Tracey Spicer


I loved this esteemed journalist before she wrote this piece and I love her even more now! Why do people talk about little girls in this manner? What the hell is wrong with people? The girls are at an age when they feel self-conscious enough with all the changes taking place. We have had the hottest weather on record throughout this Australian summer, and have all had to trawl out shorts and singlets to survive. It isn’t done to attract attention; far from it! My daughter has abandoned dresses and exclusively wears shorts as it makes climbing easier and safer! Little girls have no knowledge of the impressions of sick individuals and thank heavens for that! By remarking on their looks, you are making them play an adult game, of which they know nothing.

I remember growing up in the eighties, when any adult felt free to comment on everything from my shorts, my style and my looks. It always gave me a sick feeling, because it was sick. I wasn’t praised for my intelligence, rather my appearance. I would hope that society has evolved to the extent that a grown man feeling it is okay to remark on a young girl is held in the contempt it deserves. Feel free to ask my daughter questions about her dreams, her hobbies and her schooling instead.

Frida Kahlo


When I was seventeen, I was informed that I would be crippled and then die if I didn’t have risky surgery. I hadn’t had time to digest this information when I came across the extraordinary visage  of Frida, gazing at me from the newspaper. I cut out the story, continually gazing at her face. ‘The Broken Column’ spoke of my own wounds. I couldn’t believe that a woman from another era had captured my experience. She was  a storyteller of the highest order, unafraid of revealing her pain. She touched death with each stroke of her brush. All the things we commonly run from, she embraced. I had found my heroine.
  When I heard that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s work was coming to the Art Gallery of NSW, I could hardly breathe. I had waited twenty years for this moment. I took my daughter, and she was as entranced as I. She knew how much Frida has meant to her mum! We stood in silence at each painting, holding hands. 
   Frida inspired me to paint my body cast. Rather than viewing it with disdain, my former cocoon  was kept out of respect.
  
  

Frida was unafraid of confronting what would ordinarily remain hidden. She paved the way for a legion of young women. I remain in her debt.


Suffragette’s, Eddie the Eagle, Bear Cottage and Guardian Angels


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My daughter saw the trailer for Suffragette and was desperate to see it at the movies. Alas, it was on limited release in Australia, and not showing near us. We were overjoyed to find it on DVD last week. “I think about these women whenever I vote,” I told my daughter. Sadly, I also think of how far we have yet to progress, some hundred years later. It was special, cuddling up with my girl, running the gamut of emotions as we witnessed what the suffragette’s endured. See this movie if you can. Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and the whole cast are simply stunning, and the footage at the end left us both in tears. You can appreciate where you are and certainly what is left to achieve by viewing women’s history.

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We also went to the movies and saw Eddie the Eagle. I am an ignoramus when it comes to sport. I don’t watch it, nor do I know anything about it. In spite of this fact, I fell in love with Eddie, and was amazed as he refused to back down, despite the odds. Cleave to your dream, and never, ever give up! It doesn’t matter what the knockers say. You aren’t living for them!

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This is why I love Channing! Diagnosed with dyslexia, he has become a hero in the dyslexia advocacy community. This petition has started up, to bring Channing to Australia. It would mean so much to kids with dyslexia to meet up with him, and listen to his story.

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I had to share this picture of my poor angel. Sorry about what I have put you through!

My beautiful friend Nadine, is raising money for Bear Cottage in the City 2 Surf, a huge event held in Sydney in August. Any donations are greatly appreciated and you can read more by clicking here. She is immensely grateful for the love and care the staff and volunteers showed her little boy, Archie, during his short and precious life.

 

 

 

 

An evening of Inspiration


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The Development Effect is a new business, set up by two remarkable women. Their modus operandi is to inspire, give back to their community and empower women and girls. I was privileged to be asked to talk at their inaugural event a while back. I sat alongside Michelle Cashman, an extraordinary singer/songwriter. Michelle has been there. You know, ‘there,’ that horrid place of loneliness, depression, anxiety and chaos not of her making. Not only does she write songs which reach deep into your soul, she creates podcasts to uplift others who have been through the fire. Her blog can be found here. To listen to some of her incredible songs, follow this link. When you are going through the fire- the heat searing your flesh- you tend to wonder what the point of it is. Often, there isn’t a point. When your flesh has cooled and you are alone with your wounds, it can give you leave to demand that your pain mean something. To be able to write, sing and talk about the fire gives it such a meaning. You will inspire others, and they in turn will inspire. Perhaps the fire itself is a pointless and cruel pit of flames. Perhaps that doesn’t matter. What comes after, that is what is important.

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Pink is the new black.


1381794_10205633833113409_8583832661154738232_nMost people are surprised to hear that I am a hermit at heart. A solitary creature, who is used to keeping her own counsel. I made the distinction between needing “a fix” of people, to electing to enjoy their company. There is a difference. Usually when I enter a room, I feel awkward, and either stumble over my feet and walking stick, or blurt out something random, and unconnected to the conversation. On this occasion, I instantly felt at home. My friend Lisa is a nurse, and one of the gentlest and ethereal women I have had the privilege of knowing. Her beloved mother-in-law passed from breast cancer, and every year she organizes a high tea in her honour.

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Colourful people arrive and donate goods, and money is raised to crush this disease. This year, the very talented Hannah Erika Crichton kindly donated her talents and time to sing for us. We were in a hall with women who had been through  dark night’s of the soul, mind and body. I loathed the colour pink before having my daughter. I preferred black. I preferred anonymity. I now view pink as a colour of strength, of dreams and power. A colour you underestimate, until it knocks you to the ground with its force of will.

10710577_841353445904362_563855162266124338_nThe women in the hall were strong, gutsy, plucky. I stood for a moment, and looked around. The ladies smiled amongst  the easy banter at the tables. Bliss was produced with my friend Nicci’s cupcakes and Lisa’s divine soy candles. Pink, I loathed you for what you seemed to expect of me. I apologise in full. It was not you, but my culture that insisted I be demure, pandering and agreeable (at all times). Rather, you have always viewed women as strong, filled with vigour, a powerful voice, a buoyant heart and creative hands. I have had you all wrong. These women, cloaked in pink, have proven that to me.

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Photos by Sharon’s Photography.

Why I am a Feminist.


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I have been alarmed (more like horrified), at how many young women dismiss feminism. “We don’t need it anymore!” Some give reference to the early 70’s and are convinced that things are different now. Really? Really?! Off the top of my head, here are some reasons why I am a feminist. I grew up in Sydney, in a little town (now quite big), about thirty minutes from the city. I grew up around folks you would find gathered in any town. I am in my thirties. Now here is why I am a feminist.  My appearance was commented on from the time I was tiny. I don’t mean as in “you are a beautiful little girl.”  Rather, “you will be a heartbreaker. Sexy little thing…You will be daddy’s secretary one day.” My appearance as a girl wasn’t part of the package of who I was as an entity. Rather it was isolated as being the sum of me. There was no “you have lovely blue eyes, the hue of the ocean,” the commentary was obscene and made me feel ashamed. All this before starting kindergarten!

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I was exposed to pornography, chilled that this was what women were worth to some men. What a thing to look forward to as I grew! I was made to feel ashamed by being in swimmers or shorts in an Australian summer. If a man made a lurid comment at the local pools, I was to blame, not he. I was threatened at my local shopping centre, on more than one occasion. Walking back from the toilets, a local boy and his gang pinned me against the wall and I hit out wildly to escape. I was threatened walking down the street, and became used to being in a hyper-vigilant state.
Girls were referred to as hoes or bitches, and treated as such. Some were sadly immune and accepted the labelling. My first surgeon said that I could still be a wife and mother after sustaining injuries from male violence, not something I wanted to hear at fifteen after so much trauma. Even now, it makes me livid hearing children referred to as looking ‘cheap’ because they wear certain clothing. Children are never cheap, nor are young women. They are seeking identity and a sense of individual style. The manufacturers and those that demean them are cheap.There wasn’t a time when I didn’t feel threatened. I was a young girl on the train, going on an adventure with friends. A young guy (sometimes older), would often press up to me, stand over me, grope me. I felt rage every day at my pruning. It happened with makeup or without and was independent of what I happened to be wearing. It happened because I was a girl, and they were seeking control. I had to be ready to fight as the threat of harassment and worse accompanied me every day of my life.

I was sent to a private clinic at 14 years of age, as way of punishment by my father. The men wasted no time. I endured listening to them bet on who would “get me” as they sipped their coffee in the café. I was fodder, not a person. On one occasion, I slapped a male nurse, who sidled up and pinched me, whilst whispering a lurid suggestion. Contrary to popular belief, I was a person, not a thing. I had a wide vocabulary and love of science and the arts, and was a voracious reader. I was reduced to being a “little blonde.” When the man who later threw me off the building disobeyed his restraining order, he scoffed, “I showed my lawyer a picture of you, and he told me to go for it.” Told him to go for it. This wasn’t in another era. This was recent history! The court case eventuated, and I was treated as a slut. I was degraded yet again. My being on the pill for severe endometriosis was questioned. Everything was questioned. My mother was more devastated at the ravages surgery inflicted on my body-the scars seared into my flesh- than at the psychic wounds I carried.

If one survives the teenage years, there is more pressure to be found in your twenties. Pressure to look the part at work, pressure to have a family. I discovered that women with fertility problems have to fight a bloody battle to get to see the right doctors and then embark on a brutal drug regime. Every person and their dog sees fit to enquire as to when you plan to have children, as though one isn’t a whole woman without a child. The most personal and sensitive of questions is brought up on a daily basis. I had my daughter, but then the probing into having more kids started. The pressure and judgements were felt continually. Pressure to be a certain weight, dress appropriately, women judging women, whilst men look on. I am angry. Angry that our government doesn’t adequately assist women who have a child get back into the workforce. Angry at the condescending attitudes. Angry that working mums are judged, stay at home mums are judged, single mums are judged and single women are judged. Women in general are judged.
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I am determined that my cheeky, impudent, artistic child can be anything she wants. I took her to see an elaborate display last Christmas. A church had crafted a village to represent old Jerusalem, complete with shepherds, bakers and craftsmen. On the way out, a Roman Soldier stood at the gateway, and demanded my daughter give a gold coin, or he wouldn’t let her pass. He had an arm over the exit, blocking her. “Then what will you do?” this burly man mocked. I was taken aback. She had gone ahead, so was alone at the exit and he was standing over her, close. I don’t believe he had any idea how intimidating it appeared. My seven year old looked up, smiled sweetly, and replied in a strong voice, “I will kick you between your legs if you don’t let me through.” I took her little hand and made a quick getaway. I had always been told to be polite to adults, especially men, and never make waves. Here was my seven year old, feeling able to stand up for herself, knowing she was safe to do so, knowing that this grown man was out of line. I thought about her quick response, and felt immense pride. She thought on her feet, standing her ground against a man. Immense pride. We need to watch what we say to our young girls. Enough with the commentary on their build, their hair, their appearance. Let’s hear more “your eyes carry the depth of the ocean, and your mind holds a library of wisdom.” Being a feminist doesn’t entail hating men, not at all. It means holding yourself in esteem. As long as there is a disparity in pay, the extraordinary emphasis on appearance, the condescending attitudes and violence, feminism must be a revered state.
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