21 October 2014

SLUT SHAMING

Recently I did an assignment about the invention and legalisation of the contraceptive pill in the U.S, combine that with the hugely successful inaugural Radical Sex and Consent Day hosted last month, and the disgraceful celeb nude photo hacking scandal, and I’ve had a lot of thoughts bouncing around my feminist head.

I’ve been thinking how great it is that we’re so lucky to have access to contraception, and sex education here in Australia. Woo hoo! We’re free and we can all have great sex with each other, and express ourselves sexually in any way we want to, and the only thing that matters is that it’s completely consensual and safe. And in an ideal world, that would be it. But sadly, that isn’t where we live. We live in a world where when wom*n’s nude photos are leaked they are told that it’s their own fault for taking the photos in the first place.

We live in a world where Cosmopolitan magazine tells wom*n that to attract the man of their dreams they should be ‘flirty… but not too flirty, because he needs to know there’s still a bit of work involved to snag you’. We are advised to ‘lightly graze his arm’ and ‘when talking eye-to-eye, tilt your face downward while pushing your chin slightly forward, [because] research shows this angle makes your features seem softer and more feminine.’ Apparently ‘uberconfidence is practically catnip to men’ and we should ‘work just a sliver of skin into the ensemble [because] it’ll get his blood pumping, but leaves enough to his imagination that he’ll be dying for a peek at the rest.’ Oh and last but not least, when you’re parting for the evening, catch his gaze and coyly linger there for a few seconds.

It all comes down to this: we should be confident but not slutty. We should at all times remain a ‘lady’. We’re not supposed, or even allowed, to want sex.

Earlier this year, British TV-personality Stephen Fry claimed that: “Women only go to bed with men because sex is the price they are willing to pay for a relationship.” He went on to say that if women really did want sex there would be ‘straight cruising areas’ like there are gay cruising areas, and women everywhere would be in bushes shagging strangers. “But there aren’t, because the only women who have sex like that expect to be paid for it.” Said Fry.

I found a quote on the internet that says men are allowed to have bountiful sexual encounters because “a key that opens many doors is called a master key, but a lock that opens for many keys is a shitty lock." Enter Samantha Jones: seen by many as a sexual hero to wom*n everywhere. When Sex and the City was released it was heralded as a burgeoning sexual revolution that would lead to barriers being broken down everywhere. Wom*n could finally have sex like men!

Or can they? The evidence continues to stack up that wom*n whom are sexually confident are bad, evil whores. Take the following for example: In 2012, Rush Limbaugh, America’s answer to Allan Jones, called student Sandra Fluke, a slut and a prostitute live on air when she argued that contraceptives should be covered by Obamacare. Earlier this year, Senator Abetz stupidly (and very mistakenly) said that wom*n who have abortions increase their risk of getting breast cancer.

·       And news headlines like, “I’ve slept with so many guys and am terrified my partner will find out,” make wom*n question; just how many is too many? Additionally, the following online lists continue to police wom*n’s behaviour in not only the public sphere of popular culture, but everywhere:
  • Top Ten Movie Sluts: including Mrs Robinson from the Graduate, Rizzo from Grease and Regina George from Mean Girls
  • Top Ten Celebs Who We Think Are Probably Sluts. The list is mostly wom*n, (the only man is Justin Bieber) and features Scarlett Johansson, Taylor Swift, Rhianna and Christina Aguilera. (Don’t worry Xtina you’re still beautiful to me)
  • Top Ten Favourite Movie Sluts. Kathryn from Cruel Intentions, Jenny from Forrest Gump and Lara from The Rules of Attraction; just to name a few.
When I googled "slut" this came up
I don’t know about you but I’m pretty unhappy with the ideas of having casual sexual partners and low standards of cleanliness being conflated. And this word ‘slut’ keeps coming up again and again. This idea is super damaging to young wom*n, just getting to know their bodies and are constantly being told how to dress, how not to dress, how to act, how not to act; a constant job of balancing being ‘uberconfident’ but not slutty.

I’m not pretending to know the answer. 

But I know that we need more articles like this:

And I know that wom*n can and should dress/act/dance however they want, whenever and wherever they want. The road to true sexual equality across the gender spectrum is a long one but I think we’re one step closer with festivals like Radical Sex and Consent Day. 

I turn now to the words of ever-inspiring Tina Fey,

KATE BULLEN
WOM*N'S PORTFOLIO HOLDER - BOARD DIRECTOR

14 October 2014

USYD RACE DIALOGUES AND THE INTRODUCTION OF AN ETHNO-CULTURAL SPACE IN THE USU

From our callous treatment of Asylum seekers to the truly terrifying prospect of re-deploying troops to Iraq, racial dialogues are propelling national discourse.

Despite the willingness Sydney’s student community to call-out overt racism at a federal level, when it comes to tackling racism at a campus level the response is often entirely lacking or insufficient. From the recent attacks on Islamic students on campus, to the insidious forms of learned racism that effect ethno-culturally diverse students daily one thing is clear; even the ‘best educated’ are not exempt from the racist culture we are socialised to accept. [1]


My Experience of Racism

Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia as the child of a white mother and Indian father, my understanding of racism must be contextualized. I can’t claim to have experienced many of the difficulties that come from having substantially different cultural practices growing up. I grew up in Melbourne’s equivalent of the inner-west and my parents were pretty lax on bedtime.

For whatever reason, at my culturally diverse selective high school I was quickly accepted as one of the other ‘white girls.’ At the time I was pleased that I had evaded falling into any of the other self-identified cultural groupings at my school - ‘the currys,’ ‘the asians,’ and so on and so forth. 

Looking back on it, I realize that it was the culmination of years of rejecting the non-white aspects of my identity. 

VP/Ethno-Cultural Portfolio Holder, Bebe taking part in ACAR's campaign
When I was eight I announced to my sleepover bedfellow that I was going to change my name to Sabrina. While my adulation of the Teenage Witch definitely played a factor in this decision my self-portraits at the time show a different story. Texta Bebe would often feature prominent blue eyes, blonde strait hair and white skin. To draw myself differently would mean conceding my right to use the perfectlypink ‘skin-coloured’ Connector Pen, in favour of its ‘poo-coloured’ counterpart.

My own tactical distancing of my ‘brown’ identity didn’t end there. When tasked with allocating Spice-Girls to my four closest friends I would take charge immediately. Defensively delegating Mel B to my blondest friend to avoid being Scary Spice ‘again.’

However, unwelcomed racialising didn’t end in the Melbourne schoolyard. As a Fresher at St Andrews College I was asked when I learnt English, and if my dad drove the taxi that brought me to orientation.  One resident jokingly informed me that ‘if I didn’t do a phone interview I probably wouldn’t have gotten in.’ The implication being that in-person interview would reveal the shame of my skin-colour. In the 2012 Law Revue I managed to score parts of Egyptian DOCs worker #1, the African continent AND Whoopi Goldberg. No prizes for guessing what those roles have in common.  


The Growth Race Dialogues at USYD 

However, despite my largely grim post thus far I think the discourse surrounding race-based issues at a campus level has improved dramatically in recent years. A trend I largely credit with my newfound peace with my non-white identity.

The creation of the USYD Critical Race-Discussion group helped to normalise race-based dialogues. Excitingly there are now four vibrant ethno-cultural focused collectives on campus; the Indigenous Collective, the International Students Collective, the Autonomous Collective Against Racism, and the Wom*n of Colour Collective. 
President, Tara Waniganayaka taking part in the ACAR campaign

Additionally 2014 will be remembered for the creation of the first Indigenous Edition and the first Ethno-Cultural Edition of Honi-Soit. [2]


The Creation of an Ethno-Cultural Space

I’m excited to announce that 2014 will also mark the creation of an autonomous Ethno-Cultural Space on campus, similar to the existing Wom*n’s and Queer Spaces. While this is pending the approval of the October meeting of the Board, USU facilities are already looking into suitable spaces.

Former President, Astha Rajvanshi, with current Vice President, Bebe
For those who don’t experience Racism please remember that racism isn’t just in ‘FedPol,’ or ‘Law,’ or ‘College’ or ‘some-school in Melbourne.’ Try to avoid distancing yourself from my experience.  Maybe you wore a Bindi once to a party, asked someone if they did ‘the Asian five,’ or asked someone where they “are really from.”


We all fuck up. It’s what you do after that matters,


Sabrina
BEBE D'SOUZA
VICE PRESIDENT - ETHNO-CULTURAL PORTFOLIO HOLDER


Survey Link for Ethno-Cultural Students:
If you identify as being any/all of the following: a Person of Colour, Marginalised by White Supremacy, Ethno-Culturally Diverse, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, please fill in the survey below to express what you would like out of the space; the survey also has space to express what other areas of the USU need improvement to be more inclusive of students who experience racism - http://goo.gl/forms/uaRsUUJkW6



05 October 2014

WOM*N'S LEADERSHIP IN THE UNION AND BEYOND

Hiya there!

I wrote this blog post on the 3rd of October- exactly three months since I introduced myself to you via this very blog. Since then, I have been busying myself pouring over facts and figures, researching the Union's history, and talking to as many people as possible regarding wom*n’s involvement and leadership within the Union.

It seems to be that wom*n’s leadership is discussed a lot these days. Companies, charities and political parties are all eager to look like they’re doing something for wom*n. Yet it doesn’t seem to be making much of an impact on younger wom*n; the wom*n who need this encouragement most.

A recent study conducted by the children’s charity Plan found that 1% of Australian girls between 14 and 25 want to go into politics. 49% of the same group think that sexism affects the career path they choose, and half believe that sexist attitudes in Australia are actually increasing.

So why don’t wom*n want to get out there, lead the country and change the world? And since university is a microcosm of the real world, surely we have a duty to change this. To make sure that anybody, of any gender identity feels like they can study what they want, and pursue a career they can be passionate about or even just have fun in whatever hobbies they choose? 

We’re not doing too badly. Wom*n’s participation in the Union has gone from strength to strength over the past few years. Over half of our 11-strong Student Board identify as wom*n, and we have our fourth wom*n-identifying President in a row. Not so long ago, this would have been unthinkable.

The reason that we can be so proud of having so many great wom*n at the top is undoubtedly because of strategies such as Affirmative Action (commonly referred to as AA). AA has been in place in the Board of Director elections since 2007 and our provisions require that 2 out of every 5 candidates elected in an even-ending year, and 3 out of 6 in an odd-ending year be wom*n-identifying. Additionally, half of all editing teams (BULL magazine and Hermes) and all committees (Clubs and Societies and Debates) must be wom*n.

For further info on our AA policy, including when and why it was implemented, please see here: http://usu.edu.au/About-Us/Side-Callouts/About-Us.aspx

Two years ago, these policies were reviewed in what became a landmark of recent Union history: the Affirmative Action (AA) Review. In over 40 pages it handed down 17 recommendations targeted at how we can improve wom*n’s participation in every level of the Union. Amongst other things, it suggested that we implement AA in the Model Constitution of Clubs and Societies. Yet two years on, this still hasn’t been implemented.

So that’s why this Wednesday, 8th of October, I’m hosting a members’ forum to gather feedback on both broad and specific issues relating to wom*n’s participation and leadership within the University of Sydney community. I want to find out what has changed since 2012, if anything.
I want to hear what you think about wom*n in the arts, clubs and societies, student leadership, representation, what issues we should be addressing to create change and how we communicate our strategies to the broader student community. And the only way I can truly know the state of the Union is to ask YOU.

For the Facebook event, see here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1506167239631134/
The discussion paper, 25 pages of my feminist heart and soul on paper in ink form, is available here:  http://bit.ly/1rJWKYAs

The forum will be held in two parts; autonomous and non-autonomous. The autonomous session will be held at 5pm in The Wom*n’s Room, Level One of Manning House. It is open to all those whom identify as, or whom have lived experience as a wom*n. All who feel they meet that criteria are welcome and the Union does not believe in gender-policing. 

The non-autonomous session will begin at 6.15pm in the McCallum Cullen Room, Holme Building.

For more information please do not hesitate to contact me on k.bullen@usu.edu.au

As usual, I will also be available to chat in the Wom*n’s Room during my consultation hours on Wednesday between 2-4pm.




KATE BULLEN
WOM*N'S PORTFOLIO HOLDER - BOARD DIRECTOR
UA-5126621-7