Sunday 4 November 2018

Missed opportunity

Closed due to a lack of water

It has been a hard year in Australia for farmers, and western Queensland has been particularly touched. To me, a city girl, one rainfall this year, and that back in March, seems bewildering, yet this was the reality for some. Water restrictions in past years have reduced the length of my showers and elongated our evening routine as my husband and I set about transferring our children's bathwater, one bucket at a time, onto our garden. In those years, the lawn and the car both got browner and talk turned to re-designing gardens with drought-resistant plants. These inconveniences are almost embarrassing to divulge when compared to the struggle of trying to keep stock alive and crops growing without water.

It seems, though, that as well as a good bit of luck, the thing that gets most farmers through these difficult times is a positive attitude and a knowledge that, even separated by hundreds of kilometres as they often are, they are part of a strong community.

I was delighted, therefore, to learn of a project that recounted- no- more than that, celebrated the lives of some of these farmers. And, I was even more delighted to learn that the book, as that was what the project became, highlighted the strength, determination and courage of women farmers.

Unfortunately, this was short-lived when I saw the title of the publication. Cattlemen, it could be argued, refers to both women and men, like actor covers actors and actresses of yore. But, 'Cattlemen in Pearls' - that, to me is just wrong. It reduces, again, the exploits of women to something superficial. I am an admirer of Australia's former Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and ex-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop. In a recent speech, she said what this title makes me feel "if you're trying to be a man, it's a waste of a woman". The book, a brilliant opportunity to inspire and educate, leads off, instead, by representing competent Australian women as dressed-up men.

Low levels in the Annecy Lake
The Annecy Lake suffered in the very hot last summer and is at its lowest level for 70 years. The edge of the lake near Annecy looks like a sandy beach, with boats and pedalos for hire lying on their sides, families strolling in spots where normally they would be swimming and a drop in the water level of between 60 and 70 cm in places.

How to remain optimistic when things don't seem to be normal is a challenge. Sometimes, I agree, getting dressed up and going out is a good antidote to worrying. But, I can assure you, if I owned any, that it would not be by donning my pearls that I would be expressing my womanhood.

In good times at the Annecy Lake

Our French story, "But you are in France, Madame' available here


  1. I am 100% with you on the constant denigrating of women by making the default of any position male and making women some cutesy, little version of the "real" male version.
    As for droughts, we were in one in the south of France, and then, three weeks ago, got way too much rain--six months' worth, in one night, resulting in flash floods and 15 deaths. During the dry spell, our rain-catchment tank ran dry and I resorted to tactics I had used when living in Africa without running water--washing vegetables in a large bowl, to make it easier to take the water out for the tomato plants and not just let it go down the drain. Sadly, our homes are not designed to use gray water, and often building codes make it illegal. Meanwhile, I am working to dig out our small lawn and replace it with native, drought-hardy plants.

    1. We can, we must, look for what more we can do in both domains. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Hear, hear!
    Agree with you completely, Catherine. But your reference to this insult to the cattlewomen as a "missed opportunity" is too kind in my opinion. That the publisher could be so tone deaf as to choose a title that reeks of mid-20th century condescension and "cutesyness" indicates to me that there are no women employed at high levels there, or that they are effectively silenced or coopted into this mindset. Truly disappointing, as it sounds like material worth reading, but the title will put off many women.

  3. It was disappointing. I want to support other women but not by buying into or supporting the idea that we can only be strong/good/effective if we emulate men.