The variance and volume of courage

To standardize courage, with all it’s variance, would be like declaring that all leaves are a single hue. For those of us who have dedicated time to laying under trees and observing the myriad of overlapping green spearheads backlit by sunlight on a cyan sky will attest, not all green is the same. So then, not all forms of courage are green or vanilla and it is drawn upon in varying ways. Courage is an internal force that readies us for action or re-action to an external force. It can propel us with vigor into the next immediate moment or steady us to remain still, patient and focused over time. With frequent exposure to sensational and fast news we are trained to applaud stories of forceful courage. What about the courage it takes to actively resist being catapulted by an over coiled media springboard into the deep end of a pool? Do you really want to freestyle it in the fast lane of a race that you did not even sign up to swim?

For the less physical types, courage could be experienced as a musical bridge. From the choral exhilaration of launching to the quiet fortitude of observing and listening, we have a courage volume control. Regardless of your preference or place on the bridge, the volume is turned up to 10. A crisis requires your courageous reaction equal to the event itself, so your dial slides up. Also, persistent unbalanced social pressures and negative influence build up over time, like water torture, so responding with a quiet truth requires your courage dial is also locked on high.

How exhausting it is for humanity to meter an appropriate “volume” of vigilance and courage to react to inconsistent and unstable leadership. To have to dig deep into our store of integrity and truth in uncertain times; not quite stepping down and not quite showing up; living at a volume of 5 until the immediate moment passes is also incredibly wearing. On the surface one could argue it’s easier to respond to an obvious crisis than it is to respond with quiet, consistent and steadfast courage to the mixed messaging and poor role modelling of many leaders. I disagree. Although it seems the leadership stage and broad reporting is still set to amplify the loudest voices and the forceful frequencies of a few, it is a relief to witness many people choosing to tune out, mute the noise and turn up their own quiet courageous volume. En-masse it is sending a loud message and influencing elections, processes and systems all over the world.

Every day, people live their lives drawing on courage and it isn’t just those who have been through crisis. When we are brave and hold space and time for truthful conversation our courage dial is set to 10. It is worth the temporary discomfort because fronting up and living a connected and compassionate life means living with courage. The decision to grip onto the diving board or launch in the pool is your choice but the equalizer is the intensity or “volume” of courage you bring to either act. We are all drawing on courage.

I invite you to ask yourself just how much courage it takes to be yourself? Regardless of gender, employment, finances, relationship, family, education, race, religion or any one of the labels or devices we foolishly try to standardize the experience of humanity, it is courage that connects us. Could we, rather, see ourselves as the many shapes and shades of life. As the green spearheads, within an ever-changing and fragile ecosystem. Every one of us attached to a shared branch drawing on the courage to live, grow, blend and extend into that sun filled and cyan sky.

Live with a volume of courage that will change systems and uplift us all!

 

Photo by may yue on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

Not taking sides

Tonight, one of my daughters asked me to download a version of the Macarena for a school performance, as they don’t have the internet in the hall. The performance is in a day or so and last-minute preps are aplenty. So, after looking for the aforementioned musical delight a full-screen popup appeared on my computer. It was a well-designed screen. The background was a series of women in varying state of undress overlayed with 3 equally proportioned circles asking me which woman I would choose tonight. Within each of the circles was an image of a young naked woman in a sexual pose. I turned to my daughter and asked her what she thought of the screen. Do you think this is okay? She responded with “this is weird”, “it’s kinda odd”, “why do we need to see other people naked on here?”. I kinda felt the same way… a lot! If a similar screen of naked men appeared I’d have the same response, alas these um “popups” aren’t displaying themselves on my machine. Quite the opposite. Email spam about how many women I can have and what I can do with them is also dehumanising. It’s when the objectification, dehumanisation and misrepresentation of women finds me in my own home, without my seeking or asking for it, that I am reminded of how difficult it is to raise people with a true sense of equality when the baseline is so skewed to serve men.

I am not in the business of taking sides when it comes to equality. It defeats the purpose of shared humanity, shared experience, shared opportunity. Every human being deserves equal choice and agency. I actively seek a balanced and higher connection with humanity at Feathersome. I have dealt with bias at every step of this journey, at various stages in my life both my own and others. I have been challenged both subtly and with sledgehammers from people who made no sense to me and had no fact upon which to base their challenge other than the comfortable and familiar lines around sexism and inequality. The numbers don’t lie people. This country is losing women at the hands of intimate male partners at a rate of over 1 per week. Every 3rd female over the age of 15 experiences sexual violence and one in 4 women are abused in their own homes. Isn’t home a place we are meant to feel safe? The mass media continues to represent women as chattels, sexual objects and faceless clothes hangers. 35% of internet downloads are porn related and the most common female role in porn is women in their 20’s portraying teenagers. This is designed to reach out to the 44% of males aged 11-16 who consume porn as it gave them ideas about the type of sex they wanted. My concern here is that porn in general demeans, dominates, is increasingly aggressive and focuses on the pleasure of the male only. This imbalance is influencing a whole generation around gendered role play and is setting a very narrow baseline for healthy sex. A quick scroll of Instagram reveals an array of young women professing “sexual empowerment” in lingerie, gym gear or bikinis. All angled to show their bums and boobs in the mirror yet they obscure their own faces. Tell me this is not a society that “likes” young women to be seen and not heard. What does this say about our current portrayal of women? Saying it again… a third of the internet downloads are porn related! Although this objectifies both men and women, we are not showcasing enough stories of intelligent, independent, whole, powerful and feminine women in their daily activities let alone in leadership roles.

Frankly, if women can’t see relatable and balanced female role models who lead their own lives then how can we grow and lead our own? The onslaught of stereotyped imagery and the narrowly baked recipe for what it is to be female today is thick, fast and insidious. We need to see, hear and value strong, unique voices. I believe gender equality will be achieved through a new lens of diverse, balanced representation. A part of that reality includes firm voices asking better questions, feminine decision making and female leadership. The pendulum is slowly swinging back to give air time to women and this feels very uncomfortable for the privileged. I agree that when you are used to having it all this voicing of truth, equality and the impending loss of the advantage you were freely gifted will feel like oppression… for a while. Eventually it will settle in the middle, though it is going to take some brave people to stand firm and forge the path in the meantime. The Feathersome team and partners showcase a variety of feminine leadership and highlight how women and girls can be brought to parity through the delivery of stories, events, workshops and creativity.

Leadership as a concept is gender neutral as is food, water, shelter and safety yet many people connect the term leadership with men and also with traits considered more masculine. Women engage with the world in ways that are different to men. We ask female centric questions from bodies that are physically different. We have unique needs and desires. We have sex differently, we relate to situations differently and we see the world through a feminine frame so inevitably it makes sense that we should look to leaders and lead our lives differently. There is a shortage of role models and diversity in the leadership environment. Can we change that? Yes, by reframing leadership.

Through the lens of humanity people share many threads, perspectives and structures. Unfortunately, there remain structures set up with the biased answers to questions asked from the mouths of the only people allowed in the room at the time. It was only men who were allowed to ask so the outcomes are naturally male centric. It makes sense. We get it… it was the way things happened but shift forward to a different time and we need to be considerate of all questions asked from all perspectives for the benefit of all.

As leaders, women have to bring all our feminine views to the table and the divergence and strength of a different perspective can offer better choices, inclusion and a deeper understanding for all humanity. It is time for this balance and to meet on this higher ground.

Alongside each other we all have to demand respect for humanity, find our common purpose and, in doing so, uplift everyone in the process. I am not taking sides, I am choosing to serve humanity. In your small and significant moments how are you actively listening, speaking, asking, serving and leading for equality?

 

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

 

 

 

Tiny Homes

This research piece about tiny houses on wheels provides a snapshot into the movement, which presents viable solutions to housing, environmental and social issues. It was inspired by an interview with an amazing woman called Mikhara Ramsing who has recently built one with her partner, and whose story features in the next edition of Feathersome Journal.

Tiny houses on wheels are comparable to RV’s but built with traditional building materials and techniques to mirror the longevity and aesthetic of larger homes. They are defined by a size less than 400 square feet, a width less than 2.5 meters, a length less than 12.5 meters, a height less than 4.3 meters, and a weight less than 4.5 tonnes for towing purposes. They are a smaller, more mobile relative of small houses, which are typically between 400 and 1000 square feet. The small and tiny house movements gained momentum in the United States after Hurricane Katrina and the Global Financial Crisis, representing a financially viable alternative to traditional houses. They have since gained prominence in countries around the world including Australia. Tiny houses typically range between $25 000 to $90 000 depending on factors such as materials, size, optional features including decks and solar panels, and whether the house is a DIY project or purchased as a ready-made home. For context, in Melbourne, the average tiny home costs less than one-fifth of the average home, making it perfect for first home buyers or those struggling to afford a house and mortgage. They also require less ongoing costs associated with heating, maintenance, and repairs compared to regular houses.

There are many different ways that a tiny house can be utilised; from being a permanent home for a couple or family, to a temporary home, a retirement or holiday home, a home office, a guest house, a self-contained space for ageing relatives and teenagers, as well as a rentable space on platforms such as Airbnb. In addition to providing opportunities for home relocation, extra income and/or space, tiny houses provide an easier option for people to build their own home, to live off the grid, and have less of an environmental footprint.  The reduced space encourages clever design including vertical space optimisation, dual-purpose features/appliances, multi-functional furniture and simply less consumption.

There are however concerns about the safety of tiny homes by industry and government, as the relative ease of construction sees more people attempt to design and build their own homes without professional help or expertise. There has also been pushback from communities which argue tiny homes devalue the surrounding houses and neighbourhood. One of the biggest obstacles to building a tiny home is where to put it once it is built. Buying land can still be very expensive, and in some states, local councils prohibit parking a tiny house on an empty piece of land or require people to have a permit to live in it in excess of a stated period of time. As for small houses and tiny houses without wheels,  zoning regulations and building codes typically specify minimum square footage for new construction, as well as connection to the grid. In parts of Australia, they also need to build to BCA standards, require an engineering certificate, and include smoke alarms among other things.

As the tiny and small house movements grow,  zoning laws and coding regulations concerning tiny homes are beginning to shift. However, this change is slow and the uncertainty is still a barrier to many.  In states where people aren’t able to buy land and park their tiny houses,  they have negotiated agreements with people who live on large properties, to park there for a renting cost. There has also the formation of tiny house associations and bodies, which seek to work with community, industry, and government to better understand zoning implications, safety, and the potential for tiny homes to contribute to greater choice in housing supply and diversity.

Whilst in Australia tiny and small houses are a stark contrast to traditional large-style homes, in an age of changing housing needs, inflated housing prices and increasing population density in urban areas, they represent a viable solution and alternative to high-density apartment living. The benefits of tiny and small homes are also highlighted in the current social and environmental context of an aging population and global warming. Action at both an individual and government level is required.  Finally, another exciting application of tiny homes which is being trialed and advocated for in parts of the US is housing homeless communities. This is particularly relevant in Australia for single women over the age of 50, who are the fasted growing demographic for homelessness in the country.

 

Photo by Jessie Renée on Unsplash

the road

The Road

Gloria Steinem says in My Life on the Road (p xix):

‘Taking to the road – by which I mean letting the road take you – changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories – in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.’

What does this passage evoke for you?

My response to Ms Steinem’s reflections were profound, elucidating and somewhat unexpected because I have always felt like a homebody; I like to have a place to not feel like I’m performing for anyone. Home is a place where I relax, work, dream, experiment, grow and connect, and it is filled with people who are most dear to me. This place called home provides me with a sense of stability, familiarity and safety. It gives my family roots, which is important because my parents both left their countries of origin with their families to emigrate to a life of opportunity in Australia. But at the same time as home is so important to me, I get ‘itchy feet’.

So many times I have dreamed of moving somewhere else – usually cold and snowy for a complete contrast to the sunny, humidity in Queensland. And I love – I mean love – to travel. In the last 10 years the road trip has been a necessity to get our family of five on holiday on a budget; but now road trips are my preferred way to travel. I am surprised to have discovered that I am quite adventurous and that I want to be a grey nomad when I grow up.

I ask myself, how could this paradox of homely stability and roving exploration be? I have grown up knowing both home and travel as being connected parts of life through living in Europe as a child and regular trips to all my extended family in NSW. It could also be that moving into the unexplored is part of my DNA, given all the migrants in my family. But I think at the heart of it travel is like a good read for me, it enables me to explore. And that is what Gloria Steinem’s words speak to me; the road is an exploration of life and through it you are given opportunities to discover what life means to you, how you want to be in this world and what your purpose is. I believe this endeavour is our lifelong work and I regularly turn to books to undertake it – it is an accessible way to delve into something different and diverse. But Ms Steinem’s words compel me to draw the links between reading a good book and traveling on the road. Both provide opportunities to connect with other places and people, engage in new experiences and be in contact with ourselves. But the travel experience has the unique quality of creating my own story whilst being immersed in the stories of the places and people I connect with on my way.

Connection and learning are at the centre of our human experience and, in my view, are inherent in travel. As I travel I explore the relationships that form my life; the relationship with myself, with others, with places, with the environment, with activities, with that which is greater than I. I connect with the environment – all my senses are alive and I am gifted the opportunity to engage with others and myself in new ways. I make contact with the people – I am privy to their stories, what makes meaning for them, which influences my own meaning. I act within spaces and with people as I travel and from these actions I learn – skills are formed and purpose maintained or rebuilt. Taking to ‘the road’ is a route to reaching out and within – a vehicle for deep learning.

Our brains are evolved to learn; human beings are learning organisms. Learning is the mechanism for how we grew up from tiny babies who were completely dependent on our caregivers to functioning adults that can communicate, plan and be skilled in the myriad of activities we do every day. Learning is how humans are enabled to be so ingenious and creative, that we have become the dominant species on Earth. Learning thrives on novel experiences; so that feeling of ‘itchy feet’ that I get, that is a signal for my need for needing new experiences and surroundings because I am wired that way. Going on a trip provides a fresh perspective as my routines are altered and my environment is different from the everyday. I am stretched, sometimes in a comfortable way and other times a more pressing way, and I return with knowledge and abilities I did not have before. There is much development that happens when away, even though I may not know it until months or years later.

After reading Gloria Steinem’s account of what being on ‘the road’ meant to her and how it shaped her, I realised very strongly in my being that the migration of travel, especially road trips, was a core part of my make-up. I have decided to own this exploratory part of my humanity and value any new experiences all the more for it. I also no longer see travel as a luxury activity; just as reading is an ordinary and essential activity that fulfills my natural ability as a human being to connect, learn and nourish my body, mind and spirit, so does travel. Both reading and travel are exploratory exercises from which human stories are created and growth emanates. I am anticipating that deep breath I take when I am in another place and I let go of the regular, familiar and known, making room for the adventures in my being.

 

Photo by Fleur Treurniet on Unsplash

Am I a feminist?

Am I a feminist? To answer this question for myself I needed to understand what feminist means because feminism and feminist are misunderstood and, for some people, scary words that are avoided, as described by Tara Moss in The Fictional Woman1:

‘… there are a number of people who still recoil at the word, including a generation of young women … “I believe in equality, obviously, but I’m not a feminist.”’

Is the media’s description of feminist accurate? Does feminist mean a loud, angry, protesting, bra-burning woman? Does a feminist just believe in gender equality? Is a feminist a member of some kind of all female intellectual group concerned with women’s rights? Can a man be a feminist? Does humanist and feminist mean the same thing? What is a feminist anyway?

From its roots in the nineteenth century, feminism refers to organised principles and procedures that relate to women, or a female social order. The origins of the word lie in the French féminisme2, being a conjunction of feminine (from the old French femenin) meaning female and the suffix –ism, connoting a system or practice. The current dictionary definition of feminism is3:

‘The belief that women should be allowed the same rights, powers and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way, or the set of activities intended to achieve this state.’

Or as bell hooks says, ‘Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism.’4

Some people prefer to use the word humanism to describe their belief that women and men are accorded equal rights. Moss points out that the words humanism and feminism have different meanings and diverse derivations historically5. Humanism does not deal with gender inequity; rather it is a movement that upholds the right to human agency. Moss goes on to quote various acknowledgements by humanists that the movement was established by men and women were not prominent in its inception, though they are valuable members of that community. The humanist movement has many peace-promoting ideals, but gender equality is not specifically one of them.

Moss suggests that it is action that is more important than words4. It is undeniable that any person who takes action to enable greater gender equality in any aspect of life is serving the community and it does not matter what they call themselves. But, words are ultimately important; they enable clarity of communication and purpose. The fact that feminism, an uplifting and useful term, has been so tainted is testament to its importance. It is a powerful word – it challenges existing power structures and those who hold power. And it is this challenge that has caused the word to fall into disrepute, being the subject of backlash that ensues from people who feel threatened by shifting the status quo.

Feminism and feminist are strong female words; but they do not only name people who identify as female. The word is not defined according to the gender identity of the person; it is a set of beliefs held and actions performed by any person, of any gender. As bell hooks states:

‘… all sexist thinking and action is the problem, whether those who perpetuate it are female or male, child or adult.’4

By understanding what feminism and feminist truly mean I was able to put aside faulty perceptions and embrace the terms. My hope is that by more people educating themselves about what feminism really is, we can reclaim this word and continue to make choices and act in ways that make gender* equality a reality for more women. So are you a feminist?

 

Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

 

1.Moss, T. (2014). The Fictional Woman. Sydney: Harper Collins. p285.
2 https://www.etymonline.com/word/feminism
https://www.etymonline.com/word/feminine?ref=etymonline_crossreference
https://www.etymonline.com/word/-ism?ref=etymonline_crossreference
3 https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/feminism
4 hooks, b. (2000). Feminism is for Everybody. London: Pluto Press. p1
5 Moss, T, p296 – 297
* My use of the word gender aligns with the dualistic definition of female and male. I acknowledge that gender is not confined to this simple duality. In the context of feminism most discourse centres around dual gender terms and roles. It would be interesting to explore the term’s usage beyond these confines in a more in depth piece of writing as I have wondered that any person who does not identify as male must, in some way, experience the female.

Truth talking

Today I’m musing over the concept of uncomfortable but important conversations. This one has been a sore point for me, from conversations about body hair, to gender equality and career choices, navigating the strong and opposing opinions of others around me is a constant source of frustration and learning.

Whilst I know myself lucky to have always been given a platform for voice, opinion and healthy debate in my classrooms, in my family and in my personal circles, as I mature I am realising how challenging holding and expressing contrary opinions is. When you are on the other side of someone’s opinions, it is seemingly more important to know when to say something, to considerately deliver your points and practice immense tolerance…But I guess that’s what we should be doing anyway; speaking thoughtfully, full stop?

My wonderful friend Katie got me thinking when she said, the reason it’s so hard to discuss different opinions with people  is because it is so immensely personal; when you challenge someone’s opinion, you challenge their power.  This resonates with me more as I reflect on it, as in most instances it is my values which underpin my opinions, and these are very personal indeed; as well as being closely intertwined with our sense of self, our values contribute to our autonomy and confidence as individuals.

Coincidently in my evolutionary economics studies at the moment I am learning how individuals create a architecture for their life using socially sourced rules and routines.  Because of the interconnectedness of these heuristics for decision making, a challenge to someone’s opinion may actually present a challenge to their lifestyle as a whole. And rather than grapple with ideas that are at odds with our core constructs, as individuals we tend to ignore or manipulate ideas to fit our lifestyle architecture – a behaviour known as cognitive dissonance. This reflects the notion that people are too busy fire-fighting in other aspects of their life to be able to alter their core constructs as new ideas emerge and open new ways of thinking. Sometimes it’s just easier to go with the status quo, and like a business- its simply not efficient to constantly question your core mission and strategies.

So why then do we bother to have certain conversations about our opinions when it can be so challenging, uncomfortable and frivolous? The answer to this, for me, came from an interesting panel discussion on International Women’s Day, which highlighted the importance of speaking up and discussing gender equality with people we know, and maybe people we don’t know that well in our day to day lives, as an effective grass roots approach to creating change.

And whilst I’m in agreeance that discussing our opinions on matters that matter to us, is important, when it comes down to the art of delivering and creating a space for this exchange, I am less clear and confident. Often I find myself coming across too strong and pushy with some people, and not bothering to say anything in other situations. Like the way our opinions are informed by our lived experience, I am realising that the the way we discuss them with different people, is similarly informed by our past experiences. And so when we don’t feel heard by people, we are inclined in that moment or future ones, to shut down or speak even louder. I recognise however, that this is not necessarily the best approach. Rather, in accepting that everyone’s opinions are valid to them, we should enter these more challenging conversations with a degree of understanding and openness to them,  as by way, we allow people the safety and confidence to explore them further. I think this perspective also opens us up to discerning when it’s not a conversation worth having- when perhaps we are talking to someone who makes us feel unsafe, or simply isn’t really listening to what we have to say.  There is also the issue of context; some difficult conversations need to me managed for time and place appropriateness such as at work.

All in all, it’s definitely a dance which takes practice, in honouring our own values, and being accepting of others- in knowing that acceptance doesn’t mean agreeance, but that silence is too often mistaken as consent…So with this reflection, I endeavor to be a better conversationalist, to extend more understanding to others in an exchange of opinions, and use this principle as a filter itself, for those conversations that simply aren’t worth having.

 

Photo by Alexa Mazzarello on Unsplash

Inking History

Invented around 1440, the Letterpress was instrumental in automating the sharing of communication through efficient and economical duplication of words on a page. Although the Chinese had been printing since 1040AD it was this new form of presswork that gradually replaced scribes and illuminators as the most common form of printing. During the course of the next few hundred years presses were upgraded from wood to metal. The manual feeding and pressing of one paper sheet at a time was replaced by a semi-automated process. During the early 1900’s and the industrial era, printing presses were further mechanised and automated with inking rollers and multiple sheet feeding paper capability. It was a grand time for print. With the ink still wet, newspapers were rolling out of printeries daily. Periodicals were distributed locally, and many regions of the world were stocked with copies of books, cards and all the tangible delights of paper and printed materials.

In less than 100 years, those same fully automated 20th century letter presses were superseded by the introduction and adoption of “offset printing”. By the 1950’s these faster and relatively easier machines were contributing to the demise of the letterpress skillset and artform. Setting lead type by hand was replaced by mechanical platemaking, the human touch was all but lost. With the advent of computers in the 1970’s, the printing industry as a whole was on the downturn and had to make ready to compete. The technology of the day and the ability to disseminate general information with speed, greater economy and broad reach impacted the reliance of paper-based communication. Where printing was once the only way to reliably and consistently share news to a large audience, it now had a competitor and early adopters would say a superior one at that. The reduction in printing demand meant that many older presses were sold off and whole firms went out of business as the work dried up. Such is the nature of progress. Yet another example of an established industry disrupted by a game changing idea or advancement. Fortunately, the craft of letterpress still exists today as some of those old machines were salvaged and the skills have been passed down through artisans and lovers of print. We actively chose to partner with a local artisan who carefully handled our journal covers on her own press. It’s a beautiful 1960’s Heidelberg Windmill Platen. Our passion for supporting creative women was front of mind when we created the concept and made the choice to support an ancient craft. You can read more about her story very soon. In the meantime, continue reading to learn how women have changed the rules in publishing in under one hundred years.

Regardless of machinery or mode of transmission, one publishing issue remains. It relates to diversity. Who are the majority of people writing content and who holds the power to decide what to print or upload? History documents that women (as well as minority groups) had limited access to education and were denied access to learning to read and write. As time moved on women also experienced limited employment opportunities outside the home due to laws of the time and the practical responsibility of the majority of child rearing. These factors have limited the publishing of female authors and it can be assumed that society has not had access to the breadth of female storytelling, opinion and voice. We have suffered through a narrow view of womanhood. The research, the writing and the publishing of feminine perspective through time has been censored. In the US, women were legally restricted from becoming publishers until the late 19th century and it was usually after the death of a husband that they took up the role of running the business. The good news is that from the early 20th century there is evidence that women took up publishing roles with fervour and were some of the first to break major news of wars, political decisions and had greater opportunities to publish stories of life in general from a different perspective. These pioneering women had the courage to step outside of societal norms and author, as well as print, many important works. Women like Anaïs Nin at the age of 36, after fleeing Paris for New York at the onset of World War II, taught herself how to use a letterpress and published her own work. These are uncensored and fearlessly feminine diaries. Look her up if you haven’t already. Women continue to hold many leadership roles in large and small publishing houses worldwide and, whilst it is true that traditional publishing still favours male authors and most literary awards are won by men, the lucrative self-publishing market is currently fed by a majority of female authors. There is a market and an appetite for complex and unique stories told by women. This new breed of female authors and publishers are breaking glass ceilings and making money by responding to a hungry market. No longer is it about who you know in the club, it’s how you write and your skills that earn you the readers. Self-publishing is a game changer and a leveller. Society will benefit from stories from female authors and women will continue to experience a shift in power through publishing in general.

We say thank you to the women who rolled up their sleeves and inked up unapologetic and authentic female stories. To the women who were and still are at the forefront of decision making when it comes to publishing. Before we get too carried away, the internet on the surface, may be seen as an equaliser in regard to sharing and accessing diverse content authored by both genders, though let’s be wise to the fact it is another publishing platform created with censorship and sentiment established, in the majority, by men. Even in the 70’s the frameworks underpinning technology were built with an overwhelming male gaze through the periscope. History shows that it took hundreds of years to shift the balance of power in print and publishing, let’s hope it doesn’t take as long to represent the real needs, opinions and authentic stories of women through technology. Seems the tech industry moves with greater speed but let’s invite and then listen to more women at the decision-making table guys.

Also, don’t forget that print remains a viable transmission of information. It turns out that Millennials love their reading and in particular printed materials – who knew?

If you love supporting artisans who run letterpresses and reading complex, authentic work authored by women then you might want to purchase a copy of our journal – pre-register here. Thanks kindly for the support.

Paris and Masters

Paris you are beautiful, I really do love you, but you are built off the generational recycling of art and ideas, made over and over again at the hands of mostly crazy men. Artists, writers, philosophers, politicians and kings mad and made on an end game that looks beautiful at all cost. Made arched over the backs, laying on the bellies and suckling the breasts of women carved from stone and painted as objects of desire. Men making headless and heartless objects of women as time turns and ticks and tickles the fancy of men alone. Women suffering the cruel strokes of brushes and imaginations of egotistical men who’ve learned to separate human from woman. Object, line, form alone is not beautiful – it is just an object a line and a form. Where is her inside, where is her heart, where is her history, where is her story?

As I believe it, at the hands of most of the male masters, women were carved into untouchable angels or over handled whores. I am both and everything in between dependent upon my cycle, the time of day, the time in which I am living, the person with whom I am speaking and my choice to share my experiences and yet artists and galleries hang isolated and extreme moments of my life as a girl, a woman, a female. There is a narrow and hard-framed story of ‘la femme’ for objectification and emulation. Emerging masters were raised and taught to copy the celebrated male masters from the centuries prior. Is it any wonder that the male gaze and the visual is hardwired? The artistic style may change but the story remains the same. The de ja vu and the recycling of unoriginal ideas that act to either tame or blame women. Does the persistent and unoriginal reworking serve to limit the inking of something honest, balanced and truly beautiful? If the artistic pendulum continues to swing to the extremes it becomes brutal like an insidious form of advertising or porn that fuels a man’s expectation and feeds a woman’s doubt. Please… show more female artists, more female ideas, more female gaze, more women portrayed as everyday human beings, more female artists leading with female voices so we can change expectation and social conditioning.

Feel free to pre-register for more good stories a our print journal. Available mid June 18.

 

 

 

 

Super Power Words

Do you think about the effect of your words? Are the words you use significant? For some time I have been concerned with words and how I use them – recently this has become increasingly apparent as I become aware of the power of the language we use.

What are words? Simple utterances? Strings of shapes on the page? Commands? Noise? Units of meaning? Words are the distinct building blocks of meaning we use to communicate our feelings, needs, desires, experiences – they are a link between us, as an internal being, and the external world. So when I think about words, in general or any specific word, I realise just how small but significant they are to my own experience of and connection with other people. Words are profoundly important to our survival as human beings.

Indeed, our brains are wired for language, indicating the significance of words to our ability to live. There are a number of areas of the brain that are devoted to words, which work together to enable humans to understand and produce language. Small children universally absorb words incredibly quickly. An infant’s brain is flexible enough to enable it to learn any language and after 10 months the brain re-organises itself so that the child can learn its parents’ language. * A 3 year old child will have a vocabulary of about 1,000 words and by age 6 the child will be able to express themselves through about 2,600 words and understand around 20,000 words.#  Human biological and developmental findings, such as these, are compelling evidence of the power of words in our lives. No other organism can acquire and produce language like human beings – our ability with words is a super power!

The strength of our ability and its effect leads me to ponder whether we take our ‘word powers’ for granted. Do we really appreciate the incredible power we hold within ourselves? I have heard and produced millions of words in my life. From my own experiences I know that words can be cutting, damaging, manipulative and confusing, but also benevolent, kind, inspiring and encouraging. Words get us into strife and can comfort us. Words can sustain us and they can literally kill us. Whatever is within human experience can be expressed and shaped by words.

Do we use our power effectively; honouring who we are and respecting others? At times, absolutely; but I have seen countless instances of words being used to manipulate and gain and maintain power in disrespectful ways. There are so many examples, from advertising slogans to political speeches to social put downs – the list is seemingly endless. There are some words that have just evolved to hurt and we all learn about those. But have you come across words that morph into some other shape of meaning, so that the word starts off being neutral or positive and is then twisted to have undesirable connotations attached to it? These are the words that somehow evolve so that the meaning alters to appease a dominant group, or to create ‘us and them’ divisions, or to bring down a group that is perceived as threatening. I have always found these words disturbing and confusing. I want to use them in their original positive form, but when I do I worry that others will attribute a different meaning to them. For instance, when working on mental health promotion projects I experienced this phenomenon with the words ‘mental health’. It is still common to use these two wonderfully human words to mean their complete opposite. Mental health means the state of being socially, emotionally and psychologically well and unwell, at the same time. Confusing! I am also coming across similar phenomenon whilst exploring gender equality … and there will be more about these words in the future!

Words have wrapped themselves around me during challenging times giving me the salve I need to heal, the connection I need to be uplifted, the stimulus I need to explore. Words have always been there for me to learn, discover, grow, share and participate. I have been hurt by words, but, on balance, I think words have soothed and transformed me more often. Using words with greater awareness and insight, I claim my super power and raise my voice! The power of my words resonates within me allowing me expression of the being I am in this moment. Through their authentic meaning, my words enable me to weave stories to connect and share my expression enabling learning, discovery, growth, sharing, participation and the raising of heartfelt voices. I invite you to ponder: how do you want to live through words?

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Photo by Alexandra on Unsplash
*Pinel, J.P.J. (2011) Lateralisation, language and the spilt brain: The leaft brain and the right brain of language. Biopsychology. (pp427 – 431). Boston:Pearson.
#https://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/149_vocabularydevelopment.pdf

 

 

A self-experiment in body hair

Today I’m sharing my most recent leap of courage; something I’m still testing out, and for lack of a better word is a bit of a prickly subject- growing my body hair.

It began with a video 6 weeks ago now that was shared amongst the Feathersome family, which questioned why being ‘bald’ was considered feminine in today’s society. The thought-provoking video raised some interesting points, and so I found myself not buying a new razor or booking more laser appointments, in agreement that it is, in fact, an expensive, inconvenient and often irritating ritual to perform- one that shouldn’t be associated with my femininity.

Since then, it has spurred a number of interesting reflections and conversations, some ideas of which I want to unpack here.

Well firstly to a lighthearted point, in the course of a month alone I saved 2 hours and $50 on hair removal- extrapolating this to a year and I’m looking at flights to Italy – if that isn’t food for thought, I don’t know what is.

Secondly, I have come to understand that my own perception of body hair is more complicated and rigid than I originally thought. Whilst rationally I know that having, or not having hair doesn’t inform who I am as a person, there is a defiant part of me that screams ” it isn’t normal”, and by not subscribing to this norm I will be looked at and judged for it. I sway between feeling liberated and empowered, to being unsure and even put-off by my own reflection, and each time I conquer one box like singlets or shorts I’m facing up 10 more- togs, dresses, heels, corporate attire …  Why does the addition of body hair change how I see and feel about myself in clothes?

But I press on because it’s now about principle, and I’m determined to challenge myself on this, to see my own hair as normal, not gross, unprofessional, unhygienic, un-feminine, not unlike my brothers. So while I find myself slowing unlearning this behaviour, I am also asking why it is one in the first instance? Why do we condition women to groom themselves, to remove their body hair?  This learned behaviour is so ingrained that I see myself and other women questioning if it is in fact just a personal preference? We don’t have to look hard though to see fashion, media, advertising and even porn all reflecting this idea back on us. Quite simply we live in a society with strong norms around women’s body hair, and as social creatures, we innately want to be liked and to fit in- both on a conscious and subconscious level.

More closely to home I have also become attuned to how friends and family reinforce this idea to me. From all the comments, jokes and honest conversations I have had about women’s body hair in the last month, one clear theme emerges; aesthetic. It’s apparent that a large portion of people in my life value women’s hairlessness on being aesthically pleasing, and by way, associate femininity with having no body hair.  In as much as this speaks to society more broadly, we do see waves of body hair movements in different generations and cultures as the aesthetic of women’s hair grooming shifts with new trends.

Beyond the connotations of femininity, body hair is also largely linked to masculinity for men. Whilst I believe to a lesser degree, they too are subject to societal norms and pressures pertaining to the state of their body hair.

What started as a bit of a fun self-experiment, letting go and letting my body hair grow has opened my eyes to the superficial and suffocating standards that we project on women and men in society. And whilst there is no denying the satisfaction of a silky smooth leg, I really want it to be that reason, and that reason alone why I spend any more time or money on hair removal. Watch out Italy!

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