Dear Minister Hill,
I am writing to express my concern and distress about an article published online by Men’s Health Australia and written by the Men’s Health Project Officer in the Lower Eyre Health Service, Dr John Ashfield. The article can be found here.
In his opinion piece under the heading ‘Men’s Health and Issues’, Dr Ashfield argues that it is natural for men to objectify women and to visualize them in sexual ways.
Dr Ashfield mocks advances in the workplace which recognise that the display of naked or semi-naked images of women is a form of sexual harassment. He writes: “Fact is, men sexually objectify women with or without all their clothes; they always have and always will. It’s well known that the production of alluring sexual images is a predominantly male industry.”
As the editor of a new book, Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls, which was launched in Adelaide October 22 at an event hosted by the YWCA Adelaide, I am deeply concerned at the attitudes expressed by Dr Ashfield.
These attitudes put women and girls in danger. As demonstrated in significant research in the book, objectification of women and sexualisation of girls results in a multiplicity of negative physical and mental health outcomes and contribute to sexist attitudes and violence.
That a doctor could perpetuate demeaning and degrading views of women, under the auspices of ‘men’s health’ is especially disturbing. Is objectifying women part of what makes men healthy?
You will note at the end of the article, Dr Ashfield provides his S.A Government email address.
This could suggest that his harmful views are in some way endorsed or approved by your Government. It certainly gives them a status they do not deserve.
If Dr Ashfield is engaged in counselling through the Lower Eyre Health Service, this is even more troubling, as it is likely he is passing on his publicly expressed views about women to men seeking assistance from the service.
Minister, could you please confirm that Dr Ashfield is indeed employed by the South Australian Government? If so, I would be grateful if you could advise what action you will take to redress this situation.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Melinda Tankard Reist
November 11, 2009