Model Erin Pash adorns the cover and inside pages, holding a poppy, lying tummy down among poppies and reclining against old army posters on a page decorated with, you guessed it, poppies. All in a bikini (Gallipoli involved a beach, right?).
But Zoo is in official trouble, not for sexing up ANZAC day, but for using the word “ANZAC” on its Facebook page announcing today’s issue. There are laws against using the name for advertising – and fines of $50,000.
While Zoo has gotten away with sexism for years, it was only when using the word “ANZAC” that the “men’s lifestyle” mag stepped into line. Perhaps it was because the Department of Veterans’ Affairs demanded Zoo remove all references to ANZAC and the editors didn’t want to go to prison or pay a $51,000 fine.
While Zoo made the necessary changes to avoid offence for misusing the term ANZAC, they have failed to make changes on any other front.
Where is the outcry over Zoo‘s raw, unadulterated violence against women, its exploitation and degradation of women – which fuels the ongoing global war against women? Where are the threats of fines and prison for portraying women as dehumanised sex objects?
Zoo has depicted a woman chopped in half and ask readers – 28,000 of them boys aged 14-17, according to publisher Bauer Media – which half they prefer. The responses are unprintable.
In the “Ask Danny” section, men are encouraged to set fire to their girlfriend’s pubic hair if they haven’t waxed. Danny advises on treatment of an ex: “Cut her face so that nobody will want her.” Readers are also encouraged to take advantage of women who are drunk (which is a crime): “You want to pick the ‘loosest/skankiest’ one of the lot and fetch her a drink separate her from the flock. You’re off alone, boozed-up and charming – these are three green lights!”
On its Facebook page, Zoo shows pornified images of girls who appear underage, which they’ve lifted from “teen porn” sites. Readers point out girls are underage (“I remember seeing this in teen forums 5 years ago,” says Karlos Alexander) but are happy to ogle her anyway (“F—ing awesome tits nonetheless,” Karlos adds).
Zoo posts “Who do you prefer” pics where it invites Facebook users to rank photos of near naked women. It invites young female Facebook fans to send in sexualised images to be distributed in their magazines or online.
In July 2012, Zoo asked: “Are you Australia’s hottest asylum seeker?” Female asylum seekers who had “swapped persecution for sexiness” were encouraged to send in pictures. Zoo joked about “shooting” them with a camera. In Zoo world, even female survivors of human rights violations can be offered up as porny fantasy for readers. Hot refugee women for you to get off on! Brutalised beauties for your viewing pleasure!
Zoo‘s treatment of Australia’s first saint, Mary MacKillop, showed no woman was exempt from exploitation. A woman who devoted her life to the poor was celebrated with a model in a habit, and headings like “St Mary Mac and her holy rack” and “Mary’s heavenly hooters blessed by Pope.” She was presented on her knees “begging for it.”
Zoo Weekly is sold in service stations, newsagents, corner stores. Woolworths and Coles sell it too, apparently not caring that they are contributing to an intimidating, hostile, degrading, environment for women, including their own staff.
The persistent reduction of women to body parts is a form of discrimination contributing to violence against them. Zoo spreads the idea that male sexuality is based on power and aggression and that women must be brought into line. Displaying lads’ mags in everyday spaces like supermarkets reinforces the message that treating women like frivolous sex-objects is normal and acceptable.
Where are the governments and regulatory authorities who will step up and say you can’t treat women this way? Zoo Weekly was pulled into line for its demeaning exploitation of the ANZAC commemoration. Now can we do the same for women?
UPDATE: California Kisses removes paedophilic ‘pop that’ ads after Collective Shout pressure
In April Collective Shout ran a piece by Jemma Nicoll (first published on MTR) exposing the harmful online practices of global dancewear label California Kisses (CK). The company’s homepage advertisement featured three models aged 12-16 posed alongside the slogan ‘Pop That’, a popular porn-inspired phrase referring to the ‘popping’ of her cherry, or the taking of virginity.
The article called CK to account on its unmonitored social media activity- almost 300,000 followers, mostly teenage girls, were exposed to online trolls posting abusive, paedophilic comments on the images of CK child models.
On 29 April, Collective Shout wrote to the four Australian dancewear retailers that stock CK, including Showcase- the licence-holders for on-selling the label in Australia. We invited stockists to respond by removing the label from their stores and letting the company know, until CK decided to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and ethical online practices.
Showcase did not respond. Out of the other retailers contacted – Tu Tu Cute Dance Supplies, Pirouette and Daisy Dancewear -Collective Shout received only one patronizing email reply from Tutu Cute Dance Supplies in Perth, WA which showed complete disregard for the online safety of young girls and ethical practices in children’s advertising:
CK did not respond directly to the accusations made in the piece or to the general outrage expressed on social media in response. However we note that the company has since quietly removed the ‘Pop That’ slogan from their on-line advertising. CK’s Instagram account is currently clear of paedophilic comments.
Thanks to all who helped us put pressure on CK to stop borrowing from a porn genre in their dance wear advertising.
Our investigation continues: Dancewear company does nothing to stop men posting fantasies about young dance models
Two weeks ago I ran this piece by Sydney dance teacher and writer Jemma Nicoll, about the sexification of young dancers inside Australia’s booming dance studio scene.
It became one of the most popular pieces I’ve ever published here at MTR.
In this continuing investigation,Jemma has now uncovered more about the seedy underside of the industry, including sext-up styling and posing of girls in ads for dance wear.
Pop a 12 year-olds virginity says global dancewear company
The girl on your left is 16.
The one in the middle is 14.
The one to your right, she’s 12 years old.
And the dancewear company they model for think it’s OK to exploit them for male paedophiliac fantasies.
‘Pop that’. For those who are unaware, this is a porn-inspired phrase referring to the ‘popping’ of her cherry – taking her virginity. It’s a popular porn genre.
It is also the phrase superimposed over the three child models on the homepage of California Kisses (CK); a popular American dance wear label currently advertising for new Australian stockists. The dancers featured are posed coyly in CK’s renowned crop and booty short combinations.
In a recent advertisement for the label, CK feature a girl who appears to be around 5-7 years of age dressed in a brief French Maid’s outfit.
The brand currently supply to four Australian stockists including Showcase: the largest dance competition event in the country. Together, Showcase and CK held the ‘California Kisses Australian Model Search’ in January, with the crowned winner receiving an all-expenses paid trip to the U.S for a modeling shoot with the company.
The parent company of Showcase is Global Events & Entertainment Pty Ltd, which holds the exclusive license to on-sell CK stock in Australia. Last week they invited all Australian dancewear retailers to submit an application to stock the CK label.
CK has a global following of over 278,000 users on Instagram. On reading the comments that flood their account daily, their audience can be compartmentalised into two: dancers as young as 10, and older men who blatantly express their gratification at the little girls posing in the CK range. Here is a sample of what the company allow on their page for thousands of girls to see.
‘Give me a blowy’
‘F*** her right in the pussy’
‘Nice body for f***’
‘Nice position for f***’
‘I enjoy this photo’
‘Small as breasticles’
‘[Too] flat chested. What’s the reason to wear that if there’s nothing?’
‘This b**** is anorexic’
‘So cute girl’,
‘I want to marry her’, ‘
Hey how old are you?’
After clicking on a serial commenter who appreciates many of the company’s images, I arrived at the profile of a middle-aged man smiling proudly alongside his wife and two sons.
After pasting one of many foreign comments by Middle-Eastern men into Google translator, I can now say ‘absolutely gorgeous’ in the Farsi dialect.
Among the pedophiliac comments are those of thousands of young girls despising their own bodies and publicly shaming the faces, bellies, breasts and thighs of others. ‘I’m so fat I don’t stand a chance’ says one, with crying face emoticon and a gun pointing towards it.
With advertising and online practices like these, we call on Australian dancewear companies to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and not go near the CK brand. Current Australian stockists should remove the CK brand.
California Kisses needs to clean up its act and do right by the thousands of young girls that follow their every move.
Jemma Nicoll is a UTS Journalism graduate and freelance writer. She directs Inspire Creative Arts, a dance school in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire and is involved in mentoring and self-esteem development programs for girls.
It’s like this when I speak about pornography at schools, conferences, and other events. I’m often hesitant to speak of what I know is really happening. People are often so shocked, so disconcerted by the content of my talks, I start to self-censor. Sometimes I gauge the audience as I speak and hasten past slides which I know will be too much for them.
I am picking up information which is so severe, so hard to hear, that I rarely pass it on. So far, I’ve mostly restricted it to medical audiences. However, this article, by London Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson in The Canberra Times, has caused me to reconsider the holding back: everyone has to know this.
What I’m being told, by medical professionals, is that young girls (many under-age) are increasingly suffering anal tearing as a result of porn-inspired anal sex acts, including group acts. Some end up with rectums so damaged they are rendered incontinent and need colostomy bags. Other girls are contracting the HPV virus through oral sex. Some end up requiring surgery for throat cancer as a result.
Girls have a right to know this is how they could end up. But where do they go for this information? It’s hardly mainstream. And online porn presents these acts as standard. Girls who don’t want to submit to anal sex start to think there is something wrong with them. One of their biggest fears is being labelled a prude, or ‘hung up’. This is what Pearson wrote:
I was having dinner with a group of women when the conversation moved on to how we could raise happy, well-balanced sons and daughters who are capable of forming meaningful relationships when internet pornography has changed the landscape of adolescence beyond recognition…
A GP, let’s call her Sue, said: “I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.” In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries caused by frequent anal sex; not, as Sue found out, because they wanted to, or because they enjoyed it, but because a boy expected them to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”
Her patients were deeply ashamed at presenting with such injuries. They had lied to their mums about it and felt they couldn’t confide in anyone else, which only added to their distress. When Sue questioned them further, they said they were humiliated by the experience but they had simply not felt they could say no. Anal sex was standard among teenagers now, even though the girls knew it hurt.
… The girls presenting with incontinence were often under the age of consent and from loving, stable homes. Just the sort of kids who, two generations ago, would have been enjoying riding and ballet lessons, and still looking forward to their first kiss, not being coerced into violent sex by some kid who picked up his ideas about physical intimacy from a dogging video on his mobile.
… more than four in 10 girls between 13 and 17 in England say they have been coerced into sex acts, according to one of the largest European polls on teenage experiences. Research by the universities of Bristol and Central Lancashire concluded that a fifth of girls had suffered violence or intimidation from teenage boyfriends, a high proportion of whom regularly viewed pornography, with one in five harbouring “extremely negative attitudes towards women”.
The end result is what Sue sees as a GP. Young girls – children, really – who abase themselves to pass for normal in a grim, pornified culture. According to another study of British teenagers, most youngsters’ first experience of anal sex occurred within a relationship, but it was “rarely under circumstances of mutual exploration of sexual pleasure”. Instead, it was boys who pushed the girls to try it, with boys reporting that they felt “expected” to take that role. Moreover, both genders expected males to find pleasure in the act whereas females were mostly expected to “endure the negative aspects such as pain or a damaged reputation”. Read full article here.
You guessed it, I like the second one much better.
Really enjoying seeing the creative ways women around the world are messing with the original ad.
Also love the slogan I’m seeing: ‘How to be beach body ready – 1. Have a body. 2. Take it to the beach’.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett expressed the issue perfectly in a piece in The Guardian titled ‘Am I beach body ready? Advertisers, that’s none of your business’:
Is your body, the incredibly complex, awe-inspiring physical vessel that carts around your brain, and equipment for breathing, excreting, digesting and so much more, and is perhaps even growing new life within it, currently at a level of slimness determined as attractive according to western notions of female beauty such that it can be exposed to fellow human beings on the beach without causing them unnecessary trauma?
My colleague Caitlin Roper highlighted on twitter how only certain bodies are deemed to be fit and healthy.
In response to the backlash, Protein World publicly mocked its critics, saying they were fat and insecure. Buzzfeed (as well as providing a beautify gallery of other doctored billboards) records Protein World’s contemptuous responses here.
Protein World’s complete failure to demonstrate any corporate social responsibility, let alone basic civility, can only help boost signatures on this Change.org petition which already has over 36,000 signatures. Add your name today. Remove ‘Are you beach body ready advertisements’
Collective Shout’s Coralie Alison and Sydney activist and educator Paula Orbea asked Lonely Planet to stop promoting misogynist camper van hire company. Lonely Planet responded:
“thanks for flagging this important matter, Coralie. Listing was removed from our Australian 18 guide (produced last year; hitting shelves in Nov)…the listing still on the site has been raised with the online editorial team.”
Paula launched a petition against Wicked Campers last year after her daughter was confronted with a disturbing misogynist slogan on a Wicked Camper van. Collective Shout wrote about the campaign here.
The campaign achieved widespread media attention. As the petition approached 130,000 signatures Wicked Campers agreed to remove the slogans over a period of 6 months. They lied. Here’s the latest update at Paula’s site.
As Paula pointed out in her article, it is worth continuing to speak out.
Contact camp sites and caravan grounds, ask if their policy is to turn away Wicked Camper vans with sexist or explicit slogans and imagery.
If you see a tourism, travel guide site or publication promoting Wicked Campers, let them know why Lonely Planet has stopped promoting the company and ask them to do the same.
Let us know about any action you take and especially if you receive a response via comments section below.
Here’s the exchange with Lonely Planet
UPDATE: Violence against women just a joke says Wicked
This would have to be the most condescending media statement I’ve ever read. Those who object to Wicked’s women hating slogans lack a sense of humour.
But see how things are suddenly not so funny when protestors took the company up on its recent offer to anyone who doesn’t like their slogans to paint over them?
Re-facing of their vans is more serious than the degradation of women.
Protestors, let this fire you up for further action.
A new wave of indignation
Since publishing the last update on this petition, I have continued to work toward attaining what was asked for of Wicked Campers in the first place – to eliminate degrading and misogynistic slogans and images from their vans.
Obviously, Wicked Campers themselves have made it abundantly clear that they will not be upholding their promise as evidenced by my ‘Literally Wicked’ post that I keep updating with images as they’re sent to me. Sign petition now
Launched this week in Ireland, ‘Prostitution – We Don’t Buy It’ is an Irish movement organised by The Reach Project, encouraging men not to buy prostituted women. The new movement was launched by Tom Meagher, bereaved husband of Melbourne woman Jill Meagher who was murdered in September 2012 by serial predator and rapist Adrian Bayley, who was then out on parole. With Meagher at the event was sex industry survivor Rachel Moran, author of Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution (Spinifex Press 2013).
Discussing the men who purchase sex and the lies they tell themselves, Meagher said:
Two years ago I read this document from an interview with a man who had repeatedly and very violently raped a number of prostitutes in Australia. His answer to the question, ‘Why did you do this?’ was ‘I paid for her, I can do what I want with her.’
Ten years later that man was out on parole and raped and murdered my wife.
Hear Tom Meagher and Rachel Moran at the launch (via Irish Video News):
‘Despite being known for its overtly sexual content and verbally abusive teaching tactics, Dance Moms fever has infected the country’
By Jemma Nicoll
Eyes shining with delight, Nia twirls and twirls as shimmering pink feathers soar in the wind swelled by her rapid movement. Encased in the fluorescent cage of a burlesque feather fan, she is mesmerised by her imitation of a Las Vegas Showgirl. Adorned in silver glitter-speckled shorts and a nude sports bra, Nia’s outfit for her upcoming dance competition fulfills its designer’s intention of creating that stark, naked illusion.
“I’m hot! I’m mean! You can’t have me! You can’t afford me!” screams her choreographer as Nia endeavours to channel the sensual character; coordinating the fan and challenging dance routine of high kicks, hip grinds and eye winks. She is training to win gold, alongside her troupe of six other mock-topless, feathered friends.
“This costume’s better than all of the other costumes because it makes my body look pretty… it makes me look beautiful,” Nia says.
Nia is eight-years-old.
“It is as if contemporary girls are in a great hurry to grow up,” says Marika Tiggemann in her latest study, ‘Contemporary Girlhood: Maternal Reports on Sexualised Behaviour and Appearance in 4-10 year-old girls’ , released June last year. Tiggemann and fellow researcher, Amy Slater, from Flinders University in Adelaide, are the first to document the appearance-obsessed behaviours of young Australian girls. Results show that an epidemic of girls aged four to 10-years-old are prematurely engaging with teen culture, and exhibiting hyper-sexualised behaviours through attention to personal grooming, clothing and bodily appearance.
Are our Generation Z girls too sexy too soon? (freeimages.com)
The study of almost 1000 girls has forecast a bleak outcome for Nia’s generation, whose earlier burlesque display was seen by millions on Dance Moms: the show tracking the pre-pubescent stars of Abby Lee Miller’s Pittsburgh USA dance studio. The show is a growing place of worship for thousands of aspiring Australian dancers, and the wallet swallowing the income of their parents who recently paid hundreds for their daughters to attend classes with Abby Lee, on March 13 at Bankstown Sports Club. Despite being known for its overtly sexual content and verbally abusive teaching tactics, Dance Moms fever has infected the country.
“As a society, we have yet to see the consequences of an entire new generation of girls brought up in a highly sexualized environment.” said Tiggemann.
“If the focus on appearance…becomes their habitual way of viewing themselves, then this is liable to have negative consequences for their well-being as a teenager and as an adult woman.”
According to Tiggemann’s results, by the age of eight, 28 percent of Australian girls are dissatisfied with their physical appearance, 76 percent are particularly fussy about what they wear and are frequently asking: “does this look good on me?” and13 percent are exiting the house with a made-up face.
And out of all the things little girls love to do, there is one common denominator that surpassed all activities listed in the study: 96 percent love to dance.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports that at April 2012 there were 727,000 girls aged five to 14 years participating in an organised sport outside of school. Of this figure, 418,100 were enrolled in a dance school (58 percent), up from 390,400 in 2009. The rate of Australian girls participating in dance lessons is rising by annual increments of tens of thousands; it is certainly happy days for current and prospective studio directors.
The Lolita Effect
“Come on we’ve got these good bodies now, and they’re not going to last forever so let’s show it while we’ve got it. Come on, put it out there girls, you’ve got it. Now flaunt it!”
Deborah Watson, primary school teacher and Learning Support consultant, animatedly re-enacts an overheard dance teacher working with the school’s lunchtime dance groups.
“How old were the dancers? Eight, nine, 10 years old,” she says. “Then there were four girls in this particular school who had more solid builds…they pulled out because their parents said they don’t feel comfortable in those costumes, but the teacher wouldn’t make allowances to alter the costumes for them. I spoke to a mother whose daughter is self-harming too, since quitting dance group from being teased.”
“You fit the costume or you’re out, is the idea.” she says.
Watson is a serial ‘mystery shopper’ of Sydney dance studios. The mother of two daughters, aged nine and 15, has spent the last 12 years embarking on a series of ‘free trial classes.’
“I heard a parent once ask why the kids did so much abdominal work at the beginning of the class, and the teacher’s response was ‘because we’ve all got midriffs for our costumes this year, and the girls need to have flat abs’.” She vividly describes the hot pink, sequined equivalent of a string bikini, with fishnet stockings and black jazz shoes.
Social researchers call it the ‘Lolita Effect’; a term to describe the imposition of sexualisation through mass media messages, on young girls whom are yet to reach the required development. Watson is convinced that local organisations are flying under the radar in fuelling the Lolita Effect.
“In this other school, nine and 10 years old girls were heavily made up. What struck me was the eyeliner, this is what they chose to wear to class to fit into the group dynamic,” she said.
“The girls had crop tops and tiny shorts. There were only two girls that had a full leotard and they were very much over here on this side,” Deborah gestures left, “and those in the crop tops were over here. It was very clear who was in and who was out.”
The Eisteddfod Battleground
Dance eisteddfods, hundreds of them, are dotted around the country. They are a magnet for studios to gather, compete and showcase the works of their students.
Sydney adjudicator, performer and high school teacher Melissa Lukins, is disappointed by what she has critiqued at eisteddfod events: “I’ve observed as an adjudicator the unusually sexual nature of young dancers’ facial expressions, their movements, costumes and general attitude towards dance performance.”
Lukins lists countless influencing factors.
“‘Dance Moms’ has seemed to propagate this…. as students see other dance schools presenting this type of choreography they pressure their teachers to fit in with the culture. It is alarming,” said Ms Lukins.
At the Front Line
It all became too much for Dodie Wilson, another NSW adjudicator and retired studio director, who is actively opposing the culture she has witnessed in her 25 years of work in Australian eisteddfods.
Dance eisteddfods are a second home. Pic: Jemma Nicoll
“Once it’s on stage, it’s seen. It’s out there. You can’t take it back. The minute that child gets on stage in an inappropriate costume… too late, everybody’s seen it,” Wilson says.
“The minute they’re flashing their private areas, it’s done. In front of brothers, uncles. And that child…that eight, nine, 10, 12 year old child has been, in a way, violated. They have done what they were told to do.”
Wilson is paving the way in the local eisteddfod scene by hosting a ‘child safety’ competition event that is the first of its kind. With the glitz and the glam, come guidelines.
“They must wear stockings at all times…two-piece costume items must be seven centimetres from the bust, and I have actually banned particular movements,” she said.
The syllabus outline distributed to participants spells out the consequences of entering the event, launched in Seven Hills Sydney last October. Immediate disqualification applies to dancers where costumes do not cover seven centimetres of midriff, where lyrics contain sexual content, and if choreography includes the banned movements.
“Any music or movements that seem to be breaking the rules or are inappropriate, a bell will ring, the music will start to fade and we will motion the child on stage to curtsey…the routine will be stopped.”
Perhaps teachers should submit their music and costume selections prior to the event, to minimise the risk of humiliating a child onstage.
Wilson says she has had an overwhelming amount of positive support through private messages over social media, however she is disappointed that little public support has been offered to counteract the backlash received from online groups.
“Teachers are scared. They are scared to be part of the change, for whatever reason in case five years down the track it changes back again or it just doesn’t work,” she says.
“Will you lose students? Maybe. But then you’ll know you’re doing the right thing.”
Pic: Jemma Nicoll
Amongst other influences, Wilson attributes the hyper-sexualised studio culture craze to RG Dance, infamous for its former director now facing child sex offence charges. She describes their competition troupes as mechanical in precision with faultless technique, miniscule outfits and adult-themed concepts. They won gold each time.
“Teacher’s saw this, they believed they had the secret. So they copied.”
How will the sexual messages shouldered by young dancers today potentially affect adulthood?
“I believe they will be so brokenhearted, that they will have nothing to do with the dance industry when they’re older,” she said.
Dance, Sex and Science
According to medical doctor turned sexologist and writer, Patricia Weerakoon, the increase of girls engaging in dance communities, determines the need to assess studio culture in line with documented hyper-sexualised behaviours.
“Everything that goes into the brain, especially during that rapid development of childhood, will influence the brain’s wiring. As the child grows, and the more sexualised their culture [is], the more the brain will recognise at building those sexual circuits. It will recognise it as something that is normal or good.”
The University of Sydney’s Honorary Senior Lecturer in Health Sciences has spent 40 years as a medical practitioner, sexual health educator and sex therapist. Dr Weerakoon’s concern for what she calls ‘raunch culture’ stems from years of research into childhood brain development.
“It’s called Neuroplasticity,” said Dr Weerakoon.
“From the time the baby is developing in the womb… the brain adapts based on what is going on. In a child’s brain, everything from birth through to teen and young adulthood, that time of quick and rapid growth is a time where [there] is a huge amount of brain wiring and rewiring.”
“And what we know is that [the brain] is influenced by social environment, the environment that the child is in. Everything that goes into the brain changes the wiring,” she said.
Dr Weerakoon holds grave concerns for the wellbeing of the post-millennial generation, whom she believes will be the most sexualised people to walk the planet.
“They see themselves in a way that empowerment, being powerful, being popular, means you have to make yourself sexual. [Because of cultural pressures], girls are making themselves sex objects, and are willing to give sex, be sexy, dress sexual,” she said.
“If you are running a dance studio, you have a great responsibility because the music you play and what you are teaching, everything you say is working into their brain.”
Dr Weerakoon urges parents to speak up: “Parents must be parents; parents must say no, parents must say: ‘for my child, this is not right’. You have to be proactive… because I guarantee when you stop one avenue of sexualisation others will spring up… But be proactive to do something about protecting kids,” she said.
“And teachers need to do the protecting from their end too.”
Call for tighter regulation
For dance teacher of 18 years and mother of four, Elizabeth Wever, her experiences within the industry demonstrates an urgent need for improved teacher training.
Wever was subjected to strict dieting and exercise regimes from a young teenager, an endeavour of her dance teacher to assist in achieving the ‘correct size’ of a dancer.
“I yoyo dieted and struggled emotionally with weight issues as a result until my twenties…when I quit dancing as a result of being told too many times I was not the right body shape for a dancer.”
Mental and emotional recovery was a long and arduous road.
“I am long past caring about the judgment of others about my body shape…however it breaks my heart to think that other young girls are being subjected to this type of scrutiny,” she said.
Wever and Watson are concerned that dance teachers are not undergoing thorough training or regulation procedures.
“There is not enough regulation in the dance industry,” says Watson.
“If we can regulate the fitness industry… if we can regulate after-school care… you can’t even work in vacation care unless you have a certificate. But you can go out and open a dance school and teach dancing to all with no qualifications.”
“How many dance schools out there have a Working with Children check? Do parents even look at that?” asks Watson.
A number of tertiary institutions across Australia offer Dance Education certificates and degrees, a compulsory qualification for those seeking employment in the public school sector. However this is not mandatory for studio ownership. There are no required certificates or standardised procedures.
The national peak body for Australian dance information is Ausdance. Despite the range of online resources available to encourage the aspiring teacher, on the Question and Answer page of their website, it states:
“Q: Do dance studio teachers have to obtain a dance teaching qualification?
Mental Health in the Studio
In May 2014, The Frontiers in Psychology Journal published that anxiety and depression accounted for the highest disease amongst Australian children today. Aside from external stresses of divorce, grief, and life transitions, experts rank internal factors such as irrational belief systems and pessimistic tendencies as high risk factors for mental health issues.
So do dance teachers hold any responsibility for engaging with mental health matters, and the internal consequences of teaching practices?
“Of course,” says Jane Cuneen, Principal of Caringbah North Public School, a large primary school in Southern Sydney. Cuneen is also the mother of an aspiring young dancer.
“All adults who have the privilege of teaching young minds have the responsibility to develop the child socially, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically, regardless of their specialty.”
Cuneen is saddened by comments of dance teachers regarding bodily expectations and the need to be ‘sexy’.
“Is it that these teachers don’t have the training that says comments like these are detrimental and have long lasting emotional and psychological effects on our girls?”
“Most parents don’t even know that these comments are being directed at their daughters. Because most dance classes are closed doors, we don’t know how our kids are being treated.”
“When those core beliefs have been set up, those things that your parents said was ok and that your dance school said was ok…. well to challenge them is a very hard thing. What happens when those core beliefs let you down?”
“In 10 years time we’ll be picking up pieces of these girls that are damaged.
“But it can be avoided.”
#tilttuesday: are girls at risk of being preyed on?
There are 172,311 posts currently under the #tilttuesday hashtag feed. Then there are 3,434 under #tilttuesdays for those who prefer plurality and 324 for #tilttuesdayy for those rejecting mainstream spelling. The list continues of the variations of categories young dancers enter in Instagram when posting their ’tilt’ photographs (on Tuesday).
A’tilt’ is when a dancer extends their leg up to 180 degrees away, and tilts their torso slightly to one side, or ‘off-centre’, so the leg reaches maximum height and split. It can be elegant when executed correctly, an impressive display of flexibility and strength. However should the dancer not yet possess the level of strength to execute the ’tilt’, they grab hold of their ankle with both hands and push the pelvis forward in order to take the stress off the hamstrings.
This can produce a distorted display of exposed body parts, as girls as young as eight capture, caption, hashtag and post for the worldwide, weekly phenomenon of #tilttuesday. This has become the most popular online fad for young dancers who seek the connection and approval of fellow artists around the globe.
Conversations overhead as a studio director suggest division among dance teachers over the craze, many encouraging their students to participate and even do so themselves. It’s ok; they’re stretching and having fun, they’re not intentionally posting in an overtly sexual way. I disagree.
Open your Instagram application. Click ‘explore’, type in ’tilttuesday’ and start your own search. Among the thousands of young girls, many in sports bra and booty short attire in dance studios, on front lawns or in bedrooms, you may stumble across the image that caught my eye in particular: a girl of around age 16, striking the position in white translucent boyleg underwear; the shadows of her pubic hair and the physical outlines of genitalia clearly visible.
Continue scrolling; aside from the “You’re not doing it properly”, “Your tilt is normally better than this” and comments targeting thigh wobbles, belly rolls, breasts, lack of visible abdominal lines and attacks on dancers’ bodies and skill, you will see comments like this:
“Love to f**k you in that position.” This Instagram handle has posted zero photos and maintains a steady stream of two followers; we can only assume his online activity is simply to peruse and predate.
“Do you ever dance naked?” This user is a Chelsea Football Club fanatic who regularly posts photos of beautiful young girls.
“Are those stripper bruises on your thighs?”
“Close your legs, it stink.”
“I’m single, that’s all I got to say.”
“Wats poppin tonite??”
“DM me.” Or ‘private message me’; repeatedly from the same user on multiple photos on the #tilttuesday feed.
This is, in my view, a pedophile’s playground.
Dancers innocently upload images, eyes are drawn to their private areas and men unashamedly publicise their approval. They express their desire to sexually act on the posed dancer, a minor, a child. They are open about their enjoyment of the image.
Comments are not deleted nor images removed. Instagram provides no zero privacy settings.
No blame is to be cast on these dancers. A 10-year-old girl has not yet mastered the ability to assess the consequences of an image. She is simply playing copycat with her peers, her dance teachers, and succumbing to the pressure of what needs to be performed in order to gain the acceptance that Instagram ‘likes’ provide.
There are 172,311 #tilttuesday images worldwide subject to the scrutiny of perusing eyes. If you check back next Tuesday and see for yourself, that figure will no doubt have risen. It is not until she is well into adulthood after potentially wrestling with body image, mental health issues and more, that she may look back and regret the online broadcasting and exposure of her fragile, precious little body in such a way. She may one day ask her teachers, parents and guides, ‘why didn’t you say something?’
Jemma Nicoll is a UTS Journalism graduate and freelance writer. She directs Inspire Creative Arts, a dance school in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire and is involved in mentoring and self-esteem development programs for girls.
He’s sexist and we know it: Collective Shout campaign called on Foo to be dumped
Collective Shout’s Jas Swilks launched a campaign through Change.org late last year calling on Channel 7 to drop singerand X-Factor judge Red Foo, for his appalling rape culture fuelling song ‘Literally I Can’t’. The Change petition read in part:
RedFoo has just released his new collaboration with Lil Jon, Play-N-Skillz and Enertia McFly ‘; named ‘’Literally, I Can’t.” In the video, a group of sorority girls are harassed and verbally assaulted, simply because they don’t want to drink or engage in certain activities such as ”girl on girl”. The young women are depicted as killjoys and labelled ”bitches” and ”sluts” for refusing to conform to the wishes of the male party goers.
When the women repeatedly make clear that they don’t want to have sex or drink, they are surrounded by a group of rowdy men who shout in their faces: ‘Shut the fk up”. One woman is pushed unwillingly onto the ground while Red Foo films for the porn site ”Redtube”. Other misogynistic lyrics included in the song include:
“You’re annoying b**** because you’re talking”
“Shhh, don’t talk about it be about it. Work it, twerk it and maybe I’ll tweet about it”
“Girl I’m sipping on this drink, trying to see what you got, not hear what you think.”
Issues within the music video/song include:
That men are encouraged to see women only as a form of sexual entertainment
That when a woman says “no’’, she is to be ridiculed and harassed
That the video encourages a culture in which campus/college assault is acceptable
That women’s right to refuse to participate is ’annoying’
That with the right amount of pressure a woman will always give in
RedFoo is a judge on Australia’s talent show, X Factor, a position which requires him to mentor contestants – often, young women. His offensive and misogynistic portrayal of women in his video clips and performances, disqualifies him from such a role.
Daily Life has reported that Foo has now been dumped.
Another win for Collective Shout. Thanks to all who supported our campaign.
We were recently contacted by a mother who was concerned about some games her daughter found online. The games featured characters from Frozen as being pregnant – in this case ‘Elsa’ – and the object of the game is to assist the character in giving birth.
On further investigation, the girls website includes a number of games depicting licensed characters as pregnant. The object of different games varies, some guide the gamer through assisting birth, including caesarean section. Others, such as ‘Pregnant Rapunzel Ambulance” feature the character pregnant, with a black eye, a gash to her chest and tears streaming down her face. The gamer is required to patch up her wounds. As the mother who contacted us said “she looks like a victim of domestic violence.”
Aside from the inexplicable number of pregnant licensed characters, the site features games depicting cosmetic surgery.
“Dream Cosmetic Surgery” depicts a little girl feeling sad and concerned about being fat. Clicking through the storyline, the girl sees ‘Elsa’ from Frozen on television and wishes she could be beautiful just like Elsa. The gamer is invited to help the girl “realise her dream” with a “Picture Perfect Makeover.”
Anaesthetise the patient by clicking on the needle, inject the nose, use the scalpel, suture the wound. By clicking on the blue hand the gamer can ‘fix the nose.’ The game continues until the character looks exactly like Elsa. The message here is simple and incredibly harmful to girls – if you look anything like the little girl, you need ‘fixing’ and that includes getting rid of your glasses. View more images from the game here.
“Plastic Surgery for Legs” begins with the message “Britney’s legs look very bad” … “help her feel happy again and improve your plastic surgery skills.”
As the game proceeds, various problems with Britney’s legs are labelled – ‘fat hips’ and ‘slack knees.’ Veins are surgically removed, hair is shaved, a hammer is used on knees to make them straight. Once Britney’s legs are ‘fixed’ the game ends with the message “you need muscular tonus for perfect looking legs.” More images here.
“Word Strip Tease” is another game featured on the site and was promoted via the website’s Facebook page.
By typing in the correct words missing from sleazy pick up lines printed on screen, the sexualised character of your choice – a police officer, nurse or teacher – will strip off her clothing and layers of sexy lingerie.
The game warns “Beware: run out of time and the girls lose interest and put on their clothes again.” More images here.
Each game produces more advertising for other games such as ‘naughty teacher.’ The object of another game – ‘Naughty pool party’ – is to sexually harass girls at a party through various tricks and pranks until they remove their clothing.
Exploiting young girls
The privacy statement of the website claims the site is not intended for girls under 13 years old. The design of the site and use of licensed characters demonstrates that it is clearly targeted at much younger girls than this. The website exploits girls by making money off the back of popular licensed characters, but does not take responsibility for the game content or advertising.
This interactive content sends a dangerous message to girls that they are valued for their sexual appeal and in their natural state, they require ‘fixing.’ In doing this, the site contributes to a broader toxic culture for girls.
A 2014 study from Flinders University has found that little girls are now adopting potentially sexualised behaviours usually associated with teenage girls. Little girls’ engagement with teen culture is linked with an increased concern with physical appearance. Over one quarter of girls aged 8-10 were concerned about how they look.
We know from other studies such as the American Psychological Association’s task force on the sexualisation of girls – that increased concern over physical appearance is linked with a range of negative health outcomes for girls, including depression, anxiety and disordered eating.
Should we be surprised about this outcome when this is the media being pushed to little girls?
Parents, guardians and teachers – check whether mafa.com and similar games sites are blocked by web filters. Make deliberate choices through parental control settings as to what entertainment sites can be accessed. Check out the Australian Council of Children and the Media for guidance. www.childrenandmedia.org.au
visit the website here and click on ‘contact’ in the bottom left hand corner of the page
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