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How do teenage boys think? This is something I'm pondering at the moment, for my own nefarious reasons, and, as in most things, my first thought was to read about them. Or rather, to read books written from their points of view.

But when it came to compiling a list of books to read, I was very short on ideas. So I asked my lovely friends on facebook and twitter to suggest fiction with a male protagonist/narrator aged 14-16, and this, supplemented with some research of my own, is the result:

List of books with male protagonists aged 14-16 )

Thanks so much to everyone who contributed to this list! I'm off to the library now, but I'm still taking suggestions, so feel free to add yours in the comments or by contacting me on twitter.
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I've been quiet here because I've been 1) busy and 2) trying to figure out what to do with this journal. The upshot is that I really do love books and talking about books, so I'm going to keep that up when I can. Hopefully more frequently than I have been doing recently. :)

I am also taking up the 2012 Australian Women Writers challenge. Many people will be aware of recent publicity surrounding the imbalance between male and female reviewers and authors of books reviewed in major publications worldwide (if that's passed you by until now, start here). In Australia, a movement has gradually been building to combat the difficulties faced by women writers in many aspects of the literary world. The Stella Prize is one such initiative to have broken ground recently (see my own post on the subject here); the Australian Women Writers challenge is another.

The challenge "hopes to help counteract the gender bias in reviewing and social media newsfeeds that has continued throughout 2011 by actively promoting the reading and reviewing of a wide range of contemporary Australian women’s writing."

I'm going for the Franklin-fantastic level (read 10 and review at least 4 books, including at least one substantial review).

One of the great pleasures of moving to Australia, for me, has been discovering the depth and beauty of its literature. I'm looking forward to building on that over the next few months, with a particular focus on women writers. I have a fair few books in mind at the moment, and I may as well list them here, for my own convenience. I'll be focusing on new books, but may also use the challenge as an opportunity to catch up on a couple of classics.

List under here )

Those are off the top of my head, so I'll keep adding others to this list as they occur. I'd be happy to hear suggestions from others, as well!

If you are interested in the challenge as a whole, more information is here.
lizabelle: (Old coat new book)
In The Count, Kirsten Tranter, Sophie Cunningham and Stephen Romei discussed why articles by and about men dominate our book pages, when so many women write and buy books and work in the publishing industry.

Kirsten started us off with some figures, including the fact that the Times Literary Supplement reviewed works by 330 women in 2010, as compared with 1036 men. The Paris Review published interviews with one woman author and seven men. The New York Review of Books reviewed works by 59 women and 462 men. The figures vary, but they are consistent in one respect: women writers are under-represented in these pages, in terms of both the reviews that are written and the books that are reviewed.

More under here. )

So what to do about all of this? Part of the task is simply to raise awareness of the problem, which events such as The Count are doing. It does seem that people are increasingly conscious of the issues, particularly since VIDA's figures made such a splash earlier this year - and yet, that almost makes the Miles Franklin all-male shortlist feel more like a slap in the face than ever.

Work is also underway on the development of a literary prize for women writers in Australia, along the lines of the Orange Prize in the UK. Tentatively named the Stella Prize (Miles Franklin's real name was Stella), its stated goal is the recognition and representation of writing by women. You can keep track of developments by "liking" the prize's facebook page.

Further links for the curious:

New Australian fiction prize for women - Meanjin interview with Sophie Cunningham.
The Miles Franklin: another "Sausagefest" - Stephen Romei's reaction to the recent shortlist announcement, plus some pithy comments.
Is it a man's world, literally? - Alison Croggon on the implications of the shortlist.
A prize of one's own: the case for an Aussie Orange - Benjamin Law.
The Stella Prize on facebook.
lizabelle: (Lizabelle blue)
I spent Saturday at Skepticamp Sydney, an "unconference" in which participants could speak on any subject for fifteen minutes. There were some great topics, including skepticism and the Middle East, the importance of words, why Dr Google is a bad idea, and how to make skepticism entertaining. I came away feeling inspired and happy to have met so many people who are passionate about improving the world we live in.

The most interesting topic for me personally was an open discussion on how to attract more women into the skeptical movement. It was a great improvement in several ways from the panel discussed by PZ Myers in this post. Firstly, it was instigated and hosted by a woman (thank you, Lauren!). Secondly, it was an open debate, which allowed everyone to contribute. Thirdly, while there was plenty of discussion from both men and women, all the men in the room appeared willing to listen to what the women present had to say.

One topic that was raised was the lack of high-profile women in the skeptical movement, and tangentially the conflict between the need to have the "best" speakers at an event and the need to ensure that women are well represented.

Firstly, let me stress here that I am not an expert (in, well, anything except being a woman), and don't pretend to know what it takes to put on an event. I am also pretty new to activism in general, and to the skeptical movement in particular; this is my personal viewpoint, and I am not trying to tell anyone else what they should and shouldn't do.

With that out of the way, of course I don't expect event organisers to have a 50/50 spread if that means putting on substandard events. But there are plenty of women out there who are experts in their field and also good speakers. If they are never given a chance to speak because organisers don't know who they are, how can we expect their profiles, and the profile of women in the skeptical movement in general, to be raised?

No Chicks No Excuses, an initiative by Leslie Cannold, Jane Caro and Catherine Deveny, is a resource listing inspirational women "to enliven your next conference, panel, board, think tank, article, broadcast, programme or lecture". It is not an exhaustive list of experts (listing is at the discretion of the owners), but it is certainly an excellent starting point for anyone looking for speakers and participants in events. A quick scan of the people on there brought up several familiar names, including Kylie Sturgess and Chrys Stevenson. Deveny herself is a high-profile atheist.

Since one list obviously cannot be exhaustive, I'd love to hear suggestions for other places to look for female speakers! My own suggestion would be podcasts - there are loads of skeptic-related podcasts out there, many of which are hosted by or feature interviews with women.

If you are reading this and think you belong on No Chicks No Excuses, please consider following this link and applying to be listed.

If you are reading this and organising an event, please consider looking through that list as you plan the event. :)

Finally, I'm not sure of the breakdown of male/female attendees at Skepticamp, but to my unscientific eye there was a good proportion of women there, which was encouraging to see! Many thanks to Jason and all the other unorganisers and speakers for putting on such a fab event, and a special thank you to Esther for ensuring that vegan food was available! Roll on Skepticamp Melbourne. :)


Nov. 6th, 2010 11:30 am
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In case anyone wondered what I thought of Stephen Fry's latest ramble, in which he gently scolds all those silly people who believed something they read on the internet, and explains that he avoids giving print interviews the way most people avoid being raped (because those two situations are totally comparable):

Pickled Think has said it all for me.

Additional links:

Queen of Thorns: Nothing says I don't care like 2,872 words

Helen: Why I'm not sorry for Stephen Fry
lizabelle: (Default)
This Stephen Fry situation seems to have hit a few of my buttons.

Let's get some labels out of the way. I'm a heterosexual woman. Stephen Fry is a gay man, whom I mostly adore. He's erudite and funny and makes being a slightly geeky would-be writer feel just a tiny bit more fun.

I'm not going to go into what he said. Published in Attitude Magazine, the quotes made their way via Pink News and thence to the internet and news sites in general. Who knows how accurate or out of context the quotes are? Only Stephen Fry and Paul Flynn, the person who interviewed him.

Clearly, Stephen Fry is as entitled to an opinion about anything he likes. But if those opinions seem rather...odd or offensive, aren't people who find them odd or offensive entitled to question them?

When a twitter user linked him to what he was quoted as saying and asked if it was true, he merely passed on the link. There are many reasons why he could have done that - perhaps it was late; perhaps he didn't read the link and just thought he'd pass it on to his fans; perhaps he read it and saw nothing wrong with it. Nobody knows. But Fry's action was unfortunate, especially given his later assertion that he was misquoted.

While Britain (and presumably Fry) slept, people in other parts of the world started questioning what he'd said. By the time the British media woke up to it, there were various blog posts and the ball was already rolling. Next came an Observer article, and off we went.

Stephen Fry's only public reaction so far has been one tweet: So some fucking paper misquotes a humorous interview I gave, which itself misquoted me and now I'm the Antichrist. I give up., followed by a flounce: Bye bye. His twitter account is now marked "No longer in service".

Again, let me stress that Fry is entitled to react in any way he wishes. That's his prerogative. But my prerogative, and that of anyone else, is to question things that I disagree with. I can do this by talking with friends, by blogging, by reading and commenting on other social media sites and, thanks to the magic of twitter, by asking @stephenfry directly (although I haven't and don't intend to do that last).

Except that apparently I can't and mustn't do these things. Stephen Fry, according to the #welovestephenfry twitter hashtag, must not be questioned or upset. Anyone who says his views are wrong without waiting for confirmation of them is silly/a bra-burning feminist/secretly hates sex. Women who take issue with his remarks are just spoiling the fun/taking offence too easily/silencing him because he's gay. The Stephen Fry situation is "as upsetting" as the fact that Danny Baker has cancer, apparently. People are calling for apologies from The Observer, Paul Flynn, BoganetteNZ and anyone else who might have upset Fry.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I mostly love Stephen Fry. But being popular and funny and loved and a spokesperson for mental health issues and rich and witty and clever and gay and kind and loving and a wonderful writer and speaker does not mean that he is infallible or should never be questioned. He's not a saint. Part of his appeal - part of anyone's appeal - is that he is not perfect.

Treating him like a special snowflake who must be carefully tended and wooed back to twitter is disrespectful to him, as well as to all the people who have taken issue with his remarks. Stephen Fry may be gay and bipolar, but he also has a hell of a lot of privelege to fall back on - much more, we can assume, than many of the people who are taking heat for questioning what he said. He can look after himself...and if he can't, it is not twitter's responsibility to do it for him.


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