Sunday, 10 March 2013

Why I will not be lectured on feminism by that woman

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Jenna Price, one of the co-ordinators of Destroy the Joint, in reply to Helen Razer's post yesterday about feminism.

Note: While we are more than happy to post Jenna's reply, The Tribune will not be running any more pieces on this debate. We strongly support feminist principles and strong, reasonable discussion, but we are not a single issue publication and it's time to take this debate out into the wider world. So thank you to everyone else who has sent in pieces, but we're closing it here.

Hi Helen,

First let me say I am sorry to hear you about your relationship problems. Of course, relationship problems are by no means the worst thing in the world but they certainly make each of us feel more alone.

Secondly, I'd just like to correct some errors of fact in your post and in your comments about Destroy the Joint and me.

The most serious of those errors is your suggestion that Destroy the Joint accepted a cash prize from the NAB Women's Agenda awards. This award consisted of a bottle of champagne and a certificate. We won it because members of the public nominated Destroy the Joint as an agenda setter (and, we are not shy, we also nominated ourselves). Then members of the public voted for us. A public nomination and a public vote; not a cash prize judged by a board. Just to make this completely clear, the award was from the public, not from a bank.

Next, may I draw your attention to my story in New Matilda about women in the media, part of a large project. At no point in the story did I suggest women are better or "gifted", as you put it. I said that there were very few women editors. This was an exercise in counting. I enjoy facts and figures and commend them to you. At the end of the story, only 600 words long, I wrote: "Would women exercise better judgement in running media organisations, companies on the brink of extinction? Perhaps the better question is whether they could do any worse." I mentioned that more women ran suburban or regional papers. This is not to dismiss that contribution - but those jobs do not attract the same status, power or remuneration as running a major metropolitan daily.

As you clearly demonstrate, women are not "nicer". I am in agreement with you on that. Or, since I am somewhat older than you, you are in agreement with me. As I approach 60, I like to think age affords some privilege.

Most concerning though, is your implication that in order to be a feminist or to take feminist action, you should somehow have heard of me, that I should be the kind of celebrity you are. I am, as they say in the trade, a wife-of-one, a mother-of-three, teacher, journalist and member of two unions. I'm certainly middle-class and am grateful every day for the benefits it gives me. My sister, who was born in a refugee camp, missed out on the first years of life as an Australian. My view is that, as a result of that difficult start at birth and beyond, she was not well for most of her life. She died at 57.

Since the late seventies I've volunteered at abortion clinics; been a hopeless breastfeeding counsellor; worked on marches and demonstrations; given money to almost any feminist organisation which needed it; raised money for actions against child marriage run by women in countries where there is child marriage; baked cakes and washed walls in schools; run local swimming clubs and, most recently, had the good fortune to join 25,000 women and men in Destroy the Joint. Women and men everywhere do this kind of thing, although I hope that they make better cakes than I do.

You say feminism is about stopping violence against women? Me too. Which is why Destroy the Joint campaigned for Telstra to give victims of domestic violence access to silent numbers AND stop charging them. It keeps women safer and stops them having to dig into their empty pockets. That means their attackers can't ring them endlessly. It protects their broken privacy. Destroy the Joint did that, with the remarkable assistance of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, whose CEO Teresa Corbin generously said the change would never have happened without us.

You say feminism is about stopping poverty among women? I've written thousands of words as a journalist about women and poverty. Does it stop poverty? No way but at least those who read newspapers cannot pretend they did not know about the government's shocking changes to parenting payments, a collusion between the Labor and Liberal Parties.

Destroy the Joint has achieved much, much more than the Alan Jones campaign. You don't think it is important how we use the word rape? That is absolutely your right but, as a woman related to a rape victim, I can assure you she sees the word and feels like death. Every day. I doubt the thousands of women in Australia who are victims of sexual violence feel quite as sanguine as you do when they see the word. Instead, they remember what happened to them.

It's true Destroy the Joint does lots of small things - at the behest of one - or more - of 25,000 people on our page. These small things add up. These are the ideas and wishes of a big community.

Also, I think you implied that I am a member of the Labor Party or connected to the Labor Party. That's demonstrably false. It's a shame women are not in the habit of duelling for their honour, although I think that since you are only 44, you may well be more sprightly than me.

If you have ideas about what you think Destroy the Joint should do, you are welcome to post on the page or to send a private Facebook message through the page. Hundreds of people do that each week. Our very diverse group would be delighted to have yet another member.

Kind regards,
Jenna Price


Jenna Price

Jenna Price is the Coordinator Undergraduate Journalism UTS and an administrator of  Destroy the Joint 

Follow her on twitter @JennaPrice