The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I've created this blog, because even though as a journalist I spend my days writing articles, columns etc, I can't always say exactly what I want to in the media, so this is where I can unleash whatever comes to mind, without censorship. I created the blog today after reading Penny Arcade's blog (www.pennyarcade.tv). Penny is a New-York-based performance artist who's been around forever - in fact, as her own site proclaims, she invented the artform! I'd heard of Penny from years ago, even before I moved to Sydney from my home in London in 2001, but hadn't seen her perform. Last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing her for SX, the weekly arts, news and entertainment magazine for the GLBTI community that I write for in Sydney, and Slit, Australia's glossy sex, politics, porn and culture dyke magazine.

Out of all the people I’ve interviewed who come under the ‘artist’ or ‘celebrity’ category, Penny was easily the most forthcoming and enthusiastic. I know people are wary of journalists, and with good reason – my own girlfriend has been the victim of press treachery on more than one occasion and I wouldn’t trust the majority of journalists as far as I could throw them either, even though I am one – but when I emailed Penny a bunch of questions, on subjects including feminism; the demise of the GLBTI community and ‘queer’ as it allowed itself to be marketed into a homogenised, bland brand empty of all style; the rise of consumerism and the ‘morass’ of celebrity culture, she fired back a series of no-holds-barred lengthy responses, plus more in an hour-long telephone interview, which I found both refreshing and exciting. See www.katrinafox.com/sampleswork.htm for the two interviews with Penny, and you’ll see what I mean. She not only gave me food for thought in terms of her views on various issues (especially the failure of feminism due to women betraying each other), but the very fact that she’s spent the past 30 or so years saying exactly what she thinks and not towing the party line or playing it safe in order to ‘get on’ and achieve ‘fame’ in the mainstream was probably the most inspiring aspect for me. It’s a rare quality these days – people really prepared to call things as they are, stand up for their beliefs and be passionate about them, whatever the consequences. Everything is so safe – politicians have used the ‘war on terror’ to terrorise their citizens and media into keeping quiet and ‘plodding along’, and those who make a stand and try to make a difference are branded ‘terrorists’ (see the story of the SHAC 7 at www.shac7.com).

As well as Penny, I’ve derived huge inspiration from my girlfriend, Tracie O’Keefe (www.tracieokeefe.com) who turned 50 last year. When she was younger, she experienced a huge amount of discrimination, being a transsexual woman, and as she’s gotten older, she no longer takes it, she’s become a fighter. If someone fucks with her, she comes right back at them, through the courts or whatever. She says it’s to do with maturity. It seemed like a theme was emerging for me this past year, since only a few months after interviewing Penny, I also got to interview Diamanda Galas (www.diamandagalas.com). I had only 15 minutes with her, which wasn’t nearly enough time to get into anything propertly, but even so, she talked about how, as you get older, you are less able to put up with ‘garbage’ – “you reach critical mass in your fucking 50s and you're like, over it” were her exact words (see www.katrinafox.com/diamandagalas.com to read the interview). Body Shop founder Anita Roddick momentarily inspired me by saying similar things, before selling out big time and selling the Body Shop, which prided itself on championing ethical consumerism and campaigning against animal testing, to L’Oreal one of the largest manufacturers who have spent years conducting vile, cruel tests on animals for their product ingredients. I recommend boycotting the Body Shop while it remains under the ownership of L’Oreal.

More recently I interviewed Camille Paglia for LOTL, Australia’s national lesbian magazine (www.lotl.com). Again, here was another full-on chick not afraid to call things as she saw them, no matter how unpopular it might make her with certain factions in society. Talking (and in Tracie’s case living) with all these fabulous women has had an effect on my sensibilities, as a person and as a writer. In among the ‘safe’ features I write for magazines has to be other pieces that come from my passion. I managed to do this two weeks ago in an article I wrote for SX, on a radical vegan agenda for the queer community (read it at www.katrinafox.com/radicalvegan.htm). I didn’t care whether I’d get hate mail or if people who previously liked me were offended - they wouldn’t really be liking ‘me’ anyway, just some surface perception of who they think or would like to think I am, and at the end of the day that’s a lie, and I’m sick of lies – from governments, people, corporations, media. Until now, I’ve been inspired by and admired the women mentioned above (and some men who I haven’t yet mentioned but will in later blog posts) but not brave enough to do as they do, talk the talk, walk the walk. Until today. The gloves are off, the mask is off and I’m about to find out if, as the cliché goes, the truth really will set me free.

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