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Let’s Admire Julia for Once

Julia Gillard, who despite being the first female PM of Australia is a constant subject of ridicule by the media and public.

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Having grown up in a conservative world, I’ve always seen women play second fiddle to their male counterpart in all realms of society contrary to my belief that women are equally competitive, if not a step ahead of men. So when I set foot in Australia three years ago I thought gender divide is a relic in this part of the world but such hasn’t been the case.

I’m no news freak but I can spend close to an hour reading the newspaper and keeping myself abreast of the goings-on in the community. And I am convinced that there’s a huge gender divide in this country at every professional level in terms of both salary and rank; it just rolls on. For instance, during my research on the subject of gender bias in sports journalism in Melbourne in 2011, I had the fortune of interviewing a couple of high-profile sports journos both female and male who revealed that sexism is truly rife in the industry and that it was just the tip of the iceberg.

We only have to go as far as the Prime Minister of this country, Julia Gillard, who despite being the first female PM of Australia is a constant subject of ridicule by the media and public. I’m no Gillard supporter but from my limited knowledge of politics, she has let down the people on numerous occasions by going back on her word many a time. Example: the much-talked about carbon tax.

I wonder if she happened to be male, would she have copped as much criticism and mockery from all and sundry? Let’s admit it – a woman is viewed as a soft target in society and if she happens to occupy a high-profile position, the derision goes up two-fold.

“People believe they can say things about the PM which, if she were a bloke, would never have been said. Former PM John Howard copped it from the left, but never as bad as the language that is often used against Gillard” 

– Simon Benson from the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

Gillard is the first woman to run the nation and one that evidently people are not comfortable with, which is why the media constantly takes pot-shots at her with an added obsession towards her hair, clothes, make-up and voice. She might be the most unpopular PM this country has ever had and is not going to win the next election but she’s an immensely strong woman and you can’t fault me for saying that.

This is 2013 but sexism still prevails in the ‘lucky country’ and the PM needs to be applauded for staying on top in a man’s world.

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Make Dodgeball Great Again

Dodgeball is not an ‘unethical tool of oppression’ and to label it so is both ludicrous and dangerous. Have we lost our minds?

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I remember it as if it was yesterday. The recently completed gym floor was crisp, clean, and squeaked with almost every step of the overpriced sneakers that graced it. Battle lines had been drawn and there I was, locked and loaded in the far right corner of the gym. I had scanned the battlefield ahead, and saw that the opposition numbers were dwindling- falling like the cannon fodder they were. My fellow combatants were more than capable, some in fact, excelled like this game was art, like it was real battle.

Then I saw my target, arms to her side, nervously looking across from her side of diminishing numbers. Her eyes screamed ‘fear’ (or maybe indifference, but in my mind, it was fear) and I knew that there was only one thing to do. I gripped the foam of the ball with a vengeful firmness, loaded my arm with the fury of a Nolan Ryan fastball and let loose. My memory says the sound of the noisy gym was broken, and that all the fellow combatants and fallen brethren fell silent, stopped and followed this one moment as the ball left my hand to its intended destination. It was a glorious moment. Glorious because unlike most times, the ball flew through the air with unmatched grace. Unlike most times I threw the ball, there was no deviation, no broken flight plan. And unlike most times, where I’d luckily hit my target on the leg, or on the arm, it zeroed in with laser-like precision and exploded itself right in Annie’s* face. Bullseye. Like a bird exploding from a Randy Johnson fastball.

Did I revel in the glory of that standstill moment? Was the brazen destruction of a fellow combatant as cinematically award-winning as a Spielberg movie? The truth is, that wasn’t the case. Amongst the fleeting chaos of the game, no one saw. No one stopped and watched my moment, and that in reality, it was a split second that remains animated only in mind. I recoiled in shock, partly because it was not my intention to hit someone in the face, no matter how unintentionally glorious it was. But partly because my gut instinct was to slink away into the back of the pack to hide unseen- like a cowardly saboteur responsible for the wreckage, eager to hide from the blame. I didn’t even look back at what I had done.

I don’t remember who won this particular game (safe to say it wasn’t Annie), but it was all part and parcel to the wonderful school-time game of dodgeball.

One that has come under scrutiny, and under the threat, by the researchers discussed in this National Post article, who have labeled it an “unethical tool of oppression”. With such hyperbole, you’d think they were talking about a population who lived under a military dictatorship, or a segment of that population threatened during mass rioting. Not surprisingly, I lived through both of the latter, and no, dodgeball is nothing like either. They are talking about dodgeball- a mostly harmless game (unless you are Annie) played by children during recess and PE class.

The article goes on to say how dodgeball, along with other forms of games played during PE class are sports of “sport of violence, exclusion and degradation” and that dodgeball in particular, is “not just unhelpful to the development of kind and gentle children who will become decent citizens of a liberal democracy. It is actively harmful to this process.” Sounds like it was written by someone picked last in gym class.

We can argue endlessly about the participation-trophy culture that has permeated the discourse of children’s sports (they couldn’t even settle on a winner at the Spelling Bee). But the truth is, I fear greatly for the future of democracy if we equate the game of dodgeball to actual, real oppression. Sure, Annie probably doesn’t like dodgeball all that much, but I too was hit plenty on the dodgeball court. Like I was on the basketball court. But it’s all part of growing some thick skin in this very real world where people don’t throw soft, red balls at you. The truth is, most kids would probably benefit from getting hit in the face with a dodgeball a few times, it’ll be good for them in the long run. This I’m certain of.

I had a lot of fun playing dodgeball as a kid. It’s an absolute shame that there are “scholars” and “researchers” who equate it to very real life issues this world faces. Teaching kids that life isn’t fair from a young age is a good thing. Participation-trophy culture is not. I don’t need a Ph.D. to know so.

Dodgeball teaches you a great deal in a simple game. And if dodgeball supposedly teaches children lessons of democracy, then I sure as hell would want the future leaders of whatever world we venture towards to be able to dodge a wrench when someone throws one at their heads.

*Annie is not her real name. C’mon, how much of an asshole do you think I am?

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