editor. writer. feminist.

Why Sex Work Is A Terrible Analogy, And “Pr*stitute” Is A Slur

- published by Junkee

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NB: Throughout this article I have had to use various slurs for clarity’s sake — however, in solidarity with sex workers, the ‘o’ has been asterisked out.

It’s tempting to see the terminology we’re raised with as correct, or at least as harmless. Casual ignorance is for our grandparents, with their stereotypical fondness for out-dated racial slurs. However, individuals who normally err on the side of political correctness seem unaware (and sometimes unconcerned) that the word “pr*stitute” is a slur; that the term perpetuates harmful stereotypes and assumptions; and that, no, “just kidding” doesn’t give you a free pass.

Sex workers are people, not the butt of a lazy joke; their labour is as legitimate as yours, and the fact that a marginalised group is still considered fair game for prejudiced flippancy signals just how far we have to go.

When uttered by those who aren’t sex workers, the word “pr*stitute” is a slur. So stop saying it.

Why The Language We Use Matters: The Problem With ‘Prostitute’

This is a very 101 point to make, but the language we use comes with connotations and baggage, some of it discriminatory. As UNAIDS recognises, “the words we choose and the way we put sentences together to share ideas and information have a profound effect on the way messages are understood and acted upon, or not”. Which is why there is a difference between an insult and a slur.

Insults are (generally) used in a derogatory sense, intended to hurt feelings — or in the great Australian tradition, display affection. Slurs, meanwhile, are a tool of oppression. I’m not being hyperbolic here. They literally maintain dehumanising stereotypes that are damaging to marginalised groups. The intention behind avoiding them is not to trample freedom of speech with a frantic fear that someone, somewhere will feel slighted; it’s an attempt to avoid regressive attitudes. Tasmanian sex worker Christian Vega underscores the importance of this powerfully when he points out that “the more we delegitimise sex work and exclude sex workers, the more we accept sexual assault, misogyny and degradation as a part of our community”.

When it comes to slurs, only the group they’re used against can reclaim them; obviously sex workers can use whatever terms they damn well please. For the rest of us, the term ‘sex worker’ makes a distinction between an individual and their employment, and clearly denotes the difference between legal sex work and sex trafficking. The first is legal and consensual, the other is illegal and non-consensual. An active distinction is necessary if the conversation about sex worker rights is to move forward, and sex trafficking to be effectively combated.

Additionally, ‘sex worker’ is active instead of passive, and less prone to the myths that hound the term ‘pr*stitute’. As sex worker and activist Leni, representing Vixen Collective, put it at the SlutWalk Melbourne rally on September 6: “people tell me I ‘sell’ my body. I say, ‘I’ve still got it’”. The idea that sex workers sell their body instead of a service is one of the major stumbling blocks in this conversation, in which no one listens to the people with actual lived experience; it has the effect of reducing individuals in the industry to sex objects.

Even more intelligent corners of the web fail on this front. In part two of her ‘Women as Background Decoration’ episode of her Tropes Against Women in Video Games webseries, Anita Sarkeesian constantly refers to the sex workers depicted as “pr*stitutes”, whether they’re legal or trafficked workers. The difference between consensually entering the industry and being coerced into it are blurred to the point it’s almost disregarded. For an otherwise strikingly incisive video, this is seriously messed up.

There are also a whole host of character judgments within the term ‘pr*stitute’, including implications of diminished worth, drug status, personality and sexual health. Why do we have the expression “a hooker with a heart of gold” still in common usage when it serves to paint ‘good’ sex workers as somehow exceptional or worthwhile despite their profession? Even the generally awesome Tina Fey is constantly implying that sex workers are somehow dirty: “I want someone who thinks being really into cars is lame and strip clubs are gross”.

This, despite the fact that Australian sex workers have consistently lower rates of STIs and HIV than the rest of the population; as sex worker rights group Scarlet Alliance points out, “as a matter of occupational health and safety, sex workers are safer sex experts and educators of our clients”. Actually visit a brothel and you’ll receive a health check included in the service!

The kidding around extends past mocking sex workers’ physical health and value; sometimes jokes hinge on the idea that it is somehow funny when they’re subject to violence and abuse. A charming one I heard the other day went, “If you have sex with a hooker without her permission, is it rape or shoplifting?” Among the many, many things going wrong here, these jokes cut to the core of the myth that sex workers are victims who lack agency, and that the work they do somehow means they lose the right to dignity and safety. Women who are sex workers and survivors of abuse comprise only a small proportion of survivors overall, but sex workers are on the frontlines when it comes to sexual assault and rape.

Quit Comparing Things To Sex Work, Too

Comparing things to “pr*stitution” is another common practice; shorthand for engaging in a sordid exchange, people throw around the term with wanton disregard for the impact it might have. They would “totally wh*re themselves out” for a chance to see that show, meet a certain person, for a bite of that roasted eggplant on rye toastie. This has been going on at least since 17th century playwright Moliere’s gem “writing is like pr*stitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money” (I’m not sure that even makes sense; sex workers aren’t the only people who exchange services for cash).

Far from being just discriminatory against sex workers, these tired analogies also tend to be wicked sexist. Without going too far down the misogynist rabbit hole of doom that the internet can be, the group “Subway is like pr*stitution. You pay other people to do your wife’s job” has over 12,000 likes on Facebook. Countless eyeball-melting blogs from men and women alike discuss whether conventional dating amounts to sex work, but with flowers and dinner exchanged for sex instead of cash — because having a job is exactly the same as out-dated gender roles, apparently?

Another example is an article by Ellena Savage published by Spook last month, ‘Your Marriage Isn’t Radical And It Never Will Be’, in which the writer – while not intending to devalue sex work — makes a series of light-hearted whorephobic jokes while condemning marriage.  “Call me a pr*stitute, but do you know how little writers earn?” is not exactly funny, considering how long sex workers have been asking people to stop using the slur — and if this is a simple slip of terminology, the context still implies there is something funny about the comparison. To be clear here, the focal point (marriage) is a powerful institution that should be interrogated and critiqued — but just because an article backhanded implies sex work is icky with a wink and a smile doesn’t make it okay.

Unlike the church, though, which can defend marriage whenever it wants, sex workers do not currently have their voices represented, so when even clever people get things so wrong, it’s more difficult for the harm to be recognised and rebuttals heard. It’s important to recognise that there are different ways to elicit that LOL from an audience; we can fight sexism without throwing sex workers under the bus.

How All This Culminates In Violence

Constantly pushing sex workers into the ‘other’ category is dehumanising and dangerous. As Dr Antonia Quadara noted for the Australian Institute of Family Studies, “the idea that sex workers somehow bring sexual violence upon themselves, or should expect it given their occupation, deeply influences social and legal responses to them as victims/survivors of sexual assault”.

Rape is always rape, never ‘a bad day on the job’, but as was made painfully clear by the media’s different treatment of the murders of Tracey Connelly and Jill Meagher, we still have a collective idea of who ‘real’ victims of sexual violence are; who is deserving of our anguish and outrage, and who isn’t. The blatantly bigoted reportage on the murder of Mayang Prasetyo, who was described as a “transgendered pr*stitute” by news outlets like The Daily Mail and The Courier Mail, was accurately called out as a journalistic “race to the bottom” by Amy Gray in The Guardian.

As Tom Meagher admirably put it, “what it says to women is if we don’t like what you do, you won’t get justice… And what it says to people like [Jill Meagher’s killer] is not ‘don’t rape’, but ‘be careful who you rape’”. Tracy Connelly and Mayang Prasteyo are chilling examples of rape culture in which we didn’t ask what motivated a man to brutally kill a woman, but instead imply that, because of their line of work, they should’ve seen it coming.

If you’re feelin’ like I’m stealin’ some of your favourite expressions, that’s too bad. We have to stop reducing sex workers and sex work to a lazy analogy, or a punch line. To constantly imply that sex work is intrinsically bad by comparison to pretty much anything else shores up the foundation for whorephobic attitudes. The fact that society is still so adamantly against actually listening to sex workers and taking feedback on board is a signal of how far we have to go.

Women in the Attic, X-Men, and the ‘C Word’

- published by feminartsy
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It’s been a very long time since I was forced to read Jane Eyre. My family and I were driving through central Australia, travelling through the vast red dirt. Even in that sweaty, decidedly ungothic car, the spectre of Bertha Mason gave me shivers. She was incomprehensible, knotted, threatening. Hints of promiscuity followed her up into the attic she was locked in by her husband. The question of ‘how was he meant to deal with her’ is rhetorical within the text—Mason is rendered as a lost cause. It wasn’t until later that I would click to what a strange representation of a crazy woman Mason is. As a character type, we have largely left her behind. Though it’s definitely not time to get cocky. Taking a more holistic view, Mason is still able to offer some uncomfortable parallels. In particular, the gendered way we approach mental health. Once labelled as lacking in emotional stability, society still seeks to contain women in more subtle ways.

When we categorise women as ‘crazy’ these days, it’s not half so dramatic. However, a level-toned usage doesn’t remove the damage it inflicts. This is because, as has been discussed elsewhere, currently when we colloquially drop the c-bomb it’s not to describe a woman struggling with mental health issues. Rather, the intention—conscious or not—is to put us back in our ‘place’. To keep us locked in the attic. In this context labelling a person or their actions as ‘crazy’ is to delegitimise feelings simply because they’re inconvenient. Another word for this is gaslighting, a form of mental abuse intended to make another person doubt themselves, sense of self and reality. And when I say ‘person’, really, I mean woman because when we label men as crazy, it doesn’t strip them of agency in the same way. In Girl, Interrupted Susanna Kaysen is locked up in a women’s ward after a failed suicide attempt, largely against her will. A few seasons in, Mad Men enters the 60s as well and Don Draper’s rampant alcoholism is portrayed as a decision, a coping mechanism rather than an addiction. If you think that comparing memoir to drama is unfair, it’s worth considering the fact that alcohol dependency is more than twice as common in men than women (one in five, vs. one in twelve). Further, that women are more likely to experience anxiety or affective disorders—such as Borderline Personality Disorder and depression. Fact and fiction are neatly reflected in this example, as is our societal response. Kaysen gets locked up for her own good, and for a long time all Draper is treated with is another bottle of Canadian Club.

Women, it seems, need to be controlled, while boys are largely free to be boys. Even if, as in the Mad Men scenario it’s to their detriment—harmful gender expectations cut both ways, though not as deeply or to the same extent. We see this reflected in the media we consume constantly. It’s no coincidence that so many tropes against women target the nonconformist or the powerful. Mason herself comes from an influential and wealthy family. What is traditionally seen as an alluring quality in a man becomes toxic when you genderswap it. More recently, in the rightfully reviled X-Men 3: The Last Stand, Magneto and Professor Xavier can have as much power as they want while still finding the time to run schools/ rebellions (inexplicably called The Brotherhood, but don’t worry, girls are allowed) and make puns. Jean Gray goes insane within about fifteen minutes of screen time. This theme was quietly echoed in Days of Future Past. Mystique goes rogue and must be roped in, again by the two men, because her DNA has too much potential. The possibility that this was a positive thing isn’t even considered by those who claim to be her allies, despite the fact that the defensive capabilities are beyond anything the X-Men have encountered. Instead Magneto tries to kill Mystique to avoid their apocalyptic future. He is an incredibly fatalistic character, sure, however the potential of the other X-Men is never treated in the same fashion. In the passable X2, when Professor Xavier is telepathically coerced into killing (also telepathically) all the mutants in the world a non-lethal solution is found. Bluntly, his and Mystique’s potential to do harm are treated in drastically different ways. So while portrayals of women have advanced, becoming more complicated and nuanced since the largely dehumanised first wife, we’re still often considered a force to be controlled.

On the surface this is already ridiculous enough. However dig a little deeper and it feeds directly into our willingness to pathologise women’s emotions. It’s not simply hetero men calling their ex’s crazy in order to escape responsibility; or our fictional Jean Gray killing the people she loves through being overwhelmed with power. It creates a fear of perceived excess, without a critical view of the contributing factors. As Dr. Nerlove (not his real name) comments, when flinging around the descriptor ‘crazy’ there’s not a lot of self-reflection generally happening. Is your partner really nagging you, or is the reality that women still do a disproportionate amount of domestic labour getting her down? It also matters that the writers of Days of Future Past kept Mystique dead-set on killing Trask, even after the consequences had been laid out. (Even if she didn’t buy the whole bleak future thing, such a public kill would almost certainly have backfired on her goal of mutant equality) With no other real justification at hand, is it because she could, or are we ladies just chronically irrational?

These attitudes don’t exist in a vacuum. Doctors are more likely to diagnose depression in women than men, even if they have the identical symptoms or score the same on standardised measures of depression. The medical community is literally telling some women that they’re reactions are maladjusted, while similar behaviours in men are not pathologised. Inaccurate diagnosis methods are bad news all around because it forces people into a box that doesn’t fit, and prevents other from getting treatment that would be beneficial. It gets even tricker when you start thinking about the detrimental effect our patriarchal society has on women, and unavoidably, women’s mental health. Rates of sexual assault and domestic abuse, the wage gap, impossible beauty standards all impact how women navigate the world everyday. These are all legitimate reasons to be upset, not something that can be made to disappear with a prescription. As the World Health Organization recognises

Gender determines the differential power and control men and women have over the socioeconomic determinants of their mental health and lives, their social position, status and treatment in society and their susceptibility and exposure to specific mental health risks.[1]

In other words, gender is a social construct that permeates everything. And if you happen to be anything but a cis gender male the odds are already systemically stacked against you. This is how ‘crazy’ can be used colloquially to control discussions—after this card is played men have a free pass and it’s on the lady to justify her behaviour (rather than it being an equal conversation). Medically, higher rates of diagnosis can also undercut a woman’s right to feel how we’re feeling, both explicitly and through more subtle ableist behaviour (eg. that’s ‘just’ your anxiety talking). None of this is very cool, but it is still considered socially acceptable even with the 1840s well behind.

On the flipside we have Man Therapy. This beyondblue initiative takes the form of a website hosted by Dr Ironwood (again, not his real name) geared towards getting men to acknowledge and address their mental health issues. Action certainly needs to be taken; as the website points out a minimum of six people die by suicide each day in Australia, and five of these are men. The website’s style plays directly into the ‘real man’ myth, with a sense of humour that is intended as irreverent. It’s difficult to decipher whether the problematic approach is a necessary evil or whether the focus on ‘real men’ poisons the well. However, something that is clear is the extent to which the initiative goes to assure men of their agency. The point is you can be struggling with depression and still be a Man—whatever that means.

It’s easy to find the figure of Mason in Jane Eyre frightening. I certainly did, even with the brightest sun shining through car windows. However what we should really be fighting against is the attic. Of the gendered power gaslighting wields—of women being dismissed or misdiagnosed. Of the systemic inequalities that make it more likely ladies will develop depression or an anxiety disorder. That addiction in men is written off as a choice (which, by definition, is a contradiction). In this case, the regressive structures that restrict us are much more dangerous than what they contain.

Image credit: Curtis Poe via Flickr Creative Commons

[1]http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/

Triangles: the Holey Trinity of Possible BPD (Part 1)

-published by Stilts,
image credit, Total Bore

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Part One: Triangles

After I left the session that fucking envelope was too tempting. An address and phone number in black, barely legible scrawl, the way they all seem to write. Sealed stuff always does win out–especially when it’s about you.
  Thank you for seeing Miss Kathryn Muscat (age 23 yrs) for opinion and management concerning a long standing mood disorder… I have sent her to a counsellor recently, and have tried her on Aropax and Efexor with little help. She currently takes Diazepam on a PRN basis, but has found this becoming less effective. She is aware of alcohol dependency, both physical and psychological…She regularly experiences panic attacks and episodes of marked confusion and despair. Her symptoms are incredibly intrusive, and I feel she needs long term medication but am at a loss as to the best option given her poor response to treatment.’
So, reading my doctor’s referral was a mistake. It’s a spare copy in case the fax didn’t work because apparently people still fax things. Luckily, the restaurant I’ve retreated to is mostly empty during my silent-movie-star cry, the one that only happens when no one’s around to give me kudos for such glamorous sadness. Though I’m still ready with an excuse about accidentally putting too much chili in my pho.
On the way home I fill the new script. The pharmacist’s low-down contradicts that of the psychiatrist and I am given a different hand-out. This one I don’t read.
Read the rest of this entry »

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
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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
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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 »

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