The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘raunch culture’

Cherchez la Femme #2 – Get Your Feminism On At The Fox Hotel

Posted by hannahcolman on June 1, 2010

Bad news. The first Cherchez la Femme has happened already. You missed it. Or maybe you were there. If you did miss it, you can read Mel’s post here.

Good news! Installment #2 of this rolling panel of thinkers, performers and commentators is happening tonight at The Fox Hotel in Collingwood, from 7pm.

Tonight’s event will be more structured than the first, because it has a dedicated topic – Women and Raunch Culture – whereas salon number one saw discussions range from how you feel when a bartender refers to you and your female friends as “girls”, to the notion of ‘choice’ for women in the workplace – in particular, a non-religious woman being required to wear a burqa on her teaching rounds at a Muslim school. As enjoyable and interesting as it was to engage in a range of issues connected to the feminist cause, I reckon having a topic to work within will allow for much more depth in discussion at tonight’s event.

So, what is Cherchez la Femme all about, you ask? What better way to get an idea than to have a chat with the lady who is making it all happen – Karen Pickering.

Me: Hi Karen. Tell me this, please. Why is feminism, for some, still a dirty word?

Karen: I think there are so many reasons people shy away from calling themselves a feminist. I had a male friend say to me recently “I can’t be a feminist, can I?”. Interesting question, but I think the answer is ‘hell yes’ because we need everyone to be one to effect change. There is no one kind of feminism but I think the one that most people think of is second wave, which has gotten itself a bad reputation in some circles ie. the mainstream media. The best rejoinder to anti-feminists is the cheesy 70s slogan that I think politicised me in one fell swoop: Feminism is the radical idea that a woman is a human being.

Me: Great slogan! So, why did you start Cherchez la Femme? What’s the ideal outcome of holding these events?

Karen: I said at the end of the first Cherchez la Femme that everyone should look around the room and pinch because it was true! A hundred odd people came out on a cold, rainy night to an event that nobody had any idea of the quality of (but maybe the potential) to meet some other feminists! If we get together once a month, talk, listen, be heard, get educated, feel empowered, laugh at each other, make contacts, and generally crack open some ideas that we can’t anywhere else, then this event will succeed in its aim.

Me: What was the most exciting and/or surprising thing about the first Cherchez la Femme?

Karen: I was terrified that nobody would come, and when I saw how many had, I was frightened that nobody would want to talk in front of such a big group. Happily, I was wrong! There seemed to me a real hunger to communicate, a confidence that came from knowing why we were all here, and a… joy? Generosity? I don’t know what, but a good vibe that kept the conversation flowing freely. That was pretty exciting – the spirit in which people engaged and listened.

Me: It was exciting! Finally, what’s in store for people who might come along to the event in the future?

Karen: The next Cherchez la Femme will look at ‘Women and Raunch Culture’ and what it means for the feminist project. From now on, each month will have a broad subject of discussion, so we can cover more ground in more depth, but still keep the focus on audience-driven content – either by asking questions, commenting, or submitting ideas on paper. Upcoming CLFs will look at ‘Women and Sport’, “Women and Work”, “Women and the Law”, children, bodies etc, as well as featuring an ever-changing panel of feminists with good brains and big smiles. How does that sound?

Me: That sounds great. Thanks Karen!

I think it’s pretty obvious how good that all sounds, no?

Head to The Fox Hotel (351 Wellington St, Collingwood – corner of Alexandra Parade) at 7pm tonight, for what promises to be a frank and fearless discussion of what raunch culture means for all feminists. Does it exist? If so, who does it serve? And what might be its consequences for women of all ages, and the girls who are growing up into it?

These are tonight’s panelists:

Clementine Ford – writer, blogger, activist, singer, roller-derby initiate, flame-haired vixen and all-round fierce woman. Also, feminist.

Jeff Sparrow – editor of Overland Magazine, writer, Twitter-maven, activist, and general thinker of impressive thoughts. Also, feminist.

Megan Evans – multi-award winning visual artist, academic, curator, activist, and long-time land rights advocate. Also, feminist.

And the effervescent Kate Boston Smith joins Karen Pickering to host the proceedings and solicit your input.

See you there!

Also, join the Cherchez La Femme group on Facebook if you like! Any enquiries can go straight to Karen Pickering – 0427 381 527.


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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.

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How Can Feminist Mums Avoid Being Humourless Childhood-Ruiners?

Posted by Mel Campbell on September 14, 2009

Jo Case has a fascinating article at Kill Your Darlings that focuses on a new book from Spinifex Press called Getting Real: Challenging The Sexualisation Of Girls. This is a topic The Dawn Chorus has discussed before, and these posts have always attracted lots of comments from mums who talk about the challenges they face trying to raise both boys and girls in the face of so many gendered cultural imperatives, from obsessing over the colour pink to seeing one’s body as a constant renovation project.

In a way, the comments people have made on blog posts like this – especially ones that come from personal experience of parenting – interest me more than the issues of female sexualisation (raunch culture) in the media, which are so mainstream it’s dispiriting, especially when they’re conflated with “empowerment”. The impression I get is that on one front, mums feel strongly enough about the issue to ban Barbies and pink things, to refuse to buy slutty pre-teen clothes and to stand up to schools and organisations who condone sexualised behaviour and attitudes.

Then there’s a subset of parents who appear to find this stuff amusing and ironic. Before the story got a little too old, I was planning to write a story for The Enthusiast about the quality of ‘edginess’, and the way that to involve children – who are consensually imagined as ‘pure’ and ‘innocent’ – in these knowing gestures treads an especially keen edge between propriety and obscenity. Indeed, as the Cotton On example reveals, certain companies actively market their products as ‘edgy’; part of the appeal to their consumers is that other people might find them offensive, and hence these consumers feel more sophisticated because they ‘get’ the joke.

That, for my mind, is the most confronting aspect of parenting – especially of girls. Are you going to be the kind of humourless, daggy mum who interferes in everything that’s cool and is a source of mortification to your children (“You just don’t GET it, Mum!”), or are you going to be a hip mum who helps your kids navigate pop culture rather than trying to restrict their access to it?

I mean, as adults we all fondly tell stories about the wowserish parents who banned junk food and served pitiful Pritikin imitations of the foods kids love; who prevented us from watching commercial TV, or even any TV at all; who wouldn’t buy the ‘cool’ clothes so we had to look like dicks in front of our friends; who wouldn’t buy the in-demand toys such as Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids. (Oh boy, I’m showing my age with that one!)

But this just goes to show that kids don’t ever forget this stuff. Time can transform an embarrassing mum into an endearingly daggy one, but do we have to accept being an embarrassment to our children as the price of ‘protecting’ them from a culture they desperately want to participate in? Do we ‘know better’ than our kids or should we perhaps try to find some middle ground with them, rather than being the inflexible person banning things?

One of my main worries as a feminist is that feminism is so often about being angry and disapproving; it rarely seems hip unless it concedes something to raunch culture. Just last week I was thinking, “No wonder people say feminists are unattractive; nobody likes hanging out with angry people.” Perhaps we should also consider what we’re teaching children about feminism if their main experience of it is telling them what they’re not allowed to do.

Posted in body image, Family, Parenting & Family | Tagged: , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

When Will The Term “Wifebeater” Finally Be Retired?

Posted by Clem Bastow on June 27, 2008

A reader alerted us to this, er, fashion initiative: meet Silicone Saturdays! Designed in Perth by identical twins Brooke and Lauren, the range is based around crotch-skimming “wifebeaters” (their words) featuring flashy slogans like “HIGH HEELS WILL KILL YOU” and “DIRTY DIRTY BRITNEY”. And the ‘look book’ photos speak for themselves:

Silicone Saturdays

I take it the faintly exploitative feel of the photos on their store’s site is intentional; a hint is their 2Threads profile, which describes their tastes as including “Victoria’s Secret on the tits”. Though I doubt they intented to completely objectify their models by making sure the majority of them had their faces obscured, but then perhaps that’s too generous for a label with the name Silicone Saturdays.

You know, aren’t we all over the whole “raunch culture”/post-fem thing by now?

(Thanks to miss gemma for the heads up!)

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