Sex and Death

Georgia Metaxas
Ponch Hawkes (standing left) and Samara Hersch (seated centre) have collaborated on the live art work Sex and Death. We asked them to discuss their feelings on intergenerational collaboration, their mutual experience, how much has changed…and how much hasn’t.

Images contributed by Georgia Metaxas.

Ponch Hawkes
Samara Hersch and I been working on Sex and Death over a three year period. It’s a live art performance, one-on-one, a series of experiences that asks questions about ageing.

At the heart of it is a question and answer conversation with an much older person – the type of conversation we never have,  especially with strangers.  There are 3 or 4 elders or conveners who run the questions in the ‘game’.

I always thought of the conversation leaders of that group as elders and it wasn’t until the last day of the first performance series that I realised I was an elder too. It emphasised for me the part of the collaboration that has equality at its core but it feels surprising to find your age and experience venerated. 

I came to feminism in the 70’s, when Samara wasn’t born – I imagine she arrived in a world where it was no longer such a decision to either act or call yourself a feminist.

The demonstrations I went to as a young feminist were about equal pay, conscription, abortion rights, childcare, reclaiming the night, women’s refuges, women’s health. It seemed like we had to start with the absolute basics before we could progress.

Apart from the idea of consciousness-raising (informally organised and -run discussion groups), groups of us organised together into women’s theatre groups, women filmmakers, childcare and healthcare groups, women’s circus workers, etc.. We made women’s newspapers and women’s centres. We tried to learn skills and teach each other.

It seemed being a good wife and mother were the only real roles available although you could be a teacher or air hostess or hairdresser until you got married.

Feminism basically put a torch to this notion. Now we told ourselves we could be refrigeration mechanics, CEOs, film directors, doctors, or photographers – anything we wanted to be.

Of course it’s one thing to say and another to carry out. Not only did we have to address the inherent structures of capitalism but also address the internalised male gaze.

Nowadays, the progress is easily seen, seemingly open access to all occupations, no need to take a husband to the bank to get a loan, you may even get paid in a female sports team.

Seventies feminists provided an inheritance: it’s easier to have a career but we never solved the childcare/home duties question or made much of a dint on commonplace misogyny. In fact, we seemed to have landed in a place where previous gains are in danger , as post-Trump, a wellspring of hatred of women has been tapped into.

But one of the noticeable differences with younger feminists is their easy internationality, their globalism, and ability to connect with new ideas from elsewhere while maintaining ideas of the importance of community.

Their confidence is inspiring.

Samara Hersch

I met Ponch Hawkes in 2007 when she took my headshot for my postgraduate directing degree at the Victorian College of the Arts. She (and her black poodle, Woody) both left a very strong impression on me.

It was in 2015, when I started to think about the project Sex and Death, that I got back in touch with Ponch. I wanted to work with a female photographer who could sensitively capture the ageing body in a way that spoke to its power and beauty; something that contemporary culture tends to deny.

In fact, Sex and Death is led by a team of intergenerational female artists – aged between 30 to 80s. It is one of the most extraordinary encounters I have had in my career.

Thinking about feminism in this context, I realise how indebted I am to the relentless fight that many of these older women fought, so that I can think about my identity as broadly as I wish it.

Having said that, being a woman in my 30s in 2019 still raises many frustrations. We are still fighting for equal pay, we are still trying to break into or deconstruct the ‘boy’s club’ that often doesn’t acknowledge our abilities or equality and many of my friends who are now mothers are struggling with affordable childcare.

We are also dealing with the likes of Trump and the Liberal party who position women as inferior objects, we are currently busy with the #MeToo movement and giving voice to the covert abuse that operates within the workplace. But perhaps most profoundly we are thinking and talking about intersectionality and the way that solidarity within feminism needs to acknowledge the compounding forms of discrimination experienced by women across race, age, class, socioeconomic status, physical or mental ability, gender or sexual identity, religion, or ethnicity.

For me, solidarity amongst feminists comes at a critical time when right-wing Nationalist politics, led mostly by white men, aims to separate, divide, scapegoat and ‘other’.

I am currently in awe of the leadership of New Zealand Prime Minister  Jacinda Ardern who, in the wake of a tragedy, has demonstrated a leadership that stands in utter contrast to those who try to divide us through a kind of radical listening that is by no means passive.

Adern embodies what Donna Haraway describes as ’staying with the trouble’. In particular, this type of leadership proposes staying with the complexity and the differences and in doing so demonstrating a practice that accepts our inevitable interconnectedness and interdependence, or as feminist theorist Karen Barad describes in Meeting the Universe Halfway (2007) as our ‘entanglement’.

In the performance Sex and Death I feel we too have tried to develop a practice in listening. Each audience member and the elder performer who leads the game are invited to listen to one another and to create space for each other to be heard without the need to give advice or counsel.

This space for listening and relating has profound affects in terms of generating intimacy, vulnerability and feelings of connectedness. I think I have come to understand Sex and Death as a practice in learning how to be together in our differences with respect, tolerance and curiosity.

Through my encounters with Ponch (and the many other women I have worked with through Sex and Death including Lorna Hannan, Delia Bradshaw, Liz Jones, Natalie de Maccas, Sandy Green, Bec Reid and Georgia Metaxas) I have had the privilege of meeting women who demonstrate, with strength, power and skill, the possibilities of rethinking female identity.

In doing so, they continue to contribute to the world with determination, creativity, boldness and care.

Discover more about Sex and Death via Ponch Hawke’s and Samara Hersch‘s websites.

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    Beyond access, beyond society

    By Kath Duncan

    I’m an adopted Victorian waking up in Perth. It’s a steamy morning in Perth and I’m on a mission. I’m researching people like myself – artists and performers who are disabled and Deaf: where we are across Australia, what we want, and what’s stopping us from reaching our goals. I’ve been tracking this project for nearly 2 years, and we have one year left to complete our findings.

    It started when Veronica Pardo approached Eddie Paterson, to collaborate on a pilot project about how Deaf and disabled performing artists work together, how we create what we call inclusive space, where people with different impairments and access requirements can work together on a creative level playing field. This project resulted in five videos called Beyond Access, which you can view online:

    Beyond Access was the beginning of something new, exploring how the inclusion strategies we employ as Deaf and disabled performing artists can also transform mainstream practices. We’re talking about the aesthetics of access, where the sort of assistive technologies we use – like captioning and audio description, and employing Auslan interpreters, like making a relaxed audience atmosphere for people with neurological and other sensory issues – can revolutionise what we think of as theatre, music, and all the performing arts.

    My project, ‘Disability and the Performing Arts in Australia: Beyond the Social Model’ ( builds on this work but we have much ground to cover.

    The reality is, most of us performing artists are under- or unemployed, and not through lack of talent or drive. The reality is that disabled peoples’ arts engagement is dependent on being able to access classes, groups and schools, venues etc, and it’s not just about physical access alone, it’s also about the attitudes of people running these classes and universities.

    My own trajectory echoes the same tracks as other Deaf and disabled performing artists – a train continually stopping, forced to divert, find other tracks and try to gain speed before getting stopped again.

    I started drama classes when I was six as my parents were told it would make their double congenital amputee daughter more confident. It did. What they didn’t know was that I would not just see this experience as therapy; that I would see it as a life path that I couldn’t resist.

    But, as an 18 year old, while I could get into performance classes, I kept being moved to the back of the room because I was told I was distracting the other students with my unconventional movements.

    Eventually I ended up outside, moving into radio and film-making. The frustrated performer in me did not get another airing until I was in my late 40s, with the creation of our queer disabled and Deaf spoken word cabaret troupe, Quippings. There I finally found my belonging place, one where I was good enough, my skills were welcomed, and where we could set to developing each other, as nobody else was particularly interested.

    You can see these problematic attitudes when the stories and lives of Deaf and disabled people are considered fascinating characters but not performers. Or in fact, pretty much any characters in films whatsoever. It’s the chance for an Oscar for everyone except a Deaf and disabled performer. Even when we make the entire project from scratch ourselves any success is fleeting, as Daniel Monks found with his own film Pulse (2017), with no career opportunities here in Australia after the film, forcing a move to LA to have any chance of being an employed actor.

    This is why I wake up in Perth – we are travelling around Australia holding inclusive workshops for Deaf and disabled performers in most capital cities. We have now been to Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart and Alice Springs, and workshopped with 80 artists across those sites, we’ve employed 11 expert disabled and Deaf arts leaders and theatre makers to facilitate the workshops, and right now, communicated with around 300 people and 30 companies and disability arts organisations.

    What artists are telling us is that their training and career development opportunities are slim, and that most of us are making them happen ourselves, which gets exhausting and frustrating over time. The more experienced artists complain that they are forever relegated to being Special, and that their place will always be with other Special people, although they are hungering to take their work further, to collaborate with non disabled performers, and to be taken seriously by their chosen industries. What we’re seeing is  brilliant, determined and pioneering artists making work that nobody else is making, or could make.

    I wake up in Perth, to a day when Caroline Bowditch (the Victorian disabled dancer/choreographer and current Exec Director of Arts Access Victoria) is having her work, The Nature of Why, premiere in Australia at the Perth International Arts Festival. Caroline also left Australia for the UK, as she wanted to develop her profession where there were actual opportunities for her to do so. We will visit her rehearsals today, and tomorrow start the workshops. I am forever hopeful that we can change the world, or even just our own lives, here in Australia.


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    Kath Duncan is research associate and chairperson with the Australian Research Council, the University of Melbourne and Arts Access Victoria research project, Disability and the Performing Arts in Australia: Beyond the Social Model.

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      Jo Porter: QVWC’s new CEO comes full circle

      By Amy Gray

      The Queen Victoria Women’s Centre was the starting point for many women, quite literally with the thousands of women born there. But it’s even more amazing when one comes back to usher the centre into a new era.

      Meet Jo Porter, QVWC’s new CEO.


      “I was inspired to come to the QVWC because of its continuing relevance to the women of Victoria and the work that is carried out by the organisations based at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre”. For Jo, this is a combination of the organisations within QVWC  – “supporting women enter politics, breaking the silence about sexual assault and helping victims/survivors, health and wellbeing information for women to live their lives in safety – and also those who ensure the building’s legacy remains powerful. “I am inspired by Trust and other staff of the QVWC who ensure that the building is preserved as a physical monument to the giants upon whose shoulders we stand and celebrate initiatives that address matters of inequality and inequity”.

      Yet Jo’s path back to the QVWC is a long one, her career mixing creativity with community. “Until about 6 years ago, my work was primarily in the performing arts as a producer and administrator in many parts of the world. Recently, I have put my efforts into a Masters of Development Studies and working with artists whose access to resources has been limited.”

      This work inspired Jo to support creators whose access was limited by “gender, geography, language, perceived disability and age. These and other attributes add layers of disadvantage”. The solution– collaboration and community – led her to rethink her approach on a grand scale, as both concepts guide her CEO role. “My commitment is to support and nurture networks that will seed collaborations of all kinds, populating the Centre with organisations and individuals committed to continuing to build initiatives for women, by women”.

      The concepts of collaboration and community take form with this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations, which she explains in this hilarious post ( “I thought of IWD 2019 as a series of initiatives that inform our future. And where better to think, meet people and find out information than sitting in a garden, chatting at a picnic or discussing China’s Feminist Five?”

      While it’s the birth of something new at Queen Victoria Women’s Centre, somehow it always come full circle to the same forces of good: women working with women to empower and educate.




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      Amy Gray is a Melbourne writer whose work focuses on feminism, culture and parenting. She tweets via @_amygray_

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        A different kind of picnic

        By Amy Gray

        For many of us, International Women’s Day can be a marathon of us rushing to different events to hear women speak. What if things changed and we actually talked with each other?

        Jamie Lewis wants you to do just that at the BYO Picnic at Queen Victoria Women’s Centre. Bring a plate and a point of view on what’s happening in your world, and “meet people outside of your normal circles” as conversations are helmed by community leaders in sports, art, public service and more.

        According to the seasoned performer and facilitator, the picnic offers an opportunity to break out of our modern-day cocoons, “potentially becoming friends with” new people and “hearing from some amazing people who are real leaders in their field” as everyone shares their ideas.

        Lewis knows the power of conversation, creating work that is “centered around stories, conversation, and food”. She uses the combination of food and conversation in her work hosting cooking and dinner parties to open people up to share their stories, often with the same hallowed intimacy one would find in the family home.

        While the food is important (though is anything more important than your favourite family recipe?), it’s getting people talking that is the real goal, as they begin to share more than just what’s on their plates. “Conversation allows for us to be heard, understood and seen, just as we afford others to be heard, understood and seen”, she says. Together over a meal, people share what is “at the heart of our human co-existence: conversation”, introducing greater balance and trust where people “share, listen and exchange”

        Part of the BYO Picnic conversation will encourage people to have their say in the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre’s future and what they want from the historic building. It’s an attempt to bring the public back to a building they fought to save, one that was created “for women by women”.

        The picnic is also an invitation for women to claim space and voice in a society that often seeks to disempower them. As Jamie says “I don’t think people are aware of the power that they hold – there’s a sense of powerlessness. I think we think we have less power than we hold.”

        “But ironically, we sometimes behave like we have more power”, Jamie says, “we are careless with other people’s feelings, we take advantage of other people for our own goals… I think we also have contrasting, sometimes confusing ideas and expectations of what it means to hold power”.

        It’s a thought that ties into the theme for International Women’s Day, #balanceforbetter: “I think balance comes in dismantling those ideas and expectations of what holding power looks like”, Jamie says. “I think our role towards creating balance is to celebrate and prop up all the ways in which they look like, especially if they are non-dominant”.

        “Conversations can be real tricky, reveal frictions, and be uncomfortable too – but”, Jamie hastens to add, this can bring “new friendships, deepen intimacy, ideas and actions, perspective shifts, clarity…”

        BYO Picnic For International Women’s Day
        March 7, 6pm – 8:30pm
        210 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
        Free admission, bookings essential.


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        Amy Gray is a Melbourne writer whose work focuses on feminism, culture and parenting. She tweets via @_amygray_

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          International Women’s Day at QVWC

          Jo Porter takes us through the exciting events she’s created for International Women’s Day at QVWC.

          The Queen Victoria Women’s Garden
          March 6-7-8, 8:30am – 5pm
          210 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne

          I am very excited that we will be creating a little garden in our Lonsdale Street foyer and among the living plants will be found sculptures by Eliza Jane Gilchrist.

          Eliza is an artist from Castlemaine via the North of England whose medium is brown cardboard and she is inspired by the botanical world.

          I hope that this indoor garden will be a place of repose but feel free to pop in while Eliza Jane is installing her sculptures on March 4 & 5. I’d love to see visitors to the Centre sitting, listening to some lunchtime music and thinking about … well whatever they want to think about. We will also have a suggestion box for future QVWC programs.

          I am hoping this idea will begin a more elaborate gardening theme in future years and would love to see a pharmacy garden somewhere in the Centre. Getting ahead of myself!

          Leta Hong Fincher in conversation with Bhakthi Puvanenthiran
          March 6, 12:45pm – 2pm
          210 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
          Free admission, bookings essential.

          We have been working with the Sydney Opera House and Adelaide Writers Week to make sure Melbourne has this incredible opportunity to hear from Leta Hong Fincher the author of Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China. Ms Hong Fincher will be in lunchtime conversation with Bhakthi Puvanenthiran, Associate Editor of‬

          On the eve of International Women’s Day in 2015, the Chinese government arrested five feminist activists and jailed them for 37 days. The Feminist Five became a global cause célèbre, with Hillary Clinton speaking out on their behalf, and activists inundating social media with #FreetheFive messages. But the Feminist Five are only symbols of a much larger feminist movement of university students, civil rights lawyers, labour activists, performance artists and online warriors that is prompting an unprecedented awakening among China’s urban, educated women.

          In Betraying Big Brother, journalist and scholar Leta Hong Fincher argues that the popular, broad-based movement poses a unique challenge to China’s authoritarian regime today. Through interviews with the Feminist Five and other leading Chinese activists, Leta Hong Fincher illuminates both the difficulties they face and their “joy of betraying Big Brother,” as one of the Feminist Five wrote of the defiance she felt during her detention.

          Tracing the rise of a new feminist consciousness now finding expression through the #MeToo movement, and describing how the Chinese government has suppressed the history of its own feminist struggles, Betraying Big Brother is a story of how the movement against patriarchy could reconfigure China and the world.

          Betraying Big Brother (Verso), is Leta’s second book and was named one of the best books of 2018 by Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Bitch Media, Foreign Policy Interrupted and Autostraddle. Leta’s first book, Leftover Women: The Resurgence of Gender Inequality in China (Zed 2014), was named one of the top 5 China books of 2014 by the Asia Society’s ChinaFile, one of the best foreign policy books in 2014 by FP Interrupted and one of the best Asian books of 2014 by Asia House. Leftover Women was named on New Left Review’s list of favourite books to read for International Women’s Day in 2016 and 2017.

          Bhakthi Puvanenthiran is Associate Editor of Crikey, writing mainly on politics and the media. Previously Bhakthi was a journalist and editor at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald covering arts, entertainment and business. She co-hosted the podcast Hard Bargain, is a regular media commentator and sits on the board of the National Young Writers’ Festival.





          BYO Picnic For International Women’s Day
          March 7, 6pm – 8:30pm
          210 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
          Free admission, bookings essential.

          On March 7 is the super fun idea of a BYO picnic with a whole lot of really interesting women, some of whom you know and some of whom you would like to know, no doubt!

          Each table will be hosted by a woman from a different background who will facilitate conversation and no suggestion box here because you are asked to write on the tablecloths.

          The whole evening will be facilitated by artist Jamie Lewis, with table hosts including Dr Suzanne Crowe, Kath Duncan, Amy Gray, Kagi Kowa, Virginia Lovett and more to come! We’ll provide some nibbles and soft drink, you bring something to share, if you can, plus your ideas and sense of fun … we believe Kath Duncan is quite the mover and will be getting us all in on it.

          Read our interview with Jamie Lewis:

          Read about Kath Duncan’s work and philosophy:

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            How I built a campaign to remember victims of domestic violence

            The Australian Femicide & Child Death Map
            By Sherele Moody 
            Content warning: mentions violence against women

            I spent more than two decades raging about my stepfather’s decision to abduct, rape and murder nine-year-old Stacey Ann Tracy.

            I was 18 when Barry Hadlow killed Stacey-Ann on May 22, 1990, in Roma, Queensland. He had been married to my mother for around five years. My little sisters considered him their father. They were not much older than Stacey when she died.

            Stacey-Ann Tracy

            Days after nine-year-old Stacey’s death, I found out Hadlow had previously been sentenced to life for the rape and murder of five-year-old Sandra Dorothy Bacon in 1963.

            He was released from prison because the parole board determined he was unlikely to kill again – they could not have been more wrong.

            It is almost impossible to explain what it is like to be the relative of a child killer other than to say grief, anger, frustration and hopelessness seems to always nip at my heels.

            I think of Stacey-Ann every single day. And when I think of Stacey-Ann, I think of Sandra. And when I think of Stacey-Ann and Sandra, I think about other women and children lost to violence in our country.

            Wanting to turn my anger into something worthwhile, I built the Australian Femicide and Child Death Map and its companion project – The RED HEART Campaign’s Memorial to Women and Children Lost to Violence.

            It’s taken about three years to document the murders and manslaughters of 1700 Australian victims.

            These deaths are just the tip of the iceberg with thousands more dead women and children – from white settlement to now – to be added.

            My research involves interviewing families of victims (where possible) dcfand trawling through print and online archives of Australian newspapers as well as coroner’s court rulings and appeal court judgments.

            As the project documents deaths where accused perpetrators are still going through court, everything has to strictly avoid any possibility of sub judice, contempt or defamation. Stories are updated as people are charged, convicted or acquitted, and I document ALL deaths regardless of the perpetrator’s gender or relationship to the victim.

            It is no surprise thought that around 90 per cent of victims lost their lives to male violence and around 70 per cent of deaths involved domestic violence. Where domestic violence is a factor, there were known patterns of controlling behaviour, emotional abuse, ownership and jealousy. Killers often used child support, family law issues and/or betrayal as their justification for wiping out the lives of others.

            Regardless of the circumstances, none of these women or kids slipped gently into the night – often they lived in fear before they died.

            The victims come from all walks of life – from doctors, lawyers, teachers and business owners to women living on the fringes including sex workers, drug addicts, teenage runaways, transgender women and even great grandmothers aged in their 90s.

            A key issue for me is the lack of information in around 25% of killings, particularly the deaths of Indigenous women in remote communities or diverse communities including those who are queer, disabled or from ethnic backgrounds.

            It is important to me to paint a picture of each victim and how their death impacted their loved ones. Sadly, this is not always possible because in some cases all I know is that an unnamed woman or child was killed on (or about) a certain date at or near a certain location.

            A disturbing number of murders remain unsolved while in other cases, victims have not been found.

            Inadequate sentencing is an outrageous – and terrifyingly – common theme, whether victims were killed in the 1900s or in the past 20 years. In some cases, claiming provocation has seen many violent men plead to the lesser charge of manslaughter, only to be released within five or six years of their brutal acts.

            My research also shows that Australia’s frontline violence workers, feminists, academics and the families of victims have been having the same conversations around violence against women and children for as long as men have been killing us.

            The Map and the Memorial are not built on statistics – these are journalism-driven story-based platforms designed to commemorate the lives of the victims and to offer a memorial space for their loved ones. The projects are also designed to influence community perceptions of violence by generating discussion, challenging myths and misconceptions and igniting debate on misogyny, sexism and toxic masculinity.

            When I started The RED HEART Campaign, I had no idea I would spend much of my free time building Australia’s saddest catalogue of violence, but I do consider this to be the best – and most important –  journalism of my 25-year career.

            The Map and the Memorial are now the centrepieces of The RED HEART Campaign.

            I started RED HEART in September of 2015, providing a space for domestic and family violence survivors to share their stories of trauma, hope and inspiration.

            While every survivor’s experience is unique, their stories are bound together by deep personal loss, incredible strength, steely determination and extreme bravery in the face of the worst kind of cruelty any human can inflict on another.

            RED HEART has shared more than 300 stories of violence survival since its launch while attracting a following of more than 55,000 Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram users.

            The more I write and research violence against women the more RED HEART grows and changes.

            It is now an effective lobbying, prevention and support tool that includes:

            • Counting all murders and manslaughters in Australia, providing a real-time measure of how violence impacts our community;
            • RIP Angel posts, encouraging the Campaign’s followers to share a red heart emoji for every woman and child killed in Australia;
            • Material aid and social support for women and children in crisis;
            • Pressuring government to better resource domestic, family and sexual violence prevention and support services; and
            • Actively highlighting misogyny, toxic masculinity and rape culture and the underlying factors that cause these issues to thrive.

            All of this is done on my own time and with my own dime.

            The RED HEART Campaign is a registered not for profit, but it receives no government or charitable funding. I pay for everything out of my own pocket, with a little help from t-shirts sales and a small Patreon page.

            I am lucky to have ongoing support from family and friends, including four very trusted mates who volunteer behind the scenes of the Campaign’s digital assets, help me track murders and manslaughters and respond to calls from women in domestic and sexual violence or family law crisis.

            While I have learned many valuable lessons over the past 3.5 years, these are my top tips for anyone wanting to create their own social media campaign:

            • Just do it. Your project has the potential to change lives and the more women we have running campaigns to end violence, the more likely we will be to save lives.
            • Make sure you have a clear “about section” that tells your audience who you are, what you hope to achieve and how they can help and take part.
            • You will become the subject of cyberhate including bullying, abuse and death threats. Do not engage with trolls – block them as soon as they appear and move on.
            • Document all threats of violence because police can – and should – investigate them. You must be able to do your work in this area without your safety being put at risk.
            • Many people will offer to admin or look after your page but choose wisely. Ask yourself if they will be your eyes and ears when you are offline. Remember: those who have access to the back-end of your social media accounts can destroy your hard work with one mouse click.
            • Try to find a fund-raising source to help pay for your work. Yes, social media is free but you will need artwork, sponsored posts and lots of other things that cost money.
            • Being the face of your campaign can make a big difference in its growth and impact. This also comes at a price – your privacy will be at risk. Never put your address on social media, have a separate phone for your campaign and let all calls go to message bank. Remember police can trace phone calls from private numbers so report any voicemail threats.
            • Despite the downsides, social media is an excellent tool for highlighting issues that you are passionate about. Experts will say you should follow certain rules to succeed, but throwing out the rulebook was the best thing I ever did. Post what you like when you like but make sure the material reflects your core goals and messages.
            • If you get a lot of negative feedback over a post from your prime audience, think about taking the offending post down. A bad post can cost you thousands of supporters in a matter of hours.
            • Think about repeat trolls who repeatedly hijack your posts with “what aboutery”. It will not take you long to see the same social media profiles posting the same things on your threads. Giving them the boot will cost you nothing, but it will give you peace of mind.
            • Make sure you offer women a safe online experience by removing abusive and other offensive comments.
            • It’s vital to follow the basic rules of writing. If you screw up a post with dodge spelling or terrible punctuation, you can almost guarantee some troll will screenshot it and send it around the internet, making you viral for all the wrong reasons.  The more professional and polished your words, the more followers you will get because this lends legitimacy to your campaign.
            • Get to know sub judice, contempt and defamation laws inside out. You do not need to have a law degree but if you post the wrong thing about an ongoing court case or an individual you could end up in jail or lose your life savings.
            • Most importantly. Never argue with a men’s rights activist. The only way they will agree with what you are doing is if you centre them – and only them – in your campaign. The easiest option is to block them and move on.

            If you are inspired to go down this path, please drop me a line via The RED HEART Campaign. I believe it is important for women to support other women so I would love to help when I can.

            *For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

            To learn more about Sherele’s campaigns, please visit:
            The Australian Femicide & Child Death Map:
            The RED HEART Campaign:
            THRC Memorial to Women and Children Lost to Violence:




            Stay in touch with us and we will stay in touch with you. Subscribe today and receive our monthly newsletter.

            Photo: John McCutcheon Sherele Moody is a professional journalist writing for News Corp print and digital outlets. She is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign, the creator of the Femicide Australia Map and the recipient of multiple journalism excellence awards for her work highlighting violence against women and children.  

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              Protecting misogynists


              By Clementine Ford

              Australian politics continues to reveal  its inherent problem with women, with a Nationals staffer being placed on “indefinite leave” after he “accidentally” sent a misogynistic, abusive rant to the female journalist his words were targeting.

              The unnamed man sent the text to News Corp’s Annika Smethurst, writing, “I thought my mum would write…no…hope her family dies of vicious cancel [sic]…I mean that…painful cancer for a vicious feminist c—t.” The text went on to say, “A c—t. Let her come to my home…slap her on her bitch face.”

              There’s no universe in which this content could at all be considered acceptable or defensible, yet the Nationals have tried to do the latter in a circular way. In his response, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the text had been “accidentally and inadvertently” sent to Smethurst instead of the intended recipient, a friend of the staffer. McCormack went on to offer the standard follow up so often given in situations like these, in which “counselling” would be offered to “help deal with the issues underlying this event”. The Deputy Nationals leader, Bridget McKenzie, also offered this caveat to her condemnation of the language used: “It is my understanding the offending text was not intended for the recipient.”

              Are we supposed to think it makes it better that Misogynist 1 only meant for someone who thinks just like him to see him talking about slapping a woman on her “bitch face” and hoping her whole family dies of cancer?

              This wasn’t a story beat in a political satire (although it’s certainly feels like Australian politics is satire). I wouldn’t be the only person who feels worse knowing that this is how people placed in positions of enormous Federal power speak about women behind closed doors, when they think no one’s watching or listening. Because there’s Gadsby’s Line again – the one that self-fancying “good” men draw in the sand depending on which environment they’re operating in.

               We all grapple with feelings of animosity in the workplace, and we’ve all probably sent expletive ridden texts to friends complaining about colleagues or bosses or even other friends. This isn’t about blowing off steam or expressing anger. What is key here is the choice of language used. That some men can so easily resort to the most despicable of misogynistic imagery to express their rage about women is a problem that is far more widespread than many people want to acknowledge.

              Every day, I field messages from men of all ages who attempt to attack me with base, disgusting misogyny. Often, these men hide behind the veil of anonymity. An increasing number of them are teenage boys. The content rarely varies. Here are just some of the things I’ve been seen in the past week:

              Get back in the kitchen, bitch.

              I hope you get raped, you whore.

              Kill yourself, you feminazi.

              You’re the load your mother should have swallowed.


              To be clear, I don’t think it’s disagreement or even strong language that’s the problem here. We aren’t obliged to be nice to everyone all the time, and people with whom we have fundamental ideological differences are free to express those differences and vice versa. What I have a problem with – and indeed, what we should ALL have a problem with – is the form that disagreement takes. What we reach for in our moments of rage reveals far more about us than it does our opponents.

              The text message sent by the unnamed staffer (and take a moment to reflect on how it is his that his anonymity gets to be preserved when the media had no problem splashing the names of two people associated with the Greens all across the papers when their ‘offences’ were so much less severe than this) wasn’t appalling because he was angry with a journalist. It was appalling because he used the fact of her gender to channel that anger through a lens of gross misogyny. Would he have written the same about a man? Absolutely not. Would Julia Gillard have copped the specific kinds of abuse she did as Prime Minister if her name had been Julian? No. Men aren’t called whores or sluts. They aren’t degraded with graphic descriptions of their bodies being mutilated or sexually violated. If rape is invoked against them, it’s usually in reference to the women who they love.

              We should all be deeply concerned at how freely this kind of language is called on, against women on both sides of the political fence and by men who are similarly bipartisan. These aren’t meaningless actions. They expose men’s deep and fundamental hostility towards women, and it’s a hostility that is not dying out with age but instead transferred to future generations. It isn’t just prominent women who are spoken to in this manner. Women with no public profile face this aggression every day. Girls are dealing with it too, often from boys they’re forced to go to school with and thus downplay how violent and frightening they find it.

              Misogyny is alive and well in Australia. The writing is right there, on the wall.


              Stay in touch with us and we will stay in touch with you. Subscribe today and receive our monthly newsletter.

              Clementine Ford is an Australian feminist writer, broadcaster and public speaker. She has a regular column in Daily Life. You can follow her on Twitter at @clementine_ford.

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                Feminist new year resolutions for 2019

                Ijeoma OluoBy Amy Gray

                Two things become more certain with age: the years seem to fly by quicker and each year can feel a little bit harder.

                But for all its challenges, 2018 has taught us one thing: women are rising each other and themselves up, demanding rights, fighting for justice and breaking through all those glass ceilings.

                It’s been a year where many of us have learned that when we work together, we can achieve together. There’s no “Lean In” here, just the knowledge working to help women requires coordinated action to rebalance what happens in the home, workforce, politics and everywhere else.

                So, with 2019 around the corner – what do we want? Instead of those individual resolutions we so often make and break in private, why don’t we commit to collective goals that can help every woman enjoy greater independence, safety and liberation?


                1. Be better allies
                  Being an ally to all women takes some work and radical honesty. It’s an act that recognises our personal experiences and privilege aren’t universal for all women. We were blown away with Gala Vanting’s article on how to be a better ally to sex workers that really explains how to be a better ally to all women.
                2. Get reading
                  A woman who knows the world knows she can’t be fooled. Get smart and get informed about what’s happening here and abroad. You can spend as little as $1 on some news subscriptions, or load up on podcasts and vlogs.

                  While some feel like reading the news can be a depressing, there are ways to exercise good self care and not drown in fake news. Practice good media literacy and get picky about what news you’ll read or watch, like sticking to hard news updates and feature articles instead of opinion pieces. Or getting an actual newspaper instead of reading online (a surefire way to manage any media anxiety).

                  Want to see how much news we miss on a daily basis? Set up Google Alerts for your hot topics to get regular emails of what is happening around the world.

                3. Vote for women’s issues
                  Studies suggest many women don’t factor in women’s rights into their voting choices. Yet women are a huge voting block kwho can set the national and international agenda every time they vote. With a federal election just around the corner, isn’t it time to vote like a girl?

                4. Build your own communities
                  Live your liberation and reach out to women you know socially, professionally or are in your local or online areas. By building community with women, you’re building a support network for all – especially when sexist abuse thrives in isolation. Get yourself a goddamn girl gang and learn from each other while building each other up.

                5. Get active!
                  We’re talking politically. Get active about the issues important to women! Set up grassroots campaigns for things that not only impact you, but also place marginalised women at risk. Groups like Mums for Refugees show how small actions can make a big impact and don’t require massive planning or funds, just commitment and communication. Look at what campaigns are happening on Twitter (like RoboDebt) or and see if you can get involved.

                6. Practice meaningful self care
                  We’re very big on self care which is less blanket forts and more about giving yourself nourishing structures that help you face another day. As Audre Lorde famously said “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Read up on how to practice meaningful and challenging self care.

                7. Get financially smart
                  Not to get all Barefoot Feminist on you, but one of the keys to women’s independence is money. Money has long been used as a means to discriminate and oppress women, whether it’s not paying them as much as men, making them pay more for items than men or keeping them trapped in bad jobs or relationships they can’t afford to escape. A woman with her own “fuck off fund” can avoid some of these issues, because she has enough savings to prioritise her safety and human rights. Paulette Perhach, who coined the term in an essay and on her website, knows that saving is hard in a world of unpaid internships and casual rates, but every dollar saved could be your path to liberation.
                8. Support women
                  Be the change you want to see and actively support women. Want to watch a movie? Watch one made by women. Need new clothes? Find ones made by women in ethical workplaces. Books? Women. A new café? Find one run by women. Make a point – make your own quota and live it. The hoary old refrain that women just don’t make enough money to justify investment is a myth, but let’s drive the point home and actively consume art, politics, consumables made by women..

                  If you’re more inclined to donate than buy, consider microloan platform Kiva where many women need help to fund small businesses and projects.

                9. Your new favourite word: No.
                  Women have been trained to center everyone else in their lives except themselves, rationalising that pleasing others is “just how things are” or a sign they’re a team player. No.

                  That’s why we think you should say no. Once a day. Say no to unreasonable requests, offensive comments and ridiculous sexism. Say no to being invisible labour and build on it with other great phrases like “I’m not done talking”, “stop interrupting”,  “go away”, “you do the dishes”, “take my medical pain seriously” and “I deserve a raise”.

                10. Believe women, believe yourselfAs #MeToo and life has shown, sometimes women aren’t the best supporters of other women. Women of colour can be ignored or not believed by white women when they share their experiences of racism and sexism. Women who testify about sexual assault or harassment they have received can feel isolated by other women who defend alleged perpetrators. Then we have women who just don’t believe in themselves, feeling like imposters instead of skilled professionals at work.

                  It seems like we rarely believe women, including ourselves. This is incredibly isolating and dangerous, leading many women to not report crimes or other incidents. It can prevent them from really participating in life with the same confidence as, say, a mediocre white man.

                  It’s time to put an end to this. When women explain what has happened to them, believe them. And start believing in yourself, knowing that your imposter syndrome is merely a ruse to keep you working twice as hard as a man because you all think you don’t deserve to be there.

                You deserve it. And you deserve so much more.

                See you in 2019.


                Stay in touch with us and we will stay in touch with you. Subscribe today and receive our monthly newsletter.

                Amy Gray is a Melbourne writer whose work focuses on feminism, culture and parenting. She tweets via @_amygray_

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                  A Handmaid’s Documentary

                  By Amy Gray

                  It shouldn’t be surprising that Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale. Not just because her book has renewed interest with the tv series, but because real life feels like an express ticket to Gilead.

                  This was definitely the case in Ohio when Republican State Representative Christina Hagan introduced a “Heartbeat Bill” that would ban all abortions after six weeks which is when a fetal heartbeat can be heard. It’s a canny time frame, given medical professionals often won’t perform abortions until a fetus can be seen via ultrasound (and, natch, this happens after the six week marker).

                  Hagan’s point is loud and clear: she is seeking to ban abortion, but she really drove home the point by arguing for the ban while holding her twin infants. The double sling across her chest as she held the microphone was a deliberate attempt to push the myth that mothers are good and anyone who doesn’t want it is an evil killer.

                  It’s something that touches a local nerve, given when Australians aren’t campaigning for reproductive rights, we’re campaigning to stop a politician using them as a bargaining chip.

                  Often, our conversations about abortion rest on the notion that patriarchy wants to restrict women’s choice in order to control women’s bodies. But there’s greater nuance there that we should explore.

                  We have to consider that a lot of the discrimination women face is seen through the filter of motherhood. It doesn’t matter if the woman is a mother or not -  people actually want to consider women in a state of perpetual pregnancy, their fertility and choice a ticking time bomb that must be contained and controlled.

                  Women are primed from birth through toys and entertainment that their main goal in life is motherhood. Sure, they may come across some “empowering” messages that tell them they can have it all – but they’re reminded that part of that “all” must include motherhood.

                  Whether or not women accept that conditioning, they are still punished either being mothers or an assumption motherhood is imminent or inevitable. Perhaps her marital status is subtly questioned in an interview (because attachment to a man means children will come), or she’s denied job opportunities because at any moment she may get pregnant which – despite society’s demand that she should – she is then punished for with reduced promotion, hours or rights.

                  Should a woman become pregnant, she learns her rights are not only behind that of men, but also the collection of cells we would call a embryo. How is it that cells have more rights than the person creating them? Simply: diagnostic tools like ultrasounds which make them seem more human than the expanding cells actually are. As Professor Meredith Nash has noted, the obsession with sonogram and other technologies that allow us to visibly track a fetus’ development has corresponded with their use to shame women into continuing pregnancies (like a plan in Indiana forcing women to view an ultrasound before they can access an abortion procedure).

                  This continues after birth, with many women finding themselves made redundant on maternity leave or prevented from resuming their job. Their motherhood, an additional tag to their identity, is used to frame their entire professional life and not only places them secondary to men but subtle infers their real job isn’t the one that gives a weekly pay or superannuation, but of raising children.

                  For women in the home, it’s a time fraught with an increase in domestic violence and decreased options to leave or have any sort of security for herself or her children.

                  When you look at all the connections, motherhood appears to be one of the easier ways of controlling all women whether they’ve had kids or not. It becomes a lever that can be pulled to prevent them from financial security, education, or social and political participation.

                  So of course, forced pregnancy is both a political aim and dystopian nightmare for Atwood. It’s a way to control women and remind them who really has it all: not them.


                  Stay in touch with us and we will stay in touch with you. Subscribe today and receive our monthly newsletter.

                  Amy Gray is a Melbourne writer whose work focuses on feminism, culture and parenting. She tweets via @_amygray_

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                    The women who led me to my writing space

                    The typewriter image is CC0 Creative Commons, Free for commercial use, No attribution required via

                    By Karen Wyld 

                    I mostly write non-fiction pieces. I’ve published one novel, and have been clawing back time to finish another.

                    Women are writing across all genres and subject matters. Works of fiction by women can be powerful. From books that unashamedly focus on everyday life to those that shake perceptions, reveal the unspoken, and stare political opponents in the eye.

                    Publishing or reading novels by women is no longer frowned upon. Some of these books provide motivation to keep going, ideas for breaking down barriers, and an image of a fairer society to strive for.

                    There are many woman-authored books with strong female protagonists from my childhood, but the ones that most stand out are the Pippi LongStocking series by Astrid Lindgren. Pippi showed me that it’s possible to be uniquely you. Be a rebel, have fun, walk your own path, and help others. Pippi did not leave others behind.

                    Queen Victoria Women
                    Reminiscing about younger-me wanting to be like Pippi, I discovered that Astrid Lindgren(1944 – 19993) was also an inspiring person. She was vocal about women in politics, children’s rights and civil rights for African-Americans, and was against corporal punishment. Awarded accolades in her lifetime, Astrid Lindgren even has an asteroid named in her honour.

                    Recently I re-re-read Toni Morrison’s 1988 Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved. I now understand why Baby Suggs chose to spend her last days on earth pondering colours. Starting with blue, gone before she reached red. There has been too much red. Beloved tells the grim story of a traumatised runaway-slave that kills her toddler to save her from a life of chains.

                    Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 1993. Very few writers can capably use storytelling to combat white supremacy and injustice with as much clarity and fearlessness as Toni Morrison does.

                    Although her books often tell stories at the intersection of sexism and racism, Toni Morrison ‘…does not write “ist” novels.’ In an interview Toni Morrison was asked why she distances herself from feminism. She replied:

                    In order to be as free as I possibly can, in my own imagination, I can’t take positions that are closed. Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it, to open doors, sometimes, not even closing the book — leaving the endings open for reinterpretation, revisitation, a little ambiguity. I detest and loathe [those categories]. I think it’s off-putting to some readers, who may feel that I’m involved in writing some kind of feminist tract. I don’t subscribe to patriarchy, and I don’t think it should be substituted with matriarchy. I think it’s a question of equitable access, and opening doors to all sorts of things.

                    Queen Victoria Women
                    Closer to home, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence is the second novella in a trilogy written by my maternal aunt Doris Nugi Garimara Pilkington (1937 – 2014). The book retells how my grandmother Molly escaped a church-run institution for children, after being incarcerated under the government’s racist child removal polices. These practices occurred nationally, from the early 1900s to the 1980s, and those taken are the stolen generations.

                    Aunty Doris became a published author later in life. Receiving the 1990 David Unaipon Award led to the publication of her first novel, Caprice: A Stockman’s Daughter. Whenever I worry about running out of time to reach my goals, Aunty Doris’ success gives me hope. And whenever I feel like everything is too difficult, I remember the tenacity of my grandmother and know the strength of my ancestors’ flows through me.

                    A space to write is essential, even if it’s just a small corner of the kitchen table. Many of us write in difficult circumstances: decades of juggling demands on our time, giving birth, dealing with grief and loss, worrying which bills will be late this month, and being just so so tired. Some women are writing whilst in toxic relationships or dealing with attempted sabotage from exes. And there are women writing in exile or incarceration.

                    This week, author Susan Abulhawa was detained by the Israeli government and refused entry to Palestine. An American-Palestinian writer, Susan Abulhawa is a human rights advocate, the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine, and a Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) activist. She was to be a guest at the 2018 Kalimat Palestinian Literature Festival.

                    In her statement to the Festival, Susan Abulhawa says:

                    I want to leave you with one more thought I had in that jail cell, and it is this: Israel is spiritually, emotionally, and culturally small despite the large guns they point at us – or perhaps precisely because of them. It is to their own detriment that they cannot accept our presence in our homeland, because our humanity remains intact and our art is beautiful and life-affirming, and we aren’t going anywhere but home.

                    Queen Victoria Women
                    Set in Gaza, Susan Abulhawa’s The Blue Between Sky and Wateris a tale of four generations of Palestinians living under siege – refugees in their own lands. Amongst the atrocities and destruction inflicted by the Israeli government, the Baraka family love, laugh, give birth, grieve, and resist.

                    And at the centre of everything are women.

                    I was there with the women in my life. I was in the colors. In the mulberries, magentas, and corals of a tired sun. In the blue between sky and water.
                    I was there watching. Their conversations and laughter anchored the ground in place, tucked the shore under the water, and hung the sky and decorated it with stars and moon and sun. All of this happened in Gaza. It happened in Palestine. And I stayed as long as I could.

                    To prepare for this article, I made a stack of novels by women that centred girls and women. Choosing these four was hard. However, it was a chance to re-visit these books. I still remembered what they showed me about life, of love and hate, overcoming oppression — and about myself.


                    Stay in touch with us and we will stay in touch with you. Subscribe today and receive our monthly newsletter.

                    Karen Wyld is a freelance writer, author and consultant of Aboriginal descent (Martu) living on the Fleurieu Peninsula, SA.

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