FWF Quarantine Q&A: Hilde Hinton

Hilde Hinton is the author of The Loudness of Unsaid Things, a story of loneliness, isolation and finding your way.

What does feminism mean to you?

This poor word. It just can’t shake its history, glorious as it is. So many women shirk this word. Shrug it off. Too many women don’t want to be associated with bra burning and protests. It’s in the past. It’s no longer relevant. It is not in the past, it is relevant. It’s about having access to opportunities – all, not most. It’s about speaking with abandon, behaving any which way without ‘never mind her, it’s that time of month’. It’s about spilling freely outside the box without a judgement cloud above our heads. It’s about equality, not being the same. Oh, and it’s gender neutral.

Was there a particular moment you can pinpoint that was crucial to the development of your perspective of feminism?

I found a clipping from the paper with a photo of my mum playing pool in a Melbourne hotel. Women weren’t allowed in public bars back then; the floral lounge area to the side was for the ‘ladies’. A good spot for them to gossip and wait for their menfolk. My mother refused to go to the lounge, chalked her cue and took her time writing her name ‘Merrill’ on the chalk board. As the patrons shifted uneasily, my father suggested a pool competition – for cash. Before too long, the men adjusted to having a young woman in their midst. And as the competition neared its end, a Sun journo from up the road came in and snapped her leaning over to have her shot – camera at the pointy end of her cue. She was grinning, but focused. A serious older gent in a ragged bowler hat and a young fellow that looked like he’d just graduated into long pants were standing behind her, watching the game. Mum took home some cash that day, and it was this clipping from the paper that gave me the wherewithal to stand up to the newsagent who said having a paper stand in the city was for boys. I got my paper stand, and grinned just like mum had in that photo when I sold my first paper.

How do you think feminism has influenced your ideas about family responsibilities and roles?

I was not the primary caregiver of my children. When I went to pick them up for my fortnightly weekend one time, one of the primary school boys stood near the car as I was buckling them in. He said: ‘how come the boys don’t live with you when you’re their mum?’ I didn’t have an answer because I was neck deep in my guilt bath. L’esprit d’escalier is a French expression meaning (literally) spirit of the staircase. Imagine yourself on the up escalator as the moment you could have said something brilliant is on the down escalator way behind your shoulder. The moment’s gone. All these years later, I could have told that boy that feminism isn’t about the mum being the better caregiver no matter what.

Women’s voices and definitions, such as sanity, are often policed by others. What do you think feminism brings to this?
My work colleagues chuck me on the shoulder and refer to me as crazyor zany on the daily. If I wasn’t female, I’d just be interesting. Which is all I am.

Which women, queer, or non-binary writers should everyone be reading right now?

I seek authors whose characters are out there in all their glory – they may be strong, they may not be; they may be damaged, or sad. They may be joyfully frolicking about the place, or simply surviving. I want their strengths and flaws swimming around my head as I join them in their worlds. A very small sample of authors who have given me this are Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, Isabel Allende, Dorothy Porter, Geraldine Brooks, Charlotte Wood, Alice Walker and Helen Garner. 

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