Friday, 31 December 2010

I've never understood the story of Lot's Wife who, fleeing Sodom, turned back to reflect on the destruction meted out by God on the mortal inhabitants of that fabled place, or that of Eurydice who, saved from Hades by Orpheus, her husband, is returned to that place when he looks back at her face before they reach the upper world again. These travel stories seem to tell us to merely obey, or to avoid counting chickens until they're hatched, or to be humble in success. Or something. But all of these surmisings are highly proscriptive and unsuited to the era of enquiry in which we now live. Inquisitiveness is a virtue, right? So, then, reflection must also be favoured by the gods. Some evidently think it is, especially at this time of year when the media is filled with lists of the "ten best" and nods in the direction of fulfilled destinies - the past - whence we have ventured like the lost souls we possibly are.

It's funny, too, that in all these old stories from antiquity and from Christian writings it's the woman who is chastised by the gods for transgressing. We all know that women have better memories than men, just as we know that men have a better spatial sense (a better sense of direction in the physical world). Is a woman who remembers a past slight a Harpie to be judged with a stern lens, turned into stone, returned to the infernal realm? And what about Pandora's box? Always, it seems, men have written the script for all of us to act out. Women have been demonised for centuries. Is it now time for them to take the their place in the front rank? Perhaps.

One woman who came out of left field to take a place of prominence - in the field of sport - this year was Jessica Watson who, at 17, became the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe unassisted and without making landfall in a sailing boat. Another woman who made headlines this year in Australia was Julia Gillard, whose superior negotiating skills came to the fore when she successfully convinced unaligned members of parliament who had been given a secondary franchise after the August election, which returned a hung parliament, to side with Labor in preference to the other side of politics. There are no doubt other stories available in which women came out ahead in the mainstream lists, reorganising, at least partially, our concept of the world we live in. But regardless, we know that men still earn more than women for identical work and that women are underrepresented on corporate boards. The die are still loaded.

They're falling in propitious arrangements for me, albeit with an unassuming shift. This is a conclusion I could come to if I were to look back on the past year, during which I published about 30 stories commercially having taken the plunge and gone freelance. Many of the editors I have dealt with over the year have been women, and they're certainly not retiring when it comes to giving an opinion. But the two editors who take most of my work currently are both men.

So, it's been a year of goals reached and expectations rewarded by some tokens of general regard (including the baseline reward of money) despite the fact that I have limited myself to stories of a certain nature (it's necessary to do this as a freelancer in order to conserve one's focus; a too-broad net, if cast, can leave you exhausted and confused) that place me to one side of the mainstream. It's impossible to avoid locating yourself somewhere along the ideological spectrum; the mere fact of your topic choices does this for you.

I don't know what awaits me in the new year arriving but to prepare I took some time off at the end of this one: a couple of weeks during which I put other parts of my life in a better state of order than they had been in before. Banzai!

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