105th Down Under Feminists Carnival

Square logo with turquoise border,, same colour text Down Under Feminist Carnival spans the top and bottom, in the centre is the symbol for 'woman' with the southern cross inside the loop.It’s the beginning of March and time for another Down Under Feminist Carnival, which I am hosting this month. Apologies for the belated arrival of things, I had most things pre-drafted and then the beginning of the month really came out of nowhere. Still, it’s International Women’s Day, so perhaps posting tonight is somewhat appropriate in any case.

Next month the Carnival will be hosted by Ana Stevenson at AnaStevenson.com, ana.stevenson [at] uqconnect [dot] edu [dot] au. 

We’re also still looking for people who’d like to host the carnival in future months, it’s super easy, there’s lots of support with people sending through links and it’s a chance to promote the voices of women talking about issues of importance to us. Here’s the DUFC contact form and here is a list of future carnivals that have already been planned (pick any month that isn’t on that list). People will send you suggestions to help you out and there’s help if you need it too. Check out the Down Under Feminists Carnival homepage for more information.


Race and Racism

Front and centre because white feminism is harmful and I’m aware that as a white feminist speaking, I should be doing less of that and more promoting of non-white feminist voices.

A listening piece, Celeste Liddle of Black Feminist Ranter writes for The Age about how we cannot ignore the radicalisation of white men. She also discusses white men and violence and the threat of radicalisation in a podcast for the ABC. This piece is 14 minutes long, but although it’s ABC there doesn’t appear to be a transcript yet.

Faye Yik-Wei Chan is a Melbourne academic writing for the Australian Women’s History Network, sharing research from her thesis on the legal status of Chinese Indonesian Women, 1930-2014. Although this piece is not situated in Australia or New Zealand it is salient to the region and focuses on intersectionality and race outside of the dominance of white people.

Amy McGuire writes for The Monthly about how the Gap is wider than ever, despite promises none of our prime ministers have lived up to commitments on Indigenous affairs.

Disability and Mental Health

@dilettantiquity of Tales from Urban Dilettantia muses on her messy thoughts and issues with the way performing adulthood intersects with disability.

Emily McAven writes for SBS about how what research shows is best for trans kids is not actually surprising: treating them as they wish to be treated. This quote is compelling and resonates strongly for me: “When children feel loved and accepted for who they are they thrive”.

Sports

Steph and Liz from No Award talk about why they’re going to the footy, and how much the AFWL means to them. And here’s their commentary after getting to attend the first round of games.

@dilettantiquity of Tales from Urban Dilettantia also wrote about the footy and her history with it and excitement over the new AFWL.

Scarlett Harris has written for Paste discussing the impact of sexism and appreciation of WWE, and while the WWE is US based Scarlett writes from an Australian perspective on trying to purchase merchandise, and also the harmful way in which segregation between women wrestlers in WWE remains harmful.

Politics, Work, and Public Spaces

I wrote about Midwifery and the Pink Collar Penalty where after my degree program for a protected position requiring maintenance of a registration, my minimum wage is still under $50k. Even though I’m supporting, educating and looking after women their babies and families during some of the most important and intimate experiences of their lives.

Scarlett Harris writes for Archer Magazine about the issues with promotion of condom use in porn when condoms work exceedingly well for the general public, but are less ideal for wearing hours on end, days on end when having sexual intercourse is your job.

Anna Temby writes for the Australian Women’s History Network, reflecting upon the gendered history of public toilets in Brisbane, Australia.

Chilla Bulbeck writes for the Australian Women’s History Network, and demonstrates in her examination of the ‘gender gap’ in voting and why feminists must continue to prioritise a gendered analyses of politics.

Blue Milk writes on her personal blog of the same name, about her experience in criticising the government and how subsequently her private information was given to a journalist and used against her publicly.

Sarah of Writehanded reminisces on starting her blog and why it remains important to counteract the negative stigma about beneficiaries that is rife in New Zealand.

Yen-Rong of the Inexorablist wrote this great piece on what she thinks white men are thinking when they stare at her, because women in public are still for the consumption of others, right? With a side order of racism.

Emily McAven writes for SBS about marching as a family and finding community at Pride.

Motherhood and Pregnancy

Sometimes parenting is being optimistic, and having that optimism dashed to pieces. Emily of Emily Writes writes about the time she attended an Arts Festival launch hoping it would all be fine (spoiler: it wasn’t).

Amanda from Spinoff Parents talks about the other end of parenthood, where your children as adults have left home and you’re coming to terms with this.

Petra writes for New Matilda on the subject of the universal basic income and its importance to motherhood. I appreciated the way Petra identifies that discussions of women and inequality are different across demographics of women who are, aren’t, or once were mothers.

Blue Milk reminisces on extended breastfeeding, linking to a bunch of other photos and posts she’s done on the subject in the past.

Radical Self-Care

Emily of Emily Writes also talks about the importance of taking time, because self-care is hard. She also talks about the fact that parenthood isn’t a binary of good vs bad, it just is and you do the best you can anxiety and all.

TigTog’s post on Hoyden About Town on discovering the Tomlin rule is timely and apt given the State of Australia, and everything else politics around the globe. I have so much time for Tomlin and her awesome quippiness in general.

Bethwyn of Butterfly Elephant also talks about her need for self-care and compassion, with some suggestions others may find useful and how important it is for her ongoing health.

Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen wrote for SMH about online dating and burn out. How it had given her sexual agency, but that recently she had become burned out by the whole experience.

Food and Cookery

Alex of Acts of Kitchen talks about making a cake, a pie, and interviews Kate who talks about jams, jellies, chutneys and marmalades. This is a podcast link, but Alex does great interviews and this is a conversation between Australian women about things that are interesting to them, wholly in our wheelhouse! This piece is just under 24 minutes long, but has no transcript, I included it as something different for people who may like to listen rather than read.

Alex, from Melbourne Women’s Network talks about the douchiness of Melbourne’s speciality coffee scene, talking about the trend for male baristas to cling to their coffee machines with serving customers being way beneath their esteemed coffee calling.

Books and Media

Hsu-Ming Teo is a literary novelist and cultural historian who has written for the Australian Women’s History Network about origins of the rural romance genre and the history of literary representations of romantic love on Australia’s rural frontier.

Anne Jamison writes for the Australian Women’s History Network, reflecting on the Australian Women’s Writing Symposium which was held at the State Library of New South Wales in November 2016 looking at the significance of the 19th century history of women writers, for Australian women writers of the present.

Deb Lee-Talbot’s writes for the Australian Women’s History Network, analysing a book about how the Red Cross became as a significant Australian institution.

Justine Larbalestier talks on her personal blog about the problem with ‘boy books’ which is not that there is a lack of books for boys but the assumption by adults that boys will only read books about boys.

 

Midwifery and the Pink Collar Penalty

Text graphic with a turquoise background. Black text reads "Keep Calm, Study Hard and Become a Midwife" with a small black crown at the top.I’m coming into the last year of my training before I hope to qualify and start my new professional role as a midwife. I’ve been making enquiries as to starting wages for graduates and I’m more than a little dismayed. The Nursing Award of 2010 is also the award for Midwives, Bachelor of Midwifery Graduates are treated as Registered Nurses. The basic minimum wage that I can expect comes in at just over $44k per year. Some of my graduate friends report packages as much as $46-47k per year. Although since most graduate program positions are at 0.8 full time equivalent, I wonder if that is then prorated?

This is for the protected title of midwife, which requires a recognised degree and is also qualification requiring ongoing registration to practice. The degree is a three year program and involves many hours of placement in clinical settings (nearly 1000 by the time I will qualify), as well as hours spent following through with pregnant people and their families for experience in the pregnancy continuum . All of these hours are unpaid and undertaken at your own expense.

$44k. I can’t be the only one who thinks that’s a little insulting. I’m told that starting wages for teachers is likewise paltry. I’m surprised at my own surprise for this – why am I surprised that this critical work requiring immense dedication and determination is so undervalued? And yet, I am – I had a sense that a job that necessitated a degree to undertake would have a better wage attached to it. I had thought that even as a graduate, brand new and still squeaking from exam stress that I could expect at least to earn over $50k as a starting point. At that level, my wage would at least would allow me to take over supporting our family with my income. The base wage I’ve mentioned is not to take into account the nature of midwifery as shift work, with penalties (for now) – the potential for extra money through shift work exists, but it is not a given, especially as a graduate. Especially if in a graduate program where there may be an upper limit of shifts or night shifts imposed for some semblance of work and life balance as well as occupational health and safety.

Midwifery - art, science, care - quoteThis discussion of remuneration seems cold and mercenary when referring to a profession that calls for a least a little reverence. Midwifery is the art of being with woman (person), and assisting women to bring new life into the world, equal parts ordinary and extraordinary. For me this is encapsulated by the fact that there is always a moment before baby takes their first breath, that moment always gets me and never ceases to be magical. It’s breathing – so ordinary, and yet that first breath is so important, achieves so much and is absolutely extraordinary.

And yet this is the nature of the pink collar penalty, work that is generally performed by women and has an association with being valuable, rewarding, life-changing, life-saving. In other words, you’re supposed to do the work because it is rewarding first, for the love of it. By inference, the income from undertaking this work is almost meant to be an afterthought – a ‘nice to have’, because the love of the job is its own reward. This is a problem for teachers, childcare workers, nurses, midwives and countless other professions. Dedication to and passion for something like midwifery however fulfilling, does not pay the bills or fill your fridge, or pay for retirement.

It’s the height of injustice to call for the selflessness of women performing these roles and expect them to do it for the love of it alone, and not to need to consider the monetary value behind their work. The hours of study to qualify, the hours of study to maintain our registration and provide the best evidence-based care, the hours messed up by shift-work and the toll that takes on shift-worker’s lives in general. We deserve better, for giving our all to care for people, teach people, and support people throughout their lives as they cross the paths of professionals affected by this penalty. 

I love becoming a midwife, I’m certain I’ll love being a midwife. I love the inherently feminist way I can work and live as a midwife, and that it intersects well with my previous degree in gender and cultural studies. But I have also spent 3 years already working towards this goal unpaid, desperately trying to make ends meet and thought that once I could start working all the scrimping and cutting corners would be worthwhile. I wouldn’t have to figure out how to get by on a week-to-week basis – I could perhaps after a while not live fortnight-to-fortnight, I could maybe have savings. That seems like a pretty fantasy right now if I’m honest. Especially with the recent attacks on penalty rates for workers in hospitality, it’s fairly likely that attacks on other penalty rates like for healthcare workers will come. This is not the feminist future I signed up for, but I’ll work as hard as possible to make it better for us all. After all, I’m painfully aware of the fact that I clearly have enough privilege to actually do this course of study and to have somehow made it work – that’s worthwhile acknowledging too.

105th Down Under Feminist Carnival – March!

Square logo with turquoise border,, same colour text Down Under Feminist Carnival spans the top and bottom, in the centre is the symbol for 'woman' with the southern cross inside the loop. It’s been a while, but I’m once again hosting the Down Under Feminist Carnival next month. No theme or rhyme or reason at the moment, there’s plenty to keep us going at present after all.

Please send me links for any Australian or New Zealand content that you’d like to see featured in the carnival, I’m all ears. You can comment here, or email me transcendancing [at] gmail [dot] com.

The carnival is a collaborative community project. If you’ve ever thought about being a DUFC host, now’s the time to contact Chally who coordinates the carnival. If you’re interested, here’s the DUFC contact form and here is a list of future carnivals that have already been planned (pick any month that isn’t on that list). You’ll get submissions to help you out and Chally will provide any support you might need, first time hosts and those from New Zealand would be especially welcome.

Check out the Down Under Feminists Carnival homepage for more information.

 

On Problem Daughters: Interviewing the Editors

Inspiration image for Problem Daughters anthology, a silhouette of a woman against a starchart background in browns, oranges, and topaz coloursProblem Daughters will amplify the voices of women who are sometimes excluded from mainstream feminism. It will be an anthology of beautiful, thoughtful, unconventional speculative fiction and poetry around the theme of intersectional feminism, focusing on the lives and experiences of marginalized women, such as those who are of color, QUILTBAG, disabled, sex workers, and all intersections of these. Edited by Nicolette Barischoff, Rivqa Rafael and Djibril al-Ayad, the anthology will be published by Futurefire.net Publishing and is currently being crowdfunded.

What initially prompted this anthology?

Nicci: It started from a Twitter chat about defining feminism; how do we define a work as feminist, and what presuppositions is that definition based on, etc. We talked a lot about the absurdity of using the Bechdel-Wallace test as sort of litmus test of whether individual works are “feminist enough.” That got us talking about the exclusionary nature of certain models of feminism, and how that exclusionism informs literature that calls itself feminist. How do dominant models of Western middle-class feminism influence our ideas of what is, and more importantly what isn’t a feminist story? At that time, I was still feeling hot-headed over the way that dozens of avowed feminists in Hollywood reacted to the idea of decriminalizing sex work for the safety of sex workers (in a shockingly ignorant, tone-deaf letter to Amnesty International) and so, on a personal level, I guess I just felt ready to put a challenge out there. Do you think you already know what a feminist looks like? Can you call it Feminism if you elect to ignore all the women in this great, big world who don’t share your values? Anyway, I think Rivqa and Djibril must have been feeling something similar, and probably have their own catalysts.

Djibril: Yes, on the one hand it was easy enough agreeing on what an inclusive definition should look like, because we were all on the same page, but formulating that in writing was another story. We knew what we meant, and when speaking to and for ourselves we could say vague things like “and everyone else.” Once we had started to iron out a better definition, highlighting the inadequacy of exclusive feminisms and the importance of boosting the voices of marginalized women and recognizing the intersections of misogyny and other bigotries, we started to feel like we had a text we could do something with. At some point we realized we had the germ of a call for submissions for an anthology or themed issue… and we thought, why don’t we actually run with that?

Rivqa: As we refined our message and purpose, what started as a throwaway comment felt more and more important… and here we are.  

Has that motivation shifted or changed given global events over the past year?

Rivqa: When we first started talking about this idea, a year and a half ago, it already felt crucially important. Not that others aren’t doing similar work, but that we need more, so much more, to balance out the voices that have dominated our genre for so long. But the US election this year really galvanised me. Although it meant we had to delay our crowdfunding campaign, it deepened my sense of purpose. In my journal that day, one thing I wrote was “activist purpose in everything I do”, and to me Problem Daughters is an embodiment of that. We want to make an entertaining and beautiful book, but if it changes even one person’s life for the better in a miniscule way, I’ll feel my aims have been achieved.

Djibril: I second all of that, but I’d also add that the anthology has grown, in our minds. As we said just now, we started off thinking about it as a themed issue of the online magazine, but then given the variety and the mix and the genres/media we wanted to see in it, that just wasn’t big enough. We also wanted to pay better than the ’zine does, because that’s especially important when focussing on under-represented voices (otherwise you’re effectively asking already marginalized people in particular to work for free, which is unfair bordering on exploitative). We know that the authors who write the stories and poems are going to put wonderful work into this anthology; we want to make sure that we also do everything we can to contribute to that.

Nicci: As a minor addition to this, I think we liked the symbolism of launching with the new year. However anyone personally feels about 2016, I think we can agree that it was not a great year for women. But we can’t change 2016, so we wanted to, in whatever small way we could, set the tone for the new year. Not in opposition to anything (not even our newly-minted US tyrant), but for women. We are fighting back, but I’d like to think we’re fighting for understanding, rather than against those who don’t yet understand.

What has been the biggest challenge in putting together this anthology?

Nicci: Fundraising has presented quite a number of challenges, but I would say our greatest challenge lies ahead of us, with the stories themselves. I suspect and hope editing this anthology is going to be a bit like being in a roomful of brilliant, expressive people who all have something important to say. Our impossible task will be to pick just a few voices out of the crowd and hope they can adequately represent those who were not chosen. But that’s always the challenge of trying to put together a diverse, vibrant, truly intersectional anthology. It should feel kind of impossible. If it doesn’t, we’re doing it wrong.

Rivqa: I think refining our message was a bit of a challenge. We went through a few different ideas and while all (or at least most) were interesting, some of them were overly restrictive. I hope we’ve struck a balance of being broad enough that thinking of what to write isn’t an onerous challenge, but specific enough to be welcoming to the type of authors we’re hoping to attract.

Djibril: We’re also taking seriously the challenge of getting the word out to as many and as varied writers as possible, including authors in genre and those from other literary traditions; including established short story writers and poets and essayists and campaigners, but also those who have lived experience that they’re not used to making fiction out of; including both those who will see our Call For Submissions in writers’ groups and resources, and those who would miss it if all we did was put it up in the dozen most popular venues and listings. We want this CFS to be seen by “own voices” authors, by people whose writing is infused with the beauty and the scars of a million lived marginalizations, among them of course those who write different intersections than those they identify as their own. This will require serious outreach, and also help from many different communities and networks, and we’re reaching out to these all the time. We haven’t done enough yet.

What does intersectional mean to you all, especially in relation to producing an anthology like this?

Nicci: For an anthology like Problem Daughters, I think it’s about recognizing that there are many, many feminist movements, each with their own set of vastly different concerns. That the term “women’s issues” does not refer to a fixed set of priorities put forth by an oligarchy of great female minds. Because it is not actually possible to separate the experience of one’s gender from the experience of one’s class or race or level of ability or orientation, we’ve got to accept that not every woman is going to have the same priorities as those dictated by culturally dominant feminist movements. But her concerns are part of a lived reality, and excluding her voice from the feminist conversation does not make that reality go away. For us, I think it means deliberately choosing stories from those underrepresented feminisms.

Rivqa: Yes, all of this. I’d add that to me, intersectionality might sound like a mathematical concept, but it’s far more complex than that. We’re not merely the sum of our advantages and disadvantages, and people with the same broad intersections might have wildly different experiences for any number of reasons. Life is complicated and messy and nuanced! So we’re hoping to be representative, not exhaustive.

What other books or anthologies would you recommend for people trying to increase the diversity in what they are reading?

Djibril: If I may start by cheekily mentioning the previous Futurefire.net anthologies, Outlaw Bodies, We See a Different Frontier, Accessing the Future and Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, which all cover diverse topics (body politics, colonialism, disability and polyglot culture respectively) as well as feature a range of authors and materials. Other recent anthologies that have caught my eye include Kaleidoscope (edited by Alisa Krasnostein & Julia Rios); African Monsters (Margrét Helgadóttir & Jo Thomas) and Asian Monsters (Helgadóttir) from Fox Spirit Books; both Long Hidden (Rose Fox & Daniel José Older) and Hidden Youth (Mikki Kendall & Chesya Burke) from Crossed Genres; the Apex Book of World SF series (edited first by Lavie Tidhar, now by Mahvesh Murad); Beyond Binary (Brit Mandelo); Octavia’s Brood (Nisi Shawl); Mothership (Bill Campbell & Edward Hall). There’s a lot out there, if you’re really looking for it. (If only it didn’t need to be collected like this, but were actually the majority of all SF published!)

Rivqa: In recent years, I think there are more publishers that have made a commitment to diversity in interesting ways, and seeking these out is an easy way to diversify one’s reading. Here in Australia, Twelfth Planet Press does consistently impressive work (disclosure: I’ve been published by them twice and will be working with them in the future, but I had nothing to do with their choice of focus). All the presses Djibril’s already mentioned are likewise impressive; Aqueduct in the US is another. Then there are the magazines: Glittership, Capricious, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed’s “Destroy” issues, and, of course, The Future Fire. There’s a lot out there, and a lot of free content as well.

Can you tell me about three things you’ve read and enjoyed in the past year, (anthologies/shorts/novels/series/other media)?

Rivqa: I absolutely loved Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor. Although my culture is very different from that of the titular protagonist’s, the tension between tradition and broader knowledge — and home and the wider  universe — is one I could relate to all too well. Plus, structurally, it’s one of the best novellas I’ve ever read. The pacing and writing are just perfect.

Djibril: I really enjoyed reading L.S. Johnson’s collection of previously published short stories, Vacui Magia. As I wrote in my review at the time, this is a masterfully dark collection that explores gender alongside all sorts of other marginalizations, and grief, power, exploitation, violence, revenge, the divine. This leaps to my mind over dozens of stories and novels I’ve read since, so it really did have staying power.

Nicci: I finally got around to reading Kij Johnson’s novel The Fox Woman, which has one of the most delicate, sad, joyful, historically sensitive portraits of a marriage I have ever read in speculative fiction. I’m also currently enthralled by Sofia Samatar’s The Winged Histories, a story with four very different female protagonists.

What books or other media are you excited about for the coming year?

Rivqa: Makes sense to say Binti: Home, right? There are a lot of books I’m looking forward to. Plus, I’m taking a break from Aurealis Award judging, so when I’m not reading slush, I can actually read more novels. I’m aiming to read more marginalised authors, including but not exclusively Own Voices writers, but I haven’t set specific targets because doing so stresses me out a little. I’ll see how it goes,anyway.

Nicci: Is it too much of a dodge to say I am really looking forward to being buried under a mountain of stories by authors we’ve not yet heard from? Because the thing carrying me through this (as Rivqa pointed out) year and a half marathon journey is the knowledge that soon I won’t have time for anything but the slush pile, and if our outreach is at all successful, I can’t tell you what that would look like.

Djibril: Because you included media, I’m going to say that I’m really impatient to see Hidden Figures (maybe not scifi, but it is about space travel!) which isn’t out here in the UK until late February. I may also take the opportunity this year to catch up on a couple of more diverse TV shows that I’ve not got into yet, like Dark Matter, 3% and The Expanse. I guess there’s the second season of Cleverman coming up soon, too.


Close up image of an eye with a vertical slit pupil, furred around the outside. Djibril al-Ayad,

Djibril is a historian and futurist, co-edited the anthologies Outlaw Bodies, We See a Different Frontier, Accessing the Future, TFF-X, Fae Visions of the Mediterranean and has edited The Future Fire magazine since 2005.

A smiling blue-haired woman in a colourful top looks downwards away from the camera, the background is an outdoor setting maybe a playgroundNicolette Barischoff

Nicolette was born with spastic cerebral palsy, which has only made her more awesome. Her fiction has appeared in Long Hidden, Accessing the Future, The Journal of Unlikely Academia, Podcastle, and Angels of the Meanwhile. She regularly writes about disability, feminism, sex- and body-positivity, and how all these fit together. She’s been on the front page of CBS New York, where they called her activism public pornography and suggested her face was a Public Order Crime.

A woman with glasses faces the camera, it is a close up and she is smiling. There are bookshelves filled with books in the background. Rivqa Rafael

Rivqa is a queer Jewish writer and editor based in Sydney. She started writing speculative fiction well before earning degrees in science and writing, although they have probably helped. Her previous gig as subeditor and reviews editor for Cosmos magazine likewise fueled her imagination. Her short stories have appeared in Hear Me Roar (Ticonderoga Publications), The Never Never Land (CSFG Publishing), and Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press). In 2016, she won the Ditmar Award for Best New Talent. She can be found at rivqa.net and on Twitter as @enoughsnark.

2017 is on the Cusp

The new year rolls around again. Now that I’ve wrapped up what I got out of Chrysalis, my 2016 theme it’s time to open up my 2017 enquiry. That’s how I view a theme for the year in any case, a year long subjective enquiry that I let be the background focus for how I go about things. It informs the lessons I want to learn, the growth I want to undertake or the direction in which I want to throw my energy. It’s a no-sticks way of making the whole new year and resolutions thing work for me. If you’re interested, I wrote about my what and how of themes previously.

Without further preamble, my theme for 2017 is: Cusp

Silhouette of a cliff with a blue starscape behind it. Standing on the edge of the cliff is a female figure with scarves uplifted by a breeze.

Standing on the Precipice (credit unknown)

From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, here’s the definition that resonates with me for what I’m focusing on this year:

“An interval of time just before the onset of something”

A theme is always a concept, intended to be big enough and broad enough to encompass an entire year, with flexibility. The idea behind Cusp for me, is that I’m still in the midst of a journey – becoming a midwife. I’m still in the process of transformation and I’m not quite done. Unlike my 2015 theme Becoming, I’m much closer to the endpoint and I can see that ending in the distance. I’m close. I’m on the verge. But there’s still a way to go. I don’t yet have my wings, I’m not quite ready to fly – but I’m approaching that point and so I feel like I’m in this liminal space, in between and not-quite. I like Cusp for the potential it makes me feel, for the challenge it breathes into me and the push for this last year of effort required to achieve this major goal, career and vocation change, who I am in the world, being that kindness and change I wish to see. Everything. On the verge, standing on the precipice: just before the culmination, on the Cusp.

Weeks ago when I was letting this word and concept  tick over in my mind, I had thought this would be another inwardly facing theme. I thought Cusp would go to work on me internally and that I would need to look inward to see the effects. Now, I don’t think that is the case. I think this is far more outward facing than I’d supposed, and that it’s a kind of embracing of the world at large and putting myself and what I am contributing out into the world in various ways. There’s still the internal component I’d already mused upon, but there’s also a call for me to be visible, be vocal and practise all that I’ve learned, consolidate it all and find out how it and I all fit together. It’s pretty exciting!

Let’s break down the areas where I’m directing my focus for Cusp, and what I hope comes out of this enquiry.

Text graphic with a turquoise background. Black text reads "Keep Calm, Study Hard and Become a Midwife" with a small black crown at the top.Midwifery

I want to complete my final year in my degree to qualify as a Midwife, this is so much the thing that I am on the Cusp of, it’s so close I can almost taste it! I would like to do this and maintain the good marks I’ve gotten so far. I want to do well in my last three prac units, and get the references I need for my Grad Year Applications. I also want to get all my numbers for things together so that I can hopefully do as few extra shifts for births and the like at the end of the year. I think it’s unlikely I’ll have all the numbers and not need any extra shifts, but we’ll see. I want to go to the Student Midwife Conference this year, and if I’m lucky one of the other professional conferences (that might be pushing it though). By the end of the year I really want to feel like I’m ready to transition into professional practice for real, have my own registration and the responsibility that goes with it.

Self-Care and Development

In this area I hope to continue the practices that I’ve found work for me in the past couple of years. I want to continue to refine the care and feeding of my extroverted self, surrounded by my wonderful introverted partners. I’m grateful to them for how loving and caring they are toward me, knowing that I thrive on a base level of affection and touch. I appreciate their efforts to give me what I need and that they notice how I in turn try and support and fulfil their needs.

Two hands showing nails over dark purple sleeves, fair Caucasian skin tone with nail wraps featuring glow in the dark multi-coloured eyeballs from Jamberry. I want to remember that baths, books, Jamberry nails, video games, walks, podcasts, dinner and great conversations with my wonderful friends are my favourite self-care mediums. I want to keep making time for these and have them fit into what promises to be a busy and demanding year. I’m getting better at this as time goes on, so it’s refining and continuing as I’ve already started.

I am allowing for some gentle untangling of some deeper and older emotional stuff inside, body stuff, family history stuff and being myself stuff. I’m not sure how that will go, but I’m allowing space for it to come about, without intending to specifically dig things out of my psyche and go to work on them.

That said, I do want to finally conquer the ridiculous molehill-become-mountain that is getting my driver’s license. It’s back in active progression as I’m doing practise driving regularly again and will aim to book a couple of pass-the-test lessons and then do the test and (hopefully) pass!

My intention for this year is that I reduce my overall anxiety, that I see a reduction or ending to those habits and telltales of my anxiety. I’d like to continue to dial back my hyper-vigilance as I can bit by bit. That’s hard. About as hard as I thought, but not intractable. It involves letting go, breathing out and trusting things to be okay and people to be okay.

Cusp in this area is about being myself, and letting that be visible and outward without fear, learning to be okay with it and not quite so terrified.

Reading and Media

This is purely for me, my leisure, my enjoyment of time  to myself and how to spend it. I want to read, enjoy book clubs, do reading challenges, catch up on some of the television I’m watching, play awesome games, keep up with podcasts and share that with people here and via social media. I want to keep reviewing books here and doing some interviews and blog tour things if I get the chance. I’ve already written up my reading goals for 2017 so I won’t rehash that. I think I’ll also just allow for another post at a random interval talking about the games, media, and updates to podcasts I love and so forth. This is the simplest for this category yet, but the intention is simply to just keep enjoying it the way I am and to share it outwards with joy and enthusiasm.

Domestic Life

This year looks to be crappier budget wise, but we’re going to try and make it work as best we can, it’s the last year where budget should be so very hard and that too is reflective of the theme Cusp. That means meal-planning and using little inexpensive things to keep our spirits up and to make us feel better about things. It’s easier to deal with a strict grocery budget if you’re still able to make awesome and interesting food. Since Bat is also back to sharing more of the cooking that actually looks less stressful and more possible. Household things in general seem to be mostly running more smoothly and fairly, with room for tweaking but there’s no real ‘hard’ attached overall. I want us all to feel like the breakdown is fair, achievable and that we live as well as possible in a lean year. I have some light aspirations towards decluttering – specifically in my bedroom/wardrobe space but I’m simply identifying the desire and not putting any specifics around it at this stage. It’s all possible. I would like to post more about food, cooking and meal-planning this year if I can manage it around study and book reviews.

Relationships

A white cat and a black cat cuddled together in a soft nest where their paws and tails make a heart shape. I want to enjoy my relationships, friendship, chosen family, family, romantic and other poly-connections. I want to spend time and appreciate the wonderful people in my network.

I want things to continue to improve emotionally and in mental health for my live-in partners, it’s been a hard few years, and this year is intended to be the last ‘flagged’ hard year as after this we should have better income options which will take much of the pressure off and give us some more options. Fox is in the best place he’s ever been, but with that still comes new lessons and difficulties – like trying to learn how to actually relax. Bat is doing alright and is doing what he can to maintain that ahead of going back to Med School. His new boyfriend from the US is also planning to visit this year which I hope consolidates Bats feelings of love and safety and possibility, and that it helps him to get through the academic year.  I want him to feel loved and supported and know that Fox and I are behind him eleventy percent, and that we welcome N as his partner too.

I want to spend my 20th anniversary with my partner K who is interstate and I’ve not caught up with him in person since 2014, because money. But it’s our anniversary and there’s a lot going on to make this possible for him to be over here and for us to spend time together. We’ve been through so much together, we mean so much to one another – and despite living on opposite sides of the country, that doesn’t change. He’s still the person who wants me to have the most amazing life and wants to contribute however possible to that, and I want the same – he made it possible for me to move to Melbourne and it was the best thing for me, despite how deeply I miss him constantly.

I want to spend time with my other poly connections, enjoy the company and try and find some way of spending time regularly instead of sporadically – that ends up stressful, I’m making space for that to become easier. It’s hard with no central scheduling, competing priorities and obligations, distance, and lack of money to make things easier. I’m still allowing for the possibility.


Overall what underscores Cusp for me is being open to things, allowing for possibility and being willing to take on things, try things, do things and see what happens. I still have to be mindful of energy levels, resilience and self-care but I  feel much more capable of that at this point. This is less detailed and specific than in the past couple of years, but I feel more freedom at this point to see where it leads and to just let things happen. Hopefully that means more reflection posts along the way as I learn things too. Here’s to 2017, Cusp, and getting ready to take the leap, letting myself be with the moment, on the verge and almost arriving at the destination of Midwife.

Reflecting on Chrysalis for 2016

As always before I do my reveal and discussion of my new year theme, I like to reflect on the year past and what I learned from my enquiry over that year. In 2016, my theme was Chrysalis, envisioned as below because I felt I needed a protective place to recover, a suit of armour to prevent further damage and needed to be inward focused in order to get through another year of study, another year where I anticipated many challenges and much stress. It was a reactive theme, but even so I still put forward aims that I hoped would be part of the enquiry and part of what helped me to heal, you can read about how I originally imagined Chrysalis back in January of 2016.

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith - 2014

Monarch Butterfly Chrysalis by Kim C Smith – 2014

So now, in January of 2017, where do I think my past year of enquiry has taken me? What happened, what did I learn. What will I take forward and what will I let go?

Overall

Reflecting on this theme, I think what I got from Chrysalis is exactly what I needed: comfort, peace, healing, protection, love. I spent the year reinforcing in every way I could a recovery of my energy, rebuilding of my resilience, and letting go of some of my perfectionism to make way for simply trusting that things would happen – like dinner on the table when I was in the depth of study doom. It was a year where it sounds like I was selfish and that’s true, but it’s the selfish of desperation where I had very little left I could pour out and give – I’d exhausted  myself and everything inside of me to get to the end of 2015.

Things that contributed to that state included my study, partner illness and financial stress. To share a little more, I am studying a demanding degree course in Midwifery, which I love and am passionate about – but it is one long push, there are few lulls and it is demanding intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Being realistic about that doesn’t make me love it less or less committed to being the best midwife I can be.

It’s no secret that one of my live-in partners has been in the depths of mental-health crisis for the past couple of years and this has taken its toll on him, but also on Fox and I as we do our level best to support him, protect him, and encourage anything that draws him out of the depths of it. The best outcome for 2016 was a dramatic shift in his mental health and while it’s certainly a massive relief to see, and we all hope that it will continue onward and upward it’s not a magic wand and there’s a lot of work and time before I think he can look back and say ‘This is behind me’. Right now he can say that he feels like the worst has passed – that feels true for Fox and I too.

Which brings me to that other stress point – we’re still on one income predominantly. Over the past twelve months I did some part time work which eased the pressure for most of the year. Fox has continued to be our breadwinner, he’s stoically dealt with the awfulness of his job and company that has steadily declined in all level of satisfaction. The likelihood of redundancy looms ever stronger and we’re doing our best to hold out for that as a means to give ourselves the best buffer and chance to weather a change in job and income. Fox’s dedication as a provider is incredible as is his own commitment to his mental health, which has improved slowly and steadily over the years since he first started tackling this. I’m so proud of him, so grateful to him and I can’t wait to repay his faith in me and my studies by giving him the chance to pursue his own studies.

So finances still sucked but they sucked a little less, and we  made as good a use of that as we could – we didn’t need to be so strict on meal planning (that will be a necessary change this year), we could get takeaway on occasion and did so at several points where ‘too hard’ hit. But that has been hitting less and less as Bat has recovered more mental health and capacity. There is less worry and so work happens more evenly distributed and support flows more freely in all directions. Bills were paid, we had some disposable income occasionally. I was able to invest in some training to go with my Midwifery studies that will hopefully set me up to be an attractive graduate candidate when I apply this year for a position for 2018. All the ways in which I dedicated energy to self-care, to recovery and resilience paid off, for me but also our family. We’re all in a better position personally at the end of 2016 to go into 2017.

Reading, Media and Fandom

One of my big realisations for 2015 was just how much reading for pleasure grounds me, and is a self-care mechanism and stress relief rather than simply a luxury. I’d spent most of the first two y ears of my study feeling guilty for still reading fiction and then I learned that it’s a small and regular thing I can do to look after myself and enjoy my days and weeks. So I made that a priority for last year, and letting that joy be there for myself rather than worrying that I should be studying was so helpful. I read some amazing books (my favourite books of 2016 post is still pending, but I’ll edit and link when I’ve posted it).

Blue banner image with picture of a book in white and the text Goodreads 2017 Reading ChallengeI loved reading and reviewing this year and I exceeded my reading goals in lots of ways – and there’s still room for improvement in others, as it should be. We’re never done, there’s always more room to grow and more to learn. You can read more about my reflection on last year’s reading goals if you like, or see what my goals are for 2017 in reading – I won’t rehash them here. In short: read books, review them, especially books that are diverse in important ways, and books by Australian Women Writers. Try and read 75 books in the calendar year.

I also listened to my favourite podcasts and I looked for ways that I could keep listening even when I wasn’t working. Favourites continued to be Galactic Suburbia and Fangirl Happy Hour, and I continued to really enjoy Tea & Jeopardy. New favourites include Sheep Might Fly, Magical Space Pussycats, and in non-books and fannish areas,  Acts of Kitchen and The Birth Hour. I also fell in love with the Booktube channel Books and Pieces, I highly recommend it. I managed several really great walks (and Pokemon Go was great for this as well) while listening to podcasts, which was a happy goal to achieve. Plus, I’ve also gotten to a point where some of my general online productivity like organising recipes or sorting stuff etc can be done to a podcast background so I’ve stayed mostly up to date and in love with the voices and conversations of intelligent women, who are so switched on and aware, so emotionally present and generous. This kind of listening brings such joy to me.

There were a few other media things I did to contribute to self-care and taking time out. I played games and in particular enjoyed Stardew ValleyNo Man’s Sky, Pokemon Go, and Armello this year. My favourite movies were Deadpool and the new Ghostbusters, pretty equally, although I also really loved Zootopia too.  With music, I set up a Pandora radio station for Hamilton and other Broadway musicals so that I could have background music that mostly made me feel better about the world and let me relax and think about the stories the songs were telling. Like a large percentage of the rest of the world, I unexpectedly fell in love with the Hamilton soundtrack and listened to it time and again over the months in the second half of the year. I think Lin Manuel Miranda is a gift and should be celebrated.

Midwifery

White banner with intersecting circles Hands, Heart and Mind and the kind of midwife you will be. Midwife is in the centre of the intersecting circles.In taking on Chrysalis last year, in my original post on the subject of midwifery I said:

I just want to do well. I want to do well, I want to learn. I want to be the best midwife I can be. I want to regain my confidence on prac.

This area is one in which I’m particularly proud of the outcomes. I excelled academically in 2016, beyond even my high expectations of  myself. I worked exceedingly hard for it too and I’m so pleased that paid off. I also went back to prac and it went well. I achieved that aim too, to regain my confidence in my practice and to do well in my clinical placement. I’ve also started asking for and collecting recommendations and I’ve been doing additional workshops, seminars, conferences and courses to supplement my study as part of my efforts toward applying for a graduate year position. They’re competitive and I’ve my sight set on one in particular (I have yet to work out my second and third preferences) so I’ve been working hard already to achieve this. I also had my halfway mark assessment, and it went well, and I’m feeling confident in my ability to prepare for my final assessment at the end of 2017.

I went into 2016 still so passionate about Midwifery but feeling shattered and uncertain. I have emerged from the year with a greater consolidation of experience and knowledge, as well as an even greater passion for midwifery. Calling. Vocation. I never though those words would be ones I could really identify with and yet, more than ever I feel this.

Self Care and Development

I did so much better with this area of focus in 2016 than in previous years and I think the shift in making it about care as much as development helped with that. I wanted to grow, but I didn’t want to push myself in to painful spaces when it was obvious to me that I needed to draw in energy and seek out joy and connection, love, and comfort. Through that focus I did grow and learn. My confidence returned and grew. I’m more sure of myself in conversations and my opinions and ability to contribute meaningfully. I worry less about perception (in some ways, in others this is still a work in progress).

A box with a book, and bath bombs in it, with a subscription to the official Book Bath Box includedI had the best birthdays this year, Bat and Fox made it perfect for me with the most thoughtful gift – a Book Bath Box subscription, and because that would arrive months away they also made up their own version to give me on the day! So sweet! They spent the day quietly hanging out with me and cooking me an incredible birthday dinner – pork belly with caramelised pears on silky potato mash and a brownie cheesecake birthday cake dessert. It was perfect! So relaxed and peaceful, I slept in, there was no stress and I felt whimsical and full of love the entire day.

I wanted a better year for my partners and I do think we all got it – although there were still so many hard things about the year, so many ways in which we just needed to dig deep and focus on the fact that we love each other and would somehow make it through as a starting point. I do recommend that as a starting point by the way because if as a fundamental assumption that has shifted, then a different conversation may be necessary. But I love my partners, I trust them and I value them. I feel loved and trusted and valued. This is especially true of my partners whom I cohabit with, where we’ve created a little family for ourselves.

But my other partners are just as important in different ways and I love and value them for what they bring to the world and my life too. I trust that I bring them good things to their lives as well. There are a number of partners and close friends, chosen family who I wished I could have seen more of throughout the year – and yet energy and time where in short supply. It was also a hard year for some of them and I know this impacted on us being able to make time and scheduling work. My platonic romantic partner and I spent quite a bit of time together, mostly in quiet conversation and having lovely cheap dinner dates in the city – spending time and keeping each other feeling sane and cared for. She had a hard year and I hope that what I could do to stand behind her helped. I did get to spend time with two of my Perth partners who came over and that was wonderful and messy and I’m so glad – even though I was in the midst of semester so it was also hard. But right now, there is no ideal time. We made it work. Overall with people and social, especially partners I did the best I could but I wish I’d have managed more somehow.

2016 marked another year where I didn’t get to see my longest term partner, K. Our 19th anniversary came and went and I missed him more than ever. We’re starting to make determined plans for our 20th anniversary together because even with crappy finances, somehow we will make this happen. K has been one of the most integral parts of my life for about a third of my life and no matter how things shift and change for us, he remains one of the most important people in my life, and someone who’s happiness means the world to me. I know that I mean similar things to him.

Collage of 4 pictures, 3 landscapes of hinterland and bay overview, one with a plaque about Apollo Bay and the Great Ocean RoadI did have a year that was more social than the previous one, and it was part of my extrovert self-care mechanisms I put in place. I attended our local science fiction convention Continuum and has the most wonderful time, it was seriously one of the best things I did this year. Followed by my trip to Apollo Bay with a friend where we cooked, and explored and lounged for a week – it was great. I organised with chosen family members to do semi-regular dinners and host them so that I could soak up the social time, but have it be easy and love filled and not a struggle at all. I did regular vid chats with @dilettantiquity which was wonderful for both of us in several ways and was one of the our mutually most successful aims for 2016. I did several more frequent chats with others who are far away and that meant a lot to me too, I want to continue that in the new year.

My health was mostly very good, pain and strain were well managed. Reflux stopped being an agonising problem and is well managed. I had some reproductive health issues but thanks to our wonderful public health system, they’re all taken care of. I judiciously applied bravery, reward and lots of care mechanisms to deal with the emotional and anxiety strain these issues posed and I came through it all really well. Pokemon Go deserves the most credit for me improving my activity levels, I enjoy wandering and will quite happily do that for several kilometres in order to catch the little monsters or hatch eggs. It’s low key, easy and satisfying and I value that ease as much as the compelling fun nature of it.

A large number of books piled onto a shelf creatively, a shelf next to that is empty.I did declutter and organise my physical things better (I need to revisit some of it as it got away from me in the last part of the year). I obtained some second hand bookshelves and unpacked my books (still a work in progress, one shelf needs stabilising). I also enjoyed more of Melbourne in tiny and cheap ways that brought me a lot of joy. I walked along Southbank several times (in part because Pokemon). I wandered through the city and admired how beautiful Melbourne is. I went to several Wheeler Centre events and marvelled at the speaking programs they have and the way I think it contributes to our city and people overall.

I blogged throughout the year – here less so than I hoped but I did manage to keep things up reasonably. I maintained my 5 things habit throughout the year, although I have decided to change it going forward. My blog is as important to me as reading and I value having spaces to chronicle, to write and share with people that are more thoughtful than the immediacy of social media.

I didn’t get to any different cities in 2016, we’ll see if that’s different in 2017 – finances say doubtful. I didn’t get my license either, this still hangs over my head. However now that I’m in a better mental space than I have been in two  years it looks like it is vastly more possible than it has  felt for ages. I’m just trying not  to use this as a stick to beat myself with. I will get there. I will. Eventually.

Cooking

A table set with many dishes of food including a quiche, ham, turkey and several sides.The framing for this was trying to maintain things that worked to take stress out of decision and uncertainty. To reduce the cost of food, but to eat well and enjoy the meals we have together. I wanted to maintain my enjoyment of cooking and not have it be something that always felt like a chore. This was successful overall. Meal planning fell largely by the wayside in any formal way, but we did try new things in that vein and they have potential. The repository of recipes is more accessible and easy to navigate by people other than me. Fox did a bunch of cooking, including for Bat’s birthday dinner and did a magnificent job all year when it was his turn. Bat is cooking more and we’re back to enjoying trading cooking between us and sharing it as the joy it has been in the past for us.

We had people around regularly and good food was always a part of that and we all enjoyed that massively. Low-key dinner parties are our favourite social events to host and sharing great food with those we care about is enjoyed by us all. Fox remains enamoured of our BBQ which continues to be adorable. We hosted Christmas with chosen family and a friend this year, it was our turn – 3 years in, it’s officially a  tradition now! We over-catered and went way over-the-top for our feast, it was glorious and a massive undertaking that paid off. The inset photo is of the feast at the time of serving before we devoured about 5% of it.

Much of our ‘make-from-scratch’ things like stock and bread fell entirely by the wayside – we ate more pre-prepared stuff in general. But I was busier, made less decisions and organised less. And we still got fed, there was still delicious food and it was good for me to let go in this way and trust the others and let them figure things out so I could concentrate on work and study priorities where they impacted on my ability to do household contributions. I was successful in abdicating adulthood at various points when it was necessary and being supported by my partners in this. It was important and necessary (and hard to do) but worth it.


Chrysalis was a year that I wanted to focus on care, recovery and resilience. It was that for me. I got all of this in so many ways – expected and unexpected. The letting go and simply trusting in my partners and the people around me was a valuable lesson, and one I want to take forward. I still think that my expectations of myself when I read over my planning from the beginning of last year was too demanding, wanting too much of my finite energy, time and skills. That too was a lesson – and I know amongst those I am close to that this I am not alone in this trait. I spent the year re-framing things so as not to beat  myself with sticks. The point is not to punish myself for failing to achieve all the myriad things I wanted, or for forgetting things or cutting corners. Actually the point was to learn that the sky doesn’t fall when you do these things and in some ways, it turns out even better emotionally and in the final results.

I am grateful to this theme, it has been a gift and an inward focus that I’ve consistently put energy into. And in all the other ways I achieved what I put in, that was true with this enquiry too. And now with this reflection, I can draw a line  underneath Chrysalis and move on from it’s protective shell. It’s time to move  properly into 2017.

2017 Reading Goals

Time to talk about my reading goals for 2017! My plans are not dramatically different from past years, but I’m tweaking things to work better and trying to be ambitious in what I achieve. However, I am trying to be mindful of doing this in ways that are within reach given I’m heading into my final year of my midwifery degree. Reading is one of the things I do for self-care and stress relief – even when in semester I’ll still read for pleasure. I also find I get a bit stressed and lonely, so I’ve found that joining in with bookclubs and challenges can often be helpful for feeling connected and involved in social things, without having to use up a lot of energy to leave the house.

Overall Reading Goal

Blue banner image with picture of a book in white and the text Goodreads 2017 Reading ChallengeOnce again, 75 books seems to be the right length to aim for – I did do a little better than that in 2016, but some were shorter reads, plus it’s my final study year so I will probably be busier than previous years. Also, as with all goals this is something to aim for and give me a bit of a challenge to enjoy, it’s not about beating myself with sticks. I’m quite determined to maintain this outlook with all my goal-setting because it has to work for me, not against me.

Reviewing

In general I want to continue reading and reviewing, I am loving seeing the number of my reviews grow – both here and on Goodreads. Plus, I want to continue to review and promote new books when I can get advance copies, particularly for indie publishers.  Additionally, I am hoping to get back to doing some of my Retro Fiction Review Series for older books that could use a boost in attention. There are so many books being published that it’s easy for some great books to be overlooked and I’d like to draw some attention to ones I think deserve some more love. As far as the time frame for ‘retro’, I’m thinking books published prior to 2000.

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

Silhouette of a woman with an umbrella black on a blue background with text Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017.This is the reading challenge that I’ve participated in the longest, and I love it as much now as the first time I got to join in. This year I’m pledging to read and review 15 books by Australian Women Writers. As part of that challenge I’m also trying to improve on the diversity in my reading to include women who are queer, Indigenous women and women from different cultural backgrounds and experiences to myself as a white Australian person.

This is a great challenge to take on because you can set your own level of participation. You can nominate to read and review, or if you don’t want to review that’s fine too! This year there is a specific focus on drawing attention to Australian Women Writers who come from diverse backgrounds, but also to raise the profile of some Classics by Australian women. There’s already quite a lot of excited discussion about this focus, with the nominal definition of ‘classic’ being written at least 30 years ago and being significant at the time it was published, or to have had a lasting profile/impact in Australia or a region. I’m not taking on the Classics focus for my challenge but as a long time fan of Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby books, I am hoping lots of other people fall in love with these – and maybe I’ll pick up the subsequent books to reread, it’s been a long time and I’m probably overdue to reread.

Goodreads Reading Challenge

The main challenge has an active bookclub group that does a bunch of long and short, easy and difficult challenges, plus buddy reads and a gift exchange at the end of the year. I enjoyed participating in several buddy reads and challenges last year and am going to join in again. If you want to follow the things I’m doing, I’ll be tracking all the various challenges and so on in this forum post. I’m already doing a buddy read in January – we’re reading Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. I’ve also signed up for some year long challenges and a couple of first quarter challenges:

Bout of Books button with determined woman in yellow looking tired and surrounded by books.Bout of Books 18

For the first time ever I’m participating in the Bout of Books reading marathon – it’s an easy going challenge that is purely about encouraging you to read a bit more than you’d already planned that week. I like the tag line that says ‘I was planning to read this week anyway’ because, that’s true. And now this week I get to enjoy the company of a bunch of other people who are also participating – it’s rather lovely to be involved in all the twitter loveliness.  You can read my progress post for Bout of Books 18 where I’m keeping a record of what I’m reading, how much and also of the challenges I’ve participated in.

Banner with purple-pink rainbow art with flowers and flourishes and a book, tex treads Read Diverse 2017 where diverse is in rainbow colours.Read Diverse 2017

As part of my ongoing desire to improve on how diverse my reading is, particularly in intersectional ways where I’m privileged, I’m using this challenge to be a background reminder for me for the reading I was going to be doing anyway. Despite the name, it’s about reviewing and promoting works by marginalised authors as well as works that feature marginalised characters. Intersections with queerness and disability and whiteness, gender and a few other elements are the focus. I’m not going to lie, the art is definitely one of the reasons I was drawn to this particular challenge.  How pretty is the button?

Bookclubs

I still want to participate in some of the other bookclubs that I’ve enjoyed, like the Sword and Laser Bookclub, the Vaginal Fantasy Bookclub and I’ve also been participating in the readalong with the Magical Space Pussycats podcast. I’m also hoping that Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Inky Valkyrie bookclub gets up and running (if you were looking for an awesome patreon with excellent speculative fiction content to sponsor, her’s is a good one).

Finish the Journey Through the Twelve Planets Challenge

Image of a series of vertical book spines showing the twelve planet books in various colours. Header text white on transparent black overlies the image with the title 'A Journey Through the Twelve Planets'.Steph and I started this last year, we got half way through the year all on time and so on and then the mid-year just hit us both really hard. Plus, I was in the midst of a very busy semester and am not a horror reader at the best of times, so it took me a lot longer to get through Kaaron Warren’s Through Splintered Walls than I had anticipated, I expect Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan will be a similar story (but it will also be worth it I am certain). The aim is to finish the final six books in the challenge in 2017 and I am looking forward to it and that we’ve got the whole year to do it in.


That’s what I have so far, and hopefully I’ll exceed expectations in these goals I’ve taken on! I hope to report on how I’m tracking sometime around mid-year, but we’ll see how that goes (it’s a very busy time of the year for me study-wise so I may be dreaming that I’ll get the blogging time then).

 

 

Snapshot 2016: Interview with Marianne de Pierres

Snaphot Logo 2016

Marianne de Pierres remains one of the most versatile authors writing in the Australian scene, she’s not afraid to tackle any kind of story that takes hold of her and she’s always up for trying something new. Plus, she’s also great fun to have around! This interview is part of Snapshot 2016 and is reposted from the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


Marianne de Pierres Comic Con 2016 author photoMarianne de Pierres received the 2014 Curtin University Distinguished Australian Alumni Award for significant and valuable contributions to society. This award was granted in recognition of her feminist speculative fiction. She is the author of the award-winning Sentients of Orion and Peacemaker series. Her young adult Night Creatures trilogy was listed as a Recommended Read by both the Stella Prize and Victoria Premier’s Literary Award panels. Under the pseudonym Marianne Delacourt, she has also written a series of crime novels for which she has received a Davitt Award. She is a writing educator and mentor, a proponent of Transmedia, and has been involved in several successful creative partnerships.

You’re working on feminist science fiction for your PhD project, what is the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your research and reading so far?

The short answer is “everything”. It’s been a wonderful and soaring learning curve for me: from Donna Haraway’s cyber-feminsim through to the post-feminist theorists. More specifically though, my topic examines how certain female speculative fiction authors imagine future feminism in their work. The most surprising discovery is the conclusion that I’m beginning to draw from an analysis of three particular texts. I’m using vN by Madeline Ashby, God’s War by Kameron Hurley, and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes as my case studies. Though set in vastly different worlds and written in diverse styles, there are some strong commonalities in their subtexts. But you’ll have to read my exegesis to find out what those are! No spoilers yet.

Sharp Shooter - coverThe recent re-release of ‘Sharp Shooter’ internationally is so exciting and I’m so looking forward to the release of the fourth novel in the series! Can you give us a hint of what we can expect from Tara’s next adventure?

Thanks Ju! I am also really thrilled that Twelfth Planet Press have picked up the Tara Sharp series for their Deadlines imprint. The books are being re-released over the course of this year with new covers, and each one has been revised, and in some instances new material has been added. Cathy Larsen is producing some splendid new artwork. Book 4 will be out around November and is titled Sharp Edge. Things are ‘hotting up’ between Tara and Nick Tozzi and she’s not sure she can handle it, so (in usual fashion) she plunges into her latest adventure to avoid having to make decisions. This means helping her ex-fiancée, Garth, with a money laundering problem and disentangling herself from the bikie gang to whom she owes a favour. Cass and she also move out of Lilac Street. Everyone’s lives are evolving.

One of your strengths as an author has been your ability to work across genres, from YA and urban fantasy to science fiction, crime and dystopia. Do you have a favourite amongst the genres you’ve written in and are there any you’d still like to try out?

Funny you should mention that! Once my PhD novel is complete, I plan to work on a biography about a man named Colonel Herman Thorn, who lived in early 19th Century New York and Paris. I’m so obsessed with this story that for the first time in my life, I feel compelled to write non-fiction, and I refuse to be daunted by the fact that it’s a new genre for me.

In terms of my previous fictions… as long as it’s speculative, I love it! No favourites there. 🙂

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Pamela Hart’s (aka Freeman) historical novels are some of the best world building I’ve read. Pamela’s a terrific writer in all genres, but I agree with her husband (author Stephen Hart) who says she’s really found her niche here.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Octavia Butler. I’d be interested in pretty much anything she had to do or say.

Snapshot 2016: Interview with Ambelin Kwaymullina

Snaphot Logo 2016

Ambelin Kwaymullina writes the kind of books you fall in love with, at least *I* did and so it was a particular privilege to interview her. This interview is part of Snapshot 2016 and has been reposted from the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


Ambelin Kwaymullina author photoAmbelin Kwaymullina is an Aboriginal writer, illustrator and law academic who comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. She is the author of the dystopian series The Tribe for young adults, and has also written and illustrated a number of award-winning picture books. Find out more about Ambelin at her website: www.ambelin-kwaymullina.com.au.

In one of your interviews for #LoveOzLit, you refer to a need to trust the story and to not get in its way. I also notice that much of your work features the element of transformation and I wondered if that was deliberate or if it relates to your trusting the story you’re working on?

In my culture, everything lives, including stories. That means to tell a story is a profound responsibility, and part of that responsibility is allowing the story to honour its own truths. Stories, like all life, are capable of unexpected transformations. Another part of that responsibility is to understand that not all stories are yours to tell – we all occupy a particular position in this world and that position informs our understanding but also places limits upon it, especially when it comes to the stories of cultures and identities not our own.

Are there any speculative projects (writing, art, appearances) that you’re working on presently that you can share any details with us?

I’m working on a new novel (YA, spec fic). It’s not part of The Tribe series – but like The Tribe series, it’s a work of Indigenous Futurisms, which is a form of storytelling where Indigenous creators use the spec fic genre to challenge colonialism and imagine Indigenous futures.

The Tribe Series - covers

In recent years you’ve written for The Wheeler Centre about Indigenous storytellers, power and privilege, about Aboriginal storytelling and young people, and about the need for diverse stories in Australia. Have you noticed any changes in the number or nature of Indigenous storytellers and stories being produced and distributed to wider audiences since then?

Nope.

Indigenous publishers (like Magabala Books) continue to do amazing work, and some small presses (like Fremantle Press and University of Queensland Press) also publish a significant list of Indigenous voices. But there’s been no fundamental shift in the literary industry more generally, either in relation to Indigenous authors or other diverse voices. Here’s the thing: as I’ve said before, a lack of diversity in literature is not a ‘diversity problem’. It’s a privilege problem, in that it is being caused by structures, behaviours and attitudes that consistently privilege one set of voices over another. That means that change is required at an individual and systemic level to address privilege before diverse voices will ever have a real chance of being heard. And this change needs to encompass the entire industry, not just publishers (as recent conversations in the US over the role of reviewers reminds us).

Part of this change involves being informed. I blogged recently about some things editors should know when editing books with Indigenous content, but much of what I said applies to the literary industry more generally.

What Australian work have you loved recently?
Cleverman!

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
My friend from across the sea, fellow speculative fiction writer Zetta Elliott. We have only ever met in cyber-space and it would be so nice to connect in person.

Snapshot 2016: Interview with Stephanie Lai

Snaphot Logo 2016

My interview with Stephanie Lai, and as you can see I get to interview some of the most awesome Stephanie types in Australia! I conducted this interview as part of Snapshot 2016, reposted from the original over at the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


Stephanie Lai author photoStephanie Lai is a Chinese-Australian writer and occasional translator. She has published long meandering thinkpieces in Peril Magazine, the Toast, the Lifted Brow and Overland. Recently, her short fiction has appeared in the Review of Australian Fiction, Cranky Ladies of History, and In Your Face. Despite loathing time travel, her defence of Perpugilliam Brown can be found in Companion Piece (2015). She is an amateur infrastructure nerd and has a professional interest in climate change adaptation and sustainability. You can find her on twitter @yiduiqie, at stephanielai.net, or talking about pop culture and drop bears at no-award.net

Congratulations on your Artist Residency in Singapore! What excites you most about getting to spend three months concentrating on your creative work?

Thank you! Only EVERYTHING. I’ve never had the chance to really sit and just focus on my practice before, undistracted by calling my mum or cleaning up after the cat or visiting my friends who coincidentally have days off work. So the idea that I’ll be able to just sit and work is intimidating but so exciting, too. I’m also very excited about exploring something that is so personally important to me (the impact of traditional culture and cultural identity on how people interact with climate change information/instructions, particularly in Asian communities), and that has an impact on both my professional day job and my writing. Although I’m going to be working on community research for a research memoir, I expect the understandings and learnings and all the fun stuff will have an impact on my science fiction, too – so it’ll just mean even more climate change fiction about Chinese-Australian ladies. 😀

The residency is facilitated by Asialink Arts and located at Grey Projects in Singapore, and my grant is through the Malcolm Robertson Foundation.

Cranky Ladies of History - coverYour story about lady pirate extraordinaire Cheng Shih in Cranky Ladies of History was fantastic, and barely scraped the surface of how awesome she was historically. Is there a chance that you would consider writing more of her story in future?

Yes. I desperately want to look at how Cheng Shih’s domain and reign would have changed in a silkpunk world; or a world where she truly was the (Water) Dragon of the South Seas.  My piece in Cranky Ladies was very much set in our world as we understand it, and I’d like to explore that in a science fiction or fantasy setting.

If you had the opportunity to edit an anthology of your choice what kind of project would you want to put out into the world?

South East Asian climate change SFF written by South East Asians. Our islands will be impacted, and in many ways are already being impacted (our first climate change refugees are coming from the Pacific, from Tuvulu and Kiribati), and I’m interested in how people envision that. And in creating more spaces for South East Asian SFF.

What Australian work have you loved recently?

Since last year’s Snapshot I’ve really loved Orphancorp by Marlee Jane Ward (Seizure) and The Family Law by Ben Law, which wasn’t published recently but was a delight. I’ve also appreciated, rather than loved, a book by my housemate’s dad (Putting Stories to Work, Shawn Callahan, self-pub), which is about great using stories in business and not-profit contexts to change hearts and minds, and has really helped my professional storytelling practice (Storytelling is such an important part of climate change communication, and one which is often overlooked).

I am really looking forward to reading The Island Will Sink by Briohny Doyle, which just came out last week through The Lifted Brow.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I don’t talk to strangers on long flights! But I guess in the spirit of this question, my answer is either Pu Songling, Ted Chiang, or Maxine Beneba Clarke.

Snapshot 2016: Interview with Stephanie Gunn

Snaphot Logo 2016

My interview with Stephanie Gunn is the second of the interviews I conducted for Snapshot 2016, reposted from the original over at the Australian SF Snapshot Project. #Snapshot2016.


Stephanie Gunn author photoStephanie Gunn is a speculative fiction writer and reviewer. Once upon a time she was a scientist, but life had other ideas, and now she spends her days surrounded in words in one way or another. She has had work nominated for the Aurealis, Ditmar and Tin Duck Awards, and is currently at work on several contemporary fantasy novels. She lives in Perth with her husband and son, and requisite cat, who cares not for books except as surfaces to sit on. You can find her online at stephaniegunn.com.

 

How would you describe your Defying Doomsday story ‘To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath’ for people who may not know what to expect from an anthology about a dystopian future featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists?

To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath is a story about sisters who survive a devastating flu pandemic. The sisters consist of a set of twins, both of whom have cystic fibrosis—one of whom has had a lung transplant—and their older sister. The three of them initially survived the pandemic by going into isolation on a remote farm with their uncle and mother; both adults died after the pandemic, leaving the sisters to survive alone.Defying Doomsday - cover

The idea for the story came from a long fascination with pandemics (I blame early reading of Stephen King’s The Stand, but I also have a background in microbiology and genetics, and had thought of going into epidemiology) and the idea of who would be likely to survive in a global pandemic. The idea is that the strong survive, of course, and those who happen to be immune, but what if that strength and/or immunity came with a chronic illness? And for that chronic illness to be something like cystic fibrosis, which requires an enormous amount of medical support, was an idea I couldn’t shake.

People with chronic illnesses and disabilities are taught to be survivors in this world, usually by necessity, and not always given the support and respect due to them. I wanted very much to show these sisters supporting each other, and in the end, to give them hope. To let them defy everything.

We’re about half way through our reading/blogging project ‘Journey Through the Twelve Planets’, what have you discovered about the Twelve Planets collection that you didn’t know when we started?

The main thing I’ve discovered is the sheer quality of the collections in the Twelve Planets. I read most of the first half of the Planets when they were released, and I knew that they were all good, but reading them back to back has really shown just how impressive they all are. We’re seven books in now, and there hasn’t been a single story or novella that’s been sub-par. It’s really put into perspective how damn good the female writers showcased are, and given me a whole new level of respect for Twelfth Planet Press and Alisa Krasnostein (and frankly, I already had an enormous amount of respect for both).

Image of a series of vertical book spines showing the twelve planet books in various colours. Header text white on transparent black overlies the image with the title 'A Journey Through the Twelve Planets'.

In your 2015 wrap up blog post you talk about writing goals and achievements in 2015, how is 2016 shaping up in relation to the goals and plans still on your list?

This has been a bit of a frustrating year for me. I’ve been focusing a lot on developing my skill as a novel writer, and learning as much as I can about story structure and outlining. I’ve always been a hardcore pantser, and I’ve wanted very much to streamline my methodology to—in theory—make novel writing a faster process for me. I’ve definitely moved very much to being an outliner now, but novel writing is still frustratingly slow. It takes me a fair amount of time to craft a short story as well, and for both I need many, many drafts, so I’m at the point where I probably just need to accept that mine is a slow process.

I had a lot of plans coming into this year. I wanted to outline and finish a first draft of a new novel, which has been extremely slow in coming. I do have about two thirds of a draft by now, but it’s been extremely frustrating, especially since I wanted to have this done in the first half of the year so I can redraft another novel, which is edging close to being submittable.

I’ve also had one short story published so far (To Take Into the Air My Quiet Breath, in Defying Doomsday), which I am incredibly proud of (and still, quite frankly, somewhat stunned to be published in that anthology!), and I have another novella forthcoming in Aurum from Ticonderoga Press. So it’s not a total loss, even though I feel like I’ve only accomplished a tiny fraction of what I wanted to.

 What Australian work have you loved recently?

All of the Twelve Planets collections read to date have been amazing, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t read them to pick up copies of them all. I was also floored by how amazing Lisa L. Hannett’s debut novel Lament for the Afterlife, as well as Louise Katz’s The Orchid Nursery. I’m biased, since I have a story in it, but Defying Doomsday, edited by Holly Kench and Tsana Dolichva, was amazing, and I want to make particular note of “Tea Party” by Lauren E. Mitchell. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, was also incredible, and I’m looking forward to the sequel later this year.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

This is a tough one, mostly because I’m a massive introvert who would most likely be sitting with headphones in for the whole time! If I have to pick someone, it would probably be Kameron Hurley, just because of her sheer talent, grit honesty about the writing life. I think that would be a very worthwhile trip.

International Women’s Day 2016

How does one write about women and equal rights in 2016? It’s traditional to start these posts off with a celebratory phrase, but also a cautionary one.

It feels like we’re still saying the same things over time and again. How do you stand up again on March 8 and say “Happy International Women’s Day, we have so much to celebrate, and so much work yet to be done”, again?

My eternal optimism at least, grows tired. Rallying cries and motivational statements abound but at least for me this year, they’re equal parts inspiring and heartening as they are tired, and somewhat depressing. What do I even mean by this?

Well, I’m never going to fail to be astounded and inspired by the boundless enthusiasm of those who bring new energy to this fight, to this journey for equality. I’m also never going to lose my abiding respect and admiration for those who keep speaking out, speaking up about equality for years – seemingly tireless.

But. And it’s a big one. It’s still the same stuff and it seems like overall so little has shifted. The conversation about women, about equality is still one where many of us are jumping up and down to emphasise the importance of intersectionality. We’re adamant about the importance of less white women speaking for a supposedly global homogenous population of women – we’re not homogenous, and equality looks like many different things across global groups. But how are we making it possible for women from across different cultural groups and ethnicities to speak and be heard? Also, what about making the voices of women who have disabilities – visible and invisible, heard? Or simply, what about making it possible, without a huge cost of energy, for those people with disabilities to attend events without going three rounds with organisers about the realities of accessibility?

Globally we’re still divided on the importance of trans* and non-gender-binary people’s experience of oppression – and I’m not the only one who is just so tired of explaining why this is relevant to women, to equality and yes, to International Women’s Day. For all the visibility of something like IWD, there remains so much invisibility for various women, and people whose experiences are reflective or related to the kind of equality sought by, represented by International Women’s Day.

The theme for IWD 2016 is ‘Pledge for Parity’. It’s a worthy theme, more nuanced than some I’ve seen. And it encompasses so much – parity in terms of equal pay, equal representation in leadership, business, politics, policy, health, technology, and science. Also, parity in the experience of safety in homes and society at large, equality in recognition for talent and achievement, in publishing and critique, in creation of art, music and performance. Parity also relates to choice, and ditching the trap of ‘having it all’ instead for the idea that you can choose for yourself, and what you choose should be respected. Parity means being able to choose the work you do, the contributions you make to society, your choice to parent, your choice of partnership and around family experiences, around community and culture. And recognising also… choice does not occur in a vacuum. Until we address the surrounding culture – at every level, globally – choices will continue to be informed by the same limitations to equality we currently experience.

My underlying point to these statements is of course that, women no matter their background or ability, trans* and non-gender-binary people, do actually have a right to expect their societies to reflect their lives and also to be liveable for them. This is fundamentally about changing societies, not accommodations reluctantly made by existing monolithic societies. And therein lies my fatigue around the conversation about feminism, intersectionality and equality; because this is the conversation we’re not really having. Right now we can only point directly to where minority groups lack equality, preferably in hard statistics because who can trust personal stories and experiences – who can trust one hundred (thousand) of them?

Even then, caveats are necessary to recognise that of course not everything is bad, not everyone from various groups is contributing to the harm (and isn’t that statement the crux of missing the whole point?). The moment we point to an aspect of society that needs to shift and change, the need for others to comment and derail the conversation to become about everything the conversation was not about occurs every time. I’m not the only one fatigued by that first or second comment to any discussion I initiate or participate in that requires the acknowledgement that often really does boil down to ‘#notallmen’.

Going back to the idea various individuals have that they’re not personally contributing to the harm, the most frustrating thing about this is simply that: they are. We all are in our way – that’s what it means to live in an unequal society. I am frustrated because I can never get past the defensiveness and the need for ego stroking here. It often seems impossible to get to the next point which is: we all contribute to the harm an unequal society imposes on others, but we also all have the ability to become aware of this and to contribute to changes that will result in a society that becomes more equal. And no, there is no immediate ‘do it once and you’re done’ fix. It’s incremental, it’s ongoing and glacial. It’s what we mean when we say that feminism and the fight for equality is like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon.

The challenge remains that: we’re still trying to work out how to do this. It’s like trying to ‘see air’ without changing the context under which you’re ‘seeing’ it. That’s the conversation that it seems like we’re still not *quite* having. Although my optimism is leaking through here when I say that, a conversation of that kind on a global level seems closer than ever before. But not close enough.

So here’s my toast to *all* women, all trans*, all non-gender-binary people, all those with disabilities visible and invisible, for their hard work, dedication, belief in the seemingly impossible, their trust in me and in others, their hope, their hard and thankless work to create change. Here’s my toast to the discoverers, the ground-breakers, the thinkers, creatives, performers, scientists, musicians, mathematicians, surveyors, engineers, astronomers, dreamers, artists, health professionals, carers, cleaners, parents, lovers, writers, politicians, cooks, the daring, the innocent, the cynical, the brave, the injured, the fearful, those who are struggling. Here’s to immigrants and refugees, asylum seekers and those who grab with both hands any chance for survival, to create a safer life for themselves and their families. Although we are still so far from equality, your bravery, compassion, and optimism humbles me and together I assert that a future of equality is possible, because we cannot be dissuaded and our number swells day by day.

Moving on from Becoming and 2015

It’s taken longer than I wanted to get to this point where writing was possible. But that happens sometimes and I just needed to go with it. Last week I had my annual conversation with @dilettantiquity about our theme stuff. We have a unique insight and understanding of each other in part because we are so very very different, but there are strong similarities too. I love our relationship and even if this is the only conversation we manage in a year (and recently this has been the case), it is one of the best conversations I’ll have all year. Guaranteed.

Often when we talk, it’s to sort out what maybe the year ahead will bring – a theme for the new year can sometimes be elusive. This time for us, we needed much of the time to talk through the year we’d just been through and what our 2015 enquiry had looked like at the end of things. For me, at the start of the conversation, I didn’t know at all. And then we talked it through, and it all became clearer and now, I can write about it.

First of all, I have such an appreciation for me of January 2015 writing about Becoming for the first time, being so optimistic, hopeful and determined. I love that person, she’s ace! The year I hoped for was so far from what actually happened, so many things about the aims I put forth to focus on yielded unexpected results – some involved no results at all, some were merely different, and others changed me.

Mostly what I can describe 2015 as is, a continuous grind that never, ever let up. When I wrote up my end of year meme post for my Dreamwidth journal, I was struck that there were few really big good things. There was my first baby catch back in January, and Continuum in June, getting a part time job that is actually pretty great in September so more money for the last part of the year in our budget, and Christmas with chosen family in December. They’re moderately big, big compared to everything else, but not that big.

The continual good things were my partners, especially Ral and Fox and our determination to have a good life together as a family and household. That was easier only on some days and mostly just hard because of circumstances. We worked hard at managing on one income between three of us, and that income is not an easy one because Fox is pretty much at the end of his tether with this job, but we need it and so he perseveres. Med school for Ral seems to be an unusual method of torture that tries to talk you out of something you’re passionate about, good at, really worked hard to do, and yet get there and it’s like walking on broken glass the whole time. He perseveres too amidst several difficulties, and despite being awful this year was less awful for him than last which is a win. I’m so very proud of them and I love my Bat and Fox so very much. 

Baturday Fox cub close up

We balanced focusing on making sure all the essentials were paid for first, with then afterwards trying to say yes to each other for little things and treats – a game, a cheap dinner out, a new piece of clothing/shoes/my favourite moisturiser. We also focused a lot on kindness with each other, on making home safe and a haven for each other, on being there for each other and sharing the load – being flexible with that because coping varied considerably. We did the best we could and mostly it worked, most of the time – I think that sounds like faint praise when really given everything that we dealt with, it was pretty wondrous.

So Becoming as an enquiry was less about my journey around midwifery and taking on the qualities and actions of a new qualification and career, less around personal self expression and surety. Instead, it was more about Becoming a household that is even more tightly knit, and one that makes do and works hard at that. It was about Becoming more familiar (and less) with dealing with the effects of mental illness and what that looks like as something ongoing without resorting to blame or resentment. Becoming was about making space – in that way of pouring energy into spacemaking to facilitate home, safety and care. And it was also about my Becoming a midwife and being rattled around in that journey throughout the year – it was gruelling and my confidence remains quite shaken.

Essentially this was a much more inward facing year than I’d originally anticipated – I thought it would be more outward projecting. Inwardly there was lots of digging deep for more energy, for coping, for life administration, for health matters, for mental health (mine and partners), for emotional labour, domestic management, for balancing it all. That’s mostly what I remember, constantly steeling myself and seeking to dig deeper. But I managed. We managed. We all came through it, more or less in one piece. We know that eventually it won’t be this hard and that things will be better. In the meantime, we keep digging in and doing the best we can.

Looking more specifically at aims I had or goals I wanted to achieve:

Reading, Media and Fandom

My biggest area of success last year – by far! And an expansion in scope! I already wrote my wrap up post about my reading commitments from the beginning of last year. They went really well overall. I met my overall reading goal of 75 books (although some of them were shorter). There was more diversity although not as much as I’d have liked. I joined a site as a reviewer and have been enjoying the process of reviewing ARCs – it’s a little different than simply reading for pleasure, but I enjoyed it massively and reviewed much more often than I have any other year.

From Ashes Into Light cover Beast's Garden cover Hexomancy cover

I did more tracking of my non-fiction reading for uni – in short it was a lot. I posted some of it, but unless I have the energy to comment on the things it’s just a bibliography, and while pretty, isn’t that interesting. I absolutely wowed myself with reading and reviewing 17 books for the Australian Women Writers Challenge too! I also had a huge number of books on my ‘favourites’ for the year which was awesome and I also got to write an end of year wrap up for those.

A Trifle Dead - cover The Dreamer's Pool - cover The Disappearance of Ember Crow - coverVision in Silver - cover Ancillary Sword - cover

Mythmaker coverMy favourite movies of the year included Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both movies that just… elated me on a feminist and fan level in so many ways! Is this what it looks like when you get to be the target audience?

There was also some great television that I watched, new to me but mostly not new in 2015. My favourite was Steven Universe, just everything about it in every way. Followed by Librarians and Elementary both wonderful, as was Rizzoli and Isles, Major Crimes and Castle. I’ve also finally started on Agent Carter, Supergirl and Jessica Jones and am also really enjoying Tea Leoni in Madam Secretary.

This was also the year that I got back into podcasts in a huge way! I’ve long meant to get back to listening to Galactic Suburbia regularly and they introduced me to Fangirl Happy Hour which I am so delighted with I can’t even describe. I just want to be friends with both of the hosts and talk about All The Things! Fangirl led me to Tea & Jeopardy and Rocket Talk both of which I am also enjoying immensely. Thanks to all of these I experienced the great book recommendation deluge of 2015, my current ‘to-read’ list stands at 687 at the time of writing and I think it actually doubled this year.


Shifting Shadows - cover
Cranky Ladies of History - coverPrudence - coverThe Price You Pay is Red - coverThe Long and Silent Ever After - cover The Bloody Little Slipper - cover

 

 

 

 

Midwifery

I worked so hard last year on this degree, on this new career I am pursuing. I am so passionate about it and determined. I want to be the best midwife I can be. It was a hard year, but I got really good marks overall. However, my end of semester prac didn’t work out and I have to repeat that which added a year to the degree. This meant a lighter second semester – although honestly it didn’t feel like it. The experience of needing to repeat a unit, especially given the reasons was hard to deal with and has left me really raw. The gravity of what I’m taking on continues to gr

ow inside my head and heart but I also still have the sense that I can really do this, that this is possible. I’m still really enjoying the anatomy and science aspect of things, working hard and doing well. I’m excelling in the cultural studies/sociology side of things though several of the topics were gruelling.

We dealt with hard topics termination, abortion, pregnancy loss – all of these early and late and the contextual reasoning, the medical side, the legal side, the emotional side – as carers and looking at women’s perspectives. We looked at medicines and their impact, their benefits and always the weighing of benefits against side effects. I also learned fascinating things, like the formation of an embryo and its layers, what happens in the first 2 weeks, 8 weeks of life, when congenital abnormalities are most likely to surface, why and the effects depending on what happens. We spent a lot of time on breastfeeding, but equally, as much time on choice and supporting women who don’t breastfeed. Much of the time was spent looking at all the ways in which the whole idea of how infant feeding happens in modern society is a no-win game no matter what. And my heart goes out to all women feeding their babies, however they do so because there seems no way in which it is not a loaded choice – pretty much every day. I hope I am equal to supporting and encouraging women given all of the context. We looked more deeply into pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, blood disorders other disorders and issues related to pregnancy including vaccinations, preventable diseases and their effect on pregnancy/infants and sexual health impacts.

I’m impressed with my cohort – we all work so very hard. Their dedication is as obvious as my own and I think any one of them will be amazing midwives. I do wish I wasn’t the only outward/overt feminist. It was a huge year – so much to learn, question, agree and disagree with – this is really barely skimming the surface.

Cooking

Another area of overt success – for the most part. I did a lot of cooking and mostly it was focused specifically on family meals and everyday eating. This included more concentrated effort on taking lunches to uni/work – which was mostly successful too. Having said that we did have some amazing feasts with friends over. I got to try a bunch of new recipes, added new favourites to my rotation and encouraged Fox to continue learning to cook. He had quite a stressful year so this was a very small target between us, but I think he did really well – he cooked pretty regularly and became more confident in the dishes he was able to produce. Making our own stock continued to be one of the best things for making easy food – I can only imagine how many litres of it we went through – maybe 50L ish each for chicken, beef and vegetable?

I did use more of the cookbooks I have – I cooked a little from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking, but not nearly as much as I want to. We spent a concentrated month doing a bunch of dishes from Land of Plenty by Fuscia Dunlop and that was absolutely outstanding. I’m so in love with Sichuan food! I cooked a bit from Jamie Oliver’s older books but sometimes he and I disagree on what is ‘simple’ and ‘easy’ (I’m sure I’m not alone in this). The downside of using the physical books is that it’s not as easy to put into my meal plan (a google to-do list of no frills and all awesomeness). I mean, I put the name, the title and the page in there – but it’s not as easy to click through and see if we need any last minute shopping items.

Meal planning was the big success this year, it’s one of the ways in which we got through the leanest fortnights budget wise, and still managed to eat good and interesting food. Previously Ral and Fox struggled to plan ahead food and didn’t much see the point, but seeing the difference it made to our grocery spending, and the reduction in stress because most of the decisions were already made, most of the shopping already done was pretty convincing. We fell away from it in the last couple of months of the year – but given exams, assessments and illness it’s not surprising. Also I think it’s a little different in Summer and we haven’t quite gotten the knack of it – it’s improving in the most recent iteration.

I was delighted to discover the awesomeness of Instagram (you can find me as the usual username there) and regularly photographed the meals I made. It was a delight and I’ve got such a great visual record of how much effort I put into cooking, and the joy that yielded as far as delicious eating is concerned. I spent a little of the year doing more bread-making as well as making my own creme-fraiche. I also made a batch of preserved lemons. Tiny forays into preserving, but ones I’m pleased with, and I hope to continue improving this.

Homemade Pizza with Slow Cooked Broccoli and Buffalo Mozzarella - Oct 2015 http://www.transcendancing.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Sichuan-Feast-Gung-Pow-Chicken-and-Sichuanese-Green-Beans-Nov-2015.jpg Petits Pois à la Française Redux Quinoa, Broccolini, Snowpea and Cashew Salad - Nov 2015 http://www.transcendancing.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Sichuan-Feast-Gung-Pow-Chicken-and-Sichuanese-Green-Beans-Nov-2015.jpg Fish and Chips in Summer - Dec 2015Fish and Chips in Summer - Dec 2015

Blogging

I blogged awesomely last year! I maintained my streak of ‘5 Things About Today’ posts on my Dreamwidth journal – I’m well into the 400s now! I also posted more regularly here, mostly book reviews, but I posted an update on my theme and also on meal planning/budget stuff. Plus I hosted the Down Under Feminists Carnival. I’d have liked more energy to write about feminism stuff, media stuff, and feel like I could write more about midwifery but those things needed too much energy that I just didn’t have. And there will be time again for them later. I’m proud of my efforts – I sincerely met this goal even if there were topical aspects I wanted to cover more.

Self Development

Oh this topic. This largely is what gave in the year just gone. I just didn’t have energy leftover for a bunch of this. I didn’t get my license – I was just too stressed to get over the humps. I need to get comfortable with being familiar with driving again – I’m not driving often enough at present for that. I also think I need to do a driving lesson or two on passing the test. I know I’m a competent driver, but actually doing the test is just a stress barrier I’ve noped out of several times. I still want all the things I wanted at the beginning of last year regarding having my license, but it just didn’t happen.

Unexpectedly, I ended up with a job in September! I’m doing similar stuff to what I’ve done before – content management for websites. The organisation is as far from government and public service as is possible and I’m loving it because of that. I like the perks of this style of organisation – an ad agency. They’re actively seeking to retain people so we have free drinks and snacks, a coffee cart on the floor with super cheap and amazing coffee. Plus everyone is enthusiastic and works hard – it’s actually really nice to be around. I get to feel competent and valued, plus earn money to contribute to the household! I’ve been doing that mostly part time but with chunks of full time and it may continue ad hoc throughout the year until I hit the point of study where I just don’t have a day free to do that any more – we’ll see. I’d like to keep doing it as long as possible as the extra money makes a huge difference right now. Working has meant I could replace clothes and shoes that badly needed replacing, I got a portable air-conditioner for my room – the heat sink of the house which has meant dealing with the heat this Summer just that much easier. Mostly it’s gone on groceries of the non-meal-planning kind, because that fell away when I had less time, and that too is worthwhile and a luxury.

SeClouded Leopard Close Uplf-expression and letting myself be myself. I think this took a hit this year, but there were things. I got my hair cut short and am enjoying it immensely. I replaced clothes and while my style is still a little bit all over the place, I like the clothes I have and have acquired – especially my dresses with POCKETS! I bought more things with cats on them to wear! If I was a cat, I’d be this cat.

I didn’t do dancing, yoga or Pilates, but I did do a reasonable amount of walking – not as much as I’d liked. I visited the zoo quite a lot. Sexuality largely wasn’t a priority – mostly I expect because of stress. But I love my partners and feel loved by them in return. Actually, we all had a hard year last year which seems uncanny given the number of us.

Socialising

I did manage social stuff this year, I made a concerted effort and it paid off. I felt like I still missed opportunities to enjoy time with friends and loved ones, but I also know how limited my energy was. I am grateful for the wonderful people in my life, I have the best friends both here in Melbourne and elsewhere, I treasure you all so very much.

Community stuff, it really didn’t happen – something had to give and I just noped out of this in the end. There is only so  much time and energy – I am not doing so well in having enough energy for myself and those immediate in my life, so it isn’t realistic to think I can volunteer extra time and energy. Actually, I expect this will just have to wait until I’m no longer studying.


How to conclude after all of that? An epic post if ever there was one, but I feel like in writing this I’m properly putting 2015 to rest. And that’s necessary because it’s time to embark on my theme for 2016, which is less of a clear beginning and more of a transition. But for a genuine transition to take place, there has to be reflection, evaluation, an accounting to oneself, an awareness of how far you’ve come, who you are at the end of all this and how to face forward for the future. If you’ve gotten all the way to the end of this thank you, it means a lot. Next will be the reveal of my 2016 theme, but that post is still percolating. Finally, if you’ve done any kind of new year theme, focus, word, resolution write up, please let me know – I’d love to read it. Also, if you want to do something but are not sure how, feel free to comment and ask me, I’m happy to talk about it and share thoughts.

Recent Listening

I work in an agency doing content things, it’s a dynamic place to work and is busy and quite open – very collaborative and has lots of informal space usage encouraged. I *love* this about it. I also love that most of us use headphones for when we want to get stuck into something and not engage outwardly (also useful for when the music playing is not to your taste).  That means that aside from my Pandora stations, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts. I’ve been loving this so much! So I thought I’d share what I’d happened upon recently. Feel free to tell me if you find something new you love, or if you already love these things squee with me about how amazing and wonderful they are!

The Wheeler Centre Podcasts

Walking the Walk: Next Steps Against Family Violence: Such amazing women speakers, speaking candidly and critically,  in detail about family violence and how it is so very gendered.  There was also a great question at the end about family violence that happens in non hetero- or gender- normative situations and that was well asked, and well acknowledged by the speakers I thought. The whole issue is layered and complex, it’s not as simple as any of the slogans would have us believe. At the root of it is entitlement, and that invariably almost always leads back to sociocultural norms that are taught, learned and reinforced at every turn.

The F Word: Aboriginality: I loved this podcast, it was so interesting to listen to the speakers and it is glad to see Aboriginal speakers prioritised here and having the chance to speak from their experiences about what is important to them. It’s hard to describe how this was different from what is generally a very white feminism in Australia, I don’t quite have the words, but it was there and it was awesome – more feminism like this. More everything that includes and celebrates Indigenous Australian perspectives and expertise.

Galactic Suburbia

I love this podcast and it’s the first one I ever fell in love with. I devoured three episodes recently, not quite in order as I’m saving the Tiptree Spoilerifics for when I’ve read the books (I know it’s not necessary, but it’s helpful incentive to read the books and I want to do it this way). Speculative fiction and feminism, discussed by three brilliant, articulate women. So fucking awesome. Galactic Suburbia has a Patreon campaign, maybe you’d be interested in supporting it?

126: Hugos!: All the Hugos Ceremony aftermath! I watched the twitterstream live, but not the actual livestream (I am edging my way back into awards gently). It was awesome to be on twitter and experiencing all the interaction and brilliant commentary by so many people! I loved that part of it. Also, I am really pleased about the results, and it’s gone a reasonably long way to restoring my faith in fandom for awards, which has been (a lot) lacking for a few years.

128: 2 September 2015: Interesting data thanks to work by Nicola Griffiths crunching numbers relating to awards shortlists and winners, discussions about diversity panels and how after a certain point they’re not the conversation you need to be having and putting those ‘diverse’ labelled people on – they’re the people you should be including on all the OTHER discussions, because actually, that’s what diversity genuinely looks like. Lots of smart discussion, as usual. I love it.

129: 16 September 2015: Discussion of Australian politics and the recent Spill which has given us Malcolm Turnbull as our new Prime Minister. It’s a great discussion of our political system at present and how, it’s a bit of a joke. I’m sure there was some great commentary about the ability to win elections is not an indication of competency to govern – but I’m seeing a bunch of similar commentary around in relation to our government at present so it’s all a bit blurred together. In particular listening to the politics discussion, I love that sense of knowing that I was far from alone being glued to the coverage that night. Also acknowledgement of that thing where, nothing has really changed with the change of who’s in the top job – but so many of us have *hated* Abbott for so long and so much, that seeing him gone couldn’t be anything other than a pleasant relief. Even if you wake up to something of an ongoing hangover the next day.

Fangirl Happy Hour

It’s all thanks to Galactic Suburbia that I came across Fangirl Happy Hour, but I’m so glad I did! I love Ana and Renay! They’re so great to listen to! I love their enthusiasm! I love that they have such different and similar tastes and that they support this for each other so delightfully! It’s so charming! Speculative fiction in all it’s genre awesomeness from a perspective that brings things to my attention that I am actually interested in, with recommendations that I can trust in whether I’ll like something or not. I just can’t get enough, I inhaled four episodes:

14: ALL the Recommendations: Wow! So many recommendations! It is still one of the things on my to-do list to go through the show notes and add a bunch of the things to my reading/watching list! Not the least of which is their list of 81 cool podcasts… apparently I’ve plunged deeply back into podcast listening without even trying!

15: Three Out of Five Space Bees: This was a great episode, I almost wanted to read the ‘Hawkeye’ comic (I am not a comics person at this point in time). I really enjoyed the discussion of ‘Uprooted’ which is Naomi Novik’s new book and sounds fantastic.

16: Kate Elliott: Panel Rebel: This was such a fun podcast to listen to! Kate Elliott was a marvellous guest and I am now wondering how I never read any of her stuff before – she writes right within the genre spaces that I love. So, pretty much all her books are on my to-read list now.

17: Sigourney Weavering: I felt so much for Ana in this episode – I would have been equally upset by the treatment by the staffer at the con when she was trying to find out about the photo shoot stuff. How fucking rude. I really loved the discussion in this episode about the weight of history in the fandom/umbrella genre – and how sometimes it can be nice to try and read that, but it should never be imperative. Also, sometimes you have to make your own historical touchstones, and share them – hopefully others will also appreciate them, but saying something IS like this and that X book IS quintessential and you’re not a ‘real’ fan without it, is crap. I’m not buying. I’ve still never read Asimov or Heinlein, or Clark, or a bunch of others and honestly… I probably won’t. It’s not relevant history for me – it doesn’t enhance my experience of reading in this fandom/genre umbrella.

Feminist Frequency

Today I got around to listening to the latest in Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency series about Tropes in Video Games. The most recent topic of discussion is women as reward, how that works and what it looks like, what it means in the context of gaming, designer/developer respect for women, and perpetuating and reinforcing through creating incentives out of women as objects/rewards, the sense of male entitlement that is prevalent in our patriarchal society. It’s a brilliant critique, I really loved the way she ties it all into that entitlement and how it differs in effect in gaming rather than movies, television, books or comics – the nature is the challenge, achievement and reward – interactivity and making women rewards. Not people. Rewards. Which is to say, the games make a massive assumption that gamers are pretty much cis, male, straight, and not for example women, or non-binary gendered, or queer. Anita says it much better than I do, go watch her awesome videos:

 

The Misandry Hour:

First episode just dropped of Clementine Ford’s new project and IT’S AWESOME. It’s so awesome. In case you weren’t sure, the title is a tongue in cheek poke at the whole idea and myth surrounding misandry. There is a reasonable portion of the episode devoted to addressing this idea of misandry and what it comes down to is that any cultural level hatred that any group of women could level against men, cannot bring to bear the same influence, power and social inequality experienced by women. It’s not the same playing field, and to suggest that it is, frankly is part of the problem. The guests that Clementine invites along this episode are awesome, they’re interesting to listen to and the whole conversation is in depth crunchy feminism – it’s confronting and uncomfortable in places about our individual thinking processes, our own conditioning and how we engage and why. I didn’t know that I was desperate for this until I listened to it, but wow, it was so very much what I needed. This podcast is the product of a Patreon campaign for the express purpose of valuing women’s work and time, so maybe consider supporting it if you’d like?

Presenting the 88th Down Under Feminists Carnival

DUFC LogoGreetings all! I have sumptuous carnival for you to feast upon this month! You may remember that I said this month I was running with a theme where I wanted to do a retrospective of past DUFC posts, and posts from previous months and years that might have been missed. People have been so generous in their submissions to me both for this current month and the retrospective and I’m humbled and delighted. And now, onto the feast!

 

DUFC Retrospective

Chally of Zero at the Bone wrote in 2012 about working towards the positive and how feminism shaped her view to think of people individually and to try and avoid assumptions as well as being more conscious of people’s boundaries.

Shae of Free Range in Suburbia blogged in 2014 this great post titled Live Louder where she talks about the trolls that try to bring her down and that she’s actually enjoying being a happy person, raising her kids and being herself fully. Love it!

In 2011 Bluebec wrote about Islamaphobia, prejudice, and discrimination faced by Muslim people in the US at the time, it seems rather timely to share her post How to radicalise your population now.

From Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town in 2007, Parenting While Female: “It’s not about you”, on breastfeeding in public and the default male gaze.

Earlier this year, Stephanie of No Award wrote about China through the looking glass about the way Western approval for fashion, design and success is apparently necessary. This post is also about how Western interpretations of certain Chinese fashion particularly period pieces can be appropriative and offensive. The best bit: Stephanie highlights the work of some Chinese designers and wow, their designs are gorgeous!

From Bluemilk in 2010, a post looking at rape and responsibility: ‘But why shouldn’t she take some responsibility too for the rape?’ This post is powerful, it’s written to be confrontational, to paint a crude comparison that absolutely covers all the standard arguments for why women should take *more* responsibility, only when you change that context only slightly and place a man in that same similar kind of situation, it no longer makes sense that he too is to blame. Moral of the story: women need to take *less* responsibility, not more.

Deborah from A Bee of a Certain Age wrote in 2013 some pointed remarks about research and the pregnancy police and our tendency to infantalise pregnant women.

In February, Emily of Mama Said wrote about this idea that as a parent you’re supposed to be grateful *all the time* when sometimes it’s actually perfectly reasonable to want your own bed to yourself. Especially if that’s not likely to happen.

Earlier this year Liz from No Award wrote about Melbourne and Chinese Pirates courtesy of The Argus, once Melbourne’s premier newspaper which has apparently since been digitised for all of you whom are interested in history.

Also 2011 by Bluebec is this post Dan Savage is still biphobic – I’m sure he means well but given the authority with which he speaks after all this time, it’s not really good enough by a long shot.

An extended transcript of Scarlett Harris’ interview with The Sex Myth author Rachel Hills,  originally featured in last month’s carnival (all very good links if you missed it).

Chally at Zero at the Bone in 2012 wrote about Nourishment and how food can bring us joy and connection, it’s not about being a good person or about denying and punishing yourself.

I love this semi-satirical post from Emily at Mama Said from July this year about how getting your baby to sleep. It’s all the things that you’re told from experts, and from every other parent and a few other things besides, it’s a spectacular rant, enjoy it and feel vindicated as needed.

No Award’s Stephanie on her own site back in 2014 about Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: Feminist Ghosts and Monstrous Women of Asia, in Stephanie’s own words: “8000 words on the monstrous women of Asia, feminism, and colonialism”.

This 2014 repost from Bluemilk, her Meanjin piece,  is a beautiful reflective piece on reading and re-reading, on consideration of the self in situations and moving forward.

In 2013, Stephanie from No Award wrote about solidarity for white women and the (white) face of aUStralian feminism regarding interracial narratives and Australia. This is particularly in relation to Australian consumption of US media amongst other things. There’s no perfect way to be across everything, but as always it’s important for us to examine what we’re consuming and why. There are some great links in this post.

And finally, one last piece from Bluebec, The legacy we leave, on sheltering our children from the hatefulness in the world – not from all knowledge of, but the hatefulness itself in the hope that we do not pass this along to them, that they may be better than us.

In May this year, Kate Iselin wrote for Kill Your Darlings about that catch all phrase ‘women’s interests’ which signals to us as always that men’s interests are the public interest and that anyone else remains ‘other’.

Back in 2011 Chally of Zero at the Bone wrote about when resistance looks like capitulation, talking about this idea of the feminine and not refusing it altogether, but making it optional, being able to play with it. Honestly I’m a fan of any post that quotes Luce Irigaray…

Also from Liz of No Award and earlier this year, was this excellent post about attending the #loveOzYA event as someone passionately invested in Australian YA books.

In 2012, Blue Milk wrote a piece on 10 rules for women blogging about their relationship woes. It’s a little bit depressing how relevant these ‘rules’ remain today.

A momentary break if you will, for my favourite cute kitten picture:

Fluffiest grey kitten, cleaning his paws. Text: 'Here we see a tiny wigglefloof cleaning his tiny squishbeans'

 

 

 

And now a varied selection of headings under which the rest of our carnival resides.

 

 

Connection and Community

Brocklesnitch writes about how sharing of news when someone has died has changed, how you can seem to map the spread of the news through people’s reactions across different modes of social media, and how it’s unique and important and helps in its own way.

Deirdre Fidge writes for ABC’s The Drum about introversion and stereotypes, how it doesn’t always look like cats, naps and social stress.

Anna writes on Hoyden About Town calling for a brainstorming session on organising a festival to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, apparently the 300th anniversary coincided with the first ANZAC celebration but so far nothing is planned for this centenary.

 

Race and Racism

TigTog from Hoyden About Town posted a media circus about the use of Vegemite for brewing alcohol, pointing out that at best it’s incorrect and misguided and worst, is old fashioned racism. No points for guessing which localities would be affected by a ‘crackdown’ on shelves of Vegemite.

Writing in Water is a New Zealander living in the United States and writes about what New Zealand can learn from the United States about confronting racism. Writing in Water is a new voice to the carnival and very welcome.

Stephanie of No Award writes about fantasy worlds and real world commentary and how while she’d love to see less white-centric landscapes used in fantasy, she also doesn’t want to see non-white landscapes reduced to stereotypes or used to judge from an outside perspective.

A guest post from Daniel Jack on Celeste Liddle’s blog Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist talks about Adam Goodes and the racism that shows its ugly face when he dared to show his pride in his Aboriginal heritage, while also drawing attention to issues faced by Aboriginal people in Australia.

 

Marriage Equality

In Daily Life, Ali Benton looks at the personal cost to her family with the delay on marriage equality and the way in which Australian politics has generally handled the issue in recent years.

No Place For Sheep writes about the hypocrisy of Abbott saying that the same-sex marriage debate is a deeply personal issue, but then declined to allow Coalition MPs the opportunity for a conscience vote.

Rebecca Shaw writes for Crikey about how the blocking of marriage equality is frustrating, hurtful, incredibly exhausting and deeply personal.

Cristy Clark writes about the spurious arguments against marriage equality including our old favourite ‘won’t somebody think of the children?!’

Celeste Liddle of Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist writes about the Uluru Bark Petition how incensed she was that a small group of Aboriginal people who do not support marriage equality, claim to speak for all Arrernte people in this matter and how they do not speak for her.  (This post is equal parts about marriage equality and racism but since the racism is reflected in response to marriage equality, I’ve placed it here in the carnival.)

Bluebec wrote about marriage equality in Australia and in particular about the five hour meeting held by The Liberal Party on whether to allow a Party conscience vote. It took five hours to decide to maintain the same position (a decision that surprised exactly no one).

Sarah Johnson writes for The Conversation about how a constitutional referendum is a ‘Hail Mary’ for those opposed to same-sex marriage.

Luddite Journo writes for The Hand Mirror about biphobia and Radio New Zealand on the subject of marriage equality. Bi-erasure continues to be a thing all over the place I’ve noticed, it gets so tiresome.

 

Gaby Baby Outcry

Maeve Marsden writes for Daily Life about being a ‘gaby baby’ and how her family is normal in response to the homophobic backlash against the Gaby Baby film which portrays same-sex families and is being screened across Australia as part of Wear it Purple Day.

Rebecca Shaw writes for The Age about how following the homophobic reaction to ‘Gaby Baby’ in NSW that tolerance is no longer the benchmark, and instead the LGBTIQA now requires acceptance. The time has past where society simply must ‘put up with’ queer people, they (we) are fully fledged members of society and should be included and treated as such.

 

Motherhood, Maternity and Childcare

Emily of Mama Said writes about how she’s saying no to experts because while it may be that as a parent she wants to do everything possible to do the best for her kids, no one knows them like she does and she doesn’t need a $150 consultation about how to love them and raise them better, she’s already doing an amazing job.

@datakid23 and @solovii wrote for Open Knowledge Foundation about childcare at Govhack and how it got done.  So awesome!

Andie Fox (of Blue Milk) writes for Essential Baby trying to answer a range of common questions about extended breastfeeding. The post is personal, candid, honest and insightful about the topic.

Emily of Mama Said wrote this beautiful and insightful post about dealing with prenatal depression, there’s a content note for this as it’s dealing with anxiety and depression which may be triggering for some.

This anonymous guest post on Mama Said is sharp and to the point about being a lesbian parent and all the awful ways in which people assume they have the right to ask questions including and perhaps especially, offensive ones.

Blue Milk writes about conversations with children, different snippets and moments that are so lovely when shared. I love posts like these, they always make me smile.

Also about conversations with children, Emily of Mama Said writes about her two year old and the dreaded why stage – this too is lovely to read.

 

Media Reflections

Jo from A Life Unexamined talks about her love for Legend of Korra and how glad she is that the way the show created the relationship between Korra and Asami left things open to interpretation and specifically didn’t push things in an obvious romantic direction.

Alayna Cole writes for Marianne de Pierres blog (there are many worthy reviews of all kinds of stuff here) reviewing Far from the Madding Crowd. Although the movie promises feminist themes, it instead overtly signals independence and empowerment without ever actually exploring or delivering on these elements. This review is insightful and highlights a common issue that happens when popular media tries to assert itself as feminist or diverse but doesn’t really deliver and seems surprised when people react as such.

Stephanie of No Award writes about The Prison Island of Sodor and how Thomas the Tank Engine is not nearly as innocent as we might have supposed. This is a brilliant post exposing the creepiness of a children’s television show with a dystopian flair.

Anwen Crawford writes in Kill Your Darlings about how the experience of watching television  has changed dramatically for many of us – once a central and often social activity, it can now also be a private personal experience streaming directly to our laptops. She talks about how sometimes by screen light you can feel less alone.

Liz writes about No Award watching Glitch, which is apparently not bad, and even quite good in parts and involves dead people, a love triangle, the good of the people, a gothic Australian small town setting and all of the eye rolling that is Australia being afraid of media and the supernatural.

 

Women, Feminism and Meta

This post on comfortable misogyny by Kari Sperring is a special inclusion. This post is not a post from an Australian or New Zealand blogger, or from someone living elsewhere and is originally from around here. However, it is a post that speaks to an experience that is familiar to me, and familiar to many of the women around me in Science Fiction and Fantasy/Speculative Fiction circles. It’s about the insidious aspect of misogyny and the fatigue that goes along with trying to fight against it year after year.

Jemma from stuff.co.nz writes about the importance of normalising swearing for women as it is wrongly seen as the purview of men and that being a woman, credible, delightful and other things as well as swearing isn’t possible. I’m with Jemma because quite frankly, fuck that. (Fuck remains one of my favourite words to say).

Deborah from A Bee of a Certain Age spoke to Radio NZ’s The Panel talking about how what really matters is what a woman looks like.  Jacinda Ardern, a highly regarded New Zealand MP was described as a “pretty little thing” on national TV.

Brocklesnitch writes this awesome succinct post about don’ts and do’s – the list of things we’re not supposed to do grows ever longer and an awesome response to that.

Also from Deborah of A Bee of a Certain Age is this discussion of diversity in prime time and how representation on prime time television and radio is very white, very male, and very middle class.

Stephanie of No Award writes about the role models of No Award, this is a little bit irreverent but there are some marvellous examples here to appreciate.

Kasey Edwards writes for Daily Life talking to a Melbourne based beauty therapist and the most sexist requests for beauty treatments, and how those often come from male partners and are accompanied by a distinct lack of respect, sense of entitlement with the desire to control women’s behaviour.

Scarlett Harris wrote In Defence of Cosmopolitan in the wake of the magazine being put behind blinders in some U.S. drug and department stores.

Georgina Dent writes for Women’s Agenda about Mark Latham’s resignation from the Australian Financial Review amid ‘controversy’ and how this victory is hollow.

Bluebec writes about mortality, not dying but also being aware of not being afraid of dying.

Fat Heffalump writes about how there are always experts, experts everywhere and they all have an opinion on others’ health.

 

Disability

Sonia writes for the ABC on Open Drum talking about career in transit and the difficulty in commuting and with transport generally if you have a disability and getting to work. This is an insightful piece and it highlights something often overlooked: the energy cost of travel that may be what makes employment difficult or impossible for some people, but that assistance and support for those who need it is limited.

Also on accessibility to transportation is this article from The Standard by Rachel Houlihan about how disability advocate Jax Jacki Brown was left hanging by V-Line after planning ahead for accessible train travel to Warnambool failed to eventuate and ended in an offer of a taxi. This was not the solution it pretended to be.

 

Politics

Over at The Hand Mirror, Julie is starting a series of posts encouraging women to run for local government in 2016 in New Zealand. The point is not only getting involved in your community, but working to make a difference and increasing diverse representation in local government.

No Place For Sheep writes about the bias and ethics  scandal surrounding Dyson Heydon as head of the Royal Commission investigating trade unions and with them the Labor Party. Impartiality and ethical integrity appear to be concepts unfamiliar to Hedon or his supporters which include Abbott, Pyne and Brandis.

Also from No Place For Sheep is a great piece on government by distraction, The post criticises the failed Operation Fortitude where it was proposed that the Australian Border Force would saturate Melbourne CBD asking people ‘randomly’ for their identification paperwork seeking to specifically catch out visa offenders.

 

Violence Against Women

Please note that there is a content warning with this topic as it may be triggering for some people.

This month I wrote about domestic violence after my student midwife lectures on the subject stirred up a bunch of memories and feelings. Domestic violence is such a huge issue in our current society – for everyone and I don’t understand why we’re doing so little do change that.

No Place For Sheep wrote about domestic violence and the bourgeoisie, criticising commentary on the issue by Martin McKenzie-Murray and Mark Latham where they deny that domestic violence is an issue that affects women across all backgrounds, race, religion, age, socioeconomic status, and so on.

Rosie Batty writes from her blog at Never Alone about attending the Royal Commission on Family Violence in Victoria recently and how cultural change around this issue is imperative.

 

Books, Reading, Writing, and Reviews

On the 24th of October in Canberra, Marianne de Pierres is running a Writing Masterclass, it’s a paid event with concession prices available and bookings are necessary. The class will include how to address some of the key issues in writing speculative fiction, including how to build convincing worlds, maintain narrative drive, and effectively blend sub-genres. Perhaps seems like an advert, but part of feminism is maintaining that women should be paid for their work and their expertise and in the spirit of that understanding, sharing this opportunity to work with such an experienced author seems relevant.

Alex of Randomly Yours, reviews Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway describing a story of those who’ve come back from fairyland and wish they hadn’t. This story features a boarding school, a murder, explorations of trust and insecurity and characters who are not all heteronormative. Hopefully this review makes you want to read this novella too – I’m certainly hooked!

Another book review by Alex that I thought might be of interest is a review of Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti. This book is of an entire planet as a university with a story about a character whose parents don’t want her to go and study there. I’m really intrigued by Alex’s description of the world and it’s depth, not to mention this author has been on my to-read list for a long time.

I wrote two book reviews  this month for books that I highly recommend. Firstly I reviewed Nalo Hopkinson’s ‘Falling in Love with Hominids’ which was such a pleasure to read. It’s my first time reading Hopkinson and I can’t wait to read more! Secondly, I reviewed ‘Cranky Ladies of History’ edited by Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner Roberts, which I am also proud to have helped crowdfund. It’s a gorgeous collection of stories about women worth remembering and appreciating, women who’ve been hard done by historical record keeping.

Stephanie of No Award wrote up a great post reviewing a bunch of anthologies including Phantazein by small press Fablecroft and Eat the Sky Drink the Ocean by Allen and Unwin, and Dead Sea Fruit a collection by Kaaron Warren that is great food for thought.

Bluebec wrote up two reviews which are of interest, the first a post-apocalyptic review of Coda by Emma Trevayne and another post-apocalyptic review, this time of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley.

 

James Tiptree Jr.

There were a couple of posts about Alice Sheldon’s 100th birthday this month which coincided with a small press release honouring her alter ego James Tiptree Jr, so I’ve put these posts together in their own category.

Firstly Laurdehel from Hoyden About Town talks about her delight about the release of ‘Letters to Tiptree’, it’s a great overview of the book.

Secondly, Alex of Randomly Yours, Alex, one of the editors for the book has also blogged about the book and has shared several other links that may be of interest, including a selection of the letters published in the book that are freely available as a taste test.

And finally, Tansy of tansyrr.com shares her appreciation for Alice Sheldon’s other alter ego Raccoona Sheldon as part of her ‘Women of the 20th Century’ series.

Many thanks go to Chally of Zero at the Bone for her ongoing coordination of the Down Under Feminist Carnival. Maybe you’d be interested in hosting a carnival? It’s easy and people send you lots of links, plus new voices bring other new voices to the conversation which is always awesome. If you’re interested, you can contact Chally via the Down Under Feminist Carnival site. The Eighty-Ninth Edition is planned for 5 October, 2015 hosted by Rebecca at at Opinions @ bluebec.com. Submissions to rebecca [dot] dominguez [at] gmail [dot] com.

Review: Cranky Ladies of History, anthology edited by Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner-Roberts

Cranky Ladies of History - coverReview for Reviews Sake

Title: Cranky Ladies of History

Editors: Tehani Wessely and Tansy Rayner-Roberts

Publisher and Year: Fablecroft Publishing, 2015

Genre: Historical fiction, speculative fiction, literary fiction

 

Blurb from Goodreads:

Warriors, pirates, murderers and queens…

Throughout history, women from all walks of life have had good reason to be cranky. Some of our most memorable historical figures were outspoken, dramatic, brave, feisty, rebellious and downright ornery.

Cranky Ladies of History is a celebration of 22 women who challenged conventional wisdom about appropriate female behaviour, from the ancient world all the way through to the twentieth century. Some of our protagonists are infamous and iconic, while others have been all but forgotten under the heavy weight of history.

Sometimes you have to break the rules before the rules break you.

My review:

I love living in the future! To have the privilege of participating in the funding of a book to really get behind books I want to see in print, to demonstrate with my frugal spending what I really want to read. I am proudly one of those who backed the Pozible campaign that was responsible for funding this book. What an extraordinary time in publishing, to be a reader and hooked into communities and networks!  I funded at the level where I received a gorgeous hardcover book, and I have to compliment Kathleen Jennings on her gorgeous cover and internal illustrations. From first glance at the cover you can see what this book is about, what kind of stories about ladies it tells, and it whets your appetite marvellously.

Historical fiction is one of those things I dabble in, historical non-fiction I just haven’t done remotely enough reading of. But there was no way I could resist an anthology like this that highlights the interesting lives of historical women, imagining how they lived, what they thought and looking at the impact they made – not always for the greater good. And that too is a strength of this anthology, it features all kinds of cranky ladies, from those who seek to improve the moral good, to those who are remembered with horror and fear, daring women, wronged women, women I’ve heard of and those who are brand new to me. This book is both a pleasure to read, and gives you some small insight into the historical significance of several women, mostly those who are forgotten by modern history. It’s not that the book is educational exactly, but it does make you want to learn more, to study these women and their lives.

Stories that particularly resonated with me, and it was hard to pick just a few I promise:

Bright Moon by Foz Meadows:

A woman who is determined not to submit to any man unless he can best her in wrestling, and because she is so fierce and talented, she wins thousands of horses from them as they fail to beat her. I love Khutulun’s fierce spirit and that she is herself and doesn’t have to hide from her father, that he supports her even if he is surprised by her declarations and strength of character. It’s these two things, her strength and his love that really resonated for me in this story.

Due Care and Attention by Sylvia Kelso:

I love the writing tone of this story, it plays in my mind almost as though I’m watching an episode of period drama like ‘Call the Midwife’ or ‘Downton Abbey’ or similar. I love Lilian’s dedication to medicine and care, and reading about the early use of cars in Brisbane was really interesting – particularly including the Royal Automobile Club. I loved in particular her discovery about the water treatment for burns. The whole story was just gorgeous, I’d read a whole novel about Lilian, absolutely.

Hallowed Ground by Juliet Marillier:

What a gorgeous story of piety, commitment and activism. Sister Hildegard has such quiet strength and Marillier’s writing truly brings her to life. I love the quiet opposition, the use of letters and negotiation with logic that Sister Hildegard uses. I love that although she has visions that the story isn’t really centred around them but about her own perseverance in developing her virtues. Trying to better oneself, trying to better the world around you. Such a beautiful story.

The Dragon, The Terror, The Sea by Stephanie Lai:

The storytelling voice in this story is unique, it’s different and I found that unlike most of the other stories which I read in a single sitting, this one I savoured over several sittings because each word and sentence seemed to be so layered. I loved the character of the Dragon, that she was so ruthless and yet operated within her own rules. I love that she had family, children and that this clearly didn’t stop her being both terrifying and powerful. This was one of the stand out stories in the anthology for me.

The Company of Women by Garth Nix:

Another favourite from the anthology, Nix’s story captivated me. I love the mythology behind this story and that Lady Godiva was a saviour in partnership with the bees. I loved the way the story was centred around women’s business in tending the bees, that became the saving of everyone else. This was a perfect short story for me – completely self contained, gave me every satisfaction and left me content.

Charmed Life by Joyce Ching

Queerness and silk discovery, choosing love over a certain kind of elevation into prosperity/wealth/power. This story was sweetness, it was delightful, and I loved that Leizu got to be with her lady love and that nothing tragic happened. Maybe it was different in history, but I’m in love with this story where the story ends on such a perfect note.

The Pasha, The Girl And The Dagger by Havva Murat

Strength and determination, proving one self to be just as good as the men who never had to question why they didn’t get to be the best and brightest. Earning the approval of one’s father. Trying to hold out against invasion, this story has everything – as I read the words, it seemed like an action movie was playing in my head! Nora reminds me of every young heroine I’ve read and loved, through this story and seeing her grow into a powerful young woman who seeks to prove herself and be recognised for her strength is so satisfying. I love that she’s hungry for battle, a little bloodthirsty and is full of valour and courage.

Mary, Mary by Kirsten McDermott 

The way this story begins with death, with familiarity and the Grey Lady is so intriguing! I’m not very familiar with the story of both of the Marys, both Shelley and Wollstonecraft but I loved reading about them both through Wollstonecraft’s eyes. I’ve always enjoyed stories that explore companionship of a supernatural kind that is not really of the ‘real’ world, the Grey Lady is a mysterious but compelling such companion and I loved the unfolding of her relationship with Mary. So much to love about this story!

Look How Cold My Hands Are by Deborah Biancotti

I’m not a horror reader, it’s fair to say that I go out of my way to avoid it. So I can’t say that I liked or loved this story, but it did resonate with me strongly. And I think it was so important to include this story in amongst the others in the book, stories of cranky ladies where their motives aren’t pure, they aren’t good people, because these women too are part of history, have been forgotten and their impacts largely unwritten and untold. A story of Countess Bathory, one of the most notorious serial killers in history, and especially as a female  serial killer is a good example of this. Other than the fact that she murdered countless other women, what do we know of her life, her reasons, what really happened? Not much. Needless to say this story left me chilled and I needed a unicorn chaser (or three) after it.

All in all, this anthology is *glorious*!

 

DUFC Retrospective – Call for submissions for the 88th Down Under Feminists Carnival

DUFC LogoI’m proud to be hosting the 88th Down Under Feminist Carnival, to be posted in the early days of September 2015. I wasn’t planning on a theme this time, and then one jumped up and bit me!

It occurs to me that it might be a good time to take a look at some past DUFC posts, or things that were previously missed. A retrospective, or redux if you will. I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who have favourite posts from some time back, now would be a great time to remind people about them. Send me past favourites or things you remember fondly, things that are still applicable now from when they were written.   (This theme idea brought to you by my cleaning up my Pinboard tags…)

So here’s my call for submissions. Send me awesome Australian and New Zealand feminist blogger content written any time in August or a retrospective post! You can send me something someone else has written, but please also consider writing something and sending it to me – I really want to read it! You can leave a comment here with a link and some details or email me transcendancing [at] gmail [dot] com.

I enjoy hosting the carnival a whole lot, it’s really rewarding. There is a need for some additional people to host the carnival from October onwards – if you’re interested, leave a comment here or you can email the coordinator Chally directly: chally.zeroatthebone [at] gmail [dot] com. Hosting is not difficult, you get to read some awesome stuff and there’s lots of support.

Any questions? Leave a comment or email me – happy August blogging!

Update on Becoming

Back in February I revealed that my theme for 2015 was Becoming. It was a thoughtful post – one I spent a week or two thinking on before writing because it was all about being in-between, in the middle, in process, a work in progress… how do you look at that? How do you embrace that? What does it look like if you’re setting up a year long enquiry on that?.

Reflecting on where I am at  half way through the year (just over), things are pretty well aligned with the goals I set out as part of my original post on Becoming. However, the year has been anything but smooth sailing – it’s been more like climbing a cliff with my bare hands, without a safety net. The year has been raw and intense, brutal in places. It’s also been wonderful in places too… but I’ve had to deliberately focus on that at times because it’s seemed a bit sparse.

So where am I at with my list?

Reading

Currently I’m at 29/75 books for my Goodreads Reading Challenge, 11 books behind schedule. I anticipate being able to catch up given that next semester’s schedule is much lighter given that I’m going to a half study load. Looking at the books I’ve read so far, nothing meets my goals for reading more diversely yet, so I need to make a plan around that because it’s an important part of my reading goals for this year. I’ve posted twice with regard to my academic reading, one on administration of blood products and one for assignment reading. So far I’ve done very little that’s been over and above what’s required by my units, but wow has it been an intense semester so I’m okay with this. I’ve read and reviewed one book for the Escape Club YA Bookclub, ‘Pawn’ by Aimee Carter.  I’ve also read 3/6 books I plan to for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and I’ve written up reviews for all of them: Tara Sharp Series by Marianne Delacourt.

So far, so good as far as reading goes. Still a ways to go, particularly for some of the more important intentional goals.

 

Midwifery

I had a setback in that I wasn’t able to pass my prac this semester – which means I have to redo it next year, and that will extend my studies by a year. That’s the downside (and all the mess surrounding it). The upside is, a less intense schedule, the ability to study half time and concentrate on those units I am doing, which might also afford me the opportunity to actually do some paid work, which would make a huge difference to our tiny budget. I can say that I have done my very best at every moment. I’ve dedicated myself to connection, to woman-centred care and evaluating the evidence for practice, and I feel like even in just six months, I’ve come a long way. We’ve started looking at more complex pregnancy and birth, at ethical practice and what’s involved in that, there’s a lot to consider here. I’m still enjoying learning so much about the anatomy and physiology of humans, particularly around pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period. There’s so many interesting changes that go on! I am still dedicated to doing this job I’m training for, I want to be the best midwife I can be.

 

Cooking

Well! Cooking has continued and I’m still enjoying it a lot. Some days I will admit it’s a little like a chore and I struggle a bit more – but I’ve also tried to put in place things that combat that and make it easier. I’m still doing lots of easy weeknight type meals, this year has been so full on that I haven’t had much energy for more in depth special occasion cooking. Also, that tends to be beyond the budget more often than not. I still want to go through some of my cookbooks and do some concentrated cooking from them, but I’ve not really managed that yet.

One of my big wins has been doing more meal planning for a fortnight at a time – it’s been fun to plan out what I’d like to cook and some of the best results are in the savings on groceries which is fantastic! Also, it’s nice knowing I’ve already done a lot of the deciding and I just have to pick something from the list based on the stuff we have in the fridge/cupboard. I’ve blogged about the two proper meal plans I’ve done so far if you’re interested, one for a fortnight in May, one for this fortnight in July.

However, as far as achievements go, I have managed to get into the habit of regularly photographing my food I’ve cooked! My friend Pia is responsible for this as she sold me on Instagram (same username as usual) which I’d been avoiding. I love it! It’s so easy and I am loving it as a low key, low effort/engagement social network. Also it connects to all the other things and I love the easy sharing options.

I’m still making my own stock, due to make a batch of both chicken and beef stock – but the last time I made it was in January some time I think? Maybe December… So it’s lasted wonderfully! I’ve recently visited my friend Skud and been inspired by her home cooking and preserving endeavours, so I am hoping to try and gradually increase the amount of stuff I do in that area mindfully. Even if I only add one preserving effort this year, I’ll be happy – hopefully preserved lemons as they seem easy to do. As we speak I’m working on fermenting my own starter, and today I made bread again for the first time this year – a yeast bread because of the lack of sourdough starter, but it worked beautifully.

Some pictures of recent food I’ve cooked:

Alice Medrich's Best Cocoa Brownies

Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies

Curried Satay Chicken with Noodle Medley

Curried Satay Chicken with Noodle Medley

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani

Kasundi and Coriander Egg Scramble

Kasundi and Coriander Egg Scramble

Balsamic Glazed Lamb Shanks with Julia Childs' Garlic Mash

Balsamic Glazed Lamb Shanks with Julia Childs’ Garlic Mash

Quick Yeast Bread

Quick Yeast Bread

Shakshuka on CousCous

Shakshuka on CousCous

Blogging

I’m still doing my ‘5 things about today’ posts, nearly 300! So close to doing a whole year of posts! I’ve managed to post a bit more regularly here, but not as much as I would have liked, I’d still like to do that more, but I’m not sure what that looks like. Work in progress and I’m happy with it.

The only thing that’s a bit up in the air is blogging about midwifery stuff, it’s been impressed upon us that we shouldn’t be talking about stuff generally speaking – the thought is that it’s too easy to say too much somehow. The problem is that… I don’t think secrecy about our profession does any good as far as community level health promotion goes and advocating for better practices and systems of support and care for people. How does that happen if no one knows what’s really going on, what’s there to be discussed, agreed and disagreed with? In any case, I’m feeling a bit concerned about discussing stuff critically so I’m not likely to do it for the moment.

 

Self Development

License… it’s still something I have to do. The year has been so intense, there’s been so much that has happened and it’s been one thing after another. I will get this done. Urgh.

Job stuff is looking more positive though, especially given I’ll be studying half time from now on. I interviewed for a potential job a couple of weeks and I should hear soon if there’s work for me – I liked the organisation and it’s in the line of work I used to do so there’s potential for a decent income even at part time hours. Plus, getting to feel useful and like I’m contributing financially – a win for mental health and for our budget.

As far as being ‘me’ goes, I feel like this year hasn’t left me much room to do much more than… react I guess. I’ve been myself but it’s been a me largely under stress, or recovering or staving off crisis. Honestly it’s sucked even if I’ve managed to come through it intact so far.

I will say that one of the best things this year about being myself and getting to really feel at home in that was getting to go to Continuum 11. That was possible because of a dear friend of mine and words fail to express my gratitude. I got to see so many people I’ve missed so much! Spending time and soaking up amazing women being awesome at their stuff. Listening to them speak and admiring them, it was awesome. I played games, had conversations, got hugs, shared time and felt at home. For the first time I felt like Continuum was *my* convention – that’s been Swancon for so long and I’ve missed it so much. It’s welcome to me that the convention in my state now feels like ‘home’ to me.

 

Socialising

I’ve been better at this so far this year. Even with things being kind of hard and stressful fairly constantly I’ve managed to be more social. I’ve hosted people for dinner and I’ve been better at making time to visit people I went to a party, and I spent a few days away with another friend who lives out of Melbourne. So it’s improving… well, sparingly. But I have worked at it, and I expect it will be a bit easier this coming semester, again because of studying half time. I’m hopeful.

Community stuff is still something I’d like to be better with but I’m still unsure how it will come about. I have made it to a couple of Poly Vic things and I will continue trying to do that. I am unsure about volunteering for this Continuum committee as I only know one person on there. but maybe that’s a reason to do so as well…  Greens stuff and CWA stuff is still attractive but might take more energy than I have to give at present so it’s a bit up in the air. Sometimes I wish I was a bit more like the people I admire who seem to have energy for All The Things. I do the best I can.

 

All in all, it’s been a hard year so far, one that’s been trying and has tested what little resilience I’ve had. I’m grateful for the people around me, for my partners, my friends, chosen family. I couldn’t get through all this without you and your time, care and quiet support means the world to me. I’ll get through this and I’ll get on top of things – you’ll see. I’m determined! In the meantime, not only will I continue to work hard on my study, but I will also concentrate on taking the best care of myself that I can, and building on things that add to the quality of my life – who I am and what I’m doing in the world.

I had thought that this year was about ‘becoming’ in the sense of becoming a midwife – but I actually think it’s more than that. I think that it’s ‘becoming’ also in the sense of who I am as a person and who I am growing into. That’s a both terrifying and exciting really but… I have faith in myself, fundamentally so I’m just going to see where this enquiry leads. Here’s to the rest of the year ahead, may it be gentler but remain a learning experience that is fulfilling, generous in all that lifts me up and sparing in further harsh lessons.

We’re not so different: vulnerability and #gamergate

What is it about vulnerability that is so frightening to our society, that we fear the sharing of, the revelation of our vulnerability? What is it that has our hearing, our speaking, our listening slide over vulnerability as though some social faux pas has been committed? What is it about vulnerability that renders it invisible except in some circumstances where sharing and expressing vulnerability is signalled as okay?

To give examples, Robin William’s suicide is an excellent example of socially sanctioned visibility of vulnerability.  The outpouring of grief around William’s death was massive, worldwide people expressing their shock and anguish at his loss. The collective shared outpouring in news and across social media is partly how this expression of vulnerability is approved. However, there are other situations where expressing vulnerability is definitely not socially sanctioned. The expression of vulnerability around the experiences of women online in relation abuse and harassment is considered to be complaining or ‘playing the gender card’. For example, the entire #gamergate fiasco continues to operate as an online cesspool of harassment and abuse toward women in gaming, whether they are gamers, developers, journalists, or critics. The reaction of women who have experienced this abuse, particularly if they express their fear and distress at the threats they’ve received has been very clearly signalled as not okay.

The difference between socially sanctioned and condemned vulnerability is obvious. Women who in any way spoke out about, commented on, questioned or condemned #gamergate received massive and severe backlash – there were death and rape threats, personal data was revealed in conjunction with threats. This is dramatically different to the way in which people responded to Robin Williams, where they talked about mental illness, about the blackness and despair of chronic depression, of hiding it and about the struggle to ask for help, to find help that was useful or rebuild lives after tragedy. It was all very moving and for several days, even a couple of weeks, there was an outpouring of sensitivity and awareness on issues related to William’s death usually reserved for specific awareness days.

It occurred to me that there was something worth writing about when I was engaging in some discussion on Facebook about feminism and about #gamergate in particular. I would comment on a post – or I would post on my timeline and there’d be discussion. Each time I remember that feeling where I hit ‘submit’ and the pit of my stomach would just drop and I’d experience a sharp spike of pure fear. And then I posted about it – about having the fear and knowing that it would probably be fine, but being afraid anyway. I talked about being afraid even though the discussions were happening largely in spaces where I can reasonably expect people to treat me well.

And an interesting thing happened in response to my emotive posts, my expressing the vulnerability around engaging in feminist discussion – particularly around #gamergate and in light of everything that had happened with it. The people around me, particularly those who are also outspoken feminists understood what I posted and responded with empathy and care. Some commenters provided advice on how I should handle things or not take things personally and I made a point to explain what I was doing and why. Some people suggested I shouldn’t really engage in the conversations if they were upsetting.

Meanwhile in the discussions I was having, things were progressing well (for me, I remember a friend was simultaneously having the worst of experiences of this kind) and there was minimal condescension or over-explaining. There was a lot of misunderstanding about the subject and how it relates to all of us who are invested in this discussion about #gamergate, feminism and women in these arenas.  The common ones you may already be familiar with – that it really is or could be about ethics in journalism, or, that it’s just a small group of people making a bad name for everyone else and it’s not that big a problem, and my favourite, that it’s political and groups, websites, events etc need to stay out of political debate. Mostly the non-feminist gamers on my friends list didn’t really consider #gamergate to be a problem, it wasn’t personal to them and they didn’t see how it could be personal for anyone else around them. And they didn’t think it was a problem for people like Brianna Wu, Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn, because they’re ‘famous’ and that kind of just goes with the territory, right? I disagree – I don’t think we’re all that far apart, regardless of their notoriety and my lack thereof. There isn’t a single woman I know personally, with varying degrees of notoriety online and off that has spoken out about this issue and not been afraid of the repercussions of doing so. It is a problem, and I will keep identifying it as such and trying to make it visible.

Which in the end, is the point of my making those posts sharing the fear I experienced at engaging in public feminist conversation, even talking about this stuff in a relatively closed space as my Facebook page/friends list was to make the vulnerability visible and also the reaction to it. One of the points I wanted to make to those around me was the fact that there is no great distance between myself, the other outspoken non-cis male feminists and the likes of Brianna, Anita and Zoe. Their fears are more realised and they’ve been in significant personal danger as a result of speaking out against harassment and misogyny toward women in gaming. There are plenty more examples where notable feminists on the internet have been threatened, harassed and stalked as a result of daring to speak up and call upon society to change, for the status quo to shift, for equality to be actively worked toward.

I’m not actually notable, but I still have a similar fear because I know all it takes is for one blog post to hit reddit and go viral in some way and then I too could join the ranks of the threatened. I know I’m not the only one amongst my feminist friends, particularly those of us who are women or not cis-male, who has this fear and thinks twice about speaking out publicly. At the moment it seems that speaking out goes against one’s better judgement for safety – and yet how can things change with silence?

So here I am, sharing my vulnerability. It may not be socially sanctioned – and I’m aware of that based on how many people missed the point of me sharing my fear at posting about #gamergate and the misogyny directed toward women in gaming, even once I explained it. I have to hope that by talking highlighting vulnerability in relation to the issues specifically, I am making a difference and contributing to change. I am hoping that by being very clear that every time I speak up about feminism or any kind of inequality, I am afraid of the potential negative consequences that people realise that this isn’t ‘just an internet drama’, it’s real and personal.

It is worth noting that this is a conversation that is happening in public, at all and that is both awesome and necessary. The exposure of the depth of harassment and abuse experienced by women in gaming in relation to #gamergate is truly distressing, because there is so much of it and it is unrelentingly physically and sexually violent. Distressing or not, the exposure has merit, because eventually it has to reach a point where it is more unacceptable for this behaviour to continue, more unacceptable to sanction it, than it is to vilify women for daring to express their vulnerability and speak out against the abuse.

If I’m lucky, I’ll stay un-notable, I’ll continue to fly under the radar and fail to say something truly outstanding that would see my words go viral. If I’m unlucky then the things I’m afraid of could come to pass. I have to wonder how much it would actually take to stop me speaking.

2015 is Becoming

Time for my annual theme reveal post! If you’re unfamiliar with my process of taking on a theme, take a look at this previous post I wrote. I know it’s February and usually I get onto writing this post earlier, but this one took some time. Not the idea, but the space to think about it and write about it. I’ve been on prac for my Midwifery training all throughout January which meant my focus was there and not on the bigness of the year ahead. Now that’s done, I am ready to really let this year take flight, so to speak.

So as you may have guessed from the title, this year is about Becoming. That notion of being in flux, of transformation and being in-between. Not finished, but in progress, and beyond the bare beginning too. I think this is a perfect theme to extend from last year’s Expedition, because this sense of being in-between, not finished and in the middle of something is very true for me right now. I start my second year of training as a midwife, and doing that training will continue to be my focus for many of my goals and actions. I also think that there’s some personal growth in the wings as well – old sore spots I’m hitting up against that I’d like to resolve further – or try to. Things like that.

In my mind, when I think on this year’s theme, this idea of Becoming, I do think of the caterpillar into the butterfly, working hard doing what’s necessary and emerging later, triumphant and with wings.

So what things am I looking to include as part of Becoming?

Reading

I want this year to be about reading and I want to track that more deliberately. I wrote separately about my reading goals for this year, but in in summary this is what I want to achieve. I already keep a record through Goodreads of what I’m reading, and I have been doing the Australian Women Writers Challenge for a few years and still love it. I also want to increase the diversity of the books I’m reading to read more books by Indigenous authors and people from other non-white backgrounds. I want to do more reviews especially of these books. I also want to write more from the perspective of a midwife in training, track what I’m reading for study and post a list of that. I guess that’s partly about wanting to be transparent about being evidenced based in my practice, but also to make visible how hard I’m working to train for this career I want so much.

Midwifery

I want to do well in my second year of study, of training. I want to take every learning opportunity possible and do the best I can. I want to learn in depth and well. I want to be able to rely on the evidence we’re given – I want to get through as much extra reading as I  can to support my learning and training during clinical placements. I want to do the best I can for the women I’m supporting as part of the continuity of care program (we generally refer to this as followthrough). I want to keep enjoying learning about science – anatomy and physiology. I want to continue to do well with the mathematics required. I want to spend a lot of time and energy working toward my transformation into a midwife – at some point I won’t be a student any more and I will have to decide things and sign my name to things and take responsibility in important ways. I want to be ready for that and I want to understand the gravity of that role I’m taking on.

Cooking

I loved all the cooking I did last year, I explored a bunch of new recipes – a whole bunch that are for special occasions and pack a huge punch. I also discovered some delicious really simple recipes. I want to especially concentrate on that latter category, stuff that is easy to do for dinner when we’re all busy so that I can also ensure myself down time. I also want to encourage Fox to continue to learn how to cook and gain confidence in this area. Ral will hopefully be so busy with med school that he won’t have any time to cook (this will be a good thing, I know it sounds unbalanced but if things are going well that will be a good sign of it). My main contribution to our household is the cooking and food planning, so I’m going to view it as a joy and try and minimise my experience of it (or the kitchen) as a chore.

Last year I started regularly making my own stock, and what a huge revelation! All kinds of things suddenly became easy and accessible any day of the week because of the weekends I’ve spent letting a big pot of deliciousness simmer away. I’m going to keep that up, also get back into making our own creme fraiche. I’d love to get back into bread but it might be a bit ambitious all things considered. More veggies, and continuing to prioritise ethical meat and eggs.

Additionally, I have some wonderful cookbooks that I’d love to take advantage of, so that’s another cooking priority. Not only would I like to use them more but I’d like to blog about it – I’d like to say with pictures but I’m not always great at remembering to photograph my food. However, it would be wonderful if I did manage to blog and photograph things and come away feeling like I’d really gotten something out of these books that I so carefully chose. I almost never buy recipe books, so I make a point of using them – especially when I know they’re good even though the internet is right there and so easy. A friend once upon a time would do a month cooking from a particular cuisine and I’d like to do something similar but from a particular cookbook, and probably not so intensive as every meal for a month but aim for 5 recipes a month or something if I’m concentrating on a particular book. Not every month either, I want space for this too – joy, not a chore. Exploration and fun, not work.

Blogging

This is kind of summing up a bunch of things I’ve said – I want to do more blogging. I’ve really enjoyed in recent months being more active both here and on my Dreamwidth journal so I’d like to keep that going. I’ve been doing a daily ‘5 things’ post – just notes about the day, not necessarily good things or positive things (though they almost always are) but just things about the day so that people know what’s going on in my life. Now I have that particular habit sorted, I’d like to get more written here, books, movies, television, cooking, midwifery, feminism. The works. I’ve got some midwifery blogging goals but I don’t want to make numbered goals for cooking blog posts on top of the reading stuff because it can become too rigid too fast. I love flexibility and I find that if I provide myself the overarching aim, I’ll do better with it with space to breathe. Numbers are all well and good but I don’t want it to be an obligation, a chore that I resent, I just want there to be the intention for more writing and let myself act on it.

Self Development

Getting my license. This is imminent – it lingered through last year and I’ve come so close. I’m stomping all over the remaining Feelings I’ve been having about failing the test the first time and have some plans to do a couple of driving lessons about passing the test. I can drive and I’m reasonably confident in my overall competence, now I just need to pass the test (and probably do my first official drive by myself somewhere).  I’d still like to take a road trip by myself, explore Victoria somehow just by myself, just overnight or something.

Gently explore job options that won’t get in the way of my study. Right now I’m figuring hospital admin jobs that I can do casually – reception type stuff mostly. Maybe data work? I’m not sure. I’m just going to see what comes up and try and take advantage of it and get some money of my own coming in. Family wise we’ve restructured things to deal as best we can with the fact that both Ral and I have been declared unworthy of receiving basic support, which sucks but.. it just is what it is. We’re past the anger and resentment stage and have moved on.

Me. Letting myself be myself, and that looks a little bit like self expression – what I wear, hair and other presentation things. Maybe it also looks like dancing and pilates and massage if I can afford it – there’s some old and painful conditioning in amongst this stuff that is still hard to talk about, hard to describe but I want to create some space for it to be out in the open more. I’d like to continue to enjoy my sexuality and explore that more, revel in my wonderful partnerships and make sure my partners know how much they mean to me. Indeed, how much the people in my life overall mean to me.

Socialising

I’d like to be better at it this year, and I think it will look a lot like inviting people over for dinner so I can cook for them – it’s good practice for doing something different, and it’s usually cheap and often appreciated. I also have a few TV buddy things planned which I’m looking forward to, and I’d like to make good on the feminist hangout plans I tentatively made with friends late last year where we could enjoy that aspect of ourselves in company and explore it gently – and joyfully. Community, I’m still building it here and I want to be better at that too and ideally avoid volunteering for too much or getting stuck avoiding toxic people/practices – this is not likely to be necessary but I am aware of it as potential in general – good intentions and all that doesn’t always work out. I’d like to go to more Poly Vic events again, I’d like to get to some of the Greens events for my local group and I’m still tempted by the CWA. The latter might be on the too ambitious side given everything else, but we’ll see. I’d also still like to volunteer somehow for Continuum, but I’m not sure how to go about that yet. Again, intention and space so that something can happen without being forced.

Here’s to Becoming, the transition and transformation with all the pain and joy that comes with those things. Here’s to the in between, the ephemeral and the liminal. Here’s to just being, in the moment, being myself, being genuinely with others  with kindness and appreciation.

 

 

Expedition: Almost there…

This entry might seem almost superfluous given there is so little time left between now and when this enquiry is likely to end. I last updated in July and had a lot to say, but I did really want to look at where things are at even if it’s not quite a 3/4 review point. Usually my themes end roughly at the end of the year but it’s kind of a transition period where there’s definitely lots of background thinking that finalises one enquiry to make room for the next to declare itself. So this check in even if not ideally timed, will still do it’s job I’m sure.

I think this year I’ve done really well with what I set out to achieve, my list of goals was ambitious but I had every reason to be and I’m glad for it. Not everything got done and some stuff definitely got let go. I’m going to comment only on the stuff that is still ongoing and not the stuff I let go of last time because it would be redundant. What I’m hoping by making this update at this point is that I kick start the process of transition to finalise this year’s theme and discover next year’s.

So where am I with my list of goals and aims?

  •  Successfully complete my first year in my Midwifery degree.
    • Continue improving my science and mathematics knowledge and proficiency.
    • Work hard on clinical placements to get the best experience and knowledge about working as a midwife as is possible.
    • Do quality work in my Continuity of Care Program being the aspect of training involving recruiting families having babies and undertaking to provide extra support and care much like a midwife would, but in a student capacity. I love this program because the aim is mutuality – extra care and support for the person who is pregnant and their partner and family (where applicable), and experience for me in the ongoing care, education and support required as a midwife and learning how to build rapport with people, but maintain professionalism for everyone’s benefit.

I’ve worked hard on my science and maths and my marks for this year show it. HDs for science in both semesters and I didn’t have to repeat any of my maths hurdle tests. I’m sure it gets harder for maths next year, but I’m proud of how I’ve gone with these things this year. I haven’t done my second clinical placement yet, that’s coming up in January – but I’m looking forward to it massively – I’m definitely assigned to birthsuite this time around! I’ve also managed to gather all of my people for my Continuity of Care program and I’m working hard on that.  So far though, I’m finding this part of things really rewarding – I feel useful and I like providing support and reassurance. Also, I am good at it and that’s a nice feeling too. I have a range of people with quite different backgrounds as well which I am appreciating – it’s teaching me how to be a good midwife to a variety of people with differing questions and concerns.

  • Explore employment options while studyingfull time and internally bothshort term andlong termin addition to midwifery
    • Explore options to get a counselling or psych diploma qualifying me for counselling
    • Explore options with community organisations part time, especially on contract working away from the office
    • Make inroads into doing casual first year tutoring online for university students

So I didn’t think there’d be anything to update about this – and then about 2 weeks ago, everything changed. Centrelink have decided that I’m no longer eligible for Austudy, despite having never claimed it before now. I’m so furious – they’re counting the time I spent completing my initial degree in their time frames even though I supported myself through that degree. At the time of writing, as suggested I’ve reapplied for Newstart as a jobseeker and am waiting for my claim to be assessed after submitting all the paperwork a week and a half ago.

I’ve had my initial compulsory meeting with the government job provider, and at least I have one that doesn’t seem to be crap which is at least something. Thankfully, they’ve taken into account all of my study stuff, including my followthrough requirements. I only have to hunt for 5 jobs per fortnight, and my employment pathway plan – the compulsory thing you have to agree to in order to get paid – basically sets itself up to be a 2 year plan with being employed as a midwife the main goal – and a long term one. I don’t actually anticipate anyone employing me, and I don’t think the job provider does either, with followthrough appointments, my availability is too erratic. Plus, I have pretty much zero experience in casual things.

And… I also still want to concentrate on my studies. I’m working hard on them and putting the time in is important to me. The only exception to this would be if I got to do online first year university tutoring because that remains a goal of personal fulfilment and not just a money thing. So we’ll see how things go on the Centrelink front – but basically I’m super stressed about it and desperately wish I could have just stayed on Austudy. I will definitely miss the textbook bonus for buying texts – I know I can borrow them, but I’ve found it very valuable to actually have the books and to be able to go back to them any time. Especially my anatomy text book.

  • Pass P-plate test
    • Go on a road trip outside of Melbourne by myself

So, I’ve been procrastinating on this. I still have Feelings about failing my first attempt. It IS something I just need to pony up and deal with though because in this coming year having my license will be really important, not to mention useful. I will get this done, and my aim is to do so before the end of the year.

  • Nurture and grow my personal relationships, particularly with my partners
    • Facilitate getting K and Adam over to visit me here in Melbourne
    • Make time and keep making time, and remember to message and call in between
    • Revel in time spent and enjoy each moment with loved ones as much as possible
    • Take care of loved ones and let them take care of me without guilt

This still comes under things I’d do regardless, but it’s nice to track the intention, the energy, and the commitment that goes into this stuff. I haven’t had a chance to see K since the first quarter of the year, and he won’t make it over here this year, but hopefully in the new year. Adam is coming over to spend Christmas with us, which will be truly wonderful! Christmas this year is going to be magical – but more on this later. I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with partners this year and I’ve mostly settled into a kind of regularity if not routine of things with different partners. Now that I’m settled into my new place and not in the middle of semester I’m also focusing on being more social which has also been rewarding. I have to specifically mention how much I’ve enjoyed my dates with my partner Omega this year, she’s amazing and adores me, I adore her and we just have the best time spoiling each other. Next time it’s my turn to spoil her and I’m really looking forward to that! Ajax moved in with his partner Tash and they’ve been settling into a new pattern for themselves, and subsequently he and I for ourselves which is nice – I need to make time to go down to where they live (kind of on the outskirts of the city) and spend time there but I haven’t gotten my act together for it yet.

I’ve spent a lot of time doing care work this year, particularly for Ral who has spent much of the year dealing with mental health stuff, and that’s been intensive to say the least. Fox and I have continued to deepen our relationship and the rewards from that are just sublime. I think we’ve reached a point where we really make each other happy – and that’s just so awesome (and worlds away from where things started out). I’ve had more resilience this year emotionally than I anticipated – but the caring and worry about Ral has taken its toll. Also this Centrelink stuff. But then, I’m living with two people who are really good at also taking care of me – especially when I signal the need. Our chicken soup ritual works wonders because we have a default plan for comfort and care when we’re sick (I’ve made a lot of chicken soup this year because Fox works in a call centre). Also we have a well established system of asking for treats (pate is a consistent one for me), and we know each other well enough to pick each other’s favourites of things. This also includes calling ahead and asking for the spa to be run, or discovering when we all get home that none of us can deal with cooking and so we declare cooking bankruptcy and order pizza or something instead. So I’ve gotten much better at being taken care of, not just caring for others this year. I think having specific systems and default agreements about what is desirable or wanted helps with that.

  • Participate in the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014
    • Read 6 books and review 4
    • Additionally, try and read at least 75 books and review some extras

I have been participating, but not as deliberately as I would have liked – I have read my 6 books, and I’ve written 2 proper reviews and have done basic reviews for 3 others. I still have to do 2 more reviews that are more in depth and specific. I need to get onto that! I am also on track to read my 75 books for the year which is pretty exciting! Mostly I’ve managed this because I’ve been using trashy comfort reading to get me through semester and even though it’s not something I find deeply satisfying it does actually satisfy in ways that are useful for during semester where I don’t have a lot of extra brain or thinking. I look to fluffy and emotionally rewarding reads that don’t ask me to work too hard for the story or enjoyment. It’s a little lazy in that sense, but my focused reading has been in the realm of study so I’m pretty okay with my trashy reading habits overall. I will say that both ‘The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf’ and ‘Kaleidescope’ are on my best reads for 2014 list.

  • Discuss and review the media I’m watching including all the critical analysis in my head about it

I’m actually going to call this done – my reviewing wasn’t as in depth as I might have fantasised about. But, I’ve done a huge television post just this week that looks at all the stuff I’m in the process of watching, where I’m up to and what I like about it, why I watch it. There’s some critical analysis in there, but it’s not necessarily all that deep – maybe I will do more about this with specific show comparisons (like police procedurals or law procedurals or something) next year. Maybe.

  • Make time for adventures, even if they’re tiny ones

Still having adventures! I’ve been visiting the zoo, I’ve been continuing to try new cooking things! I’ve been playing new games. I went to the Jean-Paul Gaultier exhibition and found it outstanding. I went to a feminist retreat weekend camp and loved the hell out of it and came back rejuvenated about pretty much all of that. Plus I met some really great people and it was just awesome. I’ve also been having more online conversations about feminism with pretty good success, though honestly I set the bar low. This weekend I’ve been participating in an online summit called Building Better Babies that is directed toward those who are parents-to-be, but also secondarily toward professionals who work in the field. The webinars I’ve watched have been really good and I’ve learned a bunch of stuff that I’ll return to – and also pass onto my followthroughs. Also, this year I followed the entire season of the Formula 1 and *really* enjoyed it! I learned more about the teams, the drivers, the tracks and the competition mechanics. It’s much more interesting than I could possibly have imagined and I’ve really enjoyed sharing this with the boys – particularly Fox.

  • Blog more, not only in my personal journal as a chronicle and for remembrance, but also here on things and issues that are important to  me
    • Post more links and link salads with commentary
    • Participate in the Down Under Feminists Carnival
    • Blog about exploring Melbourne, with pictures

Wow! Actually there has been some success with blogging more! Mostly it’s been in my personal Dreamwidth journal, but I’ve also done more posting in this space more recently which I’m pleased about. I still haven’t done any link salads, and I’ve done little for the Down Under Feminists Carnival – I’ve sent in the odd link but until this month I haven’t written anything in ages that I could submit of my own. Waiting to finalise the post I’ve drafted and hoping to include it for the December round up. I haven’t done any picture blogs of food or Melbourne – well I’ve done a little with food but not a huge amount. I’ve taken a bunch of pictures but haven’t had the impetus to actually blog about it at useful points very often. But, I have blogged more about life in general which includes my love affair with Melbourne.

  • Connect with my local community
    • Volunteer with my local Greens group
    • Join my local CWA group
    • Keep  meeting new people in the furry fandom
    • Keep joining in with poly community events
    • Volunteer with Melbourne Supanova

So this is still a bonus and I still haven’t managed much with it. I wanted to volunteer for the Greens for the state election (which went well all things told), but didn’t have the energy to commit. I haven’t looked for my local CWA group yet, but I’d still like to do this. I haven’t bothered with furry fandom stuff and probably won’t for quite a while to come. I have enjoyed socialising with new people, especially geeky ones when I’ve had the chance. I’ve only been to one of the poly events since last posting and I enjoyed myself a lot (though I am still avoiding certain personalities). I am hoping very much to volunteer for next year’s Supanova, but will depend on how things are looking at that point – I suspect all my followthroughs will be having their babies around then, which may put a dent in that plan 😛 Or I may just be too wiped from semester/placement. That was the case this year and it may well be the case next year. I am hopeful though because I love it.

Cooking adventures!

  • Cook for people to spend time and show care
  • Try new recipes and new cooking techniques
  • Explore cooking in new cuisines
  • Blog about cooking, with pictures

I’ve continued my cooking adventures! There has been an inordinate amount of soup cooked this year. I’ve also tried to focus on doing more demanding and gourmet cooking when I’ve been able to because it’s challenging and the results are often kind of spectacular if you pick the right dishes. I’m hoping to do a round up blog post of the stuff I’ve spent time cooking this year. I did produce a zine for a Christmas in July event that I gave away with a bunch of the cooking I had done up to that point – hopefully people enjoyed it and found it useful! And, if not I hope they passed it along to others in the hope they find it useful. Maybe I’ll do another one after Christmas this year or in the early part of next year. I’m still exploring new techniques and recipes – more recently I’ve nailed chicken schnitzel which isn’t exactly hard, but it’s fiddly and generally easier to go out and order at a pub/restaurant. I have a bunch of plans for Szechuan cooking in the coming months. Not much picture blogging, though a little. I laugh thinking that I still want to be better at this, but there are still a few weeks left in this year, before I finalise Expedition.

  • Grow a balcony garden of greens, herbs and other tasty things and record it using GrowStuff

Still unsure how to achieve this at our new place, but really want kitchen herbs at least so as to save money on buying them all the time. This is something I’m pretty much going to let be a project for next year (unless something magically happens before I close off this enquiry).

  • Go to the zoo and enjoy it as a form of exercise with easy and obvious rewards. Go visit the Werribee zoo and the Healesville Sanctuary and take full advantage of my membership and the free entry!
  • Try and find the time and money to start a dance class, something like Argentine Tango because I really loved doing it once upon a time ago.
  • Let my Midwifery degree continue as my main focus in energy, get the most out of the different experiences possible. Keep an eye out for conferences or organisations that it would be beneficial and useful to network with.

So! I’ve been going to the zoo – I’ve been a bunch of times now and I walk there and enjoy it, walk around and enjoy it and then meander home all tired and happy. Have taken some brilliant photos too! I haven’t done any dance class, no money but I still really want to do this – it’s probably a next year thing honestly though. This year, this Expedition really has been mostly about my Midwifery study, and that’s been awesome and I’m really proud of how dedicated I’ve been. I’ve worked hard in semester, I’ve studied hard in the lead up to exams and I’ve worked hard in the practical components as well. I’ve enjoyed the challenges, the chance to learn new things and I’m also really looking forward to finishing and being qualified and having a career to follow – plus a wage again! That will be particularly super.

In the next few weeks the only things I’m going to add are:

  • Start transitioning from 2014 and Expedition into 2015 and a new theme.
  • Play my video games and enjoy them! Maybe blog about what I’ve played and enjoyed and why?
  • Publish my list of movies to watch – and do a mini review or something for the ones I’ve watched to date (hint, most of them I have not watched).
  • Finalise all my paperwork to hand in for my Midwifery year 1 including my followthrough report.
  • Try and beat my goal of reading 75 books!
  • Plan and execute an awesome family Christmas with the boys, Adam, Prky and Tori. The feast will be spectacular! Also, blog about the feast and the planning and feelings about this particular Christmas.

So that’s where I’m at. Here’s to the last weeks of the year and this enquiry, and onto new things!

Review: Kaleidoscope from Twelfth Planet Press

Kaleidescope - cover

I should begin writing this review by pointing out that generally speaking, I’m not a short story reader. I want to enjoy this style of story more than I generally do. However, Kaleidoscope from Twelfth Planet Press edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios is an example of how awesome short stories can truly be! This anthology is truly exceptional. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to choose the stories because they’re all fantastic in their way – if these were the ones that made it in, I am sure that just as many stories came really close and I’m sure many of them were also exceptional.

Blurb from Kaleidoscope on Goodreads:

What do a disabled superhero, a time-traveling Chinese-American figure skater, and a transgendered animal shifter have in common? They’re all stars of Kaleidoscope stories! Kaleidoscope collects fun, edgy, meditative, and hopeful YA science fiction and fantasy with diverse leads. These twenty original stories tell of scary futures, magical adventures, and the joys and heartbreaks of teenage life. Featuring New York Times bestselling and award winning authors along with newer voices: Garth Nix, Sofia Samatar, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E.C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar.

Review:

For this review I’m going to concentrate on the stories that really resonated with me, it’s a large anthology and I figure that’s the easiest way to keep this review manageable. I will point out that none of the stories were what I’d consider ‘filler’ – they all make up a valuable part of a whole that is definitely more than the sum of each of its excellent parts.  I liked all of the stories in this anthology – but some more than others as you’d expect so I’m concentrating on those.

First of all, my stand out favourite: Vanilla by Dirk Flinthart. I thought this story was such a sharp commentary on xenophobia, politics, racism and the experiences people have around the margins. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t say that I loved the poly nature of the story and also the way Kylie reflectively considers her place in the world and wonders about her future.

Cookie Cutter Superhero by Tansy Rayner Roberts was short and sweet – I’d actually love much more about this story but I loved the story as it was – it’s not unusual for me to want more and I think that shows that the premise was good, that I was satisfied with the piece I got to read says it was successful as a short piece.

The Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon by Ken Liu was such a beautiful and gentle story, I loved the way it considered the different way that relationships can shift and still be important. It doesn’t have to look a certain way, important is important and the how and the what are up for negotiation.

Signature by Faith Mudge reminded me of all the reasons I love urban fantasy! I just adored the way this bookshop drew people together! I love the twist on Rumpelstiltskin in this story, it was just so enjoyable to read.

The Lovely Duckling by Tim Susman, I love that this story is also about making things be possible and that it keeps its focus there and not on the obstacles themselves as easy drama. This was a thoughtful and intelligent story and I love the way that it resolved.

Kiss and Kiss and Kiss and Tell by E.C. Myers, wow what a powerful story – this was deep and it moved me so deeply. I thought it was so very interesting and I love the way the threads teased out to build this incredible story that I just don’t think my own words can give justice too. I think that often the subjects as portrayed in this story can be so negatively handled, with both judgement and this story gives a realness and a weight to them – not a permissiveness as such just a realism and criticality that is compelling.

Careful Magic by Karen Healey is such a gorgeous story, order and ethics and magic. I loved this story and it’s another one that I don’t think my words can do justice to. I loved the protagonist and how the story worked *for* her because that’s how she works – but not contrived just as the title suggests, careful, deliberate, ordered.

The Truth About Owls by Amal El-Mohtar is a wonderful exploration of the fascination with cultures other than our own, I love the way this is put together – there are so many layers and it’s complicated – as we and our lives are complicated. Our history is personal and not just one of a culture or familial background – there’s so much more and I think that this story captures that brilliantly.

73rd Down Under Feminist Carnival!

Wow! How is it June already?! There is quite an incredible array of interesting links for your appreciation this month. Many thanks to all of you who submitted! Many hands make light work and I am grateful for the support.  I have tried to include some interesting projects and small positive things in amongst what is overall a very heavy reading carnival. I wanted to try and balance the sombre with a little hope and some attempts to actually make the world a better place around us in tiny, ever so important ways.

To begin this carnival, we pay tribute to the late Maya Angelou, a great lady who made the world a better place, and certainly made me want to work harder at doing so myself.  Orlando writes beautifully at Hoyden About Town celebrating Maya Angelou as a Friday Hoyden.

Media, Texts and Arts

Scarlett Harris brings us an insightful review of “The To Do List” over at Bitch Flicks as a film aiming toward sex-positivity but with mixed results in Enjoyment isn’t an item on “The To Do List”.

Stephanie Convery discusses Helen Razer’s latest contribution to feminist debate in her Overland article Talkin loud but sayin nothin. This is not a simple case of ‘if you can’t say something nice…’. Razer is by this point well known for tearing into ‘armchair feminism’ as though contemporary feminism is too busy shouting about things to do anything about them, and also as though she herself isn’t doing precisely that. Lastly, as though the reactions and responses aren’t also just as valid, even if there is also reason to be critical.

In the article Oh, what can we do with The Taming of the Shrew, I can give no better introduction than Flaming Moth’s own. “The Problem: why do we still like it, and can we, in all good conscience, allow ourselves to continue to do so?”

Clementine of Feminist Killjoy To The Stars shares Some thoughts on students, protests, Q and A and the moral indignation of a lazy public, namely that the role of protesting is to draw attention and that doing so isn’t necessarily a failure to go about change in a more ‘appropriate’ way.

Over on the blog for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, Alisa of Twelfth Planet Press writes If you’re not part of the solution… She discusses the impact of the challenge on people reading Australian female authors and the way it is still all too easy for women writers to become invisible in the current climate.

Tansy Rayner-Roberts is celebrating her birthday blog-style by undertaking a gender-swapped Musketeer project in  her post A birthday Musketeer Space web serial introduction. Over the next eighteen months she aims to post weekly chapters of a space opera retelling of “The Three Musketeers”.

Bethwyn of Butterfly Elephant shares her book reviews books about Zita the Spacegirl finding many positive things to say about the series. If you want some comfort reading, or need some new children’s story books, you may like to take a look.

Liz of No Award writes about the iconography of the Virgin of Guadalupe printed on fabric in her post Your Fabric is Problematic.

Poetry from Erin of Erinaree, On the Side of Angels [broken links removed]. Reflection on feminism, misogyny, fear, and not wishing these for men.

Violence and Rape Culture

Trigger warning: content in this category may be difficult reading.

Scarlett of The Scarlet Woman talks about Walking While Female criticising the surge in comments about women walking on their own at night, which is a little too close to blaming the victim for my taste. People have a right to walk the streets in safety without being interfered with by others.

Sarah at Radically Visible on why misogyny kills, in Sexism, Entitlement and Santa Barbara writes that discussing the Santa Barbara killings and dismissing them as the act of a ‘madman’ with no consideration of the inherent misogyny or rape culture behind the act reinforces the same social structures that make it possible for such tragic events to happen.

Jo of A Life Unexamined writes about Rape in the News: better, but not there yet where she finds that the fact that the perpetrator is the main focus of the news story to be well worth noticing, rather than the usual focus on the victim(s), often blaming.

Steph from the National Union of Student’s Women’s Department writes Some thoughts about the UCSB shooting, and how the background to gun violence is often one of rape culture and that we ignore this at our peril.

TigTog posts at Hoyden About Town a Nugget of awesome: Sex and love aren’t earned focusing on the creepy idea that if you’re a ‘nice’ guy you somehow ‘earn’ sex and love that is unsurprisingly a pertinent topic of discussion following the Santa Barbara shooting.

Clementine of Feminist Killjoy to the Stars rants about #Notallmen and how just for a moment if people wanting to say that, stopped for just a moment and instead actually listened to what those around them are saying, actually considered what it’s like from the opposite perspective.

Race and Racism

Kathleen Joy of so much joy it hurts, writes about Australian ignorance of Indigenous cultures and our disrespect to Indigenous cultures and way of life and why Chris Lilley in brownface as “Jonah from Tonga” is disrespectful.

Siv of OnDusk uses Star Wars as a metaphor for the importance of Twitter as a way for black people to speak, to be heard and to know when people – on three continents no less – say horrible offensive things and try to pretend that this is actually okay.

Celeste writes about the appalling state of racism and Indigenous rights in her post Thoughts for Sorry Day over at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist. The post is short, stark and honest about the real impact of the present day institutionalised racism in Australia and that we have much to be sorry for.

Deborah at A Bee of a Certain Age talks about making space for people with different cultural needs around a proposal to have a few hours set aside as Women only swimming hours at a local swim centre. There is intolerance in the idea that people should just change and act like ‘the rest of us’ and just swim with everyone else. It’s an intolerance that doesn’t respect cultural differences and does exclude women from public spaces and certain activities.

Celeste of Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist writes Aloha from Oahu sharing about her excitement at attending the World Indigenous Peoples Conference and the difference this event has made for her in the past.

Work, Value and Unemployment

Snoringcat writes Today, I am Angry, her rant is heartfelt and hits very close to home from my experiences last year. Job hunting is soul-crushing, exhausting and the impact and cost of long-term unemployment and job-hunting is woefully misunderstood.

Politics

At Global Comment, Chally writes Eurovision: A Referendum on Putin’s Russia providing insight into the politics of the Eurovision Song Contest, neatly capturing a summation of responses to the 2014 winner, but also to the extent of European political commentary on Russia.

Deborah writes in The New Zealand Herald We all deserve a fair go, talking about the importance of fairness and how this is a nuanced idea, that numerous approaches to something could be described as fair in their way, but it depends on the aim of being fair overall.

In Quiet, the men are talking about misogyny Liza of Fix It, Dear Henry talks about the difference between men and women’s reactions to the Santa Barbara shootings in that, largely women already understand why it happened – it’s something we live with. While men are experiencing something of a revelation around misogyny right there in front of them, and while a lot of the discussion is good to see, some change to go with it would be great.

Liz at No Award talks about the politics in her escapism in relation to Mass Effect 3 and Australian border protection policy, saying that the similarities between the two is strong enough to be disquieting.

At The Filing Cabinet, in her article Megan asks Are the abortion wars about to begin? She talks about the political shots fired across several states over abortion rights and considers the overall threat to Australian women’s reproductive rights.

Shakira and Helen at The New Matilda discuss the offensive double standard around freedom of speech in their article The powerful already have free speech.

The Budget

Stevie of Stevie Writes {link broken so removed} shares her views about how the budget will affect working class families, talking about how I’m glad my mother isn’t alive to see the Budget 2014, {link broken so removed} based on her mother’s sense of deep betrayal as a working class person having thought that working hard meant being taken care of later in life. Like Stevie, I hope this sparks change, but in the mean time the future looks bleak for all but the elite few.

Sandra from The $120 Food Challenge {link broken so removed} calls the 2014 budget All Sticks, No Carrots {link broken so removed}. The reality of the budget’s impact on jobseekers, young people, and even their parents is bitter. On the backs of the vulnerable and disadvantaged does Australia build it’s economic ‘future’.

In Disability in Budget 2014, El Gibbs provides further insight into the 2014 Budget impact on people with disabilities. While the funding for the NDIS remains unchanged, other surrounding changes will have a massive impact on the services and care available to people with disabilities, their families and carers.

Kaye originally posted her open letter to Mr Hockey on Facebook, but her words about what $7 really means resonated with many people. That dilemma of unexpected single-parenthood and whether to spend your last $7 on food, petrol, or nappies.

At Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear, Chrys talks about the budget apportioning $245 million to further fund and expand the School Chaplains program in her post School chaplains – making disciples. There are real concerns that while Chaplains may mean well, they are not trained professionals in social work, psychology or counselling, they come from a religious background that may not be appropriate for a large number of school students. Criticism of the program has been seen in the High Court, but Chrys emphasises the need for the debate to occur in the public sphere over the appropriate use of public funds to best support students.

Over at Global Comment, Chally writes about Australia’s budget attack on its poor, young and vulnerable. She highlights the disproportionate difference between the effects on wealthier Australian citizens in comparison to pretty much everyone else.

Jennifer at No Place For Sheep looks at Joe Hockey’s response to his budget in her post I’m Joe Hockey. You’re not. Hockey’s comments clearly position the poor as immoral and undeserving of pleasure and being wholly responsible for their situation, while he himself enjoys a cigar and a glass of Grange.

Fat Activism

As a fat woman, Fat Heffalump talks honestly about why It sucks to be a fat woman. She talks about the pressure to be positive all the time and that this can silence people around the difficulties and horribleness that being fat and a woman in Western society involves.

Health

Avril writes When you discover you are at the mercy of your hormones and talks about going through peri-menopause and how it has really taken her by surprise and taken over how she goes about life right now.

Queerness

No one is exempt from instances of poor behaviour, but in saying that there are definitely behaviours that speak ill of us and the messages we wish to put forth. In The King’s Tribune {broken link removed}, Brocklesnitch speaks In painful defence of Pyne {broken link removed} against her wishes, but does so eloquently in relation to gay ‘joke’ slurs being used.

In her article I am woman hear me The Roar, Brocklesnitch also discusses language of discrimination in relation to a sporting incident pointing out that when slurs are used, whether they’re true or untrue doesn’t change the pejorative nature of the slur. If an insulted sports person isn’t actually gay, using a language slur doesn’t just suddenly become bad language, because that’s not the way that language and discrimination work.

Beauty Culture

In Daily Life, Michelle shares her experiences of being a single female who is also bald and trying to date. Her article, How dating works when you’re a bald woman, draws attention to the insidious negativity that beauty culture builds around women’s experience of themselves, their physical presentation and the reactions of others to that presentation.

Fat Heffalump talks about her realisation about her personal experience in discovering she didn’t feel the need to be beautiful, being Unapologetically ugly. This is a thoughtful piece that considers beauty culture from a different angle – one that doesn’t redefine or recontextualise beauty itself, although it emphasises the subjectivity of beauty. Instead, the focus is not needing to be considered beautiful and it is a refreshing read.

Motherhood, Parenting and Children

Orlando posts at Hoyden About Town that Lego is refusing to get the message, sharing a recent catalogue depicting which Lego is for boys and which for girls, with colour being the least of the differences.

Andie of Blue Milk writes for Daily Life responding to the question of Can you protect your children from living your mistakes? Andie’s take is that we’re none of us separate from our upbringing, from our environment and histories, that parenting is often in response to how you remember your own childhood. The piece is insightful and unsurprisingly doesn’t provide an easy answer, but does invite self reflection and some gentle self-acceptance.

At Pesky Feminist, {link broken so removed} Amy talks about On Mother’s Day {link broken so removed} and the depth of feeling that this day of recognition often fails to encompass. She talks about her bravery and the importance of the woman as well as the mother, it’s a poignant piece and well worth reading.

Making the World a Better Place

Bec of of Opinions @ Bluebec writes about The legacy we leave in that it is important that we strive to not pass on the racism, sexism, homophobia and other nastiness to our children, even as we teach them about these things to enable them to deal with them when they (inevitably it seems) happen.

The End!

That’s it for this month, hopefully there was some new and interesting reading to you all and that all the bleak commentary doesn’t get you down too much. Many thanks again to everyone who sent in links and suggestions, it’s greatly appreciated.

Also, I’d love to encourage you to take on hosting the carnival for a month – it’s generally pretty simple, and there’s support if you need it. Talk to Chally about it, she has all the information. If you’d like to host a Carnival, email  her at chally [dot] zeroatthebone [at] gmail [dot] com or head over to the DUFC page to find out more about how it all works.

The next Down Under Feminist Carnival, the Seventy-Fourth Edition planned for 5 July, will be hosted by Pen at Pondering Postfeminism. Submissions to drpen [dot] robinson [at] gmail [dot] com for those who can’t access the blogcarnival {link broken so removed} submissions form.

Karen Pickering on the secret feminism of the CWA

I had the chance to attend a free talk given by Karen Pickering the other day on the CWA (Country Women’s Association) and its secret feminism. Below is the blurb for the event, and I think it provides a very good overview for what the talk was as well.

The Country Women’s Association is not often thought of as a feminist organisation … if at all. But with the current interest in women’s rights and spaces, it’s arguably a ready-made grassroots network for women to connect with one another. And with baking, sewing, and general craftiness also enjoying a revival of sorts, seeing a huge resurgence in popularity and deemed legitimacy, why is the Country Women’s Association, keeper of such knowledge, struggling to attract new members?

Karen Pickering discusses the cultural importance and history of the CWA, Australia’s largest women’s organisation, which strives to improve the conditions of women and children around Australia. She wonders how we can arrest the decline in membership, instead of standing by as the CWA literally dies out.

I think what struck me most about the talk is the fact that several friends and I have talked over the past several years about wanting to create a network to do the kind of work that the CWA does – community service, political advocacy, practical service in making a difference for women, children, families and community. We talked about creating a network, without realising that one already existed doing just that kind of work, and making that kind of difference, one that is even represented at a national level on some key organisational boards, one that has in the past been able to wield considerable political influence.

Once I’m settled into a place to live, I will seriously consider joining a branch of the CWA – they made it very clear that it was for all women, and not just for country women, and that while the organisation had a vibrant and strong tradition, that it is also prepared to evolve with the changing membership.

I also appreciated that in Pickering’s recounting of the historical highlights of the organisation, that she didn’t shy away from the fact that it’s largely a white, middleclass membership. That there are parts of the organisational history that are perhaps less shiny. Pickering mentioned that although there was lobbying somewhere around the 1960s for Aboriginal women to be included as members, that there was also some concern raised that it was more about assimilation than inclusion – and indeed I imagine both things could have been or perhaps were true. In any case, it’s *still* largely a white/middleclass organisation, but from Pickering’s comments at least, it seems that there is room for and invitation for that to change.

I’m not a crafting person, but I do love cooking, and I love that the CWA represents a very visible way of valuing the domestic work that women are often responsible for. However much we would also like to be valued for other work, for other contributions we make to society, being valued for the quality of domestic work – and what that looks like, is actually pretty awesome. Preserves! Quilting (not me, but others!) Cakes! Slices! All kinds of other things -and the opportunity connect with, to learn from, to share with, to teach, with other women. Also the opportunity to make a real and practical difference to people, to communities and especially to women and children.

Apparently there’s a new ‘Brunsberg’ branch of the CWA that spans as you might have guessed, Brunswick and Coburg in Melbourne. I am therefore hopeful for a Fitzwood or Collingroy branch when I manage to settle in somewhere near there!

At the height of membership (so far), the CWA had over 120 000 members! Now, it still boasts over 20 000 members. That’s an amazing network of very dedicated women, with some incredible skills and the desire to share them. Personally, I’m all for it, and maybe you might be interested too?

CWA Cookbook - Classics cover image

CWA Cookbook – Classics

Hold Tight Your Grand Narrative

The idea of the personal narrative is one that has surfaced several times over the past year, from a few different thoughtful people in conversations I’ve gotten to share with them. In particular, the idea of a grand style personal narrative.

This is probably a good point to go into the definition space. What on earth am I talking about, personal narratives – grand ones at that? I’m referring to the fact that we all have a personal narrative about our life, about how we share our lives with others like family, friends, or even community. It is our internal telling of our story, past, present and also our future. A personal narrative is about your life, so it will reflect your individual way of moving through the world. That individuality also means that your personal narrative can be about *anything* in your life, career, personal wish lists or bucket lists, family, education, any other kind of goal or significant (to you) milestone. This is just a name I’m giving to something that we’re fairly aware of existing generally speaking. The ‘grand’ aspect comes into it in the way that, the narrative that someone has for their life has some kind of perceived grandiose intention, perhaps it is changing the world, somehow.

Many of the people I know have a grand personal narrative – and largely that is focused on making a difference either in the spheres of personal influence, or in bigger spaces like local community, people in our state or national locale or bigger still… all people in a group, or simply all people, everywhere. Often this grand  narrative has a certain kind of gradation to it, the action may be in a direct sphere of influence, but the intentionality may be rooted in a much bigger space for change or cultural shift such as for a marginalised group or society at large. I am reassured by the fact that the people surrounding me all have some kind of bigger vision about them, some kind of thing they’re working towards, committed too, striving for. I want always to be surrounded by people who are thinking big and where we are challenging each other to think even bigger.

I want to tell you that I’ve been having conversations with people who are intensely engaged in the positive, the overt ways in which they are running with and living their narratives, grand and otherwise. Unfortunately, mostly these conversations have been around people coming to terms with this idea of a grand personal narrative and the judgement from others surrounding this. I feel that the judgement comes from the space where others give voice to their personal cynicism and wish to visit upon the other person and their narrative. It is a little like censure in the sense of ‘how dare they think that they can really pull that off/make a difference?’ For the most part I don’t believe that this imposed cynical judgement intentional, often it’s meant to protect from disappointment, from giving too much, from perceived negative outcomes, and other similar fears.

It isn’t even as though these fears are groundless, often they do have a base for concern. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a reason not to follow through. This idea of a grand personal narrative is a big one, it requires a deep personal commitment and it demands self knowledge and often personal sacrifice. These are the spaces of questioning the commitments we have, the things we believe in and believe we are committed to. Operating outside of ourselves and our individual concerns requires bigger thinking, more consideration, more compassion and more intentionality. If housing the homeless, feeding the starving, creating space for other marginalised groups was so easy, we’d have done it by now. And these are just examples, they’re not indicative of the only spaces a grand narrative can occupy. But the point to take here is that, our commitment to our narrative(s) is tested, time and again – in part it is about our stamina, but also our willingness to evolve our view and actions in relation to our narrative. It involves being willing to go back to that question of what does doing this thing really mean to me, why do I care so much? If it didn’t matter to us, we wouldn’t make it through the hard parts, the testing parts, we wouldn’t question ourselves and our course(s) of action.

The negative judgement around grand narratives and the effect they have on the lives of those undertaking the narrative, or those surrounding them seems to be concentrated in one of a few ways. Such narratives are perceived to be of detrimental effect on the person doing the action, there is the perception that the narrative or its purpose is of questionable value, or the perception that whatever your commitment is, it’s ‘someone else’s job’. There’s also that strong pull toward being part of the group and the status quo preservation – and that’s the antithesis of undertaking any kind of grand narrative. It’s that desire for everyone to achieve to about the same levels as each other, avoid standing out too much, don’t be a ‘tall poppy’. There are always people who truly excel are rare and celebrated but always in spaces where ‘heroes’ are recognised – in Australia that’s the sporting arena. It’s generally seen as not okay to want to be your own kind of ‘hero’, making a difference, especially if you’re open about it.

Well… I am out to be a hero. I am out to make a difference. I am out to shift culture and have there be more space for everyone to exist in their own way, where we don’t diminish others, where equality is not just available but is present in useful and flexible forms. I have a grand narrative, it’s about the importance of love and seeking to ‘unfuck’ the conversations we have about it. My narrative is about the importance of kindness and that all of us are human, moving through the world trying to do the best we can.

Why is this important to me? Why do I want to be immersed in spaces where people have varied flavours of personal narratives? This is our life… this is my life. I want to give everything I can, I don’t want to waste a moment or wonder if there was something else that I let slip by. What on earth is the point of not having something that you’re working for, fighting for, seeking to grow or change? No matter how small or big you think it is… having *something* I think is incredibly important and how we mark participation in society, being part of it – recognising our own ability and responsibility to contribute and influence things.

This is the world I have to live in, and it is often an unkind world, there is a sense of ‘not enough’ and ‘too much’ and vast differences and inequalities between these spaces and those who occupy them. I’m not a huge fan of the status quo, I appreciate the need to plateau and stabilise things but I never want to be standing completely still. I want to appreciate where I’m at, where I’ve come from… but I always want to be moving forward being my best self and making a difference for the world in my own unique way. Oh yes, my grand personal narrative? Well I’m certain that there is more than one going on. And I am definitely on the level of global humanity, with various subsets, depending on the individual narrative.

Don’t be sad about or seek to come to terms with having a grand narrative… take it and run with it, both hands and trust yourself and that you have the right to give back and contribute, to make a difference on a small or large or massive scale. You have every right to your commitment to whatever it is that drives you, compels you, keeps you up at nights and thinking or dreaming about a different or modified future. You get to do this regardless of how others value your commitment, you are the person you have to live with inside your head for the rest of your life. Trust those inside questions that make you squirm, like how much does your belief in something *really* mean to you… does it mean enough to you to give up something, or take on something, be brave somehow, learn something, teach something, listen or speak to something. Only you can answer that and no one else gets to make that decision for you. Or how you go about things. Or what success looks like.

 

This post is dedicated to all of you with whom I’ve shared this conversation, your personal grand narrative is your amazing theme song and I want to see you live it with all the commitment, flair, personal compassion and integrity that I know you have. And all the other quirky and uniquely you aspects too. I want to, and look forward to, marvelling at your awesome and I wish to do this many times over.

On Love…

For me, love is not a single thing or moment, not a single emotion or definition. Love is multi-faceted and liminal. It is both here and between here and the next moment, a threshold. Love is whole within me, and also whole within the person who loves me. Whole within each person where the dynamic has a multiplicity. Love is also held in the space between us, space created and nurtured by each of us.

Love exists as we each individually define it and that definition is immediate and personal. That we all define it and apply it personally resonates culturally and allows a cultural definition of to surface. A cultural definition is the collective agreement we share on a societal level about how we experience and practice love in particular ways, involving certain things. There exist many expressions and practices, beliefs, understandings about love, but the cultural definition is the one we understand as what ‘everyone knows’ or more accurately what ‘everyone agrees to’.

Love as a cultural definition is tempered not only by how we all collectively experience love, but by how we believe love to exist and how we reinforce the resulting social structures. We simultaneously release and imprison our experiences and definitions of love, leaving us with a confusion where we distrust the personal over the structured social rules about love. This is how love can become smaller, paler and more insipid, less powerful and less believable.  And this too is valid… but it is not the *only* way in which love is valid. In my experience, this paler practice and expression of love on a wide social scale obfuscates that there are other valid ways to experience, define, and practice love. We don’t share choices about love easily with others. We don’t teach our children or young people about different ways love occurs, we leave everyone to reinvent this wheel, or to roll it along the socially accepted track without pause or thought for other possibilities.

I am personally dedicated to love and I seek to break through the structures and beliefs that imprison our ability to experience and express love, to believe in it, accept it, personally define and understand it. I seek in everything I do, to give love away, to add love into things.

In each moment where we act with love, we create it, define it, and affirm it anew. Such actions do not occur in a vacuum. Acting with love, adding love into things, and creating space for love to be defined and affirmed personally, individually, adds to a collective resonance that creates a bigger, living and breathing social understanding and definition around love. One big enough and broad enough for all of us.

This is post in many ways links to my other posts in recent months on relationships, but it is also completely separate and stands alone. Love is such an integral part of how we move through the world, it’s not just about how we relate to others, but also ourselves and the world around us. So this is my understanding and experience of love, my attempt to add to the many definitions of love.

In this post, I make no attempt to look at any particular kind of love, and instead seek to look at it from a more abstract perspective. Well before such specifics about types of love become useful, how do we understand love, amorphous and nebulous in itself – what does it mean when we allow it to transcend our desire to categorise and contain it? I would welcome your adding to this and sharing with me your own definitions about love, particularly in this abstract and conceptual space.

Being Someone Who Cares, Seeking Care

Caring is one of those fraught topics. I find that it is in many ways an invisible thing and to draw attention to it is to sound ungrateful for the care you receive, or like you begrudge the care you give. Or, perhaps simply worrying that you might sound like a petulant child complaining that ‘It’s not fair!’

Then there are the different ways in which caring happen and the way that it seems like, some forms of care seem to have more legitimate cause to draw attention to the invisible work load; such as caring as a mother or primary care-giver, caring for an elder person or providing care to someone who is disabled. These areas are so important to focus on and I appreciate the need to continually reinforce the nature of this unpaid care work that happens.

However, care work also happens in less obvious places and these can also be difficult to navigate in terms of receiving care, recognition or balance. There is the general expectation of caring because you’re female (and are therefore good at it). This gets more focus in the other specific areas I mention above by their nature as being spaces where women caring is prevalent. But, I think that while these specific spaces draw attention to the idea of women as caregivers, it is also important to discuss it as an overall issue.

Another space where unpaid/under recognised care work can be overlooked is being in the position where you are good at caring. I find as someone who has a talent and desire for caring that being recognised as being good at caring kind of becomes the basis for what is ‘ordinary’ in how people engage with you and the expectations they have. At this point it is harder to be the person in need of care, as though being good at it means that you have things so marvellously together that you are less in need of the kind of care you give.

All of these spaces, those in focus and those more invisible show that there is a dangerous gap in how caring happens where in large part, the people doing the caring are less able to access it effectively (or at all). Or, even if they can access care themselves there is pressure for them to need it less because performing the work of care is perceived as being its own reward or caring in nature. Another aspect I’ve noticed is that in seeking care, those who offer it are more likely to be in need of it themselves, intensifying that need. Certainly this is personally true for me. 

The importance of care work continues to be one of the massive standing ‘elephants in the room’. The doing of caring work is so conditioned, the assumption that care work will happen is so ingrained, and the social constructions around the value of care work, are such that the entirety becomes completely invisible.

With the invisibility of care and its value, comes the difficulty in accessing care as a person who does the work of caring. It’s a fallacy that doing care or being good at caring negates our need to receive it. Here it’s probably useful to mention the usefulness and importance of self care, and yet being able to do this for yourself does not negate the need to experience care from others.

And yet, my awareness of this does not address the difficulty with which I may access care, or feel entitled to care. My conversations with myself in this area involve rationalisation and justification about the work I do to take care of myself, to balance the energy I spend on care giving and even that I simply must be better at asking for and articulating what I need. These are invariably, not useful conversations because they are all about creating conditions under which I am or am not worthy of care.

Simply put, being valued by the people in my life means I am worthy of care (it means I’ve designated these people being worthy of care in return also). That’s a very practical and immediately relevant way of articulating care worthiness, and it’s not the only way or even the kindest or most compassionate way of articulating care worthiness. However, talking about the people who need care because they do the work of care, makes it a more relevant distinction than simply drawing a blanket around the idea that we all deserve care (I believe we do).

How then to receive caring when it is needed? How to ask for it, how to articulate what is desired for care… Who is available to provide care – are they someone who is also over-allocated for care work and in need of care themselves? Is it about valuing care more – or more financially? Is it about getting more people to consciously act in the role of caring?

There are no easy answers to these (and related) questions. In asking or writing this I am still experiencing the desire for care and the awareness that care is not readily available to me in a desired form. Plus, allowing someone to care for me without guilt feeling like I should be caring is also a factor. Mainly in writing this I wanted to draw attention to those of us who wouldn’t be immediately recognised as someone over-allocated in providing care work. I’m good at it, I value it, I enjoy caring… and yet… I am also wishful feeling burned out and emotionally fragile, wanting someone else to perform care for me. Wishing I could relax enough to let them.

 

Personal Positives: @agrrud on Day One

I’d like to welcome Maia as a guest poster to The Conversationalist sharing her thoughts on this month’s Down Under Feminists’ Carnival theme, “Personal Positives‘. Maia is dear to me and it is truly a pleasure to host her candid and introspective post here as part of the carnival. 

Today was the first… 

Today is a lot of firsts. 

I left a relationship a couple of months ago, the weekend before I started my new job. Today my new job took me to another town. I have a serviced apartment in the city, an allowance, a flight home each weekend.  Inside my backpack – the largest I could sneak on the plane – lay a coiled string of fairy lights: a home making device. 

The company I work for prides itself on its culture. I chose it for that. When I came out of my my post-PhD stupor and actually paid some mind to my life again, I wanted three things in equal measures: highly technical work; among diverse, open-minded, fascinating, socially capable people; at an 0rganisation whose values I love and respect. 

I wanted to be part of a community. 

I am an engineer. A scientist. No, an engineer. All of the above. These are some of the things I am, certainly. Now I work in software. They’ve employed me, this organisation full of wonder and generosity, to break things. They trusted my sense in the world, though my software ability is rudimentary and out of date. 

Back home, where I’ll be spending weekends, I have a life so full I can barely devote the requisite 40 hours a week to work. Where did it go, the time? Me of the past slogged eighty-, hundred-hour weeks at a thesis. Past me drove into town at 10pm on Saturdays, struggling through post-football traffic, to run long, boring, finicky experiments, week after week. I still work that hard, but when the work itself dried up, I shoved things into its absence. Friends, lovers, committees, science talks, acrobalance classes. Being in this new place will be good; I want to devote more time to learning how to give in this field.

A car arrived at my door this morning, at an hour so early I can only assume it’s imaginary. I was driven to the office when I landed. Meetings. Coffee. Whiteboards. Access card forms. Do we know who the knowledge experts on this project are right now? How about the success criteria? Maybe tomorrow, when the vital person is back, we can run through a few scenarios.
We are consultants, here to test their systems. I am learning how the labyrinthine tools work, much less the client’s infrastructure. I have a mentor. I’ll figure it out. I’m smart and capable.
We traverse this world, my heartache and I, and learn. No day is a standalone. Day One is one of a continuum – a community of days, if you will.

My mentor and I will be working closely. We discussed our communication styles today, our strengths and weaknesses. We gave each other permission to be pulled up when we stray from the path of usefulness.

My life is…amazing. The opportunities I have are tremendous. I live in a bubble. My friends, my lovers, now my colleagues – all think big. All have at least some awareness of their own bigotry, and work to correct it. My life contains kindness, intelligence, challenge, generosity. I encourage it wherever I can. I have money and time and love and friends and things and access. I am spoilt.

I remind myself, and the world around me, that this is luxury.

Personal Positives: Love as Activism

I’ve been asking people around me to write about personal positives in their life, the way they make a difference in their own way, as part of their daily experience of living in the world. Now it is my turn to share with you about my life and how I try to make a difference. Where I spend the most time, energy and effort in making a difference entirely revolves around love.

Image Copyright and Credit: IC1805 - The Heart Nebula Daniel Marqardt

Image Copyright and Credit: IC1805 – The Heart Nebula Daniel Marqardt

Love as an idea and as a practise is where I concentrate on growing, understanding, sharing, and practising amongst the people in my life and communities on a daily basis. Love is what I seek to put back into the ocean, as I’m emptying the ick and muck with my teaspoon. Not only do I seek to put love into the world myself, but I seek to inspire and empower others to do the same. I seek to invest them with the kind of understanding that has them understand and value love in ways that can be overlooked and misunderstood based on how we are conditioned to think about love by media and modern society.

I use conversation as my primary and most powerful mechanism for cutting through the cynicism and neatly boxed definitions of love projected from media and social structures. I tell the stories of myself and my life, I tell the stories of how love exists for me, how it works for me. I also listen to people tell their stories about their lives and how they conceive love. Most often my conversations on love revolve around creating more space, opening up little boxes that we’ve taken on that tell us love is a certain shape, means a certain thing, involves certain attributes over others, without much flexibility. I find that people already know the things that we talk about, but for several moments we’re discussing invisible elephants, until suddenly the elephants all appear. Immediately the tiny boxed definitions become inadequate, a guide if anything for what people can now see around them in their life and the ways love is present in unexpected ways.

There is a rightness in the telling and sharing of personal stories, doing so confirms our own existence but also allows others to connect. The sharing of experiences, challenges, and triumphs draws us together and creates solidarity. On the internet it can be difficult to create that sense of being ‘all in together’ and ‘for one another’. But it isn’t impossible, and I believe it to be a worthwhile practice. A practice based on love, where we seek that which connects us as individuals without erasure of our precious autonomy and individuality. I’m reminded of a Martin Luther King quote that I came across in another blog post in the past month, and I think it apt for describing how I think love can provide the ability for us to transcend our differences, without diminishing each other and instead allow us to be greater together.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” – Martin Luther King

Our personal stories are where we draw our collective power, our companionship, our solidarity and support for one another. This is not to suggest that we all agree or never clash in ideologies or practises… but underneath those things we are people, together trying to make a difference. Our collective identity is most powerful when we come from a foundation of love. In this way, love becomes a powerful activism and it is not the activism of one space of oppression, but all spaces of oppression. Through love, we all are people, living in the world, seeking to get through the day, to live our lives, to make a difference, to survive. We are richer for all of our experiences, from all places of marginalisation, and all places of privilege.

Standing for love in modern society sometimes feels futile, there is so much cynicism. Messages of love sound trite and we can so easily dismiss the idea as being too simple, without engaging or appreciating that love is one of many tools. Love is a meta tool that makes the other actions we take more effective by drawing us together and having us work for one another and not against each other. Love then, becomes activism.

Love as activism for me on an everyday level involves spacemaking for the people around me that they have what they need, and involves listening actively and avoiding judgement or advice giving in favour of support and encouragement. Love as activism involves a passionate commitment to self love and fulfilment of responsibilities toward oneself as the foundation for reaching out to others. Using love for activism for me is all of the tiny ways I constantly try and let the people in my life know how much they mean to me. It is the way I nurture the opportunities to spend time, to connect and be present and marvelling at the person or people in my life. Love for me involves constant amazement, abiding thankfulness and allowing myself to see each person as wondrous in themselves. Love as activism is allowing myself to love as completely, variously and fully as I am able.

My activism is about my commitment to greater learning and deeper insight into love and how it is thought about, used, referenced, defined, promoted, and idealised. My activism means that I am standing for love, it means that I am willing to have conversations to ground those things in a daily reality, for myself and as needed for others.  Love itself does not conquer all, but it is a powerful tool that allows us to build a movement for change, allows us to shift the status quo, and allows us to create space for each other without diminishing anyone. Love makes a difference to how we get to be in the world, ourselves and the people around us through our experience of them.

Authenticity: Letting the world make its mark on you…

This post is for Azhure. 

Some people talk about their desire to make a mark on the world, to leave something behind that tells the story that you existed, and made a difference. I’m no different, that idea holds a weight in my heart that keeps me honest with myself. 

However, I also believe that it is even more important, to let the world make it’s mark upon you. We live in this world, in our bodies, with all the trappings of society, culture and so much more. We also get caught up in the idea that somehow, we are to retain an associated perfect burst of youth, of poise, of smoothness and a life unblemished. This is reflected in how we treat our bodies and the expectations around that, it’s reflected in how we remember things and also in the actions we take and how we relate to others. This idea that we can move through the world, negotiate the many ways in which our lives journey, without that ever being visible seems, not only illusory, but disingenuous. 

I say this because, the way the world marks us shows us that we are here, that we live and that this is our life to lead. The scars upon my body, the shape I have, the lines and stretchmarks, tell the story of my life. So do the marks upon my soul, my emotional journeys and the many things I’ve struggled with, failed at, been confronted by, the way I’ve loved. All the moments of my life, are the ways in which I have marked the world – there are changes to reflect my passing, be it only my shadow upon the ground. They are also the ways in which the world has marked me, like ink on the pages of my own story. 

This idea that we can remain unmarked, unmoved seems to imply a desire for some kind of perfection. My view is that, there is no perfection – it is just a word and a concept, an aspiration that is unattainable, but which we recognise by the degrees of closeness to it, where we sometimes find ourselves. Often in the tiniest of moments. I’m a huge fan of moments. The most powerful lessons I’ve learned in my life, are the lessons from tiny moments. 

To be unmarked by the world is to in some critical way, deny your existance – your right to take up space. To understand, to accept, and even to embrace the way in which the world has marked you is a kindness to yourself. It is an act of self love, every time you do it. I find that there is a groundedness, when I take in the myriad ways in which I have been marked – sometimes the marks are temporary like a cut or a scrape, or even an emotional hurt. Sometimes they’re more permanent, scars. Regardless, they tell my story, remind me of my story and they situate me in my body, in the here and now. 

To be marked is not always kind, nor fair – there are no contracts in the universe for this. Our experiences good and bad mark us, the people in our lives, mark us, our choices and decisions, those consequences also mark us. Each step is a mark in both directions. 

If I seek to leave my mark up on the world, then I seek also to be marked as well. I seek the marking of all the joy and sadness, pain and pleasure that is and might be, or will be mine. Being marked also reminds me that I do make my own mark, that I cannot help but make some kind of impression on the world and it also inspires me to be conscious about what I want that mark to say, how I want that to reflect and what I wish othes to take in or imagine having come across my marks. 

 

Opportunity to host asylum seekers

Opportunity to host asylum seekers

Dear subscriber,

The Australian Human Rights Commission has been approached with a request to publicize an initiative of the Australian Homestay Network to provide short-term accommodation to asylum seekers who have been recently released from immigration detention.

The Commission has long called for a far greater use of community-based arrangements for asylum seekers pending the resolution of their protection claims.

Information regarding this initiative is provided below. Please consider forwarding it on to anyone who you think may be interested in providing accommodation support to asylum seekers as they transition to life in the community.

The Community Placement Network (CPN) offers interested people the opportunity to host an eligible asylum seeker in their home for a six-week period.  The program is designed to select and train people who are interested in assisting asylum seekers to support themselves in the Australian community.

The Community Placement Network (CPN) is an initiative of the Australian Homestay Network (AHN), to make short-term homestay accommodation accessible to asylum seekers exiting immigration detention on a bridging visa. 

The Australian Homestay Network (AHN) will provide all approved hosts with information, training, insurance and support services throughout their involvement with the Australian Homestay Network (AHN). Anticipated costs to the host of providing accommodation will be reimbursed through AHN.

The Community Placement Network complements the Australian Red Cross capacity to deliver short-term accommodation support to eligible asylum seekers exiting immigration detention.

There has been much goodwill in the community over a number of years to support asylum seekers.  Members of the public interested to help by becoming a host may wish to visit the Community Placement Network (CPN) website (http://homestaynetwork.org/cpn) to apply and to find out more information.

An initiative that may be worth considering. My reaction to this is one of exasperated ‘well finally!’ appreciation. So often we privilege the financial considerations or constraints around ‘issues’ (and I don’t for a second consider people seeking asylum to be issues, but I’m well aware that they’ve been constructed as such). We forget about drawing on the human capital around us.

This isn’t to suggest that there aren’t financial constraints or impacts to be considered. However, they can be considered in conjunction with other factors. Like the divide between Australian citizens and people who are refugees and seeking asylum. An initiative like this has the potential to break down some of those barriers to people’s understanding, acceptance and welcoming of people.

Initiatives like this also have the benefit of assisting people in the forming ties with a new community, with settling into a (potential) new home country and may provide a counter to some of the hostility expressed and experienced by refugees and asylum seekers. Community is in part formed through shared experiences, or the sharing of experiences and this initiative has huge potential to capitalise on this.

I realise that my idealism toward a less racist and more open-hearted and more human-rights aware Australia is showing here, but I’m not ashamed that I’m motivated in that direction and I see this as potentially furthering a number of aims in those directions.

Would that my house were not already filled with people, pets and stuff… so in lieu of volunteering myself, though I’ll talk to the boys about it anyway, I will pass the word far and wide. I want this program to succeed and to grow.

On Valentines Day

I have some thoughts and I might be a little ranty. Just so you know. 

So, Valentines Day. Present incarnation. I know that there’s history there, but it’s specifically not relevant to my point here. What I want to talk about is that as with any public holiday or celebration, it’s not *all* consumerism and commercialisation. 

Does Valentines Day in the present day involve a great deal of societal manipulation, gross over commercialisation and encouragement toward consumerism? Absolutely. So do most public events/holidays/celebrations. We seem to be able to navigate those just fine in a ‘live and let live’ manner. 

I want to mention a few reasons why I think that celebrating (in your own way) Valentines Day can be genuine, rather than simply shallow and unworthwhile. 

I tend to think, that in society, we don’t teach people how to have relationships and nor do we  teach people to communicate. However, we have high expectations of people for both these things, and I think that any instance where it has been signaled to demonstrate care, love, affection and commitment is on that basis, actually rather important. 

It doesn’t for a second suggest that it’s the only time love and affection can be (or should be) demonstrated to one’s partner(s) or other loved ones. It is an opportunity to make a specific point of it. 

I’m an extremely loving person. I spend a very significant portion of my time demonstrating my love for the people in my life. So in another approach to a genuine celebration of something like Valentines Day, I asked myself a simple question: 

Would I take any opportunity to show love/care/affection/value/commitment to those I care about?

The answer for me is (and will be unsuprising for those whom know me): Am I breathing? Well… yes. 

So, are all celebrations done with such thoughtfulness and intent? Of course not, but deliberate or not, people are being thoughtful toward their significant other(s). Either way: there is more opportunity for love. 

I don’t think that this is a bad thing. I can certainly ignore the commercial aspects just fine and I’ve confidence that for those whom such things are important, that they could work around the consumerist drive as well. 

I actually wonder how much of the objection comes down to the fact that it isn’t ‘cool’ to show love  or some such? How much of it is our expectation that emotions are allowed only in narrow bands of experience and situational appropriateness? 

Find what works for you and by all means continue to  not celebrate if you wish… but maybe it’s worthwhile reconsidering. You could enjoy celebrating a relationhip you value, either with another person, or yourself. The person you’re in a relationship with for your entire life. You could probably use some love too. 

 

My Anti-Guilt Force Field

A number of years back I had a conversation with one of my dearest friends. She is loving, wise, compassionate and insightful. We were talking about guilt, my feeling crippled by it and her difficulty in grasping it as a concept. It’s possible that she is the only person I know who grew up without some inherent understanding of guilt and the role it plays in society. 

At the time we were having this conversation I was exhausted by my guilt, I had long thought that there *had* to be a way past the guilt, a way to not feel the crushing weight of it at every moment. My friend and I examined my experiences guilt that I was wrestling with.

The closest we came to me conveying ‘guilt’ and her understanding it was in the context of responsibility and consequences for one’s actions. It was through an examination of these two things that my friend articulated the questions that went through her head in scenarios where I was guilt ridden and how differently she perceived them. 

The questions are simple and with the framing of responsibility and consequences for actions they became a powerful tool that allowed me to unravel my guilt compex. I no longer suffer the weight of crushing guilt as a constant companion. I am free of it. It’s not that I don’t occasionally feel guilty, but I now have the means to deal with it and not let it take over my experience of the day, week or even just that moment.

I don’t suggest that this tool will work for everyone, we are all different and our own experiences are sovereign to us. However, I’m sharing this with the thought that perhaps other people may indeed find this approach useful and allow them some freedom from guilt. 

It comes down to my willingness to take responsibility for the consquences of my actions. 

When I start to feel guilty there are a series of questions that I ask myself, devised within this conversation several years ago with my best friend. 

Is this my responsibility? 

If yes, are there actions I can take that would be appropriate and useful? If there are actions that will help resolve the situation and they are appropriate in the context I go ahead and take them.

If there are no actions that I can reasonably take I can ask myself; what I can learn from the situation? What I would do differently or the same in a similar situation? 

If it not my responsibility I can ask myself if there are actions that would be appropriate or useful to take regardless. If there are appropriate actions, I undertake them.

If it isn’t appropriate I still go back to the question of what I’ve learned from the situation.

Once I’ve examined whether I have any responsibility, if there are actions that can be reasonably taken that are appropopriate and within my capacity to give I can feel at peace with that situation that provokes the feelings of guilt in me. 

Once you’ve reached the end of that question trail, you’re left with a sense of having thought it through and either having done what you can to resolve it or taken the lesson from it for next time. All that remains then is to let it go.

If there is no futher action that can be taken… I can take a deep breath and let go of the guilt. At that point, it has nothing further to cling to. This is when it feels like some sort of magical force field kicks in and I’m free from the guilt onslaught in my heart and head. 

These questions are not an instant fix. It took some determination and consistent practise on my part to have ongoing effect. I started off actually needing to talk myself through the questions, but now I can just take a moment to think about the situation and trust in my experience to make the right decisions about responsibility and resulting actions. 

Guilt, such a strong and destructive emotional force. If you’re struggling with it and reading, you have my heartfelt wishes that you experience ease and freedom around engaging with it, or not as is needful for you. 

I’m curious to know what other tools and mechanisms people use to tackle guilt, so please feel free to share in the comments. I’m also curious if other people have a similar approach and whether they’ve found it has worked or not worked for them? 

Sir Walter Murdoch Lecture 2011: Todd Sampson on “Creativity: Balancing Fear and Success”

Last night with friends I attended the Sir Walter Murdoch Lecture for 2011. This is an annual public lecture given since 1974 in memory of the Murdoch University namesake, Sir Walter Murdoch. This year’s speaker was Todd Sampson, someone I hadn’t really heard of before last night (much to the surprise of my friends, I should add).

I really enjoyed the lecture and found a lot of resonating insight. A different doorway of thought drawing on aspects of thought, perception, culture and personhood that I’ve been thinking on. The topic of the lecture “Creativity: Balancing Fear and Success” had a lot of useful content (and though I understand it is a lecture that Mr Sampson gives regularly, it was no less interesting for that).

The following notes are what I took from the lecture, perhaps they might be of interest or use to you. (Feel free to let me know in the comments).

Creativity is a powerful force that disrespects the status quo. Disrespecting or making war upon the status quo is a subject that occupies a reasonable amount of my thinking. From this perspective I find that creativity as a concept cannot easily be ignored and the potential for impact is massive.

If you give people the opportunity to realise their ability to make a difference in their world, you tap into a well of creativity. Such a well was part of the foundation of Earth Hour – one of Todd’s biggest successes. Prior to last night I didn’t really understand what was being gained out of such an event. Now I get it.

  • If you take a group of eclectic people and sit them down together to talk, they will come up with an idea.
  • If you then take that idea and create a symbolic event, the idea becomes a kind of social activism.
  • Then, take this social activism to your advertising and connect every person to the idea that they are also all people – oneness.
  • Such social activism can become corporate activism multiplying the impact of that one single event on a massive global scale. 

One event. One single hour. Worldwide.

Earth Hour’s impact is that it brings people together with the ability to each take one small action.

It isn’t that everyone turned their lights off for an hour and that this is now a yearly event in partnership with governments and corporations globally… it’s that through a symbolic event people think about the issue. They talk about the issue. They take action on the issue. It is a micro action, but such actions pave the way for other actions around environmental conservation, climate change and sustainability.

Each person with their one small action, contributes to the shifting of culture through creativity.

Another powerful force that influences everyone worldwide, is fear. I am firmly of the belief that everyday culture and conservatism condition us to fear, condition us away from creativity where we might question the world and society around us.

We all experience fear… fear of the unknown, fear of failure and fear of looking bad. In Todd’s view, all fear stems from these three places and while my personal jury is out on that right now, it’s a good place to start.

The answer is not to eradicate fear, but to engage with it. I liked Todd’s approach which was essentially to “be brave just a little bit longer” and to remember that action is the antidote to fear.

In his experience he finds that the most successful organisations and people balance creativity and fear.

Largely this post is just about my notes from the lecture and only a little about my thinking around it. I may (or may not) come back to these concepts and talk about them a little more in the context of my own thinking and what I personally am about for the world.

But I have become aware of something, and I noticed it acutely last night. I am conscious of my sense of ‘moreness’ within, that something that says I still have stuff to do, to say, to learn, to teach etc… that sense of being ‘called’. It bubbles below the surface of my awareness and every so often it surges, and it’s almost like I’m about to cry… I feel overwhelmed and there is a rush of intense emotional insight into whatever is going on at the time. That sense of ‘moreness’ was there last night and it was just at that moment that I recognised and linked the physical response to it.

Whatever it is I’m about… I’m getting closer all the time to that discovery. I cannot wait.

 

 

New project! The Retro Fiction Review Series!

Let me tell you a little bit about this new project I’m taking on! I’m very excited 🙂

I have inherited a large number of rather interesting and awesome books from a dear friend of mine who is going ‘all ebooks all the way baby’ and as a result, I have benefited greatly. Many of these books are ones that I probably would have been delighted to be recommended from when I was a teen or in my early twenties, however, that didn’t happen and I’m hoping to go back and fill in a number of what I see are large gaps in my reading history. There are lots of female authors and stories of women and feminism and of cultural futures that I’m very interested to explore.

My project occurs out of my desire to record what I’m reading and what I enjoy about it. I’ve never really done this before and I think that if I can develop the skill my following uni and postgrad years will be eleventy-million times easier. 

Also, I suspect there’s plenty of people out there who are also interested in recommendations for books that are not brand new and just released, but part of the background of the immense number of books in genres like science fiction and fantasy (assume when I use this term that I mean the entire generous umbrella for books of this nature). There are *so many* book in fact, that someone talking about what they liked about it or didn’t like about it might just be useful. 

I’ll be talking about these books in terms of my first impressions and general overview discussing any relevant demographics – as in how  many authors in anthologies are non-white people or women, if there are any queer stories, stories of people with disabilities and so on. I’ll discuss the story and the characters, the world building and my personal experience of the book (or individual stories if it’s an anthology). It is also fairly likely that I’ll make some sort of critical commentary from my perspective as a (fledgeling) cultural analyst. 

So here we are, with the Retro Fiction Review Series, I’ll be your host Ju. Coming up next, a rather long review of the 1989 anthology “Cat Fantastic” edited by Andre Norton and Martin H. Greenberg. Then, a review of the 1994 “Queen City Jazz” by Kathleen Ann Goonan. 

Blog rec: The Fluent Self, because Havi is awesome!

I and several friends have been loving on The Fluent Self blog quite a lot lately, because Havi and her duck Selma are fantastic blog company to keep! They have fun where there is colouring and dancing and figuring out ourselves (and writing a book about it), being creative about working on the stuff in our heads. Havi talks about things like biggificationdestuckification and about how useful it can be to have your own instruction manual that is your Book of You.

I love the sense of fun and playfulness that comes with Havi’s approach. I love that where the right words don’t exist, they can be invented at will. I love the tiny useful techniques that make unpleasant things more fun, more doable and highlight whole new ways of doing things that I discover as I play with it all.

I appreciate the candour with which Havi shares going through her stuff, coming to grips with the things in her way and the stuff stopping her. There’s a sense of a reinforced ‘us’ all together working on our stuff, rather than one awesome person leading other trying-to-be-awesome people. We’re all awesome! Things like that make me happy.

I am someone who believes in this idea of being the best you that you can imagine for yourself, believes in that fundamentally everyone is worthy of unconditional love, and that anything is possible.  I’m not sure that Havi would put it the same way, but I feel that her messages are not at odds with this.

I adore Havi’s blog, and it’s pretty much the only major blog where I’m willing to read the comment streams. I thought I’d write this as maybe if you knew about it, you might like Havi’s blog too.

Reviewing the 52 Acts of Cyberfeminism Blog Project

I’ve been recently engaged in a fun skyping project with two of my dear friends. As part of her doctoral thesis, Sajbrfem started a blog project called ‘52 Acts of Cyberfeminism‘ involving lots of art projects, subversion, exploration of feminism, hacking new media with playful and creative misuse not to mention inviting people to conspire and collaborate on the project.

Twice a week for the past couple of weeks we’ve spent a couple of hours discussing art works, known as ‘Acts’ for a month and reflecting on what we got out of it, how the Act was received and the response to it. We also explore the context of it’s original inspiration and consider it’s continued relevancy and accessibility.

One of the interesting aspects I have found personally in revisiting this blog and looking at the Acts is the ongoing narrative. In the original year in which the project ran, the blog was updated weekly and every update was a surprise and something brand new. Reflecting back upon the Acts with some familiarity and knowingness opens up new avenues of enquiry.

The project covered key aspects of feminism but explored them in a different way than I have traditionally seen in the blogosphere, representation wasn’t discussed in text but explored in visual photo quilts which brought to light aspects of how words have cultural association and understanding alongside their conventional language meanings.

Another project that came out of the blog was Act 10 which started the Hollaback Australia blog in collaboration with the feminist blog Hoyden About Town joining an international network of blogs calling out people who engage in sexual harassment in public spaces.

It also considered the ‘open source’ aspect of the infamous Open Source Boob Project by questioning the way in which the idea of ‘open source’ had been applied: “My thought process went something like this: Open source boob project? Hardly. Now if they were handing out instructions on how to make your own boobs then maybe…” This inspired the Real Open Source Boob Project which provided a tutorial for people to create their own boobie, open source instructions open to all.

The journey is varied and interesting, one I’m enjoying a lot and learning much from, particularly given the undergraduate I’m pursuing. Sajbrfem is an inspiration to me and I value her contributions to the web and to feminism, value her playful subversion of traditional mediums and underrated mediums such as craft. She has a talent for seeing art in most anything, and I admire this.

I highly recommend taking a look through the 52 Acts blog project and trying out some of the art for yourself.

 

The Elephants Always Hunt In Packs

This may seem like a funny title for a blog post, since elephants don’t really hunt and they live in herds and not packs. But real elephants aside, today we’re talking about metaphorical elephants. The metaphor in in question expands on the common phrase ‘the elephant in the room’ which usually refers to something almost obvious, but is often overlooked either deliberately or through lack of awareness of the situation.

So, there’s a metaphorical room, with metaphorical elephants. With me so far? The elephants represent those issues and aspects of culture at play that can be obvious to some people and invisible to others. When I say that the elephants hunt in packs, I mean that there’s never just one issue at play, there’s a number of complex dynamics and they all intermingle and influence one another.

I find it’s a useful metaphor because it points to the way in which things become embedded in our everyday consciousness; in other words they become invisible. If one elephant becomes visible, you can be sure that several others are lurking. When you look at an issue, any kind of issue it won’t be hanging around on it’s lonesome, you can be sure that some friends will be hanging about.

What I find most useful about this whole thing is that often looking at the interrelated conditions means that the original issues make more sense. You can see how the effects impact on other surrounding things and take that into account if there are actions you want to take. Nothing that is said or done happens in isolation. 

Much of what I’m saying here borders on (if not is wholly contained within) the realm of the obvious… but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth saying and revisiting. 

The invisible elephants in the room always hunt in packs, and even if you can see a whole bunch of elephants, it’s always possible that others are hiding – that’s worth keeping in mind too.  `