Tropfest? Nopefest.

I know everyone has had a chance to not only see Bamboozled, the winner of Tropfest 2013, but also read all of the angry articles about the transphobia and homophobia evident in the film. I wanted to add a few more offences to the list, and what the film seems to portray, without Hardie’s little “Come on guise I was talking about teh media!” spiel:

  • Sexism – An ex-girlfriend of apparently more than 11 years will remember you and will plot her revenge for over a decade. This is what women do, they think about all of their exes for decades and are totally consumed by their need to hate men.
  • Offensive stereotyping of ethnic groups – Hey you have a totally Mediterranean nose now after your sex change! And what I mean by that is your nose is so big! What a cool accessory!
  • Sexism (again) – You know what the worst thing in the world is? Having gay man sex. You are no longer a real man and should be punished by having your gay sex aftermath broadcast. Because the end of your life would obviously be signalled by people in the world questioning and thinking about the fluidity of your sexual orientation.

The thing is, I wasn’t even surprised by this shit. I’ve actively boycotted Tropfest for a plethora of reasons (nepotism within the film industry, huge slant towards male filmmakers, portraying lowest common denominator type films to capitalise on sentimentality rather than intelligence) and if anything I’m so glad this film won. Really. Because after this whole uproar over the offensiveness of this film, and how it even got selected for the final 16 in the first place, it might prompt next year’s Tropfest troglodytic organisers to step up their game. Go ahead, Tropfest, ‘bamboozle’ me.

The Bystander Effect

I remember walking up the escalators in Bondi station trying to get to work. There’s that general social rule that if you want to stand still and let the machine carry you to the top you stand to the left, and let people who are running late for mildly important engagements stagger toward the goal on the right hand side. I was one of the staggering types, and on this long escalator, during rush hour, a woman was standing alone, on the right, blocking the entire way. A quick “Err, sorry, can I get through?” usually suffices, but today I was interrupted by a man throwing his hand right into my chest and announcing “Oi mate, why don’t you just wait?”

Without thinking I grabbed his arm and thrust it off me, and asked what the hell he thought he was doing? He noticed my breasts, like he wasn’t expecting them to be there on my chest all out there, and then went bright red in the face before yelling at me that he thought I was a man, which is why he thumped me in a public place for trying to get to work on time. The woman by this stage had shrunk off to the left hand side and allowed me to head onwards and upwards, but not without the man yelling out behind me “What are you even? A chick or a guy? Which are you?”

What did you notice was missing from this story? Was it the fact that during this exchange I was surrounded by at least fifty people, just watching the events unfold? Was it how not a single one of those people even told the guy to give it a rest? Was it the lack of any sort of security, and the lack of action or interest by any Cityrail employee, who have not had the same cavalier attitude when they think people are jumping the gates? It happens to be all of the above.

I understand it’s easy to ignore the bad things in the world, head down and get on with life, at least it wasn’t me in that situation, but I’ll tell you now – you will be in that situation in your life. And it’s all because of that sand surrounding your head. How differently the situation would have unfolded if when I was thumped in the chest the surrounding bystanders collectively yelled at him that this was not okay. There is no danger of violence in this situation, because no matter how deranged a person is in believing themselves to be the Escalator King, they will never believe that they could win a fight by themselves against a plethora of people surrounding him. And the result of this interaction, where this man has been literally told by society his behaviour is reprehensible, is that he is far more unlikely to pull a stunt like this again.

It feels so obvious, this would be the perfect way to keep people feeling safe, but apparently it’s all just too hard. I have to get to work, anyway. And what if no one joins me when I speak up? Why should I put my neck out on the line if no one else would do the same for me? And on it goes.

Anger.

Anger is a strong emotion. Anger in a man is seen as a strong quality and aids in leadership. Anger in a woman is histrionic and aids in nagging. I get what everyone thinks, I get it.

But I still think it’s such an important emotion to have and not be ashamed of. I’m not talking about violence, that’s a physical manifestation of anger, or in most cases, insecurity. But to feel anger, to make your veins hot and your head throb, this is important. Especially in feminism.

It becomes more and more apparent to me that women are not interested in furthering feminism not because they don’t believe in equality, but because they don’t have the hotness, they don’t feel that anger seething, and if you’re not moved by a situation it’s not in the forefront of your consciousness.

Of course, the reason we don’t feel the anger is the ridiculous legacy the ‘post-feminists’ have given us, in telling us that we’re allowed to feel emotions and feel ‘feminine’ and not feel like we’ve betrayed the feminist sisterhood. Don’t be ashamed of your femininity! Sorry, but what is femininity? Why do I now feel guilty if I don’t want to feel ‘feminine’ feelings, or even have specifically feminine feelings? Why do I feel like Betty Draper, bottling up everything until I can let it all go by riding a damn horse?

Because we haven’t broken through, we’ve taken a step backward. Because if we were allowed to feel the whole gamut of emotions then I wouldn’t be told to ‘smile’ by ugly strangers on the street. I wouldn’t be told I had ‘a pretty smile’ when I chose to smile. Imagine a woman telling a dude he had a pretty smile, while licking her lips?

souleater

Yep. This is what it would probably look like.

Emotion is devoid of gender and, more importantly, anger is free of gender and free for everyone to experience. A friend of mine enjoys her dresses, her make-up, her hipster bangs and her 90s pop music. But when she gets angry, she lets herself get angry. The inadequacy of Aboriginal support services, specifically in the legal arena, makes her mad. She fumes. Her blood boils. And I love seeing her when she’s like that, because I know that all that energy generated by her anger has to be channelled into something. More often than not it’s into her quest for equality.

Fuck the post-feminists and their ideas of feminine emotion. That it’s ok to cry, and ok to care for your children. Of course it’s fucking ok, no one ever told you it wasn’t. What we need is for everyone to admit that all emotions are ok, even the ‘icky, masculine’ ones.

The Power of Leaving

Masterchef is like Instagram, but in continuous GIF form. Hours of pretty plates of food, culminating in a ratings win. Well, that was the case before the ‘professional’ series. Even a deaf chick and token black woman couldn’t provide enough excitement and drama to keep people watching.

So obviously the next step is to make Epic Meal Time look like a balanced, logical view of gender and create the most hilariously vomit-inducing television since The Bolt Report – “Gurrrrls vs Bois!!!1@1omglol”.

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ERMAGERRRD CERPCERKS

As to be expected, Ten’s promo department found the line between parodying and glorifying 1950s mindsets and proceeded to vomit duck l’orange all over it. So naturally everyone behind a keyboard felt the need to condemn them. Congratulations, a gold sticker for you, Internet.

It’s like these people had never heard of marketing before – you know, any press is good press? While I’d never even seen the god damn promo on actual television, I heard all about it on the Internet. And as much as I enjoy the fact that people are finally able to call out sexism in popular culture with this much comfort and ease, what exactly is your next step? Sit back and wait for Ten execs to actually even give a shit about your boring Internet opinion?

 

We’ve heard about ‘leaning in’ from Marissa “popping out a baby is so not as important as being CEO of a search engine that was vaguely popular in 2001″ Mayer, but here’s my version – GTFO. Yes, get the fuck out.

 

How about no one reports about the stupid sexist promo? How about no one watches the show? How about we all ignore it’s there?

I know what you’re thinking, but give me a chance here. Since we’ve got a trashy TV theme going here, I’ll invoke Super Nanny. If the child is having a tantrum and wants attention, don’t give it to them. They’ll continue to become more and more loud, offensive and rude, but ignore it. Keep ignoring their cries for attention, and they’ll realise what you actually want – logic, fairness, and a little bit of intelligence. In order to get the attention from you that they so badly crave, they will endeavour to fulfil all your needs to get you back.

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They’ll feel as embarrassed as having cake on their face in a wildly offensive promo that no one appreciated, but as a result ruined your favourite dinner jacket. Poor Gary.

 

The whole thing that keeps this porterhouse-steak-with-mushroom-gravy train going is the public watching the show, clicking on the website, writing blog articles that link the promo itself on Youtube, that in turn garners millions of hits for the program that then sells advertising space for ridiculous money that goes straight into the ears of Ten execs, blocking out the mosquito buzz of people who give a shit. Don’t watch and what do they have? Marco Pierre White trying to convince people he’s relevant on a cheap tomato paste ad. Which is equal to ‘fuck all’.

Maybe, then, Ten will listen. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll decide to fund some interesting, thought-provoking show that we don’t need to torrent from the US or watch on our HBO cable subscription! At the very least, Ten might give the ABC a call and see if they can show re-runs of ‘Outland’.

Feminist Elitism: Male Feminists, Feminist Ally… How About Just Plain ‘Feminist’?

I went to the All About Women talks at the Sydney Opera House. I can say all the usual stuff about it being thought-provoking, a great initiative, but not particularly interesting. I will however talk about how people seem to think women who participate in society and do stuff and things are immediately feminists, while men who are interested and well-versed in the cause need to go through some sort of gauntlet and may still be relegated to “ally”.

I went to see the fantastic Clementine Ford chair a talk with the not-so-fantastic Clark Beaumont. Ok, I may be a bit harsh, standing on a plank of wood holding each other might be a genius piece of artwork for 13 Rooms, but Sarah Clark and Nicole Beaumont were a very strange choice for a feminist speech event. Let’s ignore the fact that they’ve barely started their twenties; Clementine launched into questions on their previous work, She’ll Be Right, involving the pair re-enacting scenes from ‘Australiana’ movies like The Castle and Muriel’s Wedding in an attempt to de-construct the portrayal of Australian culture in film.

They’re asked specifically about the portrayal of women in Australian film, and I already have to stifle a groan as they begin to reel off movies from the 90s like they think our film industry spontaneously combusted around 2002. But nothing could prepare me for when they decided to name Priscilla: Queen of the Desert as an example of a portrayal of women in Australian film.
Clementine, clearly as confused as the rest of the audience, prompted the art-duo to explain themselves a little further, and the best they could muster was “Well it’s like, about dressing as women, and y’know, that’s fun!” OK, I’m paraphrasing and letting my bias get the better of me, but I’m flabbergasted that the idea that men dressing up as women is a portrayal of women. It’s like describing Wilfred as being a realistic portrayal of dogs. Despite the fact they failed to mention a multitude of amazing film such as The Jammed, Alexandra’s Project, Beneath Clouds, The Sapphires, Sleeping Beauty etc. they just sounded like they had no idea what they were talking about.

If I had gone to see them at 13 Rooms, maybe I would have barely forgiven them for their completely shocking lack of Australian film knowledge. But I was at All About Women, looking at the people either side of me, wondering if this was actually a Clark Beaumont art installation created about deconstructing the notion of feminism and intelligence, or if they were actually serious. Unfortunately for my mental well-being, it was the latter.

Which brings me to my point – just because they are women, with relative success in their chosen field of expression, this does not make them a fantastic proponent of feminism, or informed in any in-depth analysis of women in Australia. Shocking, I know. They may have earned their place in 13 Rooms, but they almost certainly did not belong next to Leymah Gbowee and Aayan Hirsi Ali at the Opera House.

In contrast, I attended the light-hearted debate later that night, the question at hand being “Can Men Be Feminists?” Despite the disaster that is Bob Ellis, the debate hit a nerve with me. Mostly because the only argument I could gather for men to not be feminists was that they did not have the same experience as women and therefore could not fully understand the cause. Once again, flabbergasted. What is this collective female consciousness that gets invoked every time someone hears the phrase ‘male feminist’? My experience of being a woman is different to your experience is different to a Muslim woman’s experience is different to a 70-year-old woman’s experience. Would you seriously deny a trans* woman the right to call herself a feminist because she did not have the same experience as you did growing up?

How does this art duo that, at most, probably took a couple of gender subjects at Uni, get welcomed with open arms by the event co-ordinators, while the best male feminists can hope for is to stand on stage next to Bob fucking Ellis.

Instead of settling on some women who happen to be in town for an art performance, and paying them to speak at a day of intellectual feminist debate they are not at all versed in, maybe an Aboriginal woman would have been the answer? Y’know, even just one? If you’re able to fly Leymah Gbowee 29 hours to Sydney, would it have been any more difficult to fly, say, Celeste Liddle the 2 hours from Melbourne? What happened to the idea of intersectionality? You want to talk about a problem in feminism, maybe step away from the man/woman issue and take a look at the fact that the ‘black’ quota here was fulfilled by people who don’t even live anywhere near Australia. Who are not Australian. Who are not Indigenous Australian.

How about we all stop having panic attacks about who we allow in our special little club, and just focus on the damned philosophy? What are you achieving by setting up ambiguous rules about who gets to be called what, and in the process alienating everyone (especially Indigenous Australians)? Because, when the time comes and I attend another feminist talk, if I have to sit through another 20 year old’s explanation of why The Castle should still be analysed after you’ve left high school, I may just have to break into their family home, eat all the sponge cake, and take a sledgehammer to their precious pool room.

Feminism as Accessory: The Use of Feminism to Further One’s Social Standing.

I was having coffee with a female friend of mine, at my local café in Newtown. We always sit right at the back of the courtyard, away from the performing arts school students playing adult and taking bum puffs of their Marlboros.

Talking about books we’d read, articles we’d shared on Facebook, annoying people at Uni. I’d mentioned Destroy the Joint and their teaming up with Get Up to try and force John Laws to apologise for implying that a 6 year old girl can be provocative. We both thought it was really important, and got talking about how today’s feminism seems to be a cyber-force rather than in-person demonstrations. I started talking about how it’s probably the way of the future, that all of our feminist action will take place on the Internet.

Then this guy, sitting at the table behind us taps my friend on the shoulder. Hey, an old friend, sure he can join us, we were just talking about Destroy the Joint.

“Oh yeah, they’re awesome. Fuck Alan Jones and all those old, white men of privilege.”

More about how he’s an oppressor, this BA student, because he’s a white guy living in a patriarchy. And that was it.

“So do you do anything about it? Are you part of a group?”

“What, like a Facebook group? Sure I’ve signed a couple of petitions. I mean geez, some feminists don’t even believe that I can be one because I’m a dude. I figure until they get their priorities sorted I’ll just focus on other things.”

 

 

Later that week I’m at Uni, having a coffee and reading near the Law Building. A group of people at the table next to me are talking about how important feminism is. The one woman of the group is pretty much sitting around agreeing with everything that the rest of the table is saying.

“Did you see that article I shared on FB about North Dakota trying to ban abortion?”

“Yeah, that was so fucked. How can people be so sexist, in this day and age?”

The woman pipes up after not being able to get a word in edgewise for the past 10 minutes.

“I was thinking about going to the Women’s Room at 1pm today, they’re having a meeting.”

Raucous laughter from the guys.

“Why would you waste your time? They don’t do shit! They’re just about man-hating.”

“Haha yeah, you’re probably right but I wanted to check it out anyway.”

More laughter.

“So what, you’re going to stop shaving your pits or something? You’d make a cute little feminist!”

The woman smiles and slumps in her chair, back where they want her.

 

 

The weekend has arrived, and I’m at work. I’m a barista, but the place I work at sells gourmet cupcakes. This guy comes in, he’s very polite, older, a nice harmless type. He asks me what cupcake he should buy for a ‘little girl’.

I shrug my shoulders and say “Kids generally like the chocolate ones”, but he insists, “But what about for a girl? Do you have any pink ones?”

He’s not rude at all, and I don’t want to make a scene, so I point at the strawberry. He buys it, and is happily on his way. Certainly unaware of how ill I felt at his question; and the tiny civil war in my head between calling him out on his sexism and keeping my shitty, but desperately needed, job.

 

 

What all these situations have in common is a person who defines themselves as a feminist folding and crumpling away when everyday sexism occurs. And it’s not just the subject of the story, it’s me. I was the linking factor in all these stories, and I did nothing. When it’s popular and appropriate for us to exist, we do. But when we are presented with a sexist attitude in daily life, Feminism is delegated to theory. A trendy theory we can all use to quip about the latest story about rape in India while high-fiving each other about being in such an enlightened society. We all want to like the article our friend posts online from Jezebel, and we all solemnly nod our heads when we hear about Tony Abbott’s next snide remark about women. But then what happens when push comes to shove? We sign a little internet petition, we write a little blog article (or more likely write our little less-than-50-character tweet), and we complain that politics is down the drain and come the next election we’re just going to draw a picture on the ballot.

 

Let’s all do something. Actually do something. Once a day, once a week, or you know, every time it happens. When your friends are moving, set up a Facebook page pleading for help from “Strong, able-bodied men”, do you say nothing because you don’t want to carry a 50 year old couch down three flights of stairs. Suck it up and say something. Not only will you be helping our society, but your friend is really going to appreciate the way you didn’t complain about the wet-dog smell their couch left all over your shirt.

When men dominate the conversation, or call me ‘darling’, I let it go because I don’t want to cause a scene. But it’s so damn annoying, since I don’t live in 19th century Kentucky. The only way to stop it is to say something. No one is asking for anger and fury, just a genuine, friendly reminder that the everyday sexist comments that occur are just another small step added to the stairs, preventing us from being able to finally get to the top of the building and see the entire city as one big homogeneous breathing living contented beautiful society.