She’s Someone

She's Someone Image

Image borrowed from A Girl’s Guide To Taking Over The World.

She’s someone. Your sister, mother, daughter, yes. But more than that – she’s someone. She has a line deep in her bones that takes you back through time. And she doesn’t belong to, or with … she’s someone.

You can carve her up, invade – but she’s someone. You can lift your virgins and trample your whores. But she’s someone. She has a name that is not yours to dissemble … she’s someone.

You can call her a gift then give it away. But she’s someone. You can mine for her diamonds then disgust at their shine. You can trade her and blame her but let me remind … she’s someone.

She. Is. Someone. On every continent you raise your flag – she’s someone. Underneath your gaze and your book she is someone. When you shout her down she is someone. When you order her body with gavels and clocks … she’s someone.

Revered.

Desired.

Punished.

Reviled.

You have too long called her mine. When she’s someone. This woman who doesn’t belong to, or with. Though history will seldom ask of her name (this woman, this girl) – let me remind …

she’s someone.

Balloon Girl, Red Heart by Banksy

The Girl with the Red Balloon – Banksy

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I know why the caged bird sings

Mariah in Australia, January 2013Long before there were Little Monsters and Beliebers, there were Lambs. The Lambily, as they are collectively known, are the devoted fan-army of singer-songwriter Mariah Carey, she of the 200 million albums sold, and the piano-worthy octave range.

The Lambily are a big global Mariah Carey family (Get it? Lambs. Family. Lambily!), and the Australian branch of the tree has had much to celebrate this past month, when the diva finally returned to our shores, fifteen years after her last visit. It is the Lambily who helped sell out her Sydney arena concert in just four minutes, and the Lambily who fought back on Twitter and Facebook after most Australian critics appeared to have witnessed an entirely different set of concerts to the ones she performed. The Lambily are indeed fiercely protective of their girl – and the truth is, when it comes to Mariah Carey, they get a lot of practice at it.

Few artists with such success have been so maligned by both the public and the press through-out their career. In the early days Mariah was too white-bread, to over-produced, too saccharine. Then she divorced her Svengali-come-husband Tommy Mottola and became too urban, too slutty, too black. In recent years she’s copped too fat, too demanding, too high maintenance. Mariah Carey has always been considered a little bit too much of everything in fact. And of course, a whole lot of crazy.

From a feminist perspective I pay close attention to the way our female achievers are portrayed, and what they are celebrated for. When it comes to Mariah, there is a real disconnect between her acheivements, and how she is represented by the press. It was never more apparent than when respected media, including MS magazine and the BBC, ran with the now infamous and completely made up Mariah quote about skinny kids in Africa; that a comment so obviously satirical was widely reported as true revealed just how willing people are to believe the worst about famous women. And importantly, how easy it is to cast doubts on their having driven their own success.

When that spoof interview went viral Mariah was already a prolific songwriter with albums that not only included global pop hits like Emotions and Fantasy, but were peppered with less commercial tracks exploring her struggles with identity and her biracial heritage. The readiness to believe that quote, and the portrayal of Mariah as vapid in the main stream press spoke volumes on how we classify female celebrities. The biggest-selling female artist of all time couldn’t possibly be beautiful, talented, successful and smart. No, she had to at best be stupid, and at worst, ignorant. Certainly, should she live large and enjoy her achievements, she had to be shallow and self-involved, as opposed to … well … successful.

The bad press got worse when Mariah collapsed from exhaustion in 2001. There was a type of glee in the reporting of her breakdown, a schadenfreude Mariah in Melbourne, Australiaplayed out on front pages all over the world. This was a young woman who had endured an abusive relationship with Mottola and was taking her first steps, barely out of her twenties, to wrest back control of her life and career from both her much-older husband and the global corporation he represented. The lack of sympathy or respect for Mariah at the time floored me. It also gave me a newfound respect for this gutsy chick when she picked herself back up to take on the Machiavellian Mottola. And won. By surviving the knocks, and being just as successful without him, or so more so in fact, when you consider the global smash that was her comeback album The Emancipation of Mimi.

For his part, Mottola fed right into the bias, and still claims responsibility for Mariah’s success. In a new tell-all book released this month Mottola explicitly takes credit for her career. He neglects to mention that when Mariah met Mottola, she had already written many of the songs that went on to be hit records. No-one, least of all Mottola, seems to consider that Mariah made Mottola’s career as much as he made hers. It was her voice, and her songs, after-all.

As Mariah goes into her first season as a judge on American Idol, here’s hoping the long arm of Mottola no longer reaches her, despite the book release. I suspect she’s finally been able to shake him off, with both a resurrected career and a happy marriage to the gorgeous and younger Nick Cannon. Together they parent ‘DemBabies’, the adorable twins recently introduced to Australia. For his part, Nick appears to have no problem celebrating the fact that his wife is powerful, successful, and a woman in control.

I celebrate this too, but then I’m a bit of a lamb myself. The truth is I don’t just like Mariah Carey. I love Mariah Carey. I love her in a singing into a hairbrush, foot-stomping kind of way. I love her in a screaming from the front row kind of way. Okay, technically in a crying from the sixth row kind of way, but you get the idea. I love how she helped pioneer the now classic pop-rap cross-over when she recorded Fantasy with ODB. I love that she also covered the holy trinity of make-me-cry-as-a-kid songs, Without You, Endless Love and Against All Odds. And I love her even more for her throaty laugh, her wicked sense of humour and her random moments of loveable crazy that the press just don’t seem to get. And don’t even get me started on Christmas.

But most of all, I love that one of the most successful singer-songwriters of our time was once a scrawny, poor, bi-racial girl who didn’t fit in, who married too young and nearly got swallowed up by an industry that wanted to both hold her up and cut her down … but survived it all. By writing and melisma-ing her way through whatever was thrown at her, and finding her freedom in the process.

Somebody cue Hero and find me a hairbrush. This lamb feels a tribute coming on!

MC concert

Mariah Carey recently performed a sell-out tour of Australia.

She appears on American Idol from January 17th, and will release her 14th studio album mid-year.

You are the maker of manners (why I won’t be voting for Barack Obama on Tuesday)

This is what a feminist looks like - Barack ObamaI won’t be voting for Barack Obama on Tuesday. Mine is a vote he cannot have. Not because I will cast my vote for the right, however. I won’t be voting for a simple and defining reason: I cannot vote at all. Honorary American though I may be, and a yellow-dog Democrat to boot, I don’t have the papers or the legal status to prove it.

This election matters to me, having to watch it from the side. Or across an ocean specifically. Where the decisions of next week will flow on down; the cultural currents between us are swift after-all. A profound shift to the right in matters of equality, and the inching (running?!) together of Church and State will be keenly noted from battlegrounds here. Where our Cardinals talk about gay marriage as a “grave offence” to children whilst protecting decades of abusers from their pulpits, and our Archbishops softly advise our brides to submit. Where our opposition leader calls abortion a “national tragedy” and a woman is still paid on average $250 a week less than a man.

It is true that the bigger implications of an American Presidency are these – the wars you engage in, your economic troubles, your relationship with other players on the world stage. The impacts of 9/11 in particular have flowed downstream. A list of Australia’s 242 casualties in Afghanistan can sadly attest to that. But your cultural reign is another tie that binds, and has a global impact just the same.

America, you are the maker of manners, you see. Art has always influenced culture; art informs the way we live, and we consume your art in every way. Since the early 1980’s, 60% of all films screened in my country have told your stories. Seven of our current top ten singles are from American singers and bands. Six of our ten best-selling books from 2011 were written by US authors. Our television stations rush to show your hit shows right after they’ve aired stateside (the rest we can find on the internet). About the only cultural aspect you don’t dominate is our sport. But then, alas, you suck at rugby! We know your icons and your heroes America – the actors, the singers, the sporting and the political. We mourned the loss of Camelot too.

Barack and Michelle ObamaThe stories you tell matter. The stories you tell about yourselves matter. How you treat your women matters. This crazy war on women that the right is waging, their re-defining of rape, their push to make women incubators, the attempts to close down vital providers of women’s health – these are all stories you’re telling our men and our boys. Our young girls too. In a country that supports a $10 billion dollar porn industry but gets jumpy at the idea of sex education (teen pregnancies cost you just about the same by the way) this retrograde view of women and sex in particular informs your culture and it informs mine too. It keeps the word slut in rotation, it sexualises the violence of rape, and it tells the world to get pissed off at me when I don’t get the joke. I repeat: the stories you tell matter.

And they don’t just matter to someone who looks or lives like you and me. This cultural disempowerment of women, the allowing of the religious right to change and control the narrative on women’s reproductive choices, it will cause a tidal wave for women in developing countries if Romney wins. Actually, if Republican precedent is anything to go by, it will be the very first act of President Romney – a reinstatement of the global gag rule, the policy that bans US funds from going to any aid organisation that so much as provides information on abortion. Information. This is the party that makes silence consent.

Barack Obama at body, rememberThis sacrificing of vulnerable women to the alter of the right breaks my heart. I have lived in a developing nation, amongst the very women this gag rule affects. I’ve spent time in stinking, under-staffed hospitals with 14 year old girls holding swollen bellies, with women trying to feed another mouth after their husband dies of HIV. I’ve watched bibles not condoms destroy communities from the outside, in. Romney and his men will cut off money to The United Nations Population Fund and other such organisations who do life-saving work with impoverished women. They will essentially shut these organisations down – for providing information, for offering choice. It is not called the gag rule for nothing.

Which brings me to this. A blog post unlike my others – but connected. I am a writer and a feminist, for me they are one and the same. I write about women at body, remember. About flawed, passionate, courageous women. I don’t believe in angels and whores, and you will not find heroes here – only stories. And every so often the story is mine.

You have to vote for Obama.

There, I said it.

Vote for the man who rescinded the global gag rule. Vote for the man whose first bill signed into law was the Equal Pay legislation of The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (which Romney opposed). Vote for the man who expanded VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act (chipped away at by the Republican Party). Vote for the man who says “Rape is rape. It is a crime.” (when the Republican Party seeks to dilute and re-define it). Vote for the man who repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and supports marriage equality – for the man who understands that gay rights are civil rights too. Vote for the man who put two women on the Supreme Court, including the first Latina Justice.

Vote for the man who turned around the US auto industry. Who ended the war in Iraq. Who passed Wall Street reform and signed into law the Recovery Act. Vote for the man who got Bin Laden. Vote for the man who is providing healthcare access to 11 millions kids living in poverty, the man for whom Obamacare is not a derisive term, not when you consider how the Affordable Care Act provides universal healthcare for the very first time in your country’s history.

You have to vote for Obama.

He is the story you want to tell. The son of a black Kenyan and a white Kansan. Raised by a single mom and his grandparents. A community organiser, a civil rights lawyer who rose from poverty to become the first African American President. Whose journey to your highest office personifies the American Dream. Right when we thought we had lost it.

I am a writer and a feminist. That capital F on my chest doesn’t ensure I get things right all the time. It doesn’t make me a superhero – this blog is primarily about all the mistakes that I’ve made. But it gives me a voice and I’m using it now. As loud as I can, across the Pacific. The personal is political, after-all.

I hope that I’m singing come Tuesday.

Me hopeful (and nervous) on the eve of the election, 2008.