Books and voices that challenge

Melinda Tankard Reist

Melinda Tankard Reist

Questions relating to faith, purpose and mission were recurring themes at the annual Australian Book of the Year awards held in Melbourne last month.

Forged with Flames, a true story of courage and survival (Wild Dingo Press 2012)  by Ann Fogarty and Anne Crawford was awarded the 2013 Australian Christian Book of the Year.

This biographical account tells the deeply personal story of Ann Fogarty, who received burns to 85 per cent of her body when the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires swept through Upper Beaconsfield in Victoria.

The judges said that the question, ‘Where is God when it hurts?’, has rarely been answered more eloquently than by these two authors as they recount Ann’s ordeal by fire.

Second prize was awarded to Stephen Judd, Anne Robinson and Felicity Errington for their book, Driven by purpose: Charities that make the difference (Hammond Press, 2012) and third prize went to Roland Ashby for A faith to live by: What an intelligent, compassionate and authentic Christian faith looks like (Mosaic Press, 2012).

Media commentator and advocate for women and girls, Melinda Tankard Reist, was guest speaker at the event. She spoke of her passionate pursuit of ‘a sacred rage’ and said she believes her purpose is to document the dark things in the world.

Ms Tankard Reist listed a litany of horrors perpetrated on women and girls throughout the world, such as 200 million missing girls because of female infanticide. She cannot understand why more people are not involved in a sacred rage, ‘which propels us into action’.

She said we live on a planet that tolerates unconscionable levels of sexual violence against half the population, where women are currency. Her book, Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry (Spinifex Press, 2011) featuring a collection of essays by female activists, reveals the shocking truths of an industry that trades in violence, crime and degradation. Access to porn, Ms Tankard Reist believes, is training girls to become sexual service stations for men and boys.

Never still, Ms Tankard Reist has co-founded the grassroots campaigning movement, Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation.

Collective Shout seeks to pressure corporations, advertisers, marketers and media which exploit the bodies of women and girls to sell products and services, to change their behaviour.

This is not an idle claim. Stationery retailer Typo has withdrawn porn inspired products aimed at young people; Best&Less has withdrawn ‘bralettes’ for two-year-olds; Diva has withdrawn Playboy accessories for girls 8-14 (and the list goes on) as a result of the

‘Collective Shout’ of supporters.

Ms Tankard Reist told a story of a 15-year-old boy getting up in front of his peers after one of her presentations to apologise to the girls in his class whom he had sexually debased through verbal insults and mocking comments with his male friends. That is the change she seeks to make.

Her mantra is ‘speak the truth even if your voice shakes’ so that ‘we can be courageous enough to create the impossible’.

By Penny Mulvey

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