Ngā pitopito korero
All takatāpui, lesbian, bisexual, trans and other queer women are invited to contribute to new resources for Rainbow communities arising from a just-released report on violence experienced by Rainbow people.
The report, Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura/Outing Violence – Building Rainbow communities free of partner and sexual violence, was written by Wellington bisexual woman Sandra Dickson, right, after a series of hui and a web survey. The 18 community hui around the country in October 2015 attracted 240 participants, and 407 people, mostly under 40, responded to the web survey until January. It is the first research in Aotearoa to provide a significant snapshot of LGBTIQ experiences of violence, but results cannot be generalised to the whole queer and trans population.
Recommendations include creating resources for Rainbow communities about healthy relationships; for friends, family and whānau about how to help if Rainbow relationships are violent; and how families and whānau can more generally support their Rainbow family members.
Sandra, who has a long history in anti-violence organisations, and others involved in Hohou Te Rongo Kahukura/Outing Violence (HTRK) are seeking funding to produce those resources. “People at the hui wanted diverse relationship stories, stories about how to break up respectfully, how to act as good friends to someone experiencing violence,” Sandra says. “If we see an incident at a party, we need to know how to ask questions, what to offer, what to say to the person using violence. We need to shift our community norms.”
She hopes to produce comics, posters and videos of ordinary and more well-known Rainbow people telling those stories and sharing their experiences. “If any lesbian, bisexual, trans or other queer women want to help create those resources, please get in touch,” she says. She hopes that other groups will also produce resources on these issues.
Most (63%) of those who answered the survey identified as female, and 150 identified a range of trans or genderfluid identities. Rather than same-sex relationships, the survey focused on the broader category of relationships that included at least one Rainbow-identified person.
The survey identified high levels of emotional, verbal or psychological abuse and physical violence experienced by the 355 who responded to those questions. Almost half of the abusers who were identified were female. The survey also identified a high rate of sexual violence; most perpetrators were male but 127 were female.
The survey was the first in Aotearoa to ask about racial abuse; one in three Māori, nearly half of Pacifica peoples and half of Asian peoples had had their ethnicity abused by at least one partner.
This issue was also brought up continually in community hui, says Sandra, and she will stress that point in her reports to government agencies. “We haven’t seen any prevention messages focussing on the role racism plays in partner violence.”
One in six who answered the violence questions had been threatened with ‘outing’ at work or to their family by at least one partner, which is similar to results from overseas Rainbow surveys. However, one in four said their partner tried to stop them going out alone to queer events, or being open about their sexual or gender identity.
“We haven’t seen that in surveys anywhere else,” says Sandra. “Using jealousy to control a partner in that way” means they won’t be able to talk with other queer women about problems in the relationship, she says.
Most respondents did not seek help; 73 said they did not know where to go, and 75 did not believe they would be treated fairly. One young woman didn’t think she’d be believed: “I thought they would just think we were two teenage girls who were only friends, having a spat over nothing, when in reality I had been sexually assaulted, threatened with date rape, had threats made and carried out against my life, stalked, and abused by my girlfriend.”
Only 20 went to Rainbow community services for help, so the victims of violence that our community services know about are “the tiniest tip of the iceberg,” says Sandra. Domestic violence agencies and police were the only organisations more likely to be unhelpful than supportive. “That’s really concerning,” she says. “We need to make specialist services more responsive and visible to Rainbow people.”
The research shows that Rainbow people “needs to be explicitly included in all anti-violence work” and policy, Sandra says. “Policy needs to insist that services respond appropriately to Rainbow people. We need to have a say on workforce planning for sexual and violence services. Any national victimisation surveys need to ask about sexuality and gender identity, so we’re well-represented. It’s clear that social marketing campaigns against male violence to heterosexual women aren’t hitting the mark for us.”
Sandra will present the results and the implications for government services to a Wellington seminar on June 21 for officials working on family and sexual violence across ministries. The two-hour event is organised by the Ministry of Social Development, which funded the project. She will also meet with Te Ohaakii a Hine – National Network Ending Sexual Violence Together this month in Wellington, and is trying to get this information out through other anti-violence networks and community hui and conferences.
Matariki festivals across the country will showcase the talents of Māori and Pacific women as they celebrate the Māori new year in June and July.
Among the North Island highlights announced by June 1 are Whiti3, an open mike night in Hamilton run by MrsDLite on Friday July 22; an exhibition of the art of Rangi Hetet and Erenora Puketapu Hetet at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt from June 26; Miro, an exhibition of weaving from June 2 at Mahara Gallery in Waikanae; Moana Ete’s play about female Samoan cousins, Versions of Allah, at Bats Theatre, Wellington from June 7; and Mīria George’s play The Vultures, about a wealthy whānau, also at Bats from June 7.
Dunedin women can see tā moko practitioner Julie Paama-Pengelly at work in the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum foyer from June 5 to 18; Ngahuia Harrison’s exhibition about the mauri (spirit) of water at the Blue Oyster Gallery from June 7; Tātai, a theatre piece in te reo Māori at Toitū Otago Settlers Museum on June 18 about generations of wāhine related through whakapapa; and the Seven Sisters dance performance with songs and stories from indigenous women around the world, at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery on June 18.
We want to profile lesbian and queer female local body candidates around the country. If you plan to stand for a local council, district health board or licensing trust, or know of a local lesbian or queer female candidate, please email us on LNAotearoa@gmail.com.
Nominations open on July 15, close on August 12, and voting documents will be delivered in mid-September. Election day is Saturday, October 8. We will profile candidates in our August, September and October updates.
Two quite different events in Auckland will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Homosexual Law Reform on July 9, and former MP Fran Wilde, who shepherded the Bill through Parliament, will speak at both. The law change decriminalised sex between men and outlawed discrimination about sexuality in employment, accommodation, goods and services.
The Auckland Council is hosting a free invite-only event for 180 people from 6-8.30pm at the Auckland Town Hall, organised by its Rainbow Community Advisory Panel.
Panel member Diana Rands says the event will be opened by Ahakoa Te Aha, the takatāpui kapa haka group, with a welcome from Deputy Major Penny Hulst and feature Bruce Kilmister and the HLR Task Force. As well as Fran Wilde, MPs Louisa Wall and Nikki Kaye and possibly other former and current MPs will speak. Tatryanna Eden La Croix will talk about challenges for fafa’afine in Samoa, and GALS will sing to end the evening.
Diana says the panel has invited individuals who were prominent in the campaign, and allocated sets of seats to Rainbow community groups.
The other event, which starts at 9pm, is a Rainbow Gala at Skycity organised by Rainbow Auckland (RA), the city’s gay business group. It costs $125 and could include more than 800 people.
RA president Heather Carnegie says she approached Skycity because it has been Rainbow Tick certified for three years, and has large venues. “They were excited about it and saw it as an opportunity for their own staff to participate. They agreed to light up the tower on the night and have been generous in their sponsorship.”
The gala will feature performances by the Topp Twins, Annie Crummer, Dust Palace, Dynamotion and the Mika Foundation, with MCs Alison Mau and Colin Mathura-Jeffree. Dancing will follow to DJ duo Sweet Mix Kids.
Heather says RA is discussing the affordability of the event and will be approaching community groups about that. Tickets bought from iTicket before June 30 go into a draw for a double pass. “We had good sales straight away” once the tickets were available in late May, she says.
The Auckland Pride Festival board will become a member-based organisation with democratically elected board members, rather than an incorporated society with a tiny membership.
Board members said at the end of May that the change needed a special general meeting of the society, and should be finalised in three months.
The board made the announcement at the first of two community feedback hui, which generated a raft of feedback from more than 25 Rainbow people. Pictured below left are the two female board members at the hui, Kirsten Sibbit, left, and Julie Swift.
Among the positives about the 2016 festival and parade, participants listed the Proud to Play sports festival; the Big Gay Out; the dawn opening; the number of floats in the Pride Parade and having it livestreamed; Puzzy, a Pacific lesbian play; and the theatre hub in the Basement Theatre.
The Pride board said that the 2016 festival included 57 events, mostly theatre, social or community events. Around 1,800 people participated in the Pride Parade, 36 of the 56 floats were by community groups, and the eight corporate floats funded much of the event. There were more than 50,000 spectators, and another 4,000 watched the livestream online. A street survey found that 56 percent of spectators were LGBTI. Many brought their families, as ages ranged from 15 to 65. A large majority of spectators wanted to watch the next one.
However, most of the discussion at the hui was taken up with what participants saw as problems with Pride, including the lack of engagement with and events for marginalised sectors of the community, and of diversity generally; the lack of free events for general queer audiences besides the Big Gay Out; the concentration of events in the city and Ponsonby; the use of Pride for pink-washing by organisations (such as the Department of Corrections, which participants said continues to abuse the human rights of trans prisoners) and corporations (which may recognise their gay staff but also offer zero hour contracts); timetabling clashes and the lack of a full timetable on the website; and the late notice of key event dates.
Suggestions to deal with some of these issues included financial support for marginalised groups who don’t have enough money to take the financial risks of running an event; incentives for event organisers to hold events outside the inner city; requesting a statement of intent from controversial organisations before they are allowed to march in the parade; a queer picnic, similar to the popular picnic at the Hamilton Gardens during Hamilton Pride week; a Pride minibus for transport to events; working on events with small business associations in outlying suburbs; and more alcohol-free events.
Five members of the voluntary Pride board attended the hui, and new member James Bennett said “no one disagrees about the lack of diversity” in events and engagement. Board members agreed that they needed to focus on engaging with community groups that have fewer resources.
The board plans to finalise festival dates for 2017 much earlier this year, at the end of June, and will ask for event proposals soon after that. It also aims to make the free post-parade event at Western Park bigger and more open in 2017.
There was a vigorous discussion about how to recognise that oppressive organisations are changing; one participant cited the NZ military, which used to be very homophobic and is now one of the more inclusive of queer people in the world. Another participant said that marching in the Pride Parade is not redeeming, but implementing pro-Rainbow policies was.
However, many sectors of the community were not represented at the hui; most participants were Pākehā gay men. Mika of the Mika Foundation was the only takatapui, there were five women, two trans people and no-one from Asian or Pasifika Rainbow populations.
Have your say at the second feedback hui at 6pm on Wednesday June 6 at Studio One/Toi Tū Ponsonby.
Organisers expect a diverse group of lesbian, bi, gay, trans and queer women to dance the night away on Saturday June 18 at the first L Ball in the city for six years.
“We want to bring the women’s community together,” says Liz, who is organising the event with Jen and Helen. They responded to feedback about their first poster to make the invitation more inclusive, and hope participants will be creative with the masquerade theme.
MC Tahu is a colourful Dunedin icon and DJ Zebede will play an eclectic mix of music for dancing, says Liz. The event will run from 7.30pm to midnight in the same upstairs ballroom at the Savoy as the last ball, which has an open fire and a large dance floor. The ticket price of $35 includes supper. Numbers are limited and there are no door sales. See Eventfinda.
We add new events as we receive them, and remove past events at the beginning of each month – send your event information toLNAotearoa@gmail.com.
Information is organised by region (north to south, then overseas), then by date.
Pipiri / June
Wednesday 1 Auckland Pride Festival Community Hui (second of 2), 6pm, Studio One Toi Tū, 1 Ponsonby Rd. Details on Facebook event page.
Wednesday 1 Women in our prisons free public forum with Tracey McIntosh of the University of Auckland, Emmy Rākete of No Pride in Prisons and Johanna McDavitt of JustSpeak, facilitated by Papatuanuku Nahi with time for kōrero, 7-9pm,Auckland Women’s Centre, 4 Warnock St, Grey Lynn.
Saturday 4 Rainbow Youth’s I’m Local crowdfunding campaign launch, to help deliver more Queer & Trans 101 booklets to rural communities. Free, food and drinks at your own expense, or donate $20 and get a free taco. 4-6pm, Mexico Ellerslie, 120 Main Highway, Ellerslie. RSVP on the Facebook event page.
Saturday 4 Lick party for girls who like girls. Theme question: Are you a Litchfield or Wentworth prisoner? 10pm-3am, Neck of the Woods, 155B Karangahape Rd, city, see event page.
Sunday 5 Dyke Hike Hillsborough bays. This walk will take us through urban tracks and streets and along the bays of Hillsborough. Explore a different part of the city with interesting views of the harbour. There will be lots of short hills. Expect some muddy patches. About 3 hours. Grade: Easy (okay for regular walking shoes) to moderate (boots recommended, short hills, some muddy patches). Meet at the lower carpark at Waikowhai Park off Hillsborough Rd. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.lesbian.co.nz or the Facebook page.
Sunday 5 Lesbian heritage art opening Work by Sharon Alston, Sally Smith, Allie Eagle, Nic Moon and Jane Zusters, 2pm, Charlotte Museum, 8a Bentinck St, New Lynn. These women were at the forefront of expressing feminist ideas and lesbian identity through their art. Exhibition will continue through July. See the Facebook page.
Wednesday 8 aLBa meeting: Sharon Hawke on Women and the Land 6pm for 6.30pm start; Garnet Station, 85 Garnet Rd, Westmere; $10, aLBa members free; please pay on arrival.
June 10-12 and 15-18 Jessie Matthews, one of the Hamilton lesbian duo Daughters of Ally, stars as Effie in the musical Dreamgirls, about three women singers who form the Dreamettes. 7.30pm, Spotlight Theatre, Tavern Lane, Papatoetoe. Tickets from Iticket.
Monday 13 Scottish Literary Salon with Zoë Strachan and Louise Welsh, partners and artists in residence. 6-8pm, Pah Homestead, 72 Hillsborough Rd, Hillsborough. Reading from and talking about their research for the novels they are working on as part of their residency. Tickets $10, include glass of wine and nibbles.
Thursday 16 & Friday 17 An Audience with Jodi Pringle Cissy Rock chats with Jodi about life, love, and music … an evening of songs and stories at Garnet Station, 85 Garnet Rd, Westmere. Shows start 7.30pm, run for 90 minutes plus a 20 minute interval – make a night of it and have pizza and drinks before the show. TIckets $29 from Garnet Station, 360 3397, email@example.com. VisitFacebook event page for details.
Sunday 19 Coffee & Stroll 10am, meet for coffee atThe Falls Restaurant, 22 Alderman Dr, Henderson; 10.30am, a pleasant 40-minute or so stroll in Falls Park*.
*Coffee&Stroll says, “it will be ‘a pleasant walk’ only if it *doesn’t* rain, like it has the last 2 times we’ve tried. We coffee-and-strollers are not superstitious, so we are giving Henderson another go. With fingers crossed.”
Wednesday 22 Winter at the Museumdinner and discussion series: “Museums: a Pākehā construct?” Charlotte Museum, 8 Bentink St, New Lynn, 6.30pm arrival; 7pm vegetarian dinner, discussion and dessert. Suggested koha $15; wine available, cash only.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book, phone 021 964884.
Friday 24 Readings and discussion with Scots lesbian writers (and partners) Louise Welsh and Zoë Strachan. Writers of award-winning novels, opera, short stories and radio pieces. 6-7pm, the Women’s Bookshop, 105 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby.
Saturday 25 Senoritas Noche!! A Lesbiana Fabuloso Fundraiser for Jenni James in Lesbos, supporting refugees from Syria. Bring platas de tapas to share for the food table, BYO drinkies (sangria, vino etc). With Jodie Pringle, Terri and Louise from Hamilton and a Flamenco dance-off. Koha suggested $10+. 7.30pm, St John hall behind the New Lynn ambulance station, 75 Wolverton St. Easy ways to donate if you can’t come: ANZ, J A JAMES, 01 0249 0101288 00, reference: DONATION; or Paypal,email@example.com. Contact Kim for more details, 021 168 9645.
Saturday 25 Fifth Season Gardening Group mid-winter Christmas dinner – ham, spit-roast beef, plum pudding and more with entertainment. $20 members, $36.40 non-members, BYO. 7pm, St John Training Centre, 171 Manukau Rd, Epsom. Email Wendy Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 027 548 3510 for details.
Wednesday 29 Rainbow Women’s Social Night Showing a DVD of Grandma with Lily Tomlin, 7-9.30pm, Auckland Women’s Centre, 4 Warnock St, Westmere. Phone Ellie Lim 376 3227 or email email@example.com.
Thursday 30 Thirty Years On talk by Fran Wilde, former Wellington Labour MP and Mayor of Wellington, who sponsored the private member’s Homosexual Law Reform Bill passed on July 9, 1986. Free but please register your interest. Non-alcoholic drinks and nibbles on arrival, Massey University,6.45–8.15pm, Neil Waters Lecture Theatre, University Ave, Albany, Auckland.
Pipiri / June
Wednesday 15-Sunday 26 Eugenia, Lorae Parry’s play about a cross-dressing woman who marries another woman and is accused of her murder, 7.30pm, Napier Little Theatre, 76 McGrath St, directed by Anne Corney with the Napier Repertory Players, $23/28.
Friday 24 DecoDiva drinks 6.30pm, Down the Road, Hastings. See our Social page.
Friday 24 Lesbian Social Group drinks 5.30pm, upstairs, Cook Bar and Brassiere, Cook St, Hamilton East.
Sunday 26 DecoDivas brunch 11am, No.5 Cafe & Larder Restaurant, 248 State Highway 2, Mangateretere, Hastings. Ask for Dale’s table.
Anytime Self-guided LGBTTI walking tour of 24 historic rainbow locations around Wellington’s waterfront in one hour, free. Start at the former site of Carmen’s Balcony on the corner of Harris and Victoria Sts, now the City Library, walk through Civic Square, onto the waterfront, down to Bats Theatre and then back to the Michael Fowler Centre via Courtenay Place. Hear short eyewitness accounts at each location with your smart device using the interactive Google Map, or download the mp3 audio before you set off. See the website.
Pipiri / June
Sunday 12 Lesbian Overlanders and Coffee Club walk around Miramar north, meeting 10am at the Chocolate Fish Cafe at Shelley Bay, one-hour and three-hour walks possible, pluse the Shelley Bay market, art gallery and gift shop. Bring lunch for the longer walk and appropriate clothes. Email Lainey,firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm.
Friday 17 Kapiti lesbian drinks and dinner Finn’s pub, Paekakariki. Phone Finns on 04 292 8081 and add you name to Sally’s table if you intend staying for dinner.
Saturday 18 Glamaphones LGBTI choir concert to celebrate 30 years of Homosexual Law Reform with songs of protest, celebration and courage, and a new commission from local composer Gareth Farr. 7pm, St Andrews on the Terrace, 30 The Terrace, city, $19/$10, tickets from Eventfinda.
Sunday 19 Glamaphones HLR concert, 2pm, St Peters Village Hall, Cnr Beach Rd and Ames St, Paekakariki, $15/$10. Tickets from Eventfinda.
Sunday 19 DANSS same-sex ballroom, Latin American and New Vogue dance classes begin for lesbian, gay and Rainbow people and friends, no partner necessary. 7pm, Beginners Rumba, 8pm, Intermediate Evening 3-Step, upstairs, Thistle Hall, corner Cuba & Arthur Sts. Koha/donation. See the website or email DANSSNZ@outlook.com or join the Facebook page.
Sunday 26 DANSS same-sex dance classes for lesbian, gay and Rainbow people and friends, no partner necessary. 7pm, Beginners Jive, 8pm, Intermediate Carousel, upstairs, Thistle Hall, corner Cuba & Arthur Sts. Koha/donation. See the website or email DANSSNZ@outlook.com or join the Facebook page.
Saturday 25 Lick Live Showcase Partywith drag kings, burlesque and a live women’s band, 9pm, Meow, 9 Edward St, city. $5 from every ticket goes to Wellington Rape Crisis. See the Lick Wellington Facebook page.
Saturday 25-Saturday 23 July La Casa Azul – Inspired by the writings of Frida Kahlo theatre inspired by Kahlo’s intimate diary. Circa Theatre, 3 Taranaki St, central Wellington. $25-46, visit Circa Theatre for details.
The Lesbian Connection (TLC) sends a monthly email of events in the area, Nelson and Motueka in particular. Contact them email@example.com to go on the mailing list or for more details of any events.
Pipiri / June
Wednesday 1 Nelson Pool night, from 5.30pm, Shark Club, 132 Bridge St, Nelson.
Wednesday 8 Nelson Games night, from 5.30pm, Prince Albert Hotel, 113 Nile St, Nelson.
Wednesday 15 Nelson Pool night, from 5.30pm, Shark Club, 132 Bridge St, Nelson.
Saturday 18 Nelson brunch/lunch, 11am, YazaCafe, 117 Hardy St.
Wednesday 22 Nelson Games night, from 5.30pm, Prince Albert Hotel, 113 Nile St, Nelson.
Sunday 26 Motueka brunch/lunch, 11am, T.O.A.D Hall Store & Cafe, 502 High St.
Wednesday 29 Nelson Pool night, from 5.30pm, Shark Club, 132 Bridge St, Nelson.
Pipiri / June
Friday 10 LGBT Latin & Ballroom group dance class 6-7pm, White Elephant Trust, 442 Tuam St. Introducing new fun Latin and Ballroom dance classes for the LGBT community: a group class where you can enjoy learning how to dance Latin and Ballroom, either with your partner, or just come by yourself (no partner needed). We specialise in those new to Latin and Ballroom dancing, so welcome all dancers from all walks of life and all levels. Free. Visit the Facebook event page for details.
Thursday 30 Christchurch Women’s CentreAGM 7pm. An opportunity meet the staff, share with us, and enjoy a light supper after the official part of the evening. Women only. Please RSVP before Monday 20: 371 7414, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pipiri / June
Saturday 18 Dunedin L Ball – Masquerade Ball through the decades for lesbian, bi, gay, trans and queer women. Let your imagination run wild. Guest host Tahu, DJ Zebede. 7.30pm-midnight, the Savoy Dunedin, 50 Princes St. $35 includes supper. Numbers limited, no door sales, seewww.eventfinda.co.nz.
Pipiri / June
10-30 June Sydney Pride Festival
Sunday 12 TasPride Queen’s Ball
Te ao pāpāho
We welcome your suggestions of websites, books, films and any other media of interest to lesbians and queer women: send them toLNAotearoa@gmail.com.
Louise Welsh, left, and Zoë Strachan, partners and artists in residence at Pah Homestead (Hillsborough, Auckland), are holding a Scottish Literary Salonmid-month, where they will talk about research they are doing as part of their residency. They will also read from current works in progress; both are working on books in a series.
Scottish Literary Salon: Monday June 13, 6pm. Tickets are $10 and include a glass of wine and nibbles.
Eileen Myles had a brief side trip to Auckland from time in Australia in May, running a creative writing workshop for Auckland University, followed by the only public event, a reading.
Sixty people, predominantly women, filled a small lecture theatre. The poems and a prose piece presented were intensely personal stories told in the first person. That doesn’t make the stories solely autobiographical, of course, and it doesn’t necessarily make any that are, ‘true’.
The event got even more interesting with the Q&A afterwards, when an astute questioner asked about approaches to performance. “Poetry is a sonic form”, said Myles. They have worked hard to both write and perform in an authentic voice – white working class – avoiding the pretentiousness sometimes associated with poetry. “People complain I talk too fast and they don’t hear all the words”, Myles said, and their way of responding to questions demonstrated this: the same style of language and voice as the poetry performer was evident. Sentences started and got cut off several times; ideas were tripping over themselves to be heard.
Avoiding pretentiousness was also evident in a discussion about muses: “is there a muse for you?” asked someone else. “Yes, there is,” they said, “but I don’t know if it’s me. Or if it’s not me. I feel like it might be not me”.
Follow them on Twitter (@EileenMyles; look out for an Eileen Myles book of poetry or prose in a bookshop or library near you.
The names Winterson (left) and Orbach, it turns out, don’t have a high recognition factor with 20-somethings, even those volunteering at the Auckland Writers Festival. Nor do their most famous titles, Fat is a Feminist Issue and Oranges are not the only fruit.
But they all have a huge level of recognition for the crowds, heavily women dominant, who booked out their duo session (resulting in a second performance), Susie Orbach’s hour in conversation with Carole Beu (the Women’s Bookshop) and Jeanette Winterson’s solo performance centred around her latest book (The Gap of Time), a re-telling, in novel form, of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.
The sessions with the married couple riffing on madness and creativity were the least successful, in spite of their credentials: Orbach, the psychotherapist and Winterson, both crazy and creative. Lack of a moderator puts a lot of pressure on the presenters, and there is a risk of going off track, being distracted, maybe.
Carole Beu is obviously a huge fan of feminist books, and Fat is a Feminist Issue must be one of the best-known works from second wave feminism. It was originally published nearly 40 years ago, and if anything, pressure on women in respect of appearance, size and beauty has increased since then. A large audience were very enthusiastic.
The highlight of these performances, and for many, of the whole festival, was Winterson’s session. She strode on stage to recorded dialogue from Winter’s Tale, and then delivered an invigorating lecture for over 30 minutes, touching on multiple aspects of Shakespeare’s life, times and themes; the process of isolating the key elements to re-tell them in a contemporary setting (how and why she chose where and when). Then she read two sections, with subtle sound effects making themselves heard, adding weight to the story.
“In the atom smasher of the writer’s mind,” she said, “autobiography and imagination collide.” Read Gap of Time, re-read (or read) Winter’s Tale, and then read (or re-read) more of Winterson’s work.
The last of a trilogy of books recording 30 years of Victorian women’s liberation and radical lesbian feminist activism has just been launched in Melbourne.
Singer-songwriter Lou Bennett of the Yorta Yorta and Dja Dja Wurrung people, who launched the book, is pictured with author Jean Taylor, right. Photo: Pat Mitchell
Written by long-time lesbian activist Jean Taylor, Lesbians Ignite! covers the period from 1990 to 1999 and was published by Dyke Books, the publishing group run by her and partner Ardy Tibby. It follows Brazen Hussies, about the 1970s and published in 2009, and Stroppy Dykes, about the 1980s and published in 2012.
Jean has worked in a range of feminist collectives, including women’s refuges, the Women’s Liberation Switchboard, and as a director of the Performing Older Women’s Circus. Her interest in “preserving our heritage” led her to join the collective of the Women’s Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives in 1984, and she’s still a member.
“I started writing a timeline about the 1970s and found heaps of activism; I decided to make it into a book about the 70s, 80s, and 90s.” But she realised there was too much material for one book. Brazen Hussies includes quotes from interviews with many activists about the actions, conferences, collectives, publications and demonstrations of that decade, as well as Aboriginal and Islander peoples’ actions against racism.
“As soon as that was out I started on the 80s,” says Jean. “It became even larger, 872 pages, and this time interviews with activists made up their own chapters.”
There are very few books about Victorian feminist activism, so Jean went to the original women’s liberation and lesbian newsletters, including Lesbiana, the national Lesbian Network, the Sydney-based LOTL (Lesbians on the Loose) and others. She used her own voluminous diaries from 1972 and journals from 1980 as reminders, “but newsletters were invaluable for dates, and the way activists thought and expressed themselves”.
Lesbians ignite! includes a section by Sarah Yeoman, including how she joined the Women’s Circus. Says Jean: “The decades were quite distinct; the 70s were a heady and euphoric era, when we worked out theory and put it into practice; in the 80s women’s services proliferated and became established; in the 90s we started lesbian festivals and conferences”.
Lesbians Ignite! tells the story of the end of the “volunteer, collective Women’s Liberation Movement”; Jean gives the example of the Women’s Liberation Building, which opened in 1972, had about 20 collectives working from it at its height, and four when it closed in 1992.
Jean is now organising readings from the book at libraries, lesbian community events and bookshops, and working on a novel. Lesbians Ignite!is $A40 from the Dyke Books website, and remaining copies of Stroppy Dykes are $20; Brazen Hussies has sold out. Jean’s fiction, largely under her earlier pen name of Emily George, is also available on the site.
I had high hopes for Inside the Chinese closet, the only film in the recentdocumentary film festival with explicit lesbian content.
Negotiating across cultural and language differences (Italian film maker interviews participants in Mandarin with an interpreter and in English, film is produced in the Netherlands) is obviously a challenge. Certainly we get some insights into family and social expectations of the two young people featured, although we don’t get a clear picture of their age or much detail of their daily lives.
Cherry has already married a gay man, but her rural parents are on the receiving end of unpleasant gossip, speculation and pity. They need her to have a baby; Cherry does not want to be pregnant, so the three of them discuss options for finding and adopting a baby.
Andy is a young man happy with his work and friends – “I’m very popular with bears,” he says, to what appeared to be puzzled laughter from a predominantly straight audience, perhaps unfamiliar with that aspect of gay male culture. His parents, father in particular, are desperate for him to be married and have a baby.
Both young people are anxious to meet their parents’ expectations, even while both appear comfortable with their sexuality. A documentary is generally telling a story, although it may legitimately be more in the position of providing an illustration. However, it should have a purpose that is reasonably clear to its audience, and this is where Chinese Closet falls down: at the end, you are asking yourself, “what was the point of this film?”. We don’t know why young lesbian and gay Chinese people are of interest. We don’t get a real exploration of the conflicts they experience in balancing the challenges: parental expectations of a lived heterosexual marriage against same sex partner/s, living an independent city life against the possibly imminent domestic demands of a baby. Most significantly, we get no sense of time or its impact. Other information tells us the film took four years to film: it could have usefully addressed both what the future is likely to be for Cherry and Andy, and what has happened for them over the last few years – how much of that time have they spent looking for fertile partners and/or babies? What impact has that had on their lives, their well-being?
If you have a special interest in any of the themes, Chinese Closet will resonate more for you. If you know Shanghai and/or speak Mandarin, there will be detail too subtle for English-speaking audiences. Put this on your ‘If there’s nothing better available’ list.
For the public good
In 2012, Wellington lesbian Jan Rivers, who grew up in the UK, started Public Good, an online network aimed at rebuilding the social contract between people and the government. Jenny Rankine spoke with her about what she’s achieved.
Public Good works in three areas – building a strong public sector, genuine democracy and engagement, and community wealth. “That means wealth in the broadest sense, not money but wellbeing and personal autonomy, people not living stunted lives,” says Jan.
“About a year and a half before the 2014 election I was talking with unionists about the things public sector unions can’t say about public service policy, like privatisation. That stimulated me to start Public Good.”
“I did a lot of networking, talking to a lot of people who had energy for the idea. In particular Rosemary Neave redeveloped and restructured the website. Many were politically active on specific issues – housing, transport, health, aged care, public provision of infrastructure, prisons – but no-one was looking at a model that covered them all, not just problems with Serco in prisons, or cuts to counselling services.”
“All public services are underfunded, partially privatised and contracting inside rigid restrictions. It’s all part of a lack of faith in public delivery for public purposes. The current political climate – There Is No Alternative – has led many people to think that public provision can’t be innovative, can’t work and is too expensive, which is not the whole truth.”
“I’ve been brought up with a beneficent and well-functioning state, but only people older than 50 have lived as adults outside a neoliberal state. Often young people don’t tend to have the idea that public provision is an answer for anything. But there’s also a deep, deep cynicism about political parties and about democracy that works for corporations rather than for people. Although we can’t go backwards, a state that acts in favour of people is a really powerful concept.”
“If you funded public service properly, used a trust model for public sector workers, stopped measuring minutiae, and allowed people to be innovative and solve problems, it would be very different. The answers are the same for many parts of the public sector.”
“Some good people have helped me with funding, skills, and advice. Ultimately I’ve enjoyed developing my own thinking and understanding. I read The entrepreneurial State: Debunking public vs. private sector myths, by Mariana Mazzucato, about how neoliberals pretend corporations are the engines of a productive society.”
“But entrepreneurs tend to get involved only when all the risky research has been done with government funding, and they just need to put it together. For example, the iPad is the result of 12 publicly-funded research projects, some from defence, some in universities.”
“I realised I was rubbish at creating an actual organisation and dealing with the media, although quite good at networking, so I just do what feels right and try to write about things that aren’t getting a look in. For example, I wrote about austerity and got the figures that showed that New Zealand’s level of public spending is lower than Greece and Portugal, and reductions to public spending have been just as severe here as in the UK but from a lower base – but we never see that in the news media.”
Jan posts up to four articles about current issues on the site a month, and welcomes other writers. “Frances Joychild wrote something amazing last year about the crisis is New Zealand’s civil justice system, and Charmaine Pountney wrote about who owns our water which were republished on Public Good. Often my writing comes out of discussions with other people.”
“I do this because these ideas seem like the most crucial gap in our political environment; there are great people writing about the failure of the contracting model in prisons, counselling services, transport. There are people working in twos and fours on other valuable stuff; I’m a node in a network.”
Jan credits her “left of Labour family, more than 30 years in a supportive lesbian community, and feminism and lesbian/gay politics” as the source of her early political ideas.”
“My life trajectory is similar to a lot of other lesbians. They tend to get Public Good straight away, because so many of us work in public services and caring professions, and know how important public services are.
“There’s a sister organisation in the UK called We Own It, run by a Cat Hobbs, an inspiring young woman. The ideas of the public good reach right across the population, right into the territory the National Party occupies; you see that in think-tanks like the Morgan Foundation working on housing, climate change and Universal Basic Income. The current government uses the language of a social contract, but doesn’t believe it.”
“I’ve run a couple of conferences, working with the St Andrews Trust for the Study of Religion and Society: ‘Democracy, ethics and the public good – The 2014 Geering event’, and ‘Information, ethics and the public good’ in August 2015.
“The idea was to allow exploratory, open-ended conversations – there are very few opportunities for that. The media is a shadow of what it once was, outlets for debate are fewer than they were.”
“There was a lot of cross-fertilisation between good people, particularly older and younger people; I was disappointed that it was largely a Pākehā audience. I haven’t got the connections that would have made it more diverse.”
Scoop and ECO
Jan is a trustee of the recently-formed Scoop Foundation for Public Interest Journalism, which now owns the 17-year-old online news publishing business with a new business model. She got involved “partly cos I’m a librarian – most of the other news sites have such bad search engines, Scoop publishes news releases by civil society that otherwise would get much less coverage. They also have their own good journalism.”
“For example, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement(TPPA), there’s the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). I first heard about it in 2013, but I could only find passing mention on the Otago Daily Post website, a mention in the Budget speech and a page on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website, but I found eight articles on Scoop. So the quality of information there is a rich resource.”
“I’ve also been working with the democracy and transparency working group of the Environment and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa/New Zealand (ECO) on a survey of what civil society would want from an open government partnership action plan. In 2014, the government chose actions for the open government programme, and did a pretty hopeless consultation process. They got dozens of good suggestions and adopted almost none of them. They’re now doing second iteration for the 2016-18 programme.”
See the website, the Facebook page, subscribe to the mailing list; if you’d like to contribute you can email Jan on email@example.com phone her on 022 126 1839.
The seat you use every day
Bridie Laffey, a Pākehā with Irish roots, teaches in an Auckland Catholic secondary school by day, but what she does in her spare time is possibly unique – she makes custom toilet seats from native timbers under the name Redback. How she came to do that is a long story. She spoke with Jenny Rankine.
“My grandfather was a carpenter and Mum was an only child; he wanted to pass on his skills and taught her a few things. She still has his tools.” In 1971, Bridie’s mum asked for an apprenticeship at the East Town Railway Workshops, which manufactured and repaired carriages for New Zealand Railways, “A male friend of hers was labouring there and it paid better than working as a waitress or postie. But when she applied they turned her away, saying there was only one toilet. An article resulted in the Wanganui Herald about how one of the city’s biggest employers was excluding women.”
As a result, Bridie “grew up with basic carpentry skills – jig sawing, making bookshelves and simple things.” She knew from her teens that she was attracted to women. “I could see how my life could be a lot smoother and easier if that wasn’t the case. I tried being with men but it wasn’t for me, it didn’t work.”
She identifies as lesbian or gay. “I don’t use queer, the other words got to me first. I know it’s being re-appropriated but to me it means odd.”
Bridie studied at university for a degree in English literature in religious studies, because “we had a death in our family and I was curious about the afterlife. The degree didn’t answer any of my questions, but I’m still glad I majored in it.”
She left for Australia and got a job as a mental health community worker in Melbourne, for a state psychiatric disability service. “I was working alongside isolated people with mental health issues, meeting them once a week, making sure they were okay and establishing social networks with them.” At the Meredith Music Festival she met her girlfriend Christine Martin; they’ve been together for eight years.
They returned to Auckland, where Bridie did a teaching degree and is in her fifth year of teaching, and Christine is a social worker at the Mason Clinic, with people who have mental health problems or intellectual disabilities and have been convicted of a crime.
“My mum was reminiscing in early 2014 about a couple of friends who had hunted for a nice native timber toilet seat, but they weren’t on Trade Me. Bunnings and Mitre 10 sell pine seats with a rimu stain but unless you can find an old one from 50 years ago, there’s nothing else out there.”
Bridie’s mum saw a market niche and Bridie wanted to fill it. “Because it’s distinctly of this land it really appealed to me. Mum gave me some contacts for retired cabinetmakers who’d seen the craft cabinet-making trade almost become extinct. A couple were quite cynical about the global supply chains, the Bunnings and Mitre 10s and what they’d done to the industry. That was quite interesting.”
“They said ‘learn by looking’. They worked in their sheds, I stood back and watched, and went home and pieced it together. The toilet seats were the hardest thing I’d made so far.”
“I began a long and arduous process of sourcing supplies, from wood to the rubber buffers on the lid. I made the mistake of using Trade Me to find the wood; sometimes the grades are really bad and you can’t tell on a computer screen. I ended up getting a lot of totara shipped from Masterton that was riddled with holes and fungus, effectively useless.”
Christine came up with the Redback name, based on the 1972 song by Slim Newton*. “I think Slim Dusty covered it; it’s pretty naff but it kinda stuck.”
“It was a real eye-opener to me how big and global the supply chains are now. I could get a good discount on brass hinges from China, but I had to buy 5,000 and I’m only making three a month.”
A master joiner friend “who’s worked as a cabinet maker and joiner his whole life has been a big help. But people get used to the Bunnings prices, they’re extraordinarily cheap and tradesmen can’t compete.”
“He had a lot of timber stores he was getting rid of, and gave me a bit of kauri and rimu. Most cabinet makers are pretty tight-lipped about where they get their timber, because it’s so rare. Kauri is called Northland gold now – unless it comes down in a storm, you’re not allowed to touch it.”
Bridie has used “totora, kauri, rimu, macrocarpa, matai and pine. I was given some macrocarpa panels; it’s lovely wood to work with and has a beautiful smell.”
She doesn’t have a workshop, “so I was using friends’ sheds in Ngapipi and Taupaki, my dad’s in Onewhero, and I do the polyurethaning at my mum’s in Onehunga. She is pictured sanding and jigsawing outside her flat. “I use a lot of petrol; I’m not breaking even really but I try not to keep track of it.”
Bridie’s made 24 seats so far. What she likes about making them is that “they’re humble, functional and they’re used every day. Making them goes really well with teaching, because it’s the opposite – its meditative, repetitive, you can control it and they’re permanent when they’re finished. It’s therapeutic.”
Buyers tend to be people aged 50 or more who are renovating; Bridie thinks that’s because nostalgia and using New Zealand timber matter more to people as they get older. “I sell them via word of mouth mainly. I have plumber friend who does a lot of bathrooms; a few people have called me through him. I’m cruising along and keeping up with orders.”
She charges $220 for a kauri seat, $200 for rimu and totara and $180 for macrocarpa. The top one is macrocarpa, while the one above has a rimu top and totara seat. “People either respond that it’s cheap given the labour in it, or ‘Oh my god, that much for a toilet seat’, so I figure the price is about right. I charge my time at $20 an hour; the wood is a third of the price.”
Bridie is “happy for Redback to keep ticking along as it is”, but things are likely to change when Christine has their first baby in six months. “We went through Fertility Plus,” a government service at Greenlane Hospital.
“We planned it for a long time – you have to find the right donor who’s happy with how often you want to communicate and how much you want them involved. You get one shot a month at conceiving and about a one-in-five chance each time.”
She and Christine are in their early 30s. “We and our friends talked about getting to 30; we feel in a kind of limbo. Having a house of your own is part of being a sensible grown up; I grew up expecting that. But in Auckland it’s not feasible, none of us can do it.”
See the Redback Facebook page.
* There was a redback on the toilet seat,
When I was there last night.
I didn’t see him in the dark,
But boy I felt his bite…