I need feminism because…

Cambridge University students were asked why they still need feminism. The answers are wonderful.

We have sooo much more work ahead of us if we want to get to a place where women have more choices, get to own significant amounts of property, don’t get raped and discriminated against… once assumptions dissolve and neither men nor women have to keep performing gender stereotypes that don’t fit them or oppress them.

Love projects like this one!!

university students were asked on campus…

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Pregnant women and new mothers dismissed from work

About half of women in Australia still lose their jobs or get heavily ‘restructured’ after falling pregnant or giving birth. Many get small payouts in return for never talking about it. This is unbelievable.

Is this what we want for women in the 21st century in Australia? If you have a daughter or sister would you want them to suffer the same fate? Can you imagine men enduring this?

This is almost what happened to me. Some of you know my story and many haven’t heard it yet (but I’m most definitely going to keep talking about it for decades to come!). In the end I gained my job back within a few weeks by working with my union and the HR department of my employer.

I still don’t know what will happen when I return from maternity leave. I suspect I’ll be treated with a mixture of contempt and ostracism. So I guess that other 50% doesn’t really fare well either: well paying and satisfying part-time jobs are difficult to find or maintain (don’t I know this too!) and the rest of us simply have to put up with being treated as less important creatures, as workers who aren’t really serious about their job (I got this accusation already), or we simply have to make do with whatever restructured position we can sustain.

Just be happy you still have a job, get paid and don’t have to accept conditions that are completely out of balance with your experience and expertise. Right. Better suck it up, right?

“There are two times in which these redundancies are most likely to happen,” said Kamal Farouque, principal of employment & industrial law at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers. “When the woman is on a period of maternity leave or soon after she has returned to work.

“The employer thinks that it’s a lot easier if they restructure, make the person redundant and get rid of the perceived “problem”’.

You don’t have to spend much time around new mothers to hear stories of “restructures” that just happened to coincide with them getting pregnant and taking parental leave.

Fifty per cent of the women in my mothers’ group were made redundant soon after they announced their pregnancy or while they were on maternity leave.

‘Women’s role in child-bearing supports all of us. I urge people to look at it in the broader context. Children represent all of our futures and it’s incumbent on all of us to support mothers.’

Broderick says that both male and female employers need to ask what they would want for their own daughters.

“Do you want them to be an engaged mother and be in paid work? If that’s what you want then we need to all support that in the work environment,” says Broderick. “If we can’t accommodate mothers then we’ll lose them and Australia cannot afford to lose their skills and experience from the labour market.’

Unlawful dismissal isn’t just another aspect of motherhood to be endured in silence. It’s an assault on women’s collective power and wellbeing and damaging to the nation as a whole.”

Breastfeeding through the ages

It was wonderful to find this article through someone’s recommendations through the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s FB pages (an association I’m now a member of… and really enjoy their gatherings).

It’s fascinating and sociologically interesting how breastfeeding has changed through the ages.

Until close to Modernity there was no reliable substitute for breastmilk. From what I’ve been reading it seems that prehistorical humans breastfed their babies exclusively til 6 months and then coupled with pre-chewed food til about 2 years of age. Not incidentally current breastfeeding recommendations are the same: exclusively til 6 months, with food on the side til 2 years. Also important that pre-chewing transfers bacteria and aids in establishing a good microbial flora in children (I do do some of this myself). I suspect prehistoric women shared breastfeeding, cross-feeding each other’s babies as necessitated by circumstances.

Later some substitutes were found: the milk of other animals, almond milk etc. wet nurses were also used for at least hundreds of years: privileged families hiring or paying other lactating women to breastfeed their babies instead of them. Perhaps this was also an arrangement when someone couldn’t breastfeed or a mother died during birth.

Then came early 20th century and both purée-led weaning (my deliberately snarky misnomer) and commercial formulas. This century eventually also brought a new cultural trend: preferring the ‘scientifically formulated’ cow milk based formula to breastfeeding. The former being considered ‘civilized’ and more nutritionally sound, which is now difficult to believe knowing so much about the special benefits and characteristics of human breastmilk.

The latter, breastfeeding, became considered ‘animalistic’, ‘uncivilized’ and an unnecessary burden on mothers.

Today the trend has turned back again: generally speaking breastfeeding is now promoted by health authorities as the healthier option for both mother and baby. Formula is not only considered inferior but in some circles it is frowned upon and the formula feeding mother is considered negligent, lazy or morally reprehensible which puts a lot of pressure on mothers to breastfeed, even when there are many strong hurdles or counterindications from medications for the mother (that would pass into her milk and make baby sick) to illness or inability to breastfeed, not to mention individual choice to not to or to giving up before 6 months or 2 years.

I do realise the positive image of breastfeeding and gentle push to continue end up benefitting many babies, even though very few workplace arrangements or maternity leave schemes allow for the reasonable continuation of such a practice beyond a few months.

So in such a historical period and with such a knowledge of precious anti-breastfeeding norms it is amazing to find that in the mid 1800s many American women got themselves photographed nursing their babies. In fact, it seems this was a temporary fashion trend even though early photographs were achieved via the difficult process of sitting motionless for ten minutes, a difficult feat with a small baby!

Breastfeeding women’s photos in Victorian-era America

The more these images spread online the more breastfeeding advocates and happily breastfeeding mothers will enjoy looking back in time and feeling a connection with these women and their pride in giving their babies precious milk from their bodies. I’m slightly in awe (mixed with confusion) of how women could breastfeed in corsets!!!

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On Bradley Manning and hypocrisy

This time I’m happy to just post some of Gary Younge’s words from the Guardian on the extreme hypocrisy and injustice of letting US soldiers get away with murder while severely punishing Manning who uncovered those actions.

“An investigation exonerated the soldiers on the grounds that they couldn’t have known who they were shooting. No disciplinary action was taken. When Reuters tried to get a copy of the video under the Freedom of Information Act, its request was denied. Were it not for Manning it would never have been made public. So the men who killed innocents, thereby stoking legitimate grievances across the globe and fanning the flames of resistance, are free to kill another day and the man who exposed them is behind bars, accused of “aiding the enemy”.

In this world, murder is not the crime; unmasking and distributing evidence of it is. To insist that Manning’s disclosure put his military colleagues in harm’s way is a bit like a cheating husband claiming that his partner reading his diary, not the infidelity, is what is truly imperilling their marriage. Avoiding responsibility for action, one instead blames the information and informant who makes that action known.”

Hypocrisy lies at the heart of Manning prosecution

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US intelligence leak and its consequences

New revelations about US intelligence agencies extensively gathering information through the internet is not only a majorly important one for our times but one that will eventually be tied in with 9/11, the resulting Patriot Act that restricted civil liberties and the re-writing of American democracy. As the US has unparalleled unilateral powers internationally this is an event that has worldwide significance.

Snowdan, the man who leaked the information, may be treated like Bradley Manning but in this case the whole world is directly implicated so the US script will be challenged from abroad. What happens next, international reactions, US political actions, the changing attitude of citizens, will have long-term implications to privacy and the state of Western democracies.

An important cluster of events to watch.

This snippet is from the Guardian:

“In a democracy, there should be no room for secret law,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “The public has a right to know what limits apply to the government’s surveillance authority, and what safeguards are in place to protect individual privacy.”

There was support for Snowden among civil liberty activists. Ellsberg wrote for the Guardian: “In my estimation, there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago”.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internet rights group, called for a “new Church committee” to investigate potential government infringements on privacy and to write new rules protecting the public.”