquet called the Toronto police in order to receive mental health assistance for her daughter Regis, who ended up dead as a result of their involvement. In 2020, USyd students protesting the cuts to higher education experienced the often dangerous consequences of calling the police for
by Shani Patel
the “safety” of others. University management collaborated closely with local police under the guise of COVID-19 safety, which saw countless students fined and multiple severely injured. All this is to say that bringing police into communities often does far more harm than good, even when the caller has the best intentions. It often leads to the exacerbation of an already unsafe situation, particularly when said situation involves members of marginalised groups, who as we know are likely to be the target of police brutality. In reading this guide, and working towards abolition, we must recognise that over-policed people have never relied on the police for justice or help. The following is not new knowledge, but a guide for those of us who may face less risk of police violence to learn and practice harm reduction. Over-policed peoples have worked on alternatives to policing outside of the word ‘abolition’, and it is their footsteps, alongside abolitionist activists and academics, that we walk in.
000 A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO NOT CALLING THE POLICE* Scroll for more
1. Identify the situation Establish objectively
what is occurring, and consider your automatic reaction to it. What is the person in question doing? As a result of this, do you feel unsafe, concerned for the safety of someone else, or just uncomfortable/inconvenienced? What is the immediate, and longer-term risk of the situation? Be as unbiased and honest as possible.
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2. Uncover the potential or actual reason for the situation Why is the person you have observed acting in such a way? Why does this make you feel the way you do? For example, if you have witnessed someone stealing, why does this make you react adversely? In cases like these, it is likely because we are reinforced throughout our lives with the idea that property and capital is more important than human livelihood. Ask yourself: is the person in question actually harming anyone?
3. Assess what would likely occur if police were present Is it worth bringing an
individual with lethal weaponry and whose organisation is known for violence into the situation? Consider the identity of the person involved, or even of those in the surrounding area. Will police presence cause harm to the individual or their community? Are you prepared to hold the responsibility for the harm done if your call resulted in a deadly conflict? Beyond this, are the police known for their effectiveness when dealing with the issue at hand? For example, in NSW, only 1 out of every 10 reports of sexual violence or assault have led to legal action between 2007-2017. Would police presence be dangerous, ineffective, or a combination of these?
a. Kill the cop in your head. From a young age, assisting authority is rewarded and reinforced as we are encouraged to surveil others and ‘dob them in’. “Killing the cop in your head” involves putting aside our tendency to police the behaviour of others, particularly when it comes to defending property and other capital (we’re on stolen land!). Examples of cases where this is the best response include witnessing theft such as in grocery stores, public misconduct such as urination, or property damage such as street art. Remember that someone’s financial or housing situation might require such an action, and they are not harming anyone — just look away. b. Offer personal help. Offering firsthand help is perhaps something that the majority of people might be innately opposed to doing, usually due to fear particularly if the situation presents immediate danger. However, in many cases, offering a hand or ear is an effective way to de-escalate a situation without calling the police, whose intimidating and often aggressive presence could likely do the opposite. For example, you can: have a calm and friendly conversation with neighbours
whose noise is bothering you, offer victims of domestic violence a safe place to stay, or ask someone who is acting “strangely” in public whether they need medical or transportation assistance. c. Call someone else. Similar to the previous action, this involves a philosophy of mutual aid and stronger communities in order to keep the collective safe. Call someone who you trust to help you de-escalate the situation in an interpersonal manner, particularly if you don’t feel confident doing so on your own or if the situation may be diffused more easily with help. In NSW, the non-police services available for emergency calls are limited, however it is worth keeping the numbers of the Mental Health Access Line (1800 011 511) and Community Justice Centre (1800 990 777) on hand. If you believe that there is no alternative to the police in this scenario, perhaps because you require a report for insurance purposes, an RO, or something similar, consider visiting a station rather inviting the police into your community where they could do unnecessary harm. If there is an immediate risk of danger and you feel the need to bring the police into a situation, ensure that you remain calm and do not overstate the situation in order to avoid a heavy handed response. d. Act before the crisis point. The community-based nature of these alternatives requires a strong sense of community to begin with. This is the case when considering minor conflicts such as noise complaints which could be less awkward if you know your neighbours better, along with more urgent issues which you will feel more equipped to handle if you already know of the community resources available in your area, such as homeless or domestic violence shelters. Attending workshops for conflict resolution, first aid, and self-defence can assist with helping you feel equipped to handle situations.
*Often, in situations where we might feel compelled to contact the police we are operating under high stress, so following a step-by-step guide like this one mightn’t be practical in the moment. However, following this thought process in less urgent situations is a good place to start tangibly incorporating abolitionist praxis. Learning and unlearning anything is a process which takes time, so the active reduction of our reliance on the police will build up until it is second nature and we are able to act quickly and efficiently when the time comes.
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Reporting Sexual Assault on Campus
USyd Reporting Module
Where to go if you need support 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, ongoing, and enthusiastic consent is not optional; it is necessary. If you need support, there are a number of services that are available to you.
University Reporting Module The University of Sydney 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 at this link: https://sydney.edu.au/students/sexual-assault/report-to-the-university.html USyd 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. To make an appointment with a CAPS counsellor, please call CAPS reception on 8627 8433 or complete the online CAPS Booking Request Form: https://sydney.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_3av04fBoUMmjEeF
ACON | LGBTI health organisation offering information, referrals, counselling, advocacy and practical support for LGBTI people in NSW experiencing domestic and family violence. Call (02) 9206 2000 or visit their website LegalAid NSW | Provides means-tested legal support over the phone. Call 1300 888 259 or visit website for factsheets and more resources Link2Home | 1800 152 152 (24/7, free from a landline) Information and referral telephone service run by the NSW government for people experiencing housing instability NSW Health Sexual Assault Services | List of 54 other sexual assault clinics across NSW for people not around Camperdown. All open 24/7. NSW Rape Crisis Centre | 1800 424 017 | Free hotline available 24/7 run by experienced professionals who can provide support, counselling and referrals to other services. They also provide counselling online. Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia | Provides 24/7 telephone and online crisis counselling for anyone in Australia who has experienced or is at risk of sexual assault, family or domestic violence and their non offending supporters. The organisation also provides counselling for women who experienced sexual assault in childhood from a number of Women’s Health Centres across NSW. Free telephone interpreting service available upon request Sexual Assault Clinic at RPA Hospital | Provides face-toface 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) 9515 9040 for more info Twenty10 | Provides housing services, legal support, and health clinics for young LGBTIQ+ people, and counselling and referrals for LGBTIQ+ people of all ages. Call (02) 8594 9555 or visit website 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 Call 1800 686 587 or visit website Women’s Legal Service | Independent organisation in NSW providing women with free legal services 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
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WoCo is collating a health and other services directory of practitioners and specialists that provide specific services and support for cis and trans women, non-binary folks and trans men in Sydney. This directory is still an on-going project and is available to be viewed online. These are some of the current entires (as of February 2021)
Sexual Health Clinic
General Practitioners Laura Moryosef Annandale GP 34C Taylor Street Annandale NSW 2038 (02) 9571 1188 Webite: annandalegp.com.au Experience with supporting: PoC Cost: Bulk bill available for students and kids - mental health, antidepressants - sexual health, frequent STI/pregnancy tests - good referrals to psychologists, psychiatrists Catherine Lyons Glebe Family Medical Practice 114 Glebe Point Road Glebe 02 9660 8399 Website: gfmp.com.au Transhub profile: transhub.org.au/tgd-doc-list/ dr-catherine-lyons Experience with supporting: LGBTQIA+, survivors Cost: Bulk bills with a healthcare card 30 minute consultation: $125 (private) $75.05 (Medicare) 45 minute consultation: $155 (private) $110 (Medicare) - Signs off on gender marker change applications without requiring examination - Has undertaken TGD awareness training - Starts hormones using informed consent - Manages hormones using informed consent
Psychologist Rachel Fabien 802/9-13 Bronte Rd, Bondi Junction 0404 502 767 Website: rachelfabiantherapy.com Experience with supporting: LGBTIQA+, PoC Cost: Half hour phone sessions are also available at a reduced rate. Offers a discount for young people who are lower income earners e.g. example living financially independently and a student/jobseeker/DSP/trainee or part-time. - Extensive experience in practice considerations such as trauma, violence, disability, acute and chronic mental health conditions, grief and loss, social marginalisation, substance misuse, sexuality, gender identity, cultural diversity and homelessness
T150 - Albion Street Centre Sexual Health Clinic Level 3, 150 Albion St, Surry Hills 02 9332 9600 Website: thealbioncentre.org.au/clinical-services/ t150 Experience with supporting: LGBTIQA+ Cost: Service is free and available for people with or without a Medicare card - HIV, sexual health and blood born virus (such as hepatitis) screening, HIV point of care testing - Immediate linkage and referral to HIV and Hepatitis C management and treatment within the service. - Treatment of any diagnosed STIs - Education on and provision of HIV PrEP and PEP - Vaccinations for Hep A and B - Cervical screening for anyone with a cervix - Safer injecting education - Health education on sexual health with a TGD specific focus - Transgender specific reproduction advice - Blood monitoring (such as hormone levels)
Women’s Homelessness Service Women and Girls Emergency Centre (WAGEC) 174 Redfern Street, Redfern. 9319 4088 Website: wagec.org.au Experience with supporting: LGBTIQA+, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islanders, survivors, Indigenous people, PoC, Immigrants or refugees Cost: No cost Access to interpreter services - Women’s homelessness service providers emergency accommodation in crisis refugee and supports women to find suitable housing through case management. - A service for women who are or are at risk of homelessness. Women for WAGEC is anyone who feels comfortable identifying with that label - WAGEC actively and openly support trans women
Other therapies Everybody Massage Kira Magee — Wangal land/Croydon Instagram:@every.body.massage Website: everybodymassageclinic.com Cost:$100 (1 hour) $135 (90 min), free and subsidised treatment available via a pay-it-forward system. Remedial massage, trauma-informed, queer and trans literate.
How to Survive the End of the World (Transcript available) (Spotify, Apple, web) Sisters Autumn Brown and adrienne maree brown on surviving the world we live in, apocalypse and community. Episode rec: “Reshaping Apocalypse” (Apr 24 2018) She’s All Fat: A Body Positive Podcast (Spotify, Apple, web) A fat-positivity podcast that centres marginalised fat bodies and pushes back against the body positive industrial-complex. Episode rec: “5.14 Fearing the Black Body with Evette Dionne” (Sep 9 2020) Women on the Line (Spotify, Apple, web) 3CR, a Melbourne-based community radio station, air a weekly national feminist current affairs program. Episode rec: “Safety for Who?: Abolitionist perspectives on criminalising coercive control” (Nov 16 2020)
Millennials are Killing Capitalism (Spotify, Apple, web) Discussions around radical politics, radical organising and decolonisation. Episode rec: “Episode 26: Mariame Kaba — You Have Right to Disrupt” (Dec 12 2018)” Pride in Protest (Spotify, Apple, web) Social justice issues through a local lens with Sydney-based activist collective, Pride in Protest. Episode rec: “Sex Work feat. Mish Pony” (Jun 17 2020) Working Class History (Transcript available) (Spotify, Apple, web) A series that looks in-depth into working class movements — of all sizes — around the world. Episode rec: “The Exotic Dancers Union” (March 13 2019) Radio Skidrow (Soundcloud) Community radio broadcasting out of inner-west Sydney, Radio Skidrow share important stories and histories on Indigenous justice, immigration, Bla(c)k music and emerging communities. Episode rec: “SURVIVAL GUIDE #1: Leave your Fragility at the Shore” (2019)
LISTEN, ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE
Beyond Prisons (Spotify, Apple, web) Conversations on incarceration, prison abolition and transformative justice with those directly impacted by the system, activists, artists and scholars. Episode rec: “Abolition is a Horizon” (May 8 2019)
The Red Nation Podcast (Spotify, Apple, web) The Red Nation, an Indigenous/ Native resistance organisation, discusses left Indigenous perspectives, history and culture. Episode rec: “#WetsuwetenStrong w/ Karla Tait” (Feb 16 2020)
WoCo members recommend podcasts and episodes that give them radical visions of the future.
Groundings (Spotify, Apple, web) Host Devyn Springer and guests talk the theory, organising and history around abolition, education, gentrification, anti-racism and anti-capitalism. Episode rec: “The Plurality of Abolitionism” (Jan 2 2021)