Polly writes about education, feminism, and parenting for a variety of media outlets. Below is a selection of her latest published writing.

10 Daily

11 October 2019

In case you missed last night's cringe-inducing episode of 'The Bachelorette,' Noosa councillor Jess Glasgow went for the trifecta of everyday sexist behaviours: gaslighting by “joking” and having “harmless fun”, saying disgusting things, and outright sexual harassment.

And let's not forget Married at First Sight contestant Mike Gunner's behaviour earlier this year, who went on gaslighting and spouting sexist bollocks (“groups of women under pressure don’t cope as well as groups of men under pressure”, it’s their "biology”) virtually unchecked ...

Image: Mack Fox

Sydney Morning Herald

25 September 2019

Spring has arrived, and with it the inevitable stream “get your bikini body” ads all over my social media feeds. But these programs, which often mischievously claim to be about “health”, do nothing but perpetuate damaging ideas about bodies and about women.

They are designed to make women feel worse about themselves (to help prop up the diet industry, which is is worth almost $313 Billion globally) and they tell us that what we look like in a bikini is integral to our value. Both of these messages have zero to do with our wellbeing ...

Image: Kristaps Grundsteins

Women's Agenda

13 September 2019

Last month, the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute released a report into the outcomes for Indigenous families following domestic violence, which found that the woeful support for DV survivors has led to Aboriginal women being forced to choose between remaining in a dangerous situation or risk having their children removed if they are unable to find secure accommodation.

That’s right, women who have survived a violent partner and managed to leave are then punished by having their children taken from them. And let’s not forget that Aboriginal women and girls are up to 35 times more likely to experience family violence ...

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10 Daily

11 September 2019

 

 

Look, I dig the sentiment, and I love Hasbro funding young female inventors to celebrate the announcement of the game. But switching it up so that men earn 17 percent less than women in the game isn’t going to do what I assume they are trying to, which is to highlight the gender pay gap and the achievements of women.

And there’s a really obvious reason why is doesn't work: blokes won’t play ...

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The Sydney Morning Herald

1 August 2019

Like everyone else, I was eye-rollingly unsurprised when the latest Household Income and Labour Dynamics Australia Survey (HILDA) , released on Tuesday, showed that even when a woman is the primary breadwinner she is still also doing most of the housework and childcare. Knock me over with a feather.

The latest data reveals that the average female breadwinner does five more hours of housework (24.1 hours versus 19.1) and about eight more hours of childcare (19.3 versus 11.2) than her male partner. In fact, female breadwinners work the most hours (combining paid and unpaid work) of any group surveyed ...

Image: Kelly Sikkema

The Sydney Morning Herald

18 July 2019

Earlier this week, a Facebook group with tens of thousands of members which connects parents with carers for their children had yet another post offering less than minimum wage for nannying work. For an ongoing role looking after a toddler, the successful applicant was offered $16 per hour.

For reference, the national minimum wage is $19.49 for permanent employees and $24.36 for casuals (using the minimum 25 per cent casual loading) ...

Image: Dakota Corbin

The Sydney Morning Herald

15 June 2019

We force our young people through high-stakes examinations and publish league tables of their results in the newspaper (as if it’s anyone’s business but their own). Just last month, a leading psychologist warned of the correlation between the Victorian Certificate of Education and mental illness.

Ours is a culture of high pressure and public “accountability”. And it’s affecting our kids and the adults who interact with them every day – their teachers and parents ...

Image: Paola Chaaya

When I say I don't want a third child, believe me I mean it, here's why

The Sydney Morning Herald

4 June 2019

Why is it that when I immediately and emphatically respond “No (expletive) way” to the question of whether I will be having a third child, so many see fit to dismiss my answer and to tell me that I will "definitely" change my mind?

This exchange, or variations of it, happens to me frequently. It also happens to my husband (whose response is similarly immediate, emphatic, and negative).

And we both find that, while most of the women who ask are accepting ...

Image: Jordan Rowland

'Will we ever sleep again?' Life in that new-parent fog

The Sydney Morning Herald

24 May 2019

“Will we ever sleep again? What have we done wrong?”

These are the questions infant and child sleep consultant Chantal Cohen hears regularly from exhausted parents.

Sleep deprivation is a universal experience for new parents. Anyone who has been active in tending to the needs of a newborn will recognise the all-consuming fog that seems to tinge your every waking moment (and there are so many waking moments) ...

Image: Toa Heftiba

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A stay at home mother is not a

housekeeper

The Sydney Morning Herald

14 February 2019

While it strokes our ego to tell us how valuable, acknowledged, and appreciated we are, it’s also a neat little way of keeping mums working harder than we should for little tangible benefit. And it is a terrible example for our children; acknowledgement and appreciation (but mind you, no status), are not adequate compensation for doing far more than your fair share.

What we expect of stay-at-home-mums is often ridiculous and, in fact, exploitative. Many seem to believe ...

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Parenting is different to teaching - and children need both

The Sydney Morning Herald

8 October 2018

As a parent of a toddler, I see every day the benefits of early childhood education and care. I watch my son develop social skills and a sense of independence, the beginnings of literacy and numeracy and most importantly, his curiosity about the world and fascination at all the things there are to learn in it.

I am not arrogant enough to take all the credit for this. Of course, we teach him about the world and share his curiosity for ...

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Hey therapists, don't tell exhausted new mothers to "just do it"

Sydney Morning Herald

25 September 2018

I am exhausted. Like many mums, since the birth of my second baby six months ago I have been barely managing to juggle the demands of a colicky infant, a rambunctious toddler, paid work, study, and running a household. I am stressed out and totally depleted.

Last week, shortly after I read this article I was having coffee with a girlfriend who is in a similar situation. Except she is also experiencing postnatal depression and anxiety. She has been seeing a therapist ...

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What we get wrong about 'baby brain'

Sydney Morning Herald

3 September 2018

I hate the term "baby brain". Throughout both my pregnancies, any time I would make a mistake or struggle to focus, some smug numpty would patronisingly say, "That’s baby brain for you!"

Now, as a parent of two, my "baby brain" (or "mum brain") is routinely blamed when I lock myself out of the house or can’t make a simple calculation. It’s used to suggest that, because I have reproduced, my ability to perform is compromised ...

Image: Suyheon Choi

Orange is the New Black star documents her complicated birth

The Age

15 August 2018

I am so freaking glad women are sharing stories about their real lives. Our real messy, dirty, complicated, traumatic, joyful, broken, despairing, and hopeful experiences. The explosion of the #metoo movement, Netflix specials like Ali Wong’s Baby Cobra and Hard Knock Wife, and Hannah Gadsby’s searing Nanette; it is all refreshingly honest. It is raw, and it is roaring.

On Monday, Yael Stone from Orange is the New Black shared the story ...

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 No, teachers and schools aren't failing

The Sydney Morning Herald

23 July 2018

On Thursday I read yet another article about why Australia’s schools are supposedly “failing”.

In it, Cynthia Fenton argued that all schools should be more like academically selective schools. She bemoaned the lowering of “standards” at comprehensive schools and argued that parents and teachers are to blame, even suggesting that teachers at non-selective public schools are not experienced, committed or academically capable enough. She also argued that we must focus more (that’s right, more!) on marks and grades because that’s what gets students into university. What tosh.

© 2019 by Polly Dunning