Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Australia's response to asylum seekers: We could learn a lot from Winnie the Pooh

I was preparing a lecture during the week for a Children's Literature unit that I'm running, and it struck me how a scene from AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh perfectly encapsulates Australia's response to asylum seekers:

'Nobody seemed to know where they came from, but there they were in the Forest: Kanga and Baby Roo. When Pooh asked Christopher Robin, “How did they come here?” Christopher Robin said, “In the Usual Way, if you know what I mean, Pooh.”

Here – we – are – all – of – us and then, suddenly, we wake up one morning and what do we find? We find a Strange Animal among us. An animal of whom we had never even heard before! An animal who carries her family about with her in her pocket! Suppose I [Rabbit] carried my family about with me in my pocket, how many pockets should I want?" ...

[Piglet asked,] “The question is, What are we to do about Kanga?”'

The animals then contrive to get the Strange Animal to leave their insular Hundred Acre Wood, by kidnapping her child and planning to give him back only if she promises to leave. It's really quite a sinister plot!

Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl and Rabbit are all quintessentially English, but the Strange Animal from the 'colonies' is constructed as a 'problem' that the English toys need to solve. They are somewhat afraid of her, as apparently she is a Fierce Animal as well despite the fact that as a soft toy she cannot hurt them. Their fear is based solely on the fact that she comes from an unknown land and behaves differently.

Australia's response to asylum seekers is troublingly similar. Most Australians know little about the countries refugees come from, but many are quick to judge them as a threat to be kept out at all costs. 

While we haven't gone so far as to kidnap children, we are currently shipping asylum seekers off to Papua New Guinea, where those refugees who are being persecuted because of their sexuality will face more discrimination, as it is illegal in PNG.

Pooh, Piglet and co. soon come to accept the Strange Animals as friends, with Kanga teaching her new friend Pooh how to jump. Although the animals react similarly when the equally Strange Tigger arrives, they soon become friends with him too. 

Perhaps Australia could take some lessons from the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood and revise its asylum seeker policy.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Book Launch: Athletes, Sexual Assault and Trials by Media: Narrative Immunity

In May 2013, I launched my first book, Athletes, Sexual Assault and Trials by Media: Narrative Immunity! The launch was held at Monash University's Caulfield Campus, very kindly hosted by the Campus Bookstore and Mamaduke's Café and supported by the Research Unit in Media Studies.

Dr Kim Toffoletti, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Gender Studies, launched the book, and you can watch Dr Toffoletti's introduction, as well as my speech, below. Associate Professor Brett Hutchins opened the event, which was well attended - thanks to everyone who came along, it was very much appreciated!

Thanks also to Adam Brown for the filming and editing.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Male Student Athlete Privilege

I watched a fabulous Australian film the other night, Wasted on the Young, which I think really gets to the heart of issues around rape and male sporting privilege. I'll try not to give too many spoilers, but the key event is that members of a private school swim team gang rape a female classmate who's been given drugs (presumably GBH) without her knowledge.

She's not portrayed as responsible for them raping her - the perpetrators are (yay!). But their response to it is heavily criticised: as many rapists in positions of privilege do, the swim team captain tells his victim that no-one will believe her, because he has all the power. But the film doesn't leave it there, it interrogates how those positions of privilege exist, and two of the characters say that it's because 'we' (ie: everyone who doesn't use a position of power to rape people) let it. So, audience, these athletes have these positions of power because *you* adulate them, *you* want to be like them, *you* let them get away with things that others would be punished for, *you* believe them over others because them swimming/playing/running on the team is more important than any person they might victimise.

It makes a pretty strong indictment of the bystander generally, showing that those who stand by and watch violence (sexual or otherwise) without trying to stop it are actually participating in it, particularly those who make up an 'audience'.

It's a bit uncomfortable to watch at times, but definitely worth watching!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Why farming is just like storming castles...

Farmville, the social media game where you grow vegetables and raise animals, would seem a far cry from Stormfall, where you build armies and raid your neighbours' castles (preferably when they have abandoned the castle and won't fight back). However, the social aspects and pleasures the games afford are actually very similar.

Both games employ various strategies to keep gamers online and provide incentives to encourage their friends to join, for obvious commercial reasons. However, these incentives also encourage new, online friendships, particularly in Stormfall, creating one of the great pleasures of the games: a co-operative, collaborative effort. 

In Farmville, this is made really explicit, as the game prompts players to 'share' and 'help' each other, but in Stormfall the practices of the 'League' I am involved with are very similar. The League's 'code' is in fact even selfless compared with Farmville, as while farmers are directly encouraged to share and help their friends, it is always done to obtain a similar 'gift'. Members of the League speak of each other as 'family' (although most have never met offline) and freely donate items to assist one another without necessarily expecting anything in return. Members also defend each other's castles when enemies attack, and help capture and defend neutral settlements that provide resources, which is a little different from farming... but the principle is the same. 

Another key pleasure of these games, at least for me, is the acquisition of stuff. Cool stuff like dragons and golden chickens, that it takes time and effort to achieve. There seems to be a capitalist drive and pleasure here that I might expand on at a later date, even leaving the issue of literal commercial transactions aside. 

Still - having three dragons is just awesome.