Beyond ‘womyn’: Gender diversity, feminism, and the women’s sector

Annelise Roberts, WCHM Community Development Worker

In the past, women’s organisations have often been forced to defend the brand of discrimination we practice. At WCHM we still very occasionally have to listen to people call us ‘sexist’. However, these days it’s generally recognised that there are good reasons to direct services and policies exclusively towards women—both pragmatic and political reasons. That is, the women’s-only sector is necessary to meet the particular needs of women, as they are distinct from men; but it is also a feminist project that is about redressing a long-standing power imbalance, and creating a space for something that has previously been pushed to the margins.

The difficulty is, this practice is potentially at odds with another feminist project. Gender theory is now less interested in combating sexism by consolidating the legitimacy of women as a group with rights, needs, and valid interests, and more interested in tracing the cracks and inconsistencies in the binary framework we use to think about gender (man/woman, male/female, masculine/feminine), with a view to challenging the power inequalities that are bound up in this framework. One consequence of this is that it becomes difficult to know who, exactly, the subject of feminism is. Who counts as a woman, and who doesn’t? What unites the population group called ‘women’ in spite of the enormous diversity of its members? For whom is feminism (and the women’s sector) speaking, and who is it talking over the top of?

A case in point is feminism’s encounters with gender diversity. One of the most infamous stories about this is the ‘womyn-born-womyn’ incident; in 1991, a woman was expelled from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF) —the largest annual women-only event in the world—because festival workers suspected that she was transgender. That incident was a pretty dramatic articulation of the tensions that had been developing between the strands of feminism that want to deal with sexism by empowering women ‘as women’ (and thus see transgender people as a threat), and those that want to start by destabilising the categories ‘woman’ and ‘man’ altogether (see reading list below). More importantly, it also highlighted that there are people in need who come to feminism to ask for help—because where else do they go?—and who are turned away. Closer to home: after my involvement in Canberra’s Reclaim the Night event last year, a transgender woman confided in me that she didn’t attend because she had understood that ‘people like her’ wouldn’t be welcome to march. At that moment, I felt as though I was starting to see the outlines of some important work that needs to be done by the women’s sector.

As a group, trans people are at high risk of suffering disadvantage in numerous ways. Stigma and discrimination have a very tangible detrimental impact on trans people’s lives, paving the way to high rates of drug and alcohol use, poor mental health, heightened exposure to violence (including sexual violence), and social and economic marginalisation. The needs of trans folk continue to be overlooked or, at best, poorly understood by policymakers and service deliverers, and there is scant data that could help to inform decision-makers about this group. Essentially, transgender people are in real need of support and have very limited access to it (see reading list below).

So why is this women’s sector business? Because some trans folk are clearly approaching the women’s sector for help and/or solidarity; because it’s not at all clear why a transgender woman (or, at least in some instances, a transgender man) could not legitimately access women’s services; because as advocates we claim to represent women in all their diversity, and this should extend to the diverse experiences and expressions of the gender ‘woman’. Most importantly of all: because this tells us that, as a sector that prides itself on having special insight into the social mechanics of gender, we have failed to be reflective about the way we use binary gender frameworks in defining our target population—and we have for the most part failed to recognise the inadequacy of this system in representing the everyday lived experience of sex and gender for many, many people.

I feel like it’s time for the women’s sector to have a think about how we can reconcile those two projects: the need to provide specialist services to ‘women’ as a marginalised group, and the need to maintain a critical approach to the way we think about gender—perhaps an approach that points beyond a binary system. Maybe this will equip us with the tools and strategies we need to make sure that we’re staying accountable to our own values, and to ensure that our resources are helping those who are entitled to help.

For more information

  1. For a more detailed account of MWMF and other moments where feminism has confronted transgenderism see: “Rethinking Sexism: How Trans Women Challenge Feminism”: http://www.alternet.org/reproductivejustice/93826/rethinking_sexism:_how_trans_women_challenge_feminism/, or, “Feminist Perspectives on Trans Issues”: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-trans/
  2. Fiona David et al., Gender Diversity in the ACT: A Survey of Trans Experiences, A Gender Agenda, Canberra, May 2011, http://www.genderrights.org.au/Downloads/Gender_Diversity_in_the_ACT.pdf
  3. UN General Assembly, Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity: Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 17 November 2011
  4. Ministerial Advisory Committee on Gay and Lesbian Health, What’s the Difference? Health Issues of Major Concern to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (GLBTI) Victorians, Victorian Government Department of Human Services; Melbourne, July 2002
  5. Murray Couch et al., Tranznation: A report on the health and wellbeing of transgender people in Australia and New Zealand, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, Melbourne, 2007

National Women’s Matters

The forced adoption of children from unmarried women: What happened then, and what needs to happen now

Laura Pound, WCHM Project Worker (Mental Health)

In Australia more than 250,000 babies were taken away from their mothers from the 1940s to the early 1980s. During this time, unmarried women (whether partnered or not) were often denied access to their newborn babies and information on alternative options to adoption, treated differently to other pregnant women in separate homes or wards, or forced to endure longer or more painful labours to avoid Caesarean section. Some women signed adoption consent forms under the influence of medication, while others were deceived, threatened or had their signatures forged.

In recent years a number of church, charity and state government institutions have issued apologies regarding their involvement in forced adoption practices of the past. A similar thread runs through these apologies. Organisations regret the pain relinquishing mothers endured, however they do not acknowledge that practices were unlawful, and often deny their own role in addressing the ongoing consequences of forced adoption, for fear of women and their children seeking compensation.

Apologies also often emphasise that practices were influenced by societal attitudes which stigmatised unmarried mothers. While this is true, this explanation must be given carefully so as not to downplay the horror of forced adoption, and the role that organisations and individuals undoubtedly played.

The most extensive acknowledgement of past forced adoption policies and their continuing effects has only come with the tabling of the inquiry into Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices by the Senate on the 29th of February 2012. The inquiry received over 400 submissions, many of them personal and heartbreaking stories of how women and children’s lives were affected by forced adoption and continue to be affected today.

Recommendations from the inquiry include the formation of a national framework with responsibility for apologising for forced adoption; providing counselling, mental health and support services to those affected; funding peer support groups that advocate for the issue; ensuring access to personal records and documents in a coordinated and straightforward manner; holding an exhibition to raise awareness of what occurred; and discussing issues surrounding a compensation scheme further.

There is no doubt that there are women and their (now grown-up) children living in the ACT today who have been affected by forced adoption. In line with the social determinants of health perspective, this group of people have particular wellbeing needs that must be met by services and supports.

At the opening of WCHM over 20 years ago, Dorothy Broom stated “it is the business of this Centre to facilitate us, as women, to reclaim knowledge of and responsibility for our own bodies and our own health.” Women who experienced forced adoption were not empowered with knowledge or given responsibility over decisions about their pregnancies, labours or children.

Today, WCHM continues to advocate for gender sensitive services that are responsive to women’s needs, and our mission is to empower women in the health and wellbeing system. While we cannot alter the forced adoption practices that occurred in the past, we can view it as an example of what happens when women do not have control over their own health, wellbeing and lives, and we can advocate for addressing the needs of women who have experienced forced adoption in the ACT health system today.

For more information

  1. Senate Committee website on the inquiry into ‘Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and Practices’
  2. ABC Four Corner’s program on forced adoptions, ‘Given or taken’
  3. National FaHCSIA research study on the ‘Service Response to Past Adoption Experiences’

Older, single women homeless: what does this mean?

Angela Carnovale, WCHM Social Research Officer

For some time now there have been reports trickling through the media about the new face of homelessness in Australia (Lannin, 2010; Cripps, 2010). She is likely to have taken long breaks from the paid workforce to raise her own (and presumably another person’s) children (Cripps, 2010; Sharam, 2011). It’s likely that at the times she did re-enter the workforce she entered into positions for which the little amount paid added pittance to her retirement savings, aka, her superannuation (Cripps, 2010; Lannin, 2010b). And it’s likely now that she lives alone, either having divorced or separated from her partner, and is likely to be in rental accommodation (Cripps, 2010; Lannin, 2010b). Actually, the future face of homelessness looks a lot like a woman I know.

Single women’s homelessness has tended to be poorly visible. The homelessness services that do exist for women have tended to be designed as a response to family violence, meaning that the experience of violence has tended to dominate the definition of women’s experiences of homelessness in Australia (McFerran, 2010; Sharam, 2010). Single women attract only 4 percent of the national funding for homelessness, rendering their numbers (and their experiences) less visible (Sharam, 2010) and housing and homeless policy and service provision inadequate to meet their needs (McFerran, 2010).

However, it is not at all clear, why, when family violence is taken out of the picture, we assume that men are more likely to be homeless than women, especially when women’s poorer economic status is taken into account (Sharam, 2010). This may have more to do with the historical accounts (or lack thereof) of homelessness in Australia, and the reliance on data from the Supported Accommodation and Assistance Program (SAAP) for making the homeless visible (Sharam, 2010).

This means that we need research: research that applies a gender lens to homelessness; that understands that lone female rough sleepers go to great lengths to hide themselves for their own safety; that understands that homelessness can be situational rather than long-term or recurring; that recognises that women may be staying in unregistered rooming houses in the face of not being able to access single women-specific services; that questions the available data; that has a more inclusive definition of and tools for counting housing risk and homelessness (Sharam, 2010; McFerran 2010). In essence, we need research that makes single women’s homelessness visible.

Secondly, women need to become service targets. Currently men of all ages are homelessness service targets, while women of all ages are not, making men appear as homeless and women homed (Sharam, 2010). Sue Crisp from Homelessness Australia has said: “no services for older women means there’s no one counting older homeless women. There are 380 beds reserved for single males in Sydney on any one night—only 62 specifically for single women” (Cripps, 2010).

And finally, there needs to be an increase in the amount of appropriate and affordable single person housing stock (McFerran, 2010), and affordable housing solutions that permit women to accumulate housing equity as a safety net for their retirement years (Sharam, 2011).

The poverty that culminates in later-life homelessness is accumulated over a lifetime and should be addressed at every life stage. The challenge is to understand the social and economic factors of women’s homelessness across the lifespan, which necessitates the use of the gender lens on housing and ageing research, policy design and service provision.

References

  1. Sue Cripps, Homelessness has a female face, Sydney Morning Herald, August 3, 2010, www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/homelessness-has-a-female-face-20100803-1147x.html
  2. Sue Lannin, Older women enter ranks of homeless, ABC News, August 3 2010, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-08-03/older-women-enter-ranks-of-homeless/929658
  3. Sue Lannin (b), Older women forced into homelessness, ABC News, July 14, 2010, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2010-07-08/older-women-forced-into-homelessness/897770
  4. Ludo McFerran, It could be you: female, single, older and homeless, Homelessness NSW, the Older Women’s Network NSW and St Vincent de Paul Society, NSW, 2010, http://www.adfvc.unsw.edu.au/PDF%20files/It%20could%20be%20you%20Final.pdf
  5. Andrea Sharam (b), Homeless Women—No Home at the End of the Road, Parity, 24:9, October 2011, p. 41
  6. Andrea Sharam, A predictable crisis: older, single women as the new face of homelessness, Australian Policy Online, 2011, http://apo.org.au/research/predictable-crisis-older-single-women-new-face-homelessness

New federal laws on multiple discrimination to impact positively on women with disabilities

Emilia Della Torre, WWDACT Policy and Projects Officer

The federal government is proposing to consolidate the current four, separate federal anti-discrimination laws (on race, sex, disability and age discrimination) into a single anti-discrimination Act and include provision for multiple discrimination in the new consolidated Act. (See Consolidation of Anti-Discrimination Laws – Discussion Paper). For the first time in Australia, an anti-discrimination law will expressly recognise the existence of multiple discrimination. Women With Disabilities ACT (WWDACT) believes the proposed proscription of multiple discrimination will have a positive impact on the lives of many women and result in a sustainable overall increase in wellbeing in Australian society.

The term ‘multiple discrimination’ recognises that some individuals experience discrimination on the basis of more than one aspect of their identity. Put simply, for example, women with disabilities often experience a type of discrimination not experienced by women without a disability or by men with a disability. Multiple discrimination has an exponential impact on the lives of individuals and actively creates a dynamic of disempowerment. In the words of Mijoo Kim:

It is not enough to describe gender inequality of women with disabilities as simply a problem within the disability community. The ‘disability’ intersects with gender inequality and therefore produces severe forms of discrimination against women with disabilities. It is a totally different, harder to fight discrimination that only women with disabilities can experience (Kim, M. Disability Issues are Women’s Issues Development, 2009 52(2) 230-232 at 231. Emphasis added).

Up until now, a woman has had to choose whether to bring a claim for discrimination under one of four separate federal laws. This has not captured the totality of the individual’s experience. As a result, genuine cases of serious discrimination have sometimes fallen through the gaps in the current law. For example, an Aboriginal Australian woman with acquired brain injury leaving prison who experiences discrimination when applying for housing should be able to clearly explain how all of those factors may have contributed to her unlawful discrimination (Australian Federation of Disability Organisations Consolidation of Anti-Discrimination Laws Submission 2012 at page 14). Hopefully, the new consolidated Act will provide better protection for women from specific groups in society.

It is important to realise that a simple “add ‘isms’ and stir” approach will not work in the case of multiple discrimination. Take, for example, the issue of proof in a legal claim. Under multiple discrimination, to require a woman with a disability to prove she was unlawfully discriminated against as a woman and additionally to also require that same person to prove she was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of her disability would be to more than double the evidentiary hurdle she must overcome to make out unlawful discrimination has occurred in her particular case. To require this level of proof would be to discriminate against this individual in a manner diametrically opposed to the purpose of anti-discrimination legislation. Moreover, it would most likely fail to capture the real dynamics of her particular situation. A new consolidated anti-discrimination Act must structurally integrate multiple discrimination into its operation as a whole.

A complete discussion of all the proposed changes to current federal anti-discrimination laws recommended by WWDACT which are necessary to successfully incorporate multiple discrimination into a new consolidated anti-discrimination Act can be found on the WWDACT website.


ACT Women’s Matters

The age of sex for women of all ages

Laura Pound, WCHM Project Worker (Mental Health)

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, WCHM, with the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health, Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT), and ACT Health, co-hosted two extremely well attended forums providing holistic information about Sex, health and your life: What women 40s+ should know.

Speakers included physiotherapist and fitness instructor for Physical Best Lisa Westlake, who explained the importance of women taking care of their pelvic floor, posture, bone density and balance, local women doctors, who described the range of health checks and screening that women should have from 40 onwards, and Maureen Matthews, a sex and relationship columnist and founder of online sex shop Bliss for Women aimed at meeting women’s needs in a safe, empowering and informative environment.

While all speakers were well-received, the audience was most attentive when Maureen Matthews spoke—her message was clear. For women, no matter what age or relationship status, sexuality is a vital part of healthy living and keeping in touch with the sexual side of life can be important and fun.

While much stigma surrounds sex in older age—particularly from younger people—older women in Australia are finding new ways of re-partnering through Internet dating. However, older women are five times more likely to agree to sex without a condom with a new partner than younger women. As a result, they are the fastest growing group to contract Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) such as chlamydia (Bateson et. al., 2011).

WCHM research shows that older women want to hear about “Great, you’re 60, start a new sex life!” rather than information about the risks and health conditions associated with older age (Carnovale, 2011). Clearly the balance needs to be right, so that women feel comfortable to explore sex at all ages and at the same time can access good quality information about issues such as the impact of menopause, the reality of STIs and how to negotiate condom use.

Forums such as Sex, health and your life contribute to this aim.

References

  1. Deborah Bateson, et al., When online becomes offline: Attitudes to safe sex practices in older and younger women using an Australian internet dating service, Sexual Health, 2011, http://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/SH10164.htm
  2. Angela Carnovale, It goes with the Territory! The views of older ACT women about health and wellbeing information, April 2011, http://www.wchm.org.au/Older-Women-Publication

It’s celebration time!

Nicole O’Callaghan, WWDACT Policy and Administration Officer

On Saturday March 17 WWDACT made history when participants performed the Strong Women, Strong Voices FlashMob! St Francis Xavier College captured the amazing FlashMob choreographed to Aretha Franklin’s Respect and Pink’s Raise Your Glass.

The event was held as part of the 2011-12 Summer of Respect campaign—a string of events and public awareness initiatives aimed at expanding the scope of anti-sexual violence campaigning in the ACT and engage the community in a range of activities and conversations.

FlashMob participants and spectators celebrated the fact that the ACT community is very diverse and each individual has positive and valid contributions. FlashMob participants and spectators made a statement that the ACT community needs to remain a safe and secure community for everyone.

The event was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day activities, and to continue with the celebration theme, WWDACT were the proud winners of the ACT International Women’s Day Award in the Community Category—a reward we received for promoting the status of women with disabilities in the ACT.

WWDACT would like to thank every single participant in the FlashMob. Each and every person looked like they were having so much fun. WWDACT would also like to thank the Strong Women, Strong Voices FlashMob sponsors. Without these sponsors, WWDACT would not have been able to create the visual impact it did.

WWDACT members, supporters, family, friends and colleagues should be extremely proud. Congratulations to WWDACT, and to all those who have participated in making WWDACT the functioning body it is.

2nd World Conference of Women’s Shelters March 2012, Washington D.C.

Annelise Roberts, WCHM Community Development Worker

In early March, the ACT Office for Women sponsored a number of workers from ACT women’s services to attend the 2nd World Conference of Women’s Shelters (WCWS) in Washington D.C. I was one of those. This year the WCWS was hosted by the United States’ peak domestic violence body, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and was supported by the Global Network of Women’s Shelters (of which Australia’s WESNET—Women’s Services Network—is a member).

The conference was large-scale (1500 participants), jam-packed with information, workshops and resources, and received high-level attention from U.S. media and Government (attendees included Bill Clinton and Princess Mary of Denmark). On the agenda were issues like legal frameworks for domestic violence (including, for U.S. delegates, the push to reinstate the Violence Against Women Act); the role of social media as a facilitator of violence, and also as a means of combating violence; violence against women in conflict and post-conflict regions; and involving men in the fight to end violence against women.

Some of the most intriguing questions raised by the conference were about how domestic violence is viewed by many activists, policy-makers, legislators, media, advocates, and sector workers predominantly through the lens of ‘intimate partner violence’. While heterosexual intimate partner violence (in a situation where a man is violent towards his female partner) is indisputably a major component of violence against women today, there are many other contexts in which violence occurs. Violence that takes place in group homes for people with disabilities, for example, is not generally viewed in the context of DV and tends to be invisible as a result; similarly, violence in the context of a same-sex relationship is not classified as domestic violence in many U.S. states because these relationships are not legally recognised. Work needs to be done to ensure that women’s experience of violence is not seen as invalid or illegitimate if it doesn’t fit the heterosexual IPV model.

WCWS was a unique opportunity to meet and discuss issues with the people who are doing some of the most difficult work in the world. I have a feeling that the energy of the conference will continue to sustain attendees long after the closing ceremony.

For more information about the WCWS, visit the conference website: http://www.worldshelterconference.org/

Expanding the role of Official Visitors in the ACT to increase support to vulnerable women

Laura Pound, WCHM Project Worker (Mental Health)

In January the ACT Greens introduced a proposal to amend the legislation that outlines the role of Official Visitors (OVs) in the ACT. OVs visit institutions where people are cared for or held, to ensure they are receiving fair treatment by responding to complaints or advocating for consumers.

The key changes the Public Advocate (Official Visitors) Amendment Bill recommends are: locating OVs in the Public Advocate Office; introducing OVs for people with disabilities and homeless people; establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander OV for young people and people in the justice system; and expanding the role of the Mental Health OV.

In February WCHM provided a submission in support of the Amendment Bill, because it affords increased protection for some of the ACT’s most vulnerable women who live in institutions or are mandated to access services.

However, WCHM also made a number of recommendations centred on: ensuring women’s needs are met in a gender sensitive way; ensuring adequate access for consumers and carers to complaints/advocacy processes; ensuring OVs can investigate issues where no complaint has been made; and resourcing the scheme appropriately

In March WCHM attended a discussion forum on the Amendment Bill hosted by the ACT Greens, where community members raised a number of interesting issues to be considered including ensuring that both of protection and privacy of consumers are respected.

In response to WCHM’s recommendation that there should be OV positions set aside for women, the ACT Greens will amend the Bill to ensure that women can request an OV of the same gender. If one is not available, an OV from another area (e.g., mental health when the person is in prison) can become involved if they meet any specialist eligibility criteria required for that role.

Allowing women to request a female OV is a good compromise between meeting women’s needs in a gender sensitive manner and resource constraints.

For more information

  1. ACT Government Commentary on the Public Advocate (Official Visitors) Amendment Bill

WCHM Matters, Work and Women

Welcome to this slightly redesigned section of the e-bulletin. You may remember that in the past we provided you with mini write-ups about the main events, projects and news to come out of the Centre. We’ve now decided that perhaps an abbreviated version will suffice, that is well-linked to the fantastic information available from the WCHM website. We hope you like the new style; but if you have any feedback feel free to send it to admin@wchm.org.au.

The WCHM Board and team have had a very busy few months. November through to January were a busy time for submissions with WCHM making a contribution to: Transport for Canberra 2011-2031, the Adult Acute Mental Health Inpatient Unit: Model of Care Stage 3, Improved Support for Stronger Communities: Antisocial Behaviour Response and Support in Housing ACT, Provision of Social housing in the ACT, 10 Year Roadmap for National Mental Health Reform and the ACT Greens Public Advocate Bill, as well as a submission to the ACT Budget 2012-13.

As 2012 kicked into action the WCHM Board commenced the process of reviewing the Strategic Plan and preparing a new Plan for the next 4 years. This was an exciting process and an opportunity to refine the articulation of what we do, why we do it and how. The process included feedback gathered from stakeholders, members and staff and will be finalised over the coming months. The new WCHM Strategic Plan 2012–2016 will be published on the WCHM website in June.

The team have been busy as well. Annelise, aside from dashing off to Washington to attend the 2nd World Conference of Women’s Shelters (see above), is busy assisting with the roll out of the empower project and the disability awareness training for the domestic violence/crisis sector. Angela is busy with the Strong women, great city: A survey for ACT’s women with disabilities project, which is currently seeking respondents, and which we encourage you to circulate to your friends and family members.

Laura has been busy with event planning! In February she organised a public forum on sexual violence and institutionalisation, which was a part of the ACT Women’s Services Network Summer of Respect Campaign. She is now busy preparing for an upcoming public consultation forum for women mental health consumers and carers in the ACT.

In March WCHM partnered with the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health to run two information sessions for women aged 40 years and over (which Laura has written about above). We also attended several International Women’s Day events, which marked the closing of the Summer of Respect. International Women’s Day was a rich day for WCHM, with the announcement that the ACT Office for Women had awarded women’s grant to the ACT Women’s Network to run the Summer of Respect again over the 2010-13 summer, and to the ACT Women And Prisons (WAP) Group to design and run awareness training with ACT government staff about the needs of women with lived experience of the justice system. We were also extremely proud of WWDACT for winning the ACT International Women’s Day Award in the Community Category. Also in March, the ACT Government announced that Marcia would be representing WCHM on the Ministerial Advisory Council for Women during 2012-14.

And last, but by no means least, the team was very sad to bid farewell to our beloved Administration Assistant Jillian, who has moved on to a new position with the Australian Rural Leadership Foundation. Jillian made an invaluable contribution to the Centre, ensuring the smooth and efficient day-to-day running of the office, and a professional, personable and organised face of the Centre in the community. We will miss her dearly.

Our new admin assistant Margaret Ross will no doubt be equally invaluable, and we look forward to her settling into WCHM and becoming one of the team.


Worth Checking Out…

Ever thought that what was needed was a set of “disability activists in the style of feminist masked avengers”? I thought so. And now we have it in the form of the Bolshy Divas, a group of activists who through “humour, art and passion” are exposing and discussing the discrimination, unmet need and subtext behind issues that affect Australians with a disability. Their website features their current and previous campaigns and submissions and their blog, which are testament to the ‘bolshiness’, creativity and honesty that the Divas are bringing to the discussion of disability issues (my personal favourite makes a stunning reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho). Now is an incredibly important moment in disability policy and funding reform. Now is the time to check out the Bolshy Divas. And maybe throw your support behind them too.

As part of this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization released the World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education, a presentation of international sex-disaggregated data on education presented in 120 maps, charts and tables. The atlas illustrates the educational pathways of girls and boys and the changes in gender disparities over time. It hones in on the gender impact of critical factors such as national wealth, geographic location, investment in education, and fields of study.

“Want to know how someone got to school in the 40s or 50s, what they felt about their first kiss or their first job, how they wore their hair and their clothes, or what they did on weekends?” Then Chatterbox 1940s and 1950s cards could be perfect for you. The Chatterbox cards are the creation of Many Happy Returns, a social enterprise developed to close the generation gap by restoring meaningful conversation between young people and those aged 65 and over. The cards come in two sets—one from the 1940s and the other from the 1950s—and feature photographs of everyday items and subjects from the decade with brief descriptions and questions to help get conversation flowing. They are based on creator Sarah Reed’s belief that “life is always more meaningful and colourful when people talk and exchange their stories”, and her passionate advocacy of older people and their place in British society—a passion applicable to intergenerational relationships in Australia too.

HOYDEN (hoid’n): woman of saucy, boisterous or carefree behaviour: Hoyden about Town is the conversation stimulating, mischief inspiring, intellectually titillating masterpiece of a “mixed bag of uppity women” who blog about life, culture, science, politics and society (or sociology, as they call it on the website, you know, those things like culture, gender, parenting, religion, violence and work and family). The posts are well-written, thoughtful, intelligent and sharp and I must say, I do enjoy a spot of social commentary with bite.