Posted in Uncategorized

What makes a word a slur? — language: a feminist guide

I would find this post a lot more engaging if the author left comments open, so that people could have a respectful debate. It wasn’t a case of closing comments after a disrepectful debate – there’s just no comments at all.

It’s a good article on dissecting when is a term a slur or a descriptive term, but I do disagree with the author’s conclusions.

Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs, are a distinct group of people (and frequently intersect as Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists or SWERFs.) These are people who believe that feminism is only for women, and ‘woman’ is defined by biology; or have a belief that there is no form of sex work that can be consensual because any form of sex work is inherently violent.

I strongly disagree with both propositions.

Put it this way: the people who get offended about the term TERF or SWERF are people being described as TERF or SWERF. Other feminists, and people who do not identify as feminists, don’t find the terms offensive – they find the term descriptive, as it conveniently summarises a wide spectrum of arguments that typify some parts of radical feminism.

Do we define a description as a slur simply because the person to whom that description applies doesn’t like being described in that way? Does this mean that when we describe Eddie McGuire as a person who habitually says or does things that are racist or misogynist, that we’re offending McGuire and his fans by calling him racist or misogynist? Because that is more or less the equivalent to “TERFs don’t like being called TERFs so therefore it’s a slur.”

So… worth reading, but respectfully: no.

Content note: this post contains examples of offensive slur-terms. Last week, the British edition of Glamour magazine published a column in which Juno Dawson used the term ‘TERF’ to describe feminists (the example she named was Germaine Greer) who ‘steadfastly believe that me—and other trans women—are not women’. When some readers complained about the use […]

via What makes a word a slur? — language: a feminist guide

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Posted in Uncategorized

Nauru

I have lots of thoughts about Amnesty’s latest report on the deplorable situation on Nauru, where Australia is torturing refugees for political points with racists. But I need some time to organise those thoughts into a blog that is less RANT ABOUT ALL THE THINGS and more Intelligent Advocacy.

But in the meantime, you should read this:

Cate Speaks

I didn’t read Amnesty’s report on Nauru last week.  I knew it was bad, and I signed yet another petition, but I didn’t read the report because some things, once seen, can’t be unseen.  My imagination is vivid and I am prone to nightmares – I don’t need more fuel.

I haven’t read the full Nauru files, either.  In fact, I spent yesterday consciously avoiding reading anything about them at all.  I know they will hurt to read.  I know they will detail endless abuses, ignored and even encouraged by a system in which there is no transparency, only secrecy, with deterrence and stopping people drowning at sea being held up as the cardinal virtues, the only solution, the moral response before which all other moral imperatives must bow.

I didn’t read them because I have read so much already, and written so much already, and the only…

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Posted in Human Rights Law

Australia, racism, and the uncomfortable conversation we never seem to get around to having…

Today Pauline Hanson made her maiden speech to the Australian Senate. I’m not going to link to it, because she’s had more than enough airtime for her xenophobic hate speech.

Much of it is a carbon copy of her maiden speech to the House of Representatives, 20 years ago, when she claimed that Australia was being swamped by Asians. Today, the Asian horde has been replaced by Muslims; her supposed fear of ‘Straylians being bred out of their own country has been replaced by her supposed fear of being blown up by a bearded terrorist clad in an ISIS flag.

It makes me really sad that we’ve come so … NOT far in the last 20 years, that this overt racism hits a note with enough voting Australians that people like Hanson are being elected to our Parliament. Again.

Continue reading “Australia, racism, and the uncomfortable conversation we never seem to get around to having…”

Posted in Uncategorized

Homelessness in Melbourne – July 2016

Asher Wolf spent today walking around the Melbourne CBD talking to homeless people, after the recent spike in attention for this issue. There’s a perception in the media and amongst those privileged enough to have never worked with or had to deal with housing security that homelessness rates have increased: they have and they haven’t.

Cuts to welfare, combine with an economy on the skids and gung-ho useless “law and order” policies have combined to cause a slight increase in the amount of people sleeping rough, but what has caused the recent “spike” is just that a long standing camp has been closed, and consequently people who used that as a base have had to find new spots to sleep rough – more visible spots.

Highly recommend reading the experience of homelessness from those living on our streets.

We need to reconsider how we, as a community, respond to housing insecurity. Demonising people, or treating them as “inconsiderate”, is not constructive. As Kyle told Asher,

… the system is fucked. Things get run by some guy in a suit who’s read a text book and thinks they know better than everyone. The system needs people who can empathise better.

Posted in Human Rights Law

The philosophical underpinnings of liberalism and human rights

Last night, I went to the Liberty Victoria Voltaire dinner. The Voltaire Award winner and keynote speaker was Waleed Aly: academic, news presenter, guitar shredder and all around cool dude.

He gave a thoughtful and engaging lecture on the importance of examining the philosophical underpinnings of human rights law. It’s a topic I am very much interested in, have lots of thoughts about and have been meaning to do a blog on this area for some time. So here’s my excuse!

And because I am going to refer back to Waleed’s points, I do dedicate this blog to him. Cheers mate!

Continue reading “The philosophical underpinnings of liberalism and human rights”

Posted in Uncategorized

Money and the Law

This is something else to consider in the fight to proper funding to legal aid: continual reductions and cuts to legal aid also devalues legal work across the board. Clients are unwilling to pay private fees, even when those private fees are set so low that the lawyers and firms are skating on the edge of insolvency.

Law is a profession that requires hard work and expert knowledge. It’s OK to charge for that!

How can we better educate the public about appropriate legal fees, get better legal aid funding, and stop inappropriately gouging private lawyers from wreaking havoc on the profession’s reputation?

newlawyerlanguage

46929177_mBy Dean R P Edwards

Money has no place in politics, goes the tired complaint (ironically, as money seems to have an increasing place in politics and politicians’ pockets), but what of money in the law?

We often hear of generational change when it comes to the evolution of the legal profession into something more humanist, when it comes to women and LGBTI in the workplace, or the flexibility required for mothers and those suffering from mental health issues. We take issue with the cruelty of the old “chin up and deal with it” attitude—the lifestyle of getting wrong the so-called “work–life balance”—but what if there’s a niggling imbalance in the very way we work?

Another oft-heard complaint is the rapacity of lawyers in charging their clients. Many a lawyer has borne the brunt of a client’s fury upon receipt of a bill, and I am not overgeneralising to say that

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Posted in Uncategorized

I wish I knew… when to hang up

Some great tips here on how to deal with aggressive counterparts.

newlawyerlanguage

When I started practising law, everyone refused to speak with a particular lawyer over the phone. This lawyer was known in the legal community as ‘the Pterodactyl’ due to her screeching at other lawyers. If she called the firm, all the assistants knew not to bother putting the call through to the lawyer responsible for that matter. They would politely say, “It is our policy that all communications are to be in writing”, and hang up.

I was shocked when I met this lawyer at court one day. She was pleasant enough. I think she even complimented my shoes. I didn’t understand why my firm had a ‘policy’ to deal with her. That was, until I had a matter against her.

She wasn’t just rude; she was abusive. She called my client a liar. She called me a liar. She said my correspondence was “bordering on unethical” because I had…

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Posted in Uncategorized

Plain or patronising?

I remember discussing plain language with colleagues in a legal service once. The context was setting up a series of precedent documents, so that there was consistency about language across the legal service, and to save lawyers and admin lots of time (not dictating/typing the same letters from scratch, over and over again!)

One colleague who was against the idea said that they thought plain language could be patronising. That’s what I want to focus on in this blog post. How do you use plain language to be clear and concise, but not be patronising or paternalistic?

Continue reading “Plain or patronising?”

Posted in Aboriginal Australia

Australian history

I find it really perplexing that Australians find it so difficult to be honest and factual about the circumstances in which Europeans first came to the land that became known as ‘Australia.’ The latest results from ABC’s Vote Compass show a slight majority agree with the proposition that “school textbooks should refer to the arrival of European colonists in Australia as an invasion of Aboriginal lands.”

Why is this something that 44% of people disagree with? This was the state of Aboriginal Australia prior to invasion:

aboriginal-australia-map
Map of Aboriginal language groups prior to European arrival.

Continue reading “Australian history”