Pro-choice actions and wearing in the activist groove

September 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

My life was full to the brim with activism for a few months, and for the last week or so I’ve been staking out some more time for academia, my day job, helped along by a self-enforced sabbatical in the ACT.

I have three new posts from the F Collective site that I’ve been meaning to share here, but I’ve left it a little long, so two in one hit today (don’t say I never treat you nice). The first post is about a protest I was heavily involved in planning and took a key part in, the second I helped organise but couldn’t attend. Lived vicariously through the photos, and you can too.


#Occupied: The NSW Right to Life Conference

On Saturday, this Right to Life event took place. Except that it didn’t, because feminists occupied it. Or, if you like, #destroyedthejoint.

NSW Right to Life invited the lovely David Bereit (pronounced bee-rite) to speak at their conference dinner on Saturday night while he does a speaking ‘tour‘ of Australia.

If you’ve followed any of the links above, I don’t have to tell you that this man is proud to announce that he has closed 23 abortion centres. He was national director of Stop Planned Parenthood. He started 40 days for life. He is vile and he wants to take away women’s control of their bodies, and trans* folks bodies too.

*Some feminists* (no names) were motivated enough to want to interrupt this guy. We wanted to let him know that he is not welcome to fuck us over, to try to change the culture of reproductive rights in Australia. We wanted to take direct, non-violent action to make sure the people peddling this stuff know that they are not unopposed – in fact their opposition (that’s us) is strong, tough and amazing. We wanted to take our glittery, beautiful, feminist fight to those who want to take away our control of our bodies. So we did.

We went to North Ryde RSL and threw a glittery ballet flat at him, in homage to other inspiring activists who have used this symbol to make their voices heard. We yelled “this is for all the women who’ve died in backyard abortions.” The room went silent. They heard us.

Two feminists then occupied the floor in front of the lectern. Our comrades rushed in to join us at the front. One of us took over the lectern and spoke about women’s rights to control their bodies. We played Peaches (fuck the pain away). Some of us gave attendees at tables our ‘prayer for women everywhere,’ which you can see here (PDF): Prayer 1.

We stood proudly in a row in front of the audience. We ruined their meal.

We glitter bombed the audience. We used glitter and pink shoes and music to have fun and show that resistance against oppression is beautiful. We did it to contrast their conception of femininity as passive, a chalice for ‘new life,’ with our ideas of liberated femininity. Our femininity is empowered, and on Saturday night, it was about action, fierceness, non-violent resistance, solidarity and strength.

Mary Lee Sargent, a mother of feminist direct action, says of women (this web page is poorly formatted but worth reading!):

We have been socialized to fear physical danger, discouraged from taking risks and engaging in deeds of daring- do… Despite these obstacles, what leaps out at anyone who reads the newspapers is that women are resisting injustice. For those who look, it is also evident that women have always resisted injustice and will continue to resist it in the future.

We did it. More on this soon.


Though shalt not mess with my reproductive rights

That protest we invited you to – did you make it?

If you didn’t, here’s what you missed!

If you did, here’s a selection of photos to remember it by. They’re beauties, all taken and provided by the excellent Kate Ausburn, of coal seam gas reporting fame. You can check out her full set here.

F member and attendee Emily said:

It was fun!

Turnout was good. Around 30 – 35 on my rough head count, which is amazing for 7:30 Monday and with such a short build up. There also seemed to be a lot of women who were not necessarily there from F directly. I think that is pretty exciting.

Interestingly Notre Dame had security guards at all of their entrances and you could only get through with Notre Dame ID. It has clearly stepped up since Saturday night 🙂

We were highly visible and George and Mac did a great job with signs, leaflets and posters. Oh and we also got pretty noisy with some chanting with the two giant mega phones and the accompaniment of horns as people drove past.

All in all I reckon it was a pretty successful action and a nice accompaniment to the Saturday night disruption.



Barry cuts we bleed: thoughts on community service cuts

August 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

I wrote this for the F Collective site yesterday, and while I’d like to have time to write a more nuanced analysis soon, I wanted to publish it here also.


It’s Monday morning and I wish I’d drafted this post last night, but I was drafting an email update instead; inevitable tension between running a website and doing the grunt work of activism.

I was drafting an email to the people who’ve signed a petition I started the Friday before last – NSW Premier: Don’t cut community organisations. I started it in response to this article by Adele Horin (who has since retired, and damn we’ll miss her), which said that:

An internal review by Community Services, part of the Department of Family and Community Services, has recommended reducing funding to at least seven organisations, including the Welfare Rights Centre, Lifeline (Sydney and Sutherland), Redfern Legal Centre’s financial counselling service and the Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service.

Alternatively, they may be moved to the aegis of the Department of Health, or to Ageing Disability and Home Care without funding.

This should come as no big surprise to those who follow Australian politics. We’ve seen what has happened in Queensland to Sisters Inside amongst others in the wake of the QLD election of the CLP. And as feminists, we know that community services are not valued by neoliberals, anyway.

Such pretty scissors, such ugly cuts!

Community service workers don’t, after all, produce any commodity with a market value. They do, on the other hand, perform care work, work that would otherwise be done piecemeal and unpaid and often in the isolation of the home, by feminised individuals. Community services and the workers who run them (to ape the language of mainstream economics) produce cared-for human beings,  folks who might be hard-up but know that at least someone is there for them.

Feminists set up and won the funding for many of these sorts of community services. They wanted to create a world in which resources were available for care and care work was paid. This was an extension of a broader project of creating a social democratic State in which education and health was available to everyone as part of a social wage. While the State is often used to monitor and discipline people (as with income management), it has been concurrently used to break down oppression.

Cuts to services are about further dismantling the (never completed) social democratic project. While this dismantling has happened on both sides of politics, it is often starkest under Liberal governments. The results are not pretty. When Barry cuts, women, queers, poor folks, the homeless, people of colour and Indigenous people are the ones who are going to bleed.

Given that the State is so often used to oppress and discipline, why should we keep fighting for our services, those we use and work in? I think that in this fight there is hope to keep recreating and reclaiming the State as we want it to be. Broadly, I want services that are conducive to justice and equality, so I definitely want to keep those services that currently exist.  As Rosa Campbell said recently:

If service users and workers and teachers, parents, students and community members stood together to defend the welfare state, we would be best placed to re-imagine it.

Sign the petition: NSW Premier: Don’t cut community organisations. Tweet it under the hashtag #BOFcutswebleed and @BarryOfarrell. F is @the_fcollective. Send it to your family, friends and relevant e-lists – let’s start conversations.

This is just the start. We can fight for change in ways that create the world we want. I’m linking to this UK Uncut video as inspiration.

I’ll keep you updated on how you can get more involved as the campaign progresses.

The comment section is yours, so let’s brain storm: how would you like to fight to keep the services that care?

The beautiful featured image is by Amanda Parkinson, SMH aspiring photojournalist of the year. Used with permission.




The latest

June 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Femmos get loud

Well, it’s been a while and I’ve got two things to add, both from the F website.

I edited a post by Eva on income management in Bankstown:

In March this year, there were around 80,000 parents on the parenting payment officially registered as job hunters. There are maybe another 50,000 or more sole parents who have already been placed onto Newstart as their children are eight or more. They will be joined shortly by most of the 80,000 job seekers above, as announced in the budget. Managing on the sole parent payments is already hard, but doing it on the lower rate of Newstart is almost impossible.

So any changes to policies on these payments is of interest to feminists.

I also put together a storify story on F’s latest forum. You can join the conversation on Twitter with the #fcollective tag.

[View the story “Doing feminism: media representation and family violence” on Storify]

The gorgeous image above is from Flickr using Creative Commons License, by Caterpiya.

The F Collection: Women’s Abortion Action Campaign

April 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

From the WAAC facebook page

My latest on the F Collection is up. This week it’s on WAAC, the Women’s Abortion Action Campaign. They’ve been campaigning in Sydney for 40 years, and have had some incredible achievements.

My post also includes a brief intro to the politics and law of abortion.

An excerpt:

Though some women claim it is possible to be a feminist and to be anti-abortion, bell hooks, feminist, anti-racist activist and scholar, puts a counter argument:

The abortion issue… called the (US) nation’s attention to a woman’s body as no other issue could have done. It was a direct challenge to the church… While it is possible for women to individually choose never to have an abortion, allegiance to feminist politics means that they are still pro-choice, that they support the rights of females who need abortions to choose whether or not to have them.

This point was brought home to me when walking to an International Women’s Day event recently, I stumbled across a prayer circle chanting loudly outside the Preterm Foundation in Surry Hills. The prayer group held models of fetuses suspended in air, with no woman attached, as though these fetuses were somehow separate to the lives of the person bearing them.

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