Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Book review - The Fictional Woman - Tara Moss

Last year the Lieutenant General David Morrison give a speech about the investigation into the Australian Army - one line especially resonated with me - 'the standard you walk past is the standard you set'. It has certainly given me pause to think about the world in which we live, and especially how our society portrays woman. Coupled with this, is that I am now raising a son, and it matters what I say and how I behave. The greatest influences will be what I do and what I leave unsaid (implicit approval).

I think I first heard Tara Moss on ABC's Q&A program during 2012, and my recollection is that she was one of the more articulate panelists - bringing a great perspective to the issues. The work she did to bring to light what was happening on Manus Island earlier this year was impressive.

With both those points in mind, when I heard she was writing her first non-fiction book, I was intrigued and looking forward to reading the book. Even more when I hear her on QandA & at Stanton Library recently.

Her book, The Fictional Woman begins with a series of powerful statistics, about the number of women in parliament, in cabinet, number of female story-tellers, in our papers and in popular culture (books, films, art). I don't recall the book talking about music, but I suspect similar stats would be found (any top 100 list, music hall of fame of inductees).

These statistics matter, because they are the voices we hear, and the voices that shape how we understand the world. It is sad to read the stats around the number of female characters in film, novels, and TV who are in positions of influence and power.

That 80 % of working characters in G rated films are males matters, that not one had a female working in medical science, law or politics matters.  One show, I was put onto recently, which challenges this, is the Danish TV show Borgen, I suspect West Wing (and Newsroom) would too.

In summary, I can't recommend this book highly enough, for everybody to read. In some ways, there's nothing new in this book, but sadly, it does reflect the world we are living in, and understanding this point is the first step to change.

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