Much Ado About Women
I was really pleased to be asked to chair a session at the Opera House's All About Women event, part of their Ideas at The House series. The session they brought me in for was Mallory Ortberg's talk, "The Happy Feminist", and I loved it (I love her work, and I thought the topic was an interesting one to engage with, which indeed Mallory proved). There were a few things about the whole experience that were really interesting to me. I will talk about them now. 

1) Mallory Ortberg was lovely. The organisers were lovely. The crowd was lovely.


2) I had so very much fun, and it was quite interesting to be a conduit rather than the focus: powerful but invisible in plain sight, more or less.


3) The crowd was hugely majority women. Like 98% women and very small handful of men and my dad who came to be proud dad. The lack of men at an event called All About Women may or may not be a problem. But I felt like maybe was a problem. What's the point of women talking about women if only women are listening? Maybe there is a point, but it felt limited, possibly limiting. Comfortable and safe, though. Maybe the two go together. The gender imbalance means that AAW could be characterised as either a very effective spiritual and intellectual refuelling station for the foot-soldiers of the gender revolution, or a massively ineffective attempt to broaden the base of the discourse. Or both.


4) One of the most interesting things was when we were given our 'tips for speakers' and the schedule for the talk, the organisers attached the wording of an Acknowledgement of Country, mentioning it was an optional part of the introduction for the chair (me). Now, I'm not sure entirely how I feel about the words, (spoken at the beginning of many official events, they express awareness of the traditional owners of the land and articulate respect for those peoples' continuing connection to the land, and for their Elders past and present). When I've seen it done, I've sometimes felt it as a powerful statement, but more often felt it was spoken as tokenism. That is not necessarily to say it shouldn't be spoken.


I don't really know. I feel ambivalent about the whole thing - and think that's probably the right way to feel, given that I'm living on stolen land, (though land I didn't personally steal: I'm still profiting from fenced goods, as it were) it feels weird to acknowledge a wrong without making any attempt at reparation of the wrong, or knowing what reparation I could make. Certainly I've heard both pro and anti Acknowledgement of Country sentiments from Indigenous friends, and I don't know how to weight those opinions against one another.


So, chairing the session at the Opera House. I read out the words of the Acknowledgement of Country, and then also read out loud the additional "this is optional... ", which I thought was quite a nice, concise way to draw attention to the essentially problematic nature of the whole discussion. I was quite pleased, because I felt like that small, precise joke summed up (or at least pointed to) the whole packet of thoughts I had, the essential discomfort and sense of confused obligation, responsibility and powerlessness. 


In light of the buzz which came off the back of the event as a whole being accused of insufficient diversity, it turned out to be a joke that was even more on point than I had thought it would be. So that's good.


5) I also made a joke about shape-wear and a seagull which I thought was very funny. I am almost proud of that joke as of the other, more delicate and political one. 


6) I talked about the internet being full of the most delightful flowering of humanity and also lots of terrifying pornography. That led me to the news that  eleven is now the average age of the iphone generation's first encounter with pornography on the Internet. Which led me to my joke about the possible escalation-to-elaborately-abstracted-scenario-related-implications of the news that eleven is now the average age of the iphone generation's first encounter with pornography on the Internet. Some woman on Twitter declaimed quite swearily that the joke was anti-porn rhetoric. I told her it was actually a joke that was anti eleven-year-olds. So that all worked out well.


6) Twitter is a bad place to go unless you want to harsh your own buzz and overthink your own jokes. Isn't it Jimmy Carr who says never apologise, never explain? I'll have to go back and listen to the podcast I did with Brendon Burns.


7) My most cynical-about-gender-discourse friend said "there were only three women in that room who were self-actualising. The speaker, you, and the event organiser. Everyone else was wasting their time in self-congratulatory ineffectiveness. Women won't get anywhere until they advocate for themselves, stop complaining and get enough leverage to demand the things you want." I feel like maybe both the event and he would have benefited from having more people of his opinion in the audience.


8) The event was a real pleasure and privilege to be part of - put a lot of ideas in my brain tank.


9) I got to perform at the Sydney Opera House (!!!)


Xxx


Til next time Punks

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