Category Archives: Tara Moss

[REVIEW] Speaking Out – Tara Moss

Tara Moss
Speaking Out: A 21st-Century Handbook for Women and Girls
HarperCollins (AU: 1st June 2016)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (Worldwide)

Speaking Out: A 21st-Century Handbook for Women and Girls is well-meaning, but is it really what we need? A lot of women and girls are already speaking out – that isn’t the problem. The issue is that people need to learn to LISTEN. For the privileged to listen to the marginalised. For white people to listen to people of colour. For cis-gender people to listen to people who are transgender or non-binary. For heterosexual people to listen to everyone else. For the wealthy to listen to the poor. For the non-disabled to listen to the disabled. For the neuro-typical to listen to the neuro-divergent. For the well-connected to listen to the lonely.

I understand why Tara Moss hasn’t written that kind of book, though. The people who most need to listen would likely refuse to read it. So since we can’t change other people, Speaking Out is more about changing ourselves. Forming better, stronger arguments, and the way we deliver them, in order to give us the best possible chance of being heard.

Which makes reading the section focused on the spoken word, rather than the written, rather awkward.

I remember an ad for a particular season of Australia’s The Biggest Loser. A primary school-aged boy, a competitor on the programme, spoke of the kids at school teasing him because he was fat. And so he signed up to join the show. I don’t blame him; he likely just wanted the bullying to stop. And because the kids picked on his appearance, he chose to try to change it. It’s a sad world that people teach kids to lose weight, rather than teach kids not to bully/tease/pick on others.

Which brings us to Speaking Out. Women are often dismissed when they speak out, with listeners blaming the orator’s “high-pitched voice” or “vocal fry”. This handbook has tips for adjusting your voice to sound more “acceptable”. The author says her tips are optional, but the very fact that they’re included leads me to believe she thinks we should definitely consider them.

Do I have a high-pitched voice or vocal fry? I don’t know, but I certainly had a lisp growing up. I may still have one now. Should I feel grateful or not that tips for eliminating a lisp aren’t included? On one hand, I’m glad not to be patronised and victim-blamed. (E.g. People wouldn’t pick on you for having a lisp if you didn’t have one, so you should get rid of yours.) On the other hand, does this book erase my type of vocal issue?

But again, this book is about changing oneself, instead of changing other people’s shoddy behaviour towards you.

The next part is best suited to students, with lots of advice on research, structuring arguments, and presenting them. I sped through this part, just to get it finished – I wasn’t interested, but students should get a lot out of it.

The third section is the most helpful, where the handbook really earns its stripes – on what to expect when speaking out. While I read it, male radio broadcasters’ comments about holding a woman’s head under icy water were being heavily discussed in the media, including social. All the diversionary tactics listed in the book were played out in public. But because violent language against women happens on a regular basis, this part of the book is timeless.

There are contributions from a handful of women who’ve “survived social media”. Most of the women included have worthy contributions, but one name will raise eyebrows: Amanda Palmer. She has a history of problematic behaviour; there are details here. (Hover over the text in the post – they’re clickable links.) Remember when she invited Jian Ghomeshi to join her tour? After a lot of push-back (and rightfully so) from the public, Palmer announced he would no longer be a guest on her tour, and that she had made a “snap judgment”.

Her “snap judgment” was to provide a platform for someone who allegedly “non-consensually beat up four different women during sexual encounters”. And “eight different women […] have come forward to accuse Ghomeshi of violence, sexual abuse, or harassment”. (Quotes from the Stereogum article.) Palmer initially chose to side with THIS GUY, instead of the numerous victims.

So what the hell is she doing in a handbook that supposedly empowers women and girls to speak out, when she at first chose not to believe the women who’d spoken out against Ghomeshi?

After taking time to calm and think, I was more open-minded to reading the piece. After all, her contribution could be about how she was wrong to initially support Ghomeshi. How speaking out in this case probably wasn’t a good idea. How Palmer had learned from the experience, about the importance of researching, thinking, and addressing one’s own biases (such as not believing victims of sexual violence and harassment) before speaking out.

My gut reaction turned out to be correct: Palmer’s contribution mentions nothing of her initial support for an alleged sexual offender. Mentions nothing about how others were right to call her out on including him on her tour.

So yes, her contribution shouldn’t be here because it’s ultimately hollow. And considering that Tara Moss emphasises the importance of research, I’m surprised she didn’t investigate Palmer’s history of problematic behaviour. It didn’t take me long to dig up those links and read them. So why didn’t Moss?

Maybe this handbook is an example of White Feminism. While it very briefly mentions intersections, this book is pretty much geared towards straight white cis-women. Understandable, because the author acknowledges it’s not her place to speak out on identities she doesn’t have.

Moss includes statistics throughout the handbook, but when it comes to the conviction rate on reported crimes of cyber-stalking/cyber-bullying…no statistics are included. Because there aren’t any official statistics, or because the conviction rate is so low that it may discourage victims from reporting crimes, knowing there’s so low a chance of the perpetrator facing any justice?

My depression was already in a bad way before reading this book. It didn’t improve over the course of it. Speaking Out is a major downer. It doesn’t mean to be – it’s supposed to be inspiring, motivating, encouraging. But it had the opposite effect on me.

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23rd May 2016 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Tara Moss
Speaking Out
HarperCollins (AU: 23rd May 2016)
Buy (US) Buy (Worldwide)

A short, accessible and practical handbook for women on speaking out safely and confidently. Worldwide, less than one out of every four people we hear from or about in the media is female, and men outnumber women in parliament by four to one. If half of humanity’s experiences, perspectives and possible solutions to world problems are under-represented, or entirely unheard, all of us lose out. Tara Moss has spent 20 years in the public sphere and has had to face down nerves, critics and backlash. She has become a leader in speaking out. In this handbook she offers advice on preparation, speaking out and negotiating public spaces. With a special focus on public speaking, social media and online safety, she offers tips on how to research, form arguments, find support and handle criticism. This is a guide for women young and old that not only helps them find their voice, but argues passionately for why it matters.

May 2016 Releases

Done with April 2016 Releases? Here are May 2016 Releases. For future releases, check Reading Wishlist.

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4 New Covers (Armstrong, Cremer, Moss, Oliver)

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Random Tez

Trialling an idea that may, or not, become semi-regular: things on my mind this week. I often share this kind of stuff on Twitter or Booklikes, but blog-readers may be interested.

GOODREADS RECOMMENDATIONS
Goodreads has an option where users can share recommendations. I used the function to ASK for recs once, when I wanted to read more fiction set in asylums – that’s how I found out about Dan Wells’ The Hollow City, which I really liked. (Tried his two YA series, but they didn’t work for me at all.)

But there’s also an option where users can send out a recommendation to all their friends (or all the people who follow them). PLEASE DO NOT USE THIS OPTION. If I ask for recs regarding something in particular, chime in. But sending unsolicited recommendations feels a lot like spamming, from my point of view as a recipient. The first time this week, a publisher recommended something they’d published. The second time, an agent recommended something by an author that they may or may not represent. (I didn’t bother checking, because it was SPAM, and I don’t want to research something spammed.) The third time was by someone not in the biz (as far as I know), but still unsolicited.

Unsolicited recommendations are spammy, and make me LESS likely to want to read the recommended book. Which defeats the purpose of why you’re recommending them – because you want people to read them, or at least pay attention to them.

Believe me, if those books you spammed about are good enough, I’m sure to hear about them in a non-spammy way from other people.

AYELET WALDMAN
During my teen years I read a lot of crime, including some Mommy-Track Mysteries. I also liked a standalone novel (“women’s fiction”/mainstream/general) by this author, though I can’t remember anything about it except that in one scene the character ate cupcakes in New York City.

My teens are long over, as are my days of reading this author’s books. So it was kind of a blast from the past this week when the author posted some Tweets that made news on The Daily Dot and other sites. It was kind of the same thing that Chelsea Cain did earlier this year: publically mope about not making a special list. For Ms. Cain, it was a bestseller list. For Ms. Waldman, it was a “notables” list. Because that publication had rated her novel highly, she expected her book to be on the notables list, but it wasn’t. She didn’t understand why some books with less-favourable reviews were considered “notable” and hers wasn’t.

But instead of simply asking what “notable” meant her Tweets came across as rather…well, a number of people have referenced tiny violins.

Social media is both the best thing and the worst thing when it comes to authors and publicity. Sure, people have now heard of Ms. Waldman when they previously hadn’t, but not in a positive light.

ZOE SUGG
The first time I’d heard of her was when Penguin Teen Australia announced they’d bought the rights to her book and spoke of her in the context of celebrity. Apparently she was a beauty blogger, but the novel was fiction. Whatever.

Then she hit the news for circa-80,000 copies of her book sold in its first week in the UK.

With it came rumours of the novel being ghost-written, to which the publisher replied, “to be factually accurate you would need to say Zoe Sugg did not write the book Girl Online on her own”. So either a ghost-writer wrote it all, or at the very least co-wrote it. This isn’t the newsworthy bit, but ghost-writers exist for a reason, and deserve to be properly compensated for their work.

Basically the problem is lack of transparency. The ghost-writer/co-writer (whom it’s been suggested is Siobhan Curham, who’s mentioned in the acknowledgments, but her specific role isn’t said) should have their name on the cover, or at least the title page. I’ve heard Ms. Sugg’s brand is built on “authenticity” (which is weird, because I thought the more prominent beauty YouTubers were paid/sponsored to positively promote specific products), and having her co-writer/ghost-writer not openly named/credited comes across as Ms. Sugg and her publisher not being upfront. This means that her “authentic” characteristic may not be entirely truthful.

And then there’s the matter of payment. It’s been said that ghost-writers are generally paid a flat-fee, but are there bonuses/commission if the book becomes a bestseller? Contract stipulations and whatnot likely prevent ghost-writers from speaking about their work, so the world of ghost-writing is rather secretive.

To reiterate: Was your novel co-written or ghost-written? That’s fine, but at least have the decency to be transparent about it – in the form of their name on the cover, or at least the title page.

But the situation reminded me of something Tara Moss recounts in her non-fiction book, The Fictional Woman. Back when her first couple of novels were published, there were rumours that maybe they were ghost-written. Ms. Moss was (and still is) a fashion model, and often mentioned in the society pages of publications – and some of the public could not quite trust that she could also write.

Ms. Moss submitted to a polygraph test. And yes, she did – and still does – write her own novels. (She also writes non-fiction.) But why was speculation focused on her, rather than other authors? The Fictional Woman (published in 2014) examines public perceptions of all kinds, and though it’s been months since I read the book, Ms. Sugg’s situation reminded me of it.

Is speculation ever fair? Some would say it was fair in Ms. Sugg’s case, since the official word came out that her book isn’t solely her writing. But had the co-writer been publicly credited from the start, there may not have been speculation. Should there ever be? In the case of Ms. Moss, people saw a crime that wasn’t even committed.

How does the public determine whose books are up for speculation? Only when an author is also known in a different, publically-prominent profession? The best way to eliminate speculation would be more transparency regarding ghost-written/co-written books.

Ghost-writing is not a problem. But it is when authors and publishers aren’t upfront about it before journalists ask them.

#PENGUINHOTLINE
Tried out this online recommendation service. Perhaps I didn’t give them enough info, because the results were pretty disappointing: One book was already on my wishlist, the second was already on my maybe list, and the third was by a do-not-read author.

But perhaps you will find this service more useful than I did.

19th May 2014 Releases

Happy Release Day to:

Kylie Chan
Demon Child (Celestial Battle, Book 2)
HarperCollins (AU: 19th May 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

John Chen has just rescued Emma, who is broken both physically and emotionally, from the Demon King’s lair. But the Celestial realm is in tatters and more challenges are thrown at Emma and John’s relationship. The shen have disappeared and things look grim. But out of the darkness a new hero must rise…

Tara Moss
The Fictional Woman
HarperCollins (AU: 19th May 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (Worldwide)

Tara Moss has worn many labels in her time, including ‘author’, ‘model’, ‘gold-digger’, ‘commentator’, ‘inspiration’, ‘dumb blonde’, ‘feminist’ and ‘mother’, among many others. Now, in her first work of non-fiction, she blends memoir and social analysis to examine the common fictions about women. She traces key moments in her life – from small-town tomboy in Canada, to international fashion model in the ’90s, to bestselling author taking a polygraph test in 2002 to prove she writes her own work – and weaves her own experiences into a broader look at everyday sexism and issues surrounding the underrepresentation of women, modern motherhood, body image and the portrayal of women in politics, entertainment, advertising and the media. Deeply personal and revealing, this is more than just Tara Moss’s own story. At once insightful, challenging and entertaining, she asks how we can change the old fictions, one woman at a time.

May 2014 Releases

Done with April 2014 Releases? Here are May 2014 Releases. For future releases, check Reading Wishlist.

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