A love letter to Team Gayby on a crappy day

This article originally appeared in Catalogue Magazine in November 2017

Hi there,  

I wanted to check in with my team (Team Gayby! Can we get t shirts made – in vintage 70’s typeface? Shut up and take my money, amiright?!) because I feel like we need a pep talk to get us through the next few weeks.  

The plebiscite survey is being sent out today, and people talking about it. They’re also talking about gaybies, which is a bit rude tbh. It’s like they don’t realise we’re listening and can speak for ourselves. So, I thought I’d write something too, because I have my own voice. 

 To start with, I want to remind any gayby that you are absolutely amazingly fantastically mind-bendingly wonderful. They could dedicate a whole youtube channel just to people who love you banging on about your wealth of fantabulous features. No matter what else is happening right now, or in the future, you’re an A+ person. Never forget that. 

Also, your family is totally awesome. It’s made up of a mix of marvellous people, and just like EVERY FAMILY IN THE WORLD – it’s unique. Mine is so fabulous and vibrant that I’d need a whole other article to do them justice. I bet that when you’re with your family it feels like a bright colourful parade in summer with everyone cheering. Because you love your family, and they love you.  

Although, just like any other family, or any other people, nothing is completely perfect (remember Queen Bey’s early fashion? We all have areas to work on). For example, my dad’s and I tease each other all the time. Usually it’s fun and we forget what’s said the second it comes out. Sometimes, we get excited and take it too far and feelings get hurt. Very occasionally, it can lead to an argument. 

The other day I was teasing one of my dads about something he said about the plebiscite (he’s gay, and very frustrated by the survey). My big beautiful family was all there too, adding their 2 cents (is that even a term anymore? Where can you even get 2 cents!?), and soon it had become a bit of an argument (until someone called out that it was time to cut the cake. In my family, food always takes priority.) It was a silly fight, but afterwards I still felt upset.  

That night, all the things people are saying because of the survey rushed into my head. I couldn’t think about anything else, it was like all the things I’d read or heard in the media were combining with what I’d said to dad, and it was all stuck on a loop playing over and over. My partner suggested I call my dad and apologise, just in case I had upset him. My throat felt tight as soon as his phone started ringing and I wondered if I was going to cry.  

And do you know what? It was all fine. Dad laughed and told me not to be silly when I apologised. I still cried a tiny bit but it was because I was so relieved. All those nasty thoughts and voices went away, and I remembered that no matter what I do (or how far I jam my foot in my mouth) my dad loves me. He loves me because I’m strong and I try to share my passion with others. He loves me because I have learnt to admit when I’m wrong or I’ve hurt someone, and I try to make it better. That’s how my family raised me, they showed me by setting an example of how to love and be loved.  

That’s what healthy, normal families do. 

I’m going to see my family again tonight, because I wrote a kid’s book! It’s called Ava’s Big Move and it’s out in bookstores today. Inside it there are all kinds of families. Rainbow families, step families, big families and small families. Because I wanted to write about what’s true and real in this world. 

I was a little upset at first that something so important for me (did I mention – I WROTE A WHOLE FREAKING BOOK) is happening at the same time as the survey. But then I thought, f**k it. Because the pride I have in what I’ve achieved today, and the pride I have for the LGBTQIA+ community and what they have already achieved in the face of violence and aggression over many many many years cannot be shouted down by some ridiculous bigots.  

Ultimately, gay marriage will happen in Australia. Nothing can stop it, especially not stupid conservative dinosaurs who stumble around shouting crazy nasty things. So, let’s ignore them, vote yes, and concentrate on what’s real, incredible, and all around us.  

Love is family. 

You are loved. 

Love is love. 

Xxxx Mary 


The Real Reason You’re Going to Struggle to Get into the Arts

This article originally appeared in Catalogue Magazine in November 2017

Here’s a scenario – Imagine you’re in your early twenties (yass queen), and you get your fantasy job in the arts industry (hell yeah). And you’re SO STOKED because this is the kind of role you dreamt about while slogging it out at that mind-numbing admin job where you literally felt your brain decomposing. But it all worth it for this moment, walking into the office on your first day, feeling like a million bucks.  

Well TBH not a million bucks, because you wage is so low even your 16-year-old sister who’s working at Maccas laughed at your $. But that’s not the point, right? The point is you are #blessed to have this job. 

You start on the same day as another new girl, and you know you’ll be BFF newbie twins. But she already knows everyone in the office which is weird…. She tells you she did an internship, that’s how she got the job. You feel a tiny twinge of jealousy thinking about the options internships bring. But you shake it off, because you always had rent to pay, and bills bills bills, so as soon as you finished uni you took the first job on offer. 

You and the other girl hang out all the time. She thinks your minority background/lifestyle is cool and asks tons of questions, because her privileged white bread upbringing/family/life is just sooo boring. 

You go to after-work functions together, and she invites you to heaps of gigs and mini holidays, but you can’t afford them because your salary is so low and city rent is so freaking high, plus you have family shit to help out with. 

Eventually you get sick of living in the cheapest mustiest room in a share house where the walls are so thin you can hear your housemate dry hump their pillow. To get your own place you move to the subrurbs, making your commute is a little bit longer (what’s an additional hour? Just more time to Instagram – right?!). You don’t go to the after-work events anymore because it’s such a bitch getting home, and your days are so long it’s been forever since you’ve had the energy to do anything other than Netflix and cry, but you still love your job, so it’s worth it. 

The other girl’s doing stuff for new players in the arts space like speaking at events and running workshops. She doesn’t get paid for those gigs, but that’s OK because they’re great opportunities to network. Plus, she takes regular holidays to help with the stress. You haven’t had a holiday for over a year because out in the burbs you need a car, so all you and your earned $ are going towards that lemon, but hey! You still love your job.  

Although you’re getting a little frustrated watching friends in other industries get promotions while you’re stuck in the same role, trying to do your best. It’s hard to move up when you can’t stay back late. Because someone you love is sick, and they need your support. Which means they take up all your time and brain space, making you So. Damn. Tired.  

But the other girl just got a promotion, and you couldn’t be happier for your BFF! She’s commissioning works now. Most of it has a white mainstream narrative, but that’s what sells, and it’s OK because she’s also championing women. You can’t help think about the awesome women creatives in your community, but none of them are white. And none of them are mainstream. And none of them sell.  

Eventually, you just can’t keep up any more. You leave your dream job and go to another industry. You’re amazed at the $$$ and how appreciated you are. They accommodate your life balance needs, which means you concentrate better at work. You keep track of the other girl. She’s all over social media at amazing events (in rooms filled with white privileged people), taking amazing opportunities, but also having amazing holidays. And you think to yourself, I loved that job. Didn’t I? 

Don’t think you’ll ever find yourself in this scenario?  

90% of people in the creative industry have completed unpaid work for their employer, including internships 

Industries that primarily employ females are the lowest paid.  

The arts industry employ predominantly white, female employees. 

Audiences for creative industries are overwhelmingly white, middle class and female

There is a diversity crisis in the arts industry employment and production.  

And that’s not good. 

The Babysitters Club is Feminist Reading

This article originally appeared in Catalogue Magazine in November 2017

You know when you’re vibing off a feminist discussion, say at an uber cool feminist bookclub, and people are discussing books that influenced their early feminist development, who do you put forward? Is it Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale? Or Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch? Did Roxanne Gay’s Bad Feminist change your perspective? 

In these scenarios (actually TBH at any opportunity) I like to go back a little further, and highlight one that millions of readers love. In fact it’s not just one feminist icon, it’s a whole club. Say hello to your friends – The Baby Sitters Club

First written by Ann M. Martin in 1986 (and first consumed by me at Springwood Public Library in the early nineties) The Babysitter’s Club (BSC) was a series of books for kids around the 9 – 12 age bracket. It’s about a group of 12 – 13 year old girls living in the fictional town of Stoneybrook, Connecticut. The girls identified a need in their community for a centralised resource of reliable babysitters, and formed an agency to capitalise on this demand. From the very beginning (or from Kirsty’s Great Idea to be exact) that is some heart-warming female entrepreneurship.   

As the series developed the storylines encompassed cultural, family, and socio-economic diversity. Martin challenged stereotypes of gendered roles and gave her characters aspirations that hadn’t been depicted commercially before. Stacey loved maths, way before we started having conversations about getting girls into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Mary Anne ran a sewing group with several enthusiastic boy members.  

These books were written by a woman, for girls, about girls. Every book in the series smashes the Bechdel test (are there at least two women/girls talking about something other than a man/boy?) and the DuVernay test (requiring minorities to have fully realised lives rather than serve as scenery in white stories). 

For example, let’s look at Kristy and the Walking Disaster , a gem I recently picked up in a little second hand bookstore (old mate at the counter was a bit confused about my squeals of excitement, but when I explained it was a formation feminist text he understood, or at least he told me it was $3). Our fearless feminist leader and el Presidente of the BSC, Kristy, forms her own softball team, ‘Kristy’s Krushers’ because there isn’t a softball team in the area that welcomes all genders and abilities (funny enough girls didn’t feel comfortable joining the other local team – ‘Bart’s Bashers’). She and the other BSC members coach the kids together, encouraging them to work as a team, have fun, and be proud of their unique strengths.  

In every book in the series I can find a concept or idea that remains relevant today. The importance of friendship without conditions or judgement (Kristy and Mary-Anne). Working towards your goals but keeping your own wellbeing in focus (Jesse). Knowing that no individual is perfect, but that learning through our mistakes ultimately strengthens us (Claudia and mean Janine). Values that I still strive for in my own writing and daily interactions.  

The books were also commercial fiction, which despite sometimes being looked down on by literary devotees, is the genre of the people. The language is simple, the concepts are universal. Copies were cheap and they were everywhere, which meant if you couldn’t afford one of your own, you could hit up your local library. That’s where my pre-formation-future-feminist-self got them. 

I used to run through the library doors trying to beat my BFF to the ‘new release’ shelf at the library, just in case there were fresh copies. We’d squabble over who got to read which ones first (I always got stuck with the Mary-Anne ones because of my name. Secretly I thought I was more of a Dawn, but my BFF was totally Kristy, so what she said went). Then, after we’d read them about fifty times, we’d act them out, scene by scene. Can you imagine? Two tiny girls, intently focused and fiercely accurate (‘No way did Kristy say that! Get out the book, I’m not even kidding, she would never say that’). We weren’t playing fairies, or princesses, or Sweet Valley High (another hit at the time, but way more 90210 in its style). We were play acting stories that my present feminist self can still get excited about. 

So the next time you’re presented with an opportunity to share the first feminist manifesto you loved, I hope you’ll think broadly about your roots. Because way back there, in your childhood nostalgia feels, there is a feminist icon that you didn’t even realise was there. And they are so proud to see what you’ve become.