Tag Archives: women

Year of activism #9

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is generation equality. Can’t help feeling the ambition in this one!

Let’s start with infanticide and selective sex abortion. This practice continues and shows up even when hidden and outlawed when a disproportionate number of females are visible at population levels.

Then let’s look at going to school and who gets educated. You don’t have to be in Taliban land to see this at work. In my own experience, in a number of families I went to school with boys were sent to the more exclusive schools while their sisters were sent to schools with lower costs and less status. Less investment in educating girls. We know educating women and girls is the fastest way to increase GDP and slow population growth – two good arguments to support the climate emergency too.

Then we come to world of work. Australian women are still esrninv 21% less than the average weekly earnings of men. Despite consistently kept our number #1 status in ‘Educational attainment’, in the World Economic Forum report on eve of 2020, Australia is ranked #44 in the world for gender equality, dropping year after year now for more than a decade.

Women are still doing more than their male counterparts in the home – physical and emotional labour – from child rearing and caring through to caring for the seniors and those with extra needs. This is one giant generational equality area being addressed with more men taking parenting leave. Highly recommended reading is The Wife Drought on this topic. For years I used to fantasize about a wife, a research assistant and a driver being the perfect team to support me as a parent and partner.

I could go on and on and I am sure readers are making their own lists.

Being a feminist is my anchor as an activist. It is so easy to apply a gender lens as an everyday practice. You don’t need a PhD in gender studies (although proud to say I have a daughter with one) you just need to notice and ask a question and before you know it you have taken a step towards solidarity with other women and begun disrupting the patriarchy.

For me this is a practice and it needs the discipline of a practice. To pop.a gender lens over the inequality and inequities we see usually unearths variables and surprises previously invisible. There is a treasure trove of structural examples of this in Caroline Criado Perez’s book Invisible Women. With a forensic examination of the application of data for design she exposes the dangers, including death for women.

On this International Women’s Day I am remembering all the women who have gone before me to get the vote, who have created learning opportunities, cared for my children, offered me friendship, a roof over my head, who have held me and listened to my tears and frustrations, who have given me opportunities and advice, who have been my friends. I have no sisters or aunts or cousins and bereft of many women in the family excepting my mother, two daughters, four neices, and sisters-in-law I want to celebrate my women friends who continue to bless me with acts of solidarity and come from across all generations. Viva the sisterhood!

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Dancing with Speeches #41 Manal Al Sharif

Manal Al Sharif from Saudi Arabia rose to fame with a speech from her car. A simple act of defiance. Driving her way to freedom went viral, got her detained and got her heard, face seen and named. She followed up speaking in Oslo and that speech brought her sisters from around the world with her and many in her own country to get behind the wheel and not get arrested.

It always starts with one voice, one face and one name and then over time they are joined by the first follower – this all important person who echoes, pays homage and responds and then over time the movement grows. Call and response are the building blocks to all movements. Single actions lead to collection ones – a walk to make salt brings down an empire (Mahatma Gandhi) sitting on a bus brings freedom and rights (Rosa Parks), walking off land leads to fair wages (Vincent Lingiari). In Manal’s actions she is also asking each and every one of us: What wheel are you going to get behind to drive to freedom?

The wheel is a wonderful thing – and when connected to an engine even more powerful. The axel, hub, spokes, wings, rim, cap, tyre all embellish the humble and technological beauty, of the wheel. And wheels come in so many shapes and sizes, holding meaning and messages – the ferris wheel on steroids that is the Eye overseeing our cities, the wheelbarrow carting our gardening endeavours (and little children) around backyards, the colour wheel offering a kaleidoscope to enrich our senses, the wheel of fortune being spun at fairs and appearing in readings, and the prayer wheel holding us steady in all kinds of weather.

Manal Al Sharif is a woman of means, well endowed with friends to support her and come alongside of her vision for women. She calls out common sense and practicalities – and after all isn’t this the simplicity of equity? A chance for us all to have our hands on the same wheel to drive ourselves to the freedoms for all and not just the privileged few? Her name means achievement and attainment. In our response to her call success will arrive.

How long is this turning of the wheel go on before all women (and therefore all men too) are driven to freedom? The exodus from enslavement by patriarchy and frankly just silly ideas is not yet complete. There is more wheel turning to be done. More songs to be sung. More voices to be heard. More ears to listen. More hearts to open. The wheel is turning and Manal’s hands on her steering wheel in a car she owns, on a street in a city she lives and works in, driving without arrest another turn is taken.

In my tradition, to every season there is a turn and we all need to take our turn at the wheel, to be the call and all the more important, be the response to the call.

This is the time for every purpose and for every work to be turned towards speaking up and righting wrongs towards all women. There is no stop to the turning and whirling. Like a dervish possessed with the ecstasy and mystical love for their God, women of the world twirl and swirl, creating a ferment for change no longer voiceless, faceless or nameless!

we came whirling
out of nothingness
scattering stars
like dust

the stars made a circle
and in the middle
we dance

the wheel of heaven
circles God
like a mill

if you grab a spoke
it will tear your hand off

turning and turning
it sunders
all attachment

were that wheel not in love
it would cry
“enough! how long this turning?”

every atom
turns bewildered

beggars circle tables
dogs circle carrion
the lover circles
his own heart

I circle shame

a ruined water wheel
whichever way I turn
is the river

if that rusty old sky
creaks to a stop
still, still I turn

and it is only God
circling Himself


Dancing with Speeches #31 Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama spoke at the Democratic Convention this week about her girls growing into intelligent women over their years in the White House, a place built by slaves. It was also one of the best speeches I have ever heard and so this week’s dance is a thank you back to Michelle.  Maya Angelou’s poems Still I Rise and Phenomenal Woman just won’t leave me as I think of Michelle Obama and bow down saying thank you. 

Thank you for staying the course, for raising your girls into women. For showing us what love looks like in public office, for being decent, graceful, elegant, strong, kind. For holding hands, and for being able to laugh together, for lifting up and rising, rising, rising.

Thank you for not letting us see all the ordinary things and yet glimpsing the moments of the ordinary just enough to know 1600 Pennsylvania Ave was a home above the shop. Thank you for protecting your kids and showing day after day that #blacklivesmatter in education and health as well as on the streets.   Thanks for showing other parents the way and sharing your motto : when they go low, we go high. This is a motto of the campaign ahead for your friend Hillary and indeed all your fellow Americans who will be voting in the context of pain, hate speech and fear. As a Mum you were and continue to be your girl’s first role model.

Every Mum can look to you as a role model – showing your girls how to be a partner, a confidante, a smart person to keep your mate humble, a woman in every way, a broker for what’s strong not what’s wrong and most of all a voter. To think your eldest will be voting in her first election this November for a woman president, starting her voting pattern knowing that is possible.

Thanks Michelle for being a great woman and a great Mum, a great partner and friend for shaping our lives and conversations, for making us laugh and cry for rising, rising, rising. You are a woman of strength and we are all going to miss you in the White House and can’t wait to see you doing more in the global movements for equity, especially for women and girls education. Thank you for being  a phenomenal woman and raising two more.


Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.


International Women’s Day: The Gender Agenda

I always celebrate IWD one way or another – over the years my activities have included a day of fast, a day of prayer, breakfast with hundreds of others, dinner with women and supporting survivors of domestic violence, lunch with women friends, doing a playback theatre performance, creating a women’s music mix … and the list goes on!  This year I sent an e-card through my business online network of women – a first for me.

The UN Gender Agenda has defined the 2013 theme as:

“A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”

International Women's Day

Back in your day, Hildegard many women joined the convent to maintain their individual identity within the walls of the convent. Their dowries added to the wealth of the religious order and helped create land reform. The collective response is the only way to build a future. Just as Margaret Mead famously said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” And when that group is made up of women and the change in the world is for women, the whole planet benefits.

Some year’s ago I opened a women’s church event with the Hail Mary. What I did was I asked all the women present to insert their own name in place of Mary’s and the rest of the room responded. It went like this:  The woman said her name e.g. “I am Jenny”  and we all responded in unison “Hail Jenny full of grace the Lord is with you”;  and then we went onto the next person. It became a litany and the room was indeed full of grace by the time we had finished. It was incredibly powerful and unexpected for all of us.  The international guest speaker for whom we had all gathered took a moment to collect herself she was so moved by this expression of the feminine divine embodied in this simple ritual.

The gender agenda for my church is to get back to the beginning where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28).  This is the earliest baptismal rite recorded. In a recent discussion on Eureka Street it was revealed that  ‘the category of cardinal could be given to lay men AND lay women’ ow.ly/ilA6V.

I wonder what would happen if there was a group of women involved in discerning who would fill the vacancy at the Vatican? Actually I don’t need to wonder … it would be transformational. Cousins