I Thought You Were A Woman.

Someone I have never met told me they thought I was a woman. I’m not. They made this assumption based on my Instagram account.

The person is a friend of a friend and stumbled upon my Instagram account, as people do within the world of social media. They requested to follow, I accepted, and they perused my photos.

The person then messaged me in surprise and told me that she thought I was female.

Why?

Because of the content of my Instagram posts.

Essentially, all of my posts depict nature or books. Once I’ve read a book that I like, I take a photo of the cover and maybe and excerpt from the book and I post it on my account. Actually, I haven’t done this for a while, I think I just forgot.

Otherwise, my Instagram account contains images of nature. When I go hiking, cycling, camping or into nature, I like to take photos of sunsets, beaches, plants, trees, skylines and animals. I’d like to have more photos of animals but they’re hard to capture with a basic smartphone lacking a decent zoom. If I do capture an animal it’s always a bonus.

Almost every one of my posts depicts lakes, rivers, mountains, trees, rocks, sand, sun and surf, because I love nature and try to spend as much time in it as possible. My account contains almost no images of myself.

I don’t like appearing on camera and I’m not vain or beautiful enough to be an Instagram model, so I don’t take many selfies. I do appear in other people’s photos or have friends take photos of me, but I just have no interest in posting them online.

I explained to the woman that I am in fact a man, and we had a good laugh about it. It did make me think, however.

Why would someone think that I was female after seeing photos of books and nature?

Have we been conditioned to think that an interest in or respect for nature is feminine? Can only women appreciate and express an appreciation for nature, and is this linked to a woman’s role as a nurturer and care giver?

If this is the case, does it explain the current state of the world’s climate and the natural environment?

Mother Earth, as we often call it, is in trouble after years and years of human abuse, and this abuse is continuing even though we now know better. We now know that previous practices are harming the planet upon which we rely for our survival but we continue with these practices.

Is this cycle of destruction perpetuated because men still rule the world? Certain organisations, businesses and countries have a woman in the top job, but the system which was created by men is still controlled by men. If a man is not expected to love nature, even via an Instagram account, protecting the environment into the future will be very difficult, because men are still making most of the decisions which determine the state of the planet.

Is it time to give women a turn? Really give them a turn. Not just appoint a few women to the position of national or corporate president, not just vote women onto boards or executive positions, but replace men in large numbers at every level of government, business and other sectors of society. Men had their turn running the world, the planet is in very bad shape, so maybe it’s time they were replaced.

If the men running the world were the starting players on a sporting team, their results suggest it’s time they were taken off and replaced by those who have been waiting their turn on the reserves bench.

Can you love nature and still be a man?

Do we have to change paradigms of masculinity to include respect for nature and pride in publicly expressing a love for the natural world?

Do we need to reach a point at which assumptions cannot be made about someone’s gender because they display images of nature on a social media account?

How Many Body Languages Do You Speak?

“Their body languages don’t look good,” said the commentator, “I don’t think the Sharks can come back and win this game.”

Body languages?

What is he saying? Does he not speak English? I enjoyed a laugh at the expense of the Australian rugby league commentator before I realised two things:

One, he’s a former rugby league player so we should not expect a high standard of elocution.

Two, he has a point. People do speak body languages. Non-verbal communication is essential to conveying a message in any language, and this aspect of communication can differ between languages, cultures and even sub-cultures.

Eye contact

Eye contact is considered essential and important in many ‘western’ cultures. It shows respect to the other speaker plus confidence and trustworthiness. This is not the case everywhere in the world.

In some Indigenous Australian cultures, it is common for people not to make eye contact, especially when a young person is speaking to an elder. The young person is supposed to defer to the older person and to show their respect by avoiding eye contact. Many Indigenous Australian youth, especially those living in more remote communities, are often taught explicitly how to make eye contact when doing mock job interviews.

Pointing

Pointing with the index finger is forbidden in some cultures. Muslims do not point with the index finger, but instead use the thumb on top of a closed fist to point something out. It makes you feel like a politician driving home a point at a press conference.

The Wrist Shake

Raise your arm about 90 degrees, bend your elbow, open your hand and shake your wrist vigorously. You can now demonstrate to people in Brunei and Malay cultures that you don’t know, can’t remember, don’t have…or don’t care. If you’re a student in an English class in Brunei, you can use this to tell your orangputih (white person) English teacher that you can’t be bothered to reply to him in English.

The hand shake

“Shake like a man”

Grip the other man’s hand firmly, look him straight in the eye and shake hands confidently. Do this in western cultures, but not in Malay cultures. Instead, slip your hand softly into the other person’s hand and rock it gently up and down. If you meet the Sultan, or another V I P, you might have to kiss that hand. Just hope your not the 998th person to do so.

Pout

If you don’t know something in the Yolngu lands of north-east Arnhem land in Australia, stick out your lower lip. Still in Arnhem Land, if someone asks you for directions, show them the way by pursing your lips and moving your head in the direction of travel. That’s right, you point with your lips.

In fact, if you grow up in the Yolgnu culture, you will learn how to conduct an entire conversation without words. Two female teachers demonstrated this during a teaching inservice.

An expert had flown in from Darwin to the community of Yirrkala to conduct a training session on how better to teach students with hearing problems, which are very common among Yolgnu children. To help teachers to empathise with students with hearing problems, the expert put headphones on the teachers and told them to communicate a simple message to their colleague – without using sound. The non-Aboriginal teachers stumbled, mimed and laughed their way through a miserably deficient dialogue, while two Yolngu women conducted an entire conversation with body language.

Don’t smile at me!

“Don’t you dare smile at me,” said the teacher sternly, “this is serious. Your behaviour was completely unacceptable. I said stop smiling, do you think this is a joke?”

The student didn’t think it was a joke. As a Chinese boy who had lived in China his whole life, he’d cultivated the habit of smiling or laughing to show shyness, embarrassment or humility. Unfortunately, the newly-arrived British teacher didn’t realise this and continued her reprimand with steam blowing out of her ears and veins popping out of her head.

The head wobble

Does that mean yes, no, maybe? Are you ignoring me, mocking me, agreeing with me. Is it a commitment, a promise that the task will be completed as requested?

I have no idea.

All I saw while working at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, was a head wobble. No matter how many times I saw it from Indian staff, I had no idea what it meant. Sometimes it was subtle, sometimes it was a very pronounced wobble.

In my experience, shaking the head means no. In India, however, this wasn’t always the case. Sometimes the head shaker did complete the task. I was thoroughly confused most of the times I was greeted with a head shake. One thing I surmised, rightly or wrongly, was that the bigger the headshake, the less likely it was that the job would be done.

Count with your hands

Yi, Er, San…

The first five numbers are easy to display on one hand, but what about numbers 6 – 10? The Chinese have developed a handy system of communicating numbers with one hand when verbal communication is not an option. Be careful with number 8 though, it could look like you want to shoot someone. Also, don’t assume someone is trying to ward off the devil when they reach number 10.

Peace

Body languages don’t just differ between vastly different cultures. Non-verbal communication can also cause a faux pas between speakers of the same language. George Bush Sr provided a classic example. During an official visit to Australia, the then president drove through a city in his official motorcade and offered the crowd the two-fingered peace sign, or what he thought was the two-fingered peace sign. He put his fingers around the wrong way and showed the back of his hand to the crowd. In Australia, holding up two fingers in this way means ‘up yours’, ‘bugger off’, ‘go away’ or ‘piss off’. It’s just one step down from ‘giving the bird’.

Social media

Body languages do not exist on social media. Emoji’s have attempted to replace non-verbal communication across these platforms but they simply cannnot transmit the same level of meaning. Furthermore, even an emoji can have different meaning in different contexts – and I’m not just talking about fruit emojis and their attendant innuendo. I’m referring to seemingly innocent emojis such as the thumbs up symbol.

In my experience, the thumbs up symbol is a succinct way of saying ‘I agree’, ‘everything is ok’, ‘problem solved’…However, a Brazilian friend did not interpret my thumbs up in this manner. In her experience, the thumbs up means

‘I can’t be bothered answering your message’

‘I don’t care enough to write a response’

‘I’m politely ignoring your message’

As the world becomes consumed by mass media and people live more of their lives online, what happens to body language?

Body language is vital to communication. It can involve the use of the hands, the head, the eyes or even the lips. It can be enlightening or confusing, and it differs greatly between cultures and within cultures.

How many body languages do you speak?

Image:www.telegraph.co.uk

To hell with Israel Folau

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Professional footballers throughout the world have united in response to Israel Folau’s warning that most of them will go to hell.

The players flocked to #ToHellWithIzzy on social media upon learning that their recreational activities have condemned them all to eternal damnation.

Folau created enormous controversy when his social media post claimed that hell awaits Drunks, Homosexuals, Adulterers, Liars, Fornicators, Thieves, Atheists and Idolators. In response to the post, footballers used #ToHellWithIzzy to list the actions which will see them spend eternity with the devil.

Players confessed their sins in an attempt to win The Frownlow Medal or be inducted into The Frownlow Medal Hall of Fame. The Frownlow Medal is awarded to the player from across Australia’s four major football codes who commits the most scandalous off-field act in any one season, while the hall of fame honours the greats of the past.

Some of the stars who have united under #ToHellWithIzzy include:

Drunks – Too many to mention, including Brad Fittler, who police once labelled ‘the drunkest human being ever’.

Homosexuals – Are there any gay male footballers playing first grade in Australia?

Adulterers – Wayne Carey, who famously slept with the wife of his teammate. Garry Lyon, who famously slept with the wife of Billy Brownless.

Liars – Jordan de Goey, who blamed his dog for a hand injury, which he actually sustained at a nightclub.

Fornicators – The part-time pornstars, who all appeared in a sex tape which surfaced online: Dylan ‘Big Papi’ Napa, Tyrone May, Tyrone Phillips, Liam Coleman. Sonny Bill Williams, famous for a rendezvous in a toilet at a Sydney pub. Corey Norman, who won The Frownlow Medal in 2016.

Thieves – Quade Cooper, who once stole two laptops. Garry Sullivan, who served time in prison for multiple armed robberies.

Atheists – ?

Idolators – Most professional footballers, who worship their own shirtless form on social media.

Image:www.stuff.co.nz

 

 

 

Don’t buy your child a smartphone.

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“I wish I could get my child off their phone,” bemoan so many modern-day parents.

“They’re addicted. They don’t play outside, it ruins their social life, they certainly don’t talk to me and it’s destroying their school grades.

I just wish there was a way to stop my child from being on their phone all the time.”

There is one way.

Don’t buy them a smartphone.

There is another way.

Don’t pay for their data.

But they need it for safety.

True, smartphones provide immediate communication which could keep some children safe in certain situations. However, if the rationale behind buying a child a phone is safety, then buy them a handset. Buy them a phone that only performs the functions of phone calls and SMS, because that is enough to keep a child safe if the bus doesn’t arrive, soccer training is cancelled or they can’t get a taxi after a party late at night. Granted, handsets do have games on them, but your child will soon tire of Tetris.

Interestingly, many parents are forgetting that they themselves grew up in an era without mobile phones, and the vast majority of them were never abducted, assaulted, abused or harmed while out of sight of their parents.

Unfortunately, many parents have succumbed to the subliminal scare campaigns which mobile phone providers use to boost sales. Phone companies and service providers understand this fear and do nothing to quell it, knowing full well that the fear boosts sales. This, despite the fact that research indicates that the majority of people who abuse children are known to the victim, and they inflict this abuse in situations for which a mobile phone would not have helped the child.

This may sound paranoid, but examine the advertising of smartphones. Most of the campaigns play on fear and fashion. We are yet to see a phone company sell a phone with the message;

“Watch your child fail exams, become socially maladjusted, play on social media and chat with creepy old men online.”

Don’t buy a child a phone that can connect to the internet.

The majority of problems begin when children use their phones to connect to the internet. This is where they are cyber-bullied, or do the bullying. This is where they waste hours scanning vacuous content on social media. This is where they access inappropriate content or meet inappropriate people, and this is where they become passive consumers of mass media.

Tell your child to buy their own smartphone.

If your child insists on owning a smartphone, tell them to pay for the phone and the data themselves.

But my child’s not old enough to get a job.

If your child is not old enough to get a job, maybe they’re not old enough to own a smartphone.

Many children might justify their demands for a smartphone with the safety rationale, but we know children well enough to surmise that their desire for a phone is prompted by peer pressure and status.

“Everyone else has one.” is a phrase many parents will hear thousands of times.

Don’t blame others for your child’s behaviour.

Don’t demand that Teachers protect your child from cyber bullying. Don’t blame the Teacher when your child’s grades, literacy and numeracy start to suffer because they are addicted to their phone and are neglecting their studies. Don’t blame the government for your child’s poor health, and don’t expect society to teach your child to socialise.

Don’t buy your child a smartphone.

Image: Ilan Dov