On the (Rest of the) Net.

I’m getting straight back into it in the New Year, with pieces about abuse in Jessica Jones, what World Wrestling Entertainment can learn from Jem & the Holograms‘ flop and why its spate of injuries might be a good thing for other wrestlers. [Bitch Flicks, The Spectacle of Excess, Cageside Seats]

On selfies. [Matter]

Forget the manbun. The latest in men’s hair styling are manbraids. And they’re cultural appropriation. [Ms. Magazine]

Why is there a statute of limitations for rape and sexual assault? [NYTimes]

Erin Riley kicking goals (mixing metaphors, I know) with her piece on the Chris Gayle incident being a symptom of a much larger problem with sexism in sport. [Daily Life]

Mens mental health is important but not at the expense of the women and children they abuse and kill. [Daily Life]

There’s been plenty of coverage of Cole Miller’s death by one punch, but what about Indigenous man Trevor Duroux’s death of the same? [New Matilda]

The history of glitter. [Broadly]

The history of toplessness. [Broadly]

And the history of the crystal ball. [Broadly]

2015 was the year of interracial relationships on TV. [Fusion]

Has Clive Palmer had a feminist awakening? [Junkee]

Even teaching a course on Beyonce doesn’t guarantee job security. [WaPo]

Why we need to talk about the sexual assaults in Germany over New Years—and the race of the attackers. [New Statesman]

Should wives be held accountable for their husband’s bad behaviour? [The Cut]

And what about Bill Clinton’s alleged sexual assault of a woman in 1978? [Jezebel]

It’s great that you want to read books by more diverse authors, but do you have to tell the whole world about it? Just do it. [Jezebel]

Why Do We Insist on Calling Women Girls?

This article was originally published on TheVine on 24th February, 2015.

Pop culture would dictate that women are girls until they’re too old to warrant being a part of public life: so, like, 50. I probably internalised this as it’s only in recent years that I’ve felt a) old enough and b) confident enough to call myself a woman. Up until then I was, to borrow a line from Britney Spears, “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”. Now that I identify as a woman, I find it all the more noticeable when other people refer to women as girls.

As one of the strongest influences in many people’s lives, how certain cultures and minorities are represented in pop culture informs how we feel about them in wider society. Just listing the shows and pop groups with the word “girl” in the title already says a lot.

There’s Gilmore Girls, about a young woman and her mother; Gossip Girl, which follows the trajectory of high schoolers to just-as-immature adults; Girls, the brainchild of one of the most influential women in pop culture currently, Lena Dunham; and Gone Girl, about a very-much-adult woman who disappears. The Spice Girls are now grown women who still trade on that moniker. Even Sex & the City, which follows the lives of four 30-somethings, and later 40-(and 50!-)somethings in the ill-fated movies, insists on referring to Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda as “girls”. “I couldn’t help but wonder about brunch with the girls”, Carrie would muse from her laptop.

In actuality, all but a few of these pop cultural representations could more accurately be described—and titled—with the word “women” in mind. Calling the career women of Sex & the City or The Spice Girls… erm… “girls” undermines the positions they are in their careers and personal lives.You would hardly call a Samantha Jones-type an “It girl” in her field if you met her in real life. Anne Helen Peterson continues to unpack the notion as it pertains to “It Girls” in a recent article for Buzzfeed.

Further to this, in a 2008 piece on Jezebel, Dodai Stewart writes, “A girl is insecure, incomplete; a woman is confident, competent.” With this in mind, calling the women of Girls girls might not seem as out of place as using it to refer to, say, Beyoncé, who sings about being a ‘Grown Woman’ on her self-titled album. (I am well aware that she also has a contradictory song called ‘Run the World [Girls]’).

Madonna addressed the stigmatisation and violence that trans women and girls face in ‘What It Feels Like for A Girl’ in 2000. Her voiceover states that boys who want to look like girls are “degrading, ’cause you think that being a girl is degrading.” Certainly, in some communities there is no distinction between women and girls: they both wield a dismal amount of power. The transmisogyny that Madonna sings about surrounds Bruce Jenner’s rumoured impending transition and shows that we might not be as progressive about gender relations as we fancy.

It’s not always necessarily about explicitly saying “girl” but the sexist connotations applied to the word. This is perhaps none more evident than in sport, as we’ve seen at the Australian Open. World number seven Eugenie Bouchard was doubly infantalised by the male interviewer who called her and her fellow female tennis players “you girls” and asked her to twirl in her pretty tennis duds.

The distinction comes down to the sexist ideal of girls being perceived as fun and fancy-free and women as hard-to-please shrews. Women have agency and aren’t afraid to ask for what they want; girls are agreeable to anything.

Law professor Kate Galloway writes further about this relationship between language and treatment at law blog Amicae Curiae, specifically referencing how the “girls” of our Olympic basketball team travelled to the London Games in 2012 in premium economy while the male team flew business class.

This, along with the lack of mainstream support and coverage, would seem to indicate an obvious disregard for women’s sports. “Throw like a girl” being used as an insult solidifies it. The term was, however, used positively in the recent Superbowl commercial for feminine hygiene brand, Always, and was the title of the Spike Lee-directed doco about baseball player and Associated Press’ Female Athlete of 2014, Mo’ne Davis.

In daily usage, we may not be actively diminishing the independence of our women friends when we “catch up with the girls” but it’s amazing how prevalent the term is. I’m just as guilty of it. I’ll sometimes refer to the saleswoman who presents as younger than me as “the girl who served me” or I’ll comment on something on social media with the cliché, “You go, girl!” Sure, “girl” can be used as a term of endearment between equals, just the way “queer” has been reclaimed by the gay community.

But as Galloway says, “I acknowledge that sometimes it might be [okay] to be ‘one of the girls’… I use the term to refer to my women teammates or close women friends. For former women team members now commentating on their sport at the Olympics, it may likewise be acceptable during an interview to refer to ‘the girls’. It should not however be presumed that any woman athlete can acceptably be referred to as a girl.”

When being a girl—indeed, being a woman—is still seen as less than, whether blatantly or more insidiously, I’m making a conscious effort to instead interact with and encourage my fellow women without pigeonholing them as “girls”. Women are capable of so much more than the gossiping, brunching and winging our pop cultural compatriots would reduce us to when they call us that.

Elsewhere: [Buzzfeed] The Trouble with “It Girls”.

[Jezebel] Ladies, Let’s Be Honest: Are We Girls? Or Are We Women?

[Daily Life] Eugenie Bouchard Asked to “Twirl” By On-Court Presenter Following Australian Open Match.

[Amicae Curiae] Don’t Call Me Girl. I’m a Woman.

[Daily Life] Eugenie Bouchard Deserves Better Than Sexist “Twirl” Request.

[Bitch] Is “Girl-Power” Advertising Doing Any Good?

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Caitlyn Jenner Vanity Fair

Trans women like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox have the visibility, power and acceptance to “lift up” trans people who don’t have such privileges. [Laverne Cox]

Fixating on Caitlyn’s perceived “hotness” hurts the trans community:

“… Be conventionally attractive and feminine, and you get reduced to your appearance like any cis woman; don’t, and people won’t accept your identity as legitimate.” [Vocativ]

I asked if Kris Jenner is a bad mother. [Bitch Flicks]

The age gap between some of Hollywood’s most in demand young actresses—Scarlett Johansson, Emma Stone and Jennifer Lawrence—and their much older on-screen love interests. [Vulture]

How Mansplaining, the Statue went viral. [Weird Sister]

To ladyblog or not to ladyblog? [Slate]

The dawning of the age of a new (female) action hero. [Vulture]

The language we use to speak about rape may be part of the problem.

Sport is the “great equaliser”. Except when it comes to race:

“Indigenous players are ‘Australians when they’re winning and Aborigines at other times.'” [Overland]

Australia “reserve[s] a special disdain for ‘uppity blacks'” like Adam Goodes who don’t know their place. [New Matilda]

To all those busybodies who enquire when you’re going to have children: “I am writing my final no-thank-you note.” [Longreads]

ICYMI: “Writing About Taylor Swift Ruined My Friendship!”

In defence of the apparently unintelligent lyrics of pop and rap music.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

mary-kate & ashley new york minute

Is there such a thing as a bad Olsen twin movie? [Rookie]

Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Surfer Blood… What are we willing to overlook in order to enjoy pop culture? [Grantland]

How many times will you see your parents before they die? [See Your Folks]

“Bindi Irwin: Feminist Warrior?” [MamaMia] 

In defence of Sex & the City. [The New Yorker]

And, furthermore, in defence of Miranda Hobbes. [Women & Hollywood]

Why women in sport matter. [Lip Mag]

How to ask about someone’s ethnicity the right way. [Jezebel]

Image via Ask Your Feet.

Book Review: Night Games by Anna Krien.

anna krien night games

Everywhere you look lately, there seems to be a promo for Anna Krien’s latest investigative tome, Night Games, and rightly so: it’s a fantastic, impeccably researched and hard-hitting look at misogyny and power in football. I might be a little biased having a vested interested in the topic and, as I told Krien when I got my copy signed at the Readings Carlton book launch last week, the rape statistics she rattled off in an excerpt reading at the event, unfortunately they’re nothing I haven’t heard before.

Having said that, though, Night Games is an absorbing read for those well versed in the misogynistic nature of “jock culture” as well as for those new to the topic. Krien makes sure not to alienate sports fans who may be wary of picking up the book:

“This book is not anti-sport. ‘”Jock culture” is a distortion of sports,’ the American author and sports journalist Robert Lipsyte once noted, warning that America was in danger of finding its values in the locker room. It’s not the game, the pleasure of the play, that’s dangerous. It’s the piss stains in the grass, the markings of men who use sport as power and the people—teammates, fans, coaches, clubs, doctors, police, journalists, groupies—who let them do whatever they want.” [p. 266]

However, “football is an abnormal society” [p. 70], and nothing reflects that more than the bulk of the book, which deals with “regrettable sex” [p. 73] or rape accusations, depending on who you ask, against AFL and NRL players; “Camel Nights”, in which players bring two women they don’t care for so “everyone gets a hump” [p. 71]; and that infamous Cronulla Sharks group-sex scandal from 2002 that came to light in a 2009 Four Corners exposé, amongst many other examples.

Speaking of Matthew Johns and Cronulla, Krien quotes an anonymous player who laments the stigma of group sex bonding sessions:

“It’s like saying you can’t be homosexual, or you can’t have such-and-such sexual preferences. How can he tell us what to do in our private lives?… We already have so many rules; we can’t drink on these days, we can’t go to these places, now we can’t have group sex. About the only thing we can do these days is go to club functions and just hang around with other players. That’s just isolating us more from the rest of the world, and it could lead to even more violent acts.” [p. 46]

While it’s easy to scoff at these privileged footballer comments, he does make a valid point. It’s kind of like the argument against restricting dangerous dog breeds: the more you isolate a pit bull, for example, the more likely it is to be aggressive to other dogs and humans when it does come into contact with them.

Oftentimes, the difference between a rape allegation and the aforementioned “regrettable sex” is treating a woman well. You know, like a human being:

“‘It’s not during the act, it’s the way you treat them after it. Most of them could have been avoided if they’d have put them in a cab and said, you know, thanks for that, sort of thing, not just kicked her out, call her a dirty whatever, that sort of thing. It’s how you treat them afterwards that can cover a lot of that sort of stuff up.” [p. 183]

But what Krien makes the reader understand is that groupie sex with a footballer is not about the woman, it’s about them:

“A footballer does not look at another human when he fucks a groupie. He’s looking at his glorified reflection—and when he performs, he’s doing it for ‘the boys’, not her.” [p. 200]

And:

“[Sam Newman] said it [the hazing of sports writer Caroline Wilson on The Footy Show] was a compliment of sorts, a sign that the Footy Show culture ‘accepted’ her. In other words, it wasn’t really about Wilson, it was about them. About a subculture of men trying to find a place—albeit a very lowly place—in their world for a woman. Considering that it’s all about the boys, they prey doesn’t even need to be present.” P. 72.

Going back to the group sex-as-bonding scenario, it makes sense that the woman/women would be used as a vessel to bring the teammates closer together. And further to the absence of a woman, we can see this in the social media shaming of the Steubenville victim, for example. The whole team—and, by extension, the town—we’re brought closer together by reliving the girl’s assault on YouTube and Twitter.

Obviously this is one of the more extreme and brutal examples of sexual assault in sport, but Night Games also talks about the “gulf of uncertainty between consent and rape” [p. 73] and the many sexual experiences that occur therein. Krien also comes across as sympathetic to the “… ongoing education about how to negotiate sexual encounters in a way which ensures informed consent is always obtained” [p. 47] amongst the codes, but there’s still a long way to go, baby. This is exemplified by an educational male-on-male rape video that is shown during a training session. Many of the players are noticeably upset, with one lamenting that “You don’t really ask for trouble if you have too much to drink and get raped by a bloke. You don’t ask for that.” I’ll just let the double standards marinate for a bit after you consider that the video shown prior to this was one of mistaken identity male-on-female rape to which the players were less than sympathetic. [p. 188–189]

The abovementioned “grey zone” that exists between the sexes “to explain what was lost in translation” [p. 259] takes the form of the rape trial of Justin Dyer (name changed), an amateur footballer accused of raping Sarah Wesley (also not her real name) the night Collingwood won the 2010 grand final rematch. Many of the reviews of Night Games seem to focus heavily on this “he said, she said”, but Krien expressed relief when facilitator of the Readings event, Sophie Cunningham, skirted that issue. While the trial beautifully bookends all the points Krien makes about the treatment of women in male team sports, it’s not the be all and end all of Night Games. Similarly, though Sarah declined to be interviewed by Krien, thus leaving “all those little erased bits, I thought, hovering around like question marks” [p. 245], I don’t think it does the book detriment. In fact, I can’t envisage how Night Games could get any better.

Related: In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Elsewhere: [The Vine] All Dogs Go to Seven.

This review has been submitted to The Australian Women Writers Challenge as part of their 2013 Challenge.

Image via Kill Your Darlings.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

zooey deschanel tuxedo manicure

On the anti-women nail polish name trend. [xoVain]

In the vein of Chris Brown apologists, collectively known as #TeamBreezy, Oscar Pistorius now has his own legion of defenders, #Pistorians. [Vice]

Why do Teen Moms keep becoming Teen Moms? [Jezebel]

Being anti-sports in Australian culture. [Daily Life]

The problem with using the “What if it was your daughter/sister/wife” rape analogy:

“The Steubenville rape victim was certainly someone’s daughter. She may have been someone’s sister. Someday she might even be someone’s wife. But these are not the reasons why raping her was wrong. This rape, and any rape, was wrong because women are people. Women are people, rape is wrong, and no one should ever be raped. End of story.” [The Belle Jar]

Spoilers and pleasure, or rather, lack thereof. [The Atlantic]

Image via Beauty School Dropouts.

What Makes a Good Person?

Recently, Erica Bartle wrote about her Christian angst on Girl with a Satchel.

She said her “newfound sensibility” has made her “hyper-sensitive” to all that is wrong in the world. “Why can’t everything just be nice and Christian?!” she bemoans.

I wrote in response in the comments section that I don’t think what she’s experiencing is an exclusively faith (in the religious sense of the world; I’m an agnostic, yet I still believe in a higher power of some kind and that all things that are meant to be will eventuate. I know atheists who, like George Michael, have faith.) -based problem.

Last week, a former colleague and Facebook friend wrote an anti-refugee status along the lines of “fuck off, we’re full”. Classy. I commented, saying that as the “lucky country”, we should be extending our resources and welcoming asylum seekers with open arms, as they have a legal right to seek asylum in whichever country they can gain access to which is safer than their own. To cut a long story short, a shitstorm ensued, and bigoted bogans far and wide chimed in to berate me and asylum seekers alike.

They claimed “boat people” were making their local kinders stop celebrating Easter and Christmas and that while people like me have to pay for my education, they get it for free. I don’t know where they get this misinformation (middle-right mainstream media, step right up), which is what I wrote, albeit in a more forceful manner, and was attacked personally for it.

There is a fine line between standing up for what you believe in and berating all others who don’t subscribe to the same school of thought. If bigotry means not being able to see the other side and thinking less of those on it, then call me one, because I just can’t see the reasoning behind being so uncaring and un-compassionate. (The downside to free speech.)

So if standing up for what you believe in and the rights of others makes you a “good person” by a lot of peoples’ definitions, which side makes you a “better” person? The side that wants to protect our country’s borders and focus our money and resources on people already in it, or the side that believes we should extend those privileges to those in need, no matter which country they hail from? And why isn’t the latter the more mainstream and accepted view?

Bartle writes that sometimes her hypersensitivity to issues not unlike the one I just mentioned makes her wail, “Why can’t I just be NORMAL?!”

What is normal, anyway?

If normal means having the prejudiced views of the friends of my Facebook friend and, indeed, the two main governmental parties in this country, then normal is something I do not want to be. From the last two and a half years of content Bartle has posted on her blog (not to mention the two years before I discovered GWAS), I doubt it’s something she would really strive for, either.

But, to be a woman of God means to “let go of the idea of your awesomeness, your pride and your talents” and “burning ambitions/dreams/desires”. Forgive me, but the “god” I believe in wants me to be the best I can possibly be at whatever I choose. (“God” is starting to sound an awful lot like “mum”.) I want me to be, too. There’s that pride thing Bartle’s talking about…

So does being a “good person” mean being agreeable, having no passion and being boring? I know some of these people and, to my mind, they mightn’t be bad people, but they’re not much brighter than “normal”, either. To be a good person you need to buck the status quo, and be both passionate and compassionate. These things make you anything but boring and “normal”.

But we see what these things lead to, and it’s anything but compassion.

Take the Mia Freedman/Cadel Evans saga, for example. Freedman has made a career out of giving her opinion on all things media- and woman-centric, which is exactly why the unwashed masses turned on her when she deigned to question the focus we put on sportspeople at the expense of other, perhaps more deserving, people.

Bartle includes an excerpt from Get Her Off the Pitch: How Sport Took Over My Life by Lynne Truss, in which the author writes that sport can sometimes be a waste of time (my thoughts exactly!) which, in turn, got me thinking about pack mentality, both in sport and in religion.

We’ve seen how mobs of sports fans engage in rioting, amongst other pack-like behaviour. Even the very act of cheering and booing your favourite/least favourite team in the stands is inherently mob-like. Not to mention the “group-bonding” sessions of gang rape and group sex amongst teammates. (This is not to say all sport is bad; it’s just not for me, and this is just one of the myriad of reasons why.)

Religion, I believe, also encourages such actions. The use of deities to justify all manner of wars, massacres, executions, terrorism, riots, rapes, murders, stonings, and law reform, amongst many others. (This is not to say all those who are religious subscribe to such extremities, but I do believe that all organised religion is a crock.)

And we, as a society, accept such behaviours because they are hidden under the cloak of Godliness, or Australianess. (More on what is considered Australian and un-Australian tomorrow.)

So, this has gotten a little off-track, but I suppose I’m putting the question out there: “What makes a good person?” Obviously, this is a never-ending debate, but I do know that being one is certainly not dependent on religion or “patriotism”.

I think it’s dependent on being courageous, compassionate, respectful, which in turn generates respect, standing up for what you believe in and having the courage of your convictions, staying true to yourself, standing up for the underdog and yes, being a little bit proud and selfish every now and then. ’Cause no one respects a “yes” (wo)man.

Related: In Defence of Mia Freedman.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] I’m a Christian, Get Me Outta Here!