Sunday, August 26, 2012

Screening of Miss Representation in Sydney

 Paula, from the blog Questions For Women, has organised a screening of Miss Representation at Dendy Cinema at the Opera House.  Mon 2 Sept at 6.30. $20.

I know lots of local feminists have been looking forward to seeing this film. I know I have. Just need to organise a babysitter.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Dororthy Parker

Dorothy Parker and I shared a birthday yesterday, as we do very year. She and I are both Leo Snakes. Sometimes I think, if I hadn't had children, I would have ended up like her, drinking lots, considering my friends to be family, living with cats in a grubby apartment, thinking too much about my own dramas.


Authors and actors and artists and such
Never know nothing, and never know much.
Sculptors and singers and those of their kidney
Tell their affairs from Seattle to Sydney.
Playwrights and poets and such horses' necks
Start off from anywhere, end up at sex.
Diarists, critics, and similar roe
Never say nothing, and never say no.
People Who Do Things exceed my endurance;
God, for a man that solicits insurance!

I also love Mae West, another Leo Snake, who, at a time when women didn't do such things, created her own work, as a writer and performer. I've read her short novels, that the films and shows were based on, and they're good. Lots of insight into life during the 1920s - cross-racial relationships in Harlem, nightclubbing, criminals, slave trading (I mean trading women for into the sex industry). And, of course, she was arrested for profanity during her show, Sex, and was sentenced to ten days imprisonment for "corrupting the morals of youth." (just like Socrates) and she wrote about homosexuality. When her neighbours barred her boyfriend, an Afro-American boxer, from entering the apartment building, she simply bought the building. In her own way she was fighting discrimination and changing the world, and having lots of fun while earning lots of money.    

Such sassy women! Literate, independent, gutsy and influential.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dorothy Porter - mother poem

Lets have a few Dorothys this week (it's Dorothy Parker's birthday on Wednesday). 

I was tempted to call my first born Dorothy. I then considered a diminutive, my grandmother's name, then settled on something that rhymes with that. Her name suits her. But I do like the Dorothys.

You know how books are being repurposed now? At the library I work at they have open books hanging from the ceiling like birds in flight. They have a big chair made of books and an archway at the entrance to the library. I'm a little sad that one of those repurposed books is a book by Dorothy Porter.

Motherhood - Dorothy Porter

No longer will she
like Fantasia
across the sea floor

the giant octopus is dying

in her blue den
her clusters of eggs
swell like cysts

the giant octopus is dying

her moody vivid nervous system
shut down and dun
the giant octopus is dying

her tentacles wave
like drowned arms
her ink bubbles away

the giant octopus is dying

she’s got nothing left
her eggs took the lot.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Doing more, having more, except more space.

I need help sorting out my stuff.

I have too many books and Matilda wants me to get rid of some. I have collections of books about maternal feminism, books about literature, novels I've read, novels (classics) I haven't read,  poetry books, art books, other non-fiction books, a box of plays, and the children have books - novels and non-fiction and picture books. Since I've been studying this time around I have been accumulating books on education, and gathering books that will help me teach English and Drama. Since I've had the storytelling job I've been gathering books about storytelling using puppets and props. I've been using the picture books to inspire the storytelling job as well. And I've been using fabrics that I've kept stored for years. For my playgroup job I've been using the kids' cds that I've bought over the years. And for uni I've been using everything - artbooks, music, poetry. So, you see, it's hard to decide what to get rid of.

I want to do more of my own creative work too. I know that having the stuff around doesn't necessarily mean living more creatively, eg the barely used piano. It just means living in mess.

So, what books should I let go of? Everything that you could get from the library? Everything that is available digitally, even though we have no digital reading devices?

That's another thing I need to review. I've never had a mobile phone. The kids have never had a DS or an ipod. We don't have ipads, or e-readers anything like that. There are lots of reasons why (don't need other bills to pay, we don't need them, the way they are made - the sourcing of the elements and the worker's conditions, we don't want to do things just because everyone else is (lets talk to children about peer pressure; adults aren't exempt), the fact that when everyone was getting mobile phones I had my hands full dealing with little children and didn't have anyone to call anyway. Clancy likes that I don't have a mobile phone because she sees many mums on their phones ignoring their kids and sees this as sad for their relationships. There have been times we've sat down in a waiting room and each pulled out a book to read, and the people around us have been shocked. That shouldn't be so remarkable.

But another reason is that these devices would just be lost in the mess of our house.

I'm wondering at what point is not having these things kind of oppositional and obstructive. When every day of one week someone says to me 'I'll text you', or 'text me', and I say, 'Sorry, I can't'? So far, at times when a mobile phone would have been handy, I've just asked people for help (broken down car) and people have helped me. Most other times I see people using them it isn't for emergencies ('I'm just leaving Central station.' 'Do you want the blue one or the green?'). I've never heard anyone give instructions for an emergency tracheotomy using a mobile phone. But I do wonder if I might be more involved with my siblings and friends if I had a mobile, and I need to get on top of apps as learning tools, because technology is supposed to be embedded in all learning at schools now.

Also, it's time to fix up the children's bedroom. Matilda is starting high school next year and needs her own desk. She likes order and shares her room with two messy sisters. The girls have been saying that our house (old, rented, cracking walls and peeling paint) isn't as orderly and functional as the houses of their friends. True. They're wondering why we are the only family they know who have mismatched chairs at the dining table. Our furnishings have been pieced together with all the care of a student share house. They want some design elements. (Damn you, Grand Designs and renovation tv shows!) They'd like an anteroom to keep their bags and shoes and hats - that's not going to happen. Time to get a loft bed with a desk underneath, but we'd better paint the room first. That's a big job for us.

What to do? All advice welcome and seriously considered.

Dorothy Hewett - mother poem

At the moment for uni I'm looking at Australian Theatre and doing an assignment on Dorothy Hewett's The Chapel Perilous. We have a number of plays to choose from (the ones prescribed for HSC Drama) and I'm a little embarrassed by how obvious my choice is.

Anyway, I thought it would be a good time to begin posting the motherhood poems I'd collected for Mamapalooza. (Remember I said I'd park those here?)

So here we go, beginning with a poem by  Dorothy Hewett.

Tapestry - Dorothy Hewett

There is a lady in the forest
with a pointed headdress
on a carpet of leaves between the lion and the unicorn
and the emblematic trees.
What meaning has she (if any)
something to do with a perpetual
virginity forever untried
something to do
with the calm and gentle
lives of women
between the lion and the unicorn
one to devour one to love.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Women are Heroes

I'd read about this book in The Guardian Weekly. An urban activist called JR has collected stories from  women in developing countries about their lives, and taken close up photographs of their faces - they're often pulling silly faces. He has displayed these photographs in public spaces in their communities.

It's a celebration of women. A joyous celebration.

Click on the link to read a review with examples of the photographs and click on the video.

This is what good work looks like.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Jessie Street - what year is this?

As part of my study I've been looking at Jessie Street's speech she made on radio in 1944. Her speech was made near the end of the war, about the place of women. It is entitled "Is it to be Back to the Kitchen?"

Have a read (it isn't very long) and count how many issues are still relevant, unresolved, today in 2012.

Jessie Street - famousspeeches
Jessie Street
‘Is It To Be Back to the Kitchen?’
Broadcast on ABC Radio’s National Program
17 April 1944

There is a good deal of talk just now about what they are going to do after the war with the women: Must they be made to return to the home? Are they going to take them out of the factory, the office, off the land?

To me, this sort of discussion is very disquieting. It makes me think we’ve already forgotten the reasons why we’re fighting this war. Aren’t we fighting for liberty, for democracy and to eradicate fascism and Nazism in every form? Surely we don’t mean liberty and democracy for men only? Indeed, I hope women will enjoy the liberty which they have helped to win and be permitted to choose what they want to do. Do you remember that one of the first things the Nazis did when they came to power was to put women out of the professions, out of the factories? They barred the doors of the universities to all but a few women and they severely limited women’s opportunities for any kind of higher education; by these methods the Nazis forced women back to the home – back to the kitchen. I can’t help thinking that if any attempt is made here after the war to force women back to the home, it will be proof that facism still has strong roots in Australia.

Women should not be forced to return to the home, but they should be free to return there if they wish to. I don’t like what’s implied in the suggestion that women will have to he forced back into the home – that’s a slight not only on home life, but also on the work of bearing and rearing children, don’t you agree? The greatest happiness for many women is to care for a home and to raise a family. The trouble in the past has been that society has failed to make it possible for all the women who wanted to have homes and raise families to do so.

And while we’re on the subject of women in the home, I think that this life could be made attractive to many more women by developing amenities and customs that render home less of a prison than it is to many women with young families. Just think of the prospects of family life, as lived under present conditions, to a clever, energetic, bright young girl. Soon after marriage there will be a baby, and from then on she cannot move unencumbered. The more babies, the harder she has to work and the greater her restrictions. If we want more women to choose home life, we must make home life less hard. But how can we do this? Well, we can have crËches and kindergartens and supervised playgrounds where children can be left in safe surroundings. Then we must change many of our conventions. Why should a woman do all the work in the home? Why can’t we, for example, have community kitchens and laundries? If a woman wants to work outside the home, why shouldn’t she? Let her be free to choose. There’s just as much and more reason to believe that the best interests of her family and of society will be served by giving a woman a free choice than by expecting her to adhere to a lot of worn-out conventions.

Anyway, the contribution that women can make to public life through the professions or in industry is important. Women in the past have been very much hampered by their inexperience in these spheres. They haven’t had the opportunity to qualify for representative positions or positions of control and direction. In other words, because of the lack of opportunity to gain experience they’re denied the opportunity of exerting any influence in framing policies or directing public affairs.

I am pretty sure that many women will remain in industry after the war, for we shall be in need of more skilled hands rather than less. Remember, we couldn’t exert a full war effort until women were absorbed into industry; therefore, how can we exert a full peace program without making use of their services? Everyone knows how short we are of houses and hospitals and offices, of furniture, of bathroom and kitchen fittings, of curtains, wallpaper, clothing, foodstuffs, in fact, hundreds of commodities. Can you imagine the tremendous amount of work that will be required? Not only have we to make up the deficiency of the war years, but we must provide all these amenities on a much larger scale after the war. There were large numbers of people before the war who had no homes, not even enough to eat; hospital accommodation was inadequate, and so on. Although all these could have been provided for a few million pounds, we believed we could not afford to better these conditions. It took a total war to show us what we could do with our own resources. If we can raise money for war we can raise it for peace, surely. It would be inexcusable in the future to condemn people to live under the conditions so many endured before the war.

Why is there so much opposition to women remaining in industry? The secret isn’t far to seek. It’s simply that they got paid less – they are cheap labour, certainly not, as so many have alleged, because they’re weaker or less efficient. Unfortunately, because their labour is cheaper, women not only threaten the wage standards of men workers, but they also threaten the standard of living of all workers. The obvious and just way to avoid this is to give equal pay to men and women.

To put this in a nutshell, I believe that in a democratic, free society women should be at liberty to choose whether they will take up home life or work outside the home; that men and women should receive equal pay and equal opportunity; that home life should be made less of a tie and the burden of raising a family be lightened. If we can face these peacetime problems with the spirit of determination and conciliation with which we’re facing our war problems, we may hope to solve them.

TV. Woe is me

If you were studying gender as portrayed by tv you’d be kept very busy.

In about 10 minutes of tv viewing yesterday morning I saw that a children’s morning show is being divided into girls shows and boys shows. Just what we don’t need.

And I saw an ad for the new series of Farmer Wants a Wife. Could be renamed ‘Women Fighting Women They Don’t Know to Win a A Man They Don’t Know’. Wow. Doesn’t take a genius to unpack the messages there.

And Underbelly. The new series is called Underbelly Badness. Surely this is a joke. A ten year old boy could have come up with something better. The name indicates they have run out of ideas and given up. It gives no indication about the time and place the show is set in, only that the show is garbage.

Seriously, who are these people making decisions about tv programming? Did they do no critical thinking at school? Are they all happy with their work and the way they contribute to our culture?  Anybody keen to step in and create change from within??