Week 1 Reflection: Feminism and Control

Student no.: n7182538

I have to say in advance that I did not attend the lecture and will not be able to attend any throughout the semester due to an unavoidable timetable clash. Therefore, all of my comments are based solely on the lecture slides and the readings provided so I apologise in advance if my comments are off topic to what everyone was discussing in the lecture (very jealous of you all and wish I could go).

So now on with the show...

One thing that struck me as very interesting when I was reading throught the lecture slides this week was the concept of 'control' as applied to women in society. The example given that really made me think was hair removal. Women spend alot of time, money and effort on something that is perhaps just another thing women do for men's pleasure. This also made me look at magazines such as Cosmo, Cleo, Famous etc. very differently. One such issue got men to have their say on what looks and styles they preferred on women. Example: do you prefer straight or curly hair? The 'reliable' stats were something like 85% prefer straight hair and only 15% curly (as a curly haired lady I just felt so special reading that) and it occurred to me that if the entire female population subscibed to this dribble about what men prefer then we'd all look THE SAME . And now I cannot help but think (very cynically) that such magazines are perhaps another tool for controlling women.

However, one thing that I'm left to ponder is whether this sort of control of women is coming from men or whether women are enforcing this sort of gender conformity (scary thought). The reason I say this is because magazines such as Cosmo and Cleo feature predominately all female staff and as such these ladies decide on the articles published and therefore decide what their audience will read. My point is that this sort of aesthetic control seems to be enforced by women as well as men. Granted Cleo and Cosmo magazines might not be the best example but I'm sure you get my drift.

If you want to have a look at the sort of thing I'm talking about have a look at this forum discussing body types men prefer based on a 2004 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine.


Looking forward to getting into all of these issues throughout the semester.

Week 2 Refelection: The Feminine Body

I really enjoyed the lecture this week. I think it's so important that the differences between sex and gender are explored and well understood by people working in health related fields (or any others for that matter). One of the best explanations of gender I have heard came from a transsexual woman who was interviewed on Oprah (yes, I enjoy midday TV sometimes). Quite simply, this lady put it as "sex is between the legs and gender is between the ears" and for some reason I find this the easiest way to make sense of the differences between sex and gender (and it seems to be the definition I always remember).

I wish I could say the organisers of the Olympics were as informed and undertstanding of gender issues. I read the article 'Are You Female Enough for the Olympics' and I was completely disgusted by the attitudes of the Olympics organisers and other sporting coaches and athletes. To call into question someone's gender simply because they may differ from the norm (which is a rather broad spectrum anyway) is not only a sign of being woefully uninformed and educated about gender issues but is a sign of poor sportsmanship and fairness on part of the athletes, coaches and organisers mentioned in the article. I was very impressed by the argument presented in the article by writer Clemintine Ford and looked her up after reading it. She provides some excellent (and often hilarious) social feminist comentary on some contemporary issues such as the abusive relationship between Chris Brown and Rhianna through which she explores the greater scope of violence against women. If you want to read the article here's the link:


I would like to see fairer treatment of female athletes in the future and a change in attitude in fellow athletes, coaches and sporting organisers (they need to get their act together. Very uncool Olympics poeple.)

Week 3 Reflection: Gender Roles

Looking at the themes of this weeks lecture I was prompted to observe some of the gender roles and expectations assigned to women in our society. Mainstream media seems to promote and enforce the notion that in addition to being care-givers, mothers, household financial planners, cooks for whole families or communities and raising whole generations, women are expected to still be fit, active, healthy, beautiful, well groomed, content, not stressed or making a fuss. And perhaps, if a woman were to make a fuss (so to speak) or to voice that she might not be content with her lot then she could be viewed as complaining about nothing or high maintenance. I find it interesting that the moment women may step outside of their traditional roles or voice that they want more or want a change, they are assigned labels to reinforce the view that there is something lacking or something is simply wrong with them. There is something very perverse about our society that we take for granted the members of our society that actively participate in raising, nurturing, nourishing and caring for our communities of people in the first place (and often actively belittle or undervalue their contributions).

An excellent example of labelling, or in this case, prosecuting women who choose to speak out against oppression of women in the Western world are the women who graffitied the Berlei Ad in 1993. Having read Pat O'Shane's verdict on the Berlei Ad trial, I couldn't help but express relief that she recognised that this was not simply a petty crime, but a part of something much greater and that this was a symbol of objection to the degradation and often poor treatment of women in our society. Whilst women have come a long way through history, I think we have a long way to go before we are considered equals in this male dominated society.


Week 4 Reflection: The Fashion Industry and Body Image

The representation of women's bodies in the media is something I'm particularly interested in. I feel that there is a much greater diversity of body types than is portrayed in the media and that this definitely influences women's expectations of what image they should conform to. One of the things I get especially frustrated with though is that the media in any attempt of fixing the problem simply promotes a shift in the ideal of beauty rather than promoting the notion of embracing the large spectrum that beauty exists on in reality. For example, size 6-8 women are still held up as the ideal in the fashion world. The media promotes this and enforces this notion and yet they continue to publish articles saying that men prefer 'curvier' women etc. whilst still using size 6-8 models to promote the products in their magazines. It makes no sense!!!!! I get so angry that the media parades these images about which adversely impact on women's self-image and self-esteem with little or no conscience.

One thing that does concern me is that the portrayal of larger bodies sizes as being healthy and more appropriate (such as in the Dove self-esteem campaigns) is that it runs the risk of disempowering women who are perhaps naturally smaller (not dangerously so). I'm not suggesting that these campaigns are a bad idea - I think the underlying message is a positive one. My concern is that the beauty ideal will shift so that another group of women are left with poor self-esteem and confidence issues rather than endorsing the greater spectrum that beauty exists on.

Week 5 Reflection: The 'Right' Time to Have a Child

To me, there is something very perverse about men in power making decisions for women about their own bodies as in the case of the legislation surrounding abortion and contraception. I believe that in both cases, these decisions should be allowed to be made by the individual woman in question as these decisions will impact on her way of life, her body and her future. I do not believe that the choices available to women should be dictated by men. Many of the arguments surrounding abortion have been fuelled by 'research' concerning psychological distress resulting from abortion, which has not been properly evaluated and this sort of research is influencing policy making decisions. I find it very concerning that the people in positions of power (who are mostly men) are basing decisions that will effect thousands of people on research that has not been validated.

As to the 'right' time to have a child, I have found that I've been thinking about this more often of late even though I'm only 21. Having a family is part of my life plan, but so is a having a sucessful career, owning my own home and travelling around the world. Where am I supposed to fit in having a family when there are so many other things that I want to achieve before I settle down? Considering the limited window of time of fertility I think I'm gaining a more realistic picture of when I will have to commit to starting a family, even if it is at the expense of giving up or delaying some of my other goals. Whist I understand that life does not simply stop when one has a child, I know having children can change things dramatically. SInce this lecture and tutorial, I have come to realise that I have been buying into the illusion that I can have it all at the same time. I have to now accept that that might not be possible or realistic - a notion that I am having difficulty in swallowing.

Week 6 Reflection: Gender and Work

I feel so unhappy to think that we live in an 'equal' society when women are still being paid 17% less than men today in 2012! I'm so surprised that this is still continuing today in our developed 'progressive' society. I also think its sad how our society through profiling men as sexual predators and paedophiles has led to men feeling unable or unwilling to participate in child centred activities such as caring, teaching and raising children. This is another example of how the media disempowers people. I was shocked and surprised at the statistics from the Stanford University study which found that women with children were significantly less like to be hired and if hired, were likely to be paid much less than their male counterparts who also had children, In situations like this, I think that despite efforts of legislators, there is still significant discrimination on the basis of sex and parenting status. I definitely agree that family friendly work practices need to be utilised in order for people to enjoy a good work-life balance. I believe many problems could be solved if this became an initiative.

Week 7 Reflection: Women and Domestic Violence

I could never imagine being in a situation where I was constantly having to negotiate my safety with someone I loved. Everytime I see the statistics surrounding domestic violence I am still shocked and surprised by how widespread the issue is, and how it affects women from all areas of life. I was surprised to learn that the Australian laws around domestic violence only refer to those in a heterosexual relationship, thus ignoring the issue of domestic violence in gay, lesbian, and other relationships. I was amazed to discover that more than 60% of women over the age of 18 would be victims of domestic violence at some point during the course of their life. That would mean that the majority of women I know have experienced domestic violence in some form and at some point already. With this in mind, I feel that this issue is not something that can be so easily swept under the rug when it could potentially happen to my friends, my mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin - all of the women in my life that I love, respect and value. I liked that the statistics in the lecture also addressed the issue of violence against men and boys. I feel that they are sometimes left out of these discussions and can be silent victims of domestic violence. I think it's a sad thing that most incidents are not reported.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Women Across the Ages

The first thing I thought when reading about the medieval and earlier period thinking on women and their bodies is that men of the time thought up some pretty absurd ways to control women (for their own benefit). For example,

"women are venomous during the time of their flowers [periods] and so very dangerous that they poison beasts with their glance and little children in their cots, sully and stain mirrors, and on some occasions those men who lie with them in carnal intercourse are made leprous." - Albertus Magnus

This quote came from the lecture and I think it clearly demonstrates the history of demonising women. More importantly, the point brought up about women essentially becoming 'redundant' in society as they age is something I believe requires reflection. I believe that there is a tendency for people to view older women in society as feeble, frail, 'not all there' and somewhat useless. I personally couldn't think of something further from the truth as I've found that the older women in my life (grandmother, great aunts etc.) all have such wisdom and a wealth of life experience that only comes from having seen a lot of life.

Looking at women's roles throughout history, it is unsurprising that many chose and still choose to self-medicate, as most of the roles that women traditionally occupy are often not valued, are unpaid and don't hold the equivalent social standing that mens' positions do.

The Health and Wellbeing of Lesbians

I've been thinking of the question posed in the lecture that if you are a woman in a heterosexual relationship can you not be subject to pariarchy. Before starting this unit, I would have said yes to this quesiton very quickly, but now, I'm not so sure. Research shows that women still do the majority of domestic work in the home, to use a simple example. Whilst this not be the best example of patriarchy in our society, it still begs the question of why are things still like this? So going back to the original question, I simply don't know if women in heterosexual relationships can escape patriarchy in their relationships - perhaps its a structure so engrained in or society and our collective psyche that we might not be able to ever escape the more underhanded and less obvious forms of patriarchy.

As a woman in a heterosexual relationship, I am disgusted that I could choose to marry my partner at any time and have our partnership legally recognised when that right is not extended to all members of our society. I'm not sure if I could get married until this right is given to all members of our society, so they can marry whomever they fall in love with.

The Healthy Ageing of Women

After this lecture, I feel I have a clearer idea of the physical, psychological and social facotrs that contribute to the healthly ageing of women. For example, I thought breast cancer was the leading cause of death for Australian women as breast cancer awareness and fundraising campaings are so prevalent in Australia. I was surprised to discover that cardiovascular disease was actually the leading cause, and I feel a bit silly knowing that I bought into the notion that cardiovascular disease is a masculine disease (based on what information?) I also liked that this lecture outlined healthy guidelines for ageing women, I feel better equipped with knowledge of what is more important for me at each stage of the ageing process.

International Women's Health

I am writing my final piece of assessment for this unit on how the media portrayal of women can lead to poor health outcomes for women and girls. The more I research this topic the more I'm convinced that the images presented in mainstream media of overly sexualised women or super skinny fashion models negatively impacts on womens' self-image and self-esteem. I believe the same factor could be contributing to the health of mothers who are diagnosed with post-natal depression. The media portrays motherhood as an ultimate goal for women, an absolute blessing, a beautiful experience that women seem to glide through without any problems at all (putting 'super mum'/super model Miranda Kerr in women's magazines probably doesn't help matters either). I think the media portrays motherhood in this way whilst neglecting to mention some of the not so good factors of the experience. Sleep desprivation, parental dissatisfaction and marital dissatisfaction during motherhood are topics that are hardly explored in mainstream media. With this in mind, it's not surprising that some women might say that they're experience of motherhood hasn't lived up to their expectations or the media version of motherhood.