Canberra was putting on a show for us when we arrived – still, sunny and from Redhill you couldn’t see the city for all the lovely bush that covers it. My uncle gave D. and I the grand tour and it was real, actual nerdy fun. We heard the carillion being played. We walked the new RG Menzies walk (or “Argy Menzies” as I prefer to think of him). We even went to Parliament House and admired its ’80s beauty – all the place needs is a bit more wacked-out Memphis furniture and it could be in a Aldomovar film.
But the next day, the “national day of action” for protesting proposed changes to legislation that would make employing an independent midwife to have your baby at home functionally illegal – well, the weather sucked. It pelted, was grey and freezing. We couldn’t see a damn thing through all the umbrellas, and could hear bugger all. I’m not great with crowds so stuck to the edges but D. went around and found friends she knew. Many midwives could not attend because they were busy with births. There were flight cancellations due to bad weather, so many women couldn’t make it. There were some so pregnant I wondered if we might have a demonstration of birthing on the spot (!) and the crowd felt earnest and Confest-y. I didn’t look like most, being conservatively dressed with a sensible hat.
I hated the terrible music and the chai and the homemade signs. I wanted it to be less fringe-y, more focussed. The maternity coalition hadn’t organised anything very galvanising to occur other than to gather. No booked speakers, or professional music, or even coordinated action. This disappointed me, and I feel ungenerous for feeling that way – I’ve wondered if women demonstrate differently to men, more in the mode of passive resistance rather than the “punchy” demos (not literally) I’ve been on regarding changes to student unionism, East Timor etc. Does it really mean it’s less effective? Would the GetUp style of campaigning, Twitter, all the web 2.0 stuff – does that make more of a difference? Strategic lobbying with pollies in marginal seats?
From reading comments online this week I now feel pretty depressed about this issue. It seems to bring out the worst in people, like any discussion of abortion – people feel their positions so passionately they attack their opponents with real force and can’t find shared ground. Snark and imperiousness abound.