Sunday, March 12, 2023

‘Too pretty to be Aboriginal’: Meet the model who wants to abolish our beauty ‘paradigm’

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Fat chance. Her looks are just average by normal Western standards. The Nordic ideal is heavily entrenched in Western minds: Narrow face and nose, fair skin, blue eyes and blonde hair. She has none of that. Her lips are rather fashionable, though.

As I move around the shopping centres, nearly every young woman I see is wearing her hair long, straight and blonde. And few naturally have that hair colour. That is very clear evidence of how entrenched the Nordic ideal is. I can think of nothing that is likely to change it

Sasha Kutabah Sarago has been a model, a magazine editor, a documentary maker and a writer: now, she describes herself as an abolisher of paradigms.

The Wadjanbarra Yidinji, Jirrbal and African-American woman wants us to reject the idea of beauty perpetuated by corporations and across pop culture, and in her just released memoir, Gigorou, she details her mission for change.

Through the book she traces her life as being surrounded by beauty, from her first job as an assistant at her mother’s salon to the revelation of seeing the black supermodels of the 1990s, then becoming a model herself. In reaction to that experience, she launched the first digital magazine for women of colour, Ascension, in 2011.

“When I look at beauty... I look at it more through sovereign beauty,” she says. “What I was born into: how my community embraces me and nurtures me. If we all looked at where we come from and the beauty in who we are, the lineage, the bloodlines ... that’s where you abolish paradigms, or make the change.”

To her mind, things have changed for the better since the Black Lives Matter movement and that informs her belief that change will only come from the individual, “Putting the onus on the government or the beauty industry, we set ourselves up to fail. You just have to look at how the system was built and then you’ll find your answer.”

She questions what we’ve been fed by popular culture, folklore and the multi-billion-dollar Australian beauty industry - particularly how women of colour were told they were not beautiful for so long. “If you’ve ever dimmed your light or hated how you looked or searched for beauty in all the wrong places, this is the book for you,” she says.

As a child of 11, she was told “you’re too pretty to be Aboriginal”. In those days, she says, “we internalised our shame and tried to reconcile it as best we could”. That ugly comment inspired her 2019 documentary of the same name.

Researching the film, she spent time in the State Library of Victoria, going through shocking and offensive material about Indigenous women in articles from The Bulletin, People and even this newspaper, as well as in films, music, literature and advertising. “There seemed no limits to the colonial perversion that sullied our women; there was no room for her dignity,” she writes.

Sarago writes as she speaks and although the book deals with many big and confronting issues, it is also very funny. When her aunt, who often travels alone in the bush, speaks of the ‘little man that travels with her and protects her’, she quips: “That’s where I draw the line. I don’t do spirits.”

There’s also the experience she had dropping $1500 on a Louis Vuitton bag only to find it was completely impractical: handcream tarnished the leather handles, “finding clean surfaces for Louis to sit on, checking the weather to see if Louis could join me for the day... and where were the goddamn compartments?”

At the opposite end of the spectrum are warnings about men with fetishes for Black women, and Harvey Weinstein-types who she says you’ll inevitably find in any industry that involves women and money.

In Gigorou, Sarago reflects on her experience modelling and then a magazine editor. Those insights inform her firm belief that the system is inherently flawed. “Working for government in the past and in the corporate world to the fashion and beauty industry, I see how the machine works and I see how the game is played. So for me to thrive and to be able to make change, I have to extract myself from them. That’s why I talk about decolonising beauty. I talk about it with a First Nations perspective - after going through the mainstream and then trying to find my beauty or my self-worth through those systems, I’ve always failed.”

“You’re working within a system that is designed to serve a certain group, so why would I go and play in that space again? And get burnt? It’s insanity, doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

Her vision is bigger than just beauty - she underlines how much would be gained by Australian society if we were to embrace the world’s oldest living culture. Sarago speaks proudly about how her people operated before colonisation.

“We had women’s business and men’s business... the symbiotic relationship and connectedness that everything had. There was a system of lore that would govern if things were out of discord, if there were boundaries that were stepped over. It was written over 60,000 years ago [and operated] until colonisation.”


African attitudes come to Sydney

A Sydney woman [from Sudan] who murdered a former boyfriend by crushing him against a wall with a car, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for what a judge called a "fatal explosion of emotion".

Jackline Sabana Bona Musa, 47, was found guilty by a jury last year after a trial in the NSW Supreme Court over the June 2020 death of Payman "Paul" Thagipur.

The court heard Musa received no response to a heartfelt text message one morning and drove around looking for Mr Thagipur, before going to his Wentworth Point apartment.

There, she found another woman in his bed, spat in his face and left.

In the building's car park, Musa fatally pinned Mr Thagipur against a wall after driving at him in a Toyota Kluger.

Justice Richard Button on Friday said Musa and the victim had been in a romantic relationship, but its true nature was somewhat unclear.

What was clear, he said, was that Musa's feelings for Mr Thagipur were much stronger than his.

The judge found she "spontaneously" formed an intention to inflict serious harm in a matter of seconds. "His final ordeal was short, but terrifying, and he surely died in enormous pain," Justice Button said in sentencing. "What occurred was a deeply self-centred imposition of violence on a fellow human being."

Musa was handed a maximum term of 20 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 14 years.


Dramatic scenes as anti-transgender groups and LGBTQI campaigners clash in a park where controversial UK 'transphobe' Kellie-Jay Keen started her speaking tour of Australia

There should be no special rights or privileges for sexual minorities

Anti-trans rights groups clashed with LGBTQ+ activists as hundreds of protestors descended on Sydney's Victoria Park on Saturday.

UK-based activist Kellie-Jay Keen, who also goes by the name Posie Parker online, has travelled to Australia for a series of anti-trans rallies.

Her presence in Sydney is being protested by trans advocacy groups with loud chants of: 'Posie Parker you cant hide, you've got Nazis on your side' and 'TERFS go home' as she took the stage.

Ms Keen, a self-described transphobe, believes it's impossible to change gender and campaigns to exclude trans women from female-only spaces.

She also argues that trans people should be "dead named" and not have the right to chose their own pronouns.

Tensions threatened to boil over towards the end of rally but a strong police presence including mounted cops stopped it.

Chants of 'bigots gone and anti-queer TERFS are not welcome here' were shouted by LGBTQ+ groups while Ms Keen spoke to crowds.

TERF is an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist and describes those whose views on gender identity are hostile to transgender people and who oppose social and political policies designed to be inclusive of transgender people.

Speaking at the rally, Ms Keen, dressed in a white jumpsuit with 'WOMAN' emblazoned across it, described trans women as 'men' and said they are 'upset they can't wear dresses because they've never been told no before'.

She added that when people say they 'believe in trans rights' what they are actually saying is 'men should be in girls spaces and play girls sports'.

The campaigner added that trans people are trying to take 'every tiny little bit of the world that women have carved for ourselves' and described trans men as 'human shields for the fetishisers'.

She also sang to crowds, saying it was a 'wonderful day to be a TERF' and said that the LGBTQ+ groups made 'even menopausal women look sane'.

The right-wing speaker added the 'pornifcation of society' is making 'AGP people breed like rabbits'.

AGP is a term used by anti-trans groups referring to autogynephilia, a pseudoscientific concept describing a man's propensity to be sexually aroused by the thought of himself as a female.

After her speech, Ms Keen gave the microphone to other protesters, with one claiming her teenage granddaughter 'is depressed' because her 'teachers are trying to convince her she is a trans man'.

Australian TERF groups were there in support of Ms Keen, including divisive Liberal candidate Katherine Deves who told crowds: 'We will not be silenced. We will stand our ground. I am still fighting the fight.

She added that trans groups 'deny women and girls the right to language' and 'male free spaces'.

'We see them coming for the children. We see them coming for families. We now have state intrusion into our home and our families. 'And parents have been told they will be criminalised if I try to defend their children.

'Race in our education system that is trying to indoctrinate our children into this way of thinking.'

Ms Keen has come under fierce criticism from many groups in the past, including for allegedly posing with a campaigner who celebrated Winnie Mandela's death and called the anti-apartheid fighter 'a whore' and 'white farmer murdering c***'.

She has also been slammed by a British MP for saying access to abortion and contraceptives need to be rolled back for children and teenagers.

Ms Keen raised eyebrows recently after she criticised British MP Jess Phillips for reading out the name of a teenage trans murder victim Brianna Ghey in the House of Commons during an International Women's Day speech.

She has also spoken alongside a number of figures in far-right groups, including Christopher Barcenas, a member of the Proud Boys, who was deposed by the US government due to his presence at the January 6 Capitol riots.

Pride in Protest activists as well as National Union of Students were among the counter protesters in the inner Sydney park.

The National Union of Students has also called for a series of counter-protests against Ms Keen.

Speaking on 2GB with breakfast host Ben Fordham on Friday , Ms Keen described herself as a 'transphobe' but argued that she's 'not scary' because she's 'really small'.

She argued people had 'attempted to cancel her' and that she 'does nothing to invite controversy' but she's 'so influential, trouble follows her'.

When asked by Fordham why people were scared of her, Ms Keen said: 'It's my ability to speak directly and speak the truth.

'I think that's quite frightening for some people. We've lost the ability both in the UK and Australia and elsewhere, to just speak plainly, just just to speak the truth.'

'In today's money, because being transphobic means that you say "a woman doesn't have a penis", and probably I am a transphobic.'

When asked if she's an anti-trans activist, she replied: 'I am a woman's right activist' and that she defines a woman as an 'adult human female'.

'Because so many people are complete cowards, social media has been able to manifest into a mass silencing tool,' Ms Keen added.

'There's a weird social currency of acceptance. And I think underpinning that is really not caring at all about women.'


Why the gender pay gap theory just doesn’t add up


As International Women’s Day approaches each year, there is the usual flood of commentary on how badly women are doing in the workforce and the persistent gender pay gap. I tend to take as little notice as possible because most of the material is highly misleading.

Consider the inevitable press release of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. We are told “the national gender pay gap is 13.3 per cent … and this means women earn $253.50 less than men every single week as a result of gender”. Take it from me, this does not mean that at all: women do not earn less than men just because they are women.

The staff at the agency should really know better than to put out such a deceptive release. To be sure, there is grudging recognition by the agency that the gender pay gap is actually the lowest it has ever been. But I guess if you want to maintain relevance, such an admission needs to be well-hidden.

The gender-pay gap between full-time working women and men is at… its lowest ratio “it’s ever been” according to figures from the “insidious sounding” Workplace Gender Equality Agency, says The Australian’s Contributing Economics Editor Judith Sloan. “We know what affects earnings – things like industry, occupation, qualifications, job tenure,” More
Recall here that it is a legal requirement in Australia that equal pay applies to the same job. This has been the case for decades. What it means is that it doesn’t matter whether the worker is male or female, the same rate of pay applies to the job.

If you really want to understand why the gross gender pay gap is what it is – and at least the WGEA uses full-time earnings, which avoids hours of work, at least to a degree, contaminating the result – it is necessary to account for the factors known to affect earnings. These include industry, occupation, qualifications and job tenure. Economists undertake this sort of multivariate analysis all the time.

When this is done, the gender pay gap almost disappears. And rather than industry and occupation contributing to women earning less than men, in Australia’s case, the impact of regulated wages is actually to inflate the earnings of women relative to men.

What is often forgotten in the debate is that many men have low-paid jobs – think here delivery drivers and labourers – where wages are low and not well-regulated.

Research by University of Sydney economics professor Deborah Cobb-Clark has demonstrated that the occupational/industry gender segmentation actually lifts the relative pay of women in Australia, with all the gender pay action occurring at higher earnings.

Of course, industry and occupational gender segmentation – some industries/occupations are female-dominated, others male-dominated – may offend feminists who would rather see a more even spread of the sexes. It is interesting that the degree of segmentation has changed little across time and, in some cases, has become more extreme – teaching is an example that has become more feminised.

But this is a different issue to the gender pay gap. Care also needs to be paid to directing – or even attempting to direct – women into occupations or industries that may not be their first preference just because this is seen as progress by policy-oriented feminists. Let’s face it, it doesn’t suit everyone to have a fly-in, fly-out job in the Pilbara. The pay may be great but the sacrifices to family life may be too high for some women (and men) to contemplate.

The overseas literature on the gender pay gap is fairly conclusive: notwithstanding the narrowing of the pay gap in many countries, its persistence is essentially the result of women’s dislike of jobs that involve long and unpredictable hours as well as work travel. This is the firm conclusion of Harvard University economics professor Claudia Goldin, who is the standout researcher in this field.

A recent Swedish study has shown that women’s pay in that country is still not 100 per cent of men’s notwithstanding the vast array of pro-women arrangements, including extended paid parental leave schemes for both parents, flexible working arrangements and highly subsidised childcare. Again the issue is the preference for women to have work arrangements that suit their family situations and to drive work-life balance.

One of the issues that has been in the news lately is the much lower superannuation balances of women relative to men, including on retirement. This, of course, follows from the earnings-related nature of superannuation and the lower lifetime earnings that many women earn compared with men.

By law, however, superannuation is a joint asset of a marriage/partnership and in the event of divorce/separation, the asset is split on a 50-50 basis unless otherwise agreed. In fact, when John Howard was prime minister, consideration was given as to whether couples could set up joint accounts into which employer contributions would be made. It was decided at that time that taxation and other complications made it too difficult.

The reality is that many decisions are made by couples to balance their family and financial needs. Across time, many men have become much more involved in household and child-rearing duties than was once the case. It’s fine for advocates to recommend even more involvement, including men making more use of paid parental leave. But at the end of the day, these are private decisions.

Would adding superannuation contributions to paid parental leave make much difference? Some private firms already do this. In fact, it would make only a slight difference to the final superannuation balances achieved by women – this was demonstrated in the 2020 Callaghan retirement income review. Subject to fiscal pressures, it could still be worth doing.

There is a lot to celebrate in terms of women’s role in the labour market. Female workforce participation is at a historic high and the gender pay gap is at a historic low. Those two facts alone could make eating a cupcake worthwhile.




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