Each month we speak to an Australian writer about writing, feminism, and the connection between the two. This month we speak to Louise Swinn, editor of Choice Words, a new collection of writing about abortion.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism is really simple for me. It just means that women of all ages and colours and shapes and sizes should be treated with the same respect and fairness that men are. We should be allowed to be flawed and to fail and to get back up. No one should expect us to be better or more naturally anything – equal means not having to be anything, not having to be the same, not having to be different or special – but being treated with the same respect absolutely regardless – no expectations – and afforded equal rights and equal space.
Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective on feminism, and what it means to be a woman writer?
When my brother got a paper round and then I wasn’t allowed one, which came at a similar time to when he was allowed to be an altar boy and I wasn’t – I think it was about then. I was very much still a little kid, and I realised I was being restricted because of something that was not a choice I’d made. Such unmitigated bullshit. Dodged a bullet with the altar boy thing though hey.
Choice Words includes both personal and political commentary around the subject of abortion, as well as a variety of forms, from fiction to comics to poetry. Why is it important to have this mix, and how did you curate the anthology?
I wanted there to be something for everyone, for all kinds of different readers – those who respond to more personal stories and those who like history and nonfiction, who value a story with facts. I want it to appeal to a broad readership because it’s a subject that should be being spoken about broadly. I put it together like that in the hope that you can skip something that doesn’t speak to you and move to something that does, so that even the most time-poor readers will have something to take away from it, but I also wanted to show all sides and make the whole experience truly engrossing for those who are deeply interested in the subject and want to engage at a high level.
Why now for this anthology? What changes do you think still need to happen, especially in Australia?
NSW still needs to make abortion legal, and access needs to be easier – cheaper, quicker – right across Australia. We need to reduce the shame and stigma. I think it’s timely because people want to talk more now. The world appears to be going to hell in a handbasket and we’re realising more and more that we, individually, are the ones who have to make a difference and shift the conversation.
Which women or non-binary writers do you think everyone should read?
I don’t think everyone should read anything in particular because it depends on the person, but I do love me a bit of Amy Witting, some Drusilla Modjeska, Curtis Sittenfeld, Heidi Julavits, and some Lisa Halliday. Not to mention a bit of Donna Tartt.
What piece of writing advice would you give to your younger self?
Ignore all writing advice. Make it your own.