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Editors --- "'Sit down Girlie': Girlie gives working girls" [2002] AltLawJl 13; (2002) 27(1) Alternative Law Journal 42

Girlie Gives Working Girls a Go


The topic of workplace bullying has been receiving attention in the media. Many government departments and industries are becoming more aware of the problem and are attempting to tackle it through anti-bullying policies and codes of practice. Guess which profession is reported as having the highest level of bullying-none other than our own beloved law profession. A survey by TMP Worldwide released in January 2002 indicated that in Australia employees of law firms report by far the highest level of bullying. The TMP Worldwide Survey asked 5000 Australian employees if they had experienced bullying in the workplace. Thirty three percent of employees in law firms considered their bosses and superiors bullied them and their co-workers. The public service scored the second highest rate.

The Vice President of Victoria's Law Institute David Farran responded to the survey on ABC radio (9/1/2002) with surprise, saying he had not known about this and complaints have not been made to the Law Institute. He acknowledged that working in the legal industry is a high-pressure occupation and agreed the issue needs to be tackled. Glenda Beecher of Women Lawyers appeared more aware of the problem and the need to respond to it. She feels sexual harassment is one form of work­ place bullying but acknowledges definitional problems have delayed the development of Codes of Practice for lawyers. Feedback from listeners indicated support workers in law firms and young women lawyers cop most of the bullying. David Farran says the Law Institute wants feedback so if you or your co-workers have been bullied let the law society in your State or Territory know about it.

Do women do it too?

The United States is such an innovative country! On 14 December 2001 The Australian reprinted an article from London's Daily Telegraph beginning: 'America's most frightening female business executives are being sent to charm school so they can learn humility and stop scarring colleagues'. The 'learn to be nice' therapy sessions organised by Bully Broads 'help' career women by teaching anti-assertiveness, encouraging them to show vulnerability, to stammer occasionally and cry at work if necessary. The therapy sessions have been initiated by 'best selling' author Jean Holland whose latest contri­ bution to feminist backlash thinking Same Game, Different Rules: How to Get Ahead Without Being a Bully Broad is to be published by McGraw Hill in September. Holland denies the classes are part of an anti-feminist backlash, says she is herself a recover­ ing bully and agrees there is a double standard that accepts men should be assertive but women are expected to be sweet and submissive. Apparently men, in particular, do not like being told off by women and their reactions to chastisements from their female bosses have affected the women's chances of further promotion. Hence back to school to learn to be de-feministic and re-feminised!

I won't obey ya by donning the Abaya

Girlie never ceases to be amazed by the hypocrisy towards women demonstrated by certain military organisations. When Lieutenant-Colonel Martha McSally became a pioneer female fighter pilot in 1993 in the US Air Force she was summoned to the Pentagon for a flag waving press conference. The 35-year-old most senior female jet fighter pilot has subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Air Force because of its policy that women defence personnel in Saudi Arabia must wear the abaya (traditional Islamic veil). Lieutenant-Colonel McSally is reported in The Age (17/1/2002) as saying, 'I cannot-

1 will not - put that thing on'. She points out that it was not the Saudis who requested that US defence women wear the abaya but Pentagon policy. She found the policy to be discriminatory and argued it convenes the Constitution. McSally has been 'counselled' and accused of disloyalty, called a stirrer and unprofessional. She is not with­ out allies, however, having many friends in the Pentagon and Laura· Bush is reported as supporting her having recently proclaimed that 'the fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women'. Following her lawsuit the US Air Force decided to stop forcing women troops to don the abaya. What a pity one brave woman had to cop so much of the proverbial before the Air Force changed its policy.

Anti-Corporate Kate

In an obituary by Zelda Quintoa (assisted by Rohan Wightman) Katherine Ewenson aka Cheese Grater Kate is de­ scribed as a feminist, an activist, artist, and musician driven by a strong sense of social justice. A talented designer she once entwined her henna'd dreadlocks with a cheese grater. She formed her first band Hysteria in 1985 and later played with Biominous, Sabcats, Agroculture, United Groove, POV and Toxic Shock. She was a passionate, hard working environmentalist and member of the Squatters union who had a delightful singing voice but shunned a traditional career in favour of political activism and was intent on improving conditions for women in a sexist industry. An anti-corporate ac­ tivist long before the term anti-globalisation was coined, Kate died aged 34 of breast cancer.

Fear at work

September 11, 2001 was always going to affect adversely human rights. In an extraordinary and opportunistic over-reaction Australia's federal government has proposed new laws that could see whistleblowers (usually public servants) who reveal politically embarrassing information jailed for up to two years. Under the Criminal Code Amendment (Espionage and Related Offences) Bill journalists and other Members of Parliament also face the prospect of up to seven year's jail if leaked information relates to security or defence. Whistleblowers Australia National President Dr Jean Lennane described the proposed laws as 'one of the steps between democracy and totalitarianism. We're moving toward a society where if you criticise the government you end up in Siberia', she said.

Damages at Last

Ten years ago a group of women, including Australians, took out a civil action suing Dow Coming because of perforated breast implants. In Australia, 2400 women will be the first in the world to receive a pay out when $38.5 million dollars will be divided among them.

Emma Ployee

Emma is a Feminist Lawyer

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