On the (Rest of the) Net.

Does having a feminist as a running mate during the election campaign make Julian Assange more palatable to voters concerned with the rape allegations against him? [Online Opinion]

A really thought-provoking piece about the evolution of cooking. Meal preparation is the bane of my existence; I’d rather clean than cook. I find it so boring and time-consuming that if I was to come into a large chunk of money, I would seriously consider hiring a personal chef. Recently, I even privately mused about just ordering takeaway every night, but that isn’t necessarily in line with my ethical philosophies, not to mention health. [Daily Life]

Hugo Schwyzer has quit feminism. While a lot of feminists will be rejoicing at this fact, I actually like Hugo and will be sad to see his brand of male feminism disappear from the feminist interwebs. At least for now… [The Cut]

Twitter misogynists are finally getting their comeuppance. [Daily Life]

Camilla Peffer writes about the inherent sexism of Australia’s Next Top Model. [TheVine]

An interesting response to “I want to date you because you’re awesome”: “I want you to date me because I’m awesome”. [Pandagon]

“The Rape Joke”: a poem about being raped. *trigger warning* [The Awl]

The difference between the Melbourne murders of Jill Meagher and Tracy Connelly? Meagher was “the perfect victim” worthy of mourning while Connelly was just a prostitute. [The King's Tribune]

But Wendy Squires posits that Meagher and Connelly were more similar than we think: they were both victims of predators who want to hurt women, regardless of their occupation. [The Age]

And it turns out the anonymous sex worker in Squires’ piece, above, was Tracy Connelly. [MamaMia]

Sex & the City‘s Samantha vs. Cougartown. [New York Magazine] 

Event: The Reading Hour.

In celebration of the National Year of Reading, today marks the National Reading Hour. While the exact time frame for the event is sketchy, and anyone who knows me knows I’ll be spending much more than one hour reading today (or on any day, for that matter), the aim of the event is to instill the importance of reading in children. From my point of view, reading is important at all ages and it’s never too late to start. The only downside is there’s less time to read all the fantastic books out there.

So, The Early Bird has decided to get in on the action by going over all the books I’ve read this year and whether I found them good, bad or otherwise and if you should read them, too.

I haven’t read this many books since my uni days, I don’t think, when I was traveling up to six hours a day from country Victoria to Deakin in Burwood. Needless to say, there were a lot of public transport hours that needed filling, and reading was the perfect way to do that. Aside from primary school, of course, when nightly “readers” were a must and I got through several, if not up to a dozen, books a week, uni really got me back in touch with my love for reading; a love without which I wouldn’t be who I am today.

So, without further ado…

My Booky Wook 2 by Russell Brand.

If I if I didn’t have to give this book back to a friend before she moved interstate at the start of the year, I think it would still be sitting in my stack of to-be-read books (like some other borrowed tomes). While it didn’t change my world, and I much preferred Brand’s first memoir, I’m glad to have read it and moved on. Much like Katy Perry. Burn!

The Barbie Chronicles: A Living Doll Turns 40 edited by Yona Zeldis McDonough.

While Barbie is now 53 and there is now thirteen more years of fodder for a compilation of feminist musings on the doll, I really enjoyed this book and ponder it often. Aforementioned interstate friend, Laura, currently has it in her possession. I believe it is out of print now, so I was quite lucky to have happened upon it at my local secondhand bookstore. Pick it up if you get the chance.

Big Porn Inc. edited by Melinda Tankard Reist & Abigail Bray.

I was so looking forward to reading this conservative collection on why porn is bad, and it didn’t disappoint. I didn’t agree with anything in the book, but it was an eye opening look at just how anti-sex (not to mention anti-choice, anti-feminism, anti-vaccination) some people can be. What scares me is that Tankard Reist and Bray’s ideologies could be rubbing off on the susceptible with the release of this book.

The Book of Rachael by Leslie Cannold.

Feminist crusader Cannold looks at what could have been the life of Jesus’ sister, Rachael. What’s more, the book focuses on her relationship with the ultimate betrayer, Judas. It wasn’t mind blowing, but if you’re looking for something to read and want to support local, female writers, this is one for you.

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy.

To be honest, I had lots of things on my mind when I read this so it’s almost like I never read it at all. I found it really hard to get into and to focus on the words on the page. Maybe I’ll watch the movie in an effort to more fully understand the storyline. Shameful, I know.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.

If you haven’t read this book yet, you need to get on it, like, yesterday! So well written, so emotional, so involving and with a massive twist at the end. And please, if you’re thinking about watching the movie (which I haven’t seen yet, so don’t take my word for it: it might even be better than the book), read the book first. Looking back, this is probably the best book I’ve read this year and, dare I say it, ever.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Not the worst teen trilogy out there (I’m looking at you, Twilight Saga), but not the greatest, either. I found the book easy to read and also well written which, again, is more than I can say for Stephenie Meyer.

Fragments by Marilyn Monroe, Bernard Comment & Stanley Buchthal.

This part-coffee table book, part-Marilyn musings tome had been sitting in my pile of to-be-reads for almost a year and a half before I decided to actually read about one of my favourite icons. I enjoyed a rare insight into the mind of the sex symbol herself, but honestly, I think there are probably better books about her out there.

Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling by Bret Hart.

This is the book I spent the most amount of time reading; or rather, it took me the most amount of time to read. It is a hefty memoir, but it’s not exactly written in a challenging tone, either. I quite enjoyed it, all in all, and while you probably need a background knowledge of professional wrestling to get into the book, it was kind of sad reading about all the tragedies in Hart’s life.

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.

I love me some historical fiction and Remarkable Creatures didn’t disappoint. Easy to get into with a bit of fluff, but it has nothing on Girl with the Pearl Earring.

11.22.63 by Stephen King.

This was my first encounter with King, and I quite liked it. He obviously has the suspense/mystery/horror (though you won’t catch me dead with one of his books—nor the movie adaptations—in this genre. I hate horror!) formula down pat. While the title and cover lines were a bit misleading (JFK doesn’t come into it until right near the end, and even then it’s anticlimactic), I really liked it and found out some historical tidbits I didn’t know previously.

The Informers by Bret Easton Ellis.

Easton Ellis is one of those writers who is good in theory, not so good in practice. I still plan on reading all of his efforts, no matter how gory and gratuitously sexy and druggy they are (this one had a central theme of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll in ’80s L.A.… with a side-serving of vampirism!), but sometimes I think he’s a bit over hyped. As was The Informers.

Fables: The Deluxe Editions Volumes 1 & 2 by Bill Willingham.

These are the comics Once Upon a Time is allegedly inspired by, and let me tell you, these are much better than the show. I’m not usually a fan of the comic book format, but I really enjoyed these two. Bring on the next two installments!

Drowned by Therese Bowman.

When I read Drowned, I actually had no idea what the storyline was. I remembered reading an enticing review in The Age a month or two before I convinced a friend to buy it in order for me to borrow it, but other than that, I was clueless. After reading it, it seemed there was no storyline; it was more high-concept literary fiction to my mind. But it was very evocative. Short and sweet.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

I just finished this one on a trip away and I loved it. Similarly to The Black Dahlia, it took me awhile to get into it, concentration-wise, but once I did I found it very enjoyable. The storyline is unique and interesting, and the character development and style were some of the best I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

Music for Chameleons by Truman Capote.

So does reading one short story in the collection count as actually reading the whole of Music for Chameleons?! I bought this book from a secondhand store with the sole intention of reading the Marilyn Monroe chapter and that’s all. Kind of a waste, I suppose, but I like to support small, local businesses!

50 Shades of Grey by EL James.

I have oh-so-ashamedly left this one til last as it is by far the worst, but it’s also the one I’m currently reading. I always said I would never be caught dead reading this mediocre tripe, but after hearing John Flaus and Jess Anastasi (a coincidence her surname is practically the same as the first name of 50 Shades’ protagonist?) discuss the book at the Bendigo Writers Festival, I finally succumbed. The way I look at it, I’m approaching it with a critical eye for the purposes of research. It’s better to have an informed opinion, right? More to come.

What are you going to be reading for the National Reading Hour?

Related: Big Porn Inc. Edited by Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray Review. 

The Book of Rachael by Leslie Cannold Review.

My Week in Pictures 16th August 2012.

Book Review: The Book of Rachael by Leslie Cannold—I’m Still in Love with Judas, Baby.


In Jesus’ time, nothing much was recorded about the women. So, for all we know, Jesus could have had many sisters, in addition to his brothers.

Leslie Cannold has imagined the lives of his sisters in The Book of Rachael. Shona is in love with one man but is raped by another and forced to become his wife and move far away from her family and sister Rachael, who is the rebellious one in the family. She’s inquisitive and passionate, and teaches herself to read when women weren’t allowed to. When she meets her brother’s (called Joshua in the book) friend, Judah, she falls head over heels in love with him, but the feelings aren’t reciprocated until some time after. They become married, but Rachael isn’t ready to become just a mother to Judah’s offspring, and consistently aborts his children using herbal remedies, which causes a rift in their marriage.

As a noted Aussie feminist, you’d have to expect some feminist sentiments thrown into the mix from Cannold. For example, the notorious mansplaining is invoked:

“‘Why is it,’ I asked, cutting across Judah’s lovesick cant, ‘that a female infant renders the mother more unclean than a male?… Forty days confinement if the child is a boy, twice this time for a girl,” I said, rattling off the well-known rule.

“‘The cause for difference,” Judah ventured hesitantly, ‘could be the labours. The distinct way that women labour when bearing a boy as against a girl. And the difference in the burden of guilt they acquire.’

“‘What?’ Distinct labours? Different guilt? Since my own flowering I had attended dozens of births. My preparation for initiation had required I listen to Bindy describe hundreds more. Not once had I even heard it suggested that an infant’s sex determined the severity of the trial faced by the mother. ‘Whatever are you talking about, Judah?’

“But Judah mistook my confusion for a confession of ignorance and a request for enlightenment. Relieved to have been restored to his accustomed role of authority, he set forth confidently to explain. ‘Everyone knows, Rachael, that in her hour of suffering, the mother is desperate and swears she will not live in intimacy with her husband again. If a boy is born, she repents this vow sooner because he occasions such rejoicing. But with a girl, all is gloom. Many women feel their failure keenly, so the mother’s return to her husband’s arms is delayed.’

“It was the silliest thing I had ever heard. And from a man! A man who knew nothing of monthly cycles and giving birth, yet had no hesitation in describing—explaining!—the features of that experience as if they were his own. A man, like the Great God Almighty, who had no right to say!” (p. 123–125).

Furthermore, when Rachael seeks to liberate the women tasked with midwifery duties from doing so until they “are free to serve and worship the Queen”, Bindy, her crone employer, warns, “What of the women who will be trampled in the stampede for freedom?” (p. 201). Do I detect a hint of second-wave vs. third/fourth-wave feminism?

Obviously, the unknown story of women in that time drew a feminist to them, and the characters’ plights to be seen as more than just baby- and bread-making machines are inherently feminist. Hell, to be forced to marry your rapist to restore pride to your family, and to claim that your out-of-wedlock pregnancy is the result of the consort of God, harkens back to a grim time for women, indeed. Cannold does a lovely job of trying to bring those women and their struggles to life.

 

 

 

Related: Surfing the Third Wave: Second Wave VS. Third Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

Elsewhere: [Tiger Beatdown] Chronicles of Mansplaining: Professor Feminism & the Deleted Comments of Doom.

Image via Verity La.

My Week in Pictures.

The movies.

Last night I went to see Red State. Not usually my kind of movie, but my housemate is a massive Kevin Smith (aka Silent Bob) fan and dragged me along.

The stack.

It’s been all about Kim Kardashian’s 72-day marriage breakdown, natch.

The belated birthday presents.

While a whole bunch of friends put in for this artwork by feminist artist Niagara Detroit (thanks, guys!), the aforementioned housemate took me out to lunch, for hot chocolate, and shopping for the DVD versions of my two favourite movies this year: Bridesmaids and Scream 4. Can anyone say weekend movie marathon…?

The blogger meet-up.

While she was in-town for a whirlwind marriage and business trip, I caught up with fellow blogger Rachel Hills. We talked about freelancing, porn, her new book, the wedding and a myriad of other things.

The new books.

I picked up some secondhand books at my local bookstore. I also saw a hardcover edition of Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, but at $20, I thought it was a bit steep for a secondhand copy. But I have been thinking about it for the past week, so hopefully it’s still there next time!

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bridesmaids Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Scream 4 Review.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

On the censorship of Andrej Pejic’s Dossier cover:

“… why is Pejic’s cover getting the same treatment as a porno mag? What message are the big bookstore chains sending—that the male torso is only appropriate [for] all-ages viewing when the man in question is ripped?”

Mia Freedman on when life begins.

SlutWalker Leslie Cannold on “the right to be equally mediocre”.

Speaking of SlutWalk, the Melbourne event’s coordinator, Clem Bastow, writes on the event for the Sydney Morning Herald.

The ostentatious disgustingness of “Push Presents”.

Glee: give fat girls a chance.

 The militant atheist doesn’t exist.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s infidelity and Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s sexual assault allegations are one in the same, according to “The Media’s Groping Problem”.

In the same vein: why powerful men sexually assault women.

From Texas’ hottest sex offenders to Strauss-Kahn’s “hot-or-not” accuser.

What would “a word where Aspergers was the norm” look like? “Girls who spend hours a day straightening their hair are recommended for counselling,” amongst other things.

Rebecca Sparrow on “Hollywood’s Fake Teenagers”.

As if we didn’t need another reason to love Mick Foley: the Huffington Post names him their “Greatest Person of the Day”.

Meghan McCain rips the sexist and sizist Glenn Beck a new one.

Much to my mother’s—and her fellow kindy mums’—dismay, my big-for-her-age, four-year-old sister refused to walk to preschool, so Mum was forced to push her in a stroller. Check out Too Big For Stroller for more on this hideous phenomenon.

Are child murderers born evil or created?

In the case of toddler James Bulger’s murderers (one of whom re-offended after being released and is now back in jail), and Dontez Tillman and Thomas McCloud, who beat and tortured “two homeless men over the course of two days”, I tend to lean towards them being “born that way”. If Law & Order and Criminal Minds have taught us anything, it’s that children who demonstrate these kinds of behaviours usually turn out to be sociopathic serial killers.

Image via Queer Me Up, Psychology Today, Even Without Popcorn.

Event: Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

Ralliers outside the State Library on Swanston Street.

Best. Sign. Ever.

Last Saturday the highly anticipated SlutWalk occurred in several Australian cities, and I attended the Melbourne event with my fellow anti-slut-shamer friend Laura (both of us below).

We rocked up in our sluttiest outfits, which you can see above, complete with permanent marker declarations of our proud sluthood to boot. Some of the other outfits we noticed were short skirts with knee-high skull print socks and customised Doc Martins, worn by event organiser Clem Bastow (below), lace dresses and gym gear, the latter of which adorned a short-haired tattoo fan with a body Tracy Anderson would envy.

Clem Bastow.

Monica Dux.

As Bastow commented when she gave one of the opening addresses, along with fellow event organisers Karen Pickering and Lauren Clair, and noted feminists Monica Dux (above) and Leslie Cannold, amongst others: “thank you, God, it looks like you’re going to rain on me”. But no one was gonna rain on our parade and, despite the chilly temperatures, we still walked tall and proud in whatever get-ups we chose to wear.

Dux said this is the beginning of a movement, which I have to disagree with. SlutWalk is not the beginning of a movement; it is part of the reignited battle to stop victim-blaming and slut-shaming based on one cop’s archaic musings on rape and how much a woman was “asking for it”. Here’s a fun fact: WE’RE NEVER ASKING FOR IT! (See Bastow’s sign, above). No matter how we are dressed, where we are, how much we’ve had to drink, or what we do for work.

Speaking of, I was really proud to see the representation of sex workers at the event, and president of the Australian Sex Workers’ Association, the Scarlet Alliance (represent!), Elena Jeffreys (above) spoke about her sexual assault and that even though she was paid for sex, she was not consenting to assault. Her opinions on the SlutWalk were really interesting and I hope they receive as much publicity as the negative perceptions of the rally have in the media.

In the days leading up to SlutWalk, I was embroiled in a heated debate on Facebook with a friend who disagrees with the SlutWalk. I think he confused—like a lot of people—the meaning of the SlutWalk with an excuse to get gussied up in a very risqué manner when, in fact, that was not at all what it was about. That didn’t stop protestors on the steps of Parliament House at the top of Bourke Street brandishing their “rape is horrifying, but so is immodesty” placards (above). Like one of the speakers (whose identity escapes me: should have used my BlackBerry voice recorder!) said: it’s not up to us to curb our behaviour (and that includes how we choose to dress) at the risk of potentially being sexually assaulted; it’s up to those who sexually assault to curb their behaviour!

I think most people against the SlutWalk had a problem with the use of the word slut. As Cannold said, “words matter…: … we won’t stand for one, the same one, being slung at us over and over again to demean and degrade us.” Lori Adelman, in a post on Feministing, said she didn’t agree with the term “slut” and that she “would much rather have attended a ‘Do Not Rape’ Walk”:

“I find that the term disproportionately impacts women of colour and poor women in order to reinforce their status as inherently dirty and second-class, and hence more rape-able.”

To me, “slut” is just a word. It meant as much to me to be called a slut when I was 12 as it does today; as they (and Rihanna) say, sticks and stones will break my bones but names can never hurt me. It’s not about the term “slut”, it’s about the backwards and extremely offensive views that go along with that word. As coordinator of the first SlutWalk in Toronto, Sonya Barnett, told Rachel Hills: “if he [the policeman] had said something else, we would have called it something else.”

The speaker who garnered the most attention, though, was transgendered man, Cody Smith (above), who had been raped both as a biological female, and as a trans man. There were tears a plenty during his speech!

It was nice to see such a welcoming, non-judgmental turnout of everyday men, women and children of all walks of life, wearing all sorts of garb, not just the fishnetted and cut-out body con dresses that certain attendees chose to wear (guilty as charged!). After all, rape is not about what you’re wearing, what you look like, what size you are, how old you are, what your sexual orientation or gender is, or any other denomination that you happen to belong to as a person. It is about the perpetrator, and nothing you can or cannot do will stop them from attempting to rape you.

As Smith said, it shouldn’t be the victims of sexual assaults’ responsibility to educate the general public on sexual assault and victim-blaming. And I thought the sexual revolution happened several decades ago: it shouldn’t be up to members of a fringe movement to educate the general public on the sexual rights of women to express themselves however they please without the threat of retaliation. In fact, feminism—which is what the SlutWalk was all about—shouldn’t be considered as on the fringe in 2011.

Elsewhere: [Feministing] SlutWalk: To March or Not to March.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Ask Rachel: What Are Your Thoughts on SlutWalk?

Related: SlutWalk.

So a Tattoo Makes Me Public Property, Huh?

Has Feminism Failed?

Rihanna’s “S&M”: Is it Really So Much Worse Than Her Other Stuff?

Black and white images via Ali Ryan Photography.