Sunday, 26 May 2013

Women of Letters recap

More Women of Letters goodness from the Regal Ballroom in Northcote! It's a quicker post than usual, but that has more to do with the limited time I have to write this post, rather than a reflection on the quality of the event. It was, as always, simply wonderful. (And FOOD! They've introduced a veggie menu and I had the pizza and it was bangin'.)

The theme today was 'A Letter to the Person Who Told Me What I Needed To Know', and Michaela McGuire was back as MC! First up was actor Saskia Post, writing to her stepmother. In beautiful, lyrical prose she spoke about the life lessons she'd learned and it painted a realistic and touching portrait of the relationship between the two of them.

Up next was comedian Kate McCartney, and her letter was addressed to Twitter, or the Twitterverse in general. This was one of the funniest letters I can remember ever hearing, but it also came directly from the heart, as Kate recounted how the connections that she made on Twitter have changed her life and have also done a lot for her sense of self-worth.

Next was singer Kate Cebrano, who couldn't be there in the flesh, but sent in a video of her reading her letter to the band that gave her a job singing for them at the age of sixteen. She's had a successful career spanning a couple of decades, so it was lovely to hear about where it had all started.

Then there was actor and Playschool sweetheart Justine Clarke and her letter was brilliant - I think it was the highlight of the day for me. She wrote to her partner, and thanked him for teaching her that romance did not necessarily mean life playing out like an MGM movie musical. The Regal Ballroom exploded with laughter when she told us about their days of early courtship. She was on a road trip with him, wondering, hoping if it would be the day they finally said 'I love you'. Her heart leapt with joy as he turned to her, somewhat hungover and exhausted, and told her quite sincerely, 'I love utes'. It only took her a second or so to realise she hadn't quite heard what she'd hoped.

Lucky last was poet Telia Nevile, and she was writing to John Hughes - more specifically, to his catalogue of films. Amazingly, music from the soundtracks played as she spoke, and those swelling anthems sounded completely badass. Despite her experience of high school not quite measuring up to the representation of high school presented in the films, the films have an irreplaceable hold on her heart.

This was all followed, as usual, by a break and a Q and A with the speakers, and then, THEN, they told us it was Marieke Hardy's birthday and we all sung along, to her extreme mortification. But I hugged her as I was leaving and Sean got her to sign his mother's book, so it was a winning day all round :D

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

'Just Follow Me' - my first published work! (Back in 2008, I mean)

Okay, I know the writing is nothing special, but this is sentimental, dammit, for so many reasons. Not least the fact that it's a tribute to my Dad and they published it in the Father's Day issue in September 2008. Anyway, you can't read it (unless you enlarge the pic), but it's proof of my first publication. Yay.

Sorry about the crappy quality.

Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World [Jane Caro] - review

This is a literature review I wrote for SYN Media. It's for the collection of writings, edited by Jane Caro, written and compiled in response to Alan Jones's comments on women supposedly 'destroying the joint'. It's available for purchase here.

Le cover

Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World

When controversial shock-jock Alan Jones woke up on the morning of Friday the 31st of August 2012, I doubt even a man of his inflated self-importance could imagine the storm provoked by a seemingly offhand comment he would make on-air that day. After complaining about money put aside to increase women’s access to leadership and decision-making roles along with financial services and markets, and to help with violence prevention to ensure more women’s safety, Jones huffed and puffed and proclaimed: ‘Women are destroying the joint’.

Within hours, the Twittersphere was alight, and the now familiar #destroythejoint hashtag had been created. This hashtag and the prompt response of outraged men and women is credited with reclaiming what was intended to be a misogynistic insult, and using it as a weapon in the fight against sexism and discrimination in modern Australia. Now Jane Caro, a feminist of many different hats including writer, speaker and broadcaster, has edited a new collection, Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World, which includes contributions from 26 women along with the Destroy the Joint Administrators of the Facebook group.

Alan Jones uses words to attack and discriminate, and women are using words to fight back. The definition of feminism has been widely debated for decades, and some definitions have been less than flattering. The negative (and incorrect) connotations associated with the word feminism have helped create a disturbing trend where women are afraid to identify as feminist. The phrase ‘I’m not a feminist but...’ is inevitably followed by expressions of desire for equality between the sexes and it is this precise definition that forms the basis of modern feminism. Privileged, sexist men in positions of power and with a radio station willing to air their misogyny (like Alan Jones) have encouraged women to feel shame at the thought of speaking out (read: complaining) for their rights. This patriarchal structure ensures women fear aligning themselves with a political movement created to strengthen the position of women, lest they be thought of as man-hating, shrill, and - God forbid - less attractive to the male gaze and sensibilities.

This book uses clear cut facts and statistics, along with humour, polemic, memoir, analysis, satire, fiction and even tweets to deconstruct the idea of feminism and what it means in 2013, as well as providing irrefutable proof of discrimination against women in politics, the workplace, the media, the home and in schools. Even the penultimate phrase that started it all has been redefined - as contributor Jennifer Mills puts it, ‘women are destroying the joint, insofar as that joint is patriarchy, and it was our intention all along.’ (p. 109).

This is a love letter to women everywhere, without placing women on a pedestal simply for possessing vaginas. Prime Minister Julia Gillard is, of course, discussed both fairly and critically and contributors explain their allegiance or lack thereof to particular government policies with clear and concise detail. Senator Christine Milne’s contribution is a timely commentary on sexism in Australian politics. Alan Jones would be quivering behind his microphone and sense of entitlement to read these fiercely intelligent writers as they systematically strip his credibility to shreds.

Length does not allow for this review to cover every contribution, but examples include the hilarious Corinne Grant - or possibly her male evil twin? - in ‘A Letter to Feminists from a Man who Knows Better’, and Steph Bowe and Lily Edelstein inspire with their present-day experiences of being teenage feminists. Also focusing on the next generation of feminists is Dannielle Miller, tearing down the negative stereotypes attributed to teenage girls and Monica Dux, describing the effect misogynistic comments can have on girls as young as two years old. Stella Young reminds feminists of the sense of equality they strive for, to ensure it is inclusive of feminists with disabilities and the ways to achieve this.

Emily Maguire takes us global, with simultaneously horrifying and bolstering reports of discriminatory laws and the women brave enough to challenge them, often at great cost to their personal safety. Chapters like this make the Destroy the Joint Administrators comments ring true - ‘it’s not about the individual. It’s about the collective.’ (p. 104). This can be applied to the sense of sisterhood in support networks for feminists across the globe, but is also representative of the wider message behind feminism. It isn’t about male and female and the differences between them. It’s about the collective, humanity as a whole. Breaking down the barriers to reach equality between the sexes is just one of a hundred little revolutions that need to take place in order to abolish all forms of discrimination, whether they are based on sex, gender, race, politics, religion, abilities or beliefs. This book is one mighty, thought-provoking leap in the right direction.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Harry Potter

Anyone who knows me will know that I am arguably the nerdiest of all Harry Potter nerds, and I wear this badge with considerable pride. This year I reread each book and watched the film versions as I went, and I've just finished Deathly Hallows Part 2, and am sort of paralysed with feeling and emotion and wibbly varieties of the shakes. It's really hard to put into words how much this story means to me, and the extent of my admiration for J.K Rowling. I've read all sorts of scholarly reports that analyse the series and break down the themes and accuse it of being misandric, misogynistic, anti-religion and all sorts, but none of this dents the response this series of books stirs inside me. Also, as a card-carrying member of the literary snob brigade, I have had discussions with PLENTY of people who attempt to blunt my appreciation of the series. They'll patiently list the faults with the books and it's really quite endearing that they think it will penetrate any of my enthusiasm. I will love these books until the day I die, and I'm going to be reading them until that day also. Some random stranger on the internet made this list when the seventh book was first released, and I'm going to borrow it for my blog, because I think it says most things I'd like to say, and very concisely too.

1. Hugs to Dobby, for giving your life so freely, for setting an example one could only hope to follow, and for dying "a free elf."

2. Hugs to Narcissa Malfoy, for proving me wrong, for loving your son, and for making me shriek, "Cissy, you devil!"

3. Hugs to Molly Weasley, for standing fast for your family, for taking on Bellatrix, and for totally pwning her face off.

4. Hugs to Remus Lupin, for being unbearable at times, but also for reminding why I fell in love with your character in the first place.

5. Hugs to Tonks, for giving birth to the only turquoise-haired baby for miles around, for being unchangingly fearless, and for being a HUFFLEPUFF!

6. Hugs to Harry Potter for being a man and not a n00b, for choosing normalcy and a sandwich, and for making me love you at last.

7. Hugs to Ron Weasley, for growing up in the hardest way possible, for facing your fears, and for changing in spite of them.

8. Hugs to Hermione Granger, for putting up with two knuckleheads, for falling in love with one of them, and for beating the Cruciatus Curse like a pro.

9. Hugs to Ginny Weasley, for loving Harry no matter what, for your eagerness to fight, and telling Cho the Ho to BACK OFF.

10. Hugs to Percy Weasley, for giving me a good cry, for seeing your wrongs, and for living to fix them.

11. Hugs to Fred Weasley, for fighting evil unquestionably and for not really being dead, just in another room.

12. Hugs to George Weasley, for losing your ear and your best friend... and fighting anyway.

13. Hugs to Severus Snape, for proving me right, for being more amazing than I could have imagined, for helping Harry understand himself, and for sacrificing your life in order to do so, though you knew it was coming.

14. Hugs to Draco Malfoy, for getting punched by Ron, for managing to retain your family, and for being the Master of the Elder Wand. (Hecksz yes!)

15. Hugs to Neville Longbottom, for fighting injustice at any cost, for backtalking like there was no tomorrow, and for destroying one hell of a Horcrux.

16. Hugs to Grindelwald, for making mistakes and regretting them.

17. Hugs to McGonagall, for being crazy awesome, for keeping your cool collectiveness, and for being ruthlessly brave.

18. Hugs to Kreacher, for your devotion, for your wit, and for your love of Regulus.

19. Hugs to Regulus Black, for being the first to turn on Voldemort even though you knew what that meant.

20. Hugs to Lucius Malfoy, for having peacocks on your lawn (WTF, awesome!)

21. Hugs to Albus Dumbledore, for making me doubt you, for making me trust you, and for explaining everything like I knew you would.

22. Hugs to Colin Creevey, for sneaking into the fight, for fighting your hardest, and for not being afraid of the thought of death.

23. Hugs to Andromeda Tonks, for losing everything you started with and not letting go for a moment.

24. Hugs to Voldemort, for having no idea what Harry was talking about, which while funny, was really, just very sad.

25. Hugs to Mr. and Mrs. Cattermole, because I'm sure you're both very confused and of course a hug from a stranger would help.

26. Hugs to Dudley, for finally growing up, for letting go of prejudice, and for being the coolest Muggle ever.

27. Hugs to Luna Lovegood, for weathering what would kill most and for fighting just as hard.

28. Hugs to Fleur Weasley, for standing by your man, for growing out of your original snootiness, and for not forgetting.

29. Hugs to Ernie MacMillan, for putting your pompous attitude to good use!

30. And lastly, hugs to J.K. Rowling, for teaching me lessons in life and love, for making me laugh, for making me cry, and for giving me one of the best presents of all time, a gift that keeps on giving.