Friday, September 2, 2016

It's in the air we breathe

I wear the label proudly. The "Feminist" label surrounded by flowers in the shape of a heart, pink background - ordered for me by my daughter, who manages to be fierce and vulnerable all at once - is affixed to my laptop for all to see.

Actually, that is a lie. It is affixed just beneath the keyboard so it is mostly covered because you see I am old and can't deal with the shit; I'm not nearly as brave as my daughter who wears her giant fighting heart on her sleeve, or more precisely across every spare inch of her laptop case, on the outside for all to see.

I wear the label proudly and then sometimes, for a moment, I am not sure if I have the soundbite ready to fire off if asked "well, then, why are you a feminist?" I think the reason for this is because it is in the fucking air we breathe. Misogyny that is.

In 2016 we have the Most Dangerous Man to ever run for President of the United States of America filling our screens with the sort of hate and fear mongering that makes comparisons to Nazi Germany not feel like a stretch running against the Most Qualified Candidate to ever run for President.

The fact that the Most Qualified Candidate happens to be a woman means she is the subject of the sort of scrutiny and barbs and daily questions as to her "likability" that a male candidate (even one as heinous as Trump) has never been subjected to by a media that does not comprehend (care) that the question itself is rooted in a sexism that is hard to see because it is in the air we breathe.

It is everywhere: it is the pay gap; it is the critical eye we cast daily over our own female bodies; the catcalls and harassment along with the condescending demand from corporations (hello Dove) that we celebrate our own beauty rather than demand that we put beauty in its place; it is the dismissal and invisibility of women as they age and/or fail to adhere to a stunningly narrow ideal of beauty; it is a feminism that deems caring work as wasted potential rather than demand that caring work be recognized, celebrated, supported and rewarded; it is the "he was a dedicated family man and all round great bloke" narrative that seems to emerge after each and every 'family' murder-suicide committed by a "loving" husband/father; it is the "why didn't she leave?" while governments cut welfare benefits to single parents and defund shelters for women and children; it is considering books about boys and men as having universal appeal and books about girls and women as a niche market; it is the veneration of motherhood minus the provision of paid parental leave; it is the speed at which men who enter female dominated professions rise to the top and the "Mathilda Effect" whereby women in male dominated professions are judged by a tougher standard than their male counterparts; it is pads and tampons being taxed as if they are a luxury and girls in developing countries being denied an education when they have their period due to the failure to provide adequate toilet facilities; it is the use of the female body to sell every consumable imaginable while the use of a breast to do the work for which it was designed, providing nourishment and comfort to new human beings, is considered obscene if done in public without cover . . .

Sexism and misogyny are so common, so unremarkable, that it is not so hard to forget that it is there, always there, not just in front of us but behind and underneath and even inside those of us who wear our feminist label proudly; and it is exhausting to keep noticing because then our days will be spent in a state of rage that all too often morphs into despair.

It is hard to see because it is is in the air we breathe.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Best Books 2015

These are just some of my personal favorites from 2015. I could easily include another five but my list is already longer than the standard Top 10 so I will stop torturing myself and hit publish.

Best Books (published in 2015)

Mia Alvar, In the Country (short stories)
Elisa Albert, After Birth
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies
Mirielle Juchau, The World Without Us
Sofie Laguna, The Eye of the Sheep
Edan Lepucki, California
Priya Parmar, Vanessa and Her Sister
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
Miriam Toews, All My Puny Sorrows
Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life


Mary-Louise Parker, Dear Mr. You
Vivian Gornick, The Odd Woman and the City

And some pre-2015 books that I really enjoyed this year

Akhil Sharma, Family Life
Emma Healey, Elizabeth is Missing
Susan Minot, Thirty Girls
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge
Kim Thuy, Man

Friday, January 1, 2016

My reading life in 2015

2015 was a busy year for me and busy in mostly really good ways. However, busy and reading are not the best combination so I really did struggle to get under the wire with my annual #52books52weeks goal this year.

My Reads of 2015

Caroline Kneps, You
Edan Lepucki, California
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
Justin Torres, We the Animals
Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
Priya Parmar, Vanessa and Her Sister
Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge
Jessie Burton, The Miniaturist
Miriam Toews, All My Puny Sorrows
Jenny Erpendeck, The End of Days
Jill Alexander Essenbaum, Hausfrau
Holly LeCraw, The Half Brother
Akhil Sharma, Family Life
Megan Abbott, Dare Me
Lev Grossman, The Magicians
Susan Minot, Thirty Girls
James Salter, Light Years
Lauren Groff, Arcadia
Josh Weil, The Great Glass Sea
Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life
Ruth Galm, Into the Valley
Eimear McBride, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Mohsin Hamid, How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia
Jonathan Franzen, Purity
Bill Clegg, Did you ever have a family
Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies
Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread
Emma Healey, Elizabeth is Missing
Elisa Albert, After Birth
Kim Thuy, Man
David Nicholls, Us
Henry James, Washington Square
Jami Attenberg, Saint Mazie
A. L. Tait, The Mapmaker Chronicles

Short Stories
Mia Alvar, In the Country

Australian Fiction
Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project
Christos Tsiolkas, Barracuda
Sophie Laguna, The Eye of the Sheep
Mireille Juchau, The World Without Us

Non-fiction & Memoir
Jon Krakauer, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town
Robert D. Putnam, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis
Cheryl Strayed, Wild
Laurie Penny, Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution
Mona Eltahawy, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East needs a sexual revolution
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Mary-Louise Parker, Dear Mr. You
Vivian Gornick, The Odd Woman and the City
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
Alice Hoffman, Survival Lessons

Fanny Howe, Second Childhood
Edward Hirsch, Gabriel
Marie Howe, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time

I love working out my reading stats, so here are some for this year:
75% fiction.
70% of authors women.
Only 4 books were by Australian authors (far too few).
8 memoirs (or hard to categorize but memoir comes closest).
82% of the books were by authors I had not read before.
I read two novels by one author because she is so great: Lauren Groff's 'Arcadia' and 'Fates and Furies'.
I read only one classic, Henry James' 'Washington Square'.
My reading was split almost 50/50 between paper and e-book formats.

I had a chat with an acquaintance on the last day of 2015 who has noticed that I really do like to read. I told him about my annual 52 books goal and he loved the concept so much he committed to reading a book a month in 2016.

Wishing you a 2016 that is filled with people you love (and no doubt you will find some of those people inside the pages of books),

Michelle x