Friday, November 25, 2011

Women in the Movies

From an article in The Huffington Post, telling us what we probably already knew. Don't bother reading the objectional comments

A study released by USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism took a survey of the 4,342 speaking characters in the top 100 grossing films of 2009 and compared it to results from the top 100 films of 2007 and 2008. For women, nothing much has changed -- in these top films, 32.8 percent of actors are female and 67.2 are male -- 2.05 males to every one female. This means that less than 17 percent of films are gender balanced, even though females make up half of the ticket-buying population.
Perhaps more disturbing is the finding that women are much more frequently sexualized when they appear on screen. They're more likely to be seen in sexy clothing (25.8 percent to men at 4.7 percent) and more likely to be partially naked (23.6 percent to 7.4 percent)...

Part of the problem may be the serious gender gap that exists in the movie business as a whole. "Gender equality does not exist behind the camera," the study wrote, looking at 1,240 positions to reach the conclusion. Only 3.6 percent of directors are female, only 13.5 percent of writers are female and only 21.6 percent of producers are female. No change has occurred in these figures over the past three years. The study also found that films with one more female screenwriters shows a 10.2 percent increase in female presence in films -- a suggestion that if things were to change behind the camera, they could also change in front.

According to the Geena Davis Institute, in family films there is 1 female character for every 3 male characters.


Have a look at the Bechdel test. The idea is to ask, when watching a movie, are there at least two female characters who have names, do they talk to each other and do they talk to each other about something other than men?

So, we talk about how women should make porn, but we have so few women working in mainstream films, and the film industry, how about we address that first. I'm sure there are as many women as men studying film-making. What happens when they graduate? Or are women veiwers complicit in this bias, because women see 'men's films' but men don't see 'women's films'?

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Women in Ancient Greece, Facebook and White Ribbon Day

I recently attended an illustrated lecture on Women in Ancient Athens.

Here are some notes from the lecture.

The average age for marriage for an Anthenian woman was 14.
The average age of death was 36 (45 for a man).
In 5th C BC, out of the propertied families, the ratio of girl children to boy children was 1 girl to 5 boys, which indicates that female infanticide was a common practice.

This statistic made me think. The practice of female infanticide is currently common in China and India. I’ve read recently that a predominately male society is not a good place to be in. Women are treated like chattel. Wives are shared between bothers. Prostitution is high. In Ancient Athens abandoned girl babies would be rescued by brothel owners and raised to work in brothels. Prostitutes were routinely beaten by customers. Men drank out of cups with pornographic images on them at their drinking parties where prostitutes were brought in for entertainment and abuse, while the women of the household were in the women’s quarters of the house. So here’s my problem. We think of 5th C BC Athens as the pinnacle of the ancient world, in terms of culture and politics and higher order thinking. How is this possible when women were treated so appallingly?

Here are some quotes from the time.

‘The two best days in a woman’s life are when someone marries her and when he carries her dead body to the grave.’ - Ephesus, 6th C BC

‘She kept house and worked wool.’ Inscription on woman’s grave, 5th C BC Athens

‘Your great glory is not to be inferior to what God has made you, and the greatest glory of a woman is to be least talked about by men, whether they are praising you or criticising you.’ From Perikles’ Funeral Oration 430BC, Thucydides II.45.2

So, the greatest honour for a woman was to be silent and invisible.

Which leads me to what Melinda Tankard Reist wrote recently about men’s t-shirts, in an article about the need for White Ribbon Day.

Rape-proud T shirts collapse rape into a punch line, adorned with slogans: “It’s not rape, it’s surprise sex” and “It’s not rape if you yell surprise”. The text promoting the second reads:
“Remember to yell! Now we know this is a little controversial, but you know you’re laughing. Just remember to let them know before you go for it. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the effort.”
Other T shirts feature images of women gagged and half naked, sold by Roger David. Porn-inspired “T.I.T.S” t.shirts are sold in youth skate stores, including this charmer, “Relax it’s just sex”, depicting the bound body of a naked woman spattered in blood.
City Beach has a t-shirt with a woman with a black eye, crying. The slogan reads: “It’s only illegal if you get caught”. “Bitches get stiches” is another title on T shirts in youth stores.

And here’s what is on Facebook.

There are many Facebook sites promoting violence against women: “Cleaning foundation off your sword after a hard day of hunting sluts”, “Dragging slut’s into you’re room unconscious in a sack” (sic), “Kicking sluts in the vagina because its funny watching your foot disappear”, “You know she’s playing hard to get when she takes out a restraining order”, “I like my women how I like my Scotch, 10 years old and locked in my basement”, “What’s 10 inches and gets girls to have sex with me? My knife”, “I know a silly little b—ch that needs a good slap”.
Some of these were removed after 20,000 people signed petitions calling on Facebook to remove them, but many similar pages cropped up shortly after, such as “Throwing eggs at sluts, brick shaped eggs - made from brick”, which invites people to rate other users’ photos with comments like “drown” or “hit… With a shovel”.
A Pippa Middleton Ass appreciation Society page on Facebook was set up in honour of the sister and bridesmaid of Kate Middleton, attracting tens of thousands of members. Men described all the things they wanted to do to the 29 year old, including injuring her so much she would need “straw and a wheelchair”.

So, two and half thousand years later, and we don’t seem to have come very far in terms of respect for women, have we.

My holiday reading has begun.

I feel a bit strange when I don't get to read novels. Before I was at uni, this time, I was reading at least two books a month. During my first degree I was supposed to read three books a week. While I have been reading lots with my study, it just isn't the same. I know, now that uni is over, I should be Spring cleaning, but hey, it's raining (who feels like cleaning in the rain?), so I'm reading.

I think I’m a bit carried away though, because, in my enthusiasm, I’ve taken too many books out of library.

This is what I've taken out:

Shirley Jackson - We Have Always Lived in the Castle
anthology from seven countries put together by Plan - Because I am a Girl
Ayelet Waldman - Love & Other Impossible Pursuits
Elizabeth Bishop - poems
Geoffrey Blainey - A Short History of Christianity (only 600 pages short)
Jonathon Safran Foer - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Judith Lanigan - A True History of the Hula Hoop

This is what I've put on hold or on my wishlist:

Leslie Cannold - The Book of Rachel
Cordelia Fine - Delusions of Gender
Shirley Jackson - The Lottery
Natalie Haynes - Ancient Guide to Modern Life
Bettany Hughes - The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life (I'm a bit excited that Bettany Hughes is presenting the program on women in the Bible on tv this Sunday night!)

I've just read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and wonder how it comes to pass that I hadn't read it before now. I love it. It's short and gripping, and creates such a world. It fits in well with some of my other favourites - works by Carson McCullers, Harper Lee, Toni Morrison, Salinger (I'm still waiting for those manuscripts to be posthumously published!), Steinbeck - and I want to read more of Shirley Jackson.

Have you read any of these books? What's on your reading list this holidays?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kill Santa

If you were to meet an alien who asked you to explain Santa in Australia, what would you say?

The older I get, the more I wonder about Santa and how we celebrate Christmas in Australia. It is very peculiar. I’ve had to think about it because I have curious children. When my oldest child was five she asked me ‘If Christmas celebrates Jesus’ birthday, when is Santa’s birthday?’ Good question. And soon after: ‘Mum, is Santa real? Just tell me the truth.’ Figuring it is important that she trust me, I told her, then had to try to explain. She asked why parents routinely lie to their children. Why is the lie so embedded that everyone plays along, so much so that post offices and shopping malls pretend Santa is real? Why do parents do the work of thinking about what their children want, and earning the money to pay for it, and buying the gifts and hiding them, then transfer all the credit to a fictional character? Why wouldn’t you want your children to know the gifts are from their parents, who love them? Why would you teach children to be wary of strangers, tell them to not allow strangers into the house, then welcome an unknown man who sneaks inside when everyone is asleep? Why do parents insist their children sit on the lap of a man they don’t know, smile and be photographed? Why do we pretend that Christmas is a cold and snowy celebration, that Santa wears a woolly suit, and we decorate with fake snow and eat heavy meals, and sing carols by candlelight when it is is the middle of summer and the sun sets at 8pm? Why do we sing about reindeer and sleigh bells during a heatwave?

It makes sense in the northern hemisphere where it is the middle of winter. Where it gets dark at 3pm and everyone feels the need for some festive cheer to help them through the cold and dark of winter. But it doesn’t make sense in Australia.

When we know the earth has limited resources why do we cover our houses in decorative lights and buy lots of gifts people don’t want and wrap them in paper that will end up in the bin? Sometimes I wonder. If we were trying to trash the earth, we probably couldn’t come up with a better way than the way we celebrate Christmas. The gift guides that include a section on ethical gifts are a little perplexing. Does that mean that all the other gift sections are unethical?

My daughter is now eleven, and I can send her into paroxysms of frustration by telling her about the conversations on the mum forums about ‘the magic of Christmas’ and mums defending their right to lie to their children for ‘the magic of childhood’ and how they are glad to keep their children believing in Santa until they are ready to start high school, because, after that point, their children would be a target for ridicule. They say that ‘Santa is real if you believe he is real’, the logic of which makes her mind spin. Try substituting another word for ‘Santa’: monsters/ghosts/my talent/my fat. She appreciates good thinking.

The best I can say about Santa is that he provides an example of how mythology turns into tradition and standard practice. How beliefs and rituals can move from one country to another. How they can combine with other beliefs and rituals, merge and morph and grow, and lose meaning on the way. He stands as an example of how these things can spread, and change in significance.

I’m not suggesting we ditch Christmas. My kids are looking forward to it; the presents and seeing the extended family. I’m just saying lets celebrate in a way that is meaningful to us, according to what we believe and where we are.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Ethics Classes

The ethics class was introduced into NSW Public Schools to address the discriminatory policy which stated that children not attending Special Religious Education (SRE) were to be taught nothing. I hope Rev Fred Nile would oppose such discrimination whether it be by gender, race or creed.

Now the classes are running, and the churches find they had nothing to worry about because they didn’t lose bums on seats, (and for no other reason they were arguing before the introduction of the classes). Rev Fred Nile will lead a parliamentary inquiry into the ethics course in NSW primary schools, which he believes is a ‘fraud’. He says parents don’t understand the course and its implications.

I think he will find parents do understand. They understand their children were discriminated against.

If Rev Fred Nile believes he has the right to interfere with the ethics course, why is he not also looking into all the other courses offered during the SRE timeslot? Is he concerned with the curriculum for Buddhism, Islam, Judaism? Would that help make public schools more inclusive and encourage respect for diversity? Does he disapprove of teaching children critical thinking in Literacy, HSIE and PDHPE? Is he concerned about the content of the ethics course? I could remind him that it is in SRE that children are taught about stonings for adultery, virgin birth, crucifixion, child sacrifice, and hell, but I don't have the right to criticise any SRE curriculum. I have the right to not enrol my child in that course and to attend ethics class instead. Is it helpful to call any SRE curriculum a ‘fraud’ or is the point of SRE, and the ethics class and the public school system that we can all live and work and learn together even though we have different beliefs, so long as we respect those differences and acknowledge our commonalities?

I think the inquiry will find that children in ethics are given an opportunity to think, just as they are in other classes at NSW primary schools, and there will be no action taken. The inquiry is just a waste of time and money.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What not to buy for Christmas

Collective Shout has collated the businesses they've had reason to protest against this year, and made a list of them, as a reminder to not buy from these companies when doing your Christmas shopping. The reason? Sexism, sexual objectification or downright being insulting to women.

Thanks Collective Shout.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Iceland closest to gender equality, but still fighting

Iceland is known as the most feminist country in the world.

...that the country is, in fact, the closest the world has to a feminist paradise. For the last two years it has topped the World Economic Forum's report on equality between the sexes, and last month Newsweek named it the best place in the world for women. The Newsweek survey looked at health, education, economics, politics and justice, and found that in all areas, and the last one in particular, Iceland is about as good as it gets. The prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir, tells me via email that she's proud of the survey's outcome, "and not only for women, [but because] we know that gender equality is one of the best indicators for the overall quality of societies."

In its two and a half years in power, the government – a coalition of social democrats and left-greens – has been impressively active. It has criminalised the purchase of sex, introduced an action plan on the trafficking of women, and banned all strip clubs. When it comes to domestic violence, Katrin tells me, they have moved towards "the Austrian way", in which whoever committed the violence has to leave the home, rather than the victim going to a refuge. They have also introduced a law to take force in 2013, obliging corporations to have at least 40% of each gender on their boards.

Iceland has a history of progressive female politicians. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the country's president from 1980 to 1996, was the world's first democratically elected female head of state. At the time of her initial victory, the number of female politicians in the country was very low – just 5% of MPs – and so in 1983 the Women's Alliance was formed, an explicitly feminist party, which at its highest point, in 1987, held six seats, out of a total of 63. They fought for better wages for women, and, says Thorunn, who was a member, "spent the 1980s talking about all the taboos – rape, incest, domestic violence, putting in place legislation to protect women and children. All those issues are mainstream now, but it took a lot of courage."


Jóhanna is the world's first openly gay prime minister, while Vigdís, who seems universally beloved, was famously a single mother. Single motherhood isn't unusual in politics here; Katrin had her first child at 23, and raised him alone for 11 years, while building an impressive career. Parents here talk strongly of community support, of collective care for children, and there is no sense that motherhood precludes work or study, which effectively changes the whole structure of women's lives. "You are not forced to organise your life in the 'college-work-maybe children later' way," says Thorunn, who is a single mother to a young daughter. Andrea says when she had her first child, on her own, at 19, she took him with her to school, "and the teacher would hold him while I was studying".

Joanna Dominiczak, a teacher and chair of the Women of Multicultural Ethnicity Network, says that "having a child here is seen as a gift. You don't have to think, Oh my God, am I going to be able to afford one, two, or three?" The country has progressive rights regarding parental leave after a child is born, with "the mother having three months, which is untransferable," says Joanna, "the father having the same, and then the parents having three months they can share." This sets up the importance of both parents from the start, and skewers the discrimination endemic in many societies, including the UK, where women of child-bearing age are less likely to get jobs for fear they might at some point need maternity leave. (If companies chose to discriminate against both men and women of child-bearing age it would rule out most of the workforce.)

Sigrídur, Eva and Andrea are all single mothers, and while they have some grumbles, all are positive about the nurseries and schools their children attend. Annadís Rudolfsdóttir, studies director of the gender equality studies and training programme hosted by the University of Iceland, lived in the UK until recently, and says it's much easier to be a mother in Iceland. "It costs a fortune to put your children in a nursery in the UK," she says, "but here, as a single mother in Reykjavik, with your child in a nursery eight hours a day, you pay about £70 a month … If you're part of a couple, married or co-habiting, it's about £118 a month. You can imagine how much easier it is when you've got those facilities behind you." That includes breakfast and lunch. (It was recently reported that 32,000 women left their jobs in the UK last year, in large part due to the rising cost of childcare.)

But there are still issues they are working on, for example, sexual violence.

Clearly, we in Australia could do much better. Lets look to Iceland for inspiration.

Motherhugger at 10000 views, and other statistics

So excited. My blog has received 10000 views. Thanks to everyone who reads my blog.

My most popular posts are Other Words for Sexy and Hot, Music for Kids to Dance to, and Feminism Now: A Snapshot.

My readers are mostly from Australia, US, UK, Russia, Canada and Germany.

In honour of the occasion, I’m sharing some other statistics.

Lets see how the world is tracking.

Have a look here for a whole lot of interesting numbers about worldwide issues.

And here, to see how you place amongst the world’s population.

I should add, that while I’m excited that my blog has received 10000 views, my partner’s website has received over 3 million hits. His website has spawned a book, a dvd and a stage musical.

Something for my humble blog to aspire to...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mamapalooza coming to Sydney

This is so exciting!

At the Tap Gallery 7 - 13 May 2012. Musicians, magicians, poets, singer-songwriters, visual and performance artists and commediennes will grace the Sydney stage in May 2012, and create herstory!

I'll be getting involved (just don't know how yet).

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Clancy's questions

A few mornings a week Clancy needs to be at school at 7.20, so we get up before everyone else and have breakfast together. Quietly. Although I don't like getting up early, I do enjoy our time together. It is a time in which she asks me questions. Before 7am. Before I've had my first cup of tea. They're interesting questions, and I can't always answer them straight away, especially first thing in the morning, but I do enjoy that this quiet time together lets me get to know her better and how her mind works. Here are some of her questions. (She's nine years old.)

Who invented kissing and decided that it means love?

Why were the suffragettes called suffragettes?

What is middle class?

What are gypsies?

What’s the nicest thing anyone has done for you?

How did we find out that dogs are colourblind?

Why doesn’t a virus dilute every time it is passed on?

Why is the Statue of Liberty there and what does it mean?
If the cycle of the world is working properly, why do we make more money at the mint?

What would your last words be?

I'm thinking I have a thinker on my hands.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Occupy Wallstreet on Broadway

Now for me, this is what theatre is for.

An article from the NY Times on theatre inspired by Occupy Wallstreet/ We are the 99% movement. Some revivals, some new. All good.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

I feel like I'm on holidays

This week is such a contrast to last week, I feel like I’m on holiday.

I’ve handed in my last uni assignment, and Banjo has had her operation. I can rest.

I’ll post some info from my studies (social class and education is so interesting) after I get my assignment back (I wouldn’t want my blog to come up on my plagiarism check!) I put out a call on FB for someone to edit my last essay the day before it was due, and my call was answered. Thankyou my nerdy friend, and Mark Zuckerberg.

And, the operation. We spent a day and night in hospital. She had her tonsils and adenoids removed, and inside her nose shaved, and grommets inserted. She has been snoring for years, has a high palate, and this year had a few bouts of tonsillitis. Her hearing was poor. The surgeon said the gunk inside her ear was like green snot. We had to pay everyone before we went to hospital, and that was stressful. We received all the paperwork late. When Cyberguy rang the hospital to organise the payment, they were about to hang up when he was asked if there was anything else she could help with and he said, 'you could make it less'. She said, 'I'll call you back'. Then she rang back with a discounted price. Who knew such things were possible? Means a lot to us. Good to know. You can ask for a discount.

Everything went fine. I’ve learned a lot about Banjo this week. I’ve learnt she plays spotto when looking out her hospital bed window when recovering from an operation. I’ve learnt she can talk on the phone just after her operation. She told her sisters, who she was away from for one night, that she looked different because her hair had grown. I learnt she can now hear better than I can. Instead of her saying pardon, pardon, pardon and us shouting at her, she is telling us to talk quietly. I learnt she likes to administer her own medicine. I’m proud of her. A star patient.

I’ve stayed overnight in hospitals before. Sleeping on the fold out chair beside my daughters’ beds in public hospitals. It’s something of a parental rite of passage. Rotor virus I was there for three nights. Tonsils. Fractured elbow. Tonsils again. This time we went private. I took The Guardian Weekly to read and it didn’t let me down. The camp bed was far from comfortable. The food for me was better. In the public system parents have to fend for themselves. But the nurses didn’t come any sooner when called.

Because when Matilda got her tonsils out she didn’t talk for the first week I was planning on two weeks cooking chicken soup and watching The Flying Nun, but Banjo has other ideas. I’d lined up some neighbours to watch her while I drove the other kids around, but that won’t be necessary - she’s up and about.

I’ve got an awful lot of cleaning to do. My plan is to not make a list for at least a week. That’s a holiday. Time and space and no deadlines.

But the space has quickly been taken up, as it does. There was a knock at the door yesterday. A young Muslim woman taking a survey. I said yes and asked her in. I answered the questions and agreed to fill in two booklets this week. One is a media survey - I mark off everything I watch on tv and listen to on the radio and where I notice advertisements The other is about consumption and attitudes. I’m skipping pages because I don’t buy much. Well, not much that’s new. I don’t ask my friends’ advice about lingerie or jewellery or kitchen appliances. (My friends are talking about politics and kids and menopause.) I don’t support a sporting team or drink alcohol. I don’t like advertising. The most challenging question is naming three people in the public eye I admire. I need to think about that. Any suggestions??

The young Muslim woman is overqualified for the job she’s doing but she couldn’t get experience in her field after doing her degree. She told me she’s interested in acting, but was worried that no-one would be interested in her because of what she wears. I told her we need to see more Muslim women on tv, and in our stories, and she has the just as much right to pursue her interests and talents as anyone else. I hope she goes for it. I’m looking forward to talking to her again when she picks up the survey.

In the meantime I'm being heard, ticking boxes and delivering a commentary like Harold's mum filling in his dating service form in Harold and Maude. It keeps me amused.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Sarah Watt dies

Sad news today that Sarah Watt, artist, writer and film maker, has died of cancer.

She leaves husband William McInnes, and two children.

You may have seen her films, Look both Ways and My Year Without Sex.

I appreciate her work. And her combining motherhood with her creative life and work.

She is interviewed in Rachel Power's book The Divided Heart: Art and Motherhood. Her tribute here:

Sarah Watt's last interview is here

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The male/female work/life divide

Great post today from News With Nipples comparing expectations of work/life balance between men and women.

Men + work + family = completely normal.

Women + work + family = wanting to "have it all". Followed by "probably selfish".

Have a read.

And good links too.