Safety for Girls and Women


This year, I have seen many glorious, smiling faces beaming at me from news sites. Young girls and women with children and careers, friends, family and pets. I have memorized the names underneath their pictures. They were killed strolling home from work or walking their dog on a beach. They were killed at a shopping centre and near their sleeping baby. I didn’t even get to fifteen before being exposed to male violence. I live with the consequences of having being treated as a thing, rather than an autonomous being, with the right to liberty. I was once asked on ABC National radio how I cope with having a girl of my own. I said it was a daily battle to not be a nervous wreck when she is out of my sight. I also said that I didn’t want what had happened to me to taint her future, and so I had to be brave every day of her life. I give her little pieces of freedom as she grows.

This year has seen me fret further. This graph presents the reasons why I am furious.

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We attended self-defence classes for mothers and daughters when she was six. They were run by a former homicide detective. My daughter knows where to scratch and kick for maximum effect, and to call out ‘fire!’ if she is scared, as people apparently look to see what is happening. I hated that my little girl had to be taught to be alert and aware of her surroundings, and I hate that it wasn’t enough for the women and girls I have grieved this year. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, I was regularly approached on the street by creeps. I have been harangued, denigrated and worse. Australia is in a deep crises and we need funding, now. Women stay with dangerous men because Centrelink makes it so difficult to fund an escape. There is a lack of refuges and assistance at every level. I know, as some of these women have been my friends, whom have died.

Our whole culture needs to change. We need to call out sexism when we hear it and see it. We need to stand together, women and men, to end this scourge. It has nothing to do with the environment a woman is in, nor what she wears. This is about power, and seeing girls and women as lesser than they. I have friends who have come from places where they tell me they were told never to stop at a red light. They were advised to floor it, to avoid car jackings, rape and murder.

I have done my bit to keep my girl safe. She is a confident young woman, who knows self-defence. I have tried my best to instil in her that she can do anything that she wants in life. I have made my scars my own, and not transferred them to her. Is it enough? How can it be, when there are some men who still hate women; have this unadulterated rage against them. The time for action was a century ago. We have to catch up, and change everything we have known. I believe intent is everything with alcohol. We can enjoy a glass of wine over dinner, or use it as a crutch to amplify our anger. I have known men who take drowning their sorrows to be their creed, effectively making them a danger to all who love them. Cars become a metal prison in which to terrify their families when they are angry. Bills don’t get paid when one partner sees all the money as being theirs to dish out as they please and when they want. It is insidious, and affects whole communities. It is our job to declare that we won’t stand for it. It means having hard conversations when somebody is behaving badly.

I want my daughter to be able to go to the shops, catch a train and walk along a beach, without fear. I demand that she and her contemporaries are able to enjoy simple pleasures. I want her to be able to turn down a boy when he asks her out, without fearing retribution. Can we please be the generation that states in voices that roar in unison, ‘This stops here!?’

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Real Women


Sooo, I saw the above headline regarding Serena Williams last Sunday. I was so astonished that I doubted what I had just read. I had to read the quote a few times. I winced as though I had just been kicked in the gut. Surely, the media have grown up and are past such archaic statements? Apparently not! I am quite sure Ms Williams would recoil in horror if she saw her words twisted to make a point as to what constitutes being a real woman. I felt for women struggling with infertility when I saw the headline. I was one of those women. I look back on those years as the most achingly painful and lonely of my life. Opinions such as that above seared my soul, and made me doubt my worth on more than one occasion. When I came to the point of IVF being an absolute necessity, it was in some ways a relief. By then I had come to know myself. By then I knew that being a complete and functioning woman had nothing to do with fertility. It had to do with my biology, and the fact that I coped with constant agony courtesy of endometriosis. I was a woman because I had survived the un-survivable. I was a woman because I supported my sisters, both younger and older, providing counsel and comfort. I was a woman because I sought to rise to the status of survivor, and steer my destiny without interference. It would have been unfair to expect that a baby might gift me the label of woman. If anything, having a baby takes your autonomy for a time, and you need to grip on to retain your identity. Thousands of women read that headline, and winced last Sunday. Know that you are already a woman, and having a pregnancy neither heightens nor completes that status. It is time the media steered toward inclusivity and created less blanket statements which end in exclusion.

The Handmaid’s Tale


The Handmaid’s Tale, a series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, has just been released in Australia. Last night I streamed it, determined to watch only the first episode and have an early night. Of course, that didn’t happen. What ended up occurring was I watched all ten episodes. It was confronting and terrifying,  yet it somehow made my resolve stronger. As a survivor of sexual assault, physical violence and fundamentalist religion disguised as faith and obedience, I am acutely aware that the depiction isn’t a grim warning about what may happen. For survivors it is a remembrance of what has already been, and what we must guard against.

The order decreed in Gilead is the ultimate submission by women. Not having access to money and property nor control of their bodies. It is a world I don’t want to live in. It is a world I have lived in. Having scriptures spouted to suit whatever situation befalls, and to claim it as evidence that the perpetrator is in the right. Women and girls being told that they are here to be pleasing and pleasant, first and foremost. The exquisite rebellion encapsulated by reading, driving a car or etching words of encouragement for those who come after you in your cell.

I vowed that if I survived, I would fight for my daughter to not have to endure a speck of what myself and my contemporaries endured. I was fourteen when I uncovered that grown men were placing bets on who would obtain this child, far away from home. My mental fortitude kept me alive, even as they sought to destroy me, discarded as collateral damage in a war I knew nothing of. I hadn’t been taught the rules, so how could I be expected to play? We must arm our daughters with knowledge, fill their hearts with empathy and love, and make damned sure that no part of The HandMaid’s Tale is a part of their future. I know of too many incidents of women who are infertile sitting in far-right churches, and left crushed after it is announced that yes, it is indeed a fertile church, and one of its members is pregnant with her fifth child. Everybody applauding, amid laughter that God has rewarded this place with ripe fruit. The women who can’t have children or who are undergoing IVF feel as though a sword has pierced their soul upon such occasions. Worth is down to how fertile you are, and home-making lessons are offered and encouraged. The women are kept ‘accountable’ to each other. How exhausting and depressing. Freedom is found when you can be whomever you want in this world. It is not found in your dress, your submission, nor your fertility.

Pink is the new black.


1381794_10205633833113409_8583832661154738232_nMost people are surprised to hear that I am a hermit at heart. A solitary creature, who is used to keeping her own counsel. I made the distinction between needing “a fix” of people, to electing to enjoy their company. There is a difference. Usually when I enter a room, I feel awkward, and either stumble over my feet and walking stick, or blurt out something random, and unconnected to the conversation. On this occasion, I instantly felt at home. My friend Lisa is a nurse, and one of the gentlest and ethereal women I have had the privilege of knowing. Her beloved mother-in-law passed from breast cancer, and every year she organizes a high tea in her honour.

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Colourful people arrive and donate goods, and money is raised to crush this disease. This year, the very talented Hannah Erika Crichton kindly donated her talents and time to sing for us. We were in a hall with women who had been through  dark night’s of the soul, mind and body. I loathed the colour pink before having my daughter. I preferred black. I preferred anonymity. I now view pink as a colour of strength, of dreams and power. A colour you underestimate, until it knocks you to the ground with its force of will.

10710577_841353445904362_563855162266124338_nThe women in the hall were strong, gutsy, plucky. I stood for a moment, and looked around. The ladies smiled amongst  the easy banter at the tables. Bliss was produced with my friend Nicci’s cupcakes and Lisa’s divine soy candles. Pink, I loathed you for what you seemed to expect of me. I apologise in full. It was not you, but my culture that insisted I be demure, pandering and agreeable (at all times). Rather, you have always viewed women as strong, filled with vigour, a powerful voice, a buoyant heart and creative hands. I have had you all wrong. These women, cloaked in pink, have proven that to me.

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Photos by Sharon’s Photography.