War on Feminism – Women’s Refuges under attack

womans-refuge-logo_SYOK5_17844 It has come as no surprise that women’s refuges are under corporate attack. It was only a matter of time before the ideological warriors of the new corporate regime would put in their sights frontline services catering for women fleeing domestic violence. Currently in the UK we witness the broadscale closure of women’s refuges that have been providing women and their children an essential service for decades. It also came as no surprise to read in her piece, There Is No Such Thing as a ”More Efficient Alternative” to Refuges Polly Neate’s insightful critique of  that great universal leveller ”efficiency” as the declared motive for the closure of women’s refuges. In my view, this  is not only another devastating cut to an essential social service, it is the undermining of a significant power base of the feminist movement.

In his book Profits of Doom, Antony Loewenstein uses the phrase ”vulture capitalism” to describe the carrion qualities of the private military and reconstruction industries involved in both war and disaster, and to refer to corporations such as Serco, G4S and Transfield who circle around governments waiting to snap up then pick to the bone outsourced services from roads and railways to courts, prisons and detention centres. A visit to their own website will quickly show the reach of such carrion corporations (sSee http://www.serco-ap.com.au/).

In my view the concept of vulture capitalism, while providing much insight into the nature of capitalism in our times, does not reach far enough into the belly of the beast, for a vulture is a bird of instinct, following its natural animal will and while laden with menacing symbology is but an outward aspect of a deeper, more malevolent will. The will of the power Elite (that ultra-exclusive club of the intellectual few – see Sheldon S Wolin, Democracy Inc, Princeton University Press, 2010, pp 159-183) that sends forth the vultures to undermine social democracy at every turn.

There are other ambassadors of change, other sorts of birds sent forth, ravens perhaps operating in tandem with the corporate vultures – Non-government organisations. NGOs seem well-placed to step in and run a raft of social services. Utilising an identical model of asset-stripping, down-sizing and streamlining found in the corporate model, many such organisations operate under the guise of a religious denomination and therefore carry a sanctified patriarchal ideology (for example – Salvation Army, Mission Australia). Such organisations now find themselves, and no doubt with private relish, at the vanguard of  the new and covert war on feminism.

Why a war on feminism? Because feminists are a two-fold threat to the new corporate world of inverted totalitarianism and managed democracy. First feminism contests the patriarchal underpinnings of the dominant or hegemonic ideology of capitalism and second, feminists have been at the forefront of countless social reforms based on fairness, justice and equality that have seen the betterment not only of women and children but also men.

I wrote a letter to my local newspaper this week that illustrates the shadowy processes and the ruthless intent embedded in this latest attack on both feminism and social democracy.

Dear Editor, I attended a rally to save the Bega Women’s Refuge on Monday 4th August and was heartened by the large turnout, all concerned about the refuge’s future and hopeful that common sense would prevail over the fiasco that was the tendering process. So of course I was incredulous when I learnt that SEWACS (South East Women’s and Children’s Services) had been ‘’accidentally’’ undercut by Mission Australia’s tender. I understand that Mission Australia, who won the tender to run homelessness services in the Bega Valley under the new ‘Going Home Staying Home’ rollout of the New South Wales State government, have now been given additional funding to take over the women’s refuge, which they apparently had not realised was part of the package until after their tender was approved.  This despite the fact that SEWACS have been running the refuge and attendant specialist services for women escaping domestic violence in the Bega Valley for thirty years. In my view, the decision to grant Mission Australia this service is unfair and procedurally dubious; there was a lack of transparency and honesty in the process that effectively sidelined SEWACS due to an administrative oversight. In my view, if the Bega Women’s Refuge must be put up for tender then it should at least be done in a fair and proper manner.

I fear that with corporate religious organisation Mission Australia in charge, the refuge will no longer be a place of sanctuary where women fleeing domestic violence feel safe and supported.  I would take the side of any aboriginal woman choosing not to pass through the refuge door, filled with mistrust after the legacy of the Stolen Generation. I too, would be filled with mistrust. I have no idea the narrative or the procedures that Mission Australia would seek to impose on women fleeing violence but I do know that the one provided by SEWACS empowers women.

Yours faithfully,

But we need not fear that women’s empowerment has been disregarded by the corporate Elite, for Gucci has taken up the baton with its Chime for Change campaign, fronted by Beyonce Knowles, Frida Giannini and Salma Hayek Pinault. While I growl like a crossed crone of the old guard at this recent appropriation of feminist discourse,  I realise Chime for Change represents another fight altogether, a  fight on the ground of popular culture and therefore I call upon my young feminist sisters to contest this latest sham while I mourn the loss of society’s most significant feminist-inspired institution.

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