George unlikely to get #nakedforchange

This week I noticed a few amusing news items come across my desk. BKindred founder, Penny Locaso, delivered a keynote presentation in a swimsuit, George Brandis told Parliament that being called a white man" was “deeply offensive and insulting" and a UK national newspaper asked readers whether the British or Scottish Prime Minister had better legs?
Penny Locaso told her audience of 100 professional women that as a 41-year-old with a 'a body made for comfort' she was allowing herself to be completely vulnerable in order to open a door to possibility and change.

"Vulnerability is the new authenticity and an underrated powerhouse for creating real cultural change. It makes us relatable, real and it can provide a basis for others to look at fear as a positive lever and challenge their perspectives."

She has called on women seeking to be authentic and enable positive change in their workplace, personal life or in society, to join her in an experiment, #nakedforchange. Do something that makes you feel exposed and share your story and/or an image on either LinkedIN (tag Penny Locaso), Instagram (tag @b.kindred), Facebook (tag or Twitter (tag @werbkindred) and use the #NakedforChange.

We can safely assume Senator Brandis will not be posting at this hashtag. His comments were made in support of the Government's proposed changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act that would have seen it weakened through replacing the words “offend, insult or humiliate” with “harass” and “intimidate”. The changes have failed to get through the Senate, angering the right who favour a looser interpretation in the name of freedom of expression. I am not entirely sure whether this is so they can offend and humiliate people they don't like or if its more outrage over political correctness gone made.

In an interesting piece for SBS, Ben McLeay gives us a brief history of the term and poses the question - when does right-wing conservative outrage over 'political correctness gone mad' stand in the way of real social progress? 

He makes the point that political correctness is actually the sum of a bunch of people’s personal opinions, not the collective subversive activity many on the right seem to believe it to be. "If the right really values freedom of expression and the right for individuals to have beliefs and act accordingly to those beliefs, they need to acknowledge that political correctness isn’t some intangible force trying to control their lives, it’s just that a whole lot of people made up their own minds..."

He has a point. Particularly when you come to the last news item I draw your attention to this week. The Daily Mail front page headline “Never mind Brexit, who won Legs-it! with a photograph of the blue-suited Scottish and British Prime Ministers, Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May.

Interestingly, The Daily Mail readership is more female than male. An opinion piece in The Independent noted that it is the only national newspaper that has more female readers (somewhere between 52 and 55 per cent, according to surveys) than male.

Hannah Fearn wrote that while she was personally appalled at the implications of that headline running on the front page of a daily newspaper – judging the state of two women’s legs is more interesting than the conversation they held about the future of the United Kingdom – the answer to tackling such misogyny is not simply to criticise one newspaper for one silly headline. "It is to question all the ways and all the places in which women are asked to present themselves simplistically: as either body or brains, as political or physical. It is this inability to look above the superficial that is perpetuating small acts of misogyny all over the country, and in many of the lives of the women who so eagerly purchased the Daily Mail today."

So how do we discuss, debate and realise common ground on complex issues around misogony and gender?

Does the Right have it right when it contends that there is too much political correctness and you can no longer comment at will on other people and their actions? Is the Left really trying to curtail free speech?
To me the answer is far more nuanced. Decrying political correctness simply as a means of ensuring their own views can be aggressively advocated in the public domain, is not acceptable. Neither is shutting out the views of those who more thoughfully oppose policies generally regarded as socially progressive, such as marriage equality or gender quotas. 

Intelligent thinking adults, which many of us are, are well placed to have what the influential Christian writer and speaker, Os Guinness, in his book The Case for Civility envisions as a new and practical "civil and cosmopolitan public square" which speaks to the long-term interests of the world. Speaking primarily on the need for society to address how we live with our deepest religious and ideological differences, the idea of the old fashioned 'public square' or 'town hall style' discussions held in cloud of the modern era may well be the way forward on many issues - including the vexed questions around gender. 

Have a great weekend. Avoid the Daily Mail, George Brandis and men in speedos doing keynote presentations!
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