11 May 2017

My Australia

Last week, Damien Cave, the journalist entrusted with setting up the new Australian arm of the New York Times, started an email to subscribers with a contrast of rich and poor examples of Sydney. He then challenged readers to respond with how they saw these two worlds. 

My response didn't exactly match the brief but it was my response written from the heart and in the moment. I could have written about all these places that mean something to me for days or weeks on end but I only had a couple of hours to give it. Unfortunately, it didn't even warrant a mention in the follow-up article, Two Australias? Readers Tell Their Stories. 

So now I have to publish it myself. Here it is.

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My Australia
Only two different Australias?

Oh Damien, it’s so much more. You really haven’t explored much of Sydney or Australia yet.



I grew up on 8 acres in Wagga Wagga, a place subjected to much ridicule and mirth. One day I will tell you about the Five O’Clock Wave. Wagga Wagga has a university, an army base and a RAAF base. It’s the central hub for surrounding farms and communities. My Dad was a NSW civil servant, originally designing roads, and then an assessor of budget expenditure. For instance, when councils would ask for money to repair roads damaged by floods, my Dad would check the legitimacy of the claims and then once the work was done, that the money was spent according to the claim. He became the enemy of a couple of council clerks. My Mum is a local historian. She has written the History of Wagga Wagga and many other smaller publications of various institutions, infrastructure and people in the area. They now live on 60 acres in a place called Marrar (see picture above) where three council boundaries converge, Coolamon, Junee and Wagga Wagga. My dad has a whopping big shed he bought from the SES and it has a resident carpet snake. They regularly have brown snakes visiting too. I’m petrified of snakes. Thankfully, only baby snakes have actually entered the family home. Huntsmen spiders are also regular visitors, sometimes in the car. I had a friend from Sydney in my mini when a spider waved hello at her from the inside of the windscreen. I had to pull over to chase it away. Nearly thirty years later, she still points to the scar she obtained from the mad scramble out of the vehicle. To rile her up further, the boys we were meeting at the pub said they didn’t believe our story for being late.

I moved to Sydney straight out of high school. The mini followed me after a month or so (my parents needed a replacement before they could release it). Meanwhile, each day I walked the main road through Belmore to catch a train to Bankstown where I worked as a trainee accountant. It didn’t take me long to recognise how white I was. White and skinny with long legs and red hair, I was subjected to the occasional wolf-whistle and honking horn. I attended Belmore Church of Christ most Sundays. My new friends ran a playgroup during the week that was mainly attended by Lebanese women and their children, even though they were usually Muslim. One mother asked the church ladies to show her children the baptistry and explain what it meant to be baptised in a Christian church since she wanted to give them choice. Sometimes I helped out at the ISCF (Inter-School Christian Fellowship) at Bankstown Girls High School. The first time I walked through the school grounds I was fascinated by the girls in hijabs, in school uniform colours. One of these girls attended ISCF.

I went to a concert at Homebush Stadium, before it was the site of the Sydney Olympics. There were identical twin brothers sitting next to me and my friend. At the end of the concert they asked for a lift to the station. We were up for an adventure and drove them out to their home in Mt Druitt. When we arrived they tenderly moved their Mum in an alcoholic coma on the couch to her bedroom. I had my first unsweetened cup of tea due to the cockroaches crawling through the sugar bowl. There were locks on the boys’ doors to prevent their drug-dealing older brother from taking their stuff and selling it. Their 16 year old sister was pregnant. I used to laugh in the face of stereotypes presented to us on TV screens but here it was in front of me. These 19 year old twin boys though, were not the stereotype. They were both at manager level at McDonalds to support themselves through university and supplement the welfare payments the rest of the family was living on. One repeated Year 12 due to poor results the first time round and despite an improvement in the second HSC result, he only gained entry to Macquarie University through an Aboriginal support program. They were one quarter Aboriginal. I’m really sad that I lost touch with them after a few years.

A year after moving to Sydney I started working for banks in the city and had glimpses of real wealth. Instead of completing financial statements and tax returns for small businesses, I was working with massive amounts of money. For three years I worked with Macquarie Bank where, particularly in my section, there was a strong work hard, play hard philosophy. A large group of us from that early 1990’s era recently had a reunion and the few that still worked for the bank said that it has changed. We reminisced about the lunches, the conferences and Friday nights. I held the female non-spew record for the number of tequilas someone could consume at their pre-wedding lunch.

I lived in Neutral Bay for a while and made friends on the north shore. I met my now husband. I became jaded by the financial industry making rich people richer and opted out of this moral dilemma by having two children. I trained to be a teacher and now I work in north shore private schools and live in the upper north shore. The feeling of making rich people rich still irks me occasionally, mainly through the attitude of the parents. The north shore has this veneer of being relaxed, lately demonstrable through the increase in cafes, wine bars and homeware shops in my local village. We used to have two butcher shops, one of them became the trendy cafe, The Butcher’s Block. It’s a bit quaint, that term ‘village’, which we on the north shore use to describe our local shopping centre. I suppose it’s to contrast the bunch of small shops to the monstrous shopping malls. Underneath it all, everyone is working hard to maintain their huge mortgages, expensive cars, travel the world and pay those phenomenal private school fees. We just hope that these inflated housing prices stay there long enough so that we can sell our house at a peak and buy outside Sydney when we retire.

Ballina is a gorgeous coastal town, a little below the more famous Byron Bay. A little below in wealth and prestige, as well as geographically. From the time I was five years old we’d spend summer holidays with my grandparents there and my cousins from Queensland would visit too. Unfortunately my grandparents are no longer there. My Pop died a few years ago and my Nan is a 101 years old and lives with my parents. The highway bypasses Ballina now and many of the shops I used to know have gone. The shopping mall to the south of what was the centre of town has killed them off. To me, Ballina is beach, long walks at night and cricket in the driveway. We were more scared of the bluebottles than sharks when we were young but with the number of sharks attacks lately, my attitude has changed. I actually miss the sand in the sheets and the salt in my hair.



Beyond NSW, there is even more Australia that shows how diverse our land and its people are. My brother lives in Adelaide (an Adelaide Hills winery pictured above) with their left-wing leanings but pommy accents. Brisbane tries hard to keep up with Sydney and Melbourne but really it is just another large country town. It’s further north you want to go, where the beauty of up-market Noosa and the humidity of Townsville and Rockhampton and more can grab you, wrap its arms around you and let you sink into its warmth. Or out west of Queensland, where my cousin has a zoo in the middle of a dusty plain.

My husband’s aunt’s partner had a winery in Alice Springs which used to boast of being the first to bottle wine each season. Unfortunately, I’m yet to see the majestic Uluru or other amazing sites in our centre. I’ve never been to Perth either but I want to go to the Hopman Cup one day. They all seem a bit mad over there, the land that every now and again threatens to secede from the rest of Australia.

Friends of mine have acted as the Kalumburu Community CEO. Kalumburu is a remote community in the far north of Western Australia, closer to Darwin than Perth. There is a strange mix of a Catholic mission, an Aboriginal community disenfranchised by paternalism and the white community workers. My friends returned to Sydney after their stints with more questions than answers as to how Aboriginal people can be helped.

I have only visited Tasmania once, for my honeymoon a couple of decades ago. The ruggedness of the land is its main beauty and the convict history its ugliness. We visited Port Arthur before the massacre occurred but the history of its cruelty penetrated through my skin and into my soul. I grew up with a strong sense of Australian history but this is where theory became real to me. I’m sure the extra 35 deaths have added to the already extraordinary weight of the place.

So there you have it, my Australia, and a little of my history wrapped up in it. I hope you come to love it, embracing its confused identity with warmth and laughter.

Regards

Shani Hartley



09 May 2017

Peppers Weymouth, Adelaide

             
        Peppers Gallery Hotel, Canberra              Peppers Blue on Blue, Magnetic Island

I have always held the name Peppers synonymous with iconic establishments of accommodation, starting with The Convent in the Hunter Valley. Peppers thus represented accommodation I aspired to experience but I could never justify the expense. That was until a few years ago when, with my family, I stayed at Peppers Magnetic Island and had a lovely time there. More recently we stayed at Peppers Canberra in an apartment block behind the main hotel which felt a little cold and removed from what I perceived the genuine Peppers experience to be.

About 18 months ago Peppers took over the Rendezvous Hotel in Adelaide. I visit Adelaide regularly and have found Peppers’ tempting but the prices a little out of reach. This trip, however, Qantas were offering Peppers at a comparatively reasonable price, with the added bonus of Qantas points, which I strongly desire at the moment.

I was upgraded from a guest room to a deluxe room on the top (18th) floor at check-in. It was spacious with a view down to a construction site and across to Adelaide Hills. A fairly ordinary cityscape occupied the space between. Noisy nightlife from the street reached the room above. The room had nearly all one expects from a five star hotel, including black-out curtains, a dry-cleaning service and spacious wardrobe space (no dressing-gown though). I couldn’t find a compendium in the room or on the TV to tell me about the gym and pool so downloaded the app. However, the information available on the app is scant. It had the opening times but I didn’t know if towels were available by the pool (they are).

It was at breakfast that I really felt Peppers Waymouth became sub-standard. I pre-booked a buffet breakfast at the Essay Kitchen on the first floor for a 25% discount the night before. An alternative would have been to eat a la carte at Barketta on the Ground Floor. I was the first to arrive at opening time and could not find any staff in attendance. In fact, I waited at least 5 minutes but it felt longer. The selection of food was adequate but instead of hash browns there were potato gems that tasted like they had been deep fried and then reheated. I selected cappuccino on the coffee machine and placed it on my table while I was waiting for my toast to cook. Once I sat down I noticed how white the cappuccino was and upon drinking discovered it had no coffee in the cup, just frothed milk. The worst part of the breakfast experience though was the sticky floor. As already mentioned, I was the first customer to arrive, so when I looked at the floor to see what was making it sticky I didn’t expect to see the imprints of 100s of steps. Obviously the floor hadn’t been cleaned between close of service the day before and that morning.

When I left for the day, I found the doorman personable (actually a human being instead of a programmed robot) and he arranged a taxi for me but unlike some of the grander hotels of similar price, they weren’t just down the street to be hailed. The driveway out the front (on the side street rather than the actual street address of the hotel) is small and was jammed by three cars when my taxi arrived so the driver parked illegally for me to climb in.

I arrived back late that night and became confused by the room service menu with a section stating “Always Peppers” 10am-6am which at first I thought should have been 10pm-6am since the menu above it ceased at 10pm but the “Always” might mean “Always except during breakfast time”. The website said they offered 24 hour room service but it appears that unless you do the old-fashioned breakfast order on the door handle by 1am, there is no room service between 6 and 10am.

The pool turned out to be the highlight of the hotel. Despite finishing a book after 1am, I woke at 6am and spent over half an hour doing laps alone in the pool. I mainly do breaststroke with my head above the water but upon the first of my freestyle laps I found four portholes in the floor, looking at the ground floor beneath. It was too early to spy anyone or more pertinent, for anyone to spy me, thank goodness. I had a quick dip in the spa and left just as three people arrived.

Due to the disappointing breakfast the day before I went to Barketta, the a la carte option on the ground floor, on the second day. Only one other table was occupied. The cafe was a rather dated motel style decor but my omelette and coffee were perfect and at a reasonable price, promptly served. I checked-out and had a lovely chat with the man who had ordered me the taxi outside as I waited for my lift.

All up, Peppers Waymouth is a lovely hotel but doesn’t reach a real five star experience due to the shortfalls mentioned. I couldn't even be bothered taking a photo, thus the previous two Peppers pictured at the top of this post. Peppers Waymouth won’t be my first hotel choice when I next visit Adelaide, even if a bargain is on offer again.

29 March 2017

Why write?

The Creative Non-Fiction Festival

An amazing array of writers spoke today at the NSW Writers’ Centre in the expansive old hospital grounds at Rozelle in Sydney. I arrived when registration opened, an hour before the first session, and sat with coffee watching joggers go by in the gentle sun, a rare sight of late.

I opened the magazine, The Lifted Brow, free with registration, and within the first couple of pages my writing cogs moved into action. A new event was added to my novel, still merely in the planning stage. I then wrote a half-formed poem. I don’t write poetry. Writerly air was wrapping around me.

The people drifting into the grounds gradually increased and moved inside. I took a breath and nestled into a corner seat, thinking I should just go home and write, instead of forking out money to be depressed by the successes of people who have already managed to do just that.

WHY WRITE?

This is a question I have been asking myself during my ‘Year of Investigating an Alternative Future’. I’m not working full-time this year so I can help my son through his HSC but also taking the opportunity to play with other projects, including writing projects. Although the Creative Non-Fiction Festival addressed many facets of writing non-fiction, the main purpose of my attendance was to answer this question.

ANSWER:

1. Adrenalin 

2. Rewrite history 

3. New discoveries 

4. The money 

5. Fame, glory and power


Adrenalin

When Lenore Taylor (The Guardian) and Osman Faruqi (Junkee Media) spoke, they were a little heightened, edgier, faster, frenetic than the other writers at the festival. I’m not saying that they were highly stressed people, just not as chilled as the other writers. This is the effect of politics and the fast pace reporting of it. There seems to be an extra sense of urgency due to new political parties disrupting the old guard and new media disrupting the old printed word. There is also a sense of urgency because time has sped up. The historian, Clare Wright, also on this panel, pointed out that in the Ballarat goldfield days (1850s) letters to England would have a six month turnaround. Political journalists are now often expected to file a story every half hour.

Even under pressure, the better journalists avoid ‘race call journalism’ (Lenore) or ‘stenography’ (Osman). They look for issues to investigate further, although the resources available for this to occur are not as they once were. That said, live blogs of political events are very popular with The Guardian readers. According to Osman, the difference between The Guardian’s live blogs and ‘race calling’ is the context and analysis that the The Guardian journalists provide. According to the chair of the panel, Judith Whelan, the live blogs are also entertaining because they include jibes and humour. Personally, one of my favourite political moments was being able to watch the #spill of Kevin Rudd live on Twitter, joining the smoking crowd huddled on the street outside a formal restaurant dinner to keep up with the blow by blow events.

This craving for immediacy dispels the idea that politics is boring and that the public has lost interest, agreed all the commentators on this panel. When Junkee Media was established with a target audience of young adults they deliberately steered clear of politics due to the assumption that young people weren’t interested. Junkee concentrated on other news and pop culture instead. However, they soon discovered when they touched upon politics they garnered interest. It is said around the Junkee office that Tony Abbott saved Junkee due to his polarising effect. Judith asked who else made ‘box office gold’ and the names Dutton, Morrison, Gillard, Trump and Hanson quickly came back. Lenore pointed out that The Guardian isn’t just about the hits. For instance, they deliberately avoided the white shirt bitchy battle between two Channel 9 female anchors despite the hits it would generate. I share with Judith the guilty fascination with this leaked tape. I could justify my interest with a sociological analysis of how women behave towards each other but that wouldn’t be the entire truth.

To achieve the ever elusive breaking story, it can be tempting for many political writers to fall into ‘client journalism’, another new phrase I learnt from Lenore as a result of this discussion. However, there needs to be some sort of genuine relationship, not friendship, between pollies and journos to avoid polarised reporting. Instead, journos need to know the politicians and the reasons behind their political positions. A story was told of a journalist being friendly with a politician to the extent of sharing dinners together and then one day the journo called the pollie for a chat, not realising the pollie had indulged in several drinks at lunch and consequently said something he shouldn’t have. The journo had a breaking story she considered to be in the public interest and reported it. The pollie was in trouble with his party and a couple of days later denied ever saying it and threatened legal action against the journo. Lenore also lamented that sometimes a journalist will uncover a story that they will know will have a terrible impact on someone but as a journalist the truth and the public interest has to be paramount.

So how does a political journo break a story? Persistence, says Lenore. “Get onto a story and dig your teeth in”.  At this point, Clare pointed out how much adrenalin it takes to report politics, that the stakes are so much higher for a political reporter than for her as a writer historian since Lenore and Osman write about live people and have such immediacy in what they are reporting and the consequences of what they report. In contrast, Clare writes in quiet libraries.

“Can we swap jobs?” asked Lenore.

“Yours is exciting,” Clare responded.

“Yours is nice,” says Lenore.

So what is Clare’s job?


Rewriting History

Dr Clare Wright’s love of history and writing, combined with an immense ability to achieve academically, has taken her down a path of university life that funds her book writing. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but it makes a great one sentence summary.

When Clare commenced research into female publicans for her PhD and the subsequent book, Beyond the Ladies Lounge, she did so with the premise that the ladies’ lounge was gender apartheid and fired up to argue this case. However, from the oral history she gathered, Clare soon felt like a “right idiot” for asking “naive questions” and actually found quite a different story. The women looked upon the Ladies’ Lounge as a place of belonging and empowerment. After all, why would they want to drink with the men when they had to live with them every day? The Ladies’ Lounge provided a room of one’s own, as it were, and the older women mourned its loss as younger women came in and demanded equality in the form of drinking with the men.

It could be argued that it’s a matter of perspective but particularly as a historian, Clare is interested in truth. Yes, she is a revisionist who is rewriting women back into history, deemed a political act since it inherently claims women to be of importance. This is not looking at history through feminist eyes but looking at history for greater accuracy, without the blinkers of elitist white men. It is not a female lens but a lens on the females not previously seen.

The festival’s director, Mark Dapin, a name I recognised from Good Weekend magazine, launched the day by interviewing Clare. He was obviously in awe of her achievements, having just finished his own PhD thesis this week. Mark remarked about Clare’s talent to provide through her words a sense of place, not just by sight, but also sound. Clare stated that it was important to listen. For instance, during the gold rush, people would arrive in Melbourne and take a week to walk to Ballarat with one prospector’s diary declaring you could hear the township (40,000 people living in tents) before you could see it. Clare equated her role as a writer to being a conductor of a choir of voices that rise from the archival material.

When Clare first ventured on her research into the Eureka Stockade, the old guard of Eureka’s history mocked the possibility of her finding anything new to say, since so much had been researched and written before. She steeled herself, and set out to ask the much examined archival material new questions. One of the most valued archival pieces held by the State Library of Victoria connected to the Eureka Stockade was known as The Lazarus Diary, named after its presumed author. In the pages of this diary Clare discovered a reference to a dead woman in a coffin the morning after the stockade with the writer remarking about the shame she had died defending her husband and his right to mine, or something along those lines. It had previously been claimed that no women had died at the Eureka Stockade battle. Further to this discovery, Clare also found from digging down a rabbit hole for six months, that Lazarus had actually not written this diary. A man named Charles Evans wrote it. 

Read all about the diary research in Desperately Seeking Samuel: a diary lost and found. The women of the Eureka Stockade are recognised in The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.


New Discoveries

Clare’s revelations of the role of women in history previously overlooked were not the only ‘Eureka!’ moments revealed at the Creative Non-Fiction Festival. Writers on a panel specifically focused on research were asked by Mark about their favourite moments. After enjoying Jane Gleeson-White’s account of day after day entering between two statues of naked men into the beautiful Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice, attention shifted to artifacts. Jane has written a comprehensive history of accounting, Double Entry, and a book, Six Capitals, about the role accounting could play in potentially solving environmental destruction of our Earth. The ‘father of accounting’, Luca Pacioli, a monk and mathematician from 500 or so years ago, wrote several books, including one about chess and its newly developed rules, or so he claimed. Scholars doubted this assertion but in 2006 the book was discovered amongst thousands of others in a private collection. The greater surprise, however, was the beautiful illustrations of chess pieces by Leonardo da Vinci, who was Luca Pacioli’s friend. Although this wasn’t Jane’s own discovery it created immense satisfaction and added to the deep knowledge and respect she had already gained for these men.

Helen O’Neill has written a wide variety of heavily researched books. Her book about Harry Seidler, A Singular Vision, involved the reading of Seidler’s prolific output of words. One day she was swimming at Clovelly when it struck her that colour had only been mentioned a couple of times. She then thought, “I wonder if he was colourblind?”. Helen asked his widow and found her hunch was true. Sometimes research just sinks in and makes completely unexpected revelations.

While researching the return of Vietnam War soldiers to Australia, Mark Dapin was constantly frustrated by being unable to track the specific flights arriving back from Saigon. He finished his thesis without this information but then found them while fossicking around the Noel Butlin Archives Centre, a collection of trade union material amongst other business and labour records. The government commissioned Qantas to conduct these flights. Qantas supplied a civilian crew. Each individual crew member needed to be insured for each flight they were on, thus the records. He accidentally smashed his phone in the excitement of trying to photograph them but thankfully a friend was able to lend him a replacement. The flights might not have made it into the thesis but I bet they’ll be part of his subsequent book.


Money

Research obviously involves a lot of time and time is money. Some of the writers mentioned so far were able to obtain funding through grants and scholarships. Jane Gleeson-White interned at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.

It is also possible to make money as a freelance writer with shorter forms of writing. Angela Saurine mainly makes a living as a travel writer and has a friend that specialises in writing about cruises. Mark Abernathy and Chris Sheedy write on a wide variety of topics and in a wide range of formats, including newspaper and magazine articles, speeches and ghostwriting opinion editorials (op-eds). Mark estimates around 80-90% of op-eds purportedly written by famous people, such as politicians and sports stars, are actually ghost-written. Chris noted that he is trying to cut down from writing 14 hours a day and Mark supported this statement, describing his routine of writing weekly pieces during the day and books at night. He also said his personality means he embraces doing many things at once (sounds like me) but recommends emerging writers focus on one thing and let the ball roll on from there (I’ll try).

An audience member dared to ask for a specific figure per word. An amount of 75c-$1/word was floated but renounced by publishers and publicists sitting in the front row, stating a more realistic fee is 50c/word. Now I know why Benjamin Law was so happy when his newspaper column was increased from 300 words to 500 words. Apparently 500 words is the perfect length for a Saturday morning bowel movement. My only writing gig for money is for an extremely small publication, BusiDate, aimed at Business Studies students and teachers. I write 2500 words for $500 once or twice a year, which equates to 20 cents per word. It’s good to know I may improve on that in the future.

Last year I attended a session at the Sydney Writers’ Festival where Rosalie Ham said that having The Dressmaker made into a film meant that she was able to buy a brand new car for the first time. It’s looking like a career in writing is more likely to be a lifestyle choice rather than a financial one.

So if not for money…


Fame, Glory and Power

Before attending the Creative Non-Fiction Festival I recognised about half of the names of the writers appearing. Unfortunately choices had to be made and I’m sorry I missed seeing James Bradley, Paul Daley, Malcolm Knox and Susan Wyndham. I’m ecstatic to have been introduced to Jane Gleeson-White, Helen O’Neill and Clare Wright. I have already ordered or purchased multiple books by all three. It shows me just how many fabulous writers and books with which I am unfamiliar.

Lenore Taylor often appears on ABC’s Insiders so is probably the most recognisable of the writers featured at the festival but outside political nerds like myself I imagine her name doesn’t mean that much.  Political writers may feel some glory in breaking stories and rubbing shoulders with politicians but I guess the more familiar it becomes the less glorious the job.

Most of the writers I heard speak wield some power. Clare Wright is successfully bringing women into the historical light, Benjamin Law is possibly changing perceptions of gay Asians and Jack Latimore of indigenous writers, but it is usually the people and topics they write about that gain the fame and glory.

Writers are often subjected to backlash and trolling. One of the authors was subjected to periodical phone calls in the middle of the night calling her a slut and whore because she asked him to be polite towards a fellow writer. It only stopped two years later when she went to court for a protection order. Unanimously, the writers on the ‘Opinions’ panel agreed that you shouldn’t read below the line of an online article due to the vile and vitriol hurled. Kerri Sackville has written about this in her blog, A Comment About Comments. Jack Latimore warned of Pepe the Frog acting as a symbol of Naziism in the USA and of #dingotwitter in Australia, a racist AltRight movement. Typically the haters were men, but one writer said the commentators on Mamamia were mainly women being vicious to one another.

So basically, don’t become a writer for fame, glory and power then.


Why should I write?

I enjoy writing.

I don’t like my life to be constantly filled with adrenalin, I don’t want to constantly concentrate on history either. I’m certainly not into writing for the money, glory or power.

I like to make the complicated appear clearer. I like the solitude of writing but I also like talking to people and discovering who they really are. One of my favourite times ever was hanging around the 9/11 Memorial in New York and chatting with people about why they were there (blog). I think my Aussie accent helped them feel comfortable with opening up to me. It made me feel better about the world.

I think I write to discover and reveal humanity.

08 March 2017

My Feminist Failures: 28 failures (and 15 successful feminists)

'Failure' by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0

As a teacher I have tried to make students aware of the gender bias and lead students into being strong vibrant people, no matter their gender, despite existing gender bias. However, in the rest of my life, sometimes I feel like I have failed as a feminist. Even though I make tentative steps in small ways, I feel like a failure, which is hardly behaving like a feminist but such a female thing to do. I am trying to make changes with some of these failures. Others I have listed have good reasons behind them and/or I don't really see them as failures in the logical sense, yet still, at times, they make me feel like I have failed. So much of being a woman is tied up with guilt that we are never good enough. Well, here is my guilt laid bare.

  1. I fail as a feminist because I left the male dominated industry of finance to have children and then joined the female dominated industry of teaching.
  2. I fail as a feminist because I took four years off work when I had my two children
  3. I fail as a feminist because I didn’t fight when I was bullied in the workplace. It happens more in teaching than in finance.
  4. I fail as a feminist because I leave workplaces rather than fight for my rights under patriarchal management.
  5. I fail as a feminist because I have taken a year out of the workforce, relying on my husband’s income, to help our son through the HSC.
  6. I fail as a feminist because I make my 17 year old son breakfast and lunch every school day.
  7. I fail as a feminist because I can’t leave home without makeup. I hate my appearance without it.
  8. I fail as a feminist because I dye my hair.
  9. I fail as a feminist because I am sucked into buying expensive designer clothes and accessories.
  10. I fail as a feminist because I don’t like being assertive.
  11. I fail as a feminist because I don’t like dealing with conflict, even though I’m good at it.
  12. I fail as a feminist because I went to the Geena Davis talk as part of the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House because I like Geena Davis, the feminist slant being just a bonus.
  13. I fail as a feminist because I mainly read books by white male authors.
  14. I fail as a feminist because in a review I wrote of Jasper Jones I forgot to look at it with a feminist lens, and there are issues with it (book and film) in this regard.
  15. I fail as a feminist because I expect my husband to take out the garbage.
  16. I fail as a feminist because I let it slide that our Telstra account is in my husband’s name so he has to deal with the issues, even though I feel I would deal with them much more effectively.
  17. I fail as a feminist because I take on most of the housecleaning responsibilities, justifying that it’s my desire to want the house clean and tidy, therefore I have to do it.
  18. I fail as a feminist because I didn’t work the system to be entitled to maternity leave.
  19. I fail as a feminist because I worry that all the rights women feel entitled to in the workplace, particularly regarding maternity leave, are actually detrimental to the cause since much of it puts a cost burden on organisations
  20. I fail as a feminist because I drive a hatchback, such a chick car. Google chick cars to find yet another horrifying realm of gender stereotyping.
  21. I fail as a feminist because I took my husband’s surname when we married.
  22. I fail as a feminist because I feel fat and ugly.
  23. I fail as a feminist because I felt I had no choice the night I lost my virginity. Speaking of which, I wholeheartedly agree with Zoe on My Year 12 Life who said the first time a woman has sex it shouldn’t be about losing something but gaining something, particularly if it is by choice.
  24. I fail as a feminist because I believe there is an extra bond, whether it is called nurturing or something else, between mothers and their children which means it’s usually better if mums are the ones who stay home with children.
  25. I fail as a feminist because I am an emotional person and thus cry easily at movies, TV and when ambulances have their sirens on.
  26. I fail as a feminist because I don’t often enough point out cases of mansplaining or manspreading.
  27. I fail as a feminist because I have tried to keep my writing and education blogs separate because I’m scared I’d lack credibility in education for my attempts at writing on non-education topics (as if there are any).
  28. I fail as a feminist because I haven’t ever joined a protest march.

As a developing writer I hope to limit the amount of gender bias I present in what I write and have hope that I can contribute to social discourse on gender issues in a positive way. I don’t plan to make a mark as a feminist writer but to be a writer who is also a feminist.

For International Women’s Day in 2015, I wrote a blog post called Voice. In my micro-world, my day-to-day life, it feels like nothing has changed in the last two years.  In the macro-world of government and media there have been changes. Some changes have been for the better and some for the worse.

I was glad to see Tony Abbott ousted as prime minister and hoped Malcolm Turnbull would be able to lead with a much more reasonable approach. I am immensely disappointed. After reading Annabel Crabb’s book, ‘Stop at Nothing: The Life and Adventures of Malcolm Turnbull’, I wonder how much he actually holds onto principles and how much principles are up for negotiation depending on what will achieve a ‘win’. He may have won the title of prime minister but he hasn’t won at being a prime minister. The condescending, obnoxious, bullying, belittling, pompous, misogynist voices within the coalition seem to be louder than ever.

And then we have Donald Trump.

However, perhaps partly due to the painful parliamentary patriarchy, I feel that there is a stronger discourse of feminism within the media, with some strong feminist voices finding a presence, a space. These voices have to fight like hell to counteract the vile and vitriol that is flung at them. I admire them immensely for their stance, their fortitude and determination. So to finish this post here’s a shout-out to the voices I have loved hearing and reading over recent times:
  • Rosie Waterland for fighting for herself and what she believes in. My review in GoodReads for her book ‘The Anti-Cool Girl’ says: I laughed. I cried. My heart ached throughout. Yet, an enjoyable read. The writing flows beautifully in all its frank glory. I couldn't put it down, finishing at 3am.
  • Yassmin Abdel-Magied for her passion and vibrancy - I first adored Yassmin as an ABC presenter on ‘Australia Wide’ and then was privileged to be in the live audience when she appeared on Q&A.
  • Tracey Spicer, Annabel Crabb and Leigh Sales as proud feminists reporting on the masculine world of politics and fighting the mud flung at them just because they are women with voices.
  • Jane Caro for writing and speaking passionately about feminism and education.
  • Rosie Batty and many others for speaking up about Domestic Violence.
  • A friend from school days, Jenny Rolfe, who is one of the numerous people fighting for feminist causes at a grassroots level, including greater representation in Wagga Wagga City Council, and faces phenomenal backlash as a result.
  • The Renaissance Women Leaders' Network - Wenona (a private girls’ school in North Sydney led by the amazing Briony Scott) gives back to the community in many ways and this group helps to encourage female leaders in education which is sorely needed since despite more women being in teaching, men dominate the leadership roles in education.
  • Emily's List Australia - I first became aware of Emily’s List Australia when a good friend gave me a tea towel with Julia Gillard's misogyny speech written on it. They are championing and funding feminist causes such as research into the gender pay gap.
  • Geena Davis as the only non-Australian on this list because I attended her talk at the Sydney Opera House last Sunday. She was brilliant. I already knew about the work of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (@GDIGM) through media reports. The research reveals alarming statistics of women representation in film and TV, particularly in family films.

I wish I could be more like them.