Activist, writer, sex-positive feminist, single mother, sandgroper, grumpy old woman.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In defence of bogans...

This is a comment I made on another blog post that was defending the stereotyping of 'bogans'. Just posting it here to show someone else - and maybe to point to in future when the debate gets too much for me.

This suburban vs inner city thing seems to come up a lot in the ‘bogan’ discussion. I feel I should point out that that’s very much a Melbourne/Sydney thing. Other cities don’t recognise those issues to the same extent because they are, or have traditionally been, constructed differently – and the bush doesn’t recognise those issues at all. It’s no coincidence that the people most active against anti-bogan sentiment on Twitter have been from WA, SA, Qld and/or regional areas.

Interestingly, all those places are often judged as more ‘bogan’ than NSW or Victoria. The recent WA-bashing is a case in point, with West Aussies frequently described as inherently racist, sexist, homophobic, greedy and selfish. Why? Because it’s the home of the cashed up bogan? Again, I don’t think it’s coincidence that Australia’s primary mining and agricultural states, Qld and WA, are commonly stereotyped as insular bogan bigots.

You said in your post that “bogan was a Melbourne word for many decades …to [Sydney] the bogans of old were westies”.

Firstly, you guys (apparently) defined a bogan by the suburb they lived in. We didn’t. We have ‘bogan suburbs’, known as such because that’s where all the bogans live, ie. the ‘bogan’ is a pre-defined type of person that happens to congregate in that suburb. Those suburbs are almost exclusively welfare and state housing-dependent areas, so for many people, ‘bogan’ is intrinsically linked to low income.

Secondly, Melbourne isn’t the only place where the word ‘bogan’ existed. I was identifying as a bogan in highschool, 25 years ago. I also have friends from Adelaide who claim ‘boganhood’ in their teens and their definition is compatible with mine – someone in black jeans and a flanno who drives a ute, drinks beer and listens to Oz rock. It had nothing to do with bigotry, or ostentatious clothing and houses (the latter being the complete opposite of the traditional bogan).

Which brings us to the crux of my argument – I don’t appreciate my personal lifestyle or history (or state) being re-appropriated to mean something hideous and hated. And it’s really not appropriate for people who don’t inhabit that community or identify with the label to say it’s simply part of the “continuing defining process” and dismiss the concerns of people that do.

This cruel stereotype will cause actual harm to people. It’s already started. For example, Centrelink is trialling income management in select ‘bogan suburbs’ in Perth, because their inhabitants are automatically deemed to be irresponsible and lazy. Actually they’re just poor, but society supports these measures because they firmly believe that ‘bogans’ are a certain breed of people who don’t give a f*ck about their kids or their health or the taxpayer. Hey, that sounds familiar…NT intervention, anyone?

You are creating a new underclass that it’s totally PC to vilify. And it’s all very well to claim that the meaning of the word is changing, but the ORIGINAL meaning of the word is still firmly entrenched in our psyche. What this means is that, today, any person fitting the OLD definition of bogan (black jeans, wifebeater, feral ute, goatee) is immediately grouped together with the NEW definition of bogan (violent, racist, sexist, homophobe). I should add that this is particularly upsetting for country people, like me, who tend to present as the city idea of ‘bogan’, even if we don’t identify as such. Just last week I had an argument with someone about “arrogant country bogans in their 4WDs, who don’t give a f*ck about the environment”.

Apologies for the lengthy rant, but I don’t think people realise just how much this stereotyping is hurting people. I’m actually getting to the point where I’m scared to talk about certain things on Twitter, lest I be deemed bogan and shouted down for it. On the weekend, I tweeted a ‘bogan’ joke and a friend retweeted it – he suffered a full day of insults and accusations of bigotry because of it. (Both of us are left-leaning and known in the activist community AND also identify as bogans). In short, if someone is a bigot, call them a bigot. The word ‘bogan’ is already taken.