This post explores how race and class impact media discourses of public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Media reports have selectively focused on migrants and working class people linked to specific infection chains. Race and class are absent from media narratives involving white, middle class, and wealthy people, even when these events account for high rates of infection and trangression of COVID-19 rules. This analysis shows how inequality is reproduced and normalised through institutions, such as the media.Continue reading Race, Class and the Delta Outbreak
The Economics and Social Costs of COVID-19
In Episode Seven of our Race in Society series—the final episode of season 1 on “Race and COVID-19″—Associate Professor Alana Lentin and I are joined by two guests to discuss The Economics and Social Costs of COVID-19. We examine the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on undocumented migrant workers, whose labour is being exploited.
The economy depends upon the work of racialised people, exposing them to higher risk due to casualised frontline services, which have kept the health system and other businesses going throughout lockdown. At the same time, racialised people are provided inadequate protections against infection, including poor personal protective equipment.
Our first guest, Sanmati Verma, is an Accredited Specialist in Immigration Law. She discusses the legal issues faced by temporary visa holders and migrants, as they lack access to economic security. Our other guest is Professor Sujatha Fernandes, who is Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Sydney. Her research explores the uses and misuses of storytelling to shape understandings of the political activism of racialised people. She discusses how “curated storytelling” narrows the public’s engagement with economic rights during the pandemic.Continue reading The Economics and Social Costs of COVID-19
Media Representations of Race and the Pandemic
Postscript: see a companion analysis in a separate post, “Race, Class and the Delta Outbreak“
In Episode 3 of Race in Society (video below), Associate Professor Alana Lentin and I lead a panel about how mainstream media create sensationalist accounts of the pandemic, and the proactive ways in which Aboriginal people and Asian people in particular lead their own responses. We spoke with Dr Summer May Finlay, a Yorta Yorta woman and Public Health Researcher at the Universities of Wollongong and Canberra. In our video below, she details how Aboriginal community controlled health organisations have effectively dealt with COVID-19 using social marketing campaigns. We also chatted with Dr Karen Schamberger, an independent curator and historian. She covers the history of Australian sinophobia (the fear of China, its people and or its culture), and how anti-Chinese racism plays out in media reports on racism and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Media and officials continue to blame racial minorities in a way that does not feature for white-majority communities, some of whom are boldly defying the lockdown. Why does this happen? Our Race in Society series provides broader cultural and historical context.Continue reading Media Representations of Race and the Pandemic
Sociology of Swearing
Why is swearing on TV more offensive than graphic depictions of violence?
In December 2011, The then-Australian Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, created a media controversy when he swore during a live address on the national public broadcaster, the ABC. This live gaff had me thinking about swearing, the power of ‘bad words’ and the regulatory bodies that set and enforce the standards for television programming. It’s popped back into my mind as I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about power dynamics and the changes in linguistic practices.
Speaking to the National Press Club about the proposed tax for the National Broadband Network, Conroy said:
“If a tax goes up, God, that is sovereign risk, but if a tax goes down, its fucking fantastic. Excuse me – that is fantastic.”
This comment went to air during 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm. As Aidan Wilson (2011) points out, Conroy’s offence was not simply using a ‘vulgar’ word, but also that his address was followed by the ABC’s afternoon children’s shows.
The language guidelines for TV shows can be confusing. Why are some words allowed in some contexts and not in others? It’s not simply a timing issue – some swear words are only allowed to escape the mouths of thespians late at night but not during the day. This makes sense if you’re trying to protect children from being exposed to certain swear words.
The again, some words are generally considered to be more offensive than others – but the social norms on this are not clearly articulated by law.
Islamophobia and the Public Persecution of Feminist Yassmin Abdel-Magied
In February 2017, conservative Australian media began a sustained attack of a young feminist leader, Yassmin Abdel-Magied. That started a racist petition calling for her to be fired from ABC TV, Australia’s public broadcaster, simply for having participated in a TV panel show, Q&A, where she spoke articulately about her feminism as a Muslim-Australian woman (see the clip below). For weeks, the ABC refused to give into these racist demands.
At the same time, three One Nation candidates were running in the Western Australian election making openly racist, homophobic and sexist comments. These candidates had no political expertise, but somehow their bigotry is not offensive enough to warrant endless national debate. Yet the feminism of an educated and successful young feminist draws ire.
In late April, Abdel-Magied was subjected to further public condemnation over a brief social media post expressing her condemnation of war. One month later, a White male editor incited violence towards her employer, the ABC, and Abdel-Magied was caught in media turmoil once again. This is a case study on the deep-seated elements of Islamophobia (fear of Islam) in Australia, and its real life consequences on young women of religious and ethnic minority backgrounds.
Continue reading Islamophobia and the Public Persecution of Feminist Yassmin Abdel-Magied
Racism and Sexism in the Media
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
Interview: Crimes on Facebook
I was interviewed by TRT World on the crimes being broadcast on Facebook. I discussed the sociology of public violence over time and why technology companies need to be more proactive in revising their algorithms and reporting practices. The local studio was in Rozelle, just outside the city of Sydney. Here you see the green screen and the room where I was filmed. Continue reading Interview: Crimes on Facebook
Australia Day and Intersectionality
I am writing to you from Sydney, land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, who have looked after these lands for over 75,000 years (and much earlier by other accounts).
Today is a painful day for Indigenous Australians; the 26 January is a date commemorating the day British ships (”the First Fleet”) arrived on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lands. It is a day that marks the decimation of First Australians; the dispossession of their land; the removal of children to be raised in Missions and in White foster homes with no ties or knowledge of their culture (“the Stolen Generation”); amongst many other human rights crimes. This history impacts Indigenous life chances in the present-day.
Australia Day was only observed by all states and territories from 1935 and it was relatively recently that it was made a national holiday in 1994. Indigenous Australians have been protesting this date since 1938, on the first ever Day of Mourning, 150 years after colonialism. Since then, Indigenous Australians have also held both Invasion Day and Survival Day events to continue resistance against colonialist, patriarchal views of what it means to be Australian.
Join me through three case studies about the problems arising from Australia Day celebrations. First, I analyse a national advertisement that has been lauded as well as critiqued for its depiction of colonial arrivals. Second, I discuss a funding campaign to reverse the removal of Australia Day billboards featuring two Muslim girls. Third, I reflect on sociology’s role in the change the date protests, given the colonial origins of our discipline.
These three case studies will allow us to think about the limits of mainstream feminism and the gaps in sociological practices. I end with advice about how we might contribute to the change the date protests.
Please note that in this post, I use the phrase Australia Day to contextualise recent national debates about the celebration held on the 26 January. This phrase is hurtful to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and I use it only in context of discussing its colonial origins.
Sexism Does not Justify Racism
West Indies cricketer, Chris Gayle, who is Black, was sexist during an interview with an Australian woman journalist, Mel McLaughlin, who is white. Gayle issued a non-apology, saying he was joking. Sexist jokes are not “jokes;” it is sexism. Gayle’s behaviour is unprofessional and profoundly damaging given his prominent position. Women everywhere deserve to go to work without men objectifying them, regardless of their job or stature. It’s the second time Gayle has behaved this way to a woman journalist; in his homeland, feminist groups have called out his behaviour. Gayle has been fined $10,000 for his comments.
The Sydney Morning Herald published a racist response from a white man, sports writer Malcolm Knox. It is written as a white man emulating his white view of how Black West Indies people sound like:
“Unlike dem Australians wit their BS about PC, me know where you comin’ from, brethren. Me know you got a good lovin’ heart like all we Jamaican brethren.”
“Satire” does not give license for racism. The fact that this was published in a national paper is yet another daily reminder that racism is both reproduced and celebrated by the media. Other white men are defending this racist diatribe. Luke Pearson, founder of Indigenous X, points out the false equivalence of racism and sexism:
Racist commentary in the Australian media are similar to European responses to recent reports that men in Cologne, Germany, sexually harassed women over New Year celebrations.
Paternalistic Sexism & Racism in Cologne
The reports are focusing on the men’s appearance (“Arab/Middle Eastern”) and explicitly on their citizenship status (“migrants” and “refugees”). Politicians are now threatening that sexual harassment will lead to deportations. Women should not be subject to harassment, full stop. But the fact that the media and politicians are running with a racist discourse, tells us that the safety of “women” is not really what’s of concern. Instead, protection of white women are a proxy for protecting white people against The Other.
Is there the same moral panic given 17% of women are sexually assaulted by local-born men in Australia and elsewhere? No.
These two examples are part of a long history of using men of colour as a threat to white women in order to justify racism. White women are treated as a paternalistic resource to be protected, but only from Black men and racial ‘others.’ Women of colour’s experiences of sexism and violence are largely ignored. See the numerous Indigenous women who have died in custody, such as Ms Dhu who died in grave pain as police refused her medical aide. These events do not face the same moral outrage.
Despite the fact that Gayle and those involved with the Cologne attacks should not get away with sexist behaviour, the media’s response is fuelled by racism. Black, migrant and refugee men of colour are seen as a threat, and public responses to these cases are used to justify racist practices.
Rape apologists are having a field day feigning support of “women” over the Gayle’s sexist remarks and the sexist events in Cologne. White men who usually do nothing to support gender equity get to be publicly self-righteous in their racism. Thus the racial order is maintained, with white men up top; white women much further below; men of colour near the bottom; and Indigenous women and other women of colour pushed to the lowest position.
That is how racism works: by setting up categories where some groups are superior to others. These two examples show us how institutions (in this case, the media) maintain racial hierarchies, and how people, in everyday conversation, reproduce these hierarchies.
Publication: Sexism in Science Reporting
This article was first published in DiverseScholar, on 20 April, 2015.
In my previous DiverseScholar article, I showed why the study behind The New York Times Op Ed (claiming the end of sexism) was methodologically flawed and ideologically biased [Zevallos 2014]. I showed that a focus on an individual choice narrative to explain why women are disadvantaged in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is fundamentally unsound when understood alongside the long-standing empirical evidence from the social sciences. Here, I will review several science controversies related to the editorial and institutional decisions within STEM. These patterns show that everyday interactions contribute to gender inequality, from the use of images, to dress, to the way distinguished women scientists are described in the media. I start with a selected timeline of events highlighting gender inequality in STEM. Continue reading Publication: Sexism in Science Reporting