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Dissent: Edition 4

Dissent – Sport the Difference

Sport the Difference

By Celaena June Sardothian

CW: sexism, cissexism

It is impossible to escape stereotypes about women. I think everyone has seen, heard, or been subject to some sort of stereotype, especially when it comes to women in sport. Across the whole industry, those stereotypes affect how women are treated from the court to the playing field. Girls never get picked first for teams. People hesitate before passing you the ball, or avoid throwing it to you altogether. Boys and girls play on different courts, and in different leagues, because otherwise it wouldn’t be fair.

I never really cared much for the whole ‘boys are better than girls in sport’ thing, because for the most part I thought it wasn’t all that true. I’ve always considered myself quite good at sport. I tried a bit of everything, from football to badminton to gymnastics, and usually did just as well as my three brothers. Looking back, it’s obvious I was lucky in that I had male siblings (even if they did take it easy on me when we played together) and a sporty family, who encouraged me to pursue sport. I also found a sport that I loved, and so I never really lost interest in physical activity. It could have so easily gone the other way, like it does for a lot of us.

I have 3 distinct memories about sport in my childhood:

  1. I used to get out of running laps at school because my (male) sport teacher knew later that day I would be playing representative basketball and wanted me to save my energy for the game. I played with my best friend and we were the only “representative” basketball players in our year so it was a pretty big deal for our school. My teacher seemed genuinely impressed at our sporting abilities and knew we could deal with the extra exercise but wanted us to really excel.
  2. My Dad said to me one Saturday evening, the night before an early basketball training session that he didn’t want to take me there anymore because “[I] wouldn’t get anywhere with basketball anyway”. I didn’t really understand why he said that, everyone at school was so supportive and my brothers played basketball too and Mum was happy to take me… so why did my Dad have an issue? I still don’t know.
  3. In year six, my school basketball team (girls) played in the boys’ division because we were too good for the girls’ competition. We couldn’t play in any other division; we were the oldest age group for primary school sport and were in the top girls division so the boys division was the only realistic option. We assumed the boys division would be more stimulating; the competition was better because they enjoyed the game more and played more aggressively, so it was more of a challenge. The boys, though, were angry at the audacity of the league to allow such a ‘violation’ of rules. My mum remembers the boys’ parents being appalled at the idea and wanted to watch us lose. We finished 3rd!

Primary school was great for me. I won sports awards and had heaps of athletics ribbons and loved being on the oval at lunch time with my friends playing any sport we wanted. My best friends and I fit in perfectly amongst the boys and they loved the competition! Back then we weren’t afraid to show some friendly aggression.

After primary school comes high school, and well, puberty. I watched friends’ interest in physical activity drop, and was disheartened to find that everybody else found this normal. At lunch, we self-segregated, with the boys playing footy and the girls sitting in the shade. The average Beep Test score for girls in my age group dropped each year, while the boys’ would rise. I hated it and it made me sad. It didn’t make sense to me, and still doesn’t really.

In basketball, girls nails had to be kept short because scratching was a major concern, the boys didn’t seem to have that rule; I guess if the boys got scratched they just had to suck it up? Maybe it was just because long nails were more of a “girl thing”? Who knows? I didn’t love the idea that in tennis the girls had to play 2 fewer sets than the boys. If I’m playing a sport then I wanted to make the most of it! I came to tire myself out!! I never tried netball, the girls at school would always talk about how bitchy the girls were and I wasn’t for that at all. Maybe I’ll never understand why rules and regulations in sport are so sexist.

Ultimately, I found the biggest difference between boys and girls when it came to sport was aggression: boys could get away with playing rough without judgement or fear for their safety, while for us girls, aggression was seen as unladylike. Aggression was perceived as a male trait, and girls who played sport with some attitude were often labelled “manly”. It was important to me that I had an avenue to be aggressive without feeling unladylike.

Once I found a sport that worked for me I latched onto it. Volleyball! It was perfect for me in so many ways: a full body work out, a team sport, offence and defence combined, and the best part? It’s aggressive as hell (but there’s a net between you and the other team so aggression is more than acceptable). In fact, we are constantly told to be more aggressive, and at the end of the games when you shake hands with the other team they comment on how well you play if you play aggressively!! It was the only sport I found where I could show aggression and refs didn’t take it the wrong way.

I’ve been playing volleyball almost exclusively now for about 10 years. I like to imagine the other sports I tried in my childhood are different now to how I experienced them, and are less dependent on stereotypes about girls and women. It’s possible I had a completely different experience to others, and that they never experience sexism in sport, but I fear that’s wishful thinking. Women in sport aren’t taken as seriously or treated the same way as men.

In the meantime, I’ll wait patiently for our turn and cheer on any movement in the right direction! Women’s AFL, Michelle Payne, the Williams sisters. It’s looking good.

 

 

“It’s Just Locker Room Talk”

By Hamah Hosen

CW: sexism, sexual assault, rape, rape culture, sexual harassment, victim blaming

A newly structured version of “boys will be boys” has emerged,
highlighting the continuation of sexism within our society.

The framing of sexist comments as banter suggests
this behaviour is tolerated,
this behaviour is acceptable
That is of course,
as long as no one opposes them,
as long as it’s not taken seriously,
as long as they can be seen as a joke

Disrespect is no joke.
cat-calls while walking on the street
sexist jokes on the public bus
non-consensual grabbing at work
But don’t worry, “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”.

The reality is,
these words are rarely ever only confined in the private environment of locker rooms.
But somehow…
they remained said with an excuse
they remain said with a justification
they remain said to facilitate rape culture

It’s a dangerous game facilitating an attitude of no accountability
in a culture …
where 1 in 3 women will become victims of sexual violence.
where 1 in 6 men are victims of sexual violence.
where less than 15% of rapes are reported
But don’t worry, “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”.

The ‘Game of Life’ is automatically sabotaged
Free unlimited spins of the rhetoric
Rewards for moving on in the journey
Lucky chances for not being the 1 in 3

It becomes a constant struggle to win the game …
when we constantly have to tug and re-adjust our clothing while passing the players
when we constantly have to try to speed up our pace while passing the players
when we constantly have to watch that we aren’t provoking while passing the players
But don’t worry, “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”.

There’s no win-win in this situation
The odds are not in our favour,
as long as the rhetoric remains intact
at the office,
at the shops,
in the bathrooms.

This tired rhetoric needs to be challenged.
It’s been overused and reused.
We need to refuse to accept these conversations as a norm
We need to refuse to stay silent
We need to refuse to see this rhetoric as an excuse

“Locker room talk” is not simply locker room talk.

 

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Stanley Kubrick on Napoleon and many other things

Stanley Kubrick (John Henry)

 

Despite turning 89 this year, Stanley Kubrick just concluded principal photography on his new film Napoleon. It is Kubrick’s first work since the hypnotic Eyes Wide Shut, and he is quietly confident about it.

Upon pulling up at Childwickbury Manor, it is impossible to resist the allure of the place. Its character announces itself from far away, like one of the mansions in Kubrick’s beautifully-shot Barry Lyndon. The abode absolutely reflects the man: mythic, but still concrete; isolated, but still occupied; aging, but still imposing.

Kubrick is standing on the front lawn waiting for me when I arrive. I feel an irrepressible need to rush towards him, not to waste a second of his time. Childswickbury Manor towers over his declining stature, but it only makes him seem greater.

“Hello, yes, thanks for coming,” are the first words he says. He comes across as spritely and affable – two qualities I imagined to be antithetical to his character. After some of the horror stories told of his behaviour on set, this pleasant introduction was unexpected. Perhaps age has mellowed him.

I follow him up to the front of the house. He walks with a cautious steadiness, which gives me time to formalise my thoughts. “We will do the interview out here. It’s a nice day for once, so we will get it done out here.” We sit down on some outdoor vintage furniture, and he locks me in with his penetrating gaze.

“Relaxing out here, isn’t it?” He remarks. “I don’t get out here enough, it’s really quite nice.”

“Actually, before we get started, no questions about politics. I’m over it all, if we could just focus on movies, that would be great.”

“Sure, we can do that,” I reply.

 

The filming of Napoleon was secretive. Can you tell us whether you used film, or whether you used digital technology?

Yes I can reveal that. These days, everyone is always ‘revealing’ something. Not, uh, telling you something, but revealing it. I find that strange really.

We chose to film the picture on 35mm. There were some discussions about using digital, which I have experimented with and enjoyed, but this just wasn’t the film to use it. With Napoleon we are going back to the 19th Century, and we thought that 35mm would better capture the time period we were going for. I’m eager to use digital technology in my films, but this wasn’t the film for us to do that.

That choice did cause us a few problems, because of the cost of shooting on film.

 

Is that one of the reasons why there’s such a gap between this and Eyes Wide Shut?

Yes. It was a bit of a fight for us to get our way, but I wasn’t going to make the film any other way. It had to be done on 35mm. It would be a totally different picture if it was filmed with digital technology. It wouldn’t be the film I wanted to make. And when you get to this age, you only want to be making the films that you want to make. You don’t want to spend your years making things you aren’t happy with. You might as well work at a desk job.

I had a few health problems that set me back a bit in between this and Eyes Wide Shut. That was irritating to me; health getting in the way of work. But, I suppose you can’t always get around that.

 

Does the amount of time you’ve invested in the film mean it’s an almost perfect product?

I couldn’t really answer that because the whole process isn’t done. There’s still a lot for us to do to finish the film. And even if it was done, I don’t know if any film could be considered perfect or not. Maybe some could, but there’s always that human error element in films. Something could always be done better, whether that’s my doing or one of the cast and crew. I think you can minimise the faults with a film, absolutely; but I’m not sure you can make a perfect film. Something like Bergman’s Wild Strawberries is close to a perfect film, and maybe it is.

Actually, Metropolis is a good example. It’s a good film, a really marvellous, grand piece of cinema. But it’s full of flaws. The story in places is downright implausible, and its tone is sometimes a bit disorientating. But that’s because parts of it are missing.

 

You usually make emotionally distant films…

I don’t know if that’s the way to put it. I always get told this, but I don’t see it. The kind of films I make are the ones that appeal to me, the ones that stick out to me. I think they do deal with emotion, most of them. They deal with human characters, and there’s always an element of emotion connected to that.

 

So you think the commentators are getting it wrong?

I’m not in a position to say that. Obviously, everyone brings different things into their experience of a film, and I think they’re entitled to their judgements of my films. Of course, I’ll have my own ideas of my own movies, and others will have theirs. That’s what creates a healthy film community – discussion and interpretation. I don’t believe in forcing my opinion of my films down the throats of my audiences, so let’s just leave it at that.

 

What made you pursue this film so strongly? What motivates you to keep working?

The story of Napoleon has always intrigued me, he’s one of those characters that never seems to stop bothering you in your mind. I think to be a ruler like he was, uh, you have to be an interesting person. He actually wrote a romance novel before he became a military leader. It was called Clisson et Eugénie. He was such an adept military leader, a powerful man; but he wrote a novel about love? See, that kind of thing is interesting. It reminds you, no matter how history is told, that people are multi-faceted creatures. You can’t just pin someone down as one thing. They might be something else as well.

His life, I think as I’ve said in the past, is a real epic poem of action. To be able to capture that in a movie is just something I have wanted to do for a long time. There’s not really a good way to explain it, other than that there is something that really draws me to him and his life.

As for why I still work, what else would I be doing? Making movies is something I have to do, it’s much more preferable than rotting away in a home or something to that effect.

 

Do you have any regrets looking back? On the way you conducted yourself or anything like that?

As I said before, there are always things you could do differently. But is there much point worrying about that? No. I think there’s something to be said for acknowledging the past – your triumphs, your less pleasant times – but regrets aren’t something I think about. I don’t worry about them. In the moment, I always do what I think is best. That’s what you do.

 

Is there a film that you’ve made that stands out to you?

The simple answer is no. All the films I’ve made I’ve made for a good reason, bar a few I made early in my career. Fear and Desire is one of them, there’s only a few good moments in that. I’m not ashamed of it, but looking back it’s not a great film at all.

I’m not in the habit of ranking my movies, and prefer to think of them all as discrete expressions of my thoughts and ideas. They are all different, and offer different things to an audience. A Clockwork Orange questions the authority of the state: should the state have complete control to modify our behaviours? Eyes Wide Shut explores the dynamics of marriage, and the insecurities we all hold in relation to our partners. Another film I wasn’t happy with was Spartacus. There’s no truth to it.

 

Personally, I find 2001: A Space Odyssey to be your most ambitious film, if not your best. For the time, and even now, it is just like nothing else we’ve seen.

I always wanted to make a big film out of 2001. A lot of what ended up in the film came from Arthur (Arthur C. Clarke) who was really one of the great science-fiction writers. We wrote up a novel alongside the screenplay to the film. As you can imagine, we wanted to get it right, make sure it was as unique as possible. I would refrain from calling it my best film, but I am certainly very proud of it. And I think it stands up against any sci-fi picture that has been made since.

 

Kirk Douglas, Spartacus’ brainchild, recently turned 100. Did you send him your wishes?

Now you’re just being facetious. My question would be whether he’s still working or not.

 

The Melbourne International Film Festival is showing a Kubrick retrospective from November 1.

 

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Jim & Julie

jim and julie

 

Staring, catatonic at the screen; before him, young men jumped and ran, crowds cheered their heroes on, and in his mind, he almost forgot that he existed on this brown, sagging couch. A shrill and electronic interruption of the phone jolted his spine straight and his heart all but stopped for that moment, before commencing its stuttering pace. And so the phone carried on and on. He gripped the side of the couch and the cushions below him firmly as he rose and began his way to the phone. He was almost halfway when the click of the answering machine preluded a smooth voice: “Hello, this is Julie calling from Media Reach Surveys. I was just calling to collect Jim’s survey results –”

Jim grabbed hold of the phone and raised it to the side of his head, calling out, “I’m here! I’m here! Hello.”

In the midst of her automatic answering machine spiel, Julie heard Jim. She started, unprepared for actual human interaction, “Oh! Hello, Jim. I’m Julie from Media Reach Surveys. How are you?”

“Very well, thank you, just watching the telly, the Bombers are playing! And yourself?”
She could hear the dust in his voice as it quavered and cracked after days of silence. Their eagerness to talk always made her uncomfortable. Most people, nowadays, slammed phones down on cold callers, giving a curt goodbye at most. She was guilty of this herself. And yet, these people that she called, these generous, waning people, were always so pleased to hear from her. “I’m pleased to hear that,” – her expression had plateaued two hours ago at a dull glare, but through the phone she sounded sweet – “Is this a good time to collect your survey results?”

“Oh yes! I filled it out just as it arrived in the mail; I’ve been keeping it next to the phone since then.”

Julie heard the rustle of papers and she knew that he would take a while to get to the page starting the survey itself. They always did; their dry and papery fingers fumbled and couldn’t turn the pages.

“Hang on a minute, would’ya love? I just need to find my specs,” before his eyes, the numbers swam and drifted upstream.

Jim hurried off to the bedroom to locate his glasses, his slippers scuffing the wooden floorboards. He settled back by the phone, heart racing, he gasped, “Are you ready?”

Julie’s cheery reply spread a smile thick across his face: “Ready when you are!”

“Steady! Go! 3 – 3 – 7 – 1 – 2…4 – 3 – 7 – 6 – 1 – I’m not going too fast for you?”

“Not at all,” Julie sighed away from the mouthpiece.

They almost never were. She kept her eyes fixed on the paper; the satisfaction of filling in each blank square was wearing thin. Each number corresponded to the rating of a show or a personality. She never knew which shows they liked or hated, because she never bothered to check; but she did know that box 72 got a 7, so he must have liked it, whatever or whomever it pertained to.

And so for eleven minutes and twenty-three seconds it went on – Jim droning on from one end, and at the other, Julie hastily filling in blanks. Until, all at once, Jim, in the middle of a four, inhaled sharply and toppled over.

The phone hit the ground and Julie, on the other end, jerked away from the noise and whilst the thud wasn’t distinctly human, what had happened was unmistakable. “Jim? … Jim, are you there?”

Through the line came the tinny voice of the footy commentator. Julie hesitated before calling out again. After a minute she lowered the phone and hung up. She looked down at the half finished survey and clutching the sides of the desk, pushed away from it, the wheels on her chair spinning into the carpet. Her tongue was rough against the roof of her mouth. Picking up the empty mug beside the phone, Julie left the room.

She wandered through the narrow corridor. Glossy photo portraits of men in suits hung around and her shoulder twinged with the sensation of being watched. Their stares dropped away as the corridor opened up into a wide room. There was a white kitchenette off to the side, sticky dishes tottering in the sink, a bench and a coffee machine in the centre, and a corner of vending machines. The broadcasting station was always empty at the time of night that she worked. Julie poured herself a mug of hot water and dunked a tea bag into the steam a few times. As she turned back towards the corridor, a disgruntled South-East Asian lady came around the corner dragging a cart of cleaning equipment. The two exchanged fleeting smiles as they passed, the cleaner all but smearing her face with war paint as she approached the sink.

Back at her desk, Julie dialled Jim’s number, she was greeted with a hollow beep, his phone was off the hook. On her left lay a stack of surveys yet to filled, on her right, the few that she’d already completed, and in the centre, Jim’s half-filled sheet. She could not move forward with the others with this one incomplete, however; she now had no way of completing it. She picked up her phone for the final time that night and dialled three numbers. Glancing down at the sheet, she relayed Jim’s address and details to the emergency services before packing up her things and heading out into the night.

 

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