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BOOK REVIEW: The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer

BOOK REVIEW: The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer

ABC Books
May 2017
Paperback, $29.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction/Biographies & True Stories

10/10

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in the case of Tracey Spicer’s femoir it’s a clever way of summing up her memoir’s content and is a clever depiction of her famous TEDx talk. Many readers will be familiar with Tracey Spicer through her work as a newsreader and TV journalist, but The Good Girl Stripped Bare proves that there is so much more to her life story. She bravely tackles an array of different subjects – from personal anecdotes and stories from her life to polemic where she explorers her ideas about important topics like feminism, voluntary euthanasia, and structural sexism among others. She also does this in a way that is articulate and accessible and with some great dashes of humour, too.

Tracey Spicer is a self-confessed bogan who grew up in the Queensland town of Redcliffe. She was the eldest child and the first girl to be born into her family for generations. She jokes about the shock her parents experienced at having a girl because they’d only chosen a boy’s name, Tony. They eventually settled on Tracey, a name that would impact her life.

They settle on Tracey, which in Celtic means ‘fierce’ or ‘fighter’. In this era, such characteristics are flaws: girls should be ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’, according to the nursery rhyme. (However, these attributes are awfully handy in adulthood…)

Spicer would grow up and have a relatively happy and privileged childhood with her loving and supportive family. She was a natural perfectionist and self-proclaimed “good girl”. This latter quality did have adverse effects however, because it meant she stayed quiet about certain things. One experience as a young girl proves particularly painful for her to write and for readers to comprehend. It happened when a large, older boy hitched up her skirt. With a rough hand he pulled aside her underpants and stared at her young vagina for what sounds like an eternity.

I don’t yet know what the word ‘violated’ means. But that’s the only way to describe how I feel. Aside from sore. And scared of everything…But I don’t complain because I’m a ‘good girl’. There’s no need to worry anyone. I wouldn’t want to be burden.

Growing up, Spicer had an early epiphany that she wanted to be a journalist, but at the time it was a very male-dominated industry until Jana Wendt made her first appearance on 60 Minutes.

But I don’t only want to be a TV reporter. I want to be a slight, dark-haired woman of Eastern European ancestry, because it’s so much more sophisticated than being the bevan chick from Redcliffe.

Spicer’s career would see her working in radio and eventually on commercial television for channels nine and ten. The stories that Spicer tells us from this period sound like they came from the comedy series Frontline, except that they’re sexist and misogynistic. On one occasion she heard the following pearler directed at another female journalist:

“I want two inches off your hair and two inches off your arse!”

Spicer’s story ideas are also occasionally rejected because the prevailing idea is that domestic violence should remain behind closed doors. However, no one put things quite as bluntly as the late John Sorrell, who had the following to say when she pitched an idea about a nightclub bouncer who was sacked for being HIV-positive:

Sorrell set me straight. ‘We don’t do stories on the “two As” – AIDs and Aborigines,’ he grumbles. ‘People don’t want to hear that. Too depressing. They want sport and a pinch of happiness. Tits and arse, that sort of thing.’

When Spicer reached her thirties she decided she wanted to have children with her partner, Jason Thompson. She is candid about the couple’s difficulties with fertility and she eventually had two children, a boy and a girl. When she returned from maternity leave she did not receive adequate support from her bosses and they eventually fired her from Network Ten.

The head of news, who sits across the room, has sent an email to an agent several suburbs away saying my services are no longer required. More than a dozen years at the network, yet – apparently – I don’t deserve being told to my face. What a bloody coward.

But Spicer came back fighting. She was in a privileged position in that she could take the network to court. She eventually settled for an undisclosed pay-out and went on to be a successful cross-platform journalist appearing on Sky News and The Drum as well as making documentaries about the plight of women living in third-world countries, writing columns for various media outlets, and delivering training courses at AFTRS (The Australian Film Television and Radio School).

It is fascinating to see Spicer’s ideas and thoughts develop over time, particularly the inspiration for her TEDx talk. In this presentation she gives a blow-by-blow deconstruction of the great lengths she goes to in order to maintain her beauty regime (a theme not dissimilar to Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth). But in Spicer’s case you can see that some of these ideas first started germinating early on in her career as a newsreader when she appeared at a public appearance and a fan failed to recognise her.

After around fifteen minutes, a woman in a floral dress inches up. ‘Excuse me,’ she whispers. ‘I’m wondering when Tracey Spicer’s coming. I’d like to get an autograph for my daughter.’
‘That’s lovely. I’m Tracey. What would you like me to sign?’
The woman appears puzzled. ‘You’re not Tracey Spicer. Your hair’s frizzy. Your face is different. And you’ve got thongs on.’
She’s right, you know. There’s no way anyone on tele would wear flip-flops. I must be an IMPOSTER.

The Good Girl Stripped Bare is an excellent read that draws together some thoughts about big issues as well as Spicer’s own personal anecdotes. Spicer writes text that is engaging, funny, and easy-to-understand. At times she includes swear words and words in all caps because she can, and she also quotes other feminist writers and uses stories from history. This book is one that will appeal to fans of Clementine Ford’s Fight Like A Girl and Lindy West’s Shrill (who Spicer quotes), because they’re all no-holds-barred reflections on life as modern women and proud feminists. This femoir is ultimately a stirring call to arms to women and a grounded look at one well-rounded and inspiring individual who we can all ultimately learn a lot from, no make-up and all.

BOOK REVIEW: The Good Girl Stripped Bare by Tracey Spicer

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