Event: Anne Summers in Conversation with Julia Gillard.

julia gillard melbourne conversation anne summers

Of course Sydney had to go and rain on Melbourne’s parade with all the newsworthy items from Julia Gillard’s first public interview since she was ousted as Prime Minister on 27th June this year coming out of her conversation with Anne Summers at the Opera House last Monday night.

But, from some of the reports I read (I didn’t watch the live broadcast on ABC News 24 as I wanted to be surprised for Tuesday night in Melbourne), the Sydney event was more of a girly advice session than a discussion of her time in the top job and what her future entails.

Luckily, Melbourne took the latter route, with #JuliaTalks(ing) about her sexist treatment (which spawned Anne Summers’ The Misogyny Factor) by the media, her colleagues in parliament and the general public. While the exasperated woman sitting next to me kept groaning every time sexism was brought up (seriously, considering the tone of her time in the top job, why would you go to a Julia Gillard talk with one of Australia’s most prominent feminists and not expect to hear about this?), I was pleased with the topics discussed.

Gillard talked about how she was working towards a “Labor government focussed on women and girls” but that’s now shot to shit along with the in-power government’s view of women. When asked how she feels about Tony Abbott assigning himself the portfolio of the Status of Women, Gillard reiterated her Sydney sentiments in that he should rely heavily on Tanya Plibersek and that she hopes “he finds it the most character building task of his prime ministership”.

On her famous misogyny speech—one year old today—Gillard certainly didn’t foresee it “going off on social media” but, to be fair, she certainly “didn’t foresee the level of misogyny” that marred her prime ministership, either. While on one hand, Gillard relayed an anecdote of her time as a lawyer with Slater & Gordon (“You may have heard about my time with the firm,” she joked) and the bitter clients she encountered to illustrate that she isn’t going to have that outlook on what transpired—“You can have a crap rest of your life or you can move on”, she was surprised at the “benign” reaction to her sexist treatment by the media. If the “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” signs and slurs had been geared towards a black politician, the media and the general public would rightly be uproarious, she said. She was also disappointed that no politicians from parties other than her own reached out to her to offer their support during the height of her misogynist treatment. (Who could really say what the “height” was? It lasted all throughout her run.)

Another high profile person she was disappointed in who criticised her unfairly and irrelevantly was Germaine Greer, who made those inappropriate comments about the way she dresses and the size of her ass. I, along with so many others, I’m sure, wish she would just admit that she said the wrong thing instead of repeatedly defending her comments.

But Gillard could take a page out of that playbook when it comes to her views on marriage equality. If Gillard truly believes that there are “different ways of acknowledging love and personal commitment than marriage”, hence why she doesn’t advocate same-sex unions, then that’s fine (except not really). But I have a sneaking suspicion that she really does believe in equality, both in marriage and otherwise. (Though her asylum seeker policies left much to be desired, and she did express sorrow for the current discourse on refugees.) I just wish she would come out and say it.

Much of Gillard’s prime ministership was steeped in disdain, but audience member Evie, 11, asked if she had “any fun being Prime Minister?” Gillard replied that she gets a kick out of the fact that her treatment whilst leading the country means that 11-year-olds know the word “misogyny”. In all seriousness, though, Gillard does hope that “more inspiration than anxiety is passed on to [the next] generation.”

Related: The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers Review.

In Conversation with Germaine Greer.

Event: Legally Blonde — The Musical Review*.

 

Sydney is the host city for the Australian premiere of Legally Blonde: The Musical, and this time last week, a couple of friends and I came together from two other cities (Melbourne and Perth) to check out the latest import from Broadway.

I first became familiar with the musical version of the ditzy blonde from Bel Air with a heart of gold who makes good at Harvard a few years ago when I watched The Search for Elle Woods on MTV. I’m all over the pop-feminism of the Reese Witherspoon version (in fact, my friends and I gathered around my laptop the night before the stage show to watch the original as our hotel didn’t have a DVD player and the only thing I could fault about it eleven years on is the use of “spastic” and “retard”), and I’ve come to love musicals since seeing Wicked which I use as the benchmark for all theatre, so it was a no-brainer to make the jaunt to Sydney to see the Aussie version, starring Lucy Durack as Elle.

Let me start by saying the highlight of the night was the fact that we actually got to meet Durack, Rob Mills, who plays Warner, Cameron Daddo (Professor Callahan) and I Will Survive winner, Mike Snell as the UPS guy, after the show. Maybe because the theatre was only half full they encourage ticket holders to come to the stage door after the performance to meet the cast, but if you’re a fan of any of the above, you should pop along just for that little extra (or hang out in the back streets of the Lyric Theatre!).


I also thought the elaboration of Elle’s outing at a party dressed as a Playboy bunny was a genius addition to the play, but I might be a little biased: when a fellow party-goer tells Elle she looks like a skank in her costume, she comes up with the defence that she is actually dressed as Gloria Steinem when she went undercover at the Playboy club in 1963 and subsequently wrote the feminist manifesto “I Was a Playboy Bunny”, asking, “Would you call Gloria Steinem a skank?!” Token feminist/(ergo) lesbian Enid blurts out, “Who called Gloria Steinem a skank?!” We cheered and whistled from our third row seats and were pretty well the only ones who got the joke which was made a little more special for me personally as three days later I dressed as that exact incarnation of Gloria Steinem as a Playboy bunny for Halloween! (Photos to come.)

Perhaps watching the movie the night before the show wasn’t the best idea, as it made me appreciate the flawlessness of the former and the problematic nature of the latter, which I thought was rife with homophobia, racism and utter “what the?!” moments. Durack, Snell, Mills, Erika Heynatz as Brooke Wyndham and real live puppy dogs on stage were superb, but the clunkyness, out-of-place inclusions to the story and the abovementioned problems overshadowed the better aspects of the show.

Staying with the film, I think it’s a truly feminist piece of art because feminism isn’t really mentioned once, despite Enid’s blatant characterisation as a militant feminist, yet Elle exceeds the expectations placed on her based on her sex and sexiness. In the end you love her because she’s an awesome person, not because she’s hot, blonde, has a vagina and wears pink.

In the musical, however, feminism is almost shoved down the audience’s throat, but from an outsider’s perspective, as if the writers said, “Shit, we need to make this a bit more feministy. Quick, what do we think feminists value?” Whereas in the Witherspoon version, Elle truly does make it at Harvard on her own, on stage Emmett’s character features more heavily and he pretty much guides her through her trials and tribulations which Elle takes credit for solving all on her own. Not to worry, though: to really push the feminist point home, Elle proposed to Emmett because, you know, only feminists do those kind of newfangled pro-equality kinds of things.

If the dismal turn out in the session I bought tickets for is any indication, I don’t think Legally Blonde will continue its run to other Australian cities. Unless you live in Sydney, I wouldn’t recommend making the trip to see it.

 

 

 

*Blanket spoiler alert.

Official image via Time Out Sydney.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“Red Dress, Blue Dress.” What your clothing colour choices say about you. [Final Fashion]

Are you your social group’s/family’s/work place’s “feminist friend”? [Feminaust]

The politics of the facial (yes, that kind of facial). [Jezebel]

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, rape scenes and crossing the line:

“… Our ratings system in this country is so broken that a film that contains a sustained, brutal rape sequence featuring full-frontal female nudity can breeze right through with an R-rating, but if you include a sequence in which two people engage in spirited, consensual sex and we see anything that resembles reality, you are automatically flirting with an NC-17 or going out unrated.  We have created a code of film language in which the single most destructive act of sexual violence is perfect acceptable to depict in the most graphic, clinical detail, but actual love-making has been all but banished from mainstream film.  There’s no ‘almost’ about it; it is disturbing on a philosophical level to realise how backwards the system is right now, and I think one of the reasons many filmmakers will include a rape scene is so they can get some nudity into their movie, and the context doesn’t matter to them.” [HitFix]

Ahh, the inevitable responses you’ll get and the people who’ll give them to you when discussing sexism on the interwebs. [Caphe Sua Da]

Bald Barbie: join the campaign here. [Jezebel, Facebook]

Being called a feminist is a compliment. [Crunk Feminist Collective]

Best “Shit So and So’s Say” video yet!

On language and HIStory. [Feminaust]

My second article on The Good Men Project. Check it out.

Sydney VS. Melbourne? I’m a Melbourne girl all the way, baby. Which do you prefer? [The Age]

Benjamin Law on gay stereotypes. [MamaMia]

And a heartwarming story about how Glee’s Kurt and Blaine are just like this little six-year-old. [And This Is My Blog…]

Maggie Gyllenhaal sticks up for reproductive rights. [Glamour]

An Open Letter to the Transphobic Girl Scout.” [Jezebel]

The mystery of the clitoris, revealed (SFW). [io9]

Cynthia Nixon: gay, straight or bi? Is being gay a choice or is it biology? Who cares? [Slate]

Images via Hits USA, Facebook, The Good Men Project.

Movie Review: Green Lantern*.

When I met my brand new roommate Eddie about a year ago, we bonded over Green Lantern, amongst other things.

I’m not a huge fan of the comic book series, other than the fact that Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are in the big screen adaptation, released last Thursday in Australia to the similar lacklustre reviews it received in the States. My only exposure to the superhero before I met Eddie was that he was professional wrestler Gregory “The Hurricane” Helms’ favourite superhero, revealed by his Green Lantern symbol tattoo and the t-shirt he gave Stone Cold Steve Austin during his “appreciation night” storyline back in 2001.

Even though I wasn’t super keen on the latest version, especially after seeing the previews (why must every movie be about aliens?! Super 8, Thor, Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens… Perhaps some fodder for a potential blog post…?), we’d bonded over it.

Going into films with low expectations usually winds up with me enjoying it much more than I thought I would, and this was true with Green Lantern.

As the comic book nerd to rule all comic book nerds, Eddie pointed out some holes in the plotline and amalgamations made especially for the movie that don’t exist in the comics, like Reynolds’ Hal Jordan’s nemesis Hector Hammond being able to read minds by physical contact after contracting the powers of Paralax.

As a non-comic book nerd, I thought some parts of the movie weren’t resolved, like Jordan getting beat up in a parking lot behind a bar he was having drinks with Lively’s Carol Ferris at, but nothing coming of it (Carol coming to his rescue, the cops arriving, any arrests being made) apart from being the catalyst for Hal to use his willpower, the energy that the Green Lantern Corps use to fight space crime and whatnot.

I was initially excited about Lively’s role in the film, but she’s as boringly saccharine in this as she is in Gossip Girl. The only part of the movie where I see a glimmer of potential in her acting abilities is when she is approached by Hal, in his Green Lantern costume, and exclaims, “You think I wouldn’t recognise you because I can’t see your cheekbones?!” It was both funny (perhaps the funniest part of the movie, which isn’t saying much) and the closest Lively’s ever going to get to an Oscar nomination any time soon.

Considering Green Lantern was one of the most anticipated premieres of the year, it failed to live up to the hype. Not only was its release date almost two months behind the U.S., which is unheard of these days, Reynolds was supposed to attend the Melbourne and Sydney premieres, but pulled out at the last minute. (We were going to stalk him at Jam Factory!)

A sequel has been greenlit (get it?), which is promising, as the Green Lantern saga has a lot more to offer. Three more human Lanterns, a black Superhero, a heel turn (sorry, wrestling speak; good guy turns into a bad guy) from one of the main characters, the scene that sparked the Women in Refrigerators feminist movement. Let’s hope the second instalment brings some of this to the table.

 

 

 

*It has come to my attention that I give away too much in my movie reviews, so the asterisk will now serve as a blanket *spoiler alert* from now on.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Super 8 Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Thor Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Problem with Serena van der Woodsen.

Elsewhere: [Women in Refrigerators] Homepage.

Image via IMDb.

UPDATED: Gaga Ooo La La?

On a recent episode of The View, Lady Gaga was asked about the death of Amy Winehouse, saying that “the world can learn a lesson from the tragedy, in that it should be ‘kinder to the superstar’. Gaga went on to say that that level of fame, which she experiences, is a lonely life.”

*

Lady Gaga is awesome; there’s no doubt about that.

She’s fearless in her fashion, her music is guaranteed to get me on the dancefloor, she works tirelessly for gay rights, and recently wowed Sydney (Melbourne next, please!).

But imagine what it’s like to be her for a second.

She’s crafted such an image that it is now impossible for her to make a coffee run, work out, go shopping, or even relax, without portraying her Gaga image. What about Stefani?

While it’d be amazing to meet the people that Gaga does, travel the world like Gaga does, and “use your popularity for a good cause”, as Cher Horowitz puts it in Clueless, like Gaga does, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice who I am underneath it all.

Though, in interviews, Gaga has claimed that her be-sequinned, meat-dress-wearing, friend of Elton John alter ego is who she is underneath it all. That she was “Born this Way”.

But it must be so tiring to always have the Gaga switch on. To be in full makeup, garish costumes, and setting pianos on fire. Evidently it is, if her collapsing on stage is anything to go by.

Personally, if I was a celebrity, I would want to be either a mediocre one who can go about their business getting papped at the supermarket every once in a while, a Cate Blanchette-esque one, who is as good at their craft as Gaga is, but manages to fly under the radar (except for that whole “Carbon Cate” shemozzle), or even one like Kim Kardashian who, like Gaga, probably doesn’t get a whole lot of genuine downtime, where she can spend a day in bed with no makeup on watching cheesy movies without the reality TV cameras and just be the real Kim, but who has crafted a whole career around her personality and her family.

I have to wonder, is there a price to being Lady Gaga? Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, will she still be around like Madonna, Stevie Nicks or Cyndi Lauper? Or will the sheer intensity she operates at now burn her out within five?

I love Lady Gaga, and I genuinely hope she’ll be around for another fifty years, but I certainly don’t envy her.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Vo-Gaga.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mag Cover of the Week: Lady Gaga for Vogue Hommes Japan in a Meat Bikini.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Guest Post: Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” & 21st Century “Noise”.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Katy P. VS. Lady G.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Lady Gaga: The World Needs to Be “Kinder to the Superstar”.

Image via Jezebel.

 

Gaga Ooo La La?

Lady Gaga is awesome; there’s no doubt about that.

She’s fearless in her fashion, her music is guaranteed to get me on the dancefloor, she works tirelessly for gay rights, and recently wowed Sydney (Melbourne next, please!).

But imagine what it’s like to be her for a second.

She’s crafted such an image that it is now impossible for her to make a coffee run, work out, go shopping, or even relax, without portraying her Gaga image. What about Stefani?

While it’d be amazing to meet the people that Gaga does, travel the world like Gaga does, and “use your popularity for a good cause”, as Cher Horowitz puts it in Clueless, like Gaga does, I wouldn’t want to sacrifice who I am underneath it all.

Though, in interviews, Gaga has claimed that her be-sequinned, meat-dress-wearing, friend of Elton John alter ego is who she is underneath it all. That she was “Born this Way”.

But it must be so tiring to always have the Gaga switch on. To be in full makeup, garish costumes, and setting pianos on fire. Evidently it is, if her collapsing on stage is anything to go by.

Personally, if I was a celebrity, I would want to be either a mediocre one who can go about their business getting papped at the supermarket every once in a while, a Cate Blanchette-esque one, who is as good at their craft as Gaga is, but manages to fly under the radar (except for that whole “Carbon Cate” shemozzle), or even one like Kim Kardashian who, like Gaga, probably doesn’t get a whole lot of genuine downtime, where she can spend a day in bed with no makeup on watching cheesy movies without the reality TV cameras and just be the real Kim, but who has crafted a whole career around her personality and her family.

I have to wonder, is there a price to being Lady Gaga? Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, will she still be around like Madonna, Stevie Nicks or Cyndi Lauper? Or will the sheer intensity she operates at now burn her out within five?

I love Lady Gaga, and I genuinely hope she’ll be around for another fifty years, but I certainly don’t envy her.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Vo-Gaga.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Born This Way” Episode.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Mag Cover of the Week: Lady Gaga for Vogue Hommes Japan in a Meat Bikini.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Guest Post: Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” & 21st Century “Noise”.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Katy P. VS. Lady G.

Image via News.com.au.

Event: Cherchez la Femme Fatale, Take 2.

Geelong may seem like a world away for city slickers. At first, I was going to let its distance prevent me from attending the city’s latest exhibition, Femme Fatale: The Female Criminal, at the National Wool Museum. But if you take some friends and a good book (though not both at the same time. Take it from me; you’ll be stuck on the same page for the duration of the trip!), the hour’s train commute is worth it.

The exhibition juxtaposes “glamorous depictions of female felons in literature” with “the grim reality experienced by real women criminals”, such as Janet Wright, who was prosecuted for performing an abortion on a teenager who, after becoming ill, reported her, in 1928. Or “Sydney’s most beautiful prostitute”, Dulcie Markham, who probably got her fake name from Alfred Hitchcock’s Murder!, and whose real identity was never revealed. Or Louisa Collins, who poisoned—“poison was considered a particularly feminine murder weapon”—her husband in order to marry a boarder in their home just two months later, in 1887. She was sentenced to hang on 8th January, 1889, but the execution was botched by the hangman, “who was unable to open the trapdoor”. The execution was eventually carried out.

These were just some of the individuals profiled in the exhibition, which dealt with the supposed “empowered, cunning, unemotional woman who commits crime and uses her sexual allure to persuade men to sin on her behalf”—the quintessential “femme fatale”—and today’s understanding “that a wide range of factors may influence criminality including difficult childhood environments, mental illness and drug addiction.”

But back in the day, it was believed that “women lack moral fortitude and are easily tempted”, which allegedly stemmed from Sigmund Freud’s “penis envy” theory.

In 1893, Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso wrote La Donna Delinquente (The Criminal Woman), in which he contended that masculine features, such as a “mannish jawline”, noticed in his photographical portraits of female criminals, were the “stigmata of degeneration”. Factors such as the menstrual cycle and the fables of Eve in the Garden of Eden, Medusa, and the Biblical Delilah, of Samson fame, were also taken into account when women “sinned”.

As was written in relation to the Salem witch trials in the early 1690s, “the fear of wicked women, whether real or imagined, can have horrific consequences.”

In Australia, though, in recent years “the number of female offenders incarcerated… has risen dramatically”. In the early days of female incarceration in Australia, psychological punishments such as head shaving were preferred to physical punishment. But at the State Reformatory for Women in Long Bay, Sydney, which opened in 1909, “the women were encouraged to reconnect with their ‘femininity’ and to adopt more refined, ‘ladylike’ behaviour.”

The abortion section, which I briefly mentioned above in relation to Janet Wright, was quite affecting but, as my friend Eddie pointed out, perhaps seemed out of place in the exhibition. Sure, abortion was (and still is in some parts of the country) illegal for a long time, but it kind of felt like a certain agenda was being pushed via its inclusion. Still, it is “one of the few crimes that always involves a woman”.

My favourite part of the exhibition, by far, was the genre of “femme fatale” paperbacks and films, which lured me to it in the first place. There was a highlight reel of some of the silver screen’s greatest female villains, such as Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, next to this Italian proverb: “woman is rarely wicked, but when she is, she is worse than a man.” Another quote, from Raymond Chandler in Farewell My Lovely, which really resonated with me and my love for femme fatales, and which I posted last week: “I like smooth shiny girls, hardboiled and loaded with sin.”

But as much as the femme fatale is lauded, in her heyday the American Production Code stated that “ ‘the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime’. Censorship led to many implausible endings and a high level of mortality among femmes fatales.”

The exhibition finished up with crime memorabilia, which has reached fever pitch in recent years, with action figures, calendars, trading cards and true crime publications. (I, myself, have a penchant for true crime. Dominick Dunne, anyone?) This is a far cry from the assertion that “most people find it repellant that an individual can become a celebrity simply for being very good at being bad.” Reminds me of a certain Rihanna song

Overall, while each individual aspect of the exhibition was fascinating in its own right, Femme Fatale: The Female Criminal as a whole was a bit clunky and disjointed. I would still recommend seeing it, if “evil” women are your thing. But get in quick! It finishes next Monday.

[City of Greater Geelong] Femme Fatale: The Female Criminal.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Cherchez la Femme (Fatale).

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Raymond Chandler on the Femme Fatale.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The “Evil” Woman.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Another City, Not My Own by Dominick Dunne Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Minus Two & a Half Men.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “S&M”: Is It Really So Much Worse Than Rihanna’s Other Stuff?

Image via Art Geelong.

Guest Post: Leaving on a Jet Plane.

My first memory of the airport is fragmented: seeing my cousin off to Berlin a couple of years after the fall of the wall, all I remember is a green glow emanating from Tullamarine airport (which is more than likely a figment of my imagination), playing with a plastic toy set of some kind bought for me by my grandparents at the gift shop, and the smell of The Body Shop’s cocoa butter moisturiser.

Almost fifteen years later I made my return to the terminal, my first ever flight being en route to San Francisco via Sydney as part of a US exchange program. It was scary, and a lonely trip overall, but it instilled in me the travel bug.

Twenty plane rides later, I’m hoping my next trip will be to New York for my 25th birthday in 2012. It’s been nearly two years since I’ve travelled anywhere interesting, unless you count the two hour train journey from Melbourne to my country Victorian hometown, which I don’t!

Personally, my favourite thing about travelling is the interrupted reading time; up to 20 hours on some flights! The atmosphere of the airport, with all its luxury stores, newsagents and overpriced food bars, comes in a close second, so after reading Chris Guillebeau’s “For the Love of Airports” piece on The Art of Non-Conformity, I solicited my high-school best friend, Natalie, who I remember being obsessed with aerospace travel, to write a post on her love of airports.

Airports have always been a favourite place of mine; having grown up travelling overseas every couple of years since I was an infant I have fond and happy memories of the terminals. Although it’s so large, there is somehow an atmosphere of warmth amongst the hustle and bustle at the airport. I love that you can be there any time of the day—morning, noon or night—and see so many people heading in all directions to catch flights. Just watching them, wondering where are they off to…

My favourite memory of going to an airport was probably the most disastrous start to a family holiday. It was the day before Christmas Eve and my family and I were headed to New Zealand for the holidays. We had many delays and ended up getting a free overnight stay at Tullamarine’s Travelodge Hotel in the interim. Although it was stressful and annoying for my parents, I really enjoyed all the excitement of having to shuttle our way to the hotel and knowing we would be returning to the vibrancy of the airport the next morning; anything to prolong my time there!

To me, airports symbolise many things. Often the happiness of reunions between families and friends, the enjoyment of embarking on a holiday, and the sadness of seeing someone off [Early Bird note: I will be seeing my good friend April off indefinitely to Canada in a couple of weeks. I will be packing tissues]. At times, airports can be stressful, scary and unpredictable but they’re also mesmerising and intriguing to me. I could sit in a cosy departure lounge all day with my face pressed against the warm glass, marvelling at just how those big airbuses get off the ground. Sometimes the airport is more thrilling than the journey, because there’s always so much to look forward to: café food, duty free shopping and my favourite of all, the smell of aeroplane fuel! Strange, I know, but it always sends those airport memories flooding back…

Elsewhere: [The Art of Non-Conformity] For the Love of Airports.