Monday, October 31, 2005

walk the talk

Happy to hear that my high school classmate James (Tom) Murray's novel was shortlisted in this year's Vogel Award:

Fishing Secrets by James Murray (34, from NSW) tells the story of Jonas Mutton, an adopted boy growing up in the sleepy oyster farming community of northern NSW as he finds his real mother, loses her again and comes of age in the process.
Told with a quirky, original voice and a wry sense of humour, it balances acrobats, explorers, helicopters and fish in a strangely convincing mix of the bizarre and the mundane that sits somewhere between realism and parable. Jonas’ clowning mother is a particularly marvellous character.

Sounds great. I'd love to get a look at it.
I always assumed I'd manage to get a novel into the Vogel before the age limit passed me by, and I liked to fantasise that I would win. But for many reasons I didn't get my act together to submit anything; mainly, I don't feel ready. I'm still learning. And, alright, maybe I'm a bit gutless too.
Anyway--onya, Tom. (As Linda says, Mr Young would be so proud.)

Friday, October 21, 2005

roll up

Finally, finally, finally got around to updating my blogroll. Phew.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

just one

This is my favorite quote from the Angela Shanahan piece referred to in posts below:

"And of course with all talk of self-definition through the 'career', another thing the fems [sic] forgot is that most women don't have careers, they just have jobs that they do, as I once did, for money. There is no great attachment to standing up for six hours as a checkout chick, especially if you are doing the Friday night shift."

Love it.

the shorter angela shanahan

Feminists killed the Australian family.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

one day my butler will come

On the new reality show Australian Princess, Princess Diana's former butler, one of the show's judges, apprehends a young female contestant. "Oh no. You've committed the cardinal sin of tea-making," he scolds. "That's what the common people do. We call them MIFs--milk in first."
Another time, he tells the anecdote of how the Queen likes to take her tea (handle at five o'clock on the saucer) standing at her bedroom window and joking about the untidiness of the rabble gawking up from below.
It just strikes me that I don't get how John Howard's Liberal Australia doesn't have class, and yet we lumber along with the enormous symbolism of being a monarchy, which by its nature can't help but divide people into classes of nobles and commoners. And the royal family: now there's a minority group for you which really gets some special benefits.
Anyway, as I'm only up to page 31 (an achievement around here) of Judith Brett's essay on Howard, I guess I may still find some answers.

like a natural woman

Is our culture’s fixation on the pursuit of sexual attractiveness oppressive or adaptive for women? Some interesting perspectives on this in the papers lately. I’ve been considering the ideas of academic Sheila Jeffreys whose new book
Beauty & Misogyny
was recently discussed in an interview with Catherine Keenan in Spectrum ("The bare-faced radical", September 24-25, 2005; no link apparently available). Then along came Ariel Levy selling her book on raunch culture.
Both Jeffreys and Levy are very concerned that the mainstream is becoming extreme and both accuse women of collaborating in their oppression. But is it really a slippery slope from lipstick to labiaplasty? I too have sometimes found it sad that we’re part of a culture so fixated on appearance and attractiveness. But I think I agree with Eva Cox, quoted in the Levy story, that perhaps raunch is healthy or at least adaptive. I could even reframe ‘raunch culture’ more positively as ‘fertility chic’. In Western cultures which have been vocally paranoid about their declining birthrates for many years now, this doesn’t seem all that surprising. Suddenly, it’s chic to be a young mum. Influential role models like Kate Hudson, Britney Spears, Bec Cartwright have made fertility fashionable. Gaudy Paris Hilton may have made her name with raunch but even she has waxed lyrical about how she intends to be married with children within two years. Similarly, raunch star Jessica Simpson made her squillions trading on moral values--on religiosity and on her virginity before and fidelity within marriage. Simpson is a poster girl for fertility chic because she’s sexing up marriage and most of her market still see marriage as coming before children. The interesting thing is that the role models mentioned above aren’t advertising the idea that you must give up your job to have kids. They’re saying, “I’ll just have the kids first”. Maybe the younger generations took on board the message that, if you’re not careful, career might come at the expense of children. Maybe they have figured out an answer: Careers don’t have a biological clock.
It's likely raunch culture will eventually give way to less extreme expressions of sexuality. Already pop culture is getting bored of the ‘skanky ho’ and is moving on to celebrating ‘nice’. Think the virginal but oddly pregnant Katie Holmes.
I have some sympathy to Sheila Jeffreys' arguments. Not only do women still earn less than men, they must spend a lot of money in order to conform to standards within corporate culture, possibly resulting in a kind of economic oppression. So there’s value in thinking about that. But it’s hard to know at what point Western beauty practices stop being just costume and theatre and become male-imposed oppressive beauty practrices. At what point does something cross the line from decorative to dangerous? I also don't see where she accepts that there can be beneficial aspect to beauty regimes, whether it's a psychological boost from using pleasantly-fragranced products, or from taking 'me time' out, or just from prioritising health and care of the body.
Isn’t it all just fashion and costumes and uniforms for different worlds and subcultures and milieus? For example, the ‘dangerous’ practice of wearing heels to the point where they lame you is probably limited to pockets of the corporate world. It’s the extremes that are dumb, but it’s only ever going to be a few idiotic women who have toe surgery to fit into Manolo Blahniks. At the other extreme, there’s someone like me, who only ever wears thongs. The bulk of ‘normal’ women will probably wear a shoe to work that doesn’t hurt them and save the nine inch nails for dressing up.
And maybe the percentage of women who’d undergo cosmetic labiaplasty is similar relative to the numbers of men who have penile implants? Numbers might be increasing for either group, but that could just be because there was a previously untapped market for that kind of thing.
There seems to be a certain logic behind some things, though, like shaving. Men and women are physically distinct. Men tend to be larger and hairier. Therefore, in our concept of “the feminine”, we have “that which is not masculine”. And we trying to differentiate ourselves as much as possible from the masculine to the feminine end of the spectrum. We shave; and men continue to desire hairlessness. Seems fairly simple and harmless to me.
Jeffreys objects to lipstick, I believe, because of the same argument I grew up hearing from my mother: that lipstick, which you eat off your lips, is toxic. Well, there’s the solution to that problem: there are companies that make lipsticks that are non-toxic. Problem solved. The fact that it’s a practice imported from prostitutes doesn’t scare me. It’s also been used in opera for some time. Apart from these arguments, it feels as if Jeffreys is really just objecting to decorating the body, which doesn't seem reasonable. Who hasn’t observed a woman doing her face on the bus, like a master painter. Maybe it is art.
What’s more, in many ways men are as much a victim of prevailing fashions as women. They conform by shaving their faces daily; they wear ties and suits, stress about going bald. They are more limited in ways they can alter their appearance as they do not have as socially-sanctioned access to methods of doing so, though with the rise of the “metrosexual” this is changing. You could even argue men have been disadvantaged by not being able to wear makeup to conceal flaws and accentuate positive features as we can.
Clearly, we should draw the line in encouraging practices which involve pain or illness. But maybe we should ease off on hassling women for decorating themselves, or for advertising their fertility or availablility by trying to conform to ‘sexy’.
Mia Freedman, editor-in-chief of Cosmo, Cleo and Dolly magazines is quoted as said in another story on raunch culture:

Freedman believes it is important to distinguish between the benign, even positive, facets of raunch culture and those that are a cause for concern. "The poster girls for raunch culture would be Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson and they are our two top covergirls in this market at the moment…I find it alarming that one is famous for making a sex tape and having no job, the other is trading on the idea of being stupid."

Notice it alarms her--but not enough to stop her sticking these women on her covers. How typical of a magazine editor to pretending they are reactive, when in fact they (or rather their advertisers) are influential opinion-makers for teens. I noticed a similar sentiment expressed in an article on the supposed death of cool (via Jozef):
"Marketing people, in general, are always engaged in producing this fiction whereby they claim that all they're doing is responding to stuff that's already out there," says William Mazzarella, a University of Chicago assistant professor of anthropology and social sciences, whose expertise includes mass media. “The critical response is marketing and advertising create trends or steer us, rather than responding to us."

Watch out for those Katie Holmes covers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

tonight's the night

I am this close to posting something new here. Honest! I was even hoping to get to it earlier this evening but we've had a blackout til just now. Timing, eh? Meanwhile, I've been sitting in the laundry with candles writing long-hand, so I'd' better go try and type it all up.
Sorry for the long silence, by the know how things get sometimes. Hope everyone's well too.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

jealous guy

I was shocked to come across this:

“One night we were at a party and John went mad when someone told him his friend Stuart and I were dancing together. As soon as I saw the look on John’s face we stopped and, as so often before, I reassured him that it was him I loved. He seemed to accept it. But the next day at college, he followed me to the girls’ loos in the basement. When I came out he was waiting, with a dark look on his face. Before I could speak he raised his arm and hit me across the face, knocking my head into the pipes that ran down the wall behind me. Without a word he walked away, leaving me dazed, shaky and with a very sore head.”
--Cynthia Lennon, Good Weekend, October 1 (Fairfax; no link).

It's so hard to accept that it’s true, that John would ever do anything like that, even if he was a jealous guy. I always imagined him as kind and loving. Was I wrong about him?