Archive for the ‘books’ Category


Mary Daly: Radical Elemental Feminist

January 7, 2010

I don’t think I have ever written a post on Mary Daly before, despite the fact that her life and work have had a profound influence on my own. If I had never picked up a copy of Gyn/Ecology from a second-hand bookstore when I was 19… what kind of woman would I be today. I launched myself into Gyn/Ecology, not having the faintest clue about what I was reading. Up until this point my contact with feminism had been through The Women’s Collective at uni. Mostly straight liberal feminists. Good women… but tentative in their politics. And through women’s studies subjects at uni. None of which had any hint of radical lesbian feminism in their reading lists or anywhere else. My feminism was pissed off, angry and raging… but had no direction. I had no words, no herstory, no Background to light up the foreground and show it up for what it was. A dirty and dark illusion made to keep women like me from breaking free.

And then, at 19, I picked up a copy of Gyn/Ecology and my eyes were irreversibly opened. Quite honestly, I did not understand a word that the book said. I read passages over, and over and could not comprehend them. I was pretty ignorant at 19. And then I lost the book and lost a huge part of myself along with it. For 5 dark years I floundered about with queer theory and queer feminism online until I found Gyn/Ecology again, and bought myself another copy from The Feminist Bookshop. Reading it again was like coming home. I could not understand how I had lived without Daly’s Elemental Feminism in my life.

I bought every single one of her books and read them cover to cover. Lovingly stroking the pages that held the most meaning. Crying and crying over the realisations of what male supremacy has cost us. Her work lit me up like a bonfire and changed me irrevocably. She was, and is, and ever will be a raging tempest, a Positively Revolting Hag, and A-mazing Amazon, a Quintessential Woman.

I couldn’t write about her before because I didn’t know what to say. How to describe a woman who is everything. Who casts herself beyond the foreground, into the Background and spirals into Outercourse.

Mary, your journey has only just begun. I grieve your passing and I will remember you. Always.

PS. I cried so much when I read Heart’s tribute to Mary Daly: “Leave the State of Fear. We Can’t Stop Now! We Have Overcome.”- In Memory of a Positively Re-Volting Hag, Mary Daly, October 16, 1928-January 3rd, 2010


Some anti-racist and feminist notes on the sixth Harry Potter plus some anti-feminist fangirlish squee!!!!

July 18, 2009

Race issues:

1) So Harry dates Cho an Asian girl, has a flirtation with a biracial girl in a cafe… and then gets into a relationship with, Ginny, a nice washed out white girl.

2) Ginny dates Dean Thomas, played by a Black? Biracial? boy who makes her cry a lot… then gets into a relationship with a nice, white Harry Potter.

3) All the leads are white. There are very few people of colour with speaking roles in the movie. This has been true of ALL of the Harry Potter movies… but it felt even more marked in this one. The biracial girl in the cafe was not in the books that I remember… maybe the film-makers were trying to write more people of colour into the movie.

Women issues:

1) Remus and Tonks together SUCKS. It is so disgusting to see a gorgeous, vibrant young woman be put into a relationship with a gross, boring old man.

2) Hermione pining after brain-dead Ron???? Yeah right. That wasn’t believeable in the books… it sure as hell isn’t believeable in the movies.

3) Ginny got onto the Quidditch team too, right??? She is supposed to be a really brilliant Seeker and Chaser. Why did we only get shots of Ron heroically getting hit by the Quaffle over and over??? Where were all the shots of Ginny with the Quaffle scoring goals for the team??? Oh, that’s right, women’s acheivements and herorism really isn’t comparable to the wonderfulness of stupid men.

Fangirlish Squee:

1) The movie was beautifull rendered. I loved the cinematography.

2) SO MUCH SLASH!!!!! I nearly wet myself when Ron got into bed with Harry. And all those shots of Harry watching Draco and following him around… Sigh. Ages ago I wrote the most brilliant post Sectumsempra story. It fit in so well with the atmosphere of this movie.

3) Luna Lovegood is awesome. I love her character so much. And Helena Bonham Carter has always made my heart beat faster and since she plays an evil, crazy witch in these movies I am totally smitten!!!


Caves: the eeriness of reading Susan Griffin’s Woman and Nature

April 5, 2009


So I’m reading Woman and Nature and it was very weird reading this particular section. I started writing something about two years ago that I intended to be a novella but never finished it. It was tentatively called Caves. And this section of Woman and Nature is just so, so similar to this piece of writing it is freaky.

The following is from Susan Griffin’s Woman and Nature:


Her Journey
Through the Labyrinth
to the Cave Where
She Has Her Vision

The Cave

The shape of a cave, we say, or the shape of a labyrinth. The way we came here was dark. Space seemed to close in on us. We thought we could not move forward. We had to shed our clothes. We had to leave all that we brought with us. And when finally we moved through the narrow opening, our feet reached for ledges, under was an abyss, a cavern stretching farther than we could see. Our voices echoed off the walls. We were afraid to speak. This darkness led to more darkness, until darkness leading to darkness was all we knew.

The shape of this cave, our bodies, this darkness. This darkness which sits so close to us we cannot see, so close that we move away in fear. We turn into ourselves. But here we find the same darkness, we find we are shaped around emptiness, that we are a void we do not know.

The shape of a cave, this emptiness we seek out like water. The void that we are. That we wash into as sleep washes over us, and we are blanketed in darkness. We see nothing. We are in the centre of our ignorance. Nothingness spreads around us. But in this nothing we find what we did not know existed. With our hands, we begin to trace faint images etched into the walls. And now beneath those images we can see the gleam of older images. And these peel back to reveal the older still. The past, the dead, once breathing, the forgotten, the secret, the buried, the once blood and bone, the vanished, shimmering now like an answer from these walls, bright an red. Drawn by the one who came before. An before her. And before. Back to the beginning. To the one who first swam from the mouth of this cave. And now we know all that she knew, see the newness of her vision. What we did not know existed but saw as children, our whole lives drawn here, image over image, past time, beyond space.

The shape of a cave, the bud, the chrysalis, the shell, what new form we seek in this darkness, our hands feeling these walls, here wet, here damp, here crumbling away; our hands searching for signs in this rock, certain now in this darkness, what we seek is here, warm and covered with water, we sweat in this effort, piercing the darkness, laying our skin on the cool stone, tracing the new image over the old, etching these lines which become clear to us now, as what we have drawn here gleams back at us from the walls of the cave, telling us what is, now, and who we have become.

This round cavern, motion turned back on itself, the follower becomes the followed, moon in the sky, the edge becoming the centre, what is buried emerges, light dying over the water, what is unearthed is stunning, the one we are seeking, turning with the ways of the earth, is ourselves.

This cave, the shape to which each returns, where image after image will be revealed, and painted over, painted over and revealed, until we are bone. Where we touch the ones who came before and see their visions, where we leave our mark, where, terrified, we give up ourselves and weep, and taken over by this darkness, are overwhelmed by what we feel: where we are pushed to the edge of existence, to the source which sounds like a wave inside us, to the path of the water which feeds us all.

The way of the water we follow, which has made this space, and hollowed the earth here, because the shape of this cave is a history.


My piece of writing. Keep in mind that it is unfinished.


This cave could not abide by linear time; being cyclical in existence, existing in circular realities. The cave had no voice, no hands, no corporeal presence. This cave which is more than memory or myth; both less and more than real. Formed by the infinite power of story and will.

Of course, she is fenced off by their borders and their notions of nation. Territorial pissings. She both is and is not terra. She defies their nullius; she is the land that claims them. What fool is man.

Because she can exist outside their power. Because she has her own power and it stretches on, out of control. Wilder than the wilderness that she calls home. In raw and unbridled passion, in the wilderness of our minds.

She calls us. In the day and in the night, there are those of us that find her. Hidden in the deepest depths, those of our minds. And quietly, quietly she is seeking.

In the mist the last one arrived. Draped in the underwater clouds of fog. Beguiling sense. And in confusion. This was the last of her. She had no strength, she had much strength. She sank into the fog.

A densely coded oblivion.

These were the landscapes in her imagination. Here. In this silence. She couldn’t exist within the depthlessness of their space. She took the dive. She had faith that time existed further from their borders and their safety edges. If there was a fence, man-made or god invoked, she would climb it. Over and beyond. So far she had not stopped existing.

Only to their eyes. Only to theirs. But they couldn’t help noticing.

She pissed on their consecrated ground. She believed this was a spiritual act.

And this was a type of resistance. She didn’t break or crash, she passed through. A type of energy, greater than any kind of force that she alone was capable of.

Deep in the intimate regions. They call this regional because they have not yet destroyed it. She walked. She had discovered what it was that they called depth. It wasn’t enough. How could it be when she was walking underneath into a world that was older than their oldest thought? These trees held all the answers.

Deep in the intimate regions. She could forgive their transgressions, she would forget. For it was beauty that she sought. Here. It was her own beauty that she sought. Here.

Once they could have taught her to forget. Forget herself. Lose, lost, dizzy from they way they spun and spun and spun. A beautiful network of lies. They had trapped her once. Into this. And Oh Yes It Hurt. Like fuck. Like fuck.

She had heard all of their stories, she had listened to their wisdom. And she had known she was mad. Right from the beginning. Because the harder she studied their words. The harder she focused on hearing, seeing, living the way they told her to, and there was no other way. And in a sense they were right. There is no other way for them. But for her?

Sure. She could see through them. Straight through them. They were nothing in the end. And so she reached out and stretched out. Finding her madness. Another world. And it had always existed. Right in front of them. Right behind them. Right all around them. And they knew. And they didn’t know. Who was it that they were fighting?

She realised. We are shadows to them. Negative space. But the truth of our existence lies within this hidden cave. Dangerous to enter. Dangerous to whom?

She was once a great believer in Chaos but now she could listen and discern harmony, now she could look and see tapestry. And these were patterns of her making, held in her own hands. Their Chaos was petty in comparison. Their Chaos was nothing. Not even negative space. For it does not serve to shape.

And so she passed into the cave. Through the ages, through the years, and down, down into unconditional depths. No return from this.

It was easy. To flip a leg over the railing. To pause a second on the edge. To fall, with sense, onto her feet.

Because she did not own this land. The land owned her. And she could breathe and live and love with it. Like everything the attachment was cyclical and circular. Loving, as she did. This land that held her existed in the same space as the land that held her mothers, existed in the same space that held her daughters. This land that held her existed in the same space as the land that held her sisters and their arms stretched out and their arms reached out. This land; earth, sky and water. Arms that reached, and encircled.

Because this was the depth she had been looking for.

The cavern opened before her; she was pulled before its mysterious depth, drawn in by the fullness of the vacuity. Tapestry, harmony. Silk and salt, earth and rock, patterning palms. She could believe in this. She paused before the entrance, touching her fingers to the lips of the cave, turning her eyes to the darkness accentuated in the midst of the fog.

Red rock shot through with lines of coal and lime streaks, moisture dripping coolly down its sides making the floors slippery with moss.

She was sure of her imagination as the rock pulsed like blood-life beneath her palm. She was sure of her imagination as the moss layered the cave in skin softness as she pressed it to her cheek.

Again, she turned her eyes towards the cave; her eyes creating shapes, images of women forming and crowding the edges of her vision.

Deep and dark, different hues of black and midnight blue, taking the shape of stories long forgotten. And songs of ancient peoples, pulsating rhythmically through the stone and ore. Forward, like the pull of a river, like the pull of a storm, forward until she had no sense of time or space and there was only darkness.

Without fear, without conscious thought, she expanded her arms, pulling the cave into herself, filling herself with its memory. And she was dancing, dancing in the cave with magics all around, undulating with the tide of distant pasts and wary futures, bleeding with the blood of many women.

As she surrendered or was taken up by the passion of place, sensation on the edge of reason, belief on the edge of doubt. There were many rooms of the cave and as she passed by they awakened, brought to life by the presence of a soul who could hear them.

Each room sang its own song, kept its own time and she danced her way into story until she was overtaken by dream. She slept as she danced, danced as she slept, breathing the life of the rock, breathing in rhythm and rhyme, sleeping to the memory and wakening to song.

Here she comes.


Weird how similar they are. Woman and Nature was published in 1978, but I only read it recently.


Vandana Shiva: Ecofeminism

March 7, 2009


Vandana Shiva is quite simply an incredible woman. Her life and her work are supremely inspirational. Her words have moved me, displaced me and changed my mind. Very, very few things that I read actually cause me to stop and look at the world from a completely different angle. Her work and her words are world-changing and mind-altering.

I read Ecofeminism (co-written with Maria Mies, another amazing eco-feminist) about a year ago and was just stunned by this woman, by the clarity of her thoughts and her insights. This woman is SMART. She cuts right clear down to the quick and turns the whole world and its crapitalist, male supremacist bullshit on its head.

Dams, mines, energy plants, military bases – these are the temples of the new religion called ‘development’, a religion that provides the rationale for the modernizing state, its bureaucracies and technocracies. What is sacrificed at the alter of this religion is nature’s life and people’s life. The sacraments of development are made of the ruins and desecration of other sacreds, especially sacred soils. They are based on the dismantling of society and community, on the uprooting of people and cultures. Since soil is the sacred mother, the womb of life in nature and society, its inviolability has been the organizing principle for societies which ‘development’ has declared backward and primitive. But these people are our contemporaries. They differ from us not in belonging to a bygone age but in having a different concept of what is sacred, what must be preserved. The sacred is the bond that connects the part to the whole. The sanctity of the soil must be sustained, limits must be set on human action. From the point of view of the managers of development, the high priests of the new religion, sacred bonds with the soil are impediments and hindrances to be shifted and sacrificed. Because people who hold the soil as sacred will not voluntarily allow themselves to be uprooted, ‘development’ requires a police state and terrorist tactics to wrench them away from their homes and homelands, and consign them as ecological and cultural refugees into the wasteland of industrial society. Bullets, as well as bulldozers, are often necessary to execute the development project.

In India, the magnitude of this sacrifice is only now becoming evident. Victims of progress have, of course, experienced their own uprooting and have resisted it. But both the victims and the state perceived each sacrifice as a small one for the larger ‘national interest’. Over 40 years of planned development, the planned destruction of nature and society no longer appears negligible; and the larger ‘national interest’ turns out to be embodied in an elite minority without roots. Fifteen million people have been uprooted from their homelands in India during the past four development decades. They and their links with the soil, have been sacrificed to accommodated mines, dams, factories, and wildlife parks.

‘Development’ has meant the ecological and cultural rupture of bonds with nature, and within society, it has meant the transformation of organic communities into groups of uprooted and alienated individuals searching for abstract identities.

Colonialism and capitalism transformed land and soil from being a source of life and a commons from which people draw sustenance, into private property to be bought and sold and conquered; development continued colonialism’s unfinished task. It transformed man from the role of guest to predator. In a sacred space, one can only be a guest, one cannot own it. This attitude to the soil and earth as a sacrilized home, not private property, is characteristic of most Third World societies.

In indigenous communities, individuals have no property rights, instead, the entire tribe is the trustee of the land it occupies, and the community or tribe includes not only the currently living members but also the ancestors and future generations.

Development has converted soil from sacred mother into disposable object – to be ravaged for minerals that lie below, or drowned beneath gigantic reservoirs. The soil’s children, too, have been made disposable: mines and dams leave behind wastelands and uprooted people. The desacrilization of the soil as sacred space was an essential part of colonialism then and of development now.

In effect, the process of development leads to turning away from the soil as a source of meaning and survival, and turning to the state and its resources for both. The destruction of organic links with the soil also leads to the destruction of organic links within society. Diverse communities, co-operating with each other and the land become different communities competing with each other for the conquest of the land. The homogenization processes of development do not fully eliminate differences. These persist, not in an integrating context of plurality, but in the fragmenting context of homogenization. Positive pluralities give way to negative dualities, each in competion with every ‘other’, contesting the scarce resources that define economic and political power. The project of development is propounded as a source of growth and abundance. Yet by destroying the abundance that comes from the soil and replacing it by the resources of the state, new scarcities and new conflicts for scarce resources are created. Scarcity, not abundance, characterizes situations where nothing is sacred and everything has a price. 

Vandana mentions the Chipko women’s movement in this vid. You can find out more about them here.


The Industrial Vagina

February 26, 2009


Awe-inspiring, radical, charismatic, lesbian feminist Sheila Jeffreys has written a new book called The Industrial Vagina: The Political Economy of the Global Sex Trade. It looks like it will be a really eye-opening and well-researched book (as are all books written by Sheila Jeffreys). Radio National interviewed Sheila about the book. You can find the interview here Go listen. Sheila is awesome!


Brisbane International Feminist Conference: Opening Ceremony and the first day

September 18, 2008

Well I’m back from the conference and it was very good and interesting. What I really appreciated most about this conference was the inclusion of many strong Black/indigenous feminist voices. The indigenous women speakers were amazing.

The first speaker on the first day (which we were late to, thanks to Dragort) was Judy Atkinson. Who has written a book called Trauma Trails. She was fantastic, incredible, passionate and funny as. She spoke of her frustrations with white male academic institutions and she told this really hilarious story about what she said to her white male colleagues at the university (they all sounded like a bunch of Phallosophers). You can read an interview with Judy here.

I bought her book Trauma Trails and am looking forward to reading it.

The other event that was herstory-making and so, so inspiring was the first panel on the third day. It was a panel of same-sex attracted indigenous women, the first time that indigenous lesbians have ever convened a panel of that nature in the herstory of this country. It was just so powerful. We were all crying from the stories that these women had to tell. They were all so strong, and so incredibly brave to share their life and experiences with us, mostly white feminist crowd. We were all on our feet clapping at the end of their panel, there was such an overwhelming depth of feeling created by that panel. I can’t describe it. Everyone who commented just couldn’t get past stammering our thanks. It was a very humbling experience, being in the presence of such courageous Black women.

I think that these two panels/speakers are the ones that have burnt themselves most firmly into my memory. I know that I’ll carry these with me.

But also of major note was Kat’s paper on the pornification of lesbian spaces. I met Kat long ago at the Townsville Feminist Summit. She was ‘queer’ back then and a little taken aback by radical feminism. I was probably very rude to her, I can’t actually remember, but I myself had only just dropped the ‘queer’ label and had gotten consumed by radical feminism.

Anyway we talked a little and swapped emails. She planned to attend the APEC protests and we planned to meet up and march behind a feminist banner. So we did, and got to know each other a little better.

When Kat was planning to write her paper on lesbian spaces she asked if she could quote my blog post about the same issue. I of course was very flattered. So when we met up again in Brisbane Dragort, Dissenter, Kat, Kat’s friend from Perth Heidi, and I kind of formed this little group and just talked heaps about everything. We went out for drinks after the Opening Ceremony and just hung out.

Our last day in Brisbane was Saturday and we got together in the park and talked for like 5 hours!!! And didn’t get bored!!! Then we went clubbing at a gay bar which was fun.

I also caught up briefly with Caroline Norma, another woman I met at the Townsville conference, but she wasn’t there for the whole conference so we didn’t get the chance to really talk.

I suppose I should recount this in order of how it happened.

Tuesday Night: Opening Ceremony

Had difficulty finding the venue. Were told to avoid the park. Too dangerous for us little women!!! Of course the Jagera Arts Centre was in the middle of the park.
A wonderful welcome to country.
Lots of brilliant indigenous performers. Really great women-centred atmosphere.
Dragort got Henna tattoos on her hands.
Met Kat and Heidi. Started connecting immediately.
Went out to drinks. I couldn’t believe that people paid $14 for a small amount of liquid in a fancy glass. I stood at the bar totally gobsmacked for a good long while. Um… I… don’t get out much.

Dragort spoilt my night by recounting all of my embarrassing exploits to Kat and Heidi. How rude!!! There is this story about Easter eggs that she tells EVERYBODY. It is so, so mean. Have decided never to introduce her to any of my friends again.


Got there late. Grr.. Dragort. Missed the welcome to country and another indigenous woman’s speech. Caught most of Judy Atkinson’s speech. She was brilliant: see above.

After morning tea there was a really fantastic paper by Bronwyn Winter, titled: Talked up and played down: The global rhetoric and realities of women’s lives. Really interesting examination of how while women’s rights are being championed by governments around the world, the reality of women’s lives keeps getting worse.

Lavender, a woman I met at the Townsville conference, was sick and was unable to give her paper on Intergenerational sisterhood. Very upsetting because Lavender is a really beautiful woman.

Ana Borges paper on ‘gender’ issues in education was interesting. Of course she highlighted the lack of any kind of gender awareness in many schools and pointed out the fact that gender is just a euphemism for boys. Phallic drift anyone, or is it just a wandering dick? (sorry: in joke for anyone who has read Radically Speaking). But it is too typical, when someone says, examination of gender, what they invariably mean is the examination of why gender is bad or limiting for boys. No one gives a shit about girls.

Merci Angeles’ paper Feminism Through The Eyes Of Filipina Urban Poor Women, was a very moving paper. I met Merci in Townsville. She is an incredible woman and she works unbelievably hard for the rights and freedom of women in her country. She is a member of a group of women in the Philipines called Peace Women Partners. Her paper was about sisterhood and community among Filipina urban poor women. Women who lived under bridges, alongside polluted rivers, getting shunted around by the government into houses built a long way away from any employment. She concluded with a poem which left many of us in tears. As I said, a very moving paper.

The next session was equally brilliant and eye-opening. Debbie Kilroy spoke with Kim Pate, both activists and advocates for the rights of criminalized women. Both staunch abolitionists of prisons and the criminal injustice system. They spoke of the conditions in prisons and of the way that women are mistreated. Debbie Kilroy runs a very successful Sisters Inside group, which is a support network of survivors of the criminal injustice system who work and advocate for women currently imprisoned. Very necessary and important work. Of course the Queensland government have made it difficult, currently the group is banned from going into prisons to work with women as the group was responsible for highlighting abuse happening in prisons which led to an enquiry. Of course the government did not like this being exposed so they banned advocate groups like Sisters Inside.

Kim Pate is the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. The website seems to be down but there are some of Kim Pate’s speeches online here. She ‘attended’ the conference via Skype. Some kind of newfangled internet link up. She does similar work in Canada and says they face very similar problems over there. I found the abolition argument very compelling and I have to say that I completely agree. I have always felt that prisons were not good social practice. (DUH!!!) It is good to know that I am not alone in my opposition to them.

The last session was on women and poverty. I enjoyed Hirut Haile’s paper on The Effects of Married Women’s Access to Credit on Intra-Household Expenditure Responsibilities in Ethiopia. She wasn’t wholely positive or negative about the effects of credit, which I appreciated. I also got a lot out of Lillian Geddess’ paper, How much pain can a woman afford?

So that was the first day. Hope you all enjoyed the run down. Will blog about the rest of the conference. Later.


Reading, reading

June 29, 2008

In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker

Really fantastic book. Definite recommendation. I love Walker’s writing.

Moment of Desire: Sex and Sensuality by Australian Feminist Writers edited by Susan Hawthorne and Jenny Pausacker

Not a big fan of this though I do think it was/is a good idea. The writing isn’t all that great and the short stories don’t make much sense to me. Haven’t been able to finish it.

Hope Bay by Nicole Pluss

I really loved this book. Beautifully written. About a girl called Possum and her friendship with an older woman who feeds dolphins. Definite ecofeminist philosophy underpins the feeling and depth of the book.

Betsey Brown by Ntozake Shange

I wish Ntozake Shange was easier to get hold of. I desperately want to read more of her work. I really enjoyed this book. Centres meaningfully on relationships between women and girls. Skillful writing. Took me back to the days when I lived in a crowded household.

Surpassing the Love of Men by Lillian Faderman

Hah! I love this book. Lillian Faderman rocks!!! An indepth look at the rich history of love between women.

Zami: Towards a New Spelling of my Name by Audre Lorde

It is written by Audre Lorde, the greatest poet ever, need I say more?

Spider Woman’s Granddaughters edited by Paula Gunn Allen

This book is gorgeous. Worth reading for the Introduction alone. Paula Gunn Allen was an incredible woman.

The Naming (also published as The Gift) by Alison Croggon

These three books are part of the Pellinor series. They are a fantasy series, heavily influenced by Lord of the Rings but with less misogyny. I really like the lead female character and there are lots of black and multiracial characters and lots of strong, powerful women. The lead female character is multiracial. BUT there is some disturbing father-figure/daughter-figure romanciness implied in the second book which is gross and disgusting. I’m hoping that things don’t get worse in the fourth book which is coming out this year.

The Stone Key by Isobelle Carmody

The fifth book of the Obernewtyn Series. It is really good. I read it in less than two days and it is a BIG book!