Viewing suffering through art and photography.

 

guernica3

Guernica – Pablo Picasso

Throughout history, art has often been for the rich, to showcase their importance, wealth, beauty and lifestyles. This can be seen in Ancient Egyptian wall paintings, Roman and Greek Statues and portraits of royalty throughout the 15th – 18th centuries (Jones 2014).

 

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Today however, with the ability to showcase ourselves using modern technologies like mobile phones and social media, it seems that the focus of art has gone in a different direction. Now, instead of artworks depicting kings perched on their thrones, we see ‘artworks’ that showcase suffering (Szorenyi 2009 p.94).  Desperately starving children being a very common one.

starving-children-in-sudan

Starving Children Photography 

Suffering is often something quite foreign to many of us who have grown up in the Western World. So, when we see the exploitation of people’s suffering in art, it can often bring about a mixture of unpredictable responses from audiences. Some of these responses can benefit those in suffering, and some of them may not which raises the questions as to whether is beneficial or detrimental to see people’s suffering in art?

A common argument is that showcasing suffering in art can create awareness amongst audiences about issues in which they otherwise had little idea about (Oliver 2010 p.119). Creating awareness about others suffering can be beneficial as it can initiate practices of redress for those in suffering and also inspire a social action that could ultimately improve the life of the portrayed victim of suffering, or possibly the lives of many (Simone 2010 p. 47).

 

This is because looking at horrific scenes of suffering, like the ones featured above, forces us to confront the reality of what is taking place in the world around us. Ignoring people in suffering is part of the problem, and we owe it to ourselves and the victims to look at them and see what our decisions and actions as a global community has allowed happen (Ingram, 2015).

While seeing suffering can create an awareness in the audience, there is a great deal of debate about ethics and effectiveness of the images of suffering (Szorenyi 2009 p. 93).

Sebastiao Salgado, a world-renowned photographer turns peoples suffering into breathtakingly beautiful artworks. His works which can be seen below, showcase images of starvation, famine and poverty. Salgado has captured and presented these images in such a way that allows the viewer to see them as extremely beautiful works, even though the reality of what is going on is actually is anything but beautiful.

 

Giving suffering a false appearance of beauty is dangerous. Even if the artist has the right intent, these images run the risk of trivializing the issues surrounding suffering and can make suffering seem as if it has a place in our society through their beauty (Simone 2010 p. 56). Furthermore, it can also be argued that if audiences are gaining an awareness form this images, they are gaining a false impression of what poverty or suffering may be.

To add to this, overly beautiful representations of suffering can become harmful as the beauty and the ascetic of the images are often so strong, audiences will fail to see the intelligence and capabilities of those individual captured (Unite for Site.com 2015). Instead, these individuals will no longer be seen as individuals, but ‘one of the many who are helpless’.

This brings up one of the other main arguments into why seeing suffering in art is detrimental.

One of the major issues with viewing artwork of people suffering, especially here in Western societies is that it can actually remove us form the other suffering more than what we already were. Unlike photojournalism, artworks are there simply to be viewed and interpreted differently by each individual who sees them, they are not necessarily on display to give context and education on the issues being depicted (Simon 2010 p. 46).

By missing the context and knowledge surrounding images of people suffering, we are left as nothing more than people spectating and not acting to help those in suffering. This can invoke what is known as a ‘white spectatorship’ which involves a privileged audience spectating and getting an emotional kick, with no intent to help, out of the less fortunate (Szorenyi 2009 p. 94).

While displaying suffering in art is an approach into opening the Western world’s eye into some of the hardships others around the world are facing, it is clear that using suffering for art has many opens the door to many ethical issues.

 

hunger-iii.jpg

 

Bibliography

Ingrim, M 215, ‘Sometimes we need to see horrific images like that Syrian boy’s body on the beach’, Fortune, viewed 31 March 2016, <http://fortune.com/2015/09/02/refugee-images/>.

Jones, J 2014, ‘Poverty lines: where are the poor in art today?’, Guardian, 30 December, viewed 31 March 2016,
<http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2014/dec/30/art-and-poverty-where-are-poor-in-art-today>.

Oliver, SA 2010, ‘Trauma, bodies, and performance art: Towards an embodied ethics of seeing’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 119-129.

Simon, RI 2010, ‘Idolatry and the Civil Covenant of Photography: On the Practice of Exhibiting Images of Suffering, Degradation, and Death’, Images: Journal of Jewish Art & Visual Culture, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 46-56.

Szorenyi, A 2009, ‘Distanced suffering: photographed suffering and the construction of white in/vulnerability’, Social Semiotics, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 93-109.

Unite For Site, 2015, Ethics and Photography in Developing Countries, Unite For Site, viewed 31 March 2016, <http://www.uniteforsight.org/global-health-university/photography-ethics>.

When anthropomorphism goes too far.

We (humans) are absolutely obsessed with viewing and presenting animals in a way that makes them appear more humanlike than what they acutely are. This is evident right throughout western society and becomes extremely apparent when looking at the animals in our media (Burton-Jeangros & Losa 2011 p.339). We see humanised animals appear in children’s books, television shows, media campaigns, in many different forms of advertising, in film, video games, online memes and online videos.

 

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This notion of humanising animals, which is otherwise known as Anthropomorphism, means to give human characteristics such as emotions, intelligence, consciousness, behaviours, and even human facial features to animals or objects.

It is believed that anthropomorphism can be beneficial for animals. By viewing an animal as more of a human than an animal, it can instantly make that animal more appealing to an audience because it helps blur the line between them (the animals) and us. This new appeal created through anthropomorphism can help humans gain an interest or wider understanding toward the animals in which they may not have had before and this can be a vita tool, especially when animal welfare is concerned.

 

 

However, like any good, there is always a bad. So, what happens when anthropomorphism goes wrong?

 

Whilst anthropomorphism generates interest in animals, its biggest issue is that the interest being generated is not in the animal’s true self; rather we begin to understand an inaccurate humanlike version of that animal instead (Burton-Jeangros & Losa 2011 p.353). Essentially, we remove the wild animal from the humanlike one and can forget the true nature of the animal, which is quite problematic.

This became clear recently when my roommate returned from the Sydney aquarium and said that the adults and children were all referring to the fish as Nemo’s and Dory’s from Disney’s famous Finding Nemo. It appeared to her that through anthropomorphism in Finding Nemo, people could no longer recognise these living creatures as clown fish and blue tang fish, but simply happy little cartoon characters.

 

As people remove themselves from an animal’s true image, it becomes easy to forget real life issues and threats surrounding these creatures (Ross & Vreeman & Lonsdorf 2011 p.1 ), in fact it can lead us to forget that it’s even a wild animal at all.

 

This is exactly what happened to the Slow Loris recently when a video of one reacting to being tickled went viral.

 

 

This video became so popular that it fueled a global demand for the animal as a pet, which lead to extensive illegal hunting and smuggling of the Slow Loris. In fact, it became so bad that Google was asked by activist groups to remove the popular video in an attempt to help the issue (Wertz, 2014).

So, besides giving animals in our media humanlike qualities, we also find ourselves seeking humanlike features within animals that we view. An animal that is small, with big eyes, appearing to enjoy being tickled, may remind us of a human baby or a child (Evans, 2016). For audiences of the Slow Lorris, once that childlike connection was made because it had the traits we find appealing, it was forgotten that it was a wild creature, but instead seen as something that should be ours.

This need we have to humanise animals has now become so desired that the anthropomorphism concepts from films such as Planet of the Apes are being implemented in real life. Currently, scientists in many countries such as the US are inserting human brain cells into Great Apes, such as Chimpanzees in tests that aim to make these animals preform human behaviours such as being able to speak human languages (Independent 2011).

 

 

The appeal that humanising animals has on our society really stands out when a public poll showed that ma majority of people were happy for animals to be modified with human cells and genes (Independent 2011).

What I find most surprising in this is that when we look at animals through an anthropomorphism scope, people commonly feel that testing on animals for things such as makeup for example is wrong, because we see them like us. Yet, if testing on the same kinds of animals is to humanise them and make them more like us, people are more accepting. Yet it can be assumed that each test is just as horrible for the animals involved.

It’s clear that anthropomorphism come with its positives and negatives. What needs to change is how and when we use chose to use it, as is having an impact on real and living creatures.

 

Bibliography

Burton-Jeangros, C & Losa, A 2011, ‘Human and Nonhuman Animals, Mutually at Risk: A Study of the Swiss Information Media’, Society & Animals, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 337-355.

Evans, Nicky 2016, ‘LOOKING AT ANIMALS’, lecture notes, BCM310, University of Wollongong, 23 March 2016.

The Independent, ‘Experts warn over humanising apes’, Independent, 22 July, viewed 29 March 2016, <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/experts-warn-over-humanising-apes-2318699.html>.

Ross, SR, Vreeman, VM, & Lonsdorf, EV 2011, ‘Specific Image Characteristics Influence Attitudes about Chimpanzee Conservation and Use as Pets’, PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 7, pp. 1-5.

Werntz, M 2014, Can ‘humanizing’ animals help conserve them?, DW, viewed 29 March 2016, <http://www.dw.com/en/can-humanizing-animals-help-conserve-them/a-17678428>.

Ross, SR & Vreeman, VM & Lonsdorf, EV 2011, ‘Specific Image Characteristics Influence Attitudes about Chimpanzee Conservation and Use as Pets’, PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 7, pp. 1-5.

FIFA stands for Football Involving Fraudulent Afairs

FIFA Corruption

FIFA Corruption

FIFA. A wonderful corporation aiming to unite the world and provide joy to those all over by providing us with top quality football.

Sounds pretty nice right?

Well as it turns out, FIFA isn’t actually all it’s cracked up to be with cases of corruptions with money laundering, racketeering, bribery, fraud (Ingraham, 2015) and breaches of human safety, rights and wellbeing surfacing in the past few years since the announcement that Russia and then Qatar are to host the next two World Cup games (BBC News, 2015).

Just to start with the basics, FIFA is the International Football body are the organisers of the four yearly FIFA World Cup matches, which is one of the biggest, if not the single biggest international sporting events in the world.

 

 

These World Cups are loved and watched by millions of people globally which makes being the country to host it a big deal as it not only provides the country with a great deal of tourism and incoming wealth but also puts the country into a global spotlight.

So, it’s not surprising that competition from countries to host the world cup is tough and is inevitably led to some of FIFA’s biggest corruption scandals. Usually, to be considered to host a World Cup, a country has to present itself to a panel of 24 FIFA comity members over a course of time, who will eventually vote on which country will host the next games (Pedley, 2015).

I suppose it once may have been about voting for what country would really be worthy of the World Cup but sadly as it turns out, it is about how much money a country can offer to not only FIFA, but usually to certain members of the comity.

 

Qatar bringing FIFA

Qatar bringing FIFA

This is made evident through the announcement that the host of the 2022 World Cup is Qatar. Not only is the country surrounded in human rights issues (Pedley, 2015) but is also it is so obscenely hot that the players would be expected to play in 45 degree or above heats.

On top of this, Qatar has a range of strict policies in place that could completely compromise the FIFA games for tourists one being that woman aren’t allowed in to any sporting stadiums. Another being a total alcohol ban across the county. Not only does this create problems as Budweiser is one of FIFA’s major sponsors, but if laws were changed to allow the sale of Budweiser in the stadium, what will happen to the tourists affected by alcohol (which is also illegal) once they are out on the streets after the matches?

All of these questions have left people asking how could FIFA even consider this country to host the World Cup, and the answer is money.

 

 

On top of the ‘mishap’ with the voting process that should have seen Qatar unfit for hosting the World Cup, Qatar is now using thousands of immigrants in what has been dubbed as modern day slave labour (Coulter, 2015) to erect stadiums that are to be used in the World Cup.

These immigrants are being sent from all over to Qatar with the promise of work and hope of a better life, but are instead being literally forced to stay and work up to 16 hour days in appalling conditions day by day, by companies who are taking and withholding all of their immigration paperwork, leaving them with no way to leave the country and no other choice but to continue working.

 

 

This is not only a massive breach of human rights that FIFA should be appalled to be associated with but has caused the death of over 1000 workers so far with the estimated death toll to reach over 4000 by the time of the Cup (Coulter, 2015).

 

 

FIFA as a corporation who has elected this country ‘fit’ to host the games should be just as responsible for the poor treatment and deaths of all immigrants involved. The fact that FIFA has done nothing to intervene shows the level of corruption and money that must be truly involved with the picking of Qatar.

 

 

Bibliography 

 

Ingraham, C 2015, ‘(UPDATED) The toll of human casualities in Qatar’, The Washington Post, 27 June, viewed 5 Spetember 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2015/05/27/a-body-count-in-qatar-illustrates-the-consequences-of-fifa-corruption/.

Fifa corruption crisis: Key questions answered 2015, BBC News, viewed 5 Spetmeber 2015, <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32897066>.

Coulter, B 2015, ‘Why Australia should boycott the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar’, The Age, 6 June, viewed 5 September 2015, < http://www.theage.com.au/comment/why-australia-should-boycott-the-fifa-world-cup-2022-in-qatar-20150604-ghgmgb.html>.

Pedley, K 2015, It’s time to think about boycotting the Qatar World Cup, New Statesman, viewed 5 September 2015, <http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/05/its-time-think-about-boycotting-qatar-world-cup>.

Would you like a side of volunteering with that holiday?

Voluntoursim, which is the act of volunteering in a local community whilst also traveling (Oxford Dictionaries 2015) is a fad that has grown to become an essential part of any young persons travelling experience.

Photos of tourists amidst groups of what appear to be overly happy children in orphanages or schools have become all too common. 

And whilst these photos may look wonderful and make voluntoursim appear to be the perfect idea for any person wanting to see the world, whilst also trying to better it, the sad reality is that voluntoursim can cause more harm than good.

 

 

Me to We is one of the many voluntourism companies that offers “volunteering” trips to countries such as India, Ecuador or in this case Kenya, and promotes itself as providing a volunteering adventure experience all in one. 

The problem with companies like this, is that despite what they claim, the focus is less about the act of volunteering or the communities actual needs, and more about cashing in on volunteers quest for experience (Zakaria, 2014) by exploiting vulnerable communities as a way of offering “the ultimate African experience” which can be seen on their website alone .

One of Me to We’s $6,176 AUD (flights NOT included) volunteering trips to Kenya, advertised with pictures of Kenyan children and voluntourists posing with shovels and plastered with the phrase volunteering, marketers itself as a trip designed to better the local Kenyan community.

Once reading through the 9 day itinerary (Me to We) however, it is evident that this trip is nothing more than using the Kanyan community to enrich a tourist’s as a holiday they can leave from feeling better about themselves as the trip includes:

2 days in a hotel
a visit to a giraffe centre
a total of 1 day visiting (not teaching) 2 schools
a visit to a Kanyan market
1 & 1/2 days of lay brick for a school
group walks
a tree garden tour
a half a day visit to a medical clinic
a sunrise safari
a sunset safari
participate in making hand crafted souvenirs
and my personal favourite….

 

Me to We, plant a tree

Me to We, plant a tree

Planting a tree in your legacy… All before heading back to a hotel for 2 days and flying home.

 

Like any other form of tourism, voluntourism has become a $2 billion dollar a year industry (Kahn, 2014), and like all industries, it’s prime interest is in creating profit. Sadly, in the case of volunturism, this comes at  time where the international gap between rich and poor has widened (Mohamud , 2013) and through the explosion of vulnerable communities, these companies can use empathy to advertise and enhance northern travellers cultural experience.

Whilst industries like Me to We that require $6,176 for only 2 days of any actual volunteering, continue to operate, not only will vulnerable communities globally continue to be treated as tourist attractions that are to be pitied, but as these companies will continue to send the message that 2 days is enough to fix big social issues, reinforcing the idea that if you just have good intentions change will happen instantly (Jesionka, 2015), the meaning of volunteering will be lost to a whole generation to come.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Jesionka, N 2015, The Realist of Voluntourism and Conservation We’re Not Having, The Muse, viewed 29 August 2015, <https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-reality-of-voluntourism-and-the-conversations-were-not-having&gt;.

Kahn, C 2014, ‘As ‘Voluntourism’ Explodes In Popularity, Who’s It Helping Most?’, NPR, 31 July, viewed 29 August 2015, <http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2014/07/31/336600290/as-volunteerism-explodes-in-popularity-whos-it-helping-most>.

Mohamud, O 2013, Beware the ‘voluntourists’ doing good, The Guardian, viewed 29 August 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/feb/13/beware-voluntourists-doing-good>.

Sample Itinerary, Me to We, viewed 29 August 2015, <http://www.metowe.com/volunteer-travel/adult-family-trips/kenya/itinerary/>.

Voluntourism, Oxford Dictionaries, viewed 29 August 2015, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/voluntourism.

Zakaria, R 2014, ‘The white tourist burden’, Aljazeera America, 21 April, viewed 29 August 2015, <http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/4/volunter-tourismwhitevoluntouristsafricaaidsorphans.html>.

 

 

Feminism

We can all do it

We can all do it

When we hear the word feminism or feminist, a range of differing things probably come to mind for many different people. Maybe some of them great, maybe some not so great.

As it is well known, Feminism is a movement with roots going back to 14th century Francethat focused on women’s rights which has since developed into a movement that stands for equality and freedom of choice for all, irrespective of gender, sexuality or race (Daubney 2014).

 

 

The problem today is that the word Feminism seems to intimidate many Australian people with studies showing a majority of women supporting the concept of equal sexes yet deny themselves as feminists with only 15 – 30 % of those women claiming themselves as feminist (Smith 2014). Why is this?

 

Ex Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Ex Prime Minister Julia Gillard

 

Ex Prime Minister Julia Gillard who ironically was Australia’s first ever prime minister, something feminists for over 100 years have gradually been fighting towards, denied being a feminist even though her infamous Misogyny speech pointed out forms of discrimination that continue to affect women across Australia and made a point of indicating that this could no longer be an issue women globally should have to have, all in all a message that is representative of feminism (Smith 2014).

 

 

So it appears that in Australia where feminism movements have allowed both men and women to be perfectly safe to express their feminist views or declare themselves feminists, that many are choosing not to choose not to and in many cases trying to distance themselves from the movement altogether.

This is both troubling and sad whilst in other countries such as Palestine, where speaking out for woman or equal rights could get you in serious trouble, is seeing brave groups of people putting themselves on the line by proudly advocating for equal rights for women (Hamad 2015).

 

One group for example is the rap group DAM, a group made up of both men and women rappers who are campaigning for equal rights for women through their rap music. Their music lyrics and videos specifically address gender inequality and woman stereotyping within their country as well as women’s domestic violence and forced marriages (Hamad 2015).

 

Australia has still got a strong and proud feminist community made up of both men and women, it’s sad and worrying that so many people are cowering away from feminism when there is absolutely no reason not to when groups of people like DAM who could face serious prosecution are doing all they can to close the gap and make what feminism stands for a reality.

 

Bibliography

 

Daubney, M 2014, ‘Why men have a problem with the word ‘feminism’’, The Telegraph, 11 November, viewed 22 April 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11220536/Why-men-have-a-problem-with-the-word-feminism.html.

 

Hamad, R 2015, ‘Feminism is happening where you least expect it’, Daily Life, 1 April, viewed 22 April 2015, < http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-culture/feminism-is-happening-where-you-least-expect-it-20150401-1mcy55.html>.

Smith, M 2014, “I’M NOT A FEMINIST, BUT…”, Right Now, viewed 22 April 2015, < http://rightnow.org.au/writing-cat/im-not-a-feminist-but-feminism-and-identity-in-australia/ >.

 

 

 

Healthy is the new skinny

 

 

The all too popular skinny fad that has polarised western society over the past 20 years saw being skinny as not only the ultimate body image but also evoked the message that if you were skinny your life and wellbeing was somehow better than those who weren’t.

This correlation between body and having a better, happier life is still present in our society today but has evolved from a fad about being skinny, to a fad about being “healthy”, with the latest “healthy lifestyle fad” taking the western world, and social media, by storm.

Although this healthy fad continues to embrace an obsession with body image as being skinny or fit is still considered an outcome of healthiness, this fad places great importance on “healthy food consumption”, so much so, it seems the more radically healthy your diet is, or at least portrayed to be, indicates the better your life must be.

Now, anyone could ask, “well isn’t a fad about being healthy not such a bad thing?” The truth is, yes it is. When reflecting on the skinny fad where skinny was idolised, it was well known that more often than not, the measures taken in order to be skinny were not glamorous and usually extremely unhealthy whether it was through starving, weight loss pills, over exercising, extreme diets, vomiting or a combination of the lot.

The exact same can be said for this health fad where people are going to extreme measures to appear as if they are eating healthily diets, by eating in a way that isn’t healthy at all.

Some of the most popular “healthy diets” are;

The Paleo Diet
Bone Broth
The eat what you want 5 days, fast 2 days diet
Organic only diet
The Eat everything Raw Diet
The become Vegitarian diet
The become Vegan diet
The soup dietThe eat Gluten free even if I am perfectly capable of consuming gluten diet
The smoothie diet
The mono diet
Only eat things that are green diet

Just to name a few..

Many of these “healthy diets” can be seen on Instagram, a picture sharing social media site. This site could be said to be the home to the healthy diet movement, as the site is specifically designed for its users to present the ideal version of themselves and their lifestyles (Muenter, 2014) via posting well-edited and specifically selected photos.

Because of this, it has become the perfect site for anyone wanting to be perceived by others as healthy, with numerous accounts especially created by users to display photos of their healthy diets and meals, as well as the use of hashtags, such as #fitspo, #cleaneating, or #paleo just to name a few, that are used in conjunction with these photos to continue let others know just how healthy their lives are.

 

 

Instagram user Freelee the banana girl has gained lots of attention recently for taking the healthy food trend to a new and not so healthy level. The self-proclaimed ‘fruitisonist’ advocates the mono diet that is an all-organic and vegan diet with a twist. Until 4:00pm every day on the mono diet you may not consume any cooked foods, on top of that, every meal including the cooked meal can only be of one type of fruit or vegetable. So for breakfast you could have 17 bananas, 20 apples for lunch and after 4:00pm a bag of cooked potatoes.

It’s obvious, but the Mon0 diet is extremely unhealthy for a many reasons (Schlutz, 2015) the main being, it cuts out vital nutrients that are required for healthy body functions, results in an unhealthily high Kj consumption through the consumption of such large quantities  of sugary fruits, cuts out next to all vital fats and proteins from your diet and lastly is disruptive eating which is literally classed as an eating disorder (Schlutz, 2015).

So it is cleat there the mono is no healthy way to eat and with no dietary qualifications should not be an advocated lifestyle, yet, through her presentation and attention on Instagram and with the idea that extremely healthy is better in full force, she has become a role model and is a figure for many as being the ideally health and happy person living an amazing life, which is a massive problem.

 

In retaliation to fads like this accounts like #Girlswithgluten which show women eating what could be deemed as unhealthy (or just normal) food have cropped up on Instagram. These accounts aim to make fun of healthy diets or in Girlswithgluten’s case show that women don’t have to be on these ridiculous diets and still be healthy and happy (Stelio, 2015).

 

 

Bibliography

Muenter, O 2014, What I Instagrammed Vs. What Was Really Happening, Or My Entire Life Is A Lie, Bustle, viewed 17 August 2015, <http://www.bustle.com/articles/32177-what-i-instagrammed-vs-what-was-really-happening-or-my-entire-life-is-a-lie>.

 

Schultz, R 2015, The Mono Meal Plan Is One Fad Diet You Shouldn’t Follow, Shape, viewed 17 August 2015, <http://www.shape.com/weight-loss/weight-loss-strategies/mono-meal-plan-one-fad-diet-you-shouldnt-follow>.

Stelio, N 2015, Paleo backlash: Instagram’s new food tren @girlswithgluten’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 30 July, viewed 17 August 2015, <http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/fashion/paleo-backlash-instagrams-new-food-trend-girlswithgluten-20150727-gil90c.html>.