#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

Bridge of Clay

Bridge of Clay
Markus Zusak
Picador 2018


As a fan of Markus Zusak’s previous work (The Book Thief, The Messenger, and When Dogs Cry) there was no doubt in my mind I’d love Bridge of Clay when I read it. Yet Bridge of Clay raised a number of questions about the book and the evolution of Zusak’s prose style. For me, this book was a change from his others by the sheer literary feeling of the writing. If you’re unsure what I mean by “literary”, perhaps the simplest way to describe it is writing that screams writing. The first page caught me off guard, but it didn’t take long to appreciate the style and story.

If I weren’t a fan of Zusak—or if I’d read the blurb before I jumped in—this is definitely a book I would seek out and read. I am one of six children and so I’ve always been fascinated by large families in fiction and on screen (Cheaper by the Dozen, Septimus Heap, etc.). Seeing someone portray the lives of five brothers is fascinating to me. A lot of these moments and interactions just felt truly authentic and familiar. Although, my family was never quite so wild.

The story is told by Matthew, the eldest Dunbar brother, and follows the younger brother, Clay. Clay has spent his life training, but training for what? This question appears at the beginning of the novel and is repeated throughout. While the others drive, he runs. While jockeys ride horses on the nearby racecourse Clay creates his own race-course or obstacle course, complete with local tough guys charged with keeping him from completing his race. But Clay doesn’t care about winning—the only race he cared about was won and done, the family reluctantly one mule richer for it.

About a third of the way through it becomes clear that Clay’s training isn’t to win at anything, it’s simply a way to help him survive the ‘murder’. The boys, much like Justin Torre’s We the Animals, are a united front against their remaining (and absent) authority figure, their father, who they refer to as the murderer. When the murderer returns, he upsets the entire household, effectively tearing a brother away with his plea to help build a bridge. Clay makes the decision to leave Matthew, Rory, Henry, Tommy, all the animals, and his almost-girlfriend, Carey, to build a bridge with his Dad.

While the novel tells the story of Matthew, Clay, and their brothers, it also delves back into history to bring the story of their parents, Michael Dunbar and Penelope Lesciuszko.

Zusak creates a full and authentic story with his Dunbar boys and the stories of their parents. This is a book that will stir your emotions; it will call up fear and anger and grief. You will grow to adore the Iliad and Odyssey, fall in love with Carey, and wish you could know the Mistake Maker, just as I did.

For readers of The Book Thief, particularly for any readers who dislike or struggle with literary fiction; I would approach this with awareness that this is quite a large book and it may take a chapter or two to find the rhythm. Regardless, this is an utterly beautiful testament to childhood and simply being Australian. This is the story of boys, horses, and surviving whatever life has in store for you.

3.5/5 stars


Words and photography by Kayla Gaskell

The Psychopath Test

Jon Ronson
Picador 2011

When a mysterious book is anonymously delivered to several of the world’s best brains, the Curious George of journalists gets involved when none of them can crack the code.  Someone has single-handedly sent the earth’s leading experts into a simultaneous tailspin, and Jon Ronson is sent to find out who they are and what they want. He begins his journey into the people who aren’t so plugged in, those with a screw loose: the world of psychopaths.

The Psychopath Test’ is a light-hearted, creatively uplifting approach to the potential madness of the human brain, and I have never read anything like it. It’s wonderfully easy to read and I would recommend for anyone 17 or older.

The dynamic, embarrassingly humorous book takes the reader by the hand to meet psychopaths of all shapes and sizes. Do psychopaths really exist? And who are they? The book shows interviews between several so-called psychopaths and the traits that define them. The description of how psychopathic tendencies have been treated in the past is indeed quite shocking. LSD-induced trances, deep sleep therapy, even nude group therapy baths. None of it worked.

Psychologist Bob Hare invented the Hare Psychopathy Checklist to identify psychopaths out in the wild. Equipped with this checklist, Ronson travels to high security prisons, mental health hospitals and a Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder unit to see if he can determine who is psychopathic and who isn’t whilst trying not to be devilishly charmed in the process.

On a bizarre accusation by Scientologists that psychiatry is a farce, he reads the DSM-1V-TR; a handbook for psychiatrists everywhere containing all the mental disorders known to man. If you or I were to read this book, we could probably diagnose ourselves with several disorders right off the bat. Ronson could: he diagnosed himself with twelve. Ronson speculates that we may have taken if a bit too far with our desire to label. From experiencing shakes after too much coffee (Caffeine Induced Disorder) to procrastination (Malingering), anyone with any kind of anomaly is labelled and segregated.

Ronson forms wariness and doubt in the mind, which he gleefully explores. Is the psychiatry business just due to the compulsion to categorize things? Do the pharmaceutical companies just want to glean another profit by exploiting this compulsion? How many people have been unnecessarily labelled?

I was moved by his willingness to get down and dirty with the people that the average Joe would personally stay away from. This allowed for an invitingly fresh point of view unhindered from social censorship. His personal take on these certainly colourful characters, along with his willingness to get up close with murderers, makes for a wondrous read that I devoured.

4.75 stars


 

Words by Sarah Ingham