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.

80th Down Under Feminists Carnival.

Sex & Relationships.

Men find us more desirable when we’re incapacitated. [Reuters]

Rachel Hills on sex then and now. [Time]

Three former sex workers tell their stories. [Cosmopolitan]

Sometimes human bodies are just human bodies; do we have to sexualise them all the time? [SBS]

Race & Racism.

People of colour can be racist, too. [Daily Life]

“Every 28 hours a black person is killed by police or vigilantes”: what Aboriginal deaths in custody have in common with America’s current protesting of the murders of unarmed black people by police. [Daily Life]

Please don’t act so surprised that Indigenous children are 5.2 times more likely to die than non-Indigenous children. [The Koori Woman]

“When is anthropology going to start taking Indigenous theories seriously instead of subjecting them to their own analyses and theorising about them?” [Fieldnotes & Footnotes]

A guide to therapy for Asian Australians. [No Award]

Is two upper-middle-class white guys agreeing about the fate of Indigenous Australians in the constitution really the best way to go about it? [New Matilda]

Punjabi migration to New Zealand. [Stargazer]

The cycle of poverty and homelessness continues for one West Australian Indigenous family of women and girls. [The Stringer]

Reflections on #illridewithyou from the woman who started the hashtag. [Silence Without]

Australia’s racism problem in ten incidents from 2014. [The Koori Woman]

Racism in Australian media: some choice examples. [No Award]

Pop Culture & The Media.

The Australian ran a photo of Christmas-ruiner and Greens senator Larissa Waters’ young daughter wearing pink because journalism. [Junkee]

“Dear Mark Latham, Mothers Are Not the Natural Enemy of Stay-At-Home Dads.” [Daily Life]

Sarah MacDonald called the Australian Financial Review to complain about Mark Latham’s column. They called her husband back. [Women’s Agenda]

Lena Dunham and the Slenderman attempted murder both make us confront our fears of women and girls not behaving in socially prescribed ways. [Bitch Flicks]

Further to that, we’re still as captivated by witches in popular culture as we were during the medieval and Salem witch inquisitions.

What does Miss Julie have in common with Gone Girl? [Flaming Moth]

The responsible reporting of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. [Women’s Agenda]

On that note, Junkee published a guide on responsible social media use in the wake of Sydney’s hostage situation.

Why did The Guardian give a platform to an allegedly falsely accused rapist when alleged victims of rape are so rarely afforded the same? [Women’s Agenda]

“The Best Misandrist Films of 2014.” [Brocklesnitch]

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is in dire need of an update. [Hoyden About Town]

How many times do we have to read news reports on sexual assault that focus on the victim’s actions not the perpetrator? [The News With Nipples]

Ju’s Australian Women’s Writers Challenge wrap up. [The Conversationalist]

Girl-friendly video games. [On the Left]

Violence Against Women *trigger warning*.

Has 2014 been the year of the stalker?

“The Worst Time I Was Street Harassed.”

“Why Rape Jokes Are Never Okay”. [Feminaust]

We don’t need to ask why Man Haron Monis perpetrated the Sydney siege. His miles-long rap sheet of sexual and physical violence towards women speaks volumes. [Women’s Agenda]

And in the wake of the siege, a dissection of the Change.org petition calling for stricter bail laws and the impact that might have. [Hoyden About Town]

This is what happens to women who fight back against street and sexual harassment. [Daily Life]

Reproductive Rights.

Abortion should be safe, legal and be performed as often or as rarely as the woman who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy wants and needs it to:

“We are a society that can land a rocket on a comet, splice fish genes into strawberries, and invent cars that reverse park all by themselves; we’re people that fight for marriage equality, dig deep during natural disasters and legislate overnight against ‘coward punch’ violence in the street. And yet our attitudes to the simple procedure of discontinuing a pregnancy remain shrouded in misconception.” [Daily Life]

We can’t forget informed consent when it comes to medical procedures. [On the Left]

Politics.

Tony Abbott plays that “gender card” he so often accused Julia Gillard of. [Women’s Agenda]

Further to that, it’s “too little, too late”. [No Place for Sheep]

Women lawyers have a fat chance of being considered for appointment to High Court judge. [Women’s Agenda]

A Very Tony Abbott Christmas. [Brocklesnitch]

Just like the Labor government they said they’d be nothing like, the Coalition has had their fair share of surprises and excuses since taking office. [No Place for Sheep]

The way we report on politicians’ personal lives proves that “understanding and empathy aren’t dependent on one’s relationship status or parenthood”. [No Place for Sheep]

Prime Minister Tony Abbott misses the mark on why the repealing of the carbon tax is good for women. [Curl]

Why don’t our politicians have any personality? [No Place for Sheep]

Miscellaneous & General Feminism.

Depression around Christmastime (trigger warning: suicide). [Brocklesnitch]

On identity politics: “You’re Not Really X”. [The Rainbow Hub]

“Adventures in Free-Boobing.” [Jessica Hammod]

“How to Be a Good Parent to Your Bisexual, Lesbian or Gay Child.” [Opinions @ BlueBec]

The history of cyberfeminist group VNS Matrix. [Motherboard]

How to be alone as a woman:

“To be alone is to be eccentric. To be alone and a girl is to be nuts.” [Spook Magazine]

Rachel Hills has just started a newsletter: sign up for updates on her blog, book and more! [Emails of an Inappropriate Woman]

How personal feminism evolves. [Skud]

“Pregnant Refugees Left in Sun, Denied Food & Water, Removed with Force: Advocates.” [ABC]

I said goodbye to friend and colleague Stella Young.

More farewells to Stella, from Maeve Marsden and Brocklesnitch.

On Old Fartism: “a position of social insecurity… Old Fartism can be found in people of any age or gender, but it is most prevalent among those who have lived in a world where their viewpoint and interests were reflected by default, to the exclusion of other subject categories.” [Junkee]

Critiquing modern motherhood doesn’t equate to being anti-children:

“It is indeed the opening of these doors that has rendered work-family balance problematic in the first place since it is the entry of women into the public domain, and specifically into paid employment, that problematises liberal-capitalist conceptions of the ideal worker, which presupposes a wife at home.” [Online Opinion]

Who are the top game-changing women medievalists? [Australian Medievalists]

Rosie Batty is Daily Life’s Woman of the Year.

The ugly girls club. [Daily Life]

On the Rest of the) Net.

blank space taylor swift gif

Taylor Swift could change the way we think about dating and casual sex:

“Sex without commitment is what you do before commitment, no matter what your gender. If more girls like Taylor made it okay we wouldn’t be so fucking precious about when and how girls are allowed to fuck.” [Lainey Gossip]

Bad Feminist Roxane Gay on being a bad victim. [The Butter]

Gay also writes that “2014 was the year we stopped worshipping at the altar of monsters. It was the year when we saw predators for who they really are, even if justice eludes them.” [The Guardian]

The white rappers who appropriate hip hop. [Complex]

Crafting a costume while fat. [This Ain’t Livin’]

Speaking of costumes, I went as Beyoncé standing in front of the feminist sign at the MTV VMAs to a work Christmas party last week. Check out some of the photos here.

The sexual black man in music videos. [Pitchfork]

Why aren’t we talking about the sexual assault scene in Beyond the Lights? [Shadow & Act]

Rosie Batty is Daily Life‘s well-deserved Woman of the Year.

Women ain’t got time or means to shave when the apocalypse is nigh but Hollywood would have you believe differently. [Sociological Images]

I asked what Lena Dunham and the Slenderman attempted murder have in common: they both challenge the way we think women and girls should behave. [Bitch Flicks]

ICYM them, I’ve been publishing some year-end posts throughout the week, on the prevalence of stalking, “The Year of the Witch”, Scarlett Johansson’s banner year, and not a year-end post per se but a short piece about probably the worst time I was street harassed.

Have a happy holiday season and I’ll be back this time next week with the links I loved from over the Christmas break. I’m going back to my home town to relax and have my mum round around after me, so I should have ample reading time. I hope you do, too!

Image via Buzzfeed.