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Fighting back against gender hate, one tweet at a time

Germaine Greer once wrote that women have no idea how much men hate them. Thanks to the internet, now we do. - @PennyRed Since the 1990s, some social commentators have declared that we live in a post-feminist…

British journalist Caroline Criado-Perez (far right) has been the latest victim of vitriolic online abuse. EPA/Bloomberg

Germaine Greer once wrote that women have no idea how much men hate them. Thanks to the internet, now we do. - @PennyRed

Since the 1990s, some social commentators have declared that we live in a post-feminist era where gender equality has been achieved. Some have even suggested that “the pendulum has swung too far” and now men and boys are disadvantaged compared with women and girls (the 2002 Australian Senate inquiry into boys’ education is one example). This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Caroline Criado-Perez, a British journalist, has been the latest victim of vitriolic online abuse, including graphic death and rape threats, following her seemingly innocuous campaign for women’s representation was successful in getting Jane Austen to appear on the UK £10 banknotes.

UK Labour MP Stella Creasy, who had also supported the banknote campaign, received similar messages. Such harassment has been seen repeatedly on blogs such as Feministing, Jezebel and Destroy the Joint, where bloggers and moderators report deleting hundreds or thousands of emails and posts daily.

Overt and old-fashioned sexism is now considered taboo - so much so that there is a reluctance even to acknowledge any behaviour as potentially sexist. This was evident in responses to former prime minister Julia Gillard’s sexism and misogyny speech, particularly in the mainstream media. Gillard herself was subject to some overtly sexist behaviour, but many excused this as merely the cut and thrust of politics, and no different to teasing male politicians.

The social media responses to Gillard’s speech, though, did suggest that the experience of sexism is one that resonates with women not only in Australia but around the world.

Ironically, it has been women campaigning for women’s issues, particularly online, who have exposed what was considered old-fashioned sexism and outright misogyny.

Twitter and blog comments provide some public exposure of this abuse, but much is directed at private email addresses, and moderation of comments often results in removal. Prominent UK feminist writer Laurie Penny has been repeatedly targeted with the online publishing of a home address thought to be hers, seemingly so trolls could make good on their rape and death threats against her.

Julia Gillard was subject to overtly sexist behaviour but many excused this as merely the cut and thrust of politics. AAP/Lukas Coch

Rather than sticking with the commonly advocated refrain of “don’t feed the trolls”, women (and other minority groups) are starting to bite back against this online abuse. Increasingly, bloggers are calling on women to sink to the level of misogynists and out their attackers.

An abusive email sent to Feministing from a university student email address - which just happened to belong to the public relations officer for the Republican club of Southern Illinois University College in the US - is just one example. He was outed and various faculty members were contacted by blog supporters. As a result, he was removed from the Republican club and made a public apology on the blog comments (although this was more of a “sorry to have been caught” than a “sorry I did it”).

Criado-Perez and Creasy’s treatment has resulted in the arrest of one man on harassment charges and forced Twitter to address the way abusive tweets are reported.

A recent campaign targeting Facebook resulted in a commitment from them to address gender hate as strictly as other forms on their site.

So what does this online confrontation of misogyny mean for everyday instances of sexism? It is no doubt confronting for individuals, especially women, to face such virulent evidence of gender hate. In the past this may have been explained as a one-off occurrence carried out by damaged or ignorant individuals (the misogynist, the sexist).

Does the sheer scale of the issue point strongly to culture? Does the internet, through its possibilities of anonymity and instant response, merely expose an underlying, socially-shared hatred of women, as suggested by Germaine Greer and Penny Red in the above tweet? While many agree that institutions such as the Australian Defence Force have a sexist culture, are commentators willing to admit it’s more widespread?

When confronted with sexism, research shows women rarely speak out, especially when they are the target. Sometimes they fear reprisals, particularly in positions of unequal status (such as job interviews),or being perceived as whiny or as “playing the gender card”. Such reactions were clearly evident in media responses to Gillard’s speech.

Perhaps this explicit confrontation of misogyny will make women more comfortable challenging the more subtle forms of sexism and raise awareness of these. However, some of these reactions, claiming that any attempt to address abuse on Twitter or other social media is censorship that inhibits free speech suggests there is still a long way to go.

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  1. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    Do we really need academics with PhDs just copying stuff from Twitter? Sorry this is neither research, nor is it expertise. Besides, Germaine Greer will be remembered more for her revolutionary insights into Julia Gillard's bum.

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    1. Lewis Rassaby

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Thompson

      GG is not remembered. She is known, as a brilliant thinker, academic and writer but possibly not by you.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      " Germaine Greer once wrote that women have no idea how much men hate them. "
      Do you really think that such a generalist and ridiculous comment as that would come from a brilliant thinker Lewis?

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      Lewis, unfortunately it seems that Gen-Y academics with PhDs think Germs is only worth mentioning when she is quoted by Gen-Y Twit, Laurie Penny!

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      By the way, Lewis, I absolutely adore GG. But to Gen-Y and below she is known as that crazy old English lady on the tele who reckons Jules has got a big bum.

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  2. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    "Overt and old-fashioned sexism is now considered taboo – so much so that there is a reluctance even to acknowledge any behaviour as potentially sexist. This was evident in responses to former prime minister Julia Gillard’s sexism and misogyny speech, particularly in the mainstream media."
    The Gillard episode revealed a "taboo", you reckon? Well what do you reckon JG's new title - FORMER prime minister - means? A title that changed only a few months after she delivered her male-written speech?

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to David Thompson

      "Male written speech" ? would you point this out as relevant is the prime minister was male? No. The office of prime minister has been disrespected because Julia Gillard is a woman. You have just proved the point.
      If you care to bother to read any information in this article in reference to J.G., simply click the link "overtly sexist behaviour" above, then click on the link in Anne Summers article, "R-rated".
      But considering the possibility you cant be bothered, here's a sample.
      Why was J.G…

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    2. Lewis Rassaby

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      I think he wants 'expertise' and 'research' (only) on the Conversation. Fortunately, it's brief is wider.

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      Lewis, given that is precisely what TC says it provides, yes expertise and research would be good. If I want jibba-jabb from Twitter, I can ask my kids, or visit TMZ or Perez Hilton. Still confused? Try this.
      http://theconversation.com/au/who_we_are

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, if you cannot understand the relevance of pointing out that the misogyny speech was not only not written by JG, but was written by a man, then I can't help you. Nor can I help you if you do not see the irony and political significance of the misogyny speech being written a by a foreign 457 visa holder, whose claim to fame was turning national political debates really nasty, by provoking conflict around gender and race. On the latter attempt, see the Australia Day Tent Embassy fiasco. On the former, see JG lose the Prime Ministership.
      Oh, and thanks for the tip, but I do not need to source my data from partisan hacks stuck in the 1970s, like Ms. Summers. If that were the level of insight I was after, I would get it from Today Tonight or Derryn Hinch.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      There are no doubt just as many nutters about in Australia as elsewhere Alice and Prime Ministers have always been subject to all sorts of insults.
      As for " Why was J.G. constantly referred to as "she" by Tony Abbot. , if you are referring to communication in parliament, it will usually start off with a reference to a minister or membr and then in the course of the dialogue it'll either be a he or she depending on whether it is a male or female being referred to and if you check hansard, you would even find Julia Gillard making references to he and she as well as " that man " as Julia was speaking, supposedly in defence of her speaker she eventually lost.
      It'll be ditto with the media and if Tony or anyone is asked about the actions or comments of any female politician it'll likely be an answer starting with or including a " she " at some stage, it just being gender grammar or would you prefer it was to be " that person "?

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    6. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Greg North

      The correct term in parliament is Prime Minister. Which as a record was not used by the leader of the opposition so often you would have to presume meant he wished to convey something else. The term has never been used to such an extent, to describe men with the same office. A bit like Tony Abbot using the term colourless odourless gas to describe CO2, TA is a skilled political proponent of the dog whistle to achieve political results to favour his position.

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    7. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      "The correct term in parliament is Prime Minister."
      Might we suggest that it is a matter for the MPs themselves, especially through their Speaker.

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  3. Barbara Flowers
    Barbara Flowers is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Legal Research Librarian

    I'm thinking I'll start speaking authoritatively on behalf of all men, indigenous people, gays, Asians... oh absolutely anyone really. It won't matter that I can only view the world through the eyes of a white, privileged female in an advanced western society. What matters is that today I woke up and decided that I just know what it's like to experience life in their way, and really, better than they do. And if they have complaints about their lot in life I'll just tell them they're whingers and wrong anyway.

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Barbara Flowers

      Too darn right Ms F... all these whining minorities like women and refugees and young people and stuff should just realise that they've never had it so good and just bugger off. That's what we say at the Woolibuddha Men's Shed anyway ... we passed a resolution to that effect some 15 months ago now (5 for - 1 against - 3 abstentions). But they are still here, complaining and carrying on. We blame the media.

      In order to see above the mob one must first clamber up a pedestal of some sort... be just that little bit better, know what's best for folks even better than they do. A wildebeest with delusions of insight.

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    2. Barbara Flowers
      Barbara Flowers is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Legal Research Librarian

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Excuse me M. Ormonde (French accent please) but I'm afraid you've infringed one of my most important rules by speaking on behalf of your own gender. If this continues expect threats of violence and sexual penetration from our most unhinged members of the sisterhood. You may even have to die. I'm sorry but these are the rules.

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    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Barbara Flowers

      Call that a threat Ms F

      We local males here have been locked in struggle with the lunatic separatist wing of the Woolibuddha CWA across a wide range of fronts for decades! Threats of violence and sexual penetration are standard banter at the Bowlo on Thursday nights. We collect their tomato relish for forensic analysis.

      The town was torn apart during the 70s when some of the local ladies started burning their gumboots outside Frank Chilworth's barber shop and SP joint because of his immense…

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, now I know you've told us your best mates are illiterate, but innumerate too? Or does 51% count as a 'minority' in your neck of the woods?

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    5. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to David Thompson

      Yes ... well spotted Mr Thompson ... and I suspect we might even encounter some issues with "young people" - especially if like me you hurl into that basket anyone under 50.

      It's a shocking slight to us old fogeys to see ourselves becoming an oppressed minority in this world that really should belong to us.... If this evolution business is all it's cracked up to be how come we fuddy duddies are dwindling?

      Incidentally the Woolibuddha Men's Shed is always on the lookout for guest speakers. Bring a plate.

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    6. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      To be fair, maybe the sheilahs WERE a minority back in your day. :)

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    7. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Alice, "gender wars"? You mean TC is going to start live-blogging WWE Divas!?

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    8. Barbara Flowers
      Barbara Flowers is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Legal Research Librarian

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I'm glad to see you're locking yourselves in. My rules don't actually encourage violence against men, but of course if it happens my criminal justice system will protect us women from the worst aspects of our own nature. We'll allow you your day in court though, if you don't mind us questioning you on things you might find private.

      Keeping yourselves off the streets is a good start. If I can offer further advice - try to dress so that you don't draw our gaze. If you attract our attention we may not be able to prevent ourselves from assaulting or even murdering you. Some of us have these proclivities.

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  4. Murray Webster

    Forestry-Ecology Consultant/Contractor

    There is no doubt that what these women are experiencing is real, and fighting against such sexist vitriol will (hopefully) help improve society as a whole and the lives of women in particular.
    Having said that, It does seem to me that sexist attitudes by men against women is the only type of sexism that is generally acknowledged, and I wonder if this limits society evolution in this area.
    eg, With regard the Germaine Greer quote, there is no attempt to identify that it refers to some men, it appears to refer to all men, which is clearly incorrect.
    The first overtly sexist political slogan I can remember is: "Keep The Bastards Honest" - anyone remember that?

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Murray Webster

      Womens sexism towards women is sometimes just as pervasive, and underrated in my opinion. So convenient when glued to a man. I think of all those spiky looks when I first came here 9 years ago. And the little things said. Just as well I have the social graces of a hippopotamus.

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    2. In reply to Alice Kelly

      Comment removed by moderator.

    3. Lewis Rassaby

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Murray Webster

      I guess these women who dare to generalise should be extra careful. As my Dad used to say, 'we men are cool, calm and collected', women, on the other hand.....are just emotional'
      He used to measure the temperature of the soup served up to him with a thermometer and order Ma to take it back and reheat it. On that occasion the women at the table left in fury; Ma took the car and drove around the block, When she came back she drove into the front fence and knocked the thing down. Anyway, I won't generalize....

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  5. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    " Such harassment has been seen repeatedly on blogs such as Feministing, Jezebel and Destroy the Joint, where bloggers and moderators report deleting hundreds or thousands of emails and posts daily."

    The Conversation must be green with jealously. They would love to get 1000s of posts daily.

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    1. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      So if we multiply the number of comments here against the number of readers, these feminist blogs must be getting millions of readers a month.

      And that is not even factoring in the numbers of emails and posts that they don't delete!

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  6. Jim KABLE

    teacher

    Clearly there is need for this article - though none so blind seems applicable to many of the responses. And crude, too, given the subject - some of the replies - especially that from the top of the list! When I first started reading The Conversation I thought I had escaped the puerile/adolescent point-scoring of other on-line commentary but I am now no longer sure of that. In any case - I'd prefer a world where 100% of us were treated as human beings worthy of respect - certainly not to be judged on account of the gender. Which is why Tony Abbott and Alan Jones and other lesser politicians/commentators who are so blatantly sexist do not have my respect.

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Jim KABLE

      Jim, TC explicitly promotes itself as a superior media outlet in terms of the level of debate, expertise and research of the writers, presented with superior rhetorical skills. Live blogging Twitter catfights is covered by other media organs, against which, TC claims to be superior.

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    2. Lewis Rassaby

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Thompson

      You just can't keep us cats down. But I'm sorry that you are disappointed. Social media is a bit like that. Irremediably democratic. A digital subscription might do it. Or even a return to tabloid with warning for readers without a higher degree.

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    3. Lewis Rassaby

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      In reply to myself. At least Twitter comments are structurally non tendentious.

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    4. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Barbara Flowers

      A veritable she-demon Barbara, you sitting there in the Library poring over Legal tomes, him in the shed trying to see the screen on his lap-top, and then an act of pure cunning. Outwitting dear Peter, the Bard of the conversation, and threatening acts of terror on the poor man. Thank-you so much, it's about time the natural order was restored.

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    5. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Do not despair Ms K ... I have returned ... unbowed and still snapping at the heels terrier-like...

      I have been off on secret men's business ... involving timber mills and deep-end bloke stuff ... chatting knowledgeably about sawblades and front end loaders and the like.... you have to be ordained to do this stuff.

      Timber mills - and the culture surrounding them - has yet to receive the benefit of a full or even partial feminist makeover. Not a curtain or frilly thing in sight.

      Isn't it…

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  7. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    " Criado-Perez and Creasy’s treatment has resulted in the arrest of one man on harassment charges and forced Twitter to address the way abusive tweets are reported. "
    That's great for there are no doubt nutters out there in cyberspace and on twittersphere and they need to be held accountable just as people are for actions in other ways.
    We also need to be aware of generalising too for even with the opening comment about what Germaine Greer has had to say on men hating women, really!, come on now and lets have a much broader outlook.
    Even for supposedly overt sexism towards Julia Gillard, just how many and what are they?
    We should just concentrate on stamping out all the nutters, threateners and other riff raff in whatever area of society they are.

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    1. Alice Kelly
      Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

      sole parent

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, there are enough politicians on all sides of the house to think that JG was. They were there so I suppose that could indicate something.
      Go back up to the article click on the link "overtly sexist behaviour", then in that article, the link "R-Rated" version. I had to stop reading, the issue is valid in her case, all the name calling and insults applied to any politician seem to dwarf into insignificance when considering this documentation.

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  8. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    I don't think the problem is the majority of men.

    As with many social, sexual, "moral" etc issues, while most men (in this case) have moved on to support women in gender equality, it is the minority that are often the most vocal and vitriolic.

    And (dare I say) the less educated and more conservative minority at that.

    I believe women and men need to continue to drown out these out-dated choruses from the cheap seats and just stand firm against prejudice and stupidity.

    The male domination of the world has been going on for millennia, and the promotion of equality for women has been a real issue for just over a hundred years. I know most of us would like it to happen instantly, but it takes time and generations to weed out the luddites - or til death does it's job.

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    1. Raine S Ferdinands

      Education at Education

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I am with you on this Stephen. There is gender discrimination: the degree of which varies with each industry, each nation, each culture and each individual. The level of discrimination is a function of the level of education. This is an empirical fact.
      What is worrying is when some cultures and religions begin the indoctrination of "male superiority" and "preference" from birth. This will take a lifetime of secular education to slowly erode false indoctrination.
      What I resented most is when our former PM (Gillard) took on this 'gender war' as a political bandwagon for votes. Having arrived at the highest position of the land, Gillard tarnished this "equality" notion. It stung to high heavens, and did those on the 'equality call' a disservice.
      Education, and a secular one is the way to go. The problems in countries where women are denied an education, may well diminish if women (future mothers) are freed from 'mental slavery' via education.

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  9. Chris Lloyd

    Professor of Business Statistics, Melbourne Business School at University of Melbourne

    Again, TC allows unqualified people to get on their soap box. The author is an SL in Data Analysis. She could credibly write about Big Data. She is no more qualified on this subject than me. The article is just opinion and unsupported assertions with no conclusion.

    In case you are interested ladies, I can assure you that when the boys get together in the pub we do reveal our hatred of women. Very few men hate women. Some hate feminism. But most prefer to talk about sport.

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Chris Lloyd

      Chris, amen to that. The other ridiculous misapprehension is that in the locker room, men talk (badly/degradingly) about women. Again, women don't get a mention. It's mostly about sport, whether you should get a new car, or what movies you've seen lately.

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    2. Lewis Rassaby

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Lloyd

      Can you tell me who, in your opinion, is qualified to talk about misogyny? Are there qualifications in this field?
      When Greer refers to JG's bum she is shoting her mouth off which is, in my opinion, quite rude. When she says that men hate women more than is realised, she is generalising about something that is fairly obvious and is not invalidated by even many exceptions. Its not a lie or a scandalous untruth and its not even as insulting as some of these blogs. In fact its soundness as a generalisation is attested to by just about every blog you can find from Twitter to Coursera. The very subject of feminism seems to be a magnet for many misogynistic men and man-defined women. I'm afraid its QED every time.

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    3. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Lewis Rassaby

      Lewis, Germs' quoted comment, she said over 40 years ago. Time to leave the 1970s, and get with the thoroughly modern Germaine of the 21st century.

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  10. Natalie Phillips

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    In this modern society we all need to be supported to reach our potential.

    One area that seems to need addressing is helping young school boys with skills such as reading and helping them to engage in school to prepare for the increasing proportion of knowledge jobs.

    Another area that needs addressing is our wealth of well educated young women not making it to their full potential at work. There is some interesting work linking business success for women and participation in sports. If someone can find a better reference than this that would be appreciated
    http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jun/18/business/la-fi-mo-female-executives-sports-20130618
    Perhaps we need to encourage our young women into sport and allow their competitive edge to develop.

    Women don't need to get better at the expense of men nor vise versa. Support and be supported in return.

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  11. Pat Moore

    gardener

    Thanks for this one Brianne. It is absolutely necessary to continue to expose and publicise the extent of this widespread reactionary threatened sexual violence within societies that have supposedly undergone gender equality revolutions decades ago. The same evil barrage that Julia Gillard was subjected to for putting her head above the parapet in becoming "Prime Minister". She attracted the flak because she was in.a position of traditional male dominance Her predicament revealed just how misogynist…

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