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A QUICK WELCOME NOTE

Hi! It’s us — Mia and Grace.

We’re so excited to have you here for the first ever To Her Door letter. We founded this newsletter to create a space where we women could use their voices (really *loudly*) to tell stories, discuss issues, ask questions, and pass the microphone around all the wonderful Australian women who care about each other and the world around them.

We’re facing a rough few years ahead politically. That’s why it is crucial to keep listening to other people’s stories, recognising our own privilege and keeping our hearts and minds wide open. This issue, we have the inspiring Dr Anne Aly, Australia’s first female Muslim MP, (who gives a great primer into intersectional feminism ); Moana Hope (aka Australia’s best-known AFL Women’s player, aka a bloody legend); a TBT we think you’ll enjoy; and some bold drawings by Melbourne artist Frances Cannon.

But really, we’re like the over-enthusiastic girls at the end of the night trying to corral everyone into karaoke … we want to hear YOU sing!

So. Send us your thoughts, questions, pitches, and emotions to talktous@toherdoor.com. Can’t wait to hear what you think.


“I’M NOT GOING TO PRETEND THAT IT’S EASY”

An interview with Dr Anne Aly.

By Grace Jennings-Edquist & Mia Abrahams

Image: ALP with artwork by Nina Abrahams

Dr Anne Aly is used to being first. The Federal Member for Cowan is, of course, the first Muslim woman to become a Member of Parliament. As an expert in counter-terrorism, extremism, and radicalisation, the Egypt-born Labor pollie was the first Australian to be invited to Obama’s White House conference on the subject in 2015. (She was also the first MP to wear a halal snack pack badge in Parliament, no doubt incensing Pauline Hanson.)  So just days after Labor’s landslide win in the WA state elections  in which One Nation failed spectacularly  it only made sense to feature Dr Aly as our “first” ever THD interview.

How can Australian women build a stronger intersectional feminist movement?

I think the first thing to do is to recognise what we don’t know — recognise where the feminist movement has, in many ways, failed women of color and minority women, and start looking at where those failures came from and why those failures happened. We need to go back and redress the fact that some forms of feminism and some parts of feminism actually alienated women of color in the past…

Even just talking about intersectionality is a really good place to start. Even if you talk from intersectionality, that’s an inclusive thing in itself: You can’t talk about it without having a conversation with the people it affects, and that way we start to bring more women of color and minorities into the conversation.

How has your conception of feminism changed over the length of your career?

When I was a young girl I started reading Germaine Greer, and I read a book called My Mother/ My Self by by Nancy Friday. I became fascinated with feminism and found it empowering. But as I grew into adulthood  … coming from my background and being a minority woman and a woman of color, I actually moved away from feminism because I felt kind of disillusioned or disappointed by the forms of empowerment that were presented to me as a young teenager.  I felt women like me were still having to fight for everything that [white women] already had.

It took a while I guess for me… to realise that my life has been privileged too, and it has been privileged actually because of the flow-on effect and the ripple effect of the things that white western women fought for. My access to university for example: Yes I had to fight for it … but the very fact that I could go to university as a women came from those previously fought battles.

One of the reasons it has been said Trump won was because the (white) working class felt disenfranchised. Is this a risk in Australia?

I think it is a risk in Australia. I think one of the issues is, you have people like Trump and Hanson coming out and saying they’re anti-establishment. These people are 100% the establishment, they are quintessential establishment, they are quintessential politicians. And it saddens me that they are able to con people into thinking that they have the real solutions to people’s disillusionment. Because they don’t.

Being a woman in politics is difficult. How do you push forward through negativity?

I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy. It’s hard to ignore it, knowing it’s coming from the fact that you’re a woman and minority as well.

I think you have to deal with it by consistently putting things in perspective. There are actually much more people who want you to speak, who are happy to have a speak than there are hate-filled, boring, pitiful people who want to shut you up.

And sometimes you have to be conscious of wanting to take time out from the hate and focus on the positive. In our office here, we have a book and we print out every single positive email, every single positive message that we get, and put it in the book. I tell my staff: when we get hate mail I want you to read that book, because it will remind you that there is hope.


DOORLY DOCTOR

We’re bringing back the sealed section. This issue, doctors answer readers’ most candid(a) sex questions.

Q: Is there such a thing as using a vibrator *too* much? – Vibed Out, Sydney

This myth probably originates from the belief that women should be getting their most effective sexual pleasure from sex with another person (preferably a man,) not from a machine. Yet only 25% of women can reach orgasm through intercourse alone because penis-in-vagina sex does not supply adequate stimulation to the clitoris. Vibrators are very good at giving the clitoris the prolonged, rhythmical, uninterrupted stimulation many women need to climax — something partners often find difficult or impossible to provide. Vibrators have been around since the beginning of last century and there is no scientific study that has shown that there is any problem with frequent use of a vibrator nor can you get addicted to your vibrator nor can it “desensitise” your clitoris. So go for it and have fun!

– Dr Rosie King, Sydney. (She runs a private sexual therapy practice in Sydney.)

Q: I know antibiotics can interact with the daily contraceptive pill, but will they also stop the morning-after pill from working? Halp! – Antibiotic Anxious, Melbourne

A: The only antibiotic that has been shown to interfere with hormonal contraceptives is Rifampicin, which is only really used to treat tuberculosis. Other antibiotics are generally accepted as being safe. Other drugs that can interfere with hormonal contraceptives include a drug used to treat epilepsy, St John’s Wort (over-the-counter herbal remedy) and some antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV. If you are on Rifampicin or any of these medications and require emergency contraception, you should speak to your doctor about other options as the morning after pill may not be as effective.

– Dr Jessica Dean, Melbourne. (She’s founder of the Nookie Project, a director of beyondblue and doctor at Monash Health in Melbourne.)


THE TENACITY OF HOPE

An interview with AFLW star Moana Hope.

By Grace Jennings-Edquist

Image: Instagram/@MoanaHope with artwork by Nina Abrahams

Moana Hope wakes up at 3am every morning.

The AFL Women’s star crams in three hours of work for her day job as a traffic operations manager before setting out on an hour-long jog.

Then it’s time to tend to her little sister Livinia, who has a congenital neurological disorder known as Möbius syndrome, and lives with her.

“I get her up, put her in the shower, get her dressed, feed her, prep her for school and then take her to a program she attends at about nine,” Hope tells me one sunny afternoon in Melbourne, where I snatch 20 minutes of her time to ask about life as a marquee forward.

As it turns out, her position with the Collingwood Magpies is just one of the strings to Hope’s bow. The 29-year-old trains with the club each night from 6pm until 9pm – but only before cramming in another couple of hours of work, and after preparing dinner for 22-year-old ‘Vinnia’.

“I get to bed at 11pm. The other night I was up at about 1am, so it sort of depends on my workload,” Hope says. “I do get tired every now and then.”

The footballer, known to her teammates as ‘Mo’, has become almost a household name since AFLW’s first season kicked off last month.

And while her team lost their first three games, they look to be finishing the season strongly, convincingly winning last weekend’s game against Greater Western Sydney.

Throughout the season, Hope’s  star has only continued to rise. She now gets recognised “everywhere I go” she tells me.

“It’s lovely; I took my mum to one of her doctor’s appointment and even the doctors and nurses and people in the waiting room, they knew me.”

But it’s clear she hasn’t let the attention go to her head. Hope, who hails from Broadmeadows and has 14 siblings, is matter-of-fact about the curveballs life has thrown at her.

She lost her father to cancer when she was 13, and missed years of school to care for him. “I didn’t attend as much of school between year 7 and year 10,” she explains. “I’m not ashamed of that because those are memories I can never get back.”

She also briefly quit football in about 2013, when she was began partying late and hard, and turning up to practice hungover. (“I don’t really drink any more,” she tells me.)

It’s difficult to comprehend how one person can do so much. But Hope tells me her formula is simple: She genuinely enjoys the many activities she packs into her schedule.

“I love my job and It allows me to work around this crazy life I’m living,” she says, adding that it helps that she adores football, too (as a child, she slept holding a ball.)

“It’s one of my favourite things,” she says.

Hope is also motivated by her role model status — my term, not hers — among young girls.

“All I care about is the girls right now that are 10, nine, and lower,” she says. “That they get to fall in love with the game like we have, and the game keeps on evolving and getting bigger so those girls coming through, they can build their dream.”


BOOKED OUT

Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator for iconic Melbourne bookstore Readings, prescribes us some good reads.

Q: My brain is full of Ashanti lyrics and memes I need to DM to my best friend while my boss isn’t looking. But what can I read to get my brain back into gear? (If it makes me sound really bloody clever at a dinner party, that would be an added bonus.)

A: A fascinating non-fiction read might be your best bet here – the kind filled with facts that you can pull out at the dinner table when the conversation lulls! Last year I adored Emily Voigt’s The Dragon Behind the Glass, an investigation into the strange and dangerous world of the Asian arowana or ‘dragon fish’. For weeks after reading it, I couldn’t stop sharing anecdotes from the book with friends.

You might also be interested in some recent non-fiction releases that will deepen your knowledge about current world news and politics. J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy is an analysis of white working-class Americans. Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu argues for a new understanding of pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. Angela Pippos’s Breaking the Mouldtackle sexism in sport, and touches on the amazing new women AFL league. Rebecca Huntley’s Still Lucky shares a cross-section of what Australian people are really thinking. Madeline Gleeson’s Offshore is an uncompromising overview of what actually happens in Australia’s offshore detention centres.


FRANCES CANNON

Our Q + A with the 24-year-old Melbourne artist.

Image: Frances Cannon via Instagram/@Frances_Cannon

Artist, feminist, and founding member of the Self Love Club (Rule #1: You must always show yourself respect, love, forgiveness, and understanding), Frances Cannon, draws women as she sees them — imperfect, real, beautiful.

Q: What’s the inspiration behind your wonderfully body positive work?

A. It’s for me and other people I know, who all deserve self love and fat positivity, but sometimes forget and need little reminders.

Q: What are you proudest of in your work, whether a particular drawing, or an overall impact or theme?

A. Everyone’s favourite drawing is:

I’m proud of how much of an impact this drawing has had.

Q: How did you know how to price your work? Have you ever struggled with knowing how to value yourself as an artist, and ask for what you’re worth?

A. Pricing is always hard. I think every artist/creative I know has trouble with it. You just have to trust what your gut tells you what the piece is worth. You (the artist) knows best.

Q: Any advice for aspiring artists in their early 20s?

A. WORK HARD!!! Apply for everything that interests you, don’t let a ‘no’ slow you down and keep applying. Make heaps of stuff and keep practicing your craft.

Q: The best part about being a woman is:

A. Loving and supporting ALL women.

Q: Other feminist artists worth checking out are:

A: Tuesday Bassen, Phoebe Wahl, Gemma Flack (and many more.)

Follow Frances on Instagram, and buy her work here.

Artwork: Frances Cannon via Instagram/@Frances_Cannon


WE’RE ACROSS THE INTERNET, SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE

Links you might’ve missed:

  • Vulture examines the enduring legacy of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in honour of the show’s 20-year anniversary. Ugh this show was so good. Buffy4ever. #TeamSpike

  • The trailer for the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale was released on International Women’s Day, and it’s not eerily realistic or anxiety-producing or anything like that.

  • Aussie feminist Anne Summers nailed her Women’s Manifesto, a five-year action plan for the women’s movement, a to the door of the Australian Education Union on the eve of International Women’s Day. Coincidentally, that is also how I submitted all my university assignments.

  • Ever been overseas and realised you need a gyno appt/emergency contraception/STD test ASAP but have no idea where to find a doctor who is women friendly & legit? Well, Gynopedia is here to change all that. It’s like Wikipedia, for your vagina!

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