respecting diverse cultures
June 20, 2015, 12:07 pm
Filed under: travel | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’m writing this post and sharing some new photos in response to Clementine Ford’s article about victim blaming.

aerial yoga Malaysia island

I’m living my home country Australia at the moment. Last year I lived mostly in Thailand and Switzerland, but now I’ve decided to return home. I’ve decided to invest in being at home for a while, spend my energy in supporting Australian communities, recognising that acting locally can contribute to positive change globally.

Langkawi & nearby islands Malaysia island

Clementine was writing about how nude photographs of hundreds of South Australian women have been stolen and posted online without their permission. I’m from South Australia, though I’m living in Melbourne now. I likely know people hurt by this criminal act of theft.

In response, I’m sharing a collection of images taken by my then partner, while were on holidays in Malaysia. There are a range of photos – in some of them I’m wearing a safety vest on a boat, in some of them I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt, in some of them I’m wearing a bikini.

aerial yoga

I grew up by the beach in Australia, surfing, swimming and playing beach volleyball. Sometimes I did this in a bikini. Sometimes people would comment on my body in ways that made me feel uncomfortable. It didn’t stop me from doing healthy activities that I love. When I was a teenager, I went on a date to the waterslides at Magic Mountain (which doesn’t exist anymore). I left my shorts and t-shirt in an unsecured locker while we played on the waterslides. When I returned, my possessions had been stolen. As a victim of crime (arguably my own fault for inadequately securing my possessions), I had no choice but to walk home in only my bikini. I’m lucky – Glenelg in the 90s was a relatively safe place where young woman like me could walk home with few clothes on with little fear of abuse. Unlike my clothes, my body is not a possession.

Langkawi beach

When I lived in Asia, during which time I visited Malaysia, I visited places with diverse expectations of women. In the case of Malaysia, I only felt safe being in public in a bikini in the presence of my male partner. I felt uncomfortable by how close some men swam to me when I tried to go swimming alone. I felt that if I didn’t actively swim away they would try to touch me. I have travelled a lot. I’m used to moving away and avoiding situations in which I don’t feel safe around strangers. I listen to locals and am responsive to advice. There have been times in my travels that I wonder if listening to locals has saved my life.

Langkawi & nearby islands Malaysia island

I don’t think women and girls should have to be supervised by men to feel safe and healthy. I think that everyone should be able to choose to wear whatever they want, whether a bikini, or a hijab, or a mumuu, or nothing. People should be able to feel safe regardless of what they choose to wear. Australia is a multicultural country. I love how the 2015 refugee week poster shows growing diversity within the beach culture that I treasure as an Australian way of life. I think an important part of a safe, healthy and thriving future for Australia is for everyone to respect what everyone else chooses to wear and for that respect to be reciprocated.

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