Silencing women

Volume 6 Number 7 July 12 - August 8 2010

The winter edition of Meanjin offers a timely look at the continuing exclusion of women in Australia. By Silvia Dropulich.

Although coincidental, it is a timely editorial.

Editor Sophie Cunningham in the winter edition of Meanjin – released just before Julia Gillard was sworn in as the nation’s first female Prime Minister – writes about women sitting ‘outside’ language.

Yet despite the Gillard achievement, there is still a long way to go for women.

French feminist Luce Irigaray was beamed in from Paris recently, to give a lecture at the Melbourne Law School.

“She was, despite the inevitable technological hitches, awesome, to behold,” writes Ms Cunningham.

“[I] found her theory that language was constructed in a way which excluded women very powerful.

“I would contend that it’s as relevant today.”

Ms Cunningham goes on to describe the ways in which women have been publicly, and it seems acceptably, humiliated in Australia in the past few months.

To take an example, Louis Nowra describing Germaine Greer as a ‘befuddled and exhausted old woman. She reminded me of my demented grandmother who, towards the end of her life, was often in a similarly unruly state.’

“Nowra is only 10 years younger than Greer – so he can take the comment about his grandmother and shove it,” says Ms Cunningham.

Australia Post released its Australian Legends of the Written Word stamp series, Ms Cunningham observes. Five men, one woman – novelist Colleen McCullough.

Only three of the 34 finalists of the Archibald Prize for 2010 were women. And last year, not a single female lead singer was included in Triple J’s Hottest 100 survey.

“I could go on,” says Cunningham, “I won’t.”

“I’ll just say this: either women can’t sing, paint, write or think as well as they used to…or we live in a culture that does not like the things women say, or does not know how to hear them when they say it.”

After this powerful opening, other highlights in the June edition of Meanjin include Michael Ackland discussing Whaling, Katherine Wilson giving us the lowdown on Steampunk, and Tanya McIntyre and Mick Harvey showing us Melbourne’s 70s Punk scene.

Guy Rundle considers the State as a cultural institution and Sophie Cunningham interviews Graeme Blundell about reviewing, writing, and being naked.

The winter edition of Meanjin also includes fiction by Karina Barker, Chris Flynn, Zoe Dattner, Kay Rozynski, David McLare, Ruby Murray’s Alan Marshall Short Story Prize-winner as well as the final extract of Caroline Lee’s novel, Stripped.