media

Body(s) count(s)

I struggle to watch or read the news as it feels like our roads are a war zone. With every report of a serious accident, I hold my breath to see if they might be connected to communities I am part of. The last couple of weeks have been emotional, as I supported friends of a young person who died in an accident and have connections with the school community I work in. Another young life lost on our roads, and someone I know/knew well. While we all processed the shock and grief, I became aware and disturbed by the media’s approach to this particular accident. I need to say something because I am dismayed at the lack of awareness and compassion for those closest to these young people. The last straw was reading this in the NZ Herald.

All media reports follow a pattern of providing ‘factual information’. Facts are generally descriptions of things like number of vehicles, location and time of accident, number of people in the vehicle, age, ethnicity and gender. The last aspect of this description is where the media focussed its attention as the gender identities of the two young people killed were revealed over the week through a series of articles. As soon as someone is named their gender is assumed and both young people in this particular accident were known in various communities by different names and genders, yes, they were transgender but their relationships with family and friends occupy a landscape of complexity that should not be thrown open to the media in a time of trauma and grief.

These families should not have to deal with the loss of a child and have salivating journalists looking for a juicy ‘story’. It is hard enough for young trans people to negotiate how to ‘come out’ it’s usually something carefully considered and managed. Imagine how challenging this would be if the control was stolen, this is what happened to these two young people. The media managed to ‘dead name’ both and then amp up the sick objectification of their ‘bodies’ through photos which inevitably get people to ‘guess the gender’.

Did the media ever stop to consider that transitioning is a sensitive, personal process, and for young people this often means navigating family, culture and identity, deciding who to tell, when and how. In this case, THEY could not do this, they had no voice! And if they cannot tell their story, it is not YOURS TO TELL! Seriously, where are your ethics? Did the family give consent for this information to be made public? Why do the public need to know this information – who’s interests and needs are served? How does this help these families at a very difficult time? I’ll help you out…

IT DOESN’T!

It feeds the inevitable transphobia of social media trolls who can now comment and make sick jokes, all before another family get to bury their child. Good to know the New Zealand Herald has journalists with the ethical compass of a psychopath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulse Racing

DISCLAIMER: A momentary unfiltered rant – for the sake of my sanity:

More shocking headlines from the USA – which I think by default is now the capital of the world, at least in the eyes of the media.

Another mass shooting, 50 dead, 53 injured in Orlando at Pulse night club. But let’s be clear from the start, this was not a random night club. It was a LGBTQI+ social venue. Guns – course they bloody kill people, if you can buy an assault rifle next to your corn flakes no questions asked, that’s sick – why is there any need for debate around this anymore, constitution or not.

This guy could have been Christian but he is Muslim – so we are in for the rainbow flag being torn to shreds over gun laws, religious fanaticism and mental instability. People will stand in solidarity for a moment then go back to separation. This guy invaded a place of sanctuary, a place where regardless of the music and price of the drinks you can pee where you like and flirt with someone of the same, opposite or unknown sex.

The shooting is a reminder that being on the rainbow spectrum means you can be killed for existing – to be deemed fit for annihilation for simply being in the world. The gun man seen as delivering Gods justice by some. Stop already with trying to make sense of this Jeannie – it is utterly sense-less. For once I just want religion to face facts – your fear toting version of God sucks. And people wonder why young LGBTQI+ people suffer from anxiety…coz some people want to hurt them or kill them! Surrounded by rejection or the possibility of losing your life…hmmmm…hows that working out for your mental health?

Then there will be the other violence – the one that says ‘be grateful you live in NZ’, there is no hate here. Yes NZ you are so inclusive your schools can’t figure out what to do with transgender students – just pretend they don’t exist, or prove their existence through the violence of medical diagnosis. Yes the violence of sanctioned invisibility by inclusion, be gay just don’t don’t be too gay. Being angry will be seen as reactionary, we must ‘love’ in response to the hate – well F-that for the moment, I’m sick of white light washing the rainbow. Getting out my own guns to let my middle finger do the talking.

I’m done – and going to pray to a higher power to beam me off this gorgeous planet with psychopathic care takers. And please don’t think changing your FB filter to rainbow helps – deal with your own shit – that helps.

Feeling BADD ass

My friend Philip blogged today about Blogging Against Disablism Day – BADD (well worth reading) and I started to wonder a bit about the proliferation of events that try and raise consciousness through a catchy acronym and a single day focus. I worry sometimes that our year is too short to include all of the special days, maybe it’s time to move to Saturn (29:1 earth year – over 10 000 days should be about right). The feel good vibe runs hot and people love to get in on the action, hit ‘like’, have their thoughts challenged but if it is just through reading then I’m unsure about the actual engagement with the ‘real’ world (for want of a better word). Do people actually DO anything different? I’m skeptical.

Blogs also tend to reach those already interested or thinking about the same things, so sometimes it’s a case of ‘preaching to the converted’ or seeing your own thoughts rehashed through another lens but kind of the same ideas. Maybe that is the point of it, like Philip mentions ‘law of attraction’ perhaps that is how momentum is started, by sharing something, with a wider network of people.

Getting stories and voices ‘out there’ is not enough for change, and while consciousness might be raised for a moment the next click of the screen could be something that convinces you that there are more important things to worry about. That has been one of my frustrations recently – seeing the ‘transgender-bathroom’ debate be hijacked and minimised in the name of promoting bigger issues.

So my contribution to BADD day is this – you have a body – it has and always will be in a state of becoming differently functional ‘fluxtional’ is my new word. ‘Disability’ does not exist – complexity of functioning does. Therefore every day I am against the normative idea of ableism (again see Philips blog) because it denies the very real richness of diversity that infiltrates every level of connection we have to each other. Please let us see MORE body-function diversity in media, all forms. For a start can we please get someone signing the news? Because quite frankly I have one sign to give NZ television networks with their representation of diversity and it only needs one digit.

 

Sigh-Fi

Well I just binge watched Ascension on Netflix. Now I have been looking for a sci-fi series to follow for a while, something has to fill the gap until season two of Sense 8 starts, and this was shaping up to be it. There was even a hint at some queer characters, ok, one character was openly gay but she didn’t get to lock lips with anyone and drinking at a gay bar while reading conspiracy theories on her ipad was about as risqué as it got. But what I enjoyed was the plausible story line, unlike The 100 which drove me crazy – I made myself finish season two then wanted a refund on the time I’d wasted. At the end of the first series I had that look on my face after you watch The Matrix for the first time – like WTF just happened. I immediately went searching for the next series….nothing. I searched the internet…despair…anger….frustration mounting as I realised it probably didn’t match the mass consumption formula – apocalypse-youth-sex-dystopia-more sex.

It reminded me of The Truman Show but with a darker edge, maybe with a hint of Lost but without the drawn out back stories and left hanging in the same way you are at the end of The Quiet Earth (now there’s a Kiwi Sci-Fi classic). This had the ingredients for mixing a whole range of ethical dilemmas with a social, political and scientific realism that is sorely missing from the sci-fi genre at the moment. Maybe I’m expecting too much from the mainstream media however it should be a place where ideas are expanded and explored in more complex ways, particularly in relations to diversity and our concepts of relationships.

Yet the record seems stuck on the same track – white, heterosexual, common morphology (body shapes), military industrial complex saves the day. There is some dabbling in gender relationships but while women sometimes occupy powerful positions generally they seem to still need a male by their side to accomplish whatever ‘save the day’ mission is at the core of the story line. And while functionality is richly explored often through technology or enhanced neural capacity it is not generally open to diverse morphologies, the ‘perfect’ body is replicated more often even with technical enhancements. One of my favourite examples is The Borg queen from Star Trek First Contact, she is just a head and a spine that gets dropped into a custom made body – they clearly had done their homework.

I dunno, a whole universe of possibilities and the same old boring representations of human diversity. Sigh-fi indeed, maybe it is time to write my own script and send it to the Wachowski sisters.

A wack hack

I’m perplexed. We’ve had a dildo chucked at a politician and now high tech dildos that could be hacked.There is a new industry called cyberdildonics and is set to be the next ‘big thing’ that could make that long distance relationship all the more intimate. Wow…sex toys in the media with no talk about sex or sexuality.

But much like the virtual absence of condoms being seen when depicting particular sexual acts (I think I can count the number of times I have seen a condom add on one hand) dildos as well seem to be almost desexualised by media, good for a face slap and maybe a door stop. Could be an interesting cyber safety topic in schools or a creative cross curriculum topic? The mind boggles as it googles with new goggles into a future of cyber enhanced sexualities.

Seriously, how has ordinary sex become so invisible – by ordinary I don’t simply mean heterosexual, I’m talking about the messy, complex, awkward, funny, negotiated, interrupted moments with bodily fluids and equipment like dildos and vibrators in the context of sex. It seems contradictory when considering the hyper sexualisation in a lot of media. Almost like the over-saturation closes down these spaces so that real experiences in the lives of people become shocking and beyond the normative spectrum coloured by the graphic representation of sex portrayed.

I also accept that technology has made sex and sexuality more accessible and fluid for many. Perhaps the digital age has simply taken hardware to a new level. Personally I can’t imagine wanting to hack anything that is being used by someone else in an intimate act, voyeurism could get interactive. I’d like to see greater representation of sexuality but not just the usual token gay or lesbian character, people of mixed ages, cultures, body shapes and functions flirting, getting it on and keeping each other safe, caring about the health comfort and pleasure of their partner.

Maybe there is a bit of re-branding to be done in silicon valley.

The Porn Identity

It’s a delicate subject considering many adults can barely talk to their children about any form of sexual activity. It’s hard enough recognising children as sexual beings for most people, then we think teenagers will somehow ignore these strange wonderful feelings. While some hope that a simple biology lesson should cover it with frequent coughing and rushed syllables it’s clear we can still feel awkward about all forms of sexuality and pleasure in particular. There – I said it – desire and pleasure and warm fuzzy feelings. Human beings are drawn to these experiences like moths to flames and sometimes we get a bit singed and burnt, but we keep coming back for more (hmmm awkward pun). We’ve tended to keep pleasure conversations secret and couched in dodgy metaphors or colloquialisms and education has generally steered clear preferring the reproductive-heterosexual-preventing disease and/or pregnancy focus. Respectful relationships, negotiation and consent might show up however these still fit into a bit of a mechanistic process of sexual activity.

Porn is part of that complex mix of desire which has traditionally been built around male sexuality. It might just be luck but I have never accidentally found porn online or been sent any and I intend to keep it that way. However it is time for a reality check when it comes to young people and the rapid expansion of visual media and online communication. Working as a counsellor in a secondary school I see the first hand effects of the porn on young people. I know older people are impacted as well, but if children and young people are exposed to graphic sexual content from an early age it will inevitably impact on their understanding of sex and sexuality as well as how bodies should look and be during sex. There are also questionable messages communicated about dominance power and submission and ‘men’ and ‘women’ like. Porn can also be used as a form of grooming for abuse. So it is really important we think carefully about where things are at. Time for a deep breath.

The digital age has made both the making and distributing of sexual content easier and accessing it as simple as a google/oggle search, even if unintended. Back in the day it was pretty hard to accidentally purchase magazine or rent a video from the back room and convince someone you were 21. Thankfully there are people like Maree Crabbe who has been researching and working with young people since 1993. I’m pleased someone has done this work and put together some really great resources that have been thoroughly tested and youth approved. Perhaps what might surprise people is the openness about desire and enjoyment of sexual experiences as well as thinking critically about the gendered stereotypes and assumptions it can create. Which inevitably confuse and blur understandings of consent without creating a one sized fits all model. Sexuality is in there to so they have covered all bases…so to speak.

Parents might not want to know but they need to know this stuff. Again there is a generation gap, so let’s not just fill it with fear and avoidance or blame and shame. Fill it with knowledge and understanding – it really is time we talked.

being device-ive

It has been a crazy couple of weeks, with flags going up coming down changing colour and misidentified. In the middle of this are some very serious and real dangers for people. Lives are most definitely at stake so to break the tension with humour might seem like an act of trivialising but CNN brought it to a whole new level when one of their reporters mistook a certain black and white flag with random symbols for an ISIS one.

I’m tempted to launch into a slippery slope of sex terrorism, loaded with rocket propelled explosions, but the sad thing is many people would view a flag with sex toys on it as a threat. So while they might seem poles apart the confederate, rainbow, ISIS, flags attempt to represent and define ideology, beliefs, values, power, oppression, control and resistance. They have history and meaning for groups to unite and define their doctrines of truth.

Flags are in fact so important we have already decided on one that will go on Mars should we land there. But I like Eddy Izzards take on flags and the entitlement they give to stake a claim and in doing so reveal the strange attachment humans have to bits of cloth that serve no practical purpose save to show the direction the wind is blowing. I might have found the answer however to what happens if you combine ISIS, southern USA and gay pride – My Little Ponies! Apple Jack is definitely talking with a Southern drawl and Rainbow Dash has the power to make a sonic rainboom.

That’s enough exploding of weapons of mass deconstruction.

Shouting-silence ‘just’ be-cause

I wrote recently about the diversity inquiry group and how humour works to disarm fear and create rupture points in cyclical self-perpetuating dualisms. Yesterday DIVINQ took on the Day Of Silence (DOS) with some curious effects emerging, most unexpectedly media interest. We took an alternative stance of being loud and overt about taking a stance about diversity and fear of difference in connection with bullying of LGBTIQ* young people (*lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning).

The questions we were raising were only made possible because the DOS exists and I respect the initiative and what it stands for. I understand the intention of bringing awareness to issues through public action. But I’ve noticed a bit of a trend in schools hoping to develop social justice consciousness amongst students and I’m not convinced they necessarily create the change or move beyond the immediacy of the action on that day. Typically the gusto and energy swirls around a small number of passionate individuals. There is planning, ribbon cutting, poster making, assemblies, concerts, banner waving, and all other explosions of coming together. It feels good to take part in something powerful and joining the ‘in crowd’ of the moment is easy to do. In fact not it’s a little like Derek Sivers analogy of the first follower – once there is enough momentum you stand out for not joining in.

But what about the day after? And the day after that? What silence and shouting both do is make a statement – it draws attention. The uncomfortable difficult and ongoing work however needs a lot more than spontaneous combustion of injustice and emotive flashpoints such as ‘bullying’ ‘suicide’ ‘depression’. Worse than that, we can end up representing groups only in those terms of ‘victim’ ‘survivor’ ‘marginalised’ and inadvertently trap identity in these ‘cages of causes’.

DIVINQ is an ongoing conversation, not just a day of action so I hope if the media wish to lend a genuine voice to conversations about bullying that they put their own sensational agenda aside and engage in dialogue with schools or communities in a way that fully respects the context and commitment to the work people are doing.

Fiction Friction

We have just ‘celebrated’ ANZAC day, and I did a lot of thinking and reflecting. I had mixed feelings all day, wondering about the meaning we have made, should make, or unmake from history. To challenge anything other than the media produced reverence is cultural blasphemy, as Australian sports presenter Scott McIntyre did and was promptly fired. A part of me understands this from the tightly woven narratives around sport and war. That aside, what frightens me more are the parallels with the themes George Orwell wrote about in 1984.

Orwells 1984 has been studied by many but few like to consider the realities of such a world, let alone that it might already be upon us. Dystopian worlds have become romanticised in teen literature and movies to a point where the harsh edges of power have been reworked into love, adventure and survival themes which are far easier to sell. So I want to take you through some of my favourite quotes because the date will come and go but what will we remember as 1915 and ‘1984’ mark real and imagined horror.

1: ‘Ignorance is strength’ – one of the 3 slogans, but my favourite because it allow for the other two to be made possible by ensuring people believe that ‘war is peace’ and ‘freedom is slavery’.

2: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” – History is a selective lens that focuses attention on certain details while overlooking or blocking out others. It means we continually see a chosen perspective – one that serves particular interests. It is why I am very interested in agnotology as a field of inquiry (funny how it always comes up underlined for spell checking – clearly a word that needs more promoting…unless the ministry of truth get hold of it).

3: “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” – I see this happening through the media propaganda machine and the use of fear.

4: “So long as they (the Proles) continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance….Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbors, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.” – So let me check what is on the news and tv…sport, sport, weather, sport, game shows, reality tv…looking quite accurate George.

5: “Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” – I see flickers of consciousness at times but I also see it being extinguished. Consciousness without action maintains the status quo. Rebelling need not look like public protest, it can be a quiet internal realisation.

6: “Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” – I think we have a form of secular fundamentalism setting in. With forms of cultural doctrine that are unquestionable, and evangelical public figures use fear and suspicion to cast shame on those who do not agree with the prescribed truth. Persecution is swift and exile follows – again, say the wrong thing on twitter and you are a gonner. The thought police will get you.

7: “The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.” – Yes ignorance is bliss after all. The problem at the moment is no-one is quite sure what freedom is. We have set the bar so low, that any meeting of basic needs is now seen as a luxury. If we are outraged and horrified, saddened or affected by event’s – its only until the bachelor comes on, or the rugby starts.

Others have spoken on similar themes and a healthy mature society should be able to ask questions and revisit what we believe to be ‘true’. Being right is not the same as truth. One suggests a single event the other provides for alternative viewpoints and information to be considered.

Lest we forget what we have chosen to remember.

Funny bone of contention

I love a good laugh but few women are taken seriously when it comes to comedy and I’m ‘bovvered’ by it. If anything shows up how stuck we are with gendered assumptions, then the near extinction of female representation on the comedy front should be noted. There are a few older birds left but looking through the line-up for the NZ Comedy festival, they were as rare as hens teeth, it was a sea of…male chickens.

They are an endangered species female comedians, and short of a captive breeding programme I think we should be asking what is happening to the native habitat and how to protect it. What kinds of pest eradication need to take place.

Funnily enough NZ media is in a bit of a conundrum about taking women seriously. OK sure, but maybe the place to start is actually at the other end of the spectrum by challenging the prevailing idea that guys are ‘jokers’ and women are well – just not that funny. Getting more women visibly performing comedy could be a way to lighten the way.

Humour is transformative especially the kind that provokes thinking. For me it is the reflective irony that captures my imagination and pushes back the veil of norms and dislodges or jolts me from the mundane revealing a new perspective and helping to open space for questioning things.

All this happens in a few seconds underneath raucous laughter, usually accompanied by snorts and possibly slight loss of bladder control. Laughter is the best medicine unless you are incontinent.