Online, women face unwanted “compliments” that focus on their appearance, and which sexualise them in a way that men are not subjected to, and which takes focus away from what they say and the content they create. The abuse is not simply sexist; it is often racist and sexually violent and at times homophobic. In this video, content creators, comedians and writers, including Gaby Dunn, share some of the comments they’ve received, and they explain that no matter what they’re discussing, men will argue against them. 

The women here say that they either ignore comments if they’re “annoying” or block commenters who are especially graphic. These women say they are bothered by the comments but at the same time, “I just expect it.” Women are told they have “victim privilege” or they’re accused of being “angry” when they stand up for themselves. This demonstrates how sexist online culture expects women to simply put up with abuse. Such an expectation goes to broader patterns of gender violence against women. These are not just words on screen. Feminist Anita Sarkeesian was recently forced to move out of her home because she received death threats, having lived with hate speech for years, including a violent game created to let men “bash” her face… all because she raised funds to support her series that provides a cultural analysis of sexism in video games.

As Erin La Rosa says in the video below: “This is my work…. it’s a problem. It makes me feel demoralised.” 

In an article about the sexism that former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard faced, I noted that the law protects women against workplace sexual harassment. Just as a woman Prime Minister should not be expected to tolerate verbal sexual violence because she is in the public eye, women online should not be expected to tolerate it either. The idea of block and ignore leaves gender violence to individual women to manage. Online abuse is a public health issue that requires social action, including:

  • Standing up against it when you see it: speak up and let others know it’s not okay; 
  • Reporting formally when you see it (even if it’s not directed at you): all social media platforms have ways of flagging abuse, make sure you use this function every time you see abuse; 
  • Content platforms like YouTube and Twitter need to take stronger action to ban trolls quickly; and 
  • Improving laws dealing with online abuse.
A post I co-authored with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and Professor Rajini Rao has just been published on the science website, Nature.com. We address the false idea that girls are fundamentally inferior to boys at science due to our biological capabilities. We examine how gender stereotypes negatively impact women’s careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Gender stereotypes are perpetuated through the stories we tell children as soon as they’re born. We show how children in Prep and Grade 1 tend to draw scientists in gender-neutral ways, but by Grade 2 onwards, they start drawing White men in lab coats. By Grade 5 the stereotype that only White men are scientists has taken hold. The stereotype is both gendered and racial, as research shows that even minorities tend to draw White men, thus affecting diversity in science on multiple levels.
This stereotype is used in other ways by teachers, parents, the media and by other figures of authority to force girls to consider that maybe they’re not fit to do science. This is known as the “leaky pipeline,” with studies showing how girls and women leave STEM at various stages of their education and careers due to the cultural pressures and institutional obstacles they face.
It is imperative that those of us committed to equality and diversity collaborate with scientists from other fields in order to make progress. We can’t take for granted that our colleagues will eventually come to see the damage done by biological arguments. We can’t simply leave girls to navigate gender stereotypes on their own. We can’t rely on women being “more confident” and assertive when faced with discrimination, as research shows these individual approaches don’t work.
Read our article including the empirical evidence on the Nature website: http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2014/09/04/nature-vs-nurture-girls-and-stem High-res

A post I co-authored with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe and Professor Rajini Rao has just been published on the science website, Nature.com. We address the false idea that girls are fundamentally inferior to boys at science due to our biological capabilities. We examine how gender stereotypes negatively impact women’s careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

Gender stereotypes are perpetuated through the stories we tell children as soon as they’re born. We show how children in Prep and Grade 1 tend to draw scientists in gender-neutral ways, but by Grade 2 onwards, they start drawing White men in lab coats. By Grade 5 the stereotype that only White men are scientists has taken hold. The stereotype is both gendered and racial, as research shows that even minorities tend to draw White men, thus affecting diversity in science on multiple levels.

This stereotype is used in other ways by teachers, parents, the media and by other figures of authority to force girls to consider that maybe they’re not fit to do science. This is known as the “leaky pipeline,” with studies showing how girls and women leave STEM at various stages of their education and careers due to the cultural pressures and institutional obstacles they face.

It is imperative that those of us committed to equality and diversity collaborate with scientists from other fields in order to make progress. We can’t take for granted that our colleagues will eventually come to see the damage done by biological arguments. We can’t simply leave girls to navigate gender stereotypes on their own. We can’t rely on women being “more confident” and assertive when faced with discrimination, as research shows these individual approaches don’t work.

Read our article including the empirical evidence on the Nature website: http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2014/09/04/nature-vs-nurture-girls-and-stem

Tomorrow I’ll be co-hosting an important panel discussion on the science and myths of Ebola. By now you would’ve likely read hundreds of scary headlines about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with lots of hand-wringing about why “Africa” isn’t being quarantined already. Perhaps you saw Donald Trump say that American medical staff should not have been let back into the USA to get treatment? Did you hear about the “top secret” cure that greedy scientists/ policy-makers aren’t sharing? Maybe you saw reputable media like The New York Times dutifully creating panic with headlines about Americans visiting hospitals thinking they had Ebola (but actually just had the flu)? Or the right-wing arguments that Latin American migrants are crossing over to the USA and bringing the disease? And what about the pigs - can they make us sick? They did in the Hollywood movie Contagion! Is “the Government” holding back science about aerosol transmission of Ebola? So much to fear, but what can we believe?
The fact is… most of what the media is reporting is incorrect.
Ebola is not airborne. It is transmitted by close contact with blood and bodily fluids and secretions (not by coughing or merely by touch). This is why Ebola is spreading in developing nations with inadequate healthcare. 
My co-host, molecular biologist Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe, and I will be talking with virology expert Professor Vincent Racaniello and Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Dr Tara C. Smith. They’ll talk about what Ebola is, how it’s transmitted, how the current epidemic might be contained, and we’ll also talk about some of of the media-driven misconceptions about the virus. We’ll discuss why an outbreak in developed nations is unlikely and we’ll cover the socio-economic factors sustaining the epidemic in poorer nations.
Head to our Science on Google+ event page to read more. I answered a question about whether Ebola might spread through the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca (highly unlikely) and why the United Nations says travel bans are not necessary. You can also despair over the various conspiracy theories being espoused, which our Science Moderators like biochemist Professor Rajini Rao are patiently dispelling. 
We’ll broadcast on Monday 7.30AM Australian EST time (that’s Sunday 2.30pm USA Pacific or 10.30PM UK). You can watch our video later at your leisure on our Science on Google+ YouTube Channel, Science Hangouts.
Learn More
Can’t wait until tomorrow and want to read a little ahead? We republished an excellent introduction about Ebola by biologist Maren Hunsberger. Tara has also written a couple of easy to understand explanations on why Ebola is not airborne and an historical perspective on Ebola responses. Watch Vincent lead a discussion about why the epidemic has spread and how it might be curtailed.
See you tomorrow for a sensible chat about the science and social policy responses to Ebola! High-res

Tomorrow I’ll be co-hosting an important panel discussion on the science and myths of Ebola. By now you would’ve likely read hundreds of scary headlines about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with lots of hand-wringing about why “Africa” isn’t being quarantined already. Perhaps you saw Donald Trump say that American medical staff should not have been let back into the USA to get treatment? Did you hear about the “top secret” cure that greedy scientists/ policy-makers aren’t sharing? Maybe you saw reputable media like The New York Times dutifully creating panic with headlines about Americans visiting hospitals thinking they had Ebola (but actually just had the flu)? Or the right-wing arguments that Latin American migrants are crossing over to the USA and bringing the disease? And what about the pigs - can they make us sick? They did in the Hollywood movie Contagion! Is “the Government” holding back science about aerosol transmission of Ebola? So much to fear, but what can we believe?

The fact is… most of what the media is reporting is incorrect.

Ebola is not airborne. It is transmitted by close contact with blood and bodily fluids and secretions (not by coughing or merely by touch). This is why Ebola is spreading in developing nations with inadequate healthcare.

My co-host, molecular biologist Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe, and I will be talking with virology expert Professor Vincent Racaniello and Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Dr Tara C. Smith. They’ll talk about what Ebola is, how it’s transmitted, how the current epidemic might be contained, and we’ll also talk about some of of the media-driven misconceptions about the virus. We’ll discuss why an outbreak in developed nations is unlikely and we’ll cover the socio-economic factors sustaining the epidemic in poorer nations.

Head to our Science on Google+ event page to read more. I answered a question about whether Ebola might spread through the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca (highly unlikely) and why the United Nations says travel bans are not necessary. You can also despair over the various conspiracy theories being espoused, which our Science Moderators like biochemist Professor Rajini Rao are patiently dispelling. 

We’ll broadcast on Monday 7.30AM Australian EST time (that’s Sunday 2.30pm USA Pacific or 10.30PM UK). You can watch our video later at your leisure on our Science on Google+ YouTube Channel, Science Hangouts.

Learn More

Can’t wait until tomorrow and want to read a little ahead? We republished an excellent introduction about Ebola by biologist Maren Hunsberger. Tara has also written a couple of easy to understand explanations on why Ebola is not airborne and an historical perspective on Ebola responses. Watch Vincent lead a discussion about why the epidemic has spread and how it might be curtailed.

See you tomorrow for a sensible chat about the science and social policy responses to Ebola!

"Transmormon"

Eri Hayward shares her story of being a transgender woman in Utah, USA. She is of Japanese descent and was raised in a Mormon community, where she says she didn’t get an “opportunity to learn about things that were different,” like the support available to her as a transgender woman. This short documentary includes Eri and her parents reflecting on what it was like to understand her gender identity. She initially “came out as gay” but her story reflects that at the time this was a stepping stone “to be myself, which is a woman.”

Eri also talks about the difficulties of claiming her own sense of beauty and the moment when she learned about what it means to be transgender. She was visiting her grandmother in Japan, when her grandmother pointed out a parade of transgender people and said, “Oh, this is all about you!” Later, Eri is shown talking with family and friends about her upcoming sex reassignment surgery over a barbecue.

Both Eri and her parents discuss their desire for their Church to make transgender members feel included, including the right to a temple marriage. Eri notes that her faith has been, at times, a source of alienation, as she often feels uncomfortable at Church, but also a source of strength during her transition. 

"I think that really being so uncomfortable in my body for the longest time helped me really separate what are physical things and what are my spiritual components. I don’t think I succumbed to my body. I think I succumbed to my spirit and what it needed.

It was just letting go and letting the picture come into focus without me trying to force it to be something that it’s not. But when it comes down to it, the only thing I can believe in is the relationship between me and God. “ 

This is really beautifully told story about intergenerational family connections and spirituality of transgender people of colour.

antipodeans:

Florence Ada Fuller, Barak, 1885. 
Oil on academy board.
Barak was an important Indigenous artist and activist who worked mostly during the 1880s and 1890s. His paintings and artefacts (spears, shields, clubs and so on) focus on spiritual ceremonies. Culture Victoria has a video discussing Barak’s artistic, cultural and historical significance:

William Barak was a Ngurungaeta for the Wurundjeri people and that means Clan leader. He spent the latter part of his years on Coranderrk Reserve, which was from 1863 to 1903, where he became a prominent figure in the struggle for Aboriginal rights, and particularly the rights of his people on Coranderrk Reserve …
 The Barak artefacts and painting in the Collection are quite significant to us because of who Barak was as a person but also because we don’t have very many items that date back to the late 1800s we can attribute to a specific individual, so for that reason these items are very important to the Trust and very significant to the community.

(via Culture Victoria - Barak)
High-res

antipodeans:

Florence Ada Fuller, Barak, 1885. 

Oil on academy board.

Barak was an important Indigenous artist and activist who worked mostly during the 1880s and 1890s. His paintings and artefacts (spears, shields, clubs and so on) focus on spiritual ceremonies. Culture Victoria has a video discussing Barak’s artistic, cultural and historical significance:

William Barak was a Ngurungaeta for the Wurundjeri people and that means Clan leader. He spent the latter part of his years on Coranderrk Reserve, which was from 1863 to 1903, where he became a prominent figure in the struggle for Aboriginal rights, and particularly the rights of his people on Coranderrk Reserve …

 The Barak artefacts and painting in the Collection are quite significant to us because of who Barak was as a person but also because we don’t have very many items that date back to the late 1800s we can attribute to a specific individual, so for that reason these items are very important to the Trust and very significant to the community.

(via Culture Victoria - Barak)

NAIDOC Week began as a celebration by the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, to recognise ”the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” The NAIDOC tradition stretches back to the 1920s when Indigenous Australian activists protested Australia Day, both due to its colonial history and ongoing discrimination. Indigenous people did not get full rights to vote until 1962 in most states, with Queensland being the last state to grant this right in 1965. Two years later, the Australian referendum amended the Constitution to finally grant Indigenous people citizenship.

The first NADOC Day was held in 1974

This year, NAIDOC began on the 6th of July and ends on the 13th of July. This year’s theme is, Serving Country: Centenary & Beyond. Events will commemorate the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have served in Australia’s Defence Forces.

Explore the local events in your area.

Learn more

  • Sociology of Indigenous Australians: the historical, health and economic issues that impact the educational outcomes of Indigenous youth (on my research blog)
  • Other socio-political issues facing Indigenous Australians (on my Tumblr)
  • Indigenous art (on my art blog Antipodeans).

Art Credit: NAIDOC website.

Training Women Engineers at Google

This morning, I co-hosted a STEM Women event along with Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe. We spoke with two women who work on Google’s IT Residency Program. We asked them about how women can get involved with this program and how it helps them manage working in a male-dominated field. Erin manages the program which runs across several cities (including Sydney). They recruit new graduates like Sam, who spoke with us about her experience transitioning from studying computer science and working at the IT helpdesk in her university, to training on the program, and then getting a permanent role at Google as an engineer. 

It was especially interesting to hear that Google recruits people who have strong social skills and training in other fields, rather than simply just for their technical speciality. For example Erin also had a language background (Spanish) as part of her degree and she gave a couple of examples of people hired from the social sciences (psych and neuropsychology). I enjoyed hearing Sam talk about the applied science aspects of her job. Specifically, how working on software engineering projects as part of the program took her in new directions that she would not have otherwise have thought of while studying.


"Astra Howard is an Action Researcher/Performer working predominantly within public spaces in cities…After completing a PhD in 2005 titled: ‘Orchestrating the Public: To Reveal and Activate through Design the Experience of the City’, Astra has continued to test urban and social theories in the city spaces they critique."

Howard is an Australian designer and artist working with city councils, state government departments and community/arts organisations in Australia, Beijing, Paris, New York, Delhi, Hanoi and London. She has also worked with marginalised groups and the homeless in Sydney.  


Image and learn more about her work on the artists’ website. High-res

"Astra Howard is an Action Researcher/Performer working predominantly within public spaces in cities…After completing a PhD in 2005 titled: ‘Orchestrating the Public: To Reveal and Activate through Design the Experience of the City’, Astra has continued to test urban and social theories in the city spaces they critique."

Howard is an Australian designer and artist working with city councils, state government departments and community/arts organisations in Australia, Beijing, Paris, New York, Delhi, Hanoi and London. She has also worked with marginalised groups and the homeless in Sydney.  

Image and learn more about her work on the artists’ website.

Musicians in Chinatown New York City.

Source: Vine.

Making a kimono.

Source: Vine by Ayumi_report.

Image: "National Sorry Day" Sorry in Sign Language by butupa on Flickr.
National Sorry Day commemorates regret for the historical mistreatment of Indigenous Australians. It also symbolises the need for our nation to address the ongoing socio-economic disadvantage of our Indigenous population as a result of colonialism, including these facts:
Indigenous people have a life expectancy that is up to 11.5 lower than the national average
Indigenous people are six times as likely to die through homicide, with 65% of these deaths involving alcohol. This connection between homicide and alcohol rate is three times the national average
Indigenous people are 12 times more likely to be hospitalised for assault, and four times more likely to be hospitalised for alcohol-related mental and behavioural disorders
Indigenous child mortality rates are up to three times higher relative to other kids, and Indigenous children are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital
Indigenous youth are 20 times more likely to be detained in custody
Indigenous students graduate high school at half the rate of other Australians.
Read references and more discussion on my blog. High-res

Image: "National Sorry Day" Sorry in Sign Language by butupa on Flickr.

National Sorry Day commemorates regret for the historical mistreatment of Indigenous Australians. It also symbolises the need for our nation to address the ongoing socio-economic disadvantage of our Indigenous population as a result of colonialism, including these facts:

  • Indigenous people have a life expectancy that is up to 11.5 lower than the national average
  • Indigenous people are six times as likely to die through homicide, with 65% of these deaths involving alcohol. This connection between homicide and alcohol rate is three times the national average
  • Indigenous people are 12 times more likely to be hospitalised for assault, and four times more likely to be hospitalised for alcohol-related mental and behavioural disorders
  • Indigenous child mortality rates are up to three times higher relative to other kids, and Indigenous children are twice as likely to be admitted to hospital
  • Indigenous youth are 20 times more likely to be detained in custody
  • Indigenous students graduate high school at half the rate of other Australians.

Read references and more discussion on my blog.

This graphic has been going around for a few weeks yet surprisingly with little analysis. A Backstage Sociologist first published it in late April, writing only:

Teaching and learning are not market transactions: They are sacred encounters of soulcraft. This graphic leaves one who teaches social science and the humanities with a heavy heart and despairing about the eventual extinction of well-educated citizens.

I suspect there is more to this chart and part of the soul searching should happen within sociology itself. I see the steep rise in business graduates and perhaps to a lesser extent in the life sciences and communications are partly a development in technology and the reality of the job market. 
One way that sociology might address this is through a stronger focus on applied sociology. Without question, developing the sociological imagination has many personal and professional benefits, as critical thinking can help to improve civic participation and empower us to understand our lives in a broader context.
Then again, if you are a poor or otherwise disadvantaged young person thinking about the debt and other commitments you need to balance, pursuing a degree in sociology can be daunting. We are largely positioned as an academic discipline. There are few academic jobs for our graduates. Market forces may be driving graduates away from social science, but our discipline can be doing much more to demonstrate the applicability of our theories and methods to specific jobs and industries. 
You can read more from my website Sociology at Work, with links to resources that can help provide tangible examples of how sociology students might find work in different industries, and how they might specifically use their degrees. High-res

This graphic has been going around for a few weeks yet surprisingly with little analysis. A Backstage Sociologist first published it in late April, writing only:

Teaching and learning are not market transactions: They are sacred encounters of soulcraft. This graphic leaves one who teaches social science and the humanities with a heavy heart and despairing about the eventual extinction of well-educated citizens.

I suspect there is more to this chart and part of the soul searching should happen within sociology itself. I see the steep rise in business graduates and perhaps to a lesser extent in the life sciences and communications are partly a development in technology and the reality of the job market. 

One way that sociology might address this is through a stronger focus on applied sociology. Without question, developing the sociological imagination has many personal and professional benefits, as critical thinking can help to improve civic participation and empower us to understand our lives in a broader context.

Then again, if you are a poor or otherwise disadvantaged young person thinking about the debt and other commitments you need to balance, pursuing a degree in sociology can be daunting. We are largely positioned as an academic discipline. There are few academic jobs for our graduates. Market forces may be driving graduates away from social science, but our discipline can be doing much more to demonstrate the applicability of our theories and methods to specific jobs and industries.

You can read more from my website Sociology at Work, with links to resources that can help provide tangible examples of how sociology students might find work in different industries, and how they might specifically use their degrees.

Aussie Rules footballer and Indigenous Australian, Adam Goodes, unveiled the new Indigenous-themed footy jersey designed by his mother and he fielded questions about yet another incident of racism on the field. He says in response to a media question:

It’s not a comfortable thing to talk about. [Places his palm on chest] It’s definitely not a comfortable thing to have to go through. Yeah it’s going to cause a stir. It’s going to cause people to have conversations about it - but let’s talk about it.

Video source: SBS News.

When I was still teaching sociology, I was often bemused when some students complained that they had too much reading to do ahead of class. We typically set two journal articles or book chapters as mandatory reading each week (and of course there were additional suggested texts). This level of reading will serve you well throughout your career.
In fact, your applied sociological work is likely to involve lots of reading and synthesis of different materials. Your output may not necessarily mean writing up this information. In all likelihood, you’ll have to provide verbal summaries and visual presentations of what you read. All that undergraduate reading will be invaluable to your career.
Read more on my website, Sociology at Work, a not-for-profit network that supports the career planning and professional development of applied sociologists.
[Text image] Applied sociology expands your ability to evaluate, organise & present new information quickly. High-res

When I was still teaching sociology, I was often bemused when some students complained that they had too much reading to do ahead of class. We typically set two journal articles or book chapters as mandatory reading each week (and of course there were additional suggested texts). This level of reading will serve you well throughout your career.

In fact, your applied sociological work is likely to involve lots of reading and synthesis of different materials. Your output may not necessarily mean writing up this information. In all likelihood, you’ll have to provide verbal summaries and visual presentations of what you read. All that undergraduate reading will be invaluable to your career.

Read more on my website, Sociology at Work, a not-for-profit network that supports the career planning and professional development of applied sociologists.

[Text image] Applied sociology expands your ability to evaluate, organise & present new information quickly.