Berry Liberman on Tara Moss
Intimidating. Beautiful. Glamazon. Phenomenon. Mother. Advocate. Woman. Tara Moss has worn her fair share of labels over the years. We all have. That’s where our conversation begins. If done thoughtfully and from a place of insightful examination, naming things can prove to be very healing. When done unconsciously and from a place of ignorance, it causes violence, shame, even death.
I first saw Tara speak on Q&A, a high-rating public debate program on Australian TV. She was, and I’m sure is in many situations, a visual anomaly on the panel— strikingly tall, beautiful. The conversation on the panel was about asylum seeking children being held in detention. It took just a few seconds for her resonant voice to pierce any assumptions, and for her thoughtful, informed opinions on refugees, children in detention and violence against women to cut straight to the heart.
Tara Moss began her career as a model—travelling, seeing the world and becoming independent. What began as a journey of self-discovery for a wideeyed teenager resulted in many close calls and ultimately head-on collisions with violence. These experiences, of being assaulted and raped, were Tara’s secret. A successful modelling career was followed by a long period exploring the edges of pain in her best-selling crime novels, many of which fictionalised a feminist heroine who escapes violence and emerges from it the victor. For Tara, this was still a way of hiding, of not putting herself at the centre of the story.
When we meet for a chat in Dumbo Feather’s Airstream caravan as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, the issue of male violence is discussed from almost every angle: the current context, the history, the burden we have as a global community to turn the tide on these oldest of problems. She is a fountain of statistics and knowledge, having just released her tenth book, a memoir, The Fictional Woman. In it she explores the harrowing story of her own experiences of abuse and then widens the lens to include a picture, thoroughly examined, of violence against women in the world.
Now an ambassador for UNICEF, Tara devotes her life to raising awareness around the plights of others. But this isn’t some weird celebrity moment—a beautiful person feeling bad for everyone else. She has thought hard about the issues, put herself in tough situations and challenged those in positions of power. She is not really afraid of anything anymore.
Then there is her red lipstick, her love of everything vintage, a flower in her hair. I’m curious: how do we celebrate beauty and femininity while addressing these issues? It can be uncomfortable to see beauty where you hear despair. What place does beauty have in an ugly world? Tara insists that colour, theatre and a little glamour are the salve needed to make people smile. To bring joy. When we begin I wonder if we can ever escape the fictional woman. Tara argues that our current social problems are not natural or inevitable. There’s a historical context for where we find ourselves, and with a little consciousness we can change things.