Bust and Broadsheet

Bust (Small)

‘Feminism and Popular Culture’ was the title of Saturday morning’s session at WORD.  Debbie Stoller is the co-founder and editor of Bust magazine, and the author of the Stitch n Bitch books.  There were more men at this session – at least ten – but they all appeared to be there with a female partner.  The session opened with an inquiry as to whether anyone had brought their knitting.

Bust magazine (“for women with something to get off their chests’) has been published since 1993 and just produced its 100th issue.  The aim is to publish the truth and variety about women – ‘girlie feminism’.  Debbie spoke of the difficulty of producing a feminist magazine in print and said they need to ‘pull themselves up by their brastraps every day’.  There is no money in feminism, and a hard copy magazine is considered retro and vintage these days.  She spoke of how they started by doing the layout by hand, copying by xerox, and stapling the sheets together.  I was reminded of my days editing the Values Party Linkletter (doing layout with removable cow gum), and the early days of Broadsheet. 

Debbie talked about how those working in the private sphere, e.g. stay-at-home mothers, get no public recognition, but these days they can start a ‘lifestyle’ blog with photos, and this transforms their work into something more satisfying.  People in the public eye used to be afraid to say they were feminists, for fear of backlash, but nowadays celebrities are afraid not to be feminist because of possible backlash.  She pointed out that the myth that feminists are ‘ugly and hate men’ goes right back to suffrage days.  Many issues are too complex to be discussed on Twitter, and there is no real arena available to explore issues affecting women.  These days mainstream media is the site of change and power, where once it was politics.

It was interesting to hear a younger woman talk about today’s feminist issues.  Most of my feminist friends are in their sixties or older, and I sometimes wonder where the young feminists are.  There is no feminist magazine in Aotearoa since Broadsheet ceased in 1997.  The Hand Mirror is a local blog which discussed feminist issues, and there must be more?  Debbie said that while women may now be able to make choices, they are still making them within a sexist society, and just being able to make a choice doesn’t mean you’re a feminist.  She wondered whether the fact that we can say anything is feminist may mean that feminism will die.  Having a satisfying paid career is often seen as the aim for women, but that comes from a male culture,  We need to re-value and re-consider the things that come from a female culture, e.g. knitting and cooking.

Asked about the U.S. Presidential election Debbie said that although she had supported Bernie Sanders she would be voting for Hilary Clinton, because the U.S. system means people are obliged to vote strategically ‘for the lesser evil‘.

“Feminist future seems to me
to be uncertain as can be.”



Top Drawer Cat

It doesn’t do to leave your underwear drawer open even for a moment.

Top drawer cat (Small)

Stephen took out a t-shirt, and before he could grab some socks Ziggy had colonised the drawer.  That cat is definitely King of the Cottage!

“Whene’er he sees an open drawer
he’s in there quickly, tail and paw.”

Wonderful WORD

Waiting for WORD (Small)

Dame Fiona Kidman was the focus of my first session at WORD Writers and Readers Festival this morning.  Her latest book All Day at the Movies follows some characters from Songs from the Violet Cafe.  It’s about being a woman in New Zealand, and covers six decades.  Various chronological signposts of NZ social history are referenced to show how politics and circumstances affect individual lives, and the book also explores issues around pregancny and adoption.  It ends optimistically and Fiona hopes it may help readers to think about how they react to people who’ve been in difficult circumstances.  Fiona spoke of how her characters have a powerful presence in her imagination, and by the time she writes about them they’ve developed their own voice.  This was reinforced in a later session The Power of Poetry where she read her poem This Change in the Light.

Fiona writes in many different genres.  Her preference is for short stories, but these are not always practical and writing in different genres brings more income.  For instance two months of writing TV scripts can bring as much as two years of writing novels.  She sees poetry as the joyful side of writing, somewhere you can express yourself spontaneously without thinking of the audience.

How are we doing, Christchurch? was a panel session with five people who’ve been involved in the earthquake recovery process.  This reinforced how far we have still to go, and how little those outside Christchurch understand our experience.  For me the key message was the need for locals to decide for ourselves how we’re feeling, not to be told by outsiders how “resilient” we are.  There is widespread lack of trust in institutions, and creative growth is being stifled by bureaucracy, fear, and exhaustion.  It seems some children are hopeful for the future, and perhaps the best way forward is to build for them.

National Poetry Day Readings at Scorpio Books featured a number of excellent local poets, many of whom had studied at Hagley Writers’ Institute..

My final session for the day was The Power of Poetry where four of the best New Zealand poets and one Australian read some very powerful poetry, which was amazing to hear.  I especially enjoyed that of Selina Tusitala Marsh.  You can hear her reading Unity on Radio NZ.

WORD is a great place to catch up with friends, and I met several I hadn’t seen for years.  There are still two more days of WORD to go!

“We are so lucky to have WORD
and get our inspiration stirred.”



Once was Office

This mural in Hereford Street is on the site where my office was prior to the February 2011 earthquake.

Hereford Street Mural

Hereford Street Mural

The area is now another car park.  The mural is by Leeza + Yikes.  I prefer Yikes’ murals when Leeza is involved.

“It’s strange to see this funny face
in what was once my office space.”


Unexpected Honour

Attending the Volunteering Canterbury A.G.M. I thought would be a chance to catch up with old friends and hear an interesting guest speaker.  It’s now four months since I left my role there and I expected there might be some mention of me as I’d been Manager during the year being reported on.

Receiving Life Membership

I was surprised and delighted to find that part of the business of the meeting was to award me honorary Life Membership of VolCan.  I would maintain a keen interest in the organisation anyway, but this ensures that I will remain connected in a very special way.  After all the wonderful speeches and gifts I was given when I left this is an overwhelming extra.  I’m now part of a distinguished group of Life Members.

“It means much more than I can say
to be connected in this way.”



Xeriscape Xample

In Colombo Street, near St Asaph, there’s an example of a Xeriscape.



Built by Greening the Rubble, this garden requires little or no water or maintenance.  Xeriscaping is ideal for drought-prone areas, and has other benefits too.

The name was coined in the 1980s from xeric meaning very dry, containing little water.

“A plot that needs no irrigation
in drought-prone land earns acclamation.”

Snowdrops or Snowflakes

In my garden there are hundreds of the flowers we commonly call snowdrops.  These are more correctly named snowflakes.  The true snowdrop is less common.  Several years ago I was given a few plants by a friend (thanks, Jan), and this year’s first flower has just appeared.

True snowdrop

True snowdrop

True snowdrops have three long petals and three short ones, with green only on the tips of the shorter inner petals..  A snowflake’s petals are all the same length and each has a green spot at the end.



“Snowdrop, snowflake, are both so sweet
their springtime show cannot be beat.”



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