UPDATE: California Kisses removes paedophilic ‘pop that’ ads after Collective Shout pressure
In April Collective Shout ran a piece by Jemma Nicoll (first published on MTR) exposing the harmful online practices of global dancewear label California Kisses (CK). The company’s homepage advertisement featured three models aged 12-16 posed alongside the slogan ‘Pop That’, a popular porn-inspired phrase referring to the ‘popping’ of her cherry, or the taking of virginity.
The article called CK to account on its unmonitored social media activity- almost 300,000 followers, mostly teenage girls, were exposed to online trolls posting abusive, paedophilic comments on the images of CK child models.
On 29 April, Collective Shout wrote to the four Australian dancewear retailers that stock CK, including Showcase- the licence-holders for on-selling the label in Australia. We invited stockists to respond by removing the label from their stores and letting the company know, until CK decided to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and ethical online practices.
Showcase did not respond. Out of the other retailers contacted – Tu Tu Cute Dance Supplies, Pirouette and Daisy Dancewear -Collective Shout received only one patronizing email reply from Tutu Cute Dance Supplies in Perth, WA which showed complete disregard for the online safety of young girls and ethical practices in children’s advertising:
CK did not respond directly to the accusations made in the piece or to the general outrage expressed on social media in response. However we note that the company has since quietly removed the ‘Pop That’ slogan from their on-line advertising. CK’s Instagram account is currently clear of paedophilic comments.
Thanks to all who helped us put pressure on CK to stop borrowing from a porn genre in their dance wear advertising.
Our investigation continues: Dancewear company does nothing to stop men posting fantasies about young dance models
Two weeks ago I ran this piece by Sydney dance teacher and writer Jemma Nicoll, about the sexification of young dancers inside Australia’s booming dance studio scene.
It became one of the most popular pieces I’ve ever published here at MTR.
In this continuing investigation,Jemma has now uncovered more about the seedy underside of the industry, including sext-up styling and posing of girls in ads for dance wear.
Pop a 12 year-olds virginity says global dancewear company
The girl on your left is 16.
The one in the middle is 14.
The one to your right, she’s 12 years old.
And the dancewear company they model for think it’s OK to exploit them for male paedophiliac fantasies.
‘Pop that’. For those who are unaware, this is a porn-inspired phrase referring to the ‘popping’ of her cherry – taking her virginity. It’s a popular porn genre.
It is also the phrase superimposed over the three child models on the homepage of California Kisses (CK); a popular American dance wear label currently advertising for new Australian stockists. The dancers featured are posed coyly in CK’s renowned crop and booty short combinations.
In a recent advertisement for the label, CK feature a girl who appears to be around 5-7 years of age dressed in a brief French Maid’s outfit.
The brand currently supply to four Australian stockists including Showcase: the largest dance competition event in the country. Together, Showcase and CK held the ‘California Kisses Australian Model Search’ in January, with the crowned winner receiving an all-expenses paid trip to the U.S for a modeling shoot with the company.
The parent company of Showcase is Global Events & Entertainment Pty Ltd, which holds the exclusive license to on-sell CK stock in Australia. Last week they invited all Australian dancewear retailers to submit an application to stock the CK label.
CK has a global following of over 278,000 users on Instagram. On reading the comments that flood their account daily, their audience can be compartmentalised into two: dancers as young as 10, and older men who blatantly express their gratification at the little girls posing in the CK range. Here is a sample of what the company allow on their page for thousands of girls to see.
‘Give me a blowy’
‘F*** her right in the pussy’
‘Nice body for f***’
‘Nice position for f***’
‘I enjoy this photo’
‘Small as breasticles’
‘[Too] flat chested. What’s the reason to wear that if there’s nothing?’
‘This b**** is anorexic’
‘So cute girl’,
‘I want to marry her’, ‘
Hey how old are you?’
After clicking on a serial commenter who appreciates many of the company’s images, I arrived at the profile of a middle-aged man smiling proudly alongside his wife and two sons.
After pasting one of many foreign comments by Middle-Eastern men into Google translator, I can now say ‘absolutely gorgeous’ in the Farsi dialect.
Among the pedophiliac comments are those of thousands of young girls despising their own bodies and publicly shaming the faces, bellies, breasts and thighs of others. ‘I’m so fat I don’t stand a chance’ says one, with crying face emoticon and a gun pointing towards it.
With advertising and online practices like these, we call on Australian dancewear companies to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and not go near the CK brand. Current Australian stockists should remove the CK brand.
California Kisses needs to clean up its act and do right by the thousands of young girls that follow their every move.
Jemma Nicoll is a UTS Journalism graduate and freelance writer. She directs Inspire Creative Arts, a dance school in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire and is involved in mentoring and self-esteem development programs for girls.
Pathologizing disagreement is an intellectually dishonest way to cope with challenging arguments.
The MTR blog is fast becoming something of a shrine to the work of prolific and award winning blogger Meghan Murphy. Here’s her latest, from Canada’s Globe and Mail.
Meghan Murphy is a Vancouver writer and journalist and founder of the website Feminist Current.
Talk about “safe spaces” has been spreading amid a high-profile series of incidents at universities in North America and Europe, leading many to argue that today’s students need to develop thicker skins. These debate-free zones are presented as a way of protecting individuals from potentially traumatic experiences, but the reality is much more pernicious – and the issue extends far beyond campus politics.
We’re not talking here about the kinds of private spaces that allow individuals to organize, heal or meet among themselves on their own terms. Female victims of rape and abuse, for example, need access to “safe spaces” that are free from men and abusers. People of colour should have every right to meet privately among themselves. These are basic tenets that marginalized groups ascribe to when struggling against systems of power. But these are limited, designated spaces – it’s another thing altogether to appropriate wider public places or events, college campuses and public social-media forums, such as Twitter.
As a feminist, I understand that ideas and words are not harmless. But the recent pushback hasn’t targeted people pushing racist or misogynist doctrine. Instead, people are arguing that the very act of questioning positions they consider to be “right” constitutes hate speech. Academics and journalists, even ones who are advancing long-standing feminist and anti-imperialist arguments, are finding themselves blacklisted because their ideas challenge a liberal status quo.
There are a number of recent examples from the prostitution debate alone:
English journalist Julie Bindel was removed from a London panel discussing a documentary about a prostitution survivor because of protests by groups that want to legalize the sex industry. (Ms. Bindel advocates for the Nordic model of law, recently adopted in Canada but opposed by many mainstream feminists.)
After Pulitzer-winning journalist Chris Hedges wrote an article condemning the sex industry as “the quintessential expression of global capitalism,” the organizer of a Vancouver conference about “resource capitalism” was threatened with a boycott if the journalist’s keynote speech – scheduled for delivery Friday night – was allowed to proceed.
Feminist comedian Kate Smurthwaite’s show at Goldsmiths, University of London, was cancelled last month due to complaints about her position on prostitution. Ironically, it was free speech, not prostitution, that was to have been the focus of her show.
The Cambridge Union was asked to withdraw its speaking invitation to feminist icon Germaine Greer, who was accused of “hate speech” because she said she wasn’t sure she believed transphobia was a thing.
It’s not just campuses, though, where people are using the “safe space” concept to silence those they disagree with. The Block Bot is an online incarnation of “safe space” – it’s a website whose service aims to protect Twitter users from “trolls, abusers and bigots.” Put aside the point that any Twitter user can already block anyone they wish at any given time – the way the application has been put into effect shows that its professed purpose does not match its actual impact.
Rather than weeding out users who aim to harass or threaten, the application seeks to compile a list of political dissidents, labelling users who step out of line with a variety of slurs. I myself was added to “Level 2” for expressing polite disappointment that a sexual-assault centre had taken a position in favour of decriminalizing the purchase of sex.
Thousands of others, including noteworthies such as New Statesman deputy editor Helen Lewis, physicist Brian Cox, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez, are listed on the Block Bot – guilty not of trolling, harassing or abusing but of having opinions “blockers” disagree with. The entire site, as a result, has recently faced libel warnings.
What’s troubling about efforts to silence those whose beliefs we find distasteful is not just the implications of censorship and libel, but the dishonesty of it all.
Claims that particular conversations or debates will cause us to “feel unsafe” are, in these contexts, little more than an excuse to shut down dissenting points of view. It puts those dissenters in the awkward position of having to dispute their accuser’s mental stability or claims of emotional trauma instead of allowing them to respond to the real issue: political disagreement. You can argue with someone who says “I want to ban this particular speaker from a panel because I disagree with her position,” but it’s more difficult to challenge someone who says “This person makes me feel unsafe.”
Pathologizing disagreement is an intellectually dishonest way to cope with challenging arguments. It certainly doesn’t support critical thinking.
It also creates a culture wherein people are afraid to express dissenting opinions or question the party line. This is ironic, because many of those under threat of being silenced are people who are speaking out against abuse, harassment and violence. While some may hold “controversial” opinions about how best to do it, they are just that – controversial. Throughout history, our heroes and radicals have held controversial opinions. How often do tepid opinions and fearfulness change the world for the better?
It’s time proponents of this kind of “safe space” start being forthright in their accusations. It’s okay to disagree, but not to frame differences of opinion as abuse. Those working to silence the disagreeable might imagine the day they question peers themselves, then ask whether they are prepared to choose between silence or blacklisting.
The rape T.shirt is a micros example of the normalisation of rape culture in fashion and pop culture. Laura McNally highlights the global currency of sexual violence against women, below.
Stop glorifying rape and violence. Abide by your Content Usage Policy by moderating content before it goes live on your site.
Powered By Girl
Last week we found a product on CafePress titled “Rape, Christmas Long Sleeve T-Shirt.”
Other recent products include “RAPED Oval Decal” sticker, “Feeling raped Ash Grey T-shirt” and a mug printed with the words “I could rape a cup of tea.”
These are just a few examples of many products that have featured on CafePress that trivialise rape and sexual violence.
Products such as these are always removed quickly for breaching CafePress’ Content Usage Policy [this one is still there]. But they shouldn’t be on its website in the first place. It is no use removing a product promoting rape after a survivor of rape has been triggered by it, or some viewers have already internalised it as “normal” and acceptable. The damage has already been done.
We’re calling on CafePress to remove all content that glorifies rape and violence from its website, and ensure that it adheres fully to its Content Usage Policy in the future, by moderating content before it goes live on the site.
Cafepress is an online shop where anyone can create and sell content, from t-shirts to phone-cases. It’s fantastic that we have a free platform to create content, but not when this content violates the rights of others and trivialises rape and violence.
Rape is not a fashion accessory. Although some content uploaders on CafePress obviously seem to think that it is. Rape is a horrific act of violence that devastates thousands of people’s lives. A popular website like CafePress should not be endorsing products that glorify it.
Cafe Press’ own Content Usage Policy lists the following under “Prohibited Content”;
Content that may violate the rights of any person or entity, including moral rights and rights of publicity or privacy.
Content that glorifies hatred, violence, racial, ethnic or religious intolerance.
Content that promotes illegal activities.
Content trivialising rape violates all 3 of these policies, and therefore CafePress has a responsibility to ensure that it is not on the website. Rape is immoral and promotes illegal activity. Worst of all, this content glorifies hatred and violence.
Christmas is fast approaching, and while it may be a happy time of year for many of us, violence against women increases dramatically during the Christmas period. Considering this, it’s disgusting that any website could be selling a product titled “Rape, Christmas Long Sleeve T-shirt.”
We’re calling on CafePress to abide by its Content Usage Policy and remove all content trivialising rape and violence. We’re asking CafePress to adhere properly to its Content Usage Policy so that we never see content glorifying rape and violence on its site again. Sign petition
The victims of anti-rape campaigns: Men on sexodus
By Laura McNally
If we consider that rape in marriage was legal up until recent decades in most OECD countries, or that rape is a necessary product of the global sex trade, or that rape is a systemic tool in war, or that rape convictions are near enough to nil in most countries, then it should be clear that ending rape would require a massive shift in global relations.
Between the pulling of Grand Theft Auto V from Target Australia and the increasing number of women who want to be treated like humans, men are under attack like never before.
A widely-read article by Milo Yiannopoulos, published at Breitbart, recently decried the excruciating oppression facing men, who, with the advent of women’s right to work and vote, are no longer able to use “girls” to solve their problems. A travesty of the highest sort. The author quotes one man:
“[it] wouldn’t be so bad if we could at least dull the pain with girls. But we’re treated like paedophiles and potential rapists just for showing interest”
These men claim they are earning less money, have less retirement funds and now, have to deal with “girls” who expect to be treated with respect. It’s unthinkable, really.
These men cannot even shop safely at Target anymore, knowing their right to prostitute and murder women within their gaming world is being scrutinized. What’s next? Equal pay? This madness has to stop.
Yiannopoulos informs us that women, surely, are the driving force behind decreasing social mobility, political disillusionment, and the fragmentation of the liberal democratic system. Presumably women’s rights are also to blame for the melting of the polar ice caps and the declining number of wild bees.
Apparently if women had never started with this “right to vote” bullshit, none of this would have happened.
The author has surely confused “feminism” with rampant capitalism, advanced globalization and the dearth of state governance. Undeterred by his errors, the author presents his case for why men are the real victims of the systems they created in order to maintain their own supremacy.
I agree with him on one thing: the pale male purveyors of globalized capitalism have shat in their own nests. But it’s not because of women that the systems underpinning capitalism are crumbling from the inside out.
The global economic system and its political counterparts are in a crisis of their own making. Women rallying to end rape have very little to do with this.
Yet according to Yiannopoulos, they do. Those pesky anti-rape seminars at American colleges are ruining men’s willingness to rape and with it their entire lives and the social fabric of society. Ironic then that he accuses women of hysteria…
The idea that rape is a central feature of the broader economic system is actually an important one. Yet the author fails to engage with this in any meaningful way (obviously).
If we consider that rape in marriage was legal up until recent decades in most OECD countries, or that rape is a necessary product of the global sex trade, or that rape is a systemic tool in war, or that rape convictions are near enough to nil in most countries, then it should be clear that ending rape would require a massive shift in global relations.
Ending rape, then, requires a radical revisioning of the systems that govern society and an acknowledgement of women as co-creators.
The idea that women may no longer be passive recipients of male-centric political, legal and economic systems is likely to unsettle those men who pin their egocentric notions of self-worth on traditional power relations over women.
Men who’ve sat at the pinnacle of such power relations may be disillusioned by the growing complexity and diversity around them. Perhaps they are asking “Why are black people in my workplace?”… “How could this woman be my manager and why can’t I force her into sex?” Apparently, some men have found themselves directly confronted by the notion that men should not rape. In fact, the author goes to the extent of calling new anti-rape law “unworkable, prudish and downright misandrist.”
Unsurprisingly, Yiannopoulos fails to provide any actual data to back up his woman-hating rhetoric. First person narrative from his bros who can’t be bothered with “chicks” anymore is enough to justify his hysterical claims that the world falling to pieces because “rape law.”
As luck would have it, this freshly-laid pile of anecdotal excrement is well-received by thousands of readers, none of whom seem to notice the stark lack of substantive evidence.
This stands in contrast to any article ever written on women’s rights, which is immediately torn apart by commenter-turned-statisticians who question the limitations of methodology, the lack of strength in p-values and repeat the only thing they remember from the research methods course they took in first year — “correlation is not causation.” Strangely, few seem to care for empiricism when it is women’s rights under fire.
We live in a society so accustomed to misogyny that the slightest move in favour of women’s human rights is misinterpreted as female supremacy. If precedent is anything to go by, these new misandry-laden rape laws will still see only a very small percentage of rapists ever being charged — hardly female supremacy at work. And the removal of GTA from a few retailers does not actually censor the world of depraved gaming, it merely sends a message about social responsibility.
The fact is that sex crimes against women are on the rise in many countries, self-harm, suicide and eating disorders in girls are burgeoning, and sex trafficking of the vulnerable is a booming business. Young women are under more sexual coercive pressure from men than ever before. There is no male ‘sexodus’ and in fact research suggests quite the opposite. The idea that men are now somehow suffering because rape laws make them feel rejected is surely hysteria at its peak.
Next week Breitbart has a special follow-up feature: “Why women are the biggest victims of women’s rights.” I can hardly wait.
Laura McNally is a psychologist, consultant, author and PhD
candidate. Her current research examines the political and social implications of global corporate social responsibility. Find more of her work at lauramcnally.com.
You may have heard about the misogynist antics of self-proclaimed “pick-up artist” and Real Social Dynamics (RSD) coach, Julien Blanc, whose recommendations for picking up women include grabbing women’s throats and pushing their faces into your crotch. Or you may have heard the sexist lyrics promoted by American entertainer, Redfoo, in his new single “Literally, I Can’t,” wherein women are encouraged to perform “girl on girl” for men at parties and, when they refuse, are instructed to “shut the fuck up.” If, like me, you walked away feeling offended by the actions of these men — I’m pleased to report that you were not alone.
Over the last month, both Blanc and Redfoo have been widely criticized by feminist activists and bloggers throughout Australia and North America. Recently, Blanc’s Visa was cancelled in Australia when a group of protesters picketed outside the venue where he was set to give one of his controversial RSD seminars — a protest that was spurred on by the hashtag, #takedownjulienblanc. Redfoo’s latest video sparked the hashtag #shutthefooup and prompted a Change.org petition demanding his dismissal as a judge from X Factor Australia.
I get excited to create things that will unite all of us through laughter, dance & celebration. If during the process I offend anyone, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. In the future I will be more mindful of the way I present my art.
Following Redfoo’s vague apology for his “excited” behaviour and contentious “art,” Blanc also issued an apology during an interview on CNN. In one excerpt of the five minute conversation, Blanc nervously says:
Like, I feel horrible. I’m not going to be happy to be the most hated man in the world. I’m overwhelmed by the way people are responding. With those pictures there that you’re referring to, of again, like, choking women, um, I just want to make that clear, that is not what I teach. Like, … those pictures right there, those were a horrible, horrible attempt at humour. Um, you know, it’s… you know, they were also, like, taken out of context…
On the surface, both Blanc and Redfoo appear to address the public’s concerns, but a closer inspection of their “apologies” reveals that the main reason they are sorry is because they feel they are either being misinterpreted or condemned. Indeed, while both Blanc and Redfoo use the words “sorry” and “apology” in their statements, what’s actually missing from their apologies is the apology itself.
In his memoir, The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch explains that there are three parts to giving a sincere apology: Identifying what you did wrong, assuring the offended party that you will not repeat your misbehaviour, and finally (and perhaps most importantly), asking what you can do to make it better. Both Blanc and Redfoo’s apologies fall short of providing what I consider to be a sincere apology, as they fail to critique (or understand the critique of) their misogynist behaviour and, as a consequence, cannot actually commit to changing their actions and making amends.
The lack of critical reflection in both Blanc and Redfoo’s ttempts to clarify their position shows how little they understand or care about the response to (or the impact of) their behaviour. Rather than discussing the systemic problem of men’s violence against women, which is where the vast majority of feminist activists are citing concern, both men hide behind the argument that their messages were taken “out of context” and claim they have been “misrepresented” — taken seriously when really it was all in good fun.
On Twitter, Redfoo accuses his critics of having an “agenda” and of failing to understand the supposedly “satirical” nature of his music, gaining the support of one Australian shock-jock who, during an interview with Redfoo, calls critics of his new song, “dickheads,” “do-gooder idiots,” and “Tupperware-collecting party-poopers.”*
Blanc also issues an apology that references “humour” as a way of, at least partially, justifying his actions, explaining that the offensive pictures of him on social media, some of which allude to sexually violent acts, were simply “taken out of context” and were intended to be funny.
Hiding behind a thin veil of humour to justify one’s misogyny is not new. Indeed, this notion has and been discussed at length by feminist writers such as Abigail Bray. In Misogyny Re-Loaded, Bray argues that, “if misogyny has a soundtrack it is canned laughter… Laughter instructs the audience that it is not only permissible to laugh at the oppression of women but that it is expected.”
Rather than apologizing and reflecting on the criticisms defining their actions as sexist and deplorable, Blanc and Redfoo minimize concern. Indeed, both men react with a sense of shock that their messages have caused outrage to begin with, with Blanc claiming he was “overwhelmed” by the attention his antics were receiving and Redfoo saying, “I don’t know how rape culture and Redfoo got into the same headline.” In an age where rape culture has become a topic for the lulz, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised.
Because Blanc and Redfoo fail to identify, acknowledge, and discuss the factors that sparked outrage to begin with, they are incapable of sincerely promising to change. While both men do make references to modifying their future actions, they do so in a vague and superficial way. Redfoo ensures his fans that, he will be “more mindful” when presenting his “art” in future, while Blanc explains that he is walking away from this experience hoping to “re-evaluat[e] everything” he posts online.
But what exactly do their “mindful re-evaluations” entail? How can someone truly make amends when they have not even identified why their actions sparked outrage to begin with? As readers, feminists, bloggers, and survivors of men’s violence, we are left with a series of apologies that fail to address our concerns at all — and we deserve better. An insincere apology is worse than receiving no apology at all.
*Note: I have only ever attended one Tupperware party when I was seven. I was offered a zucchini quiche and at no point was I told to “shut the fuck up.” TUPPERWARE PARTIES ROCK.
(reprinted with permission of author) Natalie Jovanovski is a PhD Candidate and Feminist Researcher from Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests include the harms of sexual objectification, the cultural reinforcement of eating disorders, and the discursive portrayal of food in contemporary Western media.
‘I have lost count of how many women have told me they have been raped. All of the rapists have gotten away with it while the women are burdened with years of unspeakable shame and self-hatred – an explosive new manifesto against rape culture’ (extract from Misogyny Re-loaded)
‘At least Emma isn’t advocating for sex predators. At least Emma isn’t advocating for pedophiles. At least Emma isn’t advocating for men who produce violent pornography. At least Emma isn’t advocating for human traffickers. At least Emma is advocating for women’
By Laura McNally
Emma Watson’s speech at the UN has made headlines worldwide. It wasn’t a bad speech. Like all women, Watson is doing the best she can with the information she has available to her.
Several feminists have already addressed some of the problematic aspects of her speech. Like many, I am critical of the strategies employed by transnational organizations like the UN. I am also critical of liberal feminism.
But as a woman who is most concerned with women’s liberation, I acknowledge that Emma Watson has created more awareness in ten minutes than I could in my lifetime.
So you know what is more problematic, male-centric, and piecemeal than Emma Watson’s speech?
Liberal feminist analysis. Let me give just a few examples:
2) Liberal feminism frames sexual violence in porn as an empowered choice for women.
3) Liberal feminism responds “Not All Porn” (#NAP) in the same way sexists respond “not all men” when we talk about male violence and misogyny. Feminists ought to be aware that criticism is aimed at cultures, classes, and industries — not individual people.
5) Liberal feminism applies criticism to every industry except the sex trade despite the fact that the sex industry hinges upon classism, sexism, racism and a global trade which commodifies violence against girls and women.
6) Liberal feminism prioritises first-world women’s accounts of feeling empowered, shunning women who don’t have the language, resources, Twitter/Tumblr accounts to articulate the extent of their oppression.
7) While liberal feminism claims to be “intersectional” it concomitantly evades structural analysis and conceals multiple oppressions with a rhetoric of agency. This is an issue that Kimberlé Crenshaw has spoken on recently. As if feeling agentic is going to keep the most vulnerable women alive.
8) Liberal feminism claims to want to end sexist stereotypes, but freely labels women “thin-lipped,” prudish, and anti-sex if they dare say any of the things that I have just written here.
9) Liberal feminism has been so concerned about “including men” and being “pro-sex” that they have repeatedly published “feminist” works on behalf of male sex predators and attempted killers.
Liberal feminism is not only male-centric in rhetoric, but it positions male entitlement as feminist.
I say: At least Emma isn’t advocating for sex predators. At least Emma isn’t advocating for pedophiles. At least Emma isn’t advocating for men who produce violent pornography. At least Emma isn’t advocating for human traffickers. At least Emma is advocating for women.
Yes, Emma is another white woman adding her voice to a movement that continues to prioritize the perspectives of white people. But does that mean professional white feminists are going to renounce their careers? I wouldn’t expect so. But I would expect that they might consider whether their political analysis serves to amplify or obscure the reality of women already marginalized by the current white-male-centric world order.
Perhaps Emma’s critics can also question whether liberal feminism is really working to challenge male hegemony continuing to serve up diatribes about “finding agency” in oppressive circumstances. They might question whether this liberal, postmodern, anti-structural, acontextual approach to feminism even means anything for women outside of first-world capital cities… Marketing something as “intersectional” doesn’t make it so.
It would seem that we can either fight to end patriarchy and the institutions that prop up its existence, or we can work to make patriarchy more acceptable and equitable by selling it as “choice.” One of these options sounds like feminism and the other sounds like corporate strategy.
As it turns out nobody is liberated by these industries and participation is rarely a “free choice.” In fact research shows quite the opposite with very few South East Asian women ever personally seeking out the industry. To defend an industry that hinges upon impoverished girls and women’s lack of choice, and instead frame it as being primarily about “women’s choices” shows that liberal feminism is reserved for women with class privilege.
Yes, some women can choose. Some women have the social mobility required to move in and out of different fields of work and that is great. Of course no woman should be stigmatised for her choices, whatever they may be. But feminist analysis is not just about women who have options. Feminism that only reflects women with choice serves to further silence women who have few or none.
As bell hooks has said:
[Feminism] has never emerged from the women who are most victimized by sexist oppression; women who are daily beaten down, mentally, physically, and spiritually — women who are powerless to change their condition in life. They are a silent majority.
Girls are increasingly surrounded by sex trade influences, with much of the visual culture saturated with pornography. Male entitlement is a dangerous, global epidemic. Thai reports show 40 per cent of the sex industry is made up of underage girls. Male sexual entitlement is colonizing the third world faster than transnational corporations ever could. This local-global industrializing of sexual exploitation is constraining the rights and choices of girls globally. Working to legitimize this exploitation only solidifies the lack of choice for these girls and women.
How can liberal feminists bolster these industries and simultaneously claim to fight for choice? Whose choice? Male sex tourists perhaps? From my experience living throughout South East Asia, a deep sense of collectivist culture, filial piety where children are strongly obligated to support their aging parents, combined with poverty, all make the idea of individual choice and empowerment laughable. Poor women living in South East Asia don’t simply log on to seek.com and peruse potential career “choices.” Life is not as simply as victims vs. agents.
An all too common story across Asia is parents who cannot afford to feed their children. They may find themselves forced to send their daughters or sons to the city with the promise of “school and work” — this is increasingly impacting strained rural populations. Are these girls going to be helped by “feeling agency” while they are exploited? Perhaps they could benefit from state sanctioned and local development programs, rather than sex predator tourists?
Australian writers have told me that girls in Asia have to “choose” between the garment industry and the sex industry, otherwise beg. Why is this first-world “choice” narrative homogenizing feminist discourse? It is an entirely reductionist, ethnocentric and distorted idea of women’s reality overseas. What ever happened to intersectionality?
Liberal feminist rhetoric is dominated by first-world accounts of “I think this is empowering so it is.” This apolitical approach evades the statistics and realities of millions of girls and women whose stories we will likely never read about in a feminist bestseller. Feminism has come to mean whatever wealthy consumers want it to mean — “feeling good,” rather than actual change or justice. We seem to forget that the world is not full of women who are privileged enough to try out oppressive systems like pole-dancing for “fun.” We’ve ended up in a situation where Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus call their actions feminist — while that’s ludicrous, I can see exactly how they came to that conclusion.
I understand that liberal feminism does seek to change sexist norms and attitudes, but it does so by supporting the industries that ensure sexist behaviour is normative, institutionalized, and profitable. Not only does this garner political legitimacy for sexist industries, but it bolsters male consumers who can argue their sex tourism and excessive porn use is acceptable or even “feminist.” Empirical evidence shows that first-world male consumers of pornography have higher sexist and rape-accepting attitudes — attitudes that they can more easily enact in locations with fewer law enforcement resources.
I am struck by recent liberal feminist texts criticizing “neoliberal feminism” (which isn’t actually a thing) while the crux of liberal feminism could not be more closely aligned with neoliberal exploitation of women.
So is #heforshe going to actually achieve anything with men? At an individual level, I hope so — we certainly need it. What I do know is that, for my friends living in poverty, having men hear about this will likely do more for them than talking about feminist agency or feminist porn.
I understand entirely why Watson’s speech was somewhat piecemeal, problematic and feminist-lite… But that is because she is working with liberal feminist theory, and it’s the best she (or anyone) could do with that body of work.
Watson is simply advocating for girls and women the only way she knows. So all I have to say to her is: “Thank you. You did what you could, we have a lot of work to do and we welcome you.”
Laura McNally is a psychologist, consultant, author and PhD candidate. Her current work draws upon critical theory to examine the limitations of corporate social responsibility and liberal feminism. She blogs at lauramcnally.com. Reprinted with permission Laura McNally/ Feminist Current
Another day, another article arguing that criticism of sexualization and objectification is proof that men are afraid of women’s expressed sexuality and that women are jealous.
What an innovative, groundbreaking notion.
A recent article at Huffington Post defends a twerking video model, Amber Rose, posted on YouTube for her husband Wiz Khalifa’s birthday and Beyoncé’s pole-dancing at the VMAs, on the basis of “agency.”
The author writes, of Beyoncé’s “sometimes provocative dancing”:
‘”What is she teaching her daughter?” some asked, pearls tightly clutched. I would answer, “Agency. Independence. Talent.” But others, it would seem, say watching her mother dance and sing in front of millions — while making millions — is teaching Blue not to respect and value her body. Even when married and a mother — the supposed safeguards against being called a whore — Beyoncé’s “goodness” and motherhood are called into question.”’
According to liberal feminist gospel, twerking conveys “agency,” as does pole-dancing on stage in front of your two year old. “Agency,” being that elusive concept that only those with a four-year arts degree seem to understand. The rest of us, informed by empirical evidence, are slightly concerned about statistics showing that younger and younger girls are increasingly dealing with eating disorders and anxiety, and are being pressured and coerced into performing sex acts and pornified versions of sexuality.
Forget the kill-joy rubbish statistics, this is about AGENCY. And PEARLS. What do pearls have to do with agency? Let me break it down for you:
The liberal feminist representation of “agency” proposes that anytime a woman performs using what we see as “sexuality,” she displays independence, power and agency. If you don’t agree, it’s because you are: (1) a fear-ridden, sex-deprived male, (2) a pearl clutching, sex-deprived conservative, or (3) a jealous woman (possibly sex-deprived).
Negative sex-stereotypes abound. The author claims to want to end negative sex-stereotypes and virgin-whore dichotomies (which feminists have been arguing against for decades), but does the opposite.
The idea is that this dichotomy is smashed because Amber Rose and Beyoncé are wives and mothers but also twerk.
The author asks the reader:
“Are you angry because she’s doing what should never be done [twerking and also being a mother], or are you angry because she’s doing what we should all be allowed to do but feel we cannot?”
I would hazard a guess that many women are somewhat tired of the “post baby body,” “yummy mummy,” “MILF” and “cougar” obsessed world. Even in motherhood, women cannot catch a break from the unrelenting obsession with “sexy” — objectifying mothers is now having drastic impacts on women’s health.
The author then asks:
“…are you angry because [Amber Rose] is standing with one foot firmly in the mother-wife camp, and the other in the camp that is half-naked and booty-shaking?”
Is this a trick question? I thought we were denouncing the virgin-whore dichotomy, but by the end of the article, these stereotypes seem to be more intact than ever.
These kinds of stereotypes — “virgins,” “prudes,” “MILFs,” “pearl clutchers,” “hos” — have no place in an equal society. Such slurs are designed to control and silence women and they are no more or less acceptable whether they are hurled by misogynists on YouTube or from self-described feminists.
Indeed, Beyoncé has made history as an amazing entertainer while simultaneously bringing feminism into the limelight — it is a momentous achievement. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look critically at what she represents and the messages she conveys.
How many tertiary-educated feminists does it take to see that celebrity culture produces (and is a product of) harmful cultural norms including sexism and racism? Norms that deserve to be interrogated rather than uncritically promoted by feminists?
Many liberal feminists seem to get stuck in the mindset that there are only two ways to talk about sexuality: (1) the conservative, “repressed” way: never have sex, or (2) the liberal/”liberated” way: everything “sex” is good, no matter what.
… There’s that dichotomy again…
In reality, there are a million ways to own one’s sexuality that doesn’t require pole-dancing in front of millions of people. Pole-dancing, at the end of the day, really has nothing to do with female sexuality, and everything to do with strip club culture — i.e. male culture, i.e. performing sexualization for the male gaze. It does not, in any way, threaten the status quo.
The recent pole-dancing trend in music videos, exercise classes and stagettes not only celebrates the sexist status quo, but it glamorises sexual exploitation. Research conducted by an ex-stripper showed over half of the dancers had experienced digital rape on the job as well as other forms of verbal and physical assault. More recent research shows that dancers are expected to maintain conventional beauty ideals, often resorting to dangerous surgeries and extreme weight loss measures in order to do so. I guess these women didn’t get the memo about fun feminist agency.
Women have the right to be critical of this increasingly pornographic culture. Parents have the right to rage against the pressure on girls to sexualize themselves for the male gaze. Women who are critical of these messages are not necessarily “anti-sex” or prudes – the reality is more complex than what that binary offers.
There are people who like sex but who are also critical of sexual exploitation. Indeed, as it turns out, some people can envisage a sexuality that doesn’t require market-driven, male-centric, or porn-fueled performance.
Take Lydia Cacho, a Mexican journalist who went undercover to examine how the sex trade was recruiting younger and younger children to fuel the demand for more extreme porn. Cacho felt it necessary to state, “I love sex and eroticism,” during a recent talk she gave in Sydney – probably out of fear that liberal feminists would dredge up the “pearl clutching” line dare she breathe a critical word on porn or “sex.” Cacho showed how the broader culture was leading to younger children being taken advantage of and exploited, whether it be by pimps in Mexico or the kids who accidentally stumble across child-rape porn, due to porn sites linking kid-friendly search terms to their images.
Cacho is an example of a person who enjoys sex, yet is critical of a culture that uses a one-dimensional view of “sex” to sell anything and everything (increasingly to younger and younger boys and girls). The dichotomy that positions sex as something we are either “for” or “against” is unnecessary.
Despite oft-repeated concerns about sexual repression and pearl clutching, sex is no longer hidden or repressed by Puritanism. In fact this has rarely been the case since the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s. In today’s world, “sex” has become a ubiquitous cultural narrative. It is the narrative that tells us women’s breasts should be used for porny ads, but not for breastfeeding. It’s online, on TV, in the newspaper, and in your face 24/7 — used to sell everything from porn, to mini pole-dancing kits for kids, to peaches (yes, that’s actually a thing).
While many liberal feminists are critical of exploitative capitalism, they remain uncritical of the capitalist exploitation of sex and sexuality. How can you be anti-capitalism but pro-commodification of sex? According to liberal feminist gospel, workers all around the world lack agency, except for objectified and sexualised girls and women. Even young girls in the sex trade, I have been told, are just “underage workers” with agency. For a movement that claims to be against rape-culture and the patriarchal status quo, this hypocrisy is astounding.
Liberal feminism promotes a market-driven, one-dimensional view of male-centric sex. Rather than promoting diversity or dissidence in women’s sexuality, it decorates the patriarchal status quo with the label “agency.”
Though it might be tempting, assigning “agency” to anything and everything only serves to eschew a more critical analysis of the structural realities of oppression. Tacking the idea of “equality” onto a system that is founded upon structural inequality does nothing but solidify and disguise the inequality. The idea that women must “feel empowered” in disempowering situations is nothing but victim-blaming with a new name.
Patriarchy demands increasing access to women’s bodies, at increasingly younger ages. The sexual revolution prepared men for a world where women say yes to sex, but it did not prepare them for women’s right to say no. Reframing this male entitlement and demand as agency is just a PR campaign for patriarchy.
It’s not as simple as agentic vs. non-agentic. Expecting women to “feel agency” in situations of structural oppression does nothing but pacify true resistance. Liberal feminists are doing women the ultimate disservice by conjuring up stereotypes of pearl-clutchers vs. pole-dancers. Pressuring women to toe the line lest they be labeled jealous pearl-clutchers is the work of misogynists, not feminists.
Laura McNally is a psychologist, consultant, author and PhD candidate. Her current work draws upon critical theory to examine the limitations of corporate social responsibility and liberal feminism. She blogs at lauramcnally.com.
I did not slut shame JLo and Iggy Azalea: Brody Dalle
Everyone was telling me I should watch JLo and Iggy Azalea’s ‘Booty’ music clip. I’d just come back from disappearing myself at a beautiful coastal haven. It wasn’t really the first thing I wanted to do. But, because I’m expected to have something to say on such things (and am about to give a related paper on porn culture at a women’s conference this weekend), I made myself. Really, can it get much worse? Faux lesbian masturbatory material for men who don’t need to bother turning the sound on. And why would anyone want to turn the sound on anyway? It’s a crap song. I mean really crap. It has not one redeeming quality – ‘What you got a big booty’, ‘Baby your booty is a movie star’, ‘Mesmerized by the size of it’, ’It’s his birthday, give him what he ask for’. And so it goes, a moronic cacophony of manufactured, unimaginative, uncreative, commercialised pornified stupidity.
I like what Brody Dalle had to say about it.
“Slut shaming? Body shaming? Girl hating? Please don’t assign incorrect motives to my tweets. It is you who is implying they are ‘sluts’, not me…
“How are the lyrics ‘give him what he asks for’ empowering to women? How? How is spreading your bottom apart and singing ‘give him what he asks for’ empowering at all?”
Rodger was very clear about the reasoning behind his violence. In a video posted online before the shooting, he says:
For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection and sex and love to other men, but never to me. I’m 22-years-old and still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college, for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous.
College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. But in those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime because I don’t know what you don’t see in me.
This is male entitlement. You’re looking at it.
Rodger was so enraged that he had not been given that which he deserves, as a man — sexual access to women — that he killed.
In a world wherein men learn they not only deserve, but have the right to women’s bodies, Rodger’s behaviour isn’t really all that surprising. From the time they are young, boys are offered women’s bodies. They are provided with pornography, told that this is what women are for: your eyes, your pleasure, your dick. Read more.
Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution: a compelling take down of pro-prostitution myths
I recently read Rachel Moran’s autobiography Paid For: My Journey Through Prostitution (Spinifex Press, 2013). It is the most compelling take down of pro- prostitution myths I have ever read.
As Amnesty International goes against all it supposedly stands for in backing legalisation of the sex industry worldwide (so valiantly resisted by a number of Australian feminists at Amnesty branch meetings over the weekend – more to come on that), Rachel’s book stands as a powerful ‘No!’ to the global trade in the bodies of women and girls.
Rachel worked as a prostitute for 7 years in Ireland, finally managing to get out of the industry at 22. The book describes her experiences as well as breaks down myths and lies perpetuated by pop culture, the media, the sex industry, and even other feminists, about prostitution and is an incredibly powerful and brutally honest read.
When you are fifteen years old and destitute, too unskilled to work and too young to claim unemployment benefit, your body is all you have left to sell.
Rachel Moran grew up in severe poverty and a painfully troubled family. Taken into state care at fourteen, she became homeless and was in prostitution by the age of fifteen. For the next seven years Rachel lived life as a prostituted woman, isolated, drug-addicted, alienated.Rachel Moran’s experience was one of violence, loneliness, and relentless exploitation and abuse. Her story reveals the emotional cost of selling your body night after night in order to survive – loss of innocence, loss of self-worth and a loss of connection from mainstream society that makes it all the more difficult to escape the prostitution world.
At the age of 22 she managed, with remarkable strength, to liberate herself from that life. She went to university, gained a degree and forged a new life, but she always promised that one day she would complete this book. This is Rachel Moran’s story, written in her own words and in her own name.
A brave woman steps out from Ireland’s dark side and gives a clear-eyed account of the violence that is prostitution.
Susan McKay, former Chief Executive of the National Women’s Council of Ireland
Rachel Moran has wrought out of the depravity of the ‘prostitution experience’ an inspirational and brilliant memoir. Courageous and tender; ultimately her story is a searing indictment of men who buy sex.
Kathleen Barry, author of ‘Female Sexual Slavery’, ‘The Prostitution of Sexuality’ and ‘Unmaking War, Remaking Men’
An unprecedented testimony – brave, powerful and convincing.
Theo Dorgan, Irish broadcaster and poet
Prostitution survivor Rebecca Mott calls for total abolition
Prostitution survivor Rebecca Mott, who endured frequent rape, violence and torture while in the industry, has given an incredibly powerful speech on BBC radio on the truth about the sex industry.
Has the Courier Mail become a pimp?
In this May 4 article, Kathleen Donaghey gives the Sunshine Coast sex industry a nice free plug, promoting a special ‘Pie, coke and a poke’ deal. It’s so discreet, Donaghey writes, that a punter can duck out at lunchtime and still be home for the ‘wife and kids’ in the evening. A QUT researcher says it’s just a “fun, recreational pursuit.” There’s not a critic in sight. As my colleague Caitlin Roper tweeted: “Average age of entry into sex trade is 13. Prostituted women have PTSD levels equivalent to war veterans. Write about THAT @couriermail.” I wonder if the Courier Mail got any kickbacks from this piece given it has provided the brothel with thousands of dollars in free advertising?
‘What I’ve learned from Twitter is that it doesn’t matter what I do. It didn’t matter what I’ve done, what I’ve said, what I’ve written. My body of work doesn’t matter and my actual thoughts don’t matter. Not to those who have decided to hate me’
I’ve got a problem with Meghan Murphy and her Feminist Current blog. Every time I go there I want to re-print pretty much everything she writes. Here’s her latest. And yes, if you’re wondering, this piece resonated. A lot. Especially a week into the twitter response to my piece in Fairfax papers on the need for Australia to follow France’s lead in adopting the Nordic approach to prostitution last week (no, I’m not ‘whorephobic’ and no, I don’t want all sex workers to die).
I love the internet. I really do. And I can’t stand the luddites who romanticize the days where people talked. Face to face. Or called each other. The phone? Really? Please. Fuck the phone. The internet is magic.
I have found dozens — I’d even be so bold as to say hundreds — of brothers and sisters across the globe who I would have otherwise never found, if not for the ability to connect online.
So I have no interest in blaming technology or social media for people’s behaviour or arguing that Twitter is unequivocally “bad” (or “good,” for that matter). Things are never quite that simple. But what I will say is this: Most days I hate Twitter. And many days I think Twitter is a horrible place for feminism.
While I would never argue that feminists stay off of Twitter and do tend to believe it’s a necessary evil, of sorts, if you are in media/writing/journalism, I don’t think it’s a place for productive discourse or movement-building. I think it’s a place where intellectual laziness is encouraged, oversimplification is mandatory, posturing is de rigueur, and bullying is rewarded. I think it’s a place hateful people are drawn towards to gleefully spread their hate, mostly without repercussion. And more than half the time I feel as though I’m trapped in a shitty, American, movie-version of high school that looks more like a popularity contest than a movement to end oppression and violence against women. Read full article here.
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
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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.