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From the Vault: Labor Pains

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/09/2022 - 2:00am in

Since I hadn’t been able to get Angela to talk about what trial lawyering may have done to her sense of herself, her “identity” as a woman, I shifted to a different lens: Did she feel, I asked, that the presence of more women lawyers was humanizing the criminal law?...

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The 1970s and the fight for abortion rights in Australia

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/08/2022 - 8:16pm in

Abortion became a political battleground in the 1970s, as social attitudes, court decisions and the Women’s Liberation Movement forced dramatic changes writes Judy McVey

Until 1969 abortion in Australia was illegal, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. After that court decisions and law reform began to change this. The radical struggles of the period, including the emergence of the Women’s Liberation Movement, were also vital in securing access in the decade that followed. Abortion shifted from a taboo subject to become a major political issue.

Abortion has always been common. But before 1969, “Women who had means could attend a skilled abortionist; otherwise they went to someone less skilled or tried to abort themselves”, according to pro-choice doctor Stefania Siedlecky. Corrupt police ran a protection system for underground abortion rackets.

The legalisation of abortion saved lives, “abortion still remained the highest single cause of maternal death in Australia until the 1970s”, Siedlecky noted. “Annual deaths from abortion declined from 125 in 1941 to 14 in 1970, but in the triennium 1973-75 there were only 2 abortion deaths”.

Indigenous women faced different issues including forced sterilisation, and state-enforced removal of children, which still occurs today. People with disability continue to suffer non-consensual sterilisation too.

From liberal to radical reform

The changing role of women in the workforce and the availability of the pill from 1961, which gave women greater control over the decision about having children, helped shift attitudes to abortion.

Humanist Societies and civil libertarians took the first steps for legal reform, opposing state interference in what they declared were “private” individual decisions including homosexuality and abortion.

They set up Abortion Law Reform Associations during the late 1960s, inspired by the 1967 Abortion Act in Britain which legalised abortion in the first 28 weeks of pregnancy, subject to agreement by two doctors that the woman’s physical or mental health would be endangered by continuation of the pregnancy, or a serious risk of foetal abnormality. In 1969, the state government of South Australia introduced reform along similar lines.

But Liberal Party governments in the largest states, Victoria and NSW, were unwilling to follow suit, despite growing evidence of police corruption and women dying at the hands of back street operators. Under the spotlight, police responded more vigorously against abortion doctors, with unintended consequences.

When two doctors were arrested in Victoria, Judge Menhennitt acquitted them and ruled that the particular abortion was necessary to preserve the woman from serious danger to her life or to her physical or mental health. The Menhennitt ruling acknowledged that some abortions were lawful, setting an important precedent. Doctor Bertram Wainer then set out to test the issue, daring the police to arrest him for performing abortions and threatening to expose corrupt police profiting from illegal abortions. His stand established that abortions could be performed legally.

In Sydney the smell of scandal compelled the government to send the infamous “Abortion Squad” to raid the Heatherbrae Clinic in May 1970, arresting five staff under the anti-abortion law.

Over the next year the Women’s Liberation Group in Sydney held six major demonstrations protesting about the arrests. They submitted a petition with 9000 signatures to the NSW parliament on 20 April 1971. With only 15 Labor MPs voting in support, feminists concluded the prospect for abortion law repeal was “very slim”. But in October 1971 Judge Levine acquitted all Heatherbrae staff and handed down a ruling similar to Menhennitt’s.

The growth of a militant new left would help push the abortion struggle forwards.

The first women’s liberation groups formed in early 1970. They grew out of a period where protest against the Vietnam War became a catalyst for deepening youth rebellion, encouraging other radical movements including Indigenous demands for land rights and a growing strike wave.

The Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) would use militant protest tactics to break through cultural and political obstacles. Challenging the idea of sexuality and abortion as private matters, they insisted the personal was political.

Inspired by Vietnam and other national liberation struggles, the WLM demanded “self-determination” for women, control over their bodies, equal pay and abortion on demand. Socialist unionist Zelda D’Aprano, a leading equal pay campaigner, joined the abortion campaigns, saying that despite “all the scandal and exposure of the abortion [graft and corruption] trials, women were silent”. The first WLM demonstration in Melbourne, “Contraceptives, not Chrysanthemums!” demanded free contraception and abortion on request.

In November 1971 street marches were held in Melbourne and Sydney for a woman’s right to choose. The following year Women’s Abortion Action Coalitions were formed demanding “free abortion on demand”, and thousands joined marches for abortion rights. These efforts helped establish widespread support.

As early as the 1970 Gallup Poll, 57 per cent agreed that abortion should be legal “in all circumstances” or “in cases of exceptional hardship, either physical, mental or social”, a shift of 9 per cent since 1968. Only 11 per cent opposed legalising abortion.

The radical mood in society led to the election of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in December 1972. Whitlam publicly supported abortion and sought to push the issue. However, the Labor party also allowed a “conscience vote” where MPs could vote according to their “own conscience”, and against party policy.

In 1973 when federal parliament debated abortion law reform for the ACT, right-wing Catholic ALP MPs used the “conscience vote” to defeat it.

Abortion law liberalisation had only succeeded in three of the six states—SA, Victoria and NSW. Thousands of women would travel to Melbourne and Sydney to access safer abortions.

But the legal changes made medical practitioners the gatekeepers instead of women themselves—no abortion would be lawful simply based on a woman’s choice to have one.

Whitlam also funded women’s centres and refuges, as well as Medibank, the forerunner of Medicare. When it was introduced in July 1975, all women who received “lawful” abortions could access a rebate (subsidy) covering most of the cost of the procedure, Australia-wide.

Because of these initiatives people began to understand abortion as “normalised”, affordable and safe.

Yet the Right never gave up. MP Kevin Harrold raised anti-abortion amendments twice, unsuccessfully, in NSW parliament. Clinics were banned in the ACT in 1978, and subject to ongoing police harassment in NSW.

The core political issue at stake over abortion is women’s right to control their own bodies and sexuality; in order to play a full part in social life.

Anti-abortion groups and the religious right defend what they see as women’s “traditional” role in the family bringing up children. This clashed with women’s demands for equality and the right to work outside the home as well as make their own decisions about abortion, marriage and children.

In the boom period after the Second World War, more and more women began entering the workforce. The workforce participation rate of married women rose from 8.6 per cent in 1947 to 18.7 per cent in 1961, and 32.7 per cent by 1971.

But women faced a contradiction: capitalism increasingly wanted them as part of the paid labour force; yet the system continued to rely on women in the home to care for and bring up children as part of the nuclear family. Without this unpaid labour in the home, capitalism would have to meet far more of the cost of bringing up the next generation of workers.

These developments created the circumstances for abortion law reform, but change was not automatic.

Beating back the backlash

The Whitlam government was undemocratically sacked in November 1975. The new Malcolm Fraser Liberal government immediately began to undermine funding for women’s services and attacked Medibank, sparking a national general strike of two million unionists in 1976.

In 1979 conservative MP Stephen Lusher moved a motion to stop Medibank funding abortion services. WLM and pro-choice supporters initiated broad-based rallies around the country and the Lusher Motion failed 62 votes to 52. Many MPs, concerned about their own support, recognised this as a class issue—that without subsidies working class women would not be able to afford the procedures, but wealthier women could still access them.

After the opening of Queensland’s first abortion clinic in 1979, the conservative Bjelke-Petersen government responded with a new bill banning abortion unless a woman’s life was immediately threatened, and even banned women travelling interstate for the purpose of abortion. The right mobilised with a “Celebrate Life” march and played the “heartbeat of a foetus” over commercial radio. Pro-choice groups including Children by Choice, Labor Women and Women’s Campaign for Abortion, with the support of the Trades and Labour Council (TLC), held rallies and illegal marches. The government retreated.

With this victory it was clear that bans on abortion were unlikely to succeed anywhere in Australia.

The social power of the union movement was a major factor. The Queensland TLC, along with ten major unions, helped build the pro-choice movement in 1979-80, arguing that, “The question of pregnancy termination should be the decision of the woman and her doctor”.

Today most states have laws allowing abortion at the request of the woman until between 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, availability and access are still a problem. Decriminalisation has been an important step forward but we still need to fight for free access to abortion accessible in public hospitals, and the full right to choose an abortion at any stage in the pregnancy.

Women are now a permanent part of the workforce and over half of union members, with great potential social power. While there is no prospect of the frontal attack on abortion rights here as in the US with the overturning of Roe v Wade, the right has used equal marriage, the Religious Discrimination Bill and opposition to transgender rights to try to maintain the status quo and enforce traditional gender roles.

The fight to ensure abortion remains affordable and accessible continues. The working class movement remains key to defending and extending women’s rights.

The post The 1970s and the fight for abortion rights in Australia appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Worldwide outrage as abortion rights overturned in US

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 23/07/2022 - 4:48pm in


sexism, sexism

The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade has drawn worldwide outrage.

The outcome is the result of 50 years of organising by right-wing activists to change the composition of the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump was able to achieve that by packing the court with anti-abortion conservatives. There’s now a conservative majority that is also threatening other decisions on same-sex marriage and even the right to access contraception.

In the past, the Democratic and Republican Parties both held a mixture of pro-choice and anti-abortion views. Anti-abortion activists were able to reshape the Republican Party to represent the anti-abortion forces in Congress.

Roe v Wade guaranteed women the right to an abortion, under the right to privacy implied in the Constitution. Now it will be completely up to individual states to determine abortion law.

Thirteen Republican-run states already had legislation that was immediately triggered when Roe v Wade was overturned. In Texas abortion is now illegal unless the woman’s life is in danger—with no exceptions for rape or incest. Probably half of US states will now make it almost impossible to get an abortion.

The Democratic Party doesn’t have enough votes in the Senate to reinstate Roe v Wade, where the filibuster rule requires 60 votes out of 100. The filibuster could be overturned, but several Democratic Senators oppose this.

Democratic President Joe Biden has also ruled out other ideas such as expanding the Supreme Court or allowing abortion clinics to operate on federal land.

Instead the message coming from Biden and the Democrats is to maintain your rage until the midterm elections in November and vote. But it looks almost impossible that the Democratic Party can win enough seats there.

Most of the left have seen campaigning for the Democrats as the main way forward for abortion rights, instead of building an independent movement to force the issue.

But the Democrats had the chance to legislate to protect abortion rights in 2008 when Barack Obama was President, with a filibuster-proof Senate majority. They refused, saying it wasn’t a “legislative priority”.

There is now widespread organising to help women travel interstate to get abortions or access abortion pills.

But the pro-choice movement can’t be left to just these practical efforts.

The thousands of people across the US who took to the streets following the Supreme Court decision show the possibilities for building a new movement to win back abortion rights.

Recent years have seen not just the US but also Hungary and Poland attempt to ban abortion.

Why are these restrictions on abortion still being pushed? The anti-abortion right think that women’s place is in the home and women’s main role in society is to bear and raise children through the nuclear family.

Capitalism benefits from this unpaid labour raising the next generation of workers. Without it there would be huge costs in childcare that the system would have to meet itself.

But capitalists would also like to draw more women into the workforce, meaning women must have some rights to control their fertility and to decide how many children to have.

This contradiction has meant that abortion becomes a political football. Women’s rights to abortion and control of their bodies is a measure of how women are treated across society.

What does it mean here?

Abortion has been decriminalised in Australia in every state except WA. However, there is a limited period in which women have the right to abortion on request. After the first 16 weeks of pregnancy in Tasmania the woman needs a gynaecologist and a doctor to decide whether or not she can have an abortion. In Victoria that period is 24 weeks, and 22 weeks in Queensland and NSW.

This time limit is unnecessary. And that’s illustrated by the fact that in the ACT there are no time restrictions at all.

Abortion is still not talked about as a normal everyday health procedure.

The vast majority of abortions in Australia rely on private clinics instead of public hospitals. There is a Medicare subsidy, but women still pay out of pocket costs of hundreds of dollars. If you live in remote or regional Australia, sometimes there’s no doctor willing to perform an abortion because there’s a stigma about it. You have to travel to find access.

At the last election in 2019 the Labor Party promised to provide abortions in public hospitals free of charge all across Australia.

They dropped that before the recent election, concluding that it cost them votes due to campaigning by anti-abortion groups.

We need a proper health system that provides abortions in hospitals so that women know that abortion is available. We need free, safe, abortion on demand.

We can take on the right by organising and fighting for abortion rights and taking on the system that says women should remain unequal.

By Judy McVey

The post Worldwide outrage as abortion rights overturned in US appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Wave of anger as US Supreme Court to overturn right to abortion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 1:10pm in


sexism, sexism

In the 1960s and 70s, the women’s movement fought for reproductive rights and safe access to abortion. But now the United States Supreme Court is set to wind back the clock after a leaked document revealed it plans to overturn the historic Roe v Wade ruling.

In 1973, the Supreme Court in Roe v Wade ruled that restrictions on access to abortions by the states were unconstitutional, effectively decriminalising abortion in the US.

But that hasn’t stopped restrictions being imposed on abortion—from 24-hour waiting periods, to laws requiring parental notification and most recently, the state of Texas outlawed abortion after just six weeks. Between 2011 and 2020, 480 state restrictions were imposed limiting access to abortion.

Already, conservative legislators are moving to outlaw abortion in more than 22 states. Thirteen states have anti-abortion trigger laws that will come into effect if Roe is overturned.

In Mississippi, abortion could be banned after 15 weeks. In Oklahoma, legislation has already been signed that could outlaw abortion in all but exceptional cases, while a ban on abortion after six weeks in Idaho has been temporarily stalled by a Supreme Court order.

Overturning Roe v Wade won’t stop people having abortions, but it will make them less safe and less accessible.

If states are free to decide abortion laws, 25 million people would completely lose access, according to Planned Parenthood. Another study suggests banning abortion could lead to a 21 per cent increase in pregnancy-related deaths.

Limiting access to abortion will disproportionately affect Black, trans and poor women who will have to cross state borders to access safe, legal abortions.

Mobilising support

Support for abortion is widespread, with 80 per cent of Americans supporting abortion in all or most cases, and 69 per cent supporting Roe v Wade. But Republicans and the right have been preparing the ground to attack abortion rights for years.

Trump’s four years in office have emboldened anti-abortion activists. His three Supreme Court appointments, including Brett Kavanaugh who has been accused of sexual assault, has stacked the Court with conservatives, giving them a 6-3 majority. In a 2016 debate against Hilary Clinton, Trump claimed he was deliberately “putting pro-life justices in the court”.

Yet the pro-choice movement has been continually demobilised through channelling activists into campaigning for Democratic election candidates.

With the US midterm elections approaching, the Democrats are again hopeful that people will vote to elect more pro-choice politicians. In the weeks after the draft decision was leaked, the Democrats received more than $7 million in donations.

This approach has failed. The Democrats have had ample opportunity to codify Roe v Wade and abortion rights in law. In fact this was a promise of Biden’s 2019 presidential campaign. But in May this year, a vote to codify Roe in the Democratic-led Senate failed to pass, with fewer than 50 votes.

The Democrats need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster—making it almost impossible to gain enough seats in the midterms to win a vote on the issue.

The Democrats are not reliable supporters. US President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, said in 1974: “I don’t think a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” And in 1976 it was Democratic president Jimmy Carter, with the support of Biden, who enacted the Hyde Amendment preventing federal funding being used for abortion.

Today Biden publicly supports the right to an abortion but has been reluctant to talk about the issue.

Access to abortion has been decriminalised across Australia, with South Australia becoming the last state to enshrine a legal right in 2021. But there still exists a tiny but vocal pro-life movement that is emboldened by the likes of One Nation and the conservative Liberals.

Victorian state MP Bernie Finn has just been expelled by the Liberals for arguing that abortion should not be available even for rape victims. Finn said: “Babies should not be killed for the crime of his or her parent.”

While abortion rights are not up for debate in Australia, a decision on Roe v Wade could encourage anti-abortion activists to push for further restrictions. Abortion access is nearly non-existent in the regions and mostly provided by private clinics. Any erosion of abortion rights would make accessing abortion even harder.

The Roe v Wade decision is a warning that it is possible for the right to reverse these gains. And the US is not alone. In 2021, a Constitutional Court ruling in Poland banned the majority of abortions, which saw protesters defy coronavirus restrictions to take to the streets in huge numbers.

It has been mass movements on the streets that won abortion rights, access to birth control and rape and domestic violence services. Now a mass movement in the US is needed to fight to save those rights.

By Ruby Wawn

The post Wave of anger as US Supreme Court to overturn right to abortion appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Can we ever get rid of sexism?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 12:25pm in


sexism, sexism

Sexism is a product of structures and institutions that benefit the rich and powerful, writes Jordi Pardoel, and to get rid of sexism we have to get rid of capitalism

Women’s lives today are different in many ways from the lives of our grandmothers and even our mothers. But sexism is not going away.

There have been improvements in women’s lives, through the right to abortion, much greater work opportunities, and the right to divorce, all won through class struggle and rebellion from below. But many of those gains have come under attack, and women are still sexualised, degraded, paid less, and more likely to experience violence in the home and the workplace.

The sexual assault scandal around Brittany Higgins and the Liberals’ inability to even say the right things hit a nerve, because it reflected the experience of so many women across Australia.

Marxism offers us an explanation of why sexism is still so persistent and why we still have women’s oppression.

But it doesn’t just explain oppression. It also tells us how to fight back against it and asserts that we can get rid of sexism completely.

Sexism hasn’t always existed, contrary to widespread popular belief. Yuval Noah Harari’s bestseller Sapiens: A brief history of humankind for instance asserts that there has been women’s oppression in almost all societies.

He offers no reason why and writes himself that this is one of the great mysteries of humanity.

But sexism isn’t an inevitable part of society.

Marxists look at the way that production is organised in societies, how reproduction takes place, and the material conditions of life to understand why sexism exists. These have changed through human history.

The nuclear family is the central institution in our society that the system continues to rely on to raise children and care for people who cannot sell their labour, either because of disability, age or illness.

The bulk of the unpaid labour that’s done in the home is carried out by women.

This is unlike the situation in pre-class societies based on hunting and foraging, where sexism and women’s oppression did not exist.

Even though there was a gender division of labour in these societies, the labour carried out by men and women was equally valued, and because of that women had equal power in decision-making.

This is the way of life that all humans shared from our emergence as a species until the development of agriculture.

When this emerged from 10,000 years ago, it allowed the accumulation of private property, meaning the rich became concerned with inheritance and controlling women’s reproduction.

With the beginning of industrial capitalism in the 1850s, Marx and Engels thought that the working class family might fall apart.

Women were drawn into work in the factories and were having babies on factory floors and trying to raise their children while in appalling working conditions. This was not sustainable because it meant children were dying young amid shocking health problems.

The nuclear family was promoted as a way that the next generation of workers could be raised and given care so that there would continue to be workers to run the factories.

The family is still indispensable to capitalism today.

During the pandemic, with schools doing online learning and childcare centres shut, the family absorbed all of the extra care work.

The bulk of this fell on women. Surveys and research show that in Australia women’s unpaid work in the home went up by two hours extra. The situation was the same across many different countries.

During the last few decades of neo-liberalism, the ruling class have worked to cut back spending on social services and public health systems, and privatised aged care and childcare.

British Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously said, “there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families”.

Sexist ideas

The predominant response to the sexual assault crisis in parliament and society more widely was to see the solution as education and consent classes. The idea is that teaching young boys to respect women is enough to change people’s sexist ideas.

But this focus on education is completely disorienting.

Sexist ideas don’t just exist in our heads and aren’t something that we can simply educate away but are structured into the system.

The sexist structures of society promote those ideas.

Childcare is expensive, and because women are paid less men, it very often makes more sense in a family for the woman to stay home and look after the children for a period of time after babies are born.

The gender roles that children observe in the family from birth, where women take on more of the caring and men spend more time in paid work, have a deep effect.

The focus on consent and education is understandable. But federal and state education ministers, including the federal Liberal government, have now agreed to make consent classes mandatory in schools.

The fact that this has been embraced by a Liberal Party that has locked up refugee women who have been raped in offshore detention on Nauru, and has cut welfare payments and presided over the worsening of women’s lives should ring alarm bells. A focus on legislating consent classes lets them off the hook.

On university campuses university management have also been happy to implement compulsory consent modules for students, but are savagely cutting jobs, casualising the workforce and holding down people’s wages. This creates precarious working conditions that encourage sexual harassment and assault, with workers not feeling secure enough to speak up against it.

Similarly, the popular idea of privilege theory, which implies that men benefit from sexism, sees the only thing that men can do is to check their privilege and unlearn their sexism.

Marxism sees the issue of sexism as being rooted in capitalism.

Working class men

Far from working class men benefiting from sexism they are key allies in the fight against it.

Working class men have a stake in fighting against sexism and would also benefit from free universal childcare, better funding for the health care system, aged care, and disability system. All of these things would loosen the burden put onto individual women, and would also benefit the working class, women and men, as a whole.

The fight for equal pay in Australia boosted the confidence of workers across the board and pushed everyone’s wages up.

When workers went on strike at Chemist Warehouse’s distribution centres in Victoria in 2019, men and women workers fought together against sexual harassment of women working as casuals by managers. They also won more permanent jobs in a victory against casualisation.

This too shows that when men and women fight together, it can improve all workers’ lives.

Class gives us agency and the power to win change in a way that other forms of oppression do not. As Argentinian socialist Martha E. Giménez has written, “while racism and sexism have no redeeming feature, class relations are dialectically a unity of opposites, both a site of exploitation and objectively a site where the potential agents of social change are forged.”

Capitalism is a system that relies on the exploitation of workers, but it also creates its own gravediggers. In the Russian Revolution of 1917, millions of Russian workers rose up against the Tsar and showed how workers have the power to break capitalism.

There were many gains women won as a result of the revolution such as the right to divorce, free abortion, and equal pay, some of which we are still fighting for today 100 years later.

The Bolsheviks also realised that they had to attack the material basis of women’s oppression. So care work and work in the home was socialised. There were communal canteens and childcare centres and a massive drive to go out and educate all of the women in Russia, so that women could be freed from the barriers from participating fully in society.

Women workers actually kicked off the revolution, when textile workers went on strike in February 1917.

The Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky showed in his History of the Russian Revolution how the February Revolution was begun from below, overcoming the resistance even of revolutionary organisations like the Bolshevik Party.

He wrote that it took place due to, “the initiative being taken of their own accord by the most oppressed and downtrodden part of the proletariat—the women textile workers”.

It was a product of workers deciding that they could not take their oppression anymore. The process of feeling their own power and realising that the world can be changed was a transformative process for the millions of women workers in Russia.

This has occurred at many other points in history too where there have been mass upheavals where people began to take control of their lives and to see that society can be run in a different way.

In the Egyptian revolution in 2011, women took leading roles and the usually common sexual harassment and discrimination disappeared during the common struggle against the regime in the occupation of Tahrir square.

The lessons are clear—we are strongest when we fight together as a class against the bosses, the government and the system.

In recent months we have seen nurses, teachers, bus drivers, and NTEU staff, all going out on strike and saying they’re not going to stop until they get pay rises and better working conditions, for instance nurse to patient ratios in hospitals.

Many of these workers are women in casualised working conditions who have had to bear the brunt not only of the buckling health system and online learning through the pandemic, but also the extra responsibility of unpaid work in the home.

This is the kind of action that can win real changes for women.

The post Can we ever get rid of sexism? appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Katherine Deves’ outright bigotry derails Morrison’s transphobic campaign

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 2:50pm in

Scott Morrison has refused to dump Katherine Deves as his candidate for Warringah despite appalling transphobic comments. Morrison tried to brush off criticism of his handpicked candidate, saying her campaign to ban trans women from women’s sport raises a legitimate debate, even after a series of Liberal MPs called for her removal.

Her comments show she is nothing more than a bigot. Deves referred to trans people as “surgically mutilated and sterilised”, said she was “triggered” by the rainbow flag and claimed that half of trans women are sex offenders.

Deves is a transphobic feminist who co-founded “Save Women’s Sport Australasia”. She joined the Liberal Party only last year and was selected for her seat by Morrison.

Her agenda fits with Morrison’s efforts to stir up transphobia to appeal to conservative religious voters and continue the backlash against the victory over equal marriage.

Trans kids aged 14-25 are a shocking 15 times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. But bigots like Morrison and Deves want to further ostracise them through banning them from sports at schools and in local community teams.

In February, Morrison backed a similar private member’s bill from Tasmanian Liberal senator Claire Chandler.

Sport Australia’s guidelines, while stressing the need for inclusivity, do currently allow sporting codes to discriminate against trans people. But there are a whole series of natural advantages that elite sportspeople possess beyond sex and gender attributes.

Attempting to use levels of hormones like testosterone to separate men from women has proven problematic—as the example of runner Caster Semenya, who has naturally elevated testosterone levels, has shown.

The majority of women athletes have expressed no concern about trans women in sport. We can’t allow the Liberals to use the issue to increase transphobia and discrimination.

By James Supple

The post Katherine Deves’ outright bigotry derails Morrison’s transphobic campaign appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Time for a reckoning with the system that breeds sexism

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 2:29pm in


sexism, sexism, Women

When the #MeToo movement erupted in 2017, the rage was palpable. It gave women the confidence to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment, and finally they were being believed.

More than 200 powerful men were taken down by survivors’ testimonies and protesters took to their streets in their thousands for Women’s Marches demanding accountability from abusers.

In 2021, the rage was reignited in Australia with the revelations that Brittany Higgins was raped in Parliament House and Liberal minister Christian Porter was accused of a historic rape. The Morrison government’s contempt for women drew 150,000 protesters out for the March4Justice rallies.

Jess Hill’s Quarterly Essay The Reckoning is an assessment of the #MeToo movement in Australia. Hill’s essay details the downfall of a handful of powerful Australian men, dedicates a whole chapter to praising the Turnbull government and shares the powerful stories of women standing up to their abusers.

But Hill fails to understand or explain the origins of sexism and in doing so leaves the reader with little hope that things can be changed.

“Why is hatred and contempt for women still a default position for so many boys and men?” asks Hill.

Her answer is a “maleness” that is so traumatising it leaves men unable to be emotional, expressive or vulnerable.

But the problem is not maleness, but rather the experience of life in a capitalist society that is permeated with sexism.

All around us are sexist ideas and institutions that reflect women as merely sexual commodities, caregivers and homemakers. Because without women’s unpaid domestic labour and caregiving, the capitalist state would have to fund it—to the tune of $10.9 trillion.

Sexist ideas

Hill rightly points out that things such as pornography influence the perception of women’s worth. These sexist ideas are perpetuated by capitalist institutions—from the school system, to advertising, the media and the government.

Men aren’t innately sexist or prone to abusing women. They learn these ideas from the world around them. As Karl Marx once wrote, “The ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class.”

But the movement with the potential to challenge this and win serious reforms that could transform women’s lives is mentioned only once. “Unions work on these issues every day and continue to improve conditions for women in the workplace,” writes Hill.

Things like equal pay, permanent jobs, free childcare, abortion rights, funding for women’s services and adequate welfare payments give women the confidence and the financial freedom to do something about abuse and harassment—both in the home and in the workplace.

But under capitalism these things must be fought for, and at the height of the #MeToo movement, workers took the fight against sexism into their workplaces.

Workers at McDonalds, Google and at hotels in the US staged walk-outs and strikes and won their demands around sexual harassment at work.

And in 2019, workers at Chemist Warehouse distribution centres in Melbourne and Brisbane struck as part of a campaign against sexual harassment and bullying that won permanent jobs and pay rises, while forcing sexist managers to resign.

Despite these inspiring struggles against sexism, Hill’s answer for vulnerable working women experiencing harassment in the workplace is meagre stuff—the Respect@Work report and whoever forms government after 21 May.


The final chapter, titled Men, takes a pessimistic outlook on the future of the women’s movement. “Do we, ultimately, believe it’s possible for them [men] to change?” asks Hill.

This kind of essentialism leaves little inspiration that things could ever change. But history shows us what is possible and the kinds of demands we need to transform women’s lives.

Over the course of the 1917 Russian revolution, abortion was legalised and made free, women were paid equally, prostitution was decriminalised, paid maternity leave was introduced and women were liberated from the home through socialised domestic labour provided by the state. This is the kind of world we should be fighting for.

Hill’s essay seeks to explain how #MeToo is changing Australia. It’s true that #MeToo has put powerful abusers on notice, that women’s rage and protest has forced some concessions from the government and that the movement has given women the confidence to finally share their stories.

But the essay is only useful as a catalogue of #MeToo in Australia. Instead of arguing for the radical transformation of society that could end sexism, Hill believes that in a century “women will still be holding signs … that say ‘I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit’.”

By Ruby Wawn

“The Reckoning: How #MeToo is Changing Australia”, by Jess Hill, Quarterly Essay 84, $24.99

The post Time for a reckoning with the system that breeds sexism appeared first on Solidarity Online.