Courses Available

Winter Institute For Women

“A Feminist Agenda for the 21st Century”

11-18 July 2004 – James Cook University, Townsville

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The six courses on offer cover a wide range of issues of concern to women today: the ever-more-entrenched culture of masculinity which condones and supports war but takes little responsibility for refugees and other victims of their wars; increasing levels of violence against women and children in the home; globalisation and the widening gap between rich and poor; global trafficking and prostitution; creative resistance to the culture of masculinity; and the role of feminist ethics in analysing and responding to the way things are with a view to contributing to the creation of a new World Order.

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If not now, when?: Envisioning a legal system which prioritises the safety of women and children

Coordinator: Ruth Busch

This course will be critically analytical and also self-reflective. We will analyse the underlying assumptions of our legal systems about violence and how successful they have been at communicating their stated beliefs that violence against women and children is unacceptable behaviour. Who benefits from the existing legal system? How does that system collude in violence against women and children? In this context, we will look specifically at material on mandatory arrest and charging, no drop policies and restorative justice/mediation initiatives.

We will then look at issues involving contact and domestic violence and question why, given important research findings, prioritising the safety of women and children is not a high priority in contact outcomes under existing laws and within current Family Court systems. We will look specifically at relocation and Hague Convention cases to demonstrate how the contact law literally “keeps women in their places” and ongoingly vulnerable to perpetrators.

Throughout the course, we will ask: What needs to be done now? What have we learned from our experiences of previous decades’ work about the limits of the legal system, the limits of our own analysis, what might work, what definitely hasn’t worked? Also, given that Amnesty International’s 2004 and 2005 campaigns are centred around violence against women, we will discuss what a human rights analysis might bring to the struggle against domestic violence in all its forms.

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Wild Politics: Looking at Feminism, Globalisation and Bio/diversity

Coordinator: Susan Hawthorne

This course will look at the impact of globalisation on women and on the world from a radical feminist perspective. It will include discussions of concepts central to analyses of international politics, of feminism, of ecological issues, and theoretical work from Indigenous scholars. Colonisation and its impact on women and on the world will be its starting point, and will include looking at patriarchal methodology, as well as concepts like ownership, privatisation and profit. We will take a detour into understanding how economics works from a layperson’s point of view, and tie this into ideas around land ownership.

The use the land is put to, its sustainability, and how it could be done differently will be discussed by looking at the work of women who are involved in farming, fishing and forestry. Genetically modified foods will be critically discussed, and we’ll go on to look at how each of us participates in the global economy through work and shopping. Patents will be discussed against previous discussions of privatisation and ownership, and how this is played out using women’s bodies and Indigenous peoples’ bodies for commerce. How the World Trade Organisation works and the very intimate ways it affects us. Finally we will discuss our visions for a radical feminist future. This course is interdisciplinary and international in its approach.

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Challenging the International Politics of Sexual Exploitation

Coordinator: Sheila Jeffreys

This course will look at the ways that the sexual exploitation of women and girls, defined here as: men’s acquisition of sexual access to women through payment or the exploitation of vulnerability, poses problems for women’s rights worldwide and how it might best be brought to an end. The international sex industry is expanding very rapidly and becoming an increasingly important ‘economic sector’. Women’s bodies are increasingly treated as a resource to be traded and mined for profit. We will examine the commercial sex industry from pornography and strip clubs to prostitution and the traffic in women, and examine the current debates within feminism over whether prostitution should be understood as violence against women or legitimate work. The course will use international and Australian examples. We will look at associated forms of sexual exploitation such as sex tourism, child prostitution, the mail order bride business, military prostitution. We will look at issues of sexual exploitation in marriage such as child marriage, forced/arranged marriages.

We will conclude with an analysis of the ways in which the normalization of men’s right to buy women, which is a necessary accompaniment to the growing might of the international sex industry, affects the lives of all women through fashion and beauty practices and sexist advertising. There will be a positive focus to the course because it will be based upon the idea that policies and practices can be adopted to arrest and repair the harms of sexual exploitation. The discussion of solutions will be included throughout.

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Feminist Ethics in the 21st Century: A Radical Analysis

Coordinator: Betty McLellan

What does Feminism stand for at the beginning of the 21st Century? And how can feminists become more effective in putting into practice all that we stand for? These are the fundamental questions of feminist ethics. This course is based on the premise that now, more than ever, the world needs a feminist analysis, feminist wisdom, feminist voices and a strong feminist resolve to have our ethic and our agenda included in national and international deliberations.
After a brief look at the history and themes of feminist ethical thought, the course will proceed to open up for analysis some of the current ethical dilemmas facing feminists today. These will include dilemmas around:
. freedom of choice;
. cultural standards and practices;
. religion and fundamentalism;
. working within the system;
. funding for women’s services;
. supporting women unconditionally;
. developing alliances with other (non-feminist) groups.

Through readings and lively discussion, we will expand our understanding of the issues affecting women at this time, be convinced of the need for a sharper feminist ethical analysis of those issues, analyse the various ethical dilemmas confronting feminism and develop new and more effective ways of intervening to put a feminist future squarely on the global agenda.

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Bold Words, Bold Women: Writing as Subversive Power

Coordinator: Gina Mercer

No-one knows for sure, but it’s a safe bet that women invented language. Sick of being unable to share each other’s stories, sick of men grunting obscurely, they set about developing the sophisticated system of language we use every day. Of course, since those ancient times we have seen the advent of patriarchy and its shameless use of language to consolidate its power. Naturally, women have long resisted the dominance of “man-made language” [Dale Spender]. Women all over the world have spoken and written words of power and subversion. In this course we will dip into that robust tradition and use it as a springboard from which to develop our own skills as lusty wordsmiths.

Wordsmithing is a fabulous craft. The materials – words – are totally free and women can access them anywhere, anytime. Through various focused and enjoyable exercises we will develop our skills as activist wordsmiths. Whether you long to write strong letters to the editor, poetry, reports to melt the hearts of bureaucrats, novels, feminist theories, articles, street theatre scripts or any other form of word construction, this course will hone your creative power over words. It will energise and focus your skill in crafting words so that they will move others to tears, to action, to change the world!

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Lives in Limbo: an exploration of the experience of refugees and asylum seekers

Coordinator: Eileen Pittaway

Refugees experience persecution, torture and trauma, are expelled from their own countries and forced to accept the “protection” of often unwilling neighbors or other countries. They are passed around like unwanted parcels, reviled, demonised, often forcibly returned to situations of danger and even death. Life in camps is harsh, with insufficient food and services in a world suffering from ‘donor fatigue’. The majority of refugee women experience rape and other forms of sexual and gender based violence.

Refugees are labelled and stereotyped, stigmatised and often feared. Yet refugees are some of the most resilient, resourceful and strong people in the world. They survive against unbelievable odds and maintain hope and courage. Their resilience is to be celebrated. Their plight is an international shame.

This course will examine many aspects of the refugee experience, including the root causes of refugee generation and forced people movement; the difference between refugees, asylum seekers and migrants; and their status in International law. It will also examine the notion of “international protection” with particular reference to refugee women and children. Peace and conflict resolution techniques will be examined to understand what value these might have for refugees at various stages of their journey.

Film, art and poetry will be mixed with academic debate and group exercises in order to explore the subject as creatively as possible.