FWF Q&A: 2018’s new FWF faces

News, Q&A

Each month, we interview an Australian writer about feminism, writing and the connections between the two. For our first FWF Q&A of 2018, we’re excited to have the new members of our team in the hot seat.


Lara Shprem – General Manager

What does feminism mean to you?
On a very basic level, feminism to me means the freedom of having greater opportunities than the women who came before me, and using those opportunities to expand the lives of the women who will come after me.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
I hope my perspective is constantly evolving. I am not the same person that I was five years ago, and as I learn and grow more my perspective on feminism evolves. Being made aware of the privileges I have had was hugely important in the development of my perspective. Learning that we didn’t all start at the same place, and are all even playing on the same field has made me very aware of my privilege. It’s also taught me that there are times that my voice isn’t appropriate in conversations and that I need to listen more than I speak.

Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
The importance of women supporting women and non-binary writers cannot be understated. In 2017, nine out of ten literary bestsellers were female-identifying authors, yet books written by women (or about female characters) are so often dismissed. I learned so much from Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, and I loved Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Samanta Schweblin’s Fever Dream.


Emily Briggs – Volunteer Coordinator

What does feminism mean to you?
Quite simply, a world without oppression, in which everyone is equal.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
When I first started working in bookstores at the age of 16, I was unaware of the unconscious bias that my colleagues and customers held towards male writers. Over time, I began to realise that people’s reading choices were significantly gendered. Men openly acknowledged that they didn’t like ‘woman writers’ and generally bought ‘chick lit’ for the women in their lives. Women generally bought sport and history books for men and avoided buying them books by female authors or with female protagonists. These preferences really ground my gears when people were buying for children: “It’s written by a lady, are you sure he’d like it?” or “It’s about a girl, I don’t think he’d read it” were common responses to my book suggestions for kids. It became my mission to politely challenge every customer who dismissed female and non-binary writers, by solely recommending books by women and non-binary people. I can tell you now, it’s been an incredibly satisfying mission!

Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
There are so many! To narrow it down: Reni Eddo-Lodge, Ali Smith, Jeanette Winterson, Zadie Smith, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Strout, Roxane Gay and Julie Koh.


Kate Bullen – Development Coordinator

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism means taking the patriarchy that prioritises the voices of able-bodied straight white cis men and smashing it to pieces. It means taking up my rightful place as a woman and raising my voice, just as much as it means stepping aside and shutting up to allow a more diverse range of people to take their rightful places.
Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
I was the only girl in my physics class in grade 11. I enjoyed the content and the teacher but the class was hell. I was spoken over, had things thrown at me and generally made to feel unwelcome because I was a girl. I probably wouldn’t have used the word feminist then, but I knew it was wrong and I wouldn’t let that happen to me again.
 
Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
 I’ve just finished reading Things That Helped by Jessica Friedmann and have already recommended it to all my friends. Friedmann begins by taking us on her journey through postnatal depression but goes on to discuss childhood, university, relationships, feminism, politics and more.  With two young children myself, I know firsthand that we need more action on mental health stigma and support and if everyone read Friedmann’s work, I think that might be a good place to start.

Sian Campbell – Social Media Coordinator

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me means thinking critically about the choices we make, and making sure that our society is accessible and enjoyable for everyone to live in, no matter what their background is. It’s not feminism unless it’s intersectional.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
Possibly the Gender Studies class I took in my first and only year of an arts degree at UQ back when I was 19. I think that was the starting point for me. From then on, when I looked around the world, I couldn’t help but notice all the things I’d just taken for granted as fact before. I couldn’t help but notice how rarely I saw myself represented in the media I consumed.

Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
I don’t know that I believe that there’s any one writer that everyone should read, and I’m sure the books I’ve responded to the most won’t speak to everyone, but: Toni Morrison, Maggie Nelson, Ariel Gore, Simone de Beauvoir, Lindy West and Roxane Gay are all writers who works have shaped my feminism.


Emma Dallamora, Program Coordinator

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism for me is about striving for women’s release from patriarchal dominance. It means making sure that women who are at the largest risk are prioritised and that my actions don’t contribute to other women’s suffering. Like, wearing a t-shirt that proclaims ‘Feminist’ on the front, but is made by an impoverished woman in Bangladesh, is NOT a feminist act to me. It also means admitting that I make mistakes sometimes and working towards a better understanding.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
I think when people started calling a lot of celebrities ‘feminists’ for posting nude photos of themselves online, that’s when I realised that feminism (for me) needs to contribute to alleviating women’s oppression, not just switching to a mental feeling that I can be empowered by opting in to the oppression. When you’re white and living in relative ease and comfort in Australia, it’s super easy to slip into the narrative that individual empowerment is more important than women’s struggles collectively all over the world.

Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
So many! I’d start with bell hooks, Simone de Beauvoir, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Celeste Liddle. I love a bit of complex academic theory (don’t worry, I’m eye-rolling at myself) and have enjoyed Julia Kristeva, Dorothy Allison, Cora Diamond and Linda Nochlin among many others. For something literary I would say Svetlana Alexievich, Angela Carter, Toni Morrison, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath – these women are excellent at crafting a picture of female subjectivity and desire under patriarchy.


Helen Papadimitriou – Venue Coordinator

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is about equality; about making visible the male focus that shapes our world so that other perspectives can be heard.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
As a girl growing up, having migrant parents meant a lot of restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do. In my late teens it became apparent that the rules were very different for the boys, allowing them more freedom and lots more excuses for any ‘bad’ behaviours.  It was this and the discovery of Doris Lessing’s novels that led me to feminism.

Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
Doris Lessing, Clementine Ford, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen.


Natasha Saltmarsh – Artist Liaison

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me means so many different things; equality, safety, access to education and meaningful employment choices, being able to exercise in public without fear of assault or harassment. But really, I want the world to be fairer for women and girls. I don’t want assumptions about how we should behave, or what we can do, where we can be, what we want to wear, to undermine our existence or activities.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
I don’t know that I can narrow this down to one instance, however when I realised I was treated differently to my brother, I got so frustrated knowing that life wasn’t quite as fair for girls as it was for boys. I could not understand or accept the reasons I was given for this.

Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
Apart from literally all of them, I’m going to have to point towards the doyen of sci-fi and say we all need a bit of Ursula K Le Guin in our lives.


Yen-Rong Wong – Sponsorships Coordinator

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism means respecting women, listening to women – and this means all women, not just white women. It means equality for all women, and interrogating and (hopefully) dismantling the power structures that prevent such equality from occurring.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism?
I was prepping for a research course in my last year of my undergraduate degree, and came across postcolonial feminist theory, and a lot of things just fell into place. It was then I realised that a lot of the feminism I had been digesting so far had been predominantly white, and therefore, not terribly relatable or even relevant. It was the first time I consciously realised how much I needed feminism to be intersectional. But I’m also continually learning about feminism(s) as I read more, and engage more with other women.

Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
Eileen Chong’s poems are beautiful, as is everything Mindy Gill does. I love Michelle de Kretser’s novels, Elizabeth Tan’s work is exquisitely bizarre, and Roanna Gonsalves’, Melanie Cheng’s and Julie Koh’s short stories are all something special. My terribly talented friend Rachel Ang is also hoping to have a graphic novella out sometime soon, so everyone should keep an eye out for that, and also for all the work she’s done so far.