The Representation of Women’s Issues in Science-fiction

Introduction Video: Sci-fi has a Women Problem

Video Two: Female Sexuality in Sci-fi

Video Three: Reproductive Rights in Sci-fi

Video Four: Equal Representation in Sci-fi

This digital artefact does some things well and other things, mainly from behind-the-scenes, could have been done better.

My original concept was to do three video essays which analysed how speculative fiction represents, warns, and comments on women’s issues. I chose three which are particularly relevant in today’s society; sexuality, reproductive rights, and equal representation. My original concept did not change throughout the project, except to add a fourth video as an introduction to the concepts of science fiction as speculative fiction, futurology, and some background information on what the science-fiction genre has historically been like for women creators and characters.

I chose this topic because I am very interested in how women are represented in media and the real-world consequences and implications of these representations, and so being able to explore this while considering the future was both entertaining and genuinely interesting to research. However, I did not stick to some elements of the FIST principles; my idea was not fast or tiny, and while I thought it was simple, it ended up being bigger than I thought. Each video essay runs between five and ten minutes long, which means there is around half an hour of content total. With this length, a podcast would have potentially been a more achievable medium to deliver the information through, as making the four video essays took a significant amount of time.

There is significant literature on gender representations in genre fiction so finding academic studies and research went well, and I was able to find predictions for all three of the topic I chose. One of the most interesting papers I looked into was Eva Flicker’s paper on the marginalization and sexualisation of scientific competence I used in the final video essay, as well as the website which did the analysis of all the spoken dialogue in Star Wars. I think both of these were really great finds and good resources to back up my arguments. All of the papers, studies, surveys, books, articles and webpages I reference have links in the video themselves so people can do further research themselves if they’d like. An interesting fact of the DA was I was able to find actually futurists discussing sexuality in the future, but no ‘futurists’ discussed the other two issues that I could find.

Time management regarding the project was the biggest limitation I faced as I did not stick to any kind of upload schedule, so even though I feel like I made relatively in-depth video essays about how science fiction uses societies issues to speculate about possible futures, and I feel like I did well covering how futurologists and other experts ‘actually’ predict the future, and how these two things relate, they weren’t uploaded with enough time for me to really get the most out of sharing it them on relevant Reddit threads, or for much audience engagement. I did share the videos with my housemates prior to uploading for any feedback to counter the lack of outside comments. My main aim for the video essay series was to create something which would make people think about why the representation of issues in speculative texts is important, or why they could be important, and to make my arguments about female representation in science fiction convincingly, and the people I have shown said I achieved this, so all in all I am happy with the outcome of this DA, but not with my time management with creating and uploading them.

Tweets Part Two

Since the first few weeks of live-tweeting, I definitely think I’ve gotten better at critically analysing the movies we’ve been watching, or at least taking parts of the film and looking at them from a particular lens – Blade Runner 2049 and my Bechdel Test rabbit hole is an example of this. I’ve also tried to improve with my engagement with fellow classmates, and I believe I did this to varying degrees of success, whether through retweeting with a comment, or replying to tweets.

Most prominent tweets

Week 9:

This tweet was an attempt at improving on combining my joke tweets, which seem to get more engagement, with a critical thought or idea about the movie. I was questioning the possibility of a robot performing a task which goes against its specific programming, but then the ‘loophole’ was addressed by the movie while I was writing the tweet. This tweet got three likes and one retweet.

While watching the movie, I was noticing a lot of people feeling conflicted about the ethics of a robot being given to the elderly as a companion and caretaker. I realised the movie was touching on these issues but not really providing a clear moral position on it. When I was doing research about the movie, I found an article where the director said this was a very intentional choice, so I shared this in a thread so others could think about this fact as well. The thread total had 11 likes.

This was a simple observation I had that a lot of sci-fi films or content that focus on an emotional relationship and connection to artificial intelligence often have a scene where the robot ‘dies’ or has to be shut down/reset/rebooted. In The Good Place, this is repeatedly played for comedic effect and in Robot and Frank, it was for emotional effect. This tweet had two likes.

Honourable mentions:

This tweet was a joke and a reference to early 90s robot toys/pets. It received eight likes and two replies, one of which had three further replies. This was the best engagement I had this week.

Week 10:

This is a thread of a thought I had that the movie was commenting on – the infantilising of the elderly in regards to their health and upsetting news. It wasn’t critically engaging with the content of the film from a future perspective but was an interesting thought about the themes of the film. It got four likes total and one retweet.

This tweet highlighted that this movie was another in which humans had tried to replicate real human consciousness and emotion in AI, and was presented in a way which showed more ethical and moral issues than potential benefits (in my opinion). I couldn’t think of a film in which this was achieved and represented completely positively, and so was asking the hashtag if they could think of any in an attempt to engage others. This didn’t really work out. The tweet got three likes but no other engagement from the class.

This was my attempt at engaging with the tweet and thought of another classmate. The original poster was commenting on the film positioning technology as something the elderly rely on and asking if this was predicting a switch in who used technology the most in the future, from the young to the old. This reminded me of the shift Facebook has seen recently, and so I shared an article referring to this. This tweet received two likes and one retweet.

Another engagement with an idea from another classmate, this tweet was responding to a comment about the film focusing on memory, but that our memories are infamously fallable. I noted that in the film, the protagonist actively asks the AI to change her memory to something more exciting. This tweet got six likes.

This was my answer to the question “Why should artificial intelligence be valued in relation to people rather than other thinking beings?” posed in relation to how human-centric sci-fi is. This is also a massive theme in a lot of sci-fi films, so I thought it answered the question the best it could be answered. It received two replies.

Honourable mentions:

Joke tweet, because Twitter always loves a thirst tweet. This thread about the attractiveness of the two leads got four total likes.

Week 11:

This week was super interesting to me because Bladerunner 2049 is a movie I kept coming across when researching my DA on sci-fi’s representation of women. So this article was one I had read and was saving to share for this week. It questions the positioning of the love interest in the film, as she is literally owned by K. This thread got five likes and three retweets total.

This question is interesting to me. The characters in the film don’t want the world to find out replicants can reproduce because this could lead to war, which means it would change the way people thought about the replicants’ humanity. So I was asking the hashtag their thoughts on this; why does the reproductive status of something change the way we think about treating it? This tweet did get engagement; someone replied with “Good question. I think maybe they don’t believe people were actually ‘born’ and they are replicants of others and others before that.”

The Bechdel Test is something I’ve been referring to in some of my videos in my DA’s, so I looked up this movie to see if it passed. While it’s not a comprehensive test, it is an interesting jumping off point to see how a film represented women. Bladerunner has a disagreement about if it passes or not, so I lay out the arguments in this thread. I also asked a question about what others thought about this issue and the representation of women in the movie. The thread got eight likes in total and resulted in the most engagement I’ve gotten all session, with seven replies and 17 likes among these replies.

The previous thread I did inspired me to look up all of the films we’d watched so far and find out if they passed the Bechdel test or not. Most of them passed at least one of the criteria, except for Ghost in the Shell and West World and Johnny Mnemonic, which hadn’t been logged online yet. I had to do this with the condition that clearly female-coded AI/robots/androids counted as female characters, as so many of the films do have these kinds of characters. This thread got four likes and one retweet.

Honourable mentions:

This was an example of engagement with a fellow classmate in the replies of my original tweet about Blade Runner 2049 and the Bechdel test. It recieved three likes.

Same as above. This tweet got five likes.

Week 12:

I hadn’t seen The Matrix and people are very unimpressed when they hear this, usually. I’d tried to watch it a few times but hadn’t liked the beginning – I’d never gotten to Morpheus before. After seeing the movie, I understand why people think it’s a must-watch. It’s a pretty freaking good movie. This tweet got six likes.

This tweet thread was a thought I kept having seen my classmates tweets about how not knowing what is real or not would mess with their heads. It was a pretty personal tweet with information about me in it, but the thought was interesting enough I wanted to share it. This tweet thread received twelve likes total, and one retweet.

Just a damned good quote and part of the movie. Trinity is amazing. This tweet received five likes.

This was an example of taking a comment about the movie from a classmate and having another thought from it. In the OP’s tweet, they pointed out that at the beginning of the film when Neo is introduced to the world, in 88 lines of dialogue, 44 of them are questions. This was interesting to me as too often in films, I feel to move the story along, characters are very quick to accept without much question a new, unbelievable thing. I thought it was good that Neo’s character was questioning things – especially when the entire film revolves around not knowing what is real or not. This tweet didn’t receive any likes or retweets.

This sarcastic tweet was referring to incel/MGTOW/etc communities on the internet taking the phrase “Take the red pill” to mean choosing to ‘realise’ the world is skewed towards females and men are superior.” This tweet got two likes and one reply thread with three tweets.

This one was a commentary about how Trinity is a well-written, strong female character, which can be rare in Sci-fi, and especially because her actions have a direct impact on the plot, another thing female characters in sci-fi often don’t get to do that often. This tweet thread got four likes and one reply thread with three replys.

Honourable mentions:

Relevant sci-fi joke referring to the terrible aim of the Stormtroopers in Star Wars. None of the many army men shooting at Neo and Trinity in the final gun scene hit them. This tweet got two likes and one retweet.

Commenting On Other’s Blogs Pt 2

Here are the comments I wrote on the DA betas for three of my classmates. Being so close to the due date of the DA, the majority of the comments were just pointing out things I found positive about their projects and suggesting extra research. I’ll go into more detail about each comment below.

Dakoda: Insects impact on the future of agriculture

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I liked Dakoda had taken on the feedback about downsizing her project as she definitely had a great idea, but it was going to be very difficult to achieve everything she set out to do. I also thought that finding a niche area to explore helped with this, and with making the project have more of a utility as it is now more specific. A lot of the research I did for extra information to offer her was US-based, so when I found an article from the ABC I thought it would be relevant and interesting for Dakota to read, even as background issue or extra information for her piece.

Matilda: The Glossy Project

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I’m very excited about Matilda’s project, as it’s very relevant to my degree and my current job as the assistant editor of an online publication/magazine. Knowing the ins and outs of how funding an online publication in 2019 works, I thought that the model Bitch Magazine was interesting and something Matilda could potentially look into for an article in her online magazine. I thought this would be helpful as people are very familiar with advertising, sponsorship, and paywalls, but the Hearken tool is a little bit different – closer to Patreons than anything. I thought her method of presenting her DA was great – and online magazine about the future of magazines – and so I passed on this feedback as well.

Kiana: Youtube channel

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For Kiana’s DA, the feedback I provided was mostly in reference to how she is addressing the future in her project. She had mentioned wanting to monetise her channel using Google Adsense as this was a good way for Youtuber’s to make money. This is true, but there have also been pretty drastic changes to the Youtube algorithm and way it gives money to content creators recently, and so I found some articles online about these changes, and alternative ways channels make money. As Kiana’s channel is still in the early stages, some of the suggestions in the second article might be ways she can try to reach the goal of monetising her channel in the future sooner.


BCM325 Beta Pitch

In my Beta Pitch video, I outline the original project idea, as well as the changes I made based on the feedback and things I learned whilst making the first video in the digital artifact.

Originally three videos, while making the first one I realised I needed to create an introduction video explaining the history of the genre and concepts needed to understand the utility of the project in order to keep the videos at a consumable length (less than 10 minutes).

I also addressed issues I had not mentioned in my pitch video regarding target audience, release schedule and length of the videos.

I have done most of the background research for all three of the other videos and have a lot of skills and footage to use so I predict I will be able to stick to my planned schedule and complete the DA effectively.

Live-tweeting: like my analysis, not just my jokes

I have live-tweeted films and television events before but usually for entertainment instead of for critical analysis. The biggest issue for me for the first few weeks of live-tweeting was to engage with my classmate’s tweets. I feel there is an importance to balancing the tone of live-tweeting between serious tweets and “shit-posting”. In the first six weeks of this class, I’ve found my joke tweets are usually my tweets with the highest engagement, although as the weeks have gone on, I’ve found my critical analysis tweets have been getting more engagement also.

It’s also clear to see which weeks I enjoyed the most; I was still finding my live-tweeting-for-class feet in Week One and had an already-held dislike for Week Two’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey and therefore I found it harder to critically engage with these texts, as well as to engage with them on an entertainment level. However, I enjoyed and understood the films from weeks three and six, and so my tweets are better, got more engagement, and more closely look at the texts.

I’ve embedded the tweets from each week I want to talk about, as well as a section for honourable mentions (which are the tweets which got the most engagement because they are funny, not necessarily because they’re good examples of critically live-tweeting). I was absent for weeks four and five.

Most prominent tweets

Week 1:

As it was a silent film, I thought the way the workers acted in the film had significance to the meaning of the film, which is why I tweeted this thought. I feel it was effective as it got some engagement (four likes, two retweets) including another member of class commenting their thoughts on the idea I posted (they added “When the rich are shown they take up most of the shot, as opposed to the workers who are tiny and minuscule within the scene”).

This tweet got good engagement (four likes, one retweet and one reply) and even though it’s written as a sarcastic joke, I was also making a comment on the nature of films at the time and of science-fiction in general. Films around this time had very little diversity in terms of race and gender, and Metropolis is an example of how films at the time did include these groups; by depicting people of colour as slaves and women as damsels in distress/objects to be saved. I decided to use a gif here as well to encourage interaction.

This tweet didn’t get much engagement (one retweet). While the content of the tweet is an example of how I was critically engaging with the text and content of the class – highlighting elements of Metropolis that were influential to the genre – I don’t think it got as much engagement because it was also a thought tweeted by many in the class. Over-exposure of the same ideas is one factor of live-tweeting that will happen often if people are commenting on the same content, but is not good for engagement or standing out as you’re then competing with several other tweets with the same content. In future weeks, I tried to get better at not just repeating the same thoughts echoed by my classmates to make up my tweet-count but to instead engage with my classmate’s tweets by retweeting or replying with further thoughts (the best example of this is in week three with Westworld).

Honourable mentions:

Week 2:

I thought this fact was interesting as it came out in the 1960’s, which was notorious for drug usage in the United States, and so I thought the fact that young people were taking drugs before seeing the film was relevant. This post got very good interaction, including replies (three likes, three interactions in the replies).

This tweet didn’t get much engagement (three likes) but is an example of attempts to engage with the tweets of other classmates. In this case, I was answering a question about other films exploring the relationship between humans and technology.

Honourable mentions:

Each of my joke tweets this week got better engagement than my critical analysis tweets (four likes and five likes and one retweet, respectively). I would say these got more engagement because they were both relatable.

Week 3:

For this tweet, I ran a poll asking people which of the “worlds” they’d visit. This tweet got very good engagement (three likes, 13 poll responses) because the nature of the tweet encourages engagement. The winning worlds were West World and Roman World.

An example of my engagement on other classmates tweets. I responded to a tweet stating that West World was full of lifelike androids “practically indistinguishable from human beings”. This prompted me to ask what the creation of these worlds asks about human nature. It for pretty good engagement (four likes and one retweet), I think because it cut to the themes of the movie and so people also watching the film could instantly ask themselves the same question.

This tweet got very good engagement (six likes and four retweets) and I think it’s because it summed up a lot of the casual tweets from the West World screening about the tone of the movie being all over the place, but in the words of the film’s writer, and so it was more critical analysis. This is an example of the kinds of tweets I’d like to do more of in the coming weeks – ones that combine the casual, “shit-posting” tone of Twitter, but that still have critical analysis elements to them.

This twitter thread that I replied to got some of the best engagement out of any tweets I’ve done so far (nine likes, one retweet and one response). It’s also an example of how replying to a classmate’s tweet and engaging can yield a positive discussion or be more rewarding than just making a comment about the movie.

This is my second reply to the above Twitter thread which got minimal engagement in comparison (one like and two replies). We were discussing issues about women as sex objects, which are prominent in both 2019 currently and obviously from when the film/book was created.

Week 6:

This thread I created didn’t get good engagement but I was actually very happy to have found this article from 1995 when Johhny Mnemonic came out. It stated that part of the reason Sony invested so much money into the film was because it was on the cusp of the internet blowing up and they thought it was a worthy investment – something companies still do today and something worth thinking about in regards to future studies; what technologies do large conglomerates think are worth the investment?

The second part of this thread got some engagement (one like, one retweet, same person), maybe because of the gif usage. I thought it was interesting as it really “90s’ed” the film. While they thought they were being very technologically advanced. The fact you would load a webpage to look at movie merch, and then call a toll-free number in order to buy that merch, is very interesting to think about in 2019 when you can buy basically anything with the click of a button. That’s why I thought this was interesting.

This tweet was in response to a scene where Johnny makes a long distance phone call over the internet but it was so much more effort than just picking up a phone, but because it was ‘technology’, it is portrayed as futuristic, when most technological advancements have made these tasks easier, not more confusing. It got decent engagement (four likes). It’s a little fact I’ve seen in a few of the texts we’ve studied, so I pointed it out here.

This tweet got zero engagements but is probably the thing that I was most interested in about the film once I found it out – how would a gender swap affect the movie? Why did they choose to change the source material and cast a male lead instead of a female lead? Is this another example of sci-fi’s women issue? These were questions this tweet made me think about, which is a good sign in regard to my DA as I am noticing these women representation issues and that’s what my DA is about. It would have been good to get this more engagement, perhaps but using a gif, or posting a poll with it.

Honourable mentions:

My joke tweets this week were on point and got lots of engagement (seven likes and two retweets, five likes and two retweets, and nine likes and three replies respectively). The first one makes fun of the amount of computer memory 90s people thought was large compared to today, the second one is a great Law and Order: SVU joke (I am biased) and the last one is just a dumb joke. But these dumb jokes got the most engagement out of any of my tweets this week.

All in all, I think I need to get better at joining my ‘jokes’ and analysis into the same tweet to encourage engagement on tweets other than joke tweets, and finding something to say which critically engages with the source material, even if I don’t enjoy that material (I’m looking at you, 2001: A Space Odyssey). These are both areas I will look to improve on in future live-tweeting sessions.

Commenting on others’ blogs

Here are the comments I wrote on the DA pitches for three of my classmates. With each of the comments, I tried to offer some other research ideas based on my life experience/industry knowledge/general thoughts as well as making a comment about their method of presenting the DA, and any other suggestions I came up with. I’ll go into more detail on each comment below.

Nathan: Lowfee DA 

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I liked that this student was planning on building on an already-established DA idea, and thought they had at least started to think about how to adapt this DA for the Future Cultures subject. I made the suggestion that instead of just looking at guessing what low-fi music would sound like in the future, to back this up with research into the music industry, and how it might change in the future, as well as looking at how the internet influenced the growth of the low-fi genre so much more than other genres. I found some reddit threads I thought might be contextually interesting as background research, and a podcast exploring the origins of low-fi music for Nathan to potentially look at. I appreciated that he had figured out an engagement strategy which worked, as that can often be the hardest part of making a DA – finding an audience. I was trying to sound very nice and polite, but also trying to tell the student that they might need to look for some more academic/research-based information to complement their great idea in order to better improve their DA.

Emma: Water Cooler Chat DA 

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In my comment to Emma, I highlight that I like her idea because my experience working in the industry she’s planning on covering has shown me that there is definitely a market for the technology in the future but that none of those I work with are embracing this technology right now. I also commented that I think her use of a podcast is a good ideas as I’ve noticed a lot of business podcasts trending lately and so it’s the right time for the medium and the content she’s planning on creating. My main suggestion for her was to potentially add other voices, as the content matter could get dry if it was just the one voice, and also, it would be good to get some experts in the industry to talk on the podcast as well. I tried to find at least one academic source for her to look into as well. This was the first comment I wrote and so I feel I was less critical and more simply supportive of the DA idea compared to the other two comments, and so if I made this comment again, I might add some more critical thoughts, such as asking how she plans to market her blog and podcast.

Tanmayi: Past, present and future of AI

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In this comment, I tried to outline my biggest fear with Tanmayi’s DA idea that I could think of and that was using a blog and podcast. From her DA pitch, I got the impression she would be relying on both the podcast and the blog to tell her whole DA story, and so I wanted to warn her that they both need to somewhat stand alone as well, as not everyone will engage with all these mediums (obviously the markers would, but outside audiences can be less thorough).
She was also thinking of covering a range of different ideas and industries including business and medicine, so I sent her some links to articles about how AI will affect my industry, journalism, in case she wanted to look into that as well.


BCM325 Digital Artifact Pitch

For my digital artifact, I intend to create a series of video essays which explore how three issues facing women today – reproductive rights, sexuality, and equal representation – have been imagined in texts showing the future, primarily science-fiction films. I will then explain what economists, academics, sociologists, and historians actually predict will happen to these issues in the real future and the impact they will have on society. How close were some of the predictions? What do these real and fictional predictions about women’s issues say about our attitudes towards them in both the past, present, and future?


Final Reflections on BCM313 The Future of Work

It would be an understatement to say that BCM313 has been not only my favourite university subject I’ve done so far, but is also the most valuable.

I hadn’t heard of narrative practice before this class, but learning the theory and, more importantly, hearing Kate put the theory into real-world examples – like the future of work – made it easy to understand and it resonated with me from the first seminar. I think I am so attracted to it because it blends together storytelling and real-life stories with research, which is interesting to me as a journalist and writer, and something I want to explore further. I am also very aware of the reality of the journalism profession and so it was good to look at how its changing and going to be affected in the future.

The subject has made me more certain of my career path – before this semester I honestly didn’t have an answer to the question “what do you want to do when you leave university?” I still don’t have one answer, but this class has made me certain I am on the right track and the mentorship of Kate and Giverny throughout the semester has made a few things more concrete for me; I know I want to do my Honours degree, I know I want to spend more time looking at narrative practices in research, I know I want to be a writer.

Even though I opted to have my first two assignments ungraded in this subject, I found I was eager to do them and do them well. I wanted to study for this subject and spend time looking into the themes of the future of work and Michael White’s work. I wanted to attend classes because it had been made clear that our time as students was valued from the teaching staff of the classroom.

Too often as students, I feel we are sidelined and made to feel like we aren’t valued because we’re “just students” and our time outside of university is trivialised by the university, but in this classroom, I felt like my time and work outside of the classroom was valued just as much as my time in the classroom, which was appreciated and meaningful for me. I have sacrificed a lot balancing full-time university and my (basically) full-time job, including putting my relationships, health and mental wellbeing on the line at times while prioritizing university, and I felt like this was noted and acknowledged in BCM313 by both Kate and Giverny, and the rest of my classmates. I think it was the first time a lot of us students felt seen and heard, and so from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank Kate and Giverny for doing that.

One of the most impactful moments for me was the day I did my presentation for the second assignment, and, in an unplanned and spontaneous way, ended up bringing some uncomfortable trauma experienced by my sister and myself in our childhoods into the room. I felt safe to do so, because of the environment so carefully and lovingly created by Kate and my peers over the previous few weeks, but it was still daunting and I didn’t know if it was the right thing to do. I was extremely anxious about this, and it was causing me a fair amount of distress.

After class, I coincidently stumbled upon Kate and Giverny having a coffee together and they validated that decision I had made and acknowledged the difficulty of it, which made me feel like I had done a good thing when I was swimming in self-doubt and worry about it. We also had a discussion about my own work future which left me feeling clear-headed and inspired.

While the content covered in BCM313 is worthwhile, interesting, and the most helpful information I’ve received in a long time in my degree, I think the thing which really stands out to me about the subject is the human interactions and culture of the class. I wasn’t competing with my classmates, I was working with them, just like in the workplace. It was refreshing and has reignited some of my passion for my degree, which I have to admit wavers sometimes.

I still have six months of my degree left and intend on continuing onto post-graduate study, but I think this subject is, in a word, amazing. If this was my last semester, I would be grateful to have such a positive experience and helpful subject to see me off, and even as a returning student, the things I’ve learned in BCM313 will stick with me for some time.

“Do What You Love”: The Privileged And Exploitative Inspirational Work Mantra

“We live in an era that’s intent on reminding us that “do what you love” is the key to professional and creative satisfaction while conveniently eliding the fact that love can also hurt like hell.” Neha Kale, 2016. 

When I turned 18, I was expected to pay my own way. My mother was renting a two-bedroom home in the CBD of my small country city, and the weekly rent was to be split down the middle – $150 each – from the week after my birthday. I also had to go halves in all house bills and groceries. I was forced to drop out of the TAFE course I was doing as an alternative entry to university and get a job at a fruit and vegetable store in order to pay my share.

This wasn’t a totally unique experience, I thought, but in the seven years since, I haven’t met a young person who had to ‘go halves in everything’ to live at home, especially at the expense of gaining a higher education. I ended up moving into a share-house with friends as it was the cheaper option for me and allowed me to save money for three years to move away from my hometown to attend university.

This experience had an impact on deciding what I was going to do at university. When I was filling in my application, I was having a fight with my head and my heart; my head was arguing for a reliable career option, which would produce money and employment opportunities but that I may not love, while my heart was making a case for pursuing an unstable and tumultuous career in writing.

I followed my heart, and am now at university studying journalism and communications and media. I’m working a job that I do not love, which I was offered after doing months of unpaid labour through an internship. I am in the ‘hard yards’ phase of my career, paying my dues and gaining experience. I’m doing the undesirable work so that I can one day move into a job I will love. Because Doing What You Love is the career path young people told to strive for.

In his famous 2005 commencement speech to Stanford University, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said:

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” Steve Jobs, 2005

The message of this uplifting speech was clear; Find something you love and figure out how to turn that into your career.

This inspirational work mantra – Do What You Love (and You’ll Never Work A Day In Your Life) – permeates throughout current and future work culture, and on the surface, is an attractive idea. In Australia, the average full-time employee spends over 35 hours each week working, and so if they are doing something they enjoy, it stands to reason that their overall job and lifestyle satisfaction will be higher.

This advice is evident, especially at universities. The very concept of paying thousands of dollars to attend university to study something for three to five years has the implication that the person is studying something they love or something they want to do.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

A 2015 study on first year experiences in Australian universities found that 96 per cent of students cited “intrinsic interest in the field of study” as their reason for going to university, followed by 87 per cent aiming to improve their job prospects and 77 per cent hoping to develop their talents and creative abilities (Baik, Naylor & Arkoudis 2015, p. 23).

This data shows that personal interest and developing of talents are as important to university students as improving their career prospects, which is evidence that students are going to university to gain degrees and get jobs in fields they are going to enjoy.  Students are sold the product of a degree, with the university saying “Come here, study this, and then you’ll get a fulfilling career doing a job you love”.

An article on Forbes talks of millennials seeking purpose over a paycheck, saying young people today ” long to be part of something bigger than themselves… want to lead a balanced life… want to be happy at home and happy on the job… [and] are on an endless search for happiness”, driving home the idea that doing what you love is the new career goal for our generation.

For a generation which values doing what they love, there is a potentially dangerous implication which can be found if looking at this mantra through the lens of the narrative principle of the absent but implicit”, which involves finding out the “subjugated meanings that the problem story relies upon for its expression? How do these connect with stories of preference and how can we bring them forward?” (Carey, Walther & Russel 2006, p 3) to discover the implicit but unsaid value behind the saying.

“Do what you love” is saying that you should love what you do. The absent but implicit value behind this is that the thing you love will bring meaning and fulfillment to your life. The opposite of this is that if you don’t seek a career doing what you love, your life will have less meaning and fulfillment, which is a concerning implication, as not all people are able to seek a career doing what they love.

The reality is that doing what you love is a privilege not all will be able to achieve. The mantra itself discredits other kinds of less-‘loveable’ work and young people who are seeking to fulfill this advice are open to exploitation from the current job market.

“In mainstream Australia individuals who do not “pull their weight” are stigmatised, with those receiving welfare colloquially referred to as “dole bludgers” demonised on tabloid television.” Sara James, 2012

The culture of work in Australia has been built around strong work ethic; in the past, a job was just something you did, where you were expected to work hard and put in the ‘hard yakka’ in order to reap the reward of money and respect. Career enjoyment was an added bonus, if you had it, but was not to be expected.

In online articles outlining potentially jarring aspects of Australian work culture to international students, it is spelled out that Australians have a very strong work ethic. “Australian companies value talent and hard work above the amount of time you have been working for them,” one article advises, while another explains that organisations “expect their staff to work a bit later” than their hours dictate. “Don’t get a reputation as a clockwatcher”, the article says, while explaining that “When someone asks an Australian to do an extra task at work, they will usually take on the extra work and not say they are too busy to do it. If you say that you are too busy, your co-workers or boss will assume that you cannot handle the workload”. In other words, always accept more work, stay back late to complete it, and don’t complain.

According to the Department of Home Affairs Life in Australia booklet, one of the key aspects of Australian culture is the ‘fair go’ and the expectation that “what someone achieves in life should be a product of their talents, work and effort rather than their birth or favouritism”. It also explains that Australians “don’t often want to be seen as boastful or arrogant. This often extends to their accomplishments, success and expertise,” and that Australians “don’t always praise someone for a job well done as they assume everyone is doing their best” (Australian Government 2016)

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What all of these aspects of Australian culture come back to is that you’re expected to work hard at your job, whether or not you enjoy it. And young people are increasingly encouraged to strive for a job they love but are still operating in a work culture with the above values at its core.

It is these elements of Australian work culture which have led to the rise of exploitative working conditions, particularly unpaid internships and work experience expectations.

‘Do what you love’ disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is an unmerited privilege, a sign of that person’s socioeconomic class.” Miya Tokumitsu, 2014

The decision to choose a career for enjoyment over necessity is one that only financially privileged people can make because it is a costly one, with many risks.

Many of the careers which fall into the ‘lovable’ category are ones which are less likely to make a large income return; creative, intellectual or socially prestigious pursuits as opposed to necessary but more unattractive jobs which may be repetitive, unintellectual, and undistinguished (Tokumitsu 2014). Careers as a writer, artist, academic, teacher or musician, for example, are considered “loveable” careers, compared to menial jobs such as retail or hospitality.

It is these ‘loveable’ careers which are the jobs that, especially within Australia, require large amounts of unpaid work in order to ‘prove’ that you are good enough for the paid jobs, and willing to work hard for it. For example, a study published in 2016 found that “58 percent of Australians aged between 18 and 29 had participated in at least one episode of UWE [unpaid work experience] in the last five years and that one in five had undertaken five or more” (Tweedie & Ting, 2018).

This culture of unpaid internships is able to thrive in Australia, especially in the ‘loveable’ industries, as young people seeing jobs in these areas are told they need to work for free in the name of love and to show they are willing to put in hard work, which will, in theory, be rewarded with paid work. They are also pitted against each other, with the expectation that doing these unpaid internships will result in better job prospects, but which are not always a guarantee. This taps into the above elements of the Australian working culture of reward for work but internship culture “legitimises worker exploitation, undermines the graduate job market and entrenches class inequalities” (Thorn, 2018). It makes it difficult for the people who cannot afford to do unpaid work but might be just as skilled, to compete in an already-scarce job market.

It completely ignores this larger issue of exploitation of workers and the privilege of being able to do unpaid work without financially ruining oneself and places the responsibility on the individual, implying that if they are unable to undertake unpaid internships in the pursuit of their dream career, they just do not want it enough. This is the exact opposite of the core value of narrative practice, which says that “The person is never the problem; the problem is the problem” (Sween 1998, p. 4). It also goes against the core Australian value, dictated in the Life in Australia booklet; that “Australian society values equality of opportunity for individuals”.

All of this would not be too much of an issue if Do What You Love was just a motivational quote instead of the expectation for young workers that it has become. But when it is expected, it places all of those who are not as socioeconomically or culturally privileged at a disadvantage. It increases the divide between the classes and encourages a devaluing of some work and workers whilst coveting and praising others. And, perhaps most concerning, it allows for the exploitation of young workers in an already-competitive work culture.

If the future of work continues to go in this direction, even the ‘loveable’ jobs will become tedious and unwanted.

“If we acknowledged all of our work as work, we could set appropriate limits for it, demanding fair compensation and humane schedules that allow for family and leisure time. And if we did that, more of us could get around to doing what it is we really love.” Miya Tokumitsu, 2014

Main image: Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash


Australian Government 2016, ‘Life in Australia: Australian Values and Principles’, Department of Home Affairs, online booklet, accessed 29 October 2018, <>

Baik, C, Naylor, R & Arkoudis, S 2015, ‘The First Year Experience In Australian Universities: Findings From Two Decades, 1994-2014’, Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, University of Melbourne, online report, accessed 29 October 2018, <>

Carey, M, Walther, S & Russell, S 2006, ‘The Absent but Implicit – a map to support therapeutic enquiry’, Adelaide, accessed 29 October 2018, <>

James, S 2012, ‘Hard yakka: what’s the work ethic really worth?’, The Conversation, online article, 26 September, accessed 1 November 2018, <>

Neha, K 2016, ‘The problem with ‘do what you love”, SBS, online article, 14 June, accessed 29 October 2018, <>

Sween, E 1998, ‘The one-minute question: What is narrative therapy?: Some working answers’, Dulwich Centre Publications, accessed 1 November 2018, <>

Thorn, A 2018, ‘Journalism is becoming a profession only for the rich – so why won’t anyone talk about it?’, Mumbrella, online article, 22 August, accessed 1 November 2018, <>

Tokumitsum, M 2014, ‘In the Name of Love’, Jacobin Magazine, 1 December, online article, accessed 29 October 2018, <>

Tweedie, B & Ting, I 2018, ‘How working for free went mainstream’, ABC News, online article, 3 May, accessed 1 November 2018, <>


A Conversation Between Two Sisters

The journalist in me was having a really hard time with this narrative interview assignment. I’m so used to extracting information – albeit interesting information – as opposed to finding a narrative within a personal story.

My chosen interviewee was also having a difficult time with the interview process in the beginning. Having never been interviewed before, and having to “squeeze” our talk in between planning her hens night and ensuring I didn’t leave Newcastle too late to get home at a reasonable hour, there was tension in the air.

But nothing a plate of cookies couldn’t fix, or at least make more comfortable.


I think I’m more of a do-er. But, at the same time, because I know what I value in a boss, I try and do that as well, so although I didn’t excel massively as a man – mmm, nah, that’s a lie – I am a good manager but to be honest, it’s not something I massively enjoy.