DEMOLITION + mid-2021 round-up

Last November, we were finally back in(!) a(!) theatre(!) for a sold-out season of Apocalipstick! at Metro Arts. It seems like both a million years and one minute since that time, but Polytoxic have not rested on their lockdown laurels. They’re back with a brand new show for Brisbane Festival: DEMOLITION. Here’s my (brief) two cents on Polytoxic’s not-to-be-missed new show:

DEMOLITION has all the good stuff you want — feats of strength, mid-air hula-hooping, synchronised intersectionality, a very ascendable set and a microphone in an Ice Break bottle — but is at its best when its high-octane acts turn in on themselves and embrace the uncanny.

This is a very different show from APOCALIPSTICK! (Metro Arts 2020); DEMOLITION is focused on ‘getting shit done — by the tonne’. The Polytoxic crew is unafraid to let its audience sit with — even help lift — its heavier moments. While there’s cheekiness and fun in DEMOLITION, its strongest scenes let the audience do the work, blurring the juxtaposition of feminist send-up with the actual injustice underneath.

Lisa Fa’alafi wears hi-vis gear and holds a nail gun in front of a demolition site.

You’ll find yourself laughing and whooping and then, suddenly, examining what made you laugh and — just as quickly — weeping or raging. The performers make a lot of noise in this show — after all, it’s circus! — but I’ve never heard the scream, the cry, the yawp deployed with such power and nuance.

Co-directors Lisa Fa’alafi (pictured; photo by Joel Devereux) and Leah Shelton kick arse, and Ghenoa Gela, Lilikoi Kaos and Mayu Muto were stand-outs. All DEMOLITION lacks is a little more levity at its denouement; after the thoughtful, affecting rollercoaster of its various feats, the audience needs to be lifted back up just a little more — called to affirmative action, maybe — before we toddle back out into the foyer. (However, once there, you can and will buy 👊-themed stubbie coolers, pins and tees.)

DEMOLITION runs from 4–11 September at Brisbane Powerhouse. 💥💥💥

And, as for the link round-up, here’s what happened while I avoided Zoom during the first half of this year:

Coming up:

  • I’m running a Qld Poetry workshop on the possibilities of choose-your-own-adventure poems in Twine. It’s called WE CONTAIN MULTITUDES and will include re-drafting exercises and a tiny bit of coding. It runs online on 12 and again on 23 September and will be low-key, fun and breakout-room free.
  • In November, Bec and I will be dusting off our evening wear to perform BACHELORETTE: A SONG CYCLE at RuckusFest (just in time to debrief on Brooke’s upcoming queer season of The Bachelorette!).


I nearly called this YOOF ARTZ NYOOZ and I’m sorry. Maybe it should have been “They Have It Coming”. Anyway. It’s been a fortnight of arts-work by the young and the restless. This is definitely more of a discussion than a series of reviews. I especially welcome input from others who’ve seen or are involved in these shows.


Brisbane (a doing word)

Vena Cava has outgrown QUT’s Woodward Theatre; the student theatre company launches its new season in the Judith Wright Centre’s intimate Shopfront space. Here, we meet Matty (Patrick Hayes) and his share-housing frenemies, negotiating their place and purpose as 20-somethings in Brisbane. This coming-of-age story unfolds in pieces, benefiting from writer David Burton’s structural experimentation.

Burton’s characters are painfully relatable but never sterotypes. Claire Christian directs a strong cast; we’ve all lived or studied with these eager, energetic, argumentative people. We’ve probably been them. Overall, a little more polish and restraint will allow Brisbane (a doing word) to deftly handle the sensitive topics it tackles without losing its sense of absurd humour.

BRISBANE (A DOING WORD) ran at the Judith Wright Centre from 20 to 22 March 2014.


Khalid Warsame at Brisbane's VOICEWORKS Launch

Express Media (or its Queensland representative … me) launched Voiceworks #96, the Perspective issue, at Avid Reader. Voiceworks Mag publishes and offers professional development of the work of Australian writers under 25. This was such a great night with superb readers (pictured: Khalid Warsame). Avid put on the ritz for us — what a wonderful venue. Wine all round! We also launched Woolf Pack, a new feminist zine edited by super-cool Brisbane ladies. Good times.

VOICEWORKS and WOOLF PACK launched at Avid Reader on 28 March 2014.


Homos in Kimonos

James Halloran and Will Hannagan’s double-bill cabaret (Melbourne Festival Comedy) has come under fire this week regarding its title, which some feel appropriates Japanese culture in a way that is racist. I’m hesitant to weigh in personally — as a white person I realise my privilege means I have blind spots — but I felt the creative team gave a measured, respectful public response in which they apologised and clarified their intentions. It was disappointing to see uncritical responses on both sides of the fence (personal attacks on the young performers and, on the flipside, tiresome attacks on “the PC brigade”).

I rarely feel qualified to comment, but I think there’s space right now in Australia for lots of context-based, critical discussion on cultural intersection in art. I hope that the show’s run stimulates more thoughtful, respectful discussion and fewer facebook shitstorms.

HOMOS IN KIMONOS runs at Melbourne Comedy Festival until 13 April 2014.


Boy&Girl by Oscar Theatre Company

Oscar Theatre Company presents “a steamy cabaret of musical theatre, contemporary and pop where gender is bent and rules are broken” at Brisbane Powerhouse, after a season at Lightspace. Boy&Girl features 25 talented and diverse cast members with a Broadway/contemporary jazz vibe. Jason Glenwright’s moody lighting sets the right tone for a trip down the Weimar rabbit hole.

Now, I can’t call these thoughts a review, as I did not stay for the full show. For me, the highlight of the first half was a 40s wartime swing rendition of “Call Me Maybe” by three charismatic male performers, followed by an emotive solo covering Rizzo’s “That’s the Worst Thing I Could Do” from Grease. Overall, though, Boy&Girl only flirted with the idea of gender-bending: pronouns were swapped, sure, and the boys (but, curiously, not really the girls) dabbled in drag. The jokes were about as cheap as the lingerie. All up, a pretty conservative affair, with the cast unable to nail the sense of sexy-grotesque integral, in my opinion, to queered cabaret.

But none of this would be a fair reason to walk out. Generally, I think it’s pretty poor form to leave a show’s opening night midway. However, just before the interval, 10 men (plus the male host and four men in the onstage band) performed Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango”. This is a song that deliberately subverts language used against female victims of intimate and sexual violence; its power, humour and sense of the uncanny succeeds because, in the context of the song, women have what is normally masculine power. In Boy&Girl, “Cell Block Tango” becomes a deeply unsettling song about domestic violence. In Australia, where one woman a week is murdered by an intimate partner, loosely “gender-bending” the song puts the power back in the hands of those who already have it. I left because I couldn’t sit with an audience that found that funny.

BOY&GIRL runs at the Visy Theatre at Brisbane Powerhouse until 19 April 2014.

Linkfest 3000: Victim Blaming Edition

Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault, victim blaming and rape culture.

Well, technically this is the opposite of a “victim-blaming edition” — here’s a (growing) list of links with something sensible to say in response to Mia Freedman’s “tell your daughters not to drink” article of October 23.

There’ve been dozens of articles and probably thousands of tweets debating victim blaming, rape prevention, rape culture and survivor support in the last couple of weeks. It’s exhausting. If you’re interested in the discussion, you’ve probably experienced diatribe worthy of screencapping and sending to STFU Sexists. Hopefully you’ve had some productive discourse too. Here are some useful links you can use to support and encourage productive discussion surrounding rape prevention. Want to learn how to support survivors better? These are good for that too.

See also: Friedman, J and Valenti, J. 2008. Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power in a World without Rape. Berkeley: Seal Press.

Got another article or link worth adding? Let me know in the comments!

Empathy and Victim Shaming at Cracked

Trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault and rape jokes

From “Four ‘Victims’ We Have to Stop Feeling Sorry For”, by Adam Tod Brown, editor and columnist at

At some point, the talk on stage turned to what subjects can and cannot be considered funny.

“That’s where the details get hazy, but it’s alleged that a woman in the audience yelled out “Actually, rape jokes are never funny!” or something to that effect, to which Tosh replied, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that chick got raped by like five guys?”

“Of course, they’re both wrong, but we can’t just collectively settle on that conclusion and power on as a team, so instead, the incident turned into a gigantic controversy that resulted in halfhearted apologies and everything.”

Using your stage time to encourage a crowd, “jokingly” or not, to rape — violently assault — a person isn’t a joke or part of any comedy routine. It’s harassment and bullying, and the women belittled by Tosh had every right to speak out.

So many — so many — women have been harassed, assaulted and/or raped. That includes your friends, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, sisters, mother, colleagues, peers — and audience. (And let’s not forget that men are raped and assaulted too.) We can be 100% sure that Tosh made that comment to a room in which some — or even more than some — had suffered assault. That’s like joking about cookin’ with gas to Holocaust survivors who lost loved ones to horrific abuse.

A friend of mine put it really well today: we don’t take offence — we are hurt by the way rape jokes make light of horrific experiences and we are frightened by intimidation and threats. No one goes to a comedy show to be frightened. Tosh might have thought his “just joking” threat was hilarious — but fear of assault (and the onus to a. prevent it and b. prove it was genuine) is something women face daily. We’re always looking over our shoulders.

It’s surely time to stop talking about Daniel Tosh. But Cracked, and other commentators, have shared his flaw: a lack of empathy for their audience. We choose not to make rape jokes not to avoid causing offence, but to avoid triggering upsetting emotional responses and terrifying memories.

I really feel like Cracked is losing the plot, lately (and their female audience).

(Reposted from my tumblr. I’m comforted to see that others, in the tumblr world at least, were also angered by Brown’s insensitivity.)

SlutWalk Brisbane — May 19, 2012

The second annual SlutWalk, a march against rape and against slut shaming, will take place in Brisbane on May 19. That’s in a week.

With its contentious name, SlutWalk caused quite a stir when it first became a thing last year. Lots of people were — quite reasonably — confused about its aims. At that time, I wrote about what SlutWalk meant to me; it’s probably a good time to revisit that article: Why I Walked the SlutWalk.

I’ll be back there this year with my loved ones alongside me. Even if you don’t march, it’s a good time to think about the issues at hand: victim blaming and slut shaming. Let’s replace those with enthusiastic consent and sex positivity.

Placard in the crowd says, “Consent is sexy.” Photo by Matt McKillop.

Going Wrong in the Mindtank, etc.

Or: Scattered Study-Rambles

The trouble with being Zen is that when I latch onto a topic, I want to learn it from head to toe, only pausing to linger on erogenous zones. I read obsessively, and then I ruminate, and then—usually—I write and write until I feel like I’ve got it figured out. So it is a pity that SlutWalk (and all its associated debates) has taken off around the world right when I’m meant to be studying for English Lit. and Ancient History exams.

As much as Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Ancient Greek magical papyri are indeed fascinating (and I say that with no sarcasm), right now I want to be reading and writing about consent, sluttery, and the way our societies define appropriate relationships. I’ve got a whole folder of essays and blogs just waiting to be devoured.

Meanwhile, I’ve also had to take a crash course in water chemistry after setting up a fish tank on a whim without—naughty me—doing any research at all. There are now several matchbox-coffins buried in the garden. Turns out tank-ecosystems are just as complicated as human ecosystems. But there’s one significant difference: you can buy testing kits for water, and they tell you exactly what your fishies need.

Yes, I’m about to use this as the lamest analogy ever. I’m so sorry.

Perhaps one of the biggest issues surrounding consent is the question of how much communication—verbal and nonverbal—is sufficient to equal “yes” or “no” in any relationship: new, old, monogamous, polyamorous, long-term, short-term, one night stand, poly, married, unmarried, straight, queer, vanilla or kinky.

I could write mountains, but why when the wonderful Jaclyn Friedman has done the job for me in her Yes Means Yes article on Enthusiastic Consent and its “(nonexistent) terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” consequences. I thought it was time to repost that link; it’s compulsory reading for anyone who loves others and/or has sex.

There are no Aquarium Testing Kits for human relationships (yep, still sorry for that analogy). Fortunately, all you have to do is ask. Unfortunately, all you have to do is ask. Navigating relationships—of any kind—requires trust, honesty, clarity and all those other pesky things we don’t want to think about when we’re feeling nervous, awkward, embarrassed, guilty, ashamed, or any of the other negative emotions we tend to learn in our earliest years.

I feel like I’m getting better at it, but like cycling my fish tank (honestly, Zen?), it takes time. And often, salt.

SlutWalk’s best effect, globally, has been to raise questions. I hope critics and supporters alike keep on asking. If we open a public dialogue on consent and relationships, so to might dialogues open up in private.

Keep up the momentum. But filter everything you read through that brain of yours, and don’t forget to come up for air now and then.

Back to Ovid…

(P.S. The Scavenger published my SlutWalk blog. Yay!)

Why I Walked the SlutWalk

I’ll admit I was apprehensive when I first read about SlutWalk, a global phenomenon that originated in Toronto less than two months ago. I was unsure of its ultimate aims. Was it about labelling people “sluts” and behaving accordingly? Or was it something else?

Update 12/06/11: Online magazine The Scavenger kindly published this blog post in their latest edition.

My own research led me to conclude that the real aim of SlutWalk was to help change cultural attitudes towards sexual assault and its survivors. Regardless of what we’re calling it, that’s a cause I can get behind—so I gathered up my housemates (male and female) and off we went to SlutWalk.

Still, some commentators (such as Gail Dines, and Melinda Tankard Reist and Tory Shepherd—who makes some better comments here—at The Punch) have questioned the name of the movement; they challenge whether associating themselves with this event is likely to do more damage than good. Many women don’t want to reclaim the word ‘slut’, fearing that to do so would give men even more license to objectify them—to view them as sex toys.

These are certainly fair concerns, but I think they misunderstand SlutWalk’s aims. The trouble, as I see it, is that they are not the only ones for whom this is unclear: I’ve read numerous posts regarding SlutWalk from men who would’ve liked to come along to claim one or two participants at the rally. After all, if they’re all sluts, won’t it be easy pickings?

Well, let’s look at sluttery in more detail.

Woman in crowd holds placard that says, “It’s not my fault–just don’t rape.” Photo by EJ Mina.

What is a slut?

Typically, a slut is a woman who is sexually promiscuous and/or who dresses in a manner that isn’t modest. Oxford English Dictionary gives a number of definitions. Examples of usage of the most common—“a woman of a low or loose character; a bold or impudent girl; a hussy, jade”—date back to 1450. Another definition, dating back to the early 1400s, is “a woman of dirty, slovenly, or untidy habits or appearance; a foul slattern.”

These days, most women have been called a slut at some stage—sometimes by their parents, their peers, their boyfriends, bullies, siblings. We are called sluts for dressing “immodestly” or “untidily”—perhaps exposing cleavage or leg, wearing skirts instead of pants, wearing pants instead of skirts (unfeminine), or choosing tailored or figure-hugging clothes. Only a few decades ago, we might have been called sluts for not wearing pantyhose or forgetting our gloves. Furthermore, we are called sluts for being sexual and enjoying it (or, alas, for having sex and not enjoying it), regardless of whether with one person or multiple people, at a young age, later in life, with protection, outside of marriage, with men, with women, or both.

Any excuse can be found to call someone a slut or treat them like one. My housemate proved this on the way to SlutWalk: like me, she wore what she felt comfortable in—a fairly conservative dress, exposing none of the “three Bs” we weren’t allowed to show at school dances: boobs, bum, belly. The flowing skirt came down to the knee. Yet, on the way, one group of men honked their horn and yelled obscenities from their car as she walked along the road in broad daylight. Next, an older man on the bus made advances and followed her off (she called me to come and rescue her). She couldn’t help but ask, “Is it because I’m wearing a dress? Do I look like a slut?”

Thus it seems “slut” is an already-empty word that signifies an excuse to approach, harass or belittle a woman.

Four women hold placards saying, “We’re not asking for it. Our clothes are not our consent.” Photo by Sarah Meggitt.

Why reclaim “slut”?

Given its connotations, I understand the hesitation to reclaim “slut.” In fact, I think hesitation is wise—this is something we need to consider in detail. But I also understand the desire to take the sting out of it; after all, it’s essential that we reframe the qualities and activities associated with sluttery and remove the stigma.

Whatever you want to call it, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wearing low-cut tops, skirts, pants, pantyhose, no pantyhose, and so on (I’ll leave good and bad taste to the fashion experts); it’s up to the looker to decide how to look. And there’s nothing wrong with of-age persons enjoying safe, consensual sex.

Is maintaining “slut” as a “bad word” contributing to slut shaming? Or would it be better to eradicate the word entirely—or strip it of its negative connotations, imbuing it with positive ones? With such a wide definition, all women (and men) might be called sluts. Is it better to say, “No, I’m not a slut—the way I behave is fine?” or “So what if I am a slut? It’s none of your business”?

I don’t have an answer to those questions, and would welcome discussion. If everyone can agree on what the reclamation signifies (that is, not that women may be treated according to the OED definition), reclaiming “slut” is perhaps one way to start breaking down the cultural attitudes that lead to slut shaming.

Placard in the crowd says, “Consent is sexy.” Photo by Matt McKillop.

Slut shaming and rape apology

Sexual assault and rape are unlike any other crimes, because we treat them differently. The law holds thieves and murderers accountable for their actions, but when someone is sexually assaulted, often we look to the victim (female or male) to find out why it happened. Friends, family members, partners, counsellors, police officers might (and you can guarantee at least some will) ask:

  • What were you wearing?
  • Did you lead him/her on?
  • What did you think would happen if you went to place X under Y circumstances?
  • Did you fight him/her off properly?

Or say:

  • But you’re not a virgin anyway.
  • But you’ve said yes to sex with that person before.
  • You should have known.
  • Well, men (if it was a man) aren’t to be trusted.
  • If you don’t go to the police, you must be lying.
  • You’re not acting like a real rape victim would; you just regret the sex.

It happens in Australia. Remember footballer Spida Everitt’s comments last year about what a girl should expect when she goes home with a guy? Recall Kerri-Anne Kennerly’s comment around the same time about “stray” women? In court last week, a sex offender (fortunately convicted) argued that he was aroused and provoked by the way Australian women dress. And have a look at this Australian educational video warning against sexting, which places all responsibility—and shame—onto the photographed girl.

But it also happens all around the world. In the news today, female protesters in Egypt have been arrested and subjected to “virginity tests.” The reason given by a senior Egyptian general was as follows: “We didn’t want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general said. “None of them were (virgins).” That is to say, because they weren’t virgins (of course, there is no medical way to determine virginity), they can’t have been raped—they were already despoiled.

In short, there are men and women from all cultures and of all ages who believe that rape victims incite, provoke or even invite their own sexual assault. This logic is faulty; it suggests that those who assault and/or rape don’t have control over their own actions. Statistics show that those who rape are overwhelmingly men; are we to accept the sexist assumption that men have no capacity to control their impulses, and violent impulses at that? Are we also to accept that men are more manipulative, less compassionate than women?

We can’t tar all men (just as we can’t all women) with the same brush. I love and respect the men in my life, and it would be doing them an injustice to say tell them they have less impulse control than I do. The men (and women) who do rape, however, must be held accountable for their own actions. Anything less denigrates both men (and their “uncontrollable lusts”) and women (with their “irresistible desirability”). Sexual assault, however and wherever it’s committed, is inexcusable. “But she was just a slut” is definitely not an excuse.

The best way, I feel, to help fight a culture that condones sexual assault is to change the way we think about the victims and survivors of rape. Let’s teach our sons, daughters, students and peers about sexual boundaries and what it means to give informed, enthusiastic consent and graciously accept non-consent. Let’s teach them to be assertive about sexual health and safety—as well as social safety and comfort (put so well by Phaedra Starling in Schrödinger’s Rapist). Let’s teach them to blame the perpetrator, not the victim—and maybe then, with less fear and doubt, more victims will be able to report assault to police. Let’s teach them that there’s no “right” or “normal” way to respond to trauma. And let’s be there for them—without blaming, without slut shaming—if they ever fear or experience sexual assault.

Men holding placards walk alongside a police car. Photo by EJ Mina.

SlutWalk Brisbane

To wrap up this epic blog post (and many thanks if you got this far), I’d like to write about how I felt at SlutWalk. As I said 1000 words ago, I wasn’t sure up until the last minute whether I should attend, but I decided I would make the rally an empowering experience for me. After all, I had the support of my partner, my housemates, old friends and new.

There were about 400 people at SlutWalk Brisbane, and I was really surprised—and delighted—by how many men were in attendance. There were people wearing conservative clothes, costumes, naughty clothes, nearly no clothes, and people cross-dressing. Police were there to clear the way for our march and keep us safe—I for one was grateful for QPS’s support. It felt fantastic—and fantastically safe—to be surrounded by people who feel the same way I do about consent and sex. The vibe was warm and friendly. There were a lot of smiles, and more than a few people with tears in their eyes. How good, after all, to have hundreds of people around you saying, “It is not and was not your fault.”

Whether or not SlutWalk’s moniker is contentious, it achieved its goals for me—and I’m very glad of that. Whether or not it helps to change cultural attitudes toward sexual assault—that rape is inevitable or excusable—is yet to be seen, but I have high hopes. After all, SlutWalk’s controversy has gotten everyone talking. Talking about consent is a great first step towards building a society where one can choose to come home at 3 am, whether for sex, cuddles or a cup of Milo, without anyone else deciding for them or judging their decisions.

Woman holds placard that reads, “We’re here for that cup of MILO.” Photo by EJ Mina.

Check out Ms Naughty’s video of SlutWalk Brisbane here. Thank you to the kind souls who let me use their photos: EJ Mina Photography, Sarah Meggitt Photography, and Matt McKillop. If you’re pictured here and would prefer not to be, just let me know and I’ll remove the photo.

Further Reading:
Feminist critics of SlutWalk have forgotten that language is not a commodity

The (Nonexistent) Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Consequences of Enthusiastic Consent