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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related: The Blogcademy Melbourne.

Elsewhere: [The Blogcademy] 

[Gala Darling]

[Nubby Twiglet]

[Rock N Roll Bride]

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

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

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

[MamaMia] In Defence of Tony Abbott.

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

[MamaMia] A Statement from Mia Freedman.

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

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

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

[Jezebel] Feminist Gathering Sadly Lacking in Matricide.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

how to get away with murder penis dead girls phone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image via ABC.

Blogging & Jogging & True Blood: When You Realise You’re No Longer Passionate About Everything You Used to Be.

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The title of this piece comes from my friend April, who once summed up my life as blogging, jogging and True Blood(ing).

Four years later and True Blood is off the air, I’m focusing more on freelancing than the vitality of this blog and I’ve given up jogging the streets of Melbourne for the elliptical machine inside the four walls of a gym. My life can probably better be summed up by the three W’s, as my mum recently coined it: work, writing and wrestling. It still ticks many of the same boxes that April’s analogy did, but it shows how much I’ve changed and where my priorities now lie.

I’ve come to the realisation that many of the things that I thought defined me for the past five, ten and even fifteen years I no longer identify with.

For example, last month I had a story published on TheVine about my disillusionment with past heroes, specifically Mia Freedman, who had been my life role model for a good ten years.

Also in recent months, I’ve started to warm to artists such as Taylor Swift and Kanye West who I thought were overrated and obnoxious in the past. (More to come on this.)

And a few weeks ago I was listening to Triple H, who’s long held a place in my heart as my favourite wrestler, on Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast and his ignorant words about gendered double standards in World Wrestling Entertainment blew me away. (More to come on this as well).

These pop cultural points may seem frivolous, but they inform larger changes. Where once I would defend Freedman to the death and damage friendships over my hatred of Swift (more to come on this), I just don’t think those convictions are worth it anymore. Furthermore, as a single woman who’s only accountable to herself, I always prided myself on being someone who wouldn’t do things she didn’t want to do, but now I find myself sticking out predicaments that aren’t necessarily making me happy as a means to a much more satisfying end, but I just wish that end would come sooner. (Again, more to come on this.)

Of course this is all just a part of growing and changing as a person but it is giving me anxiety akin to a post-quarter life crisis that makes me want to pull a blankie over my head and tune out the world. (I’ve already had a pre-quarter life one so I can recognise the all too familiar feels.) I know I’m not making perfect sense here, but hashing these issues out on the page helps remind me why I consume and produce.

Tavi Gevinson talks about the “pop culture tools” that aid her in crises like mine but what happens when everything you had in your toolbox don’t quite fix things like they used to? I don’t necessarily have the answers yet. I’m taking comfort in reading short stories, personal essays and memoirs, for example; an inkling that wasn’t there before.

I think the main take away from this identity crisis is that I really want to consume things I can relate to or that can enhance my view of the world. It just so happens that those things and that view has skewed so that what I once held dear no longer cuts it.

Related: Hustle, Loyalty & Respect: Where I’m Taking My Career in 2015.

Baby, It’s a Wild World: Navigating Pop Culture as a Feminist.

In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Taylor Swift: Perfect Victim.

Tavi’s World at Melbourne Writers Festival.

Catching Up on Women-Friendly Media.

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

Image via Rookie.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

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

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

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

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

Shit vegans say. [Spook Magazine]

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

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

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

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

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

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

rihanna-pour-it-up

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.

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”: “ironic objectification” or just plain degradation? Apparently, because Thicke and collaborator Pharrell Williams are “happily married”, it makes it okay for them to derive pleasure from degrading women (Thicke’s words). While there are certainly much worse images and acts of misogyny out there, “Blurred Lines” is lyrically and visually blatantly upholding rape culture: “I know you want it, but you’re a good girl…” Does the fact that it was directed by a woman who instructed the basically—and uncomfortably—naked models and the fully clothed male artists in the clip supposedly love women make it a tongue in cheek exercise in pushing boundaries or raise some more problematic issues considering it’s this country’s number one song? What’s the point in even making such a NSFW video if it can’t even be shown on MTV and YouTube (semi-SFW video above)? [Jezebel]

Dear Julia Gillard,
Thank you for being the first female Prime Minister,
Sincerely,
Mia Freedman. [MamaMia]

The rise and rise of feminist parodies. [Daily Life] 

What are the differences between women who receive abortions and those who are denied them and proceed with unwanted pregnancies? [NYTimes]

Screw the “armchair commentators”; you know what your feminism is. [The Guardian]

Julia Gillard urges us to vote for Julia Gillard in spite of the sexist attacks against her (obviously written prior to Wednesday’s ousting). Kind of like that comment about her jackets, Germaine…? [The Hoopla]

Is Miley Cyrus’ latest black culture-inspired gimmick akin to a minstrel show? [Jezebel]

This week in inappropriate fashion spreads: hoarder chic. [Jezebel]

Ranking Stephen King’s 62 books. [Vulture]

On the (Rest of the) Net.

victorian era breastfeeding

Victorians were more progressive about breastfeeding than we are! Although, it was linked to femininity, class and bonding with the child, stigmas that still exist around breastfeeding (or NOT breastfeeding) today. [Sociological Images]

Do ladymags publish serious journalism? Follow the #WomenAtLength hashtag on Twitter to find some examples of longer, “serious” pieces written by women. [Jezebel]

What Adrian Bayley’s crimes can teach us about prevention, rehabilitation and incarceration. [New Matilda]

Everyday Sexism has made a doco about shouting back at street and sexual harassment. The accompanying article by Clem Bastow is equally as hard hitting. Check them both out, because no one should be made to feel like they brought harassment on themselves, they’re overreacting, or dread at the prospect of leaving the house because they might experience it. [Daily Life]

The manic pixie dream girls of superhero movies. [Think Progress]

Someone actually wants my opinion on the week that was in sexism and misogyny particularly in politics, but across other spectrums as well. Kudos to Corey Hague on editing me to sound like I actually know what I’m talking about! [ABC Central Victoria]

Meanwhile, Mia Freedman thinks it was a good week for women: at least we’re talking about sexism and there have been consequences for it. [MamaMia]

Famous women writers before their suicides. What do you think: artistic or glorifying suicide and sexualising violence? I find some of them, like the Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf portraits, visually appealing because they’re inoffensive to the eye and create tension and anticipation, but I can’t stomach the Dorothy Parker nor Sanmao ones. Vice may be known for their provocativity (is that even a word?!), but I think this photoshoot is in the same vein as Terry Richardson and Dolce & Gabanna’s rapey aesthetics – which I quite like despite myself – where stopping the sexualisation of violence against women should trump artistic expression. [Jezebel, as the photoshoot on Vice’s website has been removed]

It was Father’s Day in the U.S. over the weekend, and to celebrate, The Hairpin has collated fiction’s worst fathers. As someone with a deadbeat dad myself, I can empathise.

Fashion, feminism and femininity: mutually exclusive? Hell no! The other day when discussing feminism with a mansplaining misogynist who told me I only make him more confused about feminism because of the way I look, a friend interjected that I might just be the most feminine person she knows. And the most feminist, might I add?! [Daily Life]

Kim Kardashian may be a fame-whore, but she’s a person, too, and she deserves some semblance of basic decency. [TheVine]

Is the only reason we watch True Blood anymore for the sex? [The Daily Beast]

If we can’t have the real deal, Feminist Taylor Swift is the next best thing. [Twitter]

Image via Sociological Images.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

amanda bynes

What Amanda Bynes’ meltdown says about society: we’re all image-obsessed sexists who love a celebrity train wreck. [The Guardian]

Mia Freedman interviewed Naomi Wolf about her Vagina. [MamaMia]

#FBRape and free speech. [Daily Life]

Abercrombie & Fitch < Attractive & Fat. [The Militant Baker]

In defence of much-maligned TV wives. [Slate]

Image via Twitter.

Mother to Daughter: Second- VS. Fourth-Wave Feminism.

While I’ve only begun calling myself a feminist in the past few years, I think I’ve always had feminist tendencies: I’ve always believed in reproductive rights, I’ve tried never to judge a woman based on her choices and it’s been instilled in me that, as a woman, I can do and be anything I want to.

A lot of this is thanks to my mum, who is a ’70s bra-burning hippie feminist through and through.

Though recently, as I increasingly immerse myself in current readings of feminism, I see just how far we’ve come, baby, and how the second-wave feminism of my mother’s era is worlds apart from today’s discourse on gender equality.

There have been many debates between second-, third- and fourth-wavers about who did, and is doing, more for the movement.

At a 2011 Melbourne Writers Festival presentation on why we still need feminism, Sophie Cunningham asserted that feminists under 25 can’t really grasp the concept because they’re still young and beautiful and have men falling at their feet. She also observed “a sort of ‘bottleneck’ in modern feminism”, where white, Western feminists aren’t able to incorporate intersectionality into the fold, which was a criticism of SlutWalk, one of latter-day feminism’s most high-profile conquests. Pardon me, but wasn’t it foremother Betty Friedan who was accused of being racist and homophobic with The Feminine Mystique?

Perhaps the most contentious issue is the constant bickering amongst young feminists as to what, exactly, feminism is. You’ve got women undertaking such obviously feminist tasks as Marissa Mayer overseeing Yahoo! and Beyonce nearing total world domination, yet they’re reluctant to call a spade a spade. And the non-feminist media would have you believe there’s infighting going on about who is allowed to be a feminist (definitely not Taylor Swift!).

But, I think, the feminist movement of today would like to believe it’s accessible to all kinds of women (and men): straight, gay, bi, male, female, trans, black, white, mixed-race, rich, poor, able-bodied and non-able-bodied, sex workers, etc. Can second-wave feminism of yesteryear say that?

This divide is illustrated by Germaine Greer’s infamous comments about Julia Gillard’s clothing choices and how they accentuated her apparently undesirable body shape last year on Q&A and feminists everywhere taking to their respective platforms to mostly disagree with her. One such vocal detractor was Mia Freedman, who said Greer “broke my heart a little bit” when she took herself “down in a hail of self-inflicted friendly fire while the world watche[d] in embarrassment.” When the two women appeared together on a recent episode of Q&A, Freedman was asked to clarify her response: did it mean she wasn’t a fan of the “ground-breaking, arse-kicking lightening rod for social change who ignited a feminist movement from which every woman in the western world has benefited” anymore? Was this an example of the abovementioned feminist in-fighting?

Freedman responded that while she has nothing but respect for the woman in whose water she grew up and who influenced her mother’s feminist awakening, “feminism needs to have a lot of different voices… It should be really, really broad and inclusive.” Essentially, feminism should accommodate both the foremothers and their daughters.

Freedman went on in that same episode of Q&A to—what some would describe as—shame sex workers, or “prostitutes” as she archaically called them, which ignited a backlash of her own. So much for that broad inclusion she waxed lyrical about…

While liberating housewives of Germaine and Freedman’s mother’s era from “the problem with no name” and ushering in the birth control pill are milestones women of today must be thankful for, they’re very much narrow-minded accomplishments: The Feminine Mystique appealed to white middle-class women and many women can’t afford the birth control pill, a predicament that still exists today. And second-wave feminism was very much responsible for the sexual liberation of a generation of people, but I’m not so sure that transfers to the hook up, raunch and porn culture/s of today (as Freedman’s comments about sex workers above would indicate).

For example, when I was living at home and Girls of the Playboy Mansion came on the TV, my mum would make me turn it off (keep in mind I was 22 by the time I moved out and this was not long before that). When I brought this up recently as an example of her generation’s reluctance to embrace sex positivity, she launched into a tirade that ended with her calling into question the women who pose for Playboy’s sexual promiscuity.

We must acknowledge that media like Playboy is an inherently patriarchal construct, but I think making the assumption that any woman who uses her sexuality as a commodity is a slave to said patriarchy is buying into the notion that feminism works against: women have no autonomy. Much like the debate over women in Islam (and don’t even get me started on the fight I had with my mum about asylum seekers that, similar to the Playboy exchange, ended with her defensively inquiring about the legality of people seeking asylum via boat), certain kinds of feminism need to broaden their scope to take into account the lives of all women, whether we agree with their choices or not.

This close-mindedness comes from a lack of access to new information and technologies and willingness to learn from and hand the reigns over to the feminists of today, I think. While many feminists of all ages count the works of Greer, Friedan and Naomi Wolf amongst their collection of feminist tomes, how many second-wavers can say the same about the musings of Jessica Valenti, Clementine Ford, Rachel Hills and the myriad feminist bloggers? That face of feminism has certainly changed to make it much more accessible. What once was narrowly accessible at rallies, underground meetings and in academic journals is now available wherever you look: Gillard speaking up against sexism in parliament, movements like SlutWalk and Destroy the Joint and all across the interwebs.

So on this Mother’s Day eve, it’s important to acknowledge the gender equality path paved for me by my feminist foremothers, including my actual mother, but also to recognise that we have, indeed, come a long way, baby. Maybe that’s something that second-wavers need to consider, too.

Related: Why Young Feminists Still Have “A Long, Long Way to Go” In the Eyes of Second-Wave Feminists.

Taylor Swift: The Perfect Victim.

Elsewhere: [The Atlantic] 4 Big Problems with The Feminine Mystique. 

[The Guardian] The Tragic Irony of Feminists Trashing Each Other.

[MamaMia] Germaine Greer: You’ve Lost Me.

[MamaMia] No, I Won’t Apologise for My Sex Worker Comments.

[Daily Life] Stoned for Having Short Hair.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

rh reality check not like other girls feminism

Saying “I’m not like other girls” just buys into the myth that all women have a defined set of attributes and that those who aren’t “feminine”, “girly”, “bitchy” and don’t have many female friends (just to list some of the tropes associated with “other girls”) are somehow better than other women. I’ve been guilty of uttering those words before, but that was before I came to the above understanding. I believe I’m different from other girls, just as I’m different from other humans. We all have different character traits, values and interests; it’s just that some we can relate to more and are closer to the surface than others. [RH Reality Check]

In defence of sex work. [Daily Life]

Further to that, Mia Freedman clarifies her position on sex workers voiced on Q&A last month. [MamaMia]

“Why Would Anyone Have a Late-Term Abortion?” [New Matilda] 

Ahead of its publication in new (and, might I add, awesome!) zine, Filmme Fatales, editor Brodie Lancaster writes in opposition to the Gwyneth Paltrow haters. [TheVine] 

More Gwyneth: she was my thinspo. Beauty and putting women on pedestals. [Mirror, Mirror OFF the Wall]

On the merits and drawbacks of “Hashtag Feminism”, “destroying the joint”, the news sources “to whom [we] choose to listen” and the “personalised newspaper” that is social media, through which we “see only views [we] agree with”. [The Monthly]

Jennifer Aniston, ourselves. [Thought Catalog]

Is Amanda Bynes that different from us? [Clam Bistro]

Are we too old to “get” Girls?  [One Good Thing] 

Why talking about sexism in pop culture is important. [The Age]

How can disabled women “Destroy the Joint” when they can’t even access it? Stella Young on feminism and disability. [ABC Ramp Up] 

Image via RH Reality Check.