A Public Confession

By Morgana Lizzio-Wilson

TW: Some crude language, sexual references

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed something interesting about myself. Something that has long evaded my attention, but I am now painfully aware of. I must confess this ‘quirk’ of mine – it cannot remain unscrutinised. When I am home, I exude an aura of self-confidence and sass. I am shrewd and bold in my critiques of current events, popular culture, and mass media. I proudly proclaim that I haven’t shaved my legs and underarms in over a month. I show my partner each night, and cheekily say, ‘Like what you see, baby? I’m a-a-a-all natural.’ I don’t care that my hair is greasy, or that a constellation of pimples is forming on my chin. I straddle my partner in bed, and brazenly declare how much I love and want him. I celebrate my vagina. I look at it, inquisitively touch it, sensually stroke it. In fact, I celebrate my whole body. I caress my curves and proudly wiggle my ass in the mirror. Powerful and intelligent women, like Julia Gillard and Franchesca Ramsey, command my respect and admiration.

Then I get dressed, grab my keys, walk outside… and everything changes. Continue reading

Embracing Our Bodies – Photos!

Here’s some happy snaps of the UQ Women’s Collective’s Diversity Week seminar on eating disorders and body image, ‘Embracing Our Bodies’. (You can find a recap and resources here). Thanks to Katie Douglass for letting us use her photos!

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Kath Read and Desi Achilleos [Photo by Katie Douglass]

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Johanna Qualmann, UQWC member and host [Photo by Katie Douglass]

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Melissa Meehan from Headspace [Photo by Katie Douglass]

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Speakers: Andi Alperin, Melissa Meehan, Kath Read and Desi Achilleos [Photo by Katie Douglass]

‘Embracing Our Bodies’: Diversity Week Seminar Resources

_ 1 template abOn Tuesday night the UQ Women’s Collective hosted a Diversity Week event called ‘Embracing Our Bodies‘, an information and discussion session about eating disorders and body image issues. Below are links to our amazing speakers’ organisations or blogs, along with some resources we made. You can find business cards and flyers from all the organisations featured at our seminar, along with Butterfly Foundation brochures, in the Wom*n’s Room on campus (Building 21A).

Speaking of the Butterfly Foundation…they shared our event on facebook!!

Screen shot 2013-05-21 at 9.25.55 PM

Kath from Fatheffalump // (Read her amazing speech here!)

Headspace

Eating Disorders Association (EDA)

Support Services at UQ – Contacts List

Suggestions on ways UQ could improve it’s support, representation and awareness of disordered eating and body image issues:

  • Better representation of diverse bodies in UQ advertising (there are no bodies above a size 12 or 14 in the 2013 Guides and Prospectuses…Yes, we did check!!)
  • Having a low-key support group in the women’s room or in a neutral area out of the way for meal times, to support others in eating, regardless of eating issue
  • More easily accessible services
  • Another SHOC counsellor specifically for EDs
  • Student-based support groups (even just to talk to people in the same boat as you) on campus – this is a big problem on campus that a lot of people have noticed
  • Reinforced seating of different sizing and spacing in lecture theatres to cater for diverse bodies
  • More awareness and available info on UQ Psychology Clinic and Academic Adjustments
  • UQ campaigns or statements: light up the Forgan Smith purple for the Butterfly Foundation?
  • Body image awareness on campus: campaigns, workshops, seminars, zines headed by the UQWC (possibly the student union too??)

Next Semester the UQWC will be trying to get a few of these ideas kick-started – hopefully the university will take some of them on board, too!

Thanks once again to the Office of Undergrad Education for providing us with funding for our event. Happy Diversity Week! 

A Lighthearted Look At Sex Myths And Women

Myth #1: “Girls? No, girls don’t do that…”

“Yeah, I’ve been away for two weeks. She must be dying without sex.”

“Um, dude? She’d probably just have a go at herself.”

“Nah, chicks don’t do that.”

*footnote: adaptation of a conversation I overheard.

Excuse me, sir, but you’re a tad misinformed. Your misogynistic approach is really fucking wrong. Excuse me while I set the record straight, because mate, honestly? Women MASTURBATE.

Continue reading

A Story About My Boobs

This is a story about my boobs.

My boobs are many things. To me they are part of a larger whole. A part of my body, connected to my person. I think they look nice. Sometimes they hurt or get in my way. They make it hard to run. One day I might feed a child with them. Other than that I don’t think about them very much more than any other part of my body. I usually consider myself more in my entirety, or sometimes as a consciousness that is transported around in a body.

Then there’s my boobs as part of the concept of all boobs. Boobs are everywhere. They’re all over the media and used to sell numerous products. They’re idealised as a “beautiful” or “sexy” feature in a woman. They’re meant to have mythical properties that lead to men giving women free things and favours (I’m not holding my breath). They’re something that women are meant to keep hidden in case they “tempt” men, and provoke them into a frenzy of sexual desire that overtakes their usually superior reason and leads to violent sexual assaults. They are two reputedly powerful, soft, fleshy lumps hanging off the front of most women, including your Mum.

I think other people think about my boobs more than I do. My Mum, for example, is always on at me to wear a bra. It’s incredibly important to her. She says that if I don’t, I’ll end up with saggy boobs like her Mum. The intensity with which she worries about this thing tells me that wearing a bra is an important social signal. I don’t really care, but I wear a bra when she’s around to keep her happy.

The other day, some guy thought to tell me “I can see your boobs” when he was passing on his bike. How did he want me to react? Did he want me to apologise? Did he want me to start wearing a burqa? As it happens, in the same that he could see my boobs through my tight shirt, I could see his cock through his pants (I checked but didn’t get a chance to tell him). Did this man like boobs? Did he go around policing all womens’ boobs? How did he feel about advertising or about the strip joints that were across the road from where we were? It was very confusing.

So anyway, my boobs have caused a bit of a stir with my neighbours. As a bit of background, our neighbours are respectable millionaire doctors and we are the scum who roll around in our working class filth next door. Or at least that’s what I feel is communicated in the mother’s looks when she has the misfortune of having to pass us on the street. Our neighbours have a two story mansion and their upstairs balcony has a clear view into our flat. We could put up curtains, but I don’t want to live enclosed in a dark, hot hovel, and unlike our neighbours, we only have one living area.

When they moved in I asked them if, as they particularly like sitting on their upstairs balcony, they could put up some sort of screen. I even offered to help them pay for it. They said they couldn’t afford it, and that I had no right to tell them what to do with their house. They have since put up a wall elsewhere. Critically, my neighbour said that because she is a gynaecologist she doesn’t care what she sees. She refused to understand my desire not to have her family looking into my flat, so I had to leave it at that.

Recently, on a very hot day, I was walking around my flat in only my underpants. I feel like this is my goddamned right as a human being. After quite a while I noticed the nine-year-old boy of the house with his head peeking up above the balcony couch hiding behind a book, staring at my boobs. Now this was probably a very exciting time for him, but I wasn’t so keen so I put on some clothes. But like I said, it was a hot day and I was in my own house.

What to do about this?

I don’t want some small boy staring at my naked body, but I don’t want to have to wear clothes in my house. After about a week I decided that the best course of action was to talk to the boy with his Dad there about consent. About how it is only OK to look at a woman’s boobs if that woman is comfortable with it, and that I am not at all comfortable with it. That boobs are attached to women and that women are people with feelings, a consciousness and the right to make choices about their lives. I was going to suggest that he look at some ethical pornography.

Good plan, right?

So I went up to my neighbours’ front door and asked to speak to the boy and the Dad. The Mum said that the Dad wasn’t home, and asked what it was about, so I explained.

She freaked the fuck out. I think despite being a gynaecologist, and maybe even her best intentions, she was uncomfortable with her boy’s burgeoning sexuality.

So she tried to deny that it could have been him. She wanted a specific day and time, because the though of some other random boy on her balcony looking at my boobs was obviously more comfortable to her than the thought of her own son doing it. She asked me in an accusing tone what I was doing going around with my boobs out. I said I was doing the washing up and that I was in my own house. I tried to ask her to talk to her son about consent. She hissed at me to stay away from her nine-year-old son like I was some sort of paedophile.

So once again, to my bemusement, my boobs have caused much more of a stir than you would expect from a perfectly normal feature of a healthy adult woman. Nothing was learnt, and I and unfortunately others continue an ambivalent relationship with a part of myself.

Anonymous

Sex Scribbled On My Skin: Body Politics and Sexuality

by Johanna Qualmann

As featured in Wom*news #7: The Body Issue!

Whether it’s in the way we dress, the gender we perform or the shape we are, our bodies shape the way we think about ourselves and the way that society thinks about us. Our bodies are texts to be read, with meanings and values and rules scribbled onto our skin. Some are personal, and some are political. Some are our own choice, while others are dictated by outside influences.

When it comes to sexuality, they way our bodies are read play a central role in what is seen as appropriate. Who is allowed to be sexual, or even required to be? Who is not allowed to show their sexuality? In what contexts are our bodies acceptable?

Despite sex being so naturalised in our society, there are still a multitude of rules imposed on different kinds of bodies, allowing them sexuality or denying it. Simple acts like kissing a partner in public are problematised as soon as the bodies of the people kissing don’t fall into certain categories such as heterosexuality. Queer bodies still represent a challenge to mainstream opinion and media- among other issues, gay men are often chastised for “flaunting” their sexuality, and lesbian or bisexual women are put on display for the eyes of male heterosexual viewers. Our bodies seem to be subjected to an absurd double standard of compulsory, but immoral, sexuality.

So who is allowed to be sexual, and own their sexuality in public? In many spaces, this is reserved for heterosexual bodies only. But there’s more to this designation than sexual orientation alone – all sorts of marginalised bodies are denied sexuality. Fat bodies are among the most frequent to be portrayed as non-sexual, because the underlying idea is that fat cannot be attractive. Fat people who are openly sexual threaten this belief, and as such, and when fat women do represent themselves as sexual (or are represented as sexual in the media), they’re cast as hypersexual or vilified as ‘sluts’.

Likewise, disabled bodies are denied ownership of sexuality by also being portrayed as non-sexual entities in both public representation (such as in the media) and in private (such as by carers). Self-described body revolutionary and disability activist Jax writes:

I am invisible as a lesbian in the queer community because my disability renders me a-sexual, and I feel invisible as a lesbian in the disability community due to dominant heterosexual discourses. My disability negates my sexuality; my sexual identity becomes ‘unintelligible’ to the gaze of others (Personal communication, 9th September 2012).

In general discourse, disabled bodies are perceived as non-normative and even defective or incomplete, and sexuality is the first casualty.

The list continues: ageing bodies, non-white bodies, non-heterosexual bodies and non-gender-conforming bodies are all limited in the extent to which they are permitted to be sexual. Attractive bodies, then, are allowed to be sexual and express their sexual identity however they wish, while bodies classed as ‘undesirable’ or ‘defective’ – indeed, any bodies that are not valued and upheld as ideal – are not.

At the same time as bodies are being denied sexuality, however, the bodies of those who are generally allowed to be sexual (young, attractive, gender-conforming bodies) are required to be sexual – often for someone else’s gaze or benefit. Being sexual becomes a requirement rather than an option. For people who actually identify as asexual, this poses a whole new set of issues, because their bodies are expected to conform to sexuality, to act sexually, to be sexually available. Indeed, when sexuality becomes compulsory, it often just as many negative effects as being denied sexuality.

It seems to all come down to value: whose bodies are valued, and whose bodies are marginalised. Those that are valued are required to express sexuality – albeit in a narrow range of ways, and whether they want to or not. Those that are not valued – disabled bodies, fat bodies, queer bodies, old bodies, non-white bodies, non-gender-conforming bodies and many more – are limited or denied access and expression. The scribblings on our skin are never fully our own – not unless we make a conscious effort to understand them and reclaim them.

~ Johanna Qualmann

That other ‘dirty’ word

By Madeline Price

This article is featured in Wom*news 7: Bodies, available in the Wom*n’s Room now.

For one week of every month, from adolescence until menopause, women suffer, relish in,
endure, (whichever word you wish to choose) menstruation. If the ‘f-word’ was the ‘dirty
word’ of the last century (yes, I mean ‘feminism’), then ‘menstruation’ has been the ‘dirty
word’ of the last millennia. However, all can accept that it is an inevitable, endurable facet of life as a female.

Then why, when it is an occurring and inevitable process, are females across the world taxed heavily for the ‘luxury items’ that are tampons and sanitary pads?

A mere decade ago, the Australian federal government decided that tampons and sanitary
pads were luxury items, causing the female public to suffer GST (Goods and Services Tax)
taxation. This GST is a tax of 10% on most goods and services across Australia; and, being
a value-added tax, serves refunds to all parties within the chain of production, with the
exception of the final consumer.

Recent evidence by the Australian Sex Party in 2010 found that the GST revenue from
female sanitary products alone was close to $14 million – an astounding figure for such
a ‘luxury item’.

Interestingly, however, are what items not deemed ‘luxury items’, including; herbal
medicines, condoms and lubricants. Specifically, according to the GST-free Health Goods
and Services Act by then-Health Minister Tony Abbott, the following items may be GST-free:

1. Condoms
2. Barrier dams, femidoms and harness devices
3. Personal and surgical lubricants that:

  • (a) are water-soluble; and
  • (b) are suitable for use with condoms

4. Preparations for use by humans:

  • (a) that contain folic acid as a single active ingredient; and
  • (b) have a recommended daily dose of 400 to 500 micrograms

5. Sunscreen preparations for dermal application that:

  • (a) are marketed principally for use as sunscreen; and
  • (b) have a sun protection factor rating of 15 or more

6. Nicotine for use as an aid in withdrawal from tobacco smoking where:

  • (a) the nicotine is administered in preparations for transdermal use; or
  • (b) the nicotine is administered through chewing gum; or
  • (c) the nicotine is administered through a lozenge.

The fact that condoms are not seen as a ‘luxury item’, whilst sanitary products are, simply
astounds me. Females cannot choose not to menstruate, but both males and females can
choose not to have sex – what signifies more of a requirement for a ‘luxury item’ then?
Similarly, this case exists in relation to smoking, and, specifically, withdrawing from
smoking. Both sexes can choose not to smoke, or not to withdraw from smoking.

Evidence exists to demote sanitary products from ‘luxury items’ to ‘essential GST-free
items’, including evidence from the company Global Industry Analysts. In a recent press-
release they emphasised that “[the] demand for feminine hygiene products is less susceptible to economic ups and down as compared to other discretionary consumer products, where demand responses to economic ups and downs are typically amplified”. This itself shows that sanitary products are constantly at a greater need, regardless of the economic climate, of which other ‘luxury items’ are susceptible to.

GIA further goes on to emphasise that the need for these essential items (or ‘luxury items’, depending on if you’re female or not) is growing.

“The steadily growing population, rise in the number of working women and subsequent
increases in demand for convenient disposable items and rising hygiene awareness and
maintenance of health among women in rural areas stand out as strong market fundamentals that will help nail down growth patterns across the world.”

Canadian politician, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, pointedly stated the unfairness of the situation.

“Charging GST on feminine hygiene products clearly affects women only”, she said, “It unfairly disadvantages women financially solely because of our reproductive role.”

However, whilst these GST taxed ‘luxury items’ are an annoyance and evidence of an unfair system for those living in the first world, they are more than just that for our third world sisters.

In Rwanda alone, new statistics show that females miss up to 50 days of work or school
per year, due to menstruation problems (which adds up to more than five years of lost
productivity over a lifetime). In addition to this, most females must resort to the use of bark,
leaves and rags because the cost of one month’s supply of female sanitary products is greater than a day’s wage.

In Australia, the average cost of pads is $5 and for tampons it is $4. On average, each female in Australia will use ten pads or tampons, 12 times a year (approximately one box of either item). This adds up to an approximate cost of between $48 – $70 per year, per female at the very least. Over an average lifetime (of 80 years, minus the first ten or so years that menstruation is not an issue), that adds up to more than $4 000, spent on something necessary requiring tax!

However you choose to look at it, through the first- or third-world lens, female sanitary
products should not be taxed. It is an unfair tax simply for being a female and should never
have existed. Period.

~ Madeline Price

References

Author Unknown. (2010). ‘Padding out the GST’, Online Opinion (online) http://
http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=11073&page=0

Australian Government. (2004). ‘GST-free Supply (Health Goods) Determination
2004’ Federal Register for Legislative Instruments, 1-3.

Global Industry Analysts. (2011). ‘Global Market for Feminine Hygiene Products to Reach

US$14.3 Billion by 2015, According to New Report by Global Industry Analysts, Inc.’, PR

Web (online) http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/1/prweb8046503.htm

NDP (2009) ‘Drop GST from feminine hygiene products’, NDP Press Releases (online)

http://www.ndp.ca/press/drop-gst-from-feminine-hygiene-products

Tecco, H. (2009) ‘When Menstruation Means Inequality’, The Huffington Post (online) http://

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/halle-tecco/when-menstruation-means-i_b_389790.html

The Body and Sexual Abuse

By Adela Brent from Zig Zag

Trigger warning for references to effects of sexual violence

There is no doubt that our society does not allow women to feel at peace with their bodies.

A society that is constantly telling us that we are not okay unless we look like “super-models”. A culture where women’s value is based on what they look like. Beauty magazines are a reminder of what we should aim for when it comes to our bodies. Unrealistic expectations hitting us in the face every day. A capitalist society needs to make women feel bad about themselves. They have to sell us cosmetics, diets and a menu of surgical procedures we don’t really need. No wonder we are so unhappy about our bodies.

For survivors of sexual violence, the body issues can get more complicated. Sexual abuse was done to them through their bodies. Some survivors blame their bodies for responding, for being womanly, for being small, for being large, for being vulnerable. For survivors, learning to love their bodies and recognize that their bodies were not to blame for the abuse, can be a long process. The reality is that sexual abuse is not the survivor’s fault. It is always the offenders’ fault. Always. Reestablishing positive feeling of our bodies, after sexual assault, can be a difficult process but not impossible.

During the process of reclaiming your body after sexual abuse, these are some activities that have been helpful to other women. Remember, if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable about them, don’t do it. It is fine to respect your needs.

1. Healing Drawing Exercise: Many women who were abused still carry associations of the abuse in specific parts of the body. There may be physical scars or negative associations to touching areas that were involved in the trauma. Draw a simple outline of your body with one line. Mark with one color all the places in your body where you feel okay or good. Mark with another color any places where you feel you are carrying pain. Then draw the outline of your body on another piece of paper and pick out a color that you associate with healing. Then draw little hearts of healing into all the areas of pain identified in the first drawing.

2. Dialogue with individual body parts: Imagine that each body part has a voice of its own. Imagine what story the body part has to tell you about the gifts the body part has to offer you.

3. Massage: If this is not threatening for you, you can have a massage done by a qualified practitioner.

4. Dance and Exercise as a way of reconnecting with the body: Exercise is a way to
establish a positive sense of body awareness. Movement oxygenates your body and
improves your circulation. Dance provides a vehicle for self-expression. Remember to not to overdo.

5. Self-Massage: massaging your hands and feet is a way of reconnecting with your body.

Remember that your body is you. It is the place in which you live and are alive. You connect and are in relationship with others from your body. You act in the world from your body. Your body is where the healing happens. Your body is sacred and did not deserve any kind of abuse.

If you need to talk to a counselor, do so.

May you body have peace
May your body have happiness
May your body be respected
May your body be healed

~ Adela Brent

Wom*news #7: The Body Issue is OUT NOW!


Yay! The UQ Wom*n’s Collective is proud to bring to you issue #7 of our zine Wom*news: The Body Issue. We have some super cool pieces for you this time around on topics such as nudism, menstruation in art, body politics and learning to treat yo’ self to a better body image!

You can peruse and keep the online version of the body issue here; alternatively, you pick up a hard copy from the women’s room on UQ St Lucia campus (building 21A).

 

We hope you enjoy this issue, and please let us know what you think!

~ Emma and Rosie

Why Am I So Short?

by Izzy Manfield

Have you ever wondered why you are the way you are? More importantly, have you ever excused your characteristics or behaviours with your gender?

I’m sure everyone reading this has had their own little adolescent identity crisis, but why did you subsequently decide that your gender is what limits your identity? I personally hate the fact that gender differences are all too often attributed as sex differences. (Try not to confuse gender with sex; it tends to close your mind.) It’s become apparent to me that most people’s minds are totally closed when it comes to height, or shortness, or women: there’s no doubt to most lay people (non-feminists and science avoiders)  that the reason I’m so much shorter than my boyfriend is being I’m a woman. And we females are meant to be shorter than da boizzz. It’s how biology works.

But – gasp! This gender stereotyping totally incorrect, and while the determining of height or shortness has some basis in sex, it’s really society’s fault that someone will coo, “Ohh, you’re so cute and little!” like it’s perfectly justifiable to be cute and short because you’re female, and that’s an admirable trait in women in comparison to men.

Gender stereotypes appear to have some biological basis to them, but evolution is perhaps the most significant playing card in the success of the development of sex. Genetics and evolution interplay with each other to create diversity in life. Where mutations create new genotypes (types of genes and proteins being encoded) and phenotypes (types of characteristics displayed as a result of the genotype), natural selection selects these phenotypes by acting on environmental pressures. This allows particular phenotypes or traits to be favoured as more desirable traits will potentially be passed on to the next generation and thus will spread throughout the population in only relatively few number of generations. This is exactly how sex and sexual differences arose.

The development of sexual reproduction (and therefore sex) brought a whole new range of diversity to the planet. Suddenly DNA could be passed on to the descendants of individuals not as exact replicas of the parent bar a few mutations as in previous generations, but as a combination of genes from two parents with potentially different genomes in a process called recombination. Sex is beneficial to life because it creates diversity which therefore leads to a better chance of survival as there are varying traits to work with. I regard the development of sex as simply one big mutation that got out of hand. But sex in living organisms does not necessarily mean one male and one female individual like we see in humans; mosses, for example, experience most of their life cycle as haploid (basically as asexual) and only have very small segments and time frames for their sexual stages. In addition to this, sponges (amount many other organisms) can reproduce both sexually and asexually depending on their circumstances. The idea that being male equals this and being female equals that is very, very narrow in popular culture. Some may argue that differences between the sexes exist as fundamental differences in the human genome, which is true. But what we need to expand in our thoughts is the idea that our society existed before these changes. Society came before sex differences such as average height did. Society is humanity’s own form of natural selection. Society selects whose genes will be passed on to the next generation, and whose will be lost in the sands of time. This is an important concept to understand the differences between the sexes.

So, does sex have any correlation to height? Well, yes it does. Height is a polygenic trait, which means it is controlled by many genes. There are many components that can attribute to height; some people may be tall because their legs are long, while others have an elongated backbone. Of course, one gene does not encode for all these things entirely. Each of these features are controlled by the aptly titled growth hormones, thyroid hormone, cortisol and the sex hormones, or rather, oestrogen and testosterone. It is also normal to experience growth spurts in puberty, and girls can experience these two years in advance of when boys experience it. Again, another sex difference. Males have more testosterone than females, which could perhaps independently account for the average male being taller than the average female. What this article is trying to stress is that these differences are in existence because our environment, or our society, has selected those traits as desirable for each sex. Height differences were not inbuilt in women and men because of their sex, but because our ancestors continually throughout herstory have selected their sexual partners on the basis of their height relative to their gender.

Both societal and scientific discourse surrounding height and shortness is important for feminism. Height, in both reality and in our language, is thought of as a display of male dominance to some degree. Height is a desirable trait for humans, particularly for men. Women being shorter than men on average feeds the argument that men are naturally dominant over women. Some anti-feminists will use this kind of information to ‘support’ their claim that women have no right to want more for themselves because they are physically or biologically made to be subjugated by their male counterparts.

I’d like to conclude that this is pure ignorance of evolutionary processes that are truly the basis of height differences between the sexes. Men were not born taller to dominate over women; but because men played a more dominant role in very early western society, over time have evolved to be taller.

My shortness it doesn’t make me less dominant than any man – but in order for wider society to accept this idea, we must educate the masses on the vital difference between gender and sex.

~ Izzy Manfield