Hollingworth’s cowardice on display again

10 Nov



Last week, barrister Caroline Kirton QC approached the solicitor for BSG, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and witness at the child sex abuse royal commission, to change his testimony to remove all references to her client, former Governor-General Peter Hollingworth.

Kirton’s request that BSG alter his statement would “amount to having removed every reference to the name Hollingworth from my statement and she requested that I do that and submit that as my amended statement” BSG told the royal commission.

Peter Hollingworth was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Australian of the Year and a Governor-General appointed by former LNP Prime Minister John Howard. Hollingworth resigned as Governor-General after accusations that he failed to act on child sexual abuse crimes in his diocese, and claims that he had sexually assaulted a woman in the 1960’s.

Phillip Aspinall, Hollingworth’s successor as archbishop, ordered an inquiry, which concluded that in 1993, Hollingworth had allowed a known paedophile to continue working as a priest.

It’s a tribute to the courage and fortitude of survivor and witness BSG that he wasn’t intimidated by Kirton’s approach, instead revealing to the royal commission her attempts to persuade him to change his statement to protect her client from further public scrutiny.

Kirton clearly underestimated BSG, or she wouldn’t have made the approach in the first place. Rather than hosing things down for Hollingworth, this act of cowardice only serves to strengthen the perception of the former archbishop as weak, and interested in protecting himself and his church, before the children in its charge.

Hollingworth was in a position to protect victims of sexual assault from predators on his watch. He failed to do that. Yet he now feels entitled to request protection from the shame further public scrutiny of his failure will cause him and his family, and he feels he is entitled to request this protection from a survivor of his failures.

If only Hollingworth and many others like him in positions of power in various churches and other institutions that offered paedophiles a safe haven, had even a fraction of the courage and strength of BSG and other witnesses and survivors, thousands of children could have been spared the ordeal of sexual assault and the devastating consequences of those assaults on their lives. Many who have died might still be alive. This is the responsibility Hollingworth bears, of having the power to protect children, and failing to exercise it.

If the ordeal of shame, humiliation and disgraced resignation have been difficult for Hollingworth to bear, to the degree that he needs to attempt to silence a survivor’s testimony to protect him from any further exposure, he might spare a thought for the suffering of the young who were abused by the paedophile he allowed to continue on his path of violence and destruction, when he could have acted quite differently, and spared them.



Ms Gillard’s sickening hypocrisy laid bare

8 Nov

Gillard Three


It was with disbelief, and finally contempt, that I watched excerpts of the Al Jazeera interview with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard on the topic of her government’s treatment of waterborne asylum seekers, particularly women and children.

Gillard, now a global advocate for the education of girls and women, employed what has disturbingly become a normalised justification for Australian governments’ increasingly callous torment of women and girls in off-shore detention: we do it to stop people drowning at sea.

I have yet to get my head around the psychopathology of those who believe the torment of one group is justified in order to discourage another group from undertaking a particular action. I think such justifications are teetering precariously on just about every ethical and moral ground I can think of, beginning with the Kantian argument that it is reprehensible to use people as a means to an end, and that people are an end in themselves. To treat them in any other way is to dehumanise them, and ultimately, ourselves.

However, Gillard, Rudd, Abbott and now Turnbull apparently have no difficulty with treating waterborne asylum seekers as a means to an end, and justifying their hideous treatment of them as a necessary deterrent in order to save the lives of others.

It has been said more than a million times: arriving in this country by boat, seeking asylum, is not a crime. Indeed, as we are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention, we actively invite people to arrive here by whatever means they manage to employ.

If we want to save people from drowning at sea, and if we care about the humanity of those we already have in detention, we would cease to use the detained as scapegoats, and as examples of what will happen if you legitimately arrive here by boat. We would instead withdraw from the Refugee Convention. People come to Australia because we invite them, through our participation in the Convention, and our agreement with its principles.

Of course, we aren’t about to take that step. So instead we will continue to ill-treat asylum seekers in off-shore detention. We will continue to justify this crime against humanity by claiming it’s done to save lives.

And Ms Gillard will continue to strut the world stage advocating for the education of women and children but not, regrettably, those she imprisoned in mandatory indefinite dentition in tropical hell holes where they are abused, raped and made mad.

Women for Gillard? Non, merci.



On hating men

7 Nov

Hating men


Yesterday, feminist author and journalist Clementine Ford started the Twitter hashtag How can I hate men.

It was, of course, a question both rhetorical and bitterly sarcastic, driven by an anger and loathing we can all feel over attacks such as this:

Clementine Ford ‏@clementine_ford 12h12 hours ago
#HowCanIHateMen they never go out in packs and abduct 14 year old girls from parks to rape them.

Most tweets dealt with lesser evils such as mansplaining, objectification, misogyny expressed in many and varied ways, and efforts to control women’s bodies.

While I agreed with much of the material contained in the 140 character communications, I baulked at using the hashtag. The truth is, I don’t hate men.

There’s only one man I’ve hated in my adult life and I still hate him. I’m taking hate to mean, in this instance, that I wouldn’t piss on him if he was on fire in the gutter and if I heard he’d died, I think, good, about time, and move on.

I can make sense of this hate, as a reaction to extreme personal damage done to me that remains unacknowledged, and that almost cost me my life. But I can’t extrapolate any of that to men in general, and I don’t see why I should.

In the same way, I can’t agree with Senator David Leyonhjelm’s comment that all cops are bastards. There’s no doubt some cops are bastards but the two male officers I’ve had dealings with over the last few months have been outstanding people who’ve done me a great deal of good, so I’m not about to condemn the entire police force as practitioners of bastardry.

I don’t know what is achieved by generalised hatred, be it aimed at a gender, a particular profession, religion, ethnic group or any human grouping, some members of which have caused offence and committed crimes, great and small. For mine, hate is as profoundly personal as love, and often as binding, and I don’t love men in general either.

That old insult, fuck you and everybody who looks like you is telling, and what it tells is how hurt can provoke a general hatred of anyone who might remind you of the one who did you harm. At its most extreme it’s a driver for serial killers, but there’s a continuum.

I guess the question is, do I really want to spend my life hating everyone with a penis because someone with a penis did me awful damage? Someone with a penis did good things for me, someone else with a penis was the love of my life so how can I, without employing a vast amount of cognitive dissonance, hate men, and why would I do that to myself?

I’m as angry as the next feminist at the violence and injustice inflicted on women, largely by men. Each and every one of those men ought to be made accountable, by other men as well as women.

But I’m damned if I can, in good faith, use that hash tag, and I can’t help but wonder how it would be received if the word “men” was replaced by, say, Muslims, gays, atheists, or, god forbid, women?







Sexual assault: ask the right questions or you’re part of the problem

6 Nov



There was a brief spat on Twitter this morning with a couple of men who thought the question to ask about the fourteen-year-old girl raped in a Geelong Park at 4 a.m. was, what we her parents thinking, letting her out at that time in the morning?

The attitude persists that girls and women must restrict our lives to protect ourselves from sexual assault, rather than the obvious solution, which is that men must not rape us.

The one good thing to emerge so far from this awful event are the words of Detective Senior Sergeant Jason Walsh, from Victoria Police’s Sexual Crime Squad, who expressed regret and amazement that people feel free to question a sexual assault victim’s actions, when what ought to be under scrutiny are the actions of perpetrators.

I find it amazing, he said, without getting into politics, that we question girls and we question their behaviour when we don’t even ask, ‘what’s four blokes out doing, allegedly sexually assaulting a young girl?’
“You know, that’s my take on that sort of question, and I’ve been in this sexual assault field for many years, and I find it amazing that people straight away question females for their actions, and they’re not questioning the males. I mean, what are four males doing allegedly sexually assaulting a young girl? That’s a question I’d ask.”

The self-serving myth that women “ask for it” one way or another is still pervasive, an estimated 70% of sexual assaults are not reported, of those that are reported only a minuscule number actually make it to court and even less result in convictions. The court process can be so horrendous for the victim that it’s frequently described as “being raped again,” and I recently read this paper written by Kylie Weston-Scheuber, Supervising Lawyer, Sexual Offences Unit, Office of the DPP (ACT) in which she states that should she find herself a victim of sexual assault, there are days she has doubts about whether she’d subject herself to the trauma of court proceedings.

Ms Weston-Scheuber also comments on the popular notion that women make this stuff up, by pointing out that the court process is so gruelling, in itself it ought to be evidence that the woman has suffered sexual assault because nobody would subject themselves to the trauma without extremely good reason:

…the trauma and indignity of giving evidence in a sexual assault trial is the strongest disincentive imaginable to continuing with a fabricated sexual assault allegation. However, the law precludes the prosecution from even raising the spectre of this feature of a witness’s evidence, which might be thought to be strongly corroborative.

Of course, the reality that many complaints don’t go to court doesn’t mean a victim wasn’t sexually assaulted, and it doesn’t mean the alleged perpetrator is innocent. While the victim doesn’t have her chance at justice, however traumatising that chance can be, neither does the alleged perpetrator have the chance to clear his name. He remains, for the rest of his life, an alleged perpetrator of sexual assault. Insufficient evidence, or the victim withdrawing out of fear of ongoing traumatisation, does not equate to exoneration of guilt.

There is something terribly awry with a system that causes sexual assault victims to be further traumatised in their fight for justice. However, it is within such a system that questioning the victim’s responsibility for the suffering inflicted on her by the perpetrator is still regarded by some as legitimate. So if you do ask why she was in the park, drunk, wearing a short dress or whatever victim-blaming inquiry you come up with, perhaps you need to ask yourself, why am I blaming her?









Like a natural woman

2 Nov

Murphy Brown


Anybody who watched television between 1988 and 1998 may remember the series Murphy Brown, starring Candice Bergen as a forty-something recovering alcoholic news hound who shattered glass ceilings in spite of all obstacles, and became something of a feminist icon for a short while.

However. Bergen’s character was acclaimed for her portrayal of the many possibilities for women other than marriage and motherhood and maybe even paid work, but not so as it would interfere with a woman’s primary obligations towards marriage and motherhood. So when Murphy found herself pregnant and the show’s musical director chose Carole King’s “You make me feel like a natural woman” to accompany the soft-focus birthing scene, many second wave feminists were outraged.

I’ve linked to the lyrics if you want to see why. I could write a thesis on those lyrics but for now I’ll simply say they’re an outstanding example of patriarchal elephant excrement.

In that single scene the show appeared to undo all the good things by implying that what made Murphy Brown a real woman, a natural woman, was giving birth and embarking on motherhood. Everything preceding those events was less than natural,  the scene suggested, and prior to motherhood Brown was an incomplete and unreal, albeit successful woman.

This message ran counter to everything second wave feminism fought for, and landed us right back in the biology is destiny narrative but wait, there’s more, it then set us on the having it all highway, as Brown struggled to juggle demanding career and demanding infant as a single mother. But at least she was now a natural woman.

Memories of Murphy Brown have resurfaced after a couple of days in the fraught world of uneasy and at times violent interactions between biological women and trans women, and the men who support trans women by threatening biological women, as my three previous posts explain. It isn’t unusual to hear from both sides rhetoric about natural/biological women, feeling like one, being one or not, wanting to be one, living like one if you weren’t born that way, resentment if you were born that way and someone who wasn’t  claims they’re no different from you.

I suppose what I’d like to ask biological women and trans women is what do you mean when you say you feel like a real/natural woman? Because in my experience there’s no such thing. Contrary to patriarchal propaganda, women aren’t homogenous, so do you feel like a woman who got beaten up last night by her male partner? Do you feel like a woman who is CEO of an international corporation? Do you feel like a woman police officer struggling to survive in a male dominated and at times misogynistic environment? Do you feel like a married woman with a couple of kids who gave up her dreams of becoming a doctor to type her husband’s PhD? Do you feel like a homeless woman? Do you feel like a female sex worker? Do you feel like a lesbian academic? Do you feel like a refugee woman on Nauru? Do you feel like Hilary Clinton? A woman in the back streets of New Delhi? A woman living with female genital mutilation? A crown prosecutor? A hippie vegan on a north coast commune? A state or federal politician? An artist? A musician? A catwalk model?

Please tell me, when you say you feel like a woman, and if you say you’ve always felt like a woman, what kind of woman is it you’ve always felt like, and what do you actually mean? Because it seems to me that perhaps the most insulting, demeaning and degrading thing anyone can say is, I feel like I’m really a woman.

What is this thing that makes a woman “real?” And most importantly, who gets to define it?  And what is this assumption that women have something in common other than biology that makes us really women?

This is one of the things I’d like to ask Germaine Greer, as well as some trans activists. Both parties, it seems to me, are operating from the entirely false premise that there is such a thing as a real woman and for mine, in assuming that premise, both parties are contributing to the oppressive stereotypes feminists have been challenging for decades.

Come at me, sisters. Make me feel like a natural woman.


No, sir, you go fuck yourself

1 Nov

Rude space cloud


Unusually, I found myself in a Twitter brawl this morning that ended with the male involved telling me I was a moron, that I am everything that is wrong with feminism, a trans hater and an Abbott clone, and he wound it up by telling me to get fucked. He then engaged in this thing you can do on Twitter whereby you can continue to publicly abuse someone, but block them so they can’t respond.

A man telling me to get fucked feels like a sexual threat, and I was somewhat unsettled by his animosity: mostly I tell people to go fuck themselves, which doesn’t require the hostile bodily interference of another. Or fuck off, which actually has nothing to do with sex at all.

Also, given the current state of feminism I usually refrain from identifying myself with that ideology, so if I’m everything that’s wrong with it that can only be a good thing for me, so taa.

Then he told me I was no different from Clementine Ford and that really pissed me off when I got around to thinking about it.

The fight was about bloody Germaine Greer. I was in conversation with a trans woman called Aoifa, who hosts this excellent blog, and a trans woman called Miranda, who hosts this excellent blog. Aoifa had been expressing her disgust with her community for its lack of protest about death threats made against Greer, and Miranda was part of our convo. Suddenly, out of nowhere, this man appeared and told me I was no better than Tony Abbott, and that expecting trans women to protest other trans women threatening Greer with death was no different from Abbott saying Muslims should speak out about minority radicalisation. He is sick, he says, of the way rad fems treat trans women so he thought it would make everything better if he abused me.

He didn’t say anything to the trans women. Only me.

To express hope that communities will speak out when their members issue death threats, his argument apparently goes, is to imply that everyone in the community is in fact responsible for the actions of a minority.

I strongly disagree with this notion. Coming from the position that evil thrives when good people say nothing, I know that were I in the Catholic community I would never shut up about child sexual abuse by priests, not because I am in any way responsible for their ghastly actions, but because my silence on the subject would enable, and implicitly condone those actions.

Likewise, I am a member of a language group that constantly threatens war and genocide for its own gain and I vigorously criticise Western leaders who wage wars, without me taking personal responsibility for their warmongering.  Speaking out against injustice does not equate to me accepting responsibility for that injustice. However, keeping silent, in my opinion, might very well  contribute to my responsibility for injustice.

From this perspective, I can see nothing wrong with wondering why transgender people and their supporters have on the whole been silent about the death threats against Greer that have come from their ranks. If I would ask these questions of my community and every other community, why should I not ask them of the transgender community?

Because, the argument goes, the trans gender community is a persecuted minority and shouldn’t be expected to speak up against death threats. There’s no doubt an excessive amount of violence and hatred is directed towards trans women. There is also no doubt that an excessive amount of violence is directed towards biological women, with two of us dying each week at the hands of intimate partners or family members, and hundreds of us hospitalised every day as a consequence of domestic violence.

Women are a persecuted majority in a patriarchy, and while the reasons for persecuting trans women and biological women are no doubt different, and require separate analysis, the fact of violence against us and the repercussion of that violence are not conducive to hierarchical evaluation, in itself a patriarchal practice  Rather, we have in common a terrifying vulnerability to the violence of violent males.

Hoping for protest against the efforts to silence dissent through fear and death threats does not equate to transphobia. And debate ought not to equate to world war three. You people who tell others you want them to die, you’re going to kill them for expressing opinions that don’t make you feel good? There’s something terribly wrong with you, and I don’t care what community you belong to.

I’ve spoken at length about my own experiences of male physical violence, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault. I will with my whole heart support any woman, trans and biological, in her experiences, whether she talks about them or not. But I will fucking well not be abused and insulted by some fucking male dropkick who has decided he knows what feminism is and what being a woman, biological and trans, is like in this hierarchical patriarchy of which he is a most unedifying example. So, go fuck yourself sir, with an implement of your choice, because I would not wish rape even on you.




Abbott, Kenny, Greer, TERFS, and the blogger as bride

1 Nov

Failed Prime Minister Tony Abbott took the opportunity last week to second-guess Jesus Christ, demonstrating to his audience of Thatcherites and a gobsmacked Australian nation why he’s also a failed priest, and a failed journalist to boot.

The reaction of the Australian media to Abbott’s reconstruction of Christian principles was varied. Christians among them were appalled. Those who support the decent treatment of refugees were appalled. Politicians were appalled but mostly didn’t say so. The nation was temporarily in a pall.

Margie, Mrs Abbott, was by her husband’s side as he gave his sermon to the London flock and I marvelled, as I have on other occasions about other wives, how there are women who stand by their man no matter how much of a grub he is.

I use that word with some apprehension, recalling how recently The Australian’s Chris Kenny threatened Labor MP Graham Perret with something unimaginable for calling him, well, a grub over his disgraceful antics on Nauru. Poor Kenny seems doomed to suffer abuse that is in some way connected to the animal world, though I suppose a grub is an insect rather than an animal, like, say a dog.

“A joke that I am a dog-fucker does not have to be true to be defamatory,” Kenny argued to the High Court, and nobody can deny he has a point.

However, standing by your man has, I’ve observed, a tipping point. Once that’s reached it looks like collusion, delusion, and extreme co-dependence, rather than wifely support. Hilary Clinton is the only woman I’ve seen carry it off and she did it by becoming secretary of state and presidential candidate, a course not open to many women, some of whom who cling to an idiot and at times criminal male as if to an esky lid after the boat’s capsized. Let it go, let it go, I am one with the wind and the sky…

(For those of you who don’t have small people in your life, that’s a reference to a song from an immensely popular and immensely stupid Disney movie called Frozen. I have a friend who sings a bastardised version to do with farting. It’s much, much better.)

Then there was the kerfuffle over another Australian, feminist, author and rainforest regenerator Germaine Greer, who appalled the transgender community and supporters by stating that she doesn’t believe a man who is surgically reassigned female is really a woman. Greer was set upon as a transphobe, on the grounds that her remarks over time have proved extremely hurtful to transgender women. Well, toughen up, princesses, is all I can say, because if you’re going to live in this world as a woman, hurtful remarks such as Greer’s are the least of the problems you’ll encounter.

I was also called out as a transphobe and a TERF, which acronym stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist. Don’t worry, soothed Mrs Chook as I sobbed on her shoulder at the hurt. You’ve been called so much worse.

It did occur to me that this most recent attempt to silence women appears to originate from within a group that came to adulthood as men. Make of that what you will.

What seems to have been forgotten, and usually is forgotten when heads get hot and hearts get bruised, is that the transgender community is not homogenous and like all communities, contains some thoroughly decent people and some nasty tossers at the ready with the death threats if anyone disagrees with them.

But for me, the highlight of the week was meeting up with one of my sisters and retrieving my first wedding album. I know there’s only supposed to be one wedding album in a woman’s life, but I’ve got two and the first one has been missing for years, until my sister found it amongst our deceased mother’s stash of family memorabilia.

(Another of my sisters who lives overseas is partnered with a transgender woman, by the way. The partnership began as heterosexual, so I know something of that which I speak, in this instance at least.)

Anyways, here is the blogger as bride. I don’t know how anybody got me into all that white stuff. Have a laugh.

Blooger as Bride



Blogger as Bride Two


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