51% of University students sexually harassed!

It’s a good line isn’t it? Certainly got everyone’s attention. Here’s the stat;

Around half of all university students (51%) were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016, and 6.9% of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016. A significant proportion of the sexual harassment experienced by students in 2015 and 2016 occurred in university settings. For the purposes of the National Survey, incidents which occurred in ‘university settings’ included sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurred:

• on the university campus

• while travelling to or from university

• at an off-campus event organised by or endorsed by the university, and

• at university employment.

Experiences of technology-based harassment were included where some or all of the perpetrators were students, teachers or other people associated with the university…..

When incidents of sexual harassment which occurred while travelling to or from university are excluded, the Commission found that 21% of students were sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016.

So, 21% of students experienced some form of sexual harassment on campus, or in a ‘university setting’. I’m not prepared to consider public transport a ‘university setting’. After all, you don’t have to pay for it with massively inflated dollars twenty years down the track.

Still, 21% is quite a high rate but then it apparently includes being harassed over ‘technology’. Does this mean a vaguely smutty/insulting remark in response to something (equally offensive) that you’ve posted on Facebook is sexual harassment? If that’s the case then I think 21% is remarkably low.

No matter. 51% is a great statistic. Especially on Twitter.

Things got pretty…

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Here are some numbers.

The survey polled around 30 000 students, yielding a standard error of around +/-0.4%. 30 000 students could therefore be considered a representative sample.

Annabel Crabb is a well known and respected Australian journalist. She has 437K followers.

Things we don’t talk about….

No, sadly it’s not sex. Everyone talks about sex like it’s running out.

I recently ran into a friend who has had gastric surgery to address her obesity. She was happy, very happy. Being obese saddled her with misery and social stigma, the likes of which I can only imagine.

Obesity is framed as ‘your fault’, but obesity – and by that I mean, proper obesity, not just overweight – is almost entirely the fault of something other than the triumph of the will. I’ve ranted about this before, but the idea that we are in the throes of an ‘obesity epidemic’ is often read to mean we’re a nation of irredeemable fatties.

Everyone loves a spot of moralising but we’re moralising in the wrong place.

The real causes of risk of obesity (note, I said risk, not direct cause) are pretty well known. The more fat you’ve got, the more leptin you’ve got. At a certain point you’re brain gets tired of listening to leptin and becomes resistant to its messages.

Yeah, you’re full. BORING. 

And, the more you eat, the bigger your belly gets. The bigger the top of your stomach is, the more ghrelin it produces. Ghrelin tells your brain you’re hungry.

And then there’s insulin.

Fat cells generate hormones. Getting fat is like an accelerator – the fatter you get, the fatter you become.

The answer is clear right? Don’t get fat in the first place. Step away from the chiko roll. Except what we should be saying is; step away from the baby bottle. Because formula fed babies turn into fatties before they even get a chance to puree a big mac and squirt it into a sippee cup. Their brains are set up to become fat before they can roll over. They ingest far more protein than breastfed babies. They’re hardly ever actually hungry, because formula ‘fills you up’. In other words, the amount of protein in formula makes them feel full for longer. This is why formula fed babies sleep through the night. This is why childhood obesity is such a predictor for adult obesity – regardless of what you eat, your body will tell you to eat more because you’re genuinely hungry.

It’s not all about formula. It’s food too.  Generations of babies grow up eating western food – high in protein, fat and sugar. Yeah you think they’re eating well, but actually almost all processed food has added sugar, or is processed in a way that human bodies will recognise as sugar.  Obviously, there are hard ways to address this problem – you can lose weight, a lot of it, and this will change your body chemistry, making it easier to stay thin. But it’s extremely hard. Not just ‘oh I don’t really feel like it hard’ – extremely hard nigh on impossible. 

Why don’t we ever hear about the clear link between formula feeding and obesity? Well who can breastfeed every twenty minutes when they’re at work?

Disclaimer – I was a formula fed and I turned out FINE!

PR is a feminist issue

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First page of results…..

TOP STORIES

Self identified fat woman who makes a living out of complaining about her treatment, complains about her treatment! On one of the top women’s websites in Australia, no less! As part of her book tour!

It’s almost as if Mamamia’s Mia Freedman deliberately inserted a needle into the festering boil that is women’s fatness for publicity!

Perhaps Roxane Gay is a savvy media manipulator too. After all, she made a name for herself by claiming to be a Bad Feminist, thereby staking out the territory of a Good One, as if that’s something we can all agree on. And yet even that confected ‘controversy’ ran out of steam eventually. Thankfully she had narcissistic body-shaming to fall back on.

Consider her move to refuse to be photographed for her interview, prompting Mamamia’s article’s title;

“Why, for the first time, I have no photo from my interview with Roxane Gay”

Who could have seen that coming?

In other words; ‘Women of Australia! Google images of Roxane Gay immediately! Pay a lot of attention to her body! She’s really fat! This is her point of difference between all those other feminists you’ve grown tired of!’

Apparently Gay actively cultured her fatness with the goal of making herself sexually ‘untouchable’. This assumes that not having ongoing sex with a man is the cornerstone of self-negation. How can I be human without the sexual gaze of a man to validate me?

This is a master class in PR, and mamamia knows it.

Women’s fatness is underpinned by two key tenets;

  1. The idea that fatness is a choice
  2. women’s bodies are public property.

The choice element suggests morality, combined with the public property element this means everyone gets a say! You could not design a more clickbait-y topic. In fact, fatness is such a public issue that everyone’s now chucking their two cents in. This ‘shitstorm’ has kicked off predictable opinion pieces from women moaning about the seamless integration between their bodies and their feelings.

Many rail against the ‘false’ kindnesses that have come their way;

Oh, people tell me I’m beautiful to them! I know they’re well meaning, but it’s so exhausting. 

‘Exhausting’, in case you weren’t aware, is the new term for ‘I’ve decided to interpret all the kind things you say to me through a lens of my own self-hatred. I’m so offended. Perpetually offended. Poor me. I SAID, POOR ME. Is this thing even on?’

I’m fucking exhausted.

Look, I couldn’t give a rat’s clasper about mamamia. I don’t read it because it’s schlocky bullshitty clickbait, designed for the echo chamber that is boring, neurotic upper middle class white ladies who spend their days imagining they’re ‘balancing’ their careers when instead they’re at the park trying not to spill smoothie on their Country Road pashmina.

What fucks me off is the idea that this is is being touted as feminism. Does feminism mean paying enormous attention to the relatively minute differences in our appearances? Or competing in the I’m-more-offended-than-you Olympics?

This is the most effective kind of alienation. If you’re constantly telling everyone they can’t engage with you because they might do it wrong, they won’t engage with you at all.

The key point here is that if we’re all endlessly fascinated with our bodies we won’t be paying much attention to anything else.

But I would say that wouldn’t I? No-one ever says anything mean or hurtful about me. No-one has ever told me how to live my life, what choices I should make. No-one’s ever judged me on my appearance, or the choices I make with my body. Nope, plain fucking sailing here.

 

 

Housing is the new cholesterol

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 2.34.54 PMBaby boomers have both the majority of housing and cholesterol.

Frankly, I don’t know why we didn’t see the connection sooner. I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty silly. Jesus, this is like that time I shaved my tongue. Thanks, Facebook!

Remember when housing investment was good? And then it was not so good. Then it was bad. Cholesterol started off bad, then not bad, then good. It’s in eggs.

And eggs are good, right? They’re certainly yellow. And cholesterol is also probably, possibly, potentially yellow in its effects, seek* advice** from a professional***.

Who can see the pattern?

Things are Bad, Not So Bad, Debunked, Oh my God, you can see that agenda from space! I knew that bacon flavoured lip balm was good for me!

Don’t go looking for confounders, or multiplicative effects. No. Just look for things that are Bad, Good or Yellow.

Currently, New Zealand’s housing availability is Not Yellow. This is because there is an election looming.

Roughly the argument goes something like; high cholesterol is strongly correlated with home ownership. Follow the money sheeple!

But here’s where things get beyond the scope of finger puppets. There is more than one factor contributing to the housing shortage in NZ. It’s not just immigration, speculation or intergenerational fleecing.

In fact, it’s a whole bunch of RELATED factors, with multiplicative effects which reach a series of tipping points.

Too hard too hard! Can’t we just hate baby boomers? And immigrants? I have so much hate to give!

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 2.39.20 PMLet’s have a look at this news article. It appeared on my facebook feed. It’s about restricting NZ’s immigration but the comments section quickly degenerated into a conversation about home ownership.

Apparently, foreigners are buying all the houses, thus driving up prices for New Zealanders. Those fuckers! Swooping in with their haircuts and fancy teeth!

Thing is, of course, only 3% of houses are bought by non residents, and that’s in the frothiest market, Auckland. (The rate is no doubt lower in the rest of NZ, as the market for wobbly weatherboard methlabs in Bunnythorpe is surprisingly bearish).

It’s not immigrants speculating on housing, it’s New Zealand baby boomers. They are seeking capital gain. This is as self-evident as it is yellow. YELLOW!

Although the average rate of investor owned property in Auckland is around 40%, around 70% of ‘entry level’ housing in Auckland was purchased by investors.

This means that would-be first home buyers face the stiffest, frothiest market conditions. (I’m only talking about Auckland here because let’s face it, compared to Auckland everything else IS a meth-lab in Bunnythorpe. Also, Fun fact; 50% of the electoral seats are in Auckland).

So where else will Sue and Brian put their money? How will they grow their wealth in order to pay for the extravagant luxuries they’ve become accustomed to, like heating and meat that hasn’t got a picture of cat on the tin?

The NZ pension pays about 20 grand. Now I can live on rather a lot less than 20 grand, but that’s because I’m a completely impoverished Gen-Xer with a student loan almost entirely comprised of compounding interest (remember that, GenY? Student loans used to have compounding interest. dissolve that in your turmeric mylk, snowflake etc.,). I consider my life fairly comfortable, but I doubt there are many baby boomers who’re willing to climb into my cut-off sleeping bag.

Let’s talk about other reasons baby boomers invest in housing.

Many New Zealanders do not retire with heaps of cash. Their superannuation scheme is voluntary and there aren’t the tax breaks that exist in Australia to encourage saving. For many, their main source of capital is their house. They can use their small savings to buy another house, leveraged off their existing house. Interest rates are low, which means their mortgage is ‘cheap’ and it’s less tempting to keep their money in savings.

As noted above, investors comprise the majority of the lowest quartile of the market. They are effectively bidding one another up, and the resulting increases in rent are worn by tenants and the government (through the ever climbing accommodation supplement – indexed to market rents. NB; In Australia, when the government transfers money to wealthy property owners it’s called ‘middle class welfare’).

Yes, this housing situation is fragile – the bubble might burst, and those who with negative equity may lose both their rental property but also the family home. Not that it matters because they’ll still have some remaining equity and houses will be cheap as chips! However, no one really thinks this will happen – the market isn’t wobbly enough for it to fall over. There may be some corrections, but the reality is, as long as the government continues to pump warm bodies into the cities, she’ll be right.

Sure, Sue and Brian could take their modest savings and invest them in the sharemarket, (Mum and Dad investors), but they’re not comfortable doing that because they don’t know anything about it. The returns might be higher but they equate higher returns with greater risk. At least a house is a real thing. You can constantly reassess your vulnerability with a house. People will always need houses.

So let’s have a capital gains tax, right? Because that will make housing more affordable for lower and middle class families, right? Less liquidity in housing means more liquidity for alternative investment. The rest of the economy will benefit in more balanced growth! Huzzah!

Well, as far as I know the only tolerable capital gains tax model floated so far is one where investors must hold on to the property for 3-5 years to avoid the capital gains tax. That might knock a touch off the froth of the speculation, but it’d be three fifths of fuck all. Hanging onto a rental property for five years isn’t a problem for most baby boomers – they’re going to live to 150 years old.

While we’re here, let’s have a bit of a chat about immigration and infrastructure in Auckland. Underfunding infrastructure is underfunding infrastructure. It’s not a matter of demand outstripping supply – you can always build more infrastructure. In the old days governments used to even plan for it! On paper! Yeah you can limit the number of people moving into cities but….

Sprawl is the new MasterChef. It’s worth it just to wait until the pressure is at fever pitch then expand the outskirts of the city, delivering the maximum profit to landbankers. Land bankers don’t want infill housing or more infrastructure within existing city limits. Neither do homeowners – no-one wants a block of flats next door. Imagine what that’d do to the market value? No, no no, Murray! It’s much safer to return a tax free profit to investors. Because; voting demographics.

It’s worth noting that Australia has capital gains tax, compulsory super that is heavily supported with generous tax incentives and is discussing ways to limit negative gearing BUT its housing market remains far too frothy for almost everyone under the age of 60 to enter in the city.

This polarised, simplified ‘debate’ is what’s known as class warfare/wedge politics.

That’s my contribution for today. Feel free to correct me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuck off with your ankle bracelet

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One week ago, without even having to inconvenience myself by robbing a petrol station or raping someone with a broom handle, I was issued with an ankle bracelet.

Yep, my workplace was participating in a corporate ‘wellbeing challenge’. Staff were organised into teams and pedometers were handed out.

All you have to do is measure how many steps you take in a day!

Apparently, this is because our employer is dedicated to staff wellbeing;

‘For those of you lucky enough to have your zero hours contracts renewed for another six months, we really care about your personal wellbeing! Look! There’s even a video! And hell – o! It’s funky!’

In the olden days, by which I mean the period immediately preceding the age characterised by endless moaning about how millennials are too lazy and entitled to commit suicide already, working for a living defined you as a lifter, rather than a leaner. Lifters were masters of their own destiny, less scrutinised than those languishing in the nationalised cost of labour market elasticity.

Where was I? Ah yes, work makes free. It’s got a lovely ring to it, don’t you think?

Male, white collar workers could drink till it came out their ears, drive badly and eat Big Macs off the arses off as many Brazilian models as they liked (I fondly imagine this is what they were up to anyway), with little oversight. Women, of course, could work as much as they liked but were still subject to open scrutiny. Who is paying the price for your selfish obsession with paying the bills, bitch? (At least some things never change).

However, by and large, working for a living placed you under less scrutiny than being on welfare. Or at least that what’s my ankle bracelet told me to say. Because I’m not being ‘scrutinised’. I’m simply being trained in methods so I can scrutinise myself.

To be sure, the pedometer is not forcing my behaviour, it’s not making me walk around the suburb in my slippers in the dark, counting each step as I go. No, that’s not how this shit works. Social control must be subtle. It must appear sensible and self evident. It must legitimise itself. You must want to do it.

My ankle bracelet encourages me to think about my body, my self, in a particular way. For instance, it enables me to think of all the walking I do as discrete parcels of exercise. this fits in nicely with the idea of the compartmentalised self, where activities such as ‘walking’ are realised as both a noun and a verb.

Walking can be slotted into a rubric of self-care and public health. It helps me to work on my body, where my body is a commodity that I produce myself, with the help of other products of course. The pedometer strings together a strategy of the body, a way of thinking about my output as compartmentalised. It also gets me used to the idea of complete monitoring.

The pedometer is accompanied by helpful tidbits of information;

‘Did you know that you actually do exercise in your ordinary life, just by walking around?’

Here it connects the very act of moving from the bed to the bathroom, for instance, with a regime of order that is intrinsically connected to the larger structures in your life – a seamlessly integrated alliance of work and public health,

‘Woah. You mean just by walking around I’m getting exercise? Every step I take actually counts? I’m totally going to start snorting coke off the downstairs toilet cistern from now on!’ (FYI – this type of response elicits the ‘you are not a team player’ derisory sigh in the tea room, and a suggestion that perhaps I am not a Model Employee).

Right up until the moment it went into the ocean, the little plastic pedometer was educating me in the right way to think about my body, how to regulate myself. This is what Foucault would call governmentality – the conduct of conduct.

“Governmentalities are both mentalities and technologies, both ways of thinking and tools for intervening, and it is important to keep in view the irreducibility of one to the other” (Miller and Rose 2008:20)

I like this because it makes me think about Actor Network Theory. I like the conceptual slipperiness of ANT, the idea that there are connections between things, networks, ideas and what Papuans might call Kastom. I like that it’s a way of finding traces of power, but it’s not absolute. Power is in flux, constantly, and the objects things and networks all shift in relation to one another, sometimes becoming one another. Foucault is often presented as more fixed, when in fact I think his work is more like ANT. The panoptican, for instance, is presented as a metaphor – here is a building that represents a way that people can think about themselves in relation to the control of the state. Well, no, the panopticon is more than a representation or a metaphor. Foucault’s genealogies work more like fashions of thought, for me anyway.

The pedometer, for instance, makes me think of myself as a knowable, homogenised commodity. All the walking you do is rendered the same, whether it’s getting up to a baby in the middle of the night or snorting coke off the downstairs loo. Walking is an essential human activity (for most people). It’s essentiality is a wonderful thing to give you a sense of control over. The pedometer co-opts walking into a regime of order and homogeneity. It’s the McDonaldisation of your steps! Excuse me, Kate Tempest, I believe I’m being noisy now….is this thing on…?

OK, McDonaldisation might be a bit clunky.

But perhaps we can think of walking as connected to exercise. Everything is now exercise. And what is ‘exercise’? It’s moral, self-management in the pursuit of a commodity-body, where the emphasis is on the through-put of the images of self, rather than the self itself.

The idea that walking at work can be exercise is something interesting too – it joins the world of the personal and labour….Hey, you’re actually performing a first world leisure activity (exercise) while you’re working! WIN! You should be thinking of your job as a vocation, because that’s how winners think about work. Yeah, think of yourself as both producer and product, where work is something that produces you. The real you. The one that feels gipped when you have to ‘give up’ work to look after kids.

Exercise is also connected to risk. We’re all familiar with this message – if you don’t exercise you’re volunteering yourself for a cascade of neo-liberal reversals. You’ve brought this on yourself. Fatty.

Risk is an aggregation of destinies, in this way I am connected to everyone else. This gives me both more control (I must get off my arse immediately so I don’t end up with diabetes) and less control (this aggregation of information, called risk, knows more about me and my life chances than I do myself). What it does do is homogenise me, and make me more controllable. I’m a standardised metric. The only purchase I have on risk is through the chirpy, pastellised infographics on the train station walls (as long as the message is expressed in two moronic words or less).

Get Active! Just Quit! Fuck off!

So, risk does two things –

One: it encourages me to think about myself as part of a polity, as connected to everyone else. Moreover, it makes me think I have a particular responsibility to mobilise and care for my body in a morally acceptable way.

Two: There is something called ‘risk’ which knows more about my life chances than I can know, but is ‘good for me’. It also exists within the realm of professionals – biostatisticians, psychologists, public health experts. I should trust their judgement and wisdom.

I must learn to be comfortable with acquiescing my sense of personal control. The pedometer can help with that. It gives me a sense of ‘self-care’ and primes me for being controlled.

If I feel uncomfortable with this then it’s because I’m not sufficiently fluent in these techniques of the self. This is when Foucault is most visible – when everyone else in the tea room thinks the ‘steps project’ is a ‘bit of fun’ and ‘enters into the spirit of the thing’ and I feel like I’m on page 67 of 1984. Sure, there are ways of getting around this – loudly but casually referring to it as the ‘Pedo Challenge’ certainly makes for good tea room banter – but generally I think there’s no way out.

I’ve snorted way less coke off the downstairs loo since I got rid of the pedometer though.

 

 

 

 

 

500 words; epic human frailty

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On my way to work, I was listening to an RN Breakfast interview with a representative of the Commonwealth Secretariat, who was describing the ‘radically new’ approach to addressing the challenges of climate change. One such revelation was ‘working with nature to find solutions’. When pressed, the interviewee said this meant taking lessons from nature and applying them to engineering solutions.

An example; there is too much CO2 floating around in the atmosphere and not enough locked away (sequestered) in the ground. Nature, it seems, has a few ways of sequestering carbon, one of which is….trees.

Woah woah woah…trees turn CO2 into something that isn’t CO2? Yep, the Commonwealth Secretariat doesn’t just make coffee and organise the dry cleaning of the Commonwealth Manageriat.

So I thought; OK, what’s the easiest, most efficient trees CO2-sequestration process?

Is it;

A) stop cutting down trees that sequester carbon? Also, plant some more?

B) dream up some other hugely carbon intensive industrial process that uses orders of magnitude more carbon to establish than sticking a sapling in the ground?

Guess which one the engineers went for? That’s right, a new form of concrete that sequesters CO2, so when you build a new building out of concrete (one of the most intensely carbon heavy products known to man) it will perform some of the same sequestration as a tree.

Some people like to build houses out of trees. They grow the tree, cut it down, build their house and another one grows in its place. Architects have also figured out how to build large structures out of engineered structural timber, instead of steel and concrete, two materials with very high embedded energy.

To be sure, this is not an argument about whether planting more trees would ‘fix’ global warming. It is a discussion about the most efficient tree-like way to sequester CO2. My money’s on….a tree.

 

Silences

I’m about to enter a short story in the Overland VU short story competition as I’ve been feeling far too franchised and encouraged lately. Consequentially, I read the judges’ reports on last year’s shortlist. Specifically, Jacinta Woodhead stated that ‘abused women should never be used as a plot device’. Really?

Here’s the thing; Abusing women is generally frowned upon. It’s easy to see, therefore, how the act of abusing women might be at the centre of a story, as other characters may seek to hide, normalise, amplify or limit their actions. Certainly, the treatment of these women should not be gratuitous, but it’s wrong to limit their presence altogether.