Big Porn Inc: Exposing the Harms of the Global Pornography Industry
Melinda Tankard Reist and Abigail Bray (eds)
Forthcoming Release—September 2011
… our primary concern with pornography is not that it is offensive (although it often is), but that it is subordination and degradation—mostly of women. It is a human rights issue.
The unprecedented mainstreaming of the global pornography industry is transforming the sexual politics of intimate and public life, popularising new forms of hardcore misogyny, and strongly contributing to the sexualisation of children. Yet challenges to the pornography industry continue to be dismissed as uncool, anti-sex and moral panics.
Unmasking the lies behind the selling of porn as ‘just a bit of fun’ Big Porn Inc reveals the shocking truths of an industry that trades in violence, crime and degradation. This fearless book will change the way you think about pornography.
Contributors: (Australia) Maggie Hamilton, Nina Funnell, Christopher Kendall, Stella, Susan Hawthorne, Sheila Jeffreys, Caroline Taylor, Meagan Tyler, Robi Sonderegger, Caroline Norma, Renate Klein, Helen Pringle, Betty McLellan, Melinda Tankard Reist, Abigail Bray, Melinda Liszewski. (International) Gail Dines, Catharine A MacKinnon, Melissa Farley, Diana Russell, Robert Jensen, Jeffrey Masson, Chyng Sun, Julia Long, Diane L Rosenfeld, Linda Thompson, Hiroshi Nakasatomi, Anne Mayne, Ruchira Gupta, Asja Armanda, Caroline, Natalie Nenadic, Anna van Heeswijk, Matt McCormack Evans.
This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough. Like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring which began the environmental movement, Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits, and that an ugly misuse of thousands of women, including very young children, is the dark and criminal underside of the insatiable need for more.
—Steve Biddulph, author of The New Manhood and The Secret of Happy Children.
Big Porn Inc is a must read for anyone interested in the human rights of women and children. The book is cogent and alarming, yet hopeful that together we can create a world where women and children are not hurt and degraded. Big Porn Inc is a much needed blueprint for ending the global porn industry.—Christine Stark, author of Nickel
[Big Porn Inc] unleashes a cascade of emotions—shock, disgust, guilt, rage, and heart-felt admiration for the victims of the porn industry … A landmark publication sure to help open the eyes of the public to the modern scourge of porn and amplify the call for greater decency and respect. – Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University
Melinda Tankard Reist is a writer, speaker, blogger, media commentator and activist against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls, and violence against women. Her third book Getting Real: Challenging the sexualisation of girls (2009) is in its fourth printing.
Dr Abigail Bray is a research fellow at the Social Justice Research Centre at Edith Cowan University. She has published widely in leading international academic journals on anorexia, child sexual abuse, moral panics, and child pornography. She is the author of Hélène Cixous: Writing and Sexual Difference (2004) and Body Talk: A Power Guide for Girls (2005) with Elizabeth Reid Boyd .
Release Date: 6 September
2011 RRP: $36.95 Special pre-release price of $30 – order here.
Review, extract or interview: firstname.lastname@example.org / 03 9329 6088
*The MTR blog will be a bit quiet between now and August 10 as I’m taking a break before the new book is launched. Look forward to being back in touch with you all on my return.
Addressing the myths of the prostituted Asian woman
On July 3 the Sydney Morning Herald ran an article titled ‘Low prices fuel exotic sex trade’ . Accompanied by an alluring photo and informing us that prostitutes from Asian backgrounds offer more exotic services than their Caucasian counterparts and for less money, it read almost like an advertisement for buying sex from Asian women. ‘Cut price Asian women, will do anything you want – get yours now!’ I thought it warranted a response so asked Caroline Norma, a lecturer in the School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning at RMIT University, and a member of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women Australia, to respond.
University of NSW researcher Christine Harcourt is a long-time campaigner for the legalisation of prostitution. She recently appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald to announce the fact that Asian women are ‘very much in demand’ for prostitution in Australia because they are ‘very attractive’ and are ‘very good at their work’.
Harcourt’s comments were reported in explanation of the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission’s finding that 20 per cent of that state’s legal brothels were staffed exclusively by Asian-born women.
Harcourt expressed a view that appears to be commonly held in Australia: that the overrepresentation of Asian women in the sex industry here is simply a product of the innate nature of Asian women: they love to serve men submissively and sexually, and are cunning in their ability to out-gun Aussie women in the sex industry and bring down prices and standards.
In Harcourt’s view of the world, no-one should be alarmed at the fact that Asian women are filling up Australian brothels at a rapid rate. The inherent suitability of Asian women for prostitution is a belief that underlies this view, and short-circuits any discussion of the possibility that Asian women here might be victims of trafficking, sexual slavery, or even just extreme levels of hardship and adversity.
The Minister for the Status of Women, the Hon Kate Ellis MP, recently gave $50,000 to the Australian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Alliance to run a campaign to highlight the adversity that migrant women face in Australia. This is a wonderful project that will make a difference to the lives of newly arriving women. I wonder, though, with academics like Harcourt producing research in the area, whether the government is really able to perceive of the true extent of the adversity that migrant women face in Australia, given its continuing denial of the reality of trafficking of women from overseas into the sex industry here.
When public servants fund good initiatives like this, don’t they feel any sense of incongruity about the number of Asian women they allow to languish in Australia’s sex industry? Don’t they feel any pangs of conscience about how openly pimps sell Asian women on the back pages of local newspapers in Victoria, NSW, the ACT and Queensland?
Bureaucrats need only check out brothel websites to see the extent of the trade in Asian women. In Brisbane, there’s a legal brothel called Miso Honey that advertises
all Asian flavours including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and more. If you’re looking for a submissive Japanese girls [sic], or a totally dominant Taiwanese terror, look no further.
Miso Honey is not the only brothel running a profitable trade in Asian women. According to a 2010 CSIRO-published report, over 54 per cent of women in prostitution in Western Sydney were born overseas. A study done in Western Australia in the same year found 29 per cent of women in prostitution were from non-English speaking countries. In Sydney’s brothels, 53 per cent of women are from Asia.
A Victorian report from 2009 records the stories of adversity that lie behind the grim statistics. One wonders what the Office for the Status of Women would think about the adversity facing a Laotian woman, ‘Minh Ha’, who works in a legal brothel in Melbourne. According to researchers, she
works in the sex industry two days a week at a licensed brothel…She works four or five nights a week in the hospitality industry. She works days at the brothel, picks up her children and oversees homework, then works at the restaurant in the evening. Minh Ha… migrated to Australia after she married…She is 41 years old. Her marriage recently broke down because her husband was violent; she currently has an AVO against him…She is now responsible for supporting her five children. She approached a customer she knew at her hospitality job to ask for a loan…[he] said Minh Ha would need to commit to working in ‘massage’; but Minh Ha suspected that sex work was being proposed. She transitioned reasonably quickly to full service in a licensed brothel. While she says “some workers enjoy this job,” Minh Ha does not.
While Minh Ha might not technically have been trafficked into Melbourne’s sex industry, in terms of ‘adversity’ there is not much to distinguish her case from the descriptions of actual sex trafficking that are contained in the report. Another woman told researchers, for example, that there
are a lot of Korean-owned shops here…[and] a lot of Korean workers end up in them. The treatment there is not very good compared with the other shops…Girls are ignorant, they don’t know and they are concerned about the debts they have to pay off through the agent. These are legal brothels. They are very strict and a lot of people work there [to pay off debts]. You have to provide more of a service.
Governments in Asia are aware of the problem that Australia poses in the region in terms of sex trafficking. The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade hosts pre-departure training for its nationals participating in working holiday programs to Australia on their vulnerability to sex trafficking (US State Department, 2011, p. 218). In 2005, the Seoul Metropolitan Police arrested seven people on charges of arranging for 38 women to be trafficked abroad. One of the victims, a 28-year-old woman who had been trafficked to Australia, told police that brothel owners had exploited her throughout her stay, and she had been trafficked to pay a KRW70 million debt owing to her pimp in Seoul. She told police she was used by five customers a day in Australia (Sohn Hae-yong, ‘Prostitutes leave Korea to work,’ 23 February 2005, JOONAI).
The Australian government continues to close its eyes to the fact its domestic sex industry causes serious harm and adversity to women newly arriving in this country. It continues to allow pimps to legally sell women for prostitution in most Australian states under advertisements that use words like ‘oriental’, ‘Asian’, and ‘Far Eastern’. The only thing the Victorian government has done in response to research showing evidence of trafficking in Melbourne is to require brothels to display anti-sex slavery signs in their waiting rooms.
Compare this to action taken by the UK government in 2009 when a Home Affairs Committee report revealed that 80 per cent of women in off-street prostitution in the country were foreign nationals, and that there were approximately 5000 victims of trafficking in the UK at any one time. In response to this finding, the government passed a law that criminalised the buying of trafficked women for prostitution. This law requires defendants to prove they had no knowledge of a person having been trafficked.
We might wonder why the Australian government seems unable to see signs of adversity where Asian women are advertised for sexual sale. The answer to this question might be found in an observation made by Melba Marginson in 1996. Marginson is the national coordinator of the Centre for Philippine Concerns in Australia. She noted that Australian men viewed Asian women as ‘manipulative, sexually adventurous, whore, prostitute, gold-digger, materialistic and use foreign men as a ‘passport’ out of their destitute lives’ (Not the Same, 1996, p. 18).
By failing to see the adversity that the sex industry inflicts on women who newly arrive in Australia, the government institutionalises this inhuman view, and fails in its duty of care to women who come here from overseas in the most vulnerable of circumstances.
When Lady Gaga toured here last year with Monster Ball, young girls were treated to a video clip of the star being vomited on and greedily eating something akin to a human heart. Her face and body were covered in blood.
The same girls saw highly sexualised and porn-themed dance routines.
Gaga’s young audience picked up all the information they needed about tour dates and tickets from articles such as ”Lady Gaga: Ooh la la! Cool concerts” in Girlpower magazine – aimed at girls aged between seven and 13. Moshi Monsters, lip gloss, toys, puzzles – and Lady Gaga – all in the one issue.
The Lady Gaga juggernaut was again marketed to young girls this visit, with competitions to be in Wednesday night’s ”Monster Hall” audience and her “Little Monsters”, as she called them, dressed in Gaga garb and performed Gaga dance routines for the cameras in Sydney streets during the day.
Viewing her music video clips, girls are exposed to sadomasochistic sexual fantasies, simulated sex acts and more phallic symbols than can be counted. In Telephone, they see Gaga stripped and thrown naked against prison bars, girl-on-girl violence as a fellow inmate is kicked in the head with stiletto heels, and Gaga and Beyonce drive off in their “Pussy Wagon”.
Lady Gaga contributes to a broader cultural story being read by young people every day. They observe a script loaded with eroticised violence, themes inspired by the sex industry, lyrics celebrating the debasement and degradation of women.
Girls are taught their value lies in baring their flesh: that attention and social cachet are achieved through exhibitionism. Liberation is about taking a ride on a disco stick, sucking on anything resembling the male organ and offering yourself as a sexual service station for boys and men.
While Lady Gaga is described as avant-garde and counter-cultural, really she is none of these things. She is further entrenching stereotypes about women and sexuality.
Dyed hair, crazy costumes, pornographic accoutrements, pelvic thrusting and grinding do not a revolution make. Little girls need a lot more than a musical porn peep show to understand this.
Last month Collective Shout co-hosted with University of NSW, Spinifex Press and the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, a standing room only address by Pornland author and US academic Gail Dines. An extract of her address at NSW State Parliament was broadcast this week by ABC Big Ideas. You can see it here:
The Hardcore Truth About Porn
Julie Bindel writes in The Guardian about the film Hardcore, the true story of what happens to a young single mum at the hands of porn producer Max Hardcore. Describing it as a horrifying look at the abuse of women in pornography, Bindel makes the point that while the film is shocking and some women’s groups have objected to its screening, it helps strip away the myths about pornography being harmless.
‘Porn is used as a tool of degradation against me’
A US prisoner, Kyle Richards, 21, is suing the State of Michigan and Governor Rick Snyder claiming denial of porn magazines is a violation of his civil rights. According to Daily Beast, Richards argues denying him porn subjects him to a “poor standard of living” and “sexual and sensory deprivation.”
On July 7 on Feministing, ‘Lori’ wrote a piece defending Richard’s actions. She received many favourable responses. But not from a woman who actually works in a prison. Lawyer Kendall Krajicek wrote this:
… as a correctional caseworker who works in a prison housing unit, I can attest to the fact that porn (or “fuckbooks,” as the inmates refer to it) is definitely used directly and explicitly as a tool of degradation against me. It is not uncommon for an inmate to draw crass comparisons, knowingly within earshot, between a woman featured in a porno mag and what they imagine my body (“pussy,” to be precise) looks like. Inmates have purposely covered their walls with photos from porn magazines featuring redheaded women (like me), knowing that I am going to search their cell, and shared laughs and insulting comments while I am so engaged. So on and so forth.
Some such behavior is against the rules of conduct for prisoners at the facility where I work, and my male bosses have backed me up in the handful of instances I have reported by imposing institutional discipline (i.e. extra duty or a couple of days of room restriction). But so much of what happens is subtle, or done anonymously (by yelling from within the cell when all the inmates are “locked down,” such that I can’t be certain who said it), or just so dishearteningly common that if I consistently documented and reported such behavior, it would engulf a huge amount of my time. To be frank, I also worry that “making an issue out of it” every time would just make it more pervasive, as it would reveal a sensitivity that may be best left unrevealed in the staff-inmate interactive context, given my fiscal reality of needing to keep this job until I find something better.
The F Word ran a counter piece July 13 by Meghan Murphy titled ‘Of course pornography is a prisoners right because women aren’t actually human beings’. An extract:
Pornography limits our vision of sexuality. It prevents us from achieving true equality. It sexualizes, as Andrea Dwokin said, inequality. It limits how we see women and how we see men. It perpetuates an objectifying male gaze. Pornography has very much structured the way in which we see female and male sexuality. These aren’t images that simply disappear from our minds once they are no longer in front of us. They stick. We are a culture that has been shaped by pornography. It isn’t just a fantasy, it is the lived realities of women (and of men). So I don’t think it is ‘anti-sex’ to desire something different, something that can be understood as real freedom. I would like freedom from these images, personally, but I would also like all women to be free from, not only these images, but from the reality of their lives inside a pornified culture. We know full well that images in advertising and on television impact our perceptions of reality and yet, for some reason, we continue to believe that watching sexist pornography won’t impact real people’s lives.
Caitlin Roper and Dr Michal Flood make compelling case against porn t.shirts
There is a seriously good interview with Collective Shout’s own Caitlin Roper and sociologist Dr Michael Flood. You really should listen to it. From Brianna Piazza’s blog :
Campaigners say no to porn t.shirts
THE UK Report on the Sexualisation of children made many recommendations – one of which was to put modesty sleeves on pornographic magazines for sale.
However, Caitlin Roper from Western Australia says Australians cannot do the same when porn t-shirts are worn in public.
Ms Roper and more than 50 national experts, activists and women’s groups are calling for action on porn t-shirts. In a statement recently published, the signatories say pornographic and images depicting violence towards women on t-shirts contribute to the sexualisation of children.
I spoke with Caitlin Roper and sociologist Dr Michael Flood to find out more about the campaign and the harmful effects such t-shirts have on young people and children.
Invest in a resource to help stop the global trade in body dissatisfaction
Filmmaker Elena Rossini has written asking my support for a fundraising effort for a new film about the marketing of unrealistic and unattainable beauty ideals to women. She asked me to let you know about the plans for the film and seek donations to make this project a reality. I’m more than happy to do so – a film like this is more than overdue and so necessary to help address the global epidemic of body hatred and expose an industry that both creates this self-loathing then trades on it for profit. Filmmaker Elena writes:
THE ILLUSIONISTS is a feature-length documentary about the commodification of the body and the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world. The film will explore the influence that corporations have on our perceptions of ourselves, showing how mass media, advertising, and several industries manipulate people’s insecurities about their bodies for profit.
The ultimate goal of THE ILLUSIONISTS is to make viewers more empowered consumers of media, ideally enabling them to think about their bodies differently, and to appreciate them for what they can experience instead of how they look.
There are amazing experts already lined up for the interviews, including author & filmmaker Jean Kilbourne (best known for her iconic film series “Killing Us Softly”), psychotherapist Susie Orbach (best known for her books “Fat is a Feminist Issue” and “Bodies”), and Jenn Pozner (author of “Reality Bites Back”; she was recently featured in the New Yorker and on NPR). I’m also planning to interview some prominent authors, magazine editors, psychologists and photographers for a total of 30 experts in 7 different countries.
I hope you can help me spread the word about the campaign. Kickstarter is an amazing fundraising platform but they have a catch: their method is “all or nothing”. If I am even a dollar short of the funding goal by August 5th, I will lose all the pledges (credit card payments are charged only if a campaign is successful). On Kickstarter, we are offering people pre-sales of the film and various other gifts as rewards for donations. Through the generous donations of friends and fans we have already reached 50 percent of our goal in two weeks. But the road ahead is still really long….
Take a look at the trailer for the film and you’ll see how important this project is. I hope you’ll see the worth of investing in this project.
Kate Ravenscroft – whose important piece on violence against women I published here on the 100th year celebration of International Women’s Day – and her colleague Mel Hughes of Poetry 101 would like MTR blog readers to know about a new publication they are putting together for survivors of sexual assault. It’s such an important project, filling a significant gap. If you are a survivor and would like to be part of it, please get in touch with Kate and Mel.
We would like to invite you to support a publication that we are compiling as a resource for victim/survivors of sexual assault.
The aim of the publication is to provide those affected by sexual assault – both the immediate victim/survivors and those connected to them, whether they be friends and family or support services like the police or legal and medical professionals, but also the wider community (as we believe that the entire community is affected by sexual assault) with a resource that contains the voices and experiences of actual victim/survivors, in their own words, on their own terms.
As victim/survivors ourselves we feel keenly the absence of a genuine, open and safe dialogue around sexual assault in the world about us. We are only too aware of how rare it is to hear the voices of victim/survivors and of how hard it remains to speak openly and honestly about sexual assault.
The focus of the zine is really on surviving – on what it means, how to do it, that it can be done, that it is an act of courage and value etc. We want the zine to be both a practical guide to how to survive assault and a positive valuation of survivors and the task of rebuilding a life in the shadow of sexual assault. Something that people can pick up and feel that it is possible. Something that helps people to understand how extraordinarily resilient and courageous survivors are. We are heroes. I believe that and I believe that when the world recognises this, instead of turning to victim blaming, we’ll be a lot closer to eradicating sexual violence altogether.
We are inviting contributions from anyone who has experienced sexual assault on any perspective of their survival that they wish to discuss. Contributions can take any form and are requested by 31 July 2011.
We hope that the final publication will be an approachable, user-friendly publication that will provide readers with a genuine understanding of what it means to survive sexual assault. We are in discussions with organisations including CASA regarding the printing and distribution of the publication. We aim to distribute it as widely as possible.
In 2002, 58-year-old widow Carolyn DeWaegeneire woke up from surgery in Bega Hospital on NSW’s south coast to remove a 20mm pre-cancerous lesion on her labia, to find all her external genitalia removed.
Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr Graeme Reeves had performed a clitoridectomy rather than remove the small genital lesion. According to DeWaegeneire, he told her just before the anaesthesia took effect that he was going to take her clitoris as well.
When a nurse objected to the amount of genital tissue Reeves was removing, he said it didn’t matter because DeWaegeneire no longer had a husband. The area removed measured 95mm by 55mm by 34mm.
DeWaegeneire (them known as “Mrs C”) was shattered and felt mutilated. Going to the toilet was “electric agony”.
Mrs C also has had to endure personal hygiene issues because her urine now puddles due to the absence of a proper outlet. On reviewing her case a gynaecological oncologist said that the surgery performed on Mrs C had been out of favour for 30 years due to the significant level of deformity that it causes and the large amount of normal skin removed.
The same year, Marilyn Hawkins, also 58, was recovering in the Pambula District Hospital from what should have been a relatively minor treatment to correct “slight leakage”.
“He stitched me up like an old blanket…I was in such agony after the operation that I could hardly sit down for about a month. He also stitched up my vagina so tight that I couldn’t have sex.”
After the operation, Ms Hawkins found it difficult to control her bladder. Having developed depression and feeling suicidal, she had a breakdown in 2004. “Every time I wet myself, I felt like I was crying inside,” she said.
She is now on a disability pension and taking medication for psychological trauma.
DeWaegeneire and Hawkins are just two of hundreds of victims of Reeves, who became known as the “Butcher of Bega”.
Last week DeWaegeneire heard the verdict in her case and that of two other female patients, delivered in the NSW District Court.
A minimum of two years to be served in a three-and-a-half year sentence.
Asked what sentence Reeves should have received, Ms DeWaegeneire said: “If a penis and a scrotum had been cut-off what sentence would you give to him?”
In March, Reeves was found guilty by a jury of maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm on Ms DeWaegeneire with intent to cause her grievous bodily harm. One month later in April, Judge Greg Woods also found him guilty of indecently assaulting two patients during internal pelvic examinations.
Reeves additionally had pleaded guilty in February to obtaining a financial advantage by deception, after he breached a ban on clinical practice by carrying out obstetric procedures.
The judge said the treatment of the women in each case was “reprehensible” and that Reeves had not shown any contrition for his “grossly wrong” conduct.
A number of victims were asking why the doctor was able to ignore a previous ban and go unpunished for so long when complaints stemmed back 20 years. Despite adverse findings against him in 1997, he was able to find work in obstetrics practising on the South Coast from 2002-2003.
When some of his victims tried to sue him, they found he had cancelled his private medical insurance and was deemed bankrupt in 2000.
“I can’t comprehend how this has all taken place, and that so many people are so badly damaged,” Ms DeWaegeneire said when she first went public prompting hundreds to come forward.
“It’s not just a little damage, it’s a monumental damage that has been done to a huge number of women, who until now have had no voice, they have not been able to say anything to their friends, their husbands.”
Reeves was struck off the medical register in 2004 after the NSW Medical Board acknowledged he had been practising despite a bar on him providing obstetric services following the death of a patient in 1996 – a woman who died of septicaemia after he refused to give her antibiotics. By May 2008 NSW police were investigating the deaths of 10 babies and seven women under Reeves care.
“When (a number of) women went to different specialists to get repair work done on their genitals, their doctor said to them ‘You have the Reeves trademark scar’. In other words, they recognised his signature from before — it had become a joke.”
In July last year, legislation was passed requiring all registered health practitioners to report health practitioners who behave contrary to proper medical practice.
There are at least another 60 more charges relating to 20 other victims still to be heard.
The Director of Public Prosecutions is considering a re-trial.
(As there are further charges to be heard I have refrained from expressing my opinion and will have to moderate comments for legal reasons).
Update: Please support Carolyn’s petition protesting the sentence
D White, friend of Caroly Dewaegeneire
In Carolyn Dewaegeneire’s claim against ex- gynaegologist obstetrician Graeme Stephen Reeves, Judge Greg Woods unlawfully disagreed with the jury’s “Guilty as charged” verdict.
Consequently Reeves only received a minimum of one year for that felony which carries a sentence of up to twenty-five years.
Here is an excerpt from ‘R v Reeves – Remarks on Sentence’ by Judge Greg Woods, 1 July 2011 relating to Carolyn’s genital mutilation:
“I am not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the offender deliberately intended to perform an unnecessary and unjustified operation. Distinguished gynaecological experts gave evidence that by the year 2002 the extensive excision he performed was no longer justified. I accept this expert evidence. However … I am not satisfied to the criminal standard that in his own mind he intended to perform a medically unjustified operation. The offender is sentenced to two and a half years for this crime. I fix a non-parole period of one year. The offender will be eligible to be considered for release to parole at the expiration of the non-parole period.”
Carolyn had been unaware tiny area of skin on her vulva had been diagnosed as “non-malignant and non-invasive.” Therefore topical treatment was indicated for this early stage non-cancerous tiny area of skin as it had the potential to clear up the problem without surgical removal.
Five women who claimed Reeves indecently assaulted them gave evidence in court but Woods only found Reeves guilty of two. He decided the other three women had not been assaulted quite long enough.
See Clair Weaver’s story in Madison magazine about the ‘fall-out’ and Carolyn’s petition regarding the sentence of a minimum of one year without parole.
Where do you think we found it? Some niche not well known store specializing in glamourised violence against women motifs for a specialist market into that kind of thing? For order in a surf magazine marketing women in sexually submissive poses to boys? Perhaps through a more risqué on-line t.shirt seller who missed the movement for women’s equality?
This t.shirt was found in a Cotton On store in Merrylands NSW and passed on by a supporter.
We at Collective Shout don’t have much respect for Cotton On. OK, Cotton On Kids did remove children’s jump suits with sexualized slogans after a protest led by our mate Julie Gale of Kids Free 2b Kids a couple of years ago. But Cotton On has become quite the seller of pornified images of women. Here’s a few more:
Collective Shout member Caitlin Roper from Perth decided she’d had enough. So she began collecting names of high-profile people who would be willing to put their name to a statement against these t.shirt. This week she launched her broad and diverse list of names. The 60-strong line-up includes Steve Biddulph, Professor Jennifer Bowes, Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs, Associate Professor Karen Brooks, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, UNICEF’s Aivee Chew, World Vision’s Tim Costello, Richard Eckersley, Dr Lance Emerson, Dr Michael Flood, Clive Hamilton, Professor Elizabeth Handsley, Hon Alistair Nicholson, Noni Hazlehurst, Professor Susan Paxton, Dr Emma Rush and Dr Joe Tucci, to name a few.
The statement reads:
We, the undersigned, are opposed to the production, distribution and sale of clothing, such as t-shirts, with highly sexualized adult images on them. Clothing that depicts semi-naked women as willing and available for sex, or as victims of violence, objectifies them and undermines equality and respect for women.
Sexual harassment laws prevent unsolicited exposure to sexual material in the workplace. However, these laws do not extend to the public space. The general public, including children, are involuntarily confronted by graphic sexual and even violent images and slogans on t-shirts. Ironically, examples of the images worn in public spaces cannot be printed by the media and have been removed from facebook due to their inappropriate nature.
This clothing contributes to the sexualisation of children by reinforcing the notion that their value is based on their sex appeal, as well as imposing a limited, stereotypical, pornographic aesthetic in their everyday lives. Research indicates that sexualisation is harmful to children’s cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and beliefs.
Degrading sexual images are also known to act as triggers of distress for victims of sexual assault and violence.
We call for an inquiry or review of the current legislation for regulating offensive material in public. We call on clothing retailers to cease the sale of clothing that degrades women by posing them in a highly sexualized manner or as victims of violence.
But it seems somewhat counter-intuitive and inconsistent that ALP Government Whip John Hargreaves would share a joke in the Assembly in which he drew attention to the physical appearance of a female colleague.
ACT Shadow Attorney General Vicki Dunne was speaking about a government bill to increase the tax on changed property leases. Dunne said: “When this all goes pear-shaped, as it will…”
Hargreaves leant forward and said to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Deputy-Chief Minister Andrew Barr: “Well she ought to know”. Two of Dunne’s colleagues heard Hargreaves words across the room. One, Alistair Coe, Shadow Minister for Urban Services, demanded that Hargreaves withdraw.
While not recorded in Hansard (‘members interjecting’ is how the exchange is described) a recording has it running like this:
Coe: Are you right, John? You better withdraw it. You know exactly what you said. Have the guts to withdraw it.
Hargreaves: Madam Deputy Speaker, I withdraw my comments about Mrs Dunne.
Coe: Was that hard?
Hargreaves: There you are. Are you happy now?
Coe: Yes, I am.
Hargreaves: Well, all you have got to do, Alistair, all you have got to do is ask. You do not have to go and get all upset.
Coe: Better not to say it in the first place, John.
Hargreaves: Oh mate grow up. It is past your bedtime I think.
Last Thursday after I believe a week of some tension I made a remark by way of interjection intended to amuse and not to inflict any offence or any hurt. But I did say to a member and the member took offence to that remark as did her colleagues. And I wanted the Assembly to understand that firstly there was no offence intended, there was no hurt intended, but as an unintended consequence it did have that effect and I unreservedly apologise to the member. I am not going to name the member nor name the remark otherwise it just keeps the thing alive.
Mrs Dunne responded:
… I was the member who took offence and I thank Mr Hargreaves for his apology but I think that the context needs to be put on the record. Mr Hargreaves made a comment in the course of a debate which was of a personal nature about my appearance. My understanding from what my colleagues saw because I was in full flight and was only marginally aware of what he said was that he lent forward and shared the joke with the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister who both, I understand, laughed at the joke.
I thank Mr Hargreaves for his apology but I also ask that the members who shared the joke should also apologise. This is a matter that raises issues about how we behave in this chamber…I think that under the new leadership of a female Chief Minister it is time to stop the personal attacks and is a sign of how this Chief Minister proposes to go on. I expect an apology from her and her deputy because they also joined in the joke.
Chief Minister Gallagher claimed she did not hear the comment. “I certainly apologise to Mrs Dunne for any offence.”
The apologies are not for the body shaming inference in and of itself, but for the offence taken by another person. Let’s not beat about the bush. Hargreaves isn’t referring to the term “pear shaped” in the way Triumph might use it as a descriptor for various body types. An underwear manufacturer isn’t using the term in a joking way. And it’s not a term I’ve ever heard applied to men.
Hargraves says – as though in his defence – that it was meant as a joke, for amusement and not to be taken seriously.
Gallagher and Hargreaves don’t seem to understand – or don’t want to – the reality that the “joke” which derides Dunne on the basis of physical appearance, is offensive to all women. And apologising because Dunne took offense puts it all back onto her for being oversensitive and not tough enough.
It’s not ‘I was wrong to use such sexist derogatory language about a female colleague in a workplace where I represent my Party as Government Whip and also my electorate’ but ‘I’m sorry you were offended’.
In Question time, Ms Gallagher described the comment as inappropriate and said she had urged Hargraves to apologise. She said he was mortified by how “upset” Dunne was. Then she added: “I am very sorry that you still feel upset about this, Mrs Dunne. I am not sure what further action I can take in order to make you feel better”.
Again, it’s about Dunne feeling “upset” and The Chief Minister – the female head of Government- not knowing how else to “make you feel better”. Why can’t Dunne just cheer up and get over it?
This issue goes beyond personal offence, but to professionalism in the workplace, the entrenched and seemingly unrelenting focus on a woman’s dress, looks and appearance – especially women in public office – and the hypocrisy of a Government claiming to care about body image issues and “wrong” media messages while sending out some bad messages of its own.
If an elected female representative can be made fun of in the place where Government exercises its power, this reflects negatively on the status of all women.
A parliamentary report tabled today has recommended a tightening up of the outdoor advertising industry through a more rigorous system of self-regulation. Outdoor advertising is one of the least regulated forms of advertising yet the hardest to avoid – billboards have a captive audience and cannot be turned off.
Collective Shout is critical of the self‐regulatory system and believes the advertising industry has used self‐regulation to its commercial advantage, to the detriment of the community, and women and girls in particular. The self‐regulation model enables the advertising industry to be seen to be responsible and to avoid real scrutiny of its long history of irresponsible and profit‐driven behaviour.
We have identified a range of inadequacies in the current system, including a weak code of ethics, the voluntary nature of the code, lack of pre-vetting, the Advertising Standards Board’s lack of power to order removal of advertisements, inadequate monitoring, de-sensitisation of panel members, little to no consultation with child development experts, and no meaningful penalties to provide any real incentive for advertisers to change their behavior.
The Committee’s 19 recommendations go some way to addressing our concerns. We are particularly supportive of recommendations 4 and 8, which relate to issues of objectification of women Of course as forms of discriminatory practice. It is extraordinary that in the Advertising Standard Board’s view, as cited in the report, objectification of women is not seen as contrary to the prohibitions on discrimination and vilification.
Recommendation 4—Australian Government
The Committee recommends that the Attorney-General’s Department investigate, through its anti-discrimination legislation consolidation project, how to include the unrestricted display of racist or sexualised images in the public space under the scope of discriminatory practice.
Recommendation 8— Australian Association of National Advertisers
The Committee recommends that the Australian Association of National Advertisers amend its Advertising Code of Ethics to proscribe sexual objectification of men, women and children.
We also welcome Recommendation 1: that industry bodies report to the Attorney-General’s Department by 30 December 2011 detailing their responses and how the relevant recommendations will be implemented and that that they provide a comprehensive report to the AG’s Department by 30 December 2012 detailing how the recommendations have been implemented and 2: If the self-regulatory system is found lacking, the Committee recommends that the Attorney-General’s Department impose a self-funded co-regulatory system on advertising with government input into advertising codes of practice.
We also welcome the exposure of recalcitrant advertisers outlined in Recommendation 18: that the Advertising Standards Bureau address instances of advertiser non-compliance by establishing a dedicated webpage that names advertisers, and their products, who have breached advertising standards or refused to comply with Board determinations.
If the industry wants to keep self-regulation, it has to show it is worthy of it.
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