The F Word
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Romance is so retro: its pages are full of delicate women and dominant men, rape fantasies and senseless smut. Right? Wrong. Since the 1980s, romance has undergone a quiet revolution, unseen by the oblivious mainstream publishing industry. Women have become the subjects rather than the objects of desire in many romance narratives, more often choosing and using their men than the other way round. As opposed to mainstream pornography, romance is an arena where female desire is centred on enjoying pleasure rather than performing it. And while traditional publishing serves a patriarchal literary meritocracy, romance is run by and for women … and as digital self-publishing continues to blossom, it’s become increasingly democratic.
What role might romance play in rewriting the latent sexism embedded in our collective subconscious, over hundreds or even thousands of years? Can it teach women to discover (and ask for) what they want in bed? Join host Maxine Beneba Clarke as we get comfortable and explore it all, with speakers including Kate Belle, Kat Mayo and Beth Driscoll.
Maxine Beneba Clarke is a widely published Australian writer of Afro-Caribbean descent. Clarke is the ABIA and Indie award winning author of over nine books for adults and children, including the critically acclaimed short fiction collection Foreign Soil, the best-selling memoir The Hate Race, the Victorian Premier’s Award winning poetry collection Carrying the World, and the Boston Globe/Horn Prize winning picture book The Patchwork Bike, illustrated by Van T. Rudd.
She is the editor of Best Australian Stories 2017, and Growing Up African in Australia. Her forthcoming poetry collection is How Decent Folk Behave (Hachette).
Kate Belle is an author of challenging love stories. The Yearning and Being Jade (Simon & Schuster) received rave reviews.
Her short story, 'Cool Change', won the 2011 Southern Cross Literary Award and the script by the same name received a highly commended in the 2012 Fellowship of Australian Writers Awards.
Kat Mayo is an avid reader of romance novels. She curates the Romance Buzz, a monthly newsletter for Booktopia’s romance readers, and she hosts the Heart to Heart podcast for Destiny Romance, an imprint of Penguin Australia.
In 2014, she won the Romance Media Award for her essay, Dear columnists, romance fiction is not your bitch. Recently, she co-founded Trousseau, a zine for people who love reading romance books.
Beth Driscoll is a Lecturer in Publishing and Communications at the University of Melbourne, and is part of a team that recently received a Romance Writers of America academic grant to study the genre world of romance in twenty-first century Australia.
The official fight for equal representation for women is over a century old. You might think the battle would be won by now, but in 2015, the ‘f’ word is as personally and politically charged as ever. And despite great leaps forward – equal pay (on paper), paid maternity leave, our first female prime minister – we’ve still got a long way to go, baby.
The F Word asks where feminism is at, in culture and society, with a series of events that question our assumptions (Can romance be empowering? How can you be a religious feminist?), and highlight areas for change and inclusion, like disability and science.
We begin the series with ‘Bad Feminist’ Roxane Gay, who argues that feminist values can co-exist with contradictions: nursing a childhood affection for Sweet Valley High and wearing heels that hurt your feet doesn’t weaken your dedication to ending domestic violence.