Sandra Thibodeaux: Mates and Shifting Misogynies in Modern Australia
Gender relations is the topic of the webinar and a central issue in the play I am currently writing in Rome, inspired by Artemisia Gentileschi. In this regard, Australia has been interesting over the last ten years: it’s strangely split into extreme consciousness about the rights of women (on one hand) and extreme violence against women (on the other). I’d like to talk about that and provide an update on the last year, in particular, in which our Australian of the Year (a prestigious position) was a woman who’d been sexually assaulted and harassed by her teacher at high school. She used the position to fight passionately for the right to speak out about these matters. She also famously insulted the Prime Minister. I need to include here a description of what was going on in Parliament House, where a number of sexual assault cases came to light ˗ yes, actually in our government building. I wrote a poem about this which I will perform in the webinar. I’d like to then unpack all of this within, what I think is, a deep-seated hatred of women in the dominant Australian psyche ˗ this includes women hating women. There is a famous speech by our previous Prime Minister, Julia Gillard (the only female Prime Minster we’ve ever had), that I’ll refer to. There are also many literary and cultural works that tap into this embedded and entrenched misogyny. I’ll examine the word ‘mate’ ˗ a word previously reserved for men that has recently been liberated from its roots. Finally, I’d like to swing across to more recent times ˗ the recent federal election (May 2022), and what this meant in terms of the empowerment of women. The new government is basically a government that was won by women for women. There is a male leader, but he is quick to acknowledge that he is pretty irrelevant in all this ˗ he just got out of the way!
Sandra Thibodeaux is a playwright, screenwriter and poet. She has written 18 plays that have been staged as part of festivals across Australia and Indonesia, and broadcast on Radio National. Her latest plays include Calls to 1194, The Age of Bones, Mr Takahashi (and other falling secrets) and The Lion Tamer. Sandra has won the NT Literary Awards three times for her plays, and has been short-listed for the Patrick White, Griffin and Green Room awards. Sandra has published four collections of poetry, with the latest being Dirty H2O (Mulla Mulla Press). In 2011, she was Australia Poetry’s Poet-inResidence.