Sunday, 16 October 2011

SheKild'em All

Kylie Fox, Amanda Wrangles, Tara Moss, Sapphira, Leigh Redhead & Angela Savage.

I have commented on, and been revelling in, the debate that was launched by the blog Tara Moss wrote after SheKilda, titled: Are our Sisters in Crime (still) fighting against a male-dominated literary world?
(All blog/web links listed below).
   For the record: I am a published crime/genre fiction writer and the publisher of the independent genre fiction publishing house Clan Destine Press.I am also a founding member of Sisters in Crime Australia and the programming chair of SheKilda Melbourne 2011 – the Australian Women Crime Writers' Convention.
   SheKilda was held (Oct 7-9) to mark the 20th anniversary of Sisters in Crime Australia; and to celebrate the past and especially the very bright future of women's crime writing. 
Phillipa Martin & Vikki Petraitis
Malla Nunn & Pam Newton

When our organisation was launched two decades ago – by fans of the genre – one of our aims was to redress the very imbalances – in reviews, awards and recognition – that Tara highlighted in her blog. Our 'mother’ organisation (in the USA) had been formed five years before, by authors, for the same reason.
Margie Orford & Louisa Larkin
   That we STILL have to talk about this a quarter of a century later, in anything other than a historic context, is too ridiculous for words. That critics/reviewers still think an ‘unconscious bias’ is anything but an excuse is laughable.

Tara Moss & Shamini Flint
   Apart from fabulous irony of Melbourne Age Arts critic and ‘reviewer’ Cameron Woodhead smacking himself in the face with his accusation – in the comments section of Tara’s blog – that she was indulging in 'privileged whining'; his opinion shone a lovely bright light on the way things arestill, really. His attitude accidentally proved the facts (just the facts, Ma'm) that Tara had, without emotion, been stating.  
   Tara’s blog generated many responses. Correction: Woodhead’s comment on her blog caused a flood of responses; which in turn created debate which spilled over to facebook, crossed over into the blogs of others, and made it into reports on other websites, including Hoopla and Crikey. It even scored a mention in Jason Steger’s column in The Age.
   Most of the comments on Tara’s blog reflected, supported or agreed with her ‘these are the facts, why is this still so,’ theme. And, apart from one late-on the-scene guy who clearly didn't read the posts in between but who nonetheless accused the bully-girls of picking on Mr Woodhead’s opinion, the responses to the topic came from both women and men; in almost even numbers.
One blogger, NSW writer Elizabeth Lhuede, was going to add a comment to Tara’s blog but ran out of space, so wrote her own blog-reply to Tara.  Her piece finished with:

Whatever happens, it will happen because women readers, critics, reviewers and writers take each other’s work seriously, and treat each other with the respect owed to professionals; it will be because we continue to develop and question the basis of our own tastes and preferences, as well as actively seek out writing by women which we can champion and enjoy. 
     “If some male reviewers, critics, judges and readers also find something of value in such works, great. If they don't, who cares?”
I’d already given my two cents worth on Tara’s blog and was about to comment on Elizabeth’s – these last two paras of hers were my “Yay” prompt – but like her, I ran out of space.
   Hence my blog about the blogs about the blog that started it all.
Because Elizabeth is SO right. 

And that was the greatest revelation that came out of SheKilda.
   SinC-Oz might have been started 20 years ago to actively campaign for a new balance, to tilt at some kind of equality, to shout : ‘hello, we’re here too’... but we haven’t just been sitting around waiting for the world to right itself.
   Unlike the Australian Crime Writers Association that convenes once a year to award the Ned Kelly Awards, Sisters in Crime is constantly active. For twenty years we’ve been actively nurturing, mentoring, awarding, recognising and celebrating what women crime writers do.
   We hold from up to 10 public events every year, open to everyone: writers, readers, watchers of crime, SinC members, our Brothers-in-Law, and the general publicboth women and men.
   We’ve been holding the Scarlet Stiletto Awards – a short story comp with 11 categories and nearly $5000 in prize money – for 18 years; and the Davitt Awards for published crime fiction (adult and YA) and true crime – since 2001. 
   Yes, they are just for women; that’s the point. We don’t pretend otherwise. Get over it.
    SheKilda Melbourne 2011 was the world’s second-ever women’s crime convention. The first was SheKilda 2001! 
Rowena Cory Daniells, Kylie Fox
Sandy Curtis, Amanda Wrangles, Lindy Cameron, Vikki Petraitis

   Like everything Sisters in Crime does the convention was open to all – readers, fans, fledgling writers, published authors, women and men.
   Of the 66 panellists (which also included cops, forensic specialists, reviewers and journalists) 56 were currently-working and published (or screened) Australian women crime writers; and three international women crime writers.  
   From the opening moments of the cocktail party on the Friday night to the close of proceedings on Sunday arvo, SheKilda was one huge buzz of enthusiasm and excitement; infused by an incredible, but not surprising, spirit of sharing and sheer joy.
   It occurred to me then – and has been reinforced by the responses (aka: debate, hoo-ha, stoush) to Tara’s original blog – that women everywhere and Sisters in Crime in particular may not have levelled the playing field of reviews/awards/recognition yet, but we have – quite accidentally –found the best way to do deal with the world as it is: we celebrate what we do; because we do it damn well. 
Lindy Cameron

You can read Tara’s original blog here

Elizabeth Lhuede’s reply here:

Kate Forster’s take:

And Tara’s after-blog on the topic here:


  1. Thanks for the kind response and the link, Lindy. I'm only a very new member of Sisters in Crime, but living in NSW I haven't been able to participate much. I'm sorry I missed Shekilda. I had no idea till I heard back from my friends Jaye Ford and Keziah Hill that it was only the second conference. For some reason I'd assumed it was held annually, like the one for RWA. I hope I don't have to wait another ten years to meet all you guys.

    Meanwhile I've joined Partners in Crime in Sydney, but I don't know whether they're affiliated.

    Out of interest, did my blog prevent you from posting a link to your blog here? (I know some spam filters prevent URLs from being posted.)

    Thanks again,

  2. Lindy and Elizabeth, as they say in The Wire, 'I feel you.' See my own post on the gender in literature debate:

  3. Lindy, did you reply to my post and then delete it? I've had it in my mind to get back to reply and now I'm wondering where I saw it!

    Angela, thanks for the support. I've just posted your link in the "Australian Women's Writers" Facebook page.!/pages/Australian-Women-Writers/176862202396763?sk=info

    By the way, feminist academic and publisher Susan Hawthorne has contributed some interesting comments on my "reply to Tara" blog about the contribution made to crime writing by literary women writers. What an interesting debate!

  4. I know I'm into genre fiction, but I don't think this takes a detective.

    Let's see.

    Loads of supercilious, smarmy put-downs, distraction from the issue. Then there are the insults later described as quotes (interesting, and I thought a journalist might have some idea of how to use quotation marks...)

    And the final dig- he'd never review something sold in an airport.

    Hmm, now where would Ms Moss' books get a high sales-rate?

    This wouldn't have anything to do with jealousy of success, and being a bit irate at hearing the 'privileged' ones complain.

    Tess Gerritsen mentioned that in the U.S. the majority of awards went to male writers, but the majority of sales went to female writers.

    Food for thought.