Is Australia sexist? Or is the answer to that question way too obvious…

I just saw the SBS documentary, Is Australia Sexist? So, now I’ve seen it – am I now in possesion of the answer? Yes. The answer is yes. But I already knew that. Derr…

Australia is sexist and so am I. Because I live in Australia and Australia is sexist. Because Australia is a country on planet earth and planet earth is sexist. (Can’t speak for the flora or fauna of the world, but us humans sure are). A more important question might be, what is sexism? Or how is Australia sexist? Not that this documentary doesn’t expose some interesting territory. The objectification of women as sexual objects for example – the experience of sexual harassment in the street, the wolf-whistling and unwanted staring women experience at various times in their lives – or repeatedly on a daily basis for that matter.

My most memorable personal experience of this type of sexism (treating women as objects rather than humans with a right to go about their lives without harassment) happened quite a time ago. It was a lovely spring, sun-shiny day and my spirits were high. I was about to cross the street outside my house in Carlton when a man, leaning from his car window called out, “Hey sexy!” (or something like that) When, in return, I yelled, “piss off,” (or something like that) he screamed at me angrily, “Ya fuckn ugly slut!” before revving his engine and speeding off like a true hero.

Yes. Delightful. First I was sexy (and thus worthy of attention), and then, when I dared to step out of the frame -become a subject with the right to respond – I immediately became undesirable, ugly. Disgusting. I remember the sudden shock of it clearly, feeling angry, violated, shaky, and later, an uncomfortable feeling lingered…perhaps he was right. Perhaps I was…ugly.

Right now I’m tossing up if I should post this at all. I don’t want to ‘invite’ trouble. I’m very aware that some troll might respond by calling me an ugly bitch who needs to be raped. That I deserve everything I get because I have a vagina and dare to speak my mind.

In Is Australia Sexist? A woman confronts a man for making the comment, “nice long legs…” He says it in a rather detached tone, as though describing a race-horse in a parade. He then defends himself, says the comment was just a ‘compliment’, the implication being that she should (presumably) be grateful, not upset, angry, intimidated or fearful… He then goes on to say he ‘couldn’t help it’ – after all, she was committing the crime of walking past – she invited the unwanted attention apparently, simply by having the temerity to exist.

Of course we all love to look at others, admire forms and faces, but I think some men have been so thoroughly conditioned to gaze shamelessly, I don’t think they’re aware they’re doing it. I used to live on a street that shared a corner with an old-style coffee shop – the type where men gathered to play cards and socialise. They would hang around outside, not to smoke (smoking was allowed inside) but just to look…

In order to get to the main street I had to walk past one or more pairs of ogling eyes, so, to combat this almost daily dose of objectification, I developed a technique to make me feel less powerless…I found that if I stared back boldly – without flinching – then they (eventually) looked away! It felt great to turn the tables, flip the power dynamic so they got a dose of what it’s like to be seen primarily as an admired/reviled object. Yep…it’s not very nice.

So. A top tip for men who care about equality. For men who want to make society a place where women feel safe – If a woman you find attractive walks past (or indeed exists in the same vicinity as you), don’t say a word about it. Please keep your thoughts to yourself. Keep in mind that a woman is a person. Not an object. And it’s best not to stare – to gaze shamelessly as though she’s nothing more than a two-dimensional picture on a screen. Please avert your gaze, give women some psychic space so they can go about their business as freely as you do.



Silly-bits in the grit: verisimilitude, suspending disbelief & other Bodyguard problems

*Warning: this post contains spoilers.

During the two Bodyguard episodes I’ve watched so far, my viewing has been halted (mid-episode) on two separate occasions. The first interruption was during the extended terrorist-on-the train scenario, and the second, during the getting shot-to-the-shit in the armoured-car blood-fest.

But the breaks in transmission weren’t caused by technical difficulties, no, the interruptions were wholly due to a lack of commitment on my part – a failure to suspend disbelief to be precise…Suspending disbelief – it’s a term I first encountered in Cinema Studies at La Trobe University (is it still called that?) back in the years when the sun was setting on free tertiary education in Australia. Another fancy word I learned back then was, verisimilitude: the appearance of being true or real.

In my opinion, Bodyguard, the 6-part series currently screening on Netflix, suffers greatly from a lack of it. Because there’s only so many bullets a mere mortal can dodge without arousing suspicion – is Sergeant Bud, (the PTSD affected protagonist in Bodyguard) actually an escapee from more fantastic genre? An imaginary place where super-powers are the norm and no-one thinks twice about breaking the verisimilitude barrier at the speed of light?

Because in the armoured-car blood-fest scene Sergeant Bud not only manages to evade a veritable hail of bullets, he also has the wherewithal to pop his arm up like a demented meer-cat and take a sneaky snap with his phone – thus pin-pointing the gunner on a distant building, driving backwards in the shot-to-the-shit car, and successfully tracking the baddie down.

It’s the kind of action scene that makes me think, now that’s a bit silly in’it..? And silly scenes don’t fit well in the desaturated reality of this so-called ‘gritty’ suspense/thriller/action/drama. Yes, I understand, Sergeant Bud’s fearless impulsiveness and razor-sharp reflexes splice nicely with his military history and associated trauma, and yes, his ultra-heroic actions act as a counterpoint to his many human flaws and evoke crucial viewer empathy – but this over-the-top action kind of ruins it for me. Kind of. It’s a pity the action scenes weren’t dialed back a few notches – we’re a tad less…well…silly.

Not to say I won’t be watching the rest of the series. Because despite it’s significant silliness I’m eager to witness (and judge) the plot twist that’s been promised at the end. I’ll just have to string up a few ropes and start suspending my disbelief – accept that there will be silly bits within the blue-grey grit…

* (an extra note for the pedantic among us) If the gunman was shooting at the armoured-car from the top of a 6 or 7 story building, then the bullets would have entered the car from a higher angle – not horizontally as depicted, therefore, it is very unlikely any of the three occupants would have survived.


Netflix erases user reviews and slips in the thumbs-up

I was pretty annoyed (for at least a few minutes) when I found out Netflix planned to axe its user review system, and unless I missed most of the official flaggings, the change seemed to take place with very little warning.
It’s a shame this resource is no longer available. Netflix said it wasn’t important enough to warrant continuation. But I disagree and even do so strongly. User reviews were a big part of my Netflix experience, and without them I feel the loss. They helped me decide whether or not a show was worth watching – if it averaged 2 to 3 stars (probably not), 3 to 4 (give it a go), an exciting mix of polarised 1’s and 5’s (let me at it!)

But Netflix has erased all traces of this useful resource, scrapped the log-book of voices from financial supporters such as myself. Of course we still get to have an opinion. It’s just the scope of our input has been reduced to almost zilch. We get to choose between thumbs up and thumbs down. A hokey, nuance-free icon speaks for us now. Yes or no. Good or bad. These digestible, binary chunks feed behind-the-scenes algorithms, the beasts crunching yays or nays into so-called, ‘deep-learning.’

If I say thumbs up to one show a mathematical construct can determine if I will like another. The digits send signals to central control where Brain gets to know us as valued customer, all the better to please and anticipate our needs, present us with our ‘best fit’ viewing.

The Brain soon learns I like the documentary genre. The Brain comes to find that I don’t like crime. The Brain understands that that I’m fond of foodie porn. But is the Brain at all cognisant of what makes a show great? Narrative structure or sound motivation? And can the Brain well admit that many shows are shit? Is there a Good/Bad continum because if so logic follows, and 50% of all Netflix shows must sit below the mid.

Now how can I let Brain know that I don’t want those?




Food porn–the delicious objectification of vegetables, meats & grains

Tonight, before I get stuck into another episode of the excellent 10-part BBC documentary series  Hitler’s Circle of Evil (available on YouTube without interruptions) I’ll begin my evening’s viewing with a less arduous course. I’ll have the light entree if I may. I’ll settle back for some foodie-themed globetrotting, travel the world and visit homely kitchens and wander the colour-splashed aisles of spice-heaped markets, uncover the cooking methods of ancient relatives and, who knows? Maybe I’ll even discover the true origins of grain.

I’m not so keen on bearing witness to the pedantic art of micro-herb placement, or following the trials and tribulations of restaurant X’s rise to two or three-hat status, but I do enjoy the high-resolution, soft-edged objectification of vegetables, meats and grains currently taking place on our screens –  a genre that seems to be multiplying like mold spores on a delicious, washed-rind cheese.

Because something lovely happens in my brain when I clap eyes on the firm flesh of freshly- captured salmon, buried deep in a thick crust of salt and fired by local yet sustainable log – the succulence of cream-fleshed scallop gently nestled in a cradle of hand-knitted twigs – a plate of scattered pipi awash in a pond of wasabi-infused foam – the slow-motion capture of bubbles rising to the surface of hallowed liquid A or B – the sexy gluten-stretch as air-filled bread gets ripped asunder by plough-calloused hand oh, oh, oh!

What was I saying? Er-hem. Yes…I do love a bit of food porn served up on a rustic platter…