‘Disempowered’ men still lead on economic power

White Ribbon pic

“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.


Latham got it wrong: feminists are critical of social structure not kids

Latham picIn 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.


Studying Mothers In Mommy Wars. Where Do Maternal Studies Start?

infant pic on AllThingsMaternal blog

Blogs abound. This one by Helena Vissing addresses the complexities and nuances of the maternal subject with reference to psychoanalytic feminism, including my book.

“Bueskens (2014), in her introduction to Mothering and Psychoanalysis, argues that if we recognize the mother or “the maternal” as a valuable subject from which to generate knowledge, it may not only free women from the constraint of the institution of motherhood, but also shift our “epistemological, political, social and psychic horizons” (p. 4). How is that for a promising statement?” You can read the whole post, which is short but potent here.

Breastfeeding ‘in public': A personal and political memoir

Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.

Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.


Karen Armstrong Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.

Karen Armstrong
Feed in protest at the Hepburn Bathhouse, November 28, 2013.


In this article I offer a reflective autobiographical account of being asked not to breastfeed my then 13 month old at the Hepburn Bathhouse ostensibly for “hygiene” reasons and ultimately―for the organization changed their story―for “safety” reasons.  I explore the scholarly literature on breasts and breastfeeding especially as it relates to the public/private distinction on which the controversy implicitly rests making the case that it is our collective inability to symbolically place breasts―are they sexy or are they maternal? Are they natural or are they medicinal?―that renders “public” breastfeeding so challenging.  I make two further arguments: first, that breastfeeding controversies are increasingly defined by what the sociologists Michael Bittman and Judith Pixley call “pseudomutuality” (1997, p. 81), or, by a pretence of mutuality, such that discriminatory individuals and organisations routinely claim to be “pro-breastfeeding” and; second, claiming our right to feed in public is part of a broader maternal politics of embodied citizenship shifting extant norms premised on the ideal of the unencumbered, autonomous subject. Reconfiguring the image of the ideal-typical citizen as one who may also be pregnant with, birthing and/or nurturing another is part of this politics. In this view, breastfeeding “in public” is literally a transformative “coming out” redefining public space.

This chapter will be published in J. Jones, M. Porter and L. Raith. Mothers at the Margins. Cambridge Scholars Press, 2015.  (Please note: This link is to the table of contents and introduction. I will upload a copy of this paper soon).


I will be presenting the chapter in modified form at two conferences:

1. MIRCI “Mothers, Mothering and Motherhood From Ancient Greece to Contemporary Times” Conference, May 23rd-24th, 2014, Hellenic Education and Research Center in Athens, Greece. http://www.motherhoodinitiative.org/GreeceCFP.pdf

2. Australian Breastfeeding Association Conference “Liquid Gold”, Melbourne, 1-3 August, 2014.



Breastfeeding in public – panel discussion

WIW poster D1_CP1

I am hosting a panel discussion on breastfeeding in public at the Words in Winter Festival in Daylesford on Sunday August 3rd, 1pm at The Rex. Joining the panel will be noted academic and writer Dr Fiona Giles author of Freshmilk: The Secret Life of Breasts, Anna Kaplan documentary film maker and producer of The Booby Trap, Susan Reddrop and myself.  You can see the program here. Hope to see you there!



These days breastfeeding is often in the headlines. How did something so common become so contentious? Following a diverse group of new mothers and couples, Breastmilk engages delicately with contemporary debates surrounding infant feeding. With a revealing series of conversations featuring medical practitioners, academics, and parents, filmmaker Dana Ben-Ari questions why very few women succeed in breastfeeding exclusively for the recommended period. Observing and respecting tensions between biology and gendered social pressures, Breastmilk is a refreshingly open contemplation of this most natural and nurturing act.

Come and check out the panel discussion after the screening of Breastmilk at the Human Rights, Arts and Film Festival this Sunday May 11. I’ll be there with the wonderful Dr Fiona Giles author of Fresh Milk: The Secret Life of Breasts, Associate Professor Lisa Amir and Clementine Ford.

Single mothers and the sexual contract


I wrote this piece after reading many of the comments on the Parenting Payment for Parents – NOT Newstart facebook page. It begins with a story about my own experience of single motherhood and contrasts this with how difficult things have become. I critique the new “Fair Incentives to Work” legislation which has forced all recipients of Parenting Payment Single whose children have turned 8 onto the woefully inadequate Newstart payment. I make the argument that this is a human rights violation because it essentially discrimates against women with children who are not married. 

Read ‘Single mothers and the sexual contract’ at On-Line Opinion:




How Psychotherapy Fits into a Dissolving Social Structure

 I wrote the article “How Psychotherapy Fits into a Dissolving Social Structure” in response to a heated exchange between the sociologist Professor Eva Illouz and three members of the Israel Psychoanalytic Society Dr. Itamar Levy,  Dr. Anat Palgi-Hecker and Dr. Eran Rolnick in the weekend magazine of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.  The article was published in the August 10, 2012 weekend edition of Haaretz.  This article is only available to subscribers and can be read here:


A longer version of this article will be appearing in my forthcoming book Mothering and Psychoanalysis: Clinical, Sociological and Feminist Perspectives, Demeter Press, Spring 2014.

Porn hurts women, so say the partners of users


 I wrote ‘Porn Hurts’ after I saw Bettina Arndt’s Age article, ‘Porn is not a Dirty word‘. Here she provides data from her research on couples in long-term relationships. While her article, and the book on which it is based, provide a particularly insightful window into how many men feel about porn, she misses the mark entirely in terms of how this impacts women in relationship with users. This article offers an opinion suggesting, following the current research, that women are often distressed by their partner’s porn use, most especially where this use is secret and the couple are in a long-term relationship. I also question Arndt’s implicit reinforcement of male sex-right. 

Bueskens, P. (2012). ‘Porn hurts’, Arena Magazine, no. 117, May 2012, pp. 15-16.


A longer more radical version of this article was re-printed in On-Line Opinion on May 1st, 2012:



This article has been re-printed in a number of additional places including:


Antipornography.org on June 12, 2012:



The Anti Porn Men Project on July 22, 2012:




Connecting the dots: porn and women’s declining libido

Sex Drive_cover_

I wrote this after reading Dr Bella Ellwood-Clayton’s new book Sex-Drive. It examines the relationship between heavy porn consumption and women’s reportedly lower libidos.

Read ‘Connecting the dots: porn and women’s declining libido‘ at On-Line Opinion.

The article was reprinted in The AntiPornMenProject on May 10, 2012:


Petra Bueskens | Mother, scholar, psychotherapist | Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Melbourne Daylesford