As important and timely now as it was 25 years ago.
In 1992, two female students at Ormond College University of Melbourne, went to the police to lay indecent assault charges against Dr Alan Gregory, the College’s then Master. With sexual harassment and anti-discrimination legislation in their relative infancy, the move was a brave and divisive one.
Author Helen Garner then published a book about the case in 1995 called The First Stone, which added more fuel to the raging fire. Garner partly argued that sexual assault and harassment accusations often spring from a misunderstanding between humans – a misreading of the incompetent fumblings of Eros. The answering volley to Garner’s massive serve came the next year in the form of a work by then relatively unknown journalist, Virginia Trioli.
Generation F defended the action of the complainants in the Ormond case but more than that, it addressed the battle-lines being drawn between older “mother” feminists, and the new generation. It importantly sought to clarify the issues arising from a blurring of sex and sexuality, and the way in which power plays out in that arena. It became a classic of the feminist canon.
In this new edition, Trioli writes a Foreword and an Afterword. She sets the work in both its historic and contemporary frameworks, and draws the timeline from Ormond College to #metoo.
Trioli is a lively and engaging writer. Intellectually rigorous, like any truly great journalist, she also knows how to tell a story. In 2019 this work plays a number of roles: it is a revision of an important moment in recent Australian history; it is an examination of the feminist state-of-the-union; it is a somewhat sad testimony to how far we haven’t come since Ormond College; and ultimately it is a passionate, angry yet optimistic call-to-arms to feminists no matter their age or “wave”.
If you have a young woman in your life who “doesn’t call herself a feminist”, this is the book which might make her change her view. It is also the book older feminists need to remind, refresh and reinvigorate their passion. And above all that, it is also just a rollicking good read.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Distributed by: Simon & Schuster Australia
Released: November 2019