Could the COVID vaccines affect your period? We don’t know yet — but there’s no cause for concern


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Michelle Wise, University of AucklandOver recent weeks, news reports have indicated some women are experiencing irregularities in their menstrual cycles after receiving a COVID vaccine.

This has included periods arriving early and being heavier than usual, or being absent or late, among other changes.

At this stage, there’s no research evidence to support these anecdotal reports. But it is plausible there might be a link, and it’s worth researching further.




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Clinical trials didn’t measure this

In the original trials of the COVID vaccines, the researchers looked for whether the vaccine was effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19, comparing it to a placebo injection.

They also looked for any serious complications, such as allergic reactions, and side effects sometimes associated with vaccination, like fever.

But the original studies didn’t report on any changes to menstrual cycles, such as if periods would come early or late, if they would be heavier or lighter, or if they would be more or less painful. This is not particularly surprising — clinical trials don’t commonly measure this outcome.

Unfortunately, without any data, we can’t provide public health information on this potential side effect. So women of reproductive age don’t know what to expect. And if they do notice their next period is different from usual, they can understandably become worried.

A female health-care worker applies a bandaid to a woman's arm.
Reports from around the world have suggested some women are experiencing changes to their periods after the COVID vaccine.
CDC/Unsplash

It is possible

In theory, a vaccine could affect a woman’s period. A vaccine is meant to induce an immune response in the body, and this immune response could have an impact on the menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle is primarily under the control of a complex interplay of hormones released by the brain and acting on the ovaries and in turn, on the uterus.

In the first half of the cycle, which is dependent on the female sex hormone oestrogen, the endometrial lining is starting to build up in the uterus and the follicles (eggs and their surrounding tissue) are maturing in the ovary.

In the middle of the cycle, a surge in a hormone called luteinising hormone acts on the ovary to release an oocyte (egg) from the most mature of the follicles, or ovulation.




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It’s OK to skip your period while on the pill


In the second half of the cycle, which is dependent on another sex hormone called progesterone, the endometrial lining thickens significantly in preparation for a fertilised egg to implant. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, then progesterone falls quickly, leading to a shedding of the lining of the uterus, or menstruation.

The cycle is also mediated in part by the immune system. For example, certain immune cells, such as macrophages, mast cells and neutrophils, are found in the endometrial lining, and involved in the shedding of the lining of the uterus during the menstrual cycle, and rebuilding it for the next cycle.

So it’s possible receiving a vaccine and having the expected immune response could affect the complex interplay between immune cells and signals in the uterus, and lead to the next period being heavier, more painful or longer.

We need studies to explore this

A researcher in Illinois is asking volunteers to participate in an online survey about their experiences with menstruation after receiving a COVID vaccine.

This may help figure out how many women are observing menstrual irregularities after the vaccine. But one problem is there’s no comparison group — namely women who didn’t receive the vaccine.

Further, the data being collected are retrospective, which are limited by recall bias. If you believe menstrual issues are related to the vaccine, you may be more inclined to remember that after the vaccine you had several months ago, you did have a heavier period.

A better way to study this would be to enrol women of reproductive age into a study in advance, get them to track three months of cycles, then give them the vaccine or a placebo injection, and get them to track the following three months.

A young woman hunched over, apparently having stomach pains.
There’s no data to support a link between the COVID vaccines and irregular periods — but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
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There are many reasons your period might be irregular

Anything that impacts hormones or your immune system, such as stress, diet, exercise, sleep or illness, could impact your cycle.

In this regard, the vaccine could possibly affect your cycle indirectly too. Some women may be stressed about getting the vaccine, while others will feel relieved at being vaccinated.

The good news is that if you experience disruptions to only one cycle — whatever the reason — there’s likely no need to be concerned. If irregular, painful or heavy periods persist for more than three months, then speak to your doctor.




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This is no reason not to get the vaccine

The focus on this issue in the media is a good way to start a public discussion about menstruation. And emerging research is an important means to get more information about what women of reproductive age can expect after the vaccine.

But anecdotal reports of some menstrual irregularities is not a reason to avoid getting the vaccine. Getting infected with COVID-19 is much more likely to interfere with your health, including your menstrual health.

There’s certainly no scientific basis to reports some women have experienced changes to their periods from simply being around people who have been vaccinated.

If you’re eligible to receive a vaccine, then do so. And if you do have a heavier period next month, think of it like a temporary side effect, and try not to worry.The Conversation

Michelle Wise, Senior Lecturer, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Auckland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVID vaccine may lead to a harmless lump in your armpit, so women advised to delay mammograms for 6 weeks


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Rik Thompson, Queensland University of Technology and Thomas Lloyd, Queensland University of TechnologyAustralian women are being asked to think about the timing of breast cancer screening as they prepare to receive their COVID vaccine.

This is in light of US evidence that a normal consequence of COVID vaccination, temporary swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit, may interfere with how doctors interpret mammograms.

So women have been advised to either have a mammogram first, or delay it until six weeks after vaccination, to avoid any confusion.

This advice is particularly relevant now we are preparing to vaccinate the over-50s, the key target age for routine breast cancer screening under Australia’s BreastScreen program.

What’s all this about lumps?

When people have vaccines in their upper arm, it’s normal for the lymph nodes in the armpit on that side of the body to be activated and swell. It’s your body preparing a protective immune response.

After their COVID shot, some people develop more severe swelling in the armpit than others. While estimates vary, only about one in ten people vaccinated can feel a lump there, and it’s not always painful.

It’s important to stress these lumps are not breast cancer, and are not harmful. They also disappear within one or two weeks of vaccination.




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However, a swollen lymph node can affect imaging such as breast cancer screening by mammography or ultrasound. This is because it looks like breast cancer that has spread (metastasised) from the breast to the lymph node. This can have important consequences.

An enlarged lymph node may cause a woman to have further testing to confirm or rule out breast cancer. This can lead to further imaging, invasive procedures such as biopsies, and patient anxiety.

So it’s important to note this potential impact of COVID vaccination on mammography, ahead of Australia ramping up its vaccine rollout, especially in the over-50s.

So what’s behind the new advice?

Reports of COVID vaccine-related swollen lymph nodes emerged from the United States, where almost 90 million people have been vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

This led to swollen lymph nodes showing up on breast imaging, including mammography and ultrasound.

According to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, this type of swelling has not been reported with the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is the vaccine earmarked for the over-50s in Australia from May.

However, as activating the immune system is how all vaccines work, we’ve seen similar swelling after vaccines other than COVID. So it’s likely we’ll also see it with other COVID vaccines. However, we have yet to see published data from the United Kingdom and other countries that have more experience administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to confirm this.

Nevertheless, the college has recommended women have their mammogram before their COVID vaccine, or six weeks after vaccination, without specifying any particular COVID vaccine.

Others have proposed a more pragmatic approach of monitoring any suspected case of a swollen lymph node in the armpit on the side of the injection, and only investigating further if the swelling doesn’t go down after six weeks.




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Women should be told about their breast density when they have a mammogram


Why is this so important?

It’s essential for both COVID vaccination and mammography screening of women without symptoms to continue.

While it is important screening identifies women with breast cancer, it is also important not to over-investigate otherwise healthy women. So it makes sense to delay the screening of otherwise healthy non-symptomatic women for a short time, and to not over-investigate women who do not have cancer.

It’s also important for women with breast cancer symptoms to seek medical advice immediately, and for the appropriate diagnostic imaging to take place.

However, in light of the recent advice, women should mention their COVID vaccination status to their health-care team — GP, radiographer and specialist doctor — so they can take this into account when interpreting imaging. That’s whether or not their mammograms are part of the breast cancer screening program.




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What causes breast cancer in women? What we know, don’t know and suspect


The Conversation


Rik Thompson, Professor of Breast Cancer Research, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and School of Biomedical Sciences,, Queensland University of Technology and Thomas Lloyd, Adjunct Professor, Radiology, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Depression, burnout, insomnia, headaches: how a toxic and sexist workplace culture can affect your health


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Xi Wen (Carys) Chan, Griffith University and Paula Brough, Griffith UniversityAs allegations of rape and sexual assault engulf Australian federal politics, several current and former female staffers and politicians have come forward to share their stories of a culture of toxic masculinity within Australia’s political bubble.

It’s unfortunate that while gender roles are evolving at home, gender inequality and overt sexism remain prevalent in Australian political culture and in many workplaces across the country.

While the effects of a culture of toxic masculinity are most detrimental for the victims, other employees in workplaces and the wider community can also be negatively impacted.

This opens up a broader question: how does a toxic and sexist workplace culture affect the health and well-being of employees and organisations?

What does a toxic and sexist workplace look like?

A culture of toxic masculinity is a hostile work environment that undermines women. It’s also known as “masculinity contest culture”, which is characterised by hyper-competition, heavy workloads, long hours, assertiveness and extreme risk-taking. It’s worth noting this type of culture isn’t good for men, either.

Such workplaces often feature “win or die” organisational cultures that focus on personal gain and advancement at the expense of other employees. Many employees embedded in such a culture adopt a “mine’s bigger than yours” contest for workloads, work hours and work resources.

These masculinity contest cultures are prevalent in a wide range of industries, such as medicine, finance, engineering, law, politics, sports, police, fire, corrections, military services, tech organisations and increasingly within our universities.

Microaggressions are common behaviours in workplaces steeped with a masculinity contest culture. These include getting interrupted by men in meetings or being told to dress “appropriately” in a certain way. There are also overtly dominating behaviours such as sexual harassment and violence.

These behaviours tend to keep men on top and reinforce a toxic leadership style involving abusive behaviours such as bullying or controlling others.

Boss upset with employee
A hyper-masculine work environment might look like huge workloads, long hours, hostility, assertiveness, dominance and an extremely competitive culture.
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At a very basic level, workplaces should afford women safety and justice. But women’s issues are left unaddressed in many workplaces, and many fail to provide women employees with psychological safety or the ability to speak up without being punished or humiliated.

This might be because leaders in the organisation are ill-equipped to deal with these issues, feel uncomfortable bringing them up or, in some cases, are sadly not interested at all.




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How does a toxic culture affect our health?

Evidence suggests a toxic workplace culture can negatively affect employees’ psychological, emotional and physical health.

Emotional effects include a higher likelihood of negative emotions such as anger, disappointment, disgust, fear, frustration and humiliation.

As these negative emotions build, they can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, cynicism, a lack of motivation and feelings of self-doubt.

Research also points to increased chances of physical symptoms, such as hair loss, insomnia, weight loss or gain, headaches and migraines.

Employees in toxic workplaces tend to have poorer overall well-being, and are more likely to be withdrawn and isolated at work and in their personal lives. Over time, this leads to absenteeism, and if problems aren’t addressed, victims may eventually leave the organisation.

For some victims who may not have advanced coping skills, a toxic culture can lead to a downward mental and physical health spiral and contribute to severe long-term mental illness. They may also engage in displaced aggression, in which they bring home their negative emotions and experiences and take out their frustrations on family members.

Woman stressed and isolated at work
Employees in toxic work environments are more likely to be withdrawn and isolated, both in the office and outside of work.
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How can workplaces change?

Workplaces aiming to make a real change should start by promoting an open culture where issues can be discussed via multiple formal and informal feedback channels.

One option is formal survey mechanisms that are anonymous, so employees can be open about their concerns and feel less intimidated by the process.

A good first step is having leaders trained to address these issues.

Traditionally, workplace interventions have focused on victims themselves, putting the onus on them to do the work and come forward. However, a healthy workplace culture should see leaders actively seeking feedback to make sure any forms of toxic masculinity are stamped out.

It’s a shared responsibility, and the onus shouldn’t be solely on employees, but leaders, too.




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Bad times call for bold measures: 3 ways to fix the appalling treatment of women in our national parliament


The Conversation


Xi Wen (Carys) Chan, Lecturer in Organisational Psychology, Griffith University and Paula Brough, Professor of Organisational Psychology, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Morrison sets up his own women’s network but will it produce the policy goods?


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraScott Morrison has brought two “lenses” to his ministerial reshuffle.

The first is the one that drove the shakeup initially: dealing with the problems presented by Christian Porter and Linda Reynolds.

The second, the “lens” on which Morrison is now primarily focused, is all about trying to manage the deep problem he and his government are facing with women’s anger and issues.

Minister for Women Marise Payne called it a “gender equality lens”.

Morrison wants to make his “women’s problems” – to the extent they can be addressed at a policy level – a whole-of-government challenge.

The situations of Porter and Reynolds have been resolved more or less as expected. Porter goes from the nation’s first law officer to minister for industry, science and technology. Reynolds has lost defence to Peter Dutton and moved to government services and the NDIS.

It’s an inevitable comedown for both, softened by remaining in cabinet. Reynolds, struggling in defence even before the Brittany Higgins maelstrom broke, should be relieved at the move, although service delivery is exacting. Porter’s current preoccupation is with clearing his name, the main objective of his defamation action against the ABC.

Morrison likes creating structures. Remember his decision to set up the national cabinet, and then make it permanent. In his reshuffle, he’s used a combination of promotions and new machinery to send his message about the importance he now places on women’s issues, and to boost the government’s policy clout in relation to them.

When it comes to promotions and extra responsibilities, it’s a case of almost every woman (leaving aside Reynolds) getting a prize, with some being significant winners.

Michaelia Cash becomes Australia’s second female attorney-general (after Labor’s Nicola Roxon). She also assumes the other part of Porter’s old empire – industrial relations.

Karen Andrews, who’s been outspoken during the government’s present crisis, moves to the key national security area of home affairs.

Melissa Price stays in defence industry but returns to cabinet, taking the number of women there back to seven.

Anne Ruston is elevated into the leadership group, and has minister for women’s safety (which she already deals with) added to the title of her families and social services portfolio.

The full proposed Morrison ministry can be found here.

Further down the totem pole, Jane Hume and Amanda Stoker have additional, women-related, responsibilities buttoned onto existing jobs. Hume takes on women’s economic security, while Stoker becomes assistant minister for women, and assistant minister for industrial relations.

In his structural change, Morrison has erected an edifice that simultaneously boosts and dilutes the role of Payne, who has been widely criticises for under-performing in recent weeks.

He and Payne will co-chair a new “cabinet taskforce” that will include all the women in the ministry.

It is to “to drive my government’s agenda and response to these key issues involving women’s equality, women’s safety, women’s economic security, women’s health and well-being”.

Also on this group will be Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, and Finance Minister Simon Birmingham.

Payne would be “effectively amongst her female colleagues, the ‘prime Minister for Women’, holding the prime, ministerial responsibilities in this area as the Minister for Women,” Morrison enthused, a description even he quickly thought he should amend to “the primary Minister for Women […] just to ensure that no one gets too carried away with puns”.

“It is her job to bring together this great talent and experience across not just the female members of my cabinet team and the outer ministry and executive, but to draw also in the important contributions, especially in areas such as health and services and aged care and other key important roles that go so much to women’s well-being in this country,” Morrison said.

The taskforce will both work up ideas and apply the “equality lens” to other policies coming up through government.

Whether this super-coordinating role will end up augmenting the power of Payne as minister for women, or watering it down, will only become clear over time.

What’s clear now is that the government needs louder, more active female ministerial voices speaking out on issues and promoting the government’s case.

While there was a good argument for moving Payne from the women’s portfolio, including her heavy load as foreign minister, Morrison chose to leave her there.

This is typical Morrison – not wanting to give ground to critics, and also staying loyal.

But surely he has told her she will have to step out more in the media – unless all the other women are supposed to fill the gap she’s left in the public discourse. By giving women’s issues formal stakes in so many portfolios, Morrison has also provided these ministers with licences to speak.

The real test of the effectiveness of this reshuffle on the women’s front will be policy outcomes – immediately, in next month’s budget, and then post budget and in the policies the government takes to the election.

The reshuffle, however, doesn’t relieve the immediate pressures on Morrison, who will continue to be hammered over condoning disgraced Queensland Liberal Andrew Laming remaining in the parliamentary party while welcoming his intention not to seek preselection again.

With a knife edge majority, Morrison doesn’t want to lose a parliamentary number to the crossbench, so he’ll defend the indefensible. For his part Laming, on health leave and supposed to be concentrating on the counselling he’s undertaking to gain “empathy”, was on radio on Monday defending his actions.

He insisted the photo he’d taken showing a woman’s underwear was
“completely dignified” – a working woman “kneeling in an awkward position, and filling a fridge with an impossible amount of stock, which clearly wasn’t going to fit in the fridge”.

As his fellow Coalition MPs will tell you, Laming’s a very strange cat.

Meanwhile the allegations keep coming.

Victorian Nationals MP Anne Webster has complained about the behaviour of a Coalition colleague towards her in the chamber just last week. The incident wasn’t serious (compared with everything else going on), and the man apologised.

Interviewed on the ABC, Webster said, “When I told my husband, he asked the question, ‘Where has he been? Under a rock?’”

Indeed. Probably with more than a few of his colleagues.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Cultural misogyny’ and why men’s aggression to women is so often expressed through sex


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Xanthe Mallett, University of NewcastleAs the country watches Scott Morrison grapple with the sex scandals rocking our federal parliament, it is worth wondering what has really changed since former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s now-famous 2012 “misogyny” speech.

The power of that speech is undeniable, and it resonates loudly today.

Gillard spoke to the imbalance of power between men and women and the under-representation of women in positions of authority. Her speech raised serious concerns about how some politicians saw women’s roles in contemporary Australia.

Fast forward to yesterday, and Scott Morrison attempted to address the most recent shocking allegations of lewd behaviour by some coalition staff – the allegation being a group of government staffers had shared images and videos of themselves undertaking lewd acts in Parliament House, including in the office of a female federal MP.

These stories raise the question as to why some men participate in sexually denigrating women – both those in authority as well as those in positions of submission in hierarchical organisations. And why is male aggression towards women so often expressed through sex rather than through other means?

As a criminologist, I interpret men’s sexually aggressive behaviour – whether it is desecrating a women’s desk by videoing himself masturbating on it, or a sexual assault – as an activity born of a need for power and control.

When some men feel challenged, or want to dominate someone to fulfil an innate internal inadequacy, they can feel the need to do so sexually. Often, the subjects of their rage about feelings of inadequacy are women.

From lewd comments, to being groped, through to sexual assault, the attacks on women in the workplace continue.

Research suggests heterosexual men who are more socially dominant are also more likely to sexually objectify women. When these men are placed in positions of submission to women at work and their dominance is challenged, the levels of sexual objectification of women go up. This supports the assertion that some men increase their dominance by sexually objectifying women, and this objectification can become physical.

This conversation around how we address this has been building for some time.




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In 2017, the #MeToo movement went viral, as women started to share their negative sexual experiences via social media. The discussion initially focused on women being sexually harassed by their bosses in the media and entertainment industry, but it soon became obvious the problem was much wider than that. It permeates every industry in every country.

Sexual harassment and assault are more common than many people might believe, or want to believe. A 2018 study surveyed 2,000 people in the US. It found 81% of women and 43% of men had suffered some form of sexual harassment or assault. Further, 38% of the women surveyed said they have suffered from sexual harassment in the workplace.

The picture is mirrored in Australia. A 2018 Australian Human Rights Commission report found 23% of women said they had been sexually harassed at work in the previous 12 months.

In 2021, we are still having the same debate.

One big question is where these bad male behaviours originate from?

Social Learning Theory might help us to understand what is going on in relation to some men’s need for sexual domination of women. It is based in the premise that individuals develop notions of gender and the associated behaviours by watching others and mimicking them. This learning is then reinforced vicariously through the experiences of others.

Combine this learnt behaviour with cognitive development theory, which suggests gender-related behaviour is an adoption of a gender identity through an intellectual process, and we can see how misogynistic behaviours can be identified, remembered, and mimicked by subsequent generations of males.

This could be termed “cultural misogyny”.

How do we change the dynamic?

The only way to shift the framing around appropriate behaviour in the workplace, and society more generally, is to continue to break down gender stereotypes. Women need to be elevated to positions of power to reduce male domination in all aspects of life. We must challenge the undermining of women’s and girl’s autonomy and value when boys exhibit it, to break the chain of passing on these negative attitudes.




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We are only now beginning to the hear the breadth of stories from women speaking out about their own negative experiences.

As a woman in academia – a very hierarchical structure – I have been sexually harassed, and I just accepted it as part of my working world. My experience was with a very senior member of a previous university, and I would never have considered challenging him or reporting it, as I was very well aware of the power he had over me and my career. I even considered changing organisations to avoid the unwanted behaviours.

The brave women who are now speaking up have changed the way I view my own experience. The more we raise our voices, support each other and encourage change in the attitudes around us, the more we will all benefit.The Conversation

Xanthe Mallett, Forensic Criminologist, University of Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Memo Liberal women: if you really want to confront misogyny in your party, you need to fix the policies


Michelle Arrow, Macquarie UniversityOne group of women was strikingly absent from the March4Justice rallies last week: Coalition MPs. Admittedly, there are not many of them (only 23% of Liberal lower house MPs, and 12% of National lower house MPs, are female), but the refusal of the minister for women to attend the demonstration was a remarkable abrogation of responsibility.

One female Liberal MP, Tasmanian Bridget Archer, attended the demonstration, assuming – wrongly – it would receive bipartisan support. Like many who marched, she was motivated to attend by what she described as “a deep-seated rage”.

Women across Australia have expressed similar feelings: March4Justice events held across the country attested to a resurgent feminist anger. This rage has been sparked by overwhelming evidence of a misogynist culture that ignores and downplays sexual assault and enables perpetrators to escape justice.

Very few of the LNP’s female ministers spoke out against their party’s culture of toxic masculinity in the wake of the news about Brittany Higgins’ alleged rape. Like most players in this awful story, most seemed focused on establishing their lack of knowledge of the incident after it allegedly took place.

How extraordinary, then, were the events of Monday evening. Reports broke that male Liberal staffers had exchanged videos featuring themselves engaging in sex acts in Parliament House. In particular, the revelation that one male staffer had filmed himself masturbating on a female MP’s desk seems to have finally prompted some reticent female MPs to comment. Liberal MP Katie Allen declared on Twitter:

Nationals MP Michelle Landry told reporters she was “absolutely horrified” by the story, but added: “The young fellow concerned was a really good worker and he loved the place. I feel bad for him about this.”

That these reports of lewd behaviour in Parliament House are now drawing the comment of otherwise silent female Liberal and Nationals MPs is telling. If these MPs were serious about confronting a misogynist culture in their party, they would have to deal with the impact of the Coalition’s policies on women.

A Liberal male staffer masturbating on a female MP’s desk is merely a symptom of something very wrong in the party’s attitudes to women, not the sum total of it.

Let’s start with JobSeeker. Women form the majority of 2 million JobSeeker recipients affected by the federal government’s decision to replace the $75-a-week Coronavirus Supplement with a $25-a-week permanent increase in JobSeeker. The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) warned that rolling back the supplement would have a “devastating” impact on women. The government did it anyway.




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COVID-19 is a disaster for mothers’ employment. And no, working from home is not the solution


The government consistently failed to recognise the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women. During the COVID lockdowns, women lost their jobs at a faster rate than men and were offered fewer supports. They also shouldered far more of the unpaid care work associated with childcare and home schooling.

Yet government ministers failed to consult the Office for Women on the big policy responses to the pandemic, including JobKeeper and JobSeeker. Free childcare was the first policy to be wound back in the pandemic “snapback” last year.

Childcare was the first support to be rolled back during the COVID pandemic.
Dean Lewins/AAP

The mismanagement and neglect in aged care is a feminist issue. Two out of three residents in aged care are women. Almost 90% of the aged care workforce is female.

The recent Royal Commission into Aged Care called for much stricter regulation and improvements to workforce conditions. Yet, given the government has consistently rejected calls for greater regulation of the sector, the future looks bleak for those who live and work in residential aged care.

Women also bore the brunt of the massive fee hikes to university courses that formed the centrepiece of the government’s Job-Ready Graduates Package in 2020. The steepest fee increases (up to 113% in some cases) were for humanities and social sciences courses: in 2018, women comprised two-thirds of enrolments in these subjects.




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On domestic and family violence, the government has reduced supports for survivors, who are overwhelmingly women. The telephone counselling service 1800 RESPECT, previously managed by Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, was outsourced to a private health insurer in 2017. There was a corresponding decline in the quality of service offered to those in need.

The government’s recent merger of the Family and Federal Courts reduces the resources available to women and their children for settling complex family law matters. The government was even considering allowing domestic violence survivors to access their superannuation early – effectively funding their own meagre safety nets – to escape violent relationships, an idea it has since abandoned.

Of course, the ALP is not immune from making policies that harm women. On the day Julia Gillard delivered her famous misogyny speech in parliament in 2012, the Labor government also legislated to move thousands of women from a parenting payment to the lower Newstart payment.

But the far wider breadth and depth of successive LNP governments’ attacks on women through policy are, frankly, breathtaking.

Feminism, LNP-style: Julie Bishop’s red shoes.
AAP/Mick Tsikas

LNP women’s attitude to feminism might be best summed up by Julie Bishop’s sparkly red shoes. She wore them on the day she resigned as foreign minister, her leadership aspirations defeated by men in her own party, whom she only now identifies as the “big swinging dicks”. The shoes today sit on display in Old Parliament House.

Bishop’s brand of glamorous, individualistic one-woman celebration took her all the way to cabinet. Until, that is, it couldn’t take her any further. A “feminism” premised on a single white woman’s empowerment, rather than a movement that works to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all women, is not up to the demands of the present moment.

All the quotas in the world won’t change the culture of the government if none of the women who are elected are prepared to stand up for women’s rights.


Correction: this article originally said “only 23% of the government’s MPs are female”. It has been changed to “only 23% of Liberal lower house MPs, and 12% of National lower house MPs, are female”.The Conversation

Michelle Arrow, Professor of History, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Scott Morrison opens door to Liberal quotas, but don’t hold your breath


Michelle Grattan, University of CanberraOne potentially solid proposal came out of Scott Morrison’s extraordinary news conference, held on Tuesday morning against the backdrop of the fresh revelations about appalling behaviour in Parliament House.

Morrison said he was open to a conversation about having Liberal Party parliamentary quotas for women, and had been “for some time”, as his colleagues knew.

“I have had some frustrations about trying to get women preselected and running for the Liberal Party to come into this place,” he said.

“I have had those frustrations for many years going back to the times when I was a state director where I actively sought to recruit female candidates, whether it was for state or federal parliament.”

At present women form just over a quarter of the federal parliamentary Liberal Party (including both houses); in Labor, they are a little under half of caucus.

If Morrison is serious about quotas, he should immediately take action to have the Liberal Party, and its state divisions, advance the proposal.

It will also be up to women in the party who support quotas to seize the moment, while the PM is desperately searching for initiatives.

But even if this important debate takes off, it won’t be an easy one within the party, which has stood firmly against quotas, vociferously rejecting Labor’s embrace of them.

One well-placed source says there’s a growing minority in the party for quotas but there would still be a larger proportion against, including opposition from some of the female MPs.

Quotas also go against the democratisation push in the party. And they would take a long time to make a substantial difference to the ratio of men and women.

Tuesday’s news conference put on display the different faces of Morrison.

In part, his performance was a mea culpa and explanation for what critics attacked as his mishandling of the debate over the past weeks, notably when he recounted his wife’s advice, and he contrasted Australia’s peaceful women’s protest with the shooting of demonstrators in Myanmar.

In part and more broadly, he was trying to relate to women, to say he had heard their messages, understood their pain.

“I acknowledge that many have not liked or appreciated some of my own personal responses to this over the course of the last month, and I accept that,” he said.

“People mightn’t like the fact that I discuss these [traumatic events] with my family. They are the closest people in my world to me. That is how I deal with things, I always have.

“No offence was intended by me saying that I discuss these issues with my wife. […] that is in no way an indication that these events had not already dramatically affected me.

“Equally, I accept that many were unhappy with the language that I used on the day of the protests. No offence was intended by that either. I could have chosen different words.”

He acknowledged “many Australians, especially women, believe that I have not heard them” and said “that greatly distresses me.”

He had “been doing a lot of listening over this past month”, which was “not for the first time”. He listed what he’d heard, ranging from women clutching their keys as weapons as they walked, to being talked over in boardrooms, staff rooms and even cabinets. There was much else that was “not OK”.

Morrison was at times highly emotional – as he was also in the joint parties meeting, where the official briefing noted he’d found it difficult to get out his first words in an address canvassing the recent times.

But amid his strong pitch at projecting empathy during his news conference, suddenly attack-dog Morrison broke the leash.

Sky News’ Andrew Clennell had asked, “if you’re the boss at a business and there had been an alleged rape on your watch and this incident we heard about last night on your watch, your job would probably be in a bit of jeopardy, wouldn’t it? Doesn’t it look like you have lost control of your ministerial staff?”

Instead of batting the question away – a tactic he’s adroit at – Morrison let fly.

This exchange followed.

PM: I will let you editorialise as you like, Andrew, but if anyone in this room wants to offer up the standards in their own workplaces by comparison I would invite you to do so.

Clennell: Well, they’re better than these I would suggest, Prime Minister.

PM: Let me take you up on that, let me take you up on that. Right now, you would be aware that in your own organisation that there is a person who has had a complaint made against them for harassment of a woman in a women’s toilet and that matter is being pursued by your own HR department.

This outburst was a bad misjudgment.

It wrongly implied the matter involved Sky News – Morrison had got his facts wrong about its nature. News Corp later put out a statement saying it was an exchange “about a workplace-related issue, it was not of a sexual nature, it did not take place in a toilet and neither person made a complaint”. The matter had now been resolved.


News Corp Australasia

Morrison had distracted from, and undermined, the whole message he was trying to get through – that he understands and is focused on the problems women endure and on finding solutions.

One notable characteristic of Morrison is how his mood can turn on a dime. That reinforces the unsettling feeling one has of never being sure whether, on any particular day, we’re seeing the real deal, or the practised political actor.

UPDATE

Late Tuesday night Morrison issued a statement of apology via Facebook.

His statement said in part: “In the course of today’s media conference when responding to further questions I deeply regret my insensitive response to a question from a News Ltd journalist by making an anonymous reference to an incident at News Ltd that has been rejected by the company. I accept their account. I was wrong to raise it, the emotion of the moment is no excuse.

“I especially wish to apologise to the individual at the centre of the incident and others directly impacted. I had no right to raise this issue and especially without their permission.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

US massage parlour shootings should ring alarm bells in Australia: the same racist sexism exists here


Damian Dovarganes/AP

Tegan Larin, Monash UniversityThe recent US shootings at massage businesses in Atlanta should ring alarm bells in Australia. Eight people were killed in the attacks, including four Korean women and two Chinese women.

US authorities are still trying to determine the exact motive behind the attack by a 21-year-old white man, who is a suspected sex buyer.

But some feminist groups, such as Asian Women for Equality, immediately identified misogynist racism as a key element behind this sort of violence. As one member of the group, Suzanne Jay, said,

Men are being trained by the prostitution industry. They’re being encouraged and allowed to orgasm to inequality. This has an impact on Asian women who have to deal with these men.

The global sex trade, feminists have argued,

increasingly contributes to the dehumanisation of all Asian women.

Indeed, it has been reported that the Atlanta shooting suspect explained the attacks were a form of vengeance to eliminate the “temptation” for his “sexual addiction”.

How Australia’s massage businesses operate

Like the US, Australia’s “massage parlours” are associated with the prostitution of Asian women. These venues, outwardly presenting as massage businesses but offering illicit sexual services, make up the majority of brothels in the city I study, Melbourne.

Australia’s commercial sex industry is regulated at the state and territory level, resulting in a patchwork of differing models.

In Victoria, massage parlours are estimated to outnumber legal brothels five-fold. My research on Melbourne’s massage parlours supports this estimate.




Read more:
Will Victoria be the first place in the world to fully decriminalise sex work?


Despite the main purpose of Victoria’s Sex Work Act to “control sex work”, the majority of Victoria’s brothels get around the legislative requirements and controls by operating under the guise of legitimate massage businesses.

Massage businesses are usually considered a general retail premises in most council areas, which do not require a planning permit or registration.

Australia’s sex industry is also heavily reliant on a culture of sexualised racism.

An analysis of online massage parlour advertising conducted as part of my research shows ads commonly feature images of Asian women in suggestive poses. The wording highlights race or ethnicity, with such phrases as “young and beautiful trained girls from Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, China and Malaysia”.




Read more:
New report shows compelling reasons to decriminalise sex work


In addition to ads, my research also examined online sex buyer review forums. These typically encourage men to include descriptions of “ethnicity, appearance, breast size”, ratings of the women’s body parts and the “services” received.

These sex buyer reviews not only demean and denigrate women, they also promote the sexualised and racist stereotypes that pervade the industry.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a recent study of sex buyer reviews of Australia’s legal brothels found

that sex buyers actively construct and normalise narratives of sexual violation and violence against women.

The effects of sexualised racism in prostitution

This blatant racism, misogyny and male sexual entitlement is not confined to massage parlour owners or their customers. It’s also embedded in Victoria’s Sex Work Regulations.

The updated regulations now allow advertising to reference “race, colour or ethnic origin of the person offering sexual services”. This means that Victoria’s sex industry legally promotes women from minorities as an eroticised “other”.




Read more:
US has a long history of violence against Asian women


This normalisation of sexualised racism promoted by the sex trade in Australia may have wider effects.

A Korean-Canadian doctor, Alice Han, for example, recounted to the ABC being asked twice in a span of 12 hours in regional New South Wales whether she was a sex worker.

She said this exemplifies “a pattern of demeaning stereotyping and racial profiling” of Asian women in Australia, and the association of Asian women with prostitution more broadly.

Australia’s sex industry also relies on the migration and trafficking of Asian women for its survival.

Indeed, Australia’s sex industry is rife with modern slavery for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Cases have been found in both legal and illegal brothels, signalling the wholesale failure of prostitution legislation in this country.

This raises questions about the model of total decriminalisation being proposed in Victoria. This model seeks to decriminalise not only those exploited in prostitution but those who profit from them, such as pimps, brothel owners and sex buyers.

The best path forward

Australia is increasingly behind the rest of the world when it comes to approaching prostitution from a gender equality perspective.

Indeed, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) has consistently reprimanded Australia for not meeting its requirements to reduce the demand for prostitution.

In order to address the mix of racism, misogyny and men’s sexual entitlement that prostitution is founded on, Australia must adopt a new national framework. The Nordic or “Equality” model offers one path forward — it decriminalises those working in prostitution, but not those who exploit them.

A ‘stop Asian hate’ rally outside the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta.
Ben Gray/AP

This model, which has garnered support from survivors of prostitution and anti-trafficking organisations around the world, includes robust social services to support those in the sex trade and assist them into transitioning to other industries.

We know prostitution relies on the abuse of the world’s most marginalised women and girls in order to function. It is predominantly Asian and migrant women who suffer on the front lines of Australia’s sex trade.

While the national conversation confronting society’s acceptance of sexual violence is well overdue, we cannot ignore the sexism, misogyny and racism bound up in Australia’s sex trade.The Conversation

Tegan Larin, PhD Candidate Monash University XYX Lab, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Morrison’s ratings take a hit in Newspoll as Coalition notionally loses a seat in redistribution


AAP/James Gourley

Adrian Beaumont, The University of MelbourneThis week’s Newspoll, conducted March 24-27 from a sample of 1,517, gave Labor a 52-48 two party lead, unchanged from last fortnight’s Newspoll. Primary votes were 40% Coalition (up one), 38% Labor (down one), 11% Greens (up one) and 2% One Nation (down one).

While voting intentions moved slightly towards the Coalition, Scott Morrison’s ratings fell to their lowest point since the COVID crisis began. 55% were satisfied with his performance (down seven) and 40% were dissatisfied (up six), for a net approval of +15, down 13 points.

Anthony Albanese’s net approval was up one point to +2, and Morrison led as better PM by 52-32 (56-30 last fortnight). Figures are from The Poll Bludger.

The last Newspoll was taken during the final few days of the WA election campaign. It’s plausible, given Morrison’s ratings slump without any impact on voting intentions, that Labor’s federal WA vote in the last Newspoll was inflated by the state election.

While Morrison’s ratings are his worst since the pandemic began, they are still strong by historical standards. So far, Morrison has only lost people who were likely to switch to disapproving at the first major scandal. Voting intentions imply that many who approved of Morrison were not voting Coalition anyway.

This poll would not have reflected the latest scandals about LNP Bowman MP Andrew Laming, who was revealed on Saturday night to have taken an upskirting picture in 2019. But are sexual misbehaviour scandals getting as much voter opprobrium as they used to?

In last fortnight’s article I cited two recent US examples of alleged sexual misconduct. Donald Trump was elected president in November 2016 despite the release of the Access Hollywood tape a month earlier. And New York’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, is still in office despite multiple sexual harassment allegations against his female employees.

According to Morning Consult polling of New York state, Cuomo’s ratings have stabilised recently after a large drop, and he still has a +10 net approval. That’s because he has a 75% approval rating from Democratic voters.

In the FiveThirtyEight aggregate of 2016 US national polls, Hillary Clinton gained only about a point in the week after the October 7 Access Hollywood tape was released, to have a six-point lead, up from five. Trump won that election in the Electoral College despite losing the national popular vote by 2.1%.

Draft federal redistributions for Victoria and WA

As a result of population growth trends, Victoria will gain an additional House of Representatives seat before the next election, while WA loses one. On March 19, the Electoral Commission published draft boundaries for both states.

In WA, the Liberal seat of Stirling was axed, while in Victoria the seat of Hawke was created in Melbourne’s northwestern growth area. The Poll Bludger estimated Hawke will have a Labor margin of 9.8%.

There are no major knock-on effects that would shift any other seat into another party’s column based on 2019 election results. So the impact is Labor gaining a Victorian seat as the Coalition loses a WA seat. Christian Porter’s margin in Pearce has been reduced slightly from 6.7% to 5.5%.

Ignoring the defection of Craig Kelly from the Liberals, the Coalition will start the next federal election with a notional 76 of the 151 seats, down one from the 2019 results. Labor will notionally have 69 seats, up one.

Early Tasmanian election announced for May 1

On March 26, Tasmanian Liberal Premier Peter Gutwein announced the Tasmanian election would be held on May 1, about ten months before the four-year anniversary of the March 2018 election.

The Liberals expect to capitalise on a COVID boost that could fade if the election were held as expected in early 2022. The last Tasmanian poll, conducted by EMRS in February, gave the Liberals 52%, Labor 27% and the Greens 14%. Tasmania uses the Hare-Clark method of proportional representation with five electorates that each return five members.

WA election final lower house results

At the March 13 Western Australian election, Labor won 53 of the 59 lower house seats, gaining 12 seats from what was already a thumping victory in 2017. The Liberals won just two seats (down 11) and the Nationals four (down one). Labor will have almost 90% of lower house seats.

Primary votes were 59.9% Labor (up 17.7% since 2017), 21.3% Liberals (down 9.9%), 4.0% Nationals (down 1.4%), 6.9% Greens (down 2.0%) and just 1.3% One Nation (down 3.7%).

Labor’s primary vote was higher than the 59.0% the combined Nationals and Liberals won at the 1974 Queensland election. The 1941 Tasmanian election, when Labor won 62.6%, is likely the only prior occasion in Australia of a single party winning a higher vote share than WA Labor.

The Poll Bludger estimates the two party vote as 69.2-30.8 to Labor, a 13.7% swing since 2017. The upper house has yet to be finalised, but Labor will win at least 22 of the 36 seats.

Israeli, UK local, German and Dutch elections

I wrote for The Poll Bludger on March 21 about the March 23 Israeli election and the May 6 UK local elections that also include Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections. Israel’s right-wing PM Benjamin Netanyahu failed to win a majority for a right coalition, with that coalition winning 59 of the 120 Knesset seats. UK Labour is struggling in the polls.

I wrote for my personal website on March 19 about two German state elections that the combined left parties nearly won outright. The German federal election is expected on September 26, and the incumbent conservative CDU has slumped from its COVID heights, so the combined left could win the next German election. However, the left performed dismally at the March 17 Dutch election.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, The University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.