Fury: Women Write About Sex, Power and Violence edited by Samantha Trenoweth

It’s too easy to read statistics on violence against women and do nothing. The stats are alarming, but they rarely instigate change. Giving a voice to what’s being called a ‘silent epidemic’ needs more than numbers. Fury: Women Write About Sex, Power and Violence, edited by Samantha Trenoweth, anthologises the sometimes controversial, always rational and very loud voices of twelve women writers. Together, their disparate opinions and styles form an immovable mountain of human experience. They are defiant in the face of decades of ingrained ideology, cultural taboo and cyclical behavioural oppression. They examine and name the roads to successful activism and call out helpless sympathy and wilful indignation. Theirs is a collective critique of the abuser: the individual, society at large, the media, policy and governance.

Beginning with a fictional story (that may or may not be based on true events) Trenoweth has ordered the anthology carefully and thoughtfully. In the first few pages of prose Australian culture and the associated attitude towards gender roles comes under attack. Though the story would do well to come with a trigger warning (as would each chapter that follows) it’s also a deliberately cautious toe dipped into the pond before some much harsher facts and more impacting stories are revealed.

Anne Summers takes us back to the tumultuous beginnings of the first feminist women’s refuge of the modern era, Elsie. Fahma Mohamed and Lisa Zimmerman take a stand against female genital mutilation and Clem Bastow despairs of ‘online activism’, asking for more than just a #hashtag response to misogyny. It’s a quick, easy read, though the seriousness of the issues is never taken lightly.

Each of the writers Trenoweth has assembled is courageous in her storytelling and never claims a universalised female experience. The strength of the book is undoubtedly its collective voice, calling for collective change.


Tara Kaye Judah works as a bookseller at Readings St Kilda.