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

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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!!

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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