Our campaign a success: thanks for speaking out against eroticised violence against women
Time for some good news. This week my colleague Sharon Haywood of Adios Barbie received news from MTV that it would not air Kanye West’s Monster video. Collective Shout and I had teamed up with Adios Barbie and other global women’s groups to try to stop release of the video and screening by MTV. I wrote a number of pieces against this ‘rape scenario set to a sound track’ (here, here and here), we launched a petition through Care2 and Change.org and momentum gathered, attracting international media coverage. Now MTV has responded. I’ll allow Sharon to take up the story, with a reprint of her blog post here.
A Monster Success
By Sharon Haywood, Co-Editor
It’s official folks, and you heard it here first: MTV and VH1 will not air Kanye West’s “Monster” video. Jeannie Kedas of MTV Networks, which also controls VH1, has recently confirmed that neither channel “has plans to air the video.” Kedas cited MTV’s voluntary standards department as a guiding force in their choice, but you can bet that our collective online movement against the official release of “Monster” also had something to do with MTV’s principled decision.
When I first watched the leaked clips of “Monster” I was so infuriated and disturbed that I couldn’t just say, “That’s an incredibly offensive and misogynistic music video. Wow, artists are really pushing the limits, aren’t they?” and get on with my day. In the past, there have been countless media messages that have riled me up, but never have I been so affected than after watching those unofficial clips for the first time. My stomach literally turned as I took in images of nearly naked dead women hanging from chains, a contorted dead woman splayed on a couch wearing nothing but red stilettos, and two dead woman propped up in bed being maneuvered like playthings by Kanye himself. Oh yeah, don’t forget Kanye gripping the hair of a woman’s severed head. I couldn’t just sit by and tweet how P O’ed I was. I’m so glad I didn’t.
“The video was submitted to MTV, but it wasn’t banned; rather, edits were requested based on the channel’s decency standards.
MTV has not banned Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ video,” the network said in a statement to MTV News. “We have been in constant communication with the label regarding this matter. However, we are still awaiting the edits we requested in order for the video to be suitable for broadcast.”
So, we waited and continued to speak out against the use of eroticized violence as mainstream viewing. On June 5th, the official release of the long-awaited version of “Monster” appeared online. The only thing that was strikingly different from the leaked clips was the disclaimer at the beginning of the video: “The following content is in no way to be interpreted as misogynistic or negative towards any groups of people. It is an art piece and shall be taken as such.” It might as well have read: “Warning: The following content may cause physical and emotional upset such as nausea and seething anger” because the final cut still contained the same sexually violent images that sparked our activism in the first place. It’s obvious that the inclusion of a disclaimer tells us that someone at Def Jam, UMG, or even West himself is paying attention to our protest. Note to artists and producers: A disclaimer does not erase nor excuse misogynistic content.
We want to publicly acknowledge and applaud MTV Networks for choosing not to air “Monster.” We congratulate MTV for reinforcing the fact that violence against women, even if couched in a horror-film format, should never be used as a way to engage and entertain viewers, many of who are under the age of 18. We need you to let others know that MTV is acting as a leader by recognizing that eroticized violence in no way, shape, or form, is entertainment. (Here’s their Facebook page. Like ‘em.)
And what about UMG, the other target of our petitions? Despite my many attempts to procure an official statement, UMG has nothing to say on the record. Some may argue that UMG shouldn’t be held accountable, as the company is not responsible for the creation of West’s content; the artist’s own record company Def Jam assumes that role. Instead, UMG focuses solely on distribution (as is indicated in the copyright at the end of “Monster”). Thanks to MTV, there aren’t many distribution options left for the video. (Here’s MTV’s Twitter handle. Thank them personally. I have.)
It’s high time that media big guns, like UMG follow MTV’s lead and recognize that profits can still be gained by taking a socially responsible stand—not in spite of doing so, but because of it. As your support has shown, there are a growing number of consumers who give more than a damn about what choices are offered to them as entertainment. Corporate bigwigs need to also realize that our work is not yet done. Far from it. Our petitions did not target the music industry as a whole but instead we focused on a single video as taking one step toward positive change. As Change.org says,
“We believe that building momentum for social change globally means empowering citizen activists locally — and that the influence of a local victory is always much larger than the change it immediately achieves.”
The sum of many small victories means notable social change. We know that the video’s lack of distribution will not eliminate the presence of misogyny in the music industry. But at least we know we’re moving in the right direction. We’ve been heard. And we’re fairly sure that the music industry will continue to listen.
Universal Royal Pageant chief Annette Hill isn’t feeling the love from us here in Australia over her plans to export US-style child beauty pageant culture to our shores.
“Oprah Winfrey went, she had a great time, and that’s why I want to come too. But I’m not feeling the love like Oprah did,” she told News Limited.
Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that Oprah wasn’t accompanied by six-year-olds in feathers and sequins performing Las Vegas Show girl routines? (perhaps it also has something to do with the fact that she’s not Oprah, but I’ll leave that aside for now).
Blogger and author Kerri Sackville has perfectly and comically captured the essence of kids that most of us want to protect. With her permission, I’m reprinting her post here. Enjoy. (And the little boy with the bucket on this head? I can neither confirm nor deny that this is a child of mine).
Now THIS Is A Kiddie Beauty Pageant
Kiddie beauty pageants are coming to Australia and we Aussies aren’t pleased. We do not want our kids prematurely sexualised. We do not want them wearing makeup and beehive hairdos at the age of two (actually, we do not want them wearing beehive hairdos at all, because they look utterly ridiculous). We do not want them primping and preening and flirting with the judging panel when they should be making mud pies. And we certainly don’t want them to wear those expensive sparkly dresses because they’re just going to spill their Milo on them anyway.
However, I don’t think we should dismiss kiddie beauty pageants altogether. I think there is a place for them in our country; they just need to be modified a little to better suit the Australian culture.
So I have come up with guidelines for the Australian Toddler’s Beauty Pageant. All rules must be adhered to and the judge’s decision is final. See terms and conditions* for more details.
Children are to be judged on appearance, performance and demeanor.
•All choices of clothing are to be made by the child themselves. Bonus points are awarded for creativity, colour and uniqueness of ensemble. A pink tutu worn with yellow gumboots and a bright green hoodie is excellent. Likewise a long sleeve, purple winter top worn under a white summer frock with pink leggings and Dora The Explorer novelty shoes. A designer dress worn with matching party shoes entails immediate disqualification.
•Bonus points are awarded for vegemite smears on clothing and/or food remnants on face.
•Extra bonus points are awarded for food remnants in hair.
•Triple bonus points are awarded for stains of unknown origin anywhere on the competitor.
Children are to engage in a performance of their own creation. Sponteneity is preferable and props will be provided by event organisers. Suggestions are as follows:
•Spinning around in circles until they fall over.
•Spinning around in circles with a bin on their head until they fall over.
•Lying on the floor kicking their legs.
•Doing a toddler handstand (i.e. placing hands on the floor and looking at the world from between their legs).
•Pulling up their top to show the judges their belly button.
•Kicking down a Lego tower. (Bonus points if the Lego tower was built by another child).
Children are judged on their demeanor, with points awarded for appropriateness and dramatic effect. For example:
•Throwing a tantrum for absolutely no reason.
•Running offstage to use the potty.
•Actually using the potty onstage.
•Running offstage in protest.
•Embarrassing their parents (“Daddy does smelly poos!”).
•Embarrassing the judges (“Why does that lady have a beard?”).
•Standing there looking dazed and doing absolutely nothing at all.
If you are interested in enrolling your child, contact me via this blog. But I really wouldn’t bother if I was you. My three year old is going to win for SURE.
Calling on Federal Minister Peter Garrett and Victoria counterpart Wendy Lovell to intervene
Collective Shout has initiated a petition in response to the news that a US pageant company plans to import its child beauty competitions to Australia. You can find the petition on the Care2 petition site . Please sign and circulate it through all your networks. The petition reads:
Child beauty pageant company Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant is planning to hold a ‘Child Beauty Pageant’ in Melbourne, Australia, in July.
Many psychologists and child development authorities agree that child beauty pageants are not in the best interest of healthy child development.
A study conducted by Anna Wonderlich et.al (2005) in the Journal of Treatment and Prevention reported ‘A significant association between childhood beauty pageant participation and increased body dissatisfaction, difficulty trusting interpersonal relationships, and greater impulsive behaviors and indicates a trend toward increased feelings of ineffectiveness.’
Television shows like Toddlers and Tiaras reveal the child exploitation endemic in these pageants. Child advocates around the world have spoken out about the sexualised clothing, suggestive dance moves, hours of grooming and preening required. They have expressed concern about the way pageants provide external validation to girls that their physical appearance is what is most important in being female. They have criticised the way child beauty pageants re-inforce stereotypical norms about female beauty. They have also pointed out that adultifying children in pageants and elsewhere invites us to see them as older than they are, which puts them (and other children) at risk of inappropriate treatment.
Pitting young girls against each other in a competition based on physical appearance and performance is harmful to their wellbeing.Research on the sexualisation of children shows that reinforcing an emphasis on looks and attractiveness leads to negative body image, disordered eating, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
We call on the Federal Minister for Early Childhood and Youth, the Hon. Peter Garrett and the Victoria Minister for Children and Early Childhood Development, Wendy Lovell, to take action to prevent these style of pageants in Australia and (with State colleagues) to consider legislative measures to ban all future pageants for children.
Mtr on sexualisation of girls and pageants this week on SBS
And another sexual assault survivor who isn’t laughing
Late yesterday afternoon Brian McFadden sent these tweets:
So, it seems he’s upset his song is “getting attention for the wrong reasons”. Lyrics about doing damage to an inebriated women were just meant as a bit of fun. And anyway that woman was his fiance Delta Goodrem, so it doesn’t matter anyway. And even though he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong, he’ll give all the profits to a charity that works with rape victims.
The analogy comes to mind of a man who makes light of robbing and beating a blind person then so kindly sends money to a charity for the blind.
McFadden says it’s not a PR stunt but it’s hard to see it as anything else. And look at how the controversy is portrayed on his website – which, by the way, is accessed by clicking on a full screen image of the McFadden police mug shot cover of the new single.
Looks to me like McFadden and his record company are cashing in on the controversy with wording like ”You be the judge, buy Brian’s new single here”.
And what’s with the “Controversial new video?” Will the music video clip be a visual illustration of the lyrics? Is McFadden going to show us what ‘take advantage’ and ‘do some damage’ really means?
Given that Universal - the target of our petition against Kanye West’s Monster which has just cracked 15,000 signatures - is McFadden’s label as well, perhaps we need to brace ourselves for something truly horrible.
If McFadden is really concerned his song is being interpreted as promoting date rape, why say he doesn’t want it played on radio? What’s so special about radio? If it is causing this much angst – and triggering sexual assault survivors – why not just withdraw the whole thing? And can the video?
It’s difficult to see McFadden’s gesture as sincere when he blames all those who have criticised Just as you are (Drunk at the Bar) (including me here and here) . It’s our fault, see, because we don’t have a sense of humour. And he doesn’t want to give “haters” the pleasure of backing down. But it is his lyrics that are hateful. He just doesn’t see that. He won’t back down, even when more sexual assault survivors are speaking out about what this song is doing to them.
I’m a survivor of sexual assault and I’m not laughing: your song diminishes the trauma of my experience and belittles my feelings
Nicole obviously doesn’t have a sense of humour either. Following ‘anon’ on my blog Tuesday, Nicole is another woman who has come forward to describe the impact of this song on her, posting this comment:
This brings up so much for me. I don’t really know where to begin. It was such a long time ago, but it still hurts and humiliates me, some 20 years later.
I was about 16. I went to a party hoping to see a boy that I really liked. I got way too drunk and my friends tucked me into a bed at the house to recover. The boy I really liked then came into the room and tried his luck, but seemed to realise nothing was going to happen. Maybe 10 minutes later, his friend came in and he too tried his luck, however he was more determined. I have no doubt that if my friends hadn’t come back to check on me when they did, he would have raped me. He already had my clothes undone and had his hand inside me.
Later that night, after I had sobered up, we went to another friends house and I told my friends what had happened. They confronted the guy involved and he outright denied it. I never reported it and I never spoke of it again to anybody. The guy on the other hand ran around telling everybody that I was a liar and a bitch and that I was just pissed off because he wouldn’t have sex with me. I was humiliated.
So, Brian McFadden, do you think this is something to poke fun at? Does my story deserve it’ own catchy tune and rounds of laughter and applause because you were so clever to come up with something witty that ultimately diminishes the trauma of my experience and belittles my feelings about it?
I’m really ever so glad that we live in a society where cretins like you can influence a whole new generation of young boys and men to sexually assault women and girls and then have a big old laugh about it later on… not to mention make yourself rich at our expense. (That was sarcasm, in case you hadn’t quite picked up on it, and yes, I’m more than a little angry over your stupid song)
Maybe, Brian, you should consider that you have little girls growing up. I hope to God that they are never sexually assaulted by boys who have listened to your song and think it’s hilarious to ‘take advantage’ of your daughters while drunk, so they can ‘do some damage’ to them.
Where does Delta stand?
Delta Goodrem is one of a number of celebrity spokeswomen supporting Avon Voices, which raises money to address violence against women. She is also Brian McFadden’s fiancé. Shame she didn’t have a word to him before he released the new song. Or are violent lyrics – and the violence of a rape enabling culture – just so passé now,they weren’t noticed? Remember, this isn’t McFadden on his own. There’s an entire production chain involved in getting a single like this out. Did no one think to say ‘maybe this isn’t such a great idea’?
Help answer McFadden’s request
McFadden wants recommendations for charities working to help rape survivors. You can tweet him at @BrianMcFadden with your suggestions or contact him throug his website or feel free to post your suggestions here and I’ll make sure he gets them. Then let’s see him if he means it. But you know, there are some charities which may not want to accept his tainted money.
And even if he sends truckloads of money, he is not absolved. Nice of him to help out a charity and all, but what we really need is a genuine show of sorrow and regret. For that we are still waiting.
I’m really not all that interested in Royal Weddings. I’m actually not all that interested in royal things in general (I do like the horses though. And I confess I can remember where I was when Lady Di got killed in the car crash).
But finding out who and who isn’t on the guest list for the April 29 marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton has got me interested.
For example, the President of the United States of America, Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are not among the 1,900 invitees. But it appears rapper Kanye West is. Yes, the same Kanye West holding a woman’s decapitated head. The same Kanye West who sings lines like “She just wants a swallowship” has apparently received an invitation from the Palace seeking the pleasure of his company.
As readers of this blog know, I have been involved in a global protest against Kanye West’s Monster video. You can read about it here and the petition is here (approaching 15,000 signatures).
But last night I saw a Kanye West tweet which promoted me to take matters a bit higher and ask the Queen (through @britishmonarchy – who’d have thought the monarchy was into twitter, but there you go. Thanks @fittoprint) whether Kanye West was the kind of guest you wanted at the celebration of your grandson’s nuptials. I thought she needed to see this:
Now there’s a ‘post modern critique of female sexuality’. Perhaps, as is my habit, I’m missing all the irony and satire.
Fortunately British pop star Lily Allen understood full well what West meant. She tweeted:
I’m hoping it will put Her Majesty the Queen in a bad mood too, and she’ll take another look at that invite list.
It’s rare to see a man talk so honestly about how frequent on-line porn use impacts real world relationships. While of course the author appears to be writing from a purely selfish perspective: this is how porn screws with my sexual relationships and why I gave it up for four days – rather than a realisation of its mass industrialised dehumanisation of women – at least it may give other men cause to examine their own compulsive habits. And, hopefully, for women to seek men who want something more than porn sex.
David Rothbart relays how porn re-shaped the desires of a number of men – men who previously had happy, loving relationships with their partners. Here’s what some of them told him.
Perry, 41, lawyer:
“I used to race home to have sex with my wife… Now I leave work a half-hour early so I can get home before she does and masturbate to porn…Not to be mean, but they’re younger, hotter, and wilder in the sack than my wife…Me and her, we still ‘do it’ and everything, but instead of every day, it’s maybe once a week. It’s like I’ve got this ‘other woman’ … and the ‘other woman’ is porn.”
Stefan, 43-year, composer:
“I’ve got to resort to playing scenes in my head that I’ve seen while viewing porn. Something is lost there. I’m no longer with my wife; I’m inside my own head.”
Ron, 27, architecture student:
“I guess I’ve been fading from her. It’s like all that time with these porn stars was subduing any physical desire for my girlfriend. And, in some weird way, my emotional need for her, too.”
And here’s what one woman had to say.
Sadie, 29 real-estate agent:
“There is no glory in trying to make love to men who only know how to f**k—man after man after man after man raised on porn…A lot of guys have come to expect P.S.E. [the ‘Porn-Star Experience’] as a common thing… A few [women] might enjoy it, but for most it’s harrowing. I think there’s a fear that if they can’t make it happen, their boyfriend will retreat online.”
Porn’s socialising effect on boys: girls pressured to provide naked images
In a piece titled ‘They Know What Boys Wants’ by Alex Morris, the New York Magazine also gave us an inside look at how porn is shaping the attitudes of boys towards the girls in their lives. Rarely is there the slow-burn of a relationship developing: girls are treated as living sexual performances from younger and younger ages. Porn conditions boys to becoming sexually demanding. Girls have to pay for relationships with sexual tokens. In an account relayed to me last year, a schoolgirl was told by a boy: “If you give me [oral sex] I’ll give you a kiss.”
This extract from the New York Magazine piece:
“I wouldn’t mind if they said, ‘Send me a picture of you,’ just a regular picture, with everything on,” says Samantha…“But it’s like the way they ask for it? Naked?”
Tricey nods. “It affects them, the Internet. The guys expect to just chat girls up online, but when y’all see each other and y’all go out or whatever, the only thing that they want to do is get in the bed.”
Star, who’s 14, rolls her eyes. “Yeah, that’s the only thing they talk about.”
“I think they’re pressured by the Internet,” says Tricey. “When you see some of those things, you actually get a negative mind.”
Samantha frowns. “They see a pretty girl on the computer, big boobs or whatever, so they’ll be like, ‘Okay, I want a girl like that.’ ”
Do you relate to any of these accounts? Willing to tell me about it? You can post as a blog comment or contact me through the form at the top of this page.
Kanye West petition update
Well wasn’t that fun. After being attacked and ridiculed in The Punch on Wednesday, I woke yesterday morning to find 2000 additional signatures on our Care2 petition protesting Kanye West’s horror porn music video Monster. Another 3000 were added during the day, which meant we had surpassed our goal of 10,000. There are now 13,500 signatures.
Buddy Franklin and Nena&Pasadena and their porn inspired tees update
The AFL has had nothing to say to my question asking how Hawks star Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin’s porn-inspired t.shirts fit in with the League’s ‘Respect and Responsibility policy. See my piece from ABC The Drum Unleashed here . Hello AFL, we’re waiting! Or don’t you think it matters that your players are flogging t.shirts which reduce women to sex objects?
Dull, derivative, repetitive
While we’re waiting for a response from the AFL, you must read this from a fashion industry insider, posted in comments to my ABC piece:
Fashion Merchandise Planner, 16 Feb 2011 9:07:28pm
You are seriously deluded if you think what you produce is fashion. Having worked in the industry for over 20 years for some of Australia’s leading retailers and fashion houses (both high end and mass market) I can tell you that what you produce is barely a blip on the Australian fashion scene and you wouldn’t rate a mention anywhere it counts… ‘edgy’ give me a break… bogan streetwear more like it. Maybe a Design Degree would give your ‘designers’ a richer troff to plunder from. The t-shirts are dull, derivative, repetitive and would do well in the markets. I don’t normally get personal but to sell your two bit company as an Australian success story is really stretching it. You produce unimaginative dull T-shirts for 20 somethings who think that a naked woman on a T-shirt is an artistic statement.
I am neither a Christian nor a prude just a highly successful and respected retail professional who has seen people like you come and go in droves. Believe your own marketing spin at your peril.
Lets have this conversation in two years time… or will you like the hundreds of other ‘talented designers’ crying into your beer and complaining that no one understands how you suffer for your art.
You produce unimaginative cheap T-shirts lets just call it what it is. You know sex sells and you are too dull to come up with anything better that tits and arse… congratulations you just discovered sex… like no one has ever done that before…
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
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“Melinda Tankard Reist is at the forefront of helping…educate the public on the link between pornography and violence…” – Di Macleod, Director, Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence
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