Born to Die: Lana Del Rey and the Modern Feminine Performance

There’s something I find incredibly compelling and deliciously problematic – from a feminist point of view – about Lana Del Rey. It didn’t crystallise for me until I read Pitchfork’s fairly damning review of her debut effort, Born to Die. With respect to Lindsay Zoladz’s personal opinion, I can’t help but feel that her criticism of the album misses the point, and dismisses Lana Del Rey not on the merits of her music, but because of the problematic nature of her performance. I’m really only interested in the latter, which Zoladz’s review draws a lot of attention to:

“The conversation surrounding Lana Del Rey has underscored some seriously depressing truths about sexism in music. She was subjected to the kind of intense scrutiny– about her backstory and especially her appearance– that’s generally reserved for women only. But the sexual politics of Born to Die are troubling too: You’d be hard pressed to find any song on which Del Rey reveals an interiority or figures herself as anything more complex than an ice-cream-cone-licking object of male desire.”

I find the whole review troubling. Her dismissal of Lana Del Rey’s capacity for complexity is the most worrying part and, as I’ll address later, completely unfounded. Zoladz inability to find complexity is a failure on her part, not Del Rey’s. What Zoladz don’t seem to understand is that the sexual politics of the album are themselves a product of and response to the way we treat women in music; that this is Lana Del Rey’s thesis, whether intentional or not. Continue reading

Review ~ Leggings Are Not Pants

The wait is over… Leggings Are Not Pants is finally here and it really is everything it’s cracked up to be. Showing as a Midsumma Premier Event at 45 Downstairs from the 1st to the 5th of Feb, if you don’t get tickets your life will always have a bit of emptiness to it.

My understanding is that LANP emerged from a Creative Act Development class that grew out of the advanced Chinese Pole class, plus a few additional Women’s Circus members with specific skills that were needed.
According to the Facebook page LANP takes the controversial stand that there are no boundries to gender identity, but there are to lycra. Continue reading

feminaust’s 2011 Lesbian Film Festival part 1

I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago (actually it’s probably almost a few months ago now) which had me on my arse, drinking too much (I hear isBambi making disparaging comments about the rarity of that event), watching too much TV and doing a lot of knitting.

Once I’d watched two season of NCIS (OMG is that an awful TV show full of misogyny, dangerous gender stereotypes and badly concealed contempt for women), the whole Harry Potter series and a fair bit more crap I realised that I was wasting my energy. That really, I should be taking my down time and using it fruitfully. So I started researching awesome lesbian cinema with a view to engaging with this sorta genre on a higher level than previously. Continue reading

Review: Cairo 678

When feminaust co-founder isBambi and I were in Zurich earlier this year for International Women’s Summit and YWCA World Council we met an amazing young woman Sandra from YWCA of Egypt who spoke at one of the plenery events about the greatest challenges she saw the women of Egypt were facing, even since the revolution. Primarily she was concerned with the astronomical levels of street harassment that women face in Egypt, harassment that goes largely unreported and unpunished due to shame, fear and lack of political, judicial and police interest. She showed us a short clip for the film Cairo 678 and we were all struck by the feeling of utter helplessness of the women coupled with the brazen nonchalance of the perpetrators.

Street harassment in Egypt isn’t like that which we face in Australia. Here at home, my experience of street harassment is open, it’s men calling from their cars, honking their horns, yelling obscenities and reacting aggressively, but generally remotely, when my response isn’t positive. In Egypt, the street harassment is far more widespread but far more covert. It’s physical, it’s hidden, it’s not spoken of and it literally has the power to immobilise the women who experience it on a daily basis. The word harassment in my mind doesn’t even cover it, I believe it’s assault, in Australian legal terms it would be assault, it’s unwanted touching, groping, fondling and the women who experience it have little option but to move away or put up with it. Neither the law, society nor even their own families are interested in protecting them. Continue reading

Review: Candy B, Australian Booty, Melbourne Fringe Festival

I’ve been having fun at the Melbourne Fringe Festival this year. Working in Carlton there are loads of shows within walking distance of my office and they’re all so reasonably priced! So when the opportunity to go see Candy Bowers of Sista She awesomeness perform a show about body positivity and loving the you (pretty much my job focus) I was all over that shit.

Candy B is a bit of a legend in my books. Sista She rocked out of obscurity around the time I was starting to get interested in attending comedy/fringe events. Sarah Ward her partner in that adventure performed as her alter ego Yana Alana at a YWCA function when I was still a student and Candy was very involved in working with young women with YWCA Victoria when I first joined the organisation as an employee. I’ve worked in young women’s programs for nearly four years now, primarily on issues of body image and self esteem with high school students and Candy’s agenda of celebrating and focusing on love of the body ties so well with what I do and my own opinions about the state of the world and women’s bodies. Continue reading

Review: No Such Thing as Normal, Off the Wall Youth Circus Troupe at the Melbourne Fringe Festival

News Flash: Off The Wall Troupe will be performing No Such Thing As Normal at the Adelaide Fringe Festival from the 25th Feb to 4th March 2012. Get your info and tickets now! And meet the cast at Festival Fishbowl.

I just got home from the Melbourne Fringe Festival with my brother and had to write about the show I saw IMMEDIATELY.

Those of you who know me will know that I’ve been involved with Westside Circus through my work for a while now. Those who don’t should check out the work that Westside does straight away and everyone should grab tickets to go see the newly formed Off the Wall youth troupe’s Fringe Festival performance: No Such Thing as Normal.

From what I understand, Off the Wall is a new troupe, consisting of former Behind the Wall performers. I also understand that the troupe is entirely organised, directed, produced, planned and everything else by the young people involved. Very impressive, not least because the show was absolutely awesome. Continue reading

Welcome to Monday ~ 15 August 2011

What a week! This Welcome to Monday includes tampons, some potentially big changes in the comic book world, war heroines and of course the big one down under, Fred Nile being an idiot about the general awesomeness of Australian finance minister, Penny Wong.There’s so much news I’m minimised the commentary on them, which obviously took an unprecedented level of self-control. Enjoy the links, tell us what you think, and remember we aim to include an overview of feminist news this week; these articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the feminausts.

Continue reading

SlutWalk Melbourne ~ PHOTOS!

Today was the long awaited SlutWalk Melbourne. The most recent instalment of the global SlutWalk movement (Brisbane also had their SlutWalk today). I was there with my mummy (love ya mum!) and a colleague. I didn’t dress up, but I did wear my most fabulous red boots with diamantes and silver piping, so I was feeling festive.

There was an  incredible turn  out of fabulous  men and women  and  some  children waving  a plethora of interesting and insightful banners  and signs, many of  which I managed to grab a photo of and will  splatter across this post.  My favorite vision of the day was as we  walked down Swanston Street,  the absolute stream of people on ahead  and behind. It was a quieter  protest than I might have hoped for, the  PA system wasn’t as good as  it could have been so I missed most of the  speeches. Karen Pickering  was vocal enough to be heard introducing  Monica Dux and the  representative from the Scarlett Alliance was  VERY good at getting  her point heard, but in the end, we knew what  we were there for, to  protest against the culture of victim blaming and slut shaming which permeates our world.

There was some lovely and creative costumes on offer, although as I looked around me at the crowd I couldn’t help thinking that the young women who I had seen on Chapel Street the night before would have been more representative of the modern use of the term “slut” than some of the caricatures on offer at the State Library. This was a reminder that sometimes these rallies, really are opportunities to preach to the choir and that as can be seen in a lot of the media surrounding the event over the last few weeks, misinterpretation is rife and speculation is unlimited. In fact, last week at work I found myself having two very different conversations on the same topic within a few hours of each other.

The first was  with the  Executive  Director of a  national  women’s organisation who had called me to chase up a  SlutWalk organiser for an interview as she had been  getting regular calls and not being an organiser,  couldn’t answer their questions. She wanted to know my  opinion (knowing that I have one on everything) and we  proceeded to have a good chat about the idea of the  reclamation of words and the process that the Australia feminist movement was going through across the country in homes and workplaces and online of conversing and contradicting and contrasting each other. We were both celebrating the joy of an active, vocal and creative movement of women, the like we had not see in years. However at the same time, the dissent and debate surrounding the event and its beginnings has been somewhat disappointing for those of us who like to make some noise. Which leads me to the second conversation I had last week, with a volunteer at my work who talked about not wanting to set a bad example to her younger sister by attending an event which encouraged women to dress “inappropriately”. Now I have a great deal of respect for this young woman and really value the contrast she brings to a lot of our discussions however I couldn’t help but feel like she, along with a huge number of the general population (including card carrying feminists) had completely missed the point of the whole exercise. I seem to be having the same conversation on repeat. That SlutWalk is LESS about reclaiming a word and dressing in skimpy attire and MORE about refusing to accept the status quo of “women are to blame for their own assaults”. And let’s be honest here… if you don’t agree with that, you need a good talking to!

SO, I will be honest when I say that I had some disappointment not to see a few faces outside the State Library this afternoon, but my disappointment was more than surpassed by my excitement by the diversity of people present at the march. These young women (photo) were resplendent with their colourful and demanding slogans, there was an excellent ratio of men to women, with hardly any indication that this was a march for a “women’s issue” and when we reached Treasury Gardens the organisers had some final words for us followed by vocal cheering and hollering. My heart skipped a beat when the core organising team turned to each other with a massive sigh of relief and had a mini-celebration of their own achievements. And WHAT an achievement. You brought together, not only a fabulous group of women, but an amazing line up of speakers, some incredible supporters and the spectrum of sluts and allies including MY MUMMY!

 The following line up of photos are in your honour  SlutWalk Melbourne Organisers. Congratulations on an  incredible effort and an amazing outcome.

We at feminaust SALUTE YOU! xxxxxxxxxxx


Review – A Marine Story

 A lesbian US marine story… that’s been done right? Well maybe  not quite like this, in fact never quite like this. Watching this  film I was actually struck by how totally mainstream it was. Sure  there was a message, sure there was a moral, sure the  protagonist was gay and butch and a bad ass but it was really  just a story about a small minded town and two people trying to  find their way through life there. And it was FUNNY. The  director threw in some fantastic moments, like the main  character hosing herself down while her young, nubile charge  undressed innocently in front of her and it was touching,  particularly the last closing credits which were just a collection  of friends photos. It didn’t try to make to strong a comment about  Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but it certainly made it clear it was a law  that impacted regular people in regularly awful ways. It wasn’t  an overtly feminist film either, but it certainly held plenty of  feminist clout. You’ve gotta enjoy dickhead men who, even though the woman they’re talking to is a US marine, think they have to be stronger, fast and better than her, and getting royally beaten down and down again for their trouble. Let’s be honest here, if she made it as a marine, she’s going to be pretty tough.

In the end it was a good flick, a really funny film, a really great example of how queer film making doesn’t have to be all gay all the time. Sometimes it can just have a good, story line, some funny gags, a bit of love and bit of loss and a warm fuzzy ending. I’d be happy to see it again but watching it in a room full of lesbians at a queer film festival made the funnier bits funnier and the poignant bits more special. RIP DADT.

**** from me!

Review – The Talk DVD

The Talk – A sexual health and ethics dvd aimed at parents, carers and teenagers.

I went to the launch of this DVD today, basically a room full of comedians and health professionals at the Melbourne Town Hall… my idea of heaven! Nelly Thomas has hit the right note once again with this dvd talking about sex and sexual relationships in a fun and interesting way, without trivialising the important stuff or ignoring the awkward stuff. As a community worker I love the section on “doing it right” best, an opportunity to talk about sexual rights and responsibilities that is sorely needed in sexuality education whether in the home or at school. I had pretty good sex ed when I was at school but sexual ethics were still missed from the equation and when I talk to young people about it I find they either have no idea what I’m talking about or are completely blown away that I would even bring it up!

I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more in the DVD that I might be able to draw out and use in my own work currently but it’s not aimed at health professionals and as a starting block for parents to talk to their kids about sex it really does the job.

The cut aways to short snippets of stand up are a brilliant way to lighten the mood and give anxious watchers some breathing space (although I’d love to see the unedited versions). There’s a mock family trying to discuss sex and failing spectacularly, a great way of showing how not to do “the talk”. The animations and amusing and original and Nelly Thomas is an engaging and amusing host. Good to see some recognisable professionals doing their thing and I was very chuffed to see a text book I actually own in the backdrop of one of the scenes!

I think a lot has been left out but anything longer and there would be too much to talk about afterwards. I think Ms Thomas has left it wide open for a sequel dealing with more awkward and uncomfortable conversations and I look forward to what might be produced.

Get your copy at