Letters – Week 12

SOUND FURY

Wish you were here!

Dear Honi,

Though Sam Murray’s letter may yearn for the kind of vacuous apathy and banal “independence” of the UPenn Assembly his article praised, the students of this university have elected a rather different kind of SRC. Last year, we overwhelmingly voted for left-wing groups which realized that student politics is neither an ideological island nor a political vacuum. Rather, part of our obligation as society’s future educated class is to use our political and intellectual capital to fight against injustice wherever we can. That obligation includes expressing solidarity with striking academics and educating students to fight against the neo-liberal consensus that Margaret Thatcher’s was a golden era.

Nor are the motions that Sam criticises in any sense “irrelevant” to students. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motion supports a decision by one of our own academics not to co-operate with the Israeli war machine. My own motion relating to missile manufacturer Raytheon questions how USSC students can critically examine US foreign policy when their inquiries are funded by an American arms dealer. Had Sam attended the meetings in question – or even read the agenda – he would know this.

Yet even more baffling was Sam’s complaint about the failure of the SRC to make quorum requirements at its last meeting. Sam, the reason why that meeting failed to meet quorum was the catastrophic failure of the right-of-centre groups to show their faces. Perhaps it would be easier for the Council or Executive to meet quorum if you pushed your own comrades to rock up, or indeed resigned your council seat so that someone who wasn’t on exchange on another continent could more regularly attend. History is made by those who show up. Unfortunately, in every council meeting so far this year, Sam hasn’t.

Harry Stratton
Arts/Law II

 

Will & Disgrace: season finale

Names and descriptions were removed due to possible defamation risks.

Dear Honi,

Last week after having a Will & Grace campaigner snatch leaflets out of my hand, I canvassed other campaigners regarding similar experiences with team Will & Grace. The following alleged occurrences are described as specifically as possible to paint an accurate picture of those involved:

- Some campaigners mocking Bebe loudly on Eastern avenue as another female campaigner obnoxiously belly danced amongst them so as to draw attention to their vulgar comments.

- A group of four overheard as a police car drove by Manning, praising the police attack on Tom Raue and suggesting the police should be allowed to “break at least one of his ribs”.

· A scarf wearing campaigner repeating degrading comments directed at Bebe during the Soapbox: “show us your clit” to a chorus of laughter from the other campaigners present.

- A tall male about 6’3” intimidating other campaigners, cutting them off as they courted voters heading to Manning, while a campaigner nearby stuffed leaflets in their faces.

- A campaigner behaving in an aggressive manner to opposing campaigners as they approached people he had escorted to the Bosch booth on election day (22 May).

- A campaigner shouting “Marxist scum” at three student protestors on strike day (14 May) near Fisher Library.

Thankfully team Will & Grace’s abysmal electoral result reflected the atrocious conduct of their campaign. I would like to encourage anyone else who experienced or witnessed similar acts to share them as such shameful behaviour should always be called out.

Rachel Louise Addy
Arts (INGS) II

Misrepresentation and misunderstanding in Women’s Honi

Dear Honi,

Recently I picked up the women’s edition of the Honi Soit and was disgusted to find a gross-misrepresentation of Femen as a group suffering from the “white saviour complex”.

As a young feminist myself, beginning to form ideas about female oppression within cultures (including my own) I was disappointed to experience yet another individual confined in the constraints of political correctness. The article portrayed Femen as an ignorant Western feminist group that was refusing to be culturally sensitive to issues such as wearing the hijab or burqa, highlighting their recent “topless jihad” as proof of this. Yet the article completely ignored the reason behind the “topless jihad”, presumably to show the same cultural sensitivity that O’Brian admires. The “jihad” was a response to Amina Tyler’s persecution after she posted a topless photo of herself on Facebook in which phrases such as “my body is my own and not the source of anyone’s honour” as well as “fuck your morals” were painted on her body.

Amina faced serious backlash by preacher Almi Adel (who is an enforcer of Sharia law at the head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in Tunisia) who argued that she should be stoned to death, by her own family who placed her in a psychiatric hospital in order to justify her radical action as insanity and even by members of the Tunisian government who argued that they should fine her up to $600 and place her in prison for two years. This omission of facts that do not fit O’Brian’s culturally sensitive view of Islam continues as she completely misquotes Ayaan Hirsi Ali. According to O’Brian, Ayaan believes that Western feminism does not understand the complexities of different cultures and thus are looking for the “easy way out” by ignoring the issues faced by women of other cultures.

However, when I looked at the interview used by O’Brian, Ayaan was actually addressing the same white guilt that is so evident in O’Brian’s essay whereby we “take a white man and hold him to the highest, most pristine moral standards, but take people of colour, and say, “well that’s just how they do it.’” O’Brain attempts to turn attention away from cultural inequality for women in other countries and proceeds to discuss gender inequality in Australia which, whilst it is a serious issue, is of no relevance to the article and only reinforces Aryaan’s belief in a Western white guilt. Rather Ayaan argues for a greater involvement of Western feminists in foreign societies and I have almost no doubt that she would endorse organisations such as Femen for supporting Amina rather than devaluing Amina’s protest by ignoring it completely (as O’Brian’s article does). Almi Adel argued that Amina’s actions could cause “an epidemic.

It could be contagious and give ideas to other women” yet by continuing this lack of coverage about Amina’s plight (Femen alerted the media to Amina’s situation allowing wider spread coverage and perhaps less harsh repercussions) O’Brain only helps reinforce this “stripping people of their voice”, something that she claims western feminism is doing. Thus O’Brian displays a highly “simplistic understanding of the real issues at play”, as she so aptly puts it, and continues to submit to Western feminism’s current biggest flaw: political correctness.

Lara Smal
My society, my choice

Dear Honi,

LifeChoice recently distributed an information flyer titled What RU4? on campus. It can be accessed in full at www.lifechoice.net.au/whatru4. What RU4? outlines the physiological mechanism of the RU486 abortion drug and some of its documented medical risks and complications.
The flyer concludes with a call for a discussion about the place of medical abortions in our society. The content is not emotive or judgemental. It makes no political statements, nor is it in any way graphic. The hostile and often vitriolic response by some elements of the student body, not least Harry Stratton’s polemic in last week’s Honi, has been disconcerting. Discussion around abortion is always controversial to some degree. This is the nature of complex ethical issues and of university life.

Accusations of intimidation and bullying is heavy criticism for our mild flyer, the strongest terms of which were that RU486 should be regarded as “contentious at the least” in Australian society.

This is not about the pro-life/pro-choice dichotomy, but a debate about medical health. What RU4? was written in that spirit and we stand by its data. The express purpose of the flyer was to provide the basic facts, along with our perspective as a student society, towards building an informed platform for discussion. Such a discussion falls very much within the ambit of our club. Women have a right to know about the ethical, social, and medical implications of RU486. Women deserve this discussion. Maybe some people want it to be a closed issue; we think otherwise.

Jade McLaughlin
Education/Arts II

 

Women’s College: Last Night of the Propagated Stereotype

Dear Honi,

The Women’s College Formal was held on Friday night, and it was themed “Moulin Rouge”. For some reason, this meant that the organisers felt it would be appropriate to book burlesque exotic dancers for the event, so they could periodically straddle the male guests. I would like to point out that employing women to create atmosphere and contribute to a sense of place and time reduces them to little more than elements of the decor; objects to be enjoyed. Furthermore, it is fundamentally problematic that the female organisers of the evening effectively bought the dancers in order to give sexual pleasure to the men in attendance.  In another theme faux pas, the organisers booked at least one mannequin that had been painted black and stuck behind some period instruments. This was obviously part of an attempt to evoke a time in which people of African descent were regarded as having little value, other than as entertainers, slaves or servants, stratified and excluded from white society.

So, ladies, I give you 10/10 for sticking to the theme as well as 10/10 for embarrassing yourselves, upholding and perpetuating the patriarchy, and offending a lot of people.

Georgia Kriz
Arts/MECO II

Classic College

Classic College

The ARC is not the problem

Dear Honi,

The members of the Anti-Racism Collective (ARC) signed below would like to respond to the issues raised in the week 8 2013 edition of Honi. In the article ‘Race-based activism leaves a lot to be desired’ the author contends that the ARC is “largely run by white people” and that this represents a deficiency in anti-racist activism on campus. For example he says that anti-racist activism would be more accessible and therefore better if it were organised on an autonomous basis with membership based on being a “person of colour”. In his own words the way to build more effective anti-racism on campus is “not for the privileged to speak for the oppressed, but to be allies in a movement that belongs to them.”

As regards the first charge that the ARC is “largely run by white people”, it is factually inaccurate. The diverse backgrounds of our active membership are evident to anyone who attends meetings or engages with the ARC at stalls, forums and rallies. However, the more important point is about the author’s criteria for measuring good anti-racist activism i.e. that having a group controlled by “people of colour” would make it a more effective instrument for combating racism.

We would like to disagree with this. Firstly it is our understanding that the source of racism is not all white people, but particular powerful and self-interested groups in society. The best example of this is politicians who peddle racism to scapegoat ethnic minorities and migrants for the social problems created by their own policies. John Howard whipped up racism against refugees, Aboriginal people and Asian immigration in order to push through policies that made all ordinary people’s lives harder, like the GST and WorkChoices. The scapegoating of refugees under the Labor government has continued apace for the same reason. So, the ARC campaigns mainly around refugee rights, not at the expense of a better form of anti-racism, but because this is the best way to fight racism at its root.

Secondly, organising on the basis of “people of colour” controlling the activist group wrongly assumes that being a “person of colour” automatically means that you have an interest in fighting racism. For instance, through our involvement in the refugee campaign we have met with many Tamil refugees who have fled Sri Lanka, where Tamils are persecuted, tortured and killed by the repressive Sri Lankan government. We certainly would not want the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to join us even though he is a “person of colour”. Not only does Rajapaksa foster anti-Tamil racism within Sri Lanka, he also works with the Australian government to prevent persecuted Tamils from leaving Sri Lanka. This is an extreme example, but the point stands generally. The Liberal Party boasts of fielding at least 21 candidates from diverse ethnic backgrounds for the upcoming election, but their venomous anti-refugee rhetoric is the same as it was when it helped incite the Cronulla riots in 2006.

Finally, we absolutely welcome any and all people passionate about fighting racism to get involved in the ARC. Because racism is used by politicians to get away with implementing policies that hurt all ordinary people and are an affront to human rights generally, white people have an interest in fighting racism too. Of course the ARC acknowledges that there are some real barriers against some students participating in political activism, such as language, culture, time as well as confidence. But for the reasons above, autonomous organizing can only ever reflect these barriers, not destroy the racism that creates them. To do this we need to build the strongest grassroots movement possible, and that means a united fight involving everyone.

If you would like to get more involved with the Anti-Racism Collective, come along to our weekly collective meetings on Tuesdays at 11am on the New Law Lawns. For more information call Marijke on 0452192659 or Tory on 0411128565. All welcome.

Signed,
Adam Adelpour, Marco Avena, Caitlin Doyle-Marwick, Kate Giunta, Marijke Hoving, Tory Karmakar

 

That’s so Indie

Dear Honi,

Let’s pause for a moment and consider the word “independent”. By definition, it means “free from outside control, not depending on another’s authority.” The concept implies non-binding, minimal organisation and…well, independent thought and decision making processes. Synonyms include free, self-sustained and self-sufficient.

For a while now, I have felt that students on campus have misunderstood what it means to be an Independent running for elected student positions. It does not necessarily mean that a group of people get together and make decisions as a collective that they all have to adhere to. It means that a person has decided to run for an elected student position. That’s it. There is nothing binding about being an independent. Even the concept of “ties to the Independent movement” makes little sense – all it means is that a group of individuals have decided to pool their resources so they can continue to make up their own minds about things. And that’s the crux of it – they make up their own minds about things.

They might pool resources, they might occasionally have similar values, then again they might not. Within the ‘Independent movement’ on campus are card-carrying members of the Greens – and card-carrying members of the Liberals. Talking about the Independents as a collective is useless and misleading. They don’t act with one voice. They act separately.

They act in a free, self-sustained and self-sufficient manner. They act Independently.

Mikaela Higgins
Social Work II

 

All cops are beautiful

Dear Honi,

Last week it was with more than a little curiosity and déjà vu, that I read a piece by Tom Raue (“My Wonderful Day”) accusing police of brutality against him. Perhaps your readers would benefit from a bit of context. After all, this is not the first time – or even the second – that Mr Raue has made such a complaint. On April 4 last year, subsequent to his arrest at a violent rally, Mr Raue alleged in Honi Soit that police used “painful wristlocks, headlocks, and dragg[ed] one protester by his neck”. On March 26 this year, Mr Raue was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, as again accusing riot police of force, alleging that he was “punched in the face by a riot cop and my shirt was ripped”. Then, on May 14 this year, Mr Raue declared to Yahoo News, that he was “grabbed by the neck” by police, and “felt like [he] was going to pass out”.

For whatever reason, Mr Raue now retrospectively claims that he felt he could “even die” – a claim that his own brother has labelled “intentionally misleading”; noting that “he did not nearly die”. The fact is that police brutality is unacceptable – if it occurred in this instance, then it should be redressed. But so too is the unfair disrespect that police face when trying to do their job. Police officers – not “pigs” or “fascists” as Mr Raue’s friends constantly label them – do a difficult, dangerous and under-appreciated job. It’s a job made more difficult by the acts of unashamed disrespect hurled towards them. When did a police officer defending themselves become “excessive force”, but protestors pushing, screaming “pig” through a megaphone, goading them into violence, threatening, spitting or shoving just a “peaceful protest”? To believe Mr Raue’s emotion-charged recount, we would have to believe that riot police have specifically targeted Mr Raue on at least three occasions in three subsequent “rallies” at Sydney University as the focus of excessive force. It could be that Mr Raue is a victim of police abuse, or it could be that he is simply the boy who cried “pig”.

Alex Dore
President, SU Liberal Club

 

Sic one, champ

Dear Honi,

So this is in response to a profile done on a guy named Jonathon Moylan in week 11’s Honi. Do you even understand geography? Like honestly, do you know anything beside the area of Sydney in which you spawned from? I only just began reading this article and I read “Gunnedah region, near Newcastle” okay I live one hour south of Newcastle on the Central Coast and I’m pretty sure that Gunnedah is a good 7 hours away from Newcastle [4 hours], how do you define ‘near’? Stupid mistakes like this undermine the validity of anything Honi publishes, which isn’t much. But hey its free right? So who cares? Me.

Signed, Tiarne Shutt
Arts/Law I

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Honi Soit is the largest and oldest weekly student newspaper in Australia. Our articles, like this one, are made possible by our dedicated student reporters and contributors.
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