What’s in a name? Well, quite a bit if your name is Karen (or Jack, John, Jeff, Dolly, Biddy, Meg …)



Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Howard Manns, Monash University and Kate Burridge, Monash University

Things are really jeffed up for Karens right now. The Miley (“coronavirus”) did a Melba (“made yet another a comeback”), and Joe and Jane Bloggs are being drongos.

In the process, “Karen” has become the Bradman of ways for calling out selfish entitlement, racism and inequality.

Names are much more than just a tag or a label — they have a special force. This is why they often enter general vocabulary, not only in direct reference to the original celebrated name-bearer, as in the case of doing a Bradman or a Melba, or as common nouns like pavlova, lamington, granny smith, but also as shorthand for a certain “type”. Ask any Tom, Dick or Karen.

English speakers use proper names to mean all sorts of things – and we’re not always nice about it.




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Karen: more Miss Ann than Biddy or Meg

Throughout history, many women’s names have been swept into English in unkind ways. Witness the deterioration of pet names such as “Dolly”, “Kitty”, “Biddy”, “Jill”, “Polly”, “Meg”, “Judy” or “Jude” — all have been contemptuous labels at one time or other, either for “drab and unattractive” women or the “promiscuous and attractive” ones.

But today’s “Karen” isn’t Dolly, Biddy or Meg. Attempts to frame Karen’s overall use as “sexist” miss the point. The term Karen has recently been used to call out white women whose behaviour is considered entitled, unreasonable and obnoxious. It has rightfully spawned a series of male equivalents, including “male-Karen”, “Kyle”, “Ken”, “Kevin” or “Steve”.

Importantly, the sort of entitled (and often racist) behaviour “Karen” is being used to call out existed long before the term. Many Black Americans have framed this behaviour in terms of a “Miss Ann” social type, historically linked to the white women of slave plantations. Some Black writers noted a surge in Miss Ann-like behaviour around the time of Donald Trump’s election.

Of course, these issues have long existed in Australia, too. Famously, last year an actual person named “Karen” did a Karen by trying to take down a neighbour’s Indigenous flag. A viral video led to the spread of the catch-phrase: “It’s too strong for you, Karen.”

Karen then joins a series of labels like “Miss Ann”, “Mr Charlie” and “Becky” to call out obnoxious behaviour and privilege. And, to loosely paraphrase the Claytons faux whisky ad, Karen debates are the debates you’re having when you should be debating privilege.

Awash with joshing Johnnies and Joes

That said, it’s worth sympathising with people named Karen, who have entered a sometimes less-than-illustrious club of people hard done by in the English language, unkindly “joed” and “joshed”, often for centuries.

Whether, when and how people (or animals!) enter this club depends on a range of factors. Media, politics and celebrity are obviously important (“Melba”, “Bradman” and poor old “drongo”). And often there’s verbal play involved, as in the end-clipped rhyming slang “Miley (Cyrus)” for “coronavirus” or “jeffed” and “jeffing” (famously from “Jeff Kennett”, but echoing many an effective cussword).

And then there’s frequency. Karen joins those whose names have been swept into society due to sheer number. Karen appeared on the most common names lists in the late 1960s but is no competition for “John”, which has been among the English-speaking world’s most common names since the 13th century.

And “John” and “Johnny” have been pressed into service for a range of meanings in English, including “the client of a prostitute”, “someone easily duped”, “a sailor”, “an immigrant”, “a vacuous aristocrat”, “penis”, “hospital gown” and “an onion seller from Brittany”.

Indeed, the sheer number of Johns in English history means this name’s most prominent purpose is to “erase” or “anonymise” — in other words, to reduce its referent to an “everyman”, as in “John Q. Public” (for everyday citizen), “Johnnie Raw” (for a new military recruit), or “John-of-all-trades”, among many, many others.

But we’re likely more familiar with a “Jack-of-all-trades”, which points to another common phenomenon: a proliferation of naming alliteration around “j” names. “Jack” is a familiar alternative for John, so it’s probably not surprising to see it being used (since the late middle ages) in a similar everyman (“manual labourer”, “lumberjack”) or derogative sense (“jackanapes” for a “person displaying ape-like qualities”).

In fact, extended uses of Jack have produced well over a hundred different words and phrases, ranging from the slightly disparaging to the wildly offensive (we’re hard-pressed to think of a tabooed bodily function and secretion that doesn’t have an expression featuring “jack)”). So offensive was “Jack”, in fact, that those in polite 18th-century society euphemised “jackass” to “Johnny-Bum”.

And, just as “John Doe” has his “Jane”, so too does “Jack” have his “Jill”, as in “Jack and Jill” — a couple whose common names made them useful to a famous story about a drink-run gone bad. But the “jackanape” also has his “Jane-of-apes” equivalent (which for the record, preceded “Tarzan” by a few hundred years).

The tomfoolery of names: Karen in the dunce’s corner

Karen joins the likes of Scottish theologian and philosopher John Duns Scotus, who was an influential thinker in the 13th century. It was the perceived stubbornness of his 16th-century followers, known as dunsmen or dunses, that led to our current sense of “dunce”.

The club of dim-witted dunces has acquired many members over the years. The original Tom Fool has been around since at least the early 1300s; he joins other ninnies like Tom Doodle (the blockhead) Tom Farthing (the simpleton), Tom Towly (another simpleton), Tom Tug (rhyming slang for “mug”), not to mention “Errant Tony” and “Simple Simon”. These are the predecessors of the modern-day “charlie” or “wally” (from Walter but with happy reinforcement that comes from cucumbers pickled in brine — the “dill”).




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Notably, Karen also joins the many people whose names through historical happenstance come to index “ignorance”, “backwardness” or “lack of sophistication”. “Hick” — an earlier, shortened form of Richard — has certainly developed this meaning. In the 16th century, Hick, Hob (shortened Robert or Robin) and Hans (a general term for a German or Dutchman) seem to be the Tom, Dick and Harry of no manners or consequence.

And we Aussies have our own bevvy of underdogs and uncultured types. “Ocker” was originally a pet form of “Oscar”. Its links to “boorishness” and “exaggerated nationalism” can be traced to Ron Frazer’s “Oscar” character on The Mavis Bramston Show. In the 1970s, he teamed up with “Norm” — the supreme couch potato.

Tom, Dick and Karen

As Oscar Wilde once put it, “Names are everything.” They’re the verbal expression for our personality, for those qualities and attributes that define us as individuals. More than that, names are a proper part of us.

It’s no surprise then people named Karen are upset. However, like inequality, this isn’t something you can just Houdini away.The Conversation

Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University and Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We’re not all in this together. Messages about social distancing need the right cultural fit


Geetanjali Saluja, University of Technology Sydney

Governments everywhere face the challenge of getting people to stay home so they can limit the spread of coronavirus. In order to make their messages more effective, governments must ensure these appeals resonate with the cultural values of their audience.

Not all Australians have taken Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s pleas for them to stay at home and practice social distancing seriously.

We have seen people head to the beach with their friends, or host BBQs in their backyards.

One explanation for this might be mixed messages coming from government. But our research explored another explanation: when appeals don’t tally closely with our cultural values, we are less inclined to listen.




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Individual freedoms

Australians, along with US and UK citizens, tend to fit within what is known as an individualist culture. This is one that values independence, individual freedom and the pursuit of personal goals more than social relationships.

In contrast, the collectivist cultures in countries like China and Japan value interdependence and social relationships more than individual freedoms and goals. This framework for cross-cultural communication was developed by Geert Hofstede, an academic and researcher for IBM.

A government appeal asking people to practice social distancing because it will protect everyone in the community may work very well in collectivist cultures, but may not be as effective in individualist cultures. This might explain those Australians ignoring the message that “we’re all in this together”.

We tested this effect recently by showing two types of appeals to an online panel of 200 American study participants recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing platform. Both appeals requested citizens to stay home and practice social distancing to contain the COVID-19 crisis. But one asked them to do this in order to protect and preserve the freedom of the public. And the other focused on doing this in order to keep their community safe.

The responses showed that participants were more willing to comply with the appeal that asked them to practice social distancing to preserve their long-term personal freedom rather than an appeal which focused on keeping their community safe.

Australians, like Americans, tend to be individualists. So the results of our study extend to Australians, who would also place greater value on their personal freedoms and individual goals.

Coronavirus messages from authority figures may resonate differently in China or Japan versus Australia.
The Climate Reality Project/Unsplash, CC BY

Power may not persuade

Another aspect of culture that can impact effectiveness of communication is deference to authority, also known as power distance. Power distance describes how much the less powerful members of a community or organisation accept that power is distributed unequally. Typically, Western cultures are low in their power distance belief and tend to emphasise equal distribution of power. This is not the case for Asian cultures, which are high in power distance and thus have greater respect for authority and hierarchy.

As a result of this difference, a message from an authority figure is expected to be more impactful in a country such as Japan. But this is less likely in a country like Australia, where deference to authority is lower. Message source (such as Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s blunt directive to stop panic buying) is unlikely to be a critical factor to its success in this context.

Data from several studies shows that individuals from high power distance cultures (those who accept authority) find marketing messages from CEOs to be more believable and authentic compared to regular brand messages. Such differences are not noted in consumers from low power distance cultures.

In Australia, a one-size-fits-all approach is also not appropriate. Indigenous Australian’s have been recognised as at higher risk of coronavirus infection and complications. Yet they present unique challenges for health communication given differences in language, historical relationship to authority, and nonverbal communication styles. Specific strategies for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and other cultural groups are needed.

Tailor the message

Culture plays a critical role in effective communication. Message content that takes into account the cultural values of its audience should be more effective compared to one that does not.

In the current situation, appeals need to remind the public to take the lockdown measures seriously so the spread of COVID-19 can be contained but also so people can get back their freedoms and return to their Australian way of life sooner rather than later. And this message need not necessarily come from the top.The Conversation

Geetanjali Saluja, Lecturer, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus: as culture moves online, regional organisations need help bridging the digital divide


Indigo Holcombe-James, RMIT University

Museums, galleries and artist collectives around the world are shutting their doors and moving online in response to coronavirus. But engaging with audiences online requires access, skills and investment.

My research with remote Aboriginal art centres in the Northern Territory and community museums in Victoria shows moving to digital can widen the gap between urban and regional organisations.

Local spaces are vital. They ensure our national story is about more than the metropolitan, allowing artists to create – and audiences to engage with – local art and history. These art centres and museums bring communities together.

This cannot be replicated online.

Australia’s digital divide influences the ability of museums and galleries to move online, and the ability of audiences to find them there.

Cultural organisations that cannot produce digital content risk getting left behind. If we don’t support regional and rural organisations in their move online – or relieve them from this pressure entirely – we run the risk of losing them.

More than metropolitan

Community museums are critical in collecting, preserving and enabling access to local history. Across Victoria, these community organisations hold around 10 million items.

Aboriginal art centres produce some of Australia’s best contemporary art, generating A$53 million in sales between 2008 and 2012.




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Digital platforms can make these contributions to our cultural life more accessible – particularly in these times of physical distancing. But artists in remote Aboriginal art centres and volunteer retirees running community museums are the most likely to experience digital disadvantage and the most likely to be left behind.

A digital divide

Australians are more likely to be digitally excluded when Indigenous, living in remote areas, or over the age of 65.

Community collecting is under-resourced and so regional museums rely on retiree volunteers.

Over 30% of Indigenous artists practising out of art centres are over 55, and are most likely to be earning from their art over 65. These remote centres have poor access to web-capable devices and have low-quality internet connections.




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The digital divide also exists for local audiences with access issues of their own.

Although most art centres and community museums have active websites and social media accounts, these are unlikely to be truly engaging or interactive.

Art centres tend to focus their digital platforms outside the community on commercial sales. Community museums focus on information about opening hours and events. They rarely have the expertise or capacity to create detailed online catalogues for audiences.

Exclusionary consequences

Cultural participation is fragmented along demographic and geographic lines. Cities house the majority of our major institutions, with city dwellers dominating visitation.

Digital inequality ensures barriers remain even for online collections. Regional and rural organisations are unlikely to have the specific skills, resourcing and devices to move fully online.

Under social distancing, cultural organisations that cannot produce digital content risk being left behind. This will disproportionately impact regional and rural organisations.

These organisations are critical for preserving the diversity of Australian stories. Aboriginal art centres and community museums provide spaces where the local is solidified. Communities are formed, documented, responded to and shared.

If these organisations cannot host the same web presence as major metropolitan institutions, even local audiences could divert their attention to the cities. Our local cultural organisations might go the way of our disappearing regional newspapers.

To survive the coming months, these organisations need targeted support to move online. Or a reprieve from the pressure to be completely digitally accessible: not all cultural consumption can happen online.

These physical community spaces will be more important than ever once social isolation rules are lifted.The Conversation

Indigo Holcombe-James, Sessional academic, School of Media and Communications, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Protest has helped define the first two decades of the 21st century – here’s what’s next


Feyzi Ismail, SOAS, University of London

The first two decades of the 21st century saw the return of mass movements to streets around the world. Partly a product of sinking confidence in mainstream politics, mass mobilisation has had a huge impact on both official politics and wider society, and protest has become the form of political expression to which millions of people turn.

2019 has ended with protests on a global scale, most notably in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, Hong Kong and across India, which has recently flared up against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Citizenship Amendment Act. In some cases protests are explicitly against neoliberal reforms, or against legal changes that threaten civil liberties. In others they are against inaction over the climate crisis, now driven by a generation of young people new to politics in dozens of countries.

As we end a turbulent two decades of protest – the subject of much of my own teaching and ongoing research – what will be the shape of protest in the 2020s?




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What’s changed in the 21st century

Following moments of open class warfare in the late 1960s and early 1970s, battles against the political and economic order became fragmented, trade unions were attacked, the legacy of the anti-colonial struggles was eroded and the history of the period was recast by the establishment to undermine its potency. In the post-Cold War era, a new phase of protest finally began to overcome these defeats.

This revival of protest exploded onto the political scene most visibly in Seattle outside the World Trade Organization summit in 1999. If 1968 was one of the high points of radical struggle in the 20th century, protest in the early 2000s once again began to reflect a general critique of the capitalist system, with solidarity forged across different sections of society.

Protests against the WTO shook Seattle in 1999.
Seattle Municipal Archives, CC BY-SA

The birth of the anti-globalisation movement in Seattle was followed by extraordinary mobilisations outside gatherings of the global economic elite. Alternative spaces were also created for the global justice movement to connect, most notably the World Social Forums (WSFs), starting with Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2001. It was here that questions over what position the anti-globalisation movement should take over the Iraq War, for example, were discussed and debated. Though the WSFs provided an important rallying point for a time, they ultimately evaded politics.

The global anti-war movement led to the biggest co-ordinated demonstrations in the history of protest on February 15 2003, in which millions of people demonstrated in over 800 cities, creating a crisis of democracy around the US and UK-led intervention in Iraq.

In the years leading up to and following the banking crisis of 2008, food riots and anti-austerity protests escalated around the world. In parts of the Middle East and North Africa, protests achieved insurrectionary proportions, with the overthrow of one dictator after another. After the Arab Spring was thwarted by counter-revolution, the Occupy movement and then Black Lives Matter gained global attention. While the public, urban square became a central focus for protest, social media became an important – but by no means exclusive – organising tool.

To varying degrees, these movements sharply raised the question of political transformation but didn’t find new ways of institutionalising popular power. The result was that in a number of situations, protest movements fell back on widely distrusted parliamentary processes to try and pursue their political aims. The results of this parliamentary turn have not been impressive.

Crisis of representation

On the one hand, the first two decades of the 21st century have seen soaring inequality, accompanied by debt and the neglect of working people. On the other, there have been poor results from purely parliamentary attempts to challenge it. There is, in other words, a deep crisis of representation.

The inability of modern capitalism to deliver more than survival for many has combined with a general critique of neoliberal capitalism to create a situation in which wider and wider sections of society are being drawn into protest. More than a million people have poured onto the streets of Lebanon since mid-October and protests continue despite a violent crackdown by security forces.

At the same time, people are less and less willing to accept unrepresentative politicians – and this is likely to continue in the future. From Lebanon and Iraq to Chile and Hong Kong, mass mobilisations continue despite resignations and concessions.

In Britain, the Labour Party’s defeat in the recent general election is attributed largely to its failure to accept the 2016 referendum result over EU membership. Decades of loyalty to the Labour Party for many and a socialist leader in Jeremy Corbyn calling for an end to austerity couldn’t cut through to enough of the millions who voted for Brexit.

In France, a general strike in December 2019 over President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension reforms has revealed the extent of opposition that people feel towards his government. This comes barely a year after the start of the Yellow Vest movement, in which people have protested against fuel price hikes and the precariousness of their lives.

The tendency towards street protest will be encouraged too by the climate crisis, whose effects mean that the most heavily exploited, including along race and gender lines, have the most to lose. When the protests in Lebanon broke out, they were taking place alongside rampant wildfires.

Thinking strategically

As protesters gain experience, they consciously bring to the fore questions of leadership and organisation. In Lebanon and Iraq there has already been a conscious effort to overcome traditional sectarian divides. Debates are also raging in protest movements from Algeria to Chile about how to fuse economic and political demands in a more strategic manner. The goal is to make political and economic demands inseparable, such that it’s impossible for a government to make political concessions without making economic ones too.




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As the 2020s begin, it’s clear we’re living in an unprecedented moment: a climate emergency and ecological breakdown, a brewing global financial crisis, deepening inequality, trade wars, and growing threats of more imperialist wars and militarisation.

There has also been a resurgence of the far right in many countries, emboldened most visibly by parties and politicians in the US, Brazil, India and many parts of Europe. This resurgence, however, has not gone unchallenged.

The convergence of crisis on these multiple fronts will reach breaking point, creating conditions that will become intolerable for most people. This will galvanise more protest and more polarisation. As governments respond with reforms, such measures on their own will be unlikely to meet the combination of political and economic demands. The question of how to create new vehicles of representation to assert popular control over the economy will keep emerging. The fortunes of popular protest may well depend on whether the collective leadership of the movements can provide answers to it.The Conversation

Feyzi Ismail, Senior Teaching Fellow, SOAS, University of London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Trump presidency should not be shocking. It’s a symptom of our cultural malaise



It’s a mistake to see Trump as unique or his success as something that could only occur in America.
Pete Marovich/Pool/EPA

Brendon O’Connor, University of Sydney

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, people around the world were regularly reassured by election experts that Donald Trump was too outrageous to be elected president.

Reflecting this conventional wisdom, Hilary Clinton campaign’s central message seemed to be: “seriously?”.

In other words, we were constantly told that Trump was too offensive, ignorant and dangerous to be chosen to lead the US. But this political interpretation tended to miss how American popular culture had created the conditions for a character like Trump to upend the mannered and formulaic presidential selection process.

In many ways, the Trump campaign was politics catching up with popular culture.

Trump told a rally in Dallas last week: ‘It’s much easier being presidential … All you have to do is act like a stiff.’
Larry W. Smith/EPA

Trump’s embrace of the worst parts of pop culture

In my new book, Anti-Americanism and American Exceptionalism, I argue that it is a mistake to see Trump as unique or his success as something that could only occur in America.

Trump-like behaviour is all around us. His narcissism, bullying, misogyny, racism, populism and tendency to play the victim is all too commonplace – and these are certainly not just American problems.

What is exceptional is that American politics tends to be more pretentious and has a greater sense of self-importance than politics elsewhere.




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Trump snubbed the pretentiousness and faux politeness of the US political system with a devil-may-care attitude, and in so doing made presidential politics more like Westminster parliamentary politics with its name-calling and bravado.

Trump has also taken the worst lessons from popular culture and used them to his advantage.

He turned the second presidential debate, for instance, into a version of The Jerry Springer Show by inviting three women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault to sit in the audience.

Trump attempted to deflect attention from the Access Hollywood tapes with an attention-grabbing stunt at his second debate with Hillary Clinton.
Andrew Gombert/EPA

Over 4,000 episodes, Springer had used traumatic cases like these to entertain and distract daytime television viewers. This is far from just an American ploy as radio shock-jocks like Alan Jones in Australia are well-practised at using victims for their own purposes.

In the wake of the Access Hollywood tapes, Trump drew from Springer’s playbook and turned one of the most important testing grounds in American politics into a crass reality television drama. By inviting Clinton’s accusers, his intention was to make this claim: Hillary’s husband is worse than I am.

Hardly caring to answer the serious questions posed during the debate, Trump also ventured that Hillary Clinton “would be in jail” if he was president, echoing the notorious “lock her up” chants at his rallies.

This mocking campaign style – which has continued throughout his presidency – has had real and grave consequences. However, it was far more in touch with the spirit of the times than is usually admitted.




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A symptom of widespread cultural malaise

Trump’s constant self-promotion and trolling of opponents is not only utterly familiar, it’s emblematic of narcissistic 21st century culture. He is certainly more culturally familiar than Hillary Clinton with her lifelong dedication to public service and understanding of complex public policy issues.

The Trump phenomenon is politics subsumed by popular culture. During the 2016 campaign, he lived by the entertainment industry maxim that you can get away with almost anything as long as you’re not boring.

Part of the media’s watchdog role relies on accountability, ethics and the law being central to politics. However, this understanding is undermined when politics is reduced to a popularity contest and increasingly resembles the anything-goes ethos of popular culture.

If we view Trump as a product of popular culture, then he is clearly a symptom of a cultural malaise rather than a radical departure from it.

Given this, it has been intriguing to watch The New York Times, CNN and other traditional media outlets react with endless shock and horror to Trump, as if they had never seen anything like him.

One of the other many curiosities of the Trump era is that the oldest person ever to be elected US president quickly mastered the dark arts of Twitter and has strong appeal with a tech-savvy male youth subculture, which has made shock, conspiracies, misogyny, racism, trolling and bullying supposedly funny and transgressive.

New information technologies haven’t just fuelled greater understanding in the world – as some of the utopian founders of the internet had hoped – they have also given more power to the obnoxious and ill-informed.

Once you engage with this online culture, it is clear that Trump is part of a disturbingly widespread cultural backlash rather than being a unique phenomenon.




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One sign of this is how much less critical Trump has been of white nationalists than any president in the post-civil rights era. By delaying and obfuscating his criticisms, he has encouraged those on the alt-right to believe their voices are being heard.

How we got to this sorry place is that the shock culture that pervades right-wing talk radio hosts, Fox News and 4Chan all made Trump’s alt-right presidency possible.

With the next presidential election looming, it is time to take these popular but often insensitive cultural and political developments that helped Trump come to power very seriously. These cultural trends are on the rise and require resistance as they degrade our personal lives and political culture.The Conversation

Brendon O’Connor, Associate Professor in American Politics at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Coalition’s record on social policy: big on promises, short on follow-through


Anja Hilkemeijer, University of Tasmania; Amy Maguire, University of Newcastle; Katharine Gelber, The University of Queensland, and Peter Whiteford, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is part of a series examining the Coalition government’s record on key issues while in power and what Labor is promising if it wins the 2019 federal election.


Religious freedom

Anja Hilkemeijer, Law Lecturer, University of Tasmania; and Amy Maguire, Associate Professor, University of Newcastle Law School

In December 2017, joyous scenes accompanied the long-awaited enactment of marriage equality in Australia. This joy was soon replaced by outrage, however, when the community learned of the extent to which religious schools may legally discriminate against students and staff on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

In response, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last October that parliament would swiftly act to disallow religious schools to expel students on the basis of their sexuality.




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However, action on removing the special exemptions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA) for religious schools quickly stalled. Following a number of private members’ bills, a range of amendments and two Senate inquiries, it became clear the Coalition government wanted religious schools to retain some special exemptions.

In a Senate committee report in February, Coalition senators insisted the matter of religious school exemptions from the SDA be referred to the Australian Law Reform Commission.

To date, no referral has been made. And given the few parliament sitting days scheduled before the federal election, it appears this issue will fall to the next parliament to resolve.

The Coalition has also announced a number of initiatives to boost protections of religious freedom following the release of the long-awaited Ruddock Religious Freedom Review in December.




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Contrary to the panel’s recommendation, Morrison said the government would appoint a religious freedom commissioner to the Australian Human Rights Commission. He also said he wanted to pass a Religious Discrimination Act before the next federal election, but the government has not provided any details on what form such a statute might take.

While the Liberal Party’s election policies have yet to be released, it is safe to assume the Coalition would seek to implement all the proposals announced in response to the Ruddock report if re-elected.

What about Labor?

If Labor wins the May election, it will feel pressure to follow through on removing exemptions for religious schools in the SDA, as it has committed to doing.

Labor has also indicated it supports enacting a federal law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs, but it needs to see the details of such a proposal before committing to it.


Freedom of speech

Katharine Gelber, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, The University of Queensland

Freedom of speech has become a prominent topic in public debate in recent years. One trigger was the 2017 marriage equality survey. During the campaign, the Australian Christian Lobby argued that marriage equality would “take away” people’s right to free speech and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted that a “no” vote was essential, “if you’re worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech”.

A second trigger was the 2017 parliamentary inquiry into freedom of speech, which raised the question of whether the wording of the racial vilification provision in federal law (Section 18C) should be changed, and whether the procedures under which complaints are dealt with by the Australian Human Rights Commission should be altered. Subsequent attempts to change the text of Section 18C were unsuccessful.




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What has received far less media attention, though, are the multiple ways in which the Coalition has undermined free speech while in government. The Coalition appears to be a friend of free speech only when it suits them.

The list includes extensive laws that restrict free speech far more than is necessary for legitimate national security purposes.

These include counter-terrorism laws prohibiting the unauthorised disclosure of information that does not have a public interest exemption. Another new law ostensibly designed to prevent foreign interference in Australian affairs exposes journalists and charities to risk of prosecution.

In addition, the Coalition included secrecy provisions in the 2015 Border Force Act intended to prevent people who work in offshore detention centres from disclosing information. The legislation was so draconian, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants cancelled a planned visit to Australia in September 2015 on the grounds it would prevent him from doing his work. Eventually, in the face of a High Court challenge in 2017, the government removed the provisions.

What about Labor?

Labor’s position on free speech is less clearly stated. On the one hand, it has a record of support for national security laws that restrict free speech. However, Labor takes a different stance from the Coalition on anti-vilification laws, which it defends as narrow, valid restrictions that prevent racism, bigotry and discrimination.

Perhaps the biggest shift in public discourse around free speech has been the degree to which politicians from One Nation, Katter’s Australian Party and the United Australia Party, as well as some from the Coalition, have been emboldened to promote harmful stereotypes of migrants, asylum seekers, LBGTQI and other marginalised groups.

Indeed, in some quarters, political rhetoric has become so caustic that it has separated informed public debate from evidence and reasoning, and undermined core democratic institutions.

If Labor wins the election, its biggest challenge will be to provide the leadership to shift public discourse away from this and facilitate a political culture that embraces diversity and provides free speech to as many people as possible.


Social security and welfare

Peter Whiteford, Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Social security and welfare remains the largest component of government spending. In the latest budget released by the Coalition government, spending is projected to increase from A$180 billion in 2019-20 to just over A$200 billion in 2022-23. This represents a slight fall, however, from 36.0% of total spending to 35.8%.

Compared to previous budgets, there are no major proposed cutbacks in assistance. The Coalition government has attempted to slash funding for social security and welfare in its past six budgets, with little success.

There are some welcome initiatives set out in the budget, including a commitment of A$328 million over four years to the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children, and a commitment of A$527.9 million over five years to establish the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.




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But the budget also extended the government’s Cashless Debit Card trials, which have courted controversy. The Australian Council of Social Service has argued the card curtails people’s freedoms and hasn’t resulted in any positive effects. This followed an Australian National Audit Office report, which concluded that the card had major flaws and it was difficult to see where social harm had been reduced due to a “lack of robustness in data collection.”

The Coalition government has attempted to play up its social security and welfare successes in recent years, pointing to the fact that the proportion of the working-age population receiving income support is at its lowest level since the early 1980s.

But this appears to be the result of fewer people applying for benefits rather than people moving off benefits more rapidly, as has been claimed. It also reflects a somewhat stronger labour market in recent years and changes introduced to the Parenting Payment Single and Disability Support Pension programs under the Rudd/Gillard governments.

What about Labor?

Whoever wins the next election will face pressure to further increase welfare and social security spending as the National Disability Insurance Scheme ramps up and the Aged Care Royal Commission releases its findings. The recent report by the Parliamentary Budget Office projects that real spending on aged care will increase by around A$16 billion over the next decade as a result of Australia’s rapidly ageing population.

Newstart, the main payment for unemployed Australians, is also increasingly being seen as inadequate. It has slipped relative to pensions and wages each year because it is indexed to the slower-growing consumer price index.

Labor has promised that, if elected, it will use a “root and branch review” to look at lifting the rate of the Newstart unemployment benefit. However, it is not just Newstart that is inadequate, but support for single parents and families with children, which has been cut by both major parties over the last 15 years.The Conversation

Anja Hilkemeijer, Lecturer in Law, University of Tasmania; Amy Maguire, Associate professor, University of Newcastle; Katharine Gelber, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, The University of Queensland, and Peter Whiteford, Professor, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

After years of vicious culture wars, hope may yet triumph over hate in Australian politics



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Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Chris Wallace, Australian National University

This is part of a major series called Advancing Australia, in which leading academics examine the key issues facing Australia in the lead-up to the 2019 federal election and beyond. Read the other pieces in the series here.


For a generation, politics has been wearying for those of good heart and outright damaging to those targeted in the culture wars unleashed in the 1990s. How this happened, and whether it will continue, are questions pressing hard upon us.

The traditional post-war political struggle pitted class and concerns about inequality, opportunity and redistribution against capital and concerns about profits, property rights and the shoring up of traditional social structures.

Over the past two decades, the moorings of this “left” versus “right” paradigm of political competition have morphed somewhat – in the latter case, drastically.

The “left”, traditionally organised around better pay and conditions for working people, has incorporated post-materialist political concerns around identity (most recently, for example, marriage equality rights) and the environment. The Australian Labor Party has continued to straddle the tensions to which this occasionally gives rise, first evident in the 1970s and increasingly significant in the new millennium. The proposed Adani coal mine provides the latest example of this.

The founding of the Australian Greens in 1992 was a structural expression of this development. The party provided a political home for progressives unwilling to practise a politics involving the trade-offs and compromises necessary to achieve government in its own right. The downside is that the Greens mostly acquire influence but not power.

These two main parties on the “left” mirror the existence of the two main parties – the Liberal Party and National Party – on the “right”. But, unlike the Liberals, who rely on the Nationals to form coalition governments, Labor generally returns enough members at elections to govern without needing another party’s support. The exceptions to this are the ACT and Tasmania, where proportional representation systems deliver more minor party MPs than elsewhere.




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Two decades of race-baiting politics

The “right” over the last two decades in Australia has imported the US Republican Party playbook. President Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” exploited race in the late 1960s to realign white working-class Democratic Party supporters in the American south with the Republican Party.

In the mid-1990s, the Liberal prime minister, John Howard, followed suit. “Dogwhistling” on race recruited traditional white working-class Labor voters to the Liberal-and-National-Party-voting “Howard’s battlers” camp.

From 2001 Howard used the so-called “war on terror” to heighten racial tensions for political gain more explicitly. His government broke from previously bipartisan migration policies to harness migration to national security concerns well beyond what was necessary to actually address those concerns.

Tampa and the “children overboard” scandal were prominent examples. Recent manifestations include the whipping up of unfounded fears about ethnic gang violence in Melbourne and flagrant accusations about the likely consequences of the “Medevac” bill passed by parliament against the government’s will in February 2019.

Australian politics has been hostage for a generation to the divisive, racialised politics practised by Howard and his Liberal and National Party (LNP) successors, wedging Labor, which struggled to refocus the agenda beyond it.

Right’s strategy looks to be losing its sting

However, 2019 may well be the year this long cycle of race-baiting politics from the “right” in Australia exhausts itself. The Morrison government’s oversight of inhumane practises in offshore immigration detention centres, and the “no bid” tendering of responsibility for some of these to dubious corporate entities, are becoming perceived proxies for incompetent government.

Despite recent efforts to recharge it, the fear factor inculcated by the LNP around migration seems to have dissipated. Several moderate conservatives have been elected to the crossbench who in the pre-Howard era would have stood as Liberal candidates rather than as independents. They are living proof that even many on the “right” have little stomach for playing Nixon-style politics in Australia any more, even as it flourishes anew in the US through President Donald J. Trump.

This shift occurs in the context of the LNP recently being seen to be wrong-footed on several totemic policy issues: the environment, gender equity and gay rights. With saturation support from Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corporation media outlets and several commercial radio shock jocks, climate change denial, the trivialisation of gender equity issues and refusal of marriage equality for the LGBTQI community were consistent political winners for the LNP – until the moment they were not.

Along with the diminishing dividends of the LNP’s race-baiting for political gain, this hints at the renewal of Australian voters’ better instincts. The LNP tropes of the last two decades seem exhausted.

Are we at a turning point?

The successful plebiscite vote for marriage equality in 2017 may well have been a turning point. The revolt of female Liberal MPs over their treatment at the hands of male colleagues may be another.

Increasingly vocal dissidents within the wider LNP urging action on climate change is a further hopeful sign. Prime-age cabinet ministers like Kelly O’Dwyer, who lamented last year to Liberal colleagues that they were widely seen as “homophobic, anti-women climate deniers”, are voting with their feet and departing parliament at the next election.




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Together, this points to a possible sea change – a welcome one – in Australian politics after a long, acrid 20-plus years of disrespect, division and denial.

A Labor Party strengthened by rules reinforcing, rather than allowing the undermining of, the leader has arguably been central in this shift. Internecine warfare has been replaced by steady attention to policy issues rather than questions of leadership personnel.

Secure in his position, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten goes to the election confidently advancing some politically risky policies on negative gearing, dividend imputation and humane treatment of refugees. The quality of the Labor frontbench is as strong as at any time since the Hawke-Keating era.

The nascent appetite in the electorate for hope over hate, for forward momentum over susceptibility to artificially stoked fear, favours a change to government capable of decisive action on the big neglected issues, of which climate action is second to none.

The successful reframing of Australian politics from fear to hope is a mighty challenge, one undertaken against the massive dead weight of Australian media influence reinforcing our baser instincts over the past 20 years. It seems to be under way. One can only hope it succeeds.The Conversation

Chris Wallace, ARC DECRA Fellow, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Our culture of overtime is costing us dearly



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About 13% of Australian worker are working 50 hours or more a week, putting themselves, and others, at greater risk.
Shutterstock

Joshua Krook, University of Adelaide

The story of Yumiko Kadota, whose gruelling schedule as a Sydney hospital registrar included clocking up more than 100 hours of overtime in her first month, has highlighted the punishing work schedules required in the medical profession.

Research indicates working more than 48 hours a week is associated with significant declines in productivity, more mistakes and more mental health problems. Yet the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons reckons working up to 65 hours a week “is appropriate for trainees to gain the knowledge and experience required”.

It’s an attitude that explains why a 2017 audit found more than 70% of surgeons in public hospitals were working unsafe hours. And it’s symptomatic of many areas where pushing the hours envelope is seen as part of the job.




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Last month, for example, a study by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau found almost one in four long-haul pilots reported working on less than five hours of sleep in the previous 24 hours – putting them in the risk zone where fatigue leads to impaired performance.

Meanwhile, two of Australia’s largest law firms are being investigated for overworking staff. At King & Wood Mallesons in Melbourne, lawyers working on the banking royal commission were reportedly sleeping in their offices overnight, too tired to go home. At Gilbert + Tobin Lawyers in Sydney, it is alleged lawyers were resorting to drugs and other supplements to cope with fatigue.

Other areas in which long hours are common are in mining, farming and construction. All up about 13% of the workforce – 19% of men and 6% of women – are working 50 hours or more, putting themselves, and others, at risk.

What’s the damage

After a century of “scientific management” you might think that more attention would be paid to the scientific studies on working long hours.

The relationship between work hours and productivity follows the economic law of diminishing returns. Productivity peaks at a certain point and then declines. Work too long and you get to the point where you’re achieving nothing; or are even doing damage.

Diminishing returns: author Mark Manson decided to chart his productivity over hours in the day in this fashion.
The Observer

This is what the research literature tells us:

  • After working 39 hours a week, mental health tends to decline.
  • After 48 hours, job performance begins to rapidly decrease. There are more signs of depression and anxiety, and worse sleep quality associated with long-term health risks such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
  • Working more than 10 hours a day increases the risk of workplace injury by 40%, and more than 12 hours a day doubles it.
  • Longer working hours harm relationships, erode job satisfaction and contribute to depression, including increased suicidal thoughts.

A rule made to be broken

All of this research shows there’s good sense in Australia’s federal Fair Work Act (s. 62) capping the standard work week at a maximum of 38 hours.

But that maximum is easy to flout. The act also says an employer can require an employee to work “reasonable” extra hours. Determining whether they are unreasonable depends on 10 factors, including a risk to health and safety, family circumstances, the needs of the business, compensation, the usual patterns of work in the industry and “any other relevant matter”.

The law says an employee can refuse to work more than 38 hours a week, but in practice that rarely happens.

You may be happy to put in more hours because you are compensated. You may even do it “voluntarily”, because you see it as a path to promotion, or the way to keep your job. You may be enmeshed in a “first in, last out” culture, where it’s a competition to show your devotion to your job through the number of hours you work.

As a result, Australians work an average six hours of unpaid overtime a week.

Gaming the system

Management practices can promote an overtime culture without explicitly flouting the law.

One way is to scrutinise an employee’s working hours, such as using a billable hours system. This is common in law firms and other professional services. Clients are charged by the hour (or six-minute increments, as is the case in law firms) for the time an employee spends working on a matter. It puts pressure on a conscientious employee to do any work not related to a client in their own time. An employee may also under-report hours so as not look slow or unproductive to a manager.




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Another way is through using casual or contract workers. Such employment can result in workers doing more hours than what they are paid for, either because they have underquoted to get the job, or are working on a fixed contract where the employer has defined how long it should take, or they feel the need to prove their worth to ensure they get more work.

Changing attitudes

State and federal government agencies, including the Fair Work Ombudsman and Safe Work Australia have broad powers to investigate worker health and safety (including overtime).

But for those powers to make a difference, these agencies need more resources to actually do investigations and greater powers to issue fines and corrective measures to companies where overtime is endemic. There’s no reason hours auditing couldn’t be a more routine procedure, much like food health and safety regulators inspect restaurants.

But more than that we need a change in the cultural attitudes that promote long hours as necessary, acceptable or heroic – even when someone doing their job while overtired and fatigued, such as a surgeon or pilot, is downright scary.The Conversation

Joshua Krook, Doctoral Candidate in Law, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Grattan on Friday: Liberals stir the culture war pot but who’s listening?


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

As a new round of the culture wars bubbles, West Australian Liberal
senator Dean Smith has urged that we should legislate to “protect” the January 26 date of Australia Day.

Smith came to national prominence as one of the small coterie of
Liberals who forced the Turnbull government to act on same-sex
marriage. He advances his causes with moderation and respect, and
always warrants a hearing. But in this instance he does not make a convincing argument.

Australia Day’s date – which marks the First Fleet’s landing – has
become increasingly contentious in recent years, opposed by Indigenous and other critics on the grounds that it is really “invasion day”.

If we were starting again, I think it would be better to
have Australia Day on January 1, to celebrate the birth of the
Commonwealth.

But given the present date has strong community support, there is not
a compelling case for change. Equally, there isn’t a case to bake in
the current date either. (This date, incidentally, only appears in
legislation as a public holiday.)

In an opinion piece in Thursday’s Australian Smith writes: “Australia Day
remains unprotected and could easily fall victim to the whims of a
political party or special interest lobby group interested in
political point-scoring rather than celebrating the virtues of a
contemporary and forward-looking Australia.”

He proposes legislation to “guarantee that January 26 ceases to be
Australia Day only after the Australian people have been consulted
directly, and that to change the date of Australia Day an alternative
date must be submitted to every Australian elector.”

In reality, the January 26 date won’t “fall victim” to “whims”. No
government would change it lightly.

An alteration would only happen if there was evidence of a big
shift in community sentiment. Maybe that will come in future years –
if it does, so be it.

Change is certainly not on the cards any time soon. Bill Shorten remains committed
to January 26.

The Coalition has been using the (annual) debate about Australia Day
as political ammunition.

This became a little messy, however, because Warren Mundine, Scott
Morrison’s star candidate for the marginal NSW seat of Gilmore, has
been a forthright advocate of moving Australia Day to January 1.




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Mundine wrote on January 24, 2017: “The 26th of January is the wrong day to celebrate Australia Day.

“Firstly, Australia wasn’t founded on January 26, 1788. It was founded
on January 1, 1901 …

“Secondly, the tension between commemorating British conquest on the
one hand and celebrating Australian identity and independence on the
other isn’t going away. This isn’t a recent tension drummed up by
Lefties. It’s always been there, even before anyone cared about what
Indigenous people think.”

Despite his new status Mundine is sticking to his view – he’s just
saying now that this is not a priority issue for him. “I’ve got 100
different things in front of that, before I even get to that stage,”
he told a news conference as he stood beside his leader on Wednesday.

He declines to be drawn on his position if he were elected and faced a
Smith private member’s bill. He told The Conversation, “I’ll jump that
hurdle when I get there. At the moment I’m fighting a tough battle to
win the seat.”

As this year’s Australia Day approached Morrison ramped up the nationalistic
and culture war rhetoric in general, and accompanied it with some
controversial actions.

The Liberal Party tweeted: “The Government is taking action to protect Australia Day from activists.”

The government proposes to force local councils to hold citizenship
ceremonies on Australia Day, after the refusal of some to do so.
Councils defying the edict would not be allowed to conduct them at all.

This has come with a recommended dress code for these occasions – no
thongs or board shorts. “I’m a prime minister for standards,” declared
Morrison, to something of a national horse laugh.

Councils have been given to the end of next month to provide feedback.

Morrison has struggled to differentiate himself from Shorten over Australia Day, since
they are at one about the date.

“It’s not good enough to say that you just won’t change it. You’ve got to stand up for it and I’m standing up for it,” he declared. “Bill Shorten will let it fade
away.”

It’s true the level of rhetoric around Australia Day has varied over the years but the notion of it just “fading away” is ridiculous.

This week the debate moved on to Captain Cook, with Morrison’s
announcement of $6.7 million for the Endeavour replica to circumnavigate Australia to mark next year’s 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival and take the story of Cook to 39 communities across the country. (The money is from $48.7 million set aside earlier to mark the anniversary.)

Morrison – who was visiting Cooktown in North Queensland – was
described by Shorten as having a “bizarre Captain Cook fetish”.
(Liberal MP Warren Entsch recalls Morrison’s special interest in Cook
from his days in tourism. In parliament Morrison happens to represent
the seat of Cook.)

The prime minister, who argues that the narrative of Cook can be used as one
pillar for Indigenous reconciliation, hit back by accusing Shorten of
“sneering at Australia’s history”, declaring “you can’t trust this guy
on this stuff”.

He added that “political correctness … is raising kids in our country
today to despise our history”, and alleged that Shorten wanted to
“feed into that”.

For some in the right of the Liberal Party, the culture and history
wars are a continuing preoccupation.

But these issues hover on the fringe of politics in this election
year, even if they do resonate in Hansonland and similar territory.

It mightn’t have been front and centre, but the battle that’s been
going on this week between Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and his shadow,
Chris Bowen, about the economy, tax policy and the like is a lot more
relevant to most voters than the culture wars and political
correctness.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Groping, grinding, grabbing: new research on nightclubs finds men do it often but know it’s wrong



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Young Australians use nightclubs as a place to relax and perhaps meet a new sexual partner. Many regard some phyiscal contact during the mating ritual as off limits – but still put up with it.

Alfred Allan, Edith Cowan University; Aimee-Rose Wrightson-Hester, Edith Cowan University, and Maria Allan, Edith Cowan University

We have conducted what we believe to be Australia’s first quantitative research on young people’s behaviour in nightclubs and the findings present a disturbing picture.

The research suggests that behaviour is taking place at these clubs that would be criminal if non-consensual, and totally unacceptable at the very least.

However, the behaviour is somehow tolerated – in some cases almost encouraged. Many young people think they are too conservative, and that the behaviours they witness must be normal and acceptable in a nightclub setting – so they just put up with it.

Men engage in this conduct – such as groping, grabbing, and pinching a person on the buttocks – far more than women. Our research was confined to behaviour between heterosexual men and women. The respondents came from across Australia.

On the relatively rare occasions when women initiate such conduct, respondents of both genders regard this as somewhat more acceptable than when it’s men engaging in the conduct.

A values and accountability-free zone?

On any given weekend, young Australians flock to nightclubs and bars to have a good time and, in many cases, find a sexual partner. For years, nightclubs have been hot spots for sexual behaviour that would be deemed out of order in any other setting.

We hear of women who avoid nightlife settings because they dislike their “grab, grope and grind” culture. We also know these behaviours can potentially cause some people to feel degraded, threatened or distressed .

In our study, we explored the norms of sexual behaviour in nightclubs and bars as experienced by 381 young Australians.

They comprised 342 women and 39 men, all of whom identified as heterosexual. They were aged 18 to 30 and had been to nightclubs in the past six months. We recruited them using social media, given the high level of adoption of these platforms by nightclub-goers. We were able to find only 39 male respondents because it’s very hard to get men to open up on this subject. Statistically, this is less than ideal.

We posed the various scenarios listed below, then reversed the role of male and female for each scenario. The third scenario – grinding – is clearly non-consensual, and so would amount to criminal assault. The other scenarios might well amount to criminal assault if non-consensual.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/iYczl/1/

Both genders are more accepting of these behaviours if the perpetrator is a woman.

This finding is difficult to explain. The explanation is likely to be complex, but several factors probably play a role.

It could be that the rise of feminism and the associated sexual liberation of women might have influenced participants from both genders to be more accepting of these behaviours by women.

Men’s behaviour more likely to cause harm

Or could it be that participants believed this type of behaviour by men could cause more harm to recipients than women would cause. This belief is also echoed in the media and society, where the voices of male survivors of sexual assault by women are dismissed or belittled as the harm caused to them is often perceived to be less than that of a female victim. Women are sexually assaulted by men in far greater numbers than the number of men sexually assaulted by women.

In follow-up questions we posed after the study, several men indicated that the more attractive the woman engaging in the unacceptable behaviour was – attractive as perceived by the respondent making the judgement – the more acceptable the behaviour would be. No woman said anything similar of such behaviour by men.

Other research has previously found that men are welcoming of most sexual behaviour in nightlife settings. In relation to the rare instances of women groping men at nightclubs, men have said women cannot help themselves around a young attractive man and that they, the men, do not see the behaviour as a threat – more as a [self-esteem boost].

People think they must be more prudish than their peers

Participants in our study reported they often observe these four behaviours in nightlife settings. Why do they suppress their personal values in this setting and not in others?

Many young people wrongly think that most other people find the behaviours acceptable. Research shows it’s a common phenomenon for people to wrongly think they are more conservative than their peers. They therefore subjugate their personal values in nightlife settings because they think most other people find the behaviour acceptable.

Another reason is patrons find it difficult to identify whether the behaviour is consensual or not. The continuum of consensual sexual behaviour in nightlife settings extends much further than in most other public settings, such as workplaces or the street – that is, an act that would clearly be assault on the street might conceivably be mutually consented to by two people in a nightclub.

Some people go to nightlife settings to find sexual partners, and flirting and hook-up behaviours often occur. There can also be significant pressure on people, especially men, to find a sexual partner, which can lead to riskier and more aggressive sexual advances.

So what’s the solution?

Nightlife settings serve an important social function as a place where young people relax, socialise, develop their social identities and find sexual partners. Society should allow them that opportunity, but at the same time the nightclub should not necessarily be a place where personal values and integrity are left at the door.

One option is to educate young people about criminal behaviour – if they are willing to listen.
Shutterstock

The lock-out laws in some states are an overreaction by authorities to engineer change in these environments. But how can young people bring the right balance to what happens in nightlife settings?

One possible way forward is to use what we academics call “normative interventions”. Such interventions involve first letting young people know what the majority of them actually think, and that is that “grabbing, groping and grinding” in nightlife settings is wrong. Just because it seems like everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it OK.

The next step is to encourage patrons to speak up when such behaviours occur, whether they are the victim or a bystander. Research in other settings shows it’s possible to develop programs that encourage people who observe such behaviour to intervene, such as confronting the perpetrator or reporting the incident to authorities. In further research currently underway, we are looking more closely at the role of consent in nightclub conduct.The Conversation

Alfred Allan, Professor, Edith Cowan University; Aimee-Rose Wrightson-Hester, PhD Candidate, Edith Cowan University, and Maria Allan, Lecturer in Psychology, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.