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Volume 69 Number 2, 2010

Volume 69 Number 2, 2010 cover


French feminist Luce Irigaray was being beamed in from Paris recently, to give a lecture at the University of Melbourne’s law school. She was, despite the inevitable technological hitches, awesome to behold. She talked about natural differences versus constructed ones and drew a link between culture’s preference for constructed relationships and the world’s inability to deal effectively with climate change. She argued that patriarchy has failed in its duty to manage the Earth: that it was ethically unfit to do so.

I first read Irigaray thirty years ago, and found her theory that language was constructed in a way which excluded women very powerful. It seems to me, in the thirty years since I began to engage with feminism, the treatment of women has become worse. Consider the following list of the ways in which women have been publically but, it seems, acceptably humiliated in this country in the last few months.

Louis Nowra described Germaine Greer as ‘a befuddled and exhausted old woman. She reminded me of my demented grandmother who, towards the end of her life, was often in a similarly unruly state.’ Louis Nowra is, as journalist Caroline Overington pointed out, only ten years younger than Greer—so he can take the comment about his grandmother and shove it. Here is the fabulously badly behaved Helen Razer on the subject:

Greer attracts violent spittle of this type not because she is a polemicist, but because she has a cunt. Her every utterance or teeny, tiny op-ed column is the subject of scrutiny and fuel to the flame of what is, let it be said, pure hatred of feminism … Greer DARES to say what we’d all be thinking several months later on the occasion of Steve Irwin’s death and she is called a hag. She DARES to write an informed history on the young male as visual object and she is called a dried-out old cougar. Fuck off.

Around the same time senior sports commentator Peter Roebuck wrote the following in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘Whatever the reality of her life, supposing reality makes an appearance now and then, Lara Bingle stumbles from public relations disaster to public relations calamity. Restaurateurs complain about her manners and the poor company she keeps. Fashionistas talk of her headstrong ways and dubious customs. Moreover she seems intent on boosting the sales of all those magazines purchased by the female of the species. In short, she craves attention and courts controversy. Yet Michael, the class act of the pairing, seems besotted. Beauty and danger have always been a potent combination.’

Christine Nixon, whose judgement on 7 February 2009 was undoubtedly questionable, has had to endure headlines such as ‘Police commissioner ate while Victoria burned’. As critic and blogger Kerryn Goldsworthy wrote on her blog: ‘Let me get this straight: Christine Nixon is to be crucified for taking an hour off, when she wasn’t even rostered on, in order to have dinner—but it’s cause for gasps of meeja admiration when the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition goes AWOL on a nine-day bike ride, taking yet another opportunity to wobble his budgie at slavering photographers and horrified truckies for the entire length of the Hume Highway.’

Australia Post released its Australian Legends of the Written Word stamp series. Five men, one woman (Colleen McCullough). Only three of the thirty-four finalists of the Archibald Prize for 2010 were women (one of them, Kate Benyon, is a favourite artist of mine). The judges of the Miles Franklin Award put out a long list with three women and eight men. The odds improved when the short list was announced and included two women and four men but last year, after a similar proportion of men and women on the long list, no women made it to the short list at all. Much of the commentary around this in 2009 argued that you can’t pick a list based on political correctness—an argument I’d swallow if women writers published that year had not included Helen Garner, Joan London, Amanda Lohrey, Eva Hornung and Andrea Goldsmith.

Last year not a single female lead singer was included in Triple J’s hottest 100 survey. Catherine Strong explores the implications on this in her essay ‘The Triple J Hottest 100 of All Time 2009 and the Dominance of the Rock Canon’ on p. 124 of this issue. I could go on. I won’t. I’ll just say this: either women can’t sing, paint, write or think as well as they used to—certainly not well enough to offset their tendency to become less beautiful with age—or we live in a culture that does not like the things women say or does not know how to hear them when they say it. In other words, Irigaray is right. Women sit outside language.


Editorial by Sophie Cunningham


Meanjin in Colour

  • Steampunk by Katherine Wilson

  • Interview: Life by Design: Sophie Cunningham talks to Alex Stitt

  • Between Art and Garbage by Ella Mudie



  • Waiting for Dad-o by Meera Atkinson

  • Black Holes: the Art of Losing Babies by Anne Myers

  • How to Grow a Lawn by Michelle Dicinoski


  • Plain Happy by Karina Barker

  • Pterodactyl by Chris Flynn

  • Fun with the Joys by Zoe Dattner

  • On Circumspection by Kay Rozynski

  • The Owl by David McLaren

  • The Things that Lucille Did by Ruby Murray

  • Stripped: Final Part by Caroline Lee


  • Horizon Line by Alexandra Bates

  • Seeing the Pregnant Woman at Pompeii by Susan Fealy

  • Fugue by Susan Hawthorne

  • The End of Infinity by Gregory Horne

  • The Scent, the Scent by Shari Kocher

  • Urn by Jill Jones

  • The Finales by Martin Langford

  • Among the Green and In Praise of Bad Puns by Craig Powell

  • Black Cross, New Mexico by Helen Parsons

  • Disneyl& by Berndt Sellheim

  • I sit in the night by Mark Tredinnick

  • Hawks and Crows by Rod Usher

  • What go through my head on train to city by Lesley Walter

  • The League of Lovely Women by Les Wicks

  • The Astronaut’s Lovesong by Adrian Wiggins

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