Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Racism and the new PM

As ever, I find its hard keeping up to date with the blog. Nearly a month has gone by since my last post, the situation I was writing about there is still unresolved, and other things have happened. Perhaps the only way to keep this blog up with any regularity is not to worry about being consistent or writing in a considered, in-depth way but rather to write quick, impressionistic pieces when the opportunity is there. 

I'm currently on holiday in WA. I've stayed in Broome and spent one night in a remote Indigenous community (staying in the house of a white service provider). It has brought home the challenges and complexities of racism and reconciliation in Australia. 

Across the street, something bad was happening, involving Indigenous women - shouting and crying in the night, sounds of violence. Police were called. Someone said it was due to ice (or crack?). 

In the remote community, white service providers said 'surely people want education for their children?' They equated wanting education with caring for children, but what if it's white education? In a sense, we lock children up in schools.

I listened to reminiscences of old people about their childhoods in Broome on a social history podcast, and they reminded me of my childhood. Our society then was racist - clearly more formally racist than today. Yet as children, we made spaces for ourselves. We had more freedom, we were allowed to do more. That's partly growing up in the country, but it made spaces where white children and Indigenous children could come together as friends and playmates. 

The children in my tiny rural primary school used to go to school early, sometimes in spring, so that we could go looking for orchids in the bush. I don't know if our parents even knew - they must have I suppose, since even though we walked to school, we would have had to leave earlier than usual - but it seemed like something we organised for ourselves, like the children in Broome organised their play in the mangroves. It wasn't till later, when I went to live in the irrigation areas, that I saw Indigenous children being ridiculed and abused and effectively driven out of high school.

But those are stories for another time, maybe. This week Scott Morrison talked about "indulgent self loathing" because another Council has decided to change the date of Australia Day. I felt such fury when I read that - just fury. I tweeted angrily that he could "fuck off forever" with his racism, that he was not my Prime Minister. Generally I try not to swear on Twitter but there are times when it seems the only way to show feelings of outrage. So yeah, I'm the lefty outrage brigade. I am outraged by racism and sexism. I'm furious about them. Conservative white men are stuffing up the world, and I am furious at their sense of entitlement, their born to rule judgements. This business of not allowing Councils who change the date of Australia Day to hold citizenship ceremonies is outrageous. It's dictatorship. How come we let this happen? 

Today Morrison is trying to walk back his comments a bit, while still keeping the substantive stuff around refusing to change the date and not letting the Council hold citizenship ceremonies. He has suggested another day for celebrating Indigenous culture (we already have NAIDOC week and having a separate day is an apartheid type suggestion anyway). He has rabbited on about 

" ... that is the day [ie 26 January, when the First Fleet carrying white people landed in 1888 and the invasion began] where we have to deal with everything and we have to embrace it all, warts and all, and accept our successes and acknowledge where we haven’t done so well.
“There are scars from things that have happened over the last 200 years and more, and we look at that like anyone looks at their entire life. ..."
Well if his life has included the near genocide of an entire people ... I don't know where to start. Who is the "we" in this statement? Is he saying that white people committing near genocide is an example of "where we haven't done so well"? Are Indigenous people included in this "we"? What was it that they "haven't done so well"? They didn't gracefully accept their new overlords? What is he talking about? 

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The everyday awful problems confronting women

As ever it's been too long since I wrote my last post, and many things have happened, including the political turmoil of last week, resulting in a new PM who is less popular and possibly more likely to lose the next election than his predecessor, but is more conservative and probably less likely to act on climate change, which apparently satisfies some powerful people. We can all speculate as to what has 'really happened' here, but that's my take on it.

Rupert Murdoch, and the rich fossil fuel and conservative interests who ally themselves with him, may think they can play us like fools, but who knows? Even Scott Morrison may be more complex than he appears. Peter Dutton, when he still had hopes of being PM, said he would have liked to bring all the refugees on Manus and Nauru here. Of course, we on the left scoffed at him, but it shows he wanted to be seen as a decent human being. In a weird way, it suggests there is (maybe, perhaps) hope for this country. I can only hope so, for the sake of those people, particularly the children, locked up in those camps.

But anyway, I am turning back to my personal/political problems, which are mine, and personal, and include particular individuals, but which are those of all women on the left - how we do ally ourselves with men who have behaved badly? How much should we ask for, in terms of apology and reconciliation? It's a difficult balancing act, when those on the right can do so much harm. But we should not be asked (again and again) to sacrifice our right to decent treatment for the greater cause.

This is like the issues that face Indigenous people and people of colour. I am always amazed at the generosity of those who accept me as an ally and a friend, when my ancestors were amongst those who dispossessed their people. I feel they should spit in my face. But they don't - they accept me, kindly and graciously, and I feel blessed by a kindness I have no right to expect.

So if I learn from them, maybe it is this - I won't pretend that injustices didn't happen, but I will forgive and work with those who admit the wrongs they were part of. And I won't pretend that I was perfect, or that I never made mistakes or did bad things, but I won't let that hide the structural injustices that translated down to some individual men treating me unfairly.

I am in a position where one of those men who treated me unfairly could now help me in achieving a really worthy cause of addressing climate change, promoting environmental sustainability and equity. I think it's a goal that we've always shared, but in the past he was prepared to sacrifice me, a middke aged woman, while young men were protected, all in the name of the greater good. So it's a difficult quest.

Will try to write the next episode more quickly, but this is hard.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Reconciling person, citizen, paid employee 1

It was a common saying of ‘second wave’ feminism that 'the personal is political' - that what happened in homes and ‘private life’ was not outside the sphere of politics, but reflected power arrangements in society.

We are still seeing that playing out, particularly in the sphere of work-life balance, domestic and family violence, and sexual harassment and violence. It’s been a long struggle to get these issues taken seriously, and the struggle continues. For example, recently the Age (3/8/18) had a front page story and editorial about violence against women. It was strongly worded, but it's certainly not the first time there have been such calls. Will it make a difference? I don’t know, but I am fairly certain that it is less acceptable for men to hit their wives than it was when I was young.

The struggle to show that the personal is political continues. The unfair burden of domestic and caring work on women, and family violence, still go on, but are no longer (I think) seen as just ‘private’ matters. In the area of sexual harassment and violence there is still a huge way to go, for example in that that most rapes are not reported to the police and there is very small chance of successful prosecution.

Most informed commentators agree that underlying this, there is a broader social problem of discrimination against women, of women being taken less seriously than men, as Jane Caro recently expressed it. Old patriarchal ways of thought still see men as more important. Kate Manne provides a useful discussion of misogyny as social circumstances that function to subordinate women, rather than some kind of individual hatred of women (see Down Girl, chapter 1).

Like most women, particularly of my age, I can provide many examples of sexual harassment or violence in my private life, particularly as a young woman, including being hit, or being groped in the street, to the doctor who made me walk around his room naked under the guise of a medical examination. One of the reasons I don't talk about this much is that it's demeaning, even, or perhaps most, those things that seem minor and foolish. I think people would probably laugh at me if I talked about these things, or try to silence me from embarrassment. The shame - which should attach to the perpetrators - somehow seems to attach to me, to those who have experienced such things. Moreover, if we try to talk about such things, we are also likely to be seen as persecutors, as vengeful women who are trying to shame men who are basically 'good guys' who haven't done anything 'serious'.

This silencing of women, which Manne also writes about, is serious. Today, however, I want to discuss my experiences as a citizen, in that area between the ‘private/domestic’ and the 'public/paid employee'.

In that area, I've been active in recent years through discussion on blogs and on Twitter, over the longer term through participating in many protests and marches for more than 50 years, and, particularly in the late 1990s  and early 2000s, through being a member of political parties, and active in policy development and campaigns. In that area, I've experienced several forms of silencing and exclusion, which I find confusing and hard to analyse: are they about 'me' as a (difficult) individual, or are they about misogyny, in Kate Manne's sense? I'll start a new blog post to discuss this

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Coming back to this blog

For a while I have been blogging at a new blog I started, speakingfspeakingfearlesslyearlessly. However, I've decided to bring my blogging back here. I thought that I needed a different blog to speak freely, or fearlessly, in a way that I could not do as a researcher and teacher at Monash University. But I've now decided there must be a way to speak honestly that is compatible with my work as a teacher.

Some issues were about expression - being honest about emotion, even if that meant swearing or saying 'uncivil' things. This was also about not being boring - safe, cautious and boring. Others were about politics - I support the Greens because I think they are the only party that is facing the real challenges of inequality and environmental degradation that we are facing. I can't see why I shouldn't say that really. However, there are some real problems in the Greens which I have some involvement in now, and I can't talk about it all because it involves other people and things that have been said to me in confidence. Some of the issues were about my feminism and the personal battles I've had, some of which involved people prominent in my field. There's a lot that's unresolved there, but I hope to resolve it.

It was useful writing there, but I think I should be able to integrate all this. I'll polish this up later, and add in some relevant links, but I'll try to bring the theory and practice together here.

Update 4 August - I’ll do a new post instead of trying to polish this one.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Red face emoji and thesis details!

just realised that I haven't updated this blog to reflect that my thesis was finally finished and accepted!

It's now called 'Promoting equity, environmental sustainability and health: frameworks for action and advocacy' and is available in the Monash University library. I'm happy to provide a copy to anyone interested - contact me on Valerie.kay (at) Monash.edu

A copy of the 100 word summary is below. I'll add the abstract later. The 100 word statement takes a fairly broad brush approach to economics and gives economics rather more centrality than the thesis as a whole does. This is because there are some important ideas that I wanted to communicate in a few words. I'll discuss this further later.

The study addresses the urgent problems of environmental degradation and inequality, using community-based action research. Participants developed a framework for promoting environmental sustainability, equity and health. The framework expressed an ethic of caring for people and environment, demonstrated in projects on local fresh food, housing sustainability and active transport. The value of such work is not fully recognised by mainstream economics. Mainstream economic discourse reflects patriarchal and colonial ideas about man improving nature, and sees caring as less important than competition and technology. I urge health promoters to challenge this discourse and advocate for an ethic of care.