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, when was the last time you were expected to pay for trips 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 for Mr Stepney and those like him.

– 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.

The main problem with this survey is that it’s biased towards those who would take the time to fill it in. In other words, it’s more likely to attract those with some experience of sexual harassment or assault.

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Sex; making kiteboarding safer since ~2012

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Random social media images of kiteboarding

Up until recently, extreme sport companies had a team of sponsored riders, snowboarders, kiters, surfers and the rest. These people were performers – they demonstrated the equipment and contributed to the brand’s image.

Social media has blurred the line between producer and product. Companies now get their customers to do their marketing for them. Kiteboarders, surfers and snowboarders tag companies in their pictures, hoping to gain more traffic, to bolster and feed their personal image,

I’m a Slingshot/Burton/Billabong girl.

This is ‘late capitalism’, where products help produce their own consumers. The line between producer and consumer is increasingly a two-way street.

Yet not all extreme sports are undergoing this transition in the same way. Kiteboarding, snowboarding and surfing are all different.

Kiteboarding for instance, has changed remarkably. It’s almost impossible to find social media images or videos of female kiteboarders doing anything other just the most simple act of riding along. This is the bare minimum of kiteboarding, the snowboarding equivalent of standing up and sliding down a hill. ‘Lifestyle’ shots are now the norm, where ‘lifestyle’ involves flashing your cloaca on the daily.

I don’t really give a shit if women want to objectify themselves in this way. My main problem with it is probably jealousy – ten years ago I spent my days attempting to secure a watery death for myself in the pursuit of increasingly more difficult tricks and skills. At the time I was constantly frustrated by my lack of bravery and skill, and a niggling regard for spinal integrity.

Nowadays, as a skinny blond chick living in a photogenic place, I could achieve the same results with less kiteloops and more raw chia smoothies. I had fun back then, don’t get me wrong, but the best trick I ever learned was chucking the twin-tip and getting a surfboard. My focus has shifted, I now kite purely for fun. The last freestyle trick I pulled off was icing an octopus birthday cake (and I fucking NAILED it).

Although I stopped kiteboarding in anger years ago, I’ve remained tangentially associated with the industry. Of course, I’ve noted the rise in sex-marketing – kiteboarding is a male dominated industry. But within that I’ve noticed something else. There’s been a huge rise in Eastern European/Brazilian/South American ‘model/kiteboarders’. For some reason I feel less comfortable with these women’s images than those of their global-north counterparts.

To be sure, they’re all producing more or less the same flange-shots, but I think it feels more exploitative. The images of Aleksandra posing Playboy style on the beach, wiping a cheeky blush of sand from her perfectly formed arse-cheek feel somehow more contrived than Emma’s sunny instagram pic from Mauritius. Emma is carefree – she knows that pretty soon she’ll be back in Bristol studying vet science and getting a root canal.

To be sure, Emma’s pic feels ‘thirsty’, but Aleksandra’s is desperate.

Snowboarding is different. It’s hard to look sexy in an outfit that looks like a floor-to-ceiling sanitary pad. The snowboarding social media is dominated by images of men attempting to put their teeth through their lips. Shots of women are more or less the same.

Perhaps the lack of women’s objectification has something to do with the market – most of the top female snowboarders hail from the global north – Norway, Canada etc.,. places where women are encouraged to participate not only in life, but also extreme risk taking. Also, it’s an extremely high cost sport, which limits any kind of participation from poorer countries/women.

Both surfing and snowboarding are also somewhat professional – there are pro-tours and, in the case of snowboarding, Olympic events. Although surfing most definitely has the same cadre of young skinny women flopping about on surfboards in between strong bikini cacao enemas, there is a higher level to the sport – one which endlessly and problematically conflicts with the mainstream marketing image oriented around the multiple trajectories of the bronzed side-boob.

Gah! How can we possibly use these strong, healthy women in our marketing campaigns? What do you mean the bikini ‘falls straight off in the surf?’

I’ve got more to say about this, but I think I’ll crack into that another day.

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming

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Oh my God, fat hair!

I just had a birthday. And, after a lovely day of presents, delicious food and general flopping around in the ocean I went to bed and had a rather vivid dream.

I was in a mechanics’ workshop, trying to explain to a 19 year old manboy that my diesel bicycle was not hitting its power-band. (Like I said: dream).

Anyway, the young chap sighed, looked me hard in the eye and said;

‘It’s not working because you’re sitting on it. You are too fat, lady. You are a fat old lady’.

He delivered these words almost like a chore, as if this fact alone was so self-evident that he shouldn’t even need to push the foetid air past his shiny white teeth.

Of course, this is the point where I’m supposed to wake up in a cold, thundering sweat, freaking out about my pending mid-life crisis.

But I didn’t freak out. Or wake up. In fact, I kept dreaming. Here’s what happened next.

The young man turned away from me with the thinly veiled disgust of someone who spends an eighth of each day with his own, lonely cock in his hand. I reached out and yanked the front of his overalls. As he stumbled towards my sweaty face, I said;

‘Look here, you tumescent little turd. If you think getting a woman skinnier than me is going to work out well for you, then think again. I’m sure you spend your humid under-blanket moments lusting over some scrawny bint with the je ne sais quoi of a pair of tights filled with coat hangers but let me tell you, the only thing standing between her and a dish-rack is a thick coat of spray tan. At least a dish rack is useful’.

And then I slapped him on his greasy, stubbly little chin and fixed the bike myself.

My dream was unexpected, but welcome.

I have no time for the paranoid foibles of middle age. Fuck that shit. I’ve had a bloody good run, and it just keeps getting better. I have earned my aches and pains and they were worth every bleeding moment. The modern obsession with youth is little more than a fear of wisdom – we idolise inexperience and stupidity, to do otherwise would be dangerous.

Well, screw that. I’m only just hitting my straps.

NB. I’m not actually fat – but maybe my subconscious thinks I am so I’m suffocating it in a layer of chocolate.

Supporting girls (to just smash ’em)

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Hot tip! Always place newly dislodged teeth in a glass of milk!

-Just smash the shit out of the little fucks. Also, stop whinging. And get my smokes.  – Typical bullying advice for girls, circa 1980.

In the 80s whacking bullies was standard operating procedure. For boys and girls. I know, because I went through primary school like a pneumatic claw hammer. It didn’t entirely prevent bullying – at best my approach earned little more than a short reprieve while everyone searched the long grass for teeth. However, for a buck-toothed ginga with a short fuse and a hillbilly squint, thumping someone was definitely a legitimate option.

In 2016 things are different. It’s still OK for boys to hit girls, it’s just not OK for them to hit back.

How modern.

You see, in 2016 we give girls the tools to manage challenging situations in a mature and non-violent way. We engage with children to educate them about bullying. We empower them to recognise and manage it. We give them strategies to de-centre power relationships, embolden support networks, foster cohesiveness. In this way we have meaningful discussions about bullying.

Unless you’re a boy. If you’re a boy you can still just whack ‘em.

Oh sure, it’s not acceptable but it’s accepted.  You see, both girls and boys are are subjected to the regime of decidedly adult polite fuckspeak above, but only girls are expected to take any notice of it. In schools across Australia you might recognise this fuckspeak as ‘peer support’.

Peer support expects children to behave like adults. This isn’t new. Modern childhood is increasingly considered little more than an inconvenient larval stage where school is just preparation for The Main Event (the soul-crushing banality of heavily-mortgaged suburban ennui, counting the steps until your febrile, rest-home death on your Fit-Bit).

Where was I? Ah yes….

The focus on childhood as the preparation for a productive adult life means girls especially must learn to behave like ‘successful adults’.

They are expected to behave like responsible young women. They must have a high ’emotional IQ’. They must talk in an inclusive, respectful way. They  must manage and negotiate. They must rise above the petty squabbling of childhood. They’re still expected to be compliant and to learn well though – some things never change. This is why campaigns like ‘peer support’ are presented as school work, in class time: peer support is to be taken seriously. Girls must take everything seriously. They are little women.

In short, girls must modify their behaviour to maximise their social mobility. This is the politically acceptable form of adulting, the Life Matters version of My-First-Hot-Pants*.

Adulting isn’t new to boys. They’ve always been expected to behave like ‘young men’ in the playground, i.e., occasionally smash kids. It’s not condoned, but it’s expected. Boys are not expected to take ‘peer support’ seriously. Whacking someone remains firmly on the table.

This is how we normalise violence against women in a society where women have economic independence – we de-weaponise them.

If we are truly interested in equality we should recognise ‘peer support’ programs for what they truly are – a burden on girls who are expected to administer this playground regime of ‘self-moderation’ and ‘respectful dialogue’. The result is predictable. Girls internalise their failure to ‘manage’ violent playground behaviour. They get belted and feel guilty for it.

Perhaps in that respect it’s the most honest form of adulting yet.

*There are other forms of ‘adulting’ too – witness, for instance, the bedazzled nine-year-olds doing the bump-and- grind at the school Christmas concert. When girls make and re-make themselves through the modification of their ‘look’ they are behaving like adult women: commodifying themselves, mobilising their self-actualisation through consumption.

And just like with adult women this commodification is often little more than a direct transfer of ‘sexuality’ for power. (N.B – It’s still objectification if you pay for it yourself.) The hypersexualisation of girls is nothing more than the expanding commodification of female bodies – we make ourselves as products. Girls know that playing with their ‘look’ represents economic mobility.

It’s worth noting that the hypersexuality of girls is often presented as some weird, pseudo-paedophilic novelty, or a dystopian morality play. It’s not. That’s a distraction. It’s just every day materialism, embodied.

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She’s so Charlie! (don’t worry chaps, she’ll still worship your tight arse, but she’ll just imagine it’s on her terms. Terms she will forever associate with the smell of industrial toilet cleaner).

It’s OK to say ‘cunt’.

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‘I was shocked by his words. And it looked like this.’

I learned something today;  There’s a right way and a wrong way to object to someone referring to women’s ‘pussies’.

Man, am I glad I tuned in to the ABC this morning.

Apparently, the statement; “I don’t want anyone to talk about my daughter or mother as pussies”, is something that men say to defend the honour of women. It suggests ownership – that (in this case) Trump is somehow sullying a possession that isn’t his. This is the equivalent of a man saying; it’s MY pussy, not yours!  Back off!

In case you’re wondering, the correct way to deal with challenging pussy situations is to demand that women be spoken to with respect because they are women, not because they are the putative possession of a man.

Less clear is what to do if you already happen to be a  woman, but still object to the idea of your mother or daughter being called a pussy. Feminism’s removed that particular protest – see above. It’s only for men, cos you know, they own us.

This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yeah, I get that men have a proprietary relationship with women in western culture. It exists, to greater or lesser degrees. But I don’t really think attacking men for defending women automatically suggests patriarchal ownership, no more so than any other exchange or utterance they might make about women.

And as far as Trump is concerned I think claiming his disrespect as something uniquely targeted at women comes straight out of the Hilary playbook. It’s just her PR machine getting the 17th estate (click-bait vox-pop feminism) to call Trump a tumescent fool.

Here’s the thing; this isn’t news. Donald Trump’s disrespect isn’t limited to women. He’s an arsehole to minorities, poor people, Mexicans – in fact, unless you’re a white, super-hot wanna be model with a penchant for friendship bracelets and vampire movies, he pretty much hates you.

The idea that Trump thinks poorly of women shouldn’t come as a shock. The only women he allows himself to be seen in company of are poorly upholstered sex toys. He obviously thinks this makes him look like a powerful man (rather than a desperate pervert rubbing himself in the Judy Blume section of the public library). This should tell us everything we need to know. Quite some time ago.

So why do I have to listen to three thirty-somethings on the ABC, earnestly squirming through a ‘respectful’ conversation about Trump’s misogyny?

Maybe I’m getting old, but I’m growing increasingly tired of this brand of manufactured squabbling within feminism.  It damages the cause in two ways. First, it detracts attention from more important debates we need to have about gender roles in modern life. I want to talk about work, and money and household labour and children and reproductive rights and childcare and children’s rights. These are all important feminist issues.

But it also has a more insidious effect; this kind of nit-picking destabilises and alienates those who would otherwise be engaged in this discussion. Men and women are cagey about engaging in feminist conversations for fear of falling foul of an increasingly rarified elite set of cultural mores. Self-censorship floats on top of a bubbling brew of resentment and dissent.

So as a feminist woman, I’m going to say a few things;

It’s OK for you to use the word cunt. I won’t get mortally offended if you assume I’m ‘just a mother’ or assume I don’t pay tax or can’t back a trailer. If we’re in a meeting I’ll make you a coffee but only if I’m making one for myself (I’m also a lazy feminist).I will take your sexism in good faith – I won’t automatically assume you’re being an arsehole on purpose. Of course, if you talk to me like an extremely sexist, boorish old man (this happens from time to time) I’ll make fun of you in a cruel and unfair way. (This also happens).

Toorak calling…

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 10.13.25 AM.pngLa Trobe University hit rock bottom last week, suspending academic Roz Ward for deviating from the vapid political fuckspeak that now passes for public discourse in this country. Ward raised the ire of the burghers of Toorak with a passing joke about a Marxist Australian flag. Ever concerned with the opinions of right wing voters, La Trobe suspended Ward immediately and suggested she atone for her un-Australian behaviour by placing some children in a concentration camp or beating a man almost to death with an iron bar.

Let’s be clear….

Academics have the right to say what they like in the private domain, and should be able to speak their minds in the public, even if it makes Murray and Genevieve choke on their All Bran. As a nation we are being herded into an echo-chamber of venal, neutered political speech where public utterances are little more than a duplicate of the Lifestyle section of The Age.

It’s boring, offensive and dangerous. And it’s counter-productive. Every now and then normal people reach a tipping point and vote for some reactionary lunatic just for a change of scenery (that’s exactly my campaign platform b.t.w).

Australians need to talk openly, with each other, a lot, about everything. We are on the verge of a catastrophic environmental, social and economic spit-roast and this frantic, empty hand- wringing is nothing more than a heavily sponsored diversion.

And if that means that a small bunch of self-interested politicians and intellectual pit-ponies suffer a bout of confected ‘outrage’ then….WAAAAAA.