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.

We All Have Naked Bodies. Jennifer Lawrence is No Different.



Do you ever wonder whether you’ve been a positive influence on someone who’s no longer in your life? Well, if I influenced the particular ex-friend I have in mind—the one responsible for the above Facebook status and the shitshow that followed—in any way it has surely dissipated as she took great joy in victim-blaming and slut-shaming the myriad female celebrities who fell victim to the mass nude photo hack earlier this week.

While the leaking of 101 female celebrities’ private photos from their iCloud accounts—many of them long deleted—is a “flagrant violation of privacy” as perhaps the most-high profile victim Jennifer Lawrence’s PR team put it, it is also a crime. Many a think piece has been written in the days following about how looking at Lawrence, Kate Upton, Alison Brie, Adriana Grande et al’s personal photographs makes us complicit in said crime, much like viewing child pornography is a continued violation of the abused minors. I do not deny this but, apart from Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Peterson’s take on the “scandal” as compared to the nonconsensual publication of Marilyn Monroe’s “Golden Dreams” nudes in the ’50s, I have seen nary a word written about how the naked body is not, in fact, scandalous.

If many of the comments on the above Facebook thread are to be believed, people—nay, women, because let’s be honest, the only men targeted in this mass hack are those who happen to sneak into a shot with their female partners, as Roxane Gay points out—who take photos of themselves in various stages of undress are idiots, especially if they’re famous, because it’s only a matter of time before they’re leaked for the world to see. Never mind the fact that we all have bodies underneath our clothes and that some people like to take photos of said bodies. To return to Peterson:

“The only way to prevent a market for these type of photos is to stop treating them, and the ‘secrets’ they reveal, as revelatory or scandalous. They don’t tell you anything new about Lawrence. They don’t make you think differently about her. You know why? Because sexuality isn’t, and shouldn’t be, a dirty secret. In her public appearances and interviews, Lawrence has never attempted to make it so. And just because it’s private doesn’t mean it’s dirty…”

This isn’t the first time photos of nude, female celebrities have been leaked, though. In the past few years similar photos of Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, Miley Cyrus and Mila Kunis have made their way into the public domain, but it’s hard to remember there being an outrage on such a level. I tend toward the fact that these hackers specifically targeted seemingly as many female celebrities as they possibly could in an egregious example of misogyny. But it could also be because Lawrence is “Our Jen”; “Cool Girl Jen”, and her almost mythical status in fangirl (and –guy) world makes us super protective of her. Those other women—Cyrus, Johansson, and even those that specifically market their sexuality as part of their brand (that’s not to say Cyrus and, indeed Johansson, don’t)—kind of deserved it, didn’t they?

From Kate Leaver in her article “Jennifer Lawrence is Not an Idiot” on MamaMia:

“This is not like that time Kim Kardashian (or, more accurately, her mother/manager Kris Jenner) ‘leaked’ a sex tape in a brazen grab at fame. This is not a staged accident, like when Nicki Minaj’s top serendipitously fell open on stage at the VMAs. This is not a seedy publicity stunt from a desperate celebrity.”

And so what if it was? Lawrence et al presumably had a certain amount of agency in creating these photos in the first place. Their agency and privacy was taken away by some hackers with too much time and misogyny on their hands. Let’s not feed into that by further denying it to women who do traffic in the commodification of their bodies for a profit, whether explicitly or implicitly. Only then can we start to accept the naked body as something that everyone has and not something that can be “leaked” and used to shame women into submission.

Elsewhere: [Buzzfeed] Those Jennifer Lawrence Pictures Aren’t Scandalous.

[The Guardian] The Great Naked Celebrity Photo Leak of 2014 is Just the Beginning.

[Buzzfeed] Jennifer Lawrence & the History of Cool Girls.

[MamaMia] Jennifer Lawrence is Not an Idiot.

Images via Facebook.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

disney princess cinderella domestic violence

The latest artists’ take on Disney princesses and social awareness features Cinderella, Ariel et al. as victims of domestic violence. [Daily Life]

Occupy protestor Cecily McMillan reports on the conditions inside Rikers Island Correctional Facility. And let me tell you, this ain’t no Orange is the New Black shit. [Jezebel]

There’s a difference between a feminist character and a character who’s a feminist. [Persephone Magazine]

Speaking of, Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy is more feminist than Scandal:

“… The attention and praise Rhimes has received for casting [Kerry] Washington as [Olivia] Pope has overshadowed the fact that what Rhimes got right with her female characters in Grey’s, she got wrong in Scandal

“When it comes to their personal lives, the women in Scandal are insecure, vulnerable and reactive, while the ones in Grey’s are stronger, self-assured and reflective.” [In These Times]

And ICYMI, I wrote about feminism on the latest season of Grey’s Anatomy and victim-blaming.

The 74th Down Under Feminist Blog Carnival is up, and one of my pieces about Orange is the New Black is featured. Head on over to check it, and much more feminist writing from the Aussie interwebs, out. [Pondering Postfeminism]

Jasmine Shea boycotted her local Hobby Lobby store by making pro-choice statements with their craft supplies. [Feministing]

In the wake of True Blood‘s final season, Katherine Murray discusses its troubling sexual politics. [Bitch Flicks]

Image via Daily Life.

Walking While Female.


There’s been a hell of a lot of assaults on women at night in Melbourne making the news lately. Acquaintances I’ve spoken to in passing about the news ask why is such a deluge of assaults happening now? I would argue that they’ve been happening pretty frequently since the beginning of time but they’re only just making the news, more so since the brutal rape and murder of Melbourne woman by way of Ireland, Jill Meagher.

One Facebook status a friend sent me a screenshot of, which I found particularly ignorant, asked why women insist on walking at night in Melbourne. Um, because we’re human beings?! The status came from someone who lives in a small town where everyone has cars and it takes ten minutes to get everywhere. When my friend pointed out the implausibility of the status in the comments, she got the reply that if women must walk at night, to do so in groups.

As a person from said small town who doesn’t have a car and who now lives in the city, I can tell you that suggestions like these are just not viable. Taxis to get from one side of town to the other can cost you hundreds of dollars. Not everyone lives close to public transport and most likely have to walk to and from train stations and bus and tram stops. This is not to mention people who can’t afford taxis and public transport, people who use wheelchairs or other mobility assistance apparatuses (apparati?), the elderly, the homeless, etc.

None of my friends live in my area so it’s not like we can organise a buddy system of pick ups and drop offs. Melbourne is not a town where everyone congregates in one park or on one stretch of shopping mall; many people don’t walk for fun, but for necessity.

Some other helpful hints to protect young women are as follows: don’t walk your dog before or after work (it’s almost the dead of winter in Melbourne and daylight only exists from 8am to 5pm, the hours many people are away from their pets at work); if you must walk in the dark, make sure you have a dog with you; and don’t wear headphones when walking alone. These suggestions are, again, completely out of touch. Most pet-owners have to walk their animals; not everyone has a pet; and while I can acknowledge the argument against loud headphones limiting their use in this tech-obsessed society is pointless. And many women use headphones as armour regardless of whether they’re listening to anything through them. Sometimes I’ll have headphones on on public transport to avoid being spoken to by entitled men who must know what you’re reading or to remain alert in uncertain situations unbeknownst to others. (Someone recriminated me for not being alert whilst wearing headphones because they honked at me on the street but I “didn’t hear them”. Anyone who’s walked whilst also being a woman knows responding to honks on the street is “asking for trouble”, as so many people are wont to accuse us of.)

In the furor surrounding Jill Meagher’s murder and the seemingly random Brunswick and Yarravile attacks, as well as the attack on a schoolgirl in Glenferrie, we’re forgetting that people we know, trust or even live with are the most dangerous to us. Remember in the past few months the influx of intimate partner murders reported in the news?

Because men have perpetrated all of these attacks, maybe we should be telling men who match the description of said assailants to limit their nocturnal movements outside of their homes lest they attack an unassuming woman just going about her daily business. Now wouldn’t that be a controversial idea.

Related: Sexual Assault, Moral Panic & Jill Meagher.

On the (Rest of the) Net.



What do strippers think of Rihanna’s “Pour It Up”? [Daily Life]

I wrote about Gossip Girl and inadequacy. [Birdee Mag]

Unpacking the dual feminism and misogyny of American Horror Story: Coven. [LA Review of Books]

Authenticity and performance on social media. [Jezebel]

I’ve had it up to here with Mia Freedman. And that’s not something I write lightly, as I consider her my idol and I even named my dog after her. But she’s written some doozies this week. First she slut-shamed Kim Kardashian for Instagramming a post-baby body pic and how that impacted her suitability as a mother, and now she’s making sure she warns her daughter that when she is of drinking age, she’d better watch out not to get raped whilst intoxicated. Never mind – god forbid – if her daughter is sexually assaulted prior to this or whilst sober, which is just as likely. Oh, don’t worry, Mia also makes sure to write that she will warn her sons about drunk driving and “having sex” whilst inebriated; notice the absence of “not raping” in this sentence. Because we all know boys hear enough of this and women and girls are the ones who need to modify their behaviour lest they be accused of “asking for it”. [MamaMia]

Maryville rape victim Daisy Coleman writes about her attack. [xoJane]

ICYMI: Misogyny in Stephen King’s Under the Dome.

Image via Billboard.

On the (Rest of the) Net.


Beyonce: the face of feminism girl power. [National Union of Students’ Women’s Department Blog]

Emphasising the “victim” in “victim-blaming”. [Daily Life]

If people wrote about Seinfeld the way they write about Girls [College Humour]

Every day should be International Women’s Day. (FYI, it’s today.) [Daily Life]

Why do we hate Anne Hathaway? [Daily Beast]

Online dating as a feminist. [Role/Reboot]

Reconciling #FirstWorldProblems with Third World problems. [Daily Life]

“In defence of the personal essay.” Get ready, ’cause there’ll be a lot more personal essays coming your way about the crazy weekend I recently had… [Daily Life]

#DailyWife controversy, take two. [Daily Life]

The fakeness of female performers: feminist or faux? [The Cut]

The tyranny of the red carpet. [À L’Allure Garçonnière]

Image via The Fab Empire.

TV: The Carrie Diaries—“Mumbling Incoherently Does Not Mean She’s ‘Into It’.”

the carrie diaries fright night larrissa passed out

Last week the female anatomy and empowerment were addressed, and this week The Carrie Diaries was all about the disenfranchisement possession of the female anatomy can sometimes beget.

It was Halloween, and Carrie took Walt to another one of Larissa’s fabulous parties in the city. (How these 16-year-olds manage to club- and party-hop without any mention of fake IDs is beyond me.) Carrie met a hot young writer for her bible, Interview magazine, and ditched Larissa and Walt for him, who both happened to be high on ecstasy and LSD. Later, while Carrie was tending to a strung out Larissa, her crush, Bennett,  was cruising Walt, who flipped out and left the party for the streets of New York. When Carrie left Larissa passed out on a bed that doubled as a coat rack (isn’t that the beginning of an episode of Law & Order: SVU…?) to get back to flirting, she finds out that Walt’s gone missing. Carrie admonishes Bennett for letting her friend go missing, when she was the one who left him at a party in the city whilst he was high for the first time. Whilst Carrie’s stressing out about one friend going missing, the other is getting molested while she’s unconscious by a guy in a lion costume. Carrie employs her newfound feminism to tell the extra from the cast of Cats that “mumbling incoherently does not mean she’s into it” and that being unconscious is not an invitation for sexual advances.

The Cowardly Lion calls her what all feminists have been labelled at one point or another, a killjoy, and Bennett tells Carrie that “Larissa got herself into this mess” by taking drugs. After smoothing things over, Carrie entrusts victim-blaming Bennett to watch over Larissa while she takes to the streets to look for Walt. You’d think someone as small-minded as Bennett would insist she stay indoors while he heroically braves the parasites of the city to find her friend, lest she bring on a sexual assault herself. But Carrie just tells him not to “take advantage of her while she’s passed out” to which Bennett replies, “She’s not my type.” You mean unconscious women aren’t sexually attractive to him? There may be hope for Bennett yet—oh wait, he was insinuating that women in general aren’t his type, not just passed out ones. Nevermind…

Related: The Carrie Diaries—The Vagina Monologues.

Image via Ch131.