: GIRLIE Goes Good, Bad and Dumb

GIRLIE Goes Good, Bad and Dumb

Lee-Gail Ease

AIDS 2014

Congratulations, Melbourne, on hosting a truly fabulous 20th AIDS International 2014 Conference in July. The meeting was clouded by the loss of friends and delegates on the crashed M17 Malaysia Airlines flight, including Joep Lange, one of six researchers and activists travelling to the Conference. Lange, a past-President of the IAS, was a brilliant researcher — the type of person whose contributions change the history of epidemics. However this is a community that is no stranger to loss and bereavement and the overall spirit of AIDS 2014 was inspirational. Talk about unity in diversity! Girlie loved it.

Only twenty years previously, in the same city, Victoria Police raided the Tasty nightclub and strip-searched 463 patrons or, as they called them, ‘faggots’. On the 20th anniversary of the raid, Acting Chief Commissioner Lucinda Nolan apologised on behalf of the Victoria Police force. She described the raid as ‘extreme’ and ‘disturbing’, saying, ‘The events that took place that night caused distress to people and had a significant impact on the relationship between the Victoria Police and the wider LGBTI community. It is therefore appropriate we extend a sincere apology to the community members who were affected by the events on that night and also to the broader LGBTI community for the impact this event has had on our relationship over the past two decades.’  

The raid had nothing to do with law enforcement but, on the pretext of a drug raid, the patrons were ordered to put their hands up while they were strip searched; it must have been terrifying. One of the patrons that night was Gary Singer, lawyer and former Deputy Lord Mayor who, with around 250 other patrons, took out a class action for assault and false imprisonment. The class action was successful and cost the state $6 million.


Unfortunately discrimination and prejudice continue to thwart efforts to promote the safe sex message in many parts of the world. In Uganda the constitutional court has overturned draconian anti-gay laws that sought to jail homosexuals for life, outlaw the promotion of homosexuality and mandatory denouncement of gays to authorities. While gay rights activists cheered, supporters of the law said they would appeal to the Supreme Court.

I’m Not A Feminist But…

Girlie went for a bit of a fringe trim the other day and the young hairdresser was proudly proclaiming that she was no feminist. In fact she thought feminists were ‘ugly’. I told her I had just been writing up this column and was including a piece about a proposed law in Turkey to prevent women from laughing in public. Yes, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister thinks that, to protect moral values, women should be banned from laughing in public. (See Andee Jones, ‘The Men Who Feel Threatened by Women’s Laughter’, The Age, 6 August 2014). Andee Jones also queries what on earth laughter has to do with morality. As a feminist, she is more used to claims that feminists are humourless thought-police.

The hairdresser went very quiet and then she snorted, ‘Not allowed to laugh in public? That’s horrible. What the hell’s that all about?’ Not only did this young ‘not a feminist’ find it unbelievable that she should not be allowed to laugh in public, she also quite clearly recognised her rightful place was in public. ‘That’s why we need feminism,’ I said. She didn’t charge me for the trim and we parted pals.

Gender Agenda NSW

The newly elected President of the NSW Bar, Jane Needham SC, has given the gender agenda priority for 2014. (Leanna Mezrani, Lawyers Weekly, 10 June 2014). Ms Needham is also the chair of a working party examining the findings of the Law Council of Australia’s National Attrition and Re-engagement Study. The study found female barristers had experienced conscious and unconscious bias. Conscious bias included female barristers being denied briefs because clients preferred male counsel. It also found it can be difficult for barristers to balance the demands of their role with other responsibilities, such as family.

Needham, herself a mother of three, is determined to change the attitudes that see gender bias as the norm at the Bar. ‘Flexible practice is not simply a “women’s” issue, nor even a “parenting” issue — almost every barrister has other calls on his or her time, and I would like to focus on greater acceptance of individual approaches to work,’ she said. She is also concerned about high rates of depression at the Bar and plans to review the level of awareness of BarCare, a confidential counselling service for barristers. A report into BarCare in Victoria last year found that a growing number of practitioners are seeking help for stress reactions, including anxiety or depression.

LEE-GAIL EASE is a feminist lawyer.

(2014) 39(3) AltLJ 193
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