“No black woman writer in this culture can write “too much”. Indeed, no woman writer can write “too much”…No woman has ever written enough”. – bell hooks
Regina Featherstone, Editor-in-Chief
The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers
The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers is a great read not only to reaffirm and extend various beliefs you may have about women’s value in Australia but because it gives facts and examples that so many anti-feminists or uninformed people love to put you on the spot and ask where or who published those facts? The book explains the 80c to $1 fact, along with various Government policies that were introduced to suppress women like the Liberal Party’s baby bonus.
There is a huge review of the treatment of Julia Gillard’s time in parliament and quantitative research that analyses the words used to degrade her gender comparatively to her male counterparts.
For so many people who claim women have it so great in Australia and there is no glass ceiling, this book rips the mask of that idea to reveal the climate of what it is like to work and be a mother in Australia. It’s an informative book that will fuel your passion and reaffirm your values that are so easily smothered by mainstream media. So the next time someone asks you where did you get that fact? You can sit them down and school them on policy, employment and basic social existence for women in Australia and watch their minds explode.
Amy Hadley, Deputy Editor
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The novel is split between the perspectives of two females who are connected from witnessing a violent rape on a beach in Nigeria. Sarah is a recently widowed journalist who lives with her young son in England. Little Bee is a Nigerian refugee who had been living in an English detention centre for two years. The story begins as Little Bee escapes and desperately contacts Sarah. Little Bee moves in with Sarah and helps to look after her son Charlie. The story unfolds in a fantastic way, leaving the reader feeling surprisingly warm and fuzzy.
Through sharing grief together, both Sarah and Little Bee empower each other. While this book wasn’t written with the intent of being a feminist text, I will always remember it as one. Aside from commenting on the struggles which asylum seekers face, it is a look into overcoming the terrors of gendered violence, and female friendship across ethnicities and ages.
Anna Glen, News Editor
Bewitched & Bedevilled: Women write the Gillard years edited by Samantha Trenoweth
As a feminist and political junkie my friend Madi gifted Bewitched & Bedevilled to me for my birthday two years ago. It features various essays by female writers on the Gillard years, looking at what can be learnt from the tenure of Australia’s first Prime Minister. The book includes words from well-known feminist commentators such as Clementine Ford and Anne Summers but also writing from political ‘insiders’ such as Tanya Plibersek, making it a fascinating read. At the back of the book is a transcript of Julia Gillard’s ‘Misogyny speech’, which packs almost as much punch on print as it did on television. For me, this speech was the first scene of a raw and relatable Australian politician that I had seen in my lifetime. Gillard’s words were powerful and piercing and reflected a sentiment felt by many young Australian women. Gender had been put on the political agenda and it was an acknowledgement of the fact that you can and should call out sexism whenever and wherever it occurs. “If [Tony Abbott] wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives, he needs a mirror” – BURN!
Angela Heathcote, Online Editor
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
Having been inspired by the plights of Gloria Steinem from a very, very young age I continue to look up to her essentially because I’m an aspiring journalist and find comfort in her struggles. The idea that she would release yet another book that dealt more closely with the women’s movement of the 70s and beyond was exciting. My Life on the Road allowed me to shift my focus from mainstream feminism to the struggles of minority groups within the movement. Whilst the reality that women of colour invented the feminist movement does not need validation, the final chapter that Gloria dedicates to her friend Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, brings light to the predicament of native cultures and the power of female friendship. After reading My Life on the Road I felt I had a hundred new female role models.
Ellie Sanderson, Macquarie University Women’s Representative
Possession by A.S Byatt
Writing has always been an avenue for female empowerment. It is an opportunity to be heard when you might not otherwise be. I found it so hard to pick one book for this because there are so many women whose voices on paper have given me strength to use my voice in life. I love Margaret Attwood, whose dystopian novels act as warnings for our future; Clare Wright, whose work fills the woman-shaped gaps in history’s narrative; Miles Franklin, who pioneered female writing in Australia, and so many more.
In the end, I chose A.S Byatt’s Booker Prize winning novel, Possession, because I think it’s underappreciated today. It follows two academics who discover the male and female poets they respectively study have a secret intertwined history. It looks at how female figures in literary history have too often been overlooked in favour of their male counterparts and she subtly criticises the discrimination faced by feminist academics. It also looks at how people often hide their own problems in their work. Byatt is an incredible writer and she uses a multitude of forms in the novel, including narrative, letters and diary entries, demonstrating an impressive range. She wrote all the novel’s poetry herself which was a huge challenge she set herself as she is not a poet. It is beautiful.
Fun fact: the first book considered to be a novel was written by a woman – ‘The Tale of Genji’ by Murasaki Shikbu around 1,000CE.
Kawsar Ali, Member of the Women’s Collective
As an Arab Muslim woman, my experiences are not only sexualised, but are also incredibly racialised. I first met Anne Summers after a year of researching raunch culture, glass ceilings, cat calling – but no matter how hard I tried to mirror my feminism with hers I realised I never could, for she was privileged in ways I could never be. She is a white, upperclass woman, and I am an often vilified woman of colour.
It wasn’t until I discovered the work of Macquarie University’s own academic Maryam Khalid, that made me feel like my concerns were being highlighted. An interview, and now friendship with Maryam has introduced me to a world full of Jasmine Zine, Haleh Afshar, Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Lila Abu-Laghod, fellow women of colour who make my concerns feel valid and have spent most of their life devoted to researching it.
One last honourable mention is Fatima Mernissi, Moroccan feminist writer and sociologist who passed away late 2015. Her work still lives on and keeps women such as myself dedicated to continue to add to her literary canon.
Annie Tong, Member of the Women’s Collective
Talkin’ Up To The White Woman by Aileen Moreton-Robinson
Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s “Talkin’ Up To The White Woman” is an absolute must-read for those invested in practicing intersectional feminism. She is an academic, indigenous feminist and activist for indigenous rights. I stumbled upon this text when I was grappling with my own unnerving feeling of disconnect from most dominant feminist discussions. Moreton-Robinson flags how whiteness is almost invariably unnamed, unmarked and unspoken in white feminism. She raises the issue that white feminists, who occupy a position of privilege, have historically conceptualised feminism to be predicated on the experiences of white, middle-class, and heterosexual women. Moreton-Robinson’s text challenges the notion that all women experience sexism and misogyny on equal grounds, asserting that asymmetries of power that privilege white women must be acknowledged.