Archive for the ‘New media’ Category

Sexism is not a game

December 7, 2012

You may remember a while ago that I awarded a “feminist of the week” award to the delightful Anita Sarkeesian for her incredible Feminist Frequency videos. If you haven’t seen her, you should check them out. She discusses representations of women in popular culture in a really accessible way.

Anyway, recently she’s been the target of an online hate campaign because, get this, she had the gall to try and raise money to make a video about the treatment of women in video games.

Below is a ten minute Ted talk she delivered, outlining the disgusting sexist, violent and hateful harrassment campaign directed personally at her.

I cannot believe the level of hatred aimed at her. Absolutely rage-making. I am in awe of how she can keep on fighting the good fight. For example, [trigger warnings apply] some of the “gamers” created a “game” with pictures of Sarkeesian that awarded points for how bloody her face got. Can you believe that!? It’s the sickest thing I’ve come across on the internet this week.

On the positive side, her fundraising has raised 25 times more than she ever hoped or wanted and she’s creating fantastic resources for further educating people about sexism and gender. Go Anita!!!

Occupying Sydney: some initial ponderings

October 19, 2011

On Saturday afternoon (15th October 2011) after a receiving an encouraging text from a good mate of mine, I decided to head into the Sydney CBD to check out Occupy Sydney.

I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have a clear goal in mind about why I wanted to go. I just wanted to learn more about what is an increasingly global Occupy phenomenon. And to experience it myself rather than read about it on the Tweets or watch it on the television news.

small children frolicking in a fountain at Martin Place, Sydney
image source: redserenade

What I found when I got to Martin Place – a terraced space in the centre of the business district of Sydney – was a congregation of all sorts of people. It was peaceful, joyful and party-like. There were lots and lots of banners. Lots of photographers (myself included because the sunlight at that time was amazing!). People from a range of political persuasions: socialists, unionists, religious groups, people wearing eureka stockade flags, hippy yoga types doing some chanting, families with their children. And so on.

I wanted to check it out because I had questions about how Occupy Sydney might be copycatting Occupy Wall Street, when the Australian and US national contexts are vastly different. Indeed, that seems to be where a lot of the anti-occupy-sydney criticism lies… eg. Australia is not doing it as tough as the US, so what is there to complaint about, really?

I agree that the national differences are vast, but I don’t think it is as simple as that. And it’s not as if Occupy Wall Street started all by itself. Unrest and revolution has been going on all over the world in recent times. I’m thinking here, largely, of the Middle East. But also the London Riots and rallies, riots and political protests in various parts of Europe.

These things don’t happen in a vacuum. And the Occupy X tactic/movement/whatever we want to call it, is now happening in over 1500 cities worldwide.

Despite vastly different national and regional contexts, there is clearly a sense of revolution in the air.

Another question I had (and I think this is a common question), is What are the demands of Occupy Sydney? What is the ultimate goal of occupying public space in your city?

This is a difficult question, and one I am still thinking through, but my gut feeling at the moment is that it’s not about “demands” as such. It’s not as straightforward as “we’re going to sit in this public square until the people in power meet our list of things”.

A peaceful crowd of people gathered at Martin Place in Sydney. Tall buildings to the left and right. A low setting sun illuminates the space.

I had the good fortune of being able to see scholar McKenzie Wark speak last night. He spoke about the historic precedents of Occupations and answered some questions about how Occupy Wall Street compares with Occupy Sydney. He’s an Australian-born guy who now lives in New York, and has been to both sites.

Wark said lots of inspiring and fascinating things, but one thing that really stood out for me was when he made a distinction between a “social movement” and an “occupation of public space”. [I’m paraphrasing here, from my hastily scribbled notes]. His take on it is that a social movement – like a protest march – tends to have clear demands. Whereas these “occupation” strategies are all about particular places.

“What are the demands?”, ask the media. “There aren’t any!”

While I think there are actually some demands, every interest group has their own specific set of goals about what they want to see change so there is no clear consensus. My initial understandings of Occupy X, and my brief experiences hanging out in Martin Place on a beautiful sunny afternoon gives me a sense that “Occupy” is less about a list of demands, and more about re-thinking how we might use public spaces, how we can come together to make the world a better and more equitable place.

There is a deep sense of anger and frustration at the ways in which the global financial system is not benefiting the majority of people. There are no easy ways to change the system, but with peaceful Occupations like these gaining momentum, some of the difficult questions are at least being asked. The overall feeling on Saturday (at least for the few hours I was there) was one of joy: friends, laughter, political conversations, spontaneous musical performances, children frolicking in fountains.

The parallels between the various Occupy sites seems to be as much about asking “what do us public do with this public space now that we have claimed it?” as they are about challenging financial institutions and global inequalities.

As McKenzie Wark said asked last night [paraphrasing again]: “What do you do when you’ve taken a space? There’s no-one to confront, nowhere to shop… what do you do?!”

You talk. You play. You laugh.

You get together to discuss how things could be done differently.

A handwritten sign, posted on a tree reads: "Entertain yourself. Boredom is not a reason to fail democracy."

You can read more about Wark’s work and his reactions to Occupy Wall Street here: Zuccotti Park, A Psychogeography. I particularly like his closing paragraphs, which I will quote as a conclusion to this post:

When there’s nobody really watching, when there’s nothing to confront, when there’s nothing to debate—this is what’s left: How is it possible to create forms of life for ourselves, even if it’s in the shadow of tall buildings that cast long shadows?

I left the Park and headed back to the subway. I had to get up the next morning to get the kids off the school. People were drifting away, although it was clear that a fairly large group would stay on for most of the night. And others would be back in the morning.

Not many people can inhabit this place outside of work time, but a lot of people come to visit, and to glimpse something of another way in which the city might function. Other lives are possible; sometimes they even actually exist.

No matter what happens here next day or next week, I just wanted to record the fact that this actually happened.

(note: photographs in this entry were taken by me. If you’d like to use them, go ahead, but I’d love it if you attribute them to “redserenade” at flickr.)

2010 in review: some blog stats

January 3, 2011

Happy New Year, my fellow ponderers!

WordPress just emailed to tell me that my blog is healthy. Phew, what a relief. It gets a rating of “Wow”. Thanks to everyone who read and commented on Pondering Postfeminism in 2010. I intend to keep this blog going in 2011, and vow to write more often. I also thought I’d throw it open to my readers a little bit. If you ever come across something that you think might suit this blog (articles, links, videos, etc) please drop me a line. I’m always on the lookout for inspiration.

I thought I may as well share some of the email that WordPress put together for me. It doesn’t mention some of the more hilarious search engine terms that directed people to my blog. So here are some of the more memorable and amusing:
– what would buffy do
– doctor handsome sex
– sex and the city naked guy (variations of this add up to probably the highest number of searches)
– couregous womeninsex fuc
– predicament bondage
– leather bra xena
– sparkly vampires fuck off spike
– witches noses stereotypes

The rest of this post was compiled by WordPress software.
______________

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 8,100 times in 2010. That’s about 19 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 34 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 35 posts.

The busiest day of the year was March 8th with 161 views. The most popular post that day was Pondering Germaine Greer.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, badhostess.com, digg.com, and frankiephd.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for princess valhalla hawkwind, sexing the body gender politics and the construction of sexuality, princess valhalla hawkwind costume, what is post feminism, and and then buffy staked edward.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Pondering Germaine Greer March 2010
6 comments

2

Super women and the changing face of feminism February 2010
1 comment

3

So, what is postfeminism anyway? January 2010
3 comments

4

Princess Valhalla: postfeminist superhero August 2010
3 comments

5

The Power of Female Sex February 2010
5 comments

Hottest women musicians of 2010

January 3, 2011

Don’t forget to vote in the Hottest 100 Women 2010 poll.

It was started last year by Naomi Eve in response to TripleJ’s Hottest 100 Of All-Time poll which had almost no female artists in the final results. No Blondie, no PJ Harvey, no Clouds, no Salt n Pepa, no Sarah Blasko, no Portishead, no Aretha Franklin, no Kate Bush, no Courtney Love, no Magic Dirt, no Veruca Salt, no Madonna, no Yeah Yeah Yeahs, no Bjork, no Emiliana Torrini, no Ani DiFranco, no Patti Smith, no Garbage, no Tori Amos, etc, etc. You get the point.

The top 110 from the female-friendly “Of All-Time” poll from last year can be found here. I’m awarding Naomi Eve a ‘feminist of the week’ award for establishing this poll. You can read more about the project at her blog, on Twitter and on Facebook.

And now voting is on again for songs released during 2010! Voting closes on Jan 7th. Vote now!!

The guidelines for what counts as a ‘woman’ song go like this:
Songs must be performed by:
– a female artist
– a band with a female lead singer, or
– a band with at least 2 female members (ie neither of whom are the lead singer).

You can also vote in the annual TripleJ Hottest 100.

Who will you be voting for?

Some thoughts on ‘The Social Network’

November 9, 2010

Last week I saw The Social Network, a film about the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg. I’m currently buried under a pile of undergrad essays, so the best I can do is provide some linkylinks to articles that resonated with my interpretation of the film. There are spoilers in these pieces, be warned.

(more…)

Digital makeovers for “Aussie mums”

September 1, 2010

The following is based on a paper I gave at this year’s AWGSA conference in Adelaide.

“Mum 2.0”: Gender and generation in the new media landscape

While waiting for a bus not so long ago, I noticed an advertisement with the headline “Mum 2.0”. It featured a large photo of a mobile phone, and underneath the tag-line read “Does your mum need a digital makeover?” Having recently completely a doctorate that, in part, examined the mother-daughter debates within feminism – I’d been thinking and writing a lot around issues of ‘gender’ and ‘generation’. I’d also been thinking that I’d like to do some research in the field of new media. This advertisement caught my attention because of the way it played into gender stereotypes and set up a generation gap. But it also grabbed me because it quite neatly tied together my older research interests with some of my new ones.

On closer inspection of the billboard, I noticed it was a Telstra advertisement for a competition to win a mobile phone. But ‘What is Mum 2.0 supposed to mean?’, I thought to myself. And what the hell is a ‘digital makeover’?

The ad can be read as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek twist on the now banal, almost meaningless phrase “Web 2.0”. It both draws on our communal understanding of Web 2.0 to mean the “next generation of the internet” and throws in new generalisations about generations of women. This ad plays into the sexist idea that women are technologically illiterate, suggesting mothers are often un-cool and that they need help navigating this strange new digital landscape in the form of a “makeover”. And of course, there are the allusions to the traditional meaning of makeover as a physical transformation involving cosmetics and a new hairstyle. Women are never good enough – they need help. This time mothers are to be made-over with the latest consumer gadgets and some lessons in how to be more tech-savvy.

This Telstra billboard and the related Mum 2.0 website raises a number of questions about the way women are positioned within ‘new media’ spaces, particularly the way a particular type of “motherhood” is constructed.

The Telstra bus-stop ad was a competition to win a new phone. It was tied in with a broader advertising campaign called “Digital Mum”. The accompanying website has a section called “Dob in your mum”. It says, “Mum starting to become part of your online social network? Give her a crash course in tech etiquette and dob her in for a digital makeover.” The campaign encourages people to ‘dob in their mum’ for the chance to win a free phone, and at the same time your mum will also be offered free online lessons in how to use social networking sites like Facebook. So it’s not just about selling mobile phones, but about ‘educating mothers’ about proper online etiquette.

The website also includes six short video tutorials, hosted by YouTube, that were designed to teach ‘mum’ how to use Facebook without embarrassing her teenaged children and without making a fool of herself online. These brief tutorials are fascinating and quite funny because they ‘act out’ scenes from Facebook in real life. Each clip is hosted/narrated by Australian comedian Tim Ross (better known as Rosso) and feature a white middle class suburban family: mum, dad and three teenaged children.

As Rosso points out in the introductory clip, “We’ll teach you lessons other people have had to learn the hard way: The etiquette of social networking. We’ve brought an online family into the real world, so getting up to speed won’t take long.”

Introductory video:

There are six video lessons all up, but the following two clips are my favourites:

Lesson 4: Joining a Group

I love this one because it helps to highlight the generational specificity of popular culture (ie. one of my the main themes of my thesis). A mother is seated in her daughter’s bedroom with her daughter’s friends and they’re all wearing “I heart Edward” t-shirts, referring, of course to the vampire heart-throb of the moment.The joke comes from how uncool the Mum is as she tries to get in on the Twilight fandom action. While she attempts to mirror what the young women are saying in the Edward fanclub, it backfires because she doesn’t quite “get it”. She uses the wrong lingo and she embarrasses her daughter. Rosso helpfully suggests: “It’s important to connect with your kids online, but give them some space. And be yourself.” Thanks Rosso!

Lesson 6: Privacy

Lesson number six warns ‘mums’ about privacy online, and that they have to be careful who they add as a friend and who has access to photos. The family are seated around the table having dinner. A strange man is in the house peering inside the fridge and nosing around the framed family photos on the mantelpiece. The father and the kids are confused and ask who he is. The mum replies “Oh, that’s Jacques. I met him years ago when I was backpacking. He asked me to add him. I couldn’t say no”.

The strange man joins them at the table and starts speaking inappropriately in French to the mother. Rosso’s voiceover warns about adding people from your past to Facebook and suggests adjusting your privacy settings so that not everyone has access to your profile and photos. This one is really interesting as it ties into wider concerns about online safety and privacy, especially since Facebook is rather notorious for dubious privacy policies.

According to a media release on their website, Telstra commissioned a nationwide study last year that surveyed 1200 “Aussie mums”. It says:

Despite Aussie mums’ desire to use social networking sites to stay connected with their family, their children don’t see these sites as a way of connecting with their parents. Children over 16 years old are most likely to decline friend requests from their parents to avoid the embarrassment of baby photos and grammar corrections ending up on their homepage.

Telstra Brands and Marketing Communications Executive Director Amanda Johnston-Pell said, Aussie mums are online and using social networking sites, however there are definite fears and insecurities about how to approach their own kids online and what acceptable etiquette in this space is.

“Following on from our ‘Call Mum’ campaign, we have launched a new program to help mothers up-skill in the social networking space to stay in touch with their family online with our new program called Mum 2.0,” Ms Johnston-Pell said.

“Online social networking is quickly becoming the norm for staying in touch with family and friends and the Telstra Mum 2.0 free of charge program is here to help Aussie mums make sure they never lose face online.”

Telstra State of the Nation report revealed nationally:

* 81 per cent of Aussie mums have fears and insecurities about their use of online social networking.
* 61 per cent of Aussie mums use Facebook regularly – 47 per cent of these mums use it daily and 14 per cent use it at least once a week
* 65 per cent of Aussie mums contact their immediate family via online social networking at least once a week.
* More than 47 per cent of mums aged 45-65 used social networking websites to view their children’s pages.

One of the first questions I had was why dads weren’t included in this study? I’d be really keen to do some research on whether mothers are more interested than fathers in learning how to use these technologies. The Telstra ad is successful in setting up (or playing into) the notion of a generation gap. (There’s a long history of the idea of the parents being ‘clueless’ about the latest technology – eg. Not knowing how to program the VCR). But why must it be so gendered as well? If the desire to learn about Facebook is to be able to better stay in touch with offspring, are fathers not interested in this too? Is it assumed that fathers will automatically know how to use Facebook (because they’re men and men can ‘do’ technology). Or is it assumed that they’re not interested in Facebook for its communicating-with-family abilities, because that that is ‘mum’s job’?

This advertising strategy also severely limits what the idea of “mum” can mean. For Telstra, “mum” apparently means: White, middle class, with 2 teenaged kids and a husband. What about younger mums? I know a number of mothers who have been using Facebook since it began! What about single mothers, lesbian mothers, working class, indigenous mothers, etc?

I’m only in the early stages of thinking through some of these issues. I’m contemplating whether or not it could make up part of a larger research project examining the ways in which digital technologies are shaping the way we communicate and exploring how gender relations are being played out in new media spaces.

Perhaps I should at least turn my paper into a journal article. But at least for now I’ve blogged it!