Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Review: Destroying the Joint, edited by Jane Caro

The catalyst for the collection of essays that is Destroying the Joint: Why Women Have to Change the World was a comment made in 2012 by a male radio shock jock. I'm not going to mention his name - even though some of you may already know it - but I will tell you about the comment since it did set the context for this book. 

The comment was made in relation to the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard's intentions to donate money to women in the Pacific for the development of their leadership skills. This shock jock claimed that women were doing enough damage in the world already - specifically naming ex-Victorian Police Commissioner Christine Nixon and lord mayor of Sydney Clover Moore as examples - so surely we needn't be giving more leadership opportunities to women. In fact, women were doing so much damage in the world that they were 'destroying the joint', thus laying fame to this phrase. 

A cheeky tweet by Jane Caro in response to this shock jock's comment - 'Got time on my hands tonight so thought I'd come up with new ways to destroy the joint, being a woman and all. Ideas welcome.' - led to an unprecedented national response from women who were very much angry/disgusted/exasperated that such comments were (and still are) being made about them publicly in 2012. The women involved decided to unite, and so the Destroy the Joint campaign was born.

Thus the essays in Destroying the Joint are in response to this very notion of women 'destroying the joint'. They provide a variety of angles on this idea, such as whether or not women are actually in 'the joint'; whose joint it is that we are/are not destroying; who has a right to say whether or not we are destroying the joint; and, if we accept that we are destroying the joint - as this doesn't have to be a negative thing - whether or not we should take more pride of destroying it.

Written from political, social, environmental, creative, educational and disability perspectives, Destroying the Joint provides a variety of lenses through which this issue can be viewed through, as well as how it relates to wider feminist issues. The way the essays are written make it very accessible for those curious to learn more about feminism and it's vast scope. For me, they provided a solid introduction into avenues of feminism I'd like to pursue further.

I guess my next question with a book like this is how to keep the conversation going? And how do we start including people that might not normally pick up a book like this so that they can enter and be part of this conversation? Because I believe that's so important if we do want more action to take place to help feminist messages spread and start having more of an impact on everyday life for women and men. Now, I don't quite know the answer to this question I have posed, but I do know that I want to keep engaging in these issues and conversations so that change can become more of a reality.

I'll finish off by including some cracking quotes from the contributors to Destroying the Joint so that you can get a taste of this fantastic collection of essays. 

Michelle Law:
'Being a feminist is not about despising men, or overtaking them...Feminism is about despising an idea. And the idea is that women are unequal to men. It is that they deserve or should expect the kind of sexism, misogyny and mistreatment that they receive. It is that any women who rejects this treatment will be met with aggressive, irrational and sometimes unintelligible scorn. When we are destroying the joint, we are calling out sexism and misogyny.'

Catherine Deveney:
'The truth is, there is not one feminism, but many feminisms. And just because you are pro woman does not mean you are anti men. I think one of the main reasons I am a feminist is because I love boys and men so much and I have hated the way society has expected them to live, love and be. Feminism is not anti men. It's anti arseholes, misogynists, pricks, creeps, thugs and bigots.'

Senator Penny Wong
'We live in the same Australia, we share many values, but our experiences and therefore our perceptions of reality can be so different. If we are to understand across these differences, we have to be capable of more than tolerance. We have to try to imagine another's experience and to do so with imagination, compassion and respect.'

Overall, Destroying the Joint is very much an informative, refreshing and entertaining insight into current Australian feminism and one which I very much recommend.

Want more?

Keep engaged in the conversation by following the Destroy the Joint community on Facebook or Twitter.

I've also recently discovered Cherchez la Femme, a fantastically entertaining and engaging feminist podcast that I also highly recommend you check out.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Review: A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, by Eimear McBride

Wow. I'm stumped. Speechless. Lost for words. Except I want to, need to, write some in this space. So that I can share this unique book with you.

Adjectives that come to mind are: startling; intense; jagged; brutal; unapologetic; transfixing; haunting; poetic; beautiful; brilliant. I've not read a book that has made me feel so dazed yet so powerfully moved after reading it as A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing has.

It's the story of a girl, her brother, love, abuse, and everything else that happens along the way. The way that Eimear McBride tells this story is astounding, as she goes beyond conventional language structures to do so. And McBride does so so exquisitely, taking the reader on one hell of a ride.

That's all I'm going to say. Because that's all that needs to be said.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Review: Night Games, by Anna Krien

I have to admit, football is not my favourite topic to talk about, let alone read about. But in saying that, the particular culture it tends to promote - that being a highly masculine world where players are given an almost god-like status - is still one that I find somewhat fascinating, perplexing and at times disturbing. So when I discovered Anna Krien's Night Games, I was hoping to get an insight into these issues of sex, power and sport that have intrigued me.

Night Games follows a rape trial involving the Collingwood Football Club in the aftermath of the 2010 Grand Final against St. Kilda. Krien uses this trial as a lens to explore society's attitudes towards rape; gender and power imbalances in male-dominated sports; and how problematic it is that these attitudes remain accepted in everyday culture. It's like Krien has held up a giant mirror panel through which the trial is originally refelcted in, dropped it so it shatters, and then we the readers are left to pick up the pieces and put it back together again. Though each time we pick up a piece, our own images are reflected in the pieces themselves, reminding us that our own ideas and experiences will always influence how we view particular scenarios. The glass piece itself is never perfectly whole again either - lines from where the pieces join up are still evident so that the original scenario can never be viewed in the same way again; and some of the pieces have gone missing so that we can never truly know the full story. 

That's what reading Night Games is like, with Krien highlighting how fragmentary trials, particularly rape ones, can be, and how many shades of grey are involved with trying to understand the act of rape itself and the actions of the people directly involved. It's what I most enjoyed about reading Night Games, with the shades of grey Krien gutsily explores extending to attitudes towards sex and power in sport. It's very risky territory and Krien is very aware of this herself, stating, 'You've got the rapist or the liar...and by trying to seek out a shade of grey I'm protecting one of them' (p.258). She goes on to state:
'It is as if there's a fear that venturing into a grey area to discuss the complexities of consent and rape will unravel some forty years of feminist spadework, that people will be unnecessarily confused by any such discussion. But surely feminism isn't that fragile. And isn't it obvious that people are already confused? For despite the law being clear on the definition of consent, neither the police nor the public prosecutors seem to have much faith in a jury's ability to convict in certain cases, even if they do satisfy the legal criteria.' (p.259)

Thus, this very issue of how to delve into these shades of grey is a central theme of Night Games. The issues that unravel are many, including, but not limited to ideas that:

  • Thinking a women is asking for it when drunk can be just as bad as thinking all footballers are badly behaved jocks and potential rapists. 
  • AFL is one of the few male-only sports codes in the world that boast a large proportion of female supporters. Yet the gender and power imbalances are still so vast. Why? 
  • Are football 'groupies' complicit in promoting rape culture? Or are they examples of sexually empowered women?
  • Boys, as well as women, are used, abused and discarded in football, though obviously in very different ways.

Krien is so well read and justifies the positions she offers with such clarity and conviction that as a reader you feel that she is representing the issues in a very fair and honest manner.

Night Games, as Krien states towards the end of the book, is not anti-sport. After all, not all footballers, let alone sportsmen, treat the people they interact with poorly. But what needs to change is the 'men who use sport as power and the people - teammates, fans, coaches clubs, doctors, police, journalists, groupies - who let them do whatever they want.' Night Games is one gripping insight into this complex, multifaceted world, and has allowed me to begin seeing the shades of grey where I once didn't. 

Read more: http://bloggerknown.blogspot.com/2013/02/changing-blog-page-by-page-number.html#ixzz2mUXnF3wj