Archives: October 2010

Tess McKenna and the Shapiros Saturday October 30 Union Hotel, Brunswick

The show we did in September was a blast, and the audience consensus was that we didn’t suck. So we’re doing it again!

Tess McKenna and the Shapiros
Union Hotel
109 Union street. Brunswick

Saturday October 30, 5 – 7

…and on Saturday December 4, 9-11

We’re also playing a short set between Aintree Sweet‘s sets at the Lomond hotel on Sunday November 14 I got the date wrong, it’s the 12th, and T mcK is cancelled for that night. It’s still well worth going along to check out Aintree Sweet, though.

Tess’s new album The New Everything is out on the Head label in November. Get yer Christmas orders in early!

11 Oct 2010, Comments (10)


Author: Helen

I have a sinking feeling about this press release printed in our school newsletter:

“Drink Think” a play performed by a group of young women will be held at The Substation, Newport on Thursday October 14th at 7.00pm. This FREE, not for profit event has been organised by students from Victoria University’s Sport and Recreation course as part of their Event Management class.
The play focuses on the dangers of teenage binge drinking and is an educational yet entertaining play that is followed up with question time after it. On the night there will also be a special A-list guest speaker and free meals and beverages for everyone who attends.
We strongly encourage our Year 9, 10 and 11 students to attend this performance and welcome all parents and teachers along as well. It has been recommended however, that children of a young age do not attend as there is strong language in the play.

Well, how could that possibly end up as “”Hey, “Girls”, think before you drink because you’re the one responsible for not being raped!” Yes, happy to be proved wrong.

We’ve all been talking quite a lot about victim-blaming and slut-shaming failure in the way we talk to our girls and boys about sex and safety. Just look at the comments thread on any article on the topic of s8xual assault and r8pe in bloke culture: if a woman is dressed counter to current standards of virginal modesty or present in a vulnerable situation after hours, they assume men have the right of access to her. The same people, on another thread somewhere, will be condemning immigrant societies for their medieval attitudes to womens’ dress and freedom of movement (you know, because of our superior Western Civ and all, in which women are completely equal). Excuse me while my head meets the desk.

I’m sure the subject of drinking and driving will be addressed as well, which is good, as long as the young ones listen.

I’m just wondering whether, as a study of binge drinking, this play is going to reflect the new call for male responsibility (and refusal to treat men/boys as animals who can’t control their primal urges), or whether it’ll be just more of the same exhortations to women not to get themselves raped.

Anyway, if any Melbourne femmobloggers and allies are reading this and are not too busy on Thursday night, I encourage you to get along to the Substation in Newport (if you like cool architecture, and Melbourne’s old substations are Victorian classics, that’s another reason to go), and participate in the Question time. I have a feeling that if it’s another “ThinkUknow”, this bunfight might be needing a feminist voice.

You never know – my low expectations might be totally unfounded. I’ll report back!
Update: OK… Debrief!

It was a student play. “Drink Think” was the name of the group. The play itself was called “West Side: My Story”. There were six or seven young women acting and only one man, who was played as a dead-set sweetie. It passed the Bechdel test. It did not slutshame. Because the only male role was kind-of modelling ideal behaviour, well, there’s that, but they bypassed the toxic dynamic we’ve been talking about by not addressing it at all. In a way, perhaps, that allowed them to present binge drinking as something that damages everyone (car accidents, death, losing sight of important life goals), and get the male actor to demonstrate being a good human being rather than the predator. I’m not sure how many hardcore entitled douchebags it would really convert, but they’re taking it around the secondary schools and apparently it’s shutting year 10s up stone cold on their lunchtimes, and that’s got to mean something.

It was supported by the Victorian Womens’ trust, which does some wonderful things. I didn’t offer any questions at question time because the slut-shaming and “personal responsibility! For girls only!” stuff really wasn’t apparent, and to introduce a big new (sub)topic didn’t seem appropriate.

Kudos to the Victoria University students who put the event on and gave us free sandwiches, choccies and coffee!

10 Oct 2010, Comments (0)

Bitch PhD closes down

Author: Helen
Bitch, PhD header image. Two little girls, possibly from the seventies, are looking into the camera. One laughing, one flipping the bird.

I will so miss that header image

I saw some sad news when I clicked on one of my favourite blogs yesterday. Bitch, PhD is closing down.

The signs were there. Posts from my favourite BPhD writers have been thin on the ground this year. This has been one of my go-to group blogs since 2004, and has been one of the feminist blogs which has helped me work out my own feminism.

It’s not too clear how long it will be up – the wording of that post suggests it’ll be pulled altogether – so go and read their archives, and enjoy that fabulous header image, while you can.

Here’s my favourite BPhD post. I’ve linked to it before for Blog for Choice day. It’s the best response I’ve ever seen to the nonsense that with “abortion on demand”, women will be “demanding” abortions on a mere whim. It’s especially relevant in Australia at the moment. Not that it addresses the specific case of Leach/Brennan, but you can bet that attempts to undermine womens’ reproductive choice will continue.


10 Oct 2010, Comments (0)

Down Under Feminist Carnival #29

Author: Helen

logo links to Down Under Feminists Carnival website

This month’s Carnival is up at with a wealth of hoydenish goodness for your reading.

Another post on the topic of equitable domestic load-sharing – and Sarina Lewis again. You may recall I had a go at Lewis on the subject of domestic load-sharing before. No, I haven’t finished with the poor woman yet. But she had not one, but two, articles on that page of the Sunday Life magazine, the second one retailing a particular story that we hear repeated from time to time: Men would “help” more around the house if women weren’t so damn fussy and control-freaky! (And, Fairfax, what’s with the “own worse enemy”? Bring back the sub editors, please!)

Screenshot of part of the article, showing the byline, "Own Worse Enemy".

Watching my husband and three-year-old son get ready for their weekly ritual of watching live Saturday-afternoon football, I couldn’t help but question my husband’s choice of clothing for our son. “He’ll be too hot,” I blurted out.
Calmly stopping mid-jumper-pull to address me, my husband said in a polite voice tinged with steel, “This is my time with him. Leave me to do it how I do it.”
It is a scenario familiar to clinical psychologist Victoria Kasunic. Women appreciate domestic help, yes, but are they able to loosen their hold on the household reins?…

…As for me, I have learnt to keep my mouth firmly shut, the payoff being a five-hour block of solo time each Saturday afternoon, mine to do with as I wish. The reward for tolerance? Priceless.

Polite voice tinged with steel? My mouth firmly shut? and she’s the controlling partner here? OK. Anyway, we’re here to examine the urban myth behind this story.

I’m sure you’ve seen this one yourself, in one form or another. In this Just-So story, the popular suggested solution is for the female partner to lower her too exacting standards – the implication being that we’re a bunch of obsessive Hyacinth Buckets who, as one LP commenter HILARIOUSLY put it, iron the cat.

Here’s another example from Rebecca Huntley, H/T to Leslie Cannold.

Aussie men may make worse husbands than their counterparts in the US or Britain, but according to one social researcher, women have no-one to blame but themselves…
…Dr Rebecca Huntley, who is speaking at Sydney’s Dangerous Ideas Festival this weekend, says women tend to be martyrs and control freaks when it comes to household duties, thus embracing their own domestic slavery.

See? You, female reader, are to blame, as usual. I think this Just So story is a bit of clever framing which some (not all) men have gleefully taken to their hearts because it lets them off the hook. There are two things hiding behind this popular trope. One is that as a society we still see women’s work as inferior, and therefore a no-brainer requiring no training at all. Surely it’s impossible for there to be a right and wrong way to do something like dishes or laundry? Two, we are perfectly fine with listening respectfully to men showing us how to perform manual tasks, but not to women.

Think back, oh ye older ones, to the 1970s or 80s when we were baby feminists and we wanted to do jobs which were coded male for ourselves: changing tyres, or the oil in the car, let’s say. I can’t speak for younger people, but people of my age were most likely taught by a father, brother or boyfriend to do these things.

These people most likely taught you that there was a wrong way and a right way to do things, didn’t they? After all, you create problems, expense and extra work if you use the wrong oil, for instance, or forget to put the oil cap back on the engine head, or leave the handbrake off when you’re changing the tyre. If you’re learning to do something, whatever it is, it’s beneficial to listen to the person who does it every day. And the way in which you carry out household tasks does make a difference. You can cost a working person a lot of unnecessary money by stuffing up the laundry.

This is not women being control freaks. This is the perception that “women’s work” is no-brain stuff with no degree of difficulty, so it’s not necessary to be taught. Also, men explaining stuff to women (or, as above, simply disagreeing about the best way to carry out a task) is normal, but women trying to instruct men is control freakery. Furthermore, as usual, you’re not going to win whatever you do. Notice that the first writer is recommending that we keep our mouths firmly shut, while the other is taking us to task for not discussing enough.

This just-so story helps to justify the continued imbalance of male and female contributions to the household load. We’d do it, but you lot are just never satisfied. See? I TRIED OH MY GOD HOW I TRIED, but just because your would-be respectable clothes are all covered with tissue snow, now you want to TELL ME TO CHECK POCKETS. And just because I left oil and food scraps on the cooking pots you want me to SCRUB THEM instead of just wiping them. My dignity is offended. I’m all in favour of equality, but no woman’s going to tell me what to do!

Update – Just noticed this wonderful post by Spilt Milk on the same theme.

1 Oct 2010, Comments (5)

From the Fine to the Ridiculous

Author: Helen

No, I’m not dead, and no, the Grog’s Gamut fiasco hasn’t made me give up blogging about the patriarchy and the rest of the kyriarchy in favour of talking about shoes. Life has thrown more work at me lately than I can cope with, and I’m going around with my head bulging with posts I have no time to write.

A Balcony reader has nudged me to put up something about this article in last Saturday’s AGE by Cordelia Fine, and yes, the writing of this very fine psychologist and academic (yes I know, hilarious, I’m sure that’s never been done before) need to be disseminated far and wide, in fact, hammered into the heads of all the nouveau-essentialists, in the media and out of it, with a giant cluebat. Here are some quotations from the article by Suzy Freeman-Greene:

At one point in Delusions of Gender, for instance, she writes: ”It is appalling to me that one can, apparently, say whatever drivel one likes about the male and female brain and enjoy the pleasure of seeing it published in a reputable newspaper, changing a school’s educational policy or becoming a bestseller.”


…(T)hree years, ago when [son] Isaac was at kindergarten, Fine discovered his teacher reading a book that claimed his brain was incapable of forging the connection between emotion and language. ”And so,” she explains in Delusions of Gender, ”I decided to write this book.”
The teacher was reading Why Gender Matters by US physician Leonard Sax. An influential campaigner for single-sex education, Sax once claimed that the areas of the brain involved in language and fine motor skills mature about six years earlier in girls, while those involved in maths and geometry mature about four years earlier in boys. Fine dismisses such ”neurononsense” and quotes American linguistics professor Mark Liberman’s description of Sax’s use of scientific data as ”shockingly careless, tendentious and even dishonest”.
What did she say to her son’s teacher? ”I explained to her that this was not a scientifically valid claim. And she was very responsive to it.” The exchange, she says, sparked the teacher’s interest in the issue.


Read the whole thing. This is where the academic rubber hits the social change road.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Farrelly, who, unfortunately, is a regular in the Fairfax opinion stable, says anything about gender that pops into her head!

(The BER project is)…a Gillardist fem-coup to make the Rudd assassination pale in comparison. Or, more sinister yet: a Third World plot to effeminate the West.

…Now that almost every school has a major chunk of its ”open” space fenced and scaffolded, what will give?
Boys, and boy-ness, for a start. As even boisterousness becomes frowned-upon and the fighting that is bound to erupt in such pent conditions becomes punishable by that boys’ own worst-possible penalty, endless hours of raking-it-over talk, just being a boy becomes a problem.
The incentive is to stay static, watch the screen, make like a girl, gossip, get fat. Which is where the double whammy kicks in. Estrogen.
Double whammy, double mammy. For not only does estrogen generate fat; fat also generates estrogen. Add this feedback loop to the xenoestrogens already ubiquitous in the environment and you have a very interesting development in endocrine politics.

*Golf clap*

Yes, it goes on, and yes, it’s all as hateful as that or worse. (Notice there is material for a whole other post on fat hatred in there. It’s an all-round trainwreck.)

Cordelia Fine holds a PhD in neuroscience, is a Senior Research Associate at Macquarie University, Australia, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Elizabeth Farrelly used to be an architect. I have no idea why Fairfax consider Farrelly qualified to witter about absolutely anything and everything in the opinion pages. Oh, yes, I forgot – women who seem to hate their own gender are always given a megaphone in our media.