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.
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.”
Ja feel men’s fashion label: corporate sexual predator promoting non-consensual sex acts
Ja feel men’s fashion label: corporate sexual predator promoting non-consensual sex acts.
Australian company, Ja feel, promotes the sexual abuse and degradation of women and girls (as well as pornographic imagery and racist stereotypes) all in the name of marketing their “lifestyle brand.”
The Perth-based retail company, which promotes itself as a clubbing and music festival label and ships its misogyny worldwide, is, in reality, a corporate sexual predator.
You can see how committed they are to promoting rape culture based on images from their social media accounts. Read more
We feel you need to be shut down
Just when you think it can’t get worse…
How is this Australian company allowed to promote the sexual abuse and degradation of women and girls in this way? Perth-based Ja feel, which promotes itself as a clubbing and music festival label and ships its misogyny worldwide, is, in reality, a corporate sexual predator.
Here are some images from their social media accounts.
See how committed they are to promoting rape culture (if the meaning is unclear, the reference below is to a man shifting from vaginal to anal penetration without consent then pretending to be sorry about it).
See how they love giving women the pornified treatment and teaching boys they are entitled to women’s bodies. (#TittyTuesday and #ThongThursday are among their popular hashtags).
See how they feature even a young girl in a sexually suggestive way, with the elephant’s trunk as phallic symbol (there’s a popular porn- themed racist stereotype in this one too).
And, here are stickers, complete with instructions on sticking them on a woman’s breasts.
Echoing rape culture slogans, migrating porn images into every day advertising, grooming a whole generation of boys to prey upon women because that’s what ‘men’s lifestyle’ means now, Ja feel is building the scaffolding which reinforces sexist attitudes creating an environment where violence against women is flourishing. We feel your hate.
Sexualised Violence isn’t Alright, Just because a Woman is the Perpetrator
BBHMM revels in the eroticization of total power, control and domination over another woman. But we are expected to see it as empowering, because Rihanna and her henchwomen are the agents of this control
By Melinda Tankard Reist
A frame from Rihanna’s new video for Bitch Better Have My Money (BBHMM) zooms in on Rihanna’s bikinied bottom. Floating horizontally beside her is Rih’s half-drowned victim.
The singer’s “hot bum” is more significant than the woman floating beneath Rihanna’s lilo. Men are enjoying it. They love her blood soaked “titties” too.
BBHMM revels in the eroticization of total power, control and domination over another woman. But we are expected to see it as empowering, because Rihanna and her henchwomen are the agents of this control.
And because Rihanna is black, and because the victim is white and because so many black women have suffered because of white privilege, the rest of us should shut up.
But if we are going to call out other expressions of physical, sexual and emotional brutality men enact on women (Tyler the Creator, Snoop Dog, Eminem, to name a few) and the kind of white girl cruelty led by Lady Gaga (in Telephone), we can’t quarantine the mega star’s video because of her colour.
The clip has been acclaimed as: badass feminism, subversive, sassy, funny, bossy, ballsy, edgy, unapologetic. Call it what you like. What you’re left with is the 7 minute sadistic abuse of a woman for entertainment (garnering more than 16 million views so far).
The story line: Rihanna is mad because her accountant ripped her off (which happened in real life). So Rih and her girlfriends kidnap the accountant’s pearly white, filthy rich, Pomeranian-toting wife and hit the road for some ritualised torture and pornified abuse.
The hostage is stripped, assaulted, hung upside down and swung by a hook in an abandoned barn, plied with drugs and alcohol, made a plaything for a party and knocked unconscious with a bottle to the head when she calls out for help.
When torturing rich-white-lady-who-had-it-coming doesn’t get her money back, greedy dude is quickly dispatched. He keeps his clothes on, there is no drawn out persecution, no sado-suffering at the hands of our rubber suited vixen. His death doesn’t even get that much airtime, really. Five seconds later, Rih is smeared in blood, her naked body adorned with dollar bills in the trunk which once held her victim (who is dead or alive, we’re not sure; there’s more concern over what became of her dog).
To put it bluntly, it is the woman whose humiliation we’re expected to enjoy. A Huffington Post reviewer writes that the line, “Your wife’s in the backseat of my brand new foreign car” was “brought to life” at a live rendition of the song on Saturday Night Live in March, with a “crying, bound and gagged woman utilized as part of the performance”.
Of course, there’s a risk in calling out women’s violence against women. It gives entitled men who don’t like their violence named an excuse to say, “Women are just as bad!” But while the global statistics on violence show it is mostly men who are the perpetrators, we can’t gloss over such brutality when it is women normalising and embedding it in the culture. Though Cosmopolitan – a magazine which has supported campaigns against violence against women – manages to do just that: “She throws her phone into the ocean and shoots it. Plus NSFW nudity!”
BBHMM sends a message that female power comes from inflicting pain on other women while still being sexually appealing to men. Through the bloodied rampage, Rihanna is represented as a badass, cool and confident, while her powerless captive flails. At the BDSM-themed party, we are led to believe the inebriated victim is enjoying her torture. The viewer also learns that this is how black women get power: by punishing white women who are portrayed as a privileged pampered bitches.
It has been posited that Rihanna is a grand philosopher making some elaborate comment on race, or gender or class, and that the video represents some kind of proletarian uprising of poor black women. (The fact Rihanna is a brand seems to be forgotten). “I see a black woman putting her own well-being above the well-being of a white woman,” writes Mia McKenzie. Poor black women have to put themselves first if they are to pay the rent and such like.
There is no denying the hardship faced by black women in cultures where they suffer the double indignities of race and being female. But Rihanna’s character is hardly symbolic of oppressed black women. Her victim, remember, is in the back of a new car p a car our heroine sets on fire a short time later because, well, there’s plenty more where that came from. She can afford to hurl her phone into the sea and can lay out wads of cash for Louis Vuitton chests (perfect for storing hostages in). And how many black women – indeed, any women – can afford Rihanna’s wardrobe? (her BBHMM outfits are listed in the “definitive ranking” on one fashion site: “Kidnapping, nudity, murder: the video of the year is here, and it’s got the style to prove it”).
How many black women have the kind of power and fame Rihanna possesses – and why is that power being used to promote sexual torture of women? And how does her personal power help other women who are oppressed by race, gender and class? One woman’s popularity does not equal the freedom of many.
Can’t we start from the basis that no woman deserve to be hurt? It is problematic that, as a survivor of violence herself, Rhianna would make a video sending cultural signifiers which imply that violence is a way of solving problems. In so doing, she has contributed to a hostile environment for women everywhere.
Rihanna has 81 million Facebook, 42 million Twitter and 16 million Instagram followers. Many will be young women, and many of those young black women. They observe a script loaded with eroticised violence, themes inspired by the sex industry and pimp culture, lyrics celebrating the debasement of women. For many young women imprisoned in America’s juvenile justice system, violence was not a pathway to empowerment and success. The enculturation of violence as a normalised pattern of behaviour has been identified as a key factor in their criminal behaviour.
Girls looking to Rihanna as an icon of success, wealth and power deserve better than brutal, pornified snuff which plays into harmful cultural, racist and misogynist stereotypes in which all women lose.
Inciting Violence Against Women Isn’t ‘Art’, and Tyler the Creator Shouldn’t Be Granted Entry
By Caitlin Roper
“It’s just irony” seems to be the go-to defence for misogyny these days.
As a female activist for grassroots organisation Collective Shout, I hear it all the time.
After the global backlash to Kanye West’s sexually violent Monster music video – which featured lingerie clad female corpses hanging from the ceilings, West in bed with two dead women and holding the decapitated head of another – West’s team was quick to issue a disclaimer that is was “an art piece, and to be taken as such.” This exempted the video from critical analysis, apparently.
When we campaigned against Redfoo for his misogynistic Literally I Can’t video, in which women were mocked, abused and told to “shut the f*ck up” for refusing the sexual advances of men at a party, Redfoo played the victim, claiming his “art” – there’s that word again – was misunderstood.
When so-called “ute art” in Townsville depicted a chilling life-sized sticker image of an unconscious woman bound in the back of a ute next to a shovel, women who spoke out were accused of just not getting the joke.
Art. Satire. Irony. A joke. The premise is we just don’t get it and are therefore not permitted to comment.
So it should come as no surprise that our campaign calling on the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to revoke U.S. rapper Tyler the Creator’s visa should attract the same predictable response. The real issue is uptight women who can’t take a joke and who “need a good dick,” rather than hate speech and incitement to violence against women.
Tyler fans argue his earlier work is satirical, that he is simply misunderstood, defamed, in fact, by feminists. His cult-like followers not only deny their idol’s problematic real life treatment of women who dare to openly disagree with him, but even fuel it.
In 2011, Canadian recording artists Tegan and Sara published an open letter on their website, accusing Tyler of misogyny for his extremely sexually violent lyrics detailing rape, strangling, mutilating and chopping up women, stuffing their bodies into car boots, trapping them in his basement and raping their corpses. Tyler responded in a tweet:
In less than 140 characters, Tyler sent a clear message about women who dared challenge his authority.
The notion that women who speak out against male violence against women just need some “hard dick” is not new. It’s a common way of deflecting from and trivializing our abuse. This method also intimidates many women into silent compliance. It’s all the more sinister in this case, given the fact that Tegan and Sara are lesbian women, and the historical significance of so-called “corrective rape” – a horrific hate crime against lesbian women based on the belief that they can be “cured” of their sexual orientation through rape.
Tyler the Creator also responded to the Kanye West campaign on Twitter by naming two of the women involved, Sharon Haywood of Adios Barbie and Melinda Tankard Reist, Collective Shout co-founder, calling them “f*cking bitches” and inviting them to “suck [his] d*ck.”
In 2013, Collective Shout ran a campaign calling on then Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor to revoke Tyler the Creator’s visa, arguing he was a controversial visa applicant who posed a danger to women. One of our young activists, Talitha Stone, wrote a tweet accusing Tyler of misogyny. Tyler shared the tweet with his 1.7 million followers, who took the bait and turned on her with an onslaught of abuse and rape threats. One Tyler fan threatened to “cut her tits off” and another – a 16 year old Melbourne private school boy – posted what he believed was her home address for the mob to do with what they would. (He was one street off). We were up half the night liaising with police trying to ensure Talitha’s safety.
Talitha bravely attended Tyler’s Sydney concert to report on it for us. She had no idea he would launch a vicious tirade of abuse against her, unaware she was in the audience filming. The crowd cheered as he called her a bitch, a whore, and a c**t, and dedicated his song “Bitch Suck D*ck” to her.
While our own Minister failed to act, we were heartened to learn the following year that New Zealand had denied Tyler entry, with his incitement of violence against Talitha being instrumental in its decision.
Two years on, Tyler is set to return to Australia for a series of all-ages (no age limits) concerts. We have called on Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to revoke his visa, arguing that Tyler meets the Department’s definition of a Controversial Visa Applicant. This is a person:
“whose presence in Australia may, because of their activities, reputation, known record or the cause they represent and propagate, vilify or incite discord in the Australian community or a segment of that community, or represent a danger to the Australian community or a segment of that community.”
Domestic violence is at epidemic proportions in Australia; women are being murdered by men at a rate of two per week. The groundswell is growing, with increasing pressure on the Government to take action to save women’s lives. And yet, at the same time as extolling its National Plan of Action to Address Violence Against Women, the same Government rolls out the red carpet to recording artists who rap about raping and mutilating them for entertainment, and who have personal histories of inciting violence against women.
Why are we so quick to condemn men’s violence against women yet so hesitant to acknowledge the drivers of this violence – the attitudes towards women, the ingrained sexism, a culture where women are routinely reduced to mere sexual objects for men’s use and entertainment?
Tyler’s own fans are helping us prove our point. We are being targeted with threats of violence and abuse from fans demonstrating a cult-like loyalty to their idol. These same fans claim that music that glorifies extreme violence has no impact on their attitudes towards women, and they remind us of this between threats of rape and calling us bitches, whores and worse.
Collective Shout co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist was tweeted a picture of herself with a pro-gang rape slogan, one of Tyler’s lyrics, alongside the words, “What you gonna do now bitch you surrounded” (sic):
Our National Operations Manager, Coralie Alison, was similarly targeted by U.S. Talk Radio host Shane Powers, who called her a “feminazi,” offered her “dick pics” and went on to make lewd comments about Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s wife. He seemed to enjoy intimidating a woman in this way, taking pleasure, with his male guests, from the thought of her violation and humiliation.
What are these men really saying when they tell us we need some d*ck? It sounds very close to “you need to be raped.”
We predicted that Tyler’s presence would incite discord into our community and pose a danger to women. It’s already happening and he hasn’t even stepped onto our shores. We need our Government to act on its promises to address violence against women and send a clear signal by not letting him.
Maybe next time there could be an exhibition for survivors like me?
Last month a new exhibition – X-Rated; the sex industry in the ACT – opened at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG).
The exhibition is funded by the ACT Government and the Interchange General Practice.
It is of particular interest to me as I spent some years exploited as a prostitute in Canberra in the 1990’s. I wanted to see how an industry that I have firsthand knowledge and experience of would be depicted within an art gallery.
I wondered if it would it be an honest and realistic insight into what actually happens.
I left the exhibition after 20 minutes, feeling sick and numb.
I went home and cried.
I cried because of the ignorance of those putting this exhibition together.
I cried because the exhibition was one sided – it clearly had an agenda to glamorise the sex industry.
I cried because there was no story of a survivor of the sex industry.
And I cried because some of the images caused disturbing memories to come flooding back – memories that I have spent 20 years healing from. In 20 minutes I went back to that horrible time in my life.
Anyone who has experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will understand my experience that day.
The exhibition includes photos of several brothels from across Canberra. I had done time in just about all the brothels on show.
Working in a brothel is not like any other job. It’s unbelievably stressful . You don’t generally have any other options for earning money, so poverty is a main driver. It’s hard on your body, hard on your mind and hard on your overall wellbeing.
You tend to not be able to stay more than a few months in one place.
I was 17 when I first started work in a Canberra brothel. The owner knew I was underage and was fine with it. He knew the younger I looked, the more desirable I would be to punters and the more money I would make for him. There was no duty of care toward me.
Seeing pictures of these brothels brought back to me the many violations that were done to me. The pressure to do anal sex, the extra money offered to go condom free, the drugs offered in lieu of money, group sex with a football team who treated me like a piece of meat, the call-outs to hotels where I had no idea who I would encounter and the guys who wanted to dominate me –happy to rough me up to get what they want.
There was also a very large photo of a peep show booth – which is the small black room where men sit alone. They insert coins to make a flap open for them to view a live strip show. The man is unseen by the woman – he leers at her while masturbating into a tissue and calling out vulgar instructions.
It is a pretty degrading experience. I know because I experienced it.
The exhibition shows a range of photos showing stills from porn movies. Many show women receiving oral sex from an attentive man, with the woman depicted with her back arched and her head thrown back in pleasure.
This is nothing more than glamorising the sex industry, where the man paying for the service has the power.
A woman is normally the one with a dick shoved in her mouth, while a john holds her head still, ‘encouraging’ her to deep throat.
The reality is that in prostitution your vagina is rubbed raw from all the johns you have serviced; often so painful after a particularly aggressive john that you have to use numbing gel to keep working. And all the while expected to like a porn star as though the overweight public servant on top of you is the greatest fuck you’ve ever had.
I was not surprised that the Interchange General Practice would fund this exhibition as it was always the place to get a script for drugs if you weren’t coping or to get an STD check signed off on the spot. But for the ACT Government to be funding the exhibition – with the people’s taxes – is appalling.
Is our government in the business of keeping vulnerable women supressed and making a buck from their hardship, happy to make money on the registration and taxation of these businesses? Do our elected representatives really have no problem supporting something that so degrading to women?
It seems that it has bought into the ridiculous lie that the selling of time share on you vagina is a really good thing for everyone.
The exhibition blatantly glamorises the sex industry.
There was nothing from survivors, nothing showing the sordid, abusive and damaging elements of this industry, it was just presented as an interesting look at the history of the industry.
In writing this piece, painful though it is, I want to give voice to all the survivors who were ignored and disappeared by this exhibition. Maybe next time there could be an exhibition for survivors like me.
*Name suppressed by request
Sex industry’s cultural celebration of female sexual exploitation in the ACT
Dr Caroline Norma
The Canberra Museum and Gallery obviously called in a range of favours to stage its latest exhibition. The ACT’s most successful pornography distributor, Robbie Swan, gave it access to his private collection of sex industry memorabilia; a local Canberra medical centre formerly undertaking STD checks on women in prostitution supplied corporate sponsorship, and the commonwealth Censorship Board conferred the exhibition with a ratings classification.
The resulting ‘X-rated: The Sex Industry in the ACT’ production pays homage to the business of prostitution and pornography in the Territory: the venues, products and operating environment of the sex industry are showcased in glass-boxed exhibits featuring brothel photos, pornographic video covers, industry magazines and government whitepapers.
The pimps and pornographers whose financial interests drive the sex industry, and the sexual interests of the customers who supply their income stream, are mostly the authors of the perspective that shapes the exhibition.
The industry’s hard-fought battles in throwing off government ‘repression’ and ‘censorship’ are narrated in great detail, as are its trials and tribulations in achieving brothel legalisation in the Territory. There are humorous anecdotes about a sex industry association running a brothel ‘open day’ fundraiser in 1992 for World AIDS Day, and a pornographer applying for a government export development grant.
Declines in the industry’s $34-million-dollar turnover in the 1990s are lamented; the internet, and the fact that police don’t raid illegal pornography sellers, are blamed. Stories about profit-making and industry deregulation are the threads that run through the sex industry’s exhibited history of its operations in the ACT.
Amidst the industry’s alternating self-congratulation and self-pity, exhibition goers are led to forget how pimps and pornographers actually make their money, and what cost Canberra residents continue to pay for their commercial activities. The exhibition mentions these costs only briefly: the rape and sexual enslavement of Thai woman ‘SK’ in a Braddon apartment in 2007, the death of 17-year-old Janine Cameron in a Fyshwick brothel in 2008, and the arson attacks on legal brothels in 2010 and 2012 are cited in a far-off corner of the room.
The fact that ACT Police failed to undertake checks of any sex industry venue in the Territory for a period of five years in the early 2000s, and reports that a Canberra pimp estimated 20 women were being brought into the ACT for prostitution each week in 2014, do not warrant a mention.
Public funding of the Canberra Museum and Gallery appears to have given no pause to the curator in compiling an exhibition that showcases the private business achievements of an industry that wreaks havoc on the lives of the citizens it exploits and the communities it infiltrates. Indeed, from the exhibition’s design, it’s not entirely clear Rowan Henderson brought with her any awareness of the human rights violations that fundamentally underpin the business of prostitution and pornography. Her glass boxes offer evidence of the sex industry’s abuses openly and unselfconsciously, and entirely uncritically. Exhibits are blithely presented as merely part of the industry’s spectacle, as if they couldn’t possibly pose any ethical challenge to visiting patrons.
One exhibit, for example, describes the sexual use of an Aboriginal woman, ‘Regina’, in the production of a pornographic film ‘The passion of the Canberra brickworks’ in the early 1990s. Another presents the first-hand testimony of a woman named Nikki Stern that poverty and pressure from her boyfriend caused her entry into prostitution and subsequent use in pornography. A few other exhibits narrate the fact pornographers from countries like the US and Germany flew into Canberra immediately after the industry was legalised and brought women with them for filming.
Patrons are confronted with no ethical challenges arising from the exhibition’s inclusion of women who have been used in Canberra’s sex industry. There is no mention of how their lives ended up after years of being pimped and made into pornography; in fact, the exhibition features close-range photographs inside brothels showing women’s faces clearly in colour.
For museum curators and others in the creative arts, making a public spectacle out of the sex industry and its activities might be a titillating and curiosity-satisfying endeavour performed in service of the leisure and entertainment needs of middle-class people who have never been homeless, exploited or destitute. They will never be held to account by the sex industry victims they put on show.
Victims don’t have a platform allocated at the Canberra Museum and Gallery from which to speak back to the sex industry’s six-month long, government-funded public assertion of its historical legitimacy in the ACT. Their suffering, humiliation, physical and psychological pain, and lost sense of self are nowhere explained in Henderson’s exhibition, and their murders, suicides and overdoses are almost wholly undescribed.
Museum curators, along with their patronising publics, are never confronted with the human toll the sex industry inflicts on society’s most vulnerable people. Exhibitions like that currently spruiked by the Canberra Museum and Gallery supplant this reality with a predictable stream of comforting propaganda about the sex industry’s flamboyant history, colourful characters and whimsical endeavours.
The sex industry exhibition runs till September this year, and so for a full six months the Canberra Museum and Gallery will be giving cultural endorsement to female sexual exploitation in the Territory. This endorsement will forever stand in the Museum’s own history as an act of betrayal of the ACT’s most vulnerable women and girls. I hope this history is one day narrated in an exhibition where the sex industry’s victims are finally able to respond to elite cultural celebration of their degradation; then we will see many curators, creative producers and artists ducking for cover.
Dr Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University.
On Wednesday at Readings bookstore in Carlton, Melbourne, I’ll be emceeing the launch and Q&A for Freedom Fallacy: The Limits of Liberal Feminism (Connor Court publishing) a collected of 20 authors edited by writer and law tutor Miranda Kiraly and writer and RMIT research fellow Meagan Tyler. Last week I published an extract from the book’s introduction. Today, as promised, is another extract, titled ‘I do what I want, fuck yeah!’: moving beyond ‘a woman’s choice’ by Canadian feminist and blogger Meghan Murphy whose work I’ve been privileged to publish here at MTR quite a few times.
‘A woman’s choice’ is, without a doubt, a central tenet of feminist discourse. Creating options and choices – real choices – for women, not simply the illusion of choice within the very narrow confines of capitalist patriarchy, is a fundamental and appropriate goal for the feminist movement. But what we’ve seen evolve from that notion over the past 20 years is something of a different beast.
The ‘I do what I want, fuck yeah!’ ethos of ’90s riot grrrl feminism, which some attribute as the beginnings of the third wave, is appealing, especially to younger women. It can feel very empowering to imagine you are throwing off society’s chains, embracing and rejecting, all at once, restrictive, misogynist labels such as ‘slut’ and ‘whore’, as Bikini Kill lead singer, Kathleen Hanna famously did, taking off her top at her shows, to reveal the word ‘slut’ written across her stomach. Before Hanna, Madonna became a feminist icon of sorts during the ’80s in a similar way, embracing ‘sexy’ clothing and imagery. She was seen as representative of a woman taking control of her sexuality and using her femininity to gain power. But while this kind of reclaiming of traditionally sexist or male-defined imagery and language might feel temporarily liberating, the question of whether, for example, we can ‘reclaim’ the word ‘slut’ or make sexualisation or objectification our own, simply by choosing to, is less straightforward.
In 2011, a Canadian police officer suggested to students at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto that ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised’. These comments instigated the first ‘SlutWalk’ march, which took place in Toronto on 3 April 2011. The marches spread around the world to places such as Las Vegas, Melbourne, Bhopal, and Sao Paulo. ‘SlutWalk’ was heralded as the third wave incarnation of Take Back the Night. A blogger for Ms. Magazine wrote about the march that took place in Los Angeles in 2012: ‘It’s that third wave-y feel – that individualistic empowerment – that has made “SlutWalk” popular among young women,’ adding that the marches were ‘less emotionally intense than anti-rape rallies such as Take Back the Night, “SlutWalk” is more for spectacle.’ This is a pretty accurate assessment, but ‘popularity’ and a lighter message do not necessarily translate into ‘better’, when it comes to radical movements.
Rather than focusing on attacking male violence against women and rape culture, the marches seemed performative, and prioritised media attention. From the outset there was a focus on personal, individual notions of empowerment and the ‘right’ to wear sexy clothing – that ‘I do what I want, fuck yeah!’ mantra dominated. Performing to the male gaze was positioned as a positive thing, so long as women were choosing objectification.
It didn’t take long before the marches began promoting the sex industry as an empowering personal choice for women, many of them actively advocating for the legalisation of prostitution. In New York City, the march featured lingerie-wearing pole dancers, and ‘SlutWalk’ Las Vegas created a slogan that described ‘sex work’ as something women enjoyed: ‘Slut isn’t a look, it’s an attitude. And whether you enjoy sex for pleasure or work, it’s never an invitation to violence.’ What was erased by ‘SlutWalk’s focus on ‘choice’ and personal empowerment was the context within which women make ‘choices’, particularly with regard to their ‘choice’ to work in the sex industry or to ‘self-objectify’, whether in a strip club, on Instagram, or on the street.
In 2011, ‘SlutWalk’ organisers in Washington DC planned a fundraiser at a strip club. From a feminist perspective, the idea of holding a fundraiser for a supposedly feminist event in a place that exists to further entrench the image of women as sexy objects that exist for male pleasure seemed odd, to say the least. When challenged, the organisers responded: ‘This is a non-judgmental movement that embraces all choices a woman wishes to make.’ But what does that mean, exactly? Are we so ‘supportive’ of ‘women’s choices’ that we are incapable of understanding and being critical of the context of sexism and classism that might lead women to ‘choose’ to work in a strip club? And that, rather than criticising ‘women’s choices’ when we challenge the sex industry, we are actually challenging male power and men’s choices to objectify and exploit women for their own pleasure/ gain and an economy that fails to offer women opportunities to make a decent living that does not involve stripping, prostitution, or pornography.
In the face of severe lack of choice, ‘SlutWalk’ opted, not to push back, but to simply reframe the conversation. ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ was the message; as though if we can convince women (and society at large) that the sex industry can empower them, or if a few individual women claim they enjoy their work as strippers or escorts, then everything will be fine.
In the face of ongoing and virulent misogyny, sexual harassment, rape culture, porn culture, and violence against women, liberal feminism and the third wave seem to have taken the easy route, focusing on ‘choice’ and personal identity rather than confronting the root of the problem…
Of late, it has become standard to talk about ‘choice’ in terms of individual choice rather than collective choice (and collective freedom), as though ‘my choice’ could not possibly affect anyone in the world except me. And, as though ‘her choice’ can somehow negate any justifiable criticism or questioning of said choice or the context within which said choice was made. Used in this context, it is a way a shutting down the conversation. And where would feminism be (and where will it go) without conversation and critique? We can be critical of choices without actually shaming women. We need to think critically about our choices if we are to understand and challenge the larger systems of power that impact our choices.
In the face of ongoing and virulent misogyny, sexual harassment, rape culture, porn culture, and violence against women, liberal feminism and the third wave seem to have taken the easy route, focusing on ‘choice’ and personal identity rather than confronting the root of the problem…
Many critics do see this ‘anything goes’/‘I do what I want’ mantra as being one the more significant weaknesses of the third wave, and of ‘postfeminist’ discourse; and while this attitude is not universally applicable to the entire wave, it certainly seems to have built considerable momentum. Does anything and everything count as ‘feminist’ just because we choose it?
While making choices for ourselves can most certainly be empowering, and while I would never advocate against a woman’s right to choose to wear stilettos, take her husband’s name in marriage, or even to sell sex, that she can or does make this choice does not equate to ‘feminism’. To make a choice for oneself – no matter how good or strong or fulfilled it might make us feel – does not necessarily advance the rights or status of women globally and it does not push back against the system of patriarchy. While feeling good is great, it does not constitute political change. In other words, feminism is a movement, not a self-help book.
… individual choices, divorced from that context, do not equate to feminist acts. Beyond that, the fetishisation of individual choice actually erases that context and the fact that patriarchy is a system of power. If we pretend that a woman’s choice to, say, get breast augmentation surgery is a feminist choice because it is a woman who is making that choice, we ignore the context behind that choice – objectification, body-hatred, capitalism, porn culture – all things that contribute to the oppression of women as a whole.
Conveniently for capitalism and patriarchy, if any choice a woman makes is viewed as liberating or ‘feminist’, she can even ‘choose’ to support both systems and no one has the right to challenge her. In ‘choice feminism’, if a woman ‘chooses’ to produce pornography which, in turn, contributes to the oppression and objectification, not only of the women acting in pornography, but of women as a class and contributes to the billion-dollar pornography industry, her choice remains untouchable because she is a woman making a choice that empowers her. Maybe she even identifies as a feminist! Even better. Now pornography is feminist – just like that.
Famous burlesque performer, Dita Von Teese, is quoted as saying, in defence of critics who call her act disempowering for women: ‘How can it be disempowering when I’m up there for seven minutes and I’ve just made $20 000? I feel pretty powerful.’ This statement embodies the problem with today’s ‘choice feminism’, making ‘power’ about the individual at the expense of others. Beyond that, if money is the primary basis upon which we decide what empowers women and what does not, we are in danger of colluding with a system that is responsible for the exploitation and oppression of millions of people worldwide. If women are compensated in exchange for their objectified bodies or in exchange for sex acts, that doesn’t actually challenge the sexist ideas behind that objectification and exploitation. We’re left in the same position we started, despite the fact that Von Teese can buy a few more pairs of Louboutins.
‘Choice’, and the feminist context within which it was born, has been co-opted by dominant systems and the ideology of liberal feminism, and they have made it their own. We are now being told what choice and freedom looks like by those who have no particular interest in feminism or in ending gendered oppression. Those systems are the ones who tell us that being radical, or revolutionary or feminist even, is bad. That we will be picked on and attacked if we ask for too much or the wrong kind of freedom and empowerment. They offer us their version of choice, and tell us that empowerment is easily available to us – it’s just got to be pleasant. And sexy. And, hey guess what! We don’t even need the feminist movement anymore! We can ‘choose’ to objectify ourselves now because we are free. Slap an ‘empowering’ label on it and voilà! It’s freedom and everyone else needs to shut up because ‘it’s a choice’.
Well, no. It isn’t as simple as that. Feminism is about resisting patriarchy, not about being able to just join in. We don’t ‘win’ because we can act in oppressive ways just as men do. When we argue either that sexism will happen with or without us, so we may as well participate and make the best of it, or that if women can profit financially, this will somehow erase sexism. Presenting a radical challenge to patriarchy is not just going along with it, it is not being told by Girls Gone Wild producers what freedom looks like or that because one woman is getting rich from strip shows we are all, consequently, emancipated.
Choice without politics or theory behind it doesn’t hold power. ‘Choice’ at the expense of others – particularly the marginalised – is not radical nor does it promote equality. ‘Choosing’ to objectify ourselves, for example, is not what our second wave sisters meant when they fought for the ‘right to choose’. And empowerment, through choice, was never intended to be about individual women, but rather about empowerment on a large scale, and freedom from oppression for all marginalised people…
‘Many women are reasserting that feminism is a necessary social movement for the equality and liberation of all women, not just platitudes about choices for some’
Editor, writer and law tutor Miranda Kiraly and writer and RMIT research fellow Meagan Tyler, have a new and timely book out. It’s called Freedom Fallacy: The Limits of Liberal Feminism (Connor Court publishing) which brings together 20 authors discussing the limits to the ‘pop feminist’ approach to freedom for women and its failure to change the status quo. The contributors, state the book’s back cover blurb, “confront the dangers of reducing feminism to a debate about personal choice, and offer the possibility of change through collective action”.
I was delighted to be asked by Miranda and Meagan (who wrote the excellent chapter ‘Pornography as Sexual Authority: How Sex Therapy Promotes the Pornification of Sexuality’ for Big Porn Inc– edited by me and Dr. Abigail Bray and published by Spinifex Press ) to emcee the May 20 launch and Q and A event at Readings Carlton (Vic). In the lead up, here’s an extract from the book’s introduction. I’ll also publish an extract from Canadian feminist Meghan Murphy’s chapter ‘I do what I want, fuck yeah!: moving beyond “a woman’s choice”’, in the next few days.
Miranda Kiraly and Meagan Tyler
Something is happening. For all the talk of a ‘postfeminist’ era over the last decade, there are now ever-increasing signs of a feminist resurgence. The visibility of feminist activism has led everyone from female singers and celebrities, to male political leaders, to start talking about the f-word, and even to start claiming the label ‘feminist’ for themselves. Something is definitely happening but what, exactly, is it?
With the rising tide of interest in all things feminist, there has been a rush to promote a popular brand of ‘feminism-lite’ or ‘fun feminism’ that does not offend or overtly threaten existing power structures. The mainstreaming of the feminist brand has left ‘feminism’ as little more than a sticker that anyone and everyone can now apply, largely because it has lost all sense of intellectual rigour or political challenge. This version of populist feminism embodies notions of empowerment, choice, and the individual above all else. It has been shaped, primarily, by liberal feminism, and the contributors in this volume also refer to it as third wave feminism, popular feminism, or choice feminism.
Individualism lies at the heart of liberal feminism, championing the benefits of ‘choice’ and the possibility that freedom is within reach, or occasionally, that it already exists should women choose to claim it. It also pushes – sometimes overtly and sometimes covertly – the fallacy that substantive equality has already been achieved and that the pursuit of opportunity lies solely in women’s hands. Liberal feminism has helped recast women’s liberation as an individual and private struggle, rather than one which acknowledges the systemic shortcomings of existing systems of power and privilege that continue to hold women back, as a class. Women’s liberation has been reduced to a series of personal statements about whether women like or dislike particular aspects of themselves or their lives.
This problem is not new. In 1990, contributors to The Sexual Liberalsand the Attack on Feminism bemoaned essentially the same thing: that ‘feminism’ had moved from a critique of – and collective resistance to – patriarchal oppression, towards an individualised, liberal model of ‘choice’. Indeed, Catharine MacKinnon, in a piece titled ‘Liberalism and the Death of Feminism’, for that collection, posited that liberalism is the very antithesis of a movement for women’s liberation. As she put it:
Where feminism was collective, liberalism is individualist … Where feminism is socially based and critical, liberalism is naturalistic, attributing the product of women’s oppression to women’s natural sexuality, making it ‘ours’. Where feminism criticises the ways in which women have been socially determined in an attempt to change that determination, liberalism is voluntaristic, meaning it acts like we have choices that we do not have. Where feminism is based on material reality, liberalism is based on some ideal realm in the head. And where feminism is relentlessly political, about power and powerlessness, the best that can be mustered by this nouveau movement is a watered down form of moralism: this is good, this is bad, no analysis of power of powerlessness at all.
These comparisons seem just as relevant and compelling as when they were first published, some 25 years ago. Many of our contributors pick up these issues again and consider them in the current context; a context in which the kinds of liberal feminism that MacKinnon was critical of have taken centre stage and seem to have become, in the coverage of much of the mainstream media, the be all and end all of feminist thought.
As Natalie Jovanovski notes in her chapter, it should not be surprising that liberal feminism has risen to prominence. It is generally seen to be less threatening to the status quo and reassures mainstream audiences that feminists are not a scary ‘other’. But far from occupying some middle ground of inoffensiveness, the emphasis on ‘choice’ in much liberal feminist writing is actually rather extreme. It strips women’s lives of context and makes it sound as though our ‘choices’ are made in a political and cultural vacuum. Each of our contributors, therefore, seeks to talk about the importance of power, context and culture, rather than individual choice and agency alone. Understanding and acknowledging the environment of women’s inequality goes to the heart of what is meant by the ‘freedom fallacy’ of this collection’s title. That is, there can be no freedom, no liberation, when the available choices are only constructed on the basis of gross inequity. More ‘choice’, or even a greater ability to choose, does not necessarily mean greater freedom.
Amid this dominance of liberal feminist orthodoxy, resistance is forming among a wide range of women. There is even talk of an emerging ‘fourth wave’ of feminism breaking in the United Kingdom and the United States; a movement that seeks to engage collective action and to address structural inequality, subjugation, and exploitation of women and girls, often at a grassroots level. Media outlets are struggling to conceptualise this emerging wave of feminism, and continue to attempt to simplistically slot it into a left–right, or generational, divide. Like many feminist movements before it, this new wave does not comfortably fit the mould of traditional politics, because it recognises that women’s interests have been neglected across the political spectrum. As a result, there is a wide variety of criticism that we have been able to draw on for this collection. What unites our contributors in this book is not a single perspective – there is a range of different feminist positions included – but rather, a unified belief that liberation cannot be found at a purely individual level, nor can it be forged from adapting to, or simply accepting, existing conditions of oppression.
Hopefully, if you have picked up this book, you already recognise the systemic conditions of women’s inequality… women still face unbearably high levels of sexual violence and millions of women around the world do not even have the limited protection that marital rape law affords. Activists are still fighting all around the world for the rights of girls and women not to be mutilated and exploited. Pornography and the trafficking of women and girls are booming global businesses trading primarily in sexual exploitation. Our contributors write about these injustices as existing on a continuum … each shap[ing] women’s social, cultural, political and material subordination.
…[A]ctivities which were once held up as the archetypes of women’s subordinate status are now held up as liberating personal ‘choices’. Sexual harassment becomes reframed as harmless banter that women can enjoy too. … Labiaplasty becomes a useful cosmetic enhancement. Pornography becomes sexual liberation. Sexual objectification becomes a barometer of self-worth.
…This collection aims to challenge the limits of key liberal feminist concepts and to critique the idea that it is possible to find freedom simply by exercising ‘choice’ in a world in which women, as a class, are still not considered to be of fully equal human worth to men.
While Time magazine may be questioning whether or not feminism is still needed in 2015, prominent figures from previous waves of the women’s liberation movement are certain it is desperately needed now, perhaps even more than in previous decades. As Germaine Greer recently declared: ‘Liberation hasn’t happened …Things have got a lot worse for women since I wrote The Female Eunuch.’ It is in recognition of the deep-seated problems that we still face, that several of our contributors emphasise the need for collective action to again be at the heart of feminist activism. This is crucially important and has been sidelined in popular discussions about whether or not certain women are ‘bad feminists’, or make acceptably feminist ‘choices’. This simply operates to blame individual women for their circumstances instead of casting light on the issues of structural and material inequality that affect women as a class.
…We wanted to include new voices to sit alongside contributions from those with longstanding experience and more established platforms. The inclusion of a number of women, relatively new to the movement, represents, in part, the fact that there is indeed something happening, and that there is a need for us to challenge the prevailing liberal feminist standard. It also illustrates the point made by Finn Mackay, in her chapter on the supposed generational division between second wave and third wave feminists, that chronology and age have little to contribute to enhancing our understandings of feminist theory and action. Instead, it is a question of ideology that distinguishes the different branches of feminist thought and action.
…This book is best understood as a radical challenge to the dominance of liberal feminist discourse in the public sphere. For some of our contributors this is imperative because, as they understand it, the liberal feminist model does not represent small steps in the right direction, but rather actively inhibits real change. For others, liberal feminism can still be seen to have made some contribution to the women’s liberation movement. As Andrea Dworkin once quipped: ‘I do think liberal feminists bear responsibility for a lot of what’s gone wrong,’ but she also added, ‘I have a really strong belief that any movement needs both radicals and liberals. You always need women who can walk into the room in the right way, talk in the right tone of voice, who have access to power. But you also need a bottom line.’ We hope that this book demonstrates the limits of the liberal feminist approach and the importance of reinforcing that bottom line.
Miranda Kiraly is an editor, writer and law tutor from Melbourne, Australia. She has authored publications on law and politics, including ‘Bittersweet Charity’ in Really Dangerous Ideas (Connor Court, 2013) and ‘Where Does the Private Domain Start and the Public End’ in Turning Left and Right: Values in Modern Politics (Connor Court, 2013). Miranda previously worked in federal politics as a speechwriter and researcher. From 2009–2013, she was a leading discussant for the Liberal Book Club.
Meagan Tyler is a vice-chancellor’s research fellow at RMIT University, Australia. Her research focuses on the social construction of gender and sexuality. Her work has been published in Rural Studies, Women’s Studies International Forum and Women and Therapy as well as several edited collections, including Everyday Pornography (Routledge, 2010) and Prostitution, Harm and Gender Inequality (Ashgate, 2012). Meagan is also the author of Selling Sex Short: The Pornographic and Sexological Construction of Women’s Sexuality in the West (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2011).
The Fremantle Heritage Festival is an annual community event hosted by the City of Fremantle. The event:
“…showcases the stories that make up the rich tapestry of Fremantle both in the distant past and our childhoods. The festival honours and explores the settlement and early days of Fremantle, while revelling in the nostalgia of not-so-distant memories.”
Unfortunately sexploitation is not at all a distant memory, it is an ongoing social problem. This is how the Fremantle Heritage Festival Facebook page promoted the event yesterday (blurring ours):
Collective Shout supporter Penny posted a response to the advertisement, asking why a woman’s bottom was being used to promote the event.
Fremantle Heritage Festival responded:
“This image was taken at a heritage festival event and was used to promote the festival this year.”
It was not explained why this photograph was taken or why it was now being used to promote the festival. It wasn’t even clear whether the woman had consented to the photo.
The image sexually objectifies women by focussing on her bare bottom for others sexual interest.
The style of the image – “upskirt” – puts the viewer in the position of ‘voyeur.’ The voyeuristic criminal behaviour of ‘upskirting’ or ‘downblousing’ involves filming another persons private parts without their knowledge. Those engaging in this behaviour can be charged with a criminal offence. Victims are most often women and girls and their rights are often violated over and over again when their images are shared online.
Along with posting comments on the events Facebook page, Penny sent tweets to the City of Fremantle and sent an email to the Mayor. Within a couple of hours the Mayor responded:
It’s great to see a quick response from Mayor Brad Pettitt with no excuses and immediate action taken.
Thanks to Penny for raising this issue, its a great example to show that speaking out does make a difference.
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‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
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
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
“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
Purchase the Ruby Who? DVD and book together for only $35 saving 10% off the individual price.
“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.