Well June you’ve been well and truly CRAZY! Finishing up with uni, finishing up at work, moving out of college, packing my life into a bag and heading off to LONDON! June has absolutely flown by, and as I sit on a bus heading up north to Leeds, it feels like a perfect time to reflect on the month that’s been.
(If you haven’t read about my awesome plans for the next few months, read here so you know what I’m talking about)
Finishing uni for Autumn session
Damn, what a session! I can’t believe that session has already come and gone! It’s actually mind blowing! This session has probably been my best session yet. Whilst my results aren’t released for another week, I’m feeling pretty confident. I felt really engaged with all of my material, pushed myself to try new things, and made awesome friends in my classes. I’d call that a pretty successful session if you ask me! (I got my results the other day… 2xD’s and 1xHD!!!)
KB End of Session Formal
One of the best things about finishing uni for the session, is having a massive party to celebrate! And what better way to do that, than with your bestest friends that you’ve called family for the past few months. We had our KB formal which consists of a three course meal and an open bar. Yes, that’s right… an open bar. For uni students…. If that isn’t a recipe for disaster I don’t know what is. But it’s amazing. Everyone gets super messy and you drink and dance the night away with everyone you love! Plus you get to dress up all fancy and just have a fab time!
Finishing up with work
It was quite bittersweet finishing up at work really. Whilst I was stoked when 5pm on that Friday afternoon finally rolled around, I was also quite sad. I’ve become really close with my work colleague and saw her basically every day for the past year. I feel that I’ve grown a lot in that position which has not only been personally rewarding, but I feel that the work I was doing was contributing towards a positive work environment. Hopefully when I return from my travels, I can get my job back, or get another great job with the uni! Fingers crossed!
Moving out of college
That was a sad day indeed. Not only was I leaving but my other housemate was venturing off to Italy for a month and at least 4 of my close friends are also going on exchange for second session all around the world. I moved out on the Monday of the Queens Birthday long weekend and had the biggest weekend! 21st parties, picnics, clubs, bars, drinks, drinks and more drinks. You could imagine I was not in tip top condition on that Monday. Plus, through in the emotions of leaving, it was a pretty rough day. Thank you to everyone who made that last weekend in the gong so special.
Spending time at home
I don’t get to make it home often, so getting to spend 10 whole days at home was absolutely delightful! The weather was superb and I got to spend quality time with my family and my two cute little dogs. It really was so lovely and I’m so grateful for everyone showing me so much love and kindness before I head off on my big adventure!
A beautiful Sydney sesh
It’s kind of a tradition in my family that the night before you fly out, you spend the night in Sydney and go out for a special dinner and drinks. I spent the day in Bondi with my Mum and sister. It was an absolutely stunning day and it was so lovely to spend quality time with my family. For dinner, my best friend Tishia and her bf Mark joined my Mum and I for a cute little pub feed. Again, I’m so grateful to these people for making me feel so loved and special. You definitely made leaving Australia much more difficult.
Being pleasantly surprised by Manila
On the 24th of June, I heard the best words I think I’ve ever heard come out of an air hostesses mouth… ‘you’ve been upgraded!’ Not only was I going to the Philippines, but I was going to the Philippines in style and comfort! You can watch the experience of my flight and my stopover here.
Again, it’s difficult to describe how amazing it was to see some friends that I haven’t seen for nearly 3 years! And it’s even better when it feels like no time has passed at all! I’m so so so grateful for everyone who made my time in the UK so special and who went above and beyond to show me a good time.
They’re back!!! Thank god! I’ve waited way too long to hear Dan’s beautiful voice! Such a catchy and just damn awesome song!!! Now I just need to patiently wait for their album!
MUMFORD & SONS
Holy sh*t I’m absolutely in love with this song! It’s full of soul, it’s uplifting and it’s just AMAZING!!!! I used it this month as my ‘take off song’ (a song you play when your plane takes off and you feel an overwhelming feeling of ecstasy).
This quote says so much to me. This month I’ve been so blessed to be surrounded by people who love me and who are there to encourage me to pursue my dreams. I really and sincerely grateful for every act of kindness. It is these people around me that inspire me to be the best I can be and spread this kindness around the world. Especially in a world where love, kindness and acceptance seem to be fleeting, it is now more than ever that we need to stand together, to support one another, in solidarity and strength. Love is love is love is love is love…
July – you better watch out… because I’m coming for you!
When Netflix & chill isn’t an option, sometimes, you just have to chill out with yourself and find a good movie to watch. And lately, I’ve been really getting into my documentaries. It might have something to do with feeling guilty when I actually do watch a film. So to compensate, I’ve been watching documentaries; an easy way to chill out and actually learn something new. So, if you too love a good doco and are looking for some new ones to add to your list, then look no further!
Chasing Ice (2012)
An amazing look at the dramatic changes happening as a direct result of Climate Change. A team of scientists venture to some of the most remote parts of the world, including Alaska, Greenland and Iceland. And having been to Iceland, it made watching this documentary even more incredible.
Perfect for: Those of you who love some beautiful cinematography, are interested in nature and concerned about climate change.
The True Cost (2015)
This documentary will make you close all of the online shopping tabs you have open. It follows your $10 top back through the supply chain to cotton farms in the US, to farms in rural India, to the factory workers in Bangladesh. It’s a fascinating look at where our clothes come from and the huge injustice of the fashion industry.
Perfect For: Those of you who love shopping the sales rack at stores.
Whilst at the People’s Climate March in Sydney last year, there were people everywhere holding signs saying ‘real environmentalists are vegan.’ Whilst I initially dismissed the thought straight away, it definitely planted a seed which prompted me to do some research for myself.
“Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, or 51% of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.”
This just blew my mind. Whenever I used to think of CO2 emissions, I would always think of mining and fossil fuels. Whilst I’m not saying that Cowspiracy is what you should base all of your knowledge off of, because I personally believe it is highly propaganda-ish, but it is extremely eye opening to an issue not discussed in the media. And learning more about this issue inspired me to adopt a vegetarian diet.
Perfect for: Those of you curious about vegetarianism or veganism. Or alternatively, if you don’t want to subscribe to one of these labels, a reductionist (view TED Talk here)
Mission Blue (2014)
This documentary follows the story of Sylvia Earle, one of the world’s first oceanographers. She dedicated her life to the ocean, the life in it and the life that depends on it. Not only is Sylvia an incredibly inspiring woman, but the history and evolution of ocean exploration is looked at through a beautiful lens at a world just at our footsteps.
Perfect for: Those who have ever had their breath taken away by the beauty of the ocean. Also for those concerned for the future of our oceans and the effects that Climate Change has, especially in Australia.
This disturbing thriller showcases the issue of keeping majestic animals like Orcas in captivity in Sea World. Whilst I personally have issues with the portrayal being on the lives lost by several trainers at Sea World and not the orcas themselves, it still tells an incredibly powerful story of the harsh realities these beautiful animals face. As a result of this film, Sea World announced they would end their breeding program at the Orlando park. However, one of the main orcas in Blackfish, Tilikum, is suffering so much, that his health is rapidly deteriorating.
Perfect For: Those who are also passionate whale lovers and who see a huge breach of animal rights in the act of capturing, detaining and ‘training’ animals.
So there we go. Netflix has definitely provided the goods when it comes to documentaries. And if you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments below!
“We cannot all succeed, when half of us are held back.” ~ Malala Yousafzai
Mardi Gras 2016. What a magical day and night! After the amazing fun I had last year – I wasn’t sure that I could top it again this year. (You can read about my experience here). But lone and behold, 2016 delivered! It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time! I dressed up as a pirate, complete with fishnet stocking, frizzed hair and glitter galore. We went to Sydney in a massive group and it was so great to spend time with some amazing people.
The amount of acceptance, love and joy shown at Mardi Gras exemplifies the absolute urgent need for equality. This is not a political, religious or moral issue. It is about love. Self love, loving others and accepting and respecting the love that others share. Australia, let’s stop being a international embarrassment. How are we supposed to grow as a nation when we can’t even grant a human need like love to all.
So I thought the best way to show you all of the love felt is to show you some of our bedazzled photos!
Have you ever watched an Australian film from the 70’s that was so bad, it was actually good? Then you were most likely watching an Ozploitation film. During this time ‘Australia as an institution required a national identity, consisting of images of itself emanating from its own culture and reflecting the characteristics of it’s population’ (Rayner, 2000). And what better way to do so than exploit the hell out our stereotypes. Ozploitation films were genre films, including horror, bikie gangs and sexploitation, and during the 1970’s and 80’s there were over 400 Australian films made. The biggest boom in Australian film history (Middlemost, 2015). This massive boom in the industry is due to the 10BA tax introduced at the time. Long story short, the 10BA meant that filmmakers got a 150% tax deduction, meaning that they were making money. (For the long story, click here). Whilst the era of the 10BA is over and Ozploitation films leave us cringing… the case study of Ozploitation films teach us that the Australian film industry was is dominated by men.
Trailer for ‘Not Quite Hollywood.’
Male Domination of the Australian Film Industry
If you watch the trailer for Mark Hartley’s 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood, you’ll notice just how masculine Ozploitation films were. The men reinforced ‘the essential Australian male, working-class, sardonic, laconic, loyal to his mates, unimpressed by rank, an improvisor and non-conformist’ (Rayner, 2000, pp. 95).
As you can see in the screenshots above, women are often portrayed as submissive, weak or victimized. In Ozploitation films ‘naked women are subjected to violence and brutal villains tend to demonstrate their power by driving fast or showing off their massive members’ (Fuchs, 2009). This submissive image of women contrasted to the macho man, highlights the inequality between men and women on screen.
Rebecca Giwing remembers working on Sandy Harbut’s biker movie, Stone (1974): “It was as sexist in production as the world that it was portraying,” she says, “The women did as they were told and the blokes seemed to have all the fun.” As explained in Hartley’s Not Quite Hollywood, some of the women found it very empowering to be nude and sexual on camera, however as Giwin admits above, that wasn’t always applicable to all.
However, gender inequality doesn’t just affect the actresses in the movies. It affects every women whether they’re in the industry or not. In Monica Davidson’s essay titled ‘Knocking on a Locked Door: Women in Australian Feature Film,’, it reveals that ‘of all Australian feature films made since the 1970s, a staggering 85% have been directed by men’ (Daily Review, 2015). And as you can see in the infographic above, the gap between men and women in the film industry is huge.
The case study of Ozploitation not only highlights the gender inequality during the 70’s and 80’s, but also allows us to question why we are still facing such inequality within the Australian film industry in 2016. It’s important that we demand change because ‘with their powerful influence on shaping the perceptions of large audiences, the media are key players for the gender equality agenda’ (Mlambo-Ngcuka, 2014).
However… there is hope! Screen Australia have recently committed to supporting, financing and encouraging the role that women play in the Australian film industry. Watch below for more information.
Rayner, J 2000, Contemporary Australian Cinema : An Introduction, Manchester : Manchester University Press, 2000, viewed 21 December 2015
Thomas, D J 2009, ‘Tarantino’s Two Thumbs Up: Ozploitation and the Reframing of the Aussie Genre Film’, Metro Magazine: Media & Education Magazine, 161, p. 90, Informit Literature & Culture Collection, viewed 15 December 2015
Blogging… one word that can encompass enormous diversity. People blog to share thoughts and opinions, others to create and inspire, some blog about social events or political change and policies, whilst others blog about corruption in politics. Whether you blog about coffee or communism, blogging can influence ‘democratization, transparency and autonomy’ (Maynor, 2009). Blogging allows every day citizens to engage in an online community, allowing their voices to be heard. However it is apparent that blogging in different countries crosses various political, cultural and social values and the impacts of freedom of speech and cultural idealism vary significantly.
Blogging in a Western nation
I get up in the morning to the sound of my iPhone chiming away. I put on a cute outfit, not complete without a statement hat, lipstick or pants. I make some brekie, smashed avo on sourdough bread with a wedge of lemon and cracked pepper. My toast is getting cold but I need to instagram it first. I sling my MacBook Air under my arm and head off down the street. I drop by a local cafe and pick up a skinny cap. I instagram my coffee and tag the name of the cafe so I’ll remember to come back. I find a space to sit and whip open my laptop. Pinterest, Facebook, Bloglovin’ and various other tabs open as I search for inspiration. I tap away at my laptop until a post is done and I publish it into the wide world of the blogosphere. In the back of my mind I hear a voice saying “no one will read it,” but I remain hopeful that it’ll go viral.
Welcome to the life of a 21st Century blogger. Or should I say, a Western blogger. These bloggers are generally associated with travel, lifestyle, fashion or beauty (or in my case, a little bit of everything) and are unnafected by political or social intimidation or fear. Bloggers are crucially ‘young, photogenic and well,’ (The Guardian, 2015) and sell a desirable lifestyle. And when success hits, so do sponsors and the commoditization of their ‘lifestyle.’
Being a successful blogger is generally measured by having 100’s of thousands of Instagram/Twitter/Facebook followers, along with making money. Monetization is a significant aspect of modern blogging in Western nations. It’s one thing to have a blog that you treat as a public journal, but it’s another to generate money. There are countless ‘how to make money from your blog,’ pages out there. There’s even blogs dedicated to blogging. However, once your blog turns into a company and your company is sponsered by brands through product placement, advertisements, eBooks and Instagram shout outs… who are you blogging for? Why are you blogging? Would you still blog if you weren’t earning money? Whilst it’s obvious that people rely on blogging as a career, it’s somewhat worrisome that people are willing to commodify, curate and sell their lifestyle (ah hem… Kardashians). This illustrates that in Western nations, bloggers are permitted to write freely with the intent of monetizing their blog and way of life. Thank you, socialism.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – S.G Tallentyre
It’s evident that blogging in Western nations has provided freedom of expression and countless creative opportunities for millions of people, allowing people to shape a career from blogging. However, in many other nations across the world, where freedom of expression is not valued, being a blogger can land you in jail, or even get you killed.
Blogging in Bangladesh: On the Hit List
[Watch the first two minutes of the following video to set the scene]
Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim, ‘secular’ country with a focus on the separation of religion and state and has been ‘a long tradition of freedom of speech’ (BBC, 2015). However in practice, with the death of 9 from 84 athiest bloggers mentioned on a ‘hit list,’ freedom of speech is not looking promising in the near future (Kadam, n.d).
Avajit Roy was an American-Bangladeshi man on this hit list who was portrayed as an athiest blogger. He returned from America to Dhaka with his wife to visit his family. Horrifically, he was brutally murdered in one of the main streets of Dhaka with his wife also being attacked. He had received death threats for a significant amount of time for his writing against Islam (Roy, 2015). Bangladesh is supposed to have freedom of speech, however many Muslims in power believe that ‘criticising and speaking out against Mohammed is wrong, and should be punished by Sharia law.’ (BBC, 2015)
“Nobody is allowed to speak against the Prophet of God” (BBC, 2015).
However, are these bloggers purely being targeted for being athiest? Some believe that this is because they are focusing attention twards the extremist Jamaat-e-Islami group and attempting to hold them accountable for war crimes. The bloggers feel that instead of it being a religious differences, it is the opposition to political power and interest (Bidhan, 2015). Instead, free thinkers are considered dangerous to how the political leaders view Bangladesh.
The hit list that was accidentally leaked to the media, has sparked fear among bloggers. Some have fled the country, fearing for their lives. Others remain, lying low and concealing the online identity. Fear forces silence and silence perpetuates violations and inequality. Therefore, the role of the blogger in a country like Bangladesh is paramount.
Blogging in Ethiopia: Blogger or Terrorist?
Ethiopia is under an ‘authoritarian regime’ (The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2013) with atrocious Human Rights violations and abuse of power. Due to dictators governing the country, there has been imense suppression of freedom of expression and a decreased belief that voting in elections will contribute towards change (Nnamdi, 2014). A group of bloggers called Zone 9, blog about social injustice, corruption, education, politics and human rights, attempting to bring it to the attention of Ethiopians and the global news. Generally, blogging about these issues in developed nations (in Australia, like I am right now) is acceptable and even encouraged.
However, in 2014 the Zone 9 Bloggers were arrested for ‘inciting violence through social media to create instability in the country’ (Greenslade, 2014), eventually the 9 bloggers were charged with acts of terrorism (Human Rights Watch, 2015). Ethiopia’s new anti-terrorism laws make it that even “doing an interview with the media or talking to Amnesty International can be considered terrorism” (Nnamdi, 2014), let alone talking to actual terrorist groups.
Freedom of expression = Freedom (Free Zone 9 Bloggers Ethiopia, 2015)
The imprisonment of journalists generally creates a public outcry (like the case of the imprisonment of Australian journalist Peter Greste). Most journalists ‘self censor’ their writing due to magazines and newspapers having strong ties with government officials. Bloggers on the other hand have the ‘freedom’ from government supervision to publish openly and freely. Consequently, bloggers do not have the same protections as journalists and therefore find themselves susceptible to severe consequences the government decide to impose on them. This furthermore highlights the important role that bloggers play in influencing democracy, however this can obviously not be achieved if they are behind bars.
Comedy skits in the UAE aren’t funny
Whilst not strictly along the lines of blogging, comedy videos on youtube still come under freedom of expression and can land people in some countries in jail. In 2013, Shezanne Cassim published a parody video of Dubai youth cultures on Youtube. It was not political nor was it critical of the government. Cassim, grew up in Dubai and was aware of local customs and laws, so imagine his shock when he was ‘charged under vague new Cyber Crimes Laws, accusing him of endangering national security by presenting a fictional image of Dubai’ (Cassim, 2014). These harsh and unjustified actions against Cassim contradict the revolutionary and promising images that Western people have come to associate Dubai with.
In a recent email exchange with Cassim, he stated that whilst he is concerned with freedom of expression in Dubai and the UAE, he is more concerned with the modern legal systerm (or lack thereof). In nations like the UAE, violations of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, article 9 which prohibits member states from engaging in arbitrary arrest, detention and exile, were violated. Cassim was not notified of his charges until he had been detained for 5 months (Bolduan & Forrest, 2014) and spent time in a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi. He was also not permitted to have legal representation and experienced difficulty being informed of why he was detained, what was happening and how he could do something about it.
Global Voices picked up on Cassim’s story and eventually made mainstream media news headlines. However as the following Young Turks video explains… what would’ve happened if he wasn’t an American citizen?
Global Voices gives a platform and a voice to those who are silenced. It offers contributors the opportunity to publish anonymously and in their mother tongue. Their mission is to ‘find the most compelling and important stories from marginalized and misrepresented communities’ (Global Voices, 2015). It also bridges communities around the world by offering people to translate articles into different languages. By translating Amharic, Bengali or Arabic, this helps reach a wider audience and encourage global engagement on the issue. Global Voices encourages more people to share their stories of concern around the world, to stand up for social and political issues they deal with, create awareness and generate change. It turns global voices into citizen journalists and in turn creates global citizens (Mohamed, 2011).
‘Bloggers have forced the traditional media to increase freedom of expression and to adopt issues that were taboo for the traditional media in the past. Bloggers are setting the agenda and are imposing most of the heated issues that have been raised recently in the newspapers.’ (Mohamed, 2011)
Bloggers and citizen journalists who contribute towards Global Voices, are also contributing towards a more democratic and just world.
Had you ever heard about Global Voices before this? And if by a chance you had, how often do you actively seek out news from this site? Being a global citizen and using our global voices require energy and effort to add value to freedom of speech throughout certain countries.
One thing is for certain, people will continue to write. If human rights violations, abuse of power, unjustified detainment, corruption and extremism continues, so will bloggers. Whilst the monetization of blogging in Western nations is a primary focus, there are still bloggers who do commentate social and political issues within the Western world. The difference is that they have the protection to do so. By highlighting the disparities between reasons, effects and consequences of blogging throughout the world, hopefully this allows you to appreciate people’s voices around the world and value the gift of our voices.
I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Shezanne Cassim for corresponding with me and sharing his story. I respect the fact that you speak openly about what you experienced, in the hope that you can generate awareness and change in an injust society.
Maynor, J.W 2009, Blogging for democracy: deliberation, autonomy, and reasonableness in the blogosphere, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 12:3, 443-468, DOI: 10.1080/13698230903127937
Mohamed, AS 2011, ‘On the Road to Democracy: Egyptian Bloggers and the Internet 2010’, Journal Of Arab & Muslim Media Research, 4, 2&3, pp. 253-272, Communication & Mass Media Complete, viewed 28 October 2015
I was never one for school dresses. I remember when I changed primary schools in year 6, I wasn’t allowed to wear my preferred shorts and polo shirt to school. So instead, I had to wear a school dress. I resented putting it on every morning because I just wanted to wear shorts and be able to run around. At the time, I had no idea how valuable this school dress was to me. It is only now, that I realise the full potential, power and empowerment a school dress can bring to the world.
I am currently sitting in our University’s library, studying away for one of my final essays. And I’m wearing a school dress. Why you may ask? Well I’m doing it in a dress so girls in Sierra Leone can wear a dress and attend school too. It only costs $300 to send a girl to school for a year. And if she does attend school, she’ll less likely be married off before she’s 15, less likely to contract HIV/AIDS and is more likely to earn 10-25% more money for every extra year of schooling, and reinvest 90% of her income back into her family (OneGirl.org, 2015)
“Let us pick up our books and pens, they are our most powerful weapon.’ Malala Yousafzai
So in October, I’ll be wearing my school dress with pride in the hope that more school girls in Sierra Leone and other African nations can do the same. If you want to see me do something in my school dress, name your price, donate and I’ll do it.
“When the power of love overcomes our love of power, the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix
Peace. It’s one of those words which is thrown around here there and everywhere. Along with a cute little hand gesture which seems to sneak in to all of my photos, myself, along with many others would say that they wish to see the world become a more peaceful one. But if you watch the news, you would think that this world is anything but peaceful. From civil wars, a refugee crisis, poverty, the rise of terrorist groups and a growing gap between the rich and the poor, it’s easy to believe that peace is unreachable. But we cannot accept this. We mustn’t. Because the second we give up hope, is the moment that peace escapes from us. There are many types of peace and there are many forms it takes… but the most important thing is that we believe that peace is achievable.
So what can I do to bring peace to the world?
Find inner peace. Before you can possibly start to try to bring peace to the world, you first must be at peace with yourself. And it’s not an easy thing to do. It involves knowing your flaws, your weaknesses and knowing what you can do to always be improving yourself. I’m still trying to find inner peace. By not being so judgemental of myself when I look in the mirror, by trying to accept the fact that not everyone I meet in life is going to like me (and that’s not my fault) and by realising that I am unique and it’s up to me to share my voice, my values, and my views with the world.
Discover what makes you feel peaceful. This one’s a little bit easier. Ask yourself… what do you do that makes you lose track of time and forget about the stresses of everyday life? Personally, it’s listening to music, reading a book, going for a bike ride to the beach, blogging, being with friends or doing yoga. All of these things are just as important in my life as the big things like my job and studying. Without these things, I’d be full of stress and anxiety, and it’s by doing these things often that I can actually deal with the stresses of every day life.
Dignity for all. This is the theme for the UN’s International Peace Day. Dignity is also one of those words which is often thrown around and not many people may realise the significance and power of dignity. Dignity is defined as ‘the quality of being worthy of honour and respect’ (Dictionary.com) and don’t you think if we all treated everyone with dignity, the world would be a better place? Dignity is not only about the respect you give to yourself but also to others, so never lose sight of the fact that underneath all of the wealth or material things we have, we are all born as equals and we should continue to treat everyone else this way too.
Try and spread the peace. Feeling extra happy or peaceful today? Try and spread it. You never know what someone else is going through so why not offer to give them a hand, ask if they’re OK, invite them to one of your beach adventures… you never know how far some kind words can travel.
And the least you can do to help keep the world a peaceful place, as Mother Teresa said “Peace begins with a smile.”
“We’ll win if we work together as one, the people. The power of the people is so much stronger than the people in power” – Bono, 2013 TED Talk
“Problems should not be glamourized by the association of celebrities” – Dambisa Moyo
Bono is first and foremost, a singer. However recently he’s become the face of combatting poverty in Africa, and taken on the role as an activist, economist, politician, humanitarian and framed as an angel to save all of the ‘poor Africans.’ Throughout the 80’s, he worked with Bob Geldof on the Live Aid concerts and has heavily campaigned to fight poverty in Africa, especially Ethiopia. In 2005 he went on to campaign for the Make Poverty History Movement which was more focused on social justice rather than charity. And then in 2014, he is featured on the single ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ to fight the ebola outbreak in West Africa, raising millions of pounds.
There is an issue here. Celebrities like Bono who become activists for large-scale social and humanitarian issues are not experts on poverty, inequality and sustainable development. Yet he has met with Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Bill Gates and various other politicians and powerful actors to generate policy change and create global awareness (Why Poverty, 2012). He has inadvertently become the face of anti poverty. Bono already has millions of people who look up to them, respect them, hate him or talk about him across the globe and he’s using a unique platform to spread his message.
Celebrities are not experts and can often oversimplify a very complex issue such as poverty. The infamous Make Poverty History video above features many different celebrities. Dambisa Moyo is a Ghanese economist and activist who is extremely ‘anti-Bono’ due to his ignorance of the complexity of poverty and lack of results. In a recent televised debate, Moyo states that the West needs to stop being sympathetic and start being empathetic and realizing that Africans are doing a lot of grassroots work to create change (Black Wall Street, 2015). Another issue is the media portrayal of Africa and their people as the victims, and people like Bono and Bob Geldof as the white saviour (Davis, 2010), which contributes to a sympathetic view of ‘poor Africa.’ Moyo says that, ‘Africa’s debt problems should not be glamourized by the association of celebrities who’s actions are more often than not self-perpetrating,’ (Fitzpatrick, 2011) and that is where we find the problem with celebrity activism.
The 2014 release of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ sparked controversy and further encourages this ‘poor Africa’ perception. It plays on one of the main parts of Moyo’s book, where she highlights how ‘the West is patronizing Africans’ (Easterly, 2009). The video is solely focused on the singers and celebrities that resonates with the Make Poverty History video of ‘spot the celebrity.’ Sure, it starts with some graphic images, and sure, they raised a lot of money… but is that enough?
Celebrities are experts at grabbing people’s attention and creating emotional responses in people. The images and videos they broadcast are heart wrenching, because they’re designed that way. Nash explains that people need to see themselves as part of the ‘global political community’ (Nash, 2008). No one’s going to sign a petition, donate money or be a part of a protest unless they’ve felt personally motivated to do so, and celebrities can make this happen. Many argue that ‘at least celebrities are doing something with their power,’ but is it really justified if the damage they are creating is greater than their ‘good acts.’ Are good intentions, good enough?
So how do we ensure that the work celebrities are doing is progressive and beneficial for those affected by the issue they represent? Alex Dewaal says that there are ‘fundamental pillars of activism which should always be followed, most of all, the act of responding to and collaborating with local people, rather than imposing outside agendas’ (Dewaal, 2013). Celebrities should be held accountable and responsible for their actions. They shouldn’t engage in humanitarian activism unless they’re willing to follow through and commit to the cause they represent.
Feminism has copped a lot of slack lately. It is now a term of derision and many people say ‘I believe in equlality, but I don’t identify as a feminist.’ There’s such a big anti-feminist movement that when you google feminist, one of the first things that appear is the website ‘Women against Feminism.’ And when did it become a bad thing to be a feminist? Perhaps the following video could be fuelling the anti-feminist fire.
Unfortunately, this has been watched over 700 000 times broadcasting incorrect and damaging information about feminism. Feminism has nothing to do with giving entitlements to women or trying to make them superior to men as she suggests in her I’m not a feminist because… photo. And that’s why knowing what feminism is and what it stands for is so important. And this is the same woman who claims that ‘the west does not have a rape culture.’She has been misled to believe that feminism is a women only movement, and by her spreading this message to such a large audience, can be detrimental for feminism and what it stands for.
If you weren’t living under a shell last year, you would have heard Emma Watson’s speech for the UN’s He For She Campaign, which addresses the crucial role that men play in the feminist movement. And this is the most important part, men and women should work together to overcome gender inequality because men suffer from being ‘imprisoned by gender stereotypes’ as well (Watson, 2014). So, to clear up some things;
Feminism is not: ‘laziness, bitching on Tumblr and policing other people’s free speech’ (1), demonizing men (2) or special treatment (3)’ (women against feminism)
Feminism is: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.
Many people are under the impressions that ‘they don’t need feminism because gender inequality doesn’t exist in our society’ or as Kayley Cuoco said ‘I’m not a feminist because I’ve never experienced inequality’ (Jones, 2014). Just because you personally don’t experience inequality, it doesn’t mean it’s not real. The UN’s Millenium Development Goals 2015 Report highlights that gender inequality is still experienced world-wide.
‘Women continue to face discrimination in access to work, economic assets and participation in private and public decision-making. Women are also more likely to live in poverty than men. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the ratio of women to men in poor households increased from 108 women for every 100 men in 1997 to 117 women for every 100 men in 2012, despite declining poverty rates for the whole region.’ (UN, 2015)
Germain Greer who is a leading Australian feminist, actually says that it is important that we don’t define feminism because by defining it, we are giving it limitations. ‘It’s important that feminism is allowed to evolve and change over time.’ (reference Q&A video) which can hopefully help overcome it’s exclusivity. However * argues that by having a more ‘dynamic definition it will enhance understanding and significance among men and women’ (Offen, 1988). This highlights the different ideas people associate with feminism and why it isn’t so simple to define or easily agreed upon.
Feminism is also generally associated with white, middle class women and excludes a person of colour or anyone else that doesn’t fit the criteria. Roxane Gay is what she calls a ‘Bad Feminist,’ because she does not fit the ‘traditional characteristics’ of a feminist of ‘being all, and having it all.’ Of course this raises many other questions regarding racism, however in the following TED talk, she discusses feminism and why she is a ‘Bad Feminist.’
The most significant part of her talk is where she proudly says ‘we can boldly claim our feminism. I’d rather be a bad feminist than no feminism because feminism gave me a voice.’ So regardless of what we call it, this is why we need it.
Personally, I am a feminist because I believe that all children have a right to education. Because women deserve the right to make decisions regarding their own body. Because I don’t want to be objectified or sexualised. Because men and women should work together to achieve equality. Because I am a young women who should have the opportunity to accomplish my dreams.
“What would America (and the world) be like if we loved black people, as much as we love black culture?” – Amandla Stenberg
The fashion industry is fierce. It’s tough, sets unrealistic expectations and leaves you staring at yourself in the mirror just that bit longer, wishing you had a smaller this and bigger that. We’ve always been one’s to take bits and pieces that we love from the catwalk and parade them around the streets of our neighbourhood. But what happens when we start taking bits and pieces from people’s culture and traditional dress to jazz up our outfits? You my friend, are engaging in cultural appropriation.
Cultural appropriation is ‘the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.’ (Frew, 2015).
The issue here is power. And moreso ‘post-colonial power’ (Nicklas & Lindner, 2012). The dominant or ‘normal’ culture is free to appropriate what they want, whereas the ‘minority’ or ‘marginalized group’ is left with significant cultural forms of expressions, being worn by white girls at music festivals. Cultural appropriation is dangerous and damaging. According to Everyday Feminism contributor, Maisha Johnson, it ‘trivialises violent historical oppression, let’s privileged people profit from oppressed people’s labour and perpetuates racist stereotypes.’ It’s no lie that the dominant or ‘normal’ culture in the mainstream media and society is a white, middle class man or women. And what gives us the right to take something significant from another culture, make it ‘cool,’ and only once a white person adopts it, is it widely accepted?
‘Marginalized groups don’t have the power to decide if they’d prefer to stick with their customs or try on the dominant culture’s traditions just for fun’ (Johnson, 2015).
We’ve come to accept that cultural appropriation regarding some items of clothing such as the Native American headdress as unacceptable as it is disrespectful of Native American history, traditions and oppression. It has already been banned at Montreal’s Osheaga’s Arts and Music festival and other major music festivals like Coachella have been encouraged to follow suit. So if we realise that we should show ‘respect and honour’ towards First Nation’s people in Canada and America, when will this translate to bindis, cornrows, grills, henna and any other ‘desirable’ or ‘exotic’ cultural traits.
It even extends to the whole, Booty craze sweeping the world at the moment. Sure, Queen B sang about it back in 2001 with Bootylicious, it’s only within the past year or two that the rise of the booty has exploded across the fitness scene. Now you can’t scroll through Facebook or Instagram without ‘how to get a bubble butt, #girlsthatsquat, big booty bitches…’ ANYTHING related to how apparently now it’s trending to have a big booty. This can extend from the ‘appropriation of African American culture, occurring as a result of the dominant culture’s fetishistic desire to consume blackness and to relegate the black body. They’re objectified and can leave the individual psychologically and emotionally damaged.’ (Bailey, 2012).
I’m not writing this to accuse people of being racist, or to depict anyone in any single way. We’re all different and have different experiences in life. However, being a white woman born in Australia, I have to acknowledge the extreme privilege that I have. I’m not trying to exclude myself from this either. I’ve worn saris and bindis to dress up parties and been to the gym and maybe hashtagged #thatass before. I’m also not trying to say that these traits can only ever belong to that cultural group. But I think it’s important to be educated and understand the history and significance these actions can have on others before doing so. I believe that the power I do have should be used to discuss these issues so we can attempt to empathise, empower and create change. If we continue to turn a blind eye to casual racism and cultural appropriation, especially regarding beauty, then we will only continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes.
So to answer the question at the beginning of this blog post, I believe the world would be a much better place if we loved people from all over the globe equally for who they are and not for what we can take from them.
Bailey, C 2012, Fight the Power: African American Humor as a Discourse of Resistance, The Western Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 36, No. 4, University of Missouri
Frew, C 2015, Othering, blackface, appropriation and #blacklives matter, Lecture Slides, University of Wollongong, 14 August
Nicklas, P, & Lindner, O (eds) 2012, spectrum Literaturwissenschaft / spectrum Literature : Adaptation and Cultural Appropriation : Literature, Film, and the Arts, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, DEU. Available from: ProQuest ebrary. [14 August 2015].