Thursday, 21 February 2019

The Life of Social Psychologist Mamie Phipps Clark

Image Description: A black and white photo of Mamie Phipps Clark and her husband Kenneth Clark. Mamie is on the left and is wearing a knit dress and string of pearls. She is smiling and looking directly at the camera. Kenneth is on the right, dressed in a black pinstripe suit, white shirt and black tie. He is wearing tortoiseshell glasses and looking lovingly at Mamie. His hand is rested on her forearm.

Racial segregation affected the lives of every black American during the middle of the 20th century. Mamie Phipps Clark was a pioneering social psychologist who investigated its influence on young black children’s self-esteem and identification. She was also the first black woman to graduate from Columbia University, in New York, with a doctorate in social psychology.

Clark was born on October 18th, 1917, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Her father was a doctor, while her mother stayed home to raise Clark and her siblings. She had a moderately comfortable and happy life growing up, despite witnessing a lynching when she was six. Her parents were very supportive and encouraged her educational interests.

In 1934, Clark enrolled at Howard University, in Washington, to major in mathematics. However, she quickly became disillusioned with the subject and department, as she felt she had no support from her professors. Around this same time, she met her future husband, Kenneth Clark. They married in 1937. He persuaded her to pursue psychology, like himself.

In 1938, Clark got a job in a civil rights lawyer’s office and the experience had a profound effect on her personal and professional life. She then started her master’s degree at Howard; her thesis was called First Interests in Children and Development of Consciousness of Self. The work focused on young black children and how segregation shaped their social development.

In 1939, Clark and her husband received a fellowship and moved to New York. Now at Columbia, Clark studied under Henry Garret, a notoriously racist professor. In 1943, Clark and Kenneth became the first black Americans to graduate and receive a doctorate of psychology from the university. Clark also had two children and raised them while she studied.

While at Columbia University, Clark and Kenneth produced important and cutting-edge research. Their most famous experiment was the Dolls Test. It involved nearly 300 black children, aged between 3 and 7. The test was designed to determine their racial identification and self-awareness. Each child was shown four identical dolls with different coloured hair and skin and had to choose their favourite. The majority picked the white doll. Not only that, but the children associated the white doll with ‘good’ and the black doll with ‘bad’.

In another study, Clark and Kenneth gave black children drawings of an apple, leaf, orange, mouse, and boy and girl. They then asked them to colour them in using a box of crayons. With the boy and girl illustrations, children were told to use a colour that represented their own skin shade. They could choose whatever colour they wanted for the opposite sex drawing. The results suggested children experienced anxiety when deciding which colour to use.

Clark and Kenneth’s research was pivotal in the landmark court case Brown v. Board of Education. By 1954, the case had travelled all the way to the United States Supreme Court. It eventually ended racial segregation in public schools and saw the integration of white people and black people into the same educational facilities. In the process, Clark had to refute her former Professor, Henry Garret, who argued black children were genetically inferior.

After receiving her doctorate, Clark found it difficult to find employment in her field. Her husband found a teaching position at the City University of New York. As a black woman with her qualification, Clark felt like an ‘unwanted anomaly’She eventually became a research psychologist at the US Armed Forces Institute but hated it. She left after one year to join the Riverdale Home for Children. Here, Clark found her passion in helping underprivileged and homeless black children.

Clark was shocked by how little support was available for black children. Many of the children had mental health issues which went untreated. Those who sought medical treatment were incorrectly diagnosed. Clark suspected black children labelled as low intelligence by white medical specialists actually had treatable learning disabilities. 

In 1946, Clark and Kenneth opened the Northside Child Development Center. The facility provided psychology services for local children in the Harlem area. It was a small operation, with professionals donating their time to keep it running. Clark was the facility’s director until her retirement in 1979. Four years later, she died of cancer. Although Clark faced difficulties in establishing the facility, it still exists today. Clark’s work made a huge difference in the lives of underprivileged children.

Mamie Phipps Clark, PhD, and Kenneth Clark, PhD (
Mamie Phipps Clark – Psychology's Feminist Voices (
Meet Mamie Phipps Clark, the social psychologist who helped outlaw segregated schools (

By: Matthew J. Healy

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of The Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of writers to put forth their ideas and explore topics. To learn more about the philosophy behind TSF’s Blogger/ Tumblr, please read our statement here:

Thursday, 14 February 2019

The Position of Women in the Jehovah’s Witnesses Cult

Jehovah’s Witnesses is an exclusive and restrictive religion whose members claim to be on the path to an enlightening and everlasting life. However, women raised in this cult claim some of their practices represent a serious violation of human rights. For example, there is no gender equality, and women are prevented from advancing in their careers. Lara Kaput, a former Jehovah’s Witness, reveals the position of women in this organisation.

Jehovah’s Witnesses is a millenarian evangelical religion founded in 1870 by Charles Taze Russell. The Witnesses believe their cult is a restoration of first-century Christianity and the doctrine is based on the entire Protestant canon of scripture, which is considered the inerrant word of God.

Female members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses face multiple restrictions in their life. First, they have the lowest positions in the religious hierarchy and, most of the time, they are excluded from any governing decisions.

“I [was] many levels down the hierarchy. The hierarchy is in this order: The Governing Body, The Travelling Overseers, The Congregations, The Elders, The Ministerial Servants, then men and then women.” - Lara Kaput.

Image of a Bible lying open midway on a table. Most of the picture is in greyscale, except for the strip of fabric acting as a bookmark, which is bright red. 

Lara claimed she was depressed and felt her intelligence was a threat to the community. In the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, women are supposed to be housewives and dedicate their life to witnessing (a common practice of converting new worshippers through door-to-door preaching). Furthermore, it is rare for Jehovah’s Witnesses women to have access to higher education, because they must procreate and not build careers.

“Females are expected to spend lots of hours witnessing, [therefore] there is no time for a college degree or any other intellectual activities.” - Lara Kaput.

Since childhood, Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to be submissive and not question anything with regards to their religion. This cult often uses mind control, especially with young women. The elders of the community make sure the women get married, give birth to children and then educate them in the spirit of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion, there is also another traumatizing experience called shunning. If a member disrespects the community or refuses to fulfill orders, they will be automatically excluded from the congregation. Therefore, there are many cases when families are separated, and even close relatives are not allowed to talk to the shunned members.

“I always got into trouble a lot in childhood because I was a critical thinker. If you’re continually questioning [what] you have been taught, you’ll be shunned.” - Lara Kaput.

Black and white image of a white woman's upper torso up to the neck, with arms in the prayer position. She is wearing a floral dress and holding a cross on a chain. 

The mind control goes even further because the personal lives of women are controlled in detail by the elders. Women are pressured to get married and, if they don’t, are labeled as difficult people. So-called leftover women are seen as aberrations, and they are often rejected by the community. There is also a great deal of pressure placed on the intimate lives of women. Jehovah’s Witnesses women are expected to be virgins upon their marriage. The dating process is also very religious. When a young woman decides to date someone, the prospective couple is supervised by family friends or acquaintances to avoid premarital sex.

“If you break the law and have sex, you will be unable to get married and automatically excluded from the organisation.” - Lara Kaput.

Reconciliation is possible. However, the shunned woman is judged by a special committee which decides whether to keep her or not. The members of this commission are allowed to ask her very intimate and uncomfortable questions. For instance, they may ask her to speak in detail about sexual intercourse.

All these practices represent a serious violation of human rights and young women especially are endangered because they are easily manipulated. To conclude, in this religion, men and women are not equal, and there are different expectations for both genders. Men have to provide for the family, while the women have to dedicate their lives to the process of witnessing.

By: Adela Marian

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of The Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of women to put forth their ideas and explore topics. The opinions shared in these pieces belong to the authors.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

STEMinist – Girlfriends

As a woman in STEM and the reluctant inheritor of a resting bitch face, paychecks and imposter syndromes have been easier to navigate than the perplexing relationship I’ve had with other women. I have found that I generally get along more easily with men than with women. I am aware that I am not the only woman who experiences this phenomenon, and that there are many factors which may have contributed to this, but I do believe that a rather large number of women in STEM fields seem to feel the same way.

While there are undeniably women in every field that face similar situations with fellow women, there seems to be a disproportionate amount of them in fields related to science, math and technology. Personally, I’ve always had to make more effort to connect with most other women than with men, and the ones I did well with seem to face the same struggle. For the longest time I thought it was just a personality thing, which it perhaps is, in part. But being surrounded by other women from STEM who think like this makes me believe that our choice in careers may have had something to do with it.

For one, I’ve mostly been around men while studying and at workplaces. The simple lack of women in my life may have made it tougher to understand how women prefer to communicate, versus how men do. One isn’t better than the other, but exposure to one more than the other would have surely determined how I learned to express myself in public.

With permission from Rebecca Abrantes, a computer engineer who had an all-male bridal party

Secondly, I think there’s a certain amount of awe that the society places on women in such fields, something we must strive to change in the next few generations by making the presence of women in STEM a common occurrence. Perhaps that extra attention or respect from society causes these women to sometimes face the contempt of other equally hard-working, talented and professional women and may even lead the former to develop a feeling of superiority, which further causes rifts in communication and understanding.

Lastly, I think being in any male-dominated field (not just STEM fields) and any discrimination within these fields forces one to develop a sort of an impermeable outer layer as a shield of protection. Being constantly asked to “man-up” doesn’t exactly encourage a free flow of expression and emotion; this can be a hindrance to forming relationships with anyone, not just women. To take it a step further, some women in male-dominated fields even end up buying into the culture of toxic masculinity and wind up perpetrating the abuses of male patriarchy onto their female peers. Call it toxic femininity, if you will.

As I took stock on how being in a STEM field has impacted my ability to connect with other women, I had lengthy discussions with the female engineers, mathematicians and scientists in my circle. It wasn’t astounding that almost all of them could empathize. Most of what I heard was:

“Women can be too judgmental and stand-offish about us; guys don’t really beat around the bush and are a little more straightforward.”

“Maybe it’s just the severe lack of women that I never really learnt how to talk to one.”

“Women compete with other women, as men do with men. Maybe men don’t consider us competition, which is sexist, but it makes talking to them easier. The landscape would be very different once they start viewing women as competition.”

“Some women in STEM are territorial; like males in a group who are both type A personality. They’re used to being the only ones in a group.”

“Women were mostly in clerical jobs in the last century; very few made it into what they call a “thinking job”, labelled as intellectually superior. The labelling continues although women have come so far in every field. Doesn’t help.”

“Maybe women in STEM actually consider themselves superior. STEM fields are given a lot of reverence in society.”

“We’re all in our own cocoons so we don’t talk much about things.”

I also spoke to a doctor who could not relate, so we’re clearly not all like this, thankfully! But I imagine that there is little way forward in the advancement of equal rights until we learn to better connect and bond amongst ourselves than we currently do.

The reason this disparity occurs can be broken down as follows: not enough women in STEM results in those who are in STEM fields struggling to connect with other women, making it harder for them to be “well-socialized” role models able to inspire more women to enter these fields.  It’s a vicious circle. Encouraging both boys and girls to enter every field unabashed, and exposing them to the possibilities of the world early on by degenderizing toys and hobbies, seems to be one of the fastest ways to break this cycle. We cannot begin to relate to each other until we stop enabling toxic masculinity and toxic femininity. And we cannot unite under the umbrella of a common goal if we cannot relate to our peers.

By: Shreyasi Mukerji

This is Part Three in Shreyasi's STEMinist series.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of The Sydney Feminists Inc. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of writers to put forth their ideas and explore topics. 

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Interview with Korean Radfems about molka, women being assaulted for short haircuts and how Korean women are escaping their corset.

KORADFEM is a South Korean twitter account. I first became aware of the when they tweeted about the abuse of a woman in South Korea, assaulted for “looking like a feminist” (click here for link). I reached out to KORADFEM to ask some questions about feminism in South Korea: how it works, how their culture reacts and how they think they’re doing in their battle for liberation.

KORADFEM is part of the radical feminist movement in South Korea.

Radical Feminism can sound alarming if you don’t know what it is. Radical Feminism is basically a root-cause analysis of the structures of power which oppress females. Analysis of patriarchy and male violence, for instance, often come from a radical feminist lens. If you’ve thought that perhaps female oppression might be even partially due to our bodies or our reproductive abilities, you’ve applied radical feminist thinking.

I will put a disclaimer here that many liberal or mainstream feminists do not agree with radical feminist analysis and have differing theories regarding concepts such as male feminists, makeup, femininity in general, gender etc. I want to make it clear that this is not a recruitment piece for radical feminism. Rather, I wanted to share a perspective from feminists that isn’t very often heard, and of the movements discussed, Escape the Corset, is very much a radical feminist movement. I hope with this in mind, the interview and replies can be taken in good faith, even if you disagree with this particular feminist analysis, or these particular feminists.

I have lightly edited Ara and Crystal’s replies, for ease of reading.

Hello! Can you tell me about yourselves?

Ara: 30, Ara Koh, Youtuber KORADFEM for Korean radical feminism. 
(The channel makes English videos of protest for MOLKA, BlackSunday in Korea, and translates for Radfems in the world. Activist of Women in Korea.)

Crystal: Hello, I am a Korean woman called Crystal (*fake name). I’m 25 in Korean age. I suppose it’s 23 in international age. I live in Seoul which is the capital of Korea. Currently I participate in the translation team of KORADFEM channel.

How is feminism viewed in South Korea? Is it difficult to call yourself a feminist? Is it dangerous?

Yes. We've always been dangerous to men or the Korean government. For example, mostly men and some women mocked and insulted me for my “Escape the Corset” profile. I had uploaded my pic with my hair shaved on my Instagram; they posted it online using illegal methods. It's not just me, they mocked us openly for the short haircut, mocked all those shaved women who have fought for the Corset. I’ve heard public derision on the street because I have shaved my hair and removed my make-up. A man sent a threatening message to my mother on Facebook; he said, "You know your daughter is a Megal (Korea’s very first feminism site) bitch."

There was an actual case where a woman got fired from her work because Korean men complained that she was a feminist. The company required her to officially declare that she is not a feminist. And then they fired her because she rejected it.

There are also national petitions by men that demanded to execute a woman celebrity because she pressed “like” on an instagram post that was about women’s rights.

That’s why the women who officially “escaped their corset” are so brave. Not only because they choose to resist social norms, but also they are openly feminist.

Especially in youth communities. It is very common to be taunted and bullied when you are known as feminist in school. So I think that underage feminists should deserve more attentions and protections.

I have seen you tweet reports of a woman being hit for "looking like a feminist" (click here for link). Does harassment or assault of feminists happen a lot? Is this a vocal minority, or the majority of men?

Every Korean man is hostile about feminism. They demonize feminists and censor every woman around them. My brother also once asked me: “are you a feminazi?”

It is socially prevalent that men are criticizing, mocking, and threatening feminists. I’ve seen some cases where women were physically attacked. So, no, it’s not safe to be openly feminist in Korea. Most people choose to hide their faces and personal information. Even I knew it could be dangerous, but still we were all shocked by this case. And it’s such a shame that victims are terribly ridiculed and criticized by Korean men now.

Here in Australia, and around the world, we’ve seen a few of your recent radical movements. I'd like to get your views on them.

In the 80s, South Korea had a severe case of abortion for girls (femicide) (I found a study here affirming this:click here for link), which is now proved by sex ratios in the nation's population between women and men. This means it led to male violence growing up, with women dying every three days for dating violence, and one in every five women dying because of their husbands.(click here for link: Korean Broadcasting System(KBS)), "Last year in South Korea, 20% of all crimes committed was by husbands who killed their wives.")

(Included from Ara is affirmation of violence caused by an uneven sex ratio, extrapolated using China’s One Child Policy. Click here for link). Sex Ratios and Crime: Evidence from China’s One-Child Policy - Columbia Univ, Chinese Univ of Hong Kong, "The rise in the sex ratio coincided with a dramatic increase in crime. Between 1988 and 2004, criminal offenses rose at an annual rate of 13.6% (or 12.5%, population adjusted) (Hu (2006)), and arrest rates were up by 82.4% (Figure 2).1 The overwhelming majority (70%) of perpetrators of violent and property crimes in China are between 16 and 25 years old (Hu (2006)). While we do not have the gender composition of arrestees by age, in 2000, 90% of all arrestees were men (Law Yearbook of China (2001)).")

Although Korea is known for its safety without guns and drugs, male violence is considered serious; it is drawing the attention of researchers around the country. MOLKA is just one of the aspects of the crime.

Molka means “secret camera”. Victims of this are photographed or videoed as they are walking, or even in change rooms or bathrooms. (Click here for link)

There's been a huge and angry response to "molka". Tens of thousands of women have protested this harassment. How did you feel about women coming together to protest like this? Has this large of a protest ever happened before?

I’m so proud of my sisters and it’s hopeful that more and more women will become conscious of feminism. As I know, “the courage to be uncomfortable” protest is the largest women protest ever among all Asia.

That’s amazing. I've seen that slogan: "the courage to be uncomfortable"- what does this mean?

In Korea, there is a slang “프로불편러” it becomes “prouncomfortabler” if I translate it literally. This slang is used to make fun of people who point out inappropriate points. So, the slogan contains the meaning we need to be brave to point out something wrong and especially about misogynistic problems. And “the courage to be uncomfortable” is the name of protest. The main slogan is “the courage to be uncomfortable will change the world”.

How widespread is the molka problem? Does it make you nervous - walking around worried to be filmed? Do you check for spy cams in toilets etc?

It was a common and well-known crime; taking pictures or recording women’s body parts in public spaces such as [the] subway. But I was shocked to know the fact that the little holes in the public restrooms which I had seen since I was little were actually for hidden cameras and that men were consuming those videos as porn.
Image is of small holes drilled into bathroom stalls

Every Korean woman feels fear that her toilet habits might have been recorded and shared at anytime and anywhere. Furthermore, because pornography is illegal in Korea, every Korean porn is illegally recorded from everywhere in our life. There are illegally filmed videos from motels, changing rooms, restrooms, even from women’s private houses. You can so easily buy various forms of spy cameras on major shopping sites of Korea.

Now, most Korean women are sharing their ‘tips’ to break and block hidden cameras. We are carrying our own awl and silicone sealant everywhere.

Image of silicone and tools to plug up small holes

Image of small holes in public restroom that have been plugged up with silicone

Also, you can find these things in Korea public restrooms- the holes women tried to block with tissues.
Image of tissue being shoved into small holes in bathroom stall

I love how innovative women are! This is amazing.

How do police respond to complaints?

Actually, this protest is primarily about a male biased judgement. We knew about those illegal spy cam videos and there are sites uploading and selling those videos before. But when victims tried to sue the criminals who recorded and uploaded videos, the police always answered “they cannot track the criminals”. Because of this neglected duty, many women committed suicide. Even if the charges have been filed, the punishments of the criminals were ridiculously light (mostly suspended).

But last year, there was a case where a picture of a male nude model got uploaded online. And the woman who uploaded that picture was immediately arrested and known nationally as a ‘crazy bitch’. Women got angry that actually they were able to catch the perpetrator this quickly and easily. Therefore, the protest started.

Sadly, that woman was sentenced to 10 months. It’s insane. In Korea that amount of sentence is not even for child sexual abuses (of course only in male cases).

What made women snap - what ignited the protests?


Before the 6th protest, it was revealed that [the] strong reputation of Korea as the global IT powerhouse was actually built based upon illegal spy cam videos of women.

So many industries, companies and even the government institution [are] involved in this Illegal Recorded Pornography Cartel. I assume this made 110,000 women to participate in 6th protest.

Infographic of The Structure of the Webhard Cartel (

Crystal :
This article illustrates the situation very well: click here for link

I've seen slogans "leave Korea right now" - what is this about? Are you trying to warn foreigners/tourists?

Yes it is. Because the protest was held in Gwanghwamun which is one of popular tourist attractions, the organizers made these warning announcements in several languages.

How do you think molka could be stopped?

I think to stop entire molka crimes, the government should change. More than 90% of Korean politicians are male. Even though this demonstration that was held on the sixth [Nov 2018], the government is still ignoring voices of women and do not mention anything about [the] protest. We need much more female politicians who can speak up for women’s rights.

I wanted to ask you about “Escape the Corset” – where women rebel against beauty standards and femininity oppression by destroying their makeup supplies, shaving their heads/cutting their hair.

What are makeup standards in South Korea like?

[...] many people know about "Korean beauty culture" as "Plastic Surgery's Country", it's very common here. Because Korean women are used to being openly criticized for their appearance by Korean men; even teenage girls are under pressure from their families to have plastic surgeries and make-up, and now children are increasingly forced to wear makeup.

What does "Escape the Corset" mean to you?

Women are not born with a long hair, wearing make up from birth, but they are made to grow in that way. It in turn reduces women's abilities by allowing them to spend time only on their appearance.

Shaving my hair has reduced my shower time. Now I always walk with pride, use my time to study English instead of looking into mirrors, and the thought of losing weight has changed; instead I’m focusing on becoming healthy. I was so upset because it was all a culture that men encouraged us to do from the start.

People say they are helping women who are going through their chemotherapy by donating hairs to make them look “normal and pretty" again, and it is such a hypocritical, coy lie since what they really do starts from defining women’s natural appearance as “abnormal and ashamed” first. Then society proceeds to make them wear wigs to look like a long-haired barbie again. This reinforces “the utter feminine" stereotype, creating new type of corset afterhand. And corsets destroy the body.

Do you think this movement will undermine the Korean beauty industry?

Absolutely. In fact, Korea's beauty industry is already getting down. We hope all beauty industries will be affected.

How linked is the beauty industry to South Korea's plastic surgery industry? Is there pressure for women to have plastic surgery?

Beauty industry and plastic surgery industry are like identical twins with different names in reality. Those two thing always grow together.

If you go to station of "Gangnam" in Seoul, (which is famous for the song Gangnam Style) it is literally plastered with a plethora of plastic surgery advertisements inside and outside.

Young female children are also under passive-aggressive coercion to have plastic surgery and make-up.

Image is a screenshot of google search results for Gangnam station plastic surgery

Ara advises searching on Youtube to see tutorials for “make up for kids” – she advises not to click and watch any of the videos to ensure the uploaders don’t make money for these videos. (Youtube searching "어린이화장 (Make-up for Kids)).

How do people react to women who’ve escaped the corset?

Men are so afraid of women making their own opinions, so most Korean men use the term "Feminazis", "Femtardism". Some mothers with sons want more women to focus only on their appearance because they fear that their son's grades will drop because of smarter girls.

"Short-haired women" are always getting attacked online. Abroad, "Escape the Corset" is seen as a movement receiving positive reactions, but women are seriously suffering and the fights they've gone through are not known.

It’s terrible women are being judged so harshly for how they look, or failing to perform femininity.

Is it true you must provide photos when you are interviewing for a job? If so, will “Escape the Corset” affect potential careers?

South Koreans must put a picture on their resume. Most women have already been excluded from the job because they are women, and Korea's gender wage gap ranks always the first in the OECD.  (34.6%, 2017, OECD: click here for link).  A woman with a short cut often fails to get a job. Moreover there has been a case where a woman got fired from her job because she took off the corset after her job interview. The employer said that her appearance was “not neat and tidy enough to work at my cafe" and fired her, even though she was just as clean and tidy as a male worker right next to her. When she protested that it is unfair, he only repeated saying “but you are a woman so you should care more than men, it is natural" and “you had longer hair and applied makeup on your face at the job interview, and that’s the girl I hired, you fraud.”

Is “Escape the Corset” spreading? Despite the attacks women are receiving, are you excited about this movement?

Many Korean women have gained courage from short cuts for each other. It's revolutionary to be known abroad, but I am still unsatisfied-we want more. I can't give a complete positive answer for it because I know that there are many sisters who took off their corset are still afraid of men's violence as a retaliation. But that is the reason we should strive [harder] to let this movement catch fire even more.

Waiting for the wild fire we ignited to spread all over the world-it is more than mere excitement.

Are you hopeful that these new rebellions are only just the beginning?

Foreign journalists also regard the "Escape the Corset" as just the latest trends in Korea, but I sincerely hope it will continue into the world. Long hair and makeup suppress other women in a chain reaction. We, women, have to change first.

Korea have fostered culture and society of misogyny for thousands years, and that misogyny permeated deep into even our language. Korean feminists are now pointing out and changing misogynistic and patriarchal aspects in society. I think our movements are very militant and full of enthusiasm. Although it’s not easy to be feminist in Korea, no matter how [long] it takes, I believe we will win at the end.

Thank you so much, Ara and Crystal, for answering my questions and sharing your perspective with us.

By: Tee Linden

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of The Sydney Feminists. Our Blogger and Tumblr serve as platforms for a diverse array of writers to put forth their ideas and explore topics. 


Tuesday, 22 January 2019

NASA’s First Female Astronauts

Russia sent the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova, into space onboard Vostok 6 in 1963. It would take America another twenty years before it would send its first female astronaut, Sally Ride, skywards. Besides being the first new group since 1969, the astronaut class of 1978 was special because of its diversity, notably for including Black and Asian Americans. Selected from thousands of highly qualified candidates, the group (nicked named ‘Thirty-Five New Guys’) also included NASA’s first female astronauts. After the class announcement, each individual underwent a year of intense training before graduating and becoming an active astronaut.

Sally Ride

Sally Ride was the first American woman to fly in space. Ride was born on May 26th, 1951, in Encino, California. She briefly tried to become a professional tennis player but quit in order to get a Bachelor of Science in Physics and a Bachelor of Arts in English. Leading up to her first flight in 1983, Ride was a member of ground control operations for two shuttle missions. Ride also went to space on mission STS-41-G in 1984, making her the first American woman to go to space multiple times. She was a member of the Accident Advisory Boards for the Challenger incident and the Columbia disaster. (In 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated when it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. Investigations found that the shuttle’s heat shield was damaged after it had been struck by debris at launch). She retired from NASA in 1987 to become a Professor of Physics at the University of California. Ride was a big voice in encouraging and inspiring young people (especially girls) in STEM fields. She passed away from cancer in 2012. The US Navy named a research vessel after her and a Moon site has been named in her honour too.

Anna Lee Fisher

In 1984, Anna Lee Fisher became the first mother to fly in space. Born on August 24th, 1949, in New York City, Fisher obtained a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and then a Doctor of Medicine. While in grad school, she contributed to a number of science papers. Fisher worked in a number of hospitals around Los Angeles before she applied to NASA. Her only time in space was as a Mission Specialist on STS-51-A aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Fisher left NASA from 1989 to 1995 to prioritise her family. When she did return, she worked closely with the Astronauts Office and Space Station Operations during the development of the International Space Station (ISS). Fisher is still an active member of NASA and has worked in many areas of ISS operations. She was a vital part of CAPCOM during Expedition 33. CAPCOM is short for capsule communicator and is the person who relays messages between spacecrafts (and space stations) and ground control.

Shannon Lucid

Shannon Lucid was born in China in 1943. Lucid and her family were held as prisoners by the Japanese during World War II. When the war ended, they moved to Oklahoma in central United States. She developed a love for science at an early age and was inspired by the work of American engineer Robert H. Goodard, who invented the first successfully liquid-fuelled rocket. A dedicated mother, she still managed to find time to get her pilot’s license and a Doctoral in Biochemistry. In 1996, while on her fifth space mission, Lucid was part of a media controversy. In a NASA-Roscosmos joint mission, she spent nearly 200 days aboard the Russian Space Station Mir with cosmonauts Yuri Onufrienko and Yury Usachov. Being the only woman, the Russian media had a frenzy saying she’d be doing all the cleaning and pointed out that the cosmonauts had intentionally put tape over sensitive controls they didn’t want her to touch as an insult. Lucid was very diplomatic responding that the three were a team delegating tasks equally and that, if she were in charge, she would’ve made the same decision for sensitive equipment too. She officially retired from NASA in 2012.

Judith Resnik

Born in Ohio on April 5th, 1949, Judith Resnik defied her family’s wishes by going to university and studying an Electrical Engineering degree, eventually earning a doctorate. Resnik was part of the Discovery crew in 1984. It was during this mission that her long hair accidentally became stuck in an IMAX camera while filming in microgravity. She had to have some of her hair cut off in order to release the camera. It continued to work and filmed for the rest of the mission. Sadly, Resnik was one of the astronauts killed when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff on January 28th, 1986. She received a Medal of Honour after her death.

Margaret Rhea Seddon

Margaret Rhea Seddon was born in Tennessee on August 11th, 1947. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Physiology and a Doctorate of Medicine. She worked in general surgeries and hospital emergency departments after she graduated. She has contributed a great deal of research to understanding the effects of radiation treatment in cancer patients. She has logged 722 hours in space and flew on three shuttle missions. She officially retired from NASA in 1997. 

Kathryn D. Sullivan

Born in New Jersey on October 3rd, 1951, Kathryn D. Sullivan holds a Bachelor of Arts in the Earth Sciences and a Doctorate in Geology. Besides her NASA work, Sullivan is a famous oceanographer and is known for being a member of several scientific expeditions that explored the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans seafloors. On mission STS-41-G, she and astronaut David Leestma and performed a 210 minute spacewalk to work on a captured satellite. The activity made her the first American woman to walk in space. Sullivan flew on two other shuttle missions, including the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Sullivan parted ways with NASA in 1993 to become Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These six individuals paved the way for future women at NASA. Eileen Collins became the first Space Shuttle commander in 1999 and Peggy Whitson became the first ISS commander, on Expedition 16, in 2008. Mae Jemison became the first black American woman in space when she flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992, breaking the glass ceiling for African American women astronauts. In 2017, NASA’s newest group of astronauts were announced, and five of them are women. They’ll be going to space within the next few years.

By: Matthew J. Healy

This article is the first in the "STEMinist History Series".


40th Anniversary of the Astronaut Class of 1978…the TFNGs (
1978 Astronaut Class (
Astronaut Anna Fisher: The First Mom in Space (Photos) (
Dr. Anna Fisher (
Heroes of Space: Shannon Lucid (
Kathryn Sullivan (
Margaret Rhea Seddon (
NASA's First Class of Female Astronauts (
NASA STEM Engagement (
Resnik, Judith Arlene 'JR' (
Sally Ride: First American Woman in Space (
Women in Space (

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Climate Justice as a Feminist Ethos: Why Gender Dimensions of Climate Change Matter

In its growing prominence as a threat to the world as we know it, climate change has inevitably proven to be one of the most complex challenges of our time. Left unchecked, this accelerated rate of ecological degradation will leave devastating impacts on our environment, society and economy. Yet, these adverse effects are already being felt by many across the globe, particularly by the marginalized and disadvantaged communities in developing regions. However, many environmental issues that have occurred have been due to the unsustainable lifestyles of the most affluent populations within developed countries (Kaijser & Kronsell, 2014). Moreover, it is the voices of the marginalized and the disenfranchised that continue to lack representation on all levels of discussion and decision making about climate issues. From this position, the climate crisis entails more than just an understanding of the inherent relationship between consumption patterns and carbon emissions, but necessitates a deeper look at the interplay between power, privilege and prejudice and its impact.

According to Zoloth (2017), women encompass the “seventy per cent of the 1.3 billion people living below the threshold of poverty” (p. 140).  This is because women, particularly women of colour within marginalized and developing communities, depend on natural resources for their livelihoods, which are now threatened by the effects of climate change. This includes drought, famine, deforestation and so many other environmental patterns that are detrimental to the lives of women with regards to their physical, psychological, sexual and reproductive health and rights. Not only do they struggle obtaining scarce resources such as water, food and energy, but also face the same social, political and economic barriers that women across the world endure, reducing their capacity to cope with limited resources and opportunities to partake in the climate discussions and decision-making processes that affect them. These gendered inequalities within climate issues are pervasive and continue to limit the voices of women in matters that primarily affect them.

Because women in developing countries face gender inequality and poverty, along with illness, violence and a lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, climate change puts them at a further disadvantage (Lim, 2017). This includes contracting water-borne diseases from regions where water is scarce and unhygienic, which affects their reproductive health (e.g. spontaneous abortions, stillbirth, etc.), or difficulty in accessing food in times of famine or droughts, leading to malnutrition, higher pregnancy risks and the inability to menstruate in young girls. Climate change also increases the burdens of women, as they are allocated traditional feminine roles of taking care of the young, sick and elderly, cooking and cleaning, as well as fetching energy and water (Lim, 2017). This leaves most women susceptible to abuse, sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence. Some of the more prominent forms of violence in these regions also include child marriage as a means of selling off the girl child to escape poverty and rid a 'financial burden’.

A lack of gender perspectives within climate discourse not only erases the struggles of women, but assumes that climate change is gender-neutral, when ample evidence proves otherwise. This idea of climate change as purely ecological is dangerous, particularly without the inclusion of gendered, racial and other intersectional dimensions, when considering adaptation and mitigation strategies. A common strategy that has often been brought up within conferences such as the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, forming the UNPF (United Nations Populations Fund)), is population control. This is due to growing emissions in greenhouse gasses as a result of the rise in global populations. Though an inclusion of sexual and reproductive health and rights within climate policies would benefit women and population control goals, women’s bodies are not vehicles for climate change solutions (Silliman, 2009), as they are and must continue to be the sole deciders of whether or not they want to have children, and how many. As Lim (2017) argues, the rights of women are “non-negotiable, and States cannot pick and choose which human rights they would grant to women” (p. 19).

One of many women-led organisations trying to combat climate change

As the article by McKibbin (2017) accurately states, “there’s an almost perfect inverse relationship between how much of the problem you caused and how much of the pain you’re feeling”. This encapsulates the climate change dilemma: capitalism and modernity thrive on the marginalized populations that continue to struggle for survival and endure the harsh effects of climate change, as we continue our unsustainable and non-ecofriendly ways. This is apparent in observing how the autonomy and agency of women in developing regions are often unacknowledged or compromised as a result. But women are not just ‘victims’ of climate issues; they are active agents of change in terms of mitigation and adaptation due to the knowledge they have of the resources they use, their skillsets in domestic work, navigating for food, water and energy and the roles and responsibilities they have within their communities that are central to sustaining their livelihoods.

A debt is owed to the communities that still struggle as the rest of the world strives and modernizes, and the only way we can ever overcome climate change is to start repaying that debt with action, and with justice. Climate change must become as central to feminist ethics as women’s bodily autonomy, reproductive rights and equality of opportunity.  Zoloft (2017) hauntingly warns us if we continue on this perilous road of climate injustice, “there will be a time when the last well is dry, and then it will be too late” (p. 141).

By: Mya Gopal

Kaijser, A., & Kronsell, A. (2014). Climate change through the lens of intersectionality. Environmental Politics, 23(3), 417-433. Retrieved from
Lim, H. M. (2017). Why prioritise SRHR in climate change programming and policy
making. SRHR in the Era of the SDGs,23(2), 18-21. Retrieved from
McKibben, B. (2017, August 25). Climate Justice Is Racial Justice Is Gender Justice. Retrieved from
Silliman, J. (2009). In search of Climate Justice: Refuting dubious linkages, affirming
rights. ARROW For Change,15(1), 1-3. Retrieved from
Zoloth, L. (2017). At the Last Well on Earth: Climate Change Is a Feminist Issue. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion,33(2), 139-151. doi:10.2979/jfemistudreli.33.2.14

Image Source 1:
Image Source 2:

Follow by Email