Leisure and pleasure: the only sustainable solution to stress

The festive season is almost upon us but many of us will find it surprisingly difficult to switch off and have a real break. E-mails, text messages, social media and all the other digital ways we are linked in, make it hard to step back and focus on what really matters – our health. Continue reading

Reflections from AAG 2015 on the notion of slow scholarship

“So the issue,” writes Martell, “is not speed, but control over speed. … In effect what slow is reintroducing is being human and well-being.”

The above quote is one of the arguments presented in a forthcoming article in ACME: An International E-journal for Critical Geographies advocating a movement For Slow Scholarship. Written by Alison Mountz and colleagues, the article develops a feminist ethics of care that challenges the isolating effects and embodied work conditions inherent to the increasing demands placed on academics within the neoliberal university.

The collectively written article explores alternatives to the fast-paced, metric-oriented neoliberal university – an argument contextualised in: a) an examination of how “the ‘slow’ in slow scholarship is not just about time, but about structures of power and inequality”, and b) the premise that “Care work is work. It is not self-indulgent; it is radical and necessary.”

This argument defines my experience of this year’s Association of American Geographers Annual Conference in Chicago. Continue reading

Pregnancy, motherhood and firefighting

“When I decided to make this profession my career I cried because at that point in time [early 1980s] every woman who got pregnant or got married left the profession. Then I had to deal personally with accepting that I also was gay. That was a whole other crying moment because it’s like, okay, I chose a profession over what society says you’ve got to have—family.” Continue reading

Unmasking gender privileges: the flipside of inequity

At first thought, many men (and some women) express a belief that gender inequality is an issue of the past that has been overcome by a generational shift within the emergency services. Upon greater reflection this notion usually turns out to be more complex than initially proclaimed. Continue reading

Eyes wide shut: bushfire, gendered norms and everyday life

“Pop-psychology”—this is the term used to define the obsession in public discourse and media with labelling of gender differences as if these differences are biologically set-in-stone. Western society’s captivation by such dichotomy-based definitions has problematic outcomes when, for example, in leadership debates men and women are portrayed as being incapable of getting along because their ways of communicating are too different.

I was witness to this very scenario at a Community Engagement and Fire Awareness Conference hosted by the NSW Rural Fire Service for 400-odd staff and volunteers in 2011. Continue reading

Why gender matters in emergency management

Gender is a matter of social relations—i.e. social structures with enduring or widespread patterns, rather than an expression of dichotomous biology. Social characteristics, such as gender, cannot be understood in isolation of other social characteristics, such as class, education, disability, age, race and sexuality. As argued by Connell (2010, 6):

‘People construct themselves as masculine or feminine. We claim a place in the gender order – or respond to the place we have been given – by the way we conduct ourselves in everyday life.’

Why is this important in the context of emergency management? It matters for three key reasons. Continue reading

Illuminating wildfire vulnerability through environmental history

The following is a discussion of how environmental history recently has broadened my understanding of wildfire vulnerability. It is based on my reflections from the American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) conference in San Francisco, which together with the Association of American Geographers (AAG) conference in Tampa bracketed my recent trip to USA. The purpose of attending both conferences was to share key lessons on gendered dimensions of wildfire vulnerability and resilience as presented in my new book. Yet, the format of my input to each conference was distinctively different. Continue reading

Meeting my book critics at the AAG 2014

Writing my first book was an incredible experience. Empowering when words flowed. Exhilarating when thoughts came together coherently on paper. Frustrating when nothing seemed to make sense – in my head or on paper. Terrifying when writer’s block set in. Mind numbing when faced with the fourth, let alone the four-hundredth round of edits and proofs. Gratifying, exhausting, emotional – sometimes all at once depending on the moment. An experience beyond words really. It was therefore both exciting and terrifying to invite four academic colleagues to provide a public critique of my newly published book Gender and Wildfire: Landscapes of Uncertainty at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) Meeting – held this year in Tampa, Florida. The following is a summary of my author-meets-critics session.

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Known unknowns in New Orleans

“Come on, honey! I need to get laid”, echoes through the hallways of the old building, as I close the door wondering if ‘hotel’ is the right description for the establishment I have just checked in to in New Orleans. As it turns out, these are the parting words of the disappointed woman, as the hotel’s black bouncer escorts her off the premises. The sound of her stiletto heels taps down the street – unevenly.

Later that same afternoon, I once again have the indirect company of the bouncer. As I scribble notes in one corner of the shaded courtyard, he sits in another corner quietly reading aloud one word after another from an English dictionary. Within the first hours of my visit to New Orleans, I am witness to the racial, class and educational divides that Hurricane Katrina brought so brutally to the fore in 2005, as New Orleans first fought to stay alive and then faced the mammoth task of rebuilding the hurricane ravaged city. Continue reading