The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘Relationships’

The Twenty-Eighth Down Under Feminists Carnival

Posted by caitlinate on September 4, 2010

Oh my gawd, hi everyone. So this is the first time I’ve done a blog carnival and I put my hand up for it 6 months ago not realising that this was going to be like the busiest two or three weeks I would be having all year. So! There is no theme and things might be organised a little incoherently but I hope I’ve done a good job and you like…

WELCOME to the 28th Down Under Feminists Carnival!

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Posted in Announcements, Blog Watch, body image, domestic violence, Family, glbt, Interviews, law, Media Watch, music, Politics, porn, Relationships, reproductive rights, sex, Trans, violence against women, women we love, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Behind Every Brilliant Writer…

Posted by Mel Campbell on April 20, 2009

Claire Walsh (right) with Michael Moorcock (left) and JG Ballard (centre), in September, 2006. Image: Linda Moorcock, via Ballardian.

This is just a quick, fragmentary and unfinished musing, since I’m technically on deadline today. As you may know, game-changing British author JG Ballard died yesterday of prostate cancer, from which he’d suffered since 2006. This is a real tragedy: Ballard was a man of letters who wasn’t just controversial for the sake of public attention, nor out of the nihilism that I tend to see in his heirs such as Michel Houellebecq and Chuck Palahniuk. Rather, in writing things that were deliberately repugnant and offensive, Ballard provoked readers into considering the savagery that underpins our tenuously civilised society.

But more curiously, amid all the obituaries I haven’t read very much about Ballard’s partner of over 40 years, Claire Walsh. Many obits have mentioned that Ballard’s wife, Helen Matthews (referred to as Mary in some obits), died suddenly of pneumonia in 1964 during a family holiday, leaving Ballard to raise their three children alone. (Her death seems to be represented as some kind of dystopian watershed for Ballard, whose most notorious work, The Atrocity Exhibition, was written in the years immediately after her death.)

I only found out about Claire’s existence in an interview that Ballard’s friend of many years, the SF novelist Michael Moorcock, gave to Amazon following Ballard’s death.

“He leaves a partner, Claire Walsh, who was his companion for over forty years and nursed him through his long illness,” Moorcock said.

From what I’ve been able to piece together in the one-line mentions of Walsh in various Ballard obituaries, she is a journalist, and she and Ballard didn’t live together until very recently, when he left his Shepperton home to move in with her. Presumably Ballard was very ill by this time.

There’s a telling paragraph in an interview Ballard gave in 1991 to Canada’s Sunday Times, that hints at the dynamic of their relationship:

Engaged in writing far from the mainstream and bringing up a family singlehanded, Ballard had to rely on women coming to him. “I didn’t have the freedom to move around a lot. I was not passive in my private life. It was just a matter of time-tables. Women had to take the initiative with me out here.” The female characters in the book are very strong.

Ballard has written fondly of Claire in his autobiographical novel The Kindness Of Women and in his straight memoir Miracles Of Life. As he revealed to author Iain Sinclair, he also fictionalised her in his novel Crash: “Claire is the basis of the character Catherine. Catherine Ballard. I remember, when I was writing the book, I said, ‘Shall I call the character based on you Claire?’ She said, ‘Umm, perhaps not.’ So I called her Catherine.”

Skimming through the mountains of online material about Ballard’s life and work, Claire appears as a hazy but shrewd presence. In the final years of his life, she became his representative, travelling internationally to meet exhibition curators when he was too ill to do so himself.

Claire’s simultaneous cultural presence and absence makes me wonder how much we still cling to that figure of the female “muse”. In an era when women didn’t have much political or cultural agency, being a writer or an artist’s muse must have carried its own kind of power.

However, these days it’s a feminist orthodoxy that women should pursue their own creativity rather than exercising it through men, especially when women in intimate relationships with creative men become their de facto representatives or assistants.

Here, I’m also thinking of the current film Summer Hours, in which a family matriarch has spent her entire life managing the artistic legacy of her beloved (and long-deceased) uncle, a famous Impressionist painter. There’s a strong sense in the film that this woman loves the dead man more than her own living children, and that being his muse has overshadowed her own life.

Still, should we criticise women who choose to maintain private lives and let their acclaimed partners have the limelight? Claire Walsh does not seem like a downtrodden or dim person; perhaps there is no media conspiracy involved in whitewashing her out of Ballard’s public life, but rather it has been her own choice not to participate in that particular circus.

Posted in Books, Media Watch, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

On Adulthood And Gender

Posted by Mel Campbell on February 14, 2009

I have been pondering the difference between boys and men and between girls and women. I don’t know if I am a girl, a woman, or Britney Spears. But there have been shifts in what adulthood really means – not just the traditional milestones of acquiring houses and babies, or losing interest in hedonism, but “putting away childish things”. So many people are adults on their birth certificates but not in the way they conduct their lives.

There’s also been a fair bit of discussion online recently about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (never Manic Pixie Dream Woman). She is a stock character who whose free-spirited whimsy and excellent taste in indie culture awaken in the sensitive but emotionally constipated hero a new lust for life. She has no inner life of her own, and seems to exist purely to interact with the male protagonist. Cases in point: Elizabethtown, Garden State, Along Came Polly, Breakfast At Tiffany’s.

Are there Manic Pixie Dream Boys (who are not gay)? Back in 2004 we met the whimpster – that sensitive, boyish hipster who is passive-aggressive in a relationship, draining his girlfriend of emotional energy, yet when she finally gets sick of trying to ‘fix’ him and leaves, he’s shocked and devastated, as if he never saw it coming.

More recently, Jezebel coined the term new bromantic for the more charming and masculine but still sensitive and fragile dude (eg Forgetting Sarah Marshall) who yearns for a woman to believe in him.

It’s not an especially original thought, but I can’t help feeling resentful that men are repelled by a woman with needs and insecurities, whereas women are not only expected to put up with neediness in a man but also to actively seek it out. Women quickly learn that they must hide their needs and insecurities from men, lest they be branded ‘neurotic’, ‘obsessive’ or ‘high-maintenance’.

Aren’t neediness and insecurity childish traits? Surely a key marker of adulthood is a certainty about what you want and your ability to get it for yourself, rather than a reliance on someone else, a parent-figure, to get it for you?

Happy Corporate Love Day, all. Buy yourself some flowers. Take yourself out to dinner. Don’t wait around for someone to tell you you’re special and cherished; know it in your own heart.

Posted in Relationships, Sex And Love | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Ladies, Do You Want Sam De Brito Instructing Your Potential Paramours?

Posted by Clem Bastow on September 12, 2008

Dawn Chorus pal Elmo emailed me this link with the subject “Is this serious – or has his account been hacked?” – and as soon as I clicked the link, my heart sank and my vagina closed over indefinitely.

In short, evidently I missed the memo that the Fairfax stable was going to turn its second biggest blog into a how-to guide for the sexually challenged, because today’s All Men Are Liars post is… well, here’s some edited highlights:

Say you’re kissing on the couch – don’t immediately dive your hand between her legs and start massaging her breasts like they’re mounds of wholemeal dough. Kiss her gently, softly, use your tongue judiciously, get the rhythm right. Bite her lips tenderly, then break away, give her a smile perhaps, smell her neck, touch her face, then start again.


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Posted in Blog Watch, Relationships, Sex And Love | Tagged: , , , | 11 Comments »

Samantha Brett: Feminism And Other “Deal Breakers”

Posted by Clem Bastow on September 3, 2008

Anyone who’s ever gone on a date, even if they don’t use the phrase, will be familiar with the concept of ‘deal breakers’ – you know, the little “bup bow” details that, superficially or not, turn you off a romantic prospect. For some people these are things like not wanting kids or voting for the Natural Law Party, for me it’s jandals and Oedipal complexes, for others it might be eating with one’s mouth open or a large collection of Ringo Starr solo discs. In other words, it’s just another of the myriad foibles that make us human and that make the mating game such a nightmare joy.

So, with so many possibilities out there for blog fodder, what do you think Samantha Brett (who, incidentally, seemed to have no problem crossing the picket line during the recent Fairfax journalists’ strike by filling in for striking columnists in the SMH) chose to highlight as possible deal breakers in a blog on the topic? Tattoos, nice men (because, you know, we’re all looking for rough, bad boy types), men who take ‘too much’ pride in their appearance (or to use her parlance, “When your boyfriend looks like a Dolly Magazine cover model and has better pecks than you do” – presumably she means “pecs” and not hens), and, naturally, feminism:

One frustrated reader who we’ll call S, reckons because she’s a feminist, she’s simply not datable.

“All my life I’ve been proud to call myself a feminist, even though it has sometimes caused me a few problems,” she writes. “I’ve always insisted that my boyfriends and lovers respect my feminist values, otherwise I was happy to give them their marching orders. But now I’m getting older and I find myself still single. My last boyfriend actually dumped me because he said that dating and feminism just don’t mix! Was he right? Is it time for me to forget my politics and focus on romance? Or can I have both? The clock is ticking – please help!”

If you’d like to place bets on whether “S” is a) an actual feminist, b) actually a reader and/or c) actually Samantha Brett, I have good odds on the answers being a) no, b) as if, and, c) duh.

My issue with this piece is not that Brett has suggested feminist values might be deal breakers to some potential partners, because that’s a conceivable, if not pleasant, situation (as The Louvin Brothers once said, Satan is real!). It’s that it’s such easy boot-in fodder for her post-fem audience and tone to suggest that feminism is a big turn-off to men – and that the example given, whether or not “S” is real, is such a naff, Ally MacBeal-esque depiction of a feminist (“Ooh, men can bow down and worship me, hear me roar, etc etc, except oops I forgot to have kids, quick, to the little white wedding chapel!”) and implies that it’s impossible to experience love and romance from within a relationship based on mutual respect and equality.

Posted in Blog Watch, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Domestic Violence: Would You Leave After The First Strike?

Posted by Cate on September 1, 2008

Are you in a relationship? Maybe you’ve been going out with your partner for some time. The sex is great and you love spending time together. He’s really attentive and likes to SMS and call you at work to see what you’re up to. He’s been a bit moody lately and tends to snap at you for no reason. But that’s ok, you’ve had bouts of depression in the past and sometimes feel really down. One time he shouted at you. It’s ok though, he has been working split shifts in IT and is preparing for a performance review. He starts worrying about money and checking the bills when they come in, including the ones of your personal credit card. He threatens to cut it up. You get in an argument and he hits you. Would you end the relationship?

I read in the news today that Katie Milligan has vowed to stand by her man Greg Bird, despite the Cronulla Sharks star being charged with glassing her in the face.

Katie states,

“I want people to know that Greg and I are still very much together,” she said.

“Yes, I still love him.”

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Posted in Media Watch, Relationships, Sex And Love | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »

Jezebel’s Moe And “Condom-Gate”: Hang The STIs, Bareback Feels Better!

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 26, 2008

Another week, another Jezebel “controversy” – Jezebel writer (and star of the last Jezebel vs. the world debacle, and who this week joined and then left Radar within a matter of whiplash-inducing moments) Moe Tkacik has walked into another blogosphere fracas with her Thursday post, “Sex Without Condoms Is Actually Better Than Diamonds, People!”

Here’s an excerpt:

[…] I have only really engaged in bareback sex with the types of dudes who don’t fear HPV and whose diseases I don’t particularly fear, because the worst thing I can think of about most of them is the ensuing lifetime of awkward conversations, and the worst thing about that is that awkward conversations summon memories, and summoning bad memories every time you’re about to fuck a new person is no way to live, but, if you can smile and say (hypothetically!) “Hey, just so you know, I have [insert STD here], but I got them from this really hilarious guy who is still one of my best friends, so it was kind of worth it,” before you do it with a new person, it’s almost nice. Like: oh yeah, that was a good time.

My instinctual reaction was (and remains), man, when did women buy the “But it feels better, baybeee” line, too?

I know Moe has made a point of discussing her experience with STIs, and I commend her for that – such is the state of the world that people who have STIs (or have had) are made to feel as though a) they can’t discuss it freely because b) it’s gross or yucky or dirty. Like Moe, this is something I feel particularly strongly about.

But considering this, I find it hard to believe that Moe can be so glib about practising unsafe sex. Because you know what? It’s easy to buy the ‘bareback feels better’ line – until an STI stops the party.
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Posted in Blog Watch, Media Watch, Sex And Love, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Could Viagra Help Women Suffering From Depression- Related Sexual Dysfunction?

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 25, 2008

While Viagra has become something of a punchline (ho ho, look at all the old codgers having heart attacks while macking!) it’s certainly been one of the “it” drugs of the past decade or so, and in some way, helped address stigmas associated with people over the age of, oh, 50 having active sex lives (newsflash, kids: they are still doing it!) – and some new research suggests the little blue pills could also assist women who are suffering from the sexual dysfunction that so often goes hand-in-hand with depressive illnesses.

A drop in libido levels is a common side-effect of antidepressant medicine, which often leads to women going off their medication sooner than they should, because they want to regain a sense of normalcy when it comes to their sex drive.

The women were told to take a pill one to two hours before sex for eight weeks. Half were given placebos pills which had no pharmacological effects.

Some 73 per cent of the women given placebos reported no improvement with treatment while only 28 per cent of the women taking Viagra said they did not notice an improvement, the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

Some of the women experienced headaches, flushing and indigestion but none of them withdrew from the trial because of side effects.

“By treating this bothersome treatment-associated adverse effect in patients who have been effectively treated for depression, but need to continue on their medication to avoid relapse or recurrence, patients can remain antidepressant-adherent, reduce the current high rates of premature medication discontinuation, and improve depression disease management outcomes,” wrote lead author George Nurnberg of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

This is encouraging news, especially when you consider the lack of compassion (let alone research) in the medical community when it comes to what happens to the female libido when certain medications are being taken (including the contraceptive pill; my article on that particular side-effect is here).

I wonder if the Viagra treatment would also work for women whose depression-related sexual problems are just due to depression full-stop, rather than antidepressant medicines, though? A lowered sex drive is a huge part of depression for many people (not just women). When I was at my darkest mood in a two-year period of particularly bad depression – which was treated with therapy, exercise and diet rather than anti-d’s – I had no sex drive whatsoever. At the time I had a lovely partner who I thought was completely gorgeous, but the libido was totally kaput; it was very confusing for both of us.

Either way, though, it’s heartening to see female sexuality and libido being taken seriously by the medical and research communities, but what are your experiences in this realm? Have you noticed a drop in libido while depressed, or being treated for depression? Did you have any ‘magic cures’ (chocolate, massage, vibrators, ’70s porn marathons?) or did you just ride it out?

Posted in Media Watch, Relationships, Sex And Love, Women's Health | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Gee, I Wonder Why This Farmer Can’t Find A Wife?

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 24, 2008

I’ve been watching The Farmer Wants A Wife on and off (and by god but that title just makes me think of some cro-magnon man in R.M. Williams grunting “Me want wife! Me take now!” before doinking some girl on the head with his tyre iron) and was particularly amazed on Monday by Farmer James’ gobsmacking unreconstructed nature: letting the women do all the cooking, drinking copious amounts of beer, storming off in a rain of expletives when one of his “chosen wives” dared to pull him up on, oh, acting like a complete tool.

Well, it seems Farmer James is a real catch! Here he is, running his mouth off in TV Week:

“I chose Cherie because I thought she was a character, but once I got to know her she was as rough as guts,” James said in the latest edition of TV Week.

“She needed a 44-gallon drum of spit to shine her up! The only reason I picked her was because I didn’t have much choice. Some of the other guys had 200 women apply, but I only had 24,” he said.

“Toni was the next pick – she’s got her head screwed on and owns a house, but I’m really looking for someone a bit younger.

“She’s 36 and when someone is that age, the old body clock is ticking. You want to know someone a couple of years before you jump into (having kids).”

Charming, particularly the “44 gallon drum of spit” line. Has James looked in the mirror lately? I would advise against going anywhere near the local pig farm on slaughter day, lest he be mistaken for one of his porcine relatives and sliced up as bacon rashers. (My co-conspirator Jess has some other “highlights” from Farmer James’ repertoire over at Defamer Australia.)

Really, this has just confirmed the decidedly unpleasant undertones of this show. Sure, rural loneliness is a big problem, and so is the apparent ‘man drought’, but The Farmer Wants A Wife is like something from ancient Rome – they stop short of making the “wives” wrestle each other in a mud pit with crowbars, but I’m sure it wouldn’t take much pushing of the producers to get something like that into the show.

Posted in Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Behind Every Good Man…

Posted by Rhiana Whitson on July 19, 2008

Did anyone else find the “exclusive” cover story in today’s Age more than a little cringeworthy? I certainly did…

“Tour of duty: Cadel’s wife endures an anxious cycle of highs and lows”

Yes I know it is the Tour de France… and perhaps Lane thought it would be interesting to tackle the race from a ‘different’ more ‘human’ angle by interviewing Australian cyclist, Cadel Evans wife, Chiara Passerini… BUT really, puhlease… aside from this story being less than front page newsworthy… It is a shame that in a rare occasion that women in sport actually appear on the front cover of any major newspaper (or throughout) we are presented not with an actual woman excelling in sport BUT an attractive WIFE of a man excelling in sport.

Whilst it is very sweet to read about Chiara Passerini expressing her concerns for her husbands well being in what can apparently be a very dangerous race, I feel that this type of article only acts to reinforce the age-old stereotype of the ‘good’ woman/wife behind the ‘GREAT’ man.

Posted in Media Watch, Relationships, Sport | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »