Published by the Faculty of Business, Government and Law, University of Canberra


Research and Stories through a Gendered Lens

BroadAgenda Wraps the Week

Apr 10, 2020 | Weekly Wrap

What was supposed to deliver women a little comfort this week in fact made me buckle over with mirth. Then bang my head on my desk, slowly and repeatedly, until it was a gentle, intimate tap. (My life is lived at my desk these days. We are well acquainted). The missive was a message to all women to remember that “if you are feeling stressed right now (it) is a sign that your brain is working properly.” Well, I thought. Thank goodness for that, because I have been wondering.

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Put me in a warzone and I’m as cool as a cucumber. But block me from logging onto my online yoga class – my only community connection these days – and well, suddenly I become a mad, raving, panicked, tantrum throwing child. Until the beautiful, smiling face of my yoga teacher shimmies into frame and …whoosh … no nut doing here! This is just me in downward dog. With vocals. (I so hope my mute was on).

Never has my world been so small. And my worries been so stupid. But goodness, a daily live yoga class helps. We’re only a small bunch, with appalling camera skills. Most of us have no heads. And I’ve grown to like the view of other people’s messy rooms, old couches and ceiling cobwebs. (Although Sarah I saw a glimpse under your bed. It was shocking).

While some of us might quite enjoy being confined to our homes and endless trackie dack days, it nevertheless can mean we do a bit too much reading. Too much news ‘checking in’. Is it over? Are we there yet? Whilst Australian free to air TV News is recording some of its biggest audience numbers in decades, I’ve started turning away from those glossy faces calling COVID stats as if this were some kind of election poll count. “And the US now sits at 464,865”. Really? “Sits?” And it’s not just the terminology that is dreadful. It’s the tone. But..  having spent most of my life in newsrooms and TV studios, I know only too well the power of that strange ‘forcefield’ that envelops news presenters during a humanitarian crisis. It’s when your journalist immunity system really kicks in. And thank goodness it does, because you couldn’t do your job if it didn’t.

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You know things are bad, or at least bubbling hot under the surface, when even the UN in New York is singling out Australia for having the highest reported increase in calls to domestic violence frontline services. The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka released a statement last Monday about dramatic increases in violence against women, ‘the shadow pandemic’.

In our very solid Gender News list this week, we pick up on the UN Sec Gen’s global call on governments to work harder at making the prevention of violence against women a key part of their COVID national response; should Australia follow France’s lead and make vacant hotel rooms available to women who need to get out of dangerous home lockdown situations?; and more from UN Women about the reality of COVID-19’s greater impact on women than men, as Mlambo-Ngcuka insists that improving gender equality across the globe has never been more critical.

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But let’s turn away from crisis for a moment. What a delightful essay by Gillian Triggs on the power of Grandmothers – today’s grannies, but yesterday’s rebel rousers!; a fascinating Passover read about the choice to be childless in Israel – where the fertility rate is an extraordinarily high 3.1 (Aust is 1.8 – our highest in decades); and just for the fun of it, more on The Donald and how he can’t bring himself to call Dr Deborah Birx, the woman keeping his COVID cred afloat right now, ‘doctor’ – a title he only reserves for men apparently!

Lastly in Gender News, we loved this article by ANU’s Fiona Jenkins, “Did our employers just requisition our homes?” As Jenkin’s rightly asks – should our home be “free for appropriation during an emergency?”; is our employer ignoring how homes actually function? And most importantly, why are we all calling this “work flexibility”, when in fact the issue of ‘choice’ has been removed.

On BroadAgenda this week, Sonia Palmeri asked the question our government is not – ‘where are the women MP’s’ filling an equal number of seats in the special sitting of Parliament, and in our national COVID-19 response. Researcher Romy Listo highlights how Australia’s gender inequity in the care industry has weakened our pandemic resilience: “If care is the crisis, then gender equality would have to be part of the vaccine.”

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Lastly, always with a sharp eye for a new angle, our BroadAgenda Editor, Julie Hare tackles a fascinating new study on the escalating global trend for mass protests, and asks the author to ponder the impact of the pandemic on this powerful form of social action.

So, that’s the week – as it was. Now it’s time to switch off our devices and our brains (which hopefully are strung out and stressed – proving good working order!) and turn our gaze towards something a little more gentle. For me that means peeling away from my desk and communing with those ceiling cobwebs (Sarah you should clean the chaos under your bed). Bach, books and Easter buns …

I sincerely hope your Easter is calm, gentle and something sweet brings a smile to your face.

Happy reading! Virginia 

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