Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Riffing off MsElouise's Identity post

I've been mulling over this since I read it as a submission for the DUFC. Identity, and labels for it, is something I've always found intriguing. MsElouise provided a different way of thinking about it for me. She concluded that claiming a label can help you feel that you belong and give you a voice, but it can also be a trap. One reason it can be a trap is that some people may hold quite different ideas about the identity you claim than you hold yourself. When "some people" is a large chunk, or even a majority, of society, the identity ends up a constant source of mis-identification and outright prejudice. This can be a damn good reason to reject a label, although it sucks to have to acquiesce to prejudice and ignorance and for some identities (race, gender & sexual identity for eg) is the basis of activism.

In thinking about the reasons why people might reject an identity, or at least the label for it, I think she's nailed one of the reasons. However, I think there's another one that relates to fear of rejection and impostor syndrome. In part, I don't say "I am a feminist" (while having entirely feminist ideology) because I worry about being trapped in what other people think a feminist is. This is the aspect I've focussed on in the past. I've never been happy with all the connotations of any label, so I've rejected all of them. But another part is that I fear being rejected by feminists as not a good enough feminist. I wouldn't call myself bisexual because "real" bisexual people would laugh at my married-to-a-man arse. If I don't claim the identity, other people who share it can't reject me.

Any given label I reject may have elements of both reasons, or be based entirely on one of them. I think there are probably more reasons too. My disinterest in my surname probably has more to do with historical accident and perversity than anything else.

Also worth noting is that some labels I don't have the right to reject - the ones that are given to me by society and luck and provide me with a head start over people who don't share them. White, middle class, educated, cis, perceived as hetero. Those labels I need to remain aware of until such time as other labels are afforded the same advantages and opportunities. Only then will it truly be meaningful for people to have a choice as to whether they want to embrace those socially loaded identities and labels or not.

Monday, April 09, 2012

47th DUFC

Welcome to the 47th Down Under Feminists Carnival. [Insert usual claims of it being very hard to restrict to only 2 posts each] Please do go look at other posts on these blogs, some seriously good stuff is missing for the sake of preventing unwieldyness. Thanks to the contributors, I've had a fantastic time reading all the submissions.

Also, I haven't been reading nearly as many blogs as I'd like lately, so I'm not familiar with some of these people. Please let me know if I've failed to highlight any new bloggers.


Image of a drawn girl reading "Of Mice and
Men" and wondering "Am I the troublesome
whore... or the mouse?" from
Confessions of a Stuffed Olive's post.
Confessions of a Stuffed Olive - Where are the English texts about girls? 
Pointing out that encouraging boys to read by choosing only texts with boys in them doesn't help anyone.

Gill Polack - Women's History Month: Anita Heiss
Anita writes about the women who helped her become who she is.

Gill Pollack - Women's History Month - Lucy Sussex
Lucy remembers her mother in vignettes.

The Banana Lounge - AWW 2012 – Australian women writers of diverse heritage 
A handy list thereof.

Australian Women Writers - "In defence of books written by women for women"
Why is romance, as a genre, so dismissed and denigrated?

Smile... It confuses people - Fairytales
How to rewrite fairy tales and infuse them with some feminist values.

Body image

Zero at the Bone - Loss of Weight or Fellow Feeling
Highlighting the hypocrisy in the claim that fat hating is only about health.

Settle Petal - Frustration
How misogyny gets in our heads and makes us hate ourselves and other women.

On the impact of a fat hating culture.

Image of a seated women,
legs apart, naked from the
waist down, wearing a striped
top, high heels & veil behind
 her head. Her hands rest in
her lap. From Lip post. 

Fatandslutty - My Clitoris is Offensive
The war against good sex, and how to avoid it. (The war, that is, not the good sex.) New Blogger! 

Lip - submissive sex - anti-feminist or not?
Self-explanatory really, but with an interesting comment thread about how our preferences might be influenced (or not) by prevailing culture.

Lip - (sex)uality: next stop, masturbation station
Why masturbation is good for you.


News With Nipples - But they’re women, they should be nice
Why does anyone ask why women on opposing parties aren't nice to each other when they don't ask the same question of men?

Settle Petal - Feminist Guide to the Queensland Election

The Lady Garden - Welfare "reforms"
NZ National Government thoroughly rejects the notion that caring work matters and is valuable.

Crikey - Nanny Sends Tracey and Tony to the Naughty Corner
Regarding the exploitation potential of nannies after Tony Abbott's announcement of his plan to subsidise nannies.


blue milk - How to do a homophobic political ad
So many layers of fail.

Opinions @ bluebec.com  - Submission to the Senate on marriage equality
Self explanatory really! :)

Opinions @ bluebec.com - Biphobia
What it is, and how we're probably all guilty of it sometimes.

The Lady Garden - IME
On the disconnect between most people's ideas of bisexual people and those people's experiences, and more generally on the need to listen to other people's experience.

All My Penguins - queer chinese things!
A round up of queer goings on in China.

All My Penguins - queer australian teevee
Joy in seeing not only queer people on TV, but some of them aren't even white.

Media & Culture

Hoyden About Town - Girls speak: on Harry Potter, Radio National, and how to fix a sexist screwup
A radio national presenter gets it wrong, but then gets fixing it really quite wonderfully right.

Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony - What century are we living in, again, Fairfax?
Regarding the constant mentioning of women's reproductive status in the media. - Trigger warning for rape

The Banana Lounge - Screening diversity
On the overwhelmingly white world of Australian television.

No Place for Sheep - The battle for control of the sexual discourse
Arguing that anti-porn activists are also attempting to dictate what sex should and shouldn't be.

the news with nipples - The conversations women have
Why much of what's in the women's section needs to be read as much, if not more, by men, and marketing to women in general.

Women in the workplace

The Hand Mirror - Too few women leaders
A commentary of Sheryl Sandberg's TEDWomen talk.

The Hand Mirror - This isn't what we're paid for
A very difficult day made worse by casual objectification of staff.

the news with nipples - Germain Greer and body-shaming
Recognising that nobody's perfect, but also that when appropriate, we all need to say WTF?

Social Justice

Stargazer - you're angry at the wrong people
Pointing out how people have been fooled into directing their blame down the social hierarchy rather than up.

Stargazer - building morale
A followup post discussing how engage and empower those most in need of societal change.

Image: 2 women and a man in a row boat, all dressed
in North African-style clothing. From Penguin Unearthed'spost.
Penguin Unearthed - Missing girls
Discussing a fascinating paper that examines the missing women in various parts of the world by age.

Fat Heffalump - Bullies - You don't get a cookie for feeling bad
Response to an interview with an ex-bully.

Maybe it means nothing - When will you stop being a feminist?
Some markers of what a post-feminist world might look like.

Choice & Anti-choice
(I can't help being astounded that we still need this heading, but we do - increasingly even!)

Ideologically Impure - Abortion is a real issue, right now
Discussing NZ abortion law, intersections with mental health and a plea to move forward.

Ideologically Impure - On the front lines of the NZ abortion rights struggle
Regarding the Supreme Court battle over Abortion Supervisory Committee.


No More Training Wheels - The Dreaded Future 
Considering the future with a disability.

No More Training Wheels - Public Yet Exclusive Transport
Highlights why providing access for people with disability is part of our everyday social obligation, not some special extra effort.


Zero at the Bone - The direction of desire
Why our restricted notions of sexual desire make a mess of everyone.

Spilt Milk - The how of getting through
A beautiful appreciation of the things that get us through tough times.

International Women's Day

A Bee of a Certain Age - International Women’s Day on Stuff: All you old hags should wear make-up 
More examples of women being made responsible for their own discrimination, and some atrocious advertising.

Elizabeth Mora's IWD speech.


blue milk - Running on empty
Remembering how hard the first year of a baby's life is.

Port workers and their families on the picket line.
Child holds placard saying "All my daddy wants is a roster".
From The Hand Mirror
Hoyden About Town - From the back to the middle and round again
The constant readjustments parenting requires in action. Also, teaching schools that all children are not alike.

Ariane's Little World - Sins of the Father
The only post I managed to write in March, so it's here regardless of merit! Regarding the cycle of bad parenting and how breaking it isn't all down to the individual.

The Hand Mirror - Of children and protests and taking the former to the latter
Apparently taking kids to protests is another thing that only Bad Mothers do. I was sad to have my ignorance on this rectified.

A Bee of a Certain Age - Since when does a guideline become a rigid rule?
On breaking guidelines while parenting.


The Antibogan - Racism exists in Australia – are we doing enough to address it?
Article by Dr Helen Szoke about some racism facts. Some polite but slightly infuriating arguments over academic vs social definitions of racism in the comments.

(Or I Can't Work Out Where To Put It)

feminaust - Identity ~ Afghan or Terrier?
Is identity a source of strength or a trap? Chally figured I'd like this, and she was right. :)

feminaust - Smile Sweetheart ~ public demands on gender conforming women
On being told to smile by random men.

The Filing Cabinet - IWD picnic in photos; reflections on community activism
On some of the unintended positive consequences of activism.

Who the F Collective are and what they're trying to do.

Hoyden About Town - Housing and Dreaming Community
Dreams and thoughts about communal living, which continues into the comment thread.

And because fighting oppression can be rage inducing, please go look at some gorgeous baby bunnies, courtesy of Mim: And to think I used to complain about stuffed toys breeding

Edit: Sorry, in my excitement at having finally got it all together, I rudely forgot to mention who's hosting next! The next edition of the Down Under Feminists Carnival is planned for 5 May, 2012 and will be hosted by brownflotsam at contradictory multitudes.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Conversations with Elissa

Elissa just came to tell me the back of her knee is hurting.

Me: Have you been sitting on it?

E: No, it just started hurting.

Me: Then I'm sure it will stop hurting if you sit comfortably with it.

E: No, it's been hurting for YEARS.

Me: I don't think so, you've been running around for years.

E: No, I only just recognised that it was hurting.

Me: Then it can't have been hurting that much. Go and rest it.

E: [Runs into the next room, then realises her leg is hurting and starts to limp]

Thursday, April 05, 2012

High School Science - If I ran the world

A wee while ago I was eavesdropping on a Twitter conversation in which people were debating what could be done to improve junior science in high school. There were suggestions about teaching styles and syllabus changes, but I think the problem is much deeper than that. I kept returning to the question posed by one of our lecturers last year "What do we want all students to know before they leave school?". This, we were told, was the basis of the new national curriculum. That, right there, is the problem with high school science.

It seems like a sensible enough question, until you start to answer it. Science is huge, and what I think is valuable and fascinating is yawn inducing to you. But even more importantly, it isn't possible to scratch the surface of science at school. If our aim is provide kids with the science they'll need for the rest of their lives, we are doomed to fail. Anyone that's set foot in a junior science class in NSW recently knows that we are, indeed, failing. Spectacularly.

We're asking the wrong question. The right questions are quite different. "How do we want our kids to be able to think?" "What do we need to do to teach them to think that way?" "Is any content actually more important than engaging students enough so that they can be persuaded to think critically?" "How do we teach students to teach themselves science for the rest of their lives?"

We don't need students to "know", we need to them to enquire. The only way to fix the syllabus is to throw it out the window, and not replace it. It's absolutely useful to have a document with suggested topics and ideas for ways to approach them. Text books are handy. Programs are a good basis to work from. But all of those things should be secondary to the interests of the class.

My personal interest is physics. Electromagnetism is the area in which I excelled at uni. I find it fascinating and essential to all sorts of aspects of my life. However, standing in front of a group of utterly disinterested year 9 students with a bunch of circuit diagram handouts, all I could think was "WHY are we teaching this?". All they need to know about circuit theory is electrical safety, which they've pretty much covered in primary school. There is absolutely zero spirit of enquiry in a lab full of leads and lightbulbs. This was demonstrated eloquently when my fellow teaching students and I attempted basic year 7-type circuit theory experiments. We all immediately tried to find the "right answer". There was no playing. There was no investigation. There was quite a lot of blaming dodgy equipment. And we are now teachers. Why on earth do we think high school kids will engage with these "experiments"? At the end of the topic, they might well be able to recite V=IR, but they won't have learned a thing about science. What good is knowledge if you don't know how to assess its validity or usefulness?

We see hints of how it should be done in senior science. There are requirements to look at current issues and to understand science as a work in progress, rather than received knowledge. There's no reason why junior science can't be conducted on the basis of some current controversy, or recent scientific finding. Pick some article in the newspaper that describes a scientific concept. Work out what you need to know to be able to critically assess that article. Help the students learn what they need to know and then really pull apart the article or issue. This is what context based learning really looks like, and it doesn't require (although could include) more than one traditional discipline.

You want to teach what a "fair test" is?* Find some reporting of an epidemiological study and show them what it isn't. Encourage them to think about why me might do epidemiology anyway, while getting them to really think about its limitations. Give them lots of opportunity to discover than correlation does not equal causation. Show them lots of bad science as well as good science and help them to tell the difference. The content is irrelevant - just pick what they're interested in. The content is out there, it's on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. It's in senior science and university courses. Bugger the knowledge, teach them to think, to analyse, to really get how science is done. Then at least whatever content you use to demonstrate all that has some chance of being retained.

By all means, let the bureaucrats make up a syllabus, but it should be a reference document, not a prescription.

* For the non-teaching world, a "fair test" is a made up name for an experiment in which only one variable is manipulated at a time. ie a very rare beast.