Tuesday, 26 June 2018

The Murder of Eurydice Dixon and Naming The Problem

I’m writing this for Eurydice Dixon, who was raped and murdered by a man as she walked home from a comedy gig, but I’m also writing this for all of us. 
Eurydice Dixon struck a chord with us, especially women I think, because she could have been any of us. We can all relate to her. Even though she is, devastatingly, the thirtieth Australian woman murdered this year according to Destroy the Joint, Eurydice’s story is absolutely universal. We’ve all had to get home alone, maybe not from a gig, but from a bar or friend’s house or even just from work, at some point. And if not all of us, then the vast majority, have felt the powerlessness of being harassed or intimidated by a man. Most of us can recall feeling scared the harassment we’ve endured might’ve escalated.
I have a six-minute walk from my closest train station to my door, and I have been harassed on the way home. In the space of six minutes. Multiple times. I think we relate to Eurydice so strongly, because most, if not all, of us have felt threatened by men on mundane trips home.
Take responsibility for your safety - keep your phone on you, we heard, in the following days. Eurydice did. She texted her friend that she was almost home. It didn’t matter. Because not having a phone isn’t the problem here.
Bianca Jagoe / @biancajagoe

Be aware of your surroundings, we heard as well from police, in the following days. But let’s be honest: that doesn’t make sense. Eurydice’s surroundings were a park. The park didn’t rape and murder Eurydice. It’s not walking through the park that killed her. The park in itself is not an unsafe place. It was the murderous man who killed her that was unsafe. It was the murderous man who was the danger. That is the root of the problem. To solve the problem we must identify and name the problem: male violence. If the murderous man didn’t kill Eurydice, then Eurydice would still be here. It’s simple.
Why should women be disadvantaged by male violence? Why should we be lectured to watch our surroundings - why aren’t men getting the lectures, getting the advice from police? If men are the danger, then it’s not women who need policing in this situation, it’s men.
And when did we all decide that violent men will always rot our society, and women must just put up with it? I never agreed on that idea. I don’t think that. Let’s challenge the idea that male violence is the status quo and that women must navigate our way around it. Enough is enough. This is not normal, it never was. Eurydice Dixon was just trying to get home after a night out. She did not deserve to be raped and murdered for doing the ‘wrong thing’, she was not ‘just in the wrong place at the wrong time’. She was just walking home. 

I was glad to see the comments–
keep your phone on yoube aware of your surroundings–challenged so quickly. We’re not buying it anymore. The vigils for Eurydice show how much we care about ripping the rot from our society, how much enough must be enough for all of us. Because we know that Eurydice’s murder was not an isolated incident, but instead was connected to every injustice in a sexist and structurally unequal society, connected to the twenty-nine other women murdered this year already, connected to all of us.

We should be angry and we will demand better, by naming the problem, standing together and demanding that the status quo just isn’t good enough anymore.

By: Tee Linden

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Irene Bedard and Pocahontas


Irene Bedard is one of the most famous and respected Native Americans working in Hollywood today. Her career spans nearly twenty-five years and ranges from acting to producing credits. She is probably best known as the voice behind the title character of Disney’s 1995 animation Pocahontas. The movie broke new ground for the studio but was also not received well for its representation of Native Americans and its historical inaccuracies. Bedard also heads a production company dedicated to "bringing positive, inspirational stories from Indian Country to the world".

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, on July 22nd, 1967, Bedard had her film acting debut in the mid-1990s. Besides Pocahontas, she has featured in Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee (1994), Into the West (2005) and small parts in other films and television series. Bedard regularly plays Native American characters. She received a Golden Globe nomination in 1995. She reprised her Disney Princess in its direct-to-video sequel, Pocahontas 2: Journey to the New World (1998), and the character’s mother in The New World (2005). She was also the physical model for Pocahontas. In the early 2010s, she started the company Sleeping Lady Films Waking Giant Productions. It’s based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Grant, Production Designer Michael Giaimo and Gabriel

Coming off The Rescuers Down Under (1990), director Mike Gabriel was looking for something completely different for his next film. He teamed up with legendary Disney story artist and character designer Joe Grant. Grant is responsible for a lot of the work on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940) and many other Disney classics. The duo worked on an outline to adapt Swan Lake for the big screen. It was rejected by Disney executives as they felt it had no story. Gabriel and Grant went looking for inspiration in old cowboy films and American folklore. At the next meeting, they produced a picture of the Peter Pan character Tiger Lily with the title ‘Walt Disney’s Pocahontas’ and the pitch ‘an Indian princess who is torn between her father's wishes to destroy the English settlers and her wishes to help them—a girl caught between her father and her people, and her love for the enemy’ written on it. Executives were enthusiastic about the concept and Pocahontas was greenlit.

Tiger Lily from Peter Pan (1953)

Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture at the 1992 Academy Awards but lost to The Silence of the Lambs. Disney decided to take another shot for the award. Aladdin (1992) and The Lion King (1994) were too close to completion, but Pocahontas had everything they needed: an epic romance story. To make it Oscar worthy and more serious, the secondary animal characters were changed to non-speaking roles. Tom Sito was the film’s story supervisor. He decided to loosely base the story on past events and embrace myth. He felt this approach wouldn’t hinder creativity. Though this was the direction Pocahontas headed in, Disney wanted to keep everything as authentic as possible and hired Native American voice actors and elders. Once learning the film wasn’t following true history, Shirley "Little Dove" Custalow-McGowan—a decedent from the real Pocahontas’s tribe—left the project. She had served as a consultant.

Bedard learnt she was cast as Pocahontas while on the set of Lakota Woman.

Pocahontas and Bedard

Pocahontas was in production for five years. It was the first Disney film to have an interracial relationship and the only Disney Princess, to date, based on a historical figure. It had a budget of $55 million (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation) and was released on the real Pocahontas’s 400th birthday. It debuted in Central Park, New York, on four 80-foot high screens to 100,000 people, making it the biggest premiere turnout of all time. It was also the first Disney movie censored. Its racial slurs were removed in post-production. The film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture but won the Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, for ‘Colors of the Wind’.

Pocahontas singing ‘Colors of the Wind’

It had an average box office run and is noted as the beginning of the Disney Renaissance decline. The studio’s popularity wouldn’t return until the Revival era with Tangled (2010) and Frozen (2013). Pocahontas was heavily criticised by activists and scholars for its Native American representation and stereotyping.

The real Pocahontas shared similarities with her Disney counterpart but lived a vastly different life in other areas. She was born Amonute and her nickname was Pocahontas, meaning ‘Little Mischief’, ‘Playful One’ and ‘Ill-Behaved Child’. She was a member of the Pamunkey tribe and was really twelve years old—not in her early twenties as depicted in the film. Pocahontas and John Smith didn’t have a romantic relationship. She befriended him while he was being held captive. The two taught each other the basics of their languages. Pocahontas was pivotal in freeing Smith. Her story has been told from one generation to the next becoming the myth it is today. In her own strong, smart and independent way she became an ambassador and translator for both nations. While in England, she became very sick and died in 1617.

To this day, Pocahontas remains the only Disney Princess to have a visible tattoo and—besides Tiana from The Princess and the Frog (2009)—is the only one to be born in America. People still have mixed feelings about the film; some see it as groundbreaking for its time whilst many others, particularly among the Native American community, see it as deeply problematic. As for Bedard, she and her production company recently bought the rights to the classic Alaskan novel Two Old Women, by Velma Wallis, and are adapting it into a film. She currently resides in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

By: Matthew J. Healy


15 Things You Might Not Know About Pocahontas (http://mentalfloss.com/article/64841/15-things-you-might-not-know-about-pocahontas)
Irene Bedard - iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0065942/)
Native Actress Irene Bedard’s Film Company to Bring Classic Novel, “Two Old Women” to Big Screen (https://nativenewsonline.net/currents/native-actress-irene-bedards-film-company-to-bring-classic-novel-two-old-women-to-big-screen/)
Pocahontas - iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114148/?ref_=nmbio_trv_4)
Pocahontas - The Disney Wiki (http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Pocahontas_(character))
Pocahontas (film) - The Disney Wiki (http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Pocahontas_(film))
The True Story of Pocahontas (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-pocahontas-180962649/)
Sleeping Lady Films, Waking Giant Productions  - Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/SleepingLadyFilms/about/?ref=page_internal)

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Passing of Safe Access Zones in NSW

You’ve probably heard the news about safe access zones and you’re probably as thrilled as I am with the result. This will be brief, but I’ve been waiting a long time to have good news in regards to reproductive health for women so allow me to indulge.

Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018 passed. It passed. We did it. We took another step towards equality, towards respecting women, to improving safe medical care for women and a step away from patriarchal control.

Credit: Twitter @PennySharpemlc

So thank you to the ministers who listened to the women and people who needed this bill. And thank you to everyone who campaigned for this, or for the as yet unpassed End12/ decriminalisation of abortion over the past few years.

What does this bill actually mean?

This bill will establish 150m “safe access zones” around abortion clinics. Within the 150m it will be illegal to intimidate, harass or film people accessing the clinic. The bill also creates a communication offence if someone makes "a communication that relates to abortion, by any means that could cause distress or anxiety" to a person accessing the clinic.

Who voted?

More than 40 MPs spoke on this bill and it took hours of debate. It passed with no amendments, 61/18.

Of the holdouts, Tanya Davies and Pru Goward didn’t support the bill. While I obviously agree women can share differing opinions on laws, Tanya Davies is our Minister for Women and Pru Goward is the NSW Minister for Family and Community Services, for Social Housing, and for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
This bill is primarily about safety and respect for women. These ministers, Tanya Davies especially, are meant to improve the lives of NSW women.
Harassment when seeking medical treatment doesn’t improve our lives.

Pru Goward, here, explains her reasoning for voting against. In the article, Goward explains the bill poses a problem for her in regards to freedom of speech.

I want to counter the idea that the bill attacks free speech, as it’s prevalent, and I want to be as clear as possible: no one is forcing "sidewalk counsellors" to stop doing what they are doing. If they want to hand out incorrect information () and pamphlets about abortions, they still can, they just have to do it 150 metres down the street from a clinic. What they can’t do is target harassment to people entering the clinics. This buffer removes the distress and intimidation for the women.

The bill does not stop “sidewalk counsellors” holding up placards of dead babies, as is their wont. They can hold up placards of dead babies from dawn till dusk. They just cannot do it out the front door of a clinic. And this makes sense. A comparable example: anti-vaxxers are allowed to protest vaccines for children, if they want to, but should they be allowed to protest outside the door of your local GP shouting slurs at anyone who enters, even if they’re just there to get a skin check? Clear heads would agree that’s probably not the place for those protests.

Tanya Davies, had a different problem: she voted against Safe Access Zones because she believes the “sidewalk counsellors” help women see other points of view.

Even if that were the case: are these people trained counsellors? Are they adept at counselling and if so, where’s the oversight on them? Who do they report to? Do they adhere to the Australian Counselling Association Code of Ethics and Practice?
In the ACA Code of Ethics and Practice, for instance, counsellors have a responsibility to their client. Some examples from the code:

Counsellors must provide privacy for counselling sessions. The sessions should not be overheard, recorded or observed by anyone other than the counsellor without informed consent from the client.

Counsellors do not normally give advice.

Counsellors have both a duty of care and a responsibility not to mislead, misguide or misdirect [either overtly by publication or covertly by omission] clients as to the counsellors level of competence, experience or qualifications. To do so is considered to be a most serious ethical breech as it increases the risk of harm to the client and damages the credibility of the profession in the eyes of the general public.

Counsellors must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the client does not suffer physical, emotional or psychological harm during counselling sessions.

If they are not counsellors, and haven’t had training, and adhere to no code of ethics or practice or governing body, perhaps they are not actually counsellors and to name them so undermines the actual counsellors operating in Australia.

As Melanie Gibbons pointed out during the session (tweet from @DebGroarke who live-tweeted the safe access zones debate):

Credit: Twitter @DebGroarke

As detailed in the Sydney Morning Herald, Labor MP Trish Doyle’s statement showed a vastly different perception of "sidewalk counsellors" to our Minister for Women. Doyle stated when she visited a reproductive health clinic, she was "harassed by these judgemental supposed “counsellors”, shouting at (her) that (she) was a “baby killer".

I don’t see how shouting “baby killer” at women is supporting them in any way.

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, was also unhappy with the result, calling it an attack on "freedom of religion, speech and association."

The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018 provides a small, 150m bubble of dignity to women accessing medical treatment. Again, I’ll stress that anti-abortion protesters are still free to protest anywhere but that 150m bubble.
And if the Catholic Archbishop truly believes that freedom of religion demands the ability to harass women in front of medical centres, then I suggest they need to have better think about the purpose of religion in our society.

What next? 

In MP Mehreen Faruqui’s words "we need to decriminalisation abortion, which is the crux of the issue of lack of access for women and people who are seeking abortion services."
This was a good win for women’s rights. It won’t be the last.

If you’re unhappy with Tanya Davies’ vote against the bill, you can still tell her:

By Tee Linden

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Gender Quotas and the Banking Royal Commission

The distribution of women and men in executive positions in the Banking Industry is unequal, as with many high earning positions. The recent Banking Royal Commission has uncovered dirt from major banks; speculation says women are the source of the problem. As quoted in an Australian Newspaper article a previous board member for a logistics company, Chris Corrigan, stated that the AMP board executive Catherine Brenner (who resigned) was only in that position due to her gender, implying that her company’s mistake was entirely hers. Essentially, recent revelations have pointed the finger at gender quotas (ensuring that executive positions are to have a certain percentage of women) and the women who are elected into these positions are underqualified. This sort of misinformation has a detrimental effect on all industries in terms of promoting women. 

Simply, gender quotas are a target distribution of all genders for a certain workplace or position. Gender quotas (also all other minority quotas including ethnicity, religion, race) are imperative in giving more women a chance to succeed in an industry. Diversity of all kinds fuel a cohesive workplace in which each person’s unique skills can be applied. It’s also valuable to have women in powerful positions to empower other women and girls to follow their ambitions. Gender quotas are a tool to amend the setbacks faced by women and other minorities that have traditionally held them back from rising to powerful positions. Either consciously or unconsciously women are regarded as less capable than men in competing for jobs and thus gender quotas are required to level the playing field. 

The overwhelming majority of bank executives are male but as soon as one woman drops the ball, women everywhere are incompetent. This is because men are assumed to be capable of performing a job and have to prove the opposite if they are incompetent. Whereas women are assumed to be not capable of carrying out a position and have to prove if they are. This doesn’t just apply to the banking industry; all occupations carry some, or all, of this burden. For instance, the scarce number of women in the Australian Military would have to endlessly prove themselves able to perform their own jobs. Following the Commission’s findings AMP has had four employees resign, three of which have been women. If the quotas aim is to fill thirty percent of executive positions with women, which may not have even been the case, why is seventy-five percent of the people targeted women? Following this haemorrhaging of board members, AMP will be searching for new members. Speculation has posed the questions of who they will elect to these positions, more perfectly qualified women or the ever-capable men. Unfortunately, the Royal Commission has correlated female representation with boardroom misconduct which may affect the new board members for AMP.

I would like to add that not many banks are joining the witch hunt for now but it’s clear that the idea of gender quotas have decayed following these unethical “revelations”. 

In summary, women aren’t considered capable of occupations they may have trained their whole life for, due to gender bias from people in positions of power. Gender quotas are a staple for industries in need of female representation not just to even to scales now but to ensure a more equitable future. It’s harder to facilitate change when the people who oppose it are the loudest, but it is imperative to ensure women are eligible to take roles in executive power. 

By: Esther David

The Weekend Australian

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