When I first started writing opinion columns for newspapers – about 16 years ago, for the Herald Sun in Melbourne, sharing a page with The Human Bolt (Andrew)  – I idolised the writing of Zoe Williams and studied her prose to grow my own style.

Image via hellogiggles.com
Image via hellogiggles.com

She wrote a smart column for the Guardian on Saturdays called “Things you only know if you’re not at work”. It chronicled the minutiae of the banal of our small existence. But her slant was entirely captivating.

Zoe still writes for the Guardian. Yesterday’s column “The genius of Kate Bush in an age of Subjugation” is particularly gold. I’d love you to read it. It’s a review of Bush’s sold-out concert. She finds herself comparing the sublime experience with her conflicted thoughts about contemporary female music artists, which she often tries to analyse through a feminist lens. “(Kate) is what music sounds like when it’s the authentic creation of its author, and there are no strings being pulled by marketing guys,” she writes.

Williams realises she’s been wasting her time with the very fatiguing questioning – as a wizened old third-waver – of whether Beyonce’s lyrics are anti-feminist or Miley’s antics are destructive to the sisterhood (or are they reflective of what feminists fought for – freedom to express what you want?).

She concludes that the more important issue is that the mass marketing of culture has meant we lose the creative contributions of people like Kate Bush.

I want to add to this.

I feel that this mass, commercial approach means we’ve stopped wanting or expecting or craving what I think is a very female contribution to life – the female insight and voice.

To me, this is free and slightly wild and maybe slightly mad at times and loose and geared at digging under layers, inquisitively and almost melancholically.

Back in my university days studying women’s studies, I adored the writing of the big feminists whose essays were expressed in this voice. Not didactic, but exploratory. Not rigid, but loose and artistic.

Kate Bush has the same voice and contribution. Writes Williams, “She’s a …creative heatball, an experiment of the species….her lyrical romanticism is questing and ambivalent, rather than needy and predictable.”

Questing and ambivalent. Yes! Going deeper, seeing the heart of things, yearning beyond what we’re force-fed. Vulnerable and open, not certain.

And, yes, I do think this take on life can be described as female. Strong female. I miss this voice. I miss it in myself at times. I’m so rarely inspired externally to engage in it. This is what I yearn for when I see Miley Cyrus gyrating.

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Cheryl

    Hallelujah!!! Feminism… the reality of being a person + the intuitive and particular perspective of a woman ( my definition) Not a clone of a male, that popular culture seems to demand if we actually climb a ladder of business/ political success. My concern around public expressions of our gender, wild or otherwise is that the media colors the lenses through which the younger women/ girls see such expressions., out of context and sensationalized. Sarah you continue to provide an alternative and healthier model. Congrats

  • cheryl

    p.s. just had time to read the Zoe Williams article, Yep “What she said!”

  • Anthony

    Strangely, as a male, I enjoyed reading the writings of Greer Et al. At the time, I thought it would help me when I was dating to have meaningful discussions about feminism. Being much older now I don’t read it much today, but what a richer society we are today from all the discussion that has come and gone from feminism.

  • Robyn

    Kate Bush rocks, Zoe Williams rocks and so do you, Sarah Wilson. Thank you for your ever astute perspective.

  • Mandy McLoghlin Dos Santos

    Sometimes I question my ideals of feminism and my relationship with it as the work I do often revolves around the areas that feminists ‘fought’ against. Cooking and nourishing families and children.

    But I agree that the self expression of women in their desired pursuit, the ability to be who they individually are in their wild, wacky and individual ways is what really the feminist pursuit is about.

    • Mandy McLoghlin Dos Santos

      Sorry, not that they fought against it, more in the terms of not being the sole carer for the families…you get my drift no?

      • Megan

        I don’t see what the point of feminism is if we’re not free to make our own choices – whatever they may be. All that matters is that you’re happy

  • Lynda

    “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat …” (Quote by Rebecca West, You Rebecca from chapter 17 of a book I am reading at the moment called “The Fictional Woman”). Great piece by Williams and thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  • B

    Love love loved this! I love the idea of working through things in an exploratory rather than explanatory manner. I wish more men were like my partner (in the least vain sense possible, I promise), he grew up with his Mother and three sisters and his attitude towards women is simply that they are people. The same as males, and transgender people. No more or less complicated than that. Though to be honest, he’s probably more of a traditional ‘feminist’ than I am! He has a lot of female friends because he’s genuine. There’s no seedy undertone of “What can I get out of this friendship?” or, God forbid, the nauseating passively sexist “friend zone” (don’t even get me started…) He’s just interested in what they have to say and who they are, and people gravitate to him. -Fellow fan of Zoe Williams (!!) however Andrew Bolt… I have no kind words to describe him and would rather not fill the comments with bile.

  • Ananda

    Thank you Sarah. I have been questioning these very issues due to the resurgent ‘anti-feminist’ stance being bandied around in some quarters at the moment. The idea being that we don’t need feminism but rather need to focus on equality…and yet as a 40 something year old woman I hold dear the principles of feminism. They have helped me be a strong woman but also a vulnerable, real, slightly off beat one that more and more marches to her own drum.

    • I reckon we’re going to see a resurgance of feminist enthusiasm. The dire political climate is bringing the “left” voice out, feeling legitimised!

  • Yes! Always asking more, of myself and of others. I find myself looking to great female examples of people who don’t just accept the mass market default setting of what life should be, but interrogate their existence (in the nicest possible way). You’re on that list Sarah!

  • Anna C

    Fantastic post, thank you for this! We need reminders to keep looking inside and not outside, listening to ourselves, rather than trying to fit that mould…

  • Anthony

    The worst thing that can happen to a person, yes, even worse than death, is to think you know it all; there is no way back from there. Feminism, only came into being because men and many women thought there was only one and only one perspective on life and that was the word of men. Women and men needed to be liberated from that perspective. I still believe today women and men need to be liberated from that.