The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘pop culture’

Cherchez La Femme

Posted by Mel Campbell on May 10, 2010

I’m not sure how many of you know about a new feminist salon called Cherchez La Femme, organised by Karen Pickering. I’m writing this as a hearty encouragement for you to go if you’re in Melbourne. It takes place on the first Tuesday of every month, and is a free-form panel chat and group discussion about feminism in pop culture, current affairs and everyday life.

Last Tuesday’s kick-off event featured The Dawn Chorus‘s own Clem Bastow, “arts tsar” Richard Watts and broadcaster Namila Benson in conversation with Karen Pickering. There was no predetermined agenda: audience members submitted written questions and the panellists drew them out of a hat to direct the discussion. The questions also acted as tickets for the door prizes – a book and a CD.

There was no designated audience Q&A time – instead, roving reporter Kate Boston Smith stood in the crowd with a mic to field contributions from the audience at whatever point people decided they wanted to say something. (Oddly for me, I barely said a word – because I was busy thinking.) And it was a massive audience; the room was absolutely packed.

Pleasingly, there were lots of men there too, proving that feminism isn’t just a women’s project. This is a topic dear to my heart, because a lot of the time, in feminist organisations as well as in the media, I see a conflation between feminism and ‘women’s issues’, as if feminism is good for women but is a nuisance or killjoy for men. I was worried that this event was going to be a Womyn’s Room ghetto, but it was really heartening to look around the packed-out room and see men (hot men!) who’d decided that this was a great way to spend their Tuesday night.

Another reason why I love Cherchez La Femme is that, unlike some other panel events involving women, the focus is authentically on feminism. Although some of its participants have public profiles, it’s not a celebrity circus. And while it’s a hilarious and thought-provoking night out, it doesn’t talk about women’s experiences purely to titillate or entertain. It costs $5 to get in and that money is spent on promoting future salons and providing thankyou drinks for participants.

Cherchez La Femme isn’t trivial, either – it’s deeply invested in talking about the things that matter to its panellists and its audiences. Some of the topics mentioned on Tuesday included whether and for whom wearing the burqa is a freely taken choice, why the advertising industry is obsessed with women’s digestive systems, and how to stay professional in workplace scenarios when your boss shakes your male colleague’s hand but kisses you on the cheek.

I just can’t recommend this event enough. Future salons are going to be themed – next month’s event is devoted to that vexed topic in feminism, raunch culture. It’s at 7pm on Tuesday 1 June at the Fox Hotel (a great pub run by women!), which is at 351 Wellington St (corner Alexandra Pde) Collingwood.


Posted in events | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

One more thing about the Hottest 100

Posted by Nic Heath on July 31, 2009

Triple J’s Hottest 100 (OF ALL TIME!) has generated a lot of comment for its rather mannish aspect. I don’t mind, obviously, that it is last fortnight’s news (and now it is another radio station in the news) – I’m all for an ongoing conversation about where women figure, and how well they fare, in popular culture. And if it is even an issue at all.

There is a good list of links to various articles and posts on the topic at Hoyden About Town. Clem Bastow covered it for The Age, listing the women who did make it into the poll, while Mel Campbell, at The Enthusiast, worried that ‘the Hottest 100 also legitimises radio industry strategies that ignore women.’

The skewed result may seem like a blip on the radar when viewed in isolation, but I think it becomes more like a worrying trend when considered alongside other cultural lists – like this year’s Miles Franklin Award shortlist. All men there too. And again, it isn’t like there are no books written by women worthy of being included in this particular shortlist. Pavlov’s Cat posted a great response to this ‘aberration’.

So that is mainstream popular culture. Away from official recognition of cultural pursuits there are women being creative and garnering interest – anecdotally, I went to a day-long gig on Sunday which was headlined by Beaches, an all-female group who I don’t think identify as being unusual because of that.

Sophie Best, from Melbourne’s Mistletone (which released Beaches’ album), gave me a fresh perspective on the skew last week – citing shocking conservatism – and I’ll give her my last word:

There’s obviously so many great female artists. I get really mad when people do articles about women in rock, I find it really patronizing because women have been making music, women have been a huge part of music since the music industry began. Before there was even an industry women have always played music! I find it really strange when people act as thought there’s something unusual about women playing music.

I’ll give you my personal theory if you like. I think it’s because the very idea of music being a competition, you know that there’s a ladder, and that there’s a contest and someone’s going to come out on top, is inherently a male idea. To me that seems to come from the sporting world, you know, the idea that someone’s the best, they’re going to win, they’re going to be on top, it sounds like footballism to me and to me it’s nothing to do with what music and art is about. I said I didn’t blame Triple J but maybe I do blame them for actually making music into a sport like that..

I always hate those lists, they’re always really bad…they always come up with the most god-awful winners. And if you think about it even yourself if you had to do a list, it’s really hard to do, to say what are the best songs. It’s a ridiculous question…My assessment of that is that the whole concept of having a hottest 100 is male, in that clichéd way of the male way of being competitive. I don’t think music is about that, I don’t think music is about whose best. I don’t think it’s a competition.

Posted in Interviews, music | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »