Whenever I pick up the latest issue of teen girl mags, I hope to find articles which might inspire a global vision in girls, expand their horizons and help them see they can make a contribution in the world. So I was very pleased to see the piece: ’Who runs the world? Girls!’ While the header is somewhat exaggerated, the article describes the different lives and rights of girls around the world and gives examples of young women working to change their cultures. The campaigning of Malala Yousafzai, 15, for the rights of girls to an education in Pakistan is included. You may recall she was shot by the Taliban in October last year and is now recovering in the UK. Readers can log on to educationenvoy.org to learn more. Arranged marriage and not allowing women to drive are examples of denial of rights of women in Saudi Arabia. Manal al-Sharif (who I had the pleasure of hearing speak via a Skype presentation at the Great Women Inspire event in Brisbane on International Women’s Day in March) was arrested for driving a car in 2011 and initiated the Women2Drive campaign which readers are encouraged to support on Facebook. Sexual violence in India is highlighted, with readers encouraged to join the OneBillionRising.org movement against it. In the US, Julia Bluhm, 15, collected 84,000 signatures for an online petition asking Seventeen magazine to stop retouching pics. Staff have now signed a Body Peace Treaty pledging never to alter a model’s face or body. My only quibble here is the treatment of North Korea. Amnesty International, writes GF, “alleges that North Korea imposes severe restrictions of association, expression and movement.” The horrendous human rights violations against North Koreans by its own rulers are not mere allegations! An estimated 200,000 are locked away in prison camps (gulags). First-hand accounts demonstrate the reality. “North Korea’s prison camps are a closed-off world of death, torture and forced labour where babies are born slaves, according to two survivors who liken the horrors of the camps to a Holocaust in progress.” GF mentions North Korea’s imposition of officially approved hairstyles which yes, indicates a certain lack of freedom. But perhaps forced labour, being tortured in a concentration camp or watching your family starve as a result of your Government misdirecting money to create the world’s biggest militarised state are also worthy to include. North Korea is also described by GF as ‘a self-reliant’ state. That’s one way of putting it. Totalitarian is another. And I’m not sure how self-reliant is a country where 16 million people require food aid according to the UN. (I would love GF readers to read The Orphan Master’s Son, the 2013 Pulitzer prize winning novel by Adam Johnson. While fictional, it draws from real suffering of the people of North Korea. It’s one of the most profound books I’ve ever read). Read more here
It appeared on Huffington Post last month but I’ve only just read it. It is the kind of piece which needs to be read slowly, and a few times, it contains so much to absorb. Here’s an extract:
The problem is determining at what stage she started to cede her self and becomes, in her own eyes, mainly some (bright, young) thing other people see and use. This process begins much earlier than when a girl is 15 and maybe buying thongs.
In general, parents, schools, counselors, “concerned” adults aren’t openly confronting the unrelenting pressure girls feel to base their self worth on being beautiful, perfect creatures idealized for the sexual and breeding purposes of others. For many people, girls and women are biologically meant to be available to boys and men in these ways. Our default is “Yes!” and “Of course!” You know the kind of being I’m talking about — females whose purpose, abstracted, divine or biological, is to look out for boys and men and guide them to ultimate pleasure and eternal happiness. Hey, aren’t Victoria’s Secret’s models called ANGELS? What a visually pleasing, totally random and meaningless coincidence.
Once a self is ceded it’s hard to get back. Regardless of a girl’s or woman’s age, this kind of objectification and “sexualization” results in a performance. It’s not about being a sexual person, it’s about acting out someone else’s idea of a sex object. And… what girls and women want, feel, need and experience are irrelevant unless they help fulfill the dreams of boys and men. The impact is real, meaningful and measurable. It’s also serious and not at all entertaining.
Girls who conform well and internalize their “thing-ness” don’t miraculously stop doing it when get their driver’s licenses. It NEVER ends. Read the full article here.
We are writing to express our support for current efforts in Iceland to develop and implement legal limits on violent Internet pornography. As scholars, medical and public health professionals, social service providers, and community activists, we commend your government’s determination to confront the harms of pornography. As part of a comprehensive approach to violence prevention, sex education, and public health, legally limiting Internet pornography will reduce the power of this multi-billion dollar global industry to distort and diminish the lives, opportunities, and relationships of Icelandic citizens.
Especially commendable is your government’s commitment to protect children from the harms of pornography. We recognize in other contexts (e.g., advertising) that children’s unique developmental needs mandate protecting them from predatory corporate interests. As pornography invades children’s lives and psyches at ever earlier ages and with ever more distressing effects, this recognition must be applied to pornography. It is naïve and unrealistic to expect parents and schools to counter effectively the influence of this powerful and pervasive industry. Rather, society must act on its compelling interest in providing a safe and nourishing environment for children. We applaud your government’s effort to exercise collective responsibility for children’s well-being by placing limits on a toxic media environment from which they cannot otherwise be sufficiently shielded.
We are inspired by your boldness and innovation in protecting children, honoring women’s rights to safety and equality, and maintaining the integrity of Icelandic culture against the onslaught of an unrestrained industry of sexual exploitation.
We understand that your deliberations remain at an early stage and that many important aspects of the proposed legislation remain to be worked out. That said, we commend your government’s stated intention to define pornography narrowly (as sexual material involving violence and degradation), thus ensuring Icelandic citizens’ access to the fullest possible range of online information onsistent with the protection of children and of women’s civil right to equality. As your efforts continue to develop, we would urge you not to be dissuaded by dark invocations of totalitarianism or of an unregulated black market in pornography. The pornography industry could hardly be any less regulated than it is currently, nor could the motivations and methods of the Icelandic initiative differ more starkly from those of authoritarian governments.
From adopting the so-called “Nordic” approach to prostitution in 2009 to banning strip clubs in 2010, and having stood virtually alone among nations in holding banks to account in the wake of the global financial crisis, Iceland is a global leader both in gender equality and in confronting corporate power. We are inspired by your boldness and innovation in protecting children, honoring women’s rights to safety and equality, and maintaining the integrity of Icelandic culture against the onslaught of an unrestrained industry of sexual exploitation. As a group of similarly committed scholars, activists, and professionals across the globe, we stand with you and look forward to seeing the final result of your efforts.
Thanks to our friends at ‘The Illusionist’ for this blog post on Dove. With the deluge of lovey-dovey isn’t Dove wonderful guff all over the social media stratosphere, it was refreshing to read this piece which sums up all that is wrong with the so-called ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. So what if they make cool videos? Does that justify everything else the company does? Collective Shout has had Dove in its sights since our inception four years ago, and its parent company Unilever continues to appear on our annual ‘Cross ‘em off your XMAS list’
This week my inbox was flooded with emails from friends and acquaintances – who had forwarded me the link to the latest Dove “Real Beauty” video, highlighting the disconnect between women’s perceptions of their own attractiveness and how outsiders see them. The point of the video is to show that women are often too critical of their looks. I was glad to see how this video sparked important conversations in the blogosphere and social media. But there’s a dark side to Dove that many people are unaware of.
I had written a blog post about some problematic aspects of Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign back in October 2008. Recently, while researching material for my feature-length documentary, I came across more evidence that supported my earlier points. Thing is – I’ve been reluctant to speak up about these issues for several reasons. The key ones:
Dove’s campaigns are the only ones that – at least on the surface – promote positive body image, in an ocean of toxic advertising set to make women feel insecure about their looks
I am acquainted with several people connected to Dove’s Real Beauty campaign – they’re good-intentioned people I deeply respect and admire.
I actually really like Dove’s videos
So, I considered these issues and thought about the latest email I received from my friend S. I wondered, would she feel that same way if she knew the other side of the story? My hunch: probably not. Staying quiet would be the easy thing to do. But is it the right thing to do?
So, without further ado, I am addressing the big elephant in the room. Below you will find my original post about Dove – with some tweaks and updates reflecting new evidence I recently discovered.
About three months ago, upon completing the first phase of research for my film, I held two slideshow presentations in front of an audience of friends, acquaintances, and a few people working in the TV/movie industry in Paris. Very much in the style of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”
At the heart of the presentation is the assertion that the obsession over the pursuit of the perfect female body is one of the integral parts of the capitalist system. If women were suddenly content with their appearance – accepting their body size, skin tone, wrinkles, graying hair, and the size and shape of their breasts, amongst other things – entire industries would collapse. Indeed worldwide revenues for cosmetics, dieting products, and cosmetic surgery totaled almost 500 billion dollars in 2006. Thus the saturation of images in advertising and mass media promoting an idealized, surgically-enhanced beauty that is impossible to achieve.
Well, during my presentations I would invariably get asked about the company Dove and its campaign for “Real Beauty.” Wasn’t that refreshingly positive? People would ask. It is a question that comes up every time I talk about my project. The short answer? Yes and no.
The people at Dove have actually exploited a void in the marketplace. By introducing so-called women with “real” bodies, they distinguished themselves from their competitors. According to the New Yorker, after the introduction of their “Real Beauty” campaign, Dove’s sales shot up 700% in the U.K. Read more here.
And what about this, also brought to you by Unilever?
Topless women in newspapers are not ‘tough, rough, challenging’ ideas’
In a piece titled ‘Politician-Led Attack on Media Freedom is a Sentence on the public’, in The Australian last Thursday, Spiked Online editor Brendan O’Neill wrote an impassioned defence of free speech. O’Neill argued that attacks on press freedom were not only attacks on those who write and publish but also on the reader – hurting the “man on the street”. He condemned the “licensing of the press by the back door, the use of extreme financial pressure to make every paper, mag and zine bow before new codes of conduct.” He described (now failed) moves to regulate the press in Australia as a “wicked undermining” of the readers’ right to exercise their own moral judgement about the content. “…restrictions on the press are a sentence on the public, passed by elites who think we morons cannot handle tough or rough or challenging ideas”.
Tough, rough, challenging…
I support him on that. I’m all for giving as many column inches as possible to touch, rough and challenging ideas.
But O’Neill fails the argument when he includes as an example of content deserving the protection of free speech, the Page 3 semi-naked images of women, a regular feature in Britain’s The Sun newspaper. He labels as “censorious feminists” those who condemn the objectified and sexist images (over 87,000 so far in a Change petition, see below). Labelling the images as merely “saucy”, O’Neill mockingly collapsing the argument against them as being “because it makes men rapacious.”
By including The Sun’s Page 3 girls feature in his passionate treatise against the “mugging of press freedom”, O’Neil has undermined that fragile right. I was about to write about why, when I came across this piece by writer and actress Lucy-Anne Holmes, in Women’s Views on News (originally published in Huffington Post). Holmes has summarised it perfectly: “We are all affected by Page Three whether we buy it or not, because we all live in a society where the most widely read paper in the country makes ‘normal’ the idea that women are there primarily for men’s sexual pleasure.”
‘If you don’t like it don’t buy it’ – Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?
Guest post by Lucy-Anne Holmes, writer and actress currently working on the No More Page 3 campaign ‘to take the bare boobs out of the Sun’ newspaper.
This article appeared in The Huffington Post on 15 March 2013.
I’ve got a confession to make. I may have been a bit silly starting the No More Page 3 campaign. You see, someone just tweeted us something. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it”, the tweet read.
There was I, ballistically campaigning about Page Three being damaging when, oh, I really am feeling very stupid now, because I could just not buy it and everything would be fine. So, I’ll be off then. Sorry about that. Or rather. No. Just no.
There are so many reasons why “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” doesn’t work as an argument for Page 3, that I will be breaking out the big gun bullet points.
So, here goes. This is for you, Mr If You Don’t Like It Don’t Buy It and all the others before you, and that includes you, Nick Clegg.
1) I was most affected by these images at the age of 11 when my breasts were developing and my brother and his mates would be commenting on Page Three girls breasts everyday. I really looked up to my big brother and this situation taught me that my breasts were only there for men to look at. Mine fell short of the ones that were in the daily newspaper, therefore I was failing somehow and I was ashamed. I didn’t buy it.Read more here.
IT WAS International Women’s Day last Friday. We were supposed to celebrate but I struggled to get into party mood.
The 101st anniversary of the global event acknowledged the economic, political and social achievements of women. But the relentless onslaught of harms and injuries to women and girls continues and I wonder, has anything really changed?
Violence against women is a scourge on the planet. Millions of women and girls trafficked into sexual slavery, female genital mutilation, honour killings, dowry deaths, forced marriage, female foeticide and infanticide.
According to the UN, about 200 million girls in the world today are missing. India and China are believed to eliminate more baby girls than the number of girls born in the US each year.
Women and girls are ground down in so many parts of the world. They are at risk of violence at every stage of their lives: from conception to old age. That was vividly illustrated for me during a visit to a shelter for women and girls in Hyderabad, India. On the bottom level were the abandoned baby girls, many with broken limbs from being thrown on to garbage heaps. On the second were the abandoned pregnant girls and women. And on top were the discarded widows.
Every day some new atrocity against women and girls is reported. A 15-year-old girl in the Maldives was sentenced to 100 lashes. Why? Because she had pre-marital sex. Actually she was raped by her stepfather, who killed the resulting baby.
And of course the death by gang rape of 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey in New Delhi. Rape is the fastest-growing crime in India. Delhi’s police commissioner compared women being raped to men being pickpocketed.
The conviction rate for rapes in India in 2011 was just 26.4 per cent. That seems bad, doesn’t it? Compare it with 5.7 per cent of convictions in England and Wales. And in the US, 97 per cent of rapists will get off scot free.
Reeva Steenkamp’s death brought to light that one South African is woman killed every six hours by her partner.
In Australia, violence against women costs the taxpayer an estimated $13.6 billion. Yet the mistreatment of women is routinely used in entertainment, fashion and advertising, even treated as a laugh. At the Oscars, host Seth MacFarlane’s sang We saw your boobs, a song about all the women in the audience whose breasts he had seen on screen.
MacFarlane seemed to miss the rapes and bashings, but at least he got to see naked breasts.
Men’s T-shirts collapse rape into a punch line, with slogans like: “It’s not rape if you yell surprise” and “Relax it’s just sex”, depicting the bound body of a naked woman spattered in blood, sold in youth surf stores. Online retailer Amazon had shirts printed with “Keep calm and rape a lot”. Another in the same line says, “Keep calm and hit her”.
Zoo magazine, read by 28,000 boys aged 14-17 a month, features two halves of a woman and invites readers to describe what they’d like to do to the disembodied half they prefer. Zoo is sold in supermarkets.
Facebook promotes violence against women: “Cleaning foundation off your sword after a hard day of hunting sluts, Dragging sluts into your room unconscious in a sack, You know she’s playing hard to get when she takes out a restraining order, I like my women how I like my Scotch, 10 years old and locked in my basement” are some examples.
“Rape is such a strong word, I prefer struggle snuggle” was shared widely through social media not long ago.
Sexual assault worker Alison Grundy says: “If we continue to subject future generations of young men to great barrages of aggressive, misogynist, over-sexualised and violent imagery in pornography, movies, computer games and advertising, we will continue to see the rates of sexual violence against women and children that continue unabated today. Or worse.”
But there are signs of hope. Women and girls are pushing back and demanding change. We saw it in the streets of India. We saw it in the response to the shooting in Pakistan of Malala Yuousafzai, who was shot because she wanted to go to school.
One Billion Rising (representing the number of female victims of violence) events have been held around the world. In Melbourne last month survivors of sexual assault launched a new book of their stories “We will not go quietly”, speaking out against sexual violence.
International Women’s Day should be an opportunity not to shy away from the difficult ugly truths, or be overwhelmed and depressed, but to name and shame them, harness our anger and be part of the solution.
Feminist Conversations is a regular feature here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Melinda Tankard Reist, co-editor of Big Porn Inc: Exposing the harms of the global pornography industry. Melinda is also the co-founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation.
How did you become interested in researching pornography?
There were a few things that came together around the same time. Women started telling me their stories of being hurt and harmed by a partner’s compulsive porn use. In my talks in schools, teen girls shared with me the pressure they felt to provide a porn-style performance, to act, essentially, as a sexual service station for men and boys. They were expected to provide naked images of themselves, to provide sexual services. As well, the sex industry was dominating and colonising every public space and was rarely brought to account. I began to talk to my publishers about what I was hearing. Spinifex had published an earlier book in 2004 titled Not for Sale: feminists resisting prostitution and pornography edited by Christine Stark and Rebecca Whisnant. It was a powerful book. But so much had happened since then, especially with the internet being used to globalise and spread pornography. We felt that a new book on pornography was needed. It also seemed to be a natural progression from my previous book Getting Real: challenging the sexualisation of girls, published by Spinifex in 2009.
There seems to be an overall consensus in the book that pornography is the same (or similar to) prostitution. Can you explain the similarities?
Yes, the writers in the book would mostly argue that pornography is filmed (or graphically depicted) prostitution. Melissa Farley uses the term ‘infinite prostitution’. The pornography industry has many of the features of the prostitution industry–it needs to procure women through trafficking, it relies on pimps to mediate transactions with the women who will be used, and the women it procures generally have histories of sexual abuse, poverty and homelessness. Pornography is advertising for prostitution and normalises the sexual exploitation of women. As well, men often want to act out what they see in porn on ‘live’ women. Pornography is often used as a form of initiation into prostitution. It’s also the case that women in pornography are concurrently being prostituted off-set, or go on to be used in systems of prostitution and stripping. The overlap between the prostitution and pornography businesses is so great that we might see them as operating in parallel, or perhaps as one larger sex industry. However, I think it’s also important to understand the differences between the pornography and prostitution sectors of the sex industry, and Big Porn Inc highlights these differences for pornography in particular. Firstly, the abuses that women undergo in pornography have a permanent or semi-permanent record made of them in the form of film, etc. This record causes many women great hardship and stress, because they feel they can never escape their past, and suffer anxiety at the prospect that anyone they meet throughout their lives has seen the pornography. They are also vulnerable to blackmail over it. The permanency of pornography causes particular suffering for women whose childhood sexual abuse was filmed as child pornography and shared by their abusers. Another aspect of the pornography industry that might distinguish it from the rest of the sex industry is the culture of ‘celebrity’ and ‘glamour’ that has developed around the industry in the last ten years. Jenna Jameson and Sascha Grey have been central to the promotion of the idea that pornography is a way for poor girls to escape their lives and become rich and famous, but of course the reality of the industry for the overwhelming majority of women/girls is that they are used up in around three months because of the extremity of the abuse and degradation of contemporary pornography. However, this culture of celebrity is very attractive to poor girls, and unfortunately draws them to the industry in a way that doesn’t necessarily happen for prostitution businesses. It means that the pornography industry is able to attract particularly young women, and in increasingly large numbers. The industry is normalised among younger generations to an extent that prostitution is not, because of widespread consumption of pornography among this generation, and the celebration of pornography by the popular media and culture. A third difference between the pornography and prostitution industries is the diversity of forms pornography takes–it is possible for women/girls to be sold as pornography through being used by their ‘boyfriends’ in front of home-based webcams, for example. While it is also common that ‘boyfriends’ pimp women through their homes, in the case of pornography this pimping is made difficult to recognise as illegal because of technology and the glamorising of pornography. There are businesses dedicated to the pimping of women through pay-per-view webcams, as well as pornography made of women being used through brothels. This diversity in the mode of business that pornography takes means that the industry is able to expand with very little scrutiny and opposition, let alone government oversight. The industry essentially operates in unchartered, frontier space in the absence of any controls whatsoever. Governments and societies worldwide are overwhelmed by the diversity of the sex industry, and so far haven’t managed to enact any governance frameworks at all that might curb its expansion and domination over culture and the economy.
What is your overall message about pornography that the book also highlights?
I think a major theme of the book is that the first and most egregious harm of pornography is to the women and girls who are used to make it. While the harm of pornography does extend to women much more widely, when we think about pornography we must think about the women who are harmed in its production first. This is because women/girls used in pornography are perhaps the most vulnerable and exploited population in our society. They are often racially marginalised, as well as victims of childhood sexual abuse, homelessness, and addiction. Their life chances are very poor, and even more so after they have been through the pornography industry. The writing in Big Porn Inc against the pornography industry mostly prioritises the interests of these women/girls in the way it does not make distinctions between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ pornography, or ‘better’ and ‘worse’ forms of pornography. For the women and girls used in the industry, these distinctions are often meaningless, because the same women are used in both types of pornography production. Often they start out in ‘soft’ production, but then must be used in more violent and degrading productions to be able to make money and stay in the industry. For these women and girls, the chance to lead a life of quality and dignity depends on our efforts to dismantle the sex industry and create social services and facilities that will allow them to recover from childhood sexual abuse, to escape homelessness, and escape pimps or exploitative ‘boyfriends’. In addition to these women, of course, pornography harms many others, including the children who are sexually abused through perpetrators showing them pornography, as well as wives/girlfriends who are pressured to ‘act’ out scenes in pornography, and girls and boys who grow up seeing pornography as a ‘model’ for sexual relationships and never have a chance at understanding what true physical affection and tenderness looks like. Average age of first exposure to porn is 11. This is distorting and warping young people’s views of their bodies, relationships and sex. I believe it is an unprecedented assault on the healthy sexuality young people.
The trend in pornography seems for “sex” to be increasingly violent and aggressive. Can you explain why that is?
Yes, as Gail Dines and others show, the pornography industry over time has definitely escalated its violence against women and the level of degradation and humiliation it inflicts. Researchers have gathered empirical evidence that the more popular forms of pornography are the ones that are more violent and overtly degrading of women. Torture porn has become increasingly popular, rape sites, live S&M and bondage in which women are brutalised in whatever way the viewer requests. And it’s all becoming more and more mainstream. For example the documentary film Kink is about to screen at the Sundance Film Festival. The Kink website shows images of women in extreme positions of pain and torture. It seems it’s not even about ‘sex’ anymore – it’s about how much brutality and degradation a woman can cope with. And this is where many young men take their cues for relating sexually to women.
What is your response when people state that there are no victims in porn (just consenting adults)?
Linda Boreman’s (Lovelace) account of her time in the pornography industry where she was brutalised and forced into its production shows this claim to be untrue. Traci Lords’s use in pornography as a sixteen-year-old also shows that the industry does not always use adult women. Even women who glamorise their time in the pornography industry sometimes describe aspects of its brutality, such as Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale in which she describes being incapacitated for six hours after a sex scene in which she was injured internally. The notion of ‘consent’ that proponents of the sex industry use to justify their moneymaking activities is an extremely impoverished one. The idea that young women surviving childhood sexual abuse who are homeless and being pimped by a ‘boyfriend’ are making a ‘choice’ to enter the pornography industry is laughable. The ‘consent’ invoked for women used in pornography is nothing more than a legal ploy to allow the filming of prostitution and sexual abuse (and sometimes overt physical torture) without the threat of arrest and prosecution. These activities are allowed to take place in society only because the cover of ‘sex’ makes them somehow different from what they really are, which is rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and exploitation.
When did you first consider yourself a feminist and what influenced that decision?
It is difficult to identify one key moment. There was a dawning recognition about the global maltreatment of women. It was, I suppose, recognising the second-class status of women pretty much everywhere. I have travelled a lot and witnessed the abuse of women in so many parts of the world. You just have to look at the raw statistic on violence, ‘honour’ killings, dowry deaths, female genital mutilation, child brides, forced abortion, forced sterilisation, female foeticide, female infanticide, the systematic elimination of women and girls in so many ways. I recall being in a shelter in Hyderabad, India. On the bottom level were the abandoned baby girls; many plucked from rubbish heaps, with bruises and broken bones. On the second level were the abandoned pregnant girls and women. On the top level were the abandoned widows. Three layers of discrimination against women, all in that one home.
What does feminism mean to you?
It means working to change the second-class status of women. To addressing the real, felt needs of women (I was privileged to help set up a supported accommodation and outreach service for women and girls pregnant and without support in Australia.) To advocating for women and girls everywhere and all the time. It means trying to make the world better for my three daughters and the daughters of other women as well. It means engaging in grass roots activism and empowering other women to speak out, through movements like Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation (www.collectiveshout.org) It also means working in solidarity with the best people I have ever met.
In I think every anti-rape campaign I’ve seen, the responsibility is on women and girls not to get raped. Do this, don’t do that, don’t go home with a stranger, don’t drink too much, don’t travel on your own, you can use your keys as a weapon, etc. And if women don’t do these things and something bad happens? Well, they just weren’t careful enough.
I’m not saying that women shouldn’t ignore the dangers. When one in three women are sexually assaulted, of course women are wary. In this environment, women are fearful and already take precautions even though they shouldn’t have to.
We live in a culture that glamourises and eroticises violence against women, as I’ve written before. This culture gives permission to men to treat women badly and pretend that’s what they want.
But how refreshing for a change to see responsibility placed exactly where it lies. These new posters are a continuation of a campaign launched two years ago by the Edmonton (Canada) police department.
We could use some of these posters here. Especially given the AFL in its Respect and Responsibility manual, has to explain that if a woman is out of it, she can’t agree to sex. Under a section of checklist items to help a man know consent has been given, it states:
When is consent freely given? When she’s conscious – AWAKE!
The AFL (Australian Football League) is committed to tackling the issues of violence against women. Their support of White Ribbon has been long standing with many AFL managers and players participating in White Ribbon’s Ambassador Program, and their commitment to driving change is also reflected through their respect and responsibility programs.
Their commitment to driving change is reflected through their respect and responsibility programs.
The fact is that the AFL is neglecting its responsibility to address and discipline Buddy Franklin for depicting women in degrading and sexist ways in a clothing line he co-owns. I wrote about it in my Sunday Herald Sun column.
White Ribbon gets money from the AFL. In turn, the AFL gets White Ribbon Day endorsement which makes them look good.
Of course we support any efforts to eradicate violence against women. We believe it is imperative that good men speak out against this epidemic. We commend White Ribbon for continuing to educate and create awareness about this issue and for “denouncing initiatives that objectify or exploit women.”
Last year White Ribbon joined 64 other experts and organisations as a signatory to an open letter Collective Shout published, titled ‘Retailers urged to cease the sale and distribution of porn t.shirts’. The letter protested the growing trend of men’s clothing with porn- themed and sexually objectifying images of women’s bodies. We were pleased to have White Ribbon on board.
It’s therefore troubling to us that campaign heads have said nothing about Franklin or about the AFL’s refusal to act. We hope sponsorship doesn’t buy silence.
We wrote to White Ribbon back in July about this. There has so far been no reply.
We also had the opportunity to raise the matter directly with the AFL in September. Still no reply.
‘Our Say’ invited readers to post a question they would like to have asked at the AFL Grand Final lunch at the Melbourne Press Club September 20. Collective Shout’s WA coordinator Caitlin Roper sent in this question, which attracted the most votes to be asked at the function.
The AFL’s Respect and Responsibility Policy “represents the Australian Football League’s commitment to addressing violence against women and to work towards creating safe, supportive and inclusive environments for women and girls across the football industry as well as the broader community”. Hawthorn player Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin is part owner of Nena and Pasadena and Neverland (clothing) store, a brand renowned for its clothing with sexually objectifying and degrading imagery of women. Franklin currently features in promotional videos and images both on the brand’s website and in national clothing retailers like City Beach. Despite protests, the AFL have failed to address Franklin’s continued breach of the R&R policy. Why has the AFL failed to address this?
However the lunch was cancelled following the tragic death of AFL footballer John McCarthy. ‘Our Say’ have told us they asked the panelists to answer Caitlin’s question, but so far she’s heard nothing. The following article by Caitlin is an expanded version of a post that appeared at Our Say (they censored some of the more distressing stuff). Here’s the uncensored version.
Picture women naked on all fours, topless, headless and faceless, women handcuffed and bound, naked on the ground. Or even just various body parts, a naked backside, exposed breasts, a torso. Women sexually objectified, posed in weak, vulnerable poses and reduced to mere sexy body parts. Apparently this is Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin’s idea of respect for women.
I first came across ‘Nena and Pasadena’, Franklin’s pornographic fashion line, in February of 2011. It was hard to miss, given a billboard featuring the AFL star wearing a shirt depicting a women’s backside.
The Respect and Responsibility Policy represents the Australian Football League’s commitment to addressing violence against women and to work towards creating safe, supportive and inclusive environments for women and girls across the football industry as well as the broader community.
The Respect and Responsibility Policy is about shifting attitudes – ensuring that people throughout the Australian Football industry are aware, and have structures in place, that recognize that violence against women and behavior that harms or degrades women, is never acceptable.
Surely t-shirt images that depicted women as objects to provide sexual gratification could not be in line with this policy? Concerned citizens, including supporters of Collective Shout, contacted the AFL back in February of last year, with no response. As a mother of a six-year-old beginning Auskick, I became uncomfortable with the supposed role models my son might be looking up to.
Nena and Pasadena’s own website listed Franklin as a ‘co-director’, as well as using his modeling images for marketing purposes. Franklin’s twitter named himself as ‘part-owner’ of the brand and the Neverland Store, a Melbourne store where he sold these and similar items. Franklin’s AFL profile was used to promote the brand on their website and Facebook page.
Fifteen months later, still with no response from the AFL regarding Buddy’s blatant breach of their policy, Collective Shout published a blog post containing evidence of Nena and Pasadena’s misogyny from their Facebook page. Pictures of semi-naked women were frequently posted, where fans were invited to rank them. Slogans like “F*ck bitches, get money” and a pornographic campaign video were shared. Fans were asked their best strategies for getting women into bed. Here are a few responses:
“Drop a roofie”
“I like to call it ‘the fight and struggle’”
“The skull drag to the bushes and then duck tape the mouth move”
“I hope to God they can’t run faster than me down that alleyway”
Nena and Pasadena encouraged jokes about raping women with their reply, “Keep em coming guys – this is very entertaining!”
Once the Herald Sun had picked up the story, and after fifteen months of ignoring the issue, the AFL suddenly felt compelled to condemn Franklin’s clothing line and claimed they would be “considering their options”. Franklin issued a statement the following day denying any significant involvement with the brand he had previously tweeted as ‘my brand’, ‘my store’. You can find photographic evidence of Franklin’s damage control here.
Months later my friends and Collective Shout Melbourne reps, Calvin and Lisa attended a game at the MCG along with a banner that read “Give porn tees the boot Buddy”, and within minutes, security had confiscated and destroyed it.
Members of the public continued to protest via twitter, using the official match hashtag. Hundreds of people signed an online petition to Hawthorn Football Club and the AFL.
It has been almost two years since the AFL have known about Buddy’s porn t-shirts, yet they have remained essentially silent, taking no effective action to uphold their own policy. When will we see the AFL taking sexism seriously? After countless allegations of players involved in sexual assault and now Franklin profiting from the degradation of women, maybe we don’t need to hear from the AFL. Their silence is deafening, telling us all we need to know.
‘These uppity women, you let them go to school and then they get involved in politics and then they don’t want to be hit and it’s POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD and what’s a bloke to do?’
In response to Prime Minister Julia Gillard announcing aid to the Pacific to raise the status of women to help end domestic violence, broadcaster Alan Jones responded that women in politics are “destroying the joint”.
I missed all the action because I was also destroying the joint, tearing it up on quad bikes on the Newcastle sand dunes with a fellow activist, in the middle of a solid week of wall to wall speaking gigs in Queensland and NSW (the best stress buster ever, you should try it!).
He’s got a point, though. These uppity women, you let them go to school and then they get involved in politics and then they don’t want to be hit and it’s POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD and what’s a bloke to do? Sheesh.
Jones then repeated his suggestion that women in positions of power should be drowned: “There’s no chaff bag big enough for these people”. (By the way, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for his sports and charity work for children and young people. Does he know that Youth off the Streets and the Starlight Foundation help girl children as well as boy children? Has someone told him that girl children grow up to be These People?)
Thanks to Jane Caro, the hashtags #destroythejoint and #destroyingthejoint were all over twitter on the weekend. Instead of insulting the man who seems a little too comfortable with violence against women – in April he said that trying to stab your ex-girlfriend to death is just “Shakespearean”, plus, you know, saying that women should be drowned – everyone just took the piss out of his statement…
Some Tweeps expressed concern that the attention was feeding Alan Jones’ desire for publicity. I understand their concerns, but #destroythejoint was about laughing at Alan’s misogyny, showing solidarity through ridiculing the suggestion that women were out to #destroythejoint. It was an opportunity to respond for every woman who has received a put down comment that irrelevantly cites her gender.
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