The ground-breaking symposium ‘Pornography and harms to children and young people’ held at the University of New South Wales in Sydney last Tuesday has been declared a major success.
Hosted by Collective Shout, the Australia-first event brought together leading academics, researchers, educators, psychologists and youth and child advocates to examine the harmful impacts of early pornography exposure. Emceed by Andrew Lines of the Rite Journey, speakers including Dr Michael Flood, Maree Crabbe, Dr Joe Tucci and Susan McLean, unpacked the global research as well as examining local experience, to a standing-room only audience.
I also addressed the symposium on ‘How girls are harmed by porn-conditioned boys’ (pic above). I unpacked how girls and young women were affected by porn-using boys in their everyday lives. From my introduction:
The proliferation and globalisation of hypersexualised imagery and pornographic themes has led to destructive ideas about sex and makes healthy sexual exploration almost impossible.
Sexual conquest and domination becomes all important, untempered by the bounds of respect, intimacy and authentic human connection
Young people are learning about f—ing but not about making love.
Young men are being conditioned and shaped by the messages they imbibe from pornography, given a sense of entitlement to the bodies of women and girls. Viewing porn often reinforces the idea that girls are always available for sex.
Girls are under extreme pressure to give men what they want, to adopt pornified roles and behaviours, their bodies merely sex aids. Girls learn that they are service stations for male gratification and pleasure.
I drew from stories girls themselves relayed to me in schools around the country, including demands for naked selfies, boys sending them ‘dick pics’ and porn videos uninvited (including to girls as young as 12), inappropriate touching, sexual harassment, comments about their bodies, being ranked in comparison to porn stars, demands for porn-inspired sexual acts, boys not respecting denial of consent, being mocked or having rumors started about them for resisting unwanted sexual activity.
After canvassing the research on how boys and young women socialized by porn act out on women and girls, I looked at ways forward so that girls can stand up against warped notions of sexuality conveyed in pornography and seek relationships based on mutual respect and care.
I quoted Tiffany, 15, who wrote to me through Facebook:
Hi Melinda. I was really touched by what you had to say and you opened my eyes to what sort of world we live in and as a 16 I’m disgusted and amazed and what girls my age have to go through. You said something about being asked for nudes and that and personally I didn’t know what you meant by that as I haven’t been asked to do that… Until today. To tell you the truth I wouldn’t of known what to do about it if you didn’t speak about it and I’m very grateful to you. The boy asked me for a photo or video and I said no that’s when he called me lame but I immediately told him I am more than just my body and you shouldn’t treat me like a piece of meat and instantly blocked him. Thank you for telling me that and I hope I have done the right thing and myself and other girls are taking part in taking action on this case and we want to make a difference. I want to help girls feel like they are worth something…
MTR on ABC QLD
There was a great deal of media interest in the symposium, with many speakers giving media interviews throughout the day. Here’s an interview I did with Steve Austin of ABC QLD.
Symposium to hear evidence of online porn harms to children
Sydney – Leading academics, educators and child advocates are set to gather on Safer Internet Day February 9, at the University of New South Wales to discuss the harmful impacts of early pornography exposure on children, including medical problems, emotional harm, abusive mind-sets and risky sexual behaviours.
The ground-breaking symposium will hear a growing body of evidence that children are increasingly being harmed by premature exposure to graphic sexual content online.
The Australian-first symposium will discuss the latest findings from a diverse range of multidisciplinary stakeholders including researchers, child protection experts, psychologists and sexologists. Speakers include:
Associate Professor Dr. Michael Flood (University of Wollongong) on pornography and masculinity
Maree Crabbe (Project Coordinator Reality and Risk) on violence and pornography
“Cyber Cop” Susan McLean (Cyber Safety Solution), on the problem of pornography in schools
Psychologist Dr Joe Tucci (Australian Childhood Foundation), on the links between exposure to pornography and problem sexual behavior including children acting out on other children…
Symposium spokesperson Coralie Alison of Collective Shout, said the community rightly expected children, who were being exposed at an unprecedented rate, to be protected from unsuitable content.
“However, despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, the reality is that children today are just one click away from a deluge of violent, degrading, aggressive content – much of it showcasing the abuse of women.”
According to the research to be presented at the conference:
“There is growing evidence that this is a public health crisis, with a generation of children on the frontline.”
Other speakers include Liz Walker (Youth Wellbeing Project), Dr Caroline Norma (RMIT University), Dr. Helen Pringle (UNSW), Dr Lesley-Anne Ey (University of South Australia), Holly-Ann Martin (Safe4Kids), Hugh Martin (Man Enough), Collett Smart (Psychologist) and Melinda Tankard Reist (Author, Collective Shout).
Yesterday, American “pick-up” artist and “executive dating coach” Jeff (Jeffy) Allen had his Australian visa revoked by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
Allen’s tour – part of a Real Social Dynamics (RSD) global roadshow – was billed as “Meet Jeffy.”
Those concerned about rising rates of violence against women and the callous mistreatment of young women and girls, reflected in groping, street harassment, unwanted sexual demands and all the other manifestations of everyday sexism, decided the only “meeting” Jeffy should get was with fierce opposition.
When Julien Blanc – the big name RSD instructor – known for his choking-girls-around-the-world hashtag – came to Australia in 2014, he didn’t last long. A massive campaign (#takedownjulienblanc) saw him booted out of the country. A number of other countries also refused to let him in.
But then Blanc’s side-kick, Jeffy Allen, arrived to finish what Blanc had started.
Questions of due diligence must surely be raised: how did a man who was in breach of our character tests get in? (Many women see the activities of RSD as warranting the same approach as accorded to terrorists.)
The tour was originally slated to make its way to Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane over the coming months. However, due to pressure from activists – including a 67,000 signature-strong Change.org petition and getting Vibe hotels to cancel two bookings (RSD misled the hotel by using a different name) – tour dates are now off the RSD website.
Allen fled the country before the retrospective visa cancellation, but not before he had passed on RSD’s toxic teachings at one Sydney “boot camp” last Thursday. The image of these men in this Sydney hotel room being taught the art of seduction by Allen, was taken by a young man by the name of Josh.
Pictures of Josh on his Instagram profile show he is young, most likely not out of his teens. Josh is just starting to make his way in the world. He’s learning about masculinity and sexuality and women and how he should treat them. His tutoring now includes the L.A dating company – billed as the world’s biggest dating hub for men – which evangelizes men with the ideology that men are “beasts” and women are “whores.”
Josh, along with other young men like him, were indoctrinated into the world of the dominant RSD alpha male. Allen drives a van – which he fondly calls his “rape van” – for picking up women. Decals representing women are glued on the van door for every “whore” he’s bedded in it. (You can see him talk about it in a video here, along with other video evidence of the raw contempt for the right of women to be treated as something other than a live “f–k doll” – including Julien Blanc’s infamous routine of grabbing the heads of random Japanese women on the street and shoving them into his crotch).
In RSD “boot camps,” men dominate and women must be made to submit.
All this at a time when there is more focus on the need to address violence against women; when we have come up with a National Plan of Action to Address Violence Against Women; when our Prime Minister says violence begins with disrespect. It is remarkable to me that, in the current climate, the RSD cult-leaders are allowed in the country in the first place.
These snake oil salesmen cannot help boys like Josh develop healthy respect-based relationships with women. He won’t learn how simply to enjoy a woman’s company, her conversation, her friendship. He won’t learn about care, empathy, how to give and receive love. He will learn how to get into her pants then add her to his total score. Such conquests are marks on the virtual bed-heads of RSD’s online forums.
RSD doesn’t bring men and women together – it breeds suspicion. For many women, who experience harassment and unwanted attention from men almost daily, RSD will only make them more suspicious about male intentions. In this environment, every man comes to be seen as a potential pick-up artist.
Fortunately there are men speaking out. Dr Matthew Berryman helped lead the charge against Julien Blanc in the 2014 campaign. He too is tired of the limited and increasingly toxic messages we send men and boys about masculinity. I asked him why he got involved:
“If you think that being a creep and/or actually abusive to women in order to sleep with them is a good idea, then you are not only being unnecessarily disrespectful to others, you’re actually missing out on having an actual, meaningful relationship, with all the rewards it brings.
“The tactics adopted by Real Social Dynamics and other ‘pick up agencies’ are not only harmful to women, they harm the ability of all men to be taken seriously as actual, decent people (and it’s that that will help you meet women and form relationships). Men need to have a healthy approach to themselves and to others. To do otherwise diminishes us all.”
Another, of course, is Matthew Jowett, who initiated the Change.org petition against Blanc. When I asked him why he did it, the 29-year-old IT worker replied:
“Being raised by a single mother and living with a father who was abusive to his spouses, and seeing my sister be abused by successive partners all also shaped an interest in opposing domestic violence and supporting women’s rights. But most fundamentally it comes down to my very strong desire to equality, which I think grew from the seed my mother planted with the often repeated axiom ‘treat others how you’d like them to treat you’. It seems painfully obvious to me that the only way to achieve a society with any real measure of equality is from a culture where everyone is valued and where respect for others is a central pillar.”
Let’s hope that Josh and other young men like him are persuaded by this philosophy and these examples, rather than by RSD’s warped view of women.
The group is renowned for lying to avoid consequences (surprise fkn surprise, right), so many were concerned that they were still conducting their seminars in secret.
However, today, author Melinda Tankard-Reist sent a tweet to Vibe Hotels, who were hosting the seminars. They responded saying that the functions were booked under a false name, and they had cancelled all of RSD’s events.
Julien Blanc was deported. Why are his mates allowed in?
Remember the time in 2014 we combined to get U.S ‘pick-up’ artist Julien Blanc booted out of Australia for promoting violence against women? We’d succeeded in persuading venues who had booked him to cancel. He then sneakily tried to hold his nasty little seminar on a boat off the St Kilda pier in Melbourne. My mate Kirsty Mac found out about it and activists swarmed down to the pier and prevented the boat from leaving, even holding onto the boats ropes and blocking its departure.
I described the action:
Last night a bunch of would be Julien Blanc clones – unable to find a venue on land which would host them – went all-aboard the SS Sexual Assault, RSD pimps having fooled the Melbourne cruise company into thinking this was something other than a ‘My Dick Rules’ training session. But their floating boot camp, run by Max the Menace (Julien Blanc apparently in hiding somewhere – certainly not the Bayview Hotel which had thrown him out after this warning went around ) was ’sunk’ by protesters. It was a great night to be an on-line activist. I barely left my desk, glued to the live streaming twitter action led by those at the protest…
That same night, following our appeal to the then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison pointing out how Blanc was in breach of visa requirements because of his behavior, and the double-standards in having a National Plan of Action to Address Violence Against Women at the same time as handing our visas to men who profit from it, Blanc was kicked out. Other countries followed suit, denying him entry. It was one of the craziest, most adrenalin-fueled campaigns we’d ever been part of and remains one of our all-time favourites. It was a victory for women everywhere (and for men who care about them). View Collective Shout storify here.
Jeff Allen making fun of disability to score women. ‘Can you make him stop rubbing his boner on me?’
But we’ve just learned that somehow, another big name Real Social Dynamics (RSD) ínstructer’ Jeff Allen (Jeffy) has been allowed into the country to take up where Blanc left off. If you want to truly understand the quality of this man, take a look at this video published as part of a piece on my blog by Dr. Matthew Berryman on the tactics of RSD artists.
Yes, this is the man teaching our men and boys how to treat women and girls, right at this very moment.
It’s needs to be remembered that Allen is not acting alone. He is representing his movement – RSD. And RSD promotes rape culture.
“They dream about this. They wanna be tied up and fully succumb to your aggressive masculinity. They want you to push them against the wall, rip their clothes off, put her in a submissive position and call her bitch, slut, whore until their skull can’t take it anymore…”
“See as much as women wanna be raped, they also want to be made feel beautiful.”
And here’s RSD boss Owen Cook on how forcing yourself on women is such a hoot (this video is not on Your Tube anymore but you can see it here).
The ‘tactics’ Julien and his team teach include ‘choking’ women and calling them ‘deadbeat whores’ in order to shock them into submitting to his dominance. Now Julien Blanc’s associate, RSD instructor Jeff (Jeffy) Allen has been granted a visa and is back in Australia to teach men this disgusting, vile violence against women.
They call themselves “pick up artists”, but are nothing more than promoters of sexism and violence against women.
Julien Blanc tried to preach these tactics at ticketed events around Australia in 2014. Fortunately you all stood up and said “hell no” – Australia very loudly said no to violence against women. Then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison revoked Blanc’s visa. This was great news!
But now Julien Blanc’s bro Jeff Allen from “Pimp by RSD” is back – running events which promote and profit from violence. He’s touring Australia right now teaching young Aussie men to choke women and treat them like garbage to assert dominance over women and essentially psychologically abuse women until they submit to these men. Sign here.
There has been some confusion about which RDS instructor was in the country. This Instagram pic taken by a young man by the name of Josh shows Jeff Allen addressing a group of men at a Sydney hotel at the opening event in Sydney last Thursday. (How depressing to see so many men absorbing RSD’s message of disrespect, manipulation and exploitation of women).
Last week I was one of 12 panelists on the ABC2 program ‘Australians on Porn’. I’d had my hesitations about participating, the producers assured me of fair treatment and a serious discussion how porn was shaping sexual attitudes and behaviours. What transpired was a wank fest and sex industry promotion. We saw and heard from a number of porn performers, representing the vested interests of the industry – but there were no women speaking of how they were harmed in the industry and had got out.
The main takeout for me: do not dare stand in the way of a man’s entitlement to ejaculate to whatever he wants. My attempts to raise critical issues of sexism, rape, violence, and misogyny perpetuated in the most popular porn genres were shouted down. I was mocked for mentioning the ethics of using porn when the woman on the screen may have been trafficked. No one cared. Probably my lowest moment in an hour of low moments was when the ‘sexologist’ Jacqueline Hellyer tried to prevent me from reading this letter from the director of a sexual assault clinic. “It’s not relevant!”, she declared. I was also told to stop talking about facts.
I am the Director a Sexual Violence counselling service and totally agree with your article. In the past few years we have had a huge increase in intimate partner rape of women from 14 to 80+. The biggest common denominator is consumption of porn by the offender. With offenders not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality, believing women are “up for it” 24/7, ascribing to the myth that ” no means yes and yes means anal “, oblivious to injuries caused and never ever considering consent. We have seen a huge increase in deprivation of liberty, physical injuries, torture , drugging, filming and sharing footage without consent. I founded the centre 25 years ago and what is now considered to be the norm in 2015 is frightening. I wonder where we will be in another 10 years!
This photo of host Tom Tilley on a porn set with two porn actresses (the one on the left a panelist on the show), may suggest why it was expecting too much to be given fair treatment. Looks like he had a good time anyway.
Laura McNally wrote this assessment of the program published today on ABC Religion and Ethics.
Inconvenient Facts: Why Would the ABC Airbrush Porn’s Complicity in Sexual Violence?
While it may not be as readily accessible as porn, the research on porn is nonetheless abundant.
Yet, according to Australians on Porn host Tom Tilley, “How many people end up in extreme situations? … there isn’t a lot of research out there to prove that.” Read more
Laura Pintur, also a panellist on the show, wrote this piece published also on ABC Religion and Ethics a short time earlier.
The ABC Squandered its Chance to Host the Discussion on Porn We Need to Have
When I was first asked to join the panel for ABC2′s Australians on Porn program, which aired last Monday night, I was pleased to see a mainstream and respected show like Triple J Hack initiate a debate on the impacts of pornography on Australians – especially its youth demographic.
However, as it turned out, the show was heavily weighted towards the pro-porn camp, with porn consumers, a porn “star” and porn producers dominating the program. Other porn actors appeared in sex scenes in videos along with more porn consumers.
While there were a couple of guys who felt porn hadn’t always been good for them, overall porn was treated as a laugh and the seriousness of the issue trivialised.
Its major focus centred around the use of porn by “mature adults,” and failed to highlight and discuss the issues with the younger generations.
ABC2′s publicity stated that the purpose of the show was to “lift the lid on the commodification of sex.” It certainly confirmed that sex has become an accepted commodity – nothing new there! But did it lift the lid? Did it accurately look at the “costs, the consequences and impact on attitude to sex” as was promised? Read more
The only positive has been the many comments critical of the program on TripleJHack’s Facebook pages and the messages of support I have received personally. And this posted by a 19-year-old (who happens to be my daughter):
Company slammed for aiding sexual fantasies for young girls
On Tuesday night, young Melbourne supporter (and kayaking buddy) Verity Thompson sent me a link through Facebook messenger, to the website of Chemist Warehouse, which featured a disembodied ‘virgin pussy’ – a replica vagina of a young girl with ‘realistic hymen’ just waiting for a man to ‘pop’. Many people send me links to horrible things most days and while I (and Collective Shout) don’t have the resources to action everything, this product demanded a response. I shared with my activist colleagues and, within hours of us taking to social media about it, the product was removed from Chemist Warehouse’s site. While this once again demonstrates the power of collective action, we have to ask: why did Chemist Warehouse think this product was OK for them to flog in the first place? Where are its corporate ethics? And where is the Pharmacy Guild in all of this?
Here’s how News.com, Daily Mail and Smart Company reported on our win.
Chemist Warehouse pulls Virgin Pussy Palm Pal ‘realistic hymen’ sex toy from its website after backlash
Campaign group Collective Shout slammed the retailer for stocking the product.
“Since when have chemists become defacto sex shops? Chemists are supposed to be selling products with medicinal and health benefits, not promoting pedofilic fantasies and eroticising young girls for profit,” Melinda Tankard Reist, co-founder of Collective Shout, told news.com.au.
Ms Tankard Reist said she had seen similar sex toys before, including a “Lolita Teenage Vibrating Vagina” and “realistic” sex dolls made to look like nine-year-olds, but never at a chemist.
“We see a lot of horrible things in our line of work as you can imagine, but this is incredible. For a company that might want to be seen as having corporate social responsibility, this seems like a radical departure,” she said.
“Don’t they care about the wellbeing of girls in the community? Why would they want to contribute to these fantasies of young girls existing to be ‘popped’ or ‘deflowered’?”
Chemist Warehouse removes virgin sex toys following social media backlash and activist campaign
Caitlin Roper from Collective Shout told SmartCompanythis morning the product sexualises girls and was clearly inappropriate for a chemist to be selling.
“We come across some pretty awful things in the course of some of our other campaigns, but I think with this one I was really genuinely surprised to see this item sold by a chemist under the guise of sexual health,” Roper says.
“I thought, what does aiding men in their sexual fantasies for children have to do with their health or wellbeing? We have campaigns to shed light on this epidemic on child sex abuse in schools and churches, but as a culture we continue to sexualise girls and present them as sexually appealing and even available.”
It’s not every day you get a magazine and a song dedicated to you.
But this week, my friends and I received both.
Now defunct Lad’s Mag Zoo Weekly devoted its final issue to us with this cover.
Apparently, protesting the objectification of women and messages promoting violence against women (drunk girls are a ‘green light’, for example) makes you a killjoy now. We didn’t find much joy in the mag’s pages, as documented in Collective Shout’s storify.
Young designer and activist Laura Pintur, 23, led our campaign. It was great to see her face on ABC’s Media Watch Monday night, in an extract from the video she made for The Guardian. The facts she presented stand in contrast to the depiction of the mag as just for a laugh and ‘schoolboy humour’. Such nudge-nudge-wink-wink depictions trivialized Zoo’s actual content. The kind of content which caused 20-year-old Coles employee Shannen to protest to management through her union.
When asked by a journalist on twitter for her reaction to Zoo’s final cover, Laura replied:
Zoo’s closure was reported on our website as follows:
Goodbye Zoo Weekly, you won’t be missed
We were pleased to report that after our successful campaign to get sexploitation mag Zoo Weekly out of Coles supermarkets Bauer Media announced the sexist lads mag was closing.
This week Zoo Weekly released their last edition ever. We’re glad that pornographers will have one less outlet now to push porn to underage boys. See content from inside Zoo mag (warning, graphic).
ABC’s Media Watch referenced our campaign, quoting Collective Shout’s Laura Pintur.
In May a young woman called Laura Pintur began a campaign backed by Collective Shout to persuade Coles and Woolworths to take Zoo off their shelves on the grounds that it was fostering hostile and aggressive attitudes to women:
“LAURA PINTUR: A British university compared lads mags with comments from convicted rapists. It found that people could not distinguish the source of the comments. That is, Zoo users’ language practically indecipherable from that of sex offenders. It also asks readers to send in pictures of their girlfriends’ breasts to win a boob job.” — The Guardian, 21st May, 2015
Coles stopped selling the magazine two months ago as a result.
And when news then broke of the decision to close Zoo altogether the campaigners were quick to claim the kill.
“Collective Shout takes credit for hastening Zoo’s demise: Coles dumping title was ‘catastrophic for sales’”
Here’s an extract from Tyler the Creator’s (@fucktyler) new release ‘Fuck It’. (I was interviewed by Jon Faine on ABC Melbourne Tuesday about the song. So replete is this ditty with expletives, our national broadcaster could only play a six second extract). Here are some of the lyrics:
Tell Australia I’m sneaking in with a mic in my damn hand
Instead of the vegetables that I packed in my backpack
When Marshall had this problem what the fuck was they telling him?
Is it cause of status or his melanin lacks black?
Huh? I think people love to be mad
How can I be misogynist? I love titties and ass…
Only thing they gave me was an opportunity and a pen
Look, freedom of speech, my freedom is breached
Border Patrol put me on streets immediately
For shit I said when I was a virgin repeatedly
Posted on Hypebeast cause nobody would listen to me
Collective Shout’s campaigns manager Caitlin Roper gave these comments to media:
Tyler has had an opportunity here to pause, reflect on his behaviours and promotion of misogyny, and make a commitment to real change- to creating art that doesn’t rely on the exploitation of women to generate profits.
Instead he’s essentially had a tantrum to music.
While he may have been a young man when he wrote music describing raping women, mutilating their bodies, locking them in his basement and raping their corpses, he’s not a child anymore, and he is yet to grow up and take responsibility for what he has put out into the world.
Our calls to deny Tyler a visa were never solely based on his sexually violent and misogynistic lyrics, but his real life behaviours- his history of inciting violence against actual women. It was only a few months ago that he singled out and tagged Collective Shout’s Coralie Alison in a tweet, blaming her for his cancelled tour and essentially directing his 2.5 million fans to go after her with horrific threats of violence. He sat by and watched, and finally denied he held any responsibility.
We too would like to know why Eminem was granted a visa. Collective Shout partnered with a coalition of domestic violence organisations in 2014 calling on the government to deny Eminem a visa.
But we must be wrong – he loves titts and arse, so couldn’t possibly be a misogynist!
I responded on twitter. Jane Fraser (@feministbirther) added her wondrous response.
So you’re not a misogynist – because you love titts and arse? Pornographers, pimps, and perpetrators of violence love titts and arse too – so what?
And someone should tell Tyler you can’t bring vegetables into Australia either.
I recently returned from a lengthy speaking tour which took me to Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and New Zealand. I addressed schools, women’s conferences, youth groups, health and wellbeing events and The Mask You Live In. In New Zealand I was a guest of TEARFund, speaking on what I call ‘Everyday Trafficking’ –the links between sexualisation of girls and the global trade in their bodies. I addressed awareness and fundraising events to help raise money for organisations working in prevention, rescue, prosecution and rehabilitation, including Hagar International.
I had a profound time especially with students in the public and private schools I visited. What I especially noticed on this trip was how a pornified world was impacting now on very young girls. I was asked questions about how to deal with sexual harassment, pressure to send sexual images and provide sexual favours, by girls as young as 12 years old. One cried as she described the impact of receiving unsolicited pornographic videos from a group of boys. In one school I met two 15 year olds who had been gang raped. I fear things are getting worse, and they’re getting worse younger.
But it really was a remarkable trip and every day I woke up thinking – how am I so fortunate to do this work? Laura Pintur, 23, who led our successful Zoo campaign, travelled with me, inspiring young people to see that they too can make a difference in the world. Here are some photos:
First week of the NSW, SA, New Zealand tour – about to address girls at St Patrick’s Campbelltown with Laura Pintur
With the boys at Kings Baptist Grammar School, SA
Privileged to address the inspiring girls at Wilderness School SA
Great session with girls at Kildare College SA
With the Year 5 + 6′s at St Peters Lutheran Primary School SA
St Peters Lutheran Primary SA
With some of the year 11 and 12 girls I addressed at Seymour College SA
My final gig at the end of two weeks in SA – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart – quick pic with some of the girls.
A great night speaking for Tearfund NZ at Crossroad Mangatangi about how the sexualisation of girls is fueling the global sex trade
With (L-R) Anna Roberts from Nvader, Laura Pintur and Sarah Scott Webb from Hagar, in Christchurch building awareness about the global sex trade for Tear Fund New Zealand.
Passion ignited: how I’m going to use my trauma to work for change for girls
This is one of the most moving responses I have received following an engagement in a school. Thank you Melanie – you make it all worthwhile.
Dear Melinda, I am a staff member at *** College… I am 21 years old, and currently studying full time … I have also recently returned from a trip to India where I worked with women who have been trafficked into sex slavery, so much of what you said today hit very close to home.
I heard the first half of your talk with Year 9 students this afternoon (unfortunately I had to leave early), and I must say, I learnt as much during those forty minutes as I’ve learnt in perhaps a year of my degree. Studying academic theories is an important part of understanding how we come to inhabit and process the world around us. However, seeing those theories represented practically, through advertising and popular culture, truly drives the message home, and that is what personally happened for me today. I came to fully realise that, although the status of women has advanced significantly over the last century, women in the 21st Century face entirely new challenges and obstacles.
I was not among your target audience today. Therefore, I can imagine, if I was affected as profoundly as I was, how powerful you and Laura’s message was for the girls to hear. It seems like only yesterday that I was their age, sitting in that very auditorium myself, listening to guest speakers and wishing that they would speed things along so that we could snatch an early minute for lunch. No one was wanting to snatch an early minute today. Unfortunately, the vast majority of females know what it feels like to be degraded and objectified in some way.
My personal experience of grooming, sexual abuse and subsequent eating disorders has ignited my own passion for combating this issue, and empowering young women to defend their rights and develop a sturdy sense of self-worth, so that they never feel as though they are incomplete people who need a man to fulfill them. I believe that everything happens for a reason… perhaps, I endured trauma so that I could empathise with the struggles of others. If this truly is my life’s purpose, it is both my greatest blessing, and my greatest challenge. It is difficult to inspire others when you yourself lack inspiration, or feel as though your voice is silenced.
The very nature of abuse, or any form of oppression, as I’m sure you know, is that the victim loses their ability to speak. Overcoming this hurdle remains difficult, as I live in fear of the man who perpetrated the abuse, and it is only now that I am beginning to tell people of my experience. It is only now that I am realising that the shame is not mine to carry – the burden of shame sits upon the shoulders of the man who committed terrible acts, knowing full well that he is protected by a patriarchal society which sexualises girls and young women and blames the victim. Perhaps, had I heard your presentation while I was still at school and before my abuse began, I would have been more prepared and knowledgeable, or known how to recognise these manipulative behaviour and been empowered to speak out. I have driven myself mad with, “could have,” “would have,” and, “should have’s” for years, but I know that this thinking, too, is reinforced by a society in which women, according to the legal system and media, control the actions of a depraved predator.
Hearing you and Laura speak today has had a significant impact on me, because it has empowered me and reminded me of why I do what I do. It has helped me to realise that I am indeed on the right path. I feel comforted in knowing that I do not stand alone; that there are women who are actively doing something to ensure that females of all ages are protected, and that those responsible for the gross sexualisation of women are held accountable. It has filled me with promise for my own future. I hope to be as passionate an advocate as you, Laura and the many other strong women who are fighting to secure equality and justice, and who are helping those in need to not only find, but to own their voice and their right to use it.
Some people believe that equality starts and ends with voting rights and equal pay. But it goes so far beyond this. It starts with voting rights and equal pay, and it doesn’t end until women can stop organising their daily commute around when the sun will set at night. It doesn’t end until people stop asking the victim, “What were you wearing?” It doesn’t end until a victim of rape or abuse feels that she can speak and be listened to, rather than speak and be silenced. Once again, thank you for filling me with inspiration and empowering me to continue on the path I am taking. It is days like this which make me proud to be female, despite the risks that just being female entails. I feel privileged to have heard you speak and I hope you truly realise the power of your words and advocacy in planting the seed of change and helping women on their own journeys of recovery. I wish you all the best and hopefully we will meet in the future at some point.
Kind Regards, Melanie.
MTR talks sexual exploitation and trafficking on Radio New Zealand National
Listen to the interview
With Wallace Champan in pre-record for Radio New Zealand Sunday show.
Collective Shout takes credit for hastening Zoo’s demise: Coles dumping title was ‘catastrophic for sales’
Four months ago, young Melbourne activist and designer Laura Pintur, 23, launched a campaign through Collective Shout calling on Coles and Woolworths supermarket to act consistent with their corporate social responsibility, ethical framework, care for communities and commitment to safety and dump ‘men’s lifestyle Bible’ Zoo Weekly. She highlighted the way the lads’ mag promoted coercion, violence, sexism, misogyny and male entitlement. Laura’s Change.org petition attracted more than 39,000 signatures along with global media, including this video for The Guardian in which she argued the well being of girls should come before profits.
Last month Coles decided to discontinue the magazine, after a young Melbourne employee, Shannen, complained through her union that Coles was putting her and other female employees in a hostile workplace environment. “Other young women in my workforce will no longer have to put up with selling a magazine that promotes rape culture,” said Shannen after the decision.
Woolworths however decided to continue to act in breach of its own ethics, holding firm on selling sexual objectification to boys, including minors.
But now there will be no Zoo magazine to sell anywhere because it is ceasing publication. Mumbrella broke the news yesterday. While the magazine was already in decline, we believe we helped hasten that decline. News.com reports that when Coles bowed to public pressure and pulled the publication, this was “a move that would no doubt be catastrophic for the lad mag’s sales.”
Zoo Weekly has certainly grown accustomed to widespread outrage over the years, having been at the centre of a slew of heated controversies.
It had recently been in the firing line of a Change.org petition urging Australia’s major supermarkets to stop selling the magazine, arguing it promoted sexism, sexual violence and used the language of rapists.
Fueling sexist attitudes which contribute to violence against women
Last month I responded to a piece by Brendan O’Neill, in The Australian, critical of our campaign against Tyler the Creator and Zoo magazine. It appeared in the on-line version at News.com (paywall means only subscribers would see it). Following this, my colleague Caitlin Roper took down O’Neill’s claims against us regarding Tyler the Creator in an interview with ‘I probably hate your band’ (O’Neill is interviewed too). Have a look at it after my letter.
If only Zoo Weekly was a ‘jokey mag for awkward 15-year-olds.’ We – and the too many women and girls subjected to the kind of abuse Zoo promotes – don’t see the joke. (Brendan O’Neill ‘Foot soldiers of the Empire of offence march on, laying free speech to waste’, Inquirer. August 22-23, p.23).
Zoo normalises the treatment of women as sexual objects, fueling sexist behaviours and attitudes which underpin violence against women. The men’s ‘lifestyle Bible’ provides step by step instructions for coercing women into sex by isolating her from her friends and using alcohol to make her more vulnerable. Readers are told if she is drunk, that’s a ‘green light’.
A recent edition encouraged young male readers to do “cool things…like hitting women”, joking about “backhanding the missus”.
People can’t distinguish between the statements taken from lads mags like Zoo Weekly and statements from convicted rapists, according to a 2011 UK study.
Tyler is renowned for his songs advocating rape, murder, genital mutilation, stuffing women into car boots, trapping them in his basement, raping their corpses and burying their bodies. The abuse he incited against Collective Shout activist Talitha Stone in 2013 was enough to cause Twitter to implement a ‘report abuse’ button. The footage she filmed undercover of him whipping up the crowd into a frenzy of anger contributed to NZ authorities denying him entry in January 2014. Our more recent campaign saw Tyler use dog whistle tactics to mobilise his fans into sending a deluge of death, rape and mutilation threats against another of our activists, Coralie Alison, as punishment.
In the original letter to the Immigration Minister signed by Coralie and myself, we argued it was contradictory for the Government to have a National Plan of Action to address violence against women while rolling out the red carpet to a rap artist who glorifies and glamourizes it.
We doubt the absence of Zoo from Coles or of Tyler singing “rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” at all-ages concerts is a threat to “great truths or breakthroughs”. It does, however, send a message that violence against women should be taken seriously.
Melinda Tankard Reist
Thanks so much for speaking with me. First of all, I want to say I, and IPHYB as a whole, are passionate supporters of women’s rights. In whatever individual definition that takes in today’s convoluted climate of modern feminism, we hold our own views very dear and close to heart. That being said, we’re also (as you can probably tell from the name of our website) staunch advocates of free speech. I wanted to gain your perspective on the issue, as it seems Collective Shout have come under fire from fans of Tyler, The Creator and free speech alike, for what some consider an act of censorship. Is it Collective Shout’s aim to engage in any kind of censorious behavior, and do you really believe his lyrical content is dangerous? To be frank, I struggle to make the connection.
CAITLIN: “We’ve obviously heard a lot of Tyler’s fans expressing a similar sentiment – essentially that we just don’t understand, and that we are trying to ban things we don’t understand, or that we are merely ‘offended’.
The suggestion that the issue here is about offence or personal taste is really missing the point. My feelings, my personal taste, like anyone else in this discussion, are largely irrelevant. Reducing criticism of Tyler’s brand of misogyny to offense is an attempt to deflect and undermine discussion of the real issue – the promotion and normalising of hostile and hateful attitudes towards women.
The whole offence argument also neglects to consider the fact that our campaign goes much further than Tyler’s sexually violent lyrics. While we strongly object to Tyler’s lyrics detailing rape, strangling, mutilating and chopping up women, stuffing their bodies into car boots, trapping them in his basement and raping their corpses, we are also talking about Tyler’s real-life behavior. When lesbian recording artists openly called out his misogynistic lyrics, he responded with a threat of corrective rape, offering them some “hard dick”. At his 2013 Sydney concert he unleashed a barrage of abuse directed at my Collective Shout colleague Talitha Stone, calling her a bitch, a whore, and a c**t while the crowd cheered, unaware she was present in the audience. I shudder to think what might have happened to her had she been recognised.
Both Talitha and Coralie Alison have been targeted with vicious abuse, rape and death threats after Tyler tagged them on Twitter. What did he think would happen when he called out Coralie, identifying her as the reason he wouldn’t be showing up for his scheduled tour? At any time, he could have so much as tweeted to call off his fans, to say it wasn’t okay to threaten a woman with violence, yet he remained silent.
This is not about offence, or even song lyrics. This is incitement to violence against real women. Real Australian women who have been forced to obtain police assistance, who have had to fear for their lives and have had to deal with the psychological toll of sustained, vicious abuse.
Tyler fans claim that Tyler’s music and treatment of women have no bearing on their attitudes to women. Wading through the steady stream of abusive emails, Facebook posts and tweets calling us bitches and whores, encouraging us to commit suicide and threatening to rape and murder us along with our children has made it very clear to me that that normalised misogyny has and does impact on attitudes. Essentially, I think it’s easier to paint all criticism of Tyler’s misogyny as uptight women who want to ban things they don’t understand than to actually engage with the issues.
There has been some speculation that campaigns like ours set a dangerous precedent in terms of free speech and censorship. I hope that as well as free speech, we value the rights of women to dignity, justice, equality and safety, and that as a community we are equally committed to upholding these rights.
In our letter to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, we pointed out the hypocrisy in spending $15.6 billion on a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women – a plan including prevention strategies and education – only to welcome rappers who undermine the government’s attempts to address violence against women.
We’ve been critical of various artists – and not just artists, but advertising, media and popular culture – yet some issues and campaigns certainly do seem to attract more media attention than others. As a non-profit organisation, we don’t have the resources to organize and carry out campaigns against every artist who promotes the sexual exploitation of women, nor has it ever been our goal to pursue every artist with questionable lyrics.
We’ve been critical and sparked a dialogue about various artists over the last few years and campaigned against a few, including Redfoo, Brian McFadden, Robin Thicke, Snoop Dogg/Lion and Eminem. Some also suggest we unfairly target hip hop, but a look at our website will prove the wide range of issues and campaigns we have run. Is hip-hop somehow off-limits for critical analysis? Should hip-hop culture not be held to the same standard as the rest of society?
The reason we called on Immigration to deny Tyler a visa back in 2013 was because we felt his lyrical content vilified women and arguably incited violence against them. We felt it was impossible for us to remain silent. We only became more convinced after seeing his treatment of women on Twitter, setting his fans on women who were openly critical of his work, and his onslaught of abuse to Talitha at his 2013 concert – the footage of which was instrumental in his 2014 ban from New Zealand.
This has been expressed to us repeatedly over the last few months, that we haven’t done our research, that it’s art, that Tyler is playing a role, that he’s evolved as an artist, etc. I’m well aware of all of these arguments as well as the nature of Tyler’s work. We have done our research. We’ve listened to his songs, watched music videos, interviews, performance footage, read numerous articles and even attended his concert. It’s not that we don’t understand the arguments – we just reject them. We have taken this knowledge and come to a different conclusion.
I think it’s entirely possible for musicians and artists to use art, humour and irony to pose meaningful questions and comment on the state of the world and society, and even to explore dark subject matter. But I reject the notion that that is what is going on here. Tyler’s near constant uncritical exploitation and abuse of women for entertainment purposes doesn’t even come close to that. What is the statement being made? Where is the condemnation of abusive treatment of women? Rather, the men who degrade and demean women are positioned as badasses who don’t give a f**k and women are reduced to bitches. None of this is challenging the status quo or posing meaningful questions. Tyler’s “art” is at the expense of women, even survivors of rape and physical violence.
If Tyler has truly evolved as an artist as he claims (a notion I’d reject based on his recent behavior), why is he yet to take responsibility for it? Even now, he continues to justify and excuse it, never owning it. He’s built a career of the degradation of women, made a name for himself and profited from this material.
Tyler claims he doesn’t even perform his earlier work anymore, but concert set lists from as recently as last year show that he has. He’s also made his earlier albums available to stream via his Golf Media App. A few weeks ago he performed Rella on Jimmy Kimmel – here’s a few of the lyrics: ‘Nigga my d*ck’s in her jaw … my bitches white and I need f*cking head … bitches on my d*ck … Your girlfriend had a really nice meeting with my d*ck, I killed that p*ssy and grabbed that knife … met up with bitches, gave ‘em c*m on their dimples.’
Is this supposed to be progress? Is this an indication he’s concerned with equality now? It’s ironic that those men arguing for freedom of speech here have failed to notice that the women they are criticising don’t share this same freedom. These men are not impacted by misogynistic ‘art’ – they aren’t the ones being targeted. They aren’t likely to be on the receiving end of rape and death threats, won’t need to engage the police, nor be genuinely in fear for their safety as a result of sharing their views.
For these men to dictate how women, including survivors of rape and sexual violence, should feel about, respond to and challenge misogynistic attitudes demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the issues and perhaps more disturbing, a lack of empathy.”
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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