British poet, rapper, playwright and writer Kate Tempest was in Australia recently for the Sydney Writers Festival, where she gave the opening address to wide acclaim and appeared at a number of other sessions. Tempest followed this up with an appearance at the Wheeler Centre on Thursday 26 May, where she was interviewed by FWF Steering Committee member Maxine Beneba Clarke in front of a packed audience.
The whole interview (which includes a reading by Tempest) is wonderful, but I was particularly interested in Tempest’s discussion of her desire to turn the traditional novel on its head by focusing on a multiplicity of people living their own quiet but deeply complex lives within a community, rather than on the rarefied individual hero’s journey. Tempest also discussed her decision to depict one of her characters, who works in the sex industry, positively and to demonstrate that she is empowered by the work she does. This came about partly because she was tired of constantly seeing sex workers in film and TV who were characterised as disempowered, and murdered for entertainment.
The podcast of their discussion can be found here. A warning, though: it may leave you wanting to quit your job in order to devote yourself to spoken word poetry.
Sarah Burnside had a lovely reflection in Overland last week on pregnancy politics and writing. She comments on the tension between viewing the personal as political and her desire not to take part in the ‘first person industrial complex’, before remarking that ‘women’s experiences are more likely than men’s to be dismissed as not deserving of serious attention.’ In a particularly resonant section, Sarah argues:
Pregnancy is self-evidently political in that it concerns power: it’s a time when a woman might be denied an abortion, abused by her partner, discriminated against in the workplace, damned as a burden on the welfare state. It’s also political at a more abstract level, though. A pregnant woman nurtures an entity which is totally reliant on her; a state I began to see as preparation for a relationship based on the dependence which is so fundamental a part of the human condition.
Still on the subject of pregnancy and motherhood, Jenna Price’s article in the Canberra Times summarises the recently released report of the Work and Family Policy Round Table – Work, Care and Family Policies: Election Benchmarks 2016. Jenna highlights the ongoing struggles faced by parents, particularly mothers, who are attempting to combine work and parenthood without sufficient institutional support.
This same lack of institutional support for mothers is also emphasised by Amy Gray in her article, ‘Social infertility: Can we blame women having IVF for delaying pregnancy?’. Responding to a recent Four Corners investigation that focused on the costs of IVF for both the tax payer and women themselves, Amy documents the widespread discrimination faced by pregnant women, both in the workplace and in wider society, and argues that women wouldn’t be delaying pregnancy in such large numbers if society didn’t make it so hard to become a mother.
FWF Steering Committee member Celeste Liddle has an article in Daily Life on the reaction to Nova Peris’s decision to stand down from the Senate. Celeste highlights Peris’s many achievements, including the way she used her platform to highlight issues of racism and to note the misgivings of Indigenous people on the topic of Constitutional Recognition. She argues, ‘[t]hat Peris has had to defend her right to resign from parliament in ways which no other retiring politician ever has had to just goes to show how far we have to go before we have truly conquered racism and sexism in this country.’
In The Conversation, Liz Conor asks whether Aboriginal beauty can break through the colour bar of colonial beauty standards, following 19 year old Maminydjama “Magnolia” Maymuru’s selection to represent the Northern Territory at the Miss World competition.
The Miles Franklin shortlist was announced on Sunday and four of the five shortlistees are women. The five shortlisted books are: Hope Farm by Peggy Frew, Leap by Myfanwy Jones, Black Rock White City by AS Patric, Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar and The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood. The winner will be announced at the opening night of the Melbourne Writers Festival (immediately after our networking day on Friday 26 August).
Cristy Clark is Chair of the Feminist Writers Festival