This post is to honour ALL wimmin whose blood courses through my veins, Joslyn, Ellen III, Jane, Ellen I Currie (nee Williams), Mary Anne, and Minnie Williams (nee Johnson). This is my first blog on my own website because as the month ends I realise that I must stand up, claim the spaces I hold and be responsible to these spaces I have been given.
As a Blak Minyungbul woman of the Bundjalung Nation my leadership in any space is only possible, because of marching, protests, internal torment, humiliation, abuse, terror, subjugation, compromise, struggle, alliance, moral sentiment, acceptance, recognition, humility, strength, fire, assertion, polite and painful demand for dignity.
It is my responsibility to speak up and speak to power. The power I hold, the power I sit among, and the power within.
In Australia and globally this has been a horrific month in the politicising women’s human rights, fighting against sexual abuse in the workplace, and the sexualised murder of Asian women and the road to speak truth to power #march4justice being characterised as militant – albeit a march to the corridors of power in Australia which is a Parliament House that has a known ‘swinging dicks’ club and a culture that incubates energy and attitudes where a white male staffer masturbates upon the desk of female MP, films it and shares this broadly with glee and pride which is akin to seeking membership to such a club.
As an Australian lawyer, business owner, non-executive director, independent director, academic and PhD scholar I belong to several ‘privileged’ networks where there are common discussions about power, leadership, women and sometimes race. We discuss our role as female leaders in these space and ways to make a change inching forward. I sit knowing that I am here though not always welcome completely, race is yet to be confronted and because of this it separates our union as women against violence.
These networks are filled with highly educated, professionally competent women from all sectors, disciplines and backgrounds, and ages. As this network focus on executive women or those in the roles of governance, these networks are still filled with more white women than women of colour. In my own experience, I am often the only person of colour and more than not frequently the only First Nations person who is present in these echelons of power and even though in the last few years it is more common to see some women at the table, in 2021 I am yet to sit at a table where women outnumber men, and where POC represents more than two chairs at given table.
This post seeks to help bridge the conversations because whether or not we all are aware consciously or not, our liberty is bound together and I cannot be free unless my white sister is free, and she cannot be free unless I am free, so we can not ignore each other, or select to engage when and only if our paths cross in person. I must be mindful of her presence, her needs, her shadow as she must be mindful of me, my needs, my presence, my absence and my shadow.
Violence is killing us, hatred of women is killing us, and not just violence, but M.A.L.E heterosexual men are killing women, sexually intimidating women, abusing and terrorising women, in their workplaces, neighbourhoods, schools and homes. We as wimmin must begin to imagine a different way of being. We must first imagine and see it clearly to move towards it.
Australia as a colonial instution is subject to white women rights being cloaked as also anti-racist in Australia. We often refer to the 1967 referendum as part of that passage of unity, yet to do that is to confuse moral reform and equality. Jessie Street and Faith Bandler were motivated by religious sentiment or moral reform. The attack upon the treatment of Aboriginal people was sold as moral reform, not the demand for social equality for First Nations people. The fact that there was no demand for social equality for Aboriginal people is an indication that there was still a commitment to white racist supremacy, and led by women who are not First Nations affirms how we can easily confuse women right's or advocacy with equality.
This history of the white women movement in Australia, and globally and its relation to race matters historically is the behaviour that needs to evolve and change for equality, if we as women collectively want for something more. This movement must include WOC, and stand with for WOC and their experiences of violence.
Women in the major parties who, cognisantly or not, sustain the system need to choose a different future that is inclusive at its core. Women in power need to choose human rights and choose other women over the patriarchy that is killing women. Women in major parties, positions or power and elsewhere need to see all women as their sisters, not just the ones that look like them. They need to interrogate power through a feminist lens so they can grapple with the nuance and dissect the solutions so that they are inclusive and cooperative. Femisism is the process we must embrace and undertake to transform our society from patriarchy to equality. That road of feminism must face race head-on, and be willing and able to explore, dissect and lead a country through it.
Violent crime and the murder of WOC somehow stifles peoples minds to see the violence against women easily. The white glare stops women of colour from being seen, even by good intentioned white women. Asian women in US were murdered, where a white male heterosexual killer first explanation carried by law enforcement (another while male), was ' he was having a bad day' and his sexual dysfunction and was the responsibility of the women he murdered.
This network of powerful white women in Australia did not even mention this crime, not even as Australia has the first Asian Australian person elected of any major political party and who is also female, Elizabeth Lee (Lib) within its power base. Lee was also sexually harassed by a High Court Judge and gave evidence at a closed inquiry into that matter, and as a member of the Liberal party had rape allegations against AG Porter raise the issue of 'fit and proper person' and workplace rape where another female Minister also failed to act to any common reasonable standard.
Where were white women to support Lee role in this intersection of race, power and violence?
I spend a lot of time speaking about the Aboriginal and Asian relationship as a way to reset the historical and accurate story of Australian immigration and value the long-standing relationship between Aboriginal people and Chinese people which started in 1400 well before 1788. Chinese people are the first immigrants of Australia and that relationship was without terror and based in trade for some 300 years or more 1788. We were community together, and subject to exclusion together culminating in QLD Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 which removed the basic freedoms of many Indigenous people in relation to movement and labour, custody of their children and control over personal property, and began to criminalise and control the relationship between Chinese people and Aboriginal people, this was the beginning of reserves and mission in QLD.
Many Aboriginal nations and people have a long loving history with Asians one where many white Australians may be unaware of, or not privy to. My own family includes those of shared heritage, Aboriginal and Asian (Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Malay and more), so it is with a personal connection to this intersection that I provide some space to acknowledge the directed hate crime as Asian women recently in the US and attempt to provide a way to engage with the issue with the same intellectual and emotional rigour applied to the March4Justice so that we may stand as women and stand with our Asian sisters wholeheartedly as women of colour.
Asian American leaders are dismayed that discrimination and harassment continue to be downplayed by federal and local police, coupled with the voice of the 'law of land' stating the killer was 'having a bad day' he was peacefully arrested and charged without incident, so clearly not as much as a bad day as the women he violently killed who were simply working and providing for their families. The same families and allies must now argue for their right to valued in their death so as to be afforded appropriately defined and described justice, amidst an argument already led by law enforcement (without facts, investigation or interrogation) of a 21-year white adult male having a 'bad day' who was struggling with his sexual desires.
So as women we have moved from an imposed standard to 'what we wear' to now being responsible for what 'men may be struggling with sexually' as an excuse for the violence done against us. This is worth condemning as women in leadership, all women leadership, in every space we hold or impact.
This is telling in that in that race imperialism is the absence of any race talk as white women take on the power in Canberra and in the press they fail to notice race, talk through it or to it, because like America racial imperialism supersedes sexual imperialism. We as a community pretend or ignore, or are so familiar with it to not notice a race discussion that runs parallel and intersects with the issues of violence against women. Patriarchal violence which is supported by default or selection affects, and offends us all, differently to various degrees, some women are diminished, violated, raped, jailed, abused, tortured, or murdered but have no doubt violence against wimmin harms us all. Women need to lead a new way and begin to see ourselves in each other.
Ask yourself frequently could an Asian woman lead me, would I like that, could I accept that and if not why not, could an Aboriginal woman lead me and if not why not? Could a LBGTIQ woman lead me and if not why not ? Could a CALD WOC LBGTIQ woman lead me and if not why not?
It is only by coming to a place of peace when the answer to that is a restounding yes, can we genuinely want for others as we want for ourselves. We are in midst of patriarchal leadership we see it, we know what that system values, what that future feels likes, looks like, we know the world created by male leadship.
It's time for a new world.
Time to challenge our own racism as we ask for equal rights for women.
The call to action I highly recommend is follow more Asian Australian voices, more CALD women, more WOC and those abroad, and more Asian intellectuals and female business leaders at this time as a sign of allyship to this issue. I am grateful for voices like - Joanne Molinaro A Chicago based Lawyer/Cook on Instagram 'The Koren Vegan' or on Tic Tok who is dynamic, informed and has allowed me to learn more in my own journey of dismantling my narrow colonial views on such matters.
We all have work to do, and this work does not require consent or permission it's a choice you can make, for your own growth to be a better female leader. The future needs you.