When Your Heroes Let You Down is it Time to Wave Goodbye?

This article was originally published on TheVine on 8th January, 2015.

Recently, I attended the exclusive, two-day, $800 Blogcademy workshop in Melbourne, hosted by blogging extraordinaires Gala Darling, Shauna Haider of Nubby Twiglet and Rock N Roll Bride Kat Williams, who have turned their almost unprecedented success as bloggers into an international business. For that amount of money and time, my fellow attendees and I were expecting to come away bursting with fresh inspiration and tools to turn our blogs into mini success stories in the vein of the Headmistresses own blogs. What we emerged with, however, was an hours-long lesson in taking the perfect selfie and disappointment in our former entrepreneurial role models.

Before I turned my hand to the blogosphere, I fantasised about becoming a high-powered magazine editrix the likes of former mag hag turned web impressario, Mia Freedman. Ever since I cracked the glossy spine of my first Cosmo as a teenager, I wanted to be Freedman, so much so I even named my dog after her.

But, as with the Blogcademy Headmistresses, in recent years I’ve been forced to stop gazing adoringly at Freedman and acknowledge the stray, misguided comments coming out of her mouth.

For example, in April 2013, Freedman appeared on Q&A on an all-women panel with former sex worker and author of the book-turned-TV-series Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl, Dr. Brooke Magnanti, where Freedman stumbled over the use of this preferred term—sex worker—and said she would be “disturbed” if her daughter grew up wanting to work in the sex trade. In May that year, Freedman wrote on her website MamaMia in defence of Tony Abbott’s classist comments about “women of calibre” taking advantage of his paid parental leave scheme. Two Octobers ago she victim-blamed women who are assaulted whilst drinking. Freedman tweeted in April last year that she agreed with Joe Hildebrand’s attack on Rosie Batty whose son was murdered by her ex-husband in a domestic violence incident in February 2014, in which Hildebrand essentially blamed Rosie for her son’s death for not escaping her violent partner on Channel Ten’s morning show, Studio 10. And late last year Freedman came under fire for comparing gay sexual orientation to pedophilia. To her credit, though, Freedman immediately owned up to her mistake on The Project, admitting she was “mortified” that she caused offence to a community she’d so long been a champion of.

Freedman herself is no stranger to the disenchantment that comes when your icons speak out of turn. She confronted Australia’s once-patron saint of feminism, Germaine Greer, who was also a panelist on the abovementioned episode of Q&A, about those comments she made about Julia Gillard’s body and fashion sense. Freedman further lamented that Greer had “stayed too long at the party”. The most recent example of this has been Greer’s remarks about Duchess Kate’s pregnant body.

Another woman I look up to in the publishing industry is author of the forthcoming book The Sex Myth, Rachel Hills. She wrote about a similar phenomenon when her former feminist role model Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth and, more recently, Vagina: A New Biography, equated rape charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is still evading extradition on said charges in the Ecuadorian embassy in London four years later, with “honey trapping”.

When I spoke to Hills about how she felt about Wolf proving herself to be out of touch with rape culture she had this to say:

“My initial dismay over Naomi Wolf’s Julian Assange comments weren’t so much about what she said, as the way she responded when people criticised her for it. Why was this person I admired being so pigheaded and insensitive to the criticisms of people who were on her side? That was the moment when the Naomi Wolf gloss started to wear off for me.”

Likewise, my memories of the glossy pages of a Freedman-helmed Cosmo, with its Body Love campaign and articles on sexual assault and reproductive rights, have become disillusioned by Freedman’s continued tendency to put her foot in her mouth. But, as with many public figures we insist on asking for their opinions on any and all topics (ie. asking young female celebrities if they’re feminists), they’re “damning [themselves] to irrelevancy if [they] don’t stay up to date”, Hills says. (See Wolf’s ignorance of the term “cisgender”.)

We’re all human and, in the case of Freedman, Greer, Wolf et al. and their feminist faux pas, it’s not to say that they should be foisted out of the feminist club for being “bad feminists”, as Roxane Gay might put it. When an idol or hero has shaped so many of your formative years, whether positively or negatively, you can’t just turn their influence off as easily as a switch. We all say and do things we shouldn’t at times but a reluctance to appear vulnerable or ill informed shouldn’t prevent us from using those moments for growth. Failing that, we can start looking to other influences in our lives that are perhaps a little more positive and progressive and strive to be those influences ourselves.

Related: The Blogcademy Melbourne.

Elsewhere: [The Blogcademy] 

[Gala Darling]

[Nubby Twiglet]

[Rock N Roll Bride]

[Hello Tillie] Six Things I Learnt at The Blogcademy.

[Happy Hotline] Why I Don’t Have Idols. Anymore.

[ABC] Q&A—The F Word, 8th April, 2013.

[MamaMia] In Defence of Tony Abbott.

[MamaMia] This Isn’t Victim-Blaming. This is Common Sense.

[MamaMia] A Statement from Mia Freedman.

[MamaMia] Germaine Greer, You’ve Lost Me…

[Newsweek] The Duchess of Cambridge: How Britain Stopped Believing in the Royal Fairytale.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman] Naomi Wolf & Me, Or Why Heroes Are Only for the Young. 

[Jezebel] Feminist Gathering Sadly Lacking in Matricide.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Measuring the success of podcasts. I’m actually the host of Outback Championship Wrestling’s first podcast, launching today, featuring interviews with former World Wrestling Entertainment Heavyweight Champion Alberto El Patron and former WWE Superstar and current TNA star Mr. Ken Anderson. I am under the impression that it’s the first woman-hosted wrestling podcast apart from Renee Young’s 30 Years of WrestleMania podcast last year. So even if you don’t like wrestling, head on over to support a sister. [Columbia Journalism Review, YouTube]

I also recapped last Friday’s show, featuring the abovementioned wrestlers as well as Drew Galloway, Ricardo Rodriguez, Scotty Too Hotty and Gangrel. [Outback Championship Wrestling]

A history of the Kardashians in magazine covers. [Jezebel]

#GiveDivasaChance in video games. [I Play Wrestling]

A partial list of the 22 women who have died at the hands of their partners in Australia this year. [The Guardian]

Shonda Rhimes on the importance of seeing your “tribe” “normalised” on TV. [Medium]

The cinematic history of Cinderella. [NPR Monkey See]

Next-generation feminist blogs you should be reading. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Gloria Steinem on Mary McCarthy’s The Group. [Reading Our Way to the Revolution]

Men don’t trust women because emotions. [Daily Life]

As The Hoopla folds and MamaMia‘s Debrief Daily and News Ltd’s RendezView launch, here are some headline ideas in case they run out. [Junkee]

“He Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown”: the 128 rap songs her name has made a cameo in. [The Cut]

“Why Don’t Men Read Books By Women?” [Feministing]

Mansplaining is just the tip of the trolling iceberg. [Flavorwire]

Disability is a feminist issue that’s just not getting enough attention. [Disability & Representation]

ICYMI: Why do we have to celebrate the engagements, weddings and birth announcements on the road well-traveled?

On the (Rest of the) Net.

how to get away with murder penis dead girls phone

Grey’s Anatomy. Private Practice. Scandal. How to Get Away with Murder. I ask if Shonda Rhimes has a mistress problem. [Junkee]

I wrote about how to make sure your beauty cabinet is full of cruelty free goodies. [TheVine]

What this season’s new crop of diverse shows means for the future of television. [Flavorwire]

Roxane Gay was in Australia and she had lots of smart and funny observations of our culture. [Junkee]

The problem with #choreplay: men are human adults who should know how to do housework and want to live in a clean, somewhat orderly environment, not robots who do chores to get sex from women. [The Guardian]

Further to that, why are we urging women to lean in to unequal labour dynamics? Shouldn’t we be trying to figure out a system of work and wages that benefits more than just white, middle class men? [Buzzfeed]

Leisure time is a feminist issue. I know it certainly is for me. I hate cooking so I make sure I’ve got enough food to last me lunches and dinners on the days I work ’cause the last thing I want to do is come home and spend my spare time preparing food. On the work front, I’m really busy with three jobs (day job, freelancing, Outback Championship Wrestling) and I was recently offered at (paid!) internship but I had to turn it down because I’m already burning the candle at both ends. And that’s the reason I won’t have kids: I don’t want to be an angry, resentful mother like my own mother sometimes was because I don’t have enough time for myself and no one appreciates me. So in a nutshell: I can relate. [Daily Life]

Australia has a dire domestic violence problem. [The Monthly]

Amy Gray gave the International Women’s Day address at the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre in Melbourne. Here‘s the transcript. [Pesky Feminist]

Mia Freedman laments the criticism she receives from the “packs” of “Twitter feminists” every time she says something about women. Did you ever think that’s because the things you say about women are worthy of criticism? [MamaMia, TheVine]

Quinn and Emma are the characters Glee should have written as trans men, not the predictable and oft-shat on Coach Beiste. [Bitch Flicks]

ICYMI: World Wrestling Entertainment will never #GiveDivasaChance as long as they employ and celebrate intimate partner abusers and rapists.

Image via ABC.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

In case you hadn’t realised from the uptick in wrestling-related links I’ve written and posted here of late, I’m kinda obsessed with it! Here I am, erm, writing about that obsession. [Writers Bloc]

Why should we worry about the lack of women in publishing when there are bigger gender inequality problems in the world?:

“The obscuring of women’s voices in media platforms, however elite, however niche, is part of the obscuring of their voices in general; and a lack of commitment to, or an inability to hear, their voices in literary culture is related to the same lacks and inabilities in relation to their voices in harassment, in sex, in courtrooms, and in the workplace.” [LA Review of Books]

Unpacking the media’s handling of Bruce Jenner’s alleged gender transition. [Bitch]

Shit vegans say. [Spook Magazine]

Mia Freedman—like the rest of the country—was wrong about Tony Abbott. [MamaMia]

Just because Beyonce used a plethora of producers to help make Beyonce, doesn’t mean she’s any less of an artist than Beck or any less worthy of the Album of the Year Grammy. [Daily Life]

Further to that, Kanye West is right in saying she should have won it. He just goes about voicing his opinion in a manner that rubs people up the wrong way. It probably also has to do with race, which I would’ve liked to see the author go into more. [Grantland]

Robyn Lawley being featured in Sports Illustrated is not a win for diversity or feminism. [Daily Life]

And if you’re thirsty for more links, the 81st Down Under Feminists Carnival has them all. [The Hand Mirror]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

elisabeth moss mani cam

An interesting perspective on #askhermore and the capitalism of the red carpet. [MamaMia]

50 Shades of Grey‘s tampon scene could have been an opportunity to demystify period sex but instead it was cut from the film. At least it’s not going to be an exact recreation of the book’s version, which has major boundary issues. That goes for the whole book, really. [Daily Dot]

How should you feel about your abortion? [Gawker]

Both Jezebel and Cosmo are talking vaginismus and vulvodynia, or painful sex.

Why do famous women pose in swimsuits on the cover of magazines? [Daily Life]

Race in the political world of Scandal. [Bitch Flicks]

When gay men engage in sexism and misogyny. [The Advocate]

How homeless women deal with having their periods when they can’t afford sanitary products. [Vice]

Lindy West confronts the troll who apologised to her for impersonating her dead dad. [This American Life]

Image via Seattle PI.

On the (Rest of the) Net.


Anne Helen Peterson dissects the ultimate family Christmas movie, The Family Stone. What’s your ultimate Christmas movie? Mine have always been the Home Alones (I’m partial to the second one, Lost in New York) (whose haven’t?), the Miracle on 34th Street remake with Mara Wilson and the trashy ridiculousness that is Olivia Newton John in A Mom for Christmas. The plot, for those of you unlucky enough to have never heard of it, is this: Jessica is a motherless girl who wants a mum for Christmas. She makes a wish on a department store wishing well for, you guessed it, a mum for Christmas. Next thing Jessica knows, Amy (Newton John) shows up for the holiday season to act as a housekeeper and babysitter for Jessica and her dad. Plot twist: Amy is a department store mannequin come to life. Hijinks ensue. [LA Review of Books]

ICYMI: I wrote about my unmet expectations of The Blogcademy and where I see my career going in 2015.

The dawn of female pleasure-centric sex scenes on TV is upon us. [Vulture]

The Manic Pixie Dream Guys, Dudezels in Distress and Men in Refrigerators of Disney movies. [Bitch Flicks]

This journalist should have written that the Montreal massacre of 25 years ago was an explicit attack on feminists rather than sanitising the crime to make it more palatable to readers. [Ottawa Citizen]

Mindy Lahiri was the most revolutionary character on TV this year and, finally, the female answer to the legendary antihero. [The Guardian]

Getting it right when talking and writing about gender and sexuality diversity. [Junkee]

As tensions between police and unarmed people of colour continue in the U.S., here are the 76 unarmed people of colour who’ve been murdered by police in the past 15 years. [Gawker]

US Cosmopolitan‘s seemingly new found feminist awakening. [Jezebel]

Feminist writers of the Aussie and NZ persuasion, including yours truly, are featured as part of the 79th Down Under Feminists Carnival. [Hoyden About Town]

I went as Beyoncé standing in front of the feminist sign at the MTV VMAs to my work Christmas party. Head on over to my Twitter page to check out photos from the night.

My friend, colleague and important disability advocacy worker Stella Young died on the weekend. Below are some of her pieces I have linked to in the past.

“Destroying the Joint? at Melbourne Writers Festival.”

And in her piece from Destroy the Joint, Stella insists she’d like to just be allowed in the joint! [ABC Ramp Up]

How to speak to and about people with disabilities. [ABC The Drum]

“The Case Against Peter Singer.” [ABC The Drum]

People with disabilities are not here for your inspiration. [ABC Ramp Up]

Peter Dinklage shouldn’t be fetishised at an “unlikely crush”. [ABC Ramp Up]

MamaMia spoke to Stella about the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and she also wrote there about the disability pension myth.

Image via Christmas TV, Eh!

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Language matters: Why we need to acknowledge that the Hunt family were “murdered” by the man they loved and trusted, not that the five “deaths” of the family were a “horrible tragedy”. [MamaMia]

Baltimore Ravens fans might not “believe in domestic violence” but they still wore Ray Rice jerseys to the team’s home game last week. [CBS New York]

The history of booty-eating (SFW). [Gawker]

The problem with our Jack the Ripper obsession. [New Republic]

Cosmopolitan and politics aren’t mutually exclusive. [Cosmopolitan]

Why did we forget about the anniversary of September 11 this year? [Daily Dot]

The women of Taylor Swift’s music. [Slate]

Dating within your class on Tinder. [Buzzfeed]

And online dating within your race. [Daily Life]

An ode to celebrity workout videos. [Rookie]