editor. writer. feminist.

Why Gender-Flipping Doesn’t Magically Solve Everything

A now unfriended person recently posted a Very Stupid Thing on Facebook. ‘We have sexually harassed all of the female staff at this restaurant… they are only sending male waiters now.’ It had been a very long day, and while this made my skin crawl I let it go. Unfortunately the algorithm brought it back up when another women called rightly called this dudebro out. He countered with what was clearly, to his mind, intended to be a genius revelation. The status had originally been posted by a female friend, but Dudebro had swapped the gender of the wait staff. COMEDIC GOLD, ammiright?

Actually no. Let’s break this down.

So Dudebro’s justification for posting this status boiled down to ‘demonstrate a point about gender perceptions’ and ‘have a laugh’. I don’t think gender-flipping works the way he thinks it does. This is an approach that was popularised by The Hawkeye Initiative—a series of images that replaced female superheroes in overtly sexualized poses with Hawkeye. It works because seeing Hawkeye contorted to deliver the maximum amount of T&A looks absolutely ridiculous, and resultantly points out double standards when it comes to representations of male and female characters. It serves an actual purpose; through highlighting the level of sexualisation ladyheroes are subjected to we are able to engage with content more critically. This doesn’t mean you can just genderswap anything and then praise yourself for being a subversive genius. An actual understanding of the patriarchal power structures at play is required. Read the rest of this entry »

Erotic Fan Fic: The Captain and The Dark Lord

 

–performed at ‘Erotic Fan Fiction’, a Wheeler Centre event

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Our world is in peril. Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, can no longer stand the terrible destruction inflicted by the forces of dark magic. She gives five special rings to five culturally diverse young people. These powers are pretty great sold separately. But combined they summon Earth’s greatest champion—Captain Planet. Which in tonight’s episode the Planeteers do immediately. Because life is short, and also the aforementioned peril.

***

Ominous footfalls crunch in the cold grass as Voldemort approaches Dumbledore’s grave. The dark lord licks his lips, panting slightly in anticipation. Slivers of air are snorted from the slits of his nose. The Elder Wand is close now. Its power tingles through the air. Voldemort has never desired anything so desperately. He raises his wand, preparing to desecrate the resting place of a once great adversary. Suddenly, the cemetery is lit up in a fantastical glow of light by a power other than his own. A handsome man in red spandex appears. Read the rest of this entry »

Of Monsters and Men, and how rapists are the latter

–published by Scum of-monsters-and-men-spike Before there was Team Edward and Team Jacob, it was Angel vs. Spike. A vital discourse that continues to this day, my answer has always been the leather jacketed, British, smoker and smoking hot Spike. He has better cheekbones, a more dynamic character and a proper crypt. However, there is an incredibly problematic element to rooting for Spike. He is an attempted rapist. Much has been written about how tired the trope of sexual assault as a means of disempowering, ‘humanising’, or ‘complicating’ female characters has become. And this is by no means limited to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You may remember how the internet lost its shit over the Game of Thrones ‘Breaker of Chains’ episode. But wait, there’s more! In Downton Abbey AnnaBates is raped by a valet. Later seasons reveal that Mellie Grant of Scandal was raped by her stepfather, and House of Cards’ Claire Underwood was raped in college (both of these were revealed in flashbacks). Madison Montgomery inAmerican Horror Story: Coven is gang-raped. Joan Holloway is raped by her husband in Mad Men. You get the idea. It happens a lot. There is debate about how this can open up a constructive discourse surrounding sexual assault, and further, the importance of media in helping people understand the consequences of rape. These are vital discussions, given its devastating, real life prevalence.
While it is correct to be critical of how, when, and why sexual assault and rape are written, there is another discussion deserving of breath. As well as demanding a nuanced portrayal of survivors, we need accurate portrayals of rapists. Read the rest of this entry »

Ambivalence as Privilege: On Orange is the New Black

–published by The Lifted Brow
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In the backyard of my friend’s house last week we drank wine from a box and discussed what we hated the most about the second season of Orange is the New Black. There were many things; unlike our single cask, this show tries to tick many boxes, many of which we were personally invested in. Since Netflix released the whole season at once, though, we had both binged in a big way, and so some episodes and characters had become blurred, making a bird’s eye view difficult to find.

We aren’t alone in having mixed feelings. Over at The New York Review of Books, April Bernard praises the freshly released season of OITNB, while struggling with her own enjoyment of the show. She frets that it turns the viewer into a ‘tourist of suffering’. Bernard is deeply ambivalent, to the extent that her piece doesn’t even finish properly. Unless you count ‘Perhaps it does. And yet.’ as an ending, which I don’t. The problem with ambivalence here is simple: it is a luxury. It’s a way of washing your hands of any consumer responsibility (not very cool, guys). It’s also the reason why my friend and I started with what we found problematic about OITNB, rather than straight up fawning over it—though fawn we certainly did. Read the rest of this entry »

The Virtues of Vamp and Dark Willow

or, How Willow’s Monstrous Bi-Sexuality Taught me to be a Better Lady

–performed at ‘Amazing Babes’, an Emerging Writers’ Festival event.

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How many of you are Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans? Okay. Cool. Anyone who is not
a) I do not understand you as a person. There’s no need for us to chat later.
b) hopefully this will be accessible enough anyway. But if not, it’s your own fault. Also spoilers, obviously.

As a quick introduction slash refresher course, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is …a pretty self-explanatory show. It’s Sarah Michelle Geller staking the undead through their evil hearts or slashing off their demonic heads. There are also a lot of post-slay witticisms and preventing of the apocalypse. Which is great and everything, but Buffy couldn’t have done it alone. She’s backed up by the Scoobies, a small group of friends including a werewolf, an on-again-off-again vengeance demon, her Watcher (read: mentor) Giles aka sexiest librarian ever, and civilians Cordelia and Xander. Also Willow. Nerd and witch, sweetheart, she of excellent awkwardness and eventual lesbian—whose relationship with Tara is something I massively over-invest in emotionally.

Not to quote BuzzFeed as an authoritative source. But when their ranking of every noteworthy character asserted Willow as the best in the Buffyverse, it was correct. Or if you’d prefer to listen to an academic, Jes Battis describes Willow as ‘a hybrid site upon which several of the show’s most resounding ambivalences converge, overlap and shadow each other’. Battis is also correct. Read the rest of this entry »

Rewriting ‘The Wire’ so it Actually Includes Women

–published by The Lifted Brow
kima

If you google around for critical analysis of The Wire, what you’ll get is less “critical” or “analysis” than it is loyal rhapsodizing. To legitimise their affection, the writers tend to employ lots of words and phrases longer than are usually found in reviews of television shows. “Socio-economic”, “interconnectivity”, or “regressive political mandates” are among the crowd favourites. Many of these pieces state with varying levels of agreement that The Wire is literally The Best Show Ever—a title it still holds over a decade after the first episode aired. Articles trade in talk of exceptional nuance, deftly dealt interrogations of power structures and how unquantifiably badass Omar is (so, so badass).

And look, I totally get it. Even in this golden age of television, we’re so starved of authentic portrayals of non-white, cishet, middleclass folk that when you have a show whose “protagonist is the city of Baltimore”, features a predominantly black cast, and doesn’t demonise or oversimplify the issues it engages with, you just wanna hug the screen (and/or screenwriters) and say thank you thank you so much please never leave me. But hugs limit your perception. Certain head tilts are generally necessary to maintain that mad-satisfying embrace. And what The Wire does get stuck into: oh boy, can it be excellent. Then—because we can’t have nice things slash of course it does—comes this article by Sophie Jones. Not only does it resist the rapture; the piece calls to attention a sustained failure that demands you move the beloved show onto that “liking stuff that is problematic” shelf.

Put bluntly, the way The Wire fails pretty spectacularly is in its unwillingness to treat women as actual people. It consistently resists considering our issues as real, systemic problems that limit how female folk are able to navigate the world. Maybe you already noticed, but I did not, even after multiple rewatchings because the rest was so distractingly rad. This, in retrospect, makes it worse because the writers clearly can navigate some pretty tricky territory when they wanna. For a show that deconstructs race, class, the education system, journalism, and politics like a boss, the invisibility of lady issues feels wilful. Apparently our city of Baltimore—the protagonist—is actually a dude.

  Read the rest of this entry »

Raging Against ‘Against the Rage Machine’

–published by The Lifted Brow
daria

It began with a Facebook share. And then another, followed in rapid succession by three more. An editorial published in the most recent issue of n+1—and republished online—titled ‘Against the Rage Machine’ was clearly striking a chord with the peeps on my feed. Generally accompanied by an endorsement along the lines of ‘required reading’, huge slabs were quoted, with the comments in response echoing approval.

The article’s argument is one we’ve heard before: our love of opinion is corroding thequality of opinion (both our own, and that of others). Quantity is through the roof: via statuses, tweets and blogs, everyone now has the ability to be an individual broadcaster. ‘Against the Rage Machine’ is a response to the anxiety and exhaustion this can cause. We are both perpetuators and victims in a cycle of clicktivism, it says, a saturation of rage so thorough we’ve forgotten how to switch off and our ‘right to remain silent’ about the issues that plague our feeds.

The piece in and by n+1 does a great job of breaking down how companies benefit financially from this process, and the motivations behind proliferating news that isn’t actually news. I agree that we need to switch off our phones sometimes, or take a deep breath (and maybe even do some independent research!) before weighing in on the issue of the week. I too want everyone’s blood pressure to be below boiling, and the quality of critique in Australian media to rise above its current funk. However, the foundation of the argument in ‘Against the Rage Machine’ is also mega privileged, and several times throughout the editorial makes its point at the expense of feminist debate. Yes, “We ought to be selective about who deserves our good faith.” No, you do not have the right to tell everyone to just chill out. Read the rest of this entry »

So Your Dick Isn’t Perpetually Hard.

–published by Scum
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And seriously, that’s okay. This isn’t a trap. Male sexuality is a complex, personal and individual thing; why do we keep—implicitly, explicitly and profoundly counterproductively—pretending otherwise? Turn on the telly, or the pages of 
Cosmo, and it’s constantly reinforced that girls are complicated, intricate labyrinths, and boys are a well-lit corridor, always geared to go. (In this metaphor feel free to consider the minotaur a benevolent creature of multiple orgasms.)
Not that I wanna speak for bros on this matter. Instead, let’s just recognise that people who aren’t jerks are far more interested in whether everyone is having fun than if your private is standing to attention. Yes, the two often go hand in hand. But sometimes, just because you’re a dude and you’ve got an enthusiastically consenting adult playtime buddy doesn’t mean you’re DTF and can everyone just be chill about that please.

Read the rest of this entry »

Voiceworks editorial: #96 ‘Perspective’

20/20 Hindsight
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-        Maintain a spirit of playful combativeness against the insecurities that would have us Gollum away our notebooks (#89 ‘Space’).

-        The intention of collaborative editing is to make sure a story that needs gills has got them fully operational (#90 ‘Copy/Paste’).

-        There’s a particular rush seeing someone you’ve lit-crushed on for years struggle to carry three schooners—read: go to TiNA (#91 ‘=’).

-        At the same time, take your mates’ gigs as seriously as reputable launches and festivals. Genuine friendship groups committed to the same goals can become invested, invaluable networks (#92 ‘Thing’).

-        Frustration might just motivate you; uncertainty can be freeing; negativity, correctly wielded, is a constructive force (#93 ‘Cell’).

-        Neglecting our dæmons undermines personal progress; to nurture is an activity, not a state (#94 ‘Nourish’).

-        Learn to ask whether you will be paid. If you decide the non-monetary exchange is a fair one, that really is okay. Just make sure it’s not a default setting slipped into (#95 ‘Prime’). Read the rest of this entry »

Voiceworks editorial: #95 ‘Prime’

primeFor my first trip to Tassie it was Valentine’s Day. Hobart was all sunny, picturesque as hell with the harbour featuring heavily in our sightseeing. There was also a skater I kept swapping hopefully seductive glances with until my dad noticed which totally salted the whole game. Now, jump forward a just shy of a decade to the Emerging Writers’ Festival Roadshow. During this visit there was something more difficult to contend with. More particularly, how can literary journals pay their writers fairly? What even counts as ‘fair’ when online publications with readerships that are easily double or triple that of Voiceworks pay their ‘content creators’ in exposure? When our publications have such diverse aims, budgets, demographics and access to resources? This debate is not new. Many industries struggle with a sense of entitlement from consumers wanting to have their cake free and eat it in the comfort of their own rooms. On a personal, selfish level, I totally get it. Without judging from on-high, this understanding of why people love free stuff (because it is free) is not the solution and it’s not a sustainable way to eat cake.   Read the rest of this entry »

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