Archive for the ‘feminism’ Category

That’s me!

It’s a forewarning that I’m going on a rant.

What caused me to rant? Ah life. In all its intricacies and heartache.

I presented my Introductory Seminar nearly two weeks ago now. I sat in on the other presentations. One of the earlier presenters was talking about representations of domestic violence in the media (in Australia) since Rose Batty became Australian of the year. The presenter was saying she wasn’t sure she was going to keep the title ‘domestic violence’ because it’s difficult.

This certainly had me thinking. I object to the term domestic violence for a number of reasons. For me in evokes the Victorian sensibility of the man in his castle and women and children as property. It brings back the times when my mother was bashed and the cops did nothing. The sixties was like that. It’s like it if is labeled domestic violence it somehow has a veil over it and it’s no one else’s business. It’s domestic. It’s behind closed doors. It’s not ‘real’ violence. The media treat it like that and that angers me.

But it is violence.

If women and children for that matter are human beings with equal rights, then any violence done to them is violence and should be treated the same as other types.

If my partner came home and shot, strangled or bashed me dead. It would be termed domestic violence. If I did the same to him, I reckon the media head line would be ‘murder’. (Not that I’m going to do that to you darling, Dweeb.)

The other thing that irks me about the term is that it has a sense of shame associated with it. The victim is shamed. Not the perpetrator. Thankfully this is changing, but not enough, not by a large margin and not fast enough. I feel shame twice over. I was a victim of child abuse and domestic violence. Why is it my fault? Why do I have this shame? Oh because I chose that fellow and therefore I got my just desserts. Or I was from one of those families. White trash. Just stay away from me, you might contaminate the rest of us. Why for godsake do I feel shame for something that was done to me? Because I was brought up in a world where you don’t talk about that, you pretend it doesn’t happen, or if you do you, look the other way and, by the way, if you interfere, you are going to look like a jerk.

Stuff that in your jumper, patriarchy!

So what do we call this. The presenter suggested intimate partner violence, but then that doesn’t capture the violence against children, which can coincide with violence against the mother. I was thinking patriarchal violence myself, but that’s a bloody big umbrella. Under patriarchal violence, you have war, abuse of: refugees, prisoners of war, women, racial minorities, gays, lesbians, trans, the poor, children… need I continue?

Patriarchal violence-sub category women?

The other aspect to the talk was the media representation of domestic violence. If media are the invisible arm of the patriarchy then they do a good job of whitewashing domestic violence. Man goes home, kills wife and kids. Media asks, what happened to this decent bloke? Poor man. Let’s all think about this poor man and what he went through to cause him to (destroy his property? )Not man turns violent; cuts the throat of his wife and kids. Or man keeps kids, then when wife is trying to get custody, he kills them rather than let her have them. Man throws children off bridge because no one else should have his kids. Man strangles child while having a visitation. Women denied protection by police and then is murdered in cold blood in her car on at the road. It is happening every day. It’s awful. Tell it like it is media. Stop whitewashing this bullshit. We shouldn’t have to have sites that reedit your whitewash to make it tell the truth.

Man is denied his property so he destroys it. No one else gets to play with his toys.

Anyway, it all boils down to how women and children are viewed, valued and validated. Here I think there is a long way to go to making them equal.

And my last bit of rant– the fight against domestic violence is seen as a feminist issue. Why the hell is that? Feminists have been fighting against domestic violence and providing avenues for women to escape it since the first wave of feminism, this is true.

Why is it just a feminist issue? Why isn’t everyone concerned? Why isn’t it a social issue that we are all working to eradicate?

Sadly this post is not as eloquent as I envisaged first up when my rant factor was running high. I will also acknowledge that women can also be perpetrators of domestic violence…but I consider them victims of patriarchal violence too.

I have violence in me. It was beaten into me. It’s a darkness that is sometimes hard to control. I’m not perfect. I see it is there and I try to rein it in.

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I’m now two months into the PhD. It’s been a steep learning curve for me in many ways but others not. My day job skills come in handy and the fact that I’m researching and analysing topics that I love, means that I’m working harder than ever. I’m taking pain killers to do it too.

The first thing I needed to do was up my reading mojo. I started this well before I actually hit the uni scene. I’m still not where I should be. I need to read faster, harder and analyse more. But I’m getting there.

The next challenge is that I have a lot of topic areas to get across. I have to research a methodology. There’s no tick box here. I have to read the philosophy behind the methodology. Next, I have to research feminism (not in-depth because I’m not doing feminist research per se) but sufficient to understand it, the origins, the different schools of thought and past and current trends. Linked to this is Gender so I’m reading up on that and Queer theory. This links directly I think to my creative work, which will be spec fic with romance.

Then I need to read journal articles and books that deal with Harlequin Mills & Boon novels, with or without feminist analysis for my literature review which outlines what research has been done so I can point out where my research will add value. Absolutely fascinating stuff! OMG!

My independent research is the textual analysis of Harlequin Mills & Boon books from 1970 ish till now and also some interviews/questionnaires with romance authors and readers.

I tried develop a schedule so I could get across everything quickly. My approach of shoving all this stuff into my head led to me not reading Mills & Boon books because I was busy reading everything else. Pulls hair!

I haven’t quite got the schedule developed yet. I am being more balanced.

What I wasn’t prepared for is the change in me. Already I think I’m changed by what I’ve read. I believe I should be objective, unemotional and distanced, but I find I’m passionate, sometimes angry, sometimes so excited and happy. Maybe I need a chill pill or something. I don’t know if other Phders went through the same. It would be good to know. I’m not too upset by this. I like being enthusiastic and I know possibly in future I will have the t-shirt that says ‘don’t ask me about the Phd!’ on it. I feel like I’m surfing a wave of exploration and enjoyment. I wonder why I didn’ t do this years ago. (mostly couldn’t afford to)

I was saying to Matthew last night that this PhD might make me more of a feminist than I am now. I am a feminist but I am my kind of feminist. I’m not affiliated to any particular school. Life made me a feminist. I was subject to child abuse, I was raped at 14 (my first sexual experience) and was a victim of domestic violence and I was discriminated against in the workplace in the 1980s for being a woman. Life made me a feminist.

Feminist are known to rubbish popular romance. I can take that. I don’t  believe in that criticism because I can see feminism at work in the texts I’m reading. Not all texts but its there. However, yesterday, when I read an article about right wing Christian romances being anti-feminist (Darbyshire, P, 2002) I was enraged I think. I knew there were Christian romances out there. I thought they had no sex and took place in Sunday school. (not read one!) and then I read Darbyshire’s analysis and I was appalled by it. His analysis was great but I was appalled at the let’s blame feminism for the world’s problems he identified in the texts and put women back in their place, out of the work place and being subservient to men. OMG! This touched a deep nerve in me. I did the religious thing in my early years. No offense to my ex but I soon learned that I was lot smarter and more capable than he was. The thought that he was going to govern me in the afterlife sent me running and I haven’t looked back. I think people should be free to believe what they like, but I also believe in equality of the sexes and of race.

So that’s me. Two months in. I have a great supervisor. An excellent partner and very supportive friends.

Highland Gathering 1983

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Recently I’ve been delving into retro Mill & Boon romances to sample what there is and what might be of interest in my PhD research into Feminism in Popular romance. It is an interesting time because feminism is being debated and discussed in social media too. There are many schools of thought with regard to feminism that include diverse opinions and finding your way through them can be difficult. As a human being I consider myself equal to others, although I have to admit that I have not always been treated as such.
After listening to Caitlyn Moran’s How to be a woman, I can definitely agree with the respect principle. Treat everyone with respect as if they were yourself or your best friend or your mate. As a woman that’s what I’m interested in being respected as a person, regardless of my gender or colour or religion. Although I wave my hand to say I am a white privileged female, although not always privileged.
As a person/woman I want to be recognised for my abilities. Not patronised, not given excuses as to why I might be overlooked. I certainly had that tripe thrown at me in the 1980s. “I’m sorry, Donna, we only promote men. Women get married, have babies and leave.”
I noted this from Highland Gathering by Elizabeth Graham, Mills & Boon from 1983 (p 8-9).
The heroine’s father, hotel tycoon, says this to his daughter who works with him in the business.
“James McKay’s mouth pursed drily. ‘You know you’re competent to do that, and I know you’re competent to do that, but the Mazzini Brothers would never believe in a thousand years that a woman is level headed enough to find her way out of the kitchen or-um-the bedroom.’ He shrugged “It would offend them if I sent you, and I really don’t want to do that as this time.’”
Looking back at this work and this time, I recall this embedded attitude to women. I found this book struck a nerve with me. It made me angry. Not for this point above. That was the interesting part because hey popular romance novels did discuss feminist issues!
Since I’ve started my preliminary reading I have found I write more notes about the books that upset me the most. This particular book was interesting. For about a day I mulled over it and then I got it. The inexplicable behaviour of the male and female leads made sense. She was standing up for herself by demanding respect, recognition and romance (love actually) and he was being a typical male of the time, trying to order her about, expecting her to unpack his clothes (wifely duties), trying to take control of the business she was running. This made me hate the male character who had been a promising romantic lead. But then I got it. She was having the man, the relationship on the terms she wanted. Bravo!

Highland Gathering 1983

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Happy New year! 2015 is done and 2016 is here. Yipee!

2015 was a tough year for me on many fronts. My mother passed away on the 4th of January and then my health was a bit up and down. (Looks like it’s thyroid issues). Work became a bit of struggle and then I injured myself, resulting in a diagnosis of some thoracic disc protrusions. That diagnosis sent me on a downer. Not only was it (is it) painful it curtailed my writing in a big way. The bigger thing that diagnosis it did was make me look at my life at what I was doing with my work and what I wanted to do with my productive time. You see, I can only see this arthritic spine of mine getting worse over time and so doing things like craft, writing  etc becomes more precious to me. I love making things. It’s my life blood.

I lost my friend Sonia to scleroderma and other close friends have had some health scares. My eldest son moved to China for work. He loves it. I miss him.

On the bright side, and there is one (or many), I’m generally healthy, so is my partner, Matthew, my children and my grandchildren.

2015 me and dweeb

Me (the Dweebette) and Matthew (the Dweeb!)

So apart from some chronic pain I’m really happy on in the inside. That makes a big difference. We love our house. Our deck got built and it’s amazing.

deck 2015

The long awaited deck and a peak at the views.

I also got to see some Koalas when I took some visiting Indonesians out to Tidbinbilla.

2015 koala

As I wasn’t able to write, I had to do other things to keep me sane so I did some craft-weaving, sewing and millinery. I try to use a timer to alternate through different things so I don’t injure myself. Millinery can be done standing up. I also discovered Audible and have been listening to some fab books. I’m going to continue that.

I also did a few cakes. Like this one for my daughter. Totero and this one for my boss’s farewell, a vintage Kombi.

So what is in store for me in 2016? As previously mentioned on this blog, I am commencing candidature for a higher research degree (PHD). That starts in February. I have lots of reading to do and some papers to write. The topic is Feminism in Popular Romance.

I’ve got a bit of organising to do to get ready for that. I need to clear the decks of some writing tasks. The reason I’ve taken January off work. I also need to do some practical things like reorganise my office in readiness for study. I wouldn’t call it organised now…but that needs to be improved. I had a message from my daughter. Mum: junk attracts junk. I get the message.

I’m hoping some books will also come out in 2016. I may experiment with self-publishing. Sometimes it can take too long to flog a book and it gets dated. In that case, I may as well get it out there and experiment.

Appearances wise, I’m hoping to get to Contact in Brisbane over Easter and to the Romance Writers of Australia conference in Adelaide later in the year. I’m very tempted by Supanova!

With regards to hats, I’m working on doing more of those and setting up a website to sell them. Bring on the steampunk hats!

I’ll be finishing up on the day job in the first part of the year. Losing the good income is a scary prospect, but you know I’m going to take the leap and see where it gets me.

Happy New year! Hopefully you will pop back again.

2015 hat by cat

Me in one of my hats. Photo by Cat Sparks.

Oh and Dragon Wine Part 1 is on promotion. It’s free in ebook. I’m also doing a blog tour and a give away of a hard copy. To be in the draw to win a print copy of Shatterwing leave a comment.


Dragon Wine Series


Dragon wine could save them. Or bring about their destruction.

Since the moon shattered, the once peaceful and plentiful world has become a desolate wasteland. Factions fight for ownership of the remaining resources as pieces of the broken moon rain down, bringing chaos, destruction and death.

The most precious of these resources is dragon wine – a life-giving drink made from the essence of dragons. But the making of the wine is perilous and so is undertaken by prisoners. Perhaps even more dangerous than the wine production is the Inspector, the sadistic ruler of the prison vineyard who plans to use the precious drink to rule the world.

There are only two people that stand in his way. Brill, a young royal rebel who seeks to bring about revolution, and Salinda, the prison’s best vintner and possessor of a powerful and ancient gift that she is only beginning to understand. To stop the Inspector, Salinda must learn to harness her power so that she and Brill can escape, and stop the dragon wine from falling into the wrong hands.

Dragon Wine Book 2 :Skywatcher, the follow on book is also available in ebook and print.



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I checked out Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast because I’m in between ebooks. I’ve been catching up with a lot of blog casts lately! I caught up on a whole year of Champagne and Socks-easy because they are short (about ten minutes) and Alisa missed a number due to health issues (not nice but it did make catching up easy).

So I listened to a pod cast with Amanda (also from Smart Bitches) and it was about Amanda’s sex life. You know that thing people have and her being younger and using Tinder was really very interesting. Sarah’s contrast with what is actually happening with young women (admittedly not all, but some) and what is in a romance novel was a case in point. The majority of romance readers don’t like female leads that sleep around and definitely not while dating the hero. It is also frowned upon for a man to sleep around once romancing the female hero.

This got me thinking-why is this so? My own reaction is similar to those ‘readers of romance’ and why do I feel that way?  I guess for me I’m a result of my culture and upbringing. I am formed by early religious teachings-I was brought up a catholic with Presbyterian and Baptist influences. Although I’m not religious at all now not for many, many years, the influence remains.  I was also growing up in a time when woman’s role was very traditional- man and home focussed. The girls older than me got birthday and Christmas gifts for their glory box. I remember someone explaining that a glory box was the Manchester you took with you when you got married. So girls at 15 and older would get sheets, crockery, towels and household stuff to put away for when they got married.  Then women’s lib and Bob’s your uncle. World changed.

There was also a very strong focus on virginity, and if you lost that well you lost something of value and that was be shared with the ‘one’. I know it’s an old story right. I know that stuffed me up mentally for many years. That’s another story.

What this amounts to is that I’m conditioned to feel a particular way. I recognise that. Separating the conditioning from how I actually feel is hard. If young girls are equal to men then they should be able to initiate sex, have sex without commitment just like men have always done. Here, here…that’s just right. Why does it make me quake at the thought?

Sarah raised a question in the podcast—what then becomes special about the person you are with in a romantic sense? What makes them special if you have slept with so many partners? This raises questions for me too, like is sex now transactional if removed from emotion, connection and commitment? Are these questions pre- programmed into me? It’s scary. You really should listen to the podcast (link below).

Generally, I have no problem how people want to conduct their sex lives. I am happy for people to be free as long as they don’t hurt others. They have a freedom I don’t. I’m a serial monogamist. That’s the way I am. Basically, I’m too old to change that . However, this podcast certainly gave me insight into my daughters and the world they are living in, what they face day to day.

So I thoroughly recommend this podcast for romance readers and those of you who are mothers and want some insight into their reality.

The second podcast I listened to was from Nerdette and it was an interview with Caitlin Moran, whom I have never heard of previously but who is absolutely fascinating. Her interview looks at feminism and popular culture and how strong pop culture is in getting the message out there. I liked Moran’s Feminist self-assessment test.

Put your hand in your pants. Do you have a vagina? Yes, do you want to control it? Then you’re a feminist.

She also has a tea towel with the five rules of feminism. 1. Women are equal to men. 2. Don’t be a dick. 3. That’s all.

Moran mentions a fifth wave of feminism and I’m like what happened to the fourth wave? And I’m trying to get to grips with the third wave. Yet, I like her simplistic attitude. No dictating what people should wear, what their opinions must be, just cool. I’m with that.

Podcast links. N. 172  Smart Bitches


Caitlin Moran link

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On the weekend, I was up at Supanova and managed to sit in on a question and answer session with Carrie Fisher, the lovely lady who played Princess Leia in Star Wars. While it was hard to hear everything she said due to the acoustics, it was great to hear her funny answers to what must seem like really mundane questions. For example, a little boy said. “Why aren’t you wearing your Princess Leia outfit?” to which she replied. “I’m sorry. I left it at  home, but I do wear it everyday around the house.”

Carrie Fisher also said that when she read the script for Star Wars she thought it was fantastic and that Han Solo had the best part. I agree with her there.

On the drive back to Canberra it got me thinking about Princess Leia and Carrie Fisher and the impact on my life.

I was 17 years old when I saw Star Wars. Yes, it was 1977 and I had just travelled to New Zealand to be with Dave, whom I later married. I remember the day well, as there’d been a movie strike and we heard last minute that it was over and that Star Wars was showing. Of course, the movie blew my mind. I was so excited and it was so wow. Big screen. Really big ships etc.

But last night I was thinking that Star Wars was the first time I’d seen a movie with a strong female character. I was brought up on Star Trek, Lost in Space and Dr Who. Even UFO had strong male leads and very little in the way of strong female leads. She grabbed guns, resisted torture, and had the good sense to fall in love with Han Solo.

Princess Leia’s character opened my mind up to the concept of a woman who could lead, of a woman who was smart and also funny. I was young yes, and I did want to be Princess Leia (I’ll own up to that). I wanted to be smart like her. I’d read a few of the tie in books and the novelisations of the movie and Leia was well-educated and clever. I remember in the 1980s I was at a screening of all three movies in NZ. A girl in the seat in front of me was commenting to the boys she was with. “As if boys would listen to what a girl would say, as if they’d take orders from her.” That comment stuck with me. It wasn’t alien to me that concept but it still was alien to her. She was a teenager. There you go.

Now turning my mind to Carrie Fisher, I see a woman who has had it good and has had it bad. But despite her challenges with drugs, with bipolar, with life in general, she hasn’t given up. She’s not curled up somewhere waiting to die. She fights back. She writes books, makes movies and writes and doctors scripts. She is clever and talented. When I was younger. When life was really tough. When I was poor, a single mother trying to make a better life for me and my kids, I used to say when life kicks you, get right back up and kick it back. I had to do that. I had to make myself continue on, to achieve, to get where I am now. Listening to Carrie Fisher reminded me of that. She fights back. Princess Leia fights back. That’s a strong message to send anyone. I hope she’s passed that on to the millions who are fans of Princess Leia and to those whose lives she touched at Carrie Fisher.

For the record, Carrie. You looked awesome in the metal bikini. You looked awesome in all the movies.

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Sexism versus feminism

This week Sexism versus feminism is all in the news. The high point of the week, that menu featuring our PM, Julia Gillard’s genitals and the outrageous question about her partner’s sexuality. This I think has caused a lot of people to sit up and take notice. Not so much about the feminism debate. Is it feminist to point out sexism? By some of the reactions you see, yes.

I’m fifty-three years old. When I was young sexism was everywhere, in the very fabric of our society. In my mind, I was used to it. It was part of me. Young girls older than me thought of marriage. For their birthdays after age 16 it was presents for the glory box, linen, tea towels, tablecloths. I remember the old folks, the aunts, cousins, friends of my mother talking about them, exclaiming over them. A lot of things were different then too. A man could support a family on one wage. If you were lucky enough to catch a bank teller or a school teacher as a husband you had it made. This might have a lot to do with my cultural and socioeconomic background. (We weren’t rich, but most of my relations had houses or were paying them off like us).

So in comes burning the bra and Germaine Greer. It’s a lot more than that. We lived in a patriarchal society. Discrimination against women was entrenched and many like me I suppose lived with it. As a child I was more interested in about being teased, or bullied or discriminated against because I was Roman Catholic, came from an abusive family (drunk father etc), where we all ran wild. I didn’t know what discrimination was as a concept but I felt the brunt of it. At this time, the Australian Public Service forced women who married to leave their jobs. I was chatting to Satima Flavell about this yesterday and she said female teachers weren’t allowed to marry for the first couple of years either. I’m afraid you can’t get more entrenched than that. Women in those days did not have the high paying jobs either.

Fast forward to my teens and things have moved along. Society has changed. Economies have fluctuated through the stagflation, the structural unemployment and oil shock. My mother was divorced. The children dispatched all over the place. The widows pension was made available to single mothers and divorced women. The pill was freely available. There was sexual liberation. There was still sexism.

In the late 1980s, I experienced sexism in the work place in a way that was hurtful and discriminatory.  But I remember another earlier instance. While in NZ in the 1970s I worked in a service area for a car retailer. I was pawed and pinched all the time by the mechanics and supervisor. When I finally said something about it. I coped it from the blokes. ‘You didn’t complain before’ etc. They became nasty when I stuck up for myself. I was 17 and felt unable to stand up for myself. I’d been sexually abused as a child. My first response to sexual advances was fear.

So anyway, back to 1987-88 and I was working for a stock broking firm in Sydney. I was being asked to train a young man who had written to the firm asking to for a job. I asked my boss why I couldn’t be trained. He said they didn’t promote women. Women got married and had children. I pointed out to him that I was divorced and had my tubes tied. He just shrugged. I even argued that the young men get trained then leave for other jobs with better pay. I felt angry about it, but not angry as I should have. I can’t even recollect if I thought it was discrimination or just the thinking that was prevalent in the industry. I don’t even know if there were anti discrimination laws back then.  I left the firm eventually and went on to study. I’ve never looked back. I went to study so I would be valued so I suppose I should thank my boss for giving me an incentive.

Now I work in the public service and I don’t think I see much sexism in recent years. But maybe in this environment I’m cocooned, from it. Maybe I’m so used to keeping my head down I don’t notice. I did have issues about 15 years ago now, when my boss would hold meetings at 5.30pm and I had to go home to the family, being a single parent. I’d come in the next morning at the two blokes had made all the decisions. I called them on it and asked them to hold the meetings earlier. I don’t think one thing changed as a result of my speaking up. They were people who worked best when late and couldn’t adapt to me.

What does this mean? Does sexism still exist? Obviously. Our politicians are tossing sexist mud pies, and govern like they’re in a scrum fighting over a ball.  The evidence is there for all to see. Maybe it’s a scab on a festering sore.

Is feminism alive and well. It is and it needs to be. Things are better. Women have fought for the right to be treated as a person and have gained a lot of ground. Younger women now have a lot we didn’t have. My daughters don’t face the same barriers. They lives weren’t moulded under the patriarchal society I was. They expect equal treatment. It’s not something they had to fight for. I hope they never lose ground.

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