#MeToo: Stories from the Australian movement

#MeToo: Stories from the Australian movement

Edited by Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved
Picador Australia


In the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2017, editors Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved have pulled together a collection of poetry, fiction and essays placing issues of sexual violence and harassment in an Australian context. This incredibly timely and hard-hitting collection is a must-read for Australians of every sex and gender. While many of the personal stories in this anthology can be confronting and visceral in their discussions of sexual harassment and abuse, they serve as a vital testament to the importance of opening up nuanced and often hard-to-have conversations about the issues facing women, non-binary and transgender people in Australia.

One of the things this anthology does best is its ability to bring together works from a diverse range of voices, providing a truly intersectional perspective on sexual violence and harassment in Australia. This includes stories from women of colour, immigrant women, LGBTQIA+ people and women with disabilities. This intersectionality is made all the more important when you consider the often over-bearing whiteness of mainstream feminism. For many women of marginalised backgrounds the ability to speak out, to share a #MeToo story must be weighed up against the risks of financial, social and personal repercussions.

With this in mind, some absolute must-read pieces in this collection are: Eugenia Flynn’s discussion of Aboriginal women and gendered violence, Carly Findlay’s piece on sexual harassment and accountability within disability and activist communities, Rebecca Lim’s ‘#MeToo and the Marginalised’ and Kaya Wilson’s piece about the transgender perspective of gendered violence and  harassment.

Something many of these stories have in common is the complexities involved in speaking out when you belong to a marginalised group. As Eugenia Flynn notes, ‘It is the #MeToo movement not hearing all the times that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women did not speak out, for fear of further stereotyping our men’. Multi-layered identities, in which women belong to multiple groups facing unique issues, make navigating the #MeToo movement much harder.

What the stories in this anthology do is remind us all of the voices left out of movements like #MeToo and the need for all of us to listen to, and support, the women and people whose voices cannot be as readily shared without an awareness and understanding of intersectionality. It’s for this reason that this book is so vital, and why I recommend it to all adult readers. We all have a lot to learn about one another and about gendered violence and harassment. This book is an important step forward for these discussions.

 

5/5 stars

#MeToo is available to purchase here and through any good book store.


Words by Lisandra Linde

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Holly Ringland

Harper Collins 2018


I picked up The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart shortly after its release, and since then I’ve read it not just once, but twice. This is something that is highly unusual for me, particularly in such a short period. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Holly Ringland’s bestselling debut novel, has been out since March and since then the rights have been sold to a number of countries internationally.

Ringland takes her readers on a journey through Alice’s harrowing life and her healing process. Wounded by secrets and lies, Alice truly comes into her own when she is allowed to live her life as herself, exploring her talent for writing, embracing her family, and preparing for her next journey.

The novel’s opening is dedicated to Alice’s childhood among the sugar canes with her mother, her father, and her little deaf dog Toby. Her mother was loving and unfortunately prone to periods of depression, but her father was volatile; Alice liked it better when he wasn’t there. Toby was just Toby, her first and best friend. But beneath this basic information we see something more sinister. We see this in the bruises on Agnes, Alice’s pregnant mother, or Alice never going into town, even for school. After a fire on their property destroys everything, Alice is left orphaned of both parents, her baby-brother and her speech.

Terrified and unable to protest, Alice is taken by her absent grandmother to her new home at Thornfield. Alice makes a life there with the women on the flower farm and the boy next door, Oggi. She grows up among the flowers with June, Twig, and Candy Baby, but Alice has always wanted something more. She longs to get away. It’s only when Oggi and Alice decide to run away to Bulgaria together that Alice’s life once again takes a dramatic turn. Oggi leaves for Bulgaria without her and without even an explanation. Furious and confused, Alice does the only thing she can: she continues her work at Thornfield.

Alice was never meant to stay at Thornfield, and while June and the others only ever wanted to protect her, she kept Alice in the dark for her entire life. Truths have a way of slipping out and it is the truth of Oggi’s disappearance that drives Alice out into a night of torrential rain as flood threatens the flower farm. It is time for Alice to move on.

Alice is eager to live on her own and quickly finds that while finding her feet she will inevitably make mistakes along the way. When she meets Dylan, Alice is unable to stop thinking about him and as their relationship blossoms she misses the all-too-familiar warning signs that should have encouraged her to run. Instead she finds fault with herself, as many tend to do. It is only with the help of her friends and her family that Alice finds her way forward again, this time moving towards the truth and light that has always hidden behind the secrets and lies.

There is a lot of beautiful, floral language throughout the piece which some readers might criticise. However, I would say that it is important to the novel being a very poignant work to give both the reader time to process not just the story, but how they relate to the work.

The novel addresses several heavy issues including: child and domestic abuse, illegal immigration, conservation, alcoholism, and the treatment of Indigenous Australians and their culture. Not only does this work of fiction have a healing element, but  encourages readers to consider these issues and their complexities.

The story revolves around all those things that remain unsaid. In life, it is impossible for June to admit why she never knew Alice prior to her parent’s death. As June never reveals this secret, Alice cannot deal with the guilt heavy on her heart over her parent’s deaths. Alice’s life is filled with unsaid things and it takes their revelation for her healing to begin.

Nature is presented as crucial to the healing process in a very unobtrusive way. Alice is always running for the ocean or the river, identifying flowers, going for walks, or tending to the farm. She is very in touch with the land, often remarking during her time in the dessert about the red earth and the dunes. This lends the novel an element of tranquillity as the reader must slow down and take it all in.

Ringland’s debut novel is unlike any other I’ve read before, taking the Victorian language of flowers and presenting it in an Australian context is a nice touch, drawing readers not just into the story but to the natural world around them. Set across the Australian landscape this novel demonstrates the diversity of our country and focuses on its beauty.

I absolutely loved this book. I loved it the first time and I loved it the second time. I would highly recommend it, particularly if you’re agitated as the language is very calming, the story engaging, and the introduction to floriography fascinating.

 


4.5/5 stars

Words by Kayla Gaskell

Ethical Media Consumption: Is it Just a Question of Conscience?

 

It is likely that you have come into contact with media content involving some of the following people: Rolf Harris, Kevin Spacey, Woody Allen, Johnny Depp, or Harvey Weinstein. Even if you haven’t, you probably recognise their names. You might even realise why they’re in that list; all of them have been embroiled in sexual harassment or abuse accusations. Some of them have even been convicted of it. Since the tidal wave of voices speaking out against Harvey Weinstein and his subsequent disavowal from sections of Hollywood, there has been groundswell of kickbacks and new allegations from all sections of the media industry. It’s clear that the Hollywood machine is finally beginning to take a public stance against sexual harassment and abuse within the industry. There have been some questions about whether this is only due to the weight of the public eye, but it is an important step nonetheless.

Yet in the wake of these reveals of sexual harassment claims, where does that leave us? Can we still watch, buy, and engage with art and media featuring people who have been accused – or found guilty – of sexual harassment or abuse? Is it even morally right to do so? Criminal justice research indicates that the certainty of punishment following a criminal offence is what matters most when deterring crime. Following this train of logic, by allowing actors, comedians, or artists to be cast, headlined, or promoted after allegations come to light perpetuates a culture of no ramifications. This encourages the continued silence of victims because no consequences have been laid at the feet of the perpetrators. Allowing perpetrators of sexual harassment to appear in new works diminishes – even approves – of their crimes. If this is so, what can do we do about it? On a question of feasibility – forget about moral reasoning for a moment – it is easier to blacklist a solo producer of content. Louis CK and Rolf Harris, the nature of their crimes aside, can easily be avoided and their work shunned. But for actors and producers, more questions pop up.

A movie or a television show is ultimately a collaborative process – and one where not everyone involved has a say about who they must work with. Blacklisting works involving actors or producers who’ve been accused of assault consequently means sidelining the other actors on same project. Often, they happen to be emerging actors whose careers need the support of audiences the most and who can’t afford to turn projects down. This is where we enter a moral quandary as audiences. Do we support the emerging actor, and by association also support the Weinstiens, Allens, Depps and Spaceys of Hollywood? Or do we shun the perpetrators of harassment and abuse and sideline the emerging actor at the same time? The answers hinge on a question; does patronising productions associated with these aggressors condone their past actions and if it does, what do we do?

When responding to this question, we need to accept that as consumers of media we have the power to discourage a culture that creates safe spaces for abusers to hide, thrive, and be publicly lauded. To do this, hard decisions must made about the media we consume. Encouraging a culture where abuse allegations are taken seriously means hitting Hollywood in its pockets; boycotting movies and being loud about the reason that we’re not seeing the new Woody Allen production is because of his alleged – and murkily horrificchild-abusing past. Tweet that the reason we’re not seeing the new Fantastic Beasts movie is because they cast Johnny Depp, an actor who managed to avoid a court case about his alleged emotional and physical abuse towards his now ex-wife Amber Heard in 2016. In order to support an industry that doesn’t excuse sexual abusers, it appears that we need to blacklist these actors and producers. No matter how it plays out, we must be resigned to the inadvertent negative fallout against actors who had no choice in being cast alongside alleged perpetrators, and hope that this does not amount to more than the positive change that shunning these perpetrators will do.

Action begets action. Movement begets movement. Change starts with individuals making collective choices – and through the power of the people, Hollywood will have to change or die. Fortunately, there are good people out there using the power of their own fame and personal pull to input changes. Just see Brett Ratner being pulled from the Wonder Woman sequel through a collective decision from director Patty Jenkins and her team behind the Wonder Women movie. These are positive steps forward for the industry and for cultural attitudes towards abuse. But if positive change is monetarily motivated, what happens when our decision to watch or not watch a film has no monetary consideration?

If the DVD is already bought and in private possession, the question becomes one of ethics not logistics; can we still watch and enjoy their past works knowing that they’ve abused their positions of wealth and power? Should we watch it and boo whenever they come on screen, throwing popcorn and muting their lines? Should we not watch what they’ve starred in, shunning old favourite movies even at the expense of not re-watching the five other amazing actors who haven’t been accused or found guilty of abuse? There’s a line of reasoning here that asks if the DVD is already owned, does watching it hurt anyone? Well… no. No one profits, no one gets paid, and yet… it feels that continuing to watch the work of abusers and sexual harassers also supports them and their art.

If this is so, don’t watch it. This is a hard thing to do. There are movies I adore and have watched so many times that I know the lines off by heart. Yet watching them now, knowing what I do about the one actor in that otherwise faultless cast, the movie itself has been soured. It’s desecrated. Watching it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and maybe that’s a good thing. The other option is sitting there with that knowledge whilst I watch them, doing something akin to going, ‘Gee’ I know Rolf Harris was a paedophile who abused kids, but ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Jack’ is a banger you can’t not listen to’. Hopefully that thought sits uncomfortably with you because it does with me.

Perhaps the key to ethically consuming art and media lies in deciding how much we want to support a culture within our arts industry where perpetrators of gendered abuse, violence, and harassment have no safe harbour. Once the revelations about an actor’s abuse or sexual misconduct becomes known, it appears that the only ethical thing to do is boycott their work and be collectively loud about why. To do otherwise is tantamount to approval of their actions. But when it comes to their old work, the ethically correct thing to do cannot be dictated by an online article, but worked out according to the demands of the individual moral compass. But at no time should we forget their history or what they’ve done. To do so diminishes the violence of their crimes.

Can art, no matter how good, truly mitigate the actions of a person who takes advantage of their power and privilege to abuse or harm? Perhaps it shouldn’t, even if we can separate the art from their artist. No statement involving, ‘they sexually abused someone’ should have a ‘but their work is amazing’ with a ‘and I support them’. Perhaps we can appreciate their art alone but, to do this ethically, it should be done with the understanding that they must not be lauded for it, given safe spaces, or let their past be forgotten until their victim says so. They might be a great actor or a fantastic artist, but there are better ones out there – both morally and artistically.

The takeaway from this is that collective movement starts from individual choices, and our individual choices about the media we consume has an effect, for good or for ill. It’s down to us, to you and to me, to decide what type of effect we want to have on the media industry.


Words by Taeghan Buggy

tiggy

Taeghan Buggy is a writer, a poet, and a performer. Her work tends towards emotional gut punches and dangerous words. Taeghan’s immersion within ‘Arts Culture’ includes the New Wave Audio Theatre project, Flinders’ Speakeasy Creative Readings, and Adelaide’s open-mic poetry scene.