The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘writing’

“Hey Boss, I’ve Got This Awesome Metaphor To Use As A Critical Tool…”

Posted by Clem Bastow on August 1, 2008

It’s no secret to anyone working in the music business that it is a foul and shallow money trench (thanks, Hunter S.) where sexism still flows freely; as a music critic by day, I would say that the music journalism/criticism world is even more riddled with back-slapping boys’ club-isms, whether it’s the complete lack of female artists in The Age’s recent 50 Greatest Australian Albums list, or simply the distinct lack of female staffers at titles like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.

(Incidentally, it also seems to be very hard to discuss the sexism inherent in music criticism without being accused of bitterness, sour grapes or, even better, having my period. Go figure.)

So when I was trawling the net for Weezer info (having written a column on the topic this week) and I stumbled across this review of their most recent album, from Australian webzine Wireless Bollinger, my eyes rolled so hard they almost fell out – to wit, the writer, Ed Butler, paints each of Weezer’s most noted records as, wait for it, women! (Sorry, “girls”.) Stick that in your Music Criticism 101 pipe and smoke it!

Pinkerton. The apex of indie pop-rock. Smart, funny, willfully abstract; if it was a girl, it would be the perfect girlfriend – challenging, attractive, good dress sense, a mysterious, darker side, a real class act.

Weezer (The Blue One). The debut de rigueur of indie die-hards the world over. Flawless guitar pop. If it was a girl, it would be your best friend’s gorgeous younger sister – not so challenging, but great fun to spend time with on the odd occasion, and always tempting to revisit.

Make Believe. Urgh. The drunken, shambolic chick passed out in the corner of the pub, semi-conscious fingers clinging desperately to a half empty bottle of vodka.

Nice, huh? He then takes a holiday from trying to be Lester Bangs for a few paragraphs (conveniently forgetting – as most jock wannabe critics do – that Bangs was, in fact, a feminist) before returning with this denouement:

Right now, if The Red One was a girl, she’d be the slightly unhinged girl with a twinkle in her eye, Doc Martens and a tutu. In other words, probably not marriage material.

Now, I’m no fan of metaphor in criticism at the best of times (I used it when I was but a wee critical bairn; I look back at it and cringe, hard), but this instance is particularly odious. I mean, where do I start? Fitting value judgments, lecherousness, and sexist stereotyping into a handy metaphor, all within the space of a capsule album review? Ed Butler, you are clearly “THE MAN”!!

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Posted in Blog Watch, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Women We Love: Catherine Deveny

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 2, 2008

Welcome to the first in what will become a regular feature on The Dawn Chorus, Women We Love: interviews with women we find inspiring, be they trailblazers from back in the day, or those just now rising up the ranks. We hope that, you, too will be inspired by their stories and their fine work, no matter what field it’s in.

Catherine Deveny is one of Australia’s most noted columnists, and has also written extensively for television, and for her own stand-up comedy, as well as having published a number of books. The pieces she writes for The Age‘s Opinion page and Saturday’s A2 are frequently polarising and often controversial, but always delivered fearlessly and with a scythe-like wit. She is not afraid to attack the Government, the upwardly mobile, those who drive bigger cars than she does, or anything and anyone, really.

But what’s most remarkable about Catherine’s work, apart from its regularly sidesplitting hilarity, is that she isn’t simply a ‘shock hack’, penning up-yours columns to keep the lefties happy and the conservatives ropable – perhaps her most “shocking” attribute, in a market filled with cold and objective copy, is her heart. In pieces like ‘To everyday heroes: Just. Keep. Going‘ [The Age, May 28th 2008], Catherine imbues her writing with feeling and empathy, and you can’t help but be moved.

Catherine very kindly let herself be The Dawn Chorus’ inaugural interviewee, and attacked our questions with her trademark wit, always with that big heart beating just behind it – just the way we love her.

* * *

TDC: When did you decide writing was going to be “it” for you?
CD: “I have always written. Journals, letters, graffiti. I was never one of those kids writing their own fabulous adventure books. I was just writing letters to nana thanking her for the chocolate biscuits and the hand knitted jumper that looked like an abortion made of wool. I actually always wanted to be Magda Szubanski. But I can’t act. So writing it is. I never have a term with the label ‘writer’. For me it’s like girl, boy, short, tall, gay or straight. You either are a writer or not. There are people who write and there are writers. Big difference. Writers have to write. It’s like having a shit. And some of it is shit. Exhibit A: Every column I’ve ever written.”

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Posted in Interviews, women we love | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »