Institutional Action on Sexual Harassment

Drawing of an Asian woman standing by the side of a glass building. Her face is obscured

Trigger warning: this post discusses tactics used by sexual harassers to evade justice and the impact on survivors.

Today is International Women’s Day. I don’t much feel like ‘celebrating’ on this occassion. I feel burned out by the lack of racial justice and exclusion in the promotion of this day in Australia. Plus I am spending much of my spare time working through research and writing on my experiences working in equity and diversity. In particular, the myriad of ways in which women of colour are doubly or even trebly disadvantaged when they seek help on sexual harassment, racial discrimination and other inequity. So today’s post is not about ‘celebrating’ women and femmes. Instead, it is closer to the original impetus of the day. International Women’s Day is a day of protest that began with women’s workplace rights (United Nations Women Australia 2019). Join me in witnessing how far we still have to go to have our stories heard with dignity, and the lack of accountability by institutions to uphold our safety at work.

One in five women experience sexual harassment at work. In academia, from 2010-2016, 575 cases of sexual assault were reported in Australian universities, but these led to only six expulsions (see Zevallos 2019). Women students are three times as likely to be assaulted and twice as likely to be harassed as men. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students as well as disabled people experience a disproportionate level of sexual harassment and sexual assault, as do lesbian, gay, bisexual people, and especially transgender students, who experience up to twice the rate of harassment as heterosexual students.

What is sexual harassment? It is not subjective. Workplace law says it includes “any unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated.” For example:

  • unwelcome touching;
  • staring or leering;
  • suggestive comments or jokes;
  • sexually explicit pictures or posters;
  • unwanted invitations to go out on dates;
  • requests for sex;
  • intrusive questions about a person’s private life or body;
  • unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person;
  • insults or taunts based on sex;
  • sexually explicit physical contact; and
  • sexually explicit emails or SMS text messages.

Perpetrators of sexual harassment use five tactics to deflect blame (“outrage tactics”):

  1. Cover up;
  2. Devaluing victims;
  3. “Reinterpreting” events;
  4. Using official channels to give an appearance of justice;
  5. Intimidation.

‘Official channels use’ is an especially pertinent outrage tactic that relies on institutional processes to disempower victims. I use the term ‘victim’ here strategically. Flavia Dzodan (2018) argues that moving away from the term victim (in favour of ‘survivor’) evades the need for justice.* Paula McDonald and colleagues (2010) write:

‘Using official channels includes reports to senior officials, grievance procedures, and appeals to organisational boards, internal ombudsmen, external bodies, or professional organisations. Most official channels emphasise formal processes, require confidentiality, and focus on technicalities. Despite the best intentions of those running the procedures, the effect of many official channels is to dampen outrage: the immediacy and urgency of the problem is lost in the slow, ponderous processes. Meanwhile, observers often believe justice is being done, although outcomes seldom live up to expectations.’

– Paula McDonald, Tina Graham and Brian Martin (2010)

Let’s unpack these outrage tactics via official channels, and the role of institutions in re-traumatising victims. I discuss how organisations can instead take more proactive action to end sexual harassment.

Continue reading Institutional Action on Sexual Harassment

And I for Truth

Part 2 of 3 of my visual sociology for 2019. Take in the flavours of April to June. We start with a look at the architecture of inclusion. Then we go backwards, so you may join me in a feminist retaliation. Let’s then reminisce over racial justice at the Sydney Writers Festival, and think deeply on Aboriginal women’s family bonds through the wonderful play, Barbara and the Camp Dogs. We go on to trace the joys of the Finders Keepers market, the Sydney Comedy Festival, and Peruvian treats. We bear witness to the destruction being imposed by the Adani mine. I also bring you a cornucopia of the sociology of trolleys, and a special guest appearance by the enigmatic Bubsy.

Accessibility in Redfern

Here is the redesign of the entrance to the heritage listed Redfern Station (by builders Gartner Rose). An $100M upgrade was announced in February to address accessibility. The station currently fails to meet standards set by the Disability Discrimination Act. There are only one set of lifts to two of its 12 platforms. Its underground platforms (11 and 12) are considered a significant health risk in the case of fire, second only to Town Hall. 

Redfern Station entrance has large lettering: REDFERN. Yellow, red and brown thin rectangles decorate the exterior. People walk across the road

Continue reading And I for Truth

Intersectionality in academia and research

Bottom two-thirds is a drawing of indistinct figures seated on the ground in a large building, beside windows. Title of the resource is at the top: Intersectionality, equity, diversity, inclusion and access

I’ve just published my new resource, Intersectionality, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Access. There are five individual chapters which are intentended to work together. The information is a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, introduction into the barriers and solutions to discrimination in academia and research organisations. The issues are restricted to career trajectory from postgraduate years to senior faculty for educators and researchers.

Each section includes a discussion of the theoretical and empirical literature, with practical, evidence-based solutions listed in text boxes, capturing my long-standing career in equity and diversity program management, education and research.

This resource is split into five pages, for the purposes of improving reading experience; however, all five sections are intended to paint an holistic picture for social change. (If you prefer, read this resource as one PDF). 

This project has taken me two years from start to finish, with a lot of heart ache and bumps along the way. This is one of the main reasons I’ve blogged less over the past year or so, as bringing this together took most of my time and energy, when I had these to give. Please share, and cite ethically: a lot of people plagiarise my work, and while I publish my knowledge free, please don’t exploit my labour.

Explore the themes via this detailed table of contents:

Continue reading Intersectionality in academia and research

How Facebook Squashes Not-For-Profit Pages

I’ve been wanting to tell you this for awhile – I don’t post on my Other Sociologist Facebook page as often as I used to because Facebook is a racqueteering platform. Research has shown that since 2014, pages have lost at least 60% of ‘organic reach’ (that is, individual followers seeing page posts without promotions paid by brand pages). Some market research has determined that for most pages, only 6% of followers see their content, while other analysis shows it’s closer to 2%. My discussion is not new; social media analysts have been attuned to these patterns for the past decade. While the issues I discuss apply to many different companies and brand pages, I’m focusing on the impact that the Facebook model has on not-for-profit pages, specifically those like mine, which aim to educate the public for free.

Source: Edgerank Checker
Continue reading How Facebook Squashes Not-For-Profit Pages

Corporate Responsibility in Health Campaigns

Oil drawing of the tops of coke bottles against a red background with the title, 'Corporate responsibility in health campaigns'

When Coke launched its obesity campaign in Australia, social scientists spoke out about the problems with the messaging and strategy. The company says they are helping to combat weight-related illness by releasing smaller cans and by selling its low calorie Coke varieties. Coke also says it is providing nutritional information on its vending machines and it has teamed up with a bicycle group to encourage exercise.

Today’s post discusses the problems with Coke’s social media marketing strategy to appear more socially conscious about public health. The issue is not about whether or not you or I drink cola occassionally; the issue is broader, about how companies blur the lines on health and junk food.

To date, Coke has tried, and failed, to improve their corporate responsibility. Coke invests a great deal of money in science as a means to address health concerns, however none of this marketing speaks to the social and health problems associated with sugary soft drinks. Addressing social science concerns would better serve Coke’s corporate change, if Coke is indeed committed to its campaign of healthy living.

Continue reading Corporate Responsibility in Health Campaigns

Gender, Race and Ableism in ‘Joker’

Arthur is in full Joker make-up. His face is painted white with crass red lips overdrawn over half his face. He has large red eyebrows painted high on his forehead. His eyes are framed by two blue triangles. He smiles and raises his eyebrown as he exhales

Let’s talk about representations of gender, race and ableism in Joker and how to situate a critical reading in the local Australian context. I saw the film last night in Newtown, Sydney, where the mostly White audience erupted in rapturous clapping. We’ll explore this reaction.

Spoilers ahead. (N.B.: Read this as a gif-free version in PDF)

Arthur is shirtless, with his back to the audience. He is watching Thomas Wayne, a White man in a suit, speaking on television‘Joker’ presents a racialised and gendered view of class. Thomas Wayne (Gotham’s White male, super rich aspiring Mayor, played by Brett Cullen) is the antagonist. Wayne refers to protesters with contempt (jokers) and he punches Arthur (before his reincarnation as The Joker, played by Joaquin Phoenix) while he’s emotionally vulnerable. Whiteness prevails in this exchange, because the conflict between the two men is not really about class, as the film attempts to position. Their tension is about masculine power.

Masculinity

Arthur has his face painted white with blue triangles above and below his eyes. He uses his fingers to force his mouth into a grotesque smile

The Joker’s rise as anti-hero is celebrated as revolutionary in the film. It isn’t. Lower class White men view equity movements as encroaching on their social status. Joker simply re-legitimises White male anger as a political tool, which it always has been.

Arthur kills White affluent dudebros, an obnoxious White male talk show host (Murray Franklin, played by Robert De Niro), and a mean White male colleague. This inspires a revolution in Gotham, where men in clown masks riot. The film pitches this as social commentary, when in fact, it’s just White male ‘aggrieved entitlement.’

A White man with curly hair pulls Arthur's wig off his head. Arthur has his face painted like a clown. He looks upset and his arms are close to his side

How does this translate to Australia? In Newtown, a gentrified suburb on Gadigal land, young White men around us physically jumped in glee, some acting out the punches on screen. Visceral responses to films are fine! But why might Joker feel like liberation to these young men? For one reason only: hegemonic masculinity.

Hegemonic masculinity reflects how some representations of masculinity win out over other expressions of manhood. The film industry (and other cultural institutions, like sport) assert narrow ideas of what it means to be ‘a man.’ The state uses overt forms of violence to establish and maintain power, but social institutions also use ideas to gain the public’s consent about the status quo. Hegemonic masculinity works by reproducing images, narratives and other symbols of masculinity to keep authority with dominant groups, especially White men. Joker dresses up Arthur’s escalating violence as emancipation. White men are invited to feel elation because the ‘under dog’ (Arthur) claims his rightful place at the top.

Joker - Arthur has his face painted white, with blue diamonds over his eyes and red big lips. His hair is dyed green and hangs down his face. He is dressed with a red suit, yellow vest, green shirt. He smiles as he brings his hand to his mouth. Police run in the opposite direction behind himEnvironmentalism is one example of counter-hegemonic masculinity. The movement preaches (though does not easily achieve) gender equality. Two weeks after the historic climate change march (held on 20 September), where a record 300,000 Australians joined students in protest, there is still an audience keen to cheer Arthur’s destruction and misogyny.

Can you be an environmentalist and still enjoy Joker? Yes! But as bell hooks tells us, we can savour films but remain critical. Let’s continue our exploration. Continue reading Gender, Race and Ableism in ‘Joker’

Whitewashing Race Studies

In the lower half is a white background, with the spines of two white books on the right handside. At the top is the title: whitewashing race studies

How does a White male student with no expertise in critical race studies, with little sociological training, publish a peer reviewed article in one of the most prestigious journals in our field? How is this possible when the paper misrepresents the Black Lives Matter movement and intersectionality theory? How does this paper make it through peer review to publication in less than six months? ‘Black Lives Matter at Five: Limits and Possibilities,’ by Adam Szetela, was submitted to Ethnic and Racial Studies on 24 January 2019, accepted for publication on 21 June 2019 and published online on 18 July. The expediency of the peer review process, given the content of the article, warrants strong evaluation.

I express my gratitude to Dr Shantel Gabrieal Buggs, who brought this to public attention, and who led a robust discussion on Twitter with sociologists and scholars from other fields. I’m using this and other examples as a case study of whiteness in academic publishing.

Continue reading Whitewashing Race Studies

Visual Sociology of Resistance

A building has a roller door with colourful street art. Drawn in a cartoon style from The Planet of the Apes, a purple figure in a military-style helmet says: It's time to end colonial power'

Below is my visual sociology for the first quarter of the year, from January to March, 2019. Take a journey from the Central Coast to Melbourne, and back to Sydney. This is part of my Weekends With a Sociologist series. Much of the imagery feature elements of social justice, protest or resistance, perfectly encapsulating what fuels my perseverance as a blogger and visual sociologist. More coming very soon. Enjoy!

Something for everybody

The year started hot and creative. Having gotten yet another tattoo for my birthday only a month earlier, I went back to Japanese-Australian artist, Hitome, from Broadway Tattoo, to get my next piece. I had long been looking for a woman of colour artist to entrust my intricate pieces, and she was wonderful, smart and easy to work with.

The parlour features a large black and white framed poster with art by Good Time Charlie and a quote from Leonard “Stoney” St Clair (below).  2-4 January 2019

“I am in the business of rendering a service to this community for the small group of people who choose to have their bodies decorated in some way or another. I choose my intelligence and skill, wishing not to offend anyone, but instead with my love of mankind, do what good I can before I die.”

Continue reading Visual Sociology of Resistance

Blogging Stocktake

I’ve been busy the past few months consolidating all of my writing onto my blog. It’s been a humongous undertaking, but the task was designed to help me save my work in future. My blog has proven to be the most reliable way to preserve my content. The consolidation project began because, late last year, Google+ announced it was shutting down in April 2019. Long-time readers would know that, outside of this research blog, much of my public scholarship emerged from Google+. From my involvement in a community run by multidisciplinary scientists, Science on Google+, to my co-management of STEM Women (a community and website supporting the careers of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), as well as my own sociology posts, much of my public sociology and outreach happened thanks to Google+.

Google+ held over 3,000 (!) of my public posts on my personal profile, let alone hundreds of private community and interpersonal messages. Importing my content to my blog was the easy part – editing has been a massive effort.

Google+ is much like other microblogging sites like Facebook or Twitter, where you can make original posts, or simply share things you find interesting. In the early days, I reshared a lot of content, which I now only privately consume. For example, I read and commented on a lot of news, but nowadays, I mostly publicly discuss specific issues tied to my professional life, rather than comment on everything that captivates my attention. It was a massive task to re-read every G+ post and decide their past and future value. It was also a kick to see how my sociological social media ‘voice’ has changed over the past few years. You can see a little of that on my blog; I rarely nowadays post just for fun, but I did this in the early days.

Having already faced the shut-down of Vine and Storify, I couldn’t go through the potential loss of my content all over again. After I finished importing not just my personal posts, but another three G+ pages I managed, I started to import, and curate, my Tumblr. This was yet another 3,000 public posts and a few hundred drafts to organise. Phew! The process was both fun and it also brought dejection along the way. Continue reading Blogging Stocktake

Racial and Gender Justice for Aboriginal Women in Prison

A room full of majority women watch a mix of Aboriginal and non-Indigenous women panellists at the Sydney Law School

On Thursday 23 May 2019, I attended at the Sydney University Law School Beyond Punishment Seminar Series: Aboriginal Women in the Criminal Justice Network. The speakers discussed data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison, and programs to support them in the state of New South Wales (NSW). ‘Aboriginal’ women in the context of the talks and the discussion below also encompasses Torres Strait Islander women.*

Before I tell you more about the talks, I’ll set the scene, looking solely at the adult prison context affecting Aboriginal women being targeted by the criminal justice system.

Over-incarceration is an issue best examined through a lens of intersectionality, a term originally exploring the limitations of dominant definitions of discrimination under industrial law (Crenshaw 1989: 150). Legal outcomes of Aboriginal women are simultaneously impacted by race, gender, class and other systemic inequalities. Lack of legal resources available to Aboriginal women to navigate the legal system is born of concurrent racial justice and gender inequalities. Economic disadvantage, poor access to therapeutic and other health services, and housing insecurity are preconditions of offending; these are class and racial justice issues. Sexual violence and poverty of Aboriginal mothers are typical of imprisoned women’s backgrounds at a rate that is much higher than male prisoners (Stathopoulos and Quadara 2014). Again, these are both racial and gendered issues, which are interconnected with colonial violence and intergenerational trauma.

I am writing on 26 May; National Sorry Day. This day commemorates the truth-telling of the Bringing Them Home report, the documentation of the Stolen Generations. Around 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly taken from their families under our racist social policy. The first institution built to ‘civilise’ Aboriginal children through the use of violence was in Parramatta, New South Wales (Marlow 2016). From 1910 to 1970, across the nation, Aboriginal children were forced to forget their culture, language and spirituality. They were placed into neglect by Christian-run missions and into White foster care (AHRC 1997). Today, the state continues to forcibly remove Aboriginal children from their families at four times the rate as non-Indigenous kids (Zevallos 2017). New forced adoption laws in New South Wales mean children placed in care will be forcibly adopted (Zevallos 2019). For Aboriginal women in prison, this will almost certainly mean losing legal rights to see their children. Fracturing families through the imprisonment of mothers is another way in which colonial violence continues in the present-day.

Forced removal of Aboriginal children leads to cultural disconnection, exposure to child abuse, an increased likelihood of entering the criminal justice system, and trauma for mothers. These are gender, race and class dynamics unique to Aboriginal women, their families and communities. Continue reading Racial and Gender Justice for Aboriginal Women in Prison