Wibbly Wobbly Girly Whirly: Sci-Fi and Girl Power

Words: Jessica Sheridan

Whovians are all astir this week following the BBC’s casting announcement for the next Doctor. It’s typically an exciting time for fans of Doctor Who, whose central character has the ability to conveniently regenerate into a new body every couple of seasons. It’s a clever plot device, and perhaps the main reason the show has had such a long run time.

Previously the role has had a parade of actors filling in for the Tardis-driving alien from Galifrey, including most recently Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith and David Tenant. And while they all brought their own flavour and zest to the role, they have all had a lot in common – notably:

They were all men.

Which is fine, for the record. Characters have to have some form of identity and it just so happened that for the last 36 seasons the Doctor was male. It was perhaps a little problematic that his companions were usually female, and usually in love with him, establishing an undeniable power imbalance. But that’s another topic for another day. For now, my point is simply that the Doctor just so happened to be male until now and that was fine.

Enter Jodie Whittaker who has been cast to play the 13th Doctor. Jodie Whittaker. A woman. And that is fine.

Viral Meme

Of course the reaction has been exactly what you’d expect: disappointing. Many people voiced their concerns about Whittaker, often beginning with the classic “I’m not a sexist, but…” caveat that people still think excuses their sexism. Many people made derogatory comments at Whittaker’s expense, some threatened they would boycott the show, and one media outlet responded by posting naked photos of Whittaker in their coverage of the announcement. Real classy, guys.

To clarify, I’m not disappointed in the casting choice. I’m not too familiar with Whittaker’s work, but up until now they haven’t got it wrong when it comes to casting everyone’s favourite alien, so why would they start now? I have faith that she will make an excellent Doctor, as I’m sure she has already proven to the show creators.

But there is a very, very, very vocal minority (yes – a minority) that is throwing a tantrum because their precious Doctor is regenerating as a woman.

The Doctor. A timelord. A character not from this world. An alien. The last of their kind (in the new series at least). A creature with two hearts and strange powers and a space ship that looks like a police box but it’s bigger on the inside and can travel through space and time. People are having a fit because this Doctor – this impossible character – is now a woman.

Imagine literally being angry that, after 36 seasons of male Doctors, they decided to try out a female Doctor? Imagine masculinity so fragile that one woman in a crowd of men was enough to send the internet into a spin?

Twitter statistics indicating that around 80% of users reacted positively to the announcement. But 20% of people are mad. Fingers have been pointed at ‘social justice warriors’ and ‘feminazis’ and people being ‘too politically correct’ for ruining their favourite sci-fi show. But in their fickle rage they have perhaps forgotten that this announcement was a long time coming. Because sci-fi has always been progressive.

Mary Shelley. Image – famousauthors.org

When you consider the origins of sci-fi it should come as no surprise that we have landed here – with a female Doctor. Mary Shelley is often credited with the first true work of modern science fiction with her story Frankenstein. Shelley was one of very few female authors in her time, and faced many setbacks in her career based on her gender. But she pushed through, and ended up writing one of the most infamous characters in literature history – Frankenstein’s Monster.

Since these empowering origins, the genre has taken leaps and bounds in reflecting societal progress. After all, consider the meat of the genre. Science fiction plots often centre on futuristic science experiments and exploration of the unknown – progress is at the heart of the genre. Why would science fiction – which pushes the limits of the imagination and presents life as it could be – fall at the mercy of outdated gender norms?

Princess Leia. Image: starwars.com

Science fiction has produced some of the best heroines in all of fiction. Princess Leia, who later becomes General Organa, is an iconic character layered in feminism and general baddassary. Sarah Conner is pivotal in the Terminator franchise and fights her own battles to keep her son safe. Dana Scully from the X Files kicks just as much ass in her role as Special Agent, and even Leela from Futurama cannot be discounted for her heroism in the midst of comedic disaster.

Doctor Who itself has produced some amazingly strong female side characters, such as Riversong, Donna Noble, and Martha Jones. Strong women can be found all throughout sci-fi; perhaps not always in the spotlight, but they are there. They have been for some time.

But it’s time to step off the sidelines and into the spotlight. Out of the romantic subplot and into the crux of it all. We have these strong female characters, but now it’s time to put them into leading roles where all strong role models belong. Because representation does matter, and it’s important that girls see strong women leading the way from time to time – if not at least half of the time.

We need to embrace lead characters that are different and not feel threatened by them. We need to make room for women and minorities to make equal contributions without lashing out and demanding that they sacrifice one of their few beloved minority leads as payment for every new lead. And we need to give media the chance to progress forward, and not resist change so forcefully if just for the sake of resisting.

Featured Image: Jodie Whittaker from denofgeek.com

Trading Pleasure for Consent

Let’s get one thing straight: stealthing is sexual assault.

You could be forgiven for not knowing what stealthing is, except that is part of the problem. Recently the HuffPost claimed stealthing was a ‘new sex practice’, but since then people all over the world have been coming forward and telling their stories, implying there is nothing new going on here. We are just finally talking about it.

The term itself is fairly new and the internet has been quick to inject the phrase into the online lexicon. But in case you’re still not familiar with it allow me to summarise:

Stealthing is the act whereby one party removes the condom during sex without the other party’s knowledge or consent. Gross, right?

The recent surge of online debate over stealthing began when Alexandra Brodsky of Yale Law School posted a study suggesting that the trend was on the rise in the US and calling for new laws to concretely safeguard victims.

Source: Instagram/@honestly_quotes

In recent years, courts from all over the world have found stealthing to be a clear breach of bodily integrity and a non-consensual sexual act. Bills have been introduced in the US to criminalise it in California and Wisconsin, and a similar piece of legislation is under consideration in the UK.

Now that you know what stealthing means you’re probably thinking ‘Oh, I’ve heard stories about that. Hasn’t that been going on for ages?’ And the sad truth is yes, it probably has. The development of sexual assault and other crimes of a sexual nature, as they are defined under the law, has been painstakingly slow. Some parts of Australia had no laws against marital rape until 1987, and we only managed to introduce legislation criminalising image-based abuse, commonly referred to as ‘revenge porn’ this year. We’ve been well behind the game.

This slow progress can also be seen in stealthing. There have been no cases of stealthing brought before the courts in Australia, and no legislation specifically mentions the ramifications if protection is removed during intercourse without both parties consenting. I can understand the law being slow if it is catching up with technology, but condoms aren’t exactly the latest and greatest in contraception. So what’s the deal?

If I were a betting woman – and I’m not, but if I were – I would guess that the reason there has been no action in this area of law is because nobody is reporting it. Like most issues with sexual assault, it all comes down to whether the victims step forward. And as usual this comes with a whole other mix of problems, from not understanding that what happened was ‘assault’, to not wanting to get a friend or loved one in trouble. One account online of a victim of stealthing also noted that the police did not take her matter seriously when she gave her statement. Sound familiar?

Time and time again victims of sexual assault are having to fight against this overriding theme that consent is not as important as pleasure. Allegations of rape always contain questions over whether the victim was ‘asking for it’ or whether the victim simply regretted it the next day. Sex is fun, sex is pleasurable, people love to have sex! So victims are asked if they are sure they didn’t consent, and if they are sure it was rape. Because to some people any sex is still sex.

Stealthing is the ultimate example of this. Offenders remove the condom, most typically because they can experience more pleasure without it, be it from the physical experience or the feeling of degrading the other party. And in exchange for this pleasure is the consent of the victim, who has no idea that the terms upon which they agreed to have intercourse have been rewritten.

Imagine sex like a contract. Both parties put forward their terms. Lights off. Reciprocal orgasms. But most importantly: a condom. Then during the execution of the contract the terms are changed. And not just any term, but one of the big ones. One of the terms that protects a party’s physical autonomy – the term that protects them from falling pregnant or potentially contracting an STI. That shield is literally taken away.

If you agreed to enter a boxing match on the condition you wear protective gear, wouldn’t you be angry if half way through the match they took your helmet away and continued to punch you?

So while Australian law remains silent on stealthing, it is important that victims don’t. Men, women and non-binary victims who have had their bodily integrity compromised by the selfishness of another. People who have been violated and assaulted by offenders who have consistently gone unpunished.

Stealthing is not a prank. It is not a joke. There is nothing funny about sexual assault.

And as far as I’m concerned that’s all stealthing is: sexual assault. And the sooner we stop trying to divert the conversation about sex-based crimes with discussions centered around pleasure, the better.

Featured Image: Encouraging Life Organisation which provides services on ‘reproductive, sexual health and comprehensive sex education’

Poem of the Week: 13 Reasons Why Not

13 Reasons Why Not

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
I know it feels it
But you aren’t broken
I promise

Cakes alright I spose
Sometimes it’s dry and bland
And crumbles apart in your hands
And it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
But sometimes
You’re given a slice
That’s nice and warm and fresh
There’s the perfect dollop of frosting on top
There’s not too much
Not too little
It’s just right.
You might get some perfect cake tomorrow
So sit tight
Don’t go anywhere just yet.

I know it hurts
But that hurts worse
Much worse.


Your best friend’s birthday is coming up
They’re waking up
And counting the days
Counting their blessings you met.
You might not know them yet
But they’re out there
It would suck if you go
Without saying goodbye
Before you even said hello.

Sexy sexy
Vanilla sex
Sex with strangers or lovers
Or more
Or less.
You can do it front ways
Or side ways
With heteros or gays
One partner
Two partner
Red partner
Blue partner
It doesn’t matter
It would just suck if you missed out.

Remember when you broke that lamp?
Your mother’s lamp?
The light went out
As it shattered to the floor
Your heart fluttering and then
You choked on the lump in your throat
As her footsteps stalked the hallway
You knew she’d be angry
Or sad or both.
You shine brighter than any lamp she’ll ever own
She won’t ever see the light again
If you break.

Pain is like energy
It cannot be destroyed
It won’t just go away.
The pain will stay behind
Haunting those who could’ve fixed it.

By 2033
World leaders will finally care
About poverty
And refugees
Climate change and
Human rights and
Great Whites
And trees!
But to save the world we really need your vote.

Ten years from now there’s a person
An older person
A wiser person
A wonderful person
A person who will look back and say
Hey, I made it.
Please don’t make that person

You haven’t finished reading
All the books on the shelf.
Buying a book
Is like buying a promise
And you can’t just leave behind
A shelf of broken promises.
Finish the books
And keep on buying more.

I know.
I know you want to go.
I know it’s dark
Your knees are on the floor
And you can’t see the doors
Or the windows
Or the hand in front of your face.
You can see only one way out
And it looks clear
And straight
And easy
Trust me, I know.
But it’s not really a way out
If it doesn’t go anywhere.

Thirteen isn’t enough
There is more
There is so much more
You can have more than thirteen
If you just stay
I promise.

Written and Performed by: Jessica Sheridan

Featured Image: Zac Quitzau. Facebook Page – Zac’s Doodles

Mental Health Police: Thirteen Reasons Why You Should Stop

CW: The following article deals with themes portrayed in Thirteen Reasons Why including mental health, suicide and sexual assault. Please read on at your discretion.

Have you seen it yet? What tape are you up to? Have you seen Clay’s tape yet? HAVE YOU SEEN CLAY’S TAPE YET?!

Whether you’ve actually seen it or not I’m sure that by now everyone is at least familiar with Netflix’s latest hit Thirteen Reasons Why. It follows the story of Clay as he comes to terms with the death of his close friend Hannah, who has left behind a series of tapes explaining why she chose to kill herself. Some have loved it, some have hated it, and some have made memes about it. No matter what your feelings are on the show, we can all agree that it deals with some pretty intense issues often shied away from by big production companies, which is great to see.

However I have noticed a fair amount of articles and blog posts surfacing about the themes in the show that made me wrinkle my nose. There have been several experts that have come forward to criticise the show for a very graphic (too graphic?) suicide scene, which is a very valid criticism and one for a separate discussion. But I do have growing concerns about the online chatter that criticises the depiction of mental illness and trauma throughout the show. I know people who have spoken out about how they relate to the show, only to be quickly shot down by others who say that the show’s depiction of mental illness does not reflect reality.

Picture: Netflix ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’

And that’s not right.

I feel like an ugly trend has been developing where we police each other’s health. We saw it back in 2015 when the #effyourbeautystandards movement was taking off. So many people trying to reclaim their self-worth were shut down by those who made assumptions about the health of plus-size people. They were policing the health of their bodies, insisting people were putting their lives at risk just by trying to love themselves. Even recently Tess Holiday, the creator of the #effyourbeautystandards movement, was fat-shamed by her Uber driver who was policing her for what he perceived as bad health.

But now it seems that we are also policing people for their mental health. Thirteen Reasons Why and the subsequent discussion have brought this to a head, with people attacking each other online over the accuracy of the portrayal of Hannah’s mental health. Besides severe disappointment (really guys? This is the hill you wanna die on?) I was also shocked. People were trying to delegitimise the experiences of others based on a television show.

Hasn’t the negative stigma surrounding mental health done that enough? Do we really need to be contributing to the mystification of mental health by suggesting that only one version of trauma exists? Who are we to dictate how a rape victim should feel and behave after the fact? Do we really want to tell each other the correct way to experience depression and PTSD?

Because the answer should be no, guys.

Of course the show does not mention Hannah’s mental health specifically; we cannot know for certain if Hannah suffered from anxiety, depression or PTSD resulting from the constant and extreme bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault. The show has been criticised for not tackling these issues head on, but I actually thought this was a purposeful statement. We don’t have to label someone’s health in order to recognise the different signs and symptoms; a person does not need to walk around with a sign that says ‘depression’ in order to have depression.

There are serious problems with diagnosis in mental health. A lot of people remain undiagnosed for their serious and very treatable illnesses for all kinds of reasons. Some people are ashamed, some people deny that there is anything wrong, and some people just don’t realise that what they are feeling isn’t healthy. I felt that by not labelling Hannah with a specific mental illness, the show was emulating reality: people often do not reach out for a diagnosis for many of the reasons discussed in the show.

Picture: Netflix ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’

Instead of handing her a sign that says ‘depression’ or ‘PTSD’, Hannah is living out these conditions. We can connect the bullying and sexual harassment to her deepening depression. We can connect her stillness and fear following her rape to trauma and PTSD. We can hear her descriptions of feeling empty and recognise that Hannah has some mental health issues that she needs help working through.

Is the show suggesting that their depiction is an entirely accurate depiction of mental health? No. Is the show suggesting that their depiction is the only way of experiencing mental illness? No. At the same time it is not showing every aspect of mental illness. It’s a television show, and while it has a certain duty to treat the subject material with care and respect, it does not claim to be an authority on the issue.

Because it isn’t.

People can experience mental illness in the same way that Hannah does. I myself really related to Hannah, and saw my own experiences, thoughts and behaviours from my years with depression emulated in the character of Hannah. At the same time people can experience mental illness differently to Hannah. Some people get angry. Some people get sad. Some people self-harm and some don’t. The point is that everyone is different and we are all just trying to work through our mental health issues.

I am not a doctor, I am not an expert. But I feel that common sense tells us that people can experience illness and suffering in different ways. Just because someone experiences their depression differently to you does not make either of your experiences any less valid. It just means you are different.

So just be kind to each other. Help each other. And if you need a reason why you shouldn’t shut down someone who is trying to confide their feelings in you, just because your experience was different – I can think of thirteen.

If you or someone you know may be suffering from mental illness, contact SANE, the National Mental Health Charity Helpline on 1800 187 263 or Lifeline, a 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention service on 13 11 14.

Feature Image Source: Netflix ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’

‘Not Your Honey’ – When Sexual Empowerment Disempowers

Words: Jessica Sheridan

One of the difficult daily conundrums for women is the pressure to be sexy, but not too sexy. We are encouraged to wear high heels, but not too high, to wear low cut tops, but not too low cut. Honestly it’s a minefield of social faux pas trying to balance the two camps, and it often results in the stifling of our sexuality for fear of being too sexually open.

But women should be able to talk about sex. More than just that, women should be able to talk about pleasure, sexual desires and dislikes, the sensuality of their bodies – everything. I believe women should stand their ground and own their sexuality, recognising that their pleasure is just as important as their partners and their bodies really are a wonderland. Women should not have to feel ashamed of being sexy.

Honey Birdette is one brand that claims to stand for this idea. On their website, they introduce themselves as ‘Pleasure parlours’ created to ‘inject a sense of sensuality into the Australian bedroom.’ Many people are likely familiar with the brand: their decadent shop fronts of gold and black can hardly be missed, and they are known for selling luxury lingerie and sex toys unashamedly. And rightly so – there should be no shame in consensual sexual pleasure.

But not everything is always as it seems.

Recently ex-employees of Honey Birdette have come forward to speak out about the brand, claiming poor work conditions, sexism, and being subjected to sexual harassment. At a protest in Victoria on December 9th a group of ex-employees gathered in Melbourne to bring attention to the backwards working conditions they were subjected to. The ex-employees were seen burning bras and sporting signs that read ‘Not Your Honey’ in protest of the mistreatment and sexual harassment they faced during their employment.

Former Honey Birdette employees fight back against poor working conditions. Source: Twitter

And it’s not just the protest. A petition has started online calling for change to Honey Birdette’s dress code, policies, and attitude toward sexual harassment. The campaign creator Chanelle Rogers wrote in her preamble to the petition:

‘I saw workers humiliated and threatened by management because they weren’t wearing perfectly applied lipstick all day, their heels weren’t high enough, and because they didn’t “talk the way a Honey should talk”. I saw workers sexually harassed and intimidated by customers – and when these women spoke up, management told them to suck it up.’

One story by ex-employee Dominic Jericho Drury has also been shared hundreds of times on Facebook, detailing their own experience working at Honey Birdette. They likened their employment with the company to an ‘abusive relationship – obviously insane from the outside but alluring enough to still suck people in.’ They recalled repeated harassment by customers, claiming ‘we had to put up with this, as there was no way we would be supported if looking after ourselves came before making a sale.’ Their story highlights the extremes expected of employees to be considered a true Honey.

Call to action as women stand up against Honey Birdette. Source: Twitter

Over the past twenty four hours, the Honey Birdette Facebook page has been inundated with posts from customers who claim they will be boycotting the store. Many of the posts – mostly from women – demand that Honey Birdette change their policies, or share stories from other ex-employees supporting the protest’s allegations. While it is amazing to see women standing together to protect the rights of their fellows, Honey Birdette are yet to acknowledge and respond to the protests. There have been no posts by the page or on their website following the accusations.

These stories paint a picture nothing like the one Honey Birdette speaks of when it claims to ‘empower women.’ In order to empower women, you have to respect them, treat them fairly, and allow them to stand up for themselves. From small issues like requiring girls to wear perfect red lipstick and high heels for their long shifts, to bigger issues like shutting down complaints of sexual harassment, the protest and petition are shedding a very ugly light upon the company that was created with feminist ideas in mind.

It is not empowerment when women are forced to show their bras and wear stilettos just to keep their job. It is not empowerment when women are paid to have people talk to them in unwanted sexually explicit ways. It is not empowerment when women are scared to speak up about feeling uncomfortable in the workplace for fear of losing their job. This is not sexual empowerment. This is not even women empowerment. Silencing sexual harassment allegations and enforcing dress codes that play on sexualising women for the public (read as: male) gaze is disempowering.

It’s one of those problems that seem to stem from trying to apply a quick fix to a deeply ingrained societal issue. Sexual empowerment is not as simply as wearing a lacy bra or holding a riding crop. It is not red lipstick during the day or wearing stilettos as high as possible. Sexual empowerment is about choice, and feeling good about those choices. If you take away the ability to choose, then you make it impossible to empower women.

Dress codes and workplace policies are a fact of life. But sexism and sexual harassment shouldn’t be.

Featured Image: Source: Facebook


I Wear My War Paint For Me

Words: Jessica Sheridan

I’m going to discuss something very important to me: make-up.

I can already hear you sighing. I can see you rolling your eyes or cocking a (perfectly sculpted) eyebrow because make-up isn’t that important. And you’re right; I guess it’s not that important. But make-up culture helps demonstrate something more important than simply reviewing the latest Urban Decay Naked palette (which is also very important).

I went to a house party a few years back for a birthday. I was wearing make-up, and my friends who were attending knew I probably would be. Anyone who has known me for more than ten seconds will know that I love putting on make-up. I never really wore it much during high school, and now that I had discovered the wonders of make-up I wore it every chance I got. I found my friends and as normal my bestie was full of eyeliner compliments. Perfect way to start the evening.

I overheard some people talking about a book series I liked, so I tuned in and tried to get involved. But to my puzzlement one of the more charismatic guys in the group brushed off a lot of my attempts at joining in on the conversation. He exclaimed in surprise shortly afterwards when my friends properly introduced me and he found out I was a law student. Why the surprise you ask? He replied that he didn’t think a girl who wore so much make-up could be smart enough to be a law student.

Why are people so quick to judge people wearing make-up? When did wearing mascara become synonymous with stupidity, or at least antonymous with intelligence?

Cosmetics are a multi-billion dollar industry, reaping in the rewards as we pay $50 plus a pound of flesh for a bottle of the latest matte 27-hour long-lasting blemish-covering magic-fan-dango liquid foundation. And perhaps half of it is FOMO, and perhaps half of it is brand loyalty, but whatever the reason, we spend hundreds of dollars a year maintaining our make-up bags.

My make-up haul from Sephora

It’s not a decision we make lightly. Despite the increasing cost of living, setting aside money for make-up is still a priority for many of us. And as make-up prices go up, we continue to buy up. Or, if you’re like me, you wait for Boxing Day sales and stock up on your favourite concealer and lip colours like it’s the apocalypse.

Despite the financial investment we make into cosmetic culture, there are still people – particularly men – who try to police what we do. Why spend all that money when we look just as pretty without it? Why do we conceal our self-esteem and highlight our insecurities? Why do we mask our faces and lie about how we really look?

The short answer? We don’t care what you think.

This might come as a shock to you, but we aren’t cashing our paychecks at Sephora for your approval. We aren’t dressing ourselves up for your attention or comment, and we certainly don’t care if you think we look prettier with or without make-up. Our make-up is not for you. Though I’m amazed at how self-important someone must be to believe that another person – a total stranger – would spend so long applying product to their face every morning just for their approval.

When I get up in the morning and sit down gleefully in front of my mirror, I’m not smiling for anyone but myself. And when I apply my make-up I’m not thinking about covering my skin to hide it from my boyfriend or my family – I’m applying it because I want to. I sincerely enjoy wearing make-up; there’s a certain art to it, and when I wear it I feel wonderful. It’s just like wearing your favourite pair of shoes or your best dress.

It makes me feel good, and that is the only reason I wear make-up.

I am sure that some people wear make-up for different reasons: some people wear make-up because it’s part of their corporate dress code; some people wear make-up because it’s an important day and they want to cover dark circles or blemishes for photos; some wear make-up because they might want to impress certain people. But I can almost guarantee you that most of these are blue moon occasions.

People aren’t spending their hard-earned money to try and look pretty for you. They aren’t trying to lie to you with fake eyelashes (because honestly only an idiot would believe my natural lashes touch my brow bone). We aren’t spending hours watching and making YouTube tutorials just so we can teach each other how to be more attractive for you. And we certainly aren’t wearing make-up for you.

It’s all about us, and does not mean we aren’t also happy, creative, smart and warm people. My worth should not be determined by the length of my eyeliner wing.

Make-up can bring confidence. It can bring happiness. It can bring entire communities of beauty enthusiasts together. So the next time you want to tell someone they are wearing too much make-up, don’t.






Yeah the Boys Meet Up, Third Wave Feminism Turns Up

Words: Jessica Sheridan

How many more times this year will I have to hear the same old excuse of locker room talk? For anyone who still does not understand what third-wave feminists are trying to do when we shut down sexist jokes for encouraging misogyny and rape culture, we now have another very clear example of exactly what we are talking about.

On the 4th of November an event was created on Facebook entitled ‘Yeah The Boys Meet Up’ by a page with the same name. The event seemed to have been originally intended as a meet up for fans of the popular Facebook page Yeah the Boys which has over 470,000 likes. The page posts ironic memes and status updates jesting at lad culture, and with such a following it is not unusual that the fans would band together to organise a meet up at Sydney’s own Coogee Beach.

However what probably started as a well-intended social meet-up very quickly turned toxic.

Attendees, the majority of which were young and male, began posting sexist jokes that became more and more heinous as time went by. What started as ‘just a bit of fun’ deteriorated into threatening and hateful language within a matter of days. Many posts called for physical violence against any ‘two holes’ that turned up to the gathering, while others asked if boys could bring along their ‘two hole’ to share with other boys in attendance.

In case you were wondering, ‘two hole’ was their word for women.

Screenshot from ‘Yeah The Boys Meet Up’ Facebook event

The page drew a lot of attention fast, and for all the wrong reasons. Many people – men and women alike – posted in the page asking that the event be taken down, or imploring the attendees to stop disrespecting women. This was largely met by jokes about feminists being ‘triggered’ and vulgar, sexually explicit replies whenever women tried to explain why the event was offensive. Men, and sadly some women, banded together to defend the posts on the page with aggressive and violent threats upon those that criticised the blatant misogyny within. The event, which racked up almost 10,000 attendees, had spiralled out of control, and even the Yeah the Boys Facebook page posted to disassociate themselves from the meet up. The event was eventually cancelled four days after it was originally posted.

Screenshot from ‘Yeah The Boys Meet Up’ Facebook event

You might be wondering – what the hell happened? A lot of people were left confused by the event, for all kinds of reasons. Some people didn’t understand how something which had started as joking and banter had derailed into such a sexist and hateful mess. Some didn’t think it was fair that women were angry about the event, because it was just an all-boys meet up after all – so what if girls weren’t invited? Others claimed anyone complaining about the posts on the event page just couldn’t take a joke.

But there is a very real reason why I am not laughing. There is a very real reason why it’s not funny even though I understand the joke completely.

This is rape culture.

I don’t care about the event name. Frankly, the phrase ‘Yeah the Boys Meet Up’ means nothing to me. Women are not angry that the event appeared to be for boys only; that is not the issue.

The issue is that the type of jokes and sexist banter used on the page inevitably turned into hateful, violent sexism. I say inevitable because this is a pattern we have seen time and time again. We saw it only days ago when a Melbourne law student was added to a Facebook group chat with four of her peers who were sexually and explicitly describing what they wanted to do to her. We saw it when Donald Trump tried to defend against his descriptions of sexual assault with the archaic notion of locker room talk. Time and time again we see examples of people who do not seem to understand that their jokes have gone over the line into violent sexism and misogyny.

Screenshot from ‘Yeah The Boys Meet Up’ Facebook Event

The issue is that jokes too easily turn into threats. Banter too easily turns into sexually aggressive descriptions of what men would like to do to women. Locker room talk too easily turns into the reduction of women to their ability to sexually please men (‘two holes’) and nothing more. This is an exact example of how rape culture is perpetuated in our society. This is why third wave feminism is all about shutting down the sexist joking and the misogynistic banter. Because too easily and too often it leads to a lack of respect for women, which in turn can lead to violence against women.

It is literally that simple, and yet that terrifying.

Until women and men are equal – truly equal – in society, then sexist jokes, banter and locker-room talk will inevitably lead to a culture in which women are seen as lesser beings and objects for sexual pleasure, nothing more. This is rape culture, and this is why third wave feminism is so important.

An Open Letter to the United States

Dear United States,

Hi, how are you? Been better? Sounds about right.

My question for you today is very simple: how?

How could you allow a man who openly admits to grabbing women by the pussy to run for President? How could you allow a man be seriously considered for such an important position when many of his own party members have turned against him? How can the land of the free allow a man who wants to build a wall around your great country tread so close to the Oval Office? How can so many of you support a candidate whose campaign followers were calling for a repeal of the 19th Amendment just so their candidate can win?

Respectfully, how could you let Donald Trump run for President?

I admit that I am not American. I am not a citizen of the United States, and I have no right to vote. Who am I to have such a vested interest? Who am I to judge? After all, Australia isn’t exactly a role-model global citizen either. Why should some random whiney gen-Y girl from down under care what happens in America? Or perhaps more accurately, why should you care about what some whiney gen-Y girl from down under thinks about America? And the answer is simple:

You are the leader of the free world.

I do not know who coined the idea. I do not know exactly when or why you first started branding yourselves as leader of the free world, and frankly I don’t think it matters at this point. It simply matters that you are the self-proclaimed leader of the free world. Whoever you elect as your leader will fundamentally impact the rest of us in the free world – and there are a lot of us. You aren’t the only ones counting down until November 8th.

Your presidential campaign splashes all over my news headlines. I open Facebook and my friends – both American and non-American – know exactly what is happening on your side of the world and Australia isn’t the only country watching. In fact, I can’t imagine a country that isn’t watching the showdown between Clinton and Trump unfold. Hell, they even broadcast the presidential debates live on TV over here. Did you know that? Did you know the entire world is watching?

We are watching as Donald Trump talks about women. Our boys are listening as he describes grabbing women by the pussy because ‘you can do anything’ when you’re a star. Our girls are learning that it’s all just ‘locker room talk’, and it’s normal for guys to do that to them. We are watching people celebrate a man who at the second Presidential debate was asked if he had assaulted women and answered by talking instead about the Middle East, because that’s what will truly ‘make America safe again.’

But stricter borders won’t protect people from sexual assault.

I know you’re scared. I get it. You’re scared because you have seen the horrible things happening around the world, and they seem to only be getting worse. You’re scared because terrorism isn’t a country, it’s an idea and you can’t recognise an idea when it walks past you on the street. You’re scared because the economy is bleeding and you’re drowning in debt and everybody needs to make a living. You’re scared because the world is scary right now. I’m scared too.

So when somebody stands up before you, wielding great power, money and influence, saying they can fix all your problems, I get it. You want to believe their financial success means you can have financial success. I get it. When they point to a group of people and say they’re the problem, you feel comforted. You feel like you can see the things you’re scared of. You can recognise it and finally keep yourself safe. I get it.

But it’s not that simple. It never is.

Fear is not a religion. It is not a race. It is not a gender. It is not every person with brown skin you see walking the streets. It is not hidden beneath every hijab. It is not concealed behind every accent. It is not written in code on the papers of every immigrant or refugee you see. It is complex and it disguises itself well – that is part of what makes it so terrifying. You often cannot see it until it announces itself, and by then it’s sometimes too late.

But you should not condemn hundreds and thousands out of fear. You should not brand a whole race of people as rapists and wall them out. You should not paint all refugees with the brush of mistrust and show them no compassion. You should not assume every Muslim means you harm and let racism exclude them. You should not be letting young boys believe that they can grab women without asking. You should not let your police frisk people on the street because of their skin colour. You should not let women feel like their vote is getting in the way of progress.

You are the home of the brave; please don’t let fear defeat you.

How to not be insensitive this Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner! And because I love dressing up and getting candy free of charge, I am very excited. Even though I’m not American (and not a kid anymore) I still love seeing all the spooky decorations and getting my outfit ready; costume parties are my jam. Halloween goes hand-in-hand with dressing up in costumes that vary from the incredibly detailed to the last-minute-rush-as-I-walk-out-the-door variety. No matter which one it is, it’s always great to see what people come up with.

While spooky can be fun, it can also be, well… spooky. Playing dress-ups has become a hot topic lately, with controversies over who should wear what costumes, and whether certain outfits are all in good fun or just outright offensive. For some people the social rules of faux pas can be a little tricky to navigate.

That’s why we’re suggesting these four simple tips on how to not be insensitive this Halloween.

Tip One: Costumes are not consent

Anyone who has been to any of the big pop-culture conventions will tell you that costumes aren’t just worn on Halloween. Cosplayers wear costumes all year round, with people from all walks of life coming together to share in their love of fantasy and sci-fi by dressing up as their favourite characters.

They will also tell you that cosplay is not consent. This is a very common phrase used at conventions that simply means: just because someone is wearing a costume does not mean you can touch them. This rule is incredibly important at conventions, because sometimes people forget that it’s a real person walking around, and not actually their favourite comic book character. It’s also important because a few cosplays can be quite revealing, and some people think this means it is okay to touch the cosplayer.

It’s pretty simple really; costumes do not change the normal rules of etiquette. No matter what a person is wearing, no matter how much or how little skin they are revealing, you do not have the right to touch that person unless they give consent. So this Halloween, no matter what anyone is wearing, do not assume you have the right to touch them. No touchy – sound good?

Tip Two: Costumes have no gender

We’ve all seen stories posted online about parents who insist that their little girl wear the Cinderella dress even though they want to be Spiderman. Or the little boy who wanted to be Cinderella but is forced to dress as Spiderman instead. This is symptomatic of a larger issue regarding the division and reinforcement of the gender binary at a young age, of gender normativity, but that’s probably an issue for another post.

My point is: anyone can wear whatever costume they like. Boys can be princesses, girls can be superheroes. And this rule applies to you no matter what age you are. So you’re a 26-year-old man and you’ve always wanted to be Ariel? Go ahead – do it! You have my blessing!

Costumes on Halloween should be about having fun, and taking away a person’s joy because it doesn’t subscribe to your pink vs blue litmus test is ridiculous.

Tip Three: Dressing up is for everyone

While we’re on the subject of shattering ridiculous socially constructed norms, it’s time to open our minds to the idea that you don’t have to be white to dress as Sailor Moon. You don’t have to be skinny to dress as Catwoman. You don’t have to be ripped to dress as Thor. You can be a Timelord and still be in a wheelchair. People can dress up as whatever the hell they want, regardless of skin colour, weight, height, disability, body shape – anything! Whatever makes them happy and comfortable.

It’s important to understand that having fun is for everyone, so don’t be the one to rain on their parade.

Tip Four: Culture is not a costume

This appears to be a tricky one for some people, as was evidenced by the polarised response to the culturally insensitive Maui costume released by Disney earlier this year. The costume, for children, was a brown body suit covered in tribal tattoos with muscle padding. Many people called the costume out as racist for using the dark skin colour, and insensitive for the use of traditional tattoos in the costume design. It was quickly pulled from stores.

People seemed to be either offended by the costume, or offended that people would be offended. It’s fairly indisputable that the costume was cultural appropriation, but this concept is sometimes used as evidence of our world becoming too politically correct (an idea that I take umbrage with, but I digress).

Cultural appropriation is essentially the use of a culture you are not a part of. This on its own may not always be problematic, but it becomes an issue when minority groups – who suffer discrimination simply for being a member of their cultural minority – have their culture used in part by majority cultures. Very often the cultural element or the tradition is taken out if its original context, which is often disrespectful enough on its own. But adding insult to injury is the fact that the majority culture does not face the same hardship as the minority culture does for wearing that culture. If a Native American wears a headdress it’s political statement, but when a white person does it’s ‘quirky and fun.’ Therein lies the issue.

The best way to avoid being culturally inappropriate is to avoid culturally or racially charged costumes. Another person’s race or culture is their identity, not a costume for you to take on and off. While it’s important for you to have a great time, it’s more important not to offend minority cultures in the process.

So there you have it. Four easy, simple ways to not be insensitive this Halloween. Have fun this October, be safe, and remember we’re all just here for the booze and the Fantales anyway.

Buying Love with Naked Currency: The Phenomenon of Sending Nudes

Words: Jessica Sheridan

Whenever I have broken up with a guy, I work through a standard check list of things to do: I need to collect all my belongings from his place, return anything of his I still have at mine; I need to change my profile picture and relationship status where applicable; I have to eat pizza and drink a lot of cheap white wine with my friends.

Oh, and I have to ask him to delete my nudes. This is a priority.

Even if we don’t talk about it, many of us worry about what will become of the risqué pictures we have sent over the weeks, months or years. And when you consider the cruelties of blackmail, revenge porn, parasite porn, morphed porn and celebrity nude photo leaks, it’s easy to understand why we are worried about what could happen to our pictures after we’re gone. So we politely ask that any sensitive content we have passed on be deleted, and we pray that they aren’t lying when they say they have.

So if our nude photos are such a cause for worry, why do we bother sending nudes in the first place?

A recent study published by Plan entitled Don’t send me that pic revealed some startling statistics about Australian teenage relationships. It found that young girls felt they were exchanging nudes and other sexual favours for love and affection. What’s more frightening is that the same study showed that 81.5% of girls said they do not think their boyfriends should ask for naked pictures, yet 51% of girls feel pressured into sending naked or ‘sexy’ pictures of themselves to their boyfriends anyway. For young girls it seems, peer pressure is the reason they take nude pictures.

There are of course many women who do feel comfortable and happy taking nude photos. In 2014 a Cosmopolitan survey also asked the question: why? Why does one take nude photos? The survey found that 89% of their mostly female respondents had taken nude pictures of themselves. As for why – the responses were mixed. Some women wanted to reclaim their body after suffering with body image issues. Others were responding to requests from their partners, and although they were nervous at first, they discovered they really liked taking them.

So while there are many women who are more than happy taking and sending nudes, there are still so many sending nudes who aren’t. Why?

For men, it would seem. Both sources revealed that women and girls take these nudes largely for the male gaze. Men who ask us for pictures, and gently talk us into it if we feel hesitant. Men who encourage and compliment us when we send the pictures so that we will feel confident and happy about sending more. Men who are pleased with us when we hand over our bodies to them, rewarding us with attention and loyalty. Men who punish us by sharing these pictures, breaching our trust and blaming us for whatever happens next.

Time and time again women are being asked to trust men with their nude pictures – pictures that they aren’t comfortable sending – only to have their trust betrayed. And time and time again women are blamed by society when that trust is breached; told we were wrong to send the pictures in the first place, despite the pressures to do so. We are simultaneously being talked into loving ourselves for sending nude pictures, and then talked into hating ourselves for sending nude pictures.

In stark contrast, it appears men and boys are all too willing to send nudes without being asked. The Plan study revealed 58% of girls have received sexually explicit photos and videos online that were not wanted. Without being asked, men are willingly – forcibly almost – sending nudes to women. It’s like a display of power or dominance, dressed up as a compliment, and we as women are expected to feel flattered that they would brighten our inbox with their unwanted penis. I am sadly sure that many of us are no stranger to the unsolicited ‘dick pic’ that finds its way into our Instagram messages, Facebook inbox and Snapchats.

As long as you are consenting adults, I don’t see any problem with taking or sending nude pictures. It can be empowering to take selfies, be they nudes or not, especially in this world where we are constantly plugged into a mass media machine that tries to define beauty for us. I am all for boosting self-esteem, loving yourself, and promoting body positivity. But I also believe that this feeling should come from within. You should not need the approval of another’s gaze – particularly a sexual gaze – in order to feel beautiful or attractive, or because you think that’s what you need to do to get and keep a boyfriend. We all deserve to feel good about ourselves, always. So I find it particularly problematic that several of the respondents to the Cosmopolitan survey began their answers with this similar sentiment when confessing they had taken the pictures to show to their partner:

‘I didn’t want to, but they convinced me.’

Of course, both men and women are guilty of pressuring people into sending nudes, and both men and women can be victims. But by an overwhelming majority it is women who are sending pictures to men that they do not really want to send. And by a majority it is men who are asking for these pictures. What is going on? Why are women and girls sending nudes they don’t feel truly comfortable sending? Why are we letting ourselves be coaxed into sending nude photos in exchange for loyalty and affection? Why are girls sending nudes when they simultaneously fear the nudes will be leaked on some Reddit forum or shared on Facebook?

And even in the unfortunate circumstance that a woman’s nude photos are leaked, they are blamed for sending them in the first place. We see this ‘victim blaming’ with celebrity nude leaks. Celebrities – usually female – who have their naked pictures leaked are often met with the outdated sentiment that they shouldn’t have taken the pictures if they didn’t want them to be leaked. But this ridiculous notion suggests that we must do all that we can to defend ourselves against the evils of others, because if not then it is our fault. Don’t carry your wallet around in case somebody picks your pockets. Don’t buy a TV in case somebody breaks into your house and steals it. Don’t go outside without chainmail on in case somebody stabs you with a knife.

You see what I mean? Ridiculous.

It sure is confusing for the girls out there.

If you feel truly comfortable sending nude pictures (i.e. you don’t need a guy to talk you into it), then by all means you should continue to do so. I will never outright suggest that you should not take or send nude photos. Owning yourself and your sexuality is incredibly important, and nudes can be very empowering for women; if, and only if, you truly feel comfortable doing so. Equally, there is no shame and no fault in not sending naked pictures of yourself to others. You do not have to buy affections with your body. We should not support those who use naked pictures against others, and we should continue to call out those who disrespect the privilege of our trust. And most importantly, particularly for young girls, we must remember that our self-worth does not depend on the approval of anyone else.