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A picture is worth a thousand words

PHOTO: Tia Haralabakos

AUSTRALIAN youth are starting a conversation about sex education through art as part of a new initiative led by the Young Women’s Advisory Group (YWAG). 

Titled ‘Platforming Young Artists,’ YWAG called on women and non-binary people under the age of 25 to creatively express the female gaze on sex education and intersectional themes. 

Eight pieces were recently published to YWAG’s social media accounts, accompanied by detailed commentary from the chosen artists. 

One of the selected works is a three-part series on microaggressions, touching on the need for sex education to cover more than just the birds and the bees. 

According to the artist, Ms Hemgjia, microaggressions are discriminatory comments or actions that subtly and often unconsciously marginalise a group. 

Ms Hemgjia shares a personal meaning of the term as an Asian-Australian through graphic art. 

Overlaying the graphics are text-based depictions of microaggressions which Ms Hengjia writes in casual prose, to reflect the commonality of prejudice in the Australian lexicon.

“The graphics I have created examine one aspect of mistreatment, microaggressions,” she said. 

“Each one of these scenes I have depicted is heavily based on genuine microaggressions experienced by my Asian-Australian friends and I.

“Even though these behaviors aren’t as damaging as physical violence or outright verbal hostility, it makes you feel hurt and ashamed all the same.”

Another selected artwork in the project suggests sex education should change its tone, from reproduction to pleasure and consent. 

The artist behind this piece, Ms Sashini, challenges traditional cisgender heteronormative focuses in sex education, by framing sex as unique and ‘what you make it.’ 

Ms Sashini’s artwork was the first to be presented in the Platforming Young Artists project. PHOTO: Instagram/ @ywag.era

“I know through my experience that the current, traditional definition of sex does not feel inclusive or authentic,” she said. 

“I hope to make my message clear.” 

Whilst there is a national curriculum, education remains state and territory responsibility meaning sex education comes in a mixed bag across Australia.

Every five years, Latrobe University, in conjunction with the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health, and Society, conducts a National Survey on Secondary Students and Sexual Health.

The most recent survey, published in 2019, finds sex education programs both in and out of schools in need of improvement.  

“There continue to be opportunities to improve overall sexual health knowledge among students in Australia,” states the report.  

 Platforming Young Artists project could be the first step to addressing gaps in the curriculum. 

YWAG’s initiative is part of the larger ‘Let’s Talk: Young Women’s Views on Sex Education,’ an ongoing initiative that aims to strengthen sex education in Australia.  

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Tia Haralabakos

Tia Haralabakos is a Media & Communications student at Monash University specialising in Journalism and human rights. She is interested in the multi-faceted landscape of digital media, particularly addressing challenges to online reporting like diversity and content moderation. Tia’s journalistic interests include human rights and social affairs.

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