Because children don’t already feel bad about themselves enough, there’s a new book just about to be released titled Maggie Goes On a Diet. I asked Collective Shout colleague, psychotherapist and managing director of BodyMatters Australasia Lydia Jade Turner, for her views.
Written by self-proclaimed “obesity expert” Paul M. Kramer, Maggie Goes On a Diet tells the story of an ‘overweight’ teenage girl who goes from chubby-loser status to become the soccer star at her school, following significant weight loss. The cover depicts a fat child seeing a skinnier version of herself reflected in the mirror.
Yesterday in The Punch, journalist Lucy Kippist praised the book which encourages dieting for girls as young as four.
Kippist argued that widespread criticism of the book was misplaced. Pushing aside concerns about eating disorders and other negative consequences of dieting, she attempted to legitimize the story by citing the statistic that one in four Australian children are obese.
Kippist described the “courage” Kramer had given the central character Maggie to “make changes in her life” and be “rewarded” for them, She ticked off a further benefit to Maggie’s weight loss: avoiding teasing by her classmates.
As a clinician who specialises in eating disorders, I have seen the damage that diets do to children who are labelled ‘obese,’ and what happens to those children when they are grown up.
The typical presentation is anything but one of good health – whatever their size. When we get children to focus on weight loss as a goal – however well intended this may be – we are putting them at significant risk of developing food and body preoccupation, weight cycling, reduced self-esteem, mood disorders, eating disorders, and other health detriments.
Any parent concerned about an ‘overweight’ child needs to know this: no weight loss approach has been shown to be effective for more than 95% of the population after two to five years. There are no exceptions.
While this failure rate for weight loss is based on a 1959 study by Dr Albert Stunkard and Mavis McLaren-Hume, this failure rate has been reproduced by numerous clinical studies, and acknowledged at both the Australian New Zealand Obesity Society conference in 2009 and again at the inaugural International Obesity Summit in 2010.
In addition, weight loss attempts typically lead to long term weight gain – and a weight higher than one’s pre-diet starting weight. So promoting weight loss may actually be contributing to the obesity “epidemic.”
Kippist’s citing of the obesity statistic for children does not justify a weight loss approach. The idea that there are so many more ‘obese’ children out there than ones with clinical eating disorders ignores the great spectrum of young people who do not meet the strict criteria for diagnosis but who compromise their health in pursuit of weight loss in other ways. For example, the Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria reports that eight per cent of teenage girls smoke to control their weight.
Patients who were put on diets as children tend to tell me that as children, they felt guilty and ashamed of their seemingly oversized bodies. No matter how hard they tried to be “good,” the weight kept coming back and they blamed themselves for lack of “willpower” – rather than seeing the weight gain as a predictable course of dieting.
They felt like failures whenever their siblings were offered second helpings while they were given a list of “forbidden” foods they were not allowed. Or in cases where the family ate the same diet foods as the child in a spirit of solidarity, they felt guilty as they thought to themselves “everybody is being punished because of me.”
Many of my patients are now in a weight category that would see them labelled “obese.” I wonder what havoc has been wreaked on their metabolism, having been put on diet after diet since childhood.
Many have been so desperate to successfully lose weight that they have resorted to lap band surgery, the weight slowly creeping back three years later. They are terrified of returning to their pre-surgery weight.
When I ask them gently, “What was it like for you at that size?” the typical response is silence. Tears well up in their eyes – their pain is unspeakable.
But unlike what we are told in the “confession” sections of diet advertisements, the pain these women experience is not due to the physical experience of their large bodies. It is due to the deep sense of failure accompanied by widespread stigma and discrimination – the meaning that is attributed to their fat bodies.
Society makes assumptions that because a person is fat they must lack discipline, they must be lazy, they must be stupid and therefore worthy of our disdain. The discrimination they face in daily life is relentless – and like any population facing prejudice, risk of developing mental and physical health problems heightens as a result.
Instead of encouraging children to lose weight to avoid bullying, perhaps parents and educators should work together to change the school culture which enables the bullying to occur.
If your child has red hair and gets bullied, is the solution to dye his hair brown? If your child has big ears that stick out, is the solution to get her to undergo ostoplasty so her ears will be pinned back? There’s something illogical about fighting discrimination by getting the victim to change their appearance or behaviour.
A growing movement of health professionals and human rights advocates now recognize that promoting weight loss as a solution to the obesity “epidemic” is unethical.
About 95 percent of obesity research is funded by the weight loss industry- including research grants awarded to researchers at prestigious universities and professors who are beholden to the pharmaceutical company funding their research. This has contributed to many exaggerated health risks associated with obesity.
Then there is scientific bias- science has always been influenced by the zeitgeist of its time, and we are not free from this today. Many working within the health sector are well intended, and it can be difficult to accept that perhaps what one was taught their entire life is actually wrong.
Einstein once said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Letting go of the pursuit of weight loss is not the same as giving up – it is recognising that what we’re doing, and have been doing for more than forty years in our war against obesity – isn’t working.
Emerging evidence shows that shifting away from a weight-based model to a health-centred one is showing promising results.
Instead of trying to get your child to lose weight, you can encourage health-giving behaviours which include finding physical activity that is pleasurable for them to engage in; learning to eat in a manner that is in tune with one’s body; accepting that bodies come in different shapes and sizes (as we would expect in any given population); and recognising that health is a multi-faceted, ongoing process that involves physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, and emotional aspects – not a number on a scale.
Helping your child to engage in these changes may not result in weight loss, but will bring about health benefits. More information on the health centred approach can be found at www.sizediversityandhealth.org
‘Is it possible the DSM could become the book of appeasement, refuting questions of morality and legal culpability with regard to child abuse and exploitation?’
Last week Salon ran a comment piece by Tracy Clark-Flory which opened:
We usually hear pedophilia talked about in terms of mental illness – if not evil – but Aug. 17 a motley crew of self-identified “minor-attracted persons” and mental health professionals have gathered in Baltimore to talk about it as a sexual identity. At hand is an issue deeply important to both groups: the revision of the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia.
I have written elsewhere on the mental gymnastics employed by some of the judiciary when it comes to accepting either the vocabulary of excuses put forward by child sex offenders to exculpate them from responsibility for their offences, or minimising the harm suffered by child victims.
Of course these arguments, attitudes, utterances and opinions would not hold currency were it not for the lawyers who advance them on behalf of their clients and quarters of society that either accept them or give them tacit approval via a passive and apathetic response.
This week UK judges severely weakened legal rules that limited sex offenders’ unsupervised access to their own children. Judges declared that it was a human rights violation to prevent offenders’ from having this access. After all, they said, family life and unfettered access to ‘family life’ is their right – the rights of child victims factor in only as a secondary issue. Despite the rhetoric and declaration of a charter of human rights for children, they continue to have their status at citizens of equal worth negated. More troubling is the fact this so often occurs when children are most in need of protection from sexual predation or sexual violence.
In the same week, a US conference was held on ‘pedophilia’ under the rubric of men who are ‘minor-attracted – in other words men who desire and seek to sexually abuse children. The conference sought to advance the rights of this particular group of men by influencing the revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to better reflect a particular understanding of pedophilia as a psychiatric illness.
The DSM is the psychiatric bible and has been criticized for its development as a diagnostic manual based largely on incomplete and unscientific data – indeed psychiatrists ‘vote’ on additions and revisions and much research has highlighted the gendered nature of the psychiatric illnesses proclaimed in the book with some disorders being so ridiculous they beggar belief.
That fact that many have been removed or revised in response to societal and cultural awareness and changes in attitudes to gender and race is a testament to how mental illness can be socially constructed and even vanish from our vocabulary and treatment as society and psychiatry reconcile certain social and cultural beliefs and attitudes.
The psychiatric nomenclature declaring certain types of sexual offenders or men who declare they have not yet engaged in sexual activity with a child but have a predilection of sexual attraction to children, as individuals with a mental illness as opposed to criminals (or at least potential abusers) is a worry for many reasons.
Why is this ‘illness’ the almost exclusive problem of men and not women? It is an ‘illness’ that has been going on for centuries without recourse to any successful treatment.
I have a problem with the term ‘pedophile’ because it can be literally translated as a lover of children. Chat rooms for pedophile advocates highlight that they do not seek to ‘hurt’ children, but it is patently clear they have no concept – morally or otherwise – of what it is to ‘hurt’ a child. And believe me in my professional work I have seen first- hand the hurt suffered by children by ‘pedophiles’ – hurt that punctures the very soul of young lives and leads to damage across adult lives.
If we accept it is an illness then it is an illness afflicting almost exclusively men and has inflicted a tsunami of catastrophic damage to the lives of countless millions of children that amounts to an emotional genocide across time and place that appears to have no end.
Those advocating for these men are concerned that the law and society misunderstand ‘pedophiles’ and view them alongside ‘molesters’ of children. There exists a problem in the teasing out of men who are sexually attracted to children but say they have not acted on it as opposed to men who say they are sexually attracted to children and have acted on it.
As studies continue to show, men who are sexually attracted to children will generally move to act on that attraction. Those who have not as yet physically acted on that attraction may very likely seek other forms of intimacy with that attraction perhaps by way of viewing child pornography or engaging in contact that might not be sexual but may well still be harmful to a child’s healthy development.
We should feel a strong discomfort about a group seeking to define the parameters of what they say is their sexual orientation and have it accepted as an illness when that particular ‘illness’ can and does lead to various forms of abuse and exploitation of children around the world.
There is also the problem of normalizing the idea that many men harbor sexual desires for children. At a time when we are battling the enormous and endemic problem of child pornography and child sex tourism, we need to ramp up our collective check of society’s moral compass on accepting, even reluctantly, that sexual desires for children are a modern illness afflicting men around the world.
There are moral, ethical and even psychological questions as to why the sexual predation, desire and sexualisation of children is the almost exclusive domain of men. In late modern society we need to ask ourselves some strong questions – is the sexualisation of children a link to the sexual desire for children and the growing market in child pornography and child sex tourism. And again to ask why these issues have the common denominator of children and men.
I worry about the gendered nature of an illness where men harbor sexual desires for children – and which research consistently shows so many men will act upon – and want this targeted behaviour to be classified as an illness. We have become a humanity that pathologies our behaviours and actions to an extraordinary degree, thus removing notions of responsibility, decency and a solid moral compass.
The 20th century is marked by consumerism with our identity linked to what we buy. I buy therefore I am, is the credo. And just as our high consumerism causes so much destruction – professionals have helped us craft a language of illness and pathology about our buying habits. Why reflect on a problem and see ourselves as central to it when we can tell ourselves it is an illness and thus another ailment in society we can seek treatment for.
Is it possible the DSM could become the book of appeasement refuting questions of morality and legal culpability with regard to child abuse and exploitation?
It is not the redefinition in the DSM that will ‘cure’ this peculiar illness of men nor provide the type of moral erudition needed to tackle the world wide problem of child sexual abuse. It is the refining of humanity and our capacity to deal with an entrenched crime inflicted on children.
“If underage models continue to appear in these kinds of photoshoots, it is solely because adults have enabled them”
Parents of teen model Hailey Clauson are taken legal action against U.S. fashion label Urban Outfitters, along with photographer Jason Lee Parry, over a t-shirt featuring Hailey sitting “spread eagle” on a motorbike. Hailey was 15 when the shots were taken and according to her parents, permission was not given for use of the images. The Clauson’s are asking for $28 million.
There is no doubt that, as the parents claim, Jason Lee Parry’s photo makes “her crotch area the focal point of the image.” In court documents they say Parry agreed not to release the images after Hailey’s agent complained and that this agreement has been broken.
The agent accused Parry of working with L.A. boutique ‘Blood Is The New Black’ to sell t-shirts featuring the young model’s image. That ‘Blood Is The New Black’ would leap at the opportunity to flog t-shirts with sexualised imagery is no surprise, given its history. Tees featuring images of women naked, bound and gagged here were also brought to you with comps from the same brand, stocked by Roger David.
But Parry claims Hailey’s father was present at the shoot and Okay’d the pics.
Patty Huntington has located other sexualised images of the girl, including another spread-eagled photo taken when she was even younger – 14 – and published in 2009. She asks: “If Clauson’s parents don’t like their daughter posing in sexually suggestive’ positions, then why have they allowed her to do so, over and over again, for two years?”
And why send her to do shoots with a photographer known for his provocative styling? Hailey is underage, she is not able to exercise informed consent. Someone is exercising it on her behalf. Surely the safest course of action would be not to allow such images to be shot in the first place? Once taken, it is too easy to lose control over where they end up, as we see over and over.
Huntington perfectly sums it up:
If underage models continue to appear in these kinds of photoshoots, it is solely because adults have enabled them. The buck stops with them. Not just photographers, stylists and editors but model agents and yes, parents.
Here are some brief comments I made on the issue on Channel 7 Sunrise yesterday.
“A decisive narrowing of media representations of women”
A new study by Erin Hatton, PhD, and Mary Nell Trautner, PhD, assistant professors in the Department of Sociology, Buffalo University, has found sexualised imagery of women has increased a massive 89 percent from the 1960s to the present.
The authors of ‘Equal Opportunity Objectification? The Sexualization of Men and Women on the Cover of Rolling Stone’ studied 1000 images on the covers of Rolling Stone magazine from 1967 to 2009 to see how women and men were represented over these 43 years. While many of us knew things were bad, the stats are still remarkable. As Science Daily reports:
First, representations of both women and men have indeed become more sexualized over time; and, second, women continue to be more frequently sexualized than men. Their most striking finding, however, was the change in how intensely sexualized images of women — but not men — have become.
In the 1960s they found that 11 percent of men and 44 percent of women on the covers of Rolling Stone were sexualized. In the 2000s, 17 percent of men were sexualized (an increase of 55 percent from the 1960s), and 83 percent of women were sexualized (an increase of 89 percent). Among those images that were sexualized, 2 percent of men and 61 percent of women were hypersexualized. “In the 2000s,” Hatton says, “there were 10 times more hypersexualized images of women than men, and 11 times more non-sexualized images of men than of women.”
“…What we conclude from this is that popular media outlets such as Rolling Stone are not depicting women as sexy musicians or actors; they are depicting women musicians and actors as ready and available for sex. This is problematic,” Hatton says, “because it indicates a decisive narrowing of media representations of women.”
Today a guest post from Jane Hollier. Jane, 23, is nearing the end of her Media degree at Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, and describes herself as “passionate about communicating with teenagers and young women about the importance of self-respect and a healthy body image”. I’m thinking you’ll see more from Jane on the MTR blog in future.
Why the words children and lingerie should never go together
The sartorial world has never been one to shy away from making a statement. Controversy and clothing seem go hand-in-hand; even your “Average Joe” would be familiar with the name, Thylane Blondeau. But while fashionistas shut their eyes, cover their ears and cry out “Its irony! Its satire! It’s a statement,” a fashion line for children that’s more disturbing than Blondeau’s portfolio has managed to slip through the cracks.
Jours Aprés Lunes’ “loungerie” is a collection of sexy underwear for kids; specifically for 4 to 12 year old girls. The designer of the collection, Sophie Morin, has been in the lingerie industry for over 15 years and has worked for a handful of adult-aimed underwear fashion giants, including Victoria’s Secret. You don’t need more than a quick glance at the range to see how Morin’s experience with lingerie has greatly influenced her collection for kids. According to the French label’s website (if you dare to look), the range is based on the “codes of lingerie, such as ribbons, croquet, giant knot, lace, frills, flounces.” Or in other words, the fashion industry has found yet another way to portray children as sexualised play-things.
The label goes on to describe itself as “an innovative brand and unexpected in the current landscape of teenage and children’s fashion.”
“Unexpected” is one way to describe it. “Sinister” is probably more accurate.
But it’s not just the lace and adult nature of the underwear that gets you. It’s seeing little girls sprawled across lounge chairs with their hair made up in bouffants, makeup heavily done and wearing lacy underwear, that really makes you sick to your stomach. One girl kneels on a lounge, hugs a giant teddy bear, and wears nothing but Bridget Bardot hair, nude-coloured underwear and a “come hither” look on her face. Another girl is sprawled on a recliner, her midriff bare and arms behind her back in a pose way beyond her years. To remind you: these girls are no older than 12-years-old, some looking as young as five.
The purposeful adult styling of the shoot is so obvious and so disconcerting that if the fashion world cries “irony” this time no one will listen. The industry has been unmonitored and allowed to do whatever they like for too long. Blondeau was evidence enough of that, push-up bikinis aimed at primary school kids exemplifies it further , while a bra that promises to increase your teenage daughter’s breasts by at least two cup sizes proves that the objectification and sexualisation of girls is not just issue we’ve made up in our heads. But Jours Aprés Lunes has taken it ten steps too far.
We can tut and tisk and shake our heads in disbelief, but for how long are we going to let the fashion industry get away with it? Exactly how far will we let them go before they will be held accountable for the negative implications that stem directly from their wildly inappropriate sartorial spreads? Because if there were ever two words that should never be seen next to – or anywhere near – each other, its children and lingerie.
An “ironic patriotic comment on capitalist recruitment and identity” says Roger David.
In January last year I wrote about how Roger David’s menswear store was expanding from daggy men’s cardies into the violence and abuse t.shirt genre, I wanted to know why the men’s brand thought it acceptable to pimp porn-industry inspired messages about what women were good for.
This sparked a campaign by Collective Shout supporters against Roger David, which has been ongoing. Roger David has never bothered responding.
But now even the Advertising Standards Board thinks Roger David has crossed the line with this promotion for British clothing range “New Love Club”.
As you can see, the ad – which also features on New Love Club’s UK home page – depicts a teenage girl with a bar code on her shoulder which reads “slave”. She can’t speak because her mouth is stuffed with a Union Jack, rendering her gagged. She appears disheveled. The suggestion is that she is for sale. She is a slave at the “New Love Club”. Sexual slavery as new love. Trafficking as fashion chic.
The Board noted that the girl in the image was 18 but considered that she is depicted in a way that makes her appear younger than 18.
The Board considered that the overall impression of the part of the advertising material which depicted the girl was that of a girl presented as a sexual object – due to a combination of factors in particular the age of the girl, the text ‘new love club’ and the tattoo of the word ‘slave’ on her arm.
The Board also considered that the image of the girl could be seen to be suggestive of the girl being held against her will – with the ‘slave’ reference on her arm and the depiction of her with an object filling her mouth which, in the Board’s view, evoked a sense of the girl being ‘gagged’.
Roger David defended the ad as “ironic”. Don’t you just love how “ironic” is used to justify anything? Glamourising violence against women? Ironic. ‘Bitches Get Stitches’ t.shirts? Ironic. Women decapitated and blown up? Ironic. Facebook pages like “Define Statutory”, “I like my women how I like my Scotch: 10 years old and locked in my basement’ and ‘I like my women how I like my eggs: beaten’. All ironic. Perhaps New Love Club thinks its t.shirt bearing the image of a dead mostly naked Asian woman is ironic too.
This is my favourite bit, a work of comic genius by Roger David’s PR:
New Love Club’s main market in the United Kingdom is the student market. New Love Club produced the advertisement as a response to the current politic issues that affect this market, being the financial crisis which has had a direct impact on this market by raising tuition fees, ensuring that many of these young people will be crippled with debt into adult hood, and the conditioning of youth for their future roles in capitalism. New Love Club produced the image of the woman as a comment on youth and the national debt that now rests on their shoulders and as an ironic patriotic comment on capitalist recruitment and identity. Roger David believes that these same issues are relevant for young people in Australia, hence the use by Roger David of this image in its Australian marketing for the New Love Club brand of clothing.
The relevant audience for this advertisement is young men. Roger David strongly believes that young men would relate to this image, and would not see it as shocking or exploitative.
Do they even know how to spell capitalist recruitment?
I posted this comment on Mumbrella which reported the story yesterday
Melinda Tankard Reist – 17 Aug 11 – 1:21 pm
A young guy sees the “New Love Club” t.shirt with a young woman depicted as a sexual slave and thinks: “I really relate to that! I’ll wear it as an ironic patriotic comment on capitalist recruitment and identity.” Roger David must think we are all idiots. Collective Shout has been boycotting Roger David for some time now because of it flogging t.shirts for men depicting women naked, bound and gagged. We have no plans to stop.
I love Melanie’s comment:
Melanie -17 Aug 11 – 9:05 pm
The guys that wear the sexist, porno clothing churned out by Roger David wouldn’t even know how to spell ‘capitalist recruitment’ let alone ‘relate’ to it. I’d like to be a fly on the wall when these design ideas are thrown around ‘Hey Barry, we need another justification for this gagged chick on a shirt….Capitalism?…really?..can you spell that for me?…thanks…what does it mean?…actually don’t worry, i couldn’t be arsed learning a new thing.’
Belinda’s comment is also perfectly expressed:
Belinda – 17 Aug 11 – 1:30 pm
“young men would relate to this image, and would not see it as shocking or exploitative”. That’s the worst part: that our porn- and raunch-fuelled culture has created a cohort of people who find such an image acceptable. They see a gagged girl and think ‘meh’
Fortunately the Advertising Standards Board didn’t think ‘meh’. Nor do we. If you haven’t already joined our Roger David boycott, please do.
HRC needs to take stronger action on images which contribute to harassment and excuse violence
Last month I wrote about Caitlin Roper’s campaign against pornographic t.shirts and featured an interview with the young Western Australian woman and sociologist Michael Flood on the subject.
One of Collective Shout’s most active members, Caitlin had attracted a list of heavy hitters –including Noni Hazlehurst, Steve Biddulph and Dr Joe Tucci – to a statement condemning the proliferation of porn-themed shirts and calling on retailers to choose corporate responsibility over profiting from hyper-sexualised and violent images. Caitlin also recently wrote to leading asking them not to stock these t.shirts. One reply was received, from Bernie Brookes, CEO of Myer, who wrote: “I have copied and circulated your information to our product designers, developers and buyers to assist them in the understanding of the Collective Shout’s stance.” Not exactly what you’d call a commitment, but at least he’s responded.
Caitlin is justifiably frustrated. She said in an email:
“I am coming up against this problem more and more, people complain to the stores who really don’t care, complain to centre management, sometimes a local politician, particularly if it includes violence…People keep asking me on the fb page who can we write to? There is definitely community concern, but I don’t know what to tell them, I find new disgusting t-shirts every day, often including violence against women.
What about the government initiative ‘To violence against women, Australia says no’? Surely t-shirts that advocate for the opposite go against that campaign?”
Caitlin decided to ramp her campaign up a notch, with a complaint to our Human Rights Commission. I’d like to tell you our pre-eminent Federal human rights body stepped in to defend the rights of women, recognising that these images degrade women, contribute to sexual harassment and excuse violence against them. I’d like to say HRC acknowledges that men aren’t depicted naked, bound, gagged, with their legs spread on t.shirts. I’d like to say HRC raised with City Beach the fact that you would not be allowed to download these images in the workplace, or display them in posters in an office, so why can they be hung on racks and sold openly in a workplace?
But it seems it was not much more than the opportunity for Caitlin to express her views: no action was taken. HRC appears to be powerless.
Here’s Caitlin’s account of what happened:
Earlier this year, I made a complaint to the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) against City Beach for sexual harassment, in that by selling and displaying porn t-shirts, they had created an ‘offensive environment’. I completed the forms detailing my concerns, citing specific t-shirts that I had included pictures of.
A representative from the Human Rights Commission was assigned to my complaint. The representative is responsible for communication between parties, and acts as a mediator to help resolve conflicts. However, they do not have any power to compel the respondent (in this case, City Beach) to take any action.
I received City Beach’s official response to my complaint from their lawyers. It acknowledged my complaint and disagreed with my interpretations of the shirts. I have included a portion of the letter here:
Our client disagrees with the conclusions which have been reached by Ms Roper as to the connotations of the images in question. In particular, our client does not agree with the accusation that the pictures in question were ‘generally of women in sexual poses and appeared to be the same pornified style that would appear in a soft porn magazine’. Simply, in our client’s view, that is not the case.
In our client’s view, the images in question are of attractive women. The images are not, in our client’s view, pornographic. Further, our client does not believe the images in question could reasonably or objectively be described as pornographic.
Further, Ms Roper has referred to images of naked women. Our client does not display images of naked women in its retail outlets.
The conclusions which Mrs Roper has reached in relation to the meaning of the slogans to which she refers in her complaint are, in our client’s view, unrealistic and not a normal or fair interpretation of those slogans.
Additionally, Ms Roper’s conclusion that an image depicting a woman with a scarf covering her head makes that person less human is not a fair or reasonable interpretation of the image.
Our client has given Ms Roper’s complaint serious consideration but in all of the circumstances does not agree it has been guilty of sexual harassment as complained of by Ms Roper.
Unless compelled to do so, our client does not intend to participate in conciliation. Our client’s stance in this regard is that it does not believe conciliation can achieve an outcome satisfactory to both parties. This is the case as the outcome which Ms Roper seeks is that the items in question be removed from sale. Our client is not prepared to voluntarily do so.”
The HREOC representative informed me that as City Beach was not open to having a conciliation to resolve the outcome, I could try and reach a compromise with City Beach. He suggested “thinking outside the box”- which I did, maybe a little too much for CB’s liking.
My possible compromises were:
- To put a warning at the front of their stores, warning parents of ‘adult material’ inside.
- To apply some kind of age restriction to the t-shirts, a minimum age for purchase.
- To attend a “Right to Childhood” conference.
Unsurprisingly, they rejected all of my suggestions.
CB had made it clear they were not interested in participating in a conciliation, a conference where both parties try to find a reasonable outcome. The HREOC representative suggested they might be open to a conversation, where I could explain my concerns to them and they would respond – with the understanding that they were not going to take any action. I would speak first, then a CB representative would respond, and there would be occasion to interact with questions.
I agreed to keep the proceedings of the discussion confidential, however I am comfortable sharing some of the points I raised. I referred to the open letter to retailers and read parts of it aloud. I spoke about the way the women on the t-shirts are frequently objectified and posed as porn stars. (In the case of the TITS brand, the models are actually famous porn stars, not just ‘attractive women’ as City Beach claimed.)
I spoke about my concern about the element of sexualized violence that is so often present and women gagged, while citing specific examples of t-shirts sold in their store. I spoke about how these images promoted disrespect of women and also made me feel vulnerable and less secure.
I also shared my concerns about the images being imposed on the general public, including children, and some of the research and progress in other places (like the UK) in terms of recognizing exposure to sexualized imagery is damaging to children, and taking action. I asked the representative from CB to learn more about these issues and take account of the community concerns.
While City Beach has not removed the clothing, and I don’t think I ever really expected them to, I feel satisfied that I made this complaint and forced them to hear me. Utilizing their lawyers and having to deal with my complaint was probably a bit of a headache for them, and I hope it has made some impact on what the buyers for City Beach might select in the future.
The public space is being colonised with images revelling in debasing and demeaning women. Where are we supposed to go, when corporations, governments and our human rights bodies won’t or can’t do anything?
This worth reprinting from Collective Shout’s site. This campaign isn’t about health, it’s about employing sexist advertising to flog a diet product.
Keep Australia Beautiful: trash sexist ad campaigns
Collective Shout supporters have alerted us to this outdoor advertisement for a diet product. The ad urges us to ‘Keep Australia Beautiful’ by looking like this air brushed, headless model.
This ad reinforces a narrow standard of beauty and objectifies women. The message is that it is a woman’s duty to look a certain way for the benefit of others. It may as well say ‘Keep Australia Beautiful by looking hot in a bikini.’
Unfortunately complaints to the Advertising Standards Board against Vitaco have already been dismissed. You can read the PDF determinations here (billboard) and here (transport).
In its response to the ASB, the advertiser denied the ad was sexual in nature and claimed it was about promoting health:
… the intent of the advertisement is to communicate the aspiration image of a fit and healthy female physique in connection with the functional benefits of a protein bar. As such, we believe the content of the advertisement does not contravene the Code in relation to sex, sexuality and/or nudity and recommend the complaint to be dismissed.” (Bold ours).
In making its determination, the ASB
… noted that the model is clearly clothed in a bikini and the image used is viewed in connection with the text, making a clear association between the image of the woman and the product being advertised ie: a food product designed to assist with weight management and good health.
But the advertisement does not say ‘Keep Australia Healthy.’ It says ‘Keep Australia Beautiful.’ There is a difference which both the advertiser and the ASB have failed to recognise. ’Thin and beautiful’ as defined by our narrow cultural beauty standards does not necessarily mean ‘healthy.’ Similarly, those who don’t fit the narrow beauty standard ie. older and/or larger, are not necessarily ‘unhealthy.’ We cannot and should not presume to know someone’s health just by looking at them.
In addition to sexual objectification, the ad is misleading. The company has appropriated the name of a well known environmental organisation ‘Keep Australia Beautiful’, for its own benefit. ‘Keep Australia Beautiful’ is a long standing community based movement which aims to create a cleaner environment through the promotion of anti-litter campaigns. Some of the complaints to the ASB have demonstrated the connection people see between this slogan and the anti-litter campaigns.
The ad has nothing to do with “helping to keep Australia beautiful”. The ad is fake misleading advertising. It doesn’t have a rubbish bin or rubbish in the ad but a close up of a headless fake woman wearing a tiny bikini.
The woman in the ad is not picking up rubbish so what is the ad telling society?
Vitaco has completely ignored these concerns. It is a shame that the ASB has allowed the name of a well respected environmental organisation to be used in the objectification of women for profit.
Vitaco has combined the objectification of women with a well known environmental campaign slogan to market a diet product. It has done this under the thin veil of ‘health.’ We’re not buying it and neither should you.
Looking at this ad, we are reminded of a great quote posted on Spark Summit’s facebook page some time ago: “A two-step approach to having a ’beach body’: have a body, take it to the beach. How often the simple solutions elude us!”
Tell Vitaco what you think of its sexist ad campaign here.
You’ve probably already heard about 10-year-old French model Thylane Loubry Blondeau and the controversy over the way she is being posed and styled in adult-like ways. I’d written about Vogue’s treatment of Thylane and other young models in an earlier piece titled ‘Vogue’s tarted up photo shoot of little girls is no parody.’
Interest in Thylane has reached hyper drive. I was asked to comment on Channel 7’s Morning Show.
People look at one image and say “I don’t see it. She doesn’t look sexy to me.” This is not about one image or one issue- it’s a collective picture that’s created when we use young girls to sell adult products by putting them in adult make up and adult styling and adult positions. (and we call it fashion and that’s supposed to make it all ok)…
Last month Channel 7’s Morning Show asked me to comment on the Tool Shop’s Queensland billboard depicting three women with tools and the wording ‘Imagine All 3 at once? We can…’. The billboard was clearly intended to treat the women in a sexual way by encouraging fantasies about group sex with them. It also contributed to objectifying women who work in these trades. Here’s what I said:
We win: ASB upholds complaints
In unexpected good news, the Advertising Standards Board has upheld complaints against the Tool Shop.
The Advertising Standards Bureau has upheld a series of complaints made against an outdoor campaign that it depicts women as sex objects.
The campaign, for The Tool Shop, shows three women tradies next the line ‘Imagine all 3 at once? We can…’
The advertiser objected to the ruling, stating:”The women are in no way dressed “provocatively” nor is the tag line referring to anything sexual. We also struggle to comprehend how this billboard in any way, shape or form could ‘suggest that women are sexual objects’.”
The ASB considered that the text was more likely to be read as a reference to having sex with all three women at once, rather than being able to purchase all three tools in one place.
Overall, the ad clearly presented the women as sexual objects to be purchased or used and did so in a manner that was demeaning to women, the ASB ruled.
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