Frances Clark

Lecture 1: Gender vs. Sex

I had never considered the obvious difference between gender and sex prior to starting university. Gender and sex were options found on a questionnaire with the possible answers being "Male" or "Female".

However, through this lecture my knowledge and understanding of gender and sex expanded and familiarised myself with Genderbread person (as you can see below).

The Genderbread person made me realise that there are many elements that affect and are associated with gender, as can be seen above. Furthermore, it made me consider, really consider, what life would be like if I was told that I was unable to marry the person I love because we were the same sex. Or, how I would feel being criticised as a bad mother because my partner is also a woman. These criticisms were deflected by a very strong and courageous 19-year-old American, who was raised by two mums

I have always been pro-gay marriage and see no difference between the love between a man and a woman and the love between a woman and a woman or a man and a man. Nor have I understood the issue of having two mums, or two dads. However, I have repeatedly been shocked when talking to friends (who I thought I knew very well) when they discuss their opinions surrounding these topics. What shocks me further is their reasoning behind it. We all have the right to our own opinion, but the point I want to make, is that opinions need to be based on facts before they are viable.

The thought I want to leave you with was spoken by the young man I mentioned above, "the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the conduct of my character."

Lecture 2: Women and their bodies

Once again this subject has expanded my view points. Upon hearing about the recent discrimination against female athletes for being 'too athletic' my first thought was somewhat controversial. Firstly, I agreed with trainer Barry Michael for questioning Thai boxer, Usanakorn Kokietgym's sex. I was not worried that the competition may be unfair, rather worried that a male competitor could seriously hurt a female one. I did not consider any other reason for testing sex. Then when the class debated the topic I realised the bigger picture, that Usanakorn Kokietgym's was questioned because her performance was considered too good to be that of a woman... 'up until the late 1960s (THAT'S NOT VERY LONG AGO!!!), women were forced to parade naked in front of a panel of ‘experts’ to prove their femaleness' in the athletic community (Ford 2012). But did men have to parade their 'maleness'?

Secondly, I did not realise that being inter-sex was not uncommon. Which leads me to my next point... what is considered male enough to be male and female enough to be female? Does bulk muscle equal male? Where do you start and end? Would a man be banned from competing if he had too high Oestrogen level? The problem boils down to equal treatment of men and women. Athletics is not about whether you are a man or a woman, it's about sport and in my mind, any Olympic competitor who has trained that hard, for that long deserves every medal they receive.

Ford, Clementine. (2012, July 17). Are you female enough for the Olympics? Daily Life. Retrieved from

Lecture 3: Body Image

I was disgusted by America's Next Top Model 'Crime Scene Victim' Shoot. Models were depicted poisoned, drowned, electrocuted, stabbed, pushed off a roof, strangled, organs stolen, pushed downstairs, shot and decapitated. Not only are they condoning violence, they are labeling it beautiful. One of the judges remarked, 'what's great about this is you can also look beautiful in death', about the photo depicted below.
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I was never allowed to watch America's Next Top Model as a teenager as my parents thought it was 'vacuous, rubbish and portrayed all the wrong messages', however on very long, tedious plane trip I watched an episode and was pleasantly surprised because they warmly welcomed a transsexual into the modelling team. Regardless, the above images certainly don't do wonders for females' body image or rights. What message is this sending teenage girls or women in general? That it's ok if you are pushed downstairs or stabbed as long as you look beautiful? What's even more disturbing is this is women bringing down women. We still have a long way to come...

Week 5: The Fashion Industry and Body Image

As a little girl, I LOVED Barbie. She was SO beautiful - everything a woman would want to be. Or at least that's what I thought when I was a 5-year-old combing her hair and playing house with my Barbie camper van. My mum tried to broaden my horizons and gave me a black Barbie. She even gave my brother a Hercules one to ensure she wasn't being sexist. What I didn't understand at 5, and what my mother used to try to tell me, was that Barbie wasn't realistic. I was a little bit shattered when I first heard that Barbie wouldn't be able to stand up straight if she was a human. Why would someone make a doll that tried to be realistic (with a human body and face, human tendencies - pregnant Barbie, human jobs - vet Barbie) that wasn't realistic at all? Does this extend from the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect in un-human ways?

I will be the first to admit I love a good day at the hairdressers, I've even got my nails done once or twice. But never would I attempt plastic surgery or even Botox. But there are pressures from society, from one another to look like Barbie. A girl in Russia has even gone as far as doing that.
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What's scarier, is that she is the most searched person on Russian internet...

At the end of the day, we can't blame Barbie, but we can change society and maybe it's time that we saw a realistic Barbie, I mean one that's size 12, with B-cups and 157cm tall... You know what I mean.

Week 6

Today I watched ‘Eve Ensler: Suddenly, my body’, [on TED talks] - twice. The first time I experienced such a profound realisation that I had to watch it a second time. I think Eve made many brilliant points, but there are a few that stuck with me. Firstly, I think we are all disconnected from our bodies in some way or another; we are always trying to be someone else, someone fitter, stronger, prettier, perfect. We demand so much from our bodies – staying up late, getting up early, eating junk, drinking caffeine to deal with our exhaustion, substance abuse, drugs to cover the symptoms of being sick rather than dealing with the reason we got sick in the first place (I could go on…). We treat our body as if it’s invisible and then get angry at it when it fails. But what I found most profound is the correlation Eve discussed between the way we treat our bodies and the way we treat the Earth. We expect so much from the Earth – resources, food, water, perfect weather; yet we take it for granted and pollute it with rubbish, chemicals, deplete it of its minerals. And then we get upset when it doesn't behave the way we expect. Eve quoted an author, “If you are divided from your body, then you are separated from the world” – I find this so overpowering and truthful. It’s time I started treating my body AND the Earth respectfully.

Week 7 - Work and Gender

As we all know, Julia Gillard is our first female prime minister. However, she is not only a female, but has flame red hair, a nasally voice and to add more salt to the wound is unmarried and childless, a hopeless cook and doesn't believe in God.


So it’s no wonder then that her kitchen looks like it’s never been used and she received a lot of scrutiny for it. I questioned why would a journalist photograph our Prime Minister in the kitchen - it has nothing to do with the quality of her work. I found that many female politicians were asked by journalists to be photographed in the kitchen baking, ironing, hanging the washing and doing other domestic chores, for example, Carmen Lawrence, the first Premier of State of the Commonwealth in the kitchen.


Furthermore, the first female federal parliamentary leader of an Australian political party Janine Haines’ husband was labelled a ‘househusband’ after being photographed making her tea when she was recovering from pneumonia. So I tried to find male politicians in the kitchen and this is as far as much search results got me.
Which leads me to my next point... Why are successful career women still expected to come home after a busy day and cook their husband’s dinner, do the ironing and clean the house? When it is assumed that a successful man will come home to a ready made meal, a clean home and his suit ironed for the next morning. On another note traditionally, marriage is in the eyes of God, since Julia Gillard does not believe in God, would there be a point being “married”? Regardless, the media and popular culture still focus on it.

Julia Gillard has also been criticised for being childless. Bill Heffernan (Harrison 2007) has even gone as far as labelling her “deliberately barren,” declaring she doesn’t know what life’s like without children and cannot understand the community. "One of the great understandings in a community is family, and the relationship between mum, dads and a bucket of nappies." A Q and A (2010) audience member asked Julia Gillard about this statement and what she was going to do to persuade the public that these worries were unnecessary ( play from 0:37-1:36). But as Anna Bligh remarks, ‘It’s ironic in the extreme that someone like Julia Gillard was deemed entirely unsuited to the role of Prime Minister because she is single and childless. The irony is that, if she had a husband and three small children, she would have been seen as entirely unsuitable for a very different reason. It is never a prohibition for male politicians’ (Bligh 2005)

To prove Anna Bligh’s statement, Ros Kelly, was scrutinized for coming back to work a week after giving birth, however Bruce Goodluck had no criticism at all when his child was born because it was assumed the baby was being cared for at home by his wife. As Labour MP Jeanette McHugh states, “Male politicians are never asked questions about their kids, or whether they mow the lawn. The fact is that politics is just as draining on families whether you’re male or female” (Baird 2004, 53).

Barnaby Joyce believes a ‘woman’s place is at home’. However we don’t live in the 19th century anymore.


Baird, Julia. 2004. Media Tarts. 1st Ed. Melbourne: Scribe Publications

Bligh, Anna. 2005. “Surprised, Pleased…and Maybe a Little Disappointed.” Queensland Review 12 (2): 113-15. Accessed March 17th, 2012.;res=APAFT;issn=1321-8166;py=2005;vol=12;iss=2;spage=113

Harrison, Dan. 2007. “Barren Gillard Blast Heffernan.” The Age, May 2. Accessed March 18, 2012.

Q&A. 2010. “Julia Gillard Is Unmarried and Childless, Get Over It Already!” YouTube video, posted August 9. Accessed March 18, 2012.

Week 10 - What it means to be a woman walking the streets alone at night

I want to use this wiki post to reflect on the recent rape and murder of ABC presenter Jill Meagher. For those of you who haven't heard, Jill Meagher never returned home after Friday night drinks with her work colleagues in Melbourne. CCTV showed a man in a blue hoodie talking to her in the late hours of the morning. He has since been arrested.

Bayley stared straight ahead as the bail justice explained to him that the allegations of rape and murder he was now facing meant she could not grant him bail.

Asked if he wanted the charges read to him, Bayley meekly replied: "No, that's fine."

Jill declined a lift from her colleague to walk the 5 minute walk home. So close to home, where she thought she was safe. I do it too. I walk the 5 minute walk from uni to home in the dark, because this is where I live and I deserve to feel safe here. Just like every woman deserve to feel safe. Does this mean that we shouldn't go for runs at night in fear that we might get attacked? Why should WE (as women) have to change our behaviour? Why should we have to take precautions when the sun goes down? Why should we have to carry weapons in our hand bags? We, as women, have the right to feel on the streets at night.

Week 12 - Aging women

I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this week's lecture the most. That's not to say that I didn't thorough enjoy every week's content (in fact - this has been my favourite subject in my last three years of study), but I think this week's lecture really made me think. Sure, I've thought about my body image, contraceptives and pregnancy before, but I haven't given thought to getting old - it's too far ahead and I'm too busy thinking about here and now and the immediate future. I have never considered what is means to be an elderly women, who has less superannuation then men, who suffers from osteoporosis (it's in my family)... and then I thought about the recommendations for women post menopause, i.e. 1500mg of calcium/day, 2 serves of soy per day, weight lifting exercises 3 times per week etc. I thought of my elderly Grandma and Nanna who are in their 80s... my Nanna smokes heavily, even after heart surgery and my grandma takes a pharmacy of pills every day. Neither of them eat particularly well because they live on their own (although my Uncle provides my grandma with a couple of meals a week and the rest I think she gets from the bowls club). My grandma will walk as far as the doctors surgery, which is at the end of the street... and my Nanna doesn't exercise as she gets too short of breath. Neither of them eat much calcium rich foods and I can guarantee that they don't eat soy products or green tea. This scares me - because they have given up and I sure as hell don't want to do that; I want to live as long and as healthily as possible. I want to be able to walk on the beach when I'm 80 and pick up my grandchildren when they are a heavy 5 year old. I feel guilty, that I haven't helped my Grandma and Nanna more, but they no longer want my advice - "it's too hard... too late...". But I do want to help elderly people, especially women.

Women are known live longer in every single country, they usually have less money due to raising children and they have prone to a number of diseases that primarily affect women. I don't think there are enough people out there helping the elderly - we just ship them off to nursing homes. This lecture ignited a spark within, and I would be very interested to work in health promotion targeting aging women.

This subject has been such a great experience. I will continue to treasure it. Thank you.