8 Mar 2009, Comments (12)

International Women’s day: On being the Groke

Author: Helen

There wasn’t any buzz about IWD last week among friends, family or workmates. I didn’t even get an oversized email from the Dogs Homes Association inviting me to a chirpy womens’ cocktail hour with finger food and Kirstie Marshall or similar doing a motivational speech. Humph! so here I am, in the suburbs in my trackie dacks, writing a post about what it’s like to be a self-identifying feminist and blogger. First, let me introduce you to the Groke.

The Groke from Tove Jansson's Moomin series

The Groke is a character in Tove Jansson’s Moomin stories, a classic and wonderful series which is shamefully understocked in Australian bookshops. The Groke is a creature who, long ago, had a magic hat stolen from her by two mysterious characters called Thingummy and Bob, and as a result has become bitter and cynical – and not a little sinister. The Groke is so cold that she freezes the ground where she passes. The Groke is like a scary ghost who glides out from the bushes and causes a lull in the conversations while everyone wonders what is wrong.

I’m pretty much a coward in real life. I know that if I speak up as a self-identified feminist I’m the Groke, freezing the ground as I approach with the chilly, joy-killing narrative. Of course it’s not so much my feminism that would be doing that, but the perception built on whole shedloads of strawfeminists over the decades. No sense of humour! Purse-lipped! Hates men! (OMG that means she hates me!). That’s not to say I don’t, to use the Americanspeak, call people on their bullshit, if I think it’s likely to be listened to. But I very rarely – that is to say, never – have the larger conversation about feminism and what is it and why do we need it.

I wrote a while back about sitting around on a summer holiday with family-and-friends, having a catch-up with everybody on what everyone’s doing, and how I deliberated with myself whether I’d take the conversational risk of dropping in the fact that I felt excited and chuffed about being asked to help adjudicate the inaugural Femostroppo blog awards. How, when I did that, the conversation kind of … froze over. Then it got going again on another tangent. So it wasn’t completely frozen – just where the Groke had passed.

In January I started posting at a larger group blog. In my first post, I introduced myself, and included a warning that I would sometimes be the Groke. Since then, I’ve only posted one item with a specifically feminist theme. Even in the more lefty-leaning sections of the Ozblogosphere, one can feel the earth chill as one glides out from the shrubbery to say that feminism isn’t over, everything is not fixed already. I’m not so much talking about the hateful pile-ons and other threats directed at women bloggers, but the constant trickle of let’s-be-reasonable, you’re looking to be offended, get a sense of humour, Dear God What about the Men? and all the other items on the antifeminist bingo square.

So, I admit, I need to show more courage. And I should also mention that being the Groke is the equivalent of being beaten over the head with a wet sock, compared to what feminist women in other countries put up with.

Update: IWD around the world.
Crossposted at Hoyden About Town

Comments (12)

  • Deborah says:

    Hmmm…. are you going to post this at that big leftie blog too? I’ve been very wimpy about posting anything feminist there (yet), indeed on posting there much at all, because it doesn’t really seem to be the place to discuss the issues that are close to my heart, and because of the Groke phenomenon. I promise to participate in the comments thread if you do. Especially tomorrow (public holiday here in SA).

  • Alison says:

    You’re doing better than me.
    My blogging has slipped to nothing, I assume because I’m too tired or shy to think my thoughts are worth blogging (because, you know, the internet has standards).
    These days my feminism exists in subscribing to you, Hoyden, Crimitsm, and BotCIB; chatting with my partner about the issues; and trying to uphold gender equality in my classroom and staff (which is tricky since I’m still learning to check it in myself).

  • Caroline says:

    More please.

  • hannah's dad says:

    More Grokes needed everywhere, particularly at LP.

  • Helen says:

    chatting with my partner about the issues; and trying to uphold gender equality in my classroom and staff (which is tricky since I’m still learning to check it in myself).

    Well that’s not nothing Alison!

    And thank you Caroline, Deb and Hannah’s Dad.

    (No I don’t think I’ll post it at the big leftie blog, because I’ve x-posted it at HoT – and how much CIB does the world need, really?!)

  • Nabakov the Hemulen says:

    Well youse girlies are asking for it with all yer talk of wanting to be treated like one of the boys without trying to behave like one of the boys. If yer were really serious, you’d be throwing yourself underneath horses at the Melbourne Cup to make your point.

    *puts down cigar, brandy and handsomely-bound book of venery*

    To continue the Moomintroll metaphor (My favourites were Moominsummer Madness with the floating theatre ( I so wanted to put on a show there) and Comet in Moominland), the kind of online dickheads you ladies have to deal with whenever the whole feminism thing comes up are pretty much like hattifattners – pale finger wriggling woo-hooers who spring up whenever lightening strikes, barely connected to reality and who on close inspection are basically powerless and fade away when subjected to sunlight.

  • Nabakov the Hemulen says:

    Thinking about it, I suggest you label all anti-“feminism” (Their quote marks, not mine) trolls as hattifattners. At the very least it will confuse the shit out of them and if they google it, they’ll find they’re being basically portrayed as pale dicks without balls and too many fingers.


  • Helen says:

    Nabs, that is a great idea. Maybe I’ll register a “Hattifattener” gravatar – although I have to make it clear somehow that has nothing to do with excellent commenters Hattie and Tinfoil Hattie. (I also have a relative Hattie.) Like the troll gravatar I’ve seen on other blogs.

  • nasking says:

    Remember Helen, i said you would see the purpose/motivation one day. Or such.

    it’s time for you to join in…if YOU wish:


    Always RESPECTED you. And…

    time…it’s a funny thing


  • Casey says:

    Hi Helen, I just wanted to drop in and say how much I’ve enjoyed your posts at LP since you’ve come on board. Please do more on feminist issues. The historically vituperative responses at LP suggest that this great big blog is where feminist ideas/views/theory need to be most vociferously enunciated and thoughtfully explored. I also think you have a great sense of humour too! and you never froze any ground i was on!

  • Mark says:

    Ah, but not always, and not everywhere the Groke; you will also be like Little My, and the host of other strong female characters in the Moomin series!

    But particularly Little My.

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