How women should live their lives

This piece from yesterday’s Herald includes a fairly shocking glimpse of Kevin Rudd unplugged: ‘Rudd rolled his eyes and in a terse voice lacking any sense of irony remarked that [completing a PhD] is the “excuse” that “all” young women are using nowadays to avoid starting families.’

Penny had a strikingly similar encounter yesterday.

I haven’t mentioned this before, but after 37 or so years in the workforce – as an activist for women’s health, childcare, community health, and a consultant on those and similar fields – Penny is taking a year off to do a Graduate Diploma in Fine Art. Yesterday she ran into an older woman, a feminist public intellectual, whom I will call Lilith. When Penny told Lilith what she was doing, Lilith said (in a striking verbal echo of the Prime Minister): ‘In these gloomy times it’s not surprising that so many people are withdrawing from activism.’ She went on, ‘I’ll keep plugging away.’

Usually I’d follow an anecdote like that with a number of one-line comebacks thought of too late. In this case, though, Penny opened her mouth to talk about the work she’s still doing for asylum seekers etc, but Lilith had actually moved away, her assumptions about the role of art untroubled by the evidence.

8 responses to “How women should live their lives

  1. Good old Lilith, still fighting the revolution the way she always has, never allowing that things might change and newer weapons and methods might be in order. And certainly never allowing that she’s only human, and might need some time out to use anther part of her brain, and perhaps come back with a new perspective. Good on Penny. It sounds like an excellent idea to me.


    • Phew! Thanks, M-H. I realised after I posted that it might be read in all sorts of ways that wouldinvoke the wrath of the sisterhood. Thank you for spelling out the reading that I intended!


  2. Nothing is more tiresome than an old activist who burnt out years ago and now just plays the martyr. Except maybe old patriarchs, of course!


  3. But to be fair to ‘Lilith’, she’s far from burnt out. In fact, she’s a wonder of stamina. Sadly, also quick to judge and dismiss those who would be her allies.


  4. Oh hell, Jonathan – somebody’s got to tell us how to live our lives… Poor Lilith. It’s just like Cardinel Pell and poor Tony Abbott – every time one of them makes a helpful suggestion about how we should manage our ovaries, someone gets all hot and cross and badtempered… when we all know, deep in out hearts, that without that kind of input we’d just be serving our ovaries up with some nice tinned pineapple. Or crocheting toilet roll covers with them with them or something… We should all just tsettle down and be glad there are well-meaning people who care enough to tell us what to do. And that’s all I’m saying.


  5. I’m going to regret that, aren’t I? Time for a cup of tea, a bex and a good lie down….


  6. Without knowing who Lilith is or what she says/does, I’d suggest that saying she will ‘keep plugging away’ does indicate that it’s not passion that drives her, but habit and some degree of compulsion. I’m not judging her, but I do think that sometimes taking a break brings you back with much more enthusiasm and new, helpful insights. Just sayin’. 🙂


  7. Maybe Lillith should read The Golden Notebook again…


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