The politics of princesses

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I finally got around to seeing Moana a few weeks ago, and I have to say I really enjoyed it (how good was that David Bowie disco crab?). I’ll always love a good Disney princess film – not for the humour or the songs or the magic, but for the politics.

In my mind, Disney princess movies are the perfect tool for measuring our progress in areas like representation and feminism. Because they’re mainstream, commercial and child-friendly, they provide a kind of overview of what’s considered acceptable in wider Western society at their particular time of production. We know that Disney doesn’t take risks. They’re not an indie film company looking to challenge our perceptions or tell the stories of those on the margins. They’re not going to make a film that might risk offending even the whitest of white bread families. What people let their children see is a pretty good indicator of what they think is ‘normal’ and ‘ok’ – so we can use this as a sort of yardstick to measure mainstream social progress.

If you look back at all the Disney princesses over the past few years (let’s say since 2009), you can really see the changing attitudes slowly, painstakingly coming into view (usually about 30 years after they were accepted by ‘alternative’ literature and cinema – as I mentioned in my post about reading women, Hollywood is possibly the most resistant industry to any kind of change). We start getting princesses of colour (Tiana from The Princess and the Frog),  heroines with agency (TangledBrave), female-centric narratives (also Brave), sensitive representation of different cultures (Moana), and a shift away from the focus on idealised romantic love and towards friendship and familial love (Maleficent, Frozen, Moana).

This brings me back to why I enjoyed Moana so much (spoilers, obviously): the heroine was played by an actual Polynesian woman and was three-dimensional, brave, and active in seeking out her own destiny; there was no love story whatsoever; and historians, linguists and leaders from a number of Islander nations were heavily involved in the film’s production. And let’s not forget that disco crab.

It isn’t perfect, but it shows that we’re (slowly) getting somewhere. And if nothing else, at least this generation of girls has more than a princess who does nothing but sleep for 100 years to admire.

My weekend went a bit like this

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I started making a hand out of clay. I don’t know why. I just saw this pin and thought they looked cool.

I enjoyed the blue blue blue sky and the (finally) warm summer days.

I started a beanie for the boy. I am using this pattern, which is nice and simple (although I still messed up and had to unravel about half of it when I realised I had dropped a stitch somewhere and my rows had magically gotten shorter. Sniff.)

I went for a walk with an old friend. We went to our favourite bushland reserve, which has beautiful views of the sea in one direction and the city in the other. It was hot in the valleys but every time we reached the top of a hill we were rewarded with the most delicious breeze. I would also like to note down for posterity that I  felt very happy in the simplest way as I drove towards the reserve with the windows down and the radio on and the car full of that sunscreen-summer smell.

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I also: went to a cute cafe for lunch / had a nap / did my weekly volunteering / chatted with my cousins / made plans to see La La Land / read a magazine / went to the library / put on a face mask / watched Youtube videos & somehow all of these things combined to make me feel very content and refreshed and ready for the week ahead.

Which is just how a weekend is supposed to make you feel, isn’t it?

In pursuit of colour

I’ve always been a black-wearing slightly-grunge kind of girl, but lately I find myself drawn more and more to bright colours and abstract patterns. I can’t help craving colour blocking and painterly swooshes of peach, sky blue, mustard, olive and navy.

I made a moodboard to inspire my style choices for 2017. As I’m focusing on ethical fashion this year my choices are a little bit restricted, and I’m aiming not to buy too many new things anyway. But if I could buy anything I wanted (and actually pull off anything I wanted), here’s what my wardrobe would look like in 2017.

fashion moodboard - a collage of clothes, patterns and shapes

Clockwise from top left: pink pattern, Cassie Byrnes painted fabric, Gorman dress, Good Vibes Only, fabric swatches by Beci Orpin, colour block dress, Obus dress, Bianca Cash eye print, outfit with mustard pants, block socks, Gorman dress.

Chin-up Tuesday #2

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All the motivational posters in this series are my own!

Time for another bout of Tuesday motivation.

I found this quote in my journal from last year and it still resonates with me. I think it’s very useful to remember that everything you learn will help you later on, whether it’s academic or practical or even just something like figuring out how to deal with a certain type of person. You’re not wasting your time – no matter how boring or irrelevant or seemingly useless, it will all come together to help you build and refine your understanding of the world. (As far as I can recall, this was the article that got me on this train of thought sometime last year.)

 

Here’s my look-forward-to list for this week:

New laptop
My current one is very, very slow, so I’m treating myself to something flash when I go back to uni next week. I think I need some reward for working (almost) full time over the summer holidays when I could have been at the beach, or doing creative things, or at the very least working somewhere that was…a bit…better (don’t slag off your job on the internet, don’t do it, don’t slag off your job…)

Blog with Pip
I’m starting a blogging e-course next week! It’s run by Pip from Meet Me at Mikes, who is lovely and runs one of the only blogs I’ve consistently followed and enjoyed ever since I first found out that blogging was a thing back in 2009. So that’s all a bit exciting.

O-Day
I’ve never been to an orientation day in my life before, but apparently it’s time to buck the trend because Ali Barter is going to be there and she is a GEM and a LEGEND. Give her song ‘Girlie Bits‘ a listen if you haven’t already, it’s a banger.

Vidcon
I know I put this on my last list, but now it’s official. It’s a Thing. A Thing that is really happening. My flights are booked and my ticket is bought. Ohmygod.

 

Reflections on university

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My graduation ceremony was last week. After five long years I’ve finally finished my (three year) bachelors degree and come out with a distinction (and several thousand dollars’ worth of debt). Even though I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to complete an honours year, I can’t help but reflect on my time at uni and some of the things I’ve learned and experiences I’ve had.

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I thought I’d write down some of the things I wish I’d known at the beginning, for anyone out there who is just beginning their journey into the wonderful world of higher education.

  1. There is no need to pay for coffee. If you get in with the right people, they’ll let you use their secret kitchen.
  2. Making friends with your faculty by getting involved in events and clubs will help you SO MUCH. Plus they will also let you use their kitchen (see above).
  3. It’s totally normal to switch majors, courses, or even unis. Hardly anyone gets it right the first time. How can you know what a course is going to be like until you try it?
  4. Never print something on the same day it’s due. Printers can smell fear.
  5. Going to a foreign country by yourself for a 6-month exchange will be tough and sad and amazing and it will make you grow in a way that nothing else really can.
  6. Volunteering will change your life.
  7. Allow at least half an hour before class for circling pointlessly around the eternally-full carpark, swearing in frustration, and creepily following people walking back to their cars in the hope of jagging their spots. Alternatively, park 5kms away on the other side of campus and spend the half hour speed-walking to your building (wear running shoes).
  8. If you’re willing to show up and put in the extra time and effort then people will start throwing opportunities at you. So many students adopt the ‘Ps get degrees’ mentality that a little enthusiasm can take you a long way.
  9. When you find yourself deluged with said opportunities, remember to say no sometimes. You can’t do everything.

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And finally:

10. Some days you’ll fly and some days you won’t be able to get out of bed. Those 3/5/7 years will be a crazy, fun, exciting, exhausting, overwhelming and amazing experience. Make the most of it.

My year of ethical fashion

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Ever since I heard about the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, I’ve found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with the fast fashion movement and the fashion industry in general. It’s an industry that depends on sweatshops, child labour, and all manner of questionable working conditions that range from unfair and exploitative to plain dangerous. Aside from the human element, there are also a bunch of environmentally damaging and unsustainable practices going on too.

Over the past few years I have been making slow and steady progress towards refashioning my wardrobe into something a bit more people- and earth-friendly. It is, unfortunately, something that’s easy to (wilfully) forget about. It’s easy to get carried away by a beautiful piece that you *must* have, or to buy something because it’s convenient, or to think that, well, you don’t buy that much in the whole scheme of things so one little cheap, mass-produced top here and there isn’t going to make any difference, really.

The thing is – it does, and it will. So this year I am throwing out the excuses and the intentional ignorance and committing myself to an ethical wardrobe. My rules are as follows:

  1. Buy less in general. Be more critical in separating wants from needs.
  2. Think about restyling, re-purposing and customising things I already own instead of buying something new. Consider making things from scratch (let’s be real, this probably won’t happen as my sewing skills are regrettably sub-par).
  3. When I do decide to buy something, it must be either ethical or secondhand, sourced from op shops or sellers on Depop or Facebook (and these sellers must be located within Australia).

So, what actually constitutes ‘ethical’ clothing? For the sake of my own decision-making, I’m classifying it as anything from a brand that ranks ‘good’ or higher on the ethical ratings app Good On You.

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Realistically, ethical clothing is expensive and I’ve often struggled to find pieces that are fun, youthful and interesting (not to mention fitted – is there some unwritten rule out there in the eco-fashion industry that anyone interested in ethical clothes must also love looking like a walking duvet?) so my prediction is that it’s going to be a year of op-shopping. Bring it on, I say.

Before I go, here are some resources that might be helpful if you’re looking at buying ethically (or just want to know more about the state of the industry):

Behind the Barcode

Ethical Clothing Australia

Choice report (a little out of date but still useful)

Good On You

The quiet rebellion of reading women

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While organising (and gloating over) the piles of to-read books by my bed the other day, I noticed something interesting: every single one of them was written by a woman.

It wasn’t by any design. While I’ve always been preoccupied with reading about the lives of women, I never actively set out to reject male authors. And yet all 13 of those stories waiting by my bed (I know, I know) were told by women – and all but one had a female protagonist. A closer look at my entire bookshelf confirmed the trend: I could count the male authors on one hand.

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This got me thinking about why I’ve always had a fascination with the female experience and the lives of women through history. Maybe it’s because, really, there’s still not enough of that sort of thing around. Maybe it’s because I could never understand myself through Shakespeare, Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald and J. D. Salinger – the headliners of my high school lit reading list. Maybe it’s because, frequently, men still insist on telling our stories for us – in art and in life. While literature has done a lot better than some other forms of media (looking at you, Hollywood), there’s still a long way to go.

I am proud that I read so many women. I may not have power or influence and I can’t put right the misogyny in the world, but I can make this small choice. I can read the stories of women – migrants, misfits, poets, artists, women of colour, Muslim women, LBQT+ women, rebels, game-changers, survivors. I can make a conscious effort to listen to the voices that the world tries to silence or ignore. Maybe it’s not much, but it’s my personal act of quiet rebellion.

 

(PS – I hope to post some reading lists for intersectional feminism/women in various genres at some point so look out for that.)

(PPS – feel free to add me on Goodreads! I love being nosy about what everyone else is reading…)