20 min read

Episode 4: Influence, Invisible Labour and Celebration

Featured Image

Episode 4: Influence, Invisible Labour and Celebration

🚺 Influential Female Authors

🤐 The "dirty secret" of invisible labour

🎉 The importance of celebration

🏆 The REAL legacy of The Oscars

📱 Millennial Schmucks!





Alicia:                   [foreign language] and welcome to this episode of the Alicia McKay Show, where we really swing from one end of the spectrum to the other with some speed. We kick off with a rant from me about invisible labour and the undervaluing of housework, as well as the mental and emotional load in families and societies. We move into a beautiful conversation about the importance of celebration and what a gift it is to allow others to share in the feelings of belonging that come with celebrating or commemorating important events in our lives. Live reporter Callum Valentine brings us an interesting perspective on the Oscar's controversy this week by delving into the history of the event and some of the other controversies that have surrounded it. And we close with a happy birthday to my beautiful daughter, Harriet McKay, as she celebrates turning seven. It's a great yarn, everyone. I hope that you enjoy. And if you do make sure to take the time to rate or review this podcast, as it makes all the difference to us, enjoy everyone.

                           [foreign language]. Good morning, everybody and welcome to the Alicia McKay Show on today, Friday the 1st of April. I briefly considered about 20 seconds before we went live opening with a pregnancy announcement and then retracting it later in the show as an April fool's thing, but I couldn't even get it out of my mouth. I couldn't even begin to form my mouth around the words because after three children and 17 years of parenting from my entire adult life, since I was 16, turns out I don't want to do that. But anyway, it is very exciting to have you all here this morning. So as always your comments and good mornings and sharing where you are tuning in from makes the show. So jump straight into the comments, let us know where you are turning in from this morning and what is going on for you. Now it's been a very exciting morning in the McKay household this morning because we've had a birthday morning and birthday mornings are always the best.

                           Now at some point, I'm not even really sure when, I think it might have been about four years ago, I established a tradition that it's now too late for me to back away from where when the children get up on their birthday, they walk into the kitchen or the living room and there's balloons everywhere and it's happy birthday and there's presents on the table and they've got a card and the whole thing's very like, "Welcome to the day of the celebration of your existence." And that was fine the first time I did that, but now I've got three kids and this has happened every year and it's always the night before and I'm like, "Oh, they've just gone to sleep. And now I have to go ahead and blow balloons up and hang things and everything else." But anyway, we're into it now and it's always worth it.

                           So we've had a very exciting morning for Harriet turning seven today and she is going to feature at the end and come in and have a wee celebration for that. But I was just thinking about how I said a couple of weeks ago that I'm going to do a good job of sharing more good news, not just sharing bad news about the world. So before I go on today's rant, I think the good news that I can share with you today is that Harriet exists and has done for seven years. That's extremely good news. She was born with a sort of disapproving smirk, but has grown into quite a wonderful child. So that's my good news of the day. Now when I sat down to think about what I was going to talk about on the Alicia McKay Show this morning, I had a bit of trouble because I sat down and I thought, "Okay. What's been going on for me this week? What have I noticed in the world?" Which is generally how I start these things off.

                           And I thought, well, nothing really, all I've done recently is work and housework. Everything I've done for the last week or so is just go to work and then come home and go to more work. And so I thought about that and I was like, well, this is a bit tricky because I don't really have any engagement with the outside world this week. I haven't been following the news, I've got no idea how many people have COVID, I'm only caught up on the big highlights, I've got no idea what's going on. And then I thought, well, that's the point, isn't it? So something I've been thinking about a lot for a long time is this notion of invisible work and all of the invisible things that go into running lives, running societies, running economies, running households, running families, running businesses.

                           And feminist literature has spoiled my brain. So three books that I would like to recommend to you today in line with the rant I'm about to go on for invisible work. Many of you will have seen this incredible read, which is Invisible Woman by Caroline Criado Perez. It's extremely good because the point of this one is actually looking at the data bias that has shaped the world we live in. And Caroline talks about this notion of the default man, where the default person is a man and he is usually about 35 and that everything we've ever designed, whether it's medication doses or toilets or safety features in cars or space suits has been designed for the default person who is clearly a middle aged man, and how that leads to some concern when it comes to woman actually engaging in the world and perhaps not being a middle aged man. So that's an extremely good read.

                           And if you haven't read this, you just sort of need to buy it immediately. Because not only very similar to Katrine Marcal, who I talked about the other week and I'm about to talk about more now. Not just extremely powerful stuff, but also bloody funny. I've got a lot of time for a bloody funny woman talking about the patriarchy. Two other ones on that note. This is a really early Katrine Marcal book, which is just so, so good. And Who Cooked Adam Smith's dinner is essentially looking at tackling that invisible role and what it's taken to produce all of this stuff in the world and all this invisible work that's set. Because no one's gone, "Who cooked Adam Smith's dinner?" Or, "Who made Adam Smith's bed?" They're like, "Wow, Adam Smith. Economics man. How good." And just how damaging that is. And then to close my three part book recommendation. Another Caroline Perez is Do it Like a Woman, which is an extremely good book about feminist revolution, which is just so good.

                           So three books that I'm recommending for your feminist literature this morning, so that you can have your mindset similarly afflicted. But anyway, back onto invisible work. I mean, this isn't a new concept, right? People have been talking for a long time about that invisible load, which primarily does sit with women, hence the link to feminist literature, but is a lot broader than that. It's not just about your mum doing your laundry and not getting credit for it. But I reckon in 2020, there's a whole bunch of other stuff that's invisible labour as well. Something I think about a lot is this stuff, the social media and broadcasting stuff, because every man and his dog has a podcast now and everybody's out there posting on their Instagram, trying to be an influencer hashtag, hashtag. And this kind of do it for the exposure type mentality, which is almost like an influencer internship or something is a kind of another form of that invisible labour that's keeping the economy ticking over.

                           And companies and industries are profiting from a whole bunch of wannabe influencers actively pushing their products until they actually get paid for it and pushing the kind of lifestyle visual that links in really nicely with the advertising. And I'm thinking, this is actually a lot of invisible labour by itself, isn't it? We're actually pushing the economy forward by trying to have these great lifestyles and chucking it on social media and no one's paying us for this. And it takes quite a lot of time to get on the socials and to craft a life that looks better than it really is and to run a podcast and everything else. So we're creating all this free entertainment and all of this lifestyle kind of influencing. And I reckon that's the 2020 version of invisible labour. We've got invisible labour that I think about a lot, which is your classic kind of household labour stuff. But I've got a bit of a rant about this. Cam, can you intro me into a rant, please?

                           What really me off about the invisible labour conversation is that it comes with an implication that household labour, family labour, mental and emotional labour is somehow shit, right? So when we talk about housework, we're like, "Oh, you better delegate that. You better outsource that because that's work, right?" The reason that household labour is a problem is because you don't want to be doing that because who wants to do the housework? And I've got a problem with that because I don't think that's true. I actually think there's a lot of joy potentially. And being the person who holds all the details for your family about what shoe size they are and what they've got coming up. I think there's a lot of joy in taking care of your home and looking after your things and generally... Oh, no, watering your plants, there's a lot of joy in that.

                           But when we strip the joy out by making it completely bottom of the barrel, not just unpaid, but completely unvalued work and we don't create any space in our schedules and in our budget and in our conversations for recognising and valuing that work, of course we're going to see it as some sort of inferior chore that nobody wants to do. And when we paint it as, I need people to give me help with this, oh, I need my husband to help me out, I need my kids to help me out. And they're like, "I don't want to do the dishes." And there's this whole fricking narrative that says that kind of work is not like professional paid work, it's not like manual paid work. This is the kind of stuff that is just yuck and nobody wants to do, which as I continue my rant leads me onto how we divide out the mowing the lawns or doing the outside work or fixing the car or changing the oil and men go, "Well, I do that."

                           And there's also an implication that mowing the lawns is just infinitely more enjoyable anyway than loading the dishwasher. Well, my absolute freaking challenge and rant on that is the only reason that we've considered housework to be a dirty, crappy chore is because it always sat in the domain of the woman of the household. And that actually, if we accepted that there's already 30 hours work that some people are doing for their emotional and mental and household labour and we recognised that and we made that visible and we valued it and we recognised it, then it wouldn't be a dirty secret that we had to be ashamed that we were spending our valuable time on, but instead could be recognised as a critical part of how our families and societies run. So that's my rant. Housework's not shit. We've just made it shit. Stop it. On that pleasant note. Now that I've absolutely ranted all morning. I'm really hoping Producer Cam's coming in with some sort of lightness or humour because this is Alicia on a housework buzz. Cam.

Producer Cam:       Well, having introduced your segment with a willingness to want to add more good news to the world and then immediately descending into a powerful rant, I'm hoping to swing the needle back to the celebration side of things and hopefully that's okay with everybody. I would love this morning to talk about celebration and rituals around celebration and how important they are. The two celebrations I want to shine a spotlight on this morning, both happened in Australia. You can probably tell from my broad flat accent that I am Australian and I was lucky enough to go back to Australia for a couple of weeks.

Alicia:                   I just wanted to make the point, Cam, for everybody watching, who's been tuning in for the last two weeks that you have been getting up at 5:00 AM for the Alicia McKay show from Melbourne and you are now officially back in the country and just to acknowledge and celebrate that you're back in the country and you're here.

Producer Cam:       Well, it's pretty amazing. It's amazing to be able to travel again and to go and see people and have a little bit more freedom. So that was a delight to be how to do that. The roller coaster of being scared to go out for getting COVID to either get on the plane to go to Australia or to get on the plane to come back was nicely bookended by a week of furious socialising, going to the football, going to parties, seeing people, being out and about in the city, it was thriving. And that was a journey in itself. In the last two weeks, there's been two big celebrations on sporting fields in Australia. Two very, very different kinds of celebrations. Now I'm going to ask Alicia to hold her response for the moment until we get to the point because she's not a big fan of sport and doesn't necessarily think the attention it gets is entirely deserved.

                           So hear me out for a moment, people. On Friday night last week, on the SCG, which is the main football field in Sydney, Australia, a player kicked their thousandth career goal. Now whether or not you like Australian football or know what it is kind of doesn't really matter. The point of it is that it's a really rare thing for a player to do. And only five players in the history of the game had ever done it before. Buddy Franklin who did it on Friday night. A thousand goals for a career is an incredible milestone and it deserves a big celebration. Fortunately, this player, Buddy Franklin was able to do it at his home stadium and he did it in a way that beautifully fit a narrative arc of this kind of celebration. He needed to kick four goals in the game to reach the milestone.

                           And luckily, his team was already basically definitely going to win the game. There's about five minutes to go in the game, he's marked the ball, and he's about to take a shot on goal to kick his thousandth career goal. Now there's a tradition in Australian football that when a player kicks a hundred goals in a season, the crowd rushes the field during the game. Now there's not many professional sports in the world where you're allowed to do this, but it's a rare thing, so the league allows it to happen. So this player is going back, this is his thousandth career goal and under the pressure of a huge audience and a massive milestone, slots the kick brilliantly, and there is absolute bedlam. This is during the game, literally 10,000 people run onto the field to celebrate this goal.

                           And the achievement is just shared beautifully by everybody there. There's spontaneity. People knew it was going to happen, but it was just an adrenaline and a rush of people just absolutely enjoying the moment. Congratulating the player, who, for his part celebrated it beautifully. He's a pretty humble superstar of a player. But I think the joy of this ritual and this celebration is that it includes so many people and those who were there are always going to remember that they were there. I love celebrations that are once off moments. One of the beauties of sport is that it's a once off event. If you were there at a live sporting event, it only happens once.

                           Now that means that nine out of 10 times it might not be a very good game, but the time that it is amazing or the time that something incredible happens, if you were there, that's an indelible memory that you're never going to forget. So I absolutely love this celebration. Now, again, this happened during the game and the number of... I think it was about a 15 minute or longer gap between when play was allowed to resume again. But if you're seeing the vision, 10,000 people running onto a field to celebrate something is pretty special. So that happened on Friday night last week.

                           Two of the players in the mayhem trying escape and ended up outside the stadium. So they're in their full sporting kit, wandering around in the streets in Sydney, trying to get back into the game to take the field for the last five minutes, so that was pretty amazing too. So that was one celebration. And I think it's beautiful because an audience can collectively anticipate it and enjoy it. Now Alicia, you're not a massive fan of sports, how did you react to seeing this? Because I have no doubt you had no idea it even happened.

Alicia:                   I feel like I'm being misrepresented at little bit on the sport. I'm not actively against sports, I just ask questions about whether it's the best direction of society's collective energy. But anyway, okay fine. That is a whole nother chat. I was watching... And this is where different perspectives come in, which I think is really fascinating. As you were like, "Oh, this is so amazing. Everybody's celebrating together and sports is cool and look at that." And then I'm looking at it and I'm just seeing all these people with their phones up and having this total boomer reaction like, "Oh, you can't even go and hug your rugby mate without bloody filming it, you millennial schmucks." So that was my instant reaction, if that's what you were wondering.

Producer Cam:       Well, that's a common problem of our times, isn't it? That often the moment is spoiled by people wanting to record the moment or say, "Hey, I was there in the moment." And that's not necessarily a brilliant thing. The other thing I wanted to share was a moment that happened in Melbourne's main sporting arena on Wednesday night. And this was the funeral of one of the best cricketers in the world. Now whether or not you like cricket, if you're in Australia or New Zealand, you probably know who Shane Warne is. You might not like him, but you probably know who he is. He's transcended his superstardom of the sport to become a household name in many, many ways. And he died quite young about a month ago in Thailand of heart attack. The man smoked, he drank, he was unashamedly a fitness... He dipped in and out of his fitness programmes, he wasn't necessarily a man too concerned as a professional athlete with his body.

                           Now he is so popular that they held a state and national funeral for him at the MCG, which is a hundred thousand capacity sporting stadium. Now it wasn't full, but tens of thousands of people turned up to celebrate Shane Warne's life. And it was kind of tacky the way that a massive celebrity funeral has to be. They left the cricket pitch open and the MC introduced it on the wicket with Shane Warne's cricket hat on the wicket. But what's remarkable about this service and this man was that he was able to connect with people so incredibly. Elton John recorded a musical tribute, Chris Martin from Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Robbie Williams. And I mention this because these are music superstars. They're not even sports people, but Shane Warne was a character who was able to connect with people and who people felt so connected to that they needed the celebration and ritual of a funeral to feel the closure.

                           There's so many events in our lives that we feel so connected to that we feel a need to celebrate them in a way that's meaningful for us. And what I love about a state funeral or a public celebration is that it acknowledges that need for people to have their own closure or their own journey or their own participation in a public event that they don't actually have anything personally to do with. And I think it's amazing to see those two events on two sporting fields in Australia within a week of each other that celebrate very different kinds of things, but both of them are about the public.

                           They're about the need for a population to get their chance to be involved in a celebration or a goodbye or just the feeling of belonging, a feeling of needing to be connected to a big public event. I think recognising that and moving it into your own world and celebrating your own little wins and acknowledging your own processes is really important. And so I'm going to hand this idea back to Alicia now because next Friday, Alicia McKay's booked an Alicia McKay's celebration for the Alicia McKay team. What's that about?

Alicia:                   I totally have. And I was just thinking while you were talking, just how delightful the concept of celebration being about other people getting to share in the feelings of whatever it is you're celebrating or commemorating. And that it's actually celebration is a gift, that celebration is an active service rather than being something that is unnecessary or a luxury or selfish. That actually celebration is a gift to the people who are involved to share in the feelings of whatever that is. So whether it's Harriet's birthday and everybody just spends the day feeling good about the fact that she exists. How good are birthdays as a concept. Every year the people around you just are thrilled that you were born and that you're still alive. And they celebrate that. Birthdays are the best.

                           But just [inaudible] we've got an Alicia McKay team celebration next week because we had this incredible year where we achieved these big goals that we had had as a business for some time. We kicked them off, we've got this whole exciting new phase of our journey kicking off in the new financial year with hiring amazing people to come and do the work and growing the business and starting to do my big dreams. And we realised yesterday that if we didn't create some dedicated space to celebrate what we've already achieved, it would get swept away. And now we're doing a new, more exciting thing. So let's go and do that. And so we're going to go and-

Producer Cam:       It's really important, I think, to acknowledge that it's not an indulgence to celebrate. And I think one of the resources or the inspiration for both of us is the professional group [inaudible] business school. And one of their early participants, Michael Henderson, who described himself as a corporate anthropologist. I don't know exactly what that means. But Michael's a wonderful speaker and he's got great ideas and he talks about the actual deep human need to recognise these things, not as an indulgence, but as a fundamental part of feeling connected, having a community and building enthusiasm and trust together. So I love it. Massive fan.

Alicia:                   No, I'm okay with that. And I think celebration is something we could all do with a bit more of in our lives because as we've seen over the last couple of weeks on the show, there's enough bloody bad news, isn't there? We're not going to run short of it. We're not going to run out of it. And so if we don't make a dedicated effort to just be excited about large and small things that happen in our lives and to give those the space to be recognised and gift the sharing of that to others who care, then we're just going to be bloody miserable all the time. Now somebody who I love to share my successes and all of my failures and inadequacies with is my best mate, CV. So we're going to cross live now to CV and hopefully he's got something interesting based on what's been happening in the news this week.

Callum:                 That's a perfect description of what I've got because we're going to need to talk about the Oscars.

Alicia:                   I wondered.

Callum:                 I'm sorry to do this. I'm sorry to do this. But I am, of course, referring to one of the ugliest moments in Oscar's history, which happened 49 years ago, of course. If we're talking about the ugliest moments in Oscar history, we have to talk about in 1973 when Marlon Brando was awarded the Oscar for The Godfather, he nominated Sacheen Littlefeather to not accept the award on his behalf, and this was so outrageous to noted white supremacists, John Wayne, that he had to be restrained by six security people. He happened to be side of stage at the time when this occurred and Sacheen Littlefeather gave her very moving and very time limited speech about native American representation and Hollywood films throughout the years and the damage that it had done to her people.

                           And John Wayne was so incensed by this that he attempted to rush the stage and had to be held back by six people. And this event had this incredible legacy. And, of course, this is bubbled to the surface because of some other thing that happened. But I think this is an incredibly extraordinary story and it shows the ways in which when we look back at events like this, the level of racism and the way that we can look back, history seems quite often so cartoonish and it's so easy with the benefit of history to see who was in the right and who was in the wrong. I mean, the level of racism from John Wayne is just phenomenal. There's a 1971 Playboy interview in which he said some frankly unprintable things that if you want to think about cancellation, somebody who should've been cancelled a long time ago was John Wayne. One of the fundamental figures of the cowboy Western [crosstalk].

Alicia:                   Hold on. Are you starting a movement here to ban John Wayne? Am I witnessing live the beginning of a cancellation movement? Because that's kind of exciting.

Callum:                 No, it's already in train. There's a big push to remove the John Wayne airport name and move it back. And it's more, actually, this was an astonishing event in Oscar's history. And it says a lot about The Academy as an organisation and where they've tried to draw the line over the years. I mean, we think about Hollywood as quite activist now. And that's a really interesting narrative because events like this actually shaped the way that things were perceived. I mean, one of the things that was overshadowed by the Chris Rock, Will Smith incident this week was just how much activism on stage there was and that there is expected to be at the Oscars. And the reaction to this, I mean, it was a really confrontational thing to do and it was all around the wounded knee standoff that was happening around Native American rights.

                           There was a complete media blackout on that particular protest, which is why Marlon Brando is somebody who'd been involved with the Native American movement for a long time, chose to make this big declaration because this was the first televised live satellite Oscars. And 85 million people were watching this live. And it's really worth, and we'll put it in the show notes, watching Sacheen Littlefeather's speech because for somebody who was under so much pressure who had arrived with Marlon's private secretary two minutes before she was scheduled to go on and had been given a... I think he wrote a six page speech for her to give and then the producers instantly told her that she had a maximum of 60 seconds and weren't happy about the whole thing.

                           She was the subject of incredibly racist ridicule for the rest of the ceremony, including Clint Eastwood. I think he joked that he should not accept awards on behalf of all the people shot by John Wayne and the rest of the ceremony. And everybody else just made snide remarks about, "I hope this person doesn't have a cause." It's just an extraordinary piece of history, which I was really pleased and fascinated to read about in the light of this week's Oscar Ceremony and the whole furor there. It was a genuine pleasant surprise to come out of the army of think pieces that instantly were being written as soon as Will Smith got up on that stage.

Alicia:                   Here's something I don't get, CV, is why we hold entertainment celebrities to a higher standard than the rest of society. And when we decided that they were anything other than just a very visible representation of whatever's happening in the rest of our world, just because you're really good at pretending to be someone else or singing a song doesn't have any connection to the fact that you should have a different moral character to the rest of society or that you should be held to a different expectation. They're just a bit we can see. And I feel really weird about everybody talking about, "Oh, The Academy," and, "Oh, what about their values?" As if that's separate to the rest of America or to the rest of the world, because it isn't. It's just one part that we can see of how people think, feel, and behave.

                           And when we go and add this moral judgement or character expectation to people who quite frankly are doing the job that they have a talent for and they're great at, which is entertaining people. And we go and add all these extra things, like now you have to be a role model and you have to be this and you have to be that. I mean, the devil's advocate in me wants to argue like, "Nah, let them at it." In the same way that politicians seem to be the most exaggerated versions of ideas and opinions that we have in a society. Why can't our entertainers be there and why do they have to be anything other than just regular people?

Producer Cam:       Well, the beautiful connection between what we were talking about before is that is the reason Shane Warne, one of the sporting stars I was talking about who was so, so popular. He didn't try to be anyone else. And he very definitely didn't rise to the standard that we sometimes expect of celebrities. His appeal was that he never tried to be anyone other than he wasn't and that's why he was so liked. He said awful things sometimes. He wasn't a particularly good husband and he was a bit of a clown and people loved him for that. He was very real.

Callum:                 I think it's all about the power of stories and the reason that entertainers have to be up there and have to be held to certain standards or are, or whatever that debate is, is because these are the people who are in charge of the way that we understand the world and understand our lives. Research is not what people go around thinking as reality. Stories of reality. And as somebody who's obsessed with stories, I think that's utterly true.

Alicia:                   I don't know. We could have this argument for the rest of the day, CV, because they didn't sign up for be in charge of the way people understand the world and their lives. They signed up for pretend to be someone else for a lot of money and have nice makeup. And I totally get that it's easy to sit on the edges and be the commentary and be all, "These are the stories we tell about our lives," but they don't think that. They're just like, "Oh, I wonder if I can lose some weight and pretend I'm a skinny dude now."

Callum:                 Yeah. I'm not arguing that we haven't chosen the right people to be our philosopher kings.

Producer Cam:       Well, on that note, it's time to bring it home. We have the wonderful Harriet with us who has turned seven. Harriet, have you got anything you'd like to say to everybody out there? Hello. Oh, Harriet's shy. But we do have this celebration for Harriet. (singing)

                           Harriet has a glorious habit of grabbing my phone at every opportunity and taking all manner of selfies of her pulling ridiculous faces. So for those who couldn't see the video, that's what that was. It's been a pleasure to be with you today. Happy birthday, Harriet. Thank you, CV. Alicia, bring it home.

Alicia:                   All right, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us again today. Another wide ranging chat that covers everything from feminism and visible labour, the patriarchy, the importance of celebration and ritual in society. A dig into the murky history and events of the Oscars as provoked by will Smith and Chris Rock, where we discover that actually they were all just racist and bigots of their time like the rest of the people who were alive in the '70s. A strong celebration of Harriet McKay who enters her eighth year in life by being seven years old today, which is very exciting because out of all the things I've made and all the things I've done, I suspect this may be one of the things that has the most impact on the world and that is Harriet [Grace] McKay. So get out there everybody and enjoy your Friday. Have an absolutely wonderful weekend. And we will be back here at eight o'clock next Friday. [foreign language] to everyone.