Shaking Australia's 'brutal sexual economy'


Puberty Blues is what you get when teenage girls with a grudge show the world what they're made of.

The book, written in 1979 by 19-year-old best friends Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey before being made into a film in 1981 (and now coming of age as a Channel 10 television series), not only made a scene — it kicked sand in the face of the establishment.

Set in Sydney's beachside Sutherland Shire (yes, that Shire), the plot revolves around the lives of a couple of brash 13-year-old lower middle-class girls, Debbie and Sue, as they explore gender politics against the backdrop of perhaps the most iconic period of recent Australian history.

It's hardly War and Peace, but this was the mercurial 1970s, and somehow these self-obsessed teens managed to tap into the unsettling mood. As Lette recalls: 'Gough had just been elected, dragging us out of the beige '50s mentality of Menzies. Cleo scandalised the Aussie male population by publishing nude male centerfolds ...'

By the early 1980s, when the book was made into a film, censorship laws dictated the girls' ages be changed to 16 and several of the book's details were absent or rewritten (Lette later complained that 'the film sanitised the plot by omitting central references to miscarriage and abortion').

But what the film did was further champion the novel's fiercely 'proto-feminist' spirit.


Shaking Australia’s ‘brutal sex economy’ (Eureka Street)

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