The Fictional Woman launches at SWF

My first non-fiction book, The Fictional Woman, was launched last month at the Sydney Writers' Festival and has since become a #1 non-fiction best-seller. At the launch, guests were invited…

By Tara Moss

Aug 24, 2014

My first non-fiction book, The Fictional Woman, was launched last month at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. It is a book that explores dominant female archetypes, women’s representation, gender equality, and issues concerning the contemporary experiences of women and girls today, as well as the experiences of boys and men. The cover features my face, my fictions (see how we achieved the cover step by step without digital alteration here) and as part of the book launch, guests were invited to share the fictions that have followed them through their lives.

Stereotyping impacts many people and groups, and can be more damaging than we think. As University of Sydney media intern Scott Wallace wrote of the launch:

‘The book’s striking cover explores…stereotypes forcefully and eloquently. The cover image shows Moss’ face painted with words that she has been metaphorically painted with throughout her entire career. Some are marks of pride – mother, feminist, inspiration – and others the bold slander that often gets thrown in the direction of successful women – dumb blonde, gold-digger, bitch. Moss talked of the personal element of her book in addressing the striking cover; “My face, my fictions,” she said plainly.

In telling her personal story, Moss sets the record straight. “We all have fictions that are applied to us.”

Attendees at the event could choose to have their own faces painted with words of their choosing – positive or negative, true or untrue. When she summarised her intent behind writing The Fictional Woman- “Knock these fictions down” – her words were met with a round of applause.’

We all have ‘fictions’ or labels that have followed us through our lives. For some of the guests, those fictions were distilled to words like ‘loser’, ‘OCD’, ‘bossy’ or ‘bitch’, yet even otherwise positive words like ‘mother’, ‘wife’ or ‘feminist’ can also bring false assumptions, expectations and baggage.

What are your fictions?

Share your experiences of fictions below, and join us on Facebook at Fictional Women, where we are challenging the fictions one woman (and man) at a time. A collection of images of your ‘fictions’ will be published in a later post on this blog.

In the meantime, here are some photographs by Wesley Lonergan from the launch of The Fictional Woman. (Also, you can read an excerpt from the book here, and an in depth review here.)

As you can see, by the end of the evening I wore the one label that really does fit: Human.

Special thanks to the Sydney Writers’ FestivalThe University of Sydney and HarperCollins Publishers for your support, and the inimitable Julia Baird for helping to launch this book.


Above: Members of the University of Sydney’s Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, where Tara is a PhD candidate, attended the event and explored the labels that have impacted their lives.


Above: Journalist Julia Baird leads an In Conversation with author Tara Moss at the Sydney launch. Below: Julia Baird, Tara Moss and Anne Summers, AO.




Above: Tara Moss and Eva Cox, AO. Below: Tara Moss with Professor Elspeth Probyn.



Above: Associate Professor Tess Lea has her ‘fictions’ applied at the launch. Below: HarperCollins Australia/NZ CEO James Kellow.




Above: HarperCollins Publicity Manager Kelly Fagan and Publishing Director Shona Martyn. Below: Author Tara Moss signing copies of The Fictional Woman at the launch.



Photographs from the launch of The Fictional Woman by Wesley Lonergan for HarperCollins.

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  1. John Sherwood

    I’m part way through reading The Fictional Woman, and today heard a program on Hedy Lamarr, who Hollywood advertised as “the most beutiful woman in the world”. What those who promoted her, or praised her beauty, did not acknowledge was her brilliant creative mind, scientific knowledge and astounding inventions. It reminded me of Tara’s struggle to be recognised as more than her pretty face and attractive body. When will we ever learn?

  2. John Sherwood

    The radio program was on ABC Radio National, The Science Show (not a fashion show!!) today.

  3. Mike Jarvis

    We see beauty daily in fine works of architects and designers of buildings,landscapes,cars.clothes and art. I suspect Tara aspires to beauty phyically.intellectually,personally and that achievement makes her a rare jewel in the big brown land treasure chest.

  4. Laura Giaquinto

    I finished reading The Fictional Woman today. I was uncertain about feminism, but now am quite at ease to be able to call myself a feminist. I had a feeling it wasn’t a dirty word. Thanks for enlightening me Tara, I look forward to researching and reading more about the numerous issues surrounding women, as well as men, that you’ve highlighted in your latest book.

  5. Christina

    Dear Tara, my ”story” with The Fictional Woman goes something like this….Unknown to me my husband saw You on Q and Y and obviously was enchanted by Your presence, personality and got interested in the book. He then purchased the book on his ipad (via kindle) and started reading it and told me eventually about You (i haven’t really heard about you as i come from non-English background) and the book. I then got really interested in the book to an extent that i kept on borrowing his ipad to read the book every night. Eventually, he gave up, and bought me my own ipad (yes!), so i could read your book and would leave him and his ipad alone. :]
    I must say The Fictional Woman is the best book i’ve read in a long time. It felt like listening to a very good and experienced girlfriend over a nice bottle of red about all the topics that matter to women so much.
    Thanks for sharing your most intimate secrets and advocating for women’s rights and well-being! I would like to see the day when women get paid equally as much as men (based on same skills and experience, not sex) and we have more strong female role models in our societies around the world.
    All the best!

  6. Diana Whitehead

    hi Tara, you may not remember, but I spoke to you about my daughter at book signing on sunday 7th sept at the brisbane writers festival. I really appreciate you & what you are doing.
    As a beautiful woman, i can see that you would have much more impact than I did as a feminist in the 70s & 80s.
    I am contacting you cos of my daughter, aged 19, I think I mentioned that she has to cope with a lot of male hostility as she is pretty & bright.
    I wanted to tell you that recently she had a dream. She is a sensitive person. In the dream , rape was legal. She told me how terrible this was, how little power she had. I am happy for you to use this as an example, if you need to, as she is. She was thrilled you had signed the book.
    much appreciation, diana

  7. Michelle

    Hi Tara,
    I think you are a true inspiration. Sharing your personal story took a lot of courage, and you are clearly very wise woman from your experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed your book ‘The Fictional Woman’ and couldn’t put it down. I happened to read it a few months before the recent ‘I don’t need feminism’ movement, and I wish all those partipating in that blog/movement could read your book. Even if there are those who are lucky enough to have not experienced any gender-based adversity, we need to push forward for those who are.
    Your book made me realise the undercurrent of mis-representation of women in everyday society, much of which I honestly never noticed, and now I am thankfully very aware of.
    The world needs more voices like yours, Tara. Good luck with your thesis, I’m sure it’ll be a very interesting read. 🙂

  8. Catherine Lindsay

    Fictional Woman achieves so many things. It takes the reader through your real life first hand experiences of sexism and abuse, whilst rounding up key universal issues one by one with clarity, excellent research, and logical arguments. Thank you for this book. I have been reading feminist literature for over 30 years and your book is one of the best for sheer clarity and clout. I gave it to my daughter (aged 26) for Christmas and she loves it, thank you again Tara!


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