Authenticity may be part of Ashe Davenport’s ‘brand’, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an inherent part of who she is. She explains why, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement that transparency and honesty – even if hard or embarrassing – is more needed than ever.
Authenticity is part of my brand. The irony of that statement isn’t lost on me. Although I grew up in the 90s listening to Alanis Morisette’s Ironic and watching Reality Bites, I will never fully understand the meaning of irony.
I had a blog called Sad Pregnant Lady, where I shared the rollercoaster of emotions I felt during my first pregnancy, my darkest fears and most shameful secrets, in listicle format with click-baity headlines. I packaged and presented my sadness as a way of making sense of it, and giving myself permission to feel it.
In doing so, I was able to connect with other parents who felt the same. They became a support network of sorts, which was the thing I’d been craving most of all, followed closely by likes and site traffic. This was back in 2015, before emotional distress really started trending.
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Five years and two children later, I’m still airing my grievances on the internet. They’re in print now too, in a book called Sad Mum Lady. I share the joy and wonder of motherhood alongside the rage, loneliness and brain-dulling boredom.
I have nothing against the pristine, sun-dappled nurseries of Mummy Influencer Land (sometimes it soothes me to scroll a set of crisp linen sheets and perky tits), but it’s not how I prefer to show my life. It’s less out of a sanctimonious commitment to the truth, and more out of compulsion.
If I’m not telling the whole story – the good, the bad and the ugly – it feels unfinished, like a sentence that stops midway, or sex without completion. I found it almost unbearable until a few weeks ago, when the desire to express every facet of my white, privileged emotional world stopped feeling quite so urgent.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement flooded my media streams. Like many others, I publicly declared my support for BLM, despite being unsure of how best or most effectively to show it. In a series of well-meaning and misguided posts, I went from pitying the black community (“I’m hurting for you”), to parading my financial contribution, to being downright offensive (“$% the police”).
Someone called me out on the last one. I learned you’re not meant to say it if you’re white, or maybe at all. I apologised, made a visible edit to the caption and then went about feeling embarrassed for a bit. I won’t delete the post for anything. It’s part of the story, after all. And looking good isn’t as important as trying to do better.
We live in a post-truth world. There’s fake news and tokenistic activism and ‘anxiety’ printed on t-shirts worn by face-tuned influencers. There are humble brags and thirst traps and perfectly imperfect mummy bloggers with smudges of flour applied to the tips of their noses. Authenticity has never been more necessary, or harder to find.
My book launched on the same day as #sharethemicnowaustralia, a social media initiative to amplify Indigenous-Australian creative voices. I decided to post about the campaign instead of my book. Did I think it was the right thing to do? Absolutely. Did peoples’ perception of me play a part in that decision? You bet.
Striving to be ‘seen as’ authentic is intrinsically inauthentic, but if it means talking less and listening more, inauthenticity can produce authentic results. I ordered some books by Indigenous Australian authors, their scarcity on my bookshelf suddenly very apparent: The Yield by Tara June Winch (who spearheaded #sharethemicnowaustralia), Terra Nullius by Claire G. Coleman and Welcome To Country by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy.
The last one is a picture book, which I plan to read to my kids. They don’t know much about Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander culture. They’re aged two and four, and undoubtedly, the book will trigger an avalanche of questions with no end in sight. I’ll answer them as authentically as I can, even if it makes me uncomfortable.
I’ll probably post about it on Instagram.
Ashe Davenport is the author of Sad Mum Lady, published by Allen & Unwin, available now.