Monthly Archives: February 2010

Election? What election?

I’ve put this post up at Larvatus Prodeo, but I figure that some of my New Zealand readers may be interested too.

South Australia has an election on 20 March. But I’m finding it hard to detect any election excitement anywhere about the place. Candidates’ posters are up on all the stobie poles, including some mightily offensive ones from the local anti-choice crowd, and bumf is starting to pour through my letter box, but no one seems to be talking about the election. South Australians posting on Larvatus Prodeo have declared the election boring, as have some of my articulate, well-informed colleagues, and there’s not a word about it in the after-school chatter as parents collect their children. It’s all very, very dull.
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Friday Feminist – Virginia Woolf (2)

Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe? Here had I come with a notebook and a pencil proposing to spend a morning reading, supposing that at the end of the morning I should have transferred the truth to my notebook. But I should need to be a herd of elephants, I thought, and a wilderness of spiders, desperately referring to the animals that are reputed longest lived and most multitudinously eyed, to cope with all this. I should need claws of steel and beak of brass even to penetrate the husk. How shall I ever find the grains of truth embedded in all this mass of paper? I asked myself, and in despair began running my eye up and down the long list of titles. Even the names of the books gave me food for thought. Sex and its nature might well attract doctors and biologists; but what was surprising and difficult of explanation was the fact that sex – women, that is to say – also attracts agreeable essayists, light-fingered novelists, young men who have taken the M.A. degree; men who have taken no degree; men who have no apparent qualification save that they are not women. Some of these books were, on the face of it, frivolous and facetious; but many, on the other hand, were serious and prophetic, moral and hortatory. Merely to read the titles suggested innumerable schoolmasters, innumerable clergymen mounting their platforms and pulpits and holding forth with a loquacity which far exceeded the hour usually allotted to such discourse on this one subject. It was a most strange phenomenon; and apparently – here I consulted the letter M – one confined to the male sex. Women do not write books about men…

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, 1929

A little thing

I have coveted one of these ever since I realised that such things existed.

Description: Purple Penguin Books coffee mug. The “book” on the mug is A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf.

Standing up for myself

Today I withdrew from some lecturing in a topic I really, really, really like, at one of the local universities, because they wouldn’t offer me enough work to make a decent chunk of part time work. One of the problems with part time academic work is that it’s an hour here and an hour there, each time involving a trip to and from campus, and very few economies of scale. Plus there are no resources – no office space, no access to computing, no access to photocopiers, an expectation that I will use my personal resources (i.e. my home computer and home internet access) for preparing lectures and accessing the course web site. And on it goes. An adjunct’s life is not a pretty one.

What I was being invited to do was to collude in exploiting myself. The particular program I was going to be working in is strapped for cash to pay casual staff, and I really do understand the constraints they are operating under. However I do not see that it is my responsibility to help them to manage their budget. So often, I have made an effort, tried to just help out a little, given a bit here and a bit there to make sure that other people succeed, but ended up fraying at the edges, because I do too much work for too little reward. And in the past, I have crashed and burned quite badly as a result of that desire to get involved, to put in the effort, to work just a bit harder, even without much reward, so that my colleagues (hah!) can do well. I don’t want to go there again.

But now I’m worried that I’ve done the nose and spiting face thing…

Time for a nice glass of wine, I think.

This I can do without

It’s election season in South Australia, and the stobie poles are adorned with candidates’ advertising paraphernalia. Fine, whatever, that’s how elections go. But there’s one set of advertising that I’m finding hard to stomach.

Trevor Grace (how’s that for a misnomer?) is standing for the upper house. He has no real platform, no plan for state, no ideas about how he could use his vote to influence say, water policy, or transport, or health, or education. All he wants to do is to stop abortion. He has used the impending election as an excuse to slather his advertising all over the arterial traffic routes in Adelaide. Some of the advertising isn’t too bad; it merely shows a newborn baby (because Trevor thinks a group of cells is exactly like a newborn baby). But another of his placards is very difficult to look at. And I say this as a woman who has had neither an abortion or a miscarriage, nor lost a child. It shows the face of a fetus, with four cracks running through it (photo of it available here).

I find it distressing. I imagine that it could cause huge distress to a woman or a man who has taken the decision to terminate a pregnancy, or who has had a miscarriage, or who has lost a child.

I value the freedom of speech in Australia. I like living in a country where people are free to voice their opinions, free to try out their ideas in public. So in that spirit, I want to exercise my freedom of speech, and say that I find Trevor Grace’s advertising loathsome, and detestable, and entirely lacking in love. He has taken no care for people who have been caught up in the storm of a pregnancy ending. I can not imagine ever voting for someone who has so little compassion and care for others.

As far as I can tell from his website, which I am not linking to, Grace claims to be a Christian. Enough said, really.

Listen up!

Over at Public Address Radio, Craig Ranapia has some pungent commentary on Kevin Rudd’s bon mot with respect to PhDs and reproduction.

180 Seconds with Craig Ranapia, 20 February 2010

A weekend with Jane

We spent the weekend engaged with Jane Austen.

My lovely mother has been staying with us, but coming from cool Taranaki, she is not accustomed to hot Adelaide days. On Saturday, it was 37 degrees, and windy, so we retreated indoors. I had various chores to get done, as did Mr Strange Land, but the strangelings begged to watch Pride and Prejudice. (They have such good taste!) Mum and the girls settled down on the sofas, and watched it all. I managed to catch most of the highlights, including that scene, and eventually gave up pretending to do any housework, and sat down with them for all of the last episode. The girls were entranced, but the Misses Eight think that there ought to be a sequel.

On Sunday, Mum and I went to a concert in the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Jane Austen’s Music II. It was delightful. Soprano Gillian Dooley has put together a programme of songs from Jane Austen’s music books, the manuscripts and books held at Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton. Some of the songs are well known, but others are the comic and parlour songs of the day. All are songs that Jane Austen herself would have played.

Gillian Dooley has a pretty voice, and an affectionate approach to the songs. As she sang, I could imagine Elizabeth Bennett and Marianne Dashwood, and the happy Misses Musgrove singing just such songs.

The songs were interspersed with readings from Austen’s works, and some solo piano pieces, played by accompanist Fiona McCauley. I thought she was excellent. She played unobtrusively, supporting Gillian Dooley beautifully, except for some songs where there was real interaction between piano and singer, and in those songs her playfulness and delight in playing come to the fore. It was a very effective partnership.

As I watched Pride and Prejudice on Saturday, I was struck by the forced emptiness of the Bennet women’s lives. They had so little to do, except for the busy-work of pressing flowers and embroidering and going for walks in the countryside. One of the few duties that young ladies were expected to fulfill was that of providing music, to while away the long evening hours in polite society. This concert gave me a better understanding of just what that music might have sounded like.

And it was very enjoyable. I love Jane Austen’s books, and I love singing; this was an ideal combination for me. Gillian Dooley and Fiona McCauley are presenting the programme again at this year’s Jane Austen Festival in Canberra (15 – 19 April). I’m not trekking over to Canberra for the festival (that’s just a step too far, literally and metaphorically for me), but if I were, I would happily listen to this concert again.