A debate about sexism erupted when female prime minister Julia Gillard attacked the opposition leader in Australian parliament for his misogynist attitudes. It was a reminder that even after all the advances in the past 40 years, many women still face high rates of domestic violence and sexual assault, they shoulder the burden of child care and housework, in the workforce they make up most casual and underpaid jobs while earning 70% of what men earn, and battle daily with sexism in culture and relationships.
The Guardian’s description of Australia’s opposition leader Tony Abbott as “neanderthal” is not unreasonable. Misogyny is an Australian blight and a craven reality in political life. But for so many commentators around the world to describe Julia Gillard’s attack on Abbott as a “turning point for Australian women” is absurd.
The shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai has unleashed a wave of revulsion and protest in Pakistan, along with a wave of media attention around the world. Across the political spectrum people are, quite naturally, interpreting this brutal crime through their own ideological lenses. Unfortunately, leaps of logic and aggressive, violent non-sequiturs abound. This is in both the misogyny-addled justifications for this brazen assassination attempt and in the attempts to use this sickening attack as cover or justification for deadly and destructive foreign interventions.
About 200 people staged a pro-choice counter protest on October 13 in response to a fundamentalist Christian-organised "March for the Babies", which called for the criminalisation of abortion in Victoria. Pro-choice protesters were joined by people who took part in Global Noise rally in Melbourne that day.
Malalai Joya is an Afghan feminist and democracy activist who organised underground resistance to the Taliban regime and opposes the US-led occupation of her nation. Joya was elected to the Afghan parliament in 2005, and was undemocratically expelled from it for exposing the fundamentalist warlords in the US-backed Hamid Karzai regime. In an October 13 statement, Joya responded to the Taliban's attempted murder of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai for the crime of organising for women's rights. * * *
The news of Jill Meagher's death has rightly distressed many Australians. However, much mainstream media and internet commentary have taken this as an opportunity to blame the victim for what happened to her in an effort to warn other women. This approach is both despicable and wrong. Melbourne writer Clementine Ford addressed this in her Daily Life piece, "Can we please stop the victim blaming?"
Once it became public that Brunswick woman Jill Meagher was missing, several women began posting on Facebook about scary experiences they’d had in Brunswick. One of these women was writer and social commentator Catherine Deveny, who mentioned an incident that took place in Brunswick several months ago when a man tried to pull her off her bike.
About 1000 people marched in Melbourne in a September 1 “Slutwalk” rally to stop violence against women. Author and playwright Van Badham told the crowd: “This is a society that allows 1 in 3 women to be raped in their lifetime. We are human beings with rights.”
Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as his vice-presidential running mate for the November presidential poll signaled the takeover of the Republicans by the Tea Party, at least through the election. Ryan’s record as a Congressperson puts the representative from Wisconsin squarely on the far right of capitalist politics. Ryan co-sponsored a bill with Republican representative from Missouri Todd Akin, who thinks that women cannot become pregnant from a “legitimate” rape. It sought to narrow the definition of rape to reduce the number of poor women who can get abortion through Medicaid.
The article below first appeared on The Conversation on August 30. Angela Taft is an associate professor in public health at La Trobe University. She is the co-ordinator for Women's Health Special Interest Group at the Public Health Association of Australia, which has lobbied for the importation of RU486 for several years. ***