Racism and Sexism in the Media

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Rugby star Sam Thaiday (above) who is Torres Strait Islander, made a sexist and racist comment during The Footy Show, a very popular, long-running TV show that is dominated by White male athletes and comedians who are infamous for racism and sexism. Thaiday “joked” that he once had dated “dark women” as part of a “jungle fever phase” that he then grew out of (his wife is a White Australian woman, with whom he has children).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander commentators, artists and researchers were swift to condemn Thaiday’s words. Their activism was effective: they called on action from Deadly Choices, an Indigenous-led health initiative in Queensland that promotes Thaiday as one of their key ambassadors. This led initially to a statement denouncing Thaiday’s damaging message, and today they announced that Thaiday was removed as their ambassador. Continue reading Racism and Sexism in the Media

SciComm Cycle of the March for Science

Woman of colour reads her phone in front of a laptop

Over the next couple of days, in the lead up to the March for Science, happening globally on 22 April 2017, I’ll be republishing a few of my articles and analyses of the March here on my blog.

On 13 April 2017, an article in Science Magazine featured the academic research planned about the March for Science, and interviews with one of the march co-chairs. The journalist reported that George Mason University was seeking email addresses of supporters for a planned study.

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George Mason University requests email addresses of march followers: Source screengrab via Science Magazine

Scientists around the world who have been holding the march organisers accountable criticised the ethics of such a proposed study. This eventually led to the organisers requesting a correction from the journalist.

How did this major error happen?

Two days later, on 16 April, the March for Science was forced to issue a public apology after appropriating African American Vernacular English (AAVE) in a now-deleted tweet (below). This was heavily critiqued, especially by Black researchers, who pointed out the hypocrisy of using AAVE when Black scientists had been marginalised by the march, and received abuse for speaking out on inequalities within the march. Black scientists were also ignored when they encouraged the organisers to work with established social justice groups, including Black Lives Matter. Cultural appropriation of AAVE is doubly offensive in given these patterns of exclusion.

These are just two recent examples in a long line of problems. The organisers have established a damaging cycle of communication failures and weak apologies since the March for Science was first promoted.

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Continue reading SciComm Cycle of the March for Science

Sociology of Trophy Hunting

The despicable practice of trophy hunting has unique social practices that sanitise the language and images of animals killed for sport.

Ulrich Seidl, the director of “Safari,” a film that documents trophy hunting, says the language used by trophy hunters:

“‘create[s] this certain emotional distance between the act of hunting and the animals.’ ‘Piece’ becomes a byword for animal; ‘sweat’ for blood. Blood, Seidl says, is of particular significance: ‘They remove the blood from the photos so no one can see … It’s an indication for me that blood is very much a taboo in our society.'”

Source: CNN.

Graduate Careers in Sociology

In this video, I discuss the careers panel that I sat on as part of the annual conference for The Australian Sociological Association (TASA). I focus on the panel discussion about how to translate theory into practice when you’re working outside academia. I also cover workplace ethics in the video, as well issues about managing professional identity outside of academia and the importance of networking. I was asked about how I manage my research consultancy business. I talk about how to market yourself and how to establish a professional reputation with prospective clients using social media.

Read a summary of the video on Sociology at Work.

Justice for Dr V: Journalism Ethics and Transphobia

Storify is closing down. This is an archive of my post, Justice for Dr V: Journalism Ethics and Transphobia. First published on 20 January 2014.

Dr V (Dr Essay Anne Vanderbilt) is a transgender woman who invented a golf club. Journalist Caleb Hannan outed Dr V’s transgender identity even though he understood she did not want this to be revealed. She consequently died by suicide. These are my tweets showcasing the best articles on this story. #JusticeForDrV.

Continue reading Justice for Dr V: Journalism Ethics and Transphobia

Sociology Careers Panel

Earlier today I spoke on a careers panel at the postgraduate day for The Australian Sociological Association. I wanted to share a couple of the questions we were asked. These ranged from specifics like how to set up a business to broader questions about how to manage ethics and how to maintain a professional identity. One of the key themes from the panellists was learning to translate theory into practice and networking. I spoke about writing for your future clients via a specialist blog and using social media.

Ethics in Psychiatry

Australian psychiatrist, Professor Sidney Bloch, argues that ethics is a difficult area in psychiatry, as it has been historically neglected in their teaching and training. In the podcast below by The University of Melbourne, Bloch says: “Psychiatrists have been derailed from the job of helping those who are mentally ill.”

Here, I discuss Bloch’s key arguments, which relate to the historical misuse of psychiatry, issues of informed consent and how to teach ethical behaviour amongst psychiatry students and practitioners. I then discuss Bloch’s research on the competing theories of ethical care. In particular, he suggests a framework for how psychiatry might draw on several ethical principles, character traits and emotional knowledge in order to deliver better mental health treatment. Continue reading Ethics in Psychiatry

Sexual Harassment in Anthropology

A preliminary survey of 98 women and 23 male anthropologists finds 30% have been verbally abused whilst carrying out field work. A further 63% of women and 39% of men have faced sexualised comments in the field and 21% of women have been physically harassed – mostly by senior researchers in their field team. The study is being extended as more field researchers come forward and share their stories.

One of the study’s researchers, Professor Kathryn Clancy, says that as more people complete the survey, it is apparent that sexual abuse in the field is more common, but women researchers do not speak up fearing the consequences on their academic careers:

“Taken together, these factors result in a particularly vulnerable population of victims and witnesses powerless to intervene. As a discipline, we need to recognize and remedy that an appreciable non-zero number of our junior colleagues, particularly women, are having to endure harassment and a hostile work environment in order to be scientists.”

Divorce, Parenting and Drug Use

This is the worst use of science I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks. Oxford ethicist Brian Earp argues that couples should use the drug ecstasy to help protect the “adult pair bond” for the sake of their children. He incorrectly draws upon anthropology and evolution to make his case. Encouraging open debate about drug use and questioning the deviance and stigma attached to it is aligned with anthropology and social science principles in general. However, arguing that ecstasy is the answer to parenting and relationship problems is highly problematic.

Social science has shown that parents divorcing is not detrimental to children per se – the psychological damage is a result of parents adopting poor conflict resolution strategies. Pamela Kinner published a robust review of the literature and she conducted studies of divorced children which shows this is the case. Read Kinner’s Australian research: 

The Plagiarist’s Tale

Q. R. Markham (real name Quentin Rowan), the author of Assassin of Secrets, talks to Lizzie Widdicombe from The New Yorker about his compulsion to plagiarise. The article is fascinating: it covers the idea that plagiarism was an addiction for Rowan. (Widdicombe notes plagiarism actually doesn’t meet the psychological definition of addiction; it is classified as a compulsion). Rowan talks of how his early success as a young writer led to his anxiousness to be excellent and to please people. Unable to put in the work required to develop his craft, he began his life as a serial plagiarist while he was still in high school. The article also touches on the fact that the publishing industry assumes that agents and publishers will know enough about writing to pick up on acts of plagiarism before they sign authors. Widdicombe points out that plagiarism is not a crime. Acts of plagiarism can be found to be in breach of copyright laws, but plagiarism itself is judged as an ethical transgression. I also loved this section that talks about the distinction between emulating stylistic conventions of other authors and genres and plagiarism.

Originality is a relative concept in literature. As writers from T. S. Eliot to Harold Bloom have pointed out, ideas are doomed to be rehashed. This wasn’t always regarded as a problem. Roman writers subscribed to the idea of imitatio: they viewed their role as emulating and reworking earlier masterpieces. It wasn’t until the Romantic era, which introduced the notion of the author as solitary genius, that originality came to be viewed as the paramount literary virtue. Plagiarism was and remains a murky offense, “best understood not as a sharply defined operation, like beheading, but as a whole range of activities, more like cooking,” the English professor James R. Kincaid wrote in this magazine in 1997. Imagine a scale on one end of which are authors who poach plot ideas (Shakespeare stealing from Plutarch) and on the other are those who copy passages word for word: Jacob Epstein, who cribbed parts of his novel “Wild Oats” from Martin Amis’s “The Rachel Papers”; the Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan, whose novel plagiarized chick lit.

I found this article to be equally intriguing as well as frustrating. Plagiarism interests me for three reasons: first, having had to deal with students plagiarising when I used to teach at university, I felt perturbed that policies in dealing with plagiarism are not uniform. Secondly, after I left academia and entered the public sphere I had to learn to deal with the devastation that there is little protection of my work. Writing reports that are not released publicly makes it difficult to argue against outside experts who appropriate my ideas. Thirdly, I see many problems that go along with blogging with respect to plagiarism. Writers have to actively try to catch people who steal or reproduce their work without attribution. The main option currently available to bloggers is to ‘name and shame’ blogs that plagiarise; but other than that there is little recourse.

Read more about the whole Markham/Rowan debacle here.

Image credit: Photograph by Molly Landreth via The New Yorker.

The Plagiarist’s Tale