Dr Deb Waterhouse-Watson, Deakin University
Dr Lenise Prater, Deakin University
Dr Adam Brown, Deakin University
Volume 30, May 2014
Special Issue: The Gender Games
In an era when gender is popularly thought to have decreasing relevance, The Gender Games: Stories in/for the Contemporary World (November 2012) serendipitously (or unfortunately) intersected with a turbulent moment in Australian politics, society and culture in relation to gender. This special issue comprises a number of the papers given at the cross-institutional and inter-disciplinary research symposium convened by Deakin, Melbourne and Monash universities, held at Deakin Prime on 26-27 November in 2012.
The symposium took place less than two months after then-Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, delivered her instantly famous ‘misogyny speech’ responding in part to months of gender-based personal attacks against her and strongly critiquing what she saw as the consistently sexist attitudes of the Opposition Leader at the time, Tony Abbott (now Prime Minister of Australia). Just as this speech of 9 October 2012 attracted global attention, intense media and public interest at a more local level had pervaded the state of Victoria over the preceding few weeks. With early morning surveillance camera images of a woman walking past a bridal shop talking to an unknown man in a blue hoodie becoming seared onto the collective imagination, what was soon discovered to be the rape and murder of 29 year-old Melbourne resident Jill Meagher on 22 October once again brought the issue of sexual and other violence towards women into the public spotlight.
In this climate, researchers gathered from twelve Australian tertiary institutions from diverse disciplinary backgrounds, which included Media Studies, Theatre and Performance, Health, Sociology, Visual Art, Law, Anthropology, History, Film and Television Studies, Journalism, Criminology, Literary Studies and Gender Studies. The appropriate timing of The Gender Games was not all accidental, as there had been for some time growing concern over the future of Gender Studies in Australian universities. In April 2013, Michelle Smith wrote in her article ‘Women lost in the academy: why we need gender studies’ of the widespread tendency for gender studies to be assimilated into - or subsumed by - other disciplines which are (often mistakenly) thought to hold feminist ideals at their core. Smith concludes: ‘Today we grapple with the continued realities of misogyny and sexism even though our nation has achieved formal gender equality. Now is not the time to dismantle the courses that help us to understand how gender impacts upon us all’.
The Gender Games was premised on the idea that gender is embedded in the narratives we use to construct and understand the world and our place within it. Across media forms, genres and societal institutions, stories about men, women, girls and boys permeate our lives. Sometimes these stories reinforce old ideas; sometimes they put forward new ones. This special issue provides a selection of the various ways in which the concept(ualistation) of gender was revisited, revised and reconfigured from a wide range of different perspectives. Many thanks to everyone who helped make the symposium and this journal issue possible, and we hope you find it a thought-provoking collection.