Thank you Minister Pyne, for putting the representation of woman in the parliament on the national agenda.

Earlier this week, Minister Pyne was interviewed on the 7:30 Report, where he was talking about a book had had written. The discussion was about his choice to go into politics. Both the Minister’s new book and appearance on the news program, are completely mundane and ordinary occurrences. The noteworthy part was when the discussion turned towards the representation of women in politics and when the Minister was asked about the difference in numbers between the ALP and the LNP he said ‘I don’t believe in quotas and I don’t believe in targets, but I do believe in people being elected on the basis of merit.’

But here’s the thing: the concept of merit or the very idea that career progression is simply based in the quality of one’s work is naive at best, and folly at worst.

Looking at the surface of the representation of woman in Australian Federal politics, it’s not great. The first woman to be elected federally was Enid Lyons in 1943, 41 years after women received the right to vote and stand. At a state level in Queensland, you might remember that women won the right to vote in 1905, the right to stand in 1915 and Irene Longman was the first woman elected in 1929. Across all the Parliaments, it isn’t until the 1990s that the number of women in the house is significant. In Queensland, this was obvious with the 1989 election where seven women were elected at once. Overall, the percentage of women in the Federall the parliament peaked at 27.3 and it now sits at 26. Basically, we’ve had a few women through the doors, and Julia Gillard even made it to Prime Minister in 2010, but if you were to believe the only reason why the the proportion of women in parliament doesn’t reflect the proportion of women in the wider population is based in merit, then you need to face the facts.

Women make up 50 percent of the population, and are now more likely to be better educated than men, however this is not reflected in positions of leadership or power. In The Wife Drought Annabel Crabb outlines the numerous was in which women take on the lions share of the domestic duties and emotional labour, even when they work full-time. The same is not true of men. Specifically, men are more likely to progress further in their careers when then become a father and earn more money. Not only do women tend to take a career break if they have children, they also run the risk of retuning to work in areas of under employment. Women can also expect to earn up to 20 percent less than men, even without the traditional career breaks. If women are as capable as men, and now, more educated than men, then why are they under-represented in terms of power and leadership? It’s the merit argument. Which I would re-lable as the social capital argument. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

I’ve outlined before there is a gap between women’s rights and the cultural execution of these rights, and I assert this lingering cultural lag is due to both explicit and implicit gender based discrimination. While the explicit discrimination is beginning to recede, it is the implicit discrimination which is more pernicious and more challenging to eradicate. Which is why this concept of merit is inappropriate. Merit implies recruitment requirements are measurable outcomes and accountable terms which can be marked off on a list, however this doesn’t account for implicit discrimination or unconscious bias. That is, qualities which are desirable for certain roles cannot always be learned, taught or measured.

The merit argument, also does not account for the ways in which our lives are imbued with gendered dispositions, whereby men (when I say men, I recognise there are numerous way in which men express their feelings, emotions and masculinity, however there is a clear pattern where white men are valued higher than people from other backgrounds) are seen as powerful leaders and women are the caregivers and nurturers. Bringing this back to politics, remember when the PM said this ‘I think it would be folly to expect that women will ever dominate or even approach equal representation in a large number of areas simply because their aptitudes, abilities and interests are different for physiological reasons’? Or when the Pm was asked about his biggest achievement as Minister for Women was the repeal of the carbon tax? Or when he said, ‘What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing is that if they get it done commercially it’s going to go up in price’. All of these comments from Mr. Abbott rely on the natural order of the duality of the gender binary. Not only are these terms outdated, as specifically, there are no differences in our capacity to learn, or carry out certain tasks, but by reinforcing the gender binary, we are ignoring the complexity of identity. Furthermore, the gender binary exploits and represses men just as much as women, by expecting masculinity to be one small facet, instead of recognising the myriad of ways in which human express ourselves. Views which argue for the natural order of things, ignore the structures which reinforce this natural order. It ignores that this concept is not natural, that it is constructed and is embedded and ingrained by cultural practices .

The implementation of quotas is a positive step, but it is only one of many  steps necessary for any organisation interested in becoming the best it can be. The ALP implemented quotas in 1994, however we are still yet to see equality within the party, as quotas still do not answer the bigger questions of unconscious bias. As Paul Reynolds indicates, despite the implementation of the 40 40 20 rules, women are still over-represented in the marginal seats. 

So I say thank you to Minister Pyne, for telling the women of the Australia, what we already know. Women are knocking on the door, but patriarchal structures are sill holding us back from our full potential.

Shove it in your ear holes.

  Have you ever switched on the telly or the radio, only to see a sea of middle-aged white guys? Yeah, I get sick get sick of that too. Never fear, there are alternative media streams which you can listen to, which don’t just focus on your ovaries.

When I’m travelling to and from uni, which takes up more time than I care to recall, I like to get into the zone by listening to podcasts. It’s no big surprise that I love podcasts, as my addiction to radio started in my mid-teens. The year was 2000, and Wil Anderson and Adam Spencer were filling the airwaves with dick jokes and mathematics. Adam Spencer had Word Of The Day, which I followed religiously, writing down the new words and meanings in my journals. Yes dear reader, I loved the radio.

Now days, I’m still plugged into the ABC, but I prefer Radio National or News Radio. Boring I know, but if you’re a political junkee like me, there is nothing quiet like listening to Fran Kelly grill the Treasurer about the GST. While listening to the ABC, and from my undergraduate days, I am more than aware of how fantastic the website is, and the great content produced by the media outlet. It’s not just soundbites, at ABC covers a broad range of topics, and the journalism investigates the wider picture, meaning numerous experts are interviewed, not just opinionated white dudes. Which is how I started podcasting. I was listening to Margaret Throsby, and I just had to listen to the interview again. When I realised, there’s an app for that, it changed the way I lived my life. After subscribing to the ABC, vacuuming would never be the same again. I listened Professor Marcia Langton, I listened to Wendy McCarthy and I listened to Fran Kelly grill pollys like there is no tomorrow. I was in heaven.

Plug it into your ear holes.Currently, I’m loving Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales’s podcast, Chat 10 Looks 3. The website is great, and I’ve made the lentil and tomato soup, YUM! I found it insightful, and I’m always learning about new works of fiction which I don’t have time to read which one day I’ll get round to reading. I find it incredibly refreshing to listen to talented and professional women, who talk about all different aspects of life, without focusing solely on their kids. Kids are great (Even better when you can hand them back!), but women are more than their families or what their uteruses produce, and Chat 10 looks 3 is the perfect balance of talking about women’s lives experiences and the intellectual issues. It’s also a great cheat sheet, so next time you’re at a dinner party, and someone asks, “Oh, have you read that book by Helen Garner?” you can say, I heard it was good, Leigh Sales loved it.

Both Politics with Michelle Grattan and The Big Picture with Lenore Taylor tick all the right boxes as far as I am concerned, since they are lead by a woman, and its all politics. Michelle IMG_4832interviews a politician for around 20 minutes, and you can guarantee she’ll ask the right questions. It’s not so much as a grilling, as a slow roast. You’ll feel smarter for listening. As for The Big Picture again, it’s lead by a woman, but this time, Lenore usually has a variety of interviewees, and sometimes all at once. she even played Fantasy Cabinet one episode, and it rocked my socks. Again, this one is a great way to stay onto of the bigger issues and the interviewees are usually leaders in their field and or politicians, so it’s straight from the horses mouth.IMG_4834

Big Ideas from Radio National was probably, where it all started for me, and I think it covers the broadest range of topics. Again, as this is the ABC, the panelists or experts are more than likely to be industry leaders or actual experts so you will feel like you’ve learnt something at the end of it, probably because you have. When Paul Barclay interviews or facilitates a panel discussion, he has a unique manner of allowing the participants to speak, and extracting their stories without making you aware that he is even there. Definitely a great technique to have as an interviewer.

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Finally, Bitch Media. Bitch is my least favourite word, but this podcast is pure intersectionality feminism and I love it. The only down side, it is is made in America, so some of the topical issues they discuss, are based around American topics, however since Australia has imported plenty of cultural ideas and shows, you won’t be too far behind on anything the ladies discuss. I say intersectionality, as the presenters acknowledge concepts of privilege, colour, ethnicity, class and recognise there is more to structural repression than whether you are a man of a women. Definitely worth a listen if you’re tied of boring old white men telling you what to wear, how to cook and what to think.
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Hey Ladies!

So, remember how I was all uptight and self-concious of turning 30? As a sweetener, my husband asked me what I wanted one day, while we were meandering through the garden. “Chickens” I said. “We’ve been here for five years, and we still don’t have any chickens”.

Working on the coop
My husband, hard at work.

And so, he set about making me a coop! My husband and I are for the better part, vegetarians, and we both are conscious of what we consume. Neither of us are extreme, he still eats fish (I call them sea kittens.), and I am partial to the occasional steak, but we’re both focused on consuming less. We’re never going to be perfect, but it’s important to minimise your footprint on this earth, and eating less meat is definitely one way to do so.

Keeping with the less is more theme, my husband used as many objects and items which were already lying around the paddock. Again, I know it’s easier said than done, not everyone has a small garden-shed, just lying around, waiting to be repurposed, but it was surprising what he managed to make out of a few left-over pieces of wood and metal. We had intended on visiting the local recycle shop at the tip, but we scavenged a few extra pieces from the family’s farm. I scoured Gumtree for an old cupboard, which we remodelled into a nesting and perch area. And of course some pieces like the wire, mesh and other wood which was necessary to purchase from the local hardware shop. For us, the local hardware store isn’t one owed by the Duopoly of Coles or Woolworths, and I’m pleased as punch about this. Don’t get me wrong, megastores have their place, however the local Williams team are great when it comes to animals and produce. The small businesses in town, are one of the benefits of living in sticks. Sure, we have less variety, but some of the best customer service I’ve received has been in the small country town.

A pic worthy for Instagram
One day, it will be filled with eggs!

Acquiring the birds was probably the easier part of the whole process. While getting a few extra supplies at the local hardware, my husband asked around for some laying-hens. We were given a number to call, and the people were loverly to deal with. (Although they were late for the delivery, because someone had left the gate open and the birds made their big escape!) I asked for four birds, and I was able to request Australorps. Australorps are bred for Australian conditions and are prolific egg layers, which is perfect for us, in Northern NSW. All up, my husband spent three weeks to build the chicken mansion  coop, but we had some terrible weather, which meant tools down. The coop is much larger than we currently need, however I do envisage, in the future, we’ll get more chickens and supply the whole neighbourhood with free-range eggs.

Henrietta, the hen.
What are you looking at? Have you never seen a bird perch before?

We’ve put plenty of effort into making sure we have an area which is suitable for the ladies, and not everyone has the materials or inclination, but not everything is about the bottom line. Not only will we get eggs, but we now have four bug catchers, running around the garden. Not to mention the poop manure. I spent the afternoon sorting out the pen and collecting poop for our veggie patch. I’m not really the outdoorsy type, however I mucked out the coop and split some wood, which is one way to get some fresh air and burn the odd calorie.

I can’t wait to share the eggs with my friends and family.

The repurposed cupboard.
The repurposed cupboard.

I Hope You Like Feminist Rants, Because That’s Kind Of My Thing.

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I had a rad time for my thirtieth.

We are now in the thick of winter. I’ve turned 30, drunk my weight in red wine, ate many soups and split plenty of wood. In other words, the earth is still orbiting the sun and the clock is ticking.

Winter is coming.
Winter is coming.

I’ve had some time to marinate in my post WOW haze, and I an getting stuck into my data collection. Which reminded me of why I started this blog, and exactly where the culture is at with women, leadership and power. When Kathy Lette touched my face she said we as women, should support each other and she reminded us to have a few barbs up our sleeves for when people try to tell us that the war has been won, and that we don’t need feminism (Ugh, I HATE that one. It’s 2015 and we’re still experiencing firsts!). Well, let me tell you dear reader, that it ain’t over until the fat, non-white, trans, gay, non-ablebodied lady can sing, without fear of discrimination.

I’m intently interested in women’s rights, our culture and how we execute these rights. Remembering that my research is focussing on Queensland, I can assure you there is a large gap between women’s rights and how they are executed. For example, women won the right to vote (I say won, because the suffragists fought damn hard!) in Queensland in 1905, but had to wait a decade before they held full suffrage and gained the right to stand for parliament. During the century between then and now, only 85 women have sat in the parliament, compared more than 1000 men. The first women, Irene Longman wasn’t elected until 1929. During that time, in 1931, with thanks to Irene Longman, QLD instated women to the police force, but it wasn’t until 1965 that women became sworn officers. Irene didn’t have a female college in Parliament until 1966 when Vi Jordan was elected. Up until 1969, women in the Commonwealth public service were required to resign after marriage, and thanks to Merle Thornton & Co, who chained themselves to the bar at the Regatta Hotel, it wasn’t until 1970, that women could visit a pub outside the Ladies Lounge.

Moving forward to 1992, Leene Forde was Queensland’s first Governor, Anna Bligh became the first women Premier in QLD in 2007, and the first women in 2009 to win an election in her own right. By 2012, Fiona Simpson was the first women Speaker in QLD and 2015, Annastacia  Palaszczuk was the first women to become Premier from Opposition. I know that’s a lot to take in, and it’s not even counting Joan Childs, the first Federal Speaker, Julia Gillard, the first woman PM, Joan Sheldon, the first female leader of a Party in QLD and first female Treasurer.

Where’s the relevance in all this? The crux; despite having the right to vote, stand for Parliament, to work and receive equal pay for equal work, and the right to work in an industry of our choosing, women are yet to hold the reigns of power in a prolonged or sustained manner. In other words, the world is still run by white, middle aged, privileged men. There is a gap between rights and how we culturally execute these rights. Annabelle Crab’s book, The Wife Drought looks at the trend, where despite having rights, women are still stuck with the kids and the ironing, while men receive the benefits and are able to dedicate themselves to their careers.IMG_3744

Botton Line: We might have the rights on paper, but we don’t have the cultural freedom to execute these rights, so yes for all of the flaws of Western feminism, we are very much, still fighting in the trenches of discrimination and patriarchy.