Serial offenders Diva quietly restock Playboy jewellery at discounted prices
Last year we learned that retailer Diva was selling Playboy accessories- including Playmate of the month themes- to young girls in stores around the country. In response, we circulated a petition that received over 8000 signatures within weeks and generated substantial media attention. Diva quietly removed Playboy merchandise from shelves and staff advised us they had been returned to Head Office.
A few months later, some supporters alerted us that Playboy jewelry was popping up again in shops. Some stores even kept it behind the counter. One supporter Jo shared the response she received from Diva.So why is Diva once again selling the very same items for $3 each?
It is quite clear to us that Diva is not concerned with entrenching the brand of the global sex industry to young girls, not about grooming them to be consumers of the Playboy brand as they get older. Diva initially defended their decision to stock Playboy , describing it as “fashion chic”. However, the Playboy logo found on their jewellery has very little to do with fashion and much more with the global pornographic industry. Playboy Enterprises owns a large selection of TV channels hosting brutal, hardcore pornography. You can read some of the titles here.
In response to complaints via twitter and on their facebook page, Diva have said:
Take action today!
We have reopened our original petition. Please sign it!
For women my generation who see a massive magazine heading “The Big O” and think it’s about Roy Orbison, you probably won’t want to read further. The “Big O” in this case refers to orgasm – in fact “your giggle-free guide to orgasms.”
Although if your daughter is a 13-year-old reader of Girlfriend (GF has profiled readers this age in its pages), you may want to see she is being told on the subject. Many mums would consider a girl who may have just entered puberty, too young for the material on offer even if it is in the ‘sealed section’.
In the same issue in which they are given recipes on muffin baking, they’re also being told how to reach climax. “If we were all having regular orgasms, we would be a lot happier,” explains sex therapist Jacqueline Hellyer. “Orgasms release hormones that make us feel happy, relaxed, confident and sexy. Plus, they’re good for your skin, hair and teeth.”
GF stresses a number of times that a girl shouldn’t “rush into sexual activity”, and to have respect for herself. Readers are also reminded of age of consent laws. But I wonder if this advice can complete with ‘happy, relaxed, confident and sexy’ and ‘good for skin, hair teeth’? Who wouldn’t want to rush into that? On the other hand, the article treats orgasm as almost a given (“Clitoral orgasms are the easiest to achieve, and the most intense”). Whereas many women, for a range of reasons, (one being hopeless lovers raised on a diet of porn) do not easily achieve this. Hellyer says: “Good sex is really, really good, but bad sex is really, really bad.” Well isn’t that a nice surprise, given Girlfriend (and Dolly) advertised mobile phone wall paper for girls that read: “Sex, when it’s good it’s really good, when it’s bad it’s still pretty good.” Julie Gale of Kids Free 2b Kids and I condemned this at the time and eventually the teen mags stopped advertising this lie. But it should never have appeared in the pages of magazines allegedly wanting to empower girls in the first place.
Still on the sex theme, GF shares reader’s views on recent advice that teens should read ‘sexy books’ (fantasy, not reality, won’t make us go out and have sex, if you don’t like them don’t read them, doesn’t matter what teenagers read, as long as they are reading, etc.). Only one of the four actually tells us she’s read some of the books in question. I’ve expressed another view in a piece titled ‘Should teens read more porn?’
A measly two ‘Self-respect reality checks’ this issue – it’s like even GF doesn’t think they are all that convincing anymore. (See my comments on these checks previously here). The one on the cover quotes actress Kristen Stewart “I think it’s ridiculous that you need to look a certain way to be conventionally pretty.” Right on, Kristen – we totes agree!” (which is totes funny when on p.58 GF tell us how annoying the word ‘Totes’ is, and says it should be replaced with ‘downright’). Yes, great quote, but was Kristen photo-shopped for the cover either by GF or pre-altered when they received it? Because if it wasn’t, that sure is one flawless face. The ‘Self respect reality’ check is supposed to tell us these things. If it doesn’t, it’s a waste of space.
Speaking of flawless, open to the first page and get Kate Moss and her new lipstick. Photoshop must have been working overtime. The next two pages are the same. Oh and look there’s Kesha advertising Casio and she’s been doctored too. I’ll stop here though there are other ads like it. As I’ve said before, why is advertising’s unreality exempt from the much touted ‘reality’ check?
The second ‘reality check’ tells us ‘Readers, not models were used in this shoot’. Nice to see a young black woman here.
Features include ‘How to break a habit’, ‘Why parents say the things they do’, ‘Is it OK to not have a best friend?’ , ‘Understanding your metabolism’, ‘How to beat a bad day’, ‘5 Reasons to Date the Shy Guy’, then on the next page how to dump him (well any guy who you decide you’re ‘just not into’). ‘Fast & Frenzied Feed: The new eating disorder’ concerns “What happens when a healthy appetite becomes a little too unhealthy for the body and the mind” Sarah Ayoub writes about binge-eating disorder affecting about 20 percent of Australian girls 18-22. This is a binging condition without the purging associated with bulimia (though laxatives are mentioned – isn’t that a form of purging?). Sufferers loathe themselves and have poor self-image. No surprises there.
This issue’s real life stories include a 20-year-old whose feet were amputated as a result of blood clots, a 17-year-old who started her own charity, an 18-year-old bullied for three years and a 19-year-old with lymphoedema, resulting in permanently swollen limbs. I like this section because it cuts through the fashion and beauty pages, grounded as it is in the real lived experience of real girls.
Here’s a piece which should be read by all mothers: ‘Does my mum look big in this?’ which cites research that mums can pass on their own negative messages about body image to their daughters. “If a mum has an unhappy relationship with her own body, her daughter can pick up on this dissatisfaction and internalise it,” says clinical psychologist Louise Adams. “Many of my clients with eating disorders report having mothers who were always dieting and criticising their own bodies. Daughters take this negative self-talk on board and start to talk about their own bodies in the same negative terms.” I remember a girl telling me about her mother who had purchased her a size 10 end of year formal dress, telling her “You will get into this by the end of the year”. The girl was a size 14.
The advice is helpful so I’m reprinting it for mothers whose daughters don’t read Girlfriend (or for Roy Orbison fans who got a shock):
1. When you hear your mum criticise her body, tell her how it’s making you feel about your own body. Try saying “Mum, when you talk about your weight in front of me and put yourself down, it makes me worry about my own weight and it makes me feel bad about myself.”
2. Ask your mum to please stop devaluing and criticising her body, and to stop unhealthy practices like dieting, food restriction or over-exercising.
3. Make a deal with her and promise each other that neither of you will talk badly about your bodies anymore – no exceptions.
4. Remind each other to think about your self-worth in broader terms than just appearance. Think about what you both like about yourselves as people (I’m kind, you’re funny) and focus on developing those aspects.
If this reader’s comment doesn’t get mums to change the negative self-talk, then I’m not sure what will: “My mum always asks me if she looks fat. This depresses me because I know I’m not skinny, and I feel that she is putting pressure on me because of my weight. When mum says she is fat, I feel fat. She affects the way I feel about myself.”- Christina, 14.
It’s been an interesting few weeks for women (read: depressing). Lingerie Football League, yet another hyper-sexualised plus-sized model fashion spread, and a Bollywood star who hasn’t lost her pregnancy weight being called a fat elephant (she even got a YouTube clip dedicated to the weight gain, with elephant sound effects accompanying her image). Oh, and let’s not forget Cambridge University’s “Rear of the Year” competition, where women posted pictures of their behinds online to be rated, and hopefully win the title (what an honour!).
But this one really takes the cake. Bulgarian magazine 12 has released a beauty editorial spread depicting women as victims of physical abuse. The pictorial features glamorous and heavily made up women with an array of gory injuries, including a slit throat, ripped out piercings, acid burns and a woman’s mouth cut into a wide smile.
Titled “Victims of Beauty,” the so-called beauty spread is a visual slap in the face for women who have encountered this kind of sickening abuse. But what is most disheartening is that it isn’t the first time the fashion industry has displayed complete apathy towards violence against women. And it is very unlikely that it will be the last.
These kinds of images are nothing new. Seeing women shown as the victims of implied male violence — or victims of any violence, frankly — in what is an overwhelmingly female industry, in magazines that are overwhelmingly run, written, and edited by women, has always troubled me. It troubled me back when I was a model, and was asked to take part in shoots that had themes of violence and death. It troubles me now that I merely see these images in the fashion media, which are largely the women’s media.
It’s a given that fashion magazines — like other forms of mass media — often aim to shock. Because they like the attention. Because they like the ad dollars. Because they like the rebellious reputation that shocking us squares confers. But it’s still worthwhile to examine the means by which they achieve that shock value. The high-fashion world in general loves to think of itself as contrarian, élite, and boldly at odds with the tastes and mores of the wider public. It likes to think that it, in fact, leads those tastes. But much of the imagery the fashion industry uses to communicate its messages at best echoes and at worst reinforces some of the wider culture’s most negative ideas about women and girls.
We believe that images such as ours can be seen from various angles…Where some see a brutal wound, others see a skilful work of an artist, or an exquisite face of a beautiful girl. That being said, we do understand why some accuse us of promoting, in a way, violence, but we do not agree with that, and we think that it is very narrow-minded way of looking at the photographs.
And after all, isn’t it true that we see brutally wounded people all the time, in real life – on television, in the news, in movies, videogames, magazines and websites, and they are all very different, but alike in one thing: some are real, some are not. And fashion photography is an imitation of real life, sometimes realistic, sometimes delicate, other times grotesque, or shocking.
They go on to call critics sexist (because if it were men we may not have the same outraged response) and question what our reaction would be if the images were part of a campaign against domestic violence. But here’s the thing: these images of battered women were not created to spread awareness of physical abuse. They were not created to invite you to do something about the very real and heartbreaking issue of violence against women. They were designed for the sake of shock value, and shock value only. By publishing it in the beauty section of a magazine – a section that exists to give the reader an aesthetic ideal to aspire to – what kind of message are they sending?
In the last few years we’ve seen advertisements and magazine editorials glorifying images of women being strangled, as corpses, dead in car boots, with nooses around their necks and in gang rape situations. This usually followed by claims of it being “art” or to “make a statement.” Whatever you try to disguise it as, the constant bombardment of violent imagery with women as its main focus is an appalling credit to the fashion and beauty industry; especially as it is an industry that is for the most part, still dominated by women.
But soon they will have exhausted every means possible to shock us and grab our attention, and then what will they be left with? Nothing but an empty jar of eyeshadow and the bad taste of moral redundancy in their mouths.
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”.
Collett Smart, child adolescent psychologist and educator, reports on the child beauty pageant recently held in Sydney. Collett was invited by Today Tonight to give an outsider’s opinion on the event.
“She’s a gorgeous girl isn’t she?”
“Give them a round of applause, aren’t they stunning?”
“What a lovely dress!”
“Wow, Sydney Australia, where did you get these beautiful girls?”
Notice a superficial theme anyone?
As with last year’s event, the feathers, false nails and fake tans were rolled out alongside the rhinestones and ruffles. I’m not talking about an adult cabaret routine, oh no – these were girls from 3 years old and up.
You guessed it – the pageants were back in town, with Mickie Wood and her daughter Eden (who has retired from competing to teach other girls about pageantry at the ripe old age of 6) along for the ride. And Mickie was one of the judges this year.
“We didn’t know they were here?” I hear you say. Well, it appears to have been kept a secret. Although, I’m told by some pageant organisers that it wasn’t…
Saturday saw Universal Royalty Beauty Pageants (and Eden) strutting their stuff at the Paddington RSL in Sydney. The day before, I was invited to attend the event by Today Tonight and provide comment on what I saw, since nothing had been publicly advertised. (Something to hide maybe?)
The room had a guard at the door and no signage anywhere inside or outside the RSL to indicate that the event was being held there. Contrary to what some thought, I sat openly amoung the crowd.
So was anything different this year? Yes and No.
There was a similar line of costumes and categories as last year, but only about a third the number of people. How do I know numbers were lower? Because I attended last year’s pageant (by personal invite) as the only ‘outsider’ then too. (See my story here)
As with last year, the competition had entrants from various locations around Australia. However, this year there were only between 2 and 4 entrants per age group and some age groups were not even represented. In the words of a mum seated in front of me,
“B really wanted to enter but there weren’t enough entrants for her age group, due to all the secrecy and everything.”
So when the mothers tell me on my Facebook page “They like to keep numbers low” I don’t buy it. We don’t hold secret soccer matches now do we?
As before, the competition was ‘tough’, well according to Annette Hill anyway. “Oh my goodness judges, how are you going to choose who will win the $1000?”, she asked repeatedly.
How would they indeed – and why should they choose anyway? What gives these adults the right to nominate someone else’s child as a winner, by virtue of the skin they were born in?
The main category again saw the girls wearing evening gown style dresses. “Here we have S wearing an X colour dress accentuated with rhinestones and ruffles. She has X colour hair and X colour eyes, her favourite food is X, her hobbies are X and Y.”
Sounds more like a pet parade than actual children who should be celebrated for their unique gifts and skills.
To the credit of 3 of those amazing teens, they had ambitions of being a brain surgeon, a police woman and a teacher. My message to those girls, “Get out of that toxic culture before it steals your soul and makes you think that you are only worth the shade of lip gloss you wear.”
All this happens while parents cheer on with, “Sparkle baby!”
Sparkle baby? Are you kidding me? What is that? The only thing that ‘sparkles’ are the rhinestones on the ruffles because what do pageants teach young girls to ‘sparkle’ in? The answer – Beauty, outward appearances and ‘poise’ (thanks Annette for that one). Not skills, sporting ability, artistic ability or inner qualities.
My heart broke when I heard a tiny 4 year old come directly off the stage and ask, “Mum, did I do ok?”
“Do ok at what mum?” I wondered.
Do ok at looking pretty or wearing her lipstick correctly? And what if she doesn’t win her age group? Obviously she didn’t ‘do ok’ then? Well that’s the message she gets even if indirectly.
If she didn’t ‘do ok’ at looking pretty enough, what does she do now mum? She can’t go home and practice looking prettier? Sure, she can wear a new dress or buy a new shade of eyeliner but she can’t change who she is and what she was born with.
What if she’s never ‘ok’ enough to win? What does that do to her then mum? How will she see herself in comparison to other girls? Does she ‘throw up’ to look as skinny as contestant B? Ask for breast implants at 16 to look like contestant C?
But it’s all ok apparently, because Mickie Wood who was a judge this year, told us that we needed to cheer the girls on so that they all felt special (but obviously not special enough to win the $1000 for something they cannot ever get better at).
Mickie and Annette also assured us that each girl would ‘feel valued’ because they would get a free photo with Eden Wood, a Universal Royalty t-shirt and other goodies. Um… ok?
The fact that this event was kept a secret is a win in my mind. Except, when I dared say that on my Facebook page on Saturday, I was initially told that this was completely untrue and that I was a just a spy, a stalker and a grown up bully.
Not surprising really. Last time I heard from the pageant crowd I was told to go and F…myself, shoot myself and that I was obviously just jealous.
So, besides looking like there was something to hide, the secretive positioning possibly kept others from enrolling and also kept less young girls from being exposed to Universal Royalty’s toxic culture than last year. All good to me.
Last year saw The Darebin City Council ruled that their venues can no longer be used for an event where children aged 16 years or under compete on the basis of, or are judged upon, any aspect of their physical appearance. The policy states,
“Organisers will have to ensure that adjudication is based solely upon a child’s skills or talents; the routines, music and costumes are age appropriate and all competitions are carried out in a spirit of encouragement.”
Australia also saw hundreds of child development experts and child psychologists speaking out against the harmful effects of pageants on children.
“Direct participation and competition for a beauty prize where infants and girls are objectified and judged against sexualised ideals can have significant mental health and developmental consequences that impact detrimentally on identity, self esteem, and body perception.” (The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists)
So while this is a ‘free country’ and parents are free to ‘parent’ in whatever style works for their family, there are certain issues around which I will continue to be an advocate for children. These include; children being supplied with alcohol, tobacco or other harmful substances and children being physically or emotionally abused. I have to say that I stand by the voice of the RANZCP and believe that child pageants fall within the realm of developmental abuse.
The biggest irony of the day was watching a group of teen girls engaging in martial arts in a room next door. These girls were learning to use their bodies in a manner that builds strength and develops healthy self-confidence. My hope is that each Toddlers & Tiaras girl will one day get that opportunity.
Child beauty pageants deprive children their childhood says Miriam, 14
Most people are lucky enough to have had a childhood. They were allowed to play in the mud, sometimes eat mud, run around and be as messy as they liked. But today, too many children around the world are being forced to dedicate themselves to a beauty pageant life.
Small children are forced to dress like adults, wax their eyebrows (even though there are hardly any eyebrows to wax) and pose for hundreds of people so that their parents can win some money.
Participating in these child beauty competitions means that the child is denied an authentic childhood. The ramifications of this are huge. These poor children, sometimes as young as three-years-old are taught their self worth is based solely on appearance. This mindset is further reinforced through the media which declares what women should look like.
By participating in these child beauty pageants, the children are denied an authentic childhood. The beauty pageants are very time consuming. The children need to choose outfits, jewellery, makeup, shoes and hairstyles. This leaves little time for the child to play and have fun with other children. The child is denied the opportunity to be carefree and simply to have fun because they will run the risk of ruining their beautiful features or get dirty! This has and could quite easily be interpreted as child abuse.
Another major issue with child beauty pageants is that they imply that self worth is based only on appearance. These poor children will grow up thinking that they are only worth something if they look good. These young girls need to be shown that their worth is based on their characteristics, talent and personality and not what they look like. By participating in beauty pageants and being judged only on what the judges see is just the beginning of a damaging way of thinking.
The way that women and girls are shown on television, the internet and in magazines is highly unrealistic. As these girls grow and mature thinking self worth is based only on appearance, they will begin compare themselves to the touched up images they see of other women in magazines or on the television and judge themselves according to the images they see.
This can ruin a girls self esteem dramatically. If a young girl believes that she is not worth anything if she does not look how the judges or the media says she should, she could suffer depression and anxiety.
Child beauty pageants offer no positive outcomes but instead result in the deprivation of a fun and playful childhood which all children have the right to enjoy.
No parent has the right to pressure their child to participate in these destructive competitions. No parent has the right to pressure their child to pose for a set of judges based only on what they are wearing or even not wearing. No parent has the right to maketheir child apply makeup to an already perfect face causing skin damage in later life. And no parent has the right to deny a child their childhood.
These pageants are not just about pretty clothing and fancy hair, but by looking deeper it is very clear that child beauty pageants are destructive. No child should ever have to experience such a hideous and soul destroying competition.
Miriam is a student and lives in the Blue Mountains, NSW
After more than 18,000 sign Change.org petition, Society revokes award given to man jailed for domestic violence attack; victim lost her baby and sight in one eye after attack
The victim of a brutal domestic violence attack has welcomed the decision by the Royal Humane Society to revoke the bravery award given to her attacker.
Domestic violence victim Jeannie Blackburn was informed this evening that the Royal Humane Society had revoked the award given to her former partner, Paul McCuskey. McCuskey was in jail serving a five and a half year sentence for a series of vicious attacks on Jeannie when he received the bravery honour from the Society for his actions with the Reefton CFA during the Black Saturday bushfires.
“I am completely overwhelmed by the support the public has given me on this issue,” said Jeannie.
“It’s an incredible victory for the huge community of people who have come together to take a stand against domestic violence.
“Brave men don’t bash women. I was devastated when I heard that Paul had been publicly rewarded for bravery – it seemed crazy that a man could be acknowledged for his public deeds when behind closed doors he had been so violent.
“I am so pleased that the Royal Humane Society has finally listened to the community feeling on this issue through the more than 18,000 people who signed the Change.org petition calling on them to revoke the award.”
Jeannie was given the courage to speak out when she stumbled across the Change.org petition started by Brisbane mum Melinda Liszewski. In just over two weeks, Melinda’s petition gathered more than 18,000 signatures and helped focus media attention on the issue.
Jeannie said she wanted to thank the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce and Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle (a Vice-President of the Society), who had both publicly called on the Society to revoke the award. She was also grateful for media coverage of the issue.
“For too long no-one was listening to what had happened to me. Seeing the thousands of ordinary members of the community showing their support for me through the Change.org petition gave me the strength to start to speak out – not just for me but for all victims of domestic violence.”
Jeannie said she had no doubt the media coverage around the Change.org petition had forced the Society to bring forward its scheduled meeting on the issue, and for them to take the step to revoke the award.
More sexploitation from a repeat corporate offender
Men’s deodorant brand Lynx – owned by Unilever – has added to it’s ongoing list of degrading ads with the company’s latest promotion, “Lynx, cleans your balls.”
We began hearing from CS supporters about the ad via our Facebook page when it aired on television. We checked out the video on YouTube where it was promoted on the home page. The company’s teenage target market are frequent visitors to the site.
We were asked to comment on the ad for the Herald Sun:
The controversial three-minute Lynx ad titled Cleans Your Balls stars actor and singer [Sophie] Monk in a mock tele-ad showing men how to wash sports balls.
The ad, which is full of double-entendres, has been criticised as crass and oversexualised by lobby group Collective Shout.
Co-founder Melinda Liszewski said up to 10 members had lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Bureau because it was degrading to women and condescending to men.Read entire article.
Melinda Tankard Reist was also asked about the ad on Melbourne radio 3AW:
Co-founder of Collective Shout Melinda Tankard Reist said she was unsurprised by the tact that “repeat corporate offenders” Lynx had taken with their latest campaign.
Number of complaints is reported again in the media, view this as free advertising
When the ASB upholds complaints (if they uphold complaints) act indignant but agree to comply with the ruling even though you can’t do anything about the majority of other sites still hosting your ‘controversial’ ad. This will be perfectly timed with the natural end of the ad campaign anyway.
Slap each other on the back for a job well done and roll around in money, like Scrooge McDuck
Here’s something Lynx may have missed.
Lynx may be advertising deodorant and body wash, but they are also advertising the failure of the ASB to reign in recalcitrant advertisers. Lynx have done this before and they will do it again. They will face no financial penalties for continuing to run ads that are sexist, demeaning and that breach the Advertising Industry code of conduct.
We will keep speaking out because we believe silence has never changed anything and never will. Lynx’s latest ad campaign – like their previous ad campaign – highlights the inadequacies of the ASB and demonstrate why an independent body or authority is needed to replace it. Penalties should be put in place to ensure that advertisers cannot use self regulation to do whatever they want.
So thanks Lynx for helping us to make our case for independent advertising regulation in Australia. We will be sure to ‘advertise’ you at the next government enquiry.
As for Lynx’s claim that their ad is ‘sharp and edgy’ we’ll leave the last word to Allison who wrote:
I sat through that ad on the big screen. You could sense every person in the cinema cringing. No one thought it funny at all. My male companion felt embarrassed to be the target of such purile crap & he grew up watching Benny Hill.
It will be five years this week since Jeannie Blackburn lost her baby at 13 weeks.*
The baby was pronounced dead in utero following a savage beating at the hands of her partner of five years, Paul McCuskey, in June 2007. “Stop it Paul, the baby!” she cried as he dragged her around by her hair and left her in a pool of blood. But it was no use.
This baby wasn’t the first to die at his hands. A year before Jeannie miscarried at five weeks after an attack so brutal she has not previously spoken about it until now.
What she says he did to her is too graphic to reprint in detail.
As if losing two babies were not enough, another attack resulted in the severing of the optic nerve in her left eye. She could no longer see out of it.
McCuskey was never brought to justice for the attack that caused his partner to miscarry her first pregnancy. But there was a witness to the assault which took the life of the second baby just before her 43rd birthday, ending her chances of motherhood.
Of 14 charges, McCuskey pled guilty to four and was found guilty of intentionally causing serious injury. He was sentenced to five and a half years, with a three-year minimum before parole, He could be out of Loddon prison as early as April next year.
Is this the kind of man you would expect to be presented with a Bravery Award? It is difficult to comprehend. But that’s what has happened.
While the case wound its way through the courts, in February 2009 McCuskey, a volunteer fire-fighter with the Country Fire Authority, saved the life of an elderly woman in the Black Saturday bushfires. Of course it is good this woman was rescued.
But does this one act warrant the status of hero, given that the lives of two unborn children were previously lost and a bereaved woman is left with a life-long disability?
According to Jeannie, the CFA failed to tell the Royal Humane Society that its awardee was unable to attend receive his award in person because he was in jail.
“In my view the Royal Human Society should be called the inhumane society,” Jeannie Blackburn says.
Jeannie works as a cleaner with a Melbourne construction company. It has been challenging readjusting to life being partially blind.
“I get up at 3.30am every morning because it takes an hour for my good eye to work,” she says. “I memorise and count the stairs as I walk down, so I don’t stumble. I make a cup of coffee and spill the milk. I don’t go out at night because I’m afraid of violence and the dark.”
Gangrene has set in to the damaged eye. It has to be removed.
For Jeannie Blackburn, it’s about more than seeing the award rescinded. She wants to send a clear message about violence against women, which affects one in three women in Australia.
“Violence cannot be tolerated or accepted. You cannot reward people for acts of bravery when they are in prison. We try to tell youth ‘don’t do it, don’t be violent’, but they see men who are violent rewarded,” she says.“People have a choice. You can’t just blame the alcohol or the anger.”
Of British heritage, Jeannie is thinking of writing to the Queen, a patron of the Society, to see if she might act. Her suffering is eased somewhat by the petition launched through Change.org by Brisbane mother of five Melinda Liszewski which has attracted a massive 15,500 signatures.
It was initiated after the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, wrote to the Society of which she is a patron, urging them to strip McCuskey of his award.
Melinda says the award is a contradiction. “I don’t understand how an organisation that values saving lives could reward someone who took the life of an unborn child and scarred Jeannie’s life forever as well,” she says.
Jeannie is overwhelmed by the support she has received.“I thought they might get 5000 signatures, she told me. “But 15,500 is unbelievable, overwhelming. I want to give Melinda a big kiss, send her flowers.”
Jeannie will hand over the petition to society representatives in Melbourne this week and there has been talk she may be joined by a policeman who wants to give his bravery award back in protest.
He no doubt understands – as many more men in this country need to – that you can’t be considered brave if you serially bash defenceless women, end the lives of their babies and contribute to a global epidemic that continues to kill and maim millions and cause life-long trauma to those who survive.
Real heroes don’t do that.
*Correction. It is five years today since Jeanne Blackburn lost her eye. The baby she lost at 13 weeks was pronounced dead in January the same year.
As published in the Sunday Herald Sun June 17, 2012
Player loses underwear replayed on giant screens, sex doll shared, chosen men get to ‘tackle’ players, fans leer and jeer – and they call it sport
On Saturday night I was in the crowd at the Lingerie Football League game at All Phones Arena, Sydney Olympic Park.
I’m a former athlete. I have coached a number of sports including soccer. I made it to the Youth National Trials back home in England (until I did something stupid involving a bucket of soapy water, some friends who were not unknown to law enforcement, and a moving car, which ended my short lived career. But that’s another story).
A friend, who is a triathlete, agreed to come with me. We both follow sport. She didn’t make it to half time. As a serious athlete, she couldn’t handle the degrading treatment of women under the guise of ‘sport’. She asked her boyfriend – also an athlete – to come and get her. He commented: “I think men don’t go there for the sport the same as men don’t go to a strip club to see a good dancer.”
I stayed on to be able to report to my Collective Shout colleagues – and anyone else who cared – what took place that night. But it wasn’t easy.
There were many low points. Probably the worst:
• A player’s lingerie bottoms fall down (not entirely unpredictable, it’s what the mostly male crowd seemed to be hoping for). They go wild. The scene is then replayed on the large screen for their viewing pleasure. A man standing next to me says “This is the perfect sport!”
• The MC invites men to stand and be selected in the ‘Chase and tackle the girl contest’ to come onto the field and ‘tackle’ a real LFL player. Men stand and cheer, pointing at themselves while others fist pump the air. Three are chosen. The female player is brought to the ground. I wonder what protection the players have against sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. And what would happen if she were injured, given players have to sign a waiver of compensation form.
• A blow up doll is passed around near me. One man simulated oral sex as others laugh. Men pass the prized doll along until someone throws it into the VIP area, where an attendant confiscates it. The crowd boos.
• Some men opposite me make a stack with their beer cups. I have seen this done before. What I have never seen at any sporting venue was what happens when the host, an older lady, asks them to stop. The men insult her and throw their ($7) beers over her. She appears shaken and leaves.
Touchdowns are celebrated by slapping thighs and making ‘Pussy Signs’ above the players’ heads. Apparently it’s a great thing to attract the hand vagina signal. The new Sydney recruits selected from tryouts on Thursday night stood to one end clapping and dancing to ‘I am sexy and I know it’.
Men hang over the fence to get close-up camera shots of the player’s backsides.
As the player’s leave the field during half time a group of women enter wearing stockings, black high heeled boots and lingerie and hand out freebies to the men. The NSW team are introduced to the crowd. They run out and perform a set move – the sexier the move, the louder the roar from the crowd. A blonde woman who did the splits got the biggest reaction.
The second half gets underway and the men, fuelled by copious amounts of beer, become more aggressive. The music is pumped up.
The MC reads an ad for ‘Mobile Tanning Service.’ Given there were few women attending, of what interest would this be to the bulk of men in the crowd?
One player goes to the VIP section on field level and some men break the fence as they tried to grab her as she walks by. Security moves in.
When the game finishes the MC quickly announces that the party zone will commence in about 10 minutes for those with tickets. Fans who had paid could could stay back and take photos and do “whatever you want”.
LFL founder Mitch Mortaza made a statement over the intercom about how LFL was a new sport to Australia and how, despite the criticism, “You came the fuck anyways”. This is greeted by loud cheers from the fans.
The NSW team are sent out to parade around the field again. “They are all gorgeous girls, can’t wait to watch them,” the commentator says.
A group of men walk past me as I’m sitting by myself. One asks “What are you doing here? Are you a f-ing lesbian?” I said no, but I am reporting on the game. They didn’t elaborate further on their lesbian theme.
I decided it was time to leave. I walk out, depleted.
Lingerie Football League is hailed as the all-new Australian sport and we are supposed to celebrate? It wasn’t sport. It was a meat fest. It had the feel of a giant buck’s night. But it was on a sporting field so apparently that made it sport.
I call on sporting bodies and our Government, to step in to stop this. The game encourages sexist behaviour, it does nothing to promote women in sport on an equal footing with men.
What a sad day for women who do work hard for their sport, who go unrecognised, who can’t get attention for their outstanding abilities because they wish to play in practical, protective clothing and don’t want to be some man’s lingerie fantasy dressed up as sport.
It wasn’t about playing football – it was about how aggressively we could act towards the other girls
Last Thursday I found myself walking towards the bright lights of the Sydney’s All Phones Arena at Homebush. Turning the corner, I realised I was in the right place when I saw a line that would have done any night club proud – dozens of attractive young women in full hair and heavy make-up, long tanned legs bared in defiance of the winter chill, eagerly waiting their turn.
I took my place at the end of the line. Like all the women here on this cold night, I had come to try out for the Lingerie Football League (LFL). Though my motives were a little different. I wanted to see how we would be treated, what would be required of us, and to test the notion that this was real sport.
I was handed an application form, talent release and ‘Waiver of Compensation’ form. The last informed us that the League would not be liable if we were injured. Was that even legal? I saw one of the American players on crutches and wondered how she was paying for her treatment.
The girl in front of me offered me her pen, and helped me figure out the entry process. She told me that she was a surfer, did athletics, and had brought her father along as her support. There were many men in the stands, male friends and some other fathers.
With the paperwork out of the way, we made our way through to the change rooms. The girls in front of me had already started stripping down to their tryout clothes, none as extreme as the lingerie we would be expected to wear if we got through.
We each had a number written on our arms that would become “Your Name” on field – failure to respond to this number meant running a lap of the field, and a repeat of this offense would see us cut from the group, with no chance of selection. A girl ahead of me received number ‘69’, an honour which saw the US LFL team members cheering and joking that this girl had just received a free ticket through to the final selection. Every time number 69 was up, any athleticism or skill she displayed was overlooked in favour of continuing the joke that a numerical reference to oral sex was all the proof she needed of her potential.
We entered the floodlit arena to find it transformed into an astroturfed miniature gridiron field. I nervously made my way down to the field, where a large group of about 80 milled around waiting. Amongst this group were a handful of obviously serious athletes. I later discovered that one LFL hopeful was already a part of a semi-professional women’s football league, and another had represented Australia in baseball.
We were put into numerical order for the first drill. Along the sidelines were a number of US LFL players in red tracksuits. They walked around demonstrating drills and pumping the girls up through the night.
LFL founder Mitch Mortaza introduced himself and some of the star players. We then commenced with a warm up before three hours of drills as Mortaza patrolled with a clipboard, looking us up and down, watching our moves.
A cameramen appeared, lying on the ground taking upward angle shots of us running past. I was very thankful to be wearing long tights. I felt less exposed than some of the other women. I wondered how the photos would be used and where.
It wasn’t long before the music pumped up and the LFL players surrounded us, firing us up, urging us to be aggressive to each other. They then went on to insult us, screaming “You’re a pussy!” followed by a hand gesture in the shape of a vagina. As well as acting as an insult, the vagina hand shape was also later held above the heads of the top 20 as a victory sign.
We were shown the drill once and then expected to be able to mimic it. If we failed to do so we were screamed at, called a pussy and then Mortaza would yell “Stop wasting my fucking time, if you are here to fucking sight see, get the fuck out!” The way he spoke to us, made us feel like what we had to offer was never good enough.
Along with being ruthless he also showed a lack of knowledge of the sport. Mortaza made a fool of himself as he attempted to demonstrate a simple drill, leaving players confused as to what signal he was trying to communicate.
One drill was girl against girl. If we didn’t fight with all we had, we would be pushed to the ground, but that wasn’t good enough for Mortaza. He didn’t just want us to wrestle the girl he wanted us to “pancake the shit out of her”. The girl that ended up getting smashed to the ground was laughed at and along with the hand gesture, was called a pussy by all the LFL players.
During this drill, other LFL players shouted “own her” and “put her in the parking lot” and “haul your arse”. We were expected to physically hurt our opponent. I think this is what disturbed me most. It wasn’t about playing football, it was about how aggressively we could act towards the other girls, how much pain we could inflict, all to entertain the crowd.
For most of the girls this was the first time they had encountered American-style football, playing a sport that isn’t actually Australian. Yet we received incredibly harsh criticism when we failed to match the skills shown by the LFL players who were professional players.
One of the girls I became friends with was behind me and I expressed my concern at the uniform we would be required to wear if we were chosen. She seemed oblivious as to as why this would be a concern. The tall blonde went on to be selected for the top 20, despite lacking the skill, speed and strength of other hopefuls.
After the drills we were then asked to gather around and hear two stories of ‘inspiration’ from two of the most popular LFL players. One story was not give up if you didn’t make it through, the other was to give us insight into what life was like in the LFL. LFL All Star Liz Gorman joked about it being the “fat story” as she had to lose weight when she was picked for the team. (I had already read that players who gained weight were humiliated). ”It is it about image,” she said. She also made a comment about the uniform,“The uniform it is was it is”. We were also warned about the amount of criticism we would receive from being a LFL player and that people would be harsh about our appearance so we had to look after our bodies.
Mortaza then read out the numbers of the girls who were chosen for the final round. Despite my ability to perform the drills, it was clear Mortaza wanted a certain ‘look’. So I was not particularly surprised that a number of us who had displayed greater football skills remained on the sidelines.
While a couple of the girls who made the cut were obviously talented athletes, in the end it was clear to everyone that our ability to play gridiron was a far lower priority than how our body would fill out the uniform.
The night ended with a pep talk about how to look sexy on Saturday night when those selected for a Sydney team to play competitively in December 2013 would be presented during half time at tonight’s LFL game in Sydney. They had to make sure hair and make-up was done and they were showing themselves as sexy, hot girls who had had a lot to offer – on or off the field.
A number of us worked hard and I’m still recovering. We faced constant belittlement and abuse. But our form wasn’t important if we weren’t stereotypically hot.
I’d love to be able to play gridiron someday. I love to test my body and mind to the limits of endurance. But I want to play a game where we are respected and valued for our abilities on the field. I want to know that our clubs would take care of us in terms of salary and insurance. I don’t want to play some pseudo sport where we are expected to wear sexy underwear and engage in girl-on-girl violence, and be called pussies, because that’s what we have been reduced to in a strip show style spectacle for the gratification of men, under the guise of sport.
Tal Stone is a 23 year-old Sydney university student and athlete.
Using sexualised images of women “a cheap shot and didn’t really show a lot of talent”
As someone who has worked on the inside of the industry as a Senior Copywriter and Creative Director over some 25 years, I think I can bring a few insights into why we are seeing an increasing trend towards the sexualisation of women and girls in advertising and media.
There is a tendency just to blame the companies whose brands and products feature the ideas and imagery which cause the offence in the first place. And while it’s true they share a large part of the responsibility for funding and approving the campaigns themselves, the real source of the problem lies deeper within the advertising/PR industry and specifically with the people who come up with the central ideas on which campaigns are built in the first place.
The creative department in an advertising or PR agency is the “foundry” of the industry. It is here where the writers, art directors and creative directors work together to create, mould and shape the core ideas which will eventually become the campaign.
In order to better understand why creative people in advertising produce what they produce, it’s worth looking at what motivates them. One of the big motivations for anyone working in advertising and marketing is industry awards. Awards help to make people well-known, boost their profiles and open up new career opportunities with bigger and better agencies, with of course a substantial boost to both ego and pay packet.
Generally awards are given to campaigns which are considered “edgy”, make news, are controversial or in some way push the boundaries of acceptance in our culture.
“Creatives” see themselves as kindred spirits with other artists and creative people like musicians or film makers or photographers who are constantly pushing the boundaries and limits of the culture. They therefore feel they have a creative “duty” to push those limits through more and more pro-active advertising.
To do anything less is considered within that group to be not “creative”. This why you see films, music videos, songs etc. being released with ever more pro-active lyrics, ideas and imagery.While it is true that the role of artists in a culture is to ‘push the boundaries’, nowhere is it written that means you have to do so by degrading the culture. That you could of course push the limits of the culture by inspiring it with enlightening, uplifting, noble campaigns seems to escape many in the industry. As an example of how powerful this can be, take the video for Goyte’s worldwide smash “Somebody that I used to know”, which features two completely naked people. We know they are naked but at no point is it voyeuristic or do we see either person being treated as a “sex object”. It is nakedness to show the vulnerability of the heart to love gone wrong.
So unfortunately for many creatives the first stop for ideas for a new campaign is something that involves sex. The temptation to go down this path is even stronger when the justification for using “sex to sell” is inherent in the product – it is underwear or clothing or fashion or perfume or something that involves making you more attractive to the opposite (or even same) sex. And if the target market is young, well, so goes the rationale, “young people are just totally into sex so they’ll really relate to this campaign”!
Add into the cauldron the fact that many of the creatives working in the industry are young people who tend to see the world through their own eyes. What they certainly don’t see the world through is the eyes of parents with young children who are very concerned with the type of imagery they see being thrust at their children.
Given the whole purpose of advertising is to draw attention to your clients brands it’s not surprising that so many creatives seek to do so with one of the easiest (and what I consider to be one of the laziest) methods – sex.
Personally, as a Creative Director, if a team came to me with a bunch of ideas for a new campaign, I tended to throw out the ones that used sex as the core message, even if it was relevant. Too often to me it was a cheap shot and didn’t really show a lot of talent.
Like comedians, I always think anyone can make jokes about sex and farts. They’re the cheap end of the market and they’ll always get a laugh, but it takes a real genius and real talent to find humour that completely avoids this type of material.
A few people who work in the advertising industry might be surprised to know the origin of the word advertising comes from the Latin advertere which means literally “to turn the attention towards”. Yep you can grab people’s attention with a lot of things – sex, violence, etc But just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.
Advertising creatives can be very persuasive. When they are selling their ideas and campaigns to their clients the whole point it to get them to buy the idea. And when you have young marketing managers, also eager to make an impact and give their career a boost, you get people eager to approve campaigns that are “edgy” and have impact. Particularly when they know it will get them sales and make money.
When clients evaluate campaigns that are a bit risque, they often consider their own viewpoints and that of the target audience when considering how offensive it might be. The problem is, the campaign is often not exposed just to a select coterie but is seen by others beyond and that’s where the problem lies.
One of the justifications that the people creating and funding the campaigns use is that they are just “reflecting the culture back at itself.” It’s a chicken and egg argument. There’s a lot of sexual imagery in our culture already so what’s wrong with a bit more? But what part of the culture do they actually reflect? The part that’s most real to them of course! They don’t see the culture through the eyes of others, including women and girls who are especially impacted by hypersexualised representations.. They see the culture through their own eyes. And a young, single, slightly-oversexed advertising creative isn’t reflective of the society as a whole.
So that is the problem of how campaigns get created. What is wrong with the issue of regulation?
Unfortunately the agency trusted with regulating the standards of the advertising and marketing we see, the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB), is generally viewed as a toothless tiger in the industry.
Apart from tending to apply a very liberal viewpoint to the idea of what it calls “prevailing community standards” it specifically does not consider complaints with regard to “taste, morality or decency”. So many complaints about the sexualisation of women and girls in advertising will fall into this category and may not even be considered.
Another issue is the speed with which it acts on complaints. Or the speed with which it fails to act. The board meets every 2 weeks to consider complaints and generally speaking from date of complaint to date of hearing can often be up to 4 weeks.
Four weeks is plenty of time for an agency or client to get a controversial campaign up and running and let it finish so that by the time the ASB rules, the campaign may have already achieved its objectives.
Generally the only action the Board takes is to order the campaign to cease, so if it has already ceased there is no penalty. And there is, generally speaking, no “restrospective” action. Clients are usually not fined or penalised for running the campaign even if it is found to be offensive.
Let’s not forget that, for many in the industry, having a campaign banned is seen as something as a “badge of honour”. As I mentioned earlier, in the advertising industry notoriety and success often go hand in hand.
The problem of course is that such campaigns still feed controversy. As Oscar Wilde so brilliantly put it the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. In this world of instant celebrity, this becomes an even worse factor in stimulating such campaigns and motivating people to generate more campaigns.
It is also not unusual for an agency when creating a campaign for a client, particularly one that has a limited budget, to deliberately create a provocative campaign that will generate what they see as “media outrage”, giving the campaign a lot more exposure, so doubling or tripling the value of their campaign funds.
There are far more campaigns generated with this intention than may currently be imagined.
Voting on complaints is done on numbers game and the majority rules. So even if almost half of the Board agrees with a complaint, it may not be ruled against.
Also the Board works part-time so it’s not meeting regularly enough to be an enforcement arm. It is merely a committee to complain to. And it works under some very prescriptive guidelines that can often tie it hands.
So what is the solution for all those who are quite rightly upset by some of the blatant sexualisation of girls and women that happen in advertising?
I think groups like Collective Shout can play a vital role. First, it in itself can very quickly raise awareness of campaigns that are contributing to the problem and motivate people to act, to write to the ASB. The ASB does act more quickly and sometimes with more fervour if it gets a lot of complaints.
That’s because it does have to consider “prevailing community standards”. If no one is complaining to them, they take that to mean that the prevailing standard is “no one cares about this issue.” Conversely, lots of people complaining about a campaign sends a message that the prevailing standard is “people care about this issue passionately”.
Secondly Collective Shout can be used as an activist forum, with people encouraging others to boycott stores and brands that use imagery or ideas. Nothing speaks louder to a client than lost sales. If it can be shown that companies which produce this sort of advertising will get boycotted and lose sales, clients will feel more wary when agencies try and sell them ideas which push the boundaries too far.
Collective Shout should also put pressure on the Government to increase the resourcing of the ASB so that it can meet more often. A weekly meeting would be more ideal in enabling the board to act on campaigns more quickly
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