Many years ago, in the early 1970s when I was an organiser for the Australian Union of Students, I had to take a couple of Palestinian students around campuses in Western Australia to talk about the Palestinian position in the Middle East.
In one forum, a young guy yelled out that no-one would want to rape a Palestinian woman in response to a comment about rape. I walked over to him, grabbed him by both ears, yanked his head forward and said: “If you make a similar comment again, I’ll rip your fucking head off”. He shut up. I might point out that I would have had a similar reaction if such a comment had been made about a Jewish woman. I don’t like racism or anti-semitism.
The next day a group of Zionist students cornered me in my office – and I use the term “cornered” as they filled the room and blocked the exit. Their leader told me they were disgusted by my bad language (okay to talk about rape but not swear apparently which says a lot about their attitude to women) which no lady would use. I pointed out to them that I wasn’t a lady which really took the wind out of their sails, much to my surprise. One of them said: “I never though the day would come when I’d hear a woman say she wasn’t a lady” and then they all slunk out of the room.
I’m making this point because yesterday I read a comment of Paul Ryan’s that “women are to be championed and revered”. Really? What a load of old baloney. Women can stand on their own two feet, thank you very much, Paul. We don’t need to be revered. We’re quite capable of being our own champions.
We need to be regarded as equals, supported in our choices, in our dignity, in equal opportunity, in young women not having to fear sexual assault or rape and then find themselves victimised as a slut when the guys who have raped her are considered jocks who’ve got their whole future ahead of them.
Women don’t need such condescending shit from a man who still hasn’t withdrawn his support from Trump. Criticising this serial sex offender and withdrawing an invitation to this disgusting guy isn’t good enough, it’s having two bob each way. But then when you look at Ryan’s record, you find out what a hypocritical slug the man is when he talks of championing and revering women:
Putting women on a pedestal, calling them ladies is, for misogynists like Ryan, a way of controlling and infantalising women, taking away their power and spruiking their need to be dependent on men who will take care of them, as if women were pathetic little creatures unable to survive on their own. “Lady” is a control mechanism to ensure you wear the “right” clothes, don’t cuss, play little, let men think they’re wonderful when you pretend to be dim and powerless, and make you feel guilty if you cross the sacred line between “lady” and “woman”.
So Ryan can take his championship and reverence of women and stick them where the sun don’t shine. Because he’s a hypocrite, a coward too afraid to disown Trump and his sick rape culture, and an enemy of women’s rights and women’s independence. He’s a hypocritical piece of shit who deserves contempt and disdain from all women who have too much pride and self-esteem to be suckered by this moronic, misogynist creep.
As you can see, I’ve been fiddling with the site name again, basically because the one I used previously was really long and over the top. I decided to shorten it to “Warrior Woman” because someone commented on a post in Facebook and said they didn’t know my politics but liked my descriptive passion. This is what I said:
“Having seen the new ad by Nigel Farage, all I can say is that the man is a disgusting racist, using fear to promote his Brexit campaign, amid echos of Nazi propaganda about Jews, gypsies, the handicapped, trade union leaders. Farage is unfit for purpose and time those who oppose his disgusting policies stood up to oppose this smirking ratbag. Having seen those lined up for Brexit, I’m for Europe and staying in the EU. Playing little is no solution to problems with the EU, staying in, uniting with Greece, Portugal and Ireland to fight class war is far better than living on our knees under the disgraceful Farage and his cohorts.”
I sometimes dither about what I write but now I’ve decided I have to be and if I do rant on or preach, well, that’s who I am. I can’t be different to fit into someone’s mould of what a woman should be or write about or act. So I did decide, after reading the comment, that I like the idea of Warrior Woman, because I am passionate and militant and I don’t want to be associated with “ism’s” because they’re so limiting. And “politics” is just so divisive and creaking of old age. Surely we can do better!
Just to divert slightly, on July 2nd it will be the 20th anniversary since I broke my leg and ankle when I was living halfway up a mountain in south-east Queensland. I know the date as it was my father’s birthday. That date marked a complete break with my previous life where I’d been a member of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) for 18 years as well as being Vice-Chair for quite a few years. I was immobilised and I knew I could no longer look backwards, I had to look forward to a completely new approach to how I live. Now more than half my life has been spent as an artist, crystal worker, Tarot reader, lover of nature and photographer. Quite a turn around, which is probably a bit of an understatement!
Since then I’ve been involved in metaphysical areas because, over the years, I’ve had more examples of life after death than you can poke a stick at and there’s no way I could ever be an atheist. Nor, to return to the “ism” comment, do I ever want to be tied down again to a particular ideology which labels me as being of a particular political persuasion, bowing to majority opinion, because political structures these days are a hangover of patriarchal society. Politics seems to depend on who can debate best, who’s got the best charisma, who shouts loudest, how much money can be raised to buy elections, and how do you lie most efficiently to win an election which changes sod all basically.Oh, and don’t forget flogging armaments left, right and centre around the world regardless of the poor buggers getting blown to bits by those armaments.
But in this day and age, I don’t deny either that class war still exists – foisting the economic crisis of 2008 onto the backs of ordinary people under the guise of “austerity” while the billionaire bludgers get even more obscenely wealthy and the banks behind the crisis got off scot-free PLUS they were handed out billions in so-called “rescue” money.
We need to think of ways to organise against this horrible, horrible turning of the screws on so many sections of society to undermine the Establishment and set up alternative ways of running a compassionate, not a dog-eat-dog, society.
So I choose to be a freewheeling, feminist, independent, bugger-toeing-the-line warrior woman. My vision happens to be that I’m passionate about social justice and putting people before profits, building a society which is creative, encourages innovation, looks after people’s health and offers an education which encourages young people to be visionaries thinking outside the square.
That doesn’t mean I hate profits – it simply means that I happen to believe that people count and I think it’s bloody awful when shares go up after hundreds or thousands of people are sacked because the less money spent on providing people with a decent, living wage the more profits are made.
But I also happen to think that being in the Communist Party has some meaning in my life. Why was I there? What did I learn? How does it colour what I am today? Coupled with this is an involvement in the New Age movement, in fighting for peace, so how do the two mesh? Because I happen to believe they do mesh. Everything we do in life has some meaning and it’s up to us to sort it out and learn lessons from our experiences.
I don’t want to continue banging on today in this post, I’ll explain in more detail in my next post. But I do want to say that, coming to live in North Cyprus, where armed conflict waged until 1974, I’ve been forced to consider what peace, conflict and self-defence actually mean in practice, not just on paper And that’s it until my next post!
FAT HATRED, THIN WORSHIP
This week I saw that the National Health Service in the UK is to offer gastric bypass surgery to obese patients. I also saw a headline in one newspaper which read: “Drop the staple gun, Doc, and Tell Fatty to grow some willpower”. The article contained such comments as:”I have also found fat people funny”; “it is something they have imposed on themselves through a combination of gannetry, indolence and stupidity”; and “sometimes I even go to places where I know there will be lots of fat people and sit on a bench watching them clumping around, sweating and gasping, and snigger to myself.”
As you can see, it’s okay to be bigoted about weighty people because somehow, being not thin, we have ceased to be human beings and can be ridiculed, insulted, discriminated against and then be told to have surgery which can be life-threatening and possibly lead to our deaths. Doubtless if weighty people died during gastric bypass surgery the fat haters would be gleeful to have less fat people to pollute their perfect lives.
The reason why I feel infuriated by the headlines is because I have been reading a couple of books and other material which actually show that “obesity” and the much-vaunted BMI are a recent creation and a nice little money earner for the medicos and diet industry based on shonky health research. At the same time, the low-fat, high carbohydrate diet extolled to Western nations like the UK, US and Australia over the past few decades also has feet of clay, a big con trick by the food industry to protect their profits despite research showing that people following what they believe are healthy diets are actually endangering their own health.
BLAME THE VICTIM
But hey, let’s blame the victim, then you don’t have to look at the food giants, the pharmaceutical industry and the diet industry who have all colluded to squash research showing the health dangers of a high carbohydrate, high-sugar diet to protect their god-almighty profits.
And let’s not mention that people also eat for emotional reasons such as stress, long working hours, job insecurity, low wages, unemployment, social interaction, homelessness and so on, because then you have to look at the social reasons for over-eating and lack of exercise because people are knackered by the end of the day trying to cope with the pressures of life in Western society today.
This has tied in with the fact I wanted to follow up my posts on women’s liberation with some material about diets and thinness stifling women’s creativity and power, and also how eating can be emotional, as I witnessed when I got as fat as butter when my Mum was dying of lung cancer.
So what I’m intending in my next few posts are:
1) Feminism, women and weight;
2) My own weight battle;
3) Dealing with my mother’s death from lung cancer & my own (fat) emotional response;
4) The giant con trick perpetrated on Western society by the dietary, medical, pharmaceutical and food industries to protect their profits regardless of the ill-health of people following what they believe are health diets.
I have no doubt that questioning the low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet and the all-powerful BMI is tackling sacred cows, but I really hate being conned and both of these are con tricks, not exposed by the industries involved, but brought out into the light of day by individuals doing independent research and publishing their findings.
As I said in a previous post, I finally managed to track down the Women’s Liberation group In Western Australia when I started working as the organiser for the Australian Union of Students in 1974 in that State. I have to admit that I jumped in the deep end and was pretty fanatical. I stopped wearing make-up and gave my poor old Mum a hard time with my liberationist views when my parents came for a holiday in 1975.
We were not, however, the hairy-legged, bra-burning, men-hating, humourless, ball-breaking Amazons depicted in the media. Yes, we were a varied lot, just as any movement was. But we wanted to improve women’s lot in society and address the very fundamental question of what it means to honour women’s qualities as terrific in themselves, not to compete to become sort of honorary man. Yes, women ARE different to men, but we need to celebrate those differences and honour them, not put down the qualities of either sex. Women’s strengths are often expressed through consensus, emotions, intuition, and co-operation. But feminine attributes aren’t as respected or accepted, not then and not now.
Why not? Bringing up children is a demanding, responsible position yet, because it’s not in the paid workforce, it’s not considered work. Yes, it’s great to see women in the top jobs like Hilary Clinton or Australia’s Julia Gillard, but they still operate on the old, male rules of combat and within the same paradigm. How different were Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Condoleeza Rice, Golda Meir? They play the hardball politics of a patriarchal society with its winner-take-all, back-stabbing, game-playing philosophy. They wage war not peace, just as male leaders do. Consider what would be the reaction if a woman in a leadership position started approaching political work and conflict through peaceful methods instead of beating the war drums? We all know they’d be criticized, denigrated and viciously attacked. You’ve only got to see the demeaning, sexist, derogatory treatment of Australia’s first women Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to see that women have a long way to go.
Back in the early ’70s we pored over the magazines Spare Rib (UK) and Ms (US), absorbing the contents like sponges. We inhaled the contents of books by Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Kate Millet, Susie Orbach, Germaine Greer, Shulamith Firestone, Betty Friedan and many others. We started consciousness-raising groups to learn to support each other instead of compete, and to understand how we were oppressed as women. These groups were treated with great derision by the generally hostile media and by many men, but they were great because we operated on a non-hierarchical basis as much as possible. We wanted to democratize discussion. We empowered and supported each other instead of competing. The movement started to set up women’s refuges; women’s health centres; rape crisis centres; support for women to enter parliament; access to free, safe abortion; equal pay; good, affordable childcare; provision of family planning so that abortions were minimised. We lobbied the media to stop trivializing women in sexist advertising. And much, much more, often unseen, unremarked and unreported.
Patricia Giles, who was a health union organiser, activist in women’s affairs, and helped found the Women’s Electoral Lobby, attended the first United Nations World Conference on Women in Mexico in 1975. The three main aims were:
• Full gender equality and the elimination of gender discrimination;
• The integration and full participation of women in development;
• An increased contribution by women towards strengthening world peace.
And at a Federal political level, the election of the Whitlam Labor government saw the appointment of a Women’s Advisor, Elizabeth Reid, to give impetus towards women’s equality in Australia. In 1975 a Women in Politics conference was organised in Canberra and I was lucky enough to attend.One of the prime movers for this conference in the WA region was, as well as Pat Giles, Irene Greenwood, a really remarkable worker for women’s rights. When I knew her she was in her senior years but she had an enthusiasm for women’s rights and an infectious passion which was truly brilliant.
It was inspirational to meet so many women activists in Australia at the conference in Canberra. We came into contact with truly brilliant women activists from overseas who had some wonderful ideas which we absorbed like women who’d just crawled through a desert to the edge of a pool in an oasis.
The attitude towards women in those days was pretty awful. The Canberra Times rubbished the conference. The idea of women’s liberation was treated with contempt. The Abortion Law Reform Association in Western Australia, led by Denise White, fought an uphill battle for a woman’s right to choose whether she had a child or not, and for abortion reform.
I know I was incensed when I’d been at one demonstration for civil liberties and found that, in the front bar of a city hotel, I wasn’t allowed to buy myself or others a drink, particularly as drinks in that front bar were much cheaper than the lounge areas and women generally earned less money than their male counterparts. Only men could buy drinks in the front bar. We organised sit-ins, got publicity and eventually the laws were changed to remove discrimination.
I could go on and on about what women faced in those days and the challenges of working for change. But it was our collective, not individual, stand that made the difference. I’ve seen women say: “Change your thoughts, and you change your reality. You don’t need feminism or women’s liberation.” All I can say to that is: “Bollocks, sister”. Because women on their own, divided from other sisters and played off against one another, got nowhere. It’s unity that’s counted in advancing women’s rights.
I said at the beginning, and it remains true, that nothing was ever handed to us women on a plate. And it’s never remained with us as a right, we’ve had to hang on grimly with our fingertips.
So now we still see the same old, same old: violence against women in India, Pakistan, Africa, Western nations; rape as a weapon of war; attacks on women’s right to abortion and free, safe contraception; calls for abortion providers to be murdered; undermining of equal pay; women activists getting abusive, trolling, threatening comments and tweets; women still being called “chicks”, “girls”, “ho’s”, when we are WOMEN; women being conned that it’s okay to join the guys in watching women being exploited as strippers or pole dancers or lap dancers; young girls still decked out in pink and expected to play with dolls or fake kitchen equipment; women terrorized into the “thin” straitjacket if they look womanly in any way; very young girls exploited in beauty pageants; perky cheerleaders in skimpy gear; women being conned that sexual freedom means it’s okay to have free sex when the guys still regard you as the town bike; talented women singers believing they have to show up in skimpy, tarty, demeaning gear; pornography stealthily being legitimized when it’s main function is the exploitation and denigration of women.
The Republican leader, John Boehner gets teary when he becomes House leader (you’ll pardon my cynicism if I say it’s my belief it’s tears of gratitude because he’s got his greedy paws on the spoils of office) and that’s considered okay and normal. Hillary Clinton gets teary during the Presidential campaign and she’s a wet/manipulative/cynical/typical female, and so on. Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard chokes up over the human losses in the Queensland floods of 2010-11 and analysis focuses on whether she’s real/cynical/manipulative (common for all women in office, obviously). And because she hasn’t had children, Ms Gillard gets assailed for being unfeminine, barren, unable to understand the needs of “real families”. And please, don’t get me started on the public , venal chatter about the dress sense of women leaders and politicians. Appalling stuff.
Nowadays there’s discussion about feminism – whether it’s okay to be a feminist, or is this a phrase with a use-by date. But here’s something which occurs to me whenever I see that phrase: “feminism”. I hate women’s liberation being nice-ified into “feminism”. How did the bright, sparkling rocket take-off of Women’s Liberation in the ‘sixties somehow morph back to earth as a damp squib? Heck – where’s the passion in this sanitized version of Women’s Liberation? It’s unchallenging, safe, respectable, accepted by the system because it’s non-threatening. And looking back, I somehow see the vitality of the ‘sixties and ‘seventies and our history is gradually being airbrushed out of existence and gentrified.
So that’s why I remain a Women’s Libber. I refuse to get co-opted into that nice, safe word “feminism” because I don’t want to be seen as nice or safe. I am in my crone years and enjoying – finally – being a misfit, a rebel, a revolutionista, a purple-wearing arty-farty drama queen, and a sacred warrior for fearlessness, feistiness and mad, mighty mojo. I remain passionate about true women’s liberation – freedom for every woman to be who she is without being stuffed into some prototypical image of what a woman should be.
Just to explain a bit further, I recently saw an article about how four ordinary-looking women could look great if they had more money to beautify themselves. For my part, the four women looked pretty terrific, and the end product was awful and depressing. All the women looked like clones – long blonde hair with extensions; similar make-up; squeezed into similar dresses. God help us, a prime example of The Stepford Wives, and what was frightening was that the producers thought they were doing the women a favour instead of working with their real, inner beauty and individual looks.
I sincerely hope young women also choose to be passionate, step outside the Good Girl cage and punch the air as they enjoy the freedom to be whoever they are, whatever they choose to do, listen to their heart and souls, and stay true to themselves in all their glory. Me? I remain an unreconstructed Women’s Libber!
This post has been a long time in the making because I’ve been bogged down with sciatica again. It’s thrown my sleep patterns out, left me feeling very tired and also lethargic and aimless. So I decided to go with the flow, simply tread water and wait until I felt the urge to start writing again. Which is now. And at the same time, I’ve decided to make space for new adventures in my life by getting rid of all the shelving with my crystals on and storing all my crystals in my cupboard space. I’m focusing on my art and writing my book as blog.
New beginnings, new paths, new energy. I probably needed the break to process where I really want to work in my life right now. So now on to my adventures with Women’s Liberation in the early 1970s.
I had my teenage rebellion in my ‘twenties when I moved to Australia. Until then I’d pretty much been Ms Goody-Two-Shoes, not rocking the boat, head down and studying assiduously to get a good degree as I was the first in our family to go to university, and fairly conservative. At least, that’s the image that I have of myself but I’ve been interested to catch up with old friends from my University days who see me quite differently – organised, organising people and quite adventurous. Weird how you see yourself and how others see you!
I guess working on a kibbutz in Israel, which is what I did prior to travelling to Australia in 1972, and then hopping off Downunder could be considered quite adventurous although at the time it just seemed to me that both were interesting things to do. Perhaps I also did this bit of travelling as I had no idea of my direction in life. In fact, I never did find a direction until my mid-fifties – late starter, you might say!
I began throwing over the traces with gusto when I joined the Australian Union of Students as the organiser for Western Australia and subsequently got involved with Women’s Liberation. I had seen a news report of women in the movement handing out contraceptive advice at secondary school gates and it interested me.
Why did I become interested in Women’s Liberation?
It’s so easy to forget what life was like for women back in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies, so here are a few reminders that Women’s Libbers rocked the boat because women:
• Were denied equal pay
• Were clustered in low paying work
• Were paid less for the same work done by men
• Weren’t allowed to open their own bank accounts without permission from their husband, boyfriend or father.
• Couldn’t get a mortgage as a single woman.
• Were victimized all too often if they were raped, labeled as the “temptress”, “seductress”, or whatever, because rape wasn’t recognized as an act of violence.
• Had to leave the public service when they married.
• Had to leave the workforce when they had children.
• Had to leave the workforce when menfolk came back from war and wanted the jobs (see the move Rosie the Riveter and a documentary about women pilots in World War II flying planes around the UK to the various aerodromes where they were needed)
• Were invisible in history, the media and film. Apart from a few odd exceptions like Katherine Hepburn, women were pretty much bitches (Betty Davis) or goddesses up on a pedestal (June Allyson)
• Were sex objects
• Were forced to resort to illegal abortions because of unwanted pregnancies, often dying dreadful deaths from scepticaemia.
• Were vilified if they chose to have an abortion despite the vast majority of women agonizing over such a choice.
• Were denied free, safe contraception and planned parenthood.
• Had enormous difficulties accessing advanced education
• Were going off their rocker in the suburbs with frustration and boredom.
And we in Women’s Liberation were impolite, rowdy, feisty, hollering, rollicking, loud, raucous, marching, holding demonstrations, rejecting ideas of being “nice” and “lady-like”, and standing together in large numbers to organise for women’s right to be treated with respect, dignity and equality.
This is one of the songs from those time:
“Don’t be too polite, girls, don’t be too polite,
Show a little fight girls, show a little fight,
Don’t be fearful of offending, in case you get the sack
Just recognize your value and we won’t look back.
All among the bull, girls, all among the bull,
Keep your hearts full, girls, keep your hears full
What good is a man as doormat, or following at heel?
It’s not their balls we’re after, it’s a fair square deal.”
In early 1978 I went on a tour to China just as it was opening up. We visited a women’s brigade on an oil field in Shandong Province (one of the coldest places I’ve ever been by the way!). The women’s brigade was set up as Chinese leaders in the oil industry found that men looked down on women workers and sidelined them. So the aim of the women’s brigade was to encourage emancipation in the industry and self-respect among the women workers.
We sang the above song to them, and they sang back women’s revolutionary songs to us. Our interpreters told the Chinese women the meaning of our song, and then translated the Chinese songs to us. We had a wonderful time, laughing, singing, talking (via our interpreters) and shaking hands when we left with many waves as our mini-bus drove away from the oilfield.
“Don’t be too polite, girls” is a fighting song from the history of working women in Australia. I use the term “fighting” deliberately, because we women have never been handed our gains on our plate. We’ve had to organize, fight and stand together as sisters to achieve anything. I don’t ever want young women to forget that because, as a young woman myself, I stood on the shoulders of the mothers, sisters, grandmothers and great-grandmothers before me who took action, in big and small ways, to advance women’s interests, including the right to vote. And I honour and remember them with pride.