03 Sep New book – “How We Met”

My big, delightful project right now is writing my second book – a collection of “How We Met” stories. Those lovely stories couples love to tell (and we all love to hear) about how they got together. If you’ve been together a decade or more (bedded-in, as it were) and have a romantic or funny or bizarre or surprising or delightful answer to the question, “So how did you two get together?” email me via my “Contact” page.

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03 Sep On The Rag – monthly podcast

One of the most exciting and satisfying things I’ve been working on this year is a podcast for the Spinoff (a terrific news and social commentary website) called “On The Rag”. Hosted by Alex Casey, and with Leonie Hayden (Mana magazine) we chew over what the month has been like for women in NZ and the world. Expect hilarity, anger and Prosecco. Here’s a link to the golden turd of a month that August was. http://thespinoff.co.nz/media/31-08-2016/podcast-on-the-rag-whopper-august-edition-dissects-a-truly-awful-month-for-women/

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14 Apr Chatting with “Nathan”

I’ve been writing a weekly newspaper column since 2008 and sometimes (not terribly often, to be fair) I’ll get a terse email from someone not best pleased with something I’ve written. That happened this weekend, just a few hours after my column was published (alongside Jeremy Elwood’s) in Your Weekend, and on the stuff.co.nz website.

It was a response to this piece published earlier (we have a long lead time at Your Weekend) in the Herald and various other places, sourced from news.com.au:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=11609898

 

The opinion pieces we wrote are both here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/family-life/78716604/jeremy-elwood–michele-acourt-whats-mumshaming-all-about

 

The email from “Nathan” came just to me, from a @fastmail.fm address. It was the usual kind of thing – this is it here. (Nathan puts quotes from my opinion piece in bold, and then adds his own.)

 

[From Nathan, Saturday 9 April 2016 at 11:33]

subject:            re parent shaming article


Having a child over 33? I’d rather have cancer.”

Think you failed to read a joke.

 

And then there’s the third option – plan “all you

want but s**t happens”. Hands up anyone who has

never had a pregnancy that didn’t involve some

element of surprise? There is no right time to have

children. They turn up (not entirely without

invitation) and you do your darnedest to make it the

right time.

BULLSHIT – get 6month injection, get IUD, AND use

condoms! The shit that happens is you being drunk

failing to use condoms, then not taking an after

morning pill.

 

We need to stop telling women the struggle to

balance a career and a family is their fault, down to

their bad (or lack of) planning. It’s not something

women are doing wrong, it’s something our labour

market isn’t doing right.

You need to stop spouting the feminazi lies that “women

can have everything”. Just choose one or two things.

There is not much time for more, protect your sanity

(females are already close to the edge).

 

Fifty years ago, most of the people who worked were

men. Now half of the people who work are women.

And most of them have babies.

Where are your statistics? In 1966 many women

worked, perhaps you are thinking of 100 years ago. I

doubt 50% of women are working, and a great

proportion of them only work part time. Also I think

your figures on birth rates might be a bit off.

 

It’s about paid parental leave, flexible working

hours, affordable childcare, and pay equity. This

isn’t about women getting it wrong, it’s about us all

catching up with how the world actually works, and

adjusting the labour market to fit that.

 

One parent should remain the sole child carer –

fobbing them off to childcarers(strangers), so

people can afford a large screen tv or overpriced

house is not logical, don’t mess with the way things

have worked for thousands of years.

Cheers
Nathan

 

I’m on a six-week tour with my comedy show, and I was in Wanaka to perform on Saturday. That same day, I was also speaking at Te Whare Pora, a women’s conference, in the afternoon alongside Louise Nicholas and Dame Margaret Sparrow. I read a bit of Nathan’s email out at our panel discussion on gender equality. As I did that, it made me realise how neatly Nathan’s email represented the way some men respond to women who express opinions. Almost like it was written by a bot – kind of perfectly awful. I don’t always write back, but this time I thought I would. So the next day, before my show in Cromwell, I sent this:

 

[From Michele, Sunday 10 April 2016 at 13:36]
subject:            Re: re parent shaming article (3 days ago)

Hi Nathan
This is adorable! Thank you so much for sending this. Satire is such a delicate craft – too heavy-handed and it is overblown; too subtle and people can misconstrue it. But I think you’ve nailed it.
I love the way you’ve started out by accusing someone of missing a joke, and therefore lacking a sense of humour. You have perfectly encapsulated one of the standard approaches for dismissing a woman who has an opinion, but I think it is doubly powerful when you say it to a woman who also makes her living as a comedian. Brilliant.

And then that beautifully reductionist description of contraception, completely ignoring any of the obvious nuances involved in how life actually works. I also like it that you’ve stopped short of mentioning abortion – one of the options that feminists would like access to by choice, as opposed to how the current law stands. That was a very clever move – to make it about women having the wrong kind of sex, rather than women having all the choices.

I also adore it that you’ve managed to fit the phrase “feminazi lies” into this – however much a cliche it is, it would have been wrong to miss it out. And the use of “females” as a noun rather than an adjective shows your keen ear for the typically misogynist voice, particularly when attached so deftly to a suggestion that all women live on the verge of insanity. Hilarious!

You then go straight on to do some of the best “mansplaining” I have ever seen. The paragraph where you dismiss my statistics and simply replace them with your own without sourcing them is classic mansplaining. Whenever anyone asks me to define that term, I will show them this. Beautiful.

I thought at first you might have jumped the shark with the final paragraph – Neanderthal thinking about pre-determined biology juxtaposed with modern capitalist greed – but I think you saved it by topping it off with the “don’t mess with things that have worked for thousands of years”. That really was your coup de gras given how obvious it is that women haven’t been free to take an equal place in the world for exactly this long.

When I read this piece of yours out on stage yesterday in Wanaka (I’m on a national comedy tour right now) the audience howled with laughter. I just used excerpts, but I am thinking about including the whole thing from here on if you would be happy with that.

And look, if you can be bothered writing any more bits like it, I’d be happy to look at them. Either way, I will definitely be keeping this one in my show.

Again, many thanks for your great work. People too often say we’re not great at satire in NZ, but I think you have a real gift for writing, and an astute ear for the misogynist voice.

Kind regards,
Michele

 

On Monday I headed to Roxburgh, and received this from Nathan.

 

[From Nathan, Monday 11 April 2016 at 12:18]
subject:            Re: re parent shaming article

Greetings Michele. I read your reply email with great delight. Here is my response to some of your points.

 

I’m not being satirical at all.

 

I love the way you’ve started out by accusing someone of missing a joke, and therefore lacking a sense of humour. You have perfectly encapsulated one of the standard approaches for dismissing a woman who has an opinion, but I think it is doubly powerful when you say it to a woman who also makes her living as a comedian.

Just thought you missed a joke, there are many types of humour though, it can be easy to miss dark/hardcase jokes.

You may be taking things too seriously, it is concerning and something that you should definitely ask your friends/family about. Or look at your life balance.

Nothing to do with being a female – but obviously you think EVERYTHING is related to sexual orientation. I do hope you have not been drawn down the path of Misandry.

 

And then that beautifully reductionist description of contraception, completely ignoring any of the obvious nuances involved in how life actually works. I also like it that you’ve stopped short of mentioning abortion – one of the options that feminists would like access to by choice, as opposed to how the current law stands. That was a very clever move – to make it about women having the wrong kind of sex, rather than women having all the choices.

As I understand it abortion is fairly available in this country, and some others. However that is an extreme option that is not always a choice for many for ethical & health risks.

The reason I mentioned risky sex was to illustrate the reason for “unexpected” pregnancy. Men also have risky sex (not knowing if their partner is reliable with contraception/honest) and also foregoing use of condoms, along with the drunkeness/drugs etc.

 

I also adore it that you’ve managed to fit the phrase “feminazi lies” into this – however much a cliche it is, it would have been wrong to miss it out. And the use of “females” as a noun rather than an adjective shows your keen ear for the typically misogynist voice, particularly when attached so deftly to a suggestion that all women live on the verge of insanity. Hilarious!

Nope not Misogynist, I’m an Egalitarian, I fight for equal rights between the sexes. But perhaps I should have said many women are close to the edge rather than most, my mistake (I can get you examples), many men are also close to the edge too.

If female docters were being underpaid, I guarantee you there would be protests in the streets (by both sexes). This is not the case. Feminazi’s are a completely different breed to the former Feminists of the 1900’s (I’m classing Sufferagettes as early feminists). They seek to claim all sorts of continuing discrimination and persecution against females.

Here is a link to a news story about Sexist Airconditioning in the Office. To illustrate how out of whack these modern feminist mindsets are (aka feminazi’s/Misandry).

 

You then go straight on to do some of the best “mansplaining” I have ever seen. The paragraph where you dismiss my statistics and simply replace them with your own without sourcing them is classic mansplaining. Whenever anyone asks me to define that term, I will show them this. Beautiful.

Not sure what mansplaining is, sounds very Misandronist?
I’m prepared to search for statistics are you?

 

I thought at first you might have jumped the shark with the final paragraph – Neanderthal thinking about pre-determined biology juxtaposed with modern capitalist greed – but I think you saved it by topping it off with the “don’t mess with things that have worked for thousands of years”. That really was your coup de gras given how obvious it is that women haven’t been free to take an equal place in the world for exactly this long.

Women have had more power than it is perceived. Otherwise Boudica would have never existed.

I’m in no way implying that things have been perfect or that men have not been the dominant sex (to the detriment of females) however much of the blame is mistakenly appropriated to men rather than correctly attributed to sociopathy. If I were to say that all women were whores, or feminazi’s that would be the same. There are plenty of smart women that don’t seek men’s wealth and egalitarian women.

 

When I read this piece of yours out on stage yesterday in Wanaka (I’m on a national comedy tour right now) the audience howled with laughter. I just used excerpts, but I am thinking about including the whole thing from here on if you would be happy with that.

Yes you are welcome to use it in your show, provided my statements have been clarified with this email, you do not identify me personally. And so long as you are not promoting feminazi (or Misandry) ideals.

I hope you continue to derive light hearted humour from my correspondence. And not have a darkened mindset.

Actually I have some real comedy if you are interested?

Thank you
Nathan

  1. one more note about women working; I consider women that do household management now and in the past, to be working. In the past they worked even hard due to different roles and lack of technology.

 

[From Nathan, Monday 11 April 2016 at 12:20]
subject:            Re: re parent shaming article

Sorry, here is that link I missed from my reply email, re the sexist air conditioning:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/03/15/women-shiver-at-work-in-sexist-air-conditioning/

Cheers
Nathan

 

So I wrote back…

[From Michele, Monday 11 April 2016 at 14:30]

Hi Nathan
Again, this is superb. What a terrific approach – to insist that your satire isn’t satire!

There are a few little changes I would make, however – occasionally you’ve employed what I think might be the wrong terms: “sexual orientation” for example, when I think you mean “gender”; “misandronist” when I think you mean “misandrist” and “sufferagettes” when I’m guessing you either mean “suffragettes” or “suffragists” – but these are small things that a decent subedit can fix.

But again, nice subtle work in suggesting there might be something not quite right about my mental health. This is known as “gaslighting” and if you want to develop your skills in that area (not that you need to!) you will find some great pointers online.

There are some factual errors in this most recent piece – you could probably get away with it with some audiences – but one of things about the best satire is that it has to be based on fact. So I’d suggest taking a look at NZ abortion laws which haven’t been updated since 1977, and are actually very narrow, and nowhere near abortion by choice. You will note that rape, for example, is not grounds for abortion. In fact, the most commonly used ground is that continuing the pregnancy will have a negative impact on the mental health of the woman – which I think could feed nicely into your satirical framework that most/many women are a bit mad.

But these are details. The thing that tickles me the most about this piece is the bit that says you don’t know what “mansplaining” is while actually (once again) doing some of the finest mansplaining. This is comedy gold! It’s like Jean Batten saying she doesn’t know what it feels like to fly, or Madame Curie saying she doesn’t understand science. You are all experts in your field.

There’s the bit where you explain part of the history of feminism to me (I have researched and written a book about it published by Harper Collins in 2015, and it is the core of my current show); and another bit where you throw out the challenge to search for statistics on women in paid employment and birth rates (again, they are in my book and in various other pieces of my published writing); and then as a footnote explain to me that not all the work women do is paid work (again, something I talk and write about often, and which is self-evident, particularly to every woman in the world).

The jewel in the crown was sending me the link to the Telegraph article on “sexist” air conditioning which (no coincidence I’m guessing!) I had discussed on Radio NZ National last year in my regular comedy spot with Te Radar and Kathryn Ryan. Well done, you! Full marks for doing the research into my previous work, and finding just the right things to re-explain to me in slightly inaccurate ways – you’ve hit several nails on several heads!

Thanks so much for your permission to use all this in my show – I am really pleased. I have been referring to you simply as “Nathan” – I had assumed it was a nom de plume because it so perfectly fits the image you have created – an obviously male name, but not in a wildly macho way. I hope you don’t mind but I have been using a silly voice when I read your bits out – the kind of adenoidal voice that makes “Nathan” sound a bit like a slurred grunt. Are you ok with that?

Best,
Michele

 

Tuesday was Alexandra, and there was nothing from Nathan. Then just before the Wednesday show in Ranfurly, this arrived:

 

[From Nathan, Wednesday 13 April 2016 at 15:30]

Thanks for participating in our interview, I believe we have enough material for our article on Militant Feminists.

Regards
WhaleOil

 

To which I replied:

[From Michele, Wednesday 13 April 2016 at 17:53]

I’m sure it will be up to your usual journalistic standard. You guys are terrific at that.
Best,
M

 

Which is, I guess, entirely possible – that “Nathan” writes for the WhaleOil blog, and they’re planning an in depth feature on the 4th Wave of feminism, though I’m guessing writing for them might really just be something he aspires to. And I can’t help feeling that he writes “Militant Feminist” as though that is a bad thing. Just a few hours before, I’d posted this to my Facebook page: http://standardissuemagazine.com/in-the-news/video-why-we-are-militant/

 

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16 Feb Are Women Funny (and other stupid questions)

One night back in March 2014, I sat up late with a bottle of wine and wrote a piece about being asked (over and over again) if women were funny. I put it up on my website. It was picked up by http://ruminator.co.nz/ the next day, and when the people at the Guardian in the UK read it, they asked if they could print it, too. Which was pretty cool. Then earlier this month (almost two years later) The Washington Post ran a story about women in comedy, and quoted my old Guardian piece. So that was fairly awesome.

 

Here’s the original piece as it was published in the the Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/04/are-women-funny-you-already-know-the-answer

 

And here’s the piece from the Washington Post:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2016/02/08/an-incomplete-review-of-female-comics-getting-asked-if-women-can-be-funny/

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15 Feb NZ Comedy Guild – Funniest Blog/Column Award 2015

In December, Michele was presented with the “Funniest Column Award” by her peers in the NZ Comedy Guild. She made a terrible speech (she was mostly focused on presenting a couple of awards later in the evening, and was generally a bit overwhelmed) so here is what she wishes she had said on the night:

 

“I’ve been writing a weekly newspaper column since 2008 – first for Your Weekend magazine then, from 2010, for the Press. It has been a real gift – my first editor, Mark Wilson, gave me a very open brief. He said it didn’t have to be funny (which is a liberating thing for a comedian) but it did have to be about something people will talk about over morning tea at work. And it wasn’t allowed to be about my cat. I broke that rule once when I wrote about assisted dying, and related it to the kind and compassionate way we had been able to deal with the end of our cat’s life, but I think that was the only time. Sometimes it has been about some social nonsense that makes me angry, or sad, or bewilders me. Sometimes it has been my observations about the places I’ve travelled to in NZ or somewhere else in the world. Sometimes is has been some kind of nostalgia or whimsy. Always, it is fun, like taking your opinions for a short run. I am always hugely happy when I hear from people that it connected with  them, or resonated, or gave them a voice. So thank you so much for recognising that tonight. I am very grateful, and a tiny bit proud.”

 

20151220_123054389_iOS

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09 Nov Reilly Comedy Award 2015

On 11 October, Michele was presented with the Reilly Comedy Award at the Variety Artists Club of NZ annual dinner. These are this country’s definitive variety entertainment awards. The comedy award is named after legendary New Zealand performers Sylvia and Jack Rielly, and it is presented to a performer who has achieved excellence in the field of comedy. It was a bloody lovely night.

 

Reilly Comedy Award 2015

 

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18 May Touring in 2016!

My book, “Stuff I Forgot To Tell My Daughter” was launched in April 2015. I am still touring around the country talking about it, and also performing the solo comedy show which the book was based on. The big news is that I will be touring the show (and taking the book with me) to more than 30 small towns over March and April 2016, mostly with “Arts On Tour”. So if you live outside the big cities, it is very likely that I will be coming to visit. This includes you, Stewart Island!

Full details are on the Dates page, but here’s a quick list of the places I will be touring to in the first months of 2016:

Howick, Whanganui, Tauranga, Paeroa, Otamatea, Whangarei, Kaitaia, Putaruru, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Hawera, Caterton, Upper Hutt, Picton, Akaroa, Lincoln, Hanmer Springs, Barrytown, Hokitika, Wanaka, Tarras, Roxburgh, Alexandra, Ranfurly, Timaru, Fairlie, Geraldine, Balcairn, Christchurch, Oamaru, Stewart Island, Te Anau, Invercargill, and Queenstown.

 

Michelebooksigning

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13 Apr There’s another book coming…

Michele has just begun work on her second book which will be a collection of stories with the working title, “How We Met” – those lovely stories couples love to tell (and we all love to hear) about how they got together. It will be published by Harper Collins in early 2017. Michele is keen to hear from couples who have been together for 15 years or more (kind of arbitrary, but it’s a start) about their romantic / funny / bizarre / suprising / delightful answer to, “So how did you two meet?”. You can email her at: michele@micheleacourt.com

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