Not Being Alone

Today I’m missing Melbourne. I grew up there and it still pulls at me. I found a website I marked when I went to a conference a few years ago. It’s fascinating… but it also reminds me that there is occasionally company I should not be keeping. Being alone is not always a bad outcome: https://vagrantsandmurderesses.com/

Women’s History Month guest, Sue Bursztynski

Some writers aren’t known internationally, but are very much loved inside their own region. Sue is one of these. She’s a much-loved writer of SF and work for school age children. It’s my fault this post isn’t on the birthday of her subject… this March is so impossible that I tangle dates. Gillian

Caroline Herschel, astronomer, was born on March 16, 1750, and lived to be 97. Here’s a  Creative Commons licensed Victorian era lithograph of her and her brother William, who, like her, was a musician who became an astronomer. In his case, a massively famous astronomer whose name is better known even today than hers. For one thing, among his many achievements he discovered the planet Uranus – the first time anyone had discovered a planet in centuries.  But over the course of her career, his sister was to discover a lot of comets. There’s even a crater on the moon named for her.

You notice she’s not doing any astronomy in this picture, she’s handing him a nice cup of tea(or coffee or maybe chocolate) while he does astronomy? Well, she did follow him from Hanover to England to be his housekeeper and sing in his concerts(she was a fabulously gifted soprano), but still…

I wrote about her in my children’s book, Potions To Pulsars: Women Doing Science(out of print but probably still available on ABEbooks or eBay).

Because it was for children, I started off her chapter with her collecting horse dung for her work on a giant telescope. Kids love gross.

Caroline seems to have been fairly fortunate in the men in her life – her father and brother. In the Wikipedia article I read to refresh my memory it says that her Mum didn’t want her educated but her Dad, a musician, sneaked in some lessons while his wife was out. What it doesn’t say in Wikipedia is that when she got interested in astronomy, her brother William gave her the maths lessons she needed to make a go of it.

She was the first woman ever to be paid for her work in science and was eventually made an honorary member of the Royal Astronomical Society, along with Mary Somerville, best known as a mathematician and teacher of the world’s first computer programmer Ada Byron Lovelace.

For many years she worked with her brother. Eventually he got married and didn’t need her housekeeping any more, which made her rather sad. But it also led, eventually, to her having an independent career as an astronomer. And she had a good relationship with her nephew John, who also became an astronomer and married a botanist!

I’ll let you look up the many awards and medals she won before passing away at the age of 97. It’s all on Google – and I have to say, it’s a lot easier to find information about women scientists now than it was back in the 1990s, when I was researching my book. That’s wonderful!

It’s also kind of nice to know that way back in Caroline Herschel’s time a woman scientist could be recognised, as she was – especially considering how many in much more recent times have not been. We still, for example, hear all about Watson and Crick in the history of DNA, but not as often about Rosalind Franklin.

Happy birthday, Caroline! I’m off to drink a toast.

Not Being Alone

Right now Earth is confined and far too small. Thank goodness it’s a big solar system: https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/Juno

Not Being Alone

A special and additional post in this series for I wanted you to have access to this quickly. For those who use audiobooks, this is a treasure that will help you get through the next little while: https://stories.audible.com/start-listen

Women’s History Month guest, Milena Benini

I love the size of the world. It’s big in some ways and very small in others. I had to go to Croatia to meet Milena Benini. We spent several nights talking and sipping good red wine and nibbling and talking some more. It was as if we’d known each other forever. Since then, we’ve been mere keyboards away from each other. I love her writing and wish more of it were translated into English for me to read. I get my wish this Women’s History Month, for Milena has given us a translation of an article she wrote for Ubiq. It came out the month after Ursula le Guin died. I rather suspect some of you will join in in watching anxiously for more of Milena’s work to appear in English. Gillian

Truly needful things:
where to find them, and what have machete and semicolons got to do with it
(a monologue for two, with recommended reading appended)
Milena Benini

            I actually only clearly remember one novel by Stephen King; a lesser known work entitled Needful Things. It stayed with me because it talks about what people are willing to do when they think they need something. Maybe I’m not allowed to start a text about Ursula K. Le Guin with Stephen King. No, I am allowed. Because:

(..) truth is a matter of the imagination. (Le Guin, 1969)

            Other King novels were not nearly as interesting, and even this one suffers from the same problem that makes me stumble with many other authors: a deep conviction that human nature is fundamentally rotten, that people, deep inside, are just evil, and that cynicism is therefore the only realistic attitude. Growing up with traditional Western canon, this is a conviction that easily gets built into the very core of the attitude towards writing, and even life itself. Until, one day:

It’s very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul. (Le Guin, 1968)

            And also:

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. (Le Guin, 1973)

            Sentences like this are true enlightenment. Maybe not for everyone – definitely not for everyone, because no enlightenment is universal (enlightenments are intimate matters). But for me, they were, and I wasn’t even aware of the fact at the time. Going back to Needful Things: one of the factors that make the novel so convincing is the fact that all the characters in it go after things they don’t actually need: it is much more difficult, of course, to discover what you really need in life. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across some roadmarks:

Why did we look up for blessing — instead of around, and down? What hope we have lies there. (…) Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes. (Le Guin, 1983)

            Once you do find out what it is that you need—and the process is far from easy—the needed things need still to be found, or, if that turns out to be impossible, you need to construct, invent, build those truly needful things out of nothing. That is often even more difficult, or impossible. And if you’re doing it, or at least trying to do it through writing, you will find stumbling blocks at every step, like the unforeseeable consequences of Jason’s dragon teeth. On one side, there is the dragontail of the canon; I have already mentioned it. One might think that it is the head, its jaw agape and dangerous, but:

To think that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to think imitation is superior to invention. (Le Guin, 2004)

            No, the jaws threaten from the other side, where the three-headed hydra of the genre is rising. Because, yes, it is nice there, the space is completely different, but the writing must be clean, clear, easy to follow, invisible. Except:

A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. (Le Guin, 2008)

            The second head of the genre-hydra is the idea, the one that has to be sacrosanct, the axis of everything. Growing up with golden age works, I know exactly what qualifies as science in the expression “science fiction”: physics, astronomy, maybe a little biology (just enough to pucker a few foreheads), robotics. Everything else—history, sociology, philosophy, anthropology—are soft things, way too soft to give birth to the pure crystals of genre writing. No one cares about that. We’ll reach the stars, of course we will, but we’ll do it in nuclear rockets and nuclear families from the American 1950s; with astronauts who smoke and drink and curse like real men and women who, if they’re very lucky, spend a few years in their pre-birthing age working as secretaries. The stories we’ll tell about the future will be essentially the same as the stories of the past: the ones where wars and proclamations are important, while lunches and dances are not. And then:

            My heart dances, dances,

            along these paths it dances,

            through these doors it dances,

            in these rooms it dances

            with the dust motes in the morning sun. (Le Guin, 1985)

            Suddenly, new worlds that open up start getting completely different silhouettes; orders and importances clunk and rattle and change like a Goldberg machine; systems that previously seemed unchangeable melt and disappear, vanish together with the dust motes in the morning sun. That feeling of freedom, a completely different freedom, an unbridled freedom, suddenly takes over and sheds light on completely different spaces, and truly needful things, through this process, gets different names. In this new light:

If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself – as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation – you may hate it or deify it; but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality and its human reality. You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship. And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality.  (Le Guin, 1980)

            And, besides:

Predictions are uttered by prophets (free of charge), by clairvoyants (who usually charge a fee, and are therefore more honored in their day than prophets), and by futurologists (salaried). Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying. (Le Guin, 1969)

            If someone is worried that I’ve forgotten the hydra’s third head: today, it is already buried under a fairly large pile of rocks, but in those ancient days, it was still very present and dangerous, and its main task was to keep watch on the borders, making sure no unicorns mount any spaceships, no wizards meet any aliens. The borderline between genres, stronger and more vicious than the Berlin Wall (remember that?) said—more like a sphinx, perhaps, than a hydra—that one of the two was, after all, serious, and the other just frivolous; that one was forward-looking, while the other was regressive (it’s you I’m looking at, Professor S.); that one was, not to put too fine a point to it, more manly, while the other was more like, you know, womanly. However:

            People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within. (Le Guin, 2004)

            And also:

Like all walls it was ambiguous, two faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side you were on.. (Le Guin, 1974)

            And thus, equipped with freedom from canon, from cynicism, from invisible style, from binary divisions of all kinds, I took a step. One, two, three, numberless steps. The first ones were uncertain, because, even with the big things taken care of, the path remained full of tiny little teeth, shoes full of pebbles (ancient Greeks had it right and wore sandals while ploughing dragon fields). Luckily:

True myths may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry, and artistic renewal. The real mystery is not destroyed by reason. The fake one is. You look at it and it vanishes. You look at the Blond Hero — really look — and he turns into a gerbil. But you look at Apollo, and he looks back at you.  (Le Guin, 1976)

            By the way, the Apollo thing really does work: I can vouch for this from personal experience. Of course, bear in mind:

I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth. (Le Guin, 1976)

            Disregarding the gods, for a long time, my steps remained—and still remain—full of insecurities. Every now and then, the experience is discouraging. With everything else going on, the so called real world and its troubles, the passage of time, the weakness of reactions, occasionally, walking becomes difficult. Strenuous. It would be good if there were a way to make it easier, wouldn’t it? But then:

I have never found anywhere, in the domain of art, that you don’t have to walk to. (There is quite an array of jets, buses and hacks which you can ride to Success; but that is a different destination) It is a pretty wild country. There are, of course, roads. Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain’t no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart. (Le Guin, 1979)

            Besides:

My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world, and exiles me from it. (Le Guin, 1996)

            And let’s not forget, also:

All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t, our lives get made up for us by other people. (Le Guin, 2004)

            And so, with a machete, or a katana, or  light sabre, or something, following as well as I can the paths she indicated or veering off them to the undergrowth, I keep tottering on. When I get stuck in thick brushwood, get lost in overly long sentences, start fearing I’m growing too soft:

I don’t have a gun and I don’t have even one wife and my sentences tend to go on and on and on, with all this syntax in them. Ernest Hemingway would have died rather than have syntax. Or semicolons. I use a whole lot of half-assed semicolons; there was one of them just now; that was a semicolon after “semicolons,” and another one after “now.” (Le Guin, 2004)

            Of course, as I grew up (how tender, grew up, but I’ll explain in a moment), I also noticed so many other things for which her words were the truly needful things. From how to be a writer—which, in gender-marked Croatian, doesn’t even have a female form, so if I want to identify as a female writer, I have to go all diminutive on myself—all the way to the question when did I stop growing up and started growing old. But even then:

If I’m no good at pretending to be a man and no good at being young, I might just as well start pretending that I am an old woman. I am not sure that anybody has invented old women yet; but it might be worth trying. (Le Guin, 2004)

            Even if the personal and the writerly is completely disregarded, if I turn to the manly-important stuff and look around myself, for the moments of discouragement:

You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere. (Le Guin, 1974)

            Not to mention:

We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. (Le Guin, 2014)

            And then, on the 22nd of January 2018, everything stopped. I knew there would be no more new words. What she’s given, she’s given. What we’ve got, we’ve got. I/we’ll have to go on our own from here. If I should feel the need for more semicolons, I’ll have to put them into my own sentences; invent my own syntax; at best, engraft myself onto the exiting attempts to invent old women. Honestly, the thought made me more fearful than the entire opus of Stephen King, adaptations included. It also made me—even more—sad, because it left the world with a whole in the shape of a podgy, untout (Le Guin, 2004) wonderful old shrew who knew her way around words, around worlds. At first, that was horrifying. But, of course:

            Only in silence the word,

Only in dark the light,

Only in dying life:

Bright the hawk’s flight.

On the empty sky. (Le Guin, 1968)

            There was so much left. So many paths, pointers, dances. Stories. Because, above everything else:

            I speak story. (Le Guin, 2005)

            Machetes ready; let’s totter on.

Literature (quoted in the text; regarding ‘recommended readings’, just look for the name Le Guin; you can’t go wrong):

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1968) A Wizard of Earthsea

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1969) The Left Hand of Darkness 

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1973) “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1974) The Dispossessed

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1976) “Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction”

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1979) The Language of the Night

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1980) The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1983) “A Left-Handed Commencement Address”

Le Guin, Ursula K. (1985) Always Coming Home

Le Guin, Ursula K. (2004) The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination

Le Guin, Ursula K. (2005) “A Message About Messages”

Le Guin, Ursula K. (2008) “A Few Words to a Young Writer”

Le Guin, Ursula K. (2014) National Book Awards Speech

Not Being Alone

Some days I like to look carefully through a medieval manuscript. I have several facsimiles, but online, there are choices. Let me show you the one I bookmarked to use another time: https://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=cotton_ms_vitellius_c_iii_f011r You can flick through and read or admire to comment on the whole manuscript. It’s better for the manuscripts not to be handled by thousands of people… and it’s better for us.

Women’s History Month guest, Nancy Jane Moore

Every time I try to explain why I hang round with SF writers when most of my work could fit into the category of literary, I find myself a bit tongue-tied. How does one explain a natural phenomenon in SF , which is that many of us are specialists in fields other than writing. That there is never a boring moment and that so very many SF writers have amazing lives and great brains? Nancy Jane Moore is a terrific writer. The review she’s given us for Women’s History Month explains her other passion and shows you why I love talking with her online or (just the once) on the phone. She’s all this and a wonderful person. Her review first appeared in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. (Vol 8, No. 2, 2018) Gillian

First Wave Feminism and Self Defense

Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self Defense Movement, by Wendy L. Rouse, New York University Press, August 2017, 255 pp., $35.

reviewed by Nancy Jane Moore

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Most of my knowledge about women training in martial arts at the beginning of the twentieth century has come from jokes and cartoons such as the Punch item, “The Suffragette Who Knew Jiu-jitsu,” featured on p. 129 of Wendy L. Rouse’s Her Own Hero. That cartoon shows a woman who has just thrown several cops over a fence standing ready and able to take on the horde of officers cowering away from her. As a woman martial artist, I know women can fight, and, as a feminist, I know that when men make jokes about women beating up men, they are trying to belittle something that scares them. However, I had no idea that so many women in both the United States and the United Kingdom took up boxing and jiu-jitsu to protect themselves in the early 1900s, nor that some of that training was tied to the suffrage movement and other radical feminism of the times.

Rouse gives us the story of those women, but she does more with the subject than that. While she is a serious martial artist who must have been delighted to find so many foremothers, Rouse is an equally serious historian—a professor at San Jose State University in California—who does not neglect the complex social issues of this period. It is impossible to talk about protecting women and avoid issues of both race and class. Further, women’s interest in fighting skills was part of their general interest in athletic activities previously denied to women, and their push to do these things came at a time when, at least in the United States, there was a physical fitness push for men, particularly white, upper-class men. Rouse used a large number of primary sources such as newspaper and magazine articles as well as books published at the time, along with data from law enforcement and courts to definitively document the real experiences of women during those years. By pulling together all this information, Rouse has broken new ground and expanded our understanding of women’s history.

This book is important for several reasons. First, it provides detailed data and analysis on the physical training that accompanied the feminist movement of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The fight for the vote often involved real fighting, especially in the United Kingdom, and the push by women for expanded rights led them to recognize other areas, such as self-protection, that were important to them. The resistance of the powerful to efforts by women (and many others) to obtain reasonable rights often leads to radicalization, and the suffrage movement was no different.

Second, it shows that the issues surrounding women’s physical skills did not suddenly arise with Second Wave feminism beginning in the late 1960s. The so-called medical opinions that physical activity of all kinds would harm women’s reproductive systems that were used to keep women from playing sports into the 1960s were debunked more than a hundred years back. Rouse points to the work of Dr. Mary Putnam Jacobi, who received her medical degrees in 1864 (United States) and 1871 (France) and wrote of the importance of physical activity for women.

She also notes that while women studied both jiu-jitsu and boxing, many of the courses taught “modified versions of the manly arts in an effort to avoid upsetting traditional class and gender roles” (p. 190). The classes often morphed into ones aimed at shaping women’s bodies into the ideal of the day—a pattern that has re-emerged in the present with the “kickboxing” classes offered to women at many gyms. But it is still important to note that many women did take up fighting arts for serious purposes at a time when most lacked the basic civil and political rights we take for granted today.

Third, Rouse is all too aware that self-defense studies, the suffrage movement, and the push for other rights of the time were affected by the racism and class issues of the day. The specter of danger from Black and “foreign” men in the narratives of stranger rape and “white slavery” encouraged middle- and upper-class white women to study self-defense, despite the fact that, then as now, most of the dangers for all women came from family, friends, acquaintances, and employers. The “mashers”—similar to today’s cat-callers and other street harassers—tended to be professionals or skilled tradesmen, most of them white and native-born. (It is interesting that claims against mashers were taken seriously in the early twentieth century, since today that sort of harassment is generally ignored by the law.)

Rouse also notes that efforts to help working-class women deal with abuse and harassment were often do-gooder projects by upper-class white women, and that African American women rarely got the opportunities to learn self-defense or the protection of the law extended to white women in some circumstances. Unfortunately, some of that period of feminism is tainted with the same racism and anti-immigrant bias that was shown by many others at the time. Much of the push for physical fitness training for men—a campaign that was often taken up by women as well—was based on the idea that white men were becoming “weak” as they took up office work instead of more manly jobs, so that they needed to make themselves stronger to protect against Black and foreign men. With today’s upsurge of racism and xenophobia along with misogyny, it is essential to be aware that while the leaders of early feminist movements pushed for many good things for women, some of them also held appalling attitudes on race and made unwarranted assumptions about class. Rouse does a good job of making these points clear without undercutting the importance of the movement for women’s self-defense and physical selves.

For me, this book was both inspiring and depressing. Inspiring, because knowing that women contemporaries of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers were challenging limited gender roles of the end of the Victorian area in such a strong physical way gives me new insight into what went into the fight for women’s rights. Depressing, because the issues and myths that were common at the time are still with us today. Although we have finally reached the point—in the early twenty-first century—where women police officers are no longer an oddity, and where women in the military are being allowed into combat roles, the idea that women are physically incapable of fighting men still prevails in much of society here in the United States as well as in the rest of the world. Rouse’s book makes it clear that the “but men are stronger” argument is an old one and, like most anti-feminist arguments, intended to derail the conversation instead of engaging it.

This book left me with a question that is beyond the scope of Rouse’s book: why were there so many years between the “New Woman” era when women took up training, and the revival of interest in self-defense, martial-arts training, and sports that accompanied Second Wave feminism? My grandmother did not take up boxing, but she played basketball in high school in the nineteen-teens. My mother, though a tomboy as a child, did not have as much of an opportunity to play sports, and most major universities and large high schools did not field women’s and girls’ basketball teams until after the advent of Title IX in the early 1970s. I hope Rouse will explore this gap in future work.

Not Being Alone

Today is museum day. Museums have been sharing their treasures with online audiences for a while. I use them for research from time to time. Right now, they’re another way of not being intellectually or emotionally alone in this very interesting time. So many museums… https://artsandculture.google.com/partner?hl=en

To get you started, first walk inside: https://artsandculture.google.com/streetview/british-museum-outdoor/kgGLcCoZprYp5g?hl=en&sv_lng=-0.1262010760492558&sv_lat=51.51837964202294&sv_h=348.5183796&sv_p=-13.299999999999997&sv_pid=W5HOvQpKYBs_w6ZdekH_3A&sv_z=1 then visit one of my favourite sections of one of my favourite museums: https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/celtic-life-in-iron-age-britain/CAKSz1O9u3piJg?hl=en

Women’s History Month guest, Christina Ryan

One of my favourite photographs from the years I was on Australia’s Women’s History Month committee (we were not as pretentious as it sounds) is of Christina Ryan. She’s impossible to describe, impossible to quench, and is a powerful force for good in Australia. She’s also my friend. She’s not here today because she’s my friend, however. She’s here because she is an important part of women’s hsitory in Australia and it’s time to remind everyone that important historical people can also be living human beings and can be asked their thoughts. History can talk back. If you want to see the photograph… I could be tempted to share it. Gillian

Earrings as feminist activism, Christina Ryan

I wear earrings. No, I mean I WEAR EARRINGS!

My earrings tell stories, they take up space, and they are peculiar to me. In fact, I’m quite well known for my earring collection and for how I wear earrings; they are part of my feminist identity.

Once I got past the modest earrings required by school uniform, my earrings became large, pronounced, evident. While younger I had loads of hair and my earrings needed to keep up to be seen. Now I have short short hair and my earrings provide my only adornment.

I’ve never been a necklace wearer. I don’t do rings because I use a wheelchair. I’m not much of a bracelet type either, that gets in the way of my working. My earrings are my all.

Every pair of earrings I own comes from a specific location, or situation, or they were given to me by X on the occasion of Y.

I never wear the same pair twice in a week.

Young women are supposed to be “nice”, and yet my earrings took me beyond that space to being someone who was louder and would speak up, often bluntly. As I’ve grown older my earrings have become less and less polite and more and more outspoken.

Disabled women are supposed to be “nice”, but also to be quiet, unopinionated, grateful. My earrings refuse to align with that expectation. They demand that I be seen, they warn that I will speak up and speak out. My earrings turn anything I wear into a statement, not just clothing.

Best of all I have collections of types of earrings: my corporates, evening wear, party earrings, weekend wear, the purples, the specials, and my fierce collection.

Everyone should have a fierce collection!

The original fierce earrings were named by my partner. This gives you an idea of how others view me and my earrings. I got them at the MOMA shop in New York, while I was part of Australia’s CEDAW delegation, and they cost a bomb. They’re twisted cables that run the length of my neck and sweep outwards towards the unsuspecting invader of my space. They show an intention to create my own way and to take my own space as I do it. They dagger towards you as I speak and snag on anything that gets in their way. They are elegant and intimidating.

My Japanese predatory snails came from a wonderful woman at a market in The Rocks in Sydney. She’s a geologist who travels the world collecting astonishing rocks and then makes them into earrings. Each pair comes with its own card that tells its story, the types of rocks used and where they came from. I loved her and her wares on sight and ended up buying 3 pairs of earrings from her one beautiful clear blue Saturday morning. The rocks on my Japanese predatory snails are large and deep green with a smaller violet stone nestled near the hook. Below them hang real snail shells that are silver coated. The snails are Japanese and they are predators. As with all my earrings they hang long. I wear these earrings when I refuse to take any shit, or any more shit, when my statement to the world is to watch out, treat me with respect. They make me feel fierce and indestructible just putting them on.

My gold shields are classic 80s earrings. I haven’t worn them in a while, but they lurk there in the collection waiting for their chance to make a comeback. The 80s were big. I was very tall back then, had enormous amounts of hair in a high ponytail, and wore short frocks, sometimes stiletto boots, and enormous earrings. The gold shields take up real space and hang the length of my neck. They are a bit Xena warrior princess, in fact, but this was before her time. Wearing them made me the sort of woman who carried herself through the world freely with confidence. Just thinking of them makes me feel taller and gorgeous.

My feminism goes with me everywhere and is a part of who I have always been. My earrings are just as much a part of who I am and reflect my identity, my mood, my confidence and approach to life. They nestle within my activism as more than accessories, as far more than adornment. My earrings tell the story of me.

Christina Ryan is the CEO / Founder of the Disability Leadership Institute and has been a feminist activist since she was 8 years old. More recently she has worked intersectionally with Women with Disabilities Australia (WWDA) drawing feminism into the disability rights movement, and disability into the women’s movement.

Not Being Alone

I find everything tiring at the moment. I don’t always want to read or work. A friend suggested I try colouring in, and sent me this link: http://www.openculture.com/2019/02/download-free-coloring-books-from-113-museums.html