The Australian Women’s Movement and White Privilege

We need to talk about the Australian women’s movement and white privilege.

[As published on Medium]

Let me first clarify that I am a white woman and regardless of my upbringing, personal struggles or history, I am unequivocally white in a society that accepts white as the norm. I am passionate about equality and because of this, I get into a lot of conversations about feminism, equal rights and racism in Australia.

I recently got into a discussion with another white woman; Stacy*, and a woman of colour; Kiara*, about how it feels when people ask ‘where do you come from?’

Kiara was explaining that, as someone who is frequently asked the question, she doesn’t mind having a conversation about ‘where she comes from’ because it gives her the opportunity to have an open discussion about a topic that is often painful and misrepresented by the media. Mid-way through speaking she was interrupted by Stacy who vehemently stated that Kiara shouldn’t be okay with having her nationality questioned. Her point, which she made by speaking over Kiara, was that it shouldn’t be a minority’s responsibility to accommodate white privilege.

Interrupting someone mid-conversation is just plain rude, but there was another layer to this. Not only was Kiara being interrupted, but she was being told by someone else what her personal response and experience should be. Wasn’t this white privilege in action?

How often have I, as a well-meaning white woman championing equal rights, spoken on behalf of someone else when I know very little about their lived experience?

I am used to seeing men interrupt women, speak over women, dismiss women and speak on their behalf. These are the reasons many of us speak out about women’s rights and equality in a modern setting. I hadn’t realised was that there was a deeper level to this power inequality that directly affects women who are not white.

Acclaimed author and Wiradjuri woman Dr Anita Heiss captured it perfectly when she tweeted: “White people telling us what’s not racist is like men telling women what’s not sexist.”

I’ve noticed a tendency within the women’s movement to speak on behalf of other women. Yes, there are particular issues that affect us all, but as white Australians we don’t understand the half of what it means to be a person of colour in Australia and that needs to be acknowledged in the dialogue.

Dr. Robin Di Angelo is an American professor who speaks and writes about racism and white privilege. She says, ‘in the line of work that I do, it’s a breakthrough to get white people to acknowledge that our race privileges us in this society’. She says that by pigeon-holing racists as bad people we also validate the concept that if you aren’t racist you are a good person. She describes this as the Good/Bad Binary and we see it in the media all the time.

If you are racist you are; ignorant, prejudiced, bigoted and mean spirited.

If you aren’t racist you are; educated, progressive, open minded and well intentioned.

Di Angelo says, ‘this is the construct that keeps racism today in place and makes it almost impossible to talk to white people about racism. The defensiveness we have comes from this binary, what we hear [when someone calls us racist] is “you just said I was a bad person”. This binary sets it up to be mutually exclusive, you cannot be a good person and be complicit with racism.’

This is where white privilege becomes difficult to talk about as a white person. Having grown up in a society that accepts me and my relationship with race, I am not always aware when I am being insensitive or when my ‘well-meaning’ intentions are actually a form of prejudice. I am not alone.

In the quest to push for change and shared respect in the women’s movement we need to be aware of ‘white-washing’ what it means to be a woman in today’s Australia. An Australia that is still hostile to non-white and non-Christian migrants, still refers to refugees as ‘illegal immigrants’ and generally dismisses the rights and concerns of indigenous Australians.

As a white person growing up in a society where ‘white is regular’ and any other race is ‘other’ we need to be aware that we navigate the world from a privileged perspective.

This doesn’t mean that white Australian’s are all healthier or being paid more, but it does mean that as women we are not penalised because of our race and our gender.

In the last two years the discourse about domestic violence has bought much needed focus and funding to the issue and yet Indigenous women are still facing additional barriers to reporting incidents to police. Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic violence than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

We live in a country where skin coloured underwear and foundation are primarily beige, yet according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics over 20% of our population identify as non Caucasian. Interestingly, the 2017 census has identified the average Australian as a 38-year-old white woman.

Recently, I attended a dinner party where I was in the minority. It made me acutely aware of how infrequently this has happened to me in Australia, even in my social circle. In this setting my understanding and experience of Australian life was vastly different to the women around me. Things I considered universal such as; navigating our medical system, applying for jobs or finding appropriate contraceptive methods.

In the past I have passionately discussed my opinions on women’s health care in remote Indigenous communities and yet, I’m the first to admit I haven’t actually spoken to these women, or spent time in communities living alongside them. That is white privilege. Feeling comfortable to share my opinion, however well meaning it might be, and thinking it is just as valid as the experiences of the people I am talking about.

I’m just beginning to understand what this privilege is and how it has shaped not just my reality but the daily lives of the women I thought, until recently, shared my experience as a woman in Australia.

It’s time we started learning about white privilege.

Instead of speaking on behalf of other women, we can advocate for more voices to join the conversation. We can widen our reading to include more people of colour so we can broaden our understanding of what it means to be a woman in Australia today.

We can make a conscious decision to not speak for or interrupt people (whose experiences we know nothing about) and we can remember that as Di Angelo says; ‘today I understand that I move through the world always, and most particularly as a white person with a white frame of reference.’

If you’d like to learn more, you can watch Dr. Di Angelo’s video about Deconstructing White Privilege.

*Names have been changed.

Delhi — also known as rape city?

As our plane touched down in Delhi my nerves were on edge. I was wearing my most unattractive ensemble (to hide any semblance of the female form), I hadn’t washed in days and I had already been felt up at four different checkpoints between checking in and boarding the plane at Kathmandu airport. (Those Nepalese officials prefer the intimate approach to security every time!)
Continue reading “Delhi — also known as rape city?”

Eating Phallic Food in Public

When I was 12 I had an experience that changed my life. I ate an icy pole on the tram. As I happily licked the delicious lemony goodness off a stick two elderly men sat opposite me with odd looks on their faces. I suddenly felt self-conscious. I looked at my icy pole and then back at these two hideous hairy men having a Lolita moment. I was confused. Needless to say, I didn’t want to eat the icy pole anymore.

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I asked my mum about it later and she said ‘those men were looking at you because to some people, eating a phallic shaped icy pole simulates fellatio’.  My mum has always used the correct terminology when discussing sex. This conversation led to other, more confronting discussions and I was left with a phobia of eating phallic shaped foods in public.

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As Seth said in Superbad ‘You know how many foods are shaped like dicks? The best kinds’.

Over the years I awkwardly looked on whilst everyone else happily and innocently ate penis shaped foods. Although I did my best to join in, I never feel really comfortable.

Sausage Sizzles:
What a fun family friendly situation, where everyone is happily chomping on sizzling meat dicks covered in mustard and smothered in tomato sauce.

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Lollypops:
Try sucking on one of these without being suggestive. I dare you.

Icy poles:
You are my kryptonite. The best-tasting flavours are always shaped like penises. Where I wonder, are the vagina ice creams?

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Eclairs:
Not only are these delicious treats shaped like genitalia but they are filled with cream. Try and eat one without the cream spurting out and all over your face.

Bananas
Nature’s favourite fruit. Yellow, delicious and curved to the tip. We all know what these remind us of. Serving suggestion – instead of going straight for the tip of this yellow devil, break off pieces in your fingers.

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Rice paper rolls:
Delicious, healthy and flaccid, these beauties are difficult to dip into peanut sauce (without them falling apart) and are equally tricky to consume in public.

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Sausage rolls:
Again with the sausages. This time in pastry.

And on and on it goes…

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So what is the problem?:
1) If I’m going to eat a dick, I’d prefer it not masquerade as a snack.
2) I’ve cottoned onto a food industry secret that has been undiscovered for years — that everything awesome is cock shaped because somewhere, someone is having a huge laugh at our expense.
3) Things shaped like penises are easier to eat. But are they? I beg to differ.

As I get older I realise that most people don’t care if their food is shaped like a cock. From souvlaki to sushi they’ll devour with gusto — no matter the shape or size.

While I’m left sneaking into corners to eat a sausage roll, life is passing me by.
I’ve decided that this year, 2015, is the year that I’ll beat my fear of eating phallic foods in public, once and for all.

Then when I’m really old, I’ll take it to the next level and embrace the sexual connotations. Like this lady. Did she really need two? Yeh, she did.

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Thanks to Shutterstock for providing a wealth of hilarious images.

Let them eat cake – Do it.

There is never a bad time for cake. Think about it. Whether you are at a funeral or have lost your job, a slice of sweet fluffy goodness always makes things better.

When I first started working in an office I was shocked at how awkward most interactions are.
In the hospitality industry your workmates are personable and attractive. Switch to an office environment and the pool of people who have social skills diminishes considerably. Which is why there is nothing better than cake at the office. What better way to unite a group of people who have literally nothing in common but a stomach?

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It doesn’t matter how much of a bitter bitch you are, throw cake into the mix and everyone is friends. Unless you miss out. Then shit’s going to get real.

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Five situations only made possible by cake:

1) Calling something moist. Seriously, it’s the only time the word moist is appropriate.

2) Everyone needs a Bruce Bogtrotter moment. Remember when Brucey was forced to eat an entire giant cake as punishment for stealing Miss Trunchbull’s prized slice? How many of us have gone back for seconds or thirds and then felt violently ill.

3) Bad cake is still cake. Someone has just had an experimental evening in the kitchen and they’ve brought in the crusty, burnt fruits of their labour. Although you tell yourself you wont eat any, you’ll hit 3pm and after speaking to Marian from finance about her tinea and you’ll need something, anything, that will make the world a better place.

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4) On a diet? Not anymore! That delicious slice of lard will taste way better than your quinoa salad.

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5) The saying “I love you like a fat kid love cake”. I know childhood obesity is a serious problem but look at this guy: brucebog

Marie Antoinette may have had her head lopped off but she was onto something. Cake does make everything better, especially in a professional environment.

Except when it looks like this…

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For more hilariously bad cakes see cake wrecks.

Things you would never admit to – but have definitely done.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are all human. From your manager to your grandmother there are things that most of us do regularly but would never admit to. In an endeavor to bring us all closer, create mutual understanding, and to remind you that deep down we are all just disgusting, I’ve made a list.

Picking your nose:
Whether it’s a cheeky pick and flick whilst you are stopped at the lights or in bed at night – everyone loves a good pick. It’s cathartic, gets the crusties out and saves any embarrassing snotty moments with work colleagues. There’s nothing worse than having to tell someone you can see something green congealed in their nasal hair.

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You’ve totally given yourself a dutch oven at least once and you have definitely been grossed out by the smell of your own gaseous emissions at least once.

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Checking out your stool:
It’s an important part of your digestive health to check the bowl after you’ve “dropped the kids off at the pool”. Or maybe you just want to Snap Chat it to your mates because it was enormous!

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Lied about farting:
Of course you have, you’re not an idiot.

Stalking past flings on Facebook or social media:
You didn’t even date but somehow you are 3 albums deep. Thank god you can delete your browser history.

Had an “accident” in a public place:
I’d love to say if you haven’t soiled yourself in public, you haven’t lived.  If you’ve travelled anywhere with a dodgy hygiene history this has definitely happened to you.

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Eaten an entire cake or equivalent of junk food – alone:
You might tell your housemates you had people over, but really you ate the entire thing… with a spoon.

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Sneezed in your hand and wiped it on something in public.
You’ve sneezed and now you have a slimey slob of mucus cupped in your hands. No one will notice if you just wipe it surreptitiously on your pants, would they?

Drunk called/texted or Facebook messaged someone you don’t like sober:
If you’ve been drunk, needy and had a phone handy – you’ve done this at least once.

Pretended to be sick to get out of something:

Whether it’s work or a family dinner  the list of events you want to avoid only gets longer as you get older.  Of course you have faked a sickie to get out of turning up.

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Can’t say you’ve done at least three? I hate to break it to you, but you’re probably a Cyborg.

The Real Meat Injection

While shopping for cat food in Coles I found the following product, Coles Complete Cuisine, Real Meat Injection.

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 It raised a few questions for me…

1. Why would I want to give my cat a Real Meat Injection?
This sounds like the kind of offer one receives at a backpacker bar.

2. HIGH “PALATABILITY”- I’m pretty sure palatability isn’t a word.
Also, since it is food, I would assume that it’s palatable, for the cat at least. No need to make up a word to tell me about it.

3. 100% SATISFIED or 100% REFUND — How does one judge cat food unsatisfactory?

“Look here, the Real Meat Injection wasn’t nearly large enough”

“The vegetable flavour was there, but Mr. Whiskers couldn’t taste the cheese.”

“Tibbles is actually lactose intolerant. The cheese flavouring upset her stomach and she shat all over the shag carpet.”

I am willing to bet that no one has successfully wrangled a refund for Coles Complete Cuisine Real Meat Injection. If anyone has, I want to know who they are and how they managed to prove that they were not satisfied with cat food. Then I will hire them as my attorney.

Long story short, despite the dismal product marketing, I am a huge fan of Vegetable and Cheese (not to mention Real Meat Injections) so I bought 7 boxes… all in the hope that I’ll be 100% satisfied.

Lice – The Itchy Truth

Yesterday whilst on Twitter I saw this photo pop up on my feed.

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It reminded me fondly of year 6 camp, long before the invention of selfies. I hate to tell you people, but the ol’ let’s put our heads together for a photo has been around a lot longer than the iPhone,  in fact, I was spreading my lice infested hair all over other kids with the use of a disposable camera. Sheer brilliance.

There are a few standout memories from my childhood and almost all of them involve lice.

In Australia in the 90’s there was a KNIT NURSE who visited schools. All the children would line up (probably increasing the spread of lice – they can jump) and walk one by one into a hall. In the middle of the school hall there were two seats with two middle-aged nurses behind them. They wore hair-nets, rubber gloves and dour expressions.

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You would walk forward and sit nervously in the seat, sweating. Because if the nurse found knits in your hair, you were sent home with a note to your parents in hand. The note read;

YOUR CHILD HAS LICE! To avoid a school wide infestation, we ask that you apply the following treatment to your child’s hair….

What followed was worse that the constant itch of lice. In order to remove the lice from their happy homes, a thin toothed, metal comb was raked across your scalp. You would then be covered in a variety of potions. My mother, being a hippy, attempted to use herbal remedies the first 3 times, however, the lovely Oil and Lavender concoction she made was essentially a day spa that my lice frolicked in. No, the only thing that worked on real, nuclear holocaust surviving lice was something far worse. KP24.

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It seared the skull and the smell of it burnt your eyes. I was sure it was 9 parts kerosene, but it was the only thing that truly destroyed lice. The tragic part was that it had a very distinctive smell. A smell that every child was familiar with. It was the Eu de Cologne of Exclusion.

Kids are cruel at the best of times and giving them added ammunition is never a good idea. At playtime after the KNIT NURSE had visited, we would scour the school yard to spot who was missing. When we found out who was at the center of the infestation we would avoid them for weeks when they returned to school, their poor KP24 soaked skulls stinking up the corridors. Kids don’t forget and they certainly don’t forgive.

The golden rule with putrid farts is, “who ever smelt it, dealt it.” I believe this is one of life’s cardinal rules and it certainly applied to knit infestations. Despite denial at the time, I believe was responsible for 90% of the lice outbreaks in my year level. Perhaps not alone, but let’s be honest it only takes one kid with an itchy head and a passion for hugging others. I’m a hugger. I’ve always been a hugger.

The Art of Being Boring

Recently I was at a party, in the middle of a conversation, when I had an epiphany.

I was being boring on purpose.

It sounds like I’m making an excuse for my shitty party behaviour; alas, this was hardly the situation…

It has taken me some time to learn that there are certain people I simply don’t want to talk to at parties. At the ripe old age of 25, I can spot them coming a mile off. They are the type of person who never asks you a single question, who walks away feeling like they’ve made a new best friend and yet they don’t know anything about you. Despite the fact that they’ve been talking AT you for 45 minutes.

It’s what I like to call a bad sex conversation. One person leaves feeling satisfied and the other like they’ve just been used.

When faced with a bad sex conversation, you can use the following game plans:

Game Plan 1: The Fob Off – (This is not another way of saying hand-job)
The Fob Off is when you skilfully listen to the speaker for a few minutes, nodding and smiling, before realising you need to get a drink or go to the bathroom. You navigate the speaker within proximity to another person (the victim) and you Fob Them Off. See Example:

Egomaniac: And then I couldn’t believe he’d broken up with me in Berlin and I was like, I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!? Can you believe something like that would happen, just after my cat/dog/goldfish died!? [Stares at you, demanding a response to said horrible situation].

You:  [nodding] Oh how horrible [sympathetic noise], Oh, I hope you don’t mind, but I need to run to the bathroom. This is Clarence, Clarence meet Ego Maniac.

Clarence (aka Victim):  [confused and accommodating] Hi!

Game Plan 2: The Ghost

Follow game plan 1, but when they turn around/ are distracted, run.

                                    

Both of these techniques work well. but there is only so many times you can use them before you stop getting invited to parties altogether. (It’s also difficult to execute The Ghost when at an intimate dinner party.) This is where the latest addition to my repertoire comes in…

Five Tips on Being a Bore

  1. Have you ever spoken to a truly boring person? The chances are quite high because the world is sadly full of average people (especially if you work in customer service). Boring people are difficult to hold conversations with because they don’t offer anything. Nothing. Nada. When you are talking at a brick wall, the conversation becomes stagnant and awkward pretty quickly.
  2. If you are like me, awkward silences are your kryptonite. I’d prefer to blurt out something stupid rather than let the silence settle in. This fear has made me a fool. To get rid of that pesky person you need to EMBRACE THE AWKWARD SILENCE. That sweet, sweet, sweaty-palmed moment will have them leaving for a drink in no time.
  3. Be devoid of passion. The world is a weird place and somewhere there is a person who is passionate about picking lint out of their bellybutton. Bellybutton lint might not be your cup of tea, but if you speak to someone who is passionate about it, you might just discover a twinge of passion yourself.
  4. Give one-word answers. Again, this is one of my pet hates, but when used in the appropriate situation it sends any conversation into the stink.
  5. Don’t give away physical signs of enjoyment. Smiles, nods and raised eyebrows all express interest. Keep your face devoid of expression and you’re on a fast ticket out of there.

Now you might think that all this effort to get rid of someone who is ‘just taking the time to talk to you’ is really unfair. Before you make any more suggestions, I’m going to go ahead and tell you, that this is not just an average conversation you are working to end. This is a BAD SEX conversation.

The other person does not care about you in the slightest. They have not and will not ask anything about your life, your job or what you like to do on the weekend. This person just wants to talk about themselves and that is why you are boring them to death.

These “bad sex” conversations are bad for your health. It’s important that we surround ourselves with people who are interested in something other than themselves. Conversations are about interacting with someone else, so if it’s been a while since you listened instead of spoke, you should try and do it now.

Sadly, there is always the chance that the person who is talking at you enjoys it so much that despite all your attempts, they will continue. This is the final line of social interaction and this is where the niceties end.

I work in online communication and I listen to people whine and prattle as a part of my job. Everyday. I consider it within my right to say, if I’m not getting paid to listen to your shit, I’m going to end the conversation right here.

Life As A Mexican… expat

Starting out life in a new city isn’t easy, especially when your grasp on the native language is slim to none.

In April 2013 I packed up my flat, left my full-time job and went to live in Mexico. I could lie and say I made the choice because I can’t get enough tacos, but who am I kidding. I travelled half way around the world for love. It was not lost on me that I flew out on April Fool’s day.

These are the notable things that I realised in the first month:

1) Drugs are easy to get.

On the flight to LA, the elderly man next to me offered me a sleeping pill.

“If you want a pill love, I bought a few from a doctor I know. Gives me the strong stuff”.

His wife lent over him and said,

“He’s not going to take advantage of you while you’re sleeping, I’m his wife, that’s what I’m here for”.

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2) As much as I care about animals, the assumption that going to Mexico would not contribute to eating my body weight in meat products was unrealistic.

3) People everywhere love farts. Especially old Mexican women on tiny, stinky buses called collectivos.

4) Miscellaneous meat (also known affectionately as ‘misc meat’) is by far the tastiest you will ever eat. I think it’s the fear of parasites that heightens the flavour.

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5) Going to a city where you are sure to be shot in some kind of drug/ gang related violence is only likely if you get involved in a Mexican drug cartel. If you are eating churros, being ripped off at fruit and vegetable stalls and visiting the Frida Kahlo museum, you are obviously not bad ass enough.

6) Mexican women wear a disproportionate amount of lyrca.

7) No matter how much of a local you think you are, you will still be known as a pinche gringa or a guerro. Don’t be offended, it’s because you are white, have blonde hair and are trying to speak spanish like a child with a learning disability.

8) Machismo is a “thing”. Machismo means that groups of older men can leer at you from street corners and call out delightful propositions like “I LOVE YOU” or “MARRY ME” or even just “SEXY” . They might also just hiss at you, which I always find quite complimentary.

9) Taco stands bring a whole new meaning to the ‘drunken munchies’. You will be munching like a drunk from dawn to dusk and let me tell you, it’s going straight to your butt. (Which is lucky, because Mexican’s love that).

10) You will start purchasing lyrca outfits and actually wearing them. Because of the enormous amount of tacos you have been eating, your butt will bulge like a tightly wrapped chorizo. You will be deluded into thinking this is the best you have ever looked due to the constant and inappropriate male attention.

Reflecting on my time in Mexico, I not only realised how generally hilarious my life was there and also that I could happily eat endless tacos and wear lyrca on my chorizo butt forever. I guess I found my true calling.

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