It’s not often that elections, let alone foreign ones, elicit such a strong emotional response as the wave of grief that broke across liberal, intellectual and left social circles in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election victory.
Writer and actress Lena Dunham said that “Wednesday was a day of mourning. Thursday too. Hell, I’m giving us till Sunday.” On social media the grief was raw and deep. Many talked of being unable to process Trump’s victory and of feeling shocked, despairing, fearful, angry and anxious. The shock and distress were palpable, and certainly I felt it too.
Why do we – the collective feminist left in particular – feel this way? I think there are multiple levels beginning with the most personal. Clinton’s defeat is emblematic of the many defeats we have suffered in our attempts to forge careers and compete in the ostensible meritocracy. What we see, regardless of our feelings about her “dishonesty”, “war mongering”, and “corrupt” associations with banks – the epithets that weigh her down on the left and make it difficult to express political support let alone admiration – is that still in 2016 a talented, highly qualified, accomplished and eminently experienced woman coming through the established party political channels lost to an incompetent, blundering, inexperienced buffoon. You can read the rest of the article here. It was published in New Matilda on November 26, 2016.
A little about the Feminist Writers’ Festival from the website:
The Feminist Writers Festival will bring together feminist writers and readers to connect and strengthen the diverse writing communities that exist around Australia. The festival will expand the themes and voices around feminism and women’s writing by offering a space for critical engagement and practical support for all feminist writers and readers.
Hosted in partnership with the Melbourne Writers Festival, the 2016 Feminist Writers Festival comprises a workshop and networking day on Friday 26 August at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, plus five public events, co-hosted by the Melbourne Writers Festival, on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 August at Federation Square and Footscray Community Arts Centre.
This article begins with an account of former midwife Gaye Demanuele’s recent referral to the director of public prosecutions by the Victorian Coroner Peter White following the death of Caroline Lovell during a homebirth with Gaye and another midwife. It outlines the destruction of independent midwifery and homebirth in Australia while also highlighting the critical paradigm and power differences between independent midwives and the medical and media establishments. I argue that this is part of the story regarding the treatment of midwives like Gaye (and many others) in the legal system. I also defend the critical political importance of women’s right to choose how and with whom they give birth – a right enshrined in the law but regularly violated. This article was published in New Matilda on June 10, 2016. You can read it here.
Feminists have been criticised for not responding to the Cologne attacks, in particular for failing to prioritise women’s rights against refugee or migrant men’s rights. In this article published in Online Opinion on Feb 2nd, 2016 I examine this ‘failed response’ in terms of an inability by feminists, and the Left more broadly, to listen to non-western feminists who have identified mob sexual assault of women in public places in the Arab world for some time. I also address: the importance of the distinction between race and culture in understanding the problem and; the difficulties for those on the Left (including myself) with articulating and defending ‘western values’.
This article interrogates recent proposals by the Australian Liberal Party to ‘stop the gender gap’ in retirement savings. Essentially the proposals offer women the ‘flexibility’ to pay more of their own superannuation without addressing the systemic problems associated with combining care work with paid work. You can read the article here:
Everyone has something to say about Australia’s new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull the ‘small l’ liberal leading the ‘big l’ Liberal Party. In this article I respond to an article in New Matilda by Spencer Jackson on the relevance of the eighteenth century philosopher Immanuel Kant for Turnbull’s refugee policy. In it I outline the key differences between small l and big l liberalism and the conundrum for Turnbull between his idealism and pragmatism. You can read the article here.
This article examines the recent breastfeeding/expressing controversy around Australian Member of Parliament Kelly O’Dwyer. It first describes this incident and then makes a critique of the neo-liberal emphasis on ‘expressing’ as an equivalent to breastfeeding. The article was published in OnLineOpinion on Septermber 22nd, 2015. You can read the article here.
Breastfeeding and work: babies need more than just (pumped) milk, they also need their mother’s bodies
One of the key issues concerning breastfeeding and work is women having the flexibility to feed while they are working. This calls for a radical transformation in the culture of work. While most women manage this combination through pumping, as maternal scholar Julie Stephens notes, this relationship superimposes neo-liberal work norms onto mothers, by separating maternal and infant (or toddler) bodies (2010). With pumping, it is the mother who adjusts to an individualist work culture rather than the other way around. Mothers remove their milk and remain separated at the bodily level from their babies – keeping up the “supply” of both milk and work – while maintaining a façade of the disembodied worker. This piece was written for the Routledge Press blog for World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7, 2015.
“Feminist” organisation White Ribbon came into disrepute last week after one of its ambassadors, psychiatrist and journalist Tanveer Ahmed, wrote an opinion piece in The Australian, suggesting men’s violence against women could be attributed to the historic decline of men’s power. This decline, felt acutely by working class and recently arrived immigrant men, has been exacerbated by the decline in secure unionised employment. Men have become “feminised” and are, as a consequence, “humiliated”. It is this, he argues, that is “increasingly the driver of family-based violence”. In this piece I tackle both the fallacies and truths in Ahmed’s piece, making the point that Ahmed both depends upon yet falsely dispenses with feminism. This article was published in The Conversation on February 13, 2015 and can be read here.
In November former Labour leader Mark Latham wrote an op-ed “Why left feminists don’t like kids” in which he took aim at journalist Lisa Pryor who had the previous week written an op-ed in which she answered the proverbial “How do you do it?” question levelled at women (though not men) who work or study with young children. Her candid answer was that she “did it” with a combination of caffeine and anti-depressants. Latham extrapolated from Pryor’s piece that “left wing feminists” have a problem with kids. I challenge this assertion by making two points: first that “left wing feminists” (and others too) are critical of social structure not kids and; second, that Latham joins a long line of disingenuous anti-feminist thinkers in pitting educated, professional women against other women and indeed society at large. You can read my piece here.