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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: I am Bogan

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I am BOGAN hear me ROAR

Last week someone, let’s say a man, on social media called me a bogan. And a cunt. It was meant to shame me. To humiliate me. To put me in my place. To remind me that not only am I a useless woman but I’m also lower class. Uneducated. Unrefined. Crass. 

Those words are meant to reduce my value. To silence me. Those words are sent as a reminder of my deep unworthiness. Those words are meant to devalue the actual words that I speak. 

Words are powerful. Ugly words have a violence intended to cause harm. They are arrows layered with meaning. It’s why some words go so deep. They carry with them generations, sometimes centuries of shame. Like poisoned tips. They are words like nigger, wog, spic, poof, spazzo, abbo, retard, hippy, gypsy, loony… those words are meant to keep people down. To seed self-hatred and then inflame it. They are words that remind you that you are NOT privileged. They are words that relegate you to the margins because you DO NOT belong. 

It is a tiresome exercise to attempt to hurt people with poisonous words. To throw rocks of shame at the heart of another. But even the most well educated persist with name calling. These words must be unpacked. Disempowered. A kind of semiotic disarmament. So lets start with Bogan. 

We all love calling people bogans. In a politically correct world it seems that bogan is still permissible as a word to diminish people. But should it be? Aren’t we just calling someone working class? Aren’t we just saying someone is lower status than us because they haven’t enjoyed our privilege? 

The dictionary tells me that a bogan is ‘an uncouth or unsophisticated person regarded as being of low social status.’ Low-status-people tend to be uneducated, from low socio-economic areas or origins, and as a member of a lower class have none of the refinement of the more privileged. They probably say fuck a lot. I say fuck a lot. They probably speak loudly and don’t have a filter. I speak loudly and don’t have a filter. We all know that low-status people aren’t perceived as valid or as esteemed as high-status people. High-status people come from the upper classes; they have power and privilege. 

I may well be a bogan. In fact, if we’re throwing around labels, I’m probably a redneck. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right label to diminish yourself with. 

I grew up in housing commission in a regional town. The holes in our fibro walls were all fist shaped from my alcoholic father. No-one in my family had been past year 10. We lived on welfare. There was no talk of literature in my home. Or classical music. Or art. We didn’t own land. We didn’t have prestigious jobs. 

My family were tradies. They painted houses. They cut hair. They got drunk and they fought. On pay day they partied until all the pay was gone. They loved footy but they also watched the news. They were staunch Labor voters. 

My neighbours played Slim Dusty so loud that the Lights Coming over the Hill nearly deafened me. My dad came home drunk and howled along to Chad Morgan’s classic 78 The Sheik from Scrubby Creek. Ironically Chad comes from the same town as me. 

Growing up I had one brother. And one sister. She’s Indigenous. Is she a bogan too? Another sister came along later who was born in Sri Lanka. Is she bogan? 

Wow, it’s so easy to reduce people, but so hard to define them… 

I find books, I start to read. I find life hard, but learning easy. It becomes clear to me at an early age that education and achievement are the way out of my struggle street. And so this bogan working her bogan arse off because no-one was going to rescue me. There were no fancy schools. No trips overseas. No after-school tutoring. No Mummy and Daddy setting me up in my first home. I decide at an early age that if I want anything I have to make it happen. 

I became a feminist at six when my father died and I vowed to never let a man beat my mother again. A 6-year-old feminist bogan. Probably about the same time I became a cunt. That is, a female person who believes that her life, her voice and her story is equal to that of a man. How dare I. 

So to all my bogan cunt friends out there, those of us who strolled libraries in our thongs, scared we would never be taken seriously: Take heart. We’re no longer controlled or diminished by your fear and inadequacy. The bogan cunts are coming for you.

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  1. Good on you Mandy for calling it out! Words can be a magic thing and they can be a shitty thing – boils down to the motives of those using it and the effect they hope to achieve I suppose.
    Love your writing, your speaking, your perspective on things, your energy, bravery and humour. If that’s what they call out as a bogan cunt, then ‘Go the BC’s!!’

  2. Hear Hear Mandy! I suffered the same sense of “not good enough” for most of my childhood. Not from my hard working, year 7 educated immigrant parents but by the privileged ignorant! Sometimes I feel “Womens’s” this and that issues don’t relate to me because I never felt any different to a man, (except the physical bits). And I don’t feel the need to prove myself to them or anyone else of any so called “class”! Guess I was born a Bogan Cunt!

  3. Deafened by your roar here!
    Well said Mandy!!
    (Mind you I just loved the shows Middle Class Bogan & Kath & Kim….poking such fun at stereotypes!)

  4. Hi Mandy. I think the Game Plan is ‘inferiority for as many as possible.’ My
    background’s a lot like yours – so Bogan it is. I’ve been called a dago, wog,
    hippy & a dike. I didn’t graduate primary school but found a full time job as
    a 12 year old at a factory stitching cardboard boxes. Yes, it was difficult to
    belong then & not much better now. I’ve noted even feminists get the blues.
    Trouble is, we remember far too much I guess, while others safely tend to
    forget. I reckon ‘selective memory’ has got to be on the rise & we pay for
    that as well because it’s known how ill gotten words hurt & diminish while
    sabotaging the truth.

  5. proudly, have one, am one. Bogan thing. Vilifying the poor is now accepted. Thanks Mr Howard. As is young homeless and NDIS failing millions. Misogyny…Generations marching behind us, don’t wallow in quite the same murky misogyny. Gives me hope. Mind, had a huge mid-life male trapped beside me in the centre seat of jetstar, constantly leaning into me. He took deep umbridge when I suggested he lean toward the young male his other side. If your masculinity is defined by violence and bullying and people stop finding you imposing, it is going to be a confronting adjustment. As a mature aged woman, I’ve been invisible for quite some time. Women who are sage, we’ve navigated small and large outrages, to outlive men by a considerable time. Love your words, Ms Mandy. Thank YOU

  6. Mandy,
    I often admire you as you walk down the street.
    A woman. A mum. A professional. A local.
    A beautiful human, that has spunk.
    Yes, your presence is big.
    Back before I understood my own insecurities.. I would find people like you daunting.
    Possibly, feeling safer within those insecurities to judge.
    Therefor separating my self from You.
    There was that secret side of my self that was so deep, I eventually found that aspired to have your seemingly confident nature…
    I don’t get drawn to comedy, so much.. though, I admire you for your spirit. At least!
    When I was younger, I remember being called a ”snob”, and another time ”stuck up!”.
    I was shocked. And devastated!
    If only people knew how terrified shy I was walking through those crowds of drooling men, and envious girlfriends… with my eyes locked nervously to the floor.
    What an energy to peel through!
    It showed how much those people could only see skin deep. They really knew nothing of me. Nor wanted to.
    As time goes on, my silver hair, my aging body no longer brings me to experience the constant barrage of these energies..
    Now, happily a mum, growing and moulding a beautiful human. Feeling ultimately gifted with that privilege.
    Now having the opportunity to be guiding this young man to understand respect.
    Not only to Woman, to all beings, animals, bugs, plants, and ”Mother Earth!”…
    Unfortunately, not all young boys, and children.. have been gifted with mothers that have this kind of duty of care.
    And my heart crys for this. We all deserve it.
    The devastating abuse that I have experienced and witnessed, has gratefully been transmuted into co-creating a man in the future that does not inflict this upon another being.
    Your teacher has come, this time in the guise of this man in which you speak of.
    It is sometimes these souls that cry for help the loudest.
    Imagine what experiences he would have endured to be triggered in such a way.
    And what do you represent to him?
    It could be fair to say, he was without guidance, love, support, nor protection from whom should have given these basic human requirements…
    It is these souls that can muster that old hurt with their arrows… triggering that hurt to have some open mic time, to come up and potentially heal, also to inspire such great writings from within you.
    The ripple effect of others being inspired, like me, can drink from your truth.
    Or, of course sit back and feel safer to judge.
    Either way, what does it really matter!?
    So, thank you anonymous man.
    I say thank you to all those who were part of my ol’ wounds.. you helped me form into a more open hearted, compassionate and wise being!
    That’s now been granted the opportunity to grow one.
    Much love sister.
    Secret admirer.

  7. One of my labium minorum has a double degree and was frequently misinterpreted as being a snob when she was actually just shy. The other only started wearing ugg boots when she moved to byron, purely for warmth… And then got misinterpreted as a bogan cunt when she was just a cold labium..
    Why all the labelling in this country…?? Arent we all just people?

    Keep up the good work, Manky Bogan. Even if you DID look down your nose at me after your mothers day show at the RSL five years ago. I think you actually ARE quite judgmental, ( we all are) you just havent written a column about it yet….but i cant wait to read it!


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