Kiwi input needed for ‘Journeying to Mardi Gras Study’

I’m heading to New Zealand’s North Island in a couple of weeks to talk with anyone planning to travel to this years Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

Following research in Australia from the 2013 Mardi Gras, I’m asking: what is the role of Mardi Gras for those living outside Sydney, in a context of changing sexual politics and citizenship?

To help answer this question I’m interested in your experiences, anticipations and ideas of preparing for, participating in and returning from Mardi Gras.

Interested in taking part in the research? Anyone travelling from NZ to Mardi Gras this year and aged 18 years or over can take part in the research.

Participation involves one interview about an hour in length before Mardi Gras Parade, which can take place in person (anywhere that’s convenient) or through Skype.

Enquiries to: Anna de Jong at aldj998@uowmail.edu.au or +61 431 675 396

Anna de Jong is a PhD student at the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research, University of Wollongong

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11th Biennial ANZALS Conference

Today marks one month until I present at the 11th Biennial ANZALS (Australian and New Zealand Association for Leisure Studies) Conference, to be held at the Peninsula Campus of Monash University, Frankston, Victoria. This will be the first multidisciplinary conference I’ve attended (read not geographic in focus), so I’m exciting to see the synergies and contrasts (photos of Frankston, Mornington Peninsula don’t look too bad either).

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(Source: Frankston City Council)

I’m speaking in the Exploring Gender and Leisure session, chaired by Adele Pavlidis and Simone Fullagar. It will be exciting to meet Adele and Simone face to face, after speaking with them as part of the Griffith University and Wollongong University Leisure Geography Group. The group was organised by Simone and my own supervisor Gordon Waitt earlier this year to initiate communication and conversation between leisure geographers through the platform of Skype.

I’ll be presenting empirical stories of the Queensland Dykes on Bikes road trip to the 2013 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. The abstract reads:

Mega urban events are a major focus within geographical literature, enabling important insights into the ways in which negotiations of individual and collective belonging and not belonging occur within festival time-spaces. Comparatively, focus on journeys to large metropolitan events has been limited; specifically in terms of the ways in which individuals find and loose themselves through travel to and from events. Raising the question, what creative tensions between subjectivities are enabled and disenabled through the movement to mega urban events? This paper seeks to use an embodied feminist perspective, with the productive energy of the mobilities paradigm, to explore motorbike journeys to the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. In particular I will explore empirical data gathered through a qualitative mixed methods approach from seven members of the Queensland Dykes on Bikes Chapter, and their some 2,000 kilometre return motorbike journey from Brisbane to Sydney for the 2013 Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. In doing so I seek insights into the ways in which affective communities and atmospheres facilitate and restrict particular practices and sense of belonging during the Dykes on Bikes road to Mardi Gras.

Stop the Silence

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I attended my first Reclaim the Night last Saturday night in Sydney. I’ve held a curiosity for this event for some time, which has increased recently as a result of the spike in attendance last year due to the murder and rape of Jill Meagher, conversations with fellow phd candidate and blogger Ben Gallan (whose research explores the binary of day and night) and debates taking place on the Reclaim the Night Facebook page over the last few weeks. Facebook debates have centred on the declaration of the march as a wom*n only space, some arguing that this stigmatises all men as potentially violent to women and inhibits men from supporting the end of violence against women. Importantly men were welcome to attend the picnic and rally, which took place in Prince Alfred Park before the march.

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Lily Edelstein gave a particularly personal and motivating speech and sang a song based on her personal experiences of sexual assault on public transport. I’m excited to have come across her work and look forward to reading her contributions on Birdee and Lilith Came First.

Space Reclaimed

I was surprised by the small numbers attending the event, around 100. A figure which contrasts strongly with the 571 who accepted the events Facebook invitation, and the 1,000 who attended the event in Melbourne earlier this month. Such large numbers in Melbourne indicate the power of intersectionality and the spatial aspects of fear. Jill Meagher’s rape and murder resonated with similar white, middle class, educated women who frequent Brunswick Street, Melbourne after dark. While it’s great that women who might not otherwise attend a feminist march have come out in response to Meagher’s rape and murder, I do worry that what was most shocking to the public was Meagher’s positionality and the inner city space her disappearance occurred in. The problematic aspect of this is that focusing the issue on white, middle class, educated women silences those most at risk of sexual assault and rape. That is, women who are homeless, in prison, disabled, Indigenous, non-English speaking. These are the groups most at risk of sexual assault and rape. Unfortunately we are not surprised by this and thus their stories of sexual assault and rape more often than not do not make the 6 o’clock news.

RTN Route

Despite this, I felt powerful marching down Elizabeth Street chanting ‘Stop the Violence, Stop the Hate’ with like-minded wom*n, while those on the footpath looked at us with expression ranging from utter confusion to admiration.

#shoutingback at everyday sexism

 

Women have always attempted to shout back at everyday sexism, sharing their everyday ‘small’ but very personal stories of sexism and discrimination. However for a long time such voices have been muffled through the dominance of deep seated norms that subordinate femininity in relation to hegemonic masculinity. Women have been made to feel that these experiences are a fact of life, which are somehow expected when a particular style of femininity has been portrayed. Or what’s worse that their experiences should not be revoiced because technically they do not constitute sexual assault or rape; and are therefore ok. In all these circumstances the onus is placed on women to revaluate the way they dress and perform, or put up with the repercussions of presenting a style of femininity deemed ‘sexy’.

However in recent years feminism has experienced a resurgence through the spaces of new media. New media, primarily Facebook and Twitter, are creating alternative spaces where those who have experienced sexism can actively share their stories. These alternative spaces of activism provide a platform where a large number of ordinary people can be listened to and heard by a large number of others. A space where ‘small’ everyday stories that alone, while horrible, often cannot amount to much become banded together highlighting the realities of sexism. 

A particularly inspiring platform gaining immense online traction is the Everyday Sexism Project. The project created by Laura Bates is a catalogue of instances of sexism, experienced by women on an everyday basis. Across Twitter, Facebook and a web page live feed individuals experiences from across the globe constantly stream onto the pages unearthing an incredibly scary realism. Over 50,000 stories have been submitted since its inception one year ago.

The project has also transformed to become a space for the sharing of information pertaining to sexism and feminism more broadly. In the last 24 hours alone the projects Facebook page has served as a medium for discussions on Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s appointment of himself as Minister for Women’s Affairs in Australia, the publicly feminist stance of New Zealand music artist Lorde, the controversial ‘blurred lines’ concept and Freshers Week sexism experiences (which will feature as an article written by Bates in the UK newspaper The Guardian). The online project has also been featured on MTV and CNN.  Such coverage and interaction suggests that this project is providing a space where meaningful encounters are occurring. Encounters that have the potential to enact long term tangible transformations.

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I shared this page with my guy friends and one of them said “why the sudden affinity towards sexism?”

Through ‘likes’, and the potential of friends of fans to see the ‘likes’ and posts of others, these stories are entering the lives of millions. Crucially however such challenges to the dominate discourse do not come without conflicting understandings, and the online pages clearly illustrate debate about what gender equality should and shouldn’t mean.

If nothing else the Everyday Sexism Project is raising awareness to the enormity of prevailing sexism and alerts individuals to the fact that these experiences are not ok. Every time one person questions these deep seated behaviours the everyday norms of sexism are broken down. We constantly hear that sexism is dead. That those first wave feminists’ assassinated it in the 70s. Maybe in your life sexism is dead – that is, through the structural advantages of your own life the term may no longer hold salience. However the stories of this project force us to remember that we are not everyone, everywhere.

Fuck Flattering

 

Most days I’m reminded ‘how to look good naked’ because ‘you’re (I’m) worth it’. The recent Target ads featuring Gok Wan, one of the western world’s most successful stylists reminds us how to use black and white to ‘flatter’ our curves and ‘have a real gorgeous view at work’. As if somehow we’ve forgotten this amongst the myriad of external voices forcing us to self surveil our daily image.

Yet another session at the uni gym, surrounded by young fit bodies stuck on treadmills not going anywhere, caused me to reflect on our obsession with flattery. Reminding me of the powerful fashion movement that emerged way back in 2011 in response to this immense pressure women feel – Fuck Flattery.

The movements philosophy called out the concept of flattery for what it is – creating/desiring a body that is more acceptable to society. In response to this it was argued that diversity should be celebrated, women should wear what they want when they want. Whether it be hot pants or a miu miu – just don’t ever wear something because it’s ‘flattering’.

Through reclaiming the term the movement aimed to reinstate what broader society is ignoring – that everybody’s body – thighs, bums and stomachs included – is different. And it is this difference that is beautiful. Something I find hard to remember as a 20 something women living in Australia. Australian designer Gisela Ramirez went so far as to design a Fuck Flattery t-shirt. And it was an instant hit, selling out online and being seen on bloggers across the blogosphere.

Unfortunately some of those who were actually confident enough to transgress societies narrow definition of flattering received backlash both online and offline – reemphasising the deep-seated pressure women face with dressing for society every day.

‘Sweaty, smelly, burnt, sore and hopefully stoked’: Feeling the Sydney Big Day Out 2013

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Well you couldn’t ignore it – Sydney Big Day Out was hot. But was it too hot? Not at all. Sydney’s hottest day on record could not shed the spirits of festival punters last Friday. Organisers did an incredible job at keeping punters cool and relaxed this year with misting, water refill and massage stations, copious amounts of icee stands and bars and randomly placed blowup pools. The improved layout also helped give a sense of shade – no small feat for a festival held at Olympic Park. I’m not sure if it’s the C3 influence but it’s clear Creative Enterprises are trying hard to make BDO bigger and better – and so far it seems to be working.

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To begin we stayed local, catching Jagwar Ma. Each song began as a Beach Boys inspired harmony yet ended in some strange late night dance beat. It worked somewhat but perhaps better suited to an intimate stage show. At least it was cool in the Essential Tent, something like a mild 30 degrees. Few could muster the effort to stand, let alone dance.

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Being an indie wanker I was of course at the main stage for Vampire Weekend. Unfortunately one of the BDO’s technicians was encouraging girls to ‘get em out’ for public display on the stadiums live screen – footage not only watched by thousands within the main arena but was also going live to MTV. Today, 23rd of January, BDO released a statement distancing themselves from the dispute. The technician has allegedly been sacked.

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Alabama Shakes on the Green Stage were the perfect antidote to the heat and intensity of the main stage. Brittany Howard’s deep south soulful voice broke through the thick air forcing the crowd to move to the rhythm. It was infectious.

However, nothing could beat the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Their nostalgia gave them a complete advantage for best act of the day. People love familiarity and you couldn’t escape it during their set. Well for most of it, familiarity was contrasted with somewhat frustration when they alternated each classic with a newbie. Completely fair but not crowd-pleasing. The entire stadium sung along to Californication, Scar Tissue and Under the Bridge. Standing next to my sister I was having 90s flashbacks of weekend morning Rage sing-alongs – and judging by the faces around us I wasn’t the only one wishing it was still the 90s. Their set will be remembered.

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Unfortunately Chow Town didn’t have the staying power needed for an all day festival. Staying power oft ignored but ever present from the vertean owners of the carni food fans who plowed long into the night. Inner city hospitality workers just couldn’t cut it. By 6pm at Chow Town it was only deep fried chicken and duck salad on offer – popular with punters (Three Blue Ducks couldn’t make their salads quick enough) but hardly a representation of Sydney’s finest. Amazing idea that will require a few tweaks for next year.

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Be part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade

Each year Mardi Gras relies on over 2,000 volunteers. With hundreds of opportunities available there’s truly something for everyone – from graduate graphic designers to medical professionals – including event day, ongoing and career opportunities. I’ve signed up with the recently developed People & Culture team, designed to personalise the volunteer experience. Check out the opportunities today!Image