But simply stating an event is inclusive does not automatically make it so. The phrase ‘pussy power’ promotes the idea that having a vagina is synonymous with being a woman. This is problematic on two levels: it excludes those women who do not have a vagina from the category of women; it also erases the gender identity of trans men and non-binary people who have vaginas by insisting that they are women. This is cis-sexism. Apart from the important reality that associating vaginas with womanhood can trigger dysphoria for some trans people, trans women, like other trans people, face the constant negation of their gender identities.
There is distance in experience, we as observers and Others as victims, and with that comes the distance in our ability to understand their pain. For that reason it seems rather voyeuristic for the well-meaning masses to co-opt the private tragedy of Aylan Kurdi’s death and transform it into a moment of public grief. This is not our struggle. Aylan was not our child. He did not die in order for us to have an emotional and political experience. Yet that is exactly what is happening.
During a visit to Wellington by John Howard in 2003, two antiwar protesters – teacher Paul Hopkinson and Overland’s own Dougal McNeill – burned a New Zealand and an Australian flag in protest. The case ended up in court as it was a crime at the time to destroy or damage the New Zealand flag ‘with the intention of dishonouring it’, and Hopkinson was sentenced to pay a fine of more than $700. The conviction was overturned a year later in the High Court, leading subsequent flag-burners to being charged with disorderly conduct instead of the more contentious crime of desecration.
It’s easy to become despondent about the ‘worst humanitarian crisis of our time’. You become numb to the brutality, to the various daily atrocities, to the enormous figures dead, internally displaced or made into refugees. And that’s just in Syria. In Yemen, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan, the trauma of millions continues, unrelenting, day in and day out. It often feels like some kind of Kafkaesque dream: our own government seemingly gleeful in constructing and reinforcing a twisted narrative of ‘death cults’ and ‘unlawful entry, championing the use of hard power as a way to bring peace and stability to countries in turmoil.
Cartoon winner, Fair Australia Prize.