My Week in Pictures.

It’s been wet, cold and increasingly dark lately, so I’ve been trying to spend as much time at home with the puppy on my lap acting as a hot water bottle, catching up on my reading, writing and just plain relaxing. What have you been up to?

The second installment of Fables, courtesy of the housemate.

I’d mentioned that, after finally reading the first edition of Fables and being unimpressed with Once Upon a Time, I’d like to see what happens next. My housemate, Eddie, apparently had the chance to get it on the cheap and surprised me with it over the weekend.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

The one outing I did make this week was to see the latest ensemble effort What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Not the greatest movie ever made, but enjoyable nonetheless.

The stack.

Last time, I was close to finishing Bret Hart’s memoir, and now I’m embroiled in Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures, about amateur paleontologists and fossil collectors in the early 18th century, Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot. While Chevalier isn’t exactly literary royalty, I do love her historical recreations. This fortnight’s Big Issue is well worth a read, too.

Related: What to Expect When You’re Expecting—Adoption, Choice & Bacne.

My Week in Pictures—31st May, 2012.

My Week in Pictures—17th May, 2012.

Event: Melbourne Writers’ Festival—A Long Long Way to Go: Why We Still Need Feminism.

We’re in a post-feminist era. Feminism is dead. Has feminism failed?

From the arguments presented by Sophie Cunningham in her Melbourne Writers’ Festival address, titled after the line in Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” (and the title of a book I thought Cunningham mentioned she’d had/is having published, but upon further inspection, this doesn’t seem to be the case), these post-feminism assertions are null and void.

While Cunningham stated at the beginning, after her introduction by Monica Dux, that she’d be focusing purely on feminism as it relates to Western women, but to keep the big picture in mind, I was disappointed that she kept her key points to the lack of women (or recognition of women) in writing, music, film and the arts in general.

Having said that, though, she made some pertinent points: that in 2009 and 2011, the Miles Franklin Award shortlists were all male; that for a woman in Australia to be paid the same as a man in the same job, she would have to have a PhD to his Bachelor degree; that a 25-year-old woman will earn $1.5 million over the next 40 years, whereas a male will earn $2.4 million (to which Dr. Anne Summers responded, “There’s a $1 million penalty for being a woman in Australia today.”); it’s safer to be a soldier in one of the most dangerous countries in the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo, than to be a woman; women do two thirds of the world’s work for 10% of the pay; that when literary submissions are read blind, the inclusion/choosing of women increases sevenfold. (This is epitomised in The Big Issue’s latest fiction edition, in which six competition pieces were read without names attached, and five [possibly six; it isn’t clear if Nic Low, whose piece Slick appears in the anthology, is male or female] are from women writers.)

To really illustrate the “invisible woman” syndrome in the “writing culture crisis”, and amongst many other industries, Cunningham used an anecdote about a female reporter who attended a Liberal rally organised by Tony Abbott and was taunted by the crowd for daring to question Malcolm Turnbull (I think; don’t quote me on this)*. To escape the abuse that threatened to get physical, she disappeared into the crowd, becoming “invisible”. If only Lara Logan, whom Cunningham spoke about, was able to do this in Tahrir Square.

Cunningham brought up the notion that in terms of women’s equality and feminism, our society is regressing somewhat. This is a contention I agree with. Therefore the “invisibility” of women has become “normalised”.

Aimless Panther writes on Feminaust:

“Yay, Aussie women now make up 12% of board members! Wait… seriously, is 12% something to CELEBRATE?!?!”

My sentiments exactly.

In film, Cunningham talked about the Bechdel test and how the feminist movie of the year, Bridesmaids, makes the cut, whereas Cowboys & Aliens doesn’t. Not to toot my own horn (okay, I’ll toot away!), but has Cunningham been reading The Early Bird?!

She also mentions Pixar’s first film featuring a female protagonist, 2012’s Brave, about a strong, assertive and “brave” (duh!)—hence “ugly”—redhead. My, how far we’ve come!

Where Cunningham saw a sort of “bottleneck” in modern feminism, where white, privileged feminists like myself don’t understand the problems facing feminists of colour, feminists with sexual orientation other than straight, feminists with gender other than cis, and feminists with disabilities, she praised the “grassroots” feminism sprouting in the young feminist community, epitomised by SlutWalk. (SlutWalk has been criticised by non-white, non-middle-class feminists for excluding them. Cunningham defended the protest, but by only speaking about issues that affect the feminists SlutWalk caters to, perhaps she could be seen as contributing to this bottleneck?)

She longs for a fourth wave feminism, and finished the talk with this. Some would say we are in/entering a fourth wave, where sexual liberation and reproductive rights still reign supreme, but there is more of a focus on the needs of different types of feminists, as mentioned above, and “serious”, Third-World feminism, where some view the movement is most needed.

Those who are instigating these grassroots movements; this fourth wave; these feminist blogs; are arguably the 25-year-olds who “don’t get feminism”, as Cunningham asserted. While I don’t wish to demonise her for questioning my, and my peers’, motivations and understanding of the movement we so lovingly work towards, I was thoroughly offended by this comment. If Cunningham, and an elderly audience member who spoke up during question time by reiterating that young people don’t “get” what “real” feminism is all about, took a look around the function room at BMW Edge at Federation Square, they would have realised that the majority of people in attendance were under or around 25. Some of them were men, which signifies that yes, while we do still have “a long long way to go”, there are people on our side.

Furthermore, I remember last year there was a bit of tension in the ranks between second- and third-wave feminists, which has also contributed to the bottleneck Cunningham speaks of.

I think we, as feminists, need to be careful about who we call a “real feminist”. Is she the man-hating “HLL (Hairy Legged Lesbian)” stereotype? The woman who shuns all pain-killers to have a natural, home birth, and shames all those who don’t? The “expert”? The grassroots SlutWalk organisers? According to Cunningham, perhaps it’s not the young, beautiful women who “don’t understand” the real issues of concern for feminism because, well, they’re 25 and still have men drooling at their feet. (I’m paraphrasing here, but this is basically the gist of what I interpreted Cunningham to mean). There’ll be more on this to come throughout the week. In the meantime, what do you think?

*Updated 05/09/11: It was actually Alan Jones, at the Rally of No Confidence in Canberra, who lead the crowd in a verbal barraging of journalist Jacqueline Maley after she asked him if he had been paid to speak. I have added the link to this information below.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Has Feminism Failed?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] A Woman Can’t Even Get on FHM’s Hottest 100 Women List.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Witch Trial: Burning at the Stake on Charmed.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Bridesmaids Review.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Cowboys VS. Aliens & Indians… Does it Really Matter? They’re All the Same Anyway, According to the New Movie.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Rachel Berry as Feminist.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Melbourne Writers’ Festival: Never, Ever, Again—Why Australian Abortion Law Needs Reform by Caroline de Costa Book Launch.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Surfing the Third Wave: Second-Wave VS. Third-Wave Feminism on Gossip Girl.

Elsewhere: [ABC’s The Drum] A Prize of One’s Own: The Case for an Aussie Orange.

[Feminaust] Welcome to Monday August 29 2011.

[Sydney Morning Herald] The Fee, Me & Alan Jones: How Question of Money Turned Crowd Nasty.

Image via Melbourne Writers’ Festival.

In the News: Minus Two & a Half Men.

Girl with a Satchel featured an excerpt from a Washington Post column about body snarking at the Oscars:

“I would like to note that more space was devoted to photographs of ladies wearing dresses… than for the last two weeks’ coverage of the events in Libya.”

This is also true of the news coverage in Vietnam, where a colleague of mine (whom I mentioned as the friendly workplace Big Issue provider earlier this week) is spending five weeks. In a recent email, he said that the hot topic on the news there is Charlie Sheen, not Libya, Egypt or Japan, which bore the brunt of a 7.3 magnitude earthquake yesterday afternoon.

A story on MamaMia written by publicist Steven Murphy echoes this:

“His weakness for drugs and alcohol is… well documented and he has been fodder for the tabloid press for years.

“But this latest incident is front-page news like no other. But why? Why is this incident haunting our news services day and night?”

The article somewhat-annoyingly glossed over the fact that his drug and alcohol problems are put at the forefront of his negative publicity, when his hatred of women and obvious mental illness are shoved to the back.

Jezebel hasn’t forgotten, however, with a no-bullshit article entitled “Charlie Sheen’s History of Violence Toward Women” published last week. The article also dealt with John Galliano’s disgraceful display of anti-Semitism, and what the news stories don’t tell you:

“Galliano allegedly grabbed gallery curator Geraldine Bloch by the hair and said, ‘Shut your mouth, dirty bitch, I can’t stand your dirty whore voice.’”

I, myself, didn’t even know that happened until I read the article, and I usually take a vested interest in these sorts of things.

On the plus side, Galliano has been fired as head designer of Christian Dior and—finally!—Sheen’s been fired as head douchebag on Two & a Half Men, to be replaced, allegedly, by reformed bad boy and fellow brat pack member, Rob Lowe.

While I couldn’t be happier about the latter (let’s shout it from the rooftops!), Galliano’s reign at Dior produced some of the finest garments the fashion world has seen, and it’s unfortunate it had to come to this.

But I applaud the fashion house for ousting the anti-Semite, and stars like Natalie Portman, who have publicly spoken out against him.

Both men’s firings show that there is a zero tolerance policy against these kinds of abhorrent behaviours, and hopefully other companies, in the entertainment industry and otherwise, will follow suit.

Although Michael Specter of The New Yorker doesn’t think so, writing that:

“the fashion world has a remarkable ability to shrug off the odd deeply flawed human being, as long as he or she can cut a dress like Galliano can or wear one like Kate Moss, who, despite behaviour that sets a disastrous example for millions of girls, including issues with drugs, is forgiven because, well, she is really very pretty.”

I haven’t always been innocent in providing double standards to those I like, think are talented, and should be forgiven for their indiscretions.

Just yesterday, some co-workers and I were talking about Catherine Deveny’s tweets at last year’s Logies. Personally, I didn’t find them to be offensive, and sorely miss her column on the back page of The Saturday Age’s Life & Style (formerly the A2). But, looking back on it, The Age did the right thing by sacking her. At the time, both Deveny and I used the excuse that she’s a comedienne; that’s her job. I guess it takes the disgraces of people you don’t like to understand the repercussions of (the disgraces of) those you do.

Once such repugnant crime committed by professional wrestler Chris Benoit in 2007, when he murdered his wife and son and killed himself, gave me lots to think (and write) about. On the one hand, I felt his legacy as one of the best professional wrestlers ever to grace the squared circle shouldn’t be forgotten, however, Benoit took three lives and sullied the reputation of professional wrestling (okay, there wasn’t much of a reputation left to sully!) and sparked a debate on steroids and drug testing that raged for years; the smoke of which still lingers today.

I’ve written several articles on that story and, with a new frame of mind to cast a different light on the story, I think I may just revisit said articles. (The anniversary of the double-murder suicide is June 24, so watch this space around that time.)

Benoit was obviously seriously mentally ill; the (not-so-) funny thing is, his friends, family and co-workers never picked up on it.

Charlie Sheen, however, has a long history of violence and drug use, and there’s no telling what he’s capable of.

[MamaMia] Advice to Charlie Sheen from Australia’s Top Publicist.

[Jezebel] Charlie Sheen’s History of Violence Toward Women.

[The New Yorker] John Galliano’s Implosion.

[Girl with a Satchel] Body Snarking is So No Funny But Jacki Weaver is Fab.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Big Issue Review, 1-14 March 2011.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Anatomy of a Douchebag.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Charlie Sheen’s Witness.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Images via NY Daily News, The Gloss, Pop Culture Madness.

Profile: Rachel Hills of Musings of an Inappropriate Woman.

I’ve only become familiar with Rachel Hills, sex and gender blogger at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, in the past few months, but she’s made her way to the top of my must-read blogs. Here, she answers questions about her inspiration, future writing goals and what she does in her spare time in a new city (she recently moved from Australia to begin a new chapter of her life in London).

 

Can you give us a quick run-down of your professional writing portfolio thus far?

I’ve been freelancing for six years now, and have written for (in alphabetical order) the ABC, The Age, The Australian, The Big Issue, The Bulletin, The Canberra Times, Cleo, Cosmopolitan, The Courier-Mail, Girlfriend, Girls’ Life (US), Glamour (UK), The Huffington Post, Jezebel, The Monthly, New Matilda, Russh, Sunday Life, Sunday Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, Vogue, The Walkley Magazine and YEN, as well as a bunch of smaller, indie magazines and blogs.

I got my start writing opinion pieces for the Sydney Morning Herald. These days, I usually write “think piece” features on personal-is-political type issues, or women’s mag fare with smarts.

 

How long have you been blogging at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman and what made you decide to start a blog?

I just did a quick scan of my archives and discovered I just reached my three year anniversary on October 30.

I’ve written for the internet pretty much ever since it was possible to (I started my first website in 1998), but I was always kind of hesitant of writing publicly under my own name. As a teenager because of my secret pop music loving shame, as a university student because I was involved in student politics and that makes you extremely paranoid (not of people digging up info on you when you become a politician, but of people digging up info on you and putting it in the student newspaper), and then as an adult because I didn’t want to cannibalise my own story ideas.

I cracked through basically because I loved reading other people’s blogs, and because I was inspired by the way that other journalistsparticularly in the USwere using blogs to connect with their audiences. My blog was quite different when I first started writing it, thoughit was more a mix of political commentary, scrapbook and lifecast, as opposed to the more reflective, personal-is-political blog it is today.

What are some of your favourite blogs?

I have a soft spot for blogs which make you feel like you’re getting to know the person writing itblogs like Gala Darling, Girl With A Satchel, Wordsmith Lane, The Ch!cktionary, Emily Magazine, Garance Dore, Style Rookie and The Early Bird Catches The Worm [that's me!] are often at the top of my Google Reader.

I also love blogs that make me think about thingsFeministe, Pandagon, The Awl, Tiara The Merch Girl, Rabbit White, Kapooka Baby, Jezebel, Hugo Schwyzer, Racialicious. And people like Chris Brogan, Seth Godin and Chris Guillebeau are like mentors I’ve never met when it comes to things like blogging and community building.

I’ve lost count of the number of blogs I subscribe to on Google Reader, though, so that’s really just scraping the surface of what I read.

What has been your proudest writing-related achievement to date?

I don’t think I actually have one! There are lots of stories I’m fond of, and I still get excited whenever I get a story up, but there isn’t one that stands out as being more significant than the others. I suppose the one I was most proud of at the time was that first opinion piece in the SMH. And I hope my book will be my proudest writing accomplishment in a couple of years.

 

And your proudest non-writing achievement?

In 2006, I travelled around the US meeting some of my favourite journalists and editors: people from The Economist, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, US Cosmopolitan and so on. Very nerdy, but also very gutsy lots of people at home thought I was a bit of a weirdo for attempting it (with a couple of notable exceptions). I’m quite proud of that.

 

Back to your book, to be titled The Sex Myth; how is it coming along?

Haha, it’s coming along okay. I’m dedicating a lot of time to it at the moment, and there are bits of it that I really like, which is nice. I’ve shown the overview to a few high profile people, and the response has been universally very positive. I’m just trying to get everything in place at the moment to translate that positivity into a kickass book deal.

 

You’ve written about workaholism and the work/life balance in the past. How do you balance all your commitments?

It was much, much harder when I was living in Australia and holding down a near full-time job. Now that I’m working for myself again, it’s much easier to fit in all the things I want to work on, and living with my partner means I still make plenty of time for myself. (When he’s away, I start working later, procrastinating more and sleeping less.)

That said, even working for myself, I’m still managing four main areas of workfreelancing, book, PhD and blogonly one of which pays. So finding time for all of them can be a bit tricky.

 

What is your favourite way to unwind?

Having spent the past two and a half years of my life reading books on the philosophy of sex, I’ve developed a bit of a fiction obsession recently. It’s so much easier and more relaxing to read than the academic stuff I’m usually buried in.

I’m also really enjoying getting to know London, and digging out all the interesting things there are to do here. My boyfriend often asks me how I manage to find all the things we check outphotographic treasure hunts, interactive theatre, art galleries, bars with secret passage ways.

And yoga. It’s clichéd, but it relaxes me, keeps me fit and keeps my bad neck (from too much time sitting in front of a computer) in proper alignment.

 

Because most bloggers write about things they’re passionate about, as I know both you and I do, do you find sometimes it’s a chore to churn out posts on, for example, mag-world musings or the happenings on your favourite TV show (you and I both share a penchant for Gossip Girl) and the like, as previously you would have done those things for pleasure? Because that’s definitely something I struggle with from time to time.

Because I write for a living, one thing I’m very careful to do is keep blogging a pleasure. The main way I do this is by writing when I’m feeling inspired: if the writing doesn’t flow easily, blogging starts to feel like an obligation… and while I have no concrete evidence of this, I suspect it makes the posts less interesting to read, too. If I’m not feeling inspired and haven’t updated much that week, I’ll try to find something else around the net that I think will be of interest to my audience and share that with them instead.

What advice do you have for other bloggers?

Don’t feel like you have to get it right immediately. Sure, the internet sticks around forever, so you want to think before you post, but blogging is something you learn by doing just like anything else, and chances are it will take you a while to find your best blogging voice. (It took me a while, and I’d been writing on the net for nearly 10 years and writing professionally for three when I started. And I’m still learning.) Experiment until you find that perfect intersection of what you love, what feels authentic for you, and what people respond to.

 

And finally, where do you see yourself, writing-wise, in the future?

I’d like to just keep on doing what I do now, only on a bigger and better level, with all the aspects of my work (journalism, blogging, books) feeding into one another.

[Musings of an Inappropriate Woman].

Event: Derby Girls—Leaders of the Pack.

Last Saturday night, three friends and I braved the rain with broken umbrellas to see the Victorian Roller Derby League present Leader of the Pack, with underdogs Dolls Au-Go-Go taking on my team for the night, the Toxic Avengers.

This wasn’t my first foray into roller derby, but for one friend and her daughter, they were derby virgins.

For those of you who don’t have much experience with roller derby (and from what I’ve heard, that’s most people), let me give you a quick rundown, courtesy of the night’s program.

“Modern women’s flat track roller derby is full contact sport played between two teams in a competition called a ‘bout’. A bout consists of two 30 minute periods in which teams skate as many two minute ‘jams’ as possible. There are five members from each team on the track in each jam. The positions are:

The pivot is a block that wears a striped helmet cover and lines up in the front of the pack. She sets the pace and is the last line of defence against an opposing jammer.

The blocker wears no helmet cover and lines up behind the pivot. She plays offence and defence at the same time to prevent the opposing jammer from scoring points while clearing a path for her jammer. A blocker can legally block any member of the opposing team by using only body parts above mid-thigh, excluding forearms, hands and head.

The jammer wears the star helmet cover and lines up behind the jam line. She is the point scorer and after her first pass through the pack, she earns a point for each opposing team member as she passes. Lead jammer is decided by the first jammer to make it through the pack legally. A lead jammer can call of the jam at any time by making a ‘chopping’ motion at her hips.”

Aside from the rules and the all-women nature of the competition, roller derby is defined by two other features: kick-ass derby names (think Mother the Razor, Dolly Tartan and my favourite for the night, Kittie von Krusher) and “a rink filled not with size 0 blonde models, but with women of all shapes… who mostly looked like they had cut out of work early, changed into… [their ‘boutfits’] in the car, and made it to the track just in time for the game.”

While roller derby is technically a sport “for women, by women”, men also have a role, primarily as commentators, scorekeepers and umpires, all of whom were male for VRDL’s Leader of the Pack event. Far from being “cheerleaders”, “they have to be able to skate as well as the derby women” and they have to know all the rules. “These men have a profound respect for roller derby and the women involved.”

From where I was sitting (right up the front, thankyou very much!), this seemed true of the audience. It was a fairly even mix of everyday people (like moi), rockabillies and died-haired punk-rockers in platform buckle boots, without heckling from the male members of the crowd. I felt that everyone was there for a bit of fun, to support their favourite team and marvel at the athleticism of the skaters. Certainly, there was no expectation of “titillation”.

However, Vicky Vengeance of Because Sometimes Feminists Aren’t Nice, in this 2006 “Rant Against Roller Derby” says that most people believe roller derby is a feminist sport because “it’s ok [sic] for these Roller Derby players to play with their sexuality because sexuality is fun! It’s fun to skate around in a mini skirt kicking people’s asses!… Why should you have to look like a man to be perceived as tough and powerful?”

She goes on to say that:

“A lot of the advocates who I see talking about how badass Roller Derby is, think of the something like cheerleading as the most terrible sexist thing imaginable. And yet, cheerleading requires a tremendous amount of athleticism and involves a huge amount of danger and physical risk. Further, the costumes cheerleaders wear bear an uncanny resemblance to the Roller Derby costumes that I’ve seen. Are you going to tell them what they’re doing is any less empowering than what Roller Derby women do? Ok [sic] so cheerleading is ok [sic]. I sense the third wavers nodding.

Well let’s push it further: what about Mud Wrestling? You know, the game where a couple of women get semi-nude and roll in the mud duking it out at strip clubs to cheers and yells. I would argue that you can make similar types of arguments in favour of women’s Mud Wrestling as you could for Cheerleading of Roller Derby.”

Vicky Vengeance is right in her ethos; I would tend to agree that yes, roller derby is a sport based on what a woman’s body can do, as is cheerleading and mud wrestling. But one of the differences with roller derby is that hardly any of the women competing in the sport share the same body types as those who compete in cheerleading and mud wrestling. On Saturday, I would say that it was an even mixture of thin girls and bigger girls; girls with and without cellulite; conventionally pretty girls, and unconventionally pretty girls; girls with long hair and girls with short hair etc.

So Vicky Vengeance is somewhat correct, but I think that most people who attend roller derby do it for the fun factor, the spirit of competition, and the team atmosphere. Ask yourself this: do the majority of football-goers watch the game for the appearance of its players, or for the sport itself?

Just because it’s an all-female sport, it doesn’t mean it has to be reduced to stereotypical “all-female” issues.

For a taste of what the Leader of the Pack was like, check out this video, set to The Vines’ “Walk Idiot Walk”, by former roller-derby virgin, Christine, originally from her blog, Well?

This week’s The Big Issue also features roller derby (scans below).