So, I’m gonna write about this…

21 03 2014

An abridged version of a comment I left here because enraged…

Yesterday, I snarked at Natalie Barr because in my fancy little mind, I had the notion that she threw women under a bus.

“Cut the carping, girls!  Stop blaming men!  Knuckle down & YOUR DREAMS WILL COME TRUE!’

Bullshit.

I’m delighted for Natalie Barr that her experience as a professional woman has been a largely happy one, free from blatant sexism & structured gender inequality; but it is in such stark contrast to that of so many of her female peers, her words rang hollow.

How could this come from a woman who saw her female colleague shafted just last year?  Related: that Barr’s column was endorsed by that woman’s younger replacement in the ‘next to the middle-aged bald bloke’ spot on the sofa’ did give me the lulz.

As for ‘it’s about equality, not gender’… it is about gender.  When Kochie & Mark Beretta’s daily fashion choices are tweeted by ‘Sunrise’, I’ll stop snarking.  When you google “Natalie Barr” + “Samantha Armytage” and don’t wade through several pages of ‘how Nat helped Sam shed the kilos’ yarns’, I’ll stop caring.  When I don’t have to prove that I’m ‘up to the job’ by going to a strip club with the boys (no joke); that my lived experiences might make me out-of-the-box but just maybe (again, in my deluded little mind) a ‘high on empathy, low on cookie-cutter bullshit’ prospective employee whose default position is ‘I would sooner take a bullet than fail’; when people don’t tell me to my face and on social media that having a postgraduate degree makes me look ‘too smart on paper’… maybe then I will stop sweating the ‘small’ stuff.

I didn’t write about Barr yesterday (except on Twitter) because I didn’t think she provided a cogent argument. Did my tweets change any minds? Maybe they did. I’m proud to be a feminist, not a ‘so-called feminist’, ‘bottom feeder’ or part of some mean girl clique who loves tearing another woman down. If I roll my eyes  at twaddle, that doesn’t validate the twaddle.

It boggles my mind that writers believe because they haven’t experienced something means they shouldn’t/don’t/won’t write about it.  It’s not my lived experience, but I found Barr’s comments re: people who take breaks or modify their work hours to parent a throwback to an era I can’t begin to contemplate.  I don’t want to work in an atmosphere where parents are made to feel less committed, driven or capable because they want to see their kids school play, or special assembly, or their child is ill – or that because I don’t have children, I don’t have a family life.

Finally (for now): the real, sad outcome of Barr’s column is stuff like this – a rag which uses it to further its ‘gender inequality is a myth’ stance: http://washingtonexaminer.com/australian-anchorwoman-stop-blaming-men-for-your-problems/article/2546014 … yeh, I’m gonna write about that.

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sunday afternoon ladyboner courtesy of @twhiddleston

16 03 2014

Behold the wonder that is the Tom Hiddleston grind face…

tom hiddleston grind face





It is about feminism…

8 03 2014

Feminism is an entire world view or gestalt, not just a laundry list of women’s issues.

Charlotte Bunch 

Ah, International Women’s Day (IWD).  Nothing like the klaxon of a UN-endorsed day of faffery to raise the hackles of the conservative commentariat, including Elle Hardy in her 6 March column for The Daily Telegraph, in which she lambasts modern feminism and casts humanism as the preserve of exponents of liberal democracy to address the plight of worthy victims of ‘real’ oppression, while ignoring the scholarly interpretation (i.e. the literary knowledge and linguistic skill required to be able to comprehend and practice the ideals of ancient and Renaissance thinkers).  Hardy quotes Cicero without providing the context that shaped his legacy, his translation of the Ancient Greeks and introduction of their chief philosophical schools to enable a new, distinctly Roman voice.  Hardy’s critique is a quasi-Pat Robertson rant against socialism, based on the quaint notion that the first & second waves of feminism were ‘noble‘, while the current or third wave of feminism, ‘has become a by-word for the persnickety and the banal; a banner under which to air boutique grievances … (the) cultural minutiae in the West’.

Piffle.

Third wave feminism is a reaction against the second wave ignoring the voices and agency of women of colour, differing abilities or gender identification.  In scorning the third wave, Hardy scorns the Ciceronian legacy she professes to admire; for we move further along the path of ‘kindness, generosity, goodness and justice’ through welcoming and celebrating diverse voices, not mocking or ignoring them.  Hardy’s column is a strange exercise in confirmation bias: ‘my weltanschauung* is better than yours and I am here to liberate you’; yet most of her criticism is reserved for middle-class, white, female feminists.  Yes, she is correct in using the dread ‘socialism’ tag twice in four paragraphs: International Women’s Day was started by groups of European socialists.  In 1911, more than one million women and men attended IWD rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.  I’ll repeat that for the peanut gallery: women AND men joined together to give birth to this crypto-socialist feminista wankfest.  A week later, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire claimed the lives of 140 women in New York City, cementing labour standards and working conditions as a key angle of future IWD observances.  I love this clip, full of socialist ratbags such as Angela Merkel:

Elle Hardy’s desire to stick feminism in a museum display case because she wants opportunity, not equality is naïve.  Opportunity stems from structural equality, particularly socio-economic equality.  As one of my favourite tweeters, Nigerian journalist Jennifer Ehidiamen wrote on 6 March, ‘Gender equality is giving equal oppr. It is not disenfranching 1 group over another’.  Hardy’s assertion that 60 per cent of the wealth of the United States lies in the hands of women is unsourced, so here’s a little something I prepared earlier: while women fill 51.4 per cent of management, professional and related occupations in the US, only 8.1 per cent of the country’s top earners are women. Fewer than 15 per cent go on to executive officer level (source: Catalyst.org).  The pipeline for women to progress beyond broad-based management positions (which, as defined by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, includes occupations such as ‘lodging’ and ‘food service’ managers) to the pointy end of the pyramid doesn’t exist.  Australian women are increasingly occupying middle-management roles, but the same growth is not seen in senior leadership ranks.  Given all of the opportunities our postcodes of birth offer, the Elle Hardys are more likely to remain team leaders than thought leaders.  Yes, as a white Australian woman, I am better served than a black man.  We’re both better served by society than women of colour.

Giving a paternalistic pat on the head to the good people who work in rape crisis centres and shelters does not excise them from feminism.  Violence against women is rooted in gender inequality (I forgot, don’t worry about inequality ‘because opportunity’).  Poor maternal health care is rooted in gender inequality.  Lower rates of access to healthcare among women affect generational, whole-of-family wellbeing.  As for liberal democracy solving these problems, take a look at these infographics:

The King Canutes railing against feminism and International Women’s Day in 2014 do so because feminism is more powerful, richer in context and influence than it was 100 years’ ago.  They deny the essence of humanity that the third wave (and whatever comes next) brings.  Feminism belongs to more people, who interpret and live it as suits them – not ‘us’.  Who is likely to effect the greater social change?  Those who impose their belief systems or local agents for change?  As Jessica Valenti states: “Feminism isn’t simply about being a woman in a position of power. It’s battling systemic inequities; it’s a social justice movement that believes sexism, racism and classism exist and interconnect, and that they should be consistently challenged.”

*I believe there are concepts certain languages do justice to; in the case of ‘worldview’, it’s German.





For art’s sake…

7 03 2014

Nor is it possible to devote oneself to culture and declare that one is ‘not interested’ in politics.

~ Thomas Mann

The divestment campaign against the Biennale of Sydney’s partnership with Transfield Holdings has ended in a win for the artists, workers & refugee advocates who withdrew their work, resigned and called for a boycott of the festival because its major sponsor is a shareholder in the publicly-listed Transfield Services.  Transfield Services runs Australia’s offshore immigration detention centre in Nauru and last week won the contract to manage the Manus Island centre.

The campaign claimed another scalp.  Chairman Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, whose father Franco founded the festival in 1973, has resigned, ending his family’s 41 year association with the Biennale.

A school trip to the 1988 Biennale provided my first experience of contemporary art.  I remember walking through Walsh Bay’s Pier 2/3 & discovering Hermann Nitsch, Arnulf Rainer & the staggering, seminal installation from the Ramingining Artist Community, The Aboriginal Memorial (200 Hollow Log Bone Coffins), now permanently housed at the National Gallery of Australia.  I’m grateful to everyone associated with the Festival for opening my mind to great work.

The relationship between artist and patron has always been fraught, regardless of the source – papal favour, royal academy, oligarch or government.  Decisions to commission work, invitations to exhibit and grant funding… none are made without some return for the patron, whether it’s an overly-flattering portrait, religious or political propaganda.  Artists who refuse to yield have found themselves ostracised, persecuted and impoverished.

None of this is to say that creatives should compromise their vision or work; but as a writer who is sometimes asked to write for payment, I do so knowing that my work may be edited in a way that I don’t like.  It’s the price you pay for doing business.  I have the freedom to self-publish rejected work or pursue ideas that don’t appeal to others.  No one is charged to read what I write here.  Sometimes I accept commissions on subjects I have little passion for, and I reach for words that just will not come.

I believe BDS can be an effective strategy to weaken state and non-state actors whose principles, policies and activities you judge, individually or as a society, to be abhorrent.  There are some companies, countries and individuals my conscience tells me I cannot support.  I also have first-hand experience of the increasing squeeze on public ‘hands-off’ funding for creative workers and the experiences they can provide us.  The #bos19 campaign took aim at one festival and one patron.  If it’s good enough for people to question their involvement, attendance or support for the Biennale of Sydney, surely it is incumbent on them to apply their principles consistently?

I’m combing through a list of cultural institutions, companies and individuals who accepted government grant funding in the last year (disclosure: I was a staffer to a former NSW Minister for the Arts, however the grant information is publicly available).  It’s difficult to trawl through all of their connections, but here is a sample:

  • Accessible Arts – Sculpture Walk Podcast – Transfield Foundation (a joint initiative between Transfield Holdings and Transfield Services. (the project stems from a pilot programme with Sculpture by the Sea of tactile tours for the blind or vision impaired. The success of those tactile tours, which involve the opportunity to feel the sculptures accompanied by audio description, coupled with Accessible Arts’ desire to develop inclusive access in the Walsh Bay precinct lead to a conversation with Stephen Bradley and Transfield Foundation about improving access to the Walsh Bay Sculpture Walk and an audio description podcast, to complement a self-directed tactile tour. The audio description is a detailed description of the visual aspects of each sculpture, enhanced with background information about the artwork and the artist, and in most cases commentary from the sculptor.  Visitors to Walsh Bay can learn more about the art in the precinct through an immersive experience, which both increases access for blind or vision-impaired people, and enhances engagement with the often abstract sculptures for tourists or visitors to our neighbourhood).
  • Adelaide Symphony Orchestra – principal partner – Santos
  • Australian Brandenburg Orchestra – principal partner – Macquarie Group
  • Australian Chamber Orchestra – national tour partners incl. Total (oil & gas) & Transfield Holdings
  • Australian Museum – Rio Tinto
  • Bangarra Dance Theatre – production partners include BHP Billiton & Boral
  • Bell Shakespeare – leading partner – BHP Billiton
  • Black Swan State Theatre Company – Principal Partner – Rio Tinto; Education & Regional Partner – Chevron
  • Musica Viva Australia – Education Partners – Rio Tinto & BHP Billiton/ Mitsubishi Alliance
  • Opera Australia – Silver Partner – Exxon Mobil
  • Queensland Ballet – Principal Partner – QGC (coal seam gas)
  • Queensland Symphony Orchestra – Australia Pacific LNG (CSG & LNG)
  • Queensland Theatre Company – Programme Sponsors incl. Wesfarmers Resources (significant open cut coal miner, operating in the Bowen Basin & Hunter Valley); Season partners incl. Sibelco Australia (mines Alumina Hydrate; Barytes; Bentonite; Clay; Dolomite; Feldspar; Gypsum; Lime; Limestone; Magnetite; Mineral Sands; Manganese Dioxide; Natural Red Iron Oxide; Nepheline Syenite; Silica; Talc).
  • South Australia State Theatre Company – corporate partners include the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce
  • State Library of NSW – indigenous Australia programme – Rio Tinto; Australian-Jewish community & culture – Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce
  • Sydney Festival – 2014 Principal Partner – The Star casino
  • Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Platinum Partner – Tianda – multinational investment holdings company headquartered in Hong Kong, primarily engaged in pharmaceutical & biotechnology, fast moving consumer goods, packaging & colour printing, property development, mining & energy, as well as financial services. It is exploring several uranium projects in Australia & large scale coal mines in China; Major partners incl. Kimberley Diamond Company NL
  • Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s partners include Island Specialty Timbers
  • West Australian Ballet – Principal Partner – Woodside; Major sponsors include Wesfarmers (Wesfarmers crops up quite often – the company is a significant open cut coal miner, operating in the Bowen Basin & Hunter Valley and owns eight chemical, gas and fertiliser businesses, including Australia’s only manufacturer of sodium cyanide, which is used in the mining industry for gold extraction).
  • West Australian Opera – Principal Partner – Wesfarmers
  • West Australian Symphony Orchestra – Principal Partner – Wesfarmers; Platinum Partners incl. Chevron; concerto partners incl. ConocoPhillips Australia (operate two legacy assets: the Bayu-Undan offshore facility in the Timor Sea, and the Darwin LNG facility in the Northern Territory. Another significant operation is the Australia Pacific LNG project, a substantial coal seam gas to LNG operation in Queensland in which ConocoPhillips is a joint venturer and the downstream operator). Overture Partners incl. Mitsui & Co. (Australia) Ltd., the wholly owned Australian subsidiary of Mitsui & Co. In Australia Mitsui manages a diverse portfolio of businesses in industries including chemicals, coal, food, gas, iron ore, oil, power generation, salt, steel products and woodchips.

This list doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.  I’m not advocating a jihad on these organisations.  Make up your own minds.