Recent Resources for Feminists
Tuesday 29 September, 2015
Women held as sex slaves in South Sudan camps
Feature: The abduction of women and girls as sex slaves is a disturbing new feature of South Sudan's 21-month conflict, already characterised by well-documented human rights abuses.
One woman was abducted by soldiers and taken to a military camp, tied up and raped repeatedly for two months.
Another was kidnapped with her 15-year-old sister and raped every night for five nights.
A third was taken to a forest with her 12-year-old daughter, where both were raped.
The abduction of women and girls for use as sex slaves - some of them held indefinitely, tied up with hundreds of others in secret rape camps – is a disturbing new aspect of South Sudan's 21-month conflict, already characterised by well-documented war crimes and human rights abuses.
Nigeria's "Chibok girls", abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014, and Iraq's Yazidi women, taken as sex slaves by the Islamic State group are well-known.
But the plight of perhaps thousands of South Sudanese women and girls from just a single state, abducted and subjected to repeated, brutal rape and slave-like working conditions has remained hidden until now.
Systematic abduction and rape
Nyabena's experience is typical. The 30-year old mother was seized when soldiers attacked her village in Rubkona County in April.
Men and boys were shot. Homes were looted and burned to the ground. Women and girls were rounded up.
She was among 40 taken from two neighbouring settlements and wells up with tears when she talks about being torn away from her five children.
They were marched to Mayom County. Nyabena was held in Kotong, a stronghold of Major-General Matthew Puljang, commander of a tribal Bul Nuer militia aligned with South Sudan's army, the SPLA, which has been battling rebels since December 2013.
From April to July this year the SPLA and Puljang's militia carried out an offensive that United Nations investigators described as a "scorched earth policy" in an August report.
Fighting and flooding limits access to large parts of South Sudan, leading aid workers to refer to southern Unity State as "an information black-hole".
A human rights investigator said "Nobody knows what's happening in Mayom County," where many of the women were taken.
One military expert estimated that "thousands of women" were abducted during the offensive.
"In all the southern Unity counties it's been the same: those women who escape are lucky. Those who don't are raped and abducted or killed," said the rights investigator.
"The abduction of women seems to be systematic. It might be for a day, or longer, or forever."
Those who escaped recount their stories with numb, quiet voices. Nightmares plague some who wake up terrorised, thinking they are still captive.
After her abduction Nyabena was put to work during the day, carrying looted goods and food, collecting water and hoeing farms. She was guarded constantly during the day and tied up at night with other women.
"When one of the soldiers wanted to have sex he would come, untie us and take us away. When they were finished they would bring you back and tie you to the post again," she said, stretching her elbows behind her back to show how she was bound. She said being raped by four men a night was common.
Women who refused to work or fought against their rape would disappear. "In the morning we discover they are missing," she said. Of the 40 she arrived with in April, 10 disappeared this way.
Victims as young as 12
Nyamai, a 38-year old mother of five, was taken from her village in Koch County. She was guarded constantly and tied up frequently. As many as 10 soldiers would queue up at night for their turn raping her.
"Please, let one guy deal with me, don't come all of you," she pleaded, and was beaten with a stick in response.
In another case, three of Nyatuach's unmarried, teenaged daughters were abducted in May during an attack on their village in Rubkona County.
Two are still missing, but her 17-year old daughter escaped with three of her nieces.
They returned "very sick, very thin".
"Their bodies were weak and they were leaking fluids from so many men having intercourse with them," Nyatuach said, a common symptom of fistula, an incontinence-causing tear in the wall between the vagina and bladder or rectum, that can be caused by particularly violent rape.
Others were raped repeatedly until, bleeding and unable to take any more, they were set free, or killed.
"When the girls were broken they would dispose of them," said Nyatuach.
Rebecca found her 12-year old daughter again the day after their village in Koch County was attacked.
"When they took me, those people used me," the girl told her mother. Rebecca boiled some water and washed her daughter with hot cloths.
"We can do nothing," she told her. "It's like that."
~ London ~ Monday 28 September 2015
South Sudan: women and girls raped as wages for government-allied fighters
Testimony reveals systematic abduction and abuse of thousands of women and girls as young as 12, held in rape camps across Unity state
A boy plays in a vandalised car as women wait for food aid in Bentiu town, capital of South Sudans Unity state. (Hannah McNeish)
By Hannah McNeish in Bentiu
The testimony from dozens of people working in Bentiu, the capital of South Sudans Unity state, points to the systematic abduction and abuse of women as a form of wages for forces allied to the government. The worst atrocities have led more than 110,000 people to seek safety at a UN base in the town.
Their pay is what they loot and the women they abduct, said one military expert based in Bentiu, who was not authorised to speak but said he had heard of women being taken to the militia-stronghold of Mankien in Mayom, as well as into the cattle camps.
He believes that, across the state, maybe thousands of women have been made wives or slaves by government-allied forces recruited by county leaders to help the army take back territory from rebels in brutal offensives between April and September.
*Nyabol was abducted from her village in Rubkona county in April with 19 others. For two months, she was tied to a post with no shade by day and abused by soldiers at night, in a militia base called Kotong.
When one of the soldiers wanted to have sex with one of us, he would come and untie us, take us away then bring us back to tie up, said Nyabol, shaking at the memory. Between rapes, the women were tied up next to beds made of cardboard boxes, with no mosquito nets.
Ethnic fighting was sparked in 2013 by South Sudans rival leaders, President Salva Kiir from the main Dinka group and his former deputy Riek Machar a Nuer. In recent months, the government has recruited militias and young men from Nuer sub-clans in Unity state to take back rebel-held areas.
The military expert said that, through county commissioners, Bul Nuer and Jikany Nuer youths had been given guns, and their pay is what they can loot. Women who were abducted say some of the husbands forced on them spoke the Nuer language, others Dinka.
A young girl eats porridge in a sweltering hot shipping container in Bentiu. (Hannah McNeish)
One South Sudan rights researcher who spoke anonymously for fear of retaliation said the Unity state counter-offensives were marked by a lot of abduction accompanying the rape cases, adding that Mayom was the key destination for those abducted.
Youth are being mobilised. Its not just a cattle raid, said the researcher, referring to clashes between cattle herders that have been a feature of the conflict. [The war has] taken a different turn this year.
During April-September government offensives, at least 1,000 civilians were killed, 1,300 women and girls were raped, and 1,600 women and children were abducted in Leer, Mayendit and Koch counties, according to estimates in a recent circular to charities working on civilian protection.
In Kotong, home to the forces of Bul Nuer rebel-turned-government ally Mathew Puljang, disobedient wives would vanish at night.
Nyabol said: In our group there were 40 women who went together for work. Among them, 10 were taken one by one and I never saw them again. I didnt sleep at night. I was just crying, afraid that they would kill me. Even now, I have nightmares that I am still in Mayom.
Nyabol, a widow, said she had feared she would never see the one-month-old baby she had left behind again. The injuries, the beating you [dont] know if [the violence] will kill you or if it will be a disease, she said.
She managed to escape after a soldier and former bodyguard of her late husband recognised her and escorted her as she went to fetch water, and told her to run.
The rest of her story fits a familiar narrative. Armed men came to the village, shot the men and boys sometimes castrating the latter raped the women and took all household items before burning all the huts, some with elderly people locked inside. They searched for girls and the women they considered most beautiful, forced them to show them where the cows were and then ordered them to carry away the looted property.
Nyabol and 19 others were taken from their homes to Wankai, in Mayom county, where women, girls and cows were distributed among men who led them and the animals off in different directions. Several women who were interviewed named Wankai as a transit centre. One said between 200 and 300 women and girls had been there while others said there were too many to count.
Another place that cropped up in interviews more than once was Rier, in Koch county. This is where men commanded by local leaders raped Nyaruach, 38, and her 12-year-old daughter overnight in a forest, Nyaruach said.
She managed to escape during a toilet break and found her daughter the next day, who said two men had used her before deciding that she was too small.
She was bleeding when I found her so we boiled some water and washed her with hot cloths. She was crying. It left me feeling so bad, I want to leave this country, Nyaruach said.
Nyabena, from Nhialdiu in Rubkona county, ran to the bush before the men caught her. But she spoke about the grim fate of Nyagai, 20, a recently married women who was considered a real beauty.
So many men wanted to rape her, said Nyabena, that when a second group of men queued up to abuse her, Nyagai could not stand it. When she refused any more, they just killed her, she said.
Unity states acting governor, Stephen Taker, and his consorts laughed off questions about whether government and allied forces had abducted women. They accuse the government for nothing. Its not true, said Taker, who also refuted rights reports documenting rapes of women and the theft of cows in tit-for-tat cattle raids.
Skye Wheeler, South Sudan researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: In our research, we found a staggering preponderance of rape including terrifying gang rapes, as well as beatings and abductions in numerous villages.
According to the military expert, the extremely high culture of revenge that is prevalent in South Sudan is going to be another challenge for South Sudan, despite the recent government-brokered peace deal with the weakened rebels.
If you look at the level of anger against Bul Nuer in Unity state, its something the government and the international community are going to deal with for many, many, many years, he said.
Some survivors were wishing death on the these men, he said, while others just wanted their daughters, cousins, aunts and nieces to be brought back.
* Some names have been changed to protect identities.
Monday October 5 2015
The Many Ways Women Are Still Mistreated in a Patriarchal US Society
By PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
In 1955 Mrs. Dale Carnegie, whose husband wrote the best-seller How to Win Friends and Influence People, advised her fellow housewives: "The two big steps that women must take are to help their husbands decide where they are going and use their pretty heads to help them get there. Let's face it, girls. That wonderful guy in your house – and in mine – is building your house, your happiness and the opportunities that will come to your children."
Women were second-rate members of society and marriage in the 1950s. Those who went out to work were relegated to low-paying clerical, nursing, teaching, and domestic jobs, and to even lower-paying jobs for the nearly invisible Black female population. The newspaper want-ads had a separate section for women. The same type of humiliation existed in higher education, where many medical schools, law schools, and graduate schools were rejecting the "frivolous" applications of women, while female undergraduate students were often said to be pursuing an M.R.S. (Mrs.) degree.
The women's rights movement of the 60s and 70s contributed to some dramatic changes in education. Based on data from the Census Bureau and the Russell Sage Foundation:
- By 2009 women were earning 33 percent more undergraduate degrees than men.
- In 1970, about 50 percent more men than women completed master's degrees. By 2010, about 50 percent more women than men completed master's degrees.
- In 1970 women earned about 10 percent of all PhDs. Now they earn more PhDs than men.
But despite all the successes of women, and despite their having earned the right to economic equality, the white male establishment has prevailed, like a schoolyard bully muscling lunch money from the smarter but weaker kids. Only one out of five members of Congress is female. Corporate boards remain overwhelmingly male.
The disparagement of women goes well beyond the levels of higher education:
Income: $1 for a Woman, $1.25 for a Man
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women earn just 80% of men's pay. Income disparities have worsened since the recession, with only about one-fifth of new jobs going to women. In California, Hispanic women, who do much of our homecare work, make only 43 cents for every dollar made by white men.
Retirement Wealth: $1 for a Woman, $1.80 for a Man
Men average nearly $28,000 a year in retirement assets, while women have just over $15,000. Women over 65 have twice the poverty rate of men. Unsurprisingly, Black and Hispanic women fare the worst, with median wealth of a stunningly low $200 and $100, respectively.
Women's Health: Congress Cares More About Controlling the Female Body
Income disparities threaten the health of women, especially low-income Black women, who are three to four times as likely to die from pregnancy issues as white women. And now it's getting worse, with an attack on Planned Parenthood, which saves women's lives through breast cancer screenings, and reduces abortions by providing contraceptive services. Planned Parenthood is also cost-effective, saving $7 for every dollar spent. But Congress doesn't want low-income women telling them what to do.
The safety net, with programs geared toward children's nutrition and infant care, is repeatedly under attack, even though the total cost of assistance is much less than welfare for the rich.
Women Are Respected -- In Other Countries
The US has one of the fastest-increasing rates of maternal mortality in the world, putting us in the company of war-torn and impoverished nations. The US, Oman, and Papua New Guinea are the only countries that don't provide paid maternity leave.
Our country ranks #3 on the UN's 2013 Human Development Index, but when adjusted for gender disparity it drops to #42.
Women continue to be mistreated in a society dominated by a patriarchal structure
Thursday September 24, 2015
Violence against women: The money helps, but Turnbull's words matter more
By Miki Perkins /Reporter for The Age
Malcolm Turnbull: 'Women must be respected'
Disrespecting women should be seen as 'un-Australian', says the prime minister, as he unveils a multimillion-dollar strategy to combat domestic violence. Courtesy ABC News 24.
You could forgive the women in the room who had a tear in their eye.
Just last week their Minister for Women, was - bizarrely - a bloke in a suit, and one with a patchy track record on his attitude to women.
Rosie Batty with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Women Michaelia Cash and former police commissioner Ken Lay (left). (Eddie Jim)
But now this new bloke, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, was speaking their language; talking about the "national disgrace" of violence against Australian women. And he took it further.
At Thursday's launch of a $100 million women's safety package, Turnbull linked family violence to gender equality, and said being disrespectful to women was "un-Australian".
The violent deaths of 63 women and children at the hands of family members in the past year were a "great shame" to the country, Turnbull said, and only cultural change in attitudes towards women would curtail family violence long-term.
Turnbull's speech was a long-awaited balm to the careworn family violence advocates in the room - community lawyers and social workers among them - who have been drawing these links for years.
The money helps, but his words matter more.
And he's right. Evidence shows that the rates of violence against women are lower in countries where women achieve greater equality with men.
To link gender inequality and violence against women was new territory for an Australian prime minister.
Federal inaction on violence against women in Australia has stood in cruel contrast to a willingness to shovel millions towards more nebulous national security concerns.
Rosie Batty, wiping tears from her cheeks, summed it up with her usual understated clarity.
For our prime minister to insist we have to respect and value the contribution of women sends a message far and wide, Batty said.
"We are finally starting to hear from the leaders of our country," she said. "They are addressing the issue, they recognise the responsibility they have to lead our society."
Unsurprisingly, the $100 million has been welcomed in a funds-strapped sector.
And newly-appointed Minister for Women Michaelia Cash has overseen a deft carve up between crisis support and long-term prevention, with a strong focus on technology.
It will go far in a family violence system that is deeply resourceful and spread cobweb-thin, but let's not get carried away.
Family violence is widespread, systemic and common. This is a battle for a generation, not a decade.
In Victoria in the past year, there have been 70,000 family violence incidents attended by police, each of which generates a referral to a family violence service, Domestic Violence Victoria head Fiona McCormack told a housing conference last week.
Yet in Victoria, we are funded for about 7000 referrals a year. This falls so far short of cruel reality it's laughable.
Future funding must be long-term and guaranteed, sheltered from the mercurial forces of politics. And, yes, the whims of the bloke in a suit.
(Australia Edition) Monday 21 September 2015
Deep down women still accept it is their role to be God's police
By Anne Summers
Julia Gillard's example shows that women can still only be either 'good' or 'bad', be a mother or have a career. We need to redefine the role of women
Dr. Anne Summers speaking at The Great Hall at Sydney University during the State Funeral for Faith Bandler, Sydney, 24 February 2015. (Dean Lewins/AAP )\
In 1975, when Damned Whores and God's Police was published, it did not occur to me that I would have the opportunity four decades later to look back on the world I had described and analysed.
But here we are, doing just that.
The first question everyone asks now is: how much has changed since 1975? In particular, do the stereotypes still apply?
The second question is: are we better off today than we were then? I think we can say with confidence: yes, we are.
After Sunday's ministerial reshuffle, the new frontbench team is sworn in at Government House. All the developments from Canberra, live
I would summarise how I see things as: We have changed a lot. But we have not changed enough.
The Australia I wrote about in the early 1970s has changed. It is not totally beyond recognition, but I expect young people today might be astonished to learn what life used to be like for women.
Even as late as 1975 there were so many things women were unable to do. Some of these restrictions were self-imposed cultural restraints but in many cases they were underpinned by an absence of laws to enforce equality.
Even though in 1975 we were three years into the Whitlam government - the first federal government to commit to and legislate for women's equality - there was still no federal anti-discrimination legislation.
Nor were there any state laws outlawing discrimination.
It seems almost unbelievable today, but until the late 1970s it was perfectly legal for women in Australia to be treated as inferiors. Jobs were classified by sex and advertised as being for "men and boys" or "women and girls".
There was rarely any overlap between the offerings, which meant that women were excluded from even applying for many positions.
And there were certainly no laws governing how women were treated in the workplace.
Women had no legal redress if, for instance, the boss asked you to sit on his knee to take dictation. Like many terms I used in the book, or situations I described, "taking dictation" is now archaic.
I found it quite illuminating myself to re-read this book, as I did recently. I had forgotten just how bad the everyday constant denigration of women used to be. (Although the television series Mad Men is a painfully accurate reminder).
We are entitled to take comfort from the barriers that have been broken and the triumphs of individual women in expanding the possibilities for all of us: the first prime minister or state premier, governor-general, high court judge, CEO of a major corporation, the first jockey or football umpire or chemical engineer.
All of these triumphs were over the horizon in 1975.
It was only with the laws designed to end legal discrimination against women that they even became possible.
In the 1970s, 80s and 90s - some states were slower than others - we saw the passage of various anti-discrimination laws that were intended to provide a legal basis for equality. These included the landmark federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 which outlawed discrimination against women in employment, education and the provision of goods and services.
As a result, things changed, big and small.
A small example: the signs on the toilet doors in the federal parliament had to be repainted. "Women" or "Men", instead of "Senators" or "Members".
A bigger one: Deborah Wardley, seeking a job with the now defunct Ansett Airlines, won an anti-discrimination action which took four years and went all the way to the high court before she was eventually employed as a commercial pilot in 1979. Of course she could not have launched the action - nor won it - without the Victorian anti-discrimination laws.
When we compare then and now, the changes are impressive. The statistics on employment, prescription drug use and other contemporary matters that I set out in the book are now almost quaint in how little bearing they have on how things are today.
Many, if not most, women still accept, deep down, that it is their role to be God's police.
Parts of the book read rather like an historical archive. It is a snapshot of how things were: in 1975, and in the convict, colonial and other periods that I wrote about.
I think it is well worth revisiting those eras to recall, or learn for the first time, our history and the story of Australian women's evolution towards equality. But reading the book also reminds us how much language has changed. And some of the language changes reflect attitude changes of course.
It seems extraordinary today but in the mid-1970s we did not use terms like "domestic violence", "sexual harassment", "date rape" or "glass ceiling" because they had not yet been coined.
We had not learned to give names to some things even though they certainly existed. It is quite amazing that I devoted almost a page in the book to the setting up of Elsie Women's Refuge in 1974 and never even used the word "violence", let alone "domestic violence".
It is almost disconcerting to realise how ill-equipped we were back then to talk about such important issues. It makes us realise the importance of language.
Because we have become so preoccupied these days with measuring change, we may have lost sight of some of the important concerns I tried to address in this book. These days we are preoccupied with "how far have we come" and, its corollary, "how far we have left to go".
But today we do not talk so much about what in the book I called the "invisible barriers" - the ways women limited themselves and collaborated with the culture of oppression.
We need to resume that conversation because while we might have made major changes and mapped a path to full equality, I am not sure if we have sufficiently reinvented ourselves.
The core argument of the book was that Australian women had been defined and constrained by stereotypes that both prescribed and proscribed certain ways of behaving.
I drew on Australian history and used the terms "damned whores" and "God's police" to give the classic madonna/whore dichotomy a local resonance.
My argument was that women in Australia had been kept in check by the God's police stereotype, both by the ways women were deemed by society to see motherhood and family as their ultimate aspiration, and by the social exclusion they suffered as a result of being castigated as a damned whore if they refused.
The major impediment to female rebellion, and that which keeps women physically and psychologically bound to their family-centred roles has been the absence of any cultural tradition which approved of women being anything else.
We should be asking: is this still true today?
Are Australian women still constrained by the social imperatives of motherhood? Are women expected to fit everything else they do around this, still primary, role as mothers? Do working women always pay for the childcare? Are flexible work places all about making it easier for women - not men - to juggle kids and jobs? Do women feel guilty about being in employment? Do men?
We have not fully confronted this fundamental question.
We have not said: women might be the ones who bear the children, but their entire lives should not be defined by that one capability.
We have changed a lot but we have not changed this.
Many, if not most, women still accept, deep down, that it is their role to be God's police.
They believe they are responsible for the emotional as well as the physical management of the family; it is their job to monitor and, where necessary, censor the behaviour of their husbands and their children.
And there is wide consensus, in Australia and elsewhere, that this is the way things should be.
As an example look to a tweet sent by former US president Bill Clinton to current president Barack Obama in August this year:
Ha ha. Here's the woman - in this case Michelle Obama - forbidding the man a treat.
We still tend to infantilise men and to mock them, however fondly or jokingly, for their inability to manage domestic affairs. The "Mere Male" - the name given to a popular column in a women's magazine in the 1970s - is alive and well.
And why wouldn't men want to hide behind this trope? It beats having to do the housework.
Many women today want to add to, and modernise, the God's police role rather than redefine, let alone abandon, it completely.
I am struck by how many women today aged in their 30s and 40s with big, full-time jobs and two or three children have chosen to take on additional domestic roles such as baking or sewing or other time-consuming (and, I would argue, unnecessary) tasks that once fully occupied women who had no choice but to be what we today like to call "domestic goddesses".
Why do they feel the need to do this?
Of course it is true that women do have more choices today.
We can decide to not marry, to not have children, to live openly in a same-sex relationship, to live happily alone - the word "spinster" is another that has disappeared from our vocabulary.
Our choices - whatever they are - are more likely to be accepted than was the case four decades ago. But we have not overcome the dualism. We have not disavowed that motherhood is still the central, preferable and most admired option for women.
We might not overtly punish women who are not mothers but we have our ways of letting them know they have fallen short of the ideal. By calling them "deliberately barren", for instance.
We still differentiate between "good" and "bad" women. Emily Maguire, the novelist, examined this proposition in Princesses and Porn Stars (2008) and concluded that the stereotypes have not vanished, they have merely been updated: the "choices are still either/or", she wrote. "You can be a mother or have a proper career. You can have orgasms or respect. You can be independent or adored."
This conclusion is depressing because it confirms the enduring nature of these cultural shackles.
And we have had recent confirmation that this view of women is still an - if not the - organising principle of this country. Take the example of our first female prime minister.
The ascension of Julia Gillard to prime minister was not one that we as a nation were capable of embracing. (Mike Bowers for the Guardian)
The ascension of Julia Gillard into that role in 2010 was a significant milestone in the march of Australian women towards equality but it was not one that we as a nation were capable of embracing.
As Gillard wrote in her memoir in 2014:
As early as 1975, in her book Damned Whores and God's Police, feminist and author Anne Summers explained that during our nation's history, women were always categorised in one of these two roles. It felt to me as prime minister that the binary stereotypes were still there, that the only two choices available were good woman or bad woman. As a woman wielding power, with all the complexities of modern politics, I was never going to be portrayed as a good woman. So I must be the bad woman, a scheming shrew, a heartless harridan or a lying bitch.
A telling recent example about the continued and embedded nature of our view that women, in their role as mothers and guardians of the family, are expected, even required, to play the role of God's police was the recent announcement that Australia would accept a large number of Syrian refugees.
In making this announcement, the then prime minister Tony Abbott said,
… our focus for these new 12,000 permanent resettlement places will be those people most in need of permanent protection - women, children and families from persecuted minorities … I do want to stress women, children and families - the most vulnerable of all.
As the media was quick to point out, this was code for "no single men".
We did not want our society disrupted by an influx of uncontrollable men who, the assumption goes, would be an unruly and disorderly presence in our society.
Caroline Chisholm could hardly have put it better herself. She did not use the language of national security as Tony Abbott did, and she was referring to emigrants rather than refugees, but the assumptions are the same:
For all the clergy you can despatch, all the school-masters you can appoint, all the churches you can build, and all the books you can export, will never do much good, without what a gentleman in that Colony very appropriate called "God's police" - wives and little children - good and virtuous women.
The media made no comment about whether single women would be included in this refugee intake. In fact, if you just went on media reports, you could conclude there are no single Syrian women.
Would they, too, be a disruptive force?
Is the new damned whore the woman in a hijab?
If we still have God's police then we must also still have her opposite, the bad woman.
So who are today's damned whores?
In 1975 I identified prostitutes, lesbians and women in prison as replacing the female convicts as the modern-day damned whores. They were "the other".
They were repudiated for their sexuality or their other transgressions. They were spurned for not being the way women were supposed to be: subservient, submissive, dependent.
We still punish contraventions but who are today's bad girls?
You can make a case that Lindy Chamberlain, Schapelle Corby and Pauline Hanson are all women who have transgressed in some way and so are "bad girls". One of them possibly killed her child, or so was the thought at the time; one of them has possibly smuggled drugs, and Pauline Hanson was guilty, if you like, of fracturing the political consensus in this country. She said things that were unacceptable at the time, though they quickly became acceptable, about Asians and Aborigines and other groups that previously the political system had been far more tolerant of.
So perhaps our notion of "bad" is more fluid than it once was.
I want to suggest that the damned whores of the early years of the 21st century are not just women like Chamberlain, or Corby or Hanson - or those who become prime ministers.
When young women today march in Slut Walks, asserting their right to dress as whores once might have, does this category even make sense any more?
Maybe the great affront to Australian society today is the woman who covers her face or refuses to show us her body.
Is the new damned whore the woman in a hijab? We need to talk a lot more about this.
Last week in Melbourne Quentin Bryce told a group of schoolgirls: "Be bold, be bold, be bold". This is the most important advice women of my generation can give to the young.
I am reminded of the famous feminist song, "Don't be too polite, girls" by the late Melbourne singer-song-writer Glen Tomasetti. It was known as the Equal Pay Anthem and it began:
Don't be too polite, girls, don't be too polite
Show a little fight, girls, show a little fight.
We need to know that despite the palpable gains of the past 40 years, our fight is far from over.
It is not just that we still have so much unfinished business: equal pay, equal representation in parliaments and elsewhere, freedom from violence. To name just a few.
The frightening reality is that there are forces in Australia, and globally, who would strip away what we have already won.
It is sobering to realise that there has not been a UN conference on women since Beijing in 1995 because of the realistic fear that the principles of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, especially those pertaining to women's reproductive rights, would not be re-affirmed today.
In other words, if we were to convene a new global conference of women, as we used to every five years between 1975 and 1995, we would lose ground.
So for 20 years, we have stood still or been required to use other mechanisms, such as the Millennium Development Goals or, coming up, the Sustainable Development Goals, to maintain the global women's agenda.
What this means is that young women are going to have to fight.
They are going to have to fight to keep what we already have and they are going to have to fight to enable us to keep moving forward.
They are going to need to be brave and to be bold and they certainly can't afford to be polite!
This is not a job for God's police.
The fact that four decades later and despite so much progress, so much of my description and analysis is still so true is unnerving.
It is also frightening.
There is a shocking increase in violence against women in Australia, more and more of it fatal.
The Counting Dead Women site on the Destroy the Joint Facebook page put the number of women killed in Australia so far this year, as of Sunday, at 62.
We are at week 39 of 2015 and already 62 women have died violent deaths, most of them at the hands of their current or former partners.
In addition, we know that every three hours around Australia a woman is hospitalised with injuries inflicted by a partner or family member. We count the deaths but we not yet found a way to count the injuries, including the permanent physical and psychological wounds.
This violence is undoubtedly due to a great many men being unable to accept women as equals let alone as independent beings. For these men, women belong - and should stay - in the preordained and subordinate roles the stereotypes laid out for them.
As Rosie Batty, the 2015 Australian of the Year and a tireless campaigner on the issue of family violence, has pointed out, we cannot address violence without addressing gender inequality.
Elizabeth Broderick, until recently Australia's sex discrimination commissioner, has made the same argument.
When I interviewed her earlier this year for a profile for my magazine Anne Summers Reports, she said: "Men's violence against women is Australia's most significant gender equality issue. It's both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality."
This is a startling, and sobering, assessment.
I could never have made such an assertion back in 1975. We had not yet made those kinds of connections. As I have already indicated, it was difficult back then to even speak about violence. It was beyond comprehension that we could have seen a casual connection between women's inequality and the rise in violence against women.
Yet Broderick has taken the argument even further, arguing that it is not only the most significant gender equality issue in Australia, but that it's the most significant gender equality issue in the world.
She stated that 1.2 million Australian women are either currently or have recently lived in violent relationships.
Just think about that … that's the Telstra Stadium 10, 15 times full of women. In fact, here in New South Wales, last week, we had two women murdered by their intimate partner. We've had 35 women murdered by their intimate partner in the first 14 weeks of this year.
If there were 35 people being killed by terrorist attack or falling off a train or whatever, we'd be doing something about it.
She said that on 7 May this year. 35 women had been killed since then.
It is now 21 September. In just four months another 27 women have been killed. As Liz said then, if 35 Australians had been killed in any other way, there would be outrage. And there would be action.
Two young boys were killed as a result of random violence on my street in Kings Cross last year. As a result the liquor laws were changed, venues have closed and there has been a dramatic decrease in violence in the area.
When are we going to react in a similarly serious fashion to the ongoing deaths of women?
Why does the prime minister and the leader of the opposition attend the funerals of soldiers killed in war but not the funerals of women killed as a result of domestic terrorism?
When are we going to treat this as the national emergency it is?
This is an extract of a speech given by Anne Summers to the conference 'Damned Whores and God's Police at 40', on Monday 21 September 2015 at the University of Technology, Sydney. It is published here with the permission of the author.
(Australia Edition) Monday 21 September 2015
Four decades later Anne Summers asks: have things really changed for women?
By Gay Alcorn
Author of Damned Whores and God's Police celebrates changes, but says Australian women are still defined and constrained by stereotypes
Anne Summers: 'Are Australian women still constrained by the social imperatives of motherhood?' (Dean Lewins/AAP)
Anne Summers finished writing what would become a feminist classic, Damned Whores and God's Police, in a Sydney house known as "cockroach castle" in 1974. She was 29. She's now 70, seemingly tireless and as entitled as anyone to be recognised as one of our elders.
Summers has organised an eclectic conference to celebrate the 40th anniversary of her book's publication, to consider its legacy and to tussle with a new feminist agenda, as contested as that will inevitably be - welcome Lavender, from the Coalition of Activist Lesbians Australia.
Day one of this three-day conference began with a Summers stir. There are a lot of 1970 feminists here, ageing a little, committed still. There are bureaucrats and academic and researchers and community organisers. On my count, there are three men in the room.
The younger women will barely recognise the 1975 world Summers outlined. There were no sex-discrimination laws in Australia. Jobs were advertised for "men and boys" or "women and girls". There was nothing improper about your boss asking you to sit on his knee to take "dictation". There had been no female premiers or prime ministers, and feminism was called "women's liberation".
Summers emphasised the importance of language - in her book, date rape didn't exist - she called it "petty rape". Domestic violence didn't rate a mention.
And then she got to the nub of it. Celebrate the substantial changes, she said, but what about the central premise of her book? Had that survived the passing of 40 years?
The book's argument was that Australian women - in an even more rigid way than women from England, for instance - were defined and constrained by stereotypes. They could be "God's police" - society's ethical and moral guardians - or shunned as "damned whores" if they didn't conform.
"The major impediment to female rebellion and that which keeps women physically and psychologically bound to their family-centred roles has been the absence of any cultural tradition which approved of women being anything else," wrote Summers in the 1970s.
On Monday she wondered whether this was still true.
"Are Australian women still constrained by the social imperatives of motherhood? Are women expected to fit everything else they do around this, still primary, role as mothers? ... Are flexible workplaces all about making it easier for women - not men - to juggle kids and jobs? Do women feel guilty about being in employment? Do men?"
According to Summers, in 2015, "many, if not most, women still accept, deep down, that it is their role to be God's police", responsible for the emotional and physical management of the family, and censor of their husband's and children's behaviour.
It was one of the themes of the day, and a contested perspective.
The 70s feminists were often criticised for scorning women who stayed home with babies, for believing the world of paid work was the only meaningful work. As the academic Dennis Altman said during a panel discussion, these days, the debate has flipped. Politicians, even conservative ones, don't want women at home looking after children any more. They want them to do more paid work for the sake of the economy. Many women and men would like to spend more time with their children.
Editor Georgina Dent said the issue now was that we are "so deeply wedded to mothers as caregivers" that issues around family - paid parental leave and child care, for instance - remained almost entirely "women's" issues. The question I had, as unfashionable as it is, is whether at least some women - educated, informed - actually were choosing to define themselves in some profound way as mothers.
The agenda Summers and co-organiser Jenna Price have put together for this conference is a rough outline of what a modern feminism might look like, as impossible to define as that is. The British-Somalian activist Nimco Ali spoke of her own female genital mutilation (FGM), and of its political meaning.
In her view, labiaplasty or cosmetic surgery on western women's genitals for non-medical reasons had something in common with FGM. "It is the internalisation of the misogyny we face on a day-to-day basis," she said. I intensely disagree that the two are comparable in anything but the most superficial way, but the debate was fascinating and worth having.
On Wednesday the former governor general, Quentin Bryce, will talk to the former sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, about domestic violence. There'll be lectures and discussions on women and work and the intersection of race and gender.
Already there are business cards being swapped and corridor discussions about abortion rights in different states and the threats to reproductive choice in Australia. Forty years on, some things never change.
The Guardian (Australia Edition) Monday 21 September 2015\http://www.global-sisterhood-network.org/gsn/images/Guardianlogo.gif
Damned Whores, 40 years on: women still stereotyped, says Penny Wong
Women in politics still treated in a sexist way, says Senator Penny Wong at conference celebrating Anne Summers' Damned Whores and God's Police
The opposition leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, says she has been described as shrill and hysterical by attorney-general George Brandis. (Mike Bowers for the Guardian)
By Gay Alcorn
Women have made big strides towards equality in the past 40 years, but they are still treated in a sexist way in Australian politics, says Labor frontbencher Senator Penny Wong.
Wong said at a conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of the landmark feminist book, Damned Whores and God's Police, that remarks about women in parliament were too often belittling and stereotyped.
"When we look at politics, sometimes I feel we haven't come far at all," she said. "Eric Abetz has gone and been replaced by George Brandis and that's not much better." In prime minister Malcolm Turnbull's ministerial reshuffle this week, Brandis replaced Abetz as government leader in the Senate.
Attorney-General Brandis has described Wong as "shrill and hysterical. I'm well known for that," she said. Former Greens' leader Christine Milne has been berated for "throwing a tantrum".
"They're so blind to it, so accustomed to belittling women it's just par for the course," Wong said. "There's a long way to go in terms of how people talk to each other."
Turnbull has distinguished himself from the Abbott government by appointing five women to his cabinet - the same number as former prime minister Julia Gillard appointed. Abbott chose just one woman for his first cabinet, foreign minister Julie Bishop.
Wong said she was once dismissive of the importance of critical mass, but saw that it had made a difference in Gillard's cabinet.
"It did change the dialogue, the dynamic, it changed how we interacted," said Wong, who was finance minister under Gillard. "It meant it was easier to speak and that matters."
The Sydney conference is discussing the impact and legacy of the book, written by prominent feminist Anne Summers.
Summers told the conference that Julie Bishop, who was Abbott's deputy before shifting support to Turnbull last week, had been described as Lady Macbeth by some critics, the same insult hurled at Gillard when she toppled Kevin Rudd as prime minister.
"Malcolm Turnbull, no problem," she said. "Women can't wield a knife, but men can."
Summers believed it was a "major thing" having women foreign and defence ministers in the new cabinet. "We have a prime minister finally who is at least modern, who understands that women are equal and are entitled to equality."
In her keynote address, Summers told the audience that while much had changed for the better since she wrote the book in 1974, women remained constrained by their family-centred roles.
The book's key argument is that two rigid stereotypes of women deny them their own identity and real choice. They are either bad girls - such as prostitutes and prisoners - or good girls, mothers assumed to be ethically and morally superior to men.
Today, women's choices have expanded exponentially, but their role as mothers remained a fundamental question that needed confronting, Summers said.
"We have not said: women might be the ones who bear the children, but their entire lives should not be defined by that one capability. We've changed a lot but we haven't changed this.
"Many, if not most, women still accept, deep down, that it is their role to be God's police.
"We have not disavowed that motherhood is still the central, preferable and most admired option for women."
• Damned Whores and God's Police 40 years on. Its impact. Its legacy. Our Future. 21-23 September, University of Technology Sydney
Watch Video: "A World without Her" HERE
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