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Book , Online - Google Books. Women -- Australia -- History. Aboriginal Australians -- History. Irony is already present in the title, as it becomes clear from the outset that Squeaker's mate is a woman. As the drover's wife, Squeaker's mate is not referred to by her name in fact, her name, Mary, is only mentioned once in the last paragraph of the story , but in terms of her standing in relation to a man. In fact, much more than an "appendage" Barret 87 - in semiotic terms the recurrent 's along the text is significant - or a fragile and dependent wife, she is far superior to Squeaker, both in moral and physical aspects.
The husband's unflattering nickname is a fitting allusion to his weak and idle personality, as much as to his low intellect and physical appearance. The mates' inverted gender roles are developed in the first paragraphs of the story. The opening lines already highlight the woman's height and physical "equability" Baynton 13 and describe her leading the way to a routinely chore, the felling of a tree. She is carrying the heavy tools-axe, maul and wedges-, while the man takes the cookware-the typically Australian billy can type of pan used as a kettle and tucker food bags. As the story unfolds, other of her "manly" features become evident: she has a strong and independent will, an aptitude for mathematics, visual acuity and she speaks little.
Among the men in the community, Squeaker is often referred to as " 'a nole woman', [ Local men are, thus, impressed by Mary not in terms of her "feminine" attributes, but either in a mock or in a "business" way, as she "had hard-grafted with the best of them for every acre and hoof on that selection" In this story, going against the bulk of traditional bush tales, the selection has been bought with Mary's money although she allows the contract to be signed by her husband. Squeaker also takes maximum advantage of his wife's industriousness. She's the one who, aside from her domestic chores, looks after the sheep, puts up and repairs fences, goes to town on errands, collects and sell bush honey and so on.
Indeed, she has what it would take to be a true bush heroine, if the same standards applied to male heroes in the Australian tradition could be transferred to female characters. A heavy drinker, Squeaker needs to be coaxed into doing any work at all and his response to that is often abusive. How Mary puts up with it is "among the mysteries" 17 to the other men.
Rather than attracting female sympathy, Mary's lack of "leisure for yarning" and, being childless, "uncompromising independence" 17 , make her not only unpopular, but a menace to the other wives, who forbid their husbands to have any kind of relationship with her. Inhabiting this ambiguous location in-between the pre-established gender roles, Squeaker's mate suffers from loneliness, prejudice and misogyny much above the usual levels for fictional bushwomen.
Baynton makes Mary's situation much more complex by, early in the story, compromising her body, thus immersing her even more deeply in alterity. An accident during the felling of the tree leaves the woman paralysed: she is injured by the breaking of a worm-infested branch.
This can be seen as Australian nature exerting its traditional antagonistic role in creating either heroes or victims. But still more intimidating is the immediate human response to the accident. Through free indirect speech and graphic detail, Baynton's narrative voice makes the most of Squeaker's insensitivity to his mate's ordeal:. The pipe had fallen from her lips; there was blood on the stem. She always ignored trifles, he knew, therefore he passed her silence.
He told her that her dress was on fire. She took no heed. He put it out, and looked at the burnt arm, then with intentness at her. Her eyes were turned unblinkingly to the heavens, her lips were grimly apart, and a strange greyness was upon her face, and the sweat-beads were mixing.
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Why did she not keep the flies out of her mouth and eyes? She'd have bungy eyes, if she didn't. If she was asleep, why did she not close them? Male and female bodies, to return to De Beauvoir's arguments, far from signifying exclusively gender or sexuality, also point to power and dominance.
Claiming Space for Australian Women’s Writing
In Australia, Wendy Seymour observes, there is a predominant type of physical body image attached to manhood: an anatomical structure that, to some extent, has historical roots and is derived from the actual harshness of colonial environment, but that is also a construction of the s, on looking back to the past in search of a national legend for Australia. That would be a "strong, tough, resilient body which could endure heat and deprivation yet be ready to respond to the unpredictabilities of rural life", articulated, as well, to the body image of mateship, in "the hard, strong, emotionless, give-go man working alongside other men in the 'egalitarian' context of the bush.
In such male culture, inhabited by strong men, as well as in accordance with nineteenth century dichotomous thought, Seymour goes on, women's bodies would be "weak and fallible", as well as "interior, private and mysterious"; i. Submitted to an extreme instance of the "unpredictability of rural life" and despite her best efforts to get up and moving again, Squeaker's mate's body does not pass the resilience test and goes from one extreme of the physical ability spectrum to the other.
In the second moment of the story-the aftermath of the accident-Mary is committed to bed, having lost the movement of her legs altogether and, thus, the ability to work and to be a "mate", even in parodic terms. As Sally Krimmer and Alan Lawson put it, "[h]er previous strength confounded the difference of her sex, but even she finds that once strength is broken, anatomy is destiny" No longer in control of her body, and, most importantly, no longer productive, "the cripple" is moved to a shed next to the house and substituted by a "new mate", a barmaid Squeaker brings one day from town.
Baynton's use of free indirect speech again proves skillful, as the narrator probes into the women's appraisal of each other. The new mate is intimidated by the old one: "The cripple's silence told on the stranger, especially when alone. She would rather have abuse. The thick hair that fell from the brow of the woman on the bunk was white now. Back-broken, white-haired, barren, isolated, Mary is now part of a perverse "love" triangle and subjected to even further humiliation by having to watch, in voyeuristic angry silence, from the cracks on the walls of the shed, the comings and goings of her rival in her own house.
Anger is what is left from Mary's former admirable fittingness for bush life. This overwhelming feeling leads to the psychologic tension and explicit violence of the ending of "Squeaker's Mate", elements also present in the other stories of the volume. That certainly contributed for her earlier critics, such as A. Stephens, the editor of the Bulletin Magazine , to consider Baynton "too outspoken for an Australian audience" Stephens apud Schaffer At a time when women writers in general did not leave the comfort zone of romance, and most of the Australian legend enthusiasts favoured patriotic themes, Barbara Baynton wrote what can be considered anti-romance Goldsworthy , exposing, in graphic detail, the disagreeable facts of domestic abuse and hatred against women, as well as the exploitation of women's labour power and bodies in the Australian backlands.
In Squeaker's mate's world, comradeship, loyalty and cooperation are a sad parody, an impossibility between men and women, or even among women, either in times of fortune or adversity. What prevails in "Squeaker's Mate" can best be described as "anti-mateship.
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In , historian Miriam Dixson published The Real Matilda , exploring the causes of what she found to be the lower status of women in Australia when compared to other western countries. Dixson was one of the most resonant voices to challenge the adoption of mateship as a national value, on the grounds that it excluded women, but also because of its misogynist character.
Dixson observed in s Australia a social trend in which women. Notwithstanding these valiant efforts, there is some gut sense in which a woman is not wanted. Back off, don't crowd me, love. You aren't really necessary. You aren't really there.
Rejection is the reaction to Baynton's s "matey woman", in the same way as the "matey women" in the s were, in Dixson's view, still discredited and ignored. In today's highly urban, multicultural and diversified Australia, a country concerned with practices such as equality, inclusion and affirmative action, being a "matey woman" should not constitute such a taboo as in Dixson's or Baynton's time. However, "mateship" remains a problem to be solved, as women continue to be excluded from its scope.
As Jim Page puts it, Australian men have "mates"; women have "friends" By questioning the validity of mateship as an Australian value more than a century ago, Barbara Baynton was setting the background for discussions that are still valid for contemporary Australian gender studies. Barret, Susan. Barbara Baynton's Bush Studies. Baynton, Barbara.
Sydney: Sydney University Press, Brock, Peggy. Clark, Manning. Daedalus, v. Darwin, Charles. Princeton: Princeton University Press, De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovani-Chevallier. New York: Vintage Books, Dixson, Miriam. Goldsworthy, Kerryn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Goodall, Peter.
Krimmer, Sally; Lawson, Alan. In: Baynton, Barbara. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, May 15, Lawson, Henry. Creating a Nation : Perth: Australian Scholarly Classics, Heseltine, Harry. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, Maxwell-Stweart, Hamish; Kippen, Rebecca. April 23, Moore, Bruce. Speaking our Language: the Story of Australian English. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, Page, Jim. Phillips, A. Melbourne: Cheshire-Lansdowne, Rudd, Steele.
Schaffer, Kay. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , Seymour, Wendy. Spender, Dale. Australian Women's Writing Ringwood: Penguin,