The Politics of Servicing a Car in a Gendered World

(This article originally appeared on 
Before I moved out of home, we would take my car to a local guy to get it serviced, and whenever we’d pick it up, the mechanic would always address my Dad when reporting on his progress with the car that was in my name – that I drove.  This same guy would not let his daughter, who I went to school with, join the family business and become a mechanic, even though that’s what she really wanted to do. So, I have been going to my new mechanics because, although it is apparently more expensive than some other places, the workers (all men) are more approachable and professional (read: not sexist hacks). I got my car serviced, with the outside doorhandle replaced (it’s a long story), a few months ago and it cost me $527. That’s almost two weeks’ wages. As I live entirely on Mi Goreng, a recent study has emerged that has made me question my automotive repair experiences, past and present.

North-Western University’s Kellogg School of Management in the United States has conducted a studythat found that women are more likely to be overcharged, or quoted a higher price for car repairs. The study involved participants contacting 4,603 auto repair shops, asking for a price quote on a radiator replacement for a 2003 Toyota Camry. Initially researching information irregularities and the reasons customers receive different price quotes from mechanics, the customers either indicated that they were familiar with the going rate of such a service, were completely unfamiliar, or were aware of a price that was wrongfully higher than the market rate.

The study found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that if you have a higher price in mind, you’re gonna have a bad time. But there didn’t seem to be any difference whether you had no clue, or if you knew all the things – either way, you got a reasonable quote. That’s if you’re a man. Alternatively, women were more likely to be charged a higher price if they did not indicate prior knowledge about the going rate of the job. According to researcher Meghan Busse, ‘shops believe, rightly or wrongly, that women know less about cars and car repair. In the absence of information to the contrary, they will be offered a higher quote’.

So the advice, ladies, is to get familiar with your sump plugs and head gaskets (I don’t know what either of these are) and get your pretty little heads around the going rate of a transmission repair and standard oil change, because if you do, you’ll be charged the rightful amount. Just as long as you throw in some of these words and make out you know your stuff. Because, according to this study, it seems that if women have no idea, then they really have No Idea. Whereas when men appear to have no idea about cars, the mechanics just think they’re being strategic about it. Sneaky.

So maybe when I got my big $527 bill I should have questioned it/haggled/batted my eyelashes, because this study also found that when women negotiate prices with mechanics, they are more likely to receive a discount. Is this a good thing? (We’re all street-wise, fast-talkin’ lady-lawyers who run in heels). Or just special treatment? (We’re all delicate lady-flowers who need to be showered with compliments, affection and kittens). So much for gender equality if, as a woman you can basically pull out your lady-concession card and get cheap stuff because you’re pretty/have a vagina/nice smelling hair. Then again, considering the gender wage gap and all, maybe we should just cash in on these things. Hell, buy me that drink, shout me dinner/movie, and fix my car half price. What’s a young feminist to do?

Busse stated that mechanics aren’t a bunch of misogynist pigs that are out to rip women off because patriarchy: ‘It’s easy to imagine employees in male-dominated work environments like car repair shops succumbing to gender stereotypes.’ This is a fair point. We still live in a society where stereotypes about men and women that are long outdated still have paradoxical cultural currency and can have a tangible impact on our daily lives.  Women can’t drive and don’t know anything about cars. Men know all there is to know about cars, mechanics and engineering. They can also read maps while women ask for directions. One thing that can be taken from this study’s findings is that when we prove stereotypes wrong, everyone acts like reasonable human beings and the world becomes a better place. Now, excuse me while I go and Wikipedia sump plugs and head gaskets…

Gillard & The Gender Card: Why Menu-Gate Matters

(This article originally appeared on
Looking back at Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s now famous/infamous “Misogyny Speech” from last year, I am still filled with pride. Here was the Prime Minister of our country speaking up about issues that have, until recently, been swept back under the rug of our apparently post-feminist cultural milieu. Feminist issues have sometimes been understood to be fringe issues only held by a minority of angry harpies who probably can’t get a boyfriend and have daddy issues. (Urgh). On making her ‘epic speech on sexism,’Gillard was described by Tracie Egan Morrissey at Jezebel as a ‘badass motherfucker.’ As a young woman in Australia, I felt pretty proud to have a ‘badass motherfucker’ woman for a Prime Minister.

I stumbled across the news about what is now being referred to as ‘Menu-gate’ on Jezebel and was profoundly embarrassed.  From an international perspective, I’m a citizen of a country full of backward sexist hacks with no class, respect or dignity. If you missed it, Julia Gillard(‘s body) was likened to a ‘Kentucky Fried Quail- Small breasts, huge thighs and a big red box’ in a Liberal party fundraiser menu that surfaced a few days ago.  Was it a real menu? Was it ‘just an in-joke’? You know what? I don’t care. It’s wrong on so many levels. It not only draws on the long standing sexist metaphor in our culture of women as meat, but it also reflects a situation where ‘all women in Australia are fair game, from the PM down,’ as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Boderick points out.

‘Menu-gate’ came after Gillard was criticised for her strategy of endorsing an Obama-esque “Women For Gillard” campaign in the lead up to the September election. In her now controversial speech at the launch of the campaign, Gillard asked the women in attendance to ‘imagine it: a prime minister – a man in a blue tie – who goes on holidays to be replaced by a man in a blue tie,’ demonstrating how women would not be given a significant voice in an Abbott Government.

Gillard also touched on a sensitive topic, stating that ‘we don’t want to live in an Australia where abortion again becomes the political plaything of men who think they know better.’ In bringing up the issue of abortion, Gillard has faced criticism even from feminists such as Eva Cox and Jane Caro who argued that ‘strategically, this isn’t something that should be shouted loudly from the rooftops and certainly not by our first female PM.’ Um, why not?

Gillard has been criticised for ‘playing the gender card’and starting a ‘gender war’ (read: making a big deal out of nothing/looking for trouble) by speaking on legitimate issues that have an impact on Australian citizens (which I’m pretty sure is her job). Just after speaking out against the impending culture of ‘men in blue ties,’ Gillard is met with a sexist slur about her body and then a confronting and offensive questioning of her partner, Tim Mathieson’s sexuality (and hence, manhood) on live radio. This slew of events, as well as countless other incidents throughout Gillard’s tenure as Prime Minister, indicates that ‘the gender card’should definitely be played.

I take issue with the way the media has framed this sequence of events over the past week, constructing the notion of the “gender war” as an illegitimate battle of the sexes that trivialises the significance of gender issues in contemporary Australia. Just as Jezebel columnist Lindy West was criticised for speaking out against rape jokes and misogyny in comedy with actual expressions of misogyny, Gillard’s discussion of gender issues has been met with responses of sexism. In A Switch in Time: Restoring respect to Australian politics, Mary Crooks argues that ‘Gillard is castigated and vilified, often because of her gender. Typically, this is defended as a justifiable reaction to her individual political performance, personal style and presentation.’ In response to Menu-gate, the NSW Liberal minister for women, Pru Goward, argued that the criticism Gillard has received in the past is ‘no worse than what had been dished out to her male predecessors’.

Though it is true that politicians get their fair share of flack: John Howard was called “Little Johnny,” Tony Abbott gets teased about his big ears and budgie smuggling ways, while Kevin Rudd was likened to the Milky-Bar Kid. What is different is the profoundly gendered nature of comments about Gillard, who has been called ‘deliberately barren,’ ‘a useless cow,’ ‘bitch,’ ‘witch’ and now the ‘Kentucky Fried Quail.’ There has been no gendered equivalent for her male predecessors. No one has questioned the sexuality of Tony Abbott’s wife as a way of depicting him as less of a “real” man. No one made large scale jibes about John Howard’s cock. This is because in terms of the way women are treated and thought of in Australian culture, we still seem to have a long way to go.


Feminists Fight Back Against Online Gender-Based Hate

(This Article Originally Appeared on 

It’s been a long time coming but Facebook has finally put on some big boy panties and got serious when it comes to gender-based hate speech online. In an official blog post released on Wednesday the social networking page announced that ‘it has become clear that our systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate. In some cases, content is not being removed as quickly as we want.’

This announcement comes after a large campaign by Women, Action, and the Media (WAM) in conjunction with The Everyday Sexism Project , Destroy The Joint, and many other feminist women’s groups for Facebook to provide ‘swift, comprehensive and effective action addressing the representation of rape and domestic violence on Facebook’.

Facebook’s strange and erratic responses to material that is demeaning, damaging and offensive to women have been a problem for feminists on Facebook for some time. It has been common for artistic depictions of women’s bodies and genitalia or images of women breastfeeding to be quickly removed from Facebook like a peanut in a primary school.

Meanwhile, pages and images supporting violence, rape, slut-shaming and objectification of women and girls are allowed to hang around.


I’ve lost count how many times I have reported the ‘Creepshots’ page, yet it’s still there. These sites are like the zombies; you can kill them but they just keep coming back. They might be mildly sanctioned after pesky feminists like me have a whinge and report them; pages like ‘It’s Not Rape If You Yell Surprise!’ have been prefixed with [Controversial Humour] tags.

What a punishment! Not only are those who create and frequent such pages not being effectively told that these messages are not ok, their views are validated as jokes. Haven’t you heard? Rape is FUNNY, guys!

By remaining silent and inactive on the undeniable issue of the culture of misogyny and sexist trolling online, Facebook unintentionally condones such behaviour. According to WAM’s official open letter to Facebook: ‘Your refusal to address gender-based hate speech marginalizes girls and women, sidelines our experiences and concerns, and contributes to violence against them. Facebook is an enormous social network with more than a billion users around the world, making your site extremely influential in shaping social and cultural norms and behaviours.’

I agree entirely that Facebook has become a major element of a significant portion of the population’s lives. It constitutes a whole new way of socialising. I might never leave the house some weekends, but I don’t feel lonely, disconnected or anti-social because I’m always talking to people, or seeing what they’re doing through Facebook.

Because of this we have got to stop thinking of it in completely different ways to how we think about everyday life offline. The way we construct our identities and perform who we are on Facebook largely mirrors our real life gendered selves. Thus, gender issues, just like those for ethnicity, sexuality and religion, are important and relevant for social media.

Gender-based hate and sexist trolling are issues as real as sexism in the real world, because the internet is increasingly becoming just another part of the real world. Sure, we might act slightly different online. We’re removed. We feel invincible. We can type things that we may not actually say or think in the offline world.

But expressing sexism through supporting or condoning the violent rape of women online is a problem regardless of whether that’s something you would admit to in person. It’s not ok, and hopefully Facebook will now start to convey that message.

Virgin’s Mile-High Club

(This Article Originally Appeared On

As a twenty-something self-proclaimed hipster from Tasmania, it might come as a surprise to hear that I have no interest in travel. I didn’t go on a gap year. I didn’t volunteer in Indonesia, teaching dispossessed orangutans to build sustainable housing. Sorry, guys, but I didn’t. But I have been on enough flights to know that they can either be a bit of a drag, or a bit of an adventure. And Virgin America has come up with a great way to make your aeronautical commute just that little bit more of a drag/adventure.

Richard Branson recently unveiled a new ‘in-flight entertainment feature’ in some Virgin America flights: a sassy ‘seat-to-seat delivery’ system where you can buy a drink/meal/snack for that nice looking lady in the third row from the back with the funny jumper. The problem is that what could sound kind of cute has been marketed blatantly as a way to ‘get lucky at 35,000 feet’. Great. Gotta love oh so thinly veiled sexist bravado. Makes you feel glamorous, like you’re on Mad Men. (Seriously, I will quit with the Mad Menreferences soon, I swear). Let’s pour an Old Fashioned and have a look at this.

Elizabeth Plank on PolicyMic called Virgin’s new feature ‘a creepy bar you can’t leave’, but what’s so bad about it? Is it sexist? Well, although Branson throws in the token and obligatory ‘OR HIM’ when explaining buying a treat for ‘the object of your affection’ that you spotted across the heady, dimly lit room A380, it really is implied that it is a service for men to use to act upon women. This is not necessarily bad for all women in all situations. (Look, I did let that creepy, albeit cashed-up, guy buy me a couple of G&Ts at the pub the other weekend because I was broke, ok? I’m not that proud of it.) But this innovation reinforces and replicates broader discourses in our culture that situate men as active and women as passive.

This in-flight get-lucky-machine where you insert money, booze and airplane food and then sex falls out like a treat, encourages a stalky-rapey-pick-up culture designed to benefit men at the expense of women. This isn’t all that great because such behaviours do not need encouragement in our society – they are already happening everywhere, and planes are no exception. The stereotype of the sexy airhostess permeates popular culture, often to the detriment of the experiences of real, live, thinking, feeling womenwho happen to be airhostesses. Meanwhile, countless women are sexually assaulted and harassed while travelling alone on airlines. This can be a particularly harrowing experience of harassment as, unlike a bar or other public place, you cannot leave to avoid the situation. Often, if the plane is full, you can’t even get relocated, causing women to be trapped. In such a situation, a built-in ‘caaanIbuyyoooahhdrrrinnnk??’ application could only make things more awkward.

But it can’t be all bad, right? After all, like aqua-green mold in a share-house, love/lust blossoms in some of the strangest places. With the future increasingly populated with electronic, technological and Internet-y things, perhaps this is just what’s in store for us; the mechanisation of hooking up. We’ve already seen therise of apps such as Grindr and Blendr that act like a social GPS in the chase for tail. So how is this any different? Creepy in-flight crack-ons aside, I find this whole thing a great example of how we use technology, fabricated asexual constructs, to perform our very gendered and sexual selves. Finally, it’s not as though women can’t use the Virgin seat-to-seat delivery to actively seek out man-meat once the seatbelt sign is off. Richard Branson could be talking to us, ladies, when he wishes us ‘good luck up there’ in his institutionalised mile-high club. So go forth and plus one the shit out of the next flight you’re on. The sky’s the limit.

Woohoo WoHo!

Laura and I hosted a zine making workshop last weekend! Here are her reflections on this experience. ❤

the cup thief


So WoHo happened last Friday night, and it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!

Twelve women gathered together to share lollies, sushi and creative times, each creating a page (or two!) to add to the collaborative Women in Hobart Zine.

I really did feel a sense of community, purpose and connection in the room. And the venue!! The Craft Hive is the most beautiful place, so safe and cosy! And central!

I can’t wait to put it all together and mail it out to the participants with some extra goodies!

In the meantime I’ll be adding more photos as they are received.

The Craft Hive!

Lovely ladies gettin' creative!A big THANK YOU to my lovely friend Ruby for helping and hosting and generally being awesome at facilitating the workshop! I’m feeling inspired all over again from thinking about the fantastic pages everyone created.

In happiness


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Masculinity, Bravery and Machines: ‘It’s What Defines Us’

Audi’s 2013 Super bowl ad for the swanky S6 has attracted quite a bit of attention in the last few days with many commenting on its questionable representation of gender relations and possible perpetuation of rape culture. I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and throw in my two cents worth seeing as the representation of gender in this ad is interestingly linked to our relationship with technology.


A basic run down of the ad, titled ‘Prom,’ is as follows: Young guy is a bit bummed out because he’s going to his senior high school prom with no date, and gets all emo when his mum tries to comfort him saying that “now days lots of people go by themselves.” He heads for the door, when good ol’ dad throws him the keys to his BRAND NEW AUDI (yeah, right), wishing him a good time. Young dude gets all excited, pulls up at the school in the principal’s parking space, storms into the prom, hunts down the Prom Queen and forcibly kisses her in the middle of the crowd. Then her boyfriend, a big blond jock comes after him and it is implied that he punches him in the face. Then the young guy speeds away in the Audi with a black eye and a hoot of delight. Cut to tag line: “Bravery: It’s what defines us.”

Let’s start on the line. Who is ‘Us’? And what does bravery define them as? I’m going to make the assumption given that all the main characters in the ad are male and the story is focused around masculinity, that ‘Us’ is Men. Bravery has historically been high on the list of masculine alpha-male virtues. Think cavemen, gladiators, soldiers, explorers etc. So it is implied that bravery is something that defines people with male genitals as Men. However, in a twenty-first century urban environment, how do middle-class men, who are increasingly distanced from earthy, bodily masculinity, exhibit traditional bravery and strength? In a postfeminist climate where women are increasingly out-performing men even in traditionally male fields, how do men who do not fit into the traditional category of alpha-male masculinity negotiate their gender? I think this ad reflects a link between disembodied masculinity and the mastery of technology. The car symbolizes a weapon, a phallic symbol of modern man projecting himself into the world, despite his lacking bodily capabilities. So for contemporary masculinity, technology has become incredibly important in the everyday performance of gender.


In watching this ad, I was surprised that it was so blatantly targeted at men. Why wasn’t a young woman given the keys by her mum? Or her dad? Or why couldn’t the mum have given the young guy the keys? I would argue that any of these other combinations would dilute the clearly patriarchal frame of the ad. It would also dim down the essence of power, prestige and danger that the ad is attempting to evoke. This is an ad about men projecting themselves out into the world, and the gendered message behind it is that women just don’t project themselves in a powerful way like men.  Young girls don’t drive Audi’s to proms to which they have no date. They probably fuck about in their bedroom doing their make-up until their friends all come over, they then would pile into someone’s Hyundai Getz, tootle along listening to Taylor Swift on the way and then swoon happily into the arms of an Audi-driving guy. If a girl was given the keys to the Audi by her dad, it definitely wouldn’t have sent the same message – it would be daddy’s little girl gets to borrow the expensive car to go to the prom, rather than ‘Cool, bro, I got the car.’ If the mum had given the guy the car it would have a similar dire impact of “mummy’s boy,” no masculine power in that. It’s as if the Dad is giving the son the keys in a sign of patriarchal solidarity. Haven’t we come so far?

Although this ad has numerous gendered problems, I like it because it is a clear example of how technology is so significant in how we perform gender. Although we are led to believe that the protagonist is clearly not an alpha-male, he wins out in the end through his technological extension of mastering the Audi, a symbol of established, confident and powerful masculinity. Although he has no date to the prom, the car allows him to confidently project himself as a viable man, and even though the traditional alpha-male enemy physically overpowers him, he still seems to have hero status in the end, because… well, he’s driving an Audi. Something about the unrealistic situation in the ad leads me to believe that it is more about nostalgia than anything. Lets face it, proms are old fashioned and based on hackneyed gender dichotomies and do not comfortably accommodate for non-heteronormative relationships. The ad reads like the middle-age Dad’s dream of what he wished his prom night was like, and in buying this Audi he can live out that fantasy where he wished he pulled up in the principal’s spot, kissed the girl who was out of his league and had a bit of biffo with that guy he hated cause he was better at sport than him (but still a bit of a buffoon). I don’t really think this ad perpetuates rape culture, because it’s not really about the girl, it’s more about the broader essence of attempting to recapture a fantasy hegemonic masculinity in a time where tangible gender identities are fluid and hard to negotiate. Sure, the forcible kiss is a bit horrid (see the way she kind of grimaces away from him?) and it would have been heaps better if she had given him the black eye, rather than the boyfriend, but I think it is just the tip of the iceberg of a representation of contemporary masculinity in crisis.