…America, I have never been so hopeful

..walking past a crowd of people around a public TV in the city, stopped mid-stride by this, from Obama’s acceptance speech;

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America — the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves — if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Yes. Thank you USA people who voted, thank you.

full transcript @ hip mama zine


Grrrl style: speak for yourself

I LOVE how she’s smiling as she sings here. It’s Kathleen Hanna in Bikini Kill performing Suck My Left One. [possible trigger warning for the lyrics? NSFW without headphones?]

Daddy comes into my room at night. He’s got more than talking on his mind

My sister pulls the covers down. She reaches over and pulls on the light.. AND SHE SAYS TO HIM

Suck! My! Left! One!. SUCK! MY! LEFT! ONE!

Mama says:

You’ve got to be polite girls, you’ve got to be polite girls .

Show a little, respect for your father. Wait until your father gets home!

I was more circus dyke than riot girl, despite being into punk and feminism in the mid 90’s when riot grrl took off here. I prefer dance to guitar,  so I mainly love riot grrrl for the use of zines and lyrics as CR [consciousness raising].

For example, this song’s lyrics might appall some feminists unfamiliar with the subculture they’re  coming from. I mean, little girls defying their abuser dad to “suck” them?

Too me though it captures how riot grrrl’s so effective at transforming pop culture into politicized resistance.   The really physical, emotionally immediate mediums of zines and punk songs are perfect for synthesizing feminist CR approaches against silencing & punk approaches to “making space” for self expression.

It may be true that many women, by the 90’s, had grown up “with feminism in the water”: a catchphrase I heard in too many privileged, divisive arguments about ageism in feminism. It was also true that the 2nd wave gains hadn’t reached everyone equally. Young women starting out by protesting rape in Australia, like the UK and USA in that period, experienced a feminism defined by;

backlash against progressive politics,

-drives to discredit incest survivors by the False Memory Syndrome movement & MRA groups, and

– scorn within progressive communities, like punk and liberal feminism, that ANY sexual harrassement protest was just “victim feminism” now that 2nd wavers had successfully criminalized some forms of rape.

[Unfortunately, rapists hadn’t got that memo]

In other words, a piggy in the middle politicization of being scapegoated by progressives for the reduced feminist energy since the 2nd wave, and targetted by conservatives co-opting feminist concepts to put survivors back in “their place” [aka silent].

That atmosphere made the optimistic, mass movement based CR methods of the early 2nd wave inaccessible to newer feminists.  Adapting CR to a pop culture format which was fun, easily transmitted and emphazised acceptance of amateurism was an inspired intervention in that dynamic.

An added bonus, imho, is that the visceral nature of punk allowed for challenging gender based expectations of behaviours, like screaming and being physically shocking or performative with the body. Punk shows can get pretty violent.

The sexually aggressive machismo of them vs. the very “safe space” emphasis of women’s organizing at the time felt like an re-affirmation of essentialist values: macho men dominate public space in rape culture, women only express “sensitive” things about our bodily experiences in heteronormativity, all is binary.

So, not to romanticize the violence, but I liked that girls & queers were encouraged to hold our ground in that aggressive environment while macho boys were asked to take more responsibility for safety at shows or be called on it. It’s remarkable to me when feminists remain nyah-nyah dismissive of riot grrrl just because the aesthetic was co-opted, as predicted, by Girl Power.*

That co-option only illustrates riot grrls’ political point; that girls and young women may need to make their own media and community, if they want to organize without without being victim blamed for the co-option of their voices by both:

– ageist, sexist gazes which support feminism in principle, but remain hostile to girls expressing their unsantized experiences of sexual politics beyond “caring and healing” sisterhood

– the consumer gazes which fetishize then appropriate DIY cultures reducing them to marketable aesthetics

Another excerpt from a doco on riot grrl: “People reacted to what we did very strongly”

*Not to be conflated with the 3rd wave btw.  Riot grrrls and DIY feminists get falsely credited in media with the 3rd wave, which was named by Rebecca Walker and addressed inter-sectional politics beyond the white middle class or essentialist feminist constructions of “Woman” emerging in academic feminism.  They weren’t mutually exclusive, but 3rd wave influences like Patricia Hill Collins & Audre Lorde considered race, class and sexuality more than ageism.

Spinster Flicks: Mr Darcy I presume?

On my birthday just passed, 3 people asked me if I regretted not having kids. The answer is no, and happily no kids regret not having me for a parent either, although various baby dykes have adopted me.

This inspired a barren!spinster film marathon: Bridget Jones I and II, Pride and Prejudice and Grey Gardens. One for me, three for Julia Gillard. I knew these were good choices when a few moments into Bridget Jones, she’d already dedicated a page to me in her diary, like so: “AM INSANE SPINSTER!!!”

Cultural insights gleaned from the Always A Maddona/Whore Dichotomy – Never A Bride pop fest;

– we haven’t really come a long way, baby.

– If your romantic hopes reside within a social landscape of globalisation, middle class mores and hetero-patriarchy, you may as well grab any smouldering male leads that come your way.

– empire line dresses are MUCH more alluring than cheap office wear.

The Garden Party Re-Enactment

Female Chauvanist Pigs, the garden party re-enactment

Bridget Jones re-iterated my sense of not getting some parts of the pop pulse. They were funny yes, but even as parody I felt Rene overplayed the “really naive for a 30 something woman” card a bit much to suspend disbelief. Worth it mainly for the pop culture in-jokes.

The Male Gaze? What about the male gays?

Grey Gardens, which I expected to be most pro-spinster was oddly least, for reasons outside the actual film. *SPOILER TIME*.

Many people who recommended this to me as a spinster film or even a gay film, none mention that Edies’ story is largely about mental illness related downward mobility. I’d probably have enjoyed it as a character study of a woman retaining her chutzpah through loss, if I hadn’t been thinking about why people avoided mentioning the major issue.

That oversight about the obvious distress behind her eccentric lifestyle fits the general media trend of using privileged white women to sexualize, depoliticize or glamorize mental illness; from “Girl Interrupted” sexing up institutionalization, to  sacchrine Nuerotic White Women portrayals overshadowing actual Mad Rights analysis in pharma sponsored disability media.

The casual sexism of people treating this film as a warning about the cost of spinsterhood, not schizophrenia, jarred me in a way that the good natured humor of Bridget Jones’ spinster panic never would.

Lizzie & Janes’ eco-feminist co-op

Pride and Prejudice was the most satisfying of the bunch, helped greatly by the aesthetics. It’s social commentary on middle class gender dynamics contemporizes really well.

Which surprised me a little: I’d never gotten into the books and was expecting a standard romance. The BBC version made it much easier to appreciate Austen’s narrative skills in context; the coded behaviors for navigating class and gender boundaries.

I’m also surprised that cultural critics took the revival of Austen’s’ romances (and BJ’s diary) as an indication that feminism and post-colonialism have failed;the argument that fans are romanticising a lack of rights. Isn’t that more Caitlin Flannigans audience?

Especially I appreciated that the BBC version retains the ensemble form. Allowing several types of relationships to be juxtaposed highlights the unifying theme of “romantic” aspirations being balanced against economic & social capital demands. Bridget Jones, by reducing her peers to competition or plot devices, loses this caution-by-comparison against wholly naïve or cynical approaches to romance.

+ Austen was a spinster btw.

+ Now I think about it, if I was straight I’d probably be seen as a divorcee not a spinster.


post riot girl, pre stand up

So Carrie Brownstein, of Sleater Kinney has extended her post SK expression from doing an NPR blog on culture [ Monitor Mix ] to making comedy videos with  Fred Arministein as Thunderant.

My favorite = The Feminist Bookstore . Click to view the application of Womens Space collective decison making to the retail environment.  Ginger deserves a peace twig.

Those who never went to their  local feminist bookstore regularly -when there were more of them and they served as such a  lesbian feminist community hub – mightn’t find this as amusing as me.

OTOH, who doesn’t get a little mockery of earnest liberal processing. I contemplatively pat my long womanly tresses  as I post.


patriotism is the last resort of the scoundrel

ANZAC day makes me jumpy.

Not the services per se, I’m not actually that cliche of the Reactionary Lefty who’d dismiss anyone wanting a ceremony to acknowledge such significant events.

It’s more the implications of making a military event such a focus of national identity. Which leads to some peoples’ suffering being censored, or presented as less than others, if they don’t fit the nationalist myth, or worse exposed political abuses from “our side”. Honestly, they’re describing the slaughter of the Anzac’s as “sacred” on the radio while still covering up military rape, abuse of war refugees and PTSD veterans. Gross.

Especially when nationalist spin on war appropriates private griefs. When it takes events that caused oceans of private losses; personal, complex and potentially empathetic losses, just to regurgitate them as bullshit “For us or against us” propoganda. Isn’t one of the aims of “Lest We Forget” to remember NOT to fall for those values and repeat history again?

I try to not register ANZAC day, or get upset about the consequences for relatives who served in wars, but were never flag wavers, and were called traitors to country or family for simply naming their trauma. I know it’s not a wise time to mention others who were subject to military abuse as civilians during and after wars, to which they can rarely testify without their words being turned against them to blame them for all the sufferings of “our troops” . Blamed more than the actual politicians who sacrificed those troops, more than civilians who frame these groups as divide and conquer good/bad from their detached observer distance.

But when is the OK time to be able to express all that? That time which is already everyday, because actually these groups aren’t necessarily living in total isolation or enimity from each other: often, they’re same person. But media, especially once it decides the theme of the day is nationalism, likes to have clear markers of who is a hero and who is scapegoat.

It takes generations for these layered, conflicting traumas to resolved: then by the next generation there’s always another war. Art is catharsis, or at least better than the hype on TV.

“Pieta” Kathe Kollowitz .

The enormous misery, deprivation, and sacrifice suffered during World War II were at no time reduced to soldiers at the front. The National Socialist regime followed a propaganda policy of celebrating the deaths of soldiers as heroic deeds; individual sorrow was considered undesirable.

Her sculpture is a compassionate expression of the pain of mothers and wives during the war. The future has no place here. Kollowitz, a German, was denounced by the Nazi’s for her art.

“In the Third Reich, mothers have no need to defend their children. The State does that.”

Beyond Duc My – Terry Eichler

After being forced to go to war they were then obliged to serve as scapegoats for the national bad conscience. This is the role that should have been filled by complicit politicians and their military advisors. Thanks for nothing..Australia.

Painting by Australian vet Terry Eichler, who only 25 years after being conscripted to the Viet/USA/AU war, feels able to paint a picture of his medals pinned into his flesh, reflecting his feelings of betrayal by the Australian government, media and public.

Vietnam: A journal/journal by Mimi Nguyen

I am unprepared, however, when he says, angrily, “You know, a lot of men died fighting for your country.”

For a split-second I am too stunned to say a word. I am caught in that contraction of muscles and tendons, suspended. Flinching.

Slowly. “So what, you want me to be grateful? Does that mean I’m supposed to fuck everyone who survived?”

I am trying to establish, the contradictory conditions under which I have had to come to terms with history and politics, since you won’t.

whole article at worse than queer

Pastiche of reflections by Nguyen, on the mytholigising of “Vietnam” years after her childhood refugee migration to the USA. Personal, pop, political and theory.

My sister Jill – Patricia Cornelius

When I was four, I knew we were shit. …My mum knew we were shit too.

She says we’re full of it. ..The way we bow down to authority. How we tug our forelocks to the Queen, do whatever Amercia wants us to do. Someone’s always better.

Brilliant novel, a much better written lesbian feminist working class alternative to the standard school texts featuring wars impact on families: “My Brother Jack ” and “The One Day of the Year”. So of course, no one has heard of it.

Addresses conflict in an Anglo Australian family over the Viet Nam war draft. WW2 veteran Dad dominates the family with his alcoholic rages. They all keep silent about this racist, macho abuse in deference to [or helplessness about] his PTSD afflicted veteran status. Tensions erupt when one of the families’ twin sons is drafted, leaving the other behind unemployed on being declared “unfit”, prompting elder daughter Jill to exorcise her hatred of this dismal cycle through militant feminist draft protest activism. 

All narrated from the perspective of the youngest daughter Christine, a child gradually going literally insane from the pressure to take impossible sides in her family. Sounds depressing but actually isn’t. It compassionately examines inter-generational trauma, and the connections between being violated and becoming a violator.

Ok, end of emo. Please now return to the national sport of piss-taking.


Oz feminist boffin alert part. 2.

For circulation to your more academically inclined Oz feminist types.

The Australian Research Council has Phd scholarships available [via UNSW and ANU] on the topic of Australian Women’s Movement history.

The media assumption that the women’s movement was ‘over’, which became common in the 1980s, relied on a definition of a social movement tied to particular repertoires of action. However, as we have seen, these may not be characteristic of women’s movements. The idea that a social movement might be ‘over’ when it was no longer visibly engaged in public contestation did not coincide with feminist views that there had always been a women’s movement over the past century (Spender 1983; Lake 1999).

You know you want to. Actually, I want to.

Aside from my general fascination with social movement histories, ahistorism seems to be a particular challenge for feminist organizing. Ignorance about what feminism actually achieves -and how- facilitates it’s co-option and dumbing down into nothing but pink consumer branded “empowering” products. Within feminism too, the ongoing sidelining of marginal women’s activism in white, consumer lite feminist media perpetuates failures in ally work. Shulamith Firestone had a good point about political histories involving 50 years of ridicule [the cyclic backlash and forgetting after periods of radical mass movement] but at enough feminists have enough media access now that we can address this more in how we narrate ourselves.

But I digress. The grant details:

Applications are invited for two PhD scholarships available from July 2008, one for research on the institutional legacies of the Australian women’s movement (tenable at the ANU) and one for research on the discursive legacy of the women’s movement (tenable at University of NSW). Stipend $26, 140 pa for three years. Funding for fieldwork also available.

CLOSING DATE 1 May 2008.

Applicants must have an Honours 1 or high 2A degree in an appropriate social science discipline such as politics, history or sociology and be Australian citizens or permanent residents or New Zealand citizens.

Further information is available from Prof Marian Sawer at the ANU<marian.sawer@anu.edu.au> or from Dr Sarah Maddison at the University of NSW sarah.maddison@unsw.edu.au


Oz feminist boffin alert 1

The Vibewire for youth by youth site starts its e-festival of ideas today. Registering online = 5 days of talk about democracy, social change media, digital arts and other assorted brainfood.

The feminist drawcard is their forum about Reworking Feminism:What Does Gender Equality Mean In The 21st Century? I’m wishing I was a youth right now, because you don’t often get a free forum featuring the likes of Eva Cox along with 2 of my favorite Australian feminist journalists Emily Maguire and Rachel Hills.

For those slightly less obsessed with progressive media than me; Maguire and Hills are known for their work in AU media such as the SMH, The Age and The Monthly, while Maguire’s recently released a non-fiction book “Princesses and Pornstars: Sex, Power, Identity” and Hills is Associate Editor at progressive Australian online magazine New Matilda.

Also, features an interview with Federal Sex Discrimination Commisioner Elizabeth Broderick, on the state of gender equality in Oz.


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