Photo credit: Kirsha Kaechele via Instagram

5 Things I Learned from Kirsha Kaechele, the artistic icon behind the Mona Ladies Lounge exhibit

I think - nay, I hope - that I saw my future.

To kick things off, firstly, allow me the pleasure of bringing you into the fold with a bit of background on the Ladies Lounge exhibit story and Kirsha Kaechele's role in its journey i.e. how exactly did we get to this moment in time:

  • In 2022, Mona launches ‘High Tea For Two’ Ladies Lounge - any and all ladies are welcome to participate in this installation. The artwork is inspired by Kirsha’s transformative experience of Mona's vagina wall, plus her own experiences throwing women’s only parties during Covid because her husband was away a lot, and she was like "um, why haven’t I being doing this more?”,

  • Jason Lau (a man) tries to gain entry to the Ladies Lounge in 2023 and is refused. He calls this discrimination. $35 for access to the museum, only to be told he can’t go to one of the exhibits,

  • The incident makes international headlines - in fact, it’s been picked up by 1600 publications - especially as Mr Lau takes parent company of Mona - Moorilla estate - to Tasmanian court,

  • During the initial court case, Kirsha gives several viral interviews and engages in performance art with other women who dance through the court,

  • In April 2024, the Tasmanian Civil & Administrative Tribunal rules in favour of Mr Lau with the judge calling it “direct discrimination” under Section 26 of the 1998 Anti-Discrimination Act. Kirsha says yes, it is discrimination, but the judge was missing the broader point. She adds that the judge could not have been a more perfect 'character' in the unfolding story - middle aged, white, male, and taking a very black letter and literal view of the anti-discrimination law,

  • Mona is then ordered to change the Ladies Lounge to accept all visitors regardless of gender in 28 days, or they’ll be forced to close. They refuse to adhere to the orders of the court, and instead, shut down the exhibit,

  • In early May 2024, Kirsha announces she plans to appeal the decision in the Supreme Court of Tasmania.

On behalf of the Missing Perspectives audience, who gravitated with a kind of mischievous, trickster glee towards Kirsha's story, I went in to that interview ready to learn about the upcoming appeal to the Supreme Court.

I left our Sydney-to-Hobart Zoom video call feeling like I'd taken LSD - on a Wednesday afternoon at work, no less. We traversed wild, feminine discursive terrain spanning pro-femininity, power, performance art, gender equality, psychedelics, antebellum slave era reenactments at Dark Mofo, being 30 and an object of desire, Kirsha's contentment with being financially supported by her husband, and taming men's evolutionary biological desire to dominate so we all don't pay the price of the downstream consequences of war. I also received a standing invitation to join Kirsha in the Amazon this October (pretty sure I'm available) to do plant medicine with a bunch of shamans.

Such chat defies easy wrangling - but in pursuit of some kind of structure - here are five things we learned from Kirsha Kaechele.

#1 It's possible to say both "I love you" and "f*ck you" at the same time

Kirsha Kaechele: "My hope with the Ladies Lounge is it's meant to be playful. It's performative. It's a f*ck, you, but it's also a kiss. You know? It's like f*ck you, but I love you. I really believe that the underlying emotion of the ladies lounge is love, and yet it's a real schooling. I think it is a genuine schooling for men, and then I think that the court case sparks all this conversation."

#2 Sometimes powerful women need powerful men to feel an erotic charge in the bedroom - and you know what everybody - assuming everything is safe, sane and consensual - that's fine

"Doing this project, I've never really I've never really considered myself much of a feminist. In fact, I'm extremely sort of radically pro-feminine, and in my own life I choose these super traditional roles - and I like it. I get off on it, I think, because my parents were so free-minded and alternative, there was no pressure on me to, you know, from home to adopt any of this. I find it titillating and exciting to kind of play this role with a man. It's also I think because I'm so powerful in my life, I need a traditional sexual dynamic to kind of calm me down and help me feel sexual and female. But through this work, I started reflecting on the reality of my life, and just, and the reality of my grandmother's life, and just a description of everything that took place, and how different our realities are to men. And how early on in my career, some of the dynamics I went through with men were just truly outrageous."

#3 The men who think we live in a world of perfect gender equality are coming from a beautiful but very misguided place

"I think one of the really interesting things for me, and humbling things to me, is that I see in Mr Lau a really earnest belief that men and women are equal. I don't know his life story, but I suspect he grew up with a powerful mother. Maybe she was the queen of the house, you know. Who knows? For whatever reason, the lack of opportunity for women has not landed with him. So this earnest belief that we're equal is sort of beautiful. It's a harbinger of change. And so I respect that - and I know he's not the only one. I've had young men, men in their 20s approach the Ladies Lounge and look genuinely hurt and confused. Why would you do this? Men and women are equal? And that's really beautiful. It means that things can shift. So I think it's a good sign in a way - but it's just not true. It's just absolutely not true."

#4 Female power means different things to people - and it's not always entirely pure

"Most of my life I've experienced it as a manipulative power, you know, using sexual appeal, and also, mother, like a beautiful goddess energy that is beautifully powerful and transformational. I haven't until recently started to experience it as the possibility of leadership, and of channeling that power into leadership. So that's new. But I definitely feel ready and capable of doing that."

#5 Feminine sensuality can be transformative

"The female body is a healer. Everybody wants their mommy. They all want boobs, you know? That's healing. The beauty, and the generosity of the female body, and also the sexual power. The hypnotic power of sexual performance ... we cannot underestimate that as a mode of change."