Thursday, April 30, 2015

Counting Dead Aboriginal Women 2015

Since the beginning of the year, following a similar confronting poll which was run by feminist organisations in the UK last year, two polls have been running. The first one, tallied by Destroy the Joint, is entitled "Counting Dead Women 2015" and has been focussing on all women killed in violent attacks. The second one, run by Real for Women, is entitled "Man Murders Woman 2015" and specifically focusses on the victims of men's violence against women. Despite their different focusses, at this point in time the difference in the respective tallies is 1. 34 on DtJ and 33 on RfW. We are halfway through the 17th week of this year and based on the current trends, by the end of this week another woman is going to turn up dead and the tallies will tick over once more.

It is completely horrific in this country that we cannot go three and a half days without another woman being murdered. It is a national disgrace that this is not declared a state of emergency, a "war on women" and politicians aren't doing everything they possibly can to change things. It is astounding that the Prime Minister, who is also the Minister for Women, has instead sought to defund women's shelters, legal aid, and appears to not actually be remotely interested in women's issues at all. It is troubling to me that the media hardly covers this, that the public barely responds, and that where there is a murder/suicide, the numbers for suicide prevention lines are always listed, but not domestic violence support lines. Admittedly, it also concerns me that I can post an article up naming a woman as the 34th victim for the year and it barely gets a response. 34 women, no longer on this earth, and it's not really considered a issue in huge chunks of society.

Yet as these lists have grown, I have been scanning them; searching for cases involving Aboriginal women. I know other Aboriginal women have been doing the same. And the results have been utterly horrific. As it stands, right now, I can confirm that three women on this list are Aboriginal women, and I believe that there may be a fourth though am yet to confirm this. Of the three women I can confirm, two were killed by men (one an ex-partner and one an unspecified acquaintance) and one was killed by a woman. The links to these three cases are here in reverse chronological order:

25/4 - Brewarrina 
7/4 - Kalumburu 
12/2 - Broome 

In the case of the fourth woman whose case I am yet to confirm, her ex-partner was held in custody and was eventually charged with a breach of a DV order and drug offences. Investigation into her death continues.

29/3 - Alice Springs 

3, maybe 4. It doesn't sound like a huge number when stated in this way. Yet the reality is this: of the 34 women who have died as a result of violence this year alone,

between 9% and 12% of them have been Aboriginal women.

We make up nearly 3% of the population yet are currently represented in this list between 3-4 times what our population parity rates would be. What's more, and call me cynical, I have to wonder if there are more women out there we have not yet heard about or might never hear about. When you hear statistics like Aboriginal women are 38 times more likely to be hospitalised for assault than other women, it's really hard to not think the numbers might be higher and could still escalate. 

This is horrific and needs to end. Our government cannot be left unaccountable when it comes to their stripping of the funding of the very services which save women's lives. Mob cannot stay silent on this issue. So many of the good black men and women I know speak up and say it is not acceptable but regardless of this, there are those who, as Marlene Cummins stated in her film when describing a horrific rape she was subjected to or violence experienced by her and other women, say nothing. There seems to be a number of reasons why violence is tolerated - usually linked to racism - and this cannot be the case. This programme discusses some of them, though some views expressed are not my take on the matters, I do think with numbers like this we need to be talking more openly about these issues.

As someone who has left violence herself, I find it difficult to talk about this topic. The only time I really have is when I have made the argument that this is an issue of the patriarchy and that it is not just an issue in remote communities because our women aren't free from it in cities either. That and raising awareness on my Facebook page and including some statistics in my articles. I therefore have admiration for those who do speak about their experiences openly and publicly and maybe I will one day as well. This includes those who I usually have little else in common with. But the numbers on these lists are not going down. And with them we will see more Aboriginal women featuring in this list before the year is out. Even if the horrific trend of two women per week continues throughout the year, we have already surpassed the population parity rates with the Aboriginal women currently listed. This is why I am writing.

#stopthecarnage #womenslivesmatter #blacklivesmatter

Update 14/05/15: Yesterday, a further two deaths of women were reported, and of these, I am reasonably certain that this woman is also Aboriginal. This brings the potential total up to five or nearly 14%

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Impostor syndrome and its manifestations

I've been playing something around in my head for a few days and thought that a good jotting down of ideas might serve it. Following my appearance at the All About Women Festival on the How to be a Feminist panel, there has been a hell of a lot of really wonderful feedback. People described the conversation as crucial and thanked me individually for my contribution to it. However, it was also pointed out by some that they would have liked to hear more from me in the discussion. Some even went so far as to state that the white feminists on the panel were not creating enough space for the feminists of colour (myself and Roxane Gay). 

I can't speak for Roxane's experiences here, though I did notice that both of us were quiet for large sections of the panel. I do know that I myself held back. I know that I was nervous as hell before I went up there and that when I was up there I had a hard time jumping into the conversation. I also felt that I wasn't deferred to as much by the anchor. All this is despite me knowing full well that I have worthy views to contribute to the conversation and indeed, considering I am a liberationist on multiple fronts there may even be a capacity for the imparting of useful and transferable knowledge.

But this is not the first time I have held back in such a scenario. I am an introvert by nature, so I could blame that but if I looked around the other women I was on the panel with, I really was not alone in that regard. Most actually showed high degrees of introversion and indeed, whilst the world is geared towards extroverts, in the fields of writing and knowledge (such as academia) I have consistently found that introverted types dominate. We get up on the stage, loudly proclaim our views, and then go searching for the nearest dark corner the minute we've finished convincing the world. I have previously done this in other panels and meetings in environments that are actually supportive by their nature but am starting to understand that this is more than a thing that I do. It is an actual phenomenon.

In the lead-up to the event, I consistently wondered how I could hold my own amongst such esteemed company. I mean these were women who, as I described to friends, had "done stuff". They had published books, had illustrious media careers, and had generated huge followings and even huge derision proving their points. I even went so far as to refer to myself as a "diversity quota". Never mind that I am actually a published writer who appears on the radio every other week, has a large number of panels and lectures under her belt and a heap of articles which have generated big readerships. Nope, despite those facts and the amount that they were pointed out by my dear friends, I still questioned myself being up there and the worth of my contribution.

It was when someone said to me that I had "impostor syndrome" that I gained a bit of awareness into what was going on in my head. The idea that someone can believe they are worthy of less space due to their position in society is something women come across all the time. And it is socially reinforced. I mean, the fact that it's a big deal that QandA actually had an all-women panel FINALLY because they have shown time and time again that women's voices are not as necessary (think re: their domestic violence panel) is just crazy. The fact that Catherine Deveny could have been criticised for dominating the space and interupting when she actually didn't is even more crazy. Women are not entitled to take up space in the same way that men are according to society, and we see this played out over and over again. Whether it's women talking in a board meeting or walking home alone, it's the same thing. It needs to stop. Men need to create the space and not judge the comments of women as being less worthy, as being biased, as being non-neutral.

So to translate this then to my experiences of being on a panel: black women are socially not as entitled to take up space as white women. Our experiences are special, are marginal and therefore, no matter how much we may have achieved, reside on the periphery. This is part self-perpetuating and part socially-reinforced. I've already mentioned how I felt about jumping in, about how my experiences weigh up against the experiences of others and I am acutely aware that a lifetime of marginalisation makes me feel that way. It's utter rubbish. It's something that I need to work on. I mean, I have delivered lectures and conference papers with no problems at all and it's because when in my own space, I am sure of my own knowledge and why I am bringing it to the table. This needs to translate to panels where I am sharing the space with others. I talk about the systems of oppression and how they combine to further marginalise specific groups and need to become more aware of when I am reflecting this.

Likewise though, I need to not be seen as a marginal or "special interest" voice by others. Within the scope of that discussion, the only time I was called upon for views was at the very beginning of the session by the anchor. It then took me over half the session to actually jump in to the conversation and even then, I was apologetic when I did so. I watched the clock tick down the minutes and got more and more aware that I was not being called upon and it stressed me out. I additionally noted that Roxane was also not one for jumping in and mainly answered when called upon. As I said, I can't speak for her though I do note that we both reflected this same phenomenon to an extent. I also noted how free-flowing the conversation between her and Clementine Ford was later in comparison. 

Anchors need to be incredibly aware about this and not reinforce the power dynamics. The idea that women of colour are there for the special comment is wrong - we can answer everything and indeed, the depth of insight due to the intersection of gender and race can create something all can learn from. We have all the experiences of the white patriarchy due to the process of colonisation with the addition of experiencing other patriarchies within our own cultural groups. Anchors need to know when dealing with a diverse panel that they are dealing with diverse experiences of oppression as well, and some will not feel as entitled to contribute discussion due to this. They need to actively create the space and ensure that some voices are not left behind. We are trying to fight the systems of oppression but we need assistance.

Thank you, utterly everyone, for all your amazing words of praise, encouragement and everything else. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate them. Keep fighting the good fight and I promise, I will be back!

Update: 16/3 - Out of interest, here is an article the anchor of the session wrote about the session from her perspective. It's telling, to say the least. Apparently, it's problematic to spout any ideas that look at removing structural forms of oppression, which is exactly what I did, first up. Also, I am an "Arrernte woman from the NT" despite the fact that I live in Melbourne and Roxane Gay is "African-American" despite the fact that she identifies as Haitian American and spoke about her heritage, at length, in a later session. Anyway...  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Parliament House is an unviable political community

Parliament House is unviable. It's costing taxpayers an exorbitant amount of money in basic utilities to keep running yet the services it is able to sustain are being pilfered and, in some cases, totally removed. They seem unable to manage their funding issues with Aboriginal services, with women's services, with basic health services and yet they retain the delusion that hoards of people more evil than them are coming on boats to take over. It's clear that without an intervention, Parliament House will dissolve into a mess of self-entitled white patriarchal chaos. 

Additionally, the cost of providing basic transport in the area, in the form of chauffeur-driven luxury cars, is too much of a cost burden for the Australian public to bear.

The conditions at Parliament House are a serious impediment to progress in this country. Not only are there a bunch of neaderthal-esque men swinging around the chamber and beating their chests, but the Minister for Women's major political view on his constituents appears to be "woman: cook now!".

Finally, the educational services they've provided just seem to be diminishing and it's clear that this government is simply unable to keep a higher education sector properly funded, maintained and running. 

I say we close down this political community and relocate the politicians into real jobs. If this is not an option, then they can be placed in remote communities where they can obtain 25hrs of quality work per week for the low cost to taxpayers of a half-quarantined dole payment.

PS This formed the inspiration for this transposed and slightly extended Facebook update

Monday, February 23, 2015

Two Broke Girls - the joke is on Australia

It's all fine and well for folks to be getting (rightly) pissed off about that #‎2brokegirls‬ "joke", but where exactly did they get the idea that Aboriginal people are of lesser worth in the first place? After all, they live all the way over a gigantic big ocean and even if they've spent vast quantities of time in Australia, their major connection with Aboriginal people will have been via the media and via Australia's cultural representations. In other words, the exact same stuff which fuels the racist stereotypes a lot of people in this country hold but one degree removed.

Maybe Australia should be looking a bit more inward instead of pointing their fingers across the ocean. After all, it wasn't like their "joke" was much different from the average knuckle-dragger comment I or other black writers receive when an article goes live. A country which allows water to be cut off to communities in order to shift them along, which barely covers the devastation to communities when a cyclone hits, and still appears to reinforce a Terra Nullius version of history, kind of doesn't have a leg to stand on...