Event: Stella—A Prize of One’s Own at The Wheeler Centre.

the wheeler centre stella prize

Last Tuesday the first women’s-only literary prize in Australia—the Stella, after the lesser-known first name of Miles Franklin—was awarded to Carrie Tiffany for her novel Mateship with Birds. On Thursday night, the winner; founding donor, Ellen Koshland, and chairs, Aviva Tuffield and Kerryn Goldsworthy, of the Stella Prize; and panel facilitator Sian Prior met at the Wheeler Centre to discuss the landmark event.

I’m sure most have heard of the dismal representation of female writers being reviewed and writing reviews in major publications, and winning prizes, despite the breakdown of actual books being published by women being pretty even with men. The Stella Prize was born of this with the goal to “put gender on the agenda”, and if the 80% of books by women being shortlisted for the Miles Franklin this year and the accompanying press is any indication, the Stella committee has certainly succeeded in opening up the discourse.

Most of the news media I consume is feminist-, or at least left-, skewed, so everything I’ve read about the Stella has been positive. However, on the panel Tiffany quoted this choice headline from a certain newspaper with this country’s name as its title amidst the news of her win: “Bush Romance Novel Wins Writer’s Prize” [online title differs slightly].

Because all women are capable of writing about is romance, right? Specifically, vampire- and sadomasochistic-romance. But as Prior asserted, if that’s the case, “what’s so wrong with vampire- and sadomasochistic-romance, anyway?”  And romance is a “small subject”, just like all the other “small subjects” apparently only women write about: domestic life, relationships, etc. And on the occasion that a man does write about these topics, they’re looked at through a different “scope” than when a woman tells the story.

stella prize shortlist

While I shamefully haven’t read any of the books on the Stella shortlist (although I did pick up Mateship with Birds and Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts, which I’ve wanted to read since I heard her speak at the Bendigo Writers Festival last year), not all of them subscribe to this “gender of genre” talked about above. Sea Hearts is a fantasy novel, while The Sunlit Zone by Lisa Jacobson is speculative fiction. Goldsworthy mentioned that the judges were wary of choosing books that ticked certain boxes; being a genre novel, fact-laden non-ficition, or from an Indigenous woman, for example.

When an audience member asked about Indigenous writers included on the longlist and quotas for them within the Stella prize during question time, Goldsworthy mentioned they didn’t want to “ghettoise” the prize by awarding it to a token Indigenous woman. By using this reasoning for not awarding the Stella to an Indigenous longlistee, doesn’t that just “ghettoise” and “tokenise” the longlist? What’s the point of including them on the longlist at all if they don’t have a chance at the main prize? I noticed a lot of head shaking during Goldsworthy’s answer, including my own, from people presumably on a similar train of thought. Indigenous people are a marginalised group, as are women (despite being more than half of the population and, indeed, about the same number of written word consumers). Born of the need to hear marginalised voices, would the Stella Prize even exist? I hope next year more Indigenous women are selected as contenders, not just for their tokenism.

Related: Bendigo Writers Festival.

Elsewhere: [The Australian] Bush Romance Tale a Stella Achievement.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

The iconic photograph of “The Kissing Sailor” may actually be an image of sexual assault. [Crates & Ribbons]

Let’s put more nudity on Page 3, not ban it:

“… I say the answer is more nudity in newspapers, not less. Put more boobs on Page 3, and add some cocks too. Show people of every size, shape, colour, gender and sexuality; let them speak in their own voice, and celebrate them all. That, rather than self-censorship of adult-oriented content, would be a progressive tabloid revolution worth fighting for.” [New Statesman]

While I don’t agree with most of her sentiments, Clem Bastow makes some interesting points about the inclusion of men in feminism. This was also a topic that came up during the abovementioned “who’s-a-feminist” debate with my friends. [Daily Life]

Let’s stop debating the “culture wars”: people deserve rights. The end. [Jezebel]

Julia Gillard’s Question Time smackdown against Tony Abbott and the liberal party’s sexism and misogyny primarily against her gets the New Yorker treatment. In a nutshell, maybe Obama could take a page out of her book?

Michelle Smith’s Wheeler Centre Lunchbox/Soapbox address on girls in culture, both now and in the Victorian era. Wait, they’re not the same thing?!

I’ve been embroiled in a “I-don’t-believe-in-feminism-I-believe-in-equality” debate this week but, as Ben Pobjie rightly points out, when it comes to Kate Ellis being talked over and shouted down on Q&A, it’s about human decency, not feminism. [MamaMia]

Jill Meagher and safety on the streets from a disability point of view. [ABC Ramp Up]

The case against condom use in porn. [Jezebel]

In defence of Mean Girls‘ Janis Ian. [Rookie]

Brave isn’t “Just Another Princess Movie”. [The New Inquiry]

Image via Tumblr.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

“What It’s Really Like to Wear a Hijab.” [Daily Life]

While the mainstream media is not always the most tasteful industry, its coverage of Jill Meagher’s disappearance was invaluable in helping catch her killer. [MamaMia]

And here’s an amusing take on the sexist comments thrown women’s way after the Jill Meagher tragedy. I’ve been experiencing some of these “restrictions” myself since then, preached to me by well-intentioned but misguided friends, which I’ll be writing more about next week. [Feminaust]

Why fur is back in fashion. [Jezebel]

Instead of petitioning the fashion magazines, should we be making love instead of porn? [TheVine]

The perils of getting a hair cut as a black woman. [Jezebel]

Two of my favourite writers and unofficial mentors, I guess you could say, are in the midst of writing books. Rachel Hills and Sarah Ayoub-Christie detail their struggles with the process. Keep ya heads up, girls! [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman, Chasing Aphrodite]

“Reverse Photoshopping” a “too thin” Karlie Kloss isn’t any better than Photoshopping away cellulite or blemishes. [Daily Life]

Famous writers throughout history reimagine Cosmo’s sex tips. [McSweeney’s]

Why are all the feminists these days funny? Um, because we wised up to the fact that our ideals are better digested by the mainstream through less-threatening humour than shoving it down unwilling throats. Though we still do a lot of that!

“[Sexism’s] existence at the moment requires a tougher, wilier, more knowing, and sophisticated stance.” [Slate]

Clementine Ford’s full Wheeler Centre Lunchbox/Soapbox address on the equality myth.

Incorporating part of her speech, Ford elaborates on Alan Jones’ misogynistic comments about the Prime Minister and women in general. [Daily Life]

On the male-male-female threesome. [XOJane]

Why isn’t Mitt Romney being questioned about the way Mormonism treats women? [Daily Beast]

Event: Should Meat Be Off the Menu?

That was the topic of Intelligence2’s debate, in conjunction with the Wheeler Centre, last Tuesday night.

Going in, I voted that meat should be on the menu, as although I think vegetarianism and veganism is great and I fully support those movements, I personally love the taste of (some, mainly chicken, fish and beef) meat and don’t think I could give it up. I still believe this, although I have recently made the switch from dairy to almond milk in a bid to become more ecotarian, which you can read a bit more about in this link I posted last week.

But I based my final vote for the night, which is a staple of Intelligence2 debates, on which team presented better arguments. That team was the affirmative, claiming that animals should be off the menu.

That team consisted of the author of Animal Liberation, Peter Singer, jet-setting former banker turned staunch animal rights activist Philip Wollen, and Veronica Ridge, food writer, whose argument about the myriad of non-meat-based dishes was the weakest, and was challenged by those in the audience who claimed that while the meals she listed may have been meat-free, they still used a lot of animal by-products like dairy.

However, she did make some good points about hypocrisy and the ways we treat certain animals. For example, why do we butcher pigs and cows but lavish affection on our domestic cats and dogs? The special needs dog-in-training in attendance hammered this point home.

Opening for the affirmative team was Singer, who started off rather weakly but listed the three main topics his team would take on: our health, the impact meat production has on the planet (Wollen followed this up with the fact that it takes 50,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef. The irony that I’d had two beef-based meals the day before and the day of the debate was not lost on me.), and the ethical treatment of animals.

But if I thought Singer presented poorly right out of the gate, he had nothing on the dismal points of Fiona Chambers of the opposing team, who raises organic pigs on her Daylesford farm. It could probably be attributed to nerves, but most of what Chambers had to say seemed to get lost in translation. All I got was that human consumption of animal meat keeps their species alive and away from extinction, and that animals cannot be raised humanely for human consumption. Either she misread her notes, or her argument completely flies in the face of the work she does on her farm. Puzzling.

The second speaker for the opposing team wasn’t much better. Animal scientist Bruce McGregor talked about “natural loss” and the ecological impact not eating animals would have. There’s nothing “natural” about factory farming, and to answer McGregor’s question about what to do with all the surplus stock, that’s easy: stop using female cattle and poultry as baby-making machines and we wouldn’t have two billion animals killed per week, as Wollen told us.

Wollen went on to say that 10,000 species go into extinction every year because of humans, and we are facing the sixth mass extinction right now. (2012, anyone?) Wollen concluded his ominous but standing ovation-receiving speech with this:

“The axis of evil runs through our dining tables… [and] our weapons of mass destruction are our knives and forks.”

I don’t necessarily agree that this is always true, but I do think Wollen’s segment was responsible for the affirmative’s win on the night.

Almost retaining my vote for the opposing team, Good Chef, Bad Chef star Adrian Richardson said that meat consumption is all about choice: you can make the personal choice not to eat meat, or to eat meat that’s ethically produced. In his Melbourne restaurant, La Luna, he only serves organic meat, which is promising, but we all know that what it says on the packet isn’t always the case. For example, unless your “free range” eggs have a stamp of approval from a recognised animal welfare authority, “free range” could mean the hen gets 20cms to exist in as opposed to 20cms for it and four other hens in which to live. If people still buy cage eggs and factory farmed meat, there’ll always be a demand for it, making it harder for the regular supermarket shopper to discern and easier to justify the cheap cost of cage eggs versus the steeper cost of free range.

Annoyingly, though, Richardson appealed to the Aussie bogan (of which I don’t think there were many in attendance. Meat is the dietary staple of the bogan, didn’t you know?), opening by saying that not eating meat is un-Australian and that when we do, we’re closer to our savage ancestors. Or an AFL player (his words [paraphrased], not mine).

When the debate went to the floor, there was a (keeping with the animal theme) menagerie of viewpoints and arguments, but a few really resonated with me, whether I agree with them or not. A couple of people said those in the West have the luxury of eliminating meat from their diets and supplementing it with other forms of protein, while those in developing countries don’t. Following on, either someone from the affirmative team, someone from the audience, or both, said the 1.2 billion people who populate India don’t have a problem with a meat-free diet, so it shouldn’t be that hard for Australian population to adopt.

Richardson mentioned that he’s killed animals with his bare hands before. While hunting’s not for me, personally, I don’t have a problem with it in general, so long as the animal is killed swiftly and all of its viable by-products are consumed. Someone in the audience concluded that this is just another example of how we assert our dominance over animals because they can’t defend themselves or tell us how they feel. Interestingly, a boy no older than 13 in a private school uniform took to the mic and said choosing the kind of meat we feel comfortable consuming is all well and good, but animals don’t have a choice.  (The women behind me promptly dismissed the boy’s opinion because of his private school duds. Now, I’m not a fan of private school myself, but there are a few good eggs amongst the entitled and bratty ones. I support the kid.) As far as we know, they’re sentient beings who have feelings, self-interest and self-preservation instincts. Who are we to assert our superiority over them because we don’t understand them and we like the way they taste?

Related: Time’s “What Animals Think” Issue, August 16th 2010 Review.

Apocalypse Now: 2012 Come Early?  

“Who the Bloody Hell Are We?” The Sentimental Bloke at The Wheeler Centre.

Elsewhere: [Wheeler Centre] If You Missed Our Recent Debate…

[Wheeler Centre] From Chicken to Egg: A Journey From Vegan to Ecotarian.

[MamaMia] The Truth About the Eggs You Eat.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

In response to the cavalier and glorifying New York Times profile on rapey photographer du jour, Terry Richardson, a model he allegedly sexually harassed, Jamie Peck, writes on the fashion industry turning a blind eye to her allegations because Richardson gives good images. [New York Times, Jezebel]

The multifaceted nature of identity. [Feminaust]

Jessica Simpson naked and pregnant on the cover of Elle is all well and good, but what does it say about non-white, -straight and -abled women who also happen to be pregnant?  [Womanist Musings]

A journey from vegetarianism to veganism to ecotarianism. This is something I’m struggling with myself at the moment, as I love the taste of (some) meat and don’t think I could ever be vegetarian or vegan, but I care about the way my animal products and byproducts are obtained. I went to a debate at the Wheeler Centre on Tuesday night on this topic, so I’ll have more to come on this for you next week. [Wheeler Centre]

You can be a feminist and still wear high heels and lipstick. [Gala Darling]

Germaine Greer and Julia Gillard’s arse. [MamaMia]

An open letter to Rihanna about Chris Brown. [Billboard]

In defence of the Spice Girls as feminists:

“We were wrong about the Spice Girls. We were wrong about whether they ‘killed feminism’ by not representing our favorite kind. We were wrong about their not having a message. We were wrong about their not being unique. We were scared that the Spice Girls would make feminism too mainstream and commercial. Well, good news: feminism is totally unpopular now, hurray!” [Rookie Mag]

Image via The Gloss.

“Cultural Talking Points”—How Does Jackie O’s “Bad Parenting” Relate to Hunting?

 

From “Jackie O, Michael Clarke & the Pillorying of Pretty People” by Erica Bartle on Girl with a Satchel:

“[Michael] Clarke and Jackie O are, whether they like it or not, cultural talking points, as much as gossip ones. Such stories, particularly with glamorous figureheads, can create a healthy discourse at the intersection where the private and public spheres collide…

“The Jackie O story, while no doubt horrifying for O herself, gives us an opportunity to talk about women’s issues: how career women are managing their family lives (or not), employer progressiveness (or lack thereof) with maternity and paternity leave (particularly in male-centric media organisations), the pressure to maintain ‘superwoman’ standards of living, grooming and working even after a baby is introduced into one’s life and the value placed on motherhood…

“To me, both Clarke and Jackie O are culturally symptomatic, rather than the cause. It is very important that we are able to critique the culture—to challenge the status quo—which is a media construct perpetuated repeatedly until it is the norm, while not laying blame on the individual for their behaviours…

I bet Andrew Frank, who wrote yesterday of his disgust at how the Wheeler Centre panel handled his hunting question at “The Sentimental Bloke” discussion, would agree with this statement, particularly the last part in bold. Perhaps panelist Dr. Anne Summers should give it a read…?

I personally don’t agree with hunting but, like panelist Craig Reucassel said the other night, as a meat eater my stance is slightly hypocritical.

And I can certainly see where Andrew is coming from; killing your own food diminishes the carbon footprint of meat production on the environment. As long as the kill is swift and made by a skilled hunter, like Andrew, perhaps hunting isn’t so bad…

But as the meaning I derived from Bartle’s statements asserts, don’t hate the player, hate the game. A viewpoint the sentimental blokes—and Summers—could do well to take up.

Related: “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] Jackie O, Michael Clarke & the Pillorying of Pretty People.

Image via Girl with a Satchel.