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
Collective Shout activist writes on experience of virtual misogyny
Caitlin Roper, Campaigns Manager at Collective Shout, was asked to write about her experiences of online abuse, harassment and threats by the Online Hate Prevention Institute. Her piece was published on International Women’s Day.
An experience of online violence against women
Recently the prominent feminist Jessica Valenti confessed in a Washington Post article that given the nonstop harassment that feminist writers face online, if she could start over, she might prefer to be completely anonymous. The article stated that the psychological damage caused by the constant, violent and sexualized hatred is leading many women to recede from the online fight.
As a feminist campaigner who has been the victim of various online harassment campaigns by men who oppose my stand, I know what Valenti’s talking about.
I am a part of Collective Shout, a grassroots organization campaigning against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media, advertising and popular culture. As a result, I have encountered the full spectrum of online misogyny: from general hostility, sexist slurs, death threats, rape threats to attempts at serious reputational damage through impersonation. The aim of the harassment is to get me to voluntarily quit the campaign.
Silencing women’s voices is the straightforward aim of online misogyny. Social and digital media is where we live out our social, professional and political lives. We make friends, share personal stories, build professional networks, participate in discussions and debates, and make a case for our own rights and the rights of others. But if you are a woman, be warned. Your gender is your weakest link. It will be used against you to push you out of the online space.
Sometimes women don’t even have to be outspoken champions to be targeted. It is just enough that they are women participating in the digital space to be harassed. As this recent article exploring internet trolling revealed, some trolls are simply looking for a reason to harass you, and your gender is reason enough.
This article presents a number of different ways in which social and digital media platforms are used to insult, humiliate, threaten and harm women, and the abject failure of the law enforcement and social media platforms to recognize the real harm caused by such online expressions of violence against women.
Sexist slurs include language and name calling that is used to demean and denigrate women (e.g. bitch, slut, c*nt etc) or sexist jokes in which women are diminished to sexist stereotypes with their capacities limited to domestic labour and providing sexual gratification to men (e.g. the regularly encounted “Go make me a sandwich”, Steak and Blowjob day “jokes”.)
Sexist slurs are used to undermine women’s standing, as if being female makes them less worthy of being heard and of participating in the public sphere.
Unsolicited content of a sexual nature
Misogynistic hate speech also includes unwanted sexual comments directed to women. This can take the form of unsolicited comments and questions of sexual nature from male strangers, for example, asking about a woman’s sex life or sexual preferences. These often include unwanted sexual images from men, such as, their erect penis or images of them performing sexual acts.
These comments make it impossible for a woman who is being targeted to engage with social media without the fear that the next message they receive will be one of abuse. The aim here is to undermine women’s feeling of safety and security online, and to make it clear that women are not welcome or wanted.
Threats of rape and physical violence
Many women report frequent online threats of rape or physical violence from men. This is particularly targeted at feminist campaigners or women who speak out on other controversial issues. Some men feel so threatened by these women’s voices that they resort to threats of physical violence against them.
Threats are also made by sending women distressing images of extreme violence, and jokes and memes about beating and raping women. A recent example of this was when one of my colleagues was sent an image of her face superimposed onto the image of a dead woman lying in a pool of blood. We were, in this case, targeted for highlighting violence against women in the popular video game Grand Theft Auto V.
It is true that, more often than not, such men may not have the intention or the ability to carry out these threats. But as the Elliot Roger massacre in Santa Barbara indicates, there are a small number of mentally unstable people out there who may turn their threats to action. How is one to know when a threat is empty and when there is genuine intent behind them? Can you blame someone who is being targeted like this for choosing not to play this game of Russian Roulette and instead retreat? Such hate speech, whether made with genuine intent or not, is a silencing tactic.
Here is a compilation of some of the rape threats that I received when campaigning for Sheffield United not to reinstate the British soccer player and convicted rapist Ched Evans.
Another frightening tactic used by men is using a woman’s name and image and setting up a fake social media profile. It is aimed at causing reputational damage, social and professional embarrassment and undermining one’s campaigning efforts. This is a particularly popular option on Twitter, where setting up an account is easy but the reporting structure provides few roadways to report fake profiles and get them removed.
I have personally experienced such an attack, where my name and image was appropriated for a fake account offering sex to men online. Here are screenshots of some of what was tweeted in my name. Note the fake account’s use of a double underscore in the name, but how the comments were then Tweeted to my real account (with a single underscore) to ensure I’d see them.
Releasing private information
Another online bullying tactic is “doxxing”, which involves publicly releasing a victim’s personal information and contact details online. Doxxing has been used as a form of public vigilantism, but can also be used to target innocent victims. Women fighting for controversial causes are frequent victims of doxxing.
Imagine the distress caused to women who have their home address, their workplace, their children’s names and schools, leaked online for the express purpose of further abuse and harassment.
‘Revenge porn’ is the name given to the rising phenomenon of men releasing nude or semi-nude images of women to humiliate and punish them. These photos or videos may have been taken during a consensual intimate moment, but they are subsequently released publicly as revenge against these women when the relationship goes sour.
Equally distressing is the rising trend of uploading and sharing actual photos and footage of women being assaulted and raped online. As if being raped is not traumatic enough, these women now have to face the deep humiliation of having their rape shared publicly or live in the fear of the footage or images surfacing. Women and girls have taken their lives in the aftermath of this devastation.
Response of the Law Enforcement
As a vocal female activist, I’m used to shrugging off the barrage of sexist slurs and physical and sexual threats that I receive online. But when I found myself being impersonated online (as pimping myself), I knew I had to take action. My hands shook and I felt physically ill as I watched tweets from ‘myself’ offering to perform sex acts for strange men on the internet, powerless to stop it.
I felt physically and psychologically threatened enough to take matters to the police. In response, the police officer asked me “Why don’t you just close your account?”. When I explained that I use it for my work, she pressed further- “but why do you need to use it?” The implicit assumption was that if I was being threatened, I should retreat, that it was somehow unreasonable for me to believe I had as much right as anyone to access social media (even in the course of my work) without threats.
I received no assistance from them. It was supportive twitter users who helped me to identify and report the man who created the fake account, and to get Twitter to remove the account.
The experience of my colleagues has not been any better. Talitha Stone, who spoke at OHPI’s launch of its online hate reporting tool http://fightagainsthate.com, approached the law enforcement for help when someone tried doxxing her home address at a time when she was already receiving violent death threats. Instead of helping her, the police sent her away with cyber safety pamphlets.
In fact, around the world, women reporting online threats have been told by police officers to shut down their social media accounts, use “more plain profile pictures”, ‘become anonymous.’ They’ve been told to just “stay off the internet”, even if maintaining an online presence is part of their paid employment. This is arguably the digital version of instructing women not to wear short skirts or walk alone at night.
Police gauge the likelihood of the perpetrator to carry out the threat, and if they suspect it is unlikely, they fail to proceed, despite the fact that under the Commonwealth Criminal Code it is an offence to use a carriage service (such as the internet) to “menace, harass or cause offense”. Their response to women who report such abuse demonstrates a profound lack of understanding not only of modern communications and technology, but of the impact on both life and health of ongoing harassment and threats.
Response of the Social Media Platform
In order to get Twitter to suspend the offending account, I had to provide a scanned copy of my Drivers Licence to prove I was the real Caitlin Roper. Once I had done this, Twitter promptly closed the fake account. However, there are no systems in place to prevent perpetrators from simply opening a new account in a matter of minutes, which is just what my harasser did.
Social media platforms are all too aware that people use their sites to threaten, harass and abuse other users. Recently, the CEO of Twitter acknowledged in a leaked memo that “we suck at dealing with abuse”. So why have they failed to take concrete steps to protect users? Social media platforms profit enormously from user generated content but do little to protect users from abuse and reputational damage. Why don’t they institute lifetime bans for serial offenders and those who use platforms for criminal threats and activity? Or do more to cooperate with law enforcement?
Instead, the platforms instruct victims to spend countless hours reporting abusive content, blocking harassers and going to the police. However, when you are the victim of an organized hate campaign, when threatening tweets and messages keep coming one after the other, the idea that you can simply fill out a report for each individual tweet is impractical, if not downright impossible.
The response of the law enforcement and of the social media platforms show that there is little recognition of the significant distress and trauma caused when a woman receives an onslaught of hateful, violent, sexually graphic and threatening messages, particularly on an ongoing basis.
A few weeks ago, I received a message asking me if I would prefer to be raped then murdered, or murdered then raped. I didn’t even blink. I remember wondering if the fact that such ugly threats could seem so mundane should be cause for concern. Online expressions of violence against women have become part of the territory for those campaigning for the human rights of women and dealing with this abuse surely takes an emotional toll.
Misogynistic online hate speech is part of wider cultural attitudes towards women, where offending men feel free and uninhibited in expressing their hatred and contempt for women. They behave so because they know that in all likelihood there are no consequences of their abusive and criminal behavior. The goal of this behavior is to silence women.
It takes great strength for women to persevere and continue to speak out in the face of these threats and intimidation. Women have to make choices every day about what risks to take when speaking out online. If men are not held accountable for their threatening and intimidating behavior – by the law enforcement and the private social media platforms – who knows how many women have been or will be deterred from taking up their rightful voice in the public space.
The Online Hate Prevention Institute recommends that social media companies take over the monitoring and investigation of large scale hate campaigns targeting particular users. This would remove the need for the user to make further reports, and would allow a faster and more effective response. Such response may include the banning of IP addresses used to post such abuse in addition to liaising with law enforcement agencies and pro actively providing IP addresses of abusers at the platform’s instigation.
The proposed approach would serve as a significant deterrent to abuse of these platforms, making them a safer space in which more people could productively engage. This would be an improvement for not just women, but all users, and add value for the platforms themselves.
It has been reported that the Australian Government has denied a visa to millionaire boxer and convicted domestic violence offender Floyd Mayweather. A petition started by Angela Burrows, a crisis worker with a domestic violence service and Collective Shout’s Townsville representative had amassed over 46,000 signatures when the announcement was made today.
THE world’s highest paid athlete Floyd Mayweather has been banned from Australia due to his history of domestic violence.
Mayweather was scheduled to arrive in Melbourne this week for a series of dinners and nightclub appearances on Thursday.
But Australian authorities denied Mayweather’s application for a visa.
Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash confirmed to the Herald Sun: “a visa has not been granted in this case”
Campaigners against domestic violence had lobbied to have the boxer barred from Australia as the American had served time in jail for assaulting a former partner in front of the couple’s children.
Domestic Violence Victoria CEO Fiona McCormack had also called for the boxer to be banned from the country. Mayweather’s publicist Max Markson had tried to divert attention from his crimes against women, by promising to donate money to charities benefiting the homeless and aboriginal children.
As recently as September 2014, Mayweather was making comments to the media denying guilt for his own criminal convictions saying “there are no pictures” and downplaying another high profile incident where a footballer knocked his partner unconscious. In response to this, one sports commentator described his attitude as that of a ‘serial abuser.’
Over 46000 people made their voices heard and have ensured that this serial abuser will not be held up as a role model for children in Australia.
This victory sends an important message not only to Floyd Mayweather but to Australia and the US – it doesn’t matter how wealthy and popular you are, domestic violence is inexcusable and we will not tolerate it.
Angela Burrows was interviewed for 3AW Melbourne’s Drive program with Tom Elliot.
Listen to Angela Burrows discuss the petition on 30th January (Listen from 1:19:00 to hear Angela)
Listen to Angela Burrows on 4th February discussing the success of the petition (Listen from approx 1:43:30 to hear Angela)
It’s been a massive year of campaigning at Collective Shout this year- perhaps our best yet! As the year draws to a close, we reflect back on some of our wins and favourite memories from 2014. These successes could not have been accomplished without your participation and willingness to speak out against sexploitation. Together we are changing the world.
Activist Talitha Stone addressed Assistant Principals at a national conference who responded with a standing ovation being so inspired by her story and her passion.
Roxy changed their ways after we participated in a campaign led by surfing champion Cori Shumacher condemning Roxy for their ‘all sex no surf’ women’s surf competition trailer.
Collective Shout activists Talitha Stone and Caitlin Roper participated in a panel discussing the mainstreaming of pornography at the International Women’s Liberation Summit in Brisbane. Talitha spoke on a panel at the Online Hate Prevention‘s launch.
We came together with over 300 Human Rights organisations to support an open letter to Associated Press written by prostitution and trafficking survivor organisations, asking them to cease using terms like ‘sex work’ that legitimise and sanitise the human rights abuses committed against them.
We received international media attention on our campaign against CafePress for selling porn-themed and pro-rape merchandise and baby clothing, putting the pressure on CafePress to implement changes to their computer systems that allow users to create and sell these items.
We took down Julien Blanc as part of an international protest against the Pick Up Artist whose methods included choking women and pushing their heads onto his crotch. Blanc’s visa was subsequently cancelled.
Without your support this year, we would not be able to achieve such great successes. Know that your voice does matter, and when we stand together we can do great things. We look forward to your continued support and participation in the new year and wish you the very best for 2015.
It’s that time of year again! With the Christmas season upon us, retailers are taking it up a notch competing for your business.
Now is the time to remember the companies who objectified women and sexualized girls to sell products and services. They do not respect women and have refused to change their ways. They should not be allowed to profit on the backs of women and girls.
You can make a difference by making an ethical purchasing choice, sending a clear message about the importance of corporate social responsibility.
Here’s our list of stand out corporate offenders for 2014.
While major department stores Target and Kmart opted to withdraw Grand Theft Auto V after a campaign lead by women survivors of violence, Big W chose profits over ethics, continuing to sell a game where players can brutally murder women for fun. Big W was also the target of a petition calling for removal of sexualised Christmas t-shirts. Read more here.
General Pants Co
General Pants attracted complaints for their ‘Wet Dreams’ ad campaign in shopping centres nationwide. Their history of porn-themed advertising here.
City Beach has a long history of selling products with sexist, violent and porn inspired imagery to its youth market. Read more here.
Fresh One/Fresh Boost
Fresh Boost used pornographic images, including simulated sex acts to advertise their coffee bean grand, Fresh One. Read more here.
Online marketplace CafePress has a long history of selling clothing and merchandise with sexualised, porn-inspired and pro-rape slogans and imagery, including on clothing for babies and toddlers. Read more here.
Ultra Tune came under fire for their sexist ad using rubber clad dominatrix women to promote car accessories. Read more here.
Schick For Men’s ‘Get Closer’ campaign is a classic example of objectification, using women’s bodies and breasts to promote men’s hygiene products. We hijacked their campaign. Read more here.
Bonds reignited their BOOBS outdoor advertising campaign, objectifying women and defining them by their ‘perky’, ‘saggy’ or ‘bouncy’ breasts. Several years ago we successfully lobbied Bonds to withdraw bras for six year old girls. Read more here.
Honey Birdette is a sex shop masquerading as a high-end lingerie store in shopping malls around the country. Honey Birdette persists with violating advertising standards with its porn-themed shop front advertising. At Christmas Honey Birdette goes out of its way to link “Santa Claus” with sex using slogans such as “Santa baby…” and “Santa’s toy shop.” Read more here.
Myer failed to respond to a petition calling on them to withdraw sexually objectifying in store advertising for Viktor and Rolf perfume. Myer also defended using sexualised images to advertise lingerie throughout Westfield, including in the food court beside Mcdonalds. Read more.
American Apparel continually depicts women and girls in pornified ways. This year the UK Ad Watchdog upheld complaints regarding an American Apparel ad ruled they sexualized schoolgirls. Read more here.
Retailers funding Playboy branded sexual exploitation
Collective Shout has continued to highlight companies which profit from the mainstreaming, normalising and embedding of a major brand of the sex industry into mainstream culture.
Hooters restaurant promotes the sexual objectification of female staff, sexism and sexual harassment. This doesn’t stop the venue from openly marketing to children, hosting children’s parties and ‘kids eat free’ style promotions. (Thanks to a successful protest led by Collective Shouts Townsville coordinator, construction of a ‘Hooters’ restaurant in the area has been abandoned). Read more.
Despite a protest including a 29,000 strong petition calling on Eatons Hill Hotel to refuse to host rapper Tyler the Creator whose lyrics glorify violence against women, the hotel failed to act in the best interests of the community. (Due to our campaign,Tyler the Creator was refused entry to New Zealand).
Please let these companies know why you won’t be supporting them this Christmas.
Are you crossing off other companies this Christmas? Let us know!
Women survivors of violence are calling on Target to withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale, a “sickening” video game that encourages players to brutally murder women for entertainment.
In a change.org petition that has attracted 30, 000 signatures so far, Nicole describes the various ways players can enact their fantasies of committing extreme violence against women, including punching women to the point of unconsciousness, killing them with a bat, gun or machete, running them down with a car and setting them on fire as they continue screaming.
“Please Target – we appeal to you as women survivors of violence, including women who experienced violence in the sex industry, to immediately withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale,” writes Nicole.
“We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we’ve been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.”
The petition encourages Target as a so-called ‘family friendly’ retailer to follow the example of New Zealand’s largest retailer, NZ Warehouse group, who chose to put ethics before profits and refused to stock the misogynistic game.
Domestic violence organisations and survivor organisations have supported the call to Target to withdraw GTA V. Brigitte McLennan, manager of SCOPE Domestic and Family Violence Service said as levels of domestic violence were rising the whole community needed to embrace the message that male violence against women was not okay.
Our campaign against GTA V has attracted a lot of attention and comments, particularly from male gamers. There were men who defended their ‘rights’ to live out fantasies of enacting extreme violence against women in the game. They argued playing these games had no bearing on their attitudes towards women. These same men flooded the thread with abuse to women, sexist slurs, hateful language and jokes about violence against women. Apparently the irony is lost on them.
We stand with survivors in calling Target to exercise corporate social responsibility and show they value the lives and dignity of women more than profits.
Target Australia has pulled video game Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) off shelves over controversy about the game’s depiction of violence against women.
A Change.org petition calling on the retailer to withdraw the game from sale gained more than 38,000 signatures.
The women behind the petition, named on the site as Nicole, Claire and Kat, said as survivors of sexual violence they felt the game sent a dangerous message.
“It’s a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health’ points – and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking,” the petition said.
“This misogynistic GTA V literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women.”
The R-rated game has been available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for more than a year.
Last month is was re-released on the new consoles, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Target general manager of corporate affairs Jim Cooper said the decision to stop selling the game was made following extensive community and customer concern.
“We’ve been speaking to many customers over recent days about the game, and there is a significant level of concern about the game’s content,” Mr Cooper said in a statement.
“We’ve also had customer feedback in support of us selling the game, and we respect their perspective on the issue.
“However, we feel the decision to stop selling GTA V is in line with the majority view of our customers.”
On the ‘International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women’ it is important to reflect on the ongoing sexist violence, as well as the campaigns to end it. Violence against women is on the rise in a number of countries around the world. Australia is no exception with sexual violence at epidemic levels – double the world average. Activism against sexist violence is needed now more than ever. This year, Collective Shout has successfully challenged this on a number of fronts. There have been successful campaigns that have confronted sexual objectification of girls and women and the violence that too often follows.
Some highlights of the most recent campaigns include the success against Wicked Camper vans, which featured slogans like ‘in every princess there is a little slut who wants to try it just once’. The petition against Wicked vans, led by Sydney activist Paula Orbea, gathered 120’000 supporters across the globe calling to remove the degrading text. Another successful collaborative campaign has brought light on the violent strategies of ‘dating coach’ Julien Blanc who encouraged men to grab and even throttle women on dates.
Collective Shout is one of the few organisations that bridges the gap between acts of violence against women and a wider culture of sexual objectification of girls and women.
Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police Ken Lay recently spoke out against violence against women and the objectifying culture behind it. He successfully summed it up by saying:
“The casual groping, the sick sense of entitlement, the disrespect — all of it slowly erodes our attitudes towards women. Bit by bit our standards are lowered until this kind of behaviour becomes a form of endorsement of violence towards women.”
Most people will agree that violence against women is a serious issue. Many of us agree with the World Health Organization that states, “violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportion” While physical violence against girls and women are often admonished, the link with the wider culture of sexual objectification is not always clearly defined. In fact, the link between violence against women and objectification is at times outright denied.
Fuelling this denial is a number of unrelenting myths that circumvent the role of objectification in a culture of sexist violence. These myths often centre on the idea that girls and women either choose or lie about sexual objectification and violence. For the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women’ Collective Shout is naming and challenging a number of these myths:
‘She chose it’
The idea that girls and women are ‘attention seeking’ or ‘choose’ to be objectified is a way of shoring up victim blaming, it’s a kind of ‘she asked for it’ in different terminology. Hundreds of media reports show those who sexually exploit children are often defended as if it was the child’s ‘choice’. A similar case of a child’s sexual exploitation was justified as the victim was apparently sexualised, wearing a midriff top. We live in a world where girls and women are under more pressure than ever to conform to sexually objectifying standards, free choice is increasingly constrained. The conflating of sexual objectification with ‘choice’ is an all too common myth.
‘She is lying’
Another dangerous myth is that women are often lying or exaggerating about violence or sexual violence. Those who report sexual violence are treated as suspicious, victims are often just not believed. Statistics show that 1 in 3 women experience some kind of violence or sexual violence worldwide. Such a common experience yet so frequently it is denied or downplayed. This leads to a lack of convictions as well as public bullying of victims of violence; such as Steubenville rape victim Jane Doe who was relentlessly abused online after her sexual assault became known. The undermining of women’s reality and experience is one of the many outcomes of sexual objectification. When a woman is reduced to an object for consumption, her experience is questioned, denied and even ridiculed.
Sexual objectification creates a culture of impunity toward violence against girls and women. One where abusers feel justified because ‘she wanted it’. And one where girls feel disallowed to speak out because they are seen as mere objects. Objectification not only undermines gender equality but also thwarts efforts to reduce issues like violence against women. As documentary maker Jean Kilbourne said “turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person.” The focus needs to shift, instead of scrutinising or blaming the girls and women affected, we must scrutinise the culture and industry that makes sexual objectification so widely accepted and increasingly expected of girls and women. The myths that uphold sexual objectification need to be confronted and challenged everywhere they occur.
It is important that we collectively take action against perpetrators – not only the individuals who commit violent crimes, but also the retailers, the businesses, the industry regulators who profit from a culture of objectification and violence against women. Criticising individual perpetrators must go hand in hand with challenging the industries that profit from and propagate this culture. Industry regulators, like the Advertising Standards Board must be questioned and challenged in order to drive change. Collective Shout puts this activism front and centre of the fight to end violence against women.
Collective Shout is an activist movement to end sexual objectification and the violence against women that too frequently follows it. Importantly, it situates activism in the broader culture of sexual objectification. Sexual objectification is a crucial piece of the puzzle for tackling violence against girls and women.
While sexual violence is at epidemic levels, Collective Shout is making significant headway to challenge these issues. We need your support to continue, if you want to stand up and add your voice to the collective movement you can do so here.
Laura McNally is a psychologist, consultant, author and PhD candidate. Her current research examines the political and social implications of global corporate social responsibility. She can be found atlauramcnally.com
My piece on Herald Sun website here: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/julien-blancs-sexist-abusive-pickup-methods-should-be-rejected-by-aussie-venues-says-melinda-tankard-reist/story-fni0ffsx-1227112652542
Blanc’s training seminar: how to grab women’s heads and shove them into your groin
More comedy gold from the ASB: except we’re not laughing
It’s no secret that the advertising industry’s preferred model of regulation, self-regulation, has failed. Despite various government inquiries exploring the many flaws in the current system, as well as condemnation from child health professionals and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) the advertising industry has been given free reign to regulate themselves to the detriment of the community, in particular, children.
In 2012, AMA President Dr Steve Hambleton called for a new government inquiry into the sexualisation of children in advertising to protect the health and development of children. He said,
“These are highly sexualised ads that target children, and the advertising industry is getting away with it.
“There is strong evidence that premature sexualisation is likely to be detrimental to child health and development, particularly in the areas of body image and sexual health.
“The current self regulatory approach through the Advertising Standards Bureau is failing to protect children from sexualised advertising.”
We encourage supporters to utilise the complaints process when they come across hyper-sexualised advertising they suspect could be in breach of advertising codes. Many feel understandably frustrated as the ASB continues to dismiss valid complaints while simultaneously claiming that self-regulation is working well and this is evidenced by the fact they rarely uphold complaints! We’ve highlighted some of our previous complaints below to illustrate the great lengths the ASB goes to in order to excuse sexualising and adult sexual content in advertising.
Love and Rockets, Billboard
The photo of this billboard was taken from a Brisbane boy’s school. The ASB noted that it is not illegal for the sex industry to advertise outside schools and ruled that this billboard advertising a strip club to children treated sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant audience (school children) as it did “not show include explicit nudity”.
Schick for Men, Social Media video
In response to Schick’s commercial featuring a woman stripping off her clothes to sell men’s razors, the ASB said,”The Board noted that although the woman does remove her clothing…her breasts are covered by text on the screen. It was not sexualised.”
Supre Jeggings, TV commercial
The clothing store popular with teens and pre-teens released this ad to promote their new range of Jeggings. The ASB responded, “The woman was not posed in a sexualised manner.”
Lee Jeans, Billboard
It may come as no surprise that this image is part of a larger collection of photos by photographer and accused rapist Terry Richardson, with a reputation for porn-themed photo shoots and for sexually exploiting young models. The ASB said,
“There is no nudity [and] the woman’s pose was not inappropriately sexual.”
“Consumption of this style of lollipop is now common amongst people over 18.”
River ‘Get Excited’, Catalogue
An image of a woman who appeared to be nude aside from thigh high stockings, with her legs apart and her arms covering her private parts was “not overtly sexualised”, said the ASB.
The Firm Gentleman’s Club, Poster
We couldn’t locate a photo of the original poster, however it is the same (life-size) image as shown here on their website.
This life size poster was located on a busy Adelaide street. The ASB ruled this outdoor advertising was not in breach of industry codes and standards because “the image is relevant to the advertised product”. The product was women, for men’s sexual use.
Target Fifty Shades Lingerie, Billboard
The ASB said the billboard of a faceless woman reclining in lingerie complete with suspenders “[did] not present strongly sexualised imagery and is not inappropriate for viewing by a broad audience including children.”
Xotica Strip Club, Billboard
A supporter shared her frustration on encountering this large billboard while taking her children aged four through seven out for lunch. The ASB dismissed complaints about the billboard because the ad “[did] not show any private parts of the woman.” They went on to say:
“In the context of an advertisement for an adult venue the images of the women are not exploitative and degrading.”
“The building which is located in an area which contains a high proportion of adult venues…based on the location of the building, the audience likely to be frequenting the area are generally customers of the venues.”
UltraTune, TV Commercial
UltraTune used two dominatrix women brandishing whips and feigning arousal at the sight of tyres and car accessories for the enjoyment of a male staff member to promote their car service centres and accessories. The ASB dismissed complaints, ruling the dominatrix women were “relevant to the product” being advertised.
“Fresh One” coffee
Perth coffee brand “Fresh One” unleashed a series of porn inspired advertisements on its Facebook page earlier this year. The board upheld complaints against some of the ads, but dismissed complaints against others.
The Ad Standards Board dismissed complaints against this ad featuring a woman pouring milk over her chest.
“The Board noted that the woman is voluntarily pouring the milk over herself.”
“…the image is not exploitative or degrading, with references to ‘bathing in milk’ often associated with luxury (Cleopatra for example) rather than any demeaning activity.”
And this just in!
ASB dismisses complaints against General Pants Pornified “Wet Dreams” ad campaign. Read more here.
This is what industry self-regulation looks like.
The argument that adult, sex industry advertising can be justified in public spaces raises several questions. Do children and young people no longer have a right to be in a public space? Is it permissible for billboards to include sexually explicit content if they are promoting the purchase of women for sex? Do the rights of the sex industry to market itself to the masses take precedence over children’s rights to healthy development?
The Advertising Standards Bureau is a joke. As best-selling author and psychologist Steve Biddulph said, “The UK has an advertising watchdog that actually takes action. Australia has a watch tortoise that might have died.”
It takes a village to raise a child. We often hear from parents who feel overwhelmed and powerless to raise healthy children when the wider culture is undermining their attempts at every turn. Parents need the government and regulatory bodies to do their part in providing a safe environment for children.
Objectification of women should be recognised as discriminatory practice
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee, Review of the National Classification Scheme: achieving the right balance (June 2011) recommended that “community concerns about the sexualisation of society, and the objectification of women” be taken into account as a key principle in every classification decision (Recommendation 2). This reflects the core message of Collective Shout that women must never be depicted as mere objects for the sexual satisfaction of men.
We were particularly supportive of recommendations 4 and 8, which related to issues of objectification of women as forms of discriminatory practice. It is remarkable that in the ASB’s view, as cited in the report, objectification of women was not seen as contrary to the prohibitions on discrimination and vilification.
Clearly the self-regulatory system has been found lacking!
Industry has been warned, has had its chance to voluntarily self-regulate, and has conspicuously failed to act at the level required. The evidence of the past years of minimal response by industry shows that the market culture around this issue will not shift without stronger government initiative.
Woman’s Health Magazine editor Felicity Harley had said in response to the furore: “It is disappointing that this has become the focus rather than the phenomenal sporting talents of our Australian female athletes.”
And why do you think that was Felicity? It’s you and Women’s Health who caused this to be the case by sending spectacularly conflicting messages about what you valued in women. If it’s ‘phenomenal sporting talent’ you’re interested in, why pay four topless women to turn up? Were we supposed to overlook these almost-naked painted models parading at a signature event supposedly celebrating the sporting achievements of female athletes?
Since then, as the social media condemnation grew and Danielle Warby, a board director of the Australian Women Sport and Recreation Association, ramped things up with this piece, Women’s Health was forced into an apology.
The fact that at least one man admitted on Women’s Health Facebook page to getting off on the images shows how wrong they got it.
Initial reports left out the image of the model representing Cathy Freeman, painted in her designer one-piece Olympic running suit and she was not referred to. Perhaps this was to protect her dignity, I’m not sure. However, this insult to Freeman must be named. Of the four, her replica is the most recognisable.
I have some questions for Women’s Health. Where did you find the models? Who was the agency? Did Women’s Health make deliberate specifications regarding women’s breast size, for example? Who was hired to painted their bodies (including the logos just above one of the model’s nipples)? Who were the models hired to entertain exactly?
It’s one thing when men do this to women (most of the time). But when women facilitate the objectification of women and do so under a banner of celebrating sporting achievement, it’s even more depressing. Have sexualised representations of women, including women who have achieved greatly, become so normal and mainstream that even women editors of a popular women’s health magazine didn’t see a problem?
The Women’s Health Australia “I support women in sport awards” was held this week to recognise the achievements of Australia’s female athletes.
Women’s Health editor Felicity Harley said the night was “all about giving recognition and telling the stories of Australian sportswomen, who don’t get enough coverage for their efforts and talents.”
A worthy goal indeed. Harley is right – sportswomen don’t get enough coverage for their talents and efforts. The sexual objectification of female athletes is a long-standing problem in our culture which continues to have a negative impact on the health and well-being of women and girls and limits their participation in sport.
This makes the decision to hire topless women for the event – wearing only underpants and body paint -even more bizarre.
Female athletes and advocates for women in sport were quick to call out Women’s Health Magazine for reinforcing the sexual objectification of women in sport:
Danielle Warby, a board director of the Australian Womensport and Recreation Association asked Women’s Health editor Felicity Harley for an explanation. Harley responded by dodging responsibility and blaming the media.
Harley also hasn’t explained why Women’s Health Australia hired naked models.
Speaking to the SMH, Warby said “The sexualisation of women in sport is a massive issue,”…”These women are not athletes, they are naked and I don’t know why they are there.”
Here’s why this is important:
Sexual objectification undermines women and girls equal participation in sport.
Focusing on an athlete’s physical attributes in an overtly sexual manner can create anxiety and embarrassment for the individual. This may be compounded by a heightened body awareness already present in many female athletes. If the athlete does not feel she ‘measures up’ to an external judgment of her physique, her self-esteem may suffer.
A potential consequence of lowered self-esteem is compromised athletic performance. The athlete becomes distracted both on and off the arena of sport, and may be tempted into unhealthy eating habits. In younger athletes, where self-confidence may be less secure, the increased focus on the body because of sexploitation can lead to a poor body image. There is a wealth of research linking poor body image with increased risk of eating disorders or disordered eating behaviours.
(source: Jan Borrie, Shaping up to the image makers, Panorama, The Canberra Times, 27 May 2000)
A Magazine titled “Women’s Health” should know better than to pull a stunt like this. Our elite female athletes – and the young aspiring athletes looking to follow their example – deserve better.
Take Action! Make your voice heard – Tweet, Facebook or email
Tweet Womens Health Magazine @womenshealthaus
Tweet Australian Government is included amoung the sponsors of the event. Contact the Minister for Health and Sport Peter Dutton. @PeterDutton_MP
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends, Girl Wise guide to being you, Girl Wise guide to life and Girl Wise guide to taking care of your body, for the combined discounted price of $240.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
“A landmark publication” – Clive Hamilton
Purchase the Ruby Who? DVD and book together for only $35 saving 10% off the individual price.
“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.