Rape culture: it’s a jungle out there

I’ve been hearing a huge amount of sex-shaming, victim-blaming comments recently (sigh, again), so thought I’d share this piece again to remind people of just how harmful internalised misogyny is.

EpicuriouslyAmy

“She was basically asking for it. I mean, look at what she’s wearing!”- Sound familiar? Most people who have a Facebook or Twitter account, or generally have an internet connection, would have seen the latest pictures circulating of Rihanna at the CFDA Awards. Notable for the sheer number she wore, allowing onlookers a glimpse of what lies beneath; a nude g-string and a pair of nipples. Oh the outrage! Boobs! Bums! I can’t believe what I am seeing! Rihanna Hold on- yes I can. While the ‘suitability’ of the dress has been questioned and outright blasted, there are more concerning issues at hand. Rihanna The real reason I felt it necessary to draw attention to Rihanna at the CFDA Awards is not because of her dress or its suitability, but because of the general public’s reaction to it. Scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, the pictures of Rihanna appear here, there, and everywhere. The other thing that…

View original post 1,372 more words

The biggest lie you tell every day

…Is “Yes, I have read the terms and conditions.” This is because, well, in the famous words of Sweet Brown,

But perhaps people are going to reconsider that one. The recent iCloud hacking scandal resulting in celebrities having private photos sprawled across the web has caused global chaos.

The leaking of nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence in particular has people asking two questions. The first question is irrelevant and unnecessary and goes something along the lines of “why would you even have nude pictures of yourself saved?” And the second, more important question is “what do you mean Google/YouTube/Facebook is already spying on us all the time anyway?”

Yes, while the hacking is not only intrusive, violating and a crime, it is also a rude awakening for many to hear that these big data companies also have access to everything you search, share and even own the pictures you upload.

Screen shot 2014-09-04 at 2.38.33 PM
Max Schrems’ 1,222 files. (Mitew, 2014)

“Okay, yeah, but so what? They’ll never really do anything with your information though,” I hear people say all the time. But if you look at Max Schrems’ case in 2011 where he requested Facebook send him every piece of personal information they had on him, he received 1,222 pages of content. From personal messages, to pages liked, to search history to GPS tracking, it was all there. Or in slightly more extreme cases, you could look at Pedro Bravo, who allegedly murdered his roommate in 2012 and then proceeded to asked his iPhone assistant Siri where to hide the body. Needless to say, this information was tracked and used against him. So, if information about you was ever needed, it’s all tucked away for future references. Our Internet and mobile phone use have become a human tracking system.

Discussing this further with peers and tutor alike, we concluded that as users of Google or Facebook, we are the product. The information extracted from our Internet use is packaged and sold as content to whoever will pay for it as needed. This is evident by just looking at Google’s terms and services which state:

“Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”

So… basically we own our content but really Google does too. Looking at Mitew’s (2014) feudalism analogy, Google is the lord who owns the land, or space, on the Internet and as users, we are the vassals who may have our own space, but ultimately we work in allegiance to the lords. What is interesting is that while we work for our own survival and wealth in allegiance to the data lords, they simultaneously live off our labour.

After taking a closer look at the concept of iFeudal and terms and agreements of data companies such as Google, are you inclined to alter the content you upload and share on the Internet? Why or why not? 

Why We Are Not Always Entitled To Our Opinion

“No, you’re not entitled to your opinion”- thank you, Patrick Stokes

Dyson et al. (1994) coined cyberspace “the land of knowledge”. This is because finally, in this parallel reality, humans now have scale and speed at their fingertips, allowing them control and coordination of information via digital networks (Mitew, 2014).

Information on anything and everything can be found on the Internet, and while this is usually a huge advantage of being connected to the network society, as cyberspace continues to grow and spread information quicker than ever, things are controllably getting out of control. I say controllably because that is just what digital networks and citizens of this society have; control. Well, to a certain extent.

In more recent times, large companies and governments have implemented measures in order to control what information they can from becoming accessible to Internet users. Control of information has always been highly contested especially on the Internet, but there are both negatives and positives to demanding absolute freedom or liberty in cyberspace.

Barlow’s 1996 ‘Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace’ declared, “You (the government) have no moral right to rule us… we are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity”. While Barlow’s declaration sounds ideal, it is also extremely utopian and slightly ignorant.

What if, hypothetically, someone’s expression, belief, or opinion is that they have the right to access/produce/share child pornography or abusive material on the Internet? Following Barlow’s Declaration model, everyone and anyone would have the right to participate in the harmful and morally indecent exploitation of children who do not have a say for themselves.

Patrick Stokes, Philosophy lecturer at Deakin University wrote a wonderfully accurate article on the topic of people being ‘entitled’ to their opinion and freedom of expression. He put it down to “you are not entitled to your opinion, you are only entitled to what you can argue for,” noting that people need to recognise when a ‘belief’ has become indefensible.

What do you think? Is Barlow’s Declaration correct or should we base our beliefs on Stokes’ notion?

__________________________________________________

References

Barlow, J.P. 1996, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’

Dyson, E., Gilder, G., Keyworth, G., Toffler, A. 1994, ‘Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age’

Mitew, T 2014, “Understanding the Network Society Paradigm”, <http://youtu.be/BY2YR1hkGzA?list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j&gt;

Stokes, P 2012, “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion”, The Conversation, 5 October. <http://theconversation.com/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978&gt;

Anarchy in the UK… but mostly on the Internet

Anarchy in the UK… but mostly on the Internet

The word ‘anarchy’ instantly has a stigma attached to it. Having negative connotations, it makes us think of disorder, chaos and an out-of-control society purely because of the absence of a government or controlling authority (or that legendary song by the Sex Pistols). But what about anarchy on the Internet and furthermore, cyberspace?

Bruce Sterling (1992) wrote that people want to be ‘on the Internet’ because they want ‘simple freedom’. Freedom to do what, exactly? Sterling basically defined the four major uses of the internet as; mail, discussion groups, long-distance computing and file transfers.

Interestingly enough, since Sterling’s A Short History of the Internet publication in 1992, not much has really changed. These four functions have merely progressed on a much wider and deeper scale. We use the Internet primarily to communicate with people, often with people over long distances even more than with people who are within close proximity. Think of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram- we are sharing files; pictures, music, links, information with anyone and everyone on the Internet, and most of the time, especially as part of generation Y, we don’t even have a particular audience. We simply project things out into the wide open for anyone and everyone to see, like, and comment on. In these activities, we have time and time again ticked off the four uses Sterling mentions- file transfers, mail, long-distance communication and discussion groups.

One use of the Internet Sterling did not mention, but probably did not doubt, is ‘prod-using’- users of the Internet who produce and create their own information, files and material to post and share on the Internet for everyone in cyberspace to see (making these people ‘produsers’). Finally, humans had created and discovered a medium and media outlet that allows our opinion and thoughts, our feedback and talk back to be just as important if not even more important than news itself. While we see and hear shocking news everyday across the globe, it seems attention on cyberspace is divided between the news provided my credited media sources, as well as people’s reactions to it.

For instance, after the tragic MH370 incident where a plane carrying 227 people vanished into thin air and still hasn’t been located today, the citizens of cyberspace reacted in a range of weird and wonderful ways to the news. A main reaction was people producing their own story in response. Conspiracy theories started popping up everywhere; some said it was a promo for the new Godzilla movie, others were certain it was aliens, many blamed the CIA and others were adamant it was an attack of terrorism.

We are at the stage where we have the freedom to post, share, say and do almost anything and everything on the Internet. Think of James on USENET in Lessig’s (2006) article. We, users of the Internet and citizens of cyberspace, are contributing to the anarchy that is the Internet. While this may sound terrible, it is not necessarily a bad thing.

Sterling drew a wonderful comparison between the Internet and the English language and how anarchy played out.

“Nobody rents English, and nobody owns English. As an English-speaking person, it’s up to you to learn how to speak English properly and make whatever use you please of it… Otherwise, everybody just sort of pitches in, and somehow the thing evolves on its own, and somehow turns out workable…”English” as an institution is public property, a public good. Much the same goes for the Internet. Would English be improved if the “The English Language, Inc.” had a board of directors and a chief executive officer, or a President and a Congress? There’d probably be a lot fewer new words in English, and a lot fewer new ideas.”

For all of the gruesome, disturbing and troubling things that can be found on the Internet, there are just as many amazing things to discover. Exposure to injustice has been one of the most extraordinary things to come out of the internet.

To finish off with one more of Sterling’s great quotes, “the Internet is an institution that resists institutionalisation”, and I think that is wonderful.

References

Lessig, L 2006, “Four puzzles from cyber space”, L. Lessig Code Version 2.0. 

Sterling, B 1992, “A Short History of the Internet”, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

 

Rape culture: it’s a jungle out there

“She was basically asking for it. I mean, look at what she’s wearing!”- Sound familiar? Most people who have a Facebook or Twitter account, or generally have an internet connection, would have seen the latest pictures circulating of Rihanna at the CFDA Awards. Notable for the sheer number she wore, allowing onlookers a glimpse of what lies beneath; a nude g-string and a pair of nipples. Oh the outrage! Boobs! Bums! I can’t believe what I am seeing! Rihanna Hold on- yes I can. While the ‘suitability’ of the dress has been questioned and outright blasted, there are more concerning issues at hand. Rihanna The real reason I felt it necessary to draw attention to Rihanna at the CFDA Awards is not because of her dress or its suitability, but because of the general public’s reaction to it. Scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook, the pictures of Rihanna appear here, there, and everywhere. The other thing that appeared everywhere was the nasty, sex-shaming, victim-blaming comments. I am past the point of trying to understand or reason with people who call Rihanna or any woman not wearing a turtle-neck a ‘trashy whore’ or ‘stupid slut’. Those people are obviously ignorant and close-minded bigots who will only only bring you down to their level of stupidity if you try to engage in debate.
However, while we are on the note of sex-shaming* based on a woman’s attire, I do have to wonder what the hell is all the fuss about? These photos of Rihanna have sparked outrage and attracted the nastiest of comments, yet I am clueless as to what is surprising people. Have we not seen this before? Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus, just to name a few, are all female celebrities who regularly don forms of underwear in favour of pants. They perform in front of masses of people, including children, every year in this attire. Butt cheeks out, g-string on, some sort of crop top that is basically a bra, and ta-da! You have the normal female celebrity. They’re all doing it, so why isn’t Rihanna’s dress suitable after all? Something to think about. Anyway, getting back to my point. Rape culture. If you don’t know what it is or are curious, you can read all about it and much more in this wonderfully written piece here. I cannot recommend it enough. Bookmark it for later if you don’t have the time. Anyway, to avoid this post getting way too long and boring, I will cut to the chase. Casually scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, Rihanna pops up in her sheer Swarovski dress. My first thoughts? Crickets! Her boobs are perky without a bra. I’m envious. Second thought? Oops, I think I can see her nipples. Third thought? Oh wait, that isn’t a wardrobe malfunction because she just turned around and I can see her thong. Judging by the comments other people had left on the picture above, I was alone in these observations. The amount of misogynistic, sexist comments I read was incredible.

One Facebook user commented,

“The definition of dress: to put on clothes… What are we telling young ladies and then telling the men to keep it in their pants- mixed messages. What’s wrong with covering up and leaving a little for the imagination… Judge a person by the content but how do you judge this?”

Right. So apparently we are sending ‘mixed messages’ to the males out there because while we tell them to ‘keep it in their pants’, there are women like Rihanna who have an amazing butt and boobs and decide they’d like to flaunt them. How dare she! Heavens forbid we expect men to actually take control of their thoughts and actions, obviously it’s up to us females to dress appropriately to prevent any harassment. Know what that’s called? Rape culture.

It gets worse. Another Facebook user apparently discovered the formula to Chris Brown beating up Rihanna. Her clothes! He wrote:

“This is why Chris pimp slapped her… if the mother from Everybody Hates Chris saw her in this she would knock her into next week.”

Because of course, violence is the answer. Said nobody ever. This misogynistic mindset is unfortunately nothing new and definitely not uncommon. Domestic violence against women is one of Australia’s biggest killers, and it’s obvious why when we have men judging and mistreating women based simply on their clothing or sexual liberation.

To top it off, we have the comedian of all Facebook users:

“Cop’s thinking what a skank, if someone tries to grab her, she’ll expect me to put my life on the line to help her.”

Clearly just trying to be a good citizen and looking out for this poor police officer. But seriously, this is an exemplary attitude condoning rape culture. This man is saying that if someone attacked Rihanna that night, that ‘poor’ cop would have to protect her. Shit. God forbid he actually does his job! Basically, this guy, and evidently many others, are saying that Rihanna is ‘asking for it’. Ah, sweet victim-blaming, we meet again. On top of that, it is sending out the message that only ‘good girls’ (‘good’ loosely defining a woman who doesn’t show skin or warrant the ‘slut’-branding) deserve protection. What utter bullshit. This is no different to saying a sex-worker doesn’t deserve protection if she is assaulted or raped. This is like saying a stripper doesn’t or deserve protection if she is being sexually harassed or assaulted because, hey, she doesn’t have feelings! She doesn’t really feel the pain of rape or violence the same way an ordinary woman does.

Doesn’t she?! Last time I checked, unless you’re Spiderman, regardless of your occupation, you are still a human who has feelings. How is this still a prevalent attitude in the 21st century? These comments are only a few of what is defined as blatantly victim-blaming. We as a society are still looking at what the victim is doing to answer for the actions of the perpetrator. This is rape culture. We don’t question what the children must have been doing when a paedophile decided to sexually assault them. We don’t assume that a wife deserved to be strangled and stabbed to death by her physically absuive husband. We don’t say the shopkeeper deserved to be held up at knife-point because, hey, that’s what you get for being open at night. No, we don’t.

So why do we still look to the victim when it comes to sexual violence? What do clothes have to do with anything? Do you think the girls that are raped by strangers in the street at night were wearing a sheer gown? Do you think their breasts were out for the world to see? Do you think their g-string was showing and that is what caused them to be raped? Obviously not. A rapist will rape regardless of how ‘sexually provoking’ the woman’s clothing is. Do you know why? Because they are only thinking about two things. How physically easy of a target (agility etc) the woman is and what’s in between her legs. That’s it. You don’t get the average bloke walking along the street and stopping when he sees a woman showing ‘too much skin’ and thinks, ‘hey, she’s obviously up for a good time, and look at what she’s wearing- obviously wants my penis in her.’ NO. That doesn’t happen. The reason, in fact, why it does happen boils down to the (mis)representations of women in our media and in our society. We are apparently the weaker sex, the nicer sex, the kinder sex, the submissive sex. It is a result of our patriarchal society- unless a woman is deemed worthy of respect and protection in the male gaze, she is nothing. We need to stop associating women with their relationship to men, and instead look at them as human, equal, individuals.

As a society, we need to stop victim-blaming. Sure, some people probably don’t even know they’re doing it. But it needs to be made known that commenting on what a woman is wearing and relating it to being attacked IS condoning rape culture. And you, whether male or female, are part of the problem if you are doing this. Don’t think what a girl is wearing is ‘suitable’? That’s (kind of) fine, you are entitled to your own opinion. BUT, for the love of humanity, please keep that opinion to yourself and DO NOT go and associate what a girl is wearing with sexual violence or abuse. They are not related issues and you’re victim-blaming if you do. If you can see a woman’s clitoris hanging out of her skirt, guess what? It doesn’t even matter, she’s not asking for it. Nip slips? Still not asking for it.

A WOMAN IS NOT ASKING FOR IT UNLESS SHE PHYSICALLY, VERBALLY, ORALLY and CONSCIOUSLY ASKS FOR IT WITH HER OWN MOVING MOUTH.

Breasts, bums, vaginas, legs; they can’t talk. They can’t ask for it. Rape culture is ubiquitous and inevitable while victim-blaming comments are still being thrown around. Regardless of what a woman is wearing, she is not asking for it. She does not deserve to be raped.

Protest Rape

Diasporic Media

Before learning the true meaning of diaspora, I imagined it was some ghastly disease of the lung or intestines. However, I recently learned the word diaspora is derived from the Greek word dia meaning ‘through’, and speirein meaning ‘to scatter’, thanks to postcolonial theorist Avtar Brah for clearing that one up (Khorana, 2014). As such, diaspora refers to the spread of people from their homeland. You can only imagine my relief after this discovery; diasporic media wasn’t sounding too appealing prior to this knowledge.

Map of African Diaspora

Diasporic media essentially involves media focusing on people spreading from their homeland. So, why is there a name for this type of media and why is it worth discussing? Well, according to Cottle (2000), it has the potential to ‘enhance the confidence of minority ethnic individuals and communities’, resulting in greater access to and participation in media and production (Khorana, 2014).

Diasporic media is important because stereotyping, stigmatising and marginalisation of racialised communities can easily and quickly form and spread in host countries. As Sukhmani stated in this week’s lecture, diasporic media can aid the socialising of migrant communities into their new environments in a smoother, less intimidating way with host countries.

Initially, I would’ve thought the best solution to avoid marginalising racial communities and minorities would be changing and adapting their representations in mainstream media. However, after having read Salazar’s 2000 article “Digital stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney”, I agree there are better first steps in effective and successful diasporic media. Salazar argues that “community media is better positioned to recognise changing attitudes towards migrants and refugees, and that these changes must also take place from the bottom up.” Community media being any form of media that is created and controlled by a community and separate from commercial media and public broadcasting. Salazar’s findings also corroborated Cottle’s (2000) arguments that diasporic media encouraged greater access and participation in media, and even further when young media practitioners became active citizens exercising their human right to self-representation.

In popular culture and mainstream media, an exemplar case of diasporic media would be the 2002 British film “Bend It Like Beckham” (Khorana, 2014). The plot follows an Indian girl, Jesminder, and her family living in London. Jesminder is infatuated with football (read: soccer) and struggles to follow her dream of becoming a pro as she is held back by her family and cultural constraints.

_____________________________________________________________________

Salazar, Juan Francisco. (2012). ‘Digital Stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’. 3CMedia: Journal of Community, Citizen’s and Third Sector Media and Communication, Issue 7. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezpr oxy.uow.edu.au/ehost/detail?vid= 3&sid=c5373eb0-b85c-44ea- b3e5- cc2e901acc61%40sessionmgr40 03&hid=4201&bdata=JnNpdGU 9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db= ufh&AN=79551905. Accessed May 20, 2014

Globalisation and the Media

Globalisation is defined as “the ways in which technologies can overcome global distances, so that some people live in a world that seems borderless” (Khorana, 2014). Through the advancements of technology, we have watched globalisation in the media develop and flourish to the extent of television escorting children across the world before they are allowed to even cross the street (Meyrowitz, 1985: 238). Globalisation in the media has drawn great attention to community and culture, as such it shows us ways in which our own culture is informed and shaped by other cultures.

A notable example of globalisation and the media informing and shaping cultures is Chris Lilley’s new show “Jonah From Tonga” aired on ABC. Chris Lilley, notorious for pushing boundaries when it comes to racial stereotypes, sexist jokes and just general childish humour that most would deem inappropriate, seems to always get away with it through his clever costume and portrayal antics. Until now.

Jonah (centre) with school friends and Sister Monica
Chris Lilley once again pushing the limits as private school girl Ja'mie
Chris Lilley once again pushing the limits as private school girl Ja’mie

Lilley acts as a 14-year-old wayward Tongan boy by the name of Jonah, living in Australia, depicting the daily life at home with his family and at school with the rest of his “FOB” (read: ‘Fresh Off the Boat’) friends. Besides the racist humour in the show, the main reason this show has recently come under fire is that the show demonstrates bad attitudes and behaviour of ‘Pacific youth’ in a comical way, rendering it as ‘cool’ to the younger Tongan viewers, thus creating an inaccurate stereotype.

Mr Latu, a Tongan community worker in Australia, told Australia Network News that he is concerned for the Tongan children in Australian schools who will either think that is the way Tongans behave or have a hard time convincing other people that the show is not a true depiction of what they as a people and culture are about. “It seems to normalise something that’s a really minute percentage of the community. Once you start to normalise that… people pick up on that,” Mr Latu explained. “[Tongan children] will then start mimicking all these roles at school and think it’s okay to do what Jonah from Tonga has done on TV.”

Globalisation and the media, while making the world feel ‘smaller’ and in ways more connected and informed due to the technological advancements, can evidently still have a reverse effect creating space between the media sphere and the actual public sphere; wedging a gap between reality, what’s on the telly and people’s affiliation or estrangement with their own and other cultures.

http://www.news.com.au/entertainment/tv/backlash-over-chris-lilleys-jonah-from-tonga-as-protest-movement-gains-momentum/story-e6frfmyi-1226918651717  

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-09/an-chris-lilley27s-jonah-from-tonga-criticised/5441632 

‘The Big Wedding’: Don’t RSVP (Film Review)

Justin Zackham’s 2013 comedy showcases a stellar cast but fails to deliver a performance and plot to suit.

Image

Skimming through the thousands of films on Netflix, one can’t help but come to a halt at the sight of the all-star cast of The Big Wedding. With Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams just to name a few, this comedy looks promising; if not for laughs, at least for easy watching with familiar faces.

The film is a remake of the 2006 French film Mon Frère Se Marie (My Brother is Getting Married) written by Jean-Stéphane Bron and Karine Sudan. The Big Wedding, directed by Justin Zackham,marries elements of the romantic comedy and comedy-drama hybrid genres. The film is based around Ellie (Diane Keaton) and Don’s (Robert De Niro) adopted Columbian son Alejandro (Ben Barnes) who is getting married.

The ‘twist’ manifests when Alejandro reveals that his biological mother, Madonna (Patricia Rae) is coming to the wedding, and being the devout Catholic that she is, he says she will never forgive him or his adopting parents for divorcing years ago. So naturally when a romantic comedy crosses with a comedy drama, Alejandro’s solution is to ask Ellie and Don to pretend to be still married while his mother is visiting from Columbia, resulting in chaos. Bebe (Susan Sarandon), Don’s long-term partner, leaves the house upset at the situation, mostly that Don hasn’t proposed after eight years, while Don and Ellie tackle feigning their happy marriage throughout the film.

While far-fetched storylines make for some of the best films, this one borders so unrealistic that it verges on to childish. With award-winning actors and a standard budget of $35 million, the film’s potential is held back by the unbelievable plot that relishes in characters and scenarios we’ve seen times before.

To start off, there’s Nuria (Ana Ayora), Alejandro’s half-sister from Columbia who is visiting with her mother. Unlike the rest of the female characters, being the foreigner that she is, Nuria is presented as a brainless, sexual object right from the beginning. In the company of a lust-interest, she suggests they go swimming, and before he can say ‘swimsuit’, she has stripped off and dives into the water butt-naked at the family residence. As all female foreigners do, right? While Ellie tries to change the South American seductress’ views by telling her she “deserves to be treated with respect”, in the end, Zackham proves that she just cannot deny her innate overtly sexual tendencies.

Then there is Don and pretty much every other male in the film who are all dealing with one of two (if not both) of clearly life’s biggest problems: sex and marriage. If they’re not remorselessly cheating, they’re desperately wooing with one thing in mind; and if they’re not getting any, it’s because “they should’ve proposed by now, duh!”

Despite its predictability, The Big Wedding does get some points for trying to stand out amongst the plethora of comedy dramas and rom-coms. While the genre typically promotes a ‘love conquers all’ message, this film looks beyond conventional themes and also asserts the importance of acceptance and freedom of choice in the new age, covering topics such as homosexuality and religion.

Zackham’s satirical take on religion and the Catholic Church underlines most of the film’s humour, which is a pleasant step away from the typical consistent toilet-humor or gender-specific jokes.

There is also a shift from traditional romantic-drama comedies focusing on the young, beautiful, and sexy. Instead, The Big Wedding focuses largely on the sexual lives of the older generations: their accounts, their challenges and their affairs. A smug “forty minutes, baby” and a sleazy wink is the last thing you’d expect to see Robert De Niro doing in this film. But trust that you will see it, you will definitely hear ‘it’, and for the first time in your life you may find yourself wanting to tell good old Rob to just shut the hell up because no one likes a bragger. There, feel better? You can stop cringing now.

Overall, The Big Wedding checks all the romantic-drama comedy boxes. After all, it is lighthearted, and it does provide some laughs. Hearing Diane Keaton drop the C-bomb is unbelievably refreshing, and who would expect to see De Niro, Sarandon and cunnilingus- in theory and in practice- all incorporated in the first ten of the 89-minute film?

But disappointingly, with its simple-minded storyline and some real cringe-worthy stereotypes, the The Big Wedding just doesn’t ooze the same stellar quality like that of the cast. Perhaps Zackham’s next romantic-drama comedy film could aim to see the women defined by more than a mere quest for marriage and the men driven by something other than sex. To avoid disappointment, don’t let the cast fool you; definitely not a film for the kids or fans of De Niro pre-2000s. If you’re after a (very) lighthearted film and after you’ve watched every other film on Netflix, then this one could be, maybe, possibly be for you. The film does entertain to a certain degree but it’s one you probably won’t watch again and won’t feel bad for downloading illegally*.

*I actually do not condone piracy of films. Promise. Every song I own has been bought from the iTunes store, seriously. People laugh at me for that.

Boko Haram’s abduction of more than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls

Around three weeks ago on April 15, the extreme Islamist group, Boko Haram, abducted more than 250 girls aged between 16-18 from their school in Chibok, Nigeria.

There are two things regarding this story that need to be assessed in relation to race and ethnicity in the media. The first is the fact that most mainstream news media didn’t report on this until three weeks after it had happened; meaning most of the general public had no idea what was going on. Branching off from the reporting issue, the second thing that I feel needs assessing is the fact that most mainstream news did not mention that not all, but most of the girls that were abducted are Christian.

To start off, the fact that mainstream news media did not report on this until three weeks after it happened raises a lot of questions. In week 9’s tutorial with Benjamin Ball, we discussed how the media frames ethnicity and race in the media, and discovered that in fact we are all ethnic in one way or another. Similarly, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ which Sukhmani Khorana showed in the lecture covered this issue of media framing. She tells how all that she had ever known about her live-in domestic helpers was how poor and unfortunate they were, and how this significantly distorted her understanding and perceptions of the people from rural areas in her country of Nigeria being anything but poor.

Stemming from the dangers of a single story, I cannot help but wonder if the absence of the abducted Nigerian girls reported in mainstream Western media is a product of single stories about not only Nigeria, but Africa as a whole. Was this not newsworthy enough to be reported instantly because Western newsrooms believed that this sort of thing happened all the time way over in ‘that country called Africa’? Did they think civil unrest is something commonplace in Africa so there is no need to report on only 250 plus girls? It’s interesting how hundreds of lives in an African context doesn’t faze our mainstream media enough to report instantly, yet one single white person’s life of the Western world or Westernised cultures in the media seems to be worth hundreds as it is reported instantly and heavily in the media.

When the MA-370 flight disappeared with 239 people onboard, it was all over our screens and it still is, two months later. So what does the initial lack of reporting say about the Western media? Do we as the public not need to worry ourselves with what is happening in Africa? Is this story not surprising because it is coming from Nigeria? What is it? Because I honestly do not know.

Another interesting aspect of the whole reporting issues of the abducted Nigerian girls is the fact that nearly all of them were Christian yet the US and British mainstream news media have not mentioned this.

According to The Guardian, The Christian Association of Nigeria published a list of 180 Christian girls that were abducted from Chibok on April 15, making up two-thirds of the total 276 missing. So far, the media has only really highlighted the fact that Boko Haram is an Islam extremist group which opposes Western education and the education of girls, but they haven’t chosen to mention that another reason these girls were victims is because of their Christianity. Why is this so? Without any definite answers to this question, after reading Asultany’s (2013) article on sympathetic representations of Arabs and Muslims in the media post-9/11, I have come to an understanding to a certain degree. Asultany states that Arabs and Muslims, defined as “the other”, are now portrayed more sympathetically than ever, “in order to project that the United States as an enlightened country that has entered a post-race era.” Whether the US has achieved this is another story, but this notion of sympathetic representations in media can be applied to the reporting of the missing Nigerian girls. The media obviously does not want to provoke or project an image of themselves as racist or even bringing religious war in to the mix by mentioning that the girls are Christian, as they must obviously not want to give the general public the idea that this is an attack on religion, but would rather comfortably sit with the story based on gender inequality and Islam.

__________________________________________________________________

Alsultany, Evelyn. (2013). ‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’. American Quarterly, Vol. 65 No. 1. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/ame rican_quarterly/v065/65.1.alsulta ny.html. Accessed May 5, 2014.

Women in public spaces

A couple of weeks ago, 17-year-old April-lee Gillen was found lying on the road bleeding to death from a severe head injury. This came after she had just updated her status on Facebook at 1am which read “Phones on 1 per cent walking from warrawong to berks [Berkeley] and some Asian guy just stopped me telling me to come home with him cause it’s safe and I need help wtf sos”. Police are saying it is likely she has been the victim of a hit-and-run crash.

A particularly concerning element of this story is the public’s reaction this news. NSW Police Force updated this story on their Facebook page and the influx of classist and blatantly victim-blaming comments from the public on the status were absolutely shocking. Many people were quick to question “Why was she even out alone walking at 1am?”, others saying she was probably drunk or high based on her whereabouts, and others calling her foolish for choosing to write a status on Facebook with her 1% phone battery rather than calling someone for help.

My question is why shouldn’t she be out walking freely at 1am and why should we assume she was intoxicated? Would we be saying the same thing if the victim was a male? Would we be saying the same thing if instead of Berkeley (Illawarra), this happened in Double Bay (Syd) or Toorak (Melb)?

Khan et al. (2013) draw on this idea with their article about women not owning the right to access public spaces after dark in India. Whilst gender roles may be different in the public sphere and spaces of India, it is evident with the public reaction to this news story and many others such as the murder of Jill Meagher, that the public sphere is a still well and truly man’s world, with no room for women to be ‘loitering’. Khan et al. uses loitering loosely to define women accessing public spaces freely and for pleasure, without having to justify themselves being out of the home after dark.

The reality is, with the public making such comments and victim-blaming – intentionally or not – it is evident that there is still a need for a woman to be justified for walking the streets late at night. Evidently, there is still a dichotomy regimented in society of good girls versus bad girls; a good girl would be at home at this time and a girl who is not must be up to no good, often presumed to be a sex worker or a lower-class citizen.

There is a need to create a public space that is accessible to women at any time without fearing judgement for having what society deems as shameful or sinful intentions. The existence of such a space would breakdown the dichotomy, and maybe the general public would stop questioning the victim and instead rally in support and question the perpetrator. Just as men feel free to walk home alone at night without fearing judgement, just as guys leave parties alone and don’t have to make their mates promise they will text them when they arrive home safe, women should also have this sense of freedom and comfort in public spaces after dark.

_____________________________________________________

Khan, Sameera and Phadke, Shilpa. (2013). ‘Where Can We Have Some Fun?’. The Indian Express. http://archive.indianexpress.com/ news/where-can-we-have-some- fun-/1207755/. Accessed April 5, 2014.