Girlfriend and Dolly can be commended this year for taking strong stands on alcohol and drugs. This issue of GF is no exception, with ‘The High Life’ exploring the harms of smoking marijuana. When celebs boast about it – such as Miley Cyrus posting a photo of herself smoking pot with the caption “High as f—“ and Rihanna posting a marijuana plant she received for Valentine’s Day, this celeb endorsement gives the drug a big tick. GF points out however that the drug is “more harmful than most people realise.” “Short-term marijuana usage increases your risk of heart attack by five times in the first hour of smoking it and the risk of impaired judgment can lead to impulsive decision making, injury, or even death,” says Jan Copeland, director of the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre. It also doubles your risk of having a car accident. Girls who have smoked the drug describe a lack of motivation to deal with what was stressing them out, which contributes to feeling more stressed later. Fifty percent of long-term users develop a dependency. Users are more likely to suffer from anxiety attacks, psychosis and schizophrenia as well as lower IQ’s.
‘Is someone else directing your life?’ encourages girls to take control of their destiny, rather than be driven by others. “…if you find yourself increasingly frustrated with your life and/or where you’re headed, or feeling jealous of someone else’s success, it may be that your people-pleasing habits are getting the best of you. You also haven’t been true to what you really want, deep down,” says psychologist Dr Pene Schmidt. You can tell if someone has too much influence over you by the way they make you feel. “If you find yourself feeling worried, anxious, uncomfortable, or resentful, these can be great warning signs to let us know that we need to stop and reassess the situation,” she says. If friends continue to dictate the terms of a relationship, then perhaps it’s time to find new ones Girls are also given advice on communicating with parents who may be putting them under pressure. “Assertive communication is one of the most valuable tools teens can use if they’re experiencing conflict with their parents”, says Dr Schmidt. All good, but perhaps could have done without the half page illustration of a mother shouting through a megaphone with the words ‘Bla’, ‘Bla’, ‘Bla’ coming out of it maybe implying mothers yell but have nothing important to say which may not facilitate the positive and calm communication encouraged in the article. (Yes, I know, I’m a mother). Read entire post here.
A female teacher at a Tasmanian school where I spoke on the objectification of women could not stay to hear the end of my talk.
The images I showed were too confronting, bringing back traumas suffered two decades ago.
”The very acts that have become part of my trauma were there on display as a part of mainstream culture,” she said.
Do advertisers, editors, fashion, music and video-game producers think about how their violent images traumatise female survivors of sexual abuse and degradation?
T-shirts in surf stores depict women naked, bound and splattered in blood. Mainstream advertising shows women pinned down in simulated gang-rape scenes, tied up in cars boots, buried, chopped into pieces, decapitated. Women are shown as passive, vulnerable, often naked and as sex aids.
These images, among 200 in my presentation, took Genevieve back 20 years.
Once an idealistic young person, Genevieve worked hard to turn her love of acting and performing arts into admission to a prestigious performing arts school.
”It went without saying that you did not get in just on talent, but on marketability,” she says.
”I remember consciously dressing in a low-cut body suit and tight jeans aware that my acting skills were only part of my ticket in. From that moment on, I was a commodity and accepted treatment as such.”
Groomed by a lecturer, she ended up drugged and sexually assaulted for three days by five men. Each played out fantasies that were listed in explicit writing on the walls. Because of their power and status, she didn’t go to the police, fearing retribution.
She also felt that being cross-examined in the courts would retraumatise her. She had seen what had happened to other victims.
What Genevieve suffered came back to her as I spoke. Seeing my images caused her to panic. Her heart beat rapidly, she went into a hot sweat and she felt herself dissociating and losing time.
She says she felt retraumatised. ”I could feel a rising wave of fear. I’ve spent 20 years rebuilding my life. Every day I have to make a wall between me and the world. I’m so busy trying to protect myself. Deviant behaviour is now on public display every day.”
Do those who profit from the images they use to sell things even care about the impact on women like Genevieve? She is worried about the normalising of these images to children. ”What hope do my boys have of knowing where the line is? What hope does a girl who experiences these things have of getting understanding and support when she is confronted by constant exposure to images that say it is OK?” Genevieve asks.
Two years ago, Brian McFadden (his fiancee at the time, Delta Goodrem, was an anti-violence ambassador) released a song titled Just the way you are (Drunk at the Bar), which contains the lines: ”I like you just the way you are, drunk as shit dancing at the bar, I can’t wait to take you home so I can do some damage … I can’t wait to take you home so I can take advantage.”
In response, one survivor wrote in a comment on my blog:
”So, Brian McFadden, do you think this is something to poke fun at? Does my story deserve its own catchy tune and rounds of laughter and applause because you were so clever to come up with something witty that ultimately diminishes the trauma of my experience and belittles my feelings about it?”
Such imagery and words, as used by McFadden, create a harmful cultural narrative about what it means to be a woman today. Media and popular culture reflect values. Any reading of the social landscape tells us women are really only good for one thing: to be used sexually.
Anti-violence campaigner and sexual assault survivor Kate Ravenscroft points out that one in three women is a victim of violence, yet the trauma of their experience is diminished and belittled.
The cultural messages that make violence appear sexy are part of the same culture in which victims of sexual assault have to survive.
”Seeing that violence treated flippantly, carelessly, can be devastating,” she says.
Women like Genevieve battle to control rising panic most days, everywhere they go, because the acts done to them are on display so casually, with the tacit approval of governments who love to repeat a mantra that self-regulation is working. It’s not, and it’s real women who are hurt because of it.
Miley recently cited Irish singer Sinead O’Connor as an influence for her Wrecking Ball video. O’Connor begged to differ. Here’s what she wrote in an open letter on her website:
I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today i’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your Wrecking Ball video was designed to be similar to the one for Nothing Compares… So this is what I need to say… And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love.
I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way ‘cool’ to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether its the music business or yourself doing the pimping.
Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.
I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you.
The music business doesn’t give a shit about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted.. and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, ‘they’ will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.
None of the men oggling you give a shit about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a fuck about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a fuck about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a fuck about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped.. and that includes you yourself.
Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them pray [sic] for animals and less than animals (a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and the associated media).
You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever.. Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty.. which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.
I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying fuck about you. They’re there for the money.. we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control.
You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 yrs of age.. which unfortunately many female artists who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age.
Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question.. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. Its really not at all cool. And its sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every spunk-spewing dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with.
As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image.. whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now.. Not because you got naked but because you make great records.
Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that its somehow cool to be prostituted.. its so not cool Miley.. its dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. we aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers.. that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherfucker who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.
I would very much like you please to apologise to myself and Amanda Bynes for having perpetuated abuse of both of us on the grounds that we have had ‘mental health issues’ and or experienced suicidal feelings and were open about it.
This should also involve an apology to all sufferers of mental health difficulties.
I’m not sure if you are aware that in your own country 7 out of every 100,000 people between the ages of 15 and 19 commit suicide every year. The third highest cause of death for those in that age range. Or that on average one person in your country dies by suicide every 16.2 minutes.
In your country suicide is the second highest cause of death amongst 25-34 yr olds.
A lot of these deaths would not take place if it were not the case that stigmatisation and bullying and buffooning of those perceived mistakenly or otherwise to have mental health issues, especially when they seek help, creates silence and causes many not to seek help.
Bullying of mentally ill people causes deaths. Period.
You may have noticed that in your country it is the fashion to lynch young famous ladies in the streets because they have been diagnosed crazy by media and or celebrities. This is unacceptable. And at some point the media may attempt it upon you. If so they will certainly have to deal with me.
Look Miley, what you did to myself and Amanda encouraged enormous abuse of us both, publicly and privately. And will certainly have made it difficult for young people who admire you and who may be suffering with mental health problems to feel they can be open and seek help, since you had us mocked for seeking help.
It is imperative that all suicidal people seek help. Whether they do so on twitter or anywhere else is beside the point. People must save their lives by any means necessary which do not involve hurting anyone. It is extremely dangerous to vilify these who are brave enough to seek help as I did. Or to support in any way the public lynching of so called ‘mad’ people.
Young people are being buried in their droves, having died by suicides brought about by bulling of the type you perhaps unwittingly subjected myself and Amanda to. The type of media bullying which resulted from what you did causes suicides. And perpetuates the idea that those deemed by the media to be crazy are fit for nothing but to be mocked and insulted, this causes deaths. Period.
As a result of what you did I have had numerous communications from people urging me to commit suicide. Not to mention I have been the subject of literally thousands of abusive articles and or comments left after articles, which state that I and therefore all perceived mentally ill people, should be bullied and be invalidated….Read in full here
My past commentary on Olympia Nelson’s image, Art Monthly and Bill Henson
I appeared briefly on Australian story last night in a piece about Olympia Nelson, inspired by her significant piece on the rise of the selfie, ‘Dark undercurrents of teenage girls selfies’, published in The Sydney Morning Herald, July 11, 2003, and reprinted here.
Because a much longer interview was cut (as is often the case – I’m not complaining, it’s the nature of media and having ones opinions quoted anywhere is a privilege), some of my thinking on the issue of sexualisation, sexuality, selfies, and the debate around the depiction of children in art, was not included. I wanted to put on the record views expressed earlier, for a more complete picture. I’d like to say straight up that I find Polexini Papapetrou’s art quite beautiful and evocative. And it wasn’t Olympia’s naked image in and of itself that was the main problem for myself and my colleagues (we don’t have an issue with nudity per se). There is an important context that needs to be considered.
The publishing of the naked image of then six-year-old Olympia Nelson on the cover of Art Monthly in July 2008 was in protest against the response to Bill Henson’s naked artwork of children, particularly an image of a young topless girl with budding breasts featuring in a promotional invitation to his latest exhibition. I commented on Henson’s work here (photos redacted but can be viewed here).
Henson’s sexualised depictions of young girls: calling it art doesn’t make it OK
I haven’t seen the latest photographs by artist Bill Henson to go on show at Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne.
But I have seen these.
So I know what Henson is capable of and how he likes to depicts and shoot young girls.
The girl (image to the right) who featured naked on the invite to the Roslyn Oxley gallery was 13. While that photo was widely circulated, an even more graphic one of another girl (image to the left) was not. She is ‘Untitled 1985/86’, quietly auctioned by Menzies Art Brands, Lot 214, for $3800, only weeks after the original Henson controversy.
And when Tolarno Galleries refuses to reveal the age of the youngest naked girl in the new exhibition, you have to suspect there is a problem. Why the secrecy? Was she at an age where she could consent? As respected teen psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg put it when I asked his view, would she “have sufficient cognitive or emotional maturity to fully comprehend the potential ramifications of what she is doing?”
Where will her photo end up? Where did the photos of the other two girls above end up?
Why does calling it “art” make sexualised depictions of young girls OK?
It is right to question Henson’s sexual depictions of vulnerable naked young girls – and other overtly sexualised imagery of children – a point I made on Channel 7’s Morning Show last Thursday. Media academic and researcher Nina Funnell also reveals here that Henson’s images have been found in the collections of paedophilies. (video no longer available)
This is my letter in the Sydney Morning Herald, July 10, 2008, on the placement of Olympia’s image in a magazine featuring images of extreme porn-themed torture, including schoolgirl torture. It was publishing her image in this context that added a new and very problematic layer, not commented on at all in the debate at the time, apart from the observations I made here. Dismissing these concerns as a ‘moral panic’ is just too easy and too convenient.
Art is about “giving people dignity”, the critic Robert Nelson told ABC radio this week. “We’ve got to have faith in art,” he said. Nelson is the father of Olympia, whose naked photos appear in Art Monthly Australia’s latest issue. The photos were taken in 2003 by her mother, when the girl was six.
While flicking through Art Monthly, I wondered whether Mr Nelson had looked at the magazine that featured his daughter before he gave us his thoughts on art and human dignity.
Call me particular, but I don’t find images of semi-naked, bound women with protruding sex organs all that dignified. I looked really hard, but I couldn’t see much dignity in the photograph of a Japanese schoolgirl trussed in rope and suspended with her skirt raised to reveal her underwear. Torture porn just doesn’t stir my soul.
Some of Bill Henson’s images are there, of course (this issue was a “protest” in defence of his work). They are followed by selections from the work of Nobuyoshi Araki, probably best known for his passion for taking photos of girls and women exposed and bound.
There’s his slumped, bound schoolgirl picture and an image of a woman with her clothing stripped back, the ropes squeezing her naked breasts and contorting her into a pose that displays her genitals. A third uplifting work depicts a woman on the ground, strained forward, her naked spreading backside to the camera.
Faith in art?
A little further into the magazine you come upon the work of David Laity. What offering of truth and beauty does Laity give us? An image of a woman being bound with the tentacles of an octopus as it performs oral sex on her. That’s some dignified octopus. Then there’s an image of a woman bending over so we can see her … Well, you get the picture.
The photographs of Olympia need to be viewed in the context of the images positioned around her. On their own, the images that show Olympia reclining naked, her pose and look more that of an adult, can be seen as sexualised. But surrounding her with these other images superimposes a further, more sinister, meaning on them.
The former Democrats senator Lyn Allison told Sunrise the controversy was just about little girls playing dress-ups. But don’t dress-ups usually involve putting clothes on, not taking them off? And does this game usually end with your photo published in a gallery of female genitals?
The magazine’s editor said he wanted to “restore dignity to the debate”. Does he really think he’s achieved that?
Artists who recognise there should be ethical constraints to art; artists who don’t think it advances humanity to tie up naked girls and capture their images. Now that would be dignified.
The SMH letter was expanded into a piece for Online Opinion published July 18, 2008. While Robert Nelson criticised myself and my colleagues on twitter this week claiming we read the image of his daughter inappropriately, see how he himself has described some of his child’s photographs.
…Of course it’s not about dress-ups. Even Robert Nelson doesn’t think that.
In fact, (as Andrew Bolt uncovered) in the year 2000 Robert Nelson had described one of the photographs as part of an exploration of his daughter’s “eroticism”. Even her sucking a dummy as a four-year-old, was, said Nelson “potentially the most diabolically sexual” image, a symbol of “the perversity of pleasure-sucking’’.
Critics of the Polixeni Papapetrou images have been criticised for reading too much into them. Yet Nelson himself renders the child in sexualised ways.
Nelson once described Henson’s work as displaying a “vulgar relish in depicting naked, pouting teenagers” in a “teasing sexual spectacle” to present them as a “passive target for the viewer’s lust”. He wrote, “Henson’s interest in juvenile erotica … is an aesthetic of spying, granting you an illicit glimpse, as in all pornographic genres … Henson’s grope in the gloaming has unpleasant moral overtones, as when the participants are too young for sex’’.
So why give photographs of your daughter to a magazine whose raison d’être was a defence of Henson? It is hard to understand.
The magazine’s editor Maurice O’Riordan said he had wanted to “restore dignity to the debate”. Does he really think he’s achieved that by throwing Olympia in with tied up school girls, women who have been rendered completely powerless…
We must protect our kids from the catwalk of shame
Why can’t Australia be more like France?
While our country held the world’s first parliamentary inquiry into the sexualisation of children – and has done nothing since – the French parliament has begun taking action on its inquiry, with a move to ban child beauty pageants.
The 2008 Senate inquiry into the sexualisation of children in the contemporary media environment continues to gather dust. But the French have taken their 2012 report, Against Hyper-Sexualisation: A New Fight for Equality, more seriously.
On Tuesday, a bill to outlaw child beauty pageants passed in the French senate as part of a wider law on gender equality. It will go through the national assembly before becoming law. Organisers might face a jail term of up to two years and a fine of €30,000 ($43,000).
While the wording of our report was soft, the French report by former sports minister and centrist senator Chantal Jouanno was unequivocal about the harms of sexualising girls.
It called for the ban on child beauty pageants – also known as ”Mini-Miss” competitions – for under 16s. It also recommended a ban on child-size adult clothing, such as padded bras and high-heeled shoes.
Jouanno expressed concern young girls were being disguised as ”sexual candy” in a ”competition over appearance, beauty and seduction”. ”Let us not make our girls believe from an early age that their only value is their appearance,” Jouanno told the senate. ”Let us not allow commercial interests to outweigh social interests … we have a duty to defend the superior interest of the child.”
If the French can say no to sexualised doll-girls, why can’t we? In 2011 Universal Royalty pageants came to Australia, staging events in Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast and Perth, meeting significant opposition. We protesters (I was one of them) didn’t think it was in the best interest of girls to deck them out in fake hair, eyelashes and teeth, garish costumes and grotesque make-up to perform provocative routines before judges.
The dominant message of pageants is that physical beauty equates to worth, providing external validation that looks are most important. They reinforce stereotypical ideas about what constitutes female beauty. The MC at the Sydney show raved excitedly about how ”beautiful” the
In August of that year, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry said: ”Direct participation and competition for a beauty prize where infants and girls are objectified and judged against sexualised ideals can have significant mental health and developmental consequences that impact detrimentally on identity, self-esteem, and body perception.”
A 2005 study in The Journal of Treatment and Prevention reported ”a significant association between childhood beauty pageant participation and increased body dissatisfaction, difficulty trusting interpersonal relationships, and greater impulsive behaviours”.
The child modelling cancer isn’t just seen in events imported from the US. A ”model search” at Queensland’s Ashmore State School was held for children as young as two as part of a Family Fun Fair last year. Prizes included modelling courses worth hundreds of dollars.
Queensland Minister for Education, Training and Employment John-Paul Langbroek wrote to a complainant in July 2013 that the ”modelling competition was perceived by the … school community as in essence little different from trialling for junior sports teams …”
Of course, it’s not pageants on their own that are the problem. It’s a system that treats women and girls as decorative objects; that emphasises physical appearance over everything else, teaching girls to draw attention to their bodies, not their brains.
Commercial interests continue to win, with corporate social responsibility thrown on the scrap heap in the quest for profit. The previous government washed its hands of the sexualisation problem, claiming industry ”self-regulation” was working. If this is regulation, I’d hate to see what a free-for-all looked like. And it is guaranteed the new government will do the same. It seems our rulers are beholden to big business. Australia is being left behind, as Britain also takes significant action to address the issue.
Research shows that reinforcing an emphasis on looks and attractiveness leads to negative body image, disordered eating, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. But as long as someone is making money, who cares if children are exploited?
‘In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality’
By Ori Golan
It’s on billboards, in newspapers and magazines; it proliferates on television and social networks. Toys, songs, graffiti, advertisements, internet and iPhone applications all promote it in one way or another. The hyper-sexualisation of women. From subtle sexist innuendoes to base pornography, women are routinely degraded and used as commodities to generate commerce or score political gains. Former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was relentlessly targeted for misogynistic attacks. Whether it was her attire or body parts; or her personal life, it was all fair game. The list of epithets includes, among others: dog, bitch, witch, old cow, deliberately barren, and menopausal monster.
But it is not just women in key positions. Girls of every age and walk of life are routinely urged to trade on their looks. Advertising and film industries focus heavily on women’s sexual features rather than attributes such as intelligence or work capacity; they are often depicted as objects in positions of inferiority, subordination and low social power. Seldom are women depicted as protagonists who are feisty, intelligent and charismatic. A cursory glimpse at media outlets yields images of prepubescent beauty pageants, teenaged girls smothered in makeup, women in suggestive poses and models with perfect curves.
Psychologist Sarah McMahon from BodyMatters Australasia, a clinic which specialises in body image issues, warns against this highly prejudiced and dangerous objectification of women. “When we talk about the negative role the media has on young girls” Sarah says, “I think we automatically defer to the narrow beauty ideal that is perpetuated through the homogenised look of models and the overuse of photo-shop”.
Indeed, on a daily basis, our senses are assaulted by aggressive advertising campaigns presenting body-perfect models with unattainable dimensions to promote films, food, designer labels, underwear, diets and games.
Cosmetic surgery is a spin-off from this industry, in the pursuit of the ideal body. It is a colossal global market, raking in millions of dollars in profit. Across the globe, 15 million people turn to plastic surgery to enhance their looks – the vast majority of them women. According to the Australasian College of Cosmetic Surgery (ACCS), cosmetic procedures in Australia, which include breast augmentation and liposuction, generate over $1 billion a year.
There is also another, darker and more sinister, aspect to this prolific gender exploitation: the propagation of DVDs and video games of a highly sexual nature depicting incest, rape and appalling sexual violence against women. Many of these are available for quick, unfettered purchase in shops and service stations.
More than ever before, young – often very young – people are bombarded with hyper-sexualised messages. Pornography is invading their lives at unprecedented rates.
So, what are the consequences and effects of such pervasive invasion of sexualised material?
Speaker, columnist and advocate, Melinda Tankard Reist, has no doubt that the consequences are direct, insidious and long-term. As the co-founder of Collective Shout which runs a tireless campaigner to end the sexualisation of girls, Melinda is well placed to speak on this matter. “We are seeing a sharp decline in women holding key roles, an increase in eating disorders and a rise in physical violence against women. Collective Shout takes upon itself to name and shame corporations, advertisers and marketers who objectify women and sexualise girls to sell products and services. Melinda has spearheaded numerous campaigns against a major corporations to remove highly offensive advertising or merchandise which exploits or degrades women.
Watching the film Miss Representation, by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, brings these points into sharp relief. This outstanding documentary puts the spotlight on mainstream US media where women are routinely demeaned, sexualised and limited to stereotyped roles. The facts speak for themselves: women are grossly under-representation in positions of influence in the US; is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures; it is now a country where women hold only 3% of high positions in mainstream media. Given such appalling statistics, it is hardly surprising that there is a dramatic drop in the numbers of aspiring young women. Marian Wright, President of Children’s Defense Fund, puts it succinctly when she says: You can’t be what you can’t see.
But there’s worse: a staggering 65% of American women and girls have eating disorders as a direct consequence of the relentless glorification of thin women in the media.
The problem is, of course, not restricted to the US.
Inês Almeida, Executive Director at the Brave Girls Alliance and Founder of TowardTheStars, is keenly aware of the cause-and-effect between the sexualisation of girls and the three most common mental health problems effecting girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. “Substantial research shows that mass media influences girls and young women’s beliefs about themselves”, she affirms.
According to Inês, in 2012 some 913,000 Australians were recorded with eating disorders, two thirds of them women. To compound the problem, the concerned age-group is becoming increasingly – and alarmingly – younger. “Both the Westmead Hospital in Sydney and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne have observed that eating disorder cases have increased substantially in the under-12 age group”, she says.
Inês is poised to combat this devastating trend. Last year she launched the TowardTheStars campaign; a movement that provides gifts and resources that inspire and enable girls to be strong, smart and daring. “In a world overwhelmed with messages that tell girls that their value comes from their external appearance”, she explains, “it is imperative to showcase girls who are courageous, strong, bold, determined, accomplished and athletic. We need to see more girls who are leaders, scientists, adventurers, politicians and, of course, superheroes!”
On October 11, the UN’s International Day of the Girl, the Brave Girls Alliance plans to take over Times Square. “With enough supporters, we’ll rent a billboard to flash brief girl-positive messages 40 times per hour, 20 hours per day, for 7 days”, says Inês.
Alex McClintock is a journalist, male and full-fledged feminist. “If you think the parliament is full of misogynists, then maybe you should take a look in your local pub or nightclub on a Friday night” he advises, alluding to the grossly sexual and misogynist bravado so common among men. “Men can be feminists too and the best way to do it is by being active in masculine spaces like locker rooms and pubs.”
He brings into the discussion an issue that has not been discussed or even alluded to: how to make sense of a world from a man’s perspective. With the propagation of pornography and its proliferation on the net, making it accessible to almost any internet user, how do we deal with it? How do we teach boys to treat women with respect? How do we instil civility and parity?
“If boys and girls are going to look at porn, then we should have porn education in schools to help them make sense of it”, he suggests. This is no doubt a statement worthy of discussion in its own right.
The many issues and sentiments which a ThinkActChange debate such as this can stir, are often close, personal and painful. A member of the audience shared her experience, shortly after the event.
“I’ve been living a life full of eating-disordered hell since I was 10 years old, and now 12 years laterm at the age of 22, I am only beginning to see the damage that society and media play on young girls and women like myself. It wasn’t just me who has been suffering from anorexia. My whole family and circle of friends have been suffering as well. I can happily say now that I am very much on the way to full recovery. I am also back at university and hope to one day work alongside Sarah McMahon and the wonderful women and men out there trying to prevent eating disorders in society and help those in need.”
It is a salutary reminder, and a truly moving testimony, of the very real influence and terrible impact which the sexualising of women in the media can exert on an individual’s wellbeing.
In the pornified music world populated by churned-out female pop stars pumping and grinding to a sexualised script, cavorting semi-naked and presented as sexually insatiable, we see Miley Cyrus simulating sex acts while denuded of real sexuality.
While many around the world condemned what was seen as an overtly sexualised performance at the recent MTV music awards, her crotch-centred routine – which included rubbing the groins of herself and Robin Thicke with a giant hand possibly stolen from a Coles ”down, down, prices are down” ad – was one of the most desexed stage performances I have seen.
Miley Cyrus is a business. Her mostly male management would have scripted every plastic fake sex move. In an industry dominated by men, Cyrus thrusted and writhed because these same men thought there would be money in it.
The view of some young people whose thoughts I sought in schools last week was that it was less an expression of sexuality than of ugliness. For them, Cyrus’ performance represented a distorted version of female sexuality. And if Cyrus’ management thought the act would shore up her fan base, they have misjudged.
Almost without exception, the girls groaned and rolled their eyes when I asked them about it. Grace, 13, says: ”The performance portrayed a negative image of women.”
Alex, 13, drew attention to the shaping of boys’ thinking. ”It shows boys that’s how we are, our image.”
Megan, 12: ”She thinks it’s cool, she’ll attract more people, but she hasn’t.”
Emma, 11: ”I felt overexposed to something I shouldn’t have watched.”
These girls noted that the women on stage wore less clothing than the men. They wanted to know why this differential nakedness was acceptable. It troubled them that Robin Thicke – whose Blurred Lines song has been condemned as justifying non-consensual sex, is almost twice Cyrus’ age. (Defined Lines, a parody by three female University of Auckland students sending up Thicke’s song, was temporarily removed from YouTube for displaying sexually explicit content, while his clip containing topless women can still be viewed in full online.)
X-rated artificial sex routines have become banal. The girls expressed a desire to enjoy female talent free of predictable objectified routines. They want to see an emphasis on the song more than the body.
Lady Gaga pulls a machinegun out of her vagina, Katy Perry shoots whipped cream from her breasts and Rihanna offers S&M and bondage themes. It may be porny, but it’s far from erotic.
And, of course, there is a contrast in the judgment afforded to women compared with men. Men are so often let off the hook. US rap artist Tyler, The Creator, who sings about rape being fun, raping a pregnant woman and calling it a three-way and raping female corpses, was given a visa to perform his live misogyny at ”all ages” Australian concerts recently.
Flo Rida’s Can’t Believe It, at No. 7 on the top-40 charts, also enforces the female-artist-as-porn-performer theme. The song opens with, ”Damn, that white girl got some ass”, and the video features objectified, headless women with oversize backsides. Women are depicted visually as ice-cream and in porn-style poses.
Justin Timberlake’s Tunnel Vision clip has him in a suit surrounded by naked women whose sole purpose is to writhe around him. It is a complete double standard. We don’t see male artists gyrating their bums before the cameras.
The female students I spent time with wanted to see more female performers who defied limited visions of womanhood. They saw Adele and Taylor Swift as women who respected themselves, were devoted to their voices and who refused to conform to the standard expectations of women in the music industry. For a truly beautiful and sensual performance, give me Sade Adu, the British singer touring this country for the first time in 25 years in December. Here is a woman who understands you don’t have to take your clothes off for a lads’ mag to prove you are a real woman.
Churning out one manufactured fantasy after another, in which women are always presented as ”up for it”, doesn’t constitute an expression of female independence or agency. The girls I spent time with saw it as co-operating in your own exploitation. ”Miley exploits herself now,” says one student, 13.
They wanted something more than a singing, dancing sexual puppet. Why can’t the music industry give them that?
One of the great rewards of this work for women and girls is the global collaborations that have been forged by like-minded people who recognise there is strength in numbers: that a combined voice will achieve more.
The latest exciting initiative is Brave Girls Want, a powerhouse think tank and advocacy group that brings together experts, activist, and parent voices to communicate why our culture needs healthier media for its girls.
We are asking media creators to expand their version of what it means to be a girl, and recognize our girls as whole, complex people and not as gender stereotypes. To stop profiting from selling girls short.
We believe that girls deserve better, because we know that the consequences to girls’ well-being are serious. The alliance is asking media creators to rethink products in development and ensure they teach girls to be strong, intelligent, and adventurous. We are tired of girls being pigeon-holed and reduced to homogenized images and stereotypes.
We are asking media creators to practice corporate social responsibility – to take the sexy out of childhood. Reducing female characters’ value to being about physical appearance and nothing more damages girls.
A force of leadership asking everyone from parents, educators, loved ones, legislators and businesses to support, empower, and encourage brave, adventurous, strong, smart, and spirited girls. We are looking to rid the world of labels that confine, constrict or compress the growth of our girls so they can be their most authentic and awesome versions of themselves.
The initiative was spearheaded by the amazing Melissa Atkins Wardy of Pigtail Pals and Inês Almeida who I interviewed in September 2012 when she launched ‘Toward the Stars’, an online marketplace of products for girls which were gender stereotype and sexualisation free.
Inês made this You Tube film to launch Brave Girls.
Says Melissa: “The BGA takes its unique collection of voices to pair our expertise in girl advocacy with our passion for healthy, empowered girls to work as advocates when speaking with media content creators and corporations to guide a conversation on how to improve media.
“We also bring girls voices to the front, so that they may speak directly with media creators and tell them what messages, characters, and stories they want to see and hear.”
As part of Brave Girls Want, the alliance is planning to invade Time Square on October 11, coinciding with the International Day of the Girl. For seven days, we will rent a billboard in Time Square and talk about what we want for our girls and what they are telling us they want for themselves: fewer limits, more choices, less photo-shopping, more real images, less sexualization, more time to enjoy childhood.
“We have kicked off a revolutionary campaign that is bringing together the power of social media with the power of old media (billboards) and giving a voice to communities all over the world to be showcased on the business street corner in the world – Times Square, “ says Melissa.
“We need all the support we can get to make it happen and have our voices for what brave girls want seen and heard by millions just as the holiday shopping season kicks off.”
You can support the campaign here. Sign up to Brave Girls Want and please kick in whatever you can to buy some messages in Times Square!
“When we label our children, we unwittingly define them.We provide definite limits that tell our children what we think of them, what we expect of them and who they are to be…As we all want our children…to have every opportunity to flourish into the person they are meant to become, it’s vital that we stop labeling and acknowledge room for growth, change and reinvention.” — Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman
Complete disregard for the wellbeing and safety of young girls
Last night Foxtel gave this response to our criticism of it facilitating a sexualising contest of adult beauty standards to promote Australia’s Next Top Model.
“There’s no doubt that the socially engaged fans of Australia’s Next Top Model have embraced Australia’s Next Top Selfie. The “selfie” is a global social media phenomenon that is fun and light-hearted – just like this promotion.”
This may well be the most pathetic, socially irresponsible response I have ever seen from a corporate in my many years of activism. Foxtel has shown compete disregard for the safety and wellbeing of girls. The company doesn’t give a damn that images of underage girls are likely being snagged and captured right now and forwarded to porn sites.
The response is devoid of any sense of responsibility for facilitating and enabling this.
Foxtel seems happy to exploit the bodies of underage girls to promote its modelling competition.
Here’s the story in Mumbrella today
Foxtel faces social media backlash with Australia’s #NextTopPredator hashtag
A Fox8 social media promotion for Australia’s Next Top Model urging people to take ‘selfies’ and post them on Instagram is facing a social media backlash by a group of feminist activists launching the hashtag Australia’s #NextTopPredator to counter the competition.
The activists, who include social commentator Melinda Tankard Reist, claim girls, as young as nine, are posting images of themselves in sexual poses and are instead urging people to enter the competition with positive messages.
“Research by the Internet Watch Foundation tells us that 88 per cent of self made images posted by girls online are captured sent to porn websites,” claimed Tankard Reist. They are snatched and captured and sent to what are known as parasite pornsites,” she said. “These girls have no idea that their images could be going there and here is Australia’s Next Top Model is soliciting this.”
Under the rules of the competition any Australian resident can enter the competition. Those under the age of 18 must have parental permission. To date there have been more than 50,000 entries in the competition.
As part of the competition there is also a moderated live feed of the images from the competition which is being posted to the ANTM home page.
Foxtel faces social media backlash with Australias #NextTopPredator hashtag Top model 468x492However, a search of the competition hashtag #antmselfie on Twitter and Instagram shows that among the entries from adults are images of girls who have entered the competition as as young as eight or nine dressed in swim suits and other revealing clothing.
“They’re got some rules about who can enter the competition but they’re not stopping young girls from just sending entries in and they not deleting them,” said Tankard Reist.
“The images are all over Instagram and so we decided to engage in some culture jamming in creating our own hashtag and sending out positive messages to girls.
Entries on the rival #nexttoppredator hashtag
A spokesman for Fox8 said: “There’s no doubt that the socially engaged fans of Australia’s Next Top Model have embraced Australia’s Next Top Selfie. The “selfie” is a global social media phenomenon that is fun and light-hearted – just like this promotion,” said the Fox8 spokesman.
Tankard Reist said: “The response is devoid of any sense of responsibility for facilitating and enabling this.”
Tankard Reist has shown images to Mumbrella entered for the competition featuring girls clearly only in their early teens which are not appropriate for re-publication 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
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It and the Ruby Who? book and DVD in one bundle for $100 and save 20% off the individual price.
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real and Faking It in one bundle for $70 and save 20% off the individual price.
Purchase Getting Real, Faking It and Ruby Who? DVD in one bundle for $60 and save 12% off the individual price.
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“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
“A landmark publication” – Clive Hamilton
“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.