The morning I got up to begin this book I coughed. Something was coming out of my throat: it was strangling me. I broke the thread which held it and yanked it out. I went back to bed and said: I have just spat out my heart. (Nin, House of Incest, 1936)

 

There are women who will always scream, shout or rebel. Who will not be silenced or tamed or domesticated. Who are brave, who are selfless, who are intimidating. Compared with these women, I am tame, silent, cowardly, selfish. But some days, I feel that wild woman scratching at my chest bone, scrabbling at my throat, demanding that I scream.

 

That scream is natural, it is the guttural call of the wild woman archetype, the storyteller and protective female soul within. As a teen that urge to scream, that need to be heard, was dumbed down and attributed to ‘angst’ or ‘puberty’. I learnt that displaying sensitivity, intuition or reckless abandon was weak. I learnt that being too female was to be secondary, and that being a feminist was to be excluded. I learnt to internalise and self-doubt – as we all do (both sexes).

Before I read the words of screaming women – Linder Sterling, Clarissa PinkolaAnais NinByron KatieSimone de BeauviorLee Miller, Germain GreerKathleen Hanna and  Gig Ryan to name but a few – I confused intuition with self-doubt, I made sacrifices where none were required, I attached to material ideas and expressed myself safely in the quiet nooks and corners of share house bedrooms.  I learnt to bite my tongue, to doubt my voice, to be angry, to be attached.

It is a complex tension, that of celebrating the innateness of gender whilst critiquing the stereotyping or subordination of either sex. It is because of the brutal critiques and violent protests against injustice in the past that those in the now feel so ambivalent about sexism. But it exists still, in societies both modern and barbarian, remote and urban. It existed six years ago when urban women admitted that they considered feminism a dirty word in The F Word. And again when Germaine Greer was labelled an ‘outspoken feminist’ and sent a muzzle by The Daily Telegraph. And yet again whilst Kyle Sandilands remains in his lucrative media position despite petitions for him to stand down after he labelled a female journalist a ‘fat slag’ and ‘piece of shit’ on-air.

It exists in pay variances, in workplace assaults, uneven gender representation across management, political leadership and sports coverage. It exists not only in the global trafficking and trade of women and girls for sex, but in the criminalization and ostracism of sex work, which excludes women who make active and informed choices from accessing public services and societal respect.

Ginger Snap at a rally demanding legislative protection from discrimination for sex workers in Sydney, June 2010. © AFP/Greg Wood

Below are some of my favourite reminders of why it is important to still be screaming – to embrace intuition, to celebrate the innate strength of femininity, to not be silenced, and to not be attached…. Interview Magazine: Linder Sterling by Morrissey    Like the daffodil, I dance—with the curtains wide open and the lights full on.

The Buzzcocks, Orgasm Addict, 1977 by Linder Sterling

MORRISSEY: Finally, if you measure your life by what you, Linder, have acquired from within against what you’ve acquired from without, which is the main source?

LINDER: On the day that I was born, the angels got together and lowered me in a bucket, deep, deep into the interior of the planet. On the way down I saw rubies and diamonds and beautiful monsters. I have never forgotten the experience, and today some of those monsters I count amongst my best friends. The rubies and diamonds? We sold them, split the money, and lived happily ever after.

Morrissey, by Linder Sterling

She is intuition, she is far seer,

She is deep listener, she is loyal heart.

She encourages humans to remain multilingual, fluent in the languages of dream, passion and poetry.

She is the source, the light, the night, the dark, the daybreak.

She is the one who thunders after injustice.

She lives in the tear and in the ocean.

She is the moment just before inspiration bursts upon us.

(Clarissa Pinkola. Women who run with the Wolves)

Without stereotyping or leaning into sexual hatred, commenting on and acknowledging gender imbalances, injustices and inconsistencies is paramount. Where Anais Nin suggests letting go of all ‘stories’, and learning to see all negative perceptions as reflections of oneself, Gig Ryan comments on sexism and masculine domination, slashing and stabbing ferociously at examples in her own life. Without assuming a collective male, chauvinistic identity, there is something about Ryan’s writing that stirs the scream. Something that represents assumptions of entitlement (that extend across both genders), and scratches at my own memories of misogynist or chauvinistic treatment.

If I Had a Gun

I’d shoot the man who pulled up slowly in his hot car this morning

I’d shoot the man who whistled from his balcony

I’d shoot the man with things dangling over his creepy chest

in the park when I was contemplating the universe

I’d shoot the man who can’t look me in the eye

who stares at my boobs when we’re talking

who rips me off in the milk-bar and smiles his wet purple smile

who comments on my clothes. I’m not a fucking painting that needs to be told what it looks like.

who tells me where to put my hands, who wrenches me into position

like a meccano-set, who drags you around like a war

I’d shoot the man who couldn’t live without me

I’d shoot the man who thinks it’s his turn to be pretty

flashing his skin passively like something I’ve got

to step into, the man who says John’s a chemistry Phd

and an ace cricketer, Jane’s got rotten legs

who thinks I’m wearing perfume for him

who says Baby you can really drive like it’s so complicated,

male, his fucking highway, who says ah but you’re like that

and pats you on the head, who kisses you at the party because

everybody does it, who shoves it up like a nail.

I’d shoot the man who can’t look after himself

who comes to me for wisdom

who’s witty with his mates about heavy things

that wouldn’t interest you, who keeps a little time

to be human and tells me, female, his ridiculous

private thoughts. Who sits up in his moderate bed

and says Was that good like a menu

who hangs onto you sloppy and thick as carpet

I’d shoot the man who said Smile honey

don’t look so glum with money swearing from his jacket

and a 3-course meal he prods lazily

who tells me his problems: his girlfriend, his mother,

his wife, his daughter, his sister, his lover

becuase women will listen to that sort of rubbish

Women are full of compassion and have soft soggy hearts

you can throw up in and no-one’ll notice

and they won’t complain. I’d shoot the man

who thinks he can look like an excavation-site

but you can’t, who thinks what you look like’s for him

to appraise, to sit back, to talk his intelligent way.

I’ve got eyes in my fucking head. Who thinks if he’s smart

he’ll get it in. I’d shoot the man who said

Andrew’s dedicated and works hard, Julia’s ruthlessly ambitious

who says I’ll introduce you to the ones who know

with their inert alcoholic eyes

that’ll get by, sad, savage, and civilised

who say you can like there’s a law against it

I’d shoot the man who goes stupid

in his puny abstract how-could-I-refuse-she-needed-me

taking her tatty head in his neutral arms like a pope

I’d shoot the man who pulled up at the lights

who rolled his face articulate as an asylum

and revved the engine, who says you’re paranoid

with his educated born-to-it calm

who’s standing there wasted as a rifle

and explains the world to me. I’d shoot the man who says

Relax honey come and kiss my valium-mouth blue.

(Gig Ryan)