BOOK REVIEW: HOW TO WIN AT FEMINISM – PRESENTED BY REDUCTRESS AND BY ELIZABETH NEWELL, SARAH PAPPALARDO & ANNA DREZEN

 

How to Win at Feminism is a book that needs to be taken along with a large grain of salt as it is supposed to be a funny and subversive – if misguided – look at feminism for millennials. The writers even include acknowledge this, with, “At the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of cute klutzes who wrote an effing book” but is this admission at the end of the book one that is too little too late? If How to Win at Feminism achieves anything it is to prove that for some people feminism isn’t and will never be a laughing matter.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201703/226256

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

BOOK REVIEW: BETTER THAN SEX – WOMEN WRITE ABOUT SEX & ROMANCE IN THE DIGITAL AGE

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Better Than Sex may have a big title but it’s ultimately a bit of a misnomer. The book is actually a collection of essays by 16 female writers who discuss sex, love and romance in this modern, digital age. This is the third book about and by contemporary women to be compiled and edited by author and journalist, Samantha Trenoweth. It offers some interesting and engaging discussions about a range of topics and offers a number of different perspectives.

The point of this book was to see whether women have more or less choice in the current landscape of love or one that incudes Tinder, internet dating, selfies and internet porn. A number of the authors (Zan Rowe, Maggie MK Hess and Van Badham) try internet dating with varying degrees of success. Other writers like the happily married, Zoe Norton Lodge and Emily Maguire examine topics like desire and how they keep the spark alive. Roxane Gay offers us a moving piece of short fiction about grief and guilt but it feels like it belongs in a different anthology altogether.

Catharine Lumby looks at how teenagers are navigating the minefield of internet porn, sexting and dating that is played out on social media while Rosie Waterland describes naked selfies. Lena Dunham offers a fabulous piece on marriage and her own ambivalence towards it. And Celeste Liddle offers us some insightful ideas about the clash between individuality and community that often affects Aboriginal women and what they do to reconcile these rather disparate elements.

This volume will challenge you and make you think differently about some ideas and will have you nodding or disagreeing with others. The book is a very direct, no-holds barred look at love in the digital age. It’s also a rather personal and engaging read by a number of female writers. It also allows you to walk a mile in their shoes. Excellent.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/better-than-sex/10055725/

Interview: Writer, Sex-Blogger & Feminist Vanessa de Largie talks about sexuality and her best-selling books

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Trigger warning: This post includes information about rape and domestic violence and may be distressing for some readers.

Vanessa de Largie makes no apologies. The former actress and feminist is now a successful author and sex blogger for The Huffington Post. Her writing is fierce, funny and honest with things like “The Blowjob Artist”, “The Squirting Princess” and “The Hum-Balls-Harlot” just some of her most recent posts. She is also a successful memoir writer with her books, Without My Consent and Don’t Hit Me! focusing on rather difficult topics like her rape and an abusive relationship which saw her become a victim of domestic violence. The AU Review sat down with de Largie to talk about feminism, sexuality and her best-selling books.

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How long have you been writing and working in the arts industry?

I’ve just turned 39 and have been pushing my dream uphill since I was a kid. I started at The Johnny Young Talent School at the age of three — training in dance, singing and drama. Mum got me my first agent at 14. In 2011, I was burnt-out from the acting industry and decided to take a break and focus on writing. I’ve never looked back. Writing has given me an inner-peace that acting was never able to provide.

Can you briefly describe your book, Don’t Hit Me?

Don’t Hit Me! is a collation of journal entries, poems and lyrical prose about my journey through domestic violence.

Why do you think people should read Don’t Hit Me?

Basically, I published my raw journal. I would like to think that my book offers hope and nourishment to survivors.

You have written brutally honest books about being a victim of domestic violence and rape. How did you prepare yourself to write about such difficult material?

Without My Consent is about my journey through rape at age 20. I never intended to write about it. It wasn’t something I discussed. Rape culture breeds fear in rape victims. Victims don’t tell anyone in fear that they will be disbelieved, judged or interrogated. Although the book is only novella-length, it took me 18 months to write. Many writing sessions ended in tears, anxiety and alcohol.

Was the process of writing about these horrific events cathartic at all? What advice would you give to individuals who are facing similar circumstances?

Very cathartic. Reliving the violence whilst writing about it, enabled a release. It was a very healing experience. I encourage all survivors to use writing as a form of therapy.

How important is it for victims of domestic violence and rape to have secure support networks? How big a role did your friends and family play with respect to your own circumstances?

Whilst I was living through the violence in Don’t Hit Me! my brother and father died and my mother was fighting terminal brain cancer. Mum’s death was the catalyst for leaving my abuser. I couldn’t grieve for Mum, Dad and my brother Damian whilst being physically abused. Domestic and sexual violence are a very secretive business. I think support networks sound great in theory but I’m not convinced they work in reality.

You have a blog dedicated to covering feminist issues and sexuality. What issues would you like to see covered in more detail in the mainstream media? Why did you choose these ones?

I was fortunate to land a gig as a sex-blogger for The Huffington Post. From the very first article it just took off. Many sex-blogs written by women are tame and politically correct. My blogs are fierce and male-friendly. I also run an additional sex-blog called The Victress.

I have no interest in female-friendly porn, sensuality or romance. My blogs are for women and men who are seeking something fiercer, dirtier and un-PC. There is a definite inequality in literature and what is deemed acceptable for women to write about. I’m promiscuous and I make no beg-your-pardons. Interestingly enough, I was advised to tone down my writing by others in the industry. They believed it would sabotage my career opportunities. Thankfully I kept true to my voice. If anything, my sex-writing has only increased my opportunities in the mainstream. I want to see sexually fierce women like myself represented in mainstream media. I want it to become so normal that it no longer shocks.

Who is your feminist icon and why? What advice would you give to young women who may be struggling to identify as feminists?

Germaine Greer would have to be my feminist icon. She is more fierce than most women half her age.

I’m not sure about this new brand of feminism that is sold to girls.  It’s very sugary and shallow. But I do understand the reason for mass-marketing it this way with slogans like: If you believe that women should be treated equally then you’re a feminist.”

Feminism is much more complex than that. I believe that being a true feminist is your ability to support a woman in her choices, whatever they may be — sex-work, porn, stripping, promiscuity etc. I would encourage young women to read, read, read. I’ve been reading books about feminism and gender since I was a teen and I still have so much to learn.

Your work includes being a regular sex blogger and columnist. What is one of the biggest myths that people believe with respect to sex?

The biggest sex-myth is that women have lower libidos than men. The second biggest sex-myth is that women require emotional attachment in sex. It’s BS!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell The AU Review about Don’t Hit Me! or your future works?

Don’t Hit Me! has been a #1 Amazon Bestseller in four countries. It is the recipient of two international book awards. The book was originally self-published but was picked up by a Seattle publisher and re-released as a paperback and eBook.

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For support and 24 hour assistance regarding domestic violence, please visit the National Sexual Assault Online Service at: https://www.1800respect.org.au/ or call 1800RESPECT

For more information about Vanessa’s books Don’t Hit Me! and Without My Consent visit: http://www.vanessadelargie.net/without-my-consent.html and http://www.vanessadelargie.net/dont-hit-me.html

Originally published on 22 April 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/interviews/writer-sex-blogger-feminist-vanessa-de-largie-talks-about-sexuality-and-her-best-selling-books/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage dedicated to the arts at: http://arts.theaureview.com

BOOK REVIEW: CHARLOTTE WOOD – THE NATURAL WAY OF THINGS

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Charlotte Wood’s fifth novel, The Natural Way Of Things hooks you in with a simple premise. A group of ten young women are imprisoned on a deserted farm in the Australian outback. They don’t know how they got there, all they know is that they were drugged and kidnapped beforehand. The story that unfolds is a complex and devastating one where you are compelled to keep reading in order to find out why this is so. The novel itself doesn’t offer up a whole lot of answers but it does succeed in asking lots of important questions.

The Natural Way of Things is Wood’s fifth novel. The Australian author has previously been nominated for various literary prizes and she’s also penned some non-fiction books. This latest work is a trully compelling read in that it is bound to create some visceral feelings in readers (who will want to share and discuss the book with other people). The content itself is quite provocative and it does deal with some confronting issues.

The story was inspired by a radio documentary that Wood had heard about the Hay Institution for Girls. This real-life “jail” saw women in the sixties and seventies locked up and in some cases it was only because they had spoken out about being assaulted or sexually abused. Like the real-life example, the thing that Wood’s characters have in common is that they were the victims in high-profile crimes (read: those covered by the media) involving men and sex. It’s sad because in the book this “future universe” actually mirrors the trial by media, victim shaming and judgment that occurs towards women that are unfortunate enough to have had these cruelties committed against them today.

The two central characters are the beautiful Yolanda who experienced a horrific gang rape and Verla, a strong woman who was the mistress of a high-profile politician. They are imprisoned by three awful guards including the sadistic and disgusting Boncer, the new-age stoner, Teddy and an un-hinged female “nurse”. At first the jail is brutal as the girls have their individuality stripped, they are subjected to hard labour and the punishments are delivered swiftly and often. But then a major turning point occurs when all of the individuals – including the inept guards – are left with no escape by the mysterious security company in charge.

The Natural Way Of Things has many contradictions but it all feels very real. Wood’s prose is quite pretty and lyrical (just like the book’s cover) and yet the content is very dark and terrifying. The novel poses lots of questions but the answers are not always forthcoming and the ending is rather unsatisfying. But in all, this is an important and raw look at misogyny, feminism and abuse and it is all presented in a gripping way. This intense novel is an exquisite book that would make a worthy literary prize winner as it is a modern classic that challenges the reader, slaps them out of their comfort zones and offers them with a bitter pill packaged as “food for thought”.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/natural-way-of-things/9529762

FILM REVIEW: SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY

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She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a little documentary with a big, important message. It chronicles the second wave of feminism in the United States from 1966-1971. It was a tumultuous time that saw some radical changes. This film is an illuminating one that tackles one key part of a complex social movement.

This documentary marks the directorial debut of Mary Dore. It is very well-edited and draws together clips and recent interviews with the women who were an integral part of the movement (it does not necessarily feature the most famous feminist voices but it still uses ones that were instrumental in affecting change). There is also newsreel footage and snippets from programs showing misogynistic men spurting bile. It’s also eye-opening to learn that decades ago it was normal to have job advertisements segregated by gender, the executive jobs were for the lads while the secretarial duties were left for the girls.

This documentary starts off by looking at the publication of The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. This acted as a catalyst that brought together a number of disenfranchised and determined women. The film talks about the establishment of NOW (the National Organisation for Women) and Jane- a group that were performing underground abortions when it was illegal to do so. Lesbian feminists like Rita Mae Brown and Karla Jay are interviewed and they talk about their part in forming the Lavender Menace. There are also women from different cultural backgrounds representing the African-American and Hispanic communities. Alta,a lady that founded the Shameless Hussy magazine is also interviewed but Ms. magazine’s Gloria Steinem is noticeably absent.

This film gives airtime to a lot of different voices and sub-segments of the greater group. Sadly, some of these expressions are reduced to some awkward and poor re-enactments which dilutes the message a little bit (a better alternative would have been to go back to the actual source themselves or at least choose some better actresses). Thankfully, these brief parts are outweighed by better moments in the film (like seeing the members of WITCH- Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell using very original theatrics to convey their message).

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a documentary that remains timely and important. It sees a neglected subject discussed in detail and it shows the great achievements as well as the shortcomings of feminism. In all, this is an excellent, must-see film, especially when issues like the gender pay gap, reproductive rights, access to childcare and oppression and subjugation remain significant and fundamental problems.

Originally published on 14 August 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/melbourne-international-film-festival-review-shes-beautiful-when-shes-angry-usa-2014/

Visit The Iris’ homepage at: http://iris.theaureview.com/

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INTERVIEW: DIRECTOR, ADAM COOK ON A DOLL’S HOUSE

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Former Artistic Director of the State Theatre Company of South Australia, Adam Cook, will be adapting and directing Henrik Ibsen’s classic play A Doll’s House as part of the Seymour’s Reginald 2014 season and in collaboration with the independent theatre company, Sport for Jove. Natalie Salvo spoke to Adam about the production, which opens July 17th…

How would you sum up A Doll’s House in a few sentences?

The Helmers are all set to enjoy a prosperous new life together in their new home. Torvald has been promoted to a senior position at the bank and his wife Nora is thrilled. At last, they can put their financial troubles behind them. But their fragile happiness is shattered by the arrival of an unexpected visitor. As the lies that Nora has told, and the risks that she has taken to protect her husband are exposed, they’re forced to question just how perfect their marriage really is. Now, it seems, only a miracle will set them free.

Playwright, Henrik Ibsen is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare. Do you have a favourite work of his?

I’ve always really loved his intensely focused chamber plays, like The Master Builder, Ghosts, Hedda Gabler, and of course A Doll’s House. These are plays about big themes explored through boldly drawn characters.

What prompted you to adapt/work on A Doll’s House?

Damien Ryan, Artistic Director of Sport for Jove, the company for whom I am directing this production, invited me to choose a play that I would like to do at the Seymour Centre. We looked through the secondary school drama syllabus, wanting to choose a play that students were studying. We wanted to offer them an exciting production of the play, performed as it’s written. So it won’t be a re-write of the original play.

How will your production at the Seymour Centre differ from earlier adaptations of the show? Are you consciously trying to put a modern spin on this play?

I couldn’t yet predict how it will differ. I’ve seen some wonderful productions of the play. But I do know that our audiences will witness some brilliant acting and a riveting storyline. You don’t need to put a modern spin on a play whose concerns are timeless. The themes haven’t dated at all. We’re still facing the same problems, and I think we always will.

Do you have a favourite film or stage adaptation of A Doll’s House? If so, which one and why did you pick this particular one?

I don’t, actually, which is why I have written my own adaptation of the script. Each new production of a foreign-language classic needs a new translation of the text. The production will be set in its original period of the late 1800s, but the language will sound fresh and contemporary.

Journalist Michael Meyer once said that the play is not about women’s rights but rather, “The need of every individual to find out the kind of person he or she really is and to strive to become that person.” Do you agree?

I do. It’s not just the story of a woman, it’s the story of a marriage, of flawed characters in a flawed relationship. Ibsen said that “self-realisation is our greatest task and highest happiness.” He’s right. He’d been accused of being a pessimist, and he was, in that he didn’t believe in the absoluteness of human ideals. But at the same time he was an optimist, believing totally in the ability of humanity’s ideals to grow and to develop.

The Seymour Centre website asks audiences whether Nora Helmer is a heroic feminist, rabid neurotic, or just a selfish runaway? What do you think, is she any of these or something completely different?

I don’t think there’s anything heroic about Nora, and she’s not meant to represent the emancipation for all womanhood. It’s a play about one woman’s awakening to the life-lie she’s been leading. She finds that she is somebody else, and that she wants something else. She’s full of doubts about her relationship with her husband and about her own identity. She doesn’t know what’s right or wrong. She is completely confused, and in order to find clarity, she makes a bold and shocking decision.

Why do you think audiences should come and see A Doll’s House?

It’s such an exciting and suspenseful story, full of ambiguity of character, secrets and surprises. Nora Helmer is a woman of such fascinating contradictions and I think audiences will find her very intriguing indeed.

Is there anything else you would like to tell the AU review’s readers about A Doll’s House?

Please book tickets and support a wonderful independent theatre company, Sport for Jove!

 

Originally published on 19 June 2014 at the following website: http://www.theaureview.com/arts/interviews/adam-cook-a-dolls-house-at-the-reginald-theatre

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/