Women – what is our true narrative?
What is the importance of giving ‘diverse’ women voices?
How can we be empowered to tell ‘our truths’ of the way we see the world, without being trapped in stereotypes.
What is a woman’s voice? How is it different from a man’s?
These were just some of the questions approached by authors Candice-Lemon-Scott, Kathryn Gossow, June Perkins and Tash Turgoose with convenor and visionary Vacen Taylor who is gently determined to challenge the status quo where it is needed and to empower and uplift potential writers.
The panel shared that a women’s voice is not singular, that’s for sure.
It need not be limited by class, race, colour, cultures, faith, age, genre or gendered constructions.
She is many things.
Is she the opposite of man? No, not really, although she might be different in some ways in subject choice or language across time; importantly she is human and consists of layers- culture, experience, and diasporas. Men too need freedom to explore who they are beyond gendered constructions.
Kathryn shared that woman thinks her way about the world based on experiences that are different from a man, based on historical and cultural context that may have constrained and oppressed her. She can write of individual and community struggles and triumphs, or a fictional world based upon the world, to draw you in.
Kathryn shared that fiction can be embedded with many truths and you can find a little bit of her in many of her characters. This is what leads to authenticity in writing, being able to place the truth we know from life into our writing.
The panel shared that woman needs choice, what ever the way she chooses to write, whether for community or fun, for individual or collective empowerment, and her character as depicted by herself or others, is improved by practice, mentoring, writing, creating, reflecting.
June spoke of the power of education and research. She invoked role models, wings beneath wings, speaking briefly about Murasaki (world’s first novelist, from Japan centuries ago) and Phyllis Wheatley (emancipated slave, who had to defend her authorship). She encouraged all, to ‘read their stories.’
Akka Mahadevi (1130-1160) – poetess, and writer of special kind of spiritual verse, calling for the ending of caste system and emancipation of women.
Murasaki Shikibu (973-1014) – critical of courtly life in Diary, writer of first novel, in Japanese language, not Chinese. Acknowledged by Virginia Woolf.
Aphra Behn (1640-1681) – first woman to make a living out of writing, also abolitionist tendency, self tutored and a spy! and acknowledged the sensual side of woman. Acknowledged by Virginia Woolf.
Phyllis Wheatley (1753-1784) – first African woman to make a living out of writing, writing of spirituality, and speaking up for the humanity of the enslaved, defended her authorship, but died later in poverty. Emancipated through writing but ironically not financially free.
Tahirih (1814-1852) – Babi – poetess, calling for the emancipation of women. Childhood hero to many Baha’i children including me!
Kathryn shared how it felt to go into the mind of a young child who is kidnapped, when writing her novel, Taking Baby for A Walk. It requires some courage to tackle some topics.
Candice shared the importance of creating authentic worlds of her female and male characters with authenticity when writing her novels as well as representing diverse characters children can recognise as representing them – inspired by Bishop Sims. She is currently doing research into LBTQI representations in literature.
Tash, shared the empowerment of Hermione (from Harry Potter), who spoke to her of her own experience, of being a nerdy outsider at school. She saw herself in literature.
Vacen, Kathryn, and June tackled some of the issues of structural inequality towards woman and people of colour. Kathryn sharing the winners of the Miles Franklin Award and why the Stella Award was set up. June endorsed the idea of the importance of statistics, and tracking participation within representation and writing, page and organisation (side note the Critique of Stella Award now looks internally at its representation of women of colour and first nations as well).
June drew attention to the power of editors, and the importance of women, and women of colour having opportunities to take on these leadership and decision making roles, and to also have choice and challenge in other aspects of their creative journeys.
Challenge helps us grow as creatives as does education and university personally opened so many doors to learning about new writers. She also drew attention to the experience of submitting and being included in anthologies and recollected two university friends, introducing her to the writing of Toni Morrison.
June asked: How many times for Marvel or DC have the female, and black female characters been created by the authors of those backgrounds, and how well has that been supported?
Kathryn addressed the danger of stereotypes and the power of feminist perspectives and intercultural and egalitarian lens to address some of these.
Tash shared the importance of finding ones own unique voice, something which she has to her immense joy sometimes achieved in her academic work in progress and loves to strive for. She shared with us the idea that society ‘often thinks of a man speaking up as a man speaking up, but a woman speaking up is a ‘bitch’ ‘ Why is that exactly?
All of the writers spoke about the need to work on ‘the craft, ‘ experiment, extend practice in finding one’s voice through reading, exploration and mentoring. And leant toward a ‘humanist’ approach which can take on board the lens of ‘feminism’ and ‘egalitarianism’ for all peoples.
Vacen and June mentioned the power of community, with June paying respect to all the others on the panel who are part of creative communities she participates in. Kathryn spoke about the Australian Fairytale Society and their striving to include diversity within their activities and stories.
June mentioned collaboration, and collective voice, versus individual voice, drawing attention to how collective many art forms are, especially film.
There was much, much more! And a beautiful layering, and extending of each contributor, in the team.
Did we fully answer all the questions?
Perhaps we asked more questions instead, and invited an ongoing dialogue and discovery of what is woman’s diverse voice, and what are her opportunities to speak and be heard. June mentioned a study that found in 201 films, women only had 27% of the dialogue.
What does that statistic and others we can find tell us?
The main questions from the audience were:
1 ) How they can find mentoring and support for their work?
2) How can a male writer create convincing /authentic female characters?
In response to mentoring. Tash suggested for development that emerging writers can reach out to established writers. They may be happy to help.
June shared a story about writing to Oodgeroo many years ago and receiving a reply of other writers she could turn to. Oodgeroo’s secretary mentioned one author June eventually went on to have a mentoring session with.
Candice and June mentioned the support of organisations such as the Australian Society for Authors, as well as the Queensland Writers Centre.
In response to authentic creating. The whole panel shared some wisdoms, and examples of collaborations, where this has been done – as well as male writers who have written authentic female characters. Concluding that writing a woman, or indeed any character who is not the same as the author, observation, research, ongoing dialogue will strengthen those representations.
However, opportunities need to be given to those from the backgrounds to tell their own story, women representing women (particularly in genres like film at the moment) when and where possible, without limiting them to that.
With many thanks – and here’s to ongoing dialogue. Many thanks also the QWC, for providing some copies of Diaspora 275 for distribution at Comic Con!
June on Authenticity To write with authenticity is choosing to write with truth putting aside any shackles, biases, and oppressions being honest, courageous, creative, skilful, and brilliant. It’s moving to where there is balance finding our voices in all their diversity winging their ways into every writing genre; popular to poetic, academic to artistic, protesting, questioning, and free respecting and remembering all who paved the way for us…
More on Bishop Sims HERE
3 thoughts on “True Narratives: Oz Comic Con 2022”
Sounds like a fascinating discussion, June. Empowering women to share their stories.
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It was really brilliant. A symposium on this topic over several days would be brilliant.
Reblogged this on Ripple Poetry .