I’m writing this on International Women’s Day on the back of being asked to pen an article for the Australian press on why it’s important for strong women to be writing about strong women in fiction. So I thought I’d share the article here, but without all the ads. I’ll pop the link in too just so you know it’s legit 🙂 https://bit.ly/2TPVLJp
Fiona Lowe’s new book looks at the reasons why Australia needs strong women
“When I finished high school, the contraceptive pill had been around for twenty years and Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch had been out for a decade.
But the messages about careers from my private girls’ school were mixed. I’d been placed in the science stream. I was expected to go to university. But when I announced I wanted to be a park ranger, I was given a “dose of common sense.”
At an interview in the late 80s, I was asked how I could possibly manage working and studying full-time as a student midwife when I had a husband. Apparently, he’d starve without me.
The generation of women following me received a very different message: you can have it all — a high-flying career and a family. That message is as flawed as all the others preceding it.
“To be a captain of Australian business you are 40 per cent more likely to be named Peter or John than to be female,” leading workplace expert Conrad Liveris said in a report that went viral in 2017.
Women continue to do a larger percentage of domestic chores irrespective of whether they work in paid employment, as Annabel Crabb demonstrated in her book The Wife Drought. These two issues, along with many more, are why I write about strong women living ordinary lives and facing extraordinary challenges.
I receive letters from readers sharing their own life adventures, many similar to my characters. This sort of connection with fiction normalises experiences and helps women know they’re not alone. Women do most of the emotional heavy lifting and, no matter the generation, they face unrealistic societal expectations. As a result, they are inherently hard on themselves for perceived failures.
The four women in Just an Ordinary Family are no exception.
By and large, women are the emotional cornerstones of their family and community. We work outside the home, but a certain portion of our brain is always connected to the domestic sphere — the mental load. Who is picking up the kids? Delivering food to sick parents? Buying the gift for the fifth birthday party? Or as GP Libby Hunter in Just An Ordinary Familydiscovers at breakfast as she’s racing out the door to work, it’s yellow day at school and her daughter doesn’t own a single piece of yellow clothing.
Life’s a constant juggle and balls get dropped. Instead of blaming themselves, I want women to fight back against learned behaviours and look at the division of labour in their family. I sew these seeds in fiction. We don’t need to do everything even if we feel we should. I’d love it if someone reading Just An Ordinary Family took away something from Libby and Nick’s teamwork in parenting and division of household tasks.
With Australia’s current childcare arrangements, more women than men are questioning the impact of their career choices on their children, although I also sense a shift in younger fathers. Is this why many women are stepping back from the less-than-family friendly corporate world? Jess, the career single mother in Just An Ordinary Family faces this dilemma. She has chosen to relocate and start her own business so she can to work around her young son, however this decision too comes with its own set of challenges.
And what of women who are childless by choice or circumstance?
Alice Hunter was working for her partner’s company when the relationship broke down. She found herself out of a job and a home. At thirty-four, a time when women are expected to have their life under control, society views this as failure — no children, no career, no money. This impacts on self-esteem and mental health. A single, childless man is not scrutinised with quite as much judgment.
Older women are also challenged by societal expectations. Post-menopausal women become invisible. Try getting served in a technology store!
When a woman has defined herself by her career and her mothering, the loss of both can leave her floundering. Karen Hunter doesn’t particularly want to retire, but at sixty-five she is feeling that pressure. She enjoys being a grandmother but she’s raised her daughters so surely there’s more to life?
In Just an Ordinary Family, I’ve explored four women trying to live their best life against a backdrop of expectations, loss, betrayal, heartache and regret. Sure, they make mistakes — we all do that. It’s what we do with those mistakes that counts. This is why portraying strong women in fiction battling real moral and ethical dilemmas matters.”
So what are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!
Meanwhile, for a bit more information about Just An Ordinary Family, my meaty saga about family, friendship and the complexities of modern relationships, head on over to my website and read the blurb, an excerpt and some reviews. For photos of the setting, check out Pinterest.
Liane Moriarty meets Jodi Picoult in this tensely negotiated story of family ties, betrayal and sacrifice.
Every family has its secrets…
Alice Hunter is smarting from the raw deal life has thrown her way: suddenly single, jobless and forced to move home to her parents’ tiny seaside town. And now she faces an uncomfortable truth. She wants her twin sister Libby’s enviable life.
Libby’s closest friend Jess Dekic has been around the Hunter family for so long she might as well be blood. She’s always considered herself a sister closer to Libby than Alice ever could be…
Libby Hunter has all of life’s boxes ticked: prominent small-town doctor, gorgeous husband and two young daughters. But when she is betrayed by those she loves most, it reveals how tenuous her world is…
For Karen Hunter, her children are a double-edged sword of pain and pride. She’s always tried to guide her girls through life’s pitfalls, but how do you protect your children when they’re adults?
As the family implodes, the fallout for these four women will be inescapable…
Bestselling Australian author Fiona Lowe wields a deft hand, creating utterly addictive storytelling that will have you questioning your own perceptions of what family is.