And not insist on airbrushing disclosure for her own photo shoots?
Sarah is co-host and executive producer of Australia’s Next Top Model. She also sits on the Government appointed National Body Image Advisory Committee, which recently made recommendations about how industry should address body image issues.
Sarah has just done an advertising shoot for Australia’s Next Top Model. But there is no disclosure of airbrushing – a recommendation of the advisory group she’s on. As Andrew Hornery in the SMH writes:
But there were no such disclosures on the ANTM promo shots, which PS confirmed had been ”enhanced”. The glossy shots showed Murdoch with a smooth-as-a-billiard-ball face and a waist to rival that of any of the show’s contestants.
This is just not consistent. The advertising in which Sarah Murdoch features wouldn’t get the body image tick of approval - which she and her colleagues recommended. So it’s OK to recommended it for everyone else but not do it yourself?
This latest example adds to a raft of other inconsistencies and mixed messages sent by those connected with the body image group (which I’ve written about here before).
Ashlea Monigatti, size 8 and ‘too big’
I asked Sarah what she thought of size 8 contestant Ashlea Monigatti, 16, being told she was too big for a fashion shoot catwalk on the first episode. “I feel like my body has failed me,” Ashlea said, as she cried before the camera.
How does this contribute to her positive body image?
Sarah responded here. But if it’s not about Ashlea and merely about the clothes, why not have clothes that actually fit her so she can compete on an even playing field? How does this promote body diversity as recommended in the body image code of conduct? And what does it say to viewers who aren’t size 8?
The photographer on the first episode said it’s “not necessarily a bad thing to be curvy” (oh, that’s a relief) but she must “learn to work the curves”. So size 8 is ‘curvy’ now? And only OK if you work them? (and what does that mean anyway? Work them sexually is what I think it is being suggested).
Alex Perry and Charlotte Dawson’s anti women behaviour
Sarah is described on the show as a “model mentor”. Mentor means ‘wise, trusted, counsellor, advisor and guide’. She has her work cut out for her guiding her charges through the toxic sludge that is Australia’s Next Top Model. Take the behaviour of her co-host Alex Perry who has described contestants as “Yeti”, “Wild Pig” and “Frankenstein”. Body image tick of approval anyone?
In a recent interview, Perry also said we can “jump up and down all we like” but he would only ever design for skinny. When the interviewer put to him that the promotion of an ultra-thin idea was causing serious body image problems in girls and women, he said he “couldn’t be burdened with these issues”.
And what about the behaviour of Charlotte Dawson who has described a critic of Alex Perry as a “sad attention whore”, a “fame whore”, a “Westie scrag” a “suburban fattie” and a “sad ugly moll.” As executive producer, has Sarah tried to rein Charlotte in at all?
Alex stacked the critic’s Facebook with his friends and he and Charlotte have had such fun together attacking the young woman who set up the site. While the site does have a provocative name, it seems they couldn’t rise above it and just ignore it. They had to launch a FB version of a ballistic missile against its creator. Here’s some examples of their comments:
And, apparently, Charlotte gets paid to be bitchy to the girls. Is that true Charlotte? Sarah, what do you think of that?
Charlotte is described as ‘sharp tongued wrinkle free’ in the show. Wrinkle free – because she’s had botox and other procedures. That’s her business, but again, what is the impact on her young viewers, especially given that recent research shows reality TV programs are contributing to a rise in cosmetic surgery procedures for girls? Shows like this can never just be “light entertainment”.
For the most confusing interview ever given about cosmetic surgery, see Charlotte Dawson on Sunrise here.
Frockwriter blog has a very good analysis about the Perry/Dawson guide to bullying here. Here’s an extract from other FB comments by Perry and Dawson about last year’s contestant Cassie:
“YES ITS TRUE, SHE WONT SIGN ELITE CONTRACT… WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A GIRL WITH LOW INTELLIGENCE, GOING OUT WITH A MAN TEN YEARS OLDER OF A SIMILAR IQ…THE COMBINATION IS POWERFULLY STUPID … THE ICING ON THE IDIOT CAKE IS THAT SHE WANTS HIM TO BE HER MANAGER …EVERYTHING MUST BE PEACHY KEEN IN SUNBURY!!!”
… “SO THE BOGAN WONT SIGN A CONTRACT WITH ELITE NY, AND MOVES BACK TO SUNBURY WITH THE OUT OF WORK BRICKKIE… NOW THATS WHAT I CALL A CLEVER GIRL!!!!”
“Apparently Cassi has signed with Tania Power (?) modelling agency and is coming to Sydney to model for Portmans. Nuff said.”
“What’s a Fella Hamilton? Sounds fascinating. Almost as fascinating as a Greenborough Plaza winter fashion parade. Stupid Cassi – she’s really put her modelling career into a big suburban toilet.”
“too true. Enough about the bogan … she’s someone elses nightmare now.”
… I think Cassi’s only going to end up being the poster girl for Sunbury Centrelink.”
These people are Sarah Murdoch’s co-hosts. They engage in vilifying behaviour, are vengeful, personify meanness – and get paid for it. Yet they get upset and defensive when criticised by others (Dawson calls Frockwriter blogger “mad old Patti’).
Women as top dogs
If this isn’t enough, in TV ads for the show, contestants are depicted as greyhounds racing towards the bait (the lure being a modelling contract), so well described on the Collective Shout website.
How much more of this toxicity will we see in future episodes? And how much worse does it need to get before Sarah decides she’s made for better things?
And, no, this is not a cat fight
As so often happens when women disagree publicly, some love to call it a “cat fight”.
The heading “Claws out” appeared over the original NineMSN story on Saturday, quoting me. In my view, this heading made fun of and trivialised the seriousness of my critique. Cat fights are associated with hissing, spitting, tearing women’s hair out (and even nude wrestling and stripping, but let’s not go there). Why is it that when women disagree publicly, it is so often portrayed as cattiness? Where is the equivalent term for men? Do you ever hear disagreements between men described in such trivialising ways? Cock fight anyone?
This is not personal. I have nothing personally against Sarah Murdoch. I think she is well intentioned and her charity work is commendable. And no one expects her to solve all the world’s body image problems. But the inconsistencies need to be pointed out. And it’s not just me noticing them.
To its credit, after my complaint to the journalist, NineMSN changed the heading, swapping ‘claws’ for ‘controversy’ (though the original still appears in the URL). Media outlets don’t always agree to make corrections, so thanks for doing so.