Recent incidents involving female athletes underscore a long history of sexualisation and policing of women’s bodies and behaviours, but things are changing, albeit slowly.

Written by: Rebecca Stewart and Lisa Wheildon

Flipping the narrative: US gymnast Simone Biles in action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil
Flipping the narrative: US gymnast Simone Biles in action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil
US gymnast Simone Biles in action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil.

There have been a few standout images from the 2021 Olympic Games so far, and they tell an important story about the way gendered stereotypes and social norms are being challenged, and are shifting.

Early on, we saw the German gymnasts make international headlines when they took a stand against sexualisation, and chose to compete in tights or unitards rather than the usual high-cut leotards.

Then we saw US gymnastics superstar — and sexual abuse survivor — Simone…


Mind wandering and mind blanking are everyday life phenomena, but what’s happening in our brains when our attention lapses?

Written by: Thomas Andrillon, Researcher in psychology.

Invisible man showing only the hat and clothed body.
Invisible man showing only the hat and clothed body.
We can sometimes express both markers of sleep and wake in different parts of the brain.

Our minds are fleeting. William James, the father of modern psychology, describes them as birds, alternating between flying and perching.

A direct consequence is our difficulty to focus on a given task, especially when we’re not particularly motivated. Instead, we often catch ourselves thinking about unrelated things — things of the past or future, things to do or forgotten — instances that are studied under the concept of “mind wandering”.

Read more: Spontaneous thought and the mysteries of the wandering mind

At times as well, it seems our minds wander to nowhere. We…


Britney Spears isn’t the first female performer to have been forcibly committed to psychiatric treatment, often by family members. But by being given a platform for her voice, she highlights the broader institutional forces that accompany and compound mental illness.

Written by: Fiona Gregory, Lecturer in Literary Studies

Over the past week, media attention worldwide has been focused on singer Britney Spears’ attempts to free herself from the conservatorship that limits her financial, professional and personal autonomy.

The idea that an internationally successful pop superstar “isn’t even allowed to choose the colour of her kitchen cabinets”, let alone maintain control over her medical and reproductive decisions, has proven deeply unsettling.

There’s been justifiable outrage over the past week at Spears’ treatment, and yet the singer has lived with the conservatorship since 2008, and the #FreeBritney campaign has been striving to…


Here’s what I learnt about changing the cycle of gendered abuse.

Written by: Dr Steven Roberts

We can break our silence, and support the push towards ending violence against women, children, and people of all genders.

CONTENT WARNING: Includes descriptions of physical violence, graphic violence; violence against women and children.

The speakers at March’s Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence fifth anniversary explained the necessity for men to join women in talking about and condemning men’s violence. Prevention, it was made clear, necessitates allyship.

Alongside the now-regular calls to action for non-violent men to denounce men’s violence or to call out the behaviour of others and to be…


Written by: Andrew Moshirnia

Tuesday, 16 March, 2021 was a dark day, yet oddly familiar. A gunman murdered eight people in metropolitan Atlanta in the US, six of whom were Asian women. That same day, 1245 Americans died of COVID-19.

I’ve written about the need for special intervention to combat targeted social media misinformation stoking racial hatred in an era of random acts of terror.

The backdrop of the global pandemic, and yet another terror-inducing mass murder, amplifies the need for aggressive fact-checking, content moderation, and a preparedness to fact-check the fact-checkers. …


Since COVID-19, soaps and sanitisers are ubiquitous, but researchers warn that the antibacterial additives they contain are dangerous to our health.

Featuring: Professor Trevor Lithgow, Microbiologist

Since COVID-19, the simple act of hand-washing has been elevated beyond the mundane into a public health headline and potentially life-saving act.

People wash their hands now. Soaps and sanitisers are in demand, and also ubiquitous — in handbags, backpacks, at pub and shop doors.

This is undeniably a good thing. But for Monash University researcher Professor Trevor Lithgow, who works on superbugs that are resistant to medicines and predicted to kill 10 million people a year by 2050, it’s…


Why do so many miscarriages happen in the first two weeks of pregnancy? This radical world-first invention may answer this question and open up a pathway towards new therapies for infertility and congenital disease.

Featuring: Professor Jose Polo, epigeneticist and Professor Peter Currie, evolutionary and stem cell biologist.

Game-changers: Monash researchers (from left) Jia Tan, Jose Polo and Xiaodong (Ethan) Liu.
Game-changers: Monash researchers (from left) Jia Tan, Jose Polo and Xiaodong (Ethan) Liu.
Game-changers: Monash researchers (from left) Jia Tan, Jose Polo and Xiaodong (Ethan) Liu.

Since 2014, Monash researchers have tried to understand the mysterious molecular processes that occur during the first few days of human life.

Late last year came the breakthrough. The University’s Polo Laboratory team unexpectedly produced a medical game-changer when it created what it calls an iBlastoid — the most accurate three-dimensional model of a blastocyst, or the cellular structure that becomes an early human embryo.

It’s made from skin cells and isn’t an embryo itself, so it can’t be used to make humans — to date…


We know Elon Musk is a fan, but what’s all the fuss about, and when will the Bitcoin bubble burst?

Written by: Joseph Liu, Director, Monash Blockchain Technology Centre and Rafael Dowsley, Cybersecurity expert.

Just like the stock market, the cryptocurrency market is frequently subjected to extreme price fluctuations — both upwards and downwards. Tesla recently purchasing $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin is just one example of how the crypto market can change.

For instance, at the end of 2013 to the beginning of 2014, during the middle of 2017 to the middle of 2018, and now again as we’ve seen in the past few months, there have been many highs and lows of cryptocurrencies.

If we analyse the movement…


If modern democracy is to flourish, we need to look beyond its exclusively Western origin narrative.

Written by: Hilary Gopnik, Director, Centre for Ancient Cultures, Monash University.

Cicero (Roman senator, 106–43 BCE) denounces Catiline within the Roman senate.
Cicero (Roman senator, 106–43 BCE) denounces Catiline within the Roman senate.
Cicero (Roman senator, 106–43 BCE) denounces Catiline within the Roman senate. Fresco by Cesare Maccari (1840–1919 CE).

Over the past month, the world has watched the United States in the throes of a struggle over a democratic system that they thought was invincible. Then more recently, in Myanmar we saw the borrowed false accusations of a corrupted election succeed in overthrowing a democracy, at least temporarily.

It’s felt for many of us as if the foundations of democratic processes are on trial, and democracy’s source in the ancient world has been looked to for answers. But the widely accepted story that democracy was a brilliant, even…


A xenophobe, an anti-vaxxer and a COVID sceptic walk into a bar … Conspiracy theories and the far right is no joke.

Written by: Callum Jones, Researcher in political extremism.

old typewriter typing the words conspiracy theory on paper.
old typewriter typing the words conspiracy theory on paper.

Conspiracy theories, generally speaking, can be understood to be “the belief that an organisation made up of individuals or groups was, or is, acting covertly to achieve some malevolent end”.

They can appear, in many cases, to be harmless enough, often tangled within popular culture. Is La Toya Jackson just her brother in disguise? Could Elvis Presley or Tupac actually still be alive? These kinds of questions are just the tip of the conspiracy theory iceberg.

However, some are far more menacing. Conspiracy theories can be downright dangerous. …

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