While last year I was busy being quite the adventurous backpacker, this year my biggest achievement has been to walk beyond the well-worn path between my bedroom and kitchen. It might have been the intensity of the lockdown slowly rotting away my brain, but I couldn’t help but start to draw some parallels between my time locked up in my bedroom in Melbourne, and my practice of Vipassana in Thailand.
The Southern Man advert is aiming to speak to a specific audience of beer drinkers, assumed by Speight's to be men. Other beer companies have played with similar received notions of masculinity. Tui, another New Zealand beer company, have run adverts where rural ‘blokes’ who run out of gas for the BBQ decide to power it from the farts of a nearby cow. This is seen as a representation of the much lauded ‘Kiwi ingenuity’. Another example of the stoic, terse masculinity of what advertising companies imagine farmers to be is the advert Toyota ran in 1989 that sees a series of farm accidents with the farmer responding ‘bugger’ after each of these.
Being of South-East Asian background growing up in Australia, these types of comments are not something unfamiliar to me. I have grappled with race and culture many times and I expect that battle to continue long into the future. It’s not the comparisons that bother me. It’s not about the person I’m being compared to. It’s the fact that I’m even being compared. That I’m not me, but rather I am reduced to how I look or who I resemble. I don’t get to define myself anymore. That’s the part that bothers me. After all, it happens to everyone, right? It is the casual nature of these comments which makes it so problematic. It has become so normalised and so easy to dismiss that I don’t feel like I have a choice to even bring it up.
COVID-19 has prompted a renewed awareness of how we use our bodies under “normal” circumstances. COVID-19 is also demanding that we change our bodily behaviors to prevent the spread of the pandemic. This entails both transforming existing techniques and learning new ones. These hygienic practices are all part of a particular set of bodily techniques that Marcel Mauss called “care of the body,” or prescribed, everyday physical acts that serve to maintain the well-being of individuals and to affirm their belonging within broader social communities.