Are we ashamed of Australian culture?

dailylife

February 17, 2013 – 11:59 pm

Alecia Simmonds

Alecia Simmonds

Writer

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Summer is drawing to a close. And as the last of our international visitors do the annual skip back from a sunburnt South to a pearly-skied North, we can finally breathe in the calm, put on a cuppa… and bitch.

Not about the guests, but about peoples’ reactions to the guests. That simpering, servile bleat on the part of too many Australians that goes something like: ‘Oh! You’re living in Eurrope! How MARVELLOUS! Vacuous Partner and I were just recently there. In fact, we like to go every year to get our dose of culture.’ Variations on this loathsome theme can include: ‘Oh, you must just LOVE the cheeses in Frawnce. It’s so difficult in Australia to get decent fromage’. Or they may add in a cheeky ‘n’est-ce pas’ to the most banal observations: “It’s hot, n’est-ce pas?’ or ‘I’m a tosser, n’est-ce pas?’

It may seem odd to complain about colonial cringes in the aftermath of patriotic Australia Day booziness, but elite self-loathing is impervious to time. On a perfect summer day they could be sitting on a crystalline beach wishing that they were holed up in an apartment that resembles a telephone booth on a bleak muddy island in the northern hemisphere.

When people complain about Australia relative to New York, London or Paris what they want to say is: ‘I AM SOCIALLY SUPERIOR TO MY COUNTRYFOLK.’ But blurting out a comment like this is socially unacceptable. It can create social awkwardness and may sometimes lead to depression. So people find other ways to advertise their bourgeois status. One of the most time-honoured means of doing this here is to measure Australia against a mythical Old World and find it grievously lacking. If Europe is the natural homeland of philosophy, culture and art then Australia is a place of brash materialism and vulgar stupidity. If Europe has a long and complex history populated by Great Men with Great Ideas then Australia’s history is a story of fly-pestered philistines stuck on a desert island.

By identifying themselves with the Old World, these people assert a kind of social power through cultural distinction. They may not have as much money as ‘cashed up bogans’ but they know a language and a set of codes that guarantees their entry into a cultural elite whose ranks they guard with sneering pomposity. Rather than taking Australian creativity on its own terms they place it in an imagined hierarchy of nations and declare it bankrupt for the simple fact that it’s Australian.

I would understand this if we were still living under Menzies or Howard. If we were 19th Century ladies flung to a convict dumping heap on the other side of the earth then of course Europe would look sophisticated by comparison. But we’re not. We’re a country with a breathtaking line-up of artistic events this year (Anish Kapoor and Francis Bacon to name but two) restaurants that would make any Parisian die of pleasure, universities with world-leading Professors and a fantastic history of feminist activism, democratic reform and workers’ rights. We were the first country in the world to give women the right to vote and to be elected to Parliament on a national basis. We also invented the idea of the eight-hour day. Not to be sniffed at even by those who sniff!

Europe is just not that great either. I mean, if Europe was so terribly thoughtful then why would 17% of people in Holland or 15% in Denmark vote for the far right? Why were Parisian streets recently flooded by an estimated 800,000 people protesting AGAINST gay and lesbian marriage and adoption rights? Sure, Italians make good buffalo mozzarella. But how did they continue to elect Berlusconi for all those years? And have you seen European comedies? Not. Very. Funny. At. All.

If the colonial cringe was limited to irritating people at dinner parties then we could just engage in fierce eye-rolling. But it has much more serious consequences. It results in an over-valuing of anything that comes from Europe or America and an undervaluing of anything home-grown. Take the decision by the Liberal Queensland Premier last year to slash arts funding by 12 million, at the same time as establishing a 3 million dollar ‘superstar fund’. What this means is that local talent is starved while superstars from overseas are nourished. Or take the University of Western Sydney’s decision last year to only advertise for new academic posts internationally. No-one in Australia knew they were hiring. And good luck advancing in the legal profession without a Masters from Oxbridge.

I’m all for us being an outward-looking, cosmopolitan society that draws talent from around the globe. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of people here. And it shouldn’t mean a slavish adoption of all things European or American. Why is speaking French or Italian any better than speaking Walpiri or Indonesian? Why do we lament not being able to find a good croissant outside of France but say nothing of the difficulties of finding tagine outside of Morocco?

The sun set on European Empires years ago. We need to stop the cringing, end the sycophantism and soak up the sunshine right here.

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‘Anyone who says racism is dying is well and truly mistaken’: ABC News presenter Jeremy Fernandez alleges racial abuse on Sydney bus

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February 8, 2013 – 11:12AM

Megan Levy
Breaking news reporter

Megan Levy

Racially abused … Jeremy Fernandez.

ABC News presenter Jeremy Fernandez says he has been racially abused on a Sydney bus in front of his young daughter.

Fernandez tweeted on Friday morning that a female bus passenger had called him a “black c**t” and told him to “go back to my country”.

But, in what he described as his own Rosa Parks moment, Fernandez refused to move his position on the bus and, as a result, copped 15 minutes of racial abuse from the woman, who was accompanied by her primary school-aged children.

“Anyone who says racism is dying is well and truly mistaken,” he tweeted.

“Coppef [sic] 15 mins of racial abuse. Bus driver said ‘your fault for not moving) [sic],” he wrote.

“Worst thing is- i had my 2yo daughter with me. She had her primary school aged kids with her. All heard every word of her racist rant.

“It’s a sad thing when a coloured man in 2013 has to show his kid how to hold their nerve in the face of racist taunts.”

Fernandez has been contacted for comment.

Late last year, a French woman was targeted in a racist attack on a Melbourne bus in which she was called a c—, a dog and threatened with having her breasts cut off after she sang a song in her native tongue.

Another passenger captured footage of that incident, which showed passengers verbally abusing French tourist Fanny Desaintjores, 22, and her friends on board a bus in the city’s southern suburbs.

Ms Desaintjores said she and about nine friends were on the bus, having spent the day at the beach for a barbecue, and were singing “French popular joyful songs, not coarse at all”.

Footage of the racist taunts was viewed more than a million times on YouTube and been reported around the world.

Police have spoken to three people over that attack, and investigations are continuing.

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UPDATE

The Drum

My Rosa Parks moment in Sydney 2013

Updated 2 hours 9 minutes ago

ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez has long experienced racism since moving to Australia as a teenager, but a 15-minute racist tirade he experienced in front of his young daughter left him particularly shaken. He asks, what makes people so ready to vent their hate in 2013?

Photo: I thought to myself, “What would Rosa Parks do?” (Giulio Saggin, file photo: ABC News)

Earlier today I had what I like to think of as my own Rosa Parks moment on a Sydney bus travelling through the inner-west from Marrickville to Stanmore.

It culminated in a woman, in the presence of her two school-aged kids, calling me a “black c***”. She told me to go back to my “own country”, and threatened to drag me off the bus as she raised her fist to my face.

The entire encounter lasted about 15 minutes, and is one of the most confronting instances of abuse I have experienced recently.

I am absolutely sure this episode isn’t unique or even rare. I cop racist abuse from time to time – most recently from a checkout operator at Woolworths who had been moaning her disapproval about the influx of asylum seekers to our shores. When my turn came to go through the checkout, she scanned and piled my groceries on a tiny bit of the counter top until everything fell on the floor. As I picked my groceries up from the floor she kept going, sending more groceries off the edge of the tiny bench.

You never know when you’ll be hit next, and having your mug on TV doesn’t offer much of a shield.

However, this episode on the bus shook me particularly strongly because I had my two-year-old daughter with me. In fact, it was in her defence that the confrontation started.

The woman’s daughter had been flicking and pinching my daughter from behind. It was harmless child’s play, but it made my daughter uncomfortable and confused. So I put my arm around her as protection. The little girl kept clipping my arm. I turned and told her softly, “That was my arm.”

The girl’s mother asked what was going on, and I told her what had happened. She denied her daughter had even touched me.

What happened next took me by surprise.

She began hurling abuse and accused me of reaching behind our seats and touching her daughter. Of course, I had not done anything of the sort. This accusation hit me pretty hard.

At this point, I considered moving to another spot on the bus. However, the woman then launched into a racist rant that continued for the longest 15 minutes of my life. I thought to myself, “What would Rosa Parks do?” She would stay put. So I did, especially since it is 2013.

As the woman’s rant continued, I did argue back, telling her she was a piece of work for even talking like this in front of children. She raised a fist to my face, and threatened to drag me off the bus if I didn’t move.

A Caucasian gentleman sitting next to the woman told her to stop. She told him off, before continuing her rant at me. No one else said anything, and for that I have no resentment. Any further outside involvement risked escalating the situation.

I used my phone to record the tail end of the woman’s rant, while she got her phone out to take photographs of me. She muttered threats, saying that she knew where I lived and would round up a few men to show me a lesson.

After she got off the bus to drop her children off at school, a couple of people offered me their names and contact details as witnesses.

The sting was yet to come. As I alighted from the bus, I told the driver that as someone who had carriage of passengers on his vehicle, it would have been nice if he had pulled this woman into line.

He said, “It’s your fault, mate. You could have moved.” I was keen to press the point that I didn’t move from my seat on principle because I had every right to be on that bus in that seat. It surprised me that as a European migrant himself, he failed to recognise that.

Discrimination on the basis of race, colour, gender, economics, disability, sexual preference, and other differences is an unfortunate part of our modern society. People across the country put up with all types of abuse and move on. For me, this incident wasn’t about race. It was about hate.

If I were gay, disabled, elderly, or spoke poor English, this woman would have attacked that, perceiving it to be the most shameful aspect of me.

Racism has been a part of my life since I was a young child growing up in Malaysia, when the fairer-skinned kids would call me the ‘oily man’ because I looked to them like I’d been dipped in a barrel of oil.

I moved to Australia as a 13-year old with a ‘weird accent’, and learned to embrace being a novelty. One of my best friends at school, on learning I wanted to be a journalist one day, advised me not to worry about never getting a job: “There’s always SBS,” he said.

I cut my teeth in journalism when Pauline Hanson was becoming popular. I attended her first speech in Perth, during which all of my belongings apart from a pen and paper were confiscated, in case I used them as missiles. It saddened me equally to see the people who turned out to hear Ms Hanson speak being pelted with fruit and vegetables.

Ever since my family migrated to Australia, I have been asked what I think about racism. I rarely talk about it publicly because there is nothing new to say. Why are we still having conversations about immigration, embracing difference, and acceptance in 2013? And what makes people so ready to vent their hate?

I have to admit that I had a bit of a cry after dropping my daughter off at daycare. It saddened me to realise that I’ll have to teach her how to be stoic and stand up for herself in the face of an abusive person. Perhaps naively, I hadn’t thought that far ahead, especially because Sydney is said to be one of the most open and inclusive cities in the world.

I have been heartened and deeply humbled by the messages of support I’ve received today, many from strangers on social media outlets.

I bounce back pretty easily. But I am now wondering about where and how we can change things so our kids don’t have to explain hate to their kids.

Jeremy Fernandez is a journalist and newsreader for ABC News. View his full profile here.

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Do jerks deserve free speech?

dailylife
January 22, 2013 – 11:58PM

Alecia Simmonds

Writer

On 28 September 2011, Andrew Bolt was found to have contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. Photo: Justin McManus

Imagine if Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt could be thrown in prison and charged money for vomiting venomous racist bile in public. Seriously. I don’t mean this in an ‘imagine if you were invisible and could fly’ kind of way. Nor in the sense of: ‘imagine if Ryan Gosling begged for you to be with him but you turned him down in favour of being a lesbian mother with Portia di Rossi.’ I mean this in the sense that [insert sonorous BBC news voice here] the NSW Parliament is conducting an inquiry into racial anti-vilification laws which impose criminal penalties for hate speech. Specifically, section 20D of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act is for ‘serious racial vilification’ and carries a penalty of $5,500 dollars and 6 months in jail if you’re found to have incited ‘hatred’, ‘serious contempt’ or ‘severe ridicule’ of a person or a group or to have threatened physical harm. Since the law’s inception in 1989 there have been 27 complaints referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions but not one has been prosecuted. The legal requirements are too stringent. The Inquiry may look at revising the requirements to make it easier to sue. [Now stop reading in BBC voice or it will become distracting.]

Already the announcement has sparked the usual Cassandra like murmurings of free speech advocates wringing their hands and making terrible prophecies: Pestilence! Death of democracy! Gagging of political dissidents! Voltaire is quoted with promiscuous glee: I may not like what he has to say, but I’ll defend to the death Alan Jones’ right to call Lebanese people ‘vermin and mongrels’. Democracy needs free speech. And in the free marketplace of ideas, the truth will always triumph.

A similar debate raged last week in England over writer Julie Burchill’s breathtakingly transphobic article in defence of her gob-smackingly transphobic mate Suzanne Moore. Moore made a jibe at ‘Brazilian transvestites’ in an otherwise excellent essay on female anger. In so doing, Moore incurred the wrath of some ‘bullies’ standing up for transgender rights. I don’t want to repeat what Burchill said in defence of Moore, but suffice to say it was so horrendous that the Guardian removed it and released an apology. It was in flagrant breach of their anti-vilification policy. In their ping-pong game of hate, Moore hit back in defence of Burchill saying that she had been censored by ‘humourless, authoritarian morons.’ ‘How has the left ceded the word ‘freedom’ to the right?’ she brayed.

So how do we make sense of this seeming opposition between equality and free speech, especially given that we pinko lefty types tend to cherish both and have historically stood up for both. Perhaps it’s best to start with the fact that freedom of speech is not an unqualified right or an unqualified good. Your ‘freedom to’ say what you want can’t come at the expense of other people’s ‘freedom from’ fear, violence or hatred which may be incited by what you say. The left hasn’t given up on freedom. We just want to stretch it to include the most vulnerable members of our community.

Studies have consistently shown that hate speech is not just words, but that it usually precedes an attack. Sociologists Rowan Savage and Gordon Allport describe it as part of a continuum of violence where racial vilification can slide easily into violence or genocide. Hate speech makes violence possible and is also itself a form of violence. Law Professor Mari Matsuda has found that victims of vicious hate propaganda experience physical symptoms such as difficulties breathing, increased pulse-rate, nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder. So, I would think, like any form of violence, hate speech should be subject to criminal sanctions, not just toothless symbolic legislation.

And what about the free marketplace of ideas? The idea that the truth will win out through rational debate while bad ideas will wither and die? The problem with these arguments is that they imagine that the marketplace affords everyone an equal right to speak and that every voice is equally loud. This is nothing more than a beautiful fiction. Unfortunately, very little can rival the booming flatulence of Alan Jones. Migrants or Aborigines don’t have the same access to public space.

And you have to wonder why free speech advocates are mostly concerned about the stifling of right-wing views. If people like Tony Abbott were genuinely concerned about free speech then surely they would campaign as fiercely for the protesters involved in the Palm Island riots as for powerful bigots.

We’ve had anti-vilification laws for over twenty years now and don’t appear to have spiralled into a totalitarian state governed by authoritarian morons. I think we need to stop debating whether the laws will gag democracy and start questioning why, in NSW for instance, they apply to homosexuals, ethnic minorities, transgender people and people with HIV but they don’t apply to women. Of the State and Federal Anti-discrimination Acts, only Tasmania condemns inciting hatred towards women through language such as whore or dyke. Is it because too much of what passes as ‘pub talk’ could constitute hate speech? Is it because it would release a flood of litigation around everything from pro-rape facebook pages to misogynistic shock jocks to sleazy uncles? Is it, ultimately, because we live in a society where violence against women is simply not taken seriously? I think it’s high time that Jones and Bolt were sent to the clanger, but for their misogyny as much as their racism.

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Furore as gay group asked to take down sign

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January 21, 2013 – 7:14PM

Leesha McKenny

Urban Affairs Reporter

Furore … John Chedid, Mayor of Parramatta. Photo: Ben Rushton BGR

Parramatta’s Lord Mayor is facing a social media backlash after a gay and lesbian youth group invited to a council family fun day was asked to remove its ‘‘offensive’’ signage.

Council staff told the group that a banner promoting its “support services for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, same-sex attracted and gender-diverse young people, their families and communities” was inappropriate at last week’s Rediscover the River festival, its acting managing director, Terence Humphreys, said.

Fearing “a potentially toxic environment”, Twenty10 – which had been invited by council to set up a kite-making stall – decided to pack up and leave instead.

The offending banner … there was a request to take it down.

Twenty10 apologised on Facebook to those who may have noticed its absence, but said it could not support an event if the sign displaying ‘‘who we are and the services we provide’’ had been ‘‘deemed to contain offensive language’’.

“We had school-aged clients there, volunteers and staff who were very distressed by the incident,” Mr Humphreys told Fairfax Media.

“It sends a really horrible message to the people of Parramatta that it wasn’t OK to be same-sex attracted, gender diverse in a family event like the Rediscover the River.”

Council has been inundated with complaints as news of the January 17 incident has spread.

A change.org petition calling for an apology had attracted more than 7500 signatures as of Monday night.

Council said in a statement that organisers asked that two banners be removed “in response to numerous complaints by members of the public”, but at no stage did it request Twenty10 to leave.

It declined to say what aspect of the sign was found to be offensive.

“Council regrets any inconvenience or offence taken by its actions and values the efforts and contribution of Twenty10 in servicing at-risk youth,” it said.

“Council has enjoyed a positive relationship with Twenty10 over some time and hopes to continue to work in partnership over the coming years.”

But Twenty10 was still awaiting a response from the Liberal Lord Mayor, John Chedid – whose staff it claims had made the request – or it will consider lodging a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Board.

“We specifically want an apology and reassurance from the Lord Mayor’s office that their staff will undertake some anti-discrimination training,” he said.

“To this point we haven’t heard back from him.”

Fairfax Media was told Cr Chedid was unavailable to comment on Monday, as the issue divided some of his fellow councillors.

Councillor and former mayor Lorraine Wearne said she was happy to apologise for any offence caused, but the response – including naming staff on Facebook – was an overreaction.

“These things can generate a life of their own and can feed off themselves and that’s what concerns me here – that this is going to be bigger than Ben-Hur with no cause other than the fact that someone asked a stall to please take down a banner,” she said.

“If they had [refused to pull] the banner down, that would have been the end of it.”

Labor’s Julia Finn said the council’s reasoning was inadequate.

“I think it’s quite disgraceful and embarrassing that we did this,” she said.

“Would we stop doing [ethnic-focused events] because a racist person complained?”

But independent councillor, Paul Garrard, said the council had made the right call as the family day was no place for “semi-political” groups.

“They shouldn’t have been there, in the same fashion Right to Life weren’t there,” he said.

“Whether one is for or against the issues the gays were pushing on that occasion, that was not the place to be doing it.”

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Apology demanded after gay and lesbian groups’ signs deemed offensive

Defeated in a cruel game

Waleed Aly

In Kafka’s Australia, chilling bureaucratic violence against asylum seekers breaks them down slowly.

SO THIS is what ”no advantage” looks like. We have barely started sending asylum seekers to Nauru and already there has been an attempted suicide. By hanging, according to the psychiatrist who reported it. The end result was that three more asylum seekers opted to return home rather than face our immigration system.

That brings the tally of voluntary returns to about 40 – 40 people who decided the situation was so grim, so hopeless that they were better off returning to the place they were fleeing.

There’s something chilling about the government citing these as ”steps forward”, but that’s the logic of deterrence. It means we have to take the misery that produces asylum seekers, then raise it. And since we can’t simply inflict direct violence on detainees, we have to do it in more subtle ways, namely by destroying their sense of hope. That’s why people are attempting suicide so quickly, because we’re telling them they are going to Nauru to languish, not to be processed.

But it turns out that’s not all we are telling them. We are also telling them they should just give up. This week, ABC radio’s PM revealed that Immigration Department officials are rejecting some asylum seekers on the basis of an informal verbal interview. No application. No lawyer. No hearing. No process really. Just the uninformed, premature judgment of a bureaucrat trying to dispense with an irritant.

It’s the very definition of insidious. So insidious the department has even given it a euphemistic, bureaucratic name, ”screening out”, as though it’s a routine classification process. ”Any person who is screened out progresses towards removal from Australia,” a media release from the department says. Progresses. Like they’re getting somewhere. Sounds better than ”shunted back home without a hearing” or ”dumped in detention limbo”, which is what it actually means.

The idea is so brazen: to trade on the ignorance and powerlessness of asylum seekers. It’s not that asylum seekers lose their rights. They don’t. At least in theory they retain the right to apply for refugee status. They have the right to a lawyer. But if you are ”screened out”, you are not told this. If you happen to know it, and have the inordinate confidence to call an immigration official’s bluff, good for you. If not, your rights are pretty much rhetorical. ”If anyone in immigration detention requests access to a lawyer, we facilitate that request,” the department says. You just have to assert rights you don’t know you have.

Welcome to Kafka’s Australia, where rights are guaranteed, but preferably forgotten. So we maintain that we respect due process and human rights, even if it’s clear we don’t always like them very much. We have been doing this for ages. ”Screening out” has been around for the best part of a decade; long enough for the department to call it a ”long-standing policy over successive governments”.

And if you believe the lawyers who work in this area, it’s part of a number of bureaucratic practices designed to prevent asylum seekers accessing the few rights they have.

You can’t ban asylum seekers from having access to lawyers, but you can insist they fill out a specific form if they want one, and then refuse to give them the form. You can limit the time lawyers have with their clients to make their work impossible. And if they manage to apply, you can delay the process by using translators who speak the wrong language, or who belong to rival ethnic groups. It’s like the dictation test of the White Australia period, which could be in Swahili if the immigration official wanted you to fail.

What explains this bureaucratic violence? Telling asylum seekers their claim is rejected without a hearing doesn’t ”send a message to people smugglers” or ”break the people smugglers’ business model”. Obstructing access to a lawyer doesn’t deter people from getting on boats. It just breaks them slowly. These are not policies that have been debated in Parliament and have clearly articulated purposes. They don’t need to be. They arise by osmosis.

Reflecting on the infamous Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo observed that such things become possible when the perpetrators feel anonymous, when they don’t have a sense of personal responsibility for their actions, and have tacit approval from authority figures. And the obvious differences between Nauru and Abu Ghraib aside, isn’t that what’s happening here?

This is a culture of belligerence, trickling down from the political leadership. Again, just like White Australia. It’s a culture that sees the sneaky denial of rights as a virtue. A culture that sheds tears for those who die at sea trying to get here, but barely blinks when people are killed after being sent home. A culture that watches a detainee attempt suicide, and dozens of people give up on the idea of asylum, and then chalks it up as a win.

Waleed Aly writes fortnightly. He hosts Drive on ABC Radio National and is a lecturer in politics at Monash University.

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How Facebook hurts women

Daily Life

October 11, 2012 – 7:52AM

Ruby Hamad

__________________________________________________________________

In Damned Whores and God’s Police (1975), her historical analysis on women in Australia, Anne Summers describes the trap patriarchal society sets for young girls:

The female child has (her) sex role and an awareness of its low status impressed upon her…she is threatened with insecurity and feeling of worthlessness unless she submits to it. But she is immediately caught within a contradiction…conformity to it means accepting a low status which (itself) engenders feelings of worthlessness.

Summers was referring to the predicament female children face when they first become of aware of parental expectations regarding gender roles. But fast forward forty odd years, and, whilst things have undoubtedly improved for western women, when it comes to female sexuality at least, this fundamental contradiction that both demands and punishes conformity remains entrenched.

The latest woman-hating page to take Facebook by storm, 12-year-old slut memes, demonstrates how women and girls are still expected to exhibit certain sex-role behaviours, only to be excoriated for conforming to them.

“As long as there are sluts, we will put them in their place” the page, which has over 215,000 ‘likes’, proudly boasts. Other writers have already discussed how Facebook’s refusal to remove the page demonstrates its cavalier attitude towards misogyny. Whereas blogging website Tumblr deleted a blog by the same name (the blog has since reappeared and at the time of writing has yet to be removed), the best Facebook was willing to do was add the caveat ‘[Controversial Humor]’ to the page’s title.

Not surprising for a site that removes images of women breastfeeding but thinks Wiping makeup off your shoe after a long day of kicking sluts in the face (87k likes) is merely‘[Humor]’ , and, Kicking a slut in the vagina and losing your shoe (11k likes) is acceptable as long as it is labelled ‘[Satire]’.

But this isn’t just about Facebook. It’s about society’s willingness to make excuses for hatred of women as long as we can pretend it’s just a [Harmless Joke].

Moreover, it shows just how our supposedly ‘enlightened’ younger generations are absorbing society’s dim views on female sexuality.

12 year old sluts memes is run by two Australian university students, James Silverwood and Dominic Terry, who claim to have created the page because they ‘hate to see young girls embarrass themselves.’ So aghast are they at the ‘sexualisation of minors’, that they feel the best course of action is to humiliate girls by reproducing images posted on private profiles to a wider audience, complete with captions such as ‘Your boobs stay in your f***ing shirts, you whores!’

At 19 years of age, Silverwood and Terry must be aware of the extent to which girls are influenced by pop culture. Everywhere they look, girls see women’s bodies objectified and sexualised with, as Ariel Levy wrote in Female Chauvinist Pigs, the emphasis not on female sexual pleasure but on making women’s bodies attractive to men.

Even as a girl’s virginity is hailed as a ‘precious gift’, young women learn that being ‘hot’ is pretty much how women’s existence is justified. Female bodies are commodified to sell everything from beer to animal rights to men’s deodorant. Porn stars are mainstream celebrities, every reality star worth her salt has a sex tape on her CV, and mainstream magazines reward their ‘Woman of the Year’ with a naked cover shoot even as her male counterparts remain fully clothed.

As Melbourne University cultural studies professor Michelle Smith said last week in a talk at the Wheeler Centre, “there is not a sphere of life where being sexy is not the ultimate achievement of a woman.”

It is unsurprising that young girls will act on these signals. However, unlike celebrities, ordinary women are not insulated by fame and money from the double standard that simultaneously fetishises female sexuality and condemns women for playing along.

Girls who succumb to the expectation that they make themselves conventionally sexually attractive to the male gaze face the inevitable ‘slut’ backlash. Meanwhile, other girls who don’t conform to the sexual ideal can only gain status by distancing themselves from the ‘sluts’. Divide and conquer.

While (almost) no-one seriously still expects women to stay virgins until their wedding day, women nonetheless tread a fine line between how much sexual activity is acceptable and how much is just plain slovenly.

Slut-shamers try to justify their actions by claiming they don’t hate all women, just the slutty ones. But what exactly makes a woman a ‘slut’? Five sexual partners? Two? Twenty? Can a 12-year-old girl be a slut if she’s never even had sex? There is no real definition because, in reality, there is no such thing as a ‘slut.’ It is simply an arbitrary insult aimed not only at ‘sluts’ themselves, but all women, who are meant to quiver in fear that it may be used against them if they fail to navigate conflicting expectations of how women should dress and behave.

And that’s the whole point. By masking all-out misogyny as [Humorous Disapproval] of just some women, patriarchy gets to perpetuate itself into infinity. 12-year-old slut memes reflects society’s attitudes to women because rather than criticise the culture that encourages girls to objectify themselves, it attacks the girls themselves. “We continue”, warns Michelle Smith, “to insist on girls remaining sexually innocent, through criticism of girls who wear revealing clothing and the shaming of teen mothers and sexually active girls”.

Young women are routinely humiliated for the unforgivable sin of submitting to the sex role behaviour that is imposed on them at a young age. But here’s the contradiction; girls who buy into the sexual-objectification-equals-empowerment trope are duly ridiculed, but those who aren’t ‘hot’ enough to be objectified are treated with utter contempt also.

In a culture that glorifies both virginity and ‘hotness’ young women simply cannot win. And that’s [No Joke].

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Nutzis feel the warm tumescent surge of an oncoming election

Local Government elections will be held in NSW on the 8th September 2012. All sorts of strange and wondrous creatures have crawled out of the woodwork to put their hands up, including a motley collection of middle aged neo-Nazis attached to Jim Saleam’s Australia First playgroup. These dodgy characters will be flying the flag for a monocultural white Strayan Reich in the heavily multicultural and multi-ethnic Western and South Western Sydney regions. Way to go Jimmy!

Sadly the good burghers of Marrickville and Leichhardt wanting a Fascist tinge to their local Councils must content themselves with beige shirt boulevardiers Nick Folkes and Sergio Redegalli, well-known already to TAB regulars.

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We thought that inner West electors might like to revisit some of the greatest moments of their very own far right fearless kultural warriors. So here’s our very own tribute to Niqab n’ Serg…

Nick Folkes – winning hearts and minds

Nicky supports women – as long as they don’t wear much

Respect

Nicky’s immigration policy where he references disgraced academic Andrew Fraser

Racist

Nicky giving advice to the Brits on successful and hard-working Filipino-Australians

Nick on Filipinos

Nicky supports women’s rights

Nicky bra

Nicky on African immigrants

Nicky on Africans

Nicky supports teachers and education

Nicky supports education

Sergio Redegalli – formerly a respected glass artist, now Dean Martin to Nicky Folkes’s Jerry Lewis – (except not at all funny).

Sergio Redegalli

Here’s Sergio and Niqab playing dress-ups with a motley collection of women. Must have been a bit of a stoush at the make-up mirror.

The human centipede burqa-style

Sergio looks divine with the kohl around his eyes. Bet the lads from Channel 7 were excited.

Sergio stripped bare – “But Officer, it’s to protect my eyes against the desert sands blowing down Livingstone Road”

Sergio also takes a great interest in local public toilets and is likely to be encountered visiting the ladies’ loo clad modestly in his abbaya and niqab. And the kohl of course.

READ MORE

Refugee Week: The Highs and the Lowly Lows

Anti-Racism Memes

Six Bogans Wear Burqas to,um…prove a point”

Sergio Redegalli’s Chamber(pot) of Secrets

How to spot a misogynist*

DAILY LIFE

May 1, 2012 – 8:42AM

Clementine FordClementine Ford
Writer

Follow @twitter

*By the five classic lies they tell

___________________________________________________________________

"If you’re not trained in the spotting of smug, self-satisfied misogynists, you might not know the general thrust of their shtick."

When you’re a feminist, you get used to misogynists trying to challenge the necessity of your politics. “Feminism’s finished! Women are equal now and there’s no use for all the hairy arm-pitted rubbish! Quit your yapping! Embrace your curves!”

But misogynist isn’t a very fashionable kind of word – I mean, no one saunters into a room proudly pronouncing, ‘My name’s Don and I’m a misogynist!’, unless it’s the latest Charter Meeting of Online Trolls Monthly, or Channel Nine. So because people know it’s not really kosher to be a codified turd, they try and hide their misogynist views under the guise of legitimate arguments.

If you’re not trained in the spotting of smug, self-satisfied misogynists, you might not know the general thrust of their shtick. Luckily for you, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in the field since they all started following me on Twitter. So to help novices and outsiders, I’ve taken the following five popular misogynist arguments and parsed them into some kind of legible (if not logical) format for your benefit.

1. If you want to see real oppression, go to the Middle East.

The problems here are threefold. First, it implies women in the west should be grateful for the benevolence of their natural overlords. Who cares if 1 in 3 of you will experience sexual assault in your lifetime, while also enjoying the privilege of lower pay than your male counterparts and the symbolic annihilation of yourselves in literature and film? In case you didn’t know, women in Afghanistan are being stoned to death. So why don’t you just go ahead and submit your complaint to the STFU file known as my PENIS?

Second is the accusatory tone. Now, I’m no statistician, but I’d estimate that 98.76% of people outraged over feminism’s ‘failure’ to ‘protect’ their brown sisters from the oppression of their Muslim Male Masters (because let’s not forget, this is about racism too) are doing exactly zero to agitate for women’s liberation anywhere, let alone in the Middle East. But even though they hate feminism and all who dwell therein, they still think they know how to do it better than you do. This is because misogynists see themselves as Upper Management – which is precisely why we need to get more women into executive roles.

Finally, liberation and change aren’t beholden to hierarchies of need. It’s possible to seek the liberation of oppressed groups everywhere, at the same time! Asking comparatively privileged women (many of whom also live in the Middle East – it is not a vacuum) to be satisfied with ‘good enough’ just reinforces the patriarchal hierarchy of power that needs to be dismantled.

Besides, I don’t hear anyone accusing working families of selfishness for complaining about their rising electricity bills just because some slum dwellers in India don’t even HAVE working Playstations.

2. How can women expect us to respect them when they won’t respect themselves?

When Sheik Al-Hilali compared scantily clad women to uncovered meat, we were rightly outraged. In Australia, we yelled, we don’t treat women like that! Except that we do. We use clothing and behaviour to provide excuses for sexist everyday, be they rapists or simply the kind of people who think a woman’s right to be afforded a basic level of dignity is contingent upon how much of her skin she’s revealing. The fact that we criticise other cultures for it doesn’t make us champions of women – it makes us both sexist AND racist.

We’re not protecting women – we’re protecting our property. Asking women to respect themselves in order to ‘earn’ the right to be treated like a human being is total horse-shit. But suggesting that you have the right to treat her exactly as you please because she didn’t adhere to your archaic views of feminine propriety is misogyny, plain and simple.

3. Stop criticising domestic servitude! Some women are proud to look after their families.

This one’s a misogynist favourite, especially notable for the fact it’s the only time you’ll find them advocating for women’s rights in the workplace. Specifically, a woman’s right to iron her husband’s work shirts instead of her own. Misogynists who use this argument like to wax lyrical about things like choice, pride and sacrificial love. But what they’re really defending is their belief that women belong in the home, performing dull domestic tasks for the primary benefit of everyone other than themselves (and mainly their husband). Despite the fact that these dudes wouldn’t devote even an tenth of their lives to it themselves, they’re invested in outwardly maintaining the nobility of unpaid domestic work – because ascribing false honour to drudgery is how you reinforce invisible social power.

The thing is, women can choose those things if they want to. There’s nothing more tedious than the status quo trying to pit stay-at-homes against workforce broads. But the fact is, these people aren’t advocating for or defending a range of choices. How do I know that? Because if they were, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

4. It’s a science thing

“Look, men and women are built differently. It’s biological. Men are more visual, women are more emotional. That’s why more men are in executive roles. It’s about merit. If women were better, they wouldn’t be so crap. I didn’t make the rules.”

So goes the argument. Basically, it’s the kind of pop science spouted by the readers of such noted academic journals as NW Magazine and the Herald Sun. Whenever you hear someone say, ‘women are just better at washing up’ or ‘men are just better at being the leader of the free world’, ask yourself this: would that sentence be as benign if we replaced gender with race? Would we stand by, nodding sagely as mainstream pundits discussed how white people are just better at empathy than black folk? I sure hope not.

So why is it okay to say that women aren’t as good at stuff ‘because biology’? The biology argument is a Trojan horse that does nothing but sneak sexist propaganda into the castle. The only biological difference between a man and a woman is the difference of a Y chromosome – and even then, there’s a bit of wiggle room.

5. Men are oppressed too, therefore women aren’t! Or something.

“If feminists really cared about equality, they’d be addressing all the inequality that faces men. Like, why do feminists only care about breast cancer and not prostate cancer? Why aren’t feminists advocating for single dads? Why won’t women sleep with me when I’m a really nice guy and I’ve made a particular effort to be nice to them, particularly? Until feminism can answer that, I’m afraid I don’t really see it as being legitimate.”

This is the last bastion of the misogynist’s argument – their self fancying checkmate, if you will. What these people are basically saying is that, despite the overwhelming evidence of entrenched sexual, physical and ideological oppression of women, the only way feminism can really be fair is if it first identifies and solves all of the ways in which the patriarchy also oppresses men.

To be more specific, women who agitate for their own liberation are only allowed to do so once they’ve fixed all the things that make men sad, thus making them stronger and even more powerful.

There are probably a million ways I could tear this argument apart, but I think this says it better than I ever could.

Hahaha

To paraphrase the great Sarah Connor, a bitchin’ kick ass broad who saved humanity from blistering annihilation at the hands of the Terminators: if a stick figure, an animation, can reject the stupidity of misogynist rhetoric…maybe we can too.

Go forth and rebut, my friends.

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