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The gender politics of Kurt Cobain

17 Apr

Photo of Kurt COBAIN and NIRVANA

I was feeling all kinds of sentimental about Kurt Cobain in the lead up to his 20 year anniversary, so I wrote an essay about his feminist activism, his challenge to ideals of masculinity and his general beautifulness for the latest issue of Kill Your Darlings. If you were ever a gloomy grunge kid like me you might like it?

Anyway, you can read it here.

“Loving him was red”: Finding feminism in Taylor Swift

16 Dec

taylor-swift-red-tour-1-1363265022-view-1

Taylor Swift, the flaxen-haired, cat-eyed girl who grew up on a Christmas tree farm, who makes millions of dollars out of the teardrops on her guitar, who this weekend wrapped up the first full-stadium Australian tour by a female musician since Madonna, has a way of inspiring a lot of venom in people.

Sure, she’s adored by millions of girls around the world, and parents are pretty happy about that – let’s just say, she’s not likely to pull a Miley any time soon. From interviews, she seems genuinely down-to-earth, considerate and poised. The girl has talent, and she works hard – she’s been writing her own songs since she was 14, she plays guitar, piano and the banjo with reasonable skill, and at just 24 years old she’s won seven Grammy Awards and sold over 26 million albums and 75 million digital single downloads worldwide.

But to a lot of people, she’s ‘a feminist’s worst nightmare’.

Being a feminist who loves Taylor Swift comes with a set of challenges. From first glance, it’s understandable why people would take issue with her. Some say she plays up to an image of innocence, reinforcing patriarchal ideas that a girl’s worth is based on her purity. Some say she dates too many boys, that she’s fairytale obsessed and hopelessly dependent on male affection and approval. Some say she’s like a bitter black widow, always waiting to ensnare a new boyfriend, just so she can write a song about how badly he treated her. (more…)

Latest work

16 Dec

A few of my latest articles, essays and reviews.

Beautiful and Damned: Myths of Zelda Fitzgerald (Kill Your Darlings) Looking at the legacy of Zelda Fitzgerald, as captured in three new novels imagining her life.

Putting on the ritz: Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV (Killings) A review of the NGV exhibition.

In review: Domestic Renewal ((inside) Interior Design Review) A review of a collaborative, interdisciplinary exhibition curated by Rohan Nicol, recently on show at Craft Cubed.

Making magic (Carnival) Inside the studio of Melbourne milliner Kim Fletcher in the lead up to the Spring Racing Carnival.

A stylish provocateur: Periel Aschenbrand’s On My Knees (Killings) A review of Periel Aschenbrand’s provocative new memoir.

Solo Voyage (Carnival) During World War I, at least 136,000 Australian horses were sent overseas to accompany troops. Only one came home – a chestnut waler named Sandy.

Review: How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (3000Melbourne)

Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (3000Melbourne)

Review: Dear Life by Alice Munro (3000Melbourne)

(Oh also, my portfolio is here.)

In which we are successful in some field of living

20 Feb

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A colleague brought this in to work for me, knowing how much I’d go crazy for it. And she was right – I’m nuts about this stuff.

The Successful Wife’s Pocketbook is a handy little pamphlet by Woman’s Journal from 1962 that offers kind, sisterly guidance on how to satisfy your husband – and to do it all with a sweet, pleasing smile. You wouldn’t want to annoy him by not having dinner ready on time, or not having your hair styled properly when he gets home, or by accidentally letting slip that you experience feelings like boredom and tiredness and frustration and sadness every once in a while. So take notes! (more…)

Gender reading group – want to join?

10 Jan

feministdictionary

You can take the girl out of the arts course…

I was thinking about how I’m such a terrible so-called-feminist for not knowing or reading enough (because how can you ever read ENOUGH?), and how I’d really quite like to do a Master of gender studies (but the whole working full time and being in the middle of a creative writing Masters thing kind of puts a spanner in that idea), and how overwhelming it can feel to want to read and learn everything but lacking the direction and discipline and all those things. So I had an idea: do you want to be in a gender reading group with me?

My idea is we could pick a journal article or book chapter or something on some issue relating to feminism/gender/sexuality each week (or fortnight or month or whatever we decide) and read it and then we can discuss over the blogsphere. Like, I’ll blog about what I think about it, and you can blog what you think, and we can discuss in the comments. Or, we can also meet up like three-dimensional people and talk about it over a pinot gris. So, just like being at uni except without all the tossers?

This is me just typing as I think, but we can work out the details. Leave a comment or send me an email at rebeccahowden@gmail.com if you like the idea and want to read stuff with me!

Written by ladiezz

8 Jan

lady

At the beginning of last year, I decided to make an effort to read more books written by Australian women. In response to all the debate and discussion that has been gaining momentum about the role of writing by female authors in Australian literature (this piece from Kill Your Darlings by Sophie Cunningham gives a great overview of some of the issues) I joined thousands of other writers and readers in the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012.

Here are some reviews I wrote… (more…)

On my mind this week

15 Jul

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But I don’t want to be at war with other women

3 Jun

Last night, I was flipping through a fashion magazine and I came across an ad that made me sad, and a bit confused, and then irritated at myself for being irritated by it – which was annoying in itself, because all I was really looking for was inspiration for how I should do my makeup. It’s an ad for Trilogy’s Rosapene rosehip oil, and unless I’m missing something or reading this wrong, it’s telling me that it will give me a better edge in the war I’m obviously in against other women. (more…)

Feminism and being multiple

28 Mar

One of the oddest things I find about “being a feminist” is the amount of difficulty and debate such a label tends to conjure up. There are thousands of variations, but three key problems seem to always rear their spiky heads:

1. Many women are reluctant to identify as feminists, even though if you ask them their thoughts on specific issues they’ll respond with feminist ideas. There’s a certain ugliness associated with the label that a lot of us grow up learning to be wary of. Take this Maxim “cure a feminist” feature as exhibit A. This article from Mama Mia a few days ago also captures some of the frustrations of this situation.

2.Some feminists believe there should be a core set of bullet-points that a person must subscribe to in order to call themselves feminists. A lot of us do this even subconsciously, because it’s hard to understand how someone who agrees with us on one point could offend us so much on another. We question whether Cosmopolitan should be allowed to call itself feminist, whether Melinda Tankard Reist should be allowed to call herself a feminist.

3. The flipside of the point above is that many women feel like they’re not allowed to be part of the discussion, because they don’t meet the criteria they believe has been set out.

My thoughts keep going back to something Julia Kristeva wrote about in Women’s Time. Okay, I know it might be a bit naff or maybe just pretentious to reference Kristeva, but listen for a minute: in Women’s Time, she makes a case for a new generation of feminism (where ‘generation’ refers not necessarily to a period in linear time, but rather a signifying mental, emotional and intellectual space) that focuses on the multiplicity of individual experience. That means not only accepting that everyone will have different views and ideas, but that within each person exist myriad possible identifications, some of which might seem contradictory.

(more…)

Links I like

4 Mar

How to be nice. It’s not so hard. Rookie mag gives a pretty great outline of different kinds of being nice, and the pros and cons of each.

New Yorkers have all the fun, and now they’re getting cupcake ATMs. Like actual ATMs that dispense cupcakes! 24/7!

How do we feel about Holden Caulfield? A list of the most divisive characters in literary history.

This guy lived in a pretend space capsule for almost 18 months. For serious!

If you love awesome people you probably love Andy Warhol. And you should probably read this awesome interview from 1977.

If you didn’t already think Andrej Pejic was incredible, this swimwear shoot for Nathan Paul will convince you.

Also, I don’t even care if he can act or not – this movie would be very cool if it happens. (more…)