Heather Taylor Johnson and the #metoo Movement

Earlier this year, Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott, and Miriam Sved produced the anthology #metoo, an anthology of essays and poetry by Australian writers on the subject of the #metoo movement. The Tulpa team has recently been in contact with writer Heather Taylor Johnson to discuss her involvement in the anthology and the importance of #metoo as a political movement.

Why is the #metoo anthology so timely?

Feminism has always been inevitable (it existed long before a man named Charles Fourierit so generously named it for us) and it will forever be a force. The #metoo movement is another phase of history’s (herstory’s) feminist wave and so it follows that the #metoo anthology is a document of its time. Look around at what’s happening now with the rise of populism and the eerie what-if of The Handmaid’s Tale. This is where we are and it’s scary times. Toxic masculinity is killing women at regular and alarming rates through domestic violence, killing hoards of people through mass shootings, encouraging rape cultures in universities and rugby clubs, forcing women to be compliant if they want to keep their jobs. At this point in feminism, I’d say most of the women are on board. Here is where we gather the men. In my opinion this anthology is about educating ourselves, women and men – especially men – so that we can responsibly raise the next generation of boys. Here is where we make a radical cultural change.

How does the #metoo movement in Australia differ from its American counterpart?

I don’t see the two as separate, maybe because I’m American Australian. I left America as a fiery twenty-five year old woman who thought she could do anything so long as no man ever kicked in her front door to touch her while she’s sleeping again. Now an angry forty-five year old woman baffled that a man at the gym thought he was complimenting me by saying he was glad to be sparing with me and not the man in the corner because that man ‘boxes like a girl’. Nothing has changed in the nearly 14,000 kilometres I’ve travelled and nothing has changed in the last twenty years. I’m sure the movements, as geographical entities, have been influenced by and will continue to influence each other, but I see #metoo as universal – that’s what Twitter is meant to do for political issues today. That a 280-word story can be broadcast to the world and that the world can respond through a love heart or a retweet or a shared hashtag proves that this movement is community-making, and that’s what ‘global’ should mean.

Where do you see the future of the #metoo movement in Australia?

I think it’ll keep pushing the boundaries of intersectionality. Just as with Trump’s brand of popular sexism, I think, too, his overt racism – indeed the racism we’re becoming so accustomed to seeing all over the world and in shocking regularity in our own country – encourages more outspokenness among racial minorities, and people seem eager to listen. I see this in the publishing industry now where publishers are actively pursuing stories by people of colour and suddenly literature is opening up. I think the confluence of women’s stories and minority stories is where the movement is at now (and thankfully where the anthology is situated) and where it will continue to go. ‘Minority’ can mean race, it can mean disability, it can mean sexuality or gender, and these stories are enlivening the #metoo movement. There’s more discussion. There’s more room for empathy. This can only mean growth.

What does the #metoo movement mean to you and why did you decide to get involved with the anthology?

It’s not any small coincidence that the #metoo movement gained momentum during Trump’s first year as president. Women were angry, unwilling to quietly accept that someone can get elected President of the United States after saying “When you’re a star, they let you do it, grab ’em by the pussy, you can do anything”. I’m an American Australian, still struggling with what Trump means to me as a displaced citizen and still ANGRY as a woman whose body seems to be fodder for legislative decisions. Seriously? We’re still arguing about the right to have an abortion? The best I can do as an artist is to work harder, so I’m trying to focus on issues that matter to me. The poem I sent into the anthology is about a lifetime of innate fear and low expectations due to gender, and how I’d like things to be different for my daughter, and how I get the feeling that they won’t be. I didn’t know until I’d finished the poem that I was writing it for my daughter, and that’s sort of what we’re all doing: trying to make change for our daughters.

How does poetry compare to the essay as a means to discuss issues surrounding the movement?

Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton was the beginning of a new type of political awareness for me in terms of my art. I’ve written dozens of poems calling out sexism since then and not because I want to be didactic or self-righteous, but because I simply need to get this anger out (apologies I keep bringing him up but he certainly has a lot to answer for). I write poetry and I write essays – I also write novels – and the choice to use one form over the other is often process-driven. When I need to explore questions and ideas, I write novels. When I need to rip apart incongruities and find commonalities, I write essays. When I need to release intense emotion, I write poetry. Poetry is the quickest, most satisfying way for me to dig into something I’m feeling too much and violently regurgitate it. Then I can move on. The fact that I’m still writing the poems calling out sexism means there’s a lot more for me to discharge, plenty more word-vomiting to come. I’m envisaging a collection that does just that through imagery and testimony, and the poem in the #metoo anthology is one of them.

 

You can read more about the #metoo Anthology here and the book is available for purchase online and from all good bookstores.

 


Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

 

 

#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

Some Days

Some Days
Lucy Moffatt


 

Some Days is the debut memoir of Lucy Moffatt, which focuses on the friendship between her and Chelsea. It is a part coming-of-age story, an attempt to come to terms with grief, third wave feminist manifesto, and an exploration of the human heart. This book was a comfort to read, to have experiences which were so close to my own on the page: the struggle to fit in, grappling with mental health, and the assurance that being fifteen was a bad time for everyone.

Moffat’s “one last long, winding chat with the memory of her best friend,” Chelsea, entreats us to the private memories, personal feelings and her process of piecing herself back together after the devastating loss of her best friend. Entwining Chelsea’s blog posts throughout the memoir transforms it from being purely Lucy’s story into both Chelsea and Lucy’s story, spanning from their first meeting as five-year-olds to their last conversation.

Gut-wrenching and uplifting at the same time Some Days reminds the reader that tragedy can strike at any moment. While there may never be that picture-perfect sense of closure we long for, Moffatt is a shining example that the human heart is stronger than we think.

The book was sometimes a struggle to read due to the depth of emotion, as with non-ficiton there is no ability to remind myself that this didn’t actually happen, that no one is feeling this amount of anger, depression and sadness. However, Some Days is an important read. It is not just a book about death but about growing up and finding your identity amidst a world which portrays female friendship as either gossiping over cocktails or fighting for male attention, rather than the complex relationships that they are. Moffatt makes it clear that she seeks to break those stereotypes and highlight the positive impacts of female friendship through her memoir.

While I occasionally struggled to get a clear picture of Chelsea in my head, I saw the strength of their friendship, through the beautifully written recollections of memories. Reading it, I knew that I had access to the most vulnerable side of the author and an intimate view into her heart at a time of extreme grief.

This memoir speaks to the universal experiences of love, loss, and growing up. It is a must read for everyone, written by a local author who truly encapsulates what the Adelaide arts have to offer.

 

4.5 Stars


Words by Georgina Banfield

SANSA, DANY, ​AND THE FEMINIST AGENDA

(Image: HBO)

Spoilers for S8, Ep.1 ‘Winterfell’ are coming.

You have been warned.

Game of Thrones has long been praised for its portrayal of complex, multi-faceted female characters, who are every bit as honourable or conniving as the men they scheme and fight alongside. The show, however, has not been without its critics, nor has it been spared from criticism, including of a sex scene that was seen to normalise rape during its fourth season.

When the long-awaited first episode of the eighth season aired on Monday morning (or Sunday evening, for those in the northern hemisphere), reactions to what unfolded filtered onto the internet in a near-endless stream of memes, GIFS and play-by-play social media posts. Many of these centered around the first meeting of Daenerys Targaryen (and her impressive slew of titles) and Sansa Stark. In line with the Game of Thrones tradition, it did not go well. In fact, Sansa’s side-eye had never been fiercer, and Dany’s inherent self-righteousness remained strong as ever.

She [Sansa] doesn’t need to be my friend,’ Dany says to Jon. ‘But I am her Queen. If she can’t respect me…’ and then Dany trails off ominously. But Sansa’s frosty reception was an issue for more than just the Mother of Dragons. Many people online are dissatisfied that the two characters, who have both survived and overcome the challenges that have faced them, particularly as women, were instantly pitted against one another.

This Sansa/Daenerys shit is so unimaginative and dull and so clearly the idea of men,’ said @annehelen on Twitter.

STOP PITTING WOMEN AGAINST EACH OTHER.’ @juliekosin agreed.

This discussion falls into the larger context of the long-standing tradition of television and movie screenplays, where two women on screen together are often engaged in conflict, or are at the very least failing the Bechdel test. With this in mind, having two well-developed female characters with their own motivations and flaws at odds with one another might be interpreted as a step back from the strides forward Game of Thrones has made.

But I have to disagree.

Though their meeting crackled with all the tension that Dany’s uncompromising will and Sansa’s hard-earned abrasiveness had to offer, I think this is a good thing. In order to stay true to their character development, having the two in conflict with one another is in line with what we know of them.

Dany, after all, was set to invade Sansa’s home, and all of the Seven Kingdoms. We witness her smirk as her dragons frighten the silent Northerners who regard her suspiciously. We are reminded in the same episode of Dany’s inflexibility with Sam’s realisation that she has killed his father and brother for being unwilling to bend the knee.

Sansa, for her part, has long since learned to keep her guard up. Winterfell, and her family, have only just become a part of her life again after so many years of being alone. And, as Sir Davos reminds us, ‘If you want their [the Northerners] loyalty, you have to earn it.’

In light of this, Game of Thrones has done a service to both Sansa and Dany’s characters by putting them in conflict with one another, rather than forcing them into an instant camaraderie just because they are both women.

There is also the further context of Dany’s positive relationship with Missandei, and Sansa’s with Arya, which is reinforced during the course of the episode.

Where were you before?’ Jon asks Arya after they’re reunited. ‘I could have used your help with Sansa.’

But far from siding with her favourite brother, Arya reinforces Sansa’s position of defending their family. To me, this serves as a reminder that Sansa and Dany’s actions are not born out of girl on girl hate, nor from some misguided sense of jealousy, but rather from an incompatibility of experience.

After all, two women in power need not like or even respect each other, but it becomes a problem when such a pairing is seen as the norm. In this case, I do not think that Sansa’s distrust of Dany is a continuation of an outdated mentality that sees women on screen deferring to the more complicated storylines of men. Rather, I think it is a continuation of Game of Thrones’ commitment to Sansa and Dany’s characters, whose motivations and actions are both real and flawed.


Words by Rachael Stapleton

Header image: HBO

Rachael is a fantasy writer, an arts student, and a professional procrastinator. She spends most of her time watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine, teaching her cat to play fetch and thinking about writing. You can find her on instagram at @rachaelstaple

socially [un]acceptable

Laura Desmond is challenging the barriers of “acceptable” assault in her one-woman show, socially [un]acceptable. In a performance which is not for the faint of heart, but is definitely something everyone should hear, Desmond recounts personal experiences of sexual assault and the misguided “societal norms” that allowed these events to take place. She asks the question many people have asked, but still remains prevalent in today’s society: How many times do you have to say no for someone to accept that you don’t consent? What else signals a lack of consent – crying, body language, physically moving yourself? She examines the power of guilt and the mistaken yet common notion of “owing someone”, as well as the need for ongoing consent within a long-term relationship. The primary focus of her show is to shine a light on the normalisation and social acceptance of these murky-territory assaults – the circumstances where you didn’t necessarily scream “NO!” and run away; where you knew the person who assaulted you; or where your choices were taken away from you.

Desmond’s performance is raw, powerful and thought-provoking; it is something that will get you talking and stay with you long after the end of her act. She gets angry, she gets sad, and she gets hopeful for the future: that her own daughter won’t have to do a one-woman show to illustrate consent one day. She’s ready to do her part to revolutionise “socially acceptable” assault – are you?

 


Words by Kirsty van der Veer

Four stars

socially [un]acceptable is playing at the Bally at Gluttony February 23-24, February 26-March 3. Tickets available here.

Deviant Women: Lady Pirates Give No F*cks

Deviant Women is the highly entertaining and educational podcast that highlights extraordinary women from history, mythology, fiction and more, and is the brain-child of passionate academics (and nerds) Lauren and Alicia. Last year they brought their amazing podcast to life with their first series of Fringe shows, on French Swashbuckler Julie D’Aubigny and Russian Occultist Madame Blavatsky. This year they’re back, again at The Jade, with the amazing and twisty tale of two of the most fearsome pirates of the golden age: Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
As a long-time fan of the podcast, I was hugely excited to finally see the stage performance, and I was not disappointed. Lauren and Alicia bring all of the charm and enthusiasm of their audio show ten-fold to the stage, with multiple costume-changes, musical numbers, animation, bawdy props, gratuitous sword flailing, and some very energetic dancing. Alternately narrating and acting, they switch between the two characters’ stories while the other flirts with the audience or thrusts their pelvis for emphasis.
While some liberties are taken with the historical details – which should be somewhat obvious with the numerous references to 80s pop culture – the overall effect is a loving and highly engaging re-telling that really brings these historical figures to life, while musing on some socio-political implications along the way. It’s intelligent comedy spliced with pirate-based innuendos.
Lauren and Alicia are natural performers and storytellers, and there were even moments in the more serious and heart-wrenching parts of the tale where these historical figures really came to life, between their totally-accurate accents and genuine chemistry as in-character and real-life friends.
Women and their stories have been sidelined throughout history at least for centuries, but this show, and their podcast, shine an all-important light on these significant figures, in the most engaging way possible. And there’s no better way to learn about Anne Bonny and Mary Read and their spectacularly bare-chested, bloodthirsty achievements than with the high-energy, delightfully sweary and excellently costumed, Deviant Women: Lady Pirates Give No F*cks.

 


Words by Simone Corletto

Five stars

Deviant Women: Lady Pirates Give No F*cks is playing at the Jade February 21 and 22. Tickets available here.

One Year On: Deviant Women Gear Up For Fringe 2019

Last year we talked to Alicia Carter and Lauren Butterworth, creators of the podcast Deviant Women in the lead up to their knock-out Fringe debut. One year on, and they’re getting ready to bring Deviant Women to the stage again, this time exploring the lives and legends of the infamous female pirate duo Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

On the opening night of Fringe 2019, Tulpa’s Lisandra Linde caught up with Alicia and Lauren to talk about the experience of bringing Deviant Women to the stage and their upcoming show Pirate Ladies Give No F*cks.

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Last year you did two different stage shows – Julie D’Aubigny and Madame Blavatsky – how did that go?

Alicia: Really, really well.

Lauren: Surprisingly well received. I say surprisingly well received as though we were expecting it to be poorly received, but I think it did exceed our expectations.

Alicia: Yeah, definitely. We did two entirely different shows about a week and a half apart. For the first show [Julie D’Aubigny] we were going in blind. We didn’t have any idea what it was going to be like and we were really amazed that within the first five minutes of the show the audience was responding, like, audibly.

Lauren: I remember a moment a few minutes into the show where we could see the front row really well and their faces were just very smiley and there were these big body laughs and I was just like – ‘oh wow, this is going well’.

Alicia: If something bad happened to a character that they liked, the audience would just automatically boo, or something good would happen and they would just automatically cheer. There was actually a moment standing on the stage where I was like, ‘wow, you guys are really enthusiastic’.

Lauren: We fed off their energy and I think they fed off of our energy, so by the end of the night we came off the stage and we were totally on another planet.

Alicia: And then, of course, we were worried about whether or not the second show would live up to the standards of the first show.

Lauren: Especially because we’d had less time to rehearse the second show because we’d been concentrating so much of our efforts on the first show.

Alicia: Also, with the success of the first show, we got some pretty great reviews, a lot of word-of-mouth, so the second show sold out.

Lauren: Because [Blavatsky] was such a different show – well I guess the tone was similar but – the tone of the humour was very similar but the theme of the shows were really opposite, so we weren’t sure if what worked in D’Aubigny would work in Blavatsky. D’Aubigny was so colourful and bright and energetic and quite sexy and tongue-in-cheek, whereas Blavatsky was more spooky.

Alicia: But no, it ended up being just as much of a success as the first show and, again, we got some excellent reviews – five-star reviews – and yeah, really good feedback. I think that when we say surprisingly well, it’s not because we expected them to be a flop but it’s just that they did a lot better than we’d hoped.

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You’re back again this year with a show about Anne Bonny and Mary Read called Pirate Ladies Give No F*cks. You’ve talked about both these swashbuckling ladies in your podcast in the past – what was it that made you choose to do a stage show about them?

Lauren: The thing that we learned from the last Fringe was that while we had an amazing time doing two different shows, there’s a reason why theatrical groups tend to do a show multiple times. Not two shows once each. We just wrecked ourselves doing that, so this time we wanted to do a show that had two primary characters. We didn’t just want one of us to be the main figure, and the other one of us to be the side characters like we did in the last shows. We wanted to choose a pair of women. We actually looked at a few different pairs of women from history but, to be honest, and I think that this is saying something, there weren’t that many stories that we came across of female duos. There are a lot of male duos, and every time you did find a female duo they were either just celebrity pairings or they were frenemies. You know, like the Joan Crawford and Betty Davis sort of frenemies. And we just really wanted to tell a story about female friendship as well, because that’s something that I think is really quite underrepresented.

Alicia: If you look up something like ‘best male duos’ there’s so many from history that you can find that were real men. Whereas with women, the majority of the results that we get are of fictional characters like Thelma and Louise. It wasn’t that we couldn’t find other examples, because we did find a few, but the information that was available to us about a lot of these other female duos was very limited. With Anne and Mary, where we’re lucky that we do have so much about their lives, that’s actually really quite uncommon. We loved their story as well, and we are both big fans of pirates. We like the aesthetic of being a pirate, so it didn’t take us long to decide that it was probably going to be a lot of fun and it was also going to be a lot of material that we could use.

Lauren: A lot of their exploits are quite outrageous. Their story is one that could be turned into a really fun romp, you know? It’s also a story that shows the various shades of these women as well. They’re not just pirates who were fighting alongside men on ships. They were best friends, they were potentially lovers, they had romances, they had heartbreak… They were so amazing in so many ways, but they are also full of contradictions and full of things that make people interesting. I think a big part of the Deviant Women project is trying to think of women as being three-dimensional creatures who are full of shades of light and dark – dare I say, human?

Alicia: I think that’s a part of the podcast as well as the stage show. A lot of what we do is celebrating women from history. Sometimes we think of celebrating in terms of uncovering and finding them and knowing that they exist. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’re celebrating them because we’re holding them up as paragons of being amazingly wonderful people. Like, a lot of these women were quite bad people.

Lauren: To me, it’s just about breaking down those myths of femininity, breaking down those dualities and binaries that confine women to being one thing or another.

Alicia: It’s about finding that area where you don’t have to be a wonderful person in order for us to celebrate your existence.

Lauren: And these two women are really good examples of that.

Your shows mix a lot of elements, from sketch comedy to animation and even audience participation. How much work goes into creating a show with this much stuff going on?

Alicia: Actually, we’ve added a new element to this [year’s] show. We’ve branched out into the world of musicals.

Lauren: Song and dance numbers are now making their debut on the Deviant Women stage.

Alicia: We didn’t think we had enough crammed into the shows last year. So this time we thought we’d do a bit of a musical number.

Lauren: We were also really lucky this year to have another couple of artists approach us and want to get involved in the show as well so we’ve got two designers and animators who have come onboard to help us out with some of our visuals and animations this year – Levi George and Lisa Vertudaches – we’ve been able to work with them which has been really fun.

Alicia: They’ve been very generous with their time and they’ve given us some really awesome animations that we’ve thrown into the mix with some of our own crap animations.

Lauren: Of course, we couldn’t not try our hand at animation. A different form this time. So last year we had stop-motion claymation and shadow puppets. There’s a new one in the mix this year.

 

You obviously do a lot of historical research for every show (and podcast). How do you find the balance between the information you want to share about these women and the more comedic elements of the show?

Lauren: Okay, so this story, as with our two previous stories (D’Aubigny and Blavatsky), had historical facts about them that were verifiable in the historical record, but they were also both surrounded in myth and legend as well. I think it’s that space [between fact and myth] that allows us that creativity and a chance to play and have fun with their stories. We’re very upfront about the fact that A, B, and C is historical fact, and D and E are apocryphal stories. I think we’re both really interested in not simply the historical figures, but we’re interested in storytelling. We’re interested in the ways that stories about women are told, and the way that historical figures become mythologised.

Alicia: When we find gaps in the narrative, or we find interactions with other people that have been merely suggested or hinted at, it’s taking those other characters around them as well and then creating something out of it. So one of them might have a dalliance with a lover or something, and that’s about as much as you get. And that gives you so much freedom to make anything you like out of that lover because there’s nothing in the history books to tell you about them. We kind of create these characters that would have been around them as well.

Lauren: And those characters often become symbols for the feminist undercurrent of the show. Quite often we’re lampooning particular stereotypes. Particularly around things like toxic masculinity or sexual politics.

What’s your favourite part of bringing these shows to life? And what do you look forward to most in doing the show this year?

Alicia: I’m looking forward to it being over so that we can sleep [laughs]. No, my favourite part of the show is bringing to life the visual aspects. I love it when we get stuck into the costuming and the sets. What I like is the idea that you come along to the show and hopefully we can transport you to a different time. I really enjoy putting together those visual cues.

Lauren: I kind just live for that moment on stage. Performing transports you to a totally different dimension, you know? I’m a totally different person on stage than I am in face-to-face conversation. I’m really in love with the Lauren that comes out when she’s on stage. I wish she would come out more in everyday life because she is very confident, she’s very playful and she’s very over-the-top. I really love being her. Having the chance to really lean into the performing and feeding off of the energy of people, kind of getting that sense that you’re sharing an experience with people through this thing that you’re doing. That’s just such an enormous high, and I really love it.

Alicia: That’s why we came back and decided to do it again this year. That’s the thing about live performance in general, isn’t it? That you create something there in the moment that’s very ephemeral but that everyone in the room is sharing. So I think that’s what keeps us going.

 


Deviant Women will be performing at the Adelaide Fringe on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of February. You can grab your tickets here. You can learn more about Deviant Women and their podcast on their website, or listen on iTunes. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Tulpa thanks Deviant Women creators Alicia Carter and Lauren Butterworth for taking the time to speak with us. Interview conducted and transcribed by Lisandra Linde.

Ladylike: A Modern Guide to Etiquette

Comedian Louise Beuvink is offering an etiquette guide for the modern woman. Hosting a fancy dinner party on a budget (pate made of blended mini hot dogs and champagne made in a Sodastream), an instructional song about encouraging your male partner to go down on you, and a quick tutorial about the rules of cricket, are all covered in her hour-long session. With a sharp feminist voice and some extremely funny personal stories, Louise’s Ladylike is a very fun night out (I was seated behind a group of women in their mid-forties on a night out, who were having a great time). No topic was too personal for Louise – including a bit about steamed vaginas – and it was nice to hear a young woman’s voice on the double standards placed on people with a vagina (Louise’s opening address asked, who thinks the gender binary is bullshit? to a healthy cheer). The audience was largely women and it couldn’t be more perfect for Louise’s show.
The show’s second half perhaps wasn’t as strong as the first, but is hard to follow up a song about getting your husband to perform cunnilingus on you with anything quite as memorable. I thoroughly enjoyed this show and would recommend for anyone looking for a good laugh about the misogynistic double standards placed on women.

 


3.5 stars.

Words by Riana Kinlough.

Ladylike: A Modern Guide to Etiquette is playing daily (except Mondays) until March 3. Tickets available here.

 

Lillian Armfield: How Australia’s First Female Detective Took on Tilly Devine and the Razor Gangs and Changed the Face of the Force

Lillian Armfield: How Australia’s First Female Detective Took on Tilly Devine and the Razor Gangs and Changed the Face of the Force

Leigh Straw

Hachette 2018


 

Leigh Straw’s striking biography about Australia’s first policewoman, Lillian Armstrong, provides an insight into the life of the trailblazer that paved the way for Australian women in the police force. Detailing her life and career, Armstrong is brought to life though the infamous cases she worked; some of which have become ingrained in mythos of Australia. A rich landscape of Australia’s post first-wave feminist era is examined through the life of one courageous, paradigm defying woman, who rose to the rank of Chief of the Women’s Police.

By exposing the dark and dingy crevices of Australian history, Straw paints a gripping and occasionally graphic portrayal of a working-class Sydney – which is often forgotten in the national narrative. Her wry humour assists in highlighting the restrictive paradigms of early 20th century living and working for women, with the first female police women expected to protect women and children without being given the means or resources to protect herself. While providing a flattering account of a policewoman, Straw does not fall into the trap of glorifying or justifying the pitfalls of the early 20th century police forces in their treatment of women and Indigenous Australians.

Lillian Armfield has been largely forgotten by history despite her contributions to the force. The middle-aged woman, who had a habit of wearing pearls on her patrols, managed to win over the people ignored by the greater society. While exposing how difficult it was to live as a woman in the early decades of the 20th century, Straw further probes into the dangers of living as a woman generally and the failed measures taken by a patriarchal authority to protect them.

It is clear that Straw has an immense adoration and respect for her subject which she actively portrays through her writing. Her extensive research has paid off in creating a riveting homage to a woman who revolutionised women’s role in society.

While written superbly, Straw occasionally becomes so involved in the relaying Armstrong’s life, the reader is left behind if they do not have an extensive knowledge of underground Sydney crime. Although the stories and cases highlighted do make for fascinating reading regardless.

Lillian Armfield is a beacon of hope for women today, providing a shining example of a woman who defied social norms. Her impact on the police force is undeniable and despite history ignoring her in our national story, Armfield deserves the recognition which Straw has given her.

Overall this is a must read for true crime lovers and fans of strong, influential women who shaped our society.

4/5 Stars

 


Words by Georgina Banfield

Photo from Hachette: https://www.hachette.com.au/book/lillian-armfield

How to be Held

How to be Held

Maddie Godfrey

Burning Eye Books 2018


Maddie Godfrey is an Australian born poet from Western Australia who has moved on to spend time living and writing in both America and the UK. She has won poetry slams across two continents and her work has been featured on a number of international platforms. An astoundingly talented person, How to Be Held is Godfrey’s first book.

There were a number of standout poems in this collection, some being those I recognised from Godfrey’s Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/madfrey22) and ‘Kissing’ which was featured on Button Poetry last year.

Godfrey’s work deals with a myriad of issues including gender politics, self-love, trauma, and self-preservation. She shares with us a deeply personal journey through love, loss, heartbreak, and exploitation, constantly calling into question the expectations of society about gender, violence, and trauma.

Much of Godfrey’s poetry explores the difference between the binary, however ‘Labels are for Jars’ protests this, explaining that sometimes a person might not fit the binary or fit the binary comfortably. As she talks about her father, Godfrey reflects on her own ideas of not fitting the binary and how important that it is to be accepted for who you are.

With a mixture of the personal and political, Godfrey includes her 2016 response to a neo-masculine organisation called “Return of the Kings”. Reading ‘Birthday Parties’ was a pressing reminder of the dangers of being a woman—a reminder that women must think and act in a way that will constantly secure their safety whether they are consciously thinking of it or not.

Godfrey follows this poem with ‘Meeting with Mountains’, comparing the differences between women being taught to take up less space whereas men that they can take up all the space. As the book progresses the poems soften allowing the reader to embrace a sense of warmth and familiarity.

Self-love and self-acceptance is another important theme which is explored throughout this collection. A number of poems read like letters to a future self, a comfort and an acknowledgement that the person you will become is not necessarily the person you are today. In ‘For Days When my Feminism Does Not Include Myself’, Godfrey writes:

“you do not realise how capable you are

of growing into future versions of yourself”

Such a simple sentiment and touching reminder that you are not locked in as the person you are today, instead you, and everyone around you, are constantly evolving as different events and experiences shape you and your future.

Intimate and deeply moving, Godfrey’s poetry focuses on the need and the will to survive, to move on from past ordeals and fight back against the traumatic experiences. Her words hold you captive and at the same time make you feel safe and acknowledged. Godfrey guides you through her book gently while at the same time boldly and bluntly acknowledging her own traumatic experiences. Throughout her message remains clearly positive, reiterating that survival is key to negotiating both this world and her trauma.

How to Be Held was released July 1st and can be purchased online: https://www.howtobeheld.com/


Words by Kayla Gaskell

Photography by Kayla Gaskell