I recently returned from a lengthy speaking tour which took me to Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and New Zealand. I addressed schools, women’s conferences, youth groups, health and wellbeing events and The Mask You Live In. In New Zealand I was a guest of TEARFund, speaking on what I call ‘Everyday Trafficking’ –the links between sexualisation of girls and the global trade in their bodies. I addressed awareness and fundraising events to help raise money for organisations working in prevention, rescue, prosecution and rehabilitation, including Hagar International.
I had a profound time especially with students in the public and private schools I visited. What I especially noticed on this trip was how a pornified world was impacting now on very young girls. I was asked questions about how to deal with sexual harassment, pressure to send sexual images and provide sexual favours, by girls as young as 12 years old. One cried as she described the impact of receiving unsolicited pornographic videos from a group of boys. In one school I met two 15 year olds who had been gang raped. I fear things are getting worse, and they’re getting worse younger.
But it really was a remarkable trip and every day I woke up thinking – how am I so fortunate to do this work? Laura Pintur, 23, who led our successful Zoo campaign, travelled with me, inspiring young people to see that they too can make a difference in the world. Here are some photos:
First week of the NSW, SA, New Zealand tour – about to address girls at St Patrick’s Campbelltown with Laura Pintur
With the boys at Kings Baptist Grammar School, SA
Privileged to address the inspiring girls at Wilderness School SA
Great session with girls at Kildare College SA
With the Year 5 + 6′s at St Peters Lutheran Primary Schoo,l SA
St Peters Lutheran Primary SA
With some of the year 11 and 12 girls I addressed at Seymour College SA
My final gig at the end of two weeks in SA – Our Lady of the Sacred Heart – quick pic with some of the girls.
A great night speaking for Tearfund NZ at Crossroad Mangatangi about how the sexualisation of girls is fueling the global sex trade
With (L-R) Anna Roberts from Nvader, Laura Pintur and Sarah Scott Webb from Hagar, in Christchurch building awareness about the global sex trade for Tear Fund New Zealand.
Passion ignited: how I’m going to use my trauma to work for change for girls
This is one of the most moving responses I have received following an engagement in a school. Thank you Melanie – you make it all worthwhile.
Dear Melinda, I am a staff member at *** College… I am 21 years old, and currently studying full time … I have also recently returned from a trip to India where I worked with women who have been trafficked into sex slavery, so much of what you said today hit very close to home.
I heard the first half of your talk with Year 9 students this afternoon (unfortunately I had to leave early), and I must say, I learnt as much during those forty minutes as I’ve learnt in perhaps a year of my degree. Studying academic theories is an important part of understanding how we come to inhabit and process the world around us. However, seeing those theories represented practically, through advertising and popular culture, truly drives the message home, and that is what personally happened for me today. I came to fully realise that, although the status of women has advanced significantly over the last century, women in the 21st Century face entirely new challenges and obstacles.
I was not among your target audience today. Therefore, I can imagine, if I was affected as profoundly as I was, how powerful you and Laura’s message was for the girls to hear. It seems like only yesterday that I was their age, sitting in that very auditorium myself, listening to guest speakers and wishing that they would speed things along so that we could snatch an early minute for lunch. No one was wanting to snatch an early minute today. Unfortunately, the vast majority of females know what it feels like to be degraded and objectified in some way.
My personal experience of grooming, sexual abuse and subsequent eating disorders has ignited my own passion for combating this issue, and empowering young women to defend their rights and develop a sturdy sense of self-worth, so that they never feel as though they are incomplete people who need a man to fulfill them. I believe that everything happens for a reason… perhaps, I endured trauma so that I could empathise with the struggles of others. If this truly is my life’s purpose, it is both my greatest blessing, and my greatest challenge. It is difficult to inspire others when you yourself lack inspiration, or feel as though your voice is silenced.
The very nature of abuse, or any form of oppression, as I’m sure you know, is that the victim loses their ability to speak. Overcoming this hurdle remains difficult, as I live in fear of the man who perpetrated the abuse, and it is only now that I am beginning to tell people of my experience. It is only now that I am realising that the shame is not mine to carry – the burden of shame sits upon the shoulders of the man who committed terrible acts, knowing full well that he is protected by a patriarchal society which sexualises girls and young women and blames the victim. Perhaps, had I heard your presentation while I was still at school and before my abuse began, I would have been more prepared and knowledgeable, or known how to recognise these manipulative behaviour and been empowered to speak out. I have driven myself mad with, “could have,” “would have,” and, “should have’s” for years, but I know that this thinking, too, is reinforced by a society in which women, according to the legal system and media, control the actions of a depraved predator.
Hearing you and Laura speak today has had a significant impact on me, because it has empowered me and reminded me of why I do what I do. It has helped me to realise that I am indeed on the right path. I feel comforted in knowing that I do not stand alone; that there are women who are actively doing something to ensure that females of all ages are protected, and that those responsible for the gross sexualisation of women are held accountable. It has filled me with promise for my own future. I hope to be as passionate an advocate as you, Laura and the many other strong women who are fighting to secure equality and justice, and who are helping those in need to not only find, but to own their voice and their right to use it.
Some people believe that equality starts and ends with voting rights and equal pay. But it goes so far beyond this. It starts with voting rights and equal pay, and it doesn’t end until women can stop organising their daily commute around when the sun will set at night. It doesn’t end until people stop asking the victim, “What were you wearing?” It doesn’t end until a victim of rape or abuse feels that she can speak and be listened to, rather than speak and be silenced. Once again, thank you for filling me with inspiration and empowering me to continue on the path I am taking. It is days like this which make me proud to be female, despite the risks that just being female entails. I feel privileged to have heard you speak and I hope you truly realise the power of your words and advocacy in planting the seed of change and helping women on their own journeys of recovery. I wish you all the best and hopefully we will meet in the future at some point.
Kind Regards, Melanie.
MTR talks sexual exploitation and trafficking on Radio New Zealand National
Listen to the interview
With Wallace Champan in pre-record for Radio New Zealand Sunday show.
Collective Shout takes credit for hastening Zoo’s demise: Coles dumping title was ‘catastrophic for sales’
Four months ago, young Melbourne activist and designer Laura Pintur, 23, launched a campaign through Collective Shout calling on Coles and Woolworths supermarket to act consistent with their corporate social responsibility, ethical framework, care for communities and commitment to safety and dump ‘men’s lifestyle Bible’ Zoo Weekly. She highlighted the way the lads’ mag promoted coercion, violence, sexism, misogyny and male entitlement. Laura’s Change.org petition attracted more than 39,000 signatures along with global media, including this video for The Guardian in which she argued the well being of girls should come before profits.
Last month Coles decided to discontinue the magazine, after a young Melbourne employee, Shannen, complained through her union that Coles was putting her and other female employees in a hostile workplace environment. “Other young women in my workforce will no longer have to put up with selling a magazine that promotes rape culture,” said Shannen after the decision.
Woolworths however decided to continue to act in breach of its own ethics, holding firm on selling sexual objectification to boys, including minors.
But now there will be no Zoo magazine to sell anywhere because it is ceasing publication. Mumbrella broke the news yesterday. While the magazine was already in decline, we believe we helped hasten that decline. News.com reports that when Coles bowed to public pressure and pulled the publication, this was “a move that would no doubt be catastrophic for the lad mag’s sales.”
Zoo Weekly has certainly grown accustomed to widespread outrage over the years, having been at the centre of a slew of heated controversies.
It had recently been in the firing line of a Change.org petition urging Australia’s major supermarkets to stop selling the magazine, arguing it promoted sexism, sexual violence and used the language of rapists.
Fueling sexist attitudes which contribute to violence against women
Last month I responded to a piece by Brendan O’Neill, in The Australian, critical of our campaign against Tyler the Creator and Zoo magazine. It appeared in the on-line version at News.com (paywall means only subscribers would see it). Following this, my colleague Caitlin Roper took down O’Neill’s claims against us regarding Tyler the Creator in an interview with ‘I probably hate your band’ (O’Neill is interviewed too). Have a look at it after my letter.
If only Zoo Weekly was a ‘jokey mag for awkward 15-year-olds.’ We – and the too many women and girls subjected to the kind of abuse Zoo promotes – don’t see the joke. (Brendan O’Neill ‘Foot soldiers of the Empire of offence march on, laying free speech to waste’, Inquirer. August 22-23, p.23).
Zoo normalises the treatment of women as sexual objects, fueling sexist behaviours and attitudes which underpin violence against women. The men’s ‘lifestyle Bible’ provides step by step instructions for coercing women into sex by isolating her from her friends and using alcohol to make her more vulnerable. Readers are told if she is drunk, that’s a ‘green light’.
A recent edition encouraged young male readers to do “cool things…like hitting women”, joking about “backhanding the missus”.
People can’t distinguish between the statements taken from lads mags like Zoo Weekly and statements from convicted rapists, according to a 2011 UK study.
Tyler is renowned for his songs advocating rape, murder, genital mutilation, stuffing women into car boots, trapping them in his basement, raping their corpses and burying their bodies. The abuse he incited against Collective Shout activist Talitha Stone in 2013 was enough to cause Twitter to implement a ‘report abuse’ button. The footage she filmed undercover of him whipping up the crowd into a frenzy of anger contributed to NZ authorities denying him entry in January 2014. Our more recent campaign saw Tyler use dog whistle tactics to mobilise his fans into sending a deluge of death, rape and mutilation threats against another of our activists, Coralie Alison, as punishment.
In the original letter to the Immigration Minister signed by Coralie and myself, we argued it was contradictory for the Government to have a National Plan of Action to address violence against women while rolling out the red carpet to a rap artist who glorifies and glamourizes it.
We doubt the absence of Zoo from Coles or of Tyler singing “rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” at all-ages concerts is a threat to “great truths or breakthroughs”. It does, however, send a message that violence against women should be taken seriously.
Melinda Tankard Reist
Thanks so much for speaking with me. First of all, I want to say I, and IPHYB as a whole, are passionate supporters of women’s rights. In whatever individual definition that takes in today’s convoluted climate of modern feminism, we hold our own views very dear and close to heart. That being said, we’re also (as you can probably tell from the name of our website) staunch advocates of free speech. I wanted to gain your perspective on the issue, as it seems Collective Shout have come under fire from fans of Tyler, The Creator and free speech alike, for what some consider an act of censorship. Is it Collective Shout’s aim to engage in any kind of censorious behavior, and do you really believe his lyrical content is dangerous? To be frank, I struggle to make the connection.
CAITLIN: “We’ve obviously heard a lot of Tyler’s fans expressing a similar sentiment – essentially that we just don’t understand, and that we are trying to ban things we don’t understand, or that we are merely ‘offended’.
The suggestion that the issue here is about offence or personal taste is really missing the point. My feelings, my personal taste, like anyone else in this discussion, are largely irrelevant. Reducing criticism of Tyler’s brand of misogyny to offense is an attempt to deflect and undermine discussion of the real issue – the promotion and normalising of hostile and hateful attitudes towards women.
The whole offence argument also neglects to consider the fact that our campaign goes much further than Tyler’s sexually violent lyrics. While we strongly object to Tyler’s lyrics detailing rape, strangling, mutilating and chopping up women, stuffing their bodies into car boots, trapping them in his basement and raping their corpses, we are also talking about Tyler’s real-life behavior. When lesbian recording artists openly called out his misogynistic lyrics, he responded with a threat of corrective rape, offering them some “hard dick”. At his 2013 Sydney concert he unleashed a barrage of abuse directed at my Collective Shout colleague Talitha Stone, calling her a bitch, a whore, and a c**t while the crowd cheered, unaware she was present in the audience. I shudder to think what might have happened to her had she been recognised.
Both Talitha and Coralie Alison have been targeted with vicious abuse, rape and death threats after Tyler tagged them on Twitter. What did he think would happen when he called out Coralie, identifying her as the reason he wouldn’t be showing up for his scheduled tour? At any time, he could have so much as tweeted to call off his fans, to say it wasn’t okay to threaten a woman with violence, yet he remained silent.
This is not about offence, or even song lyrics. This is incitement to violence against real women. Real Australian women who have been forced to obtain police assistance, who have had to fear for their lives and have had to deal with the psychological toll of sustained, vicious abuse.
Tyler fans claim that Tyler’s music and treatment of women have no bearing on their attitudes to women. Wading through the steady stream of abusive emails, Facebook posts and tweets calling us bitches and whores, encouraging us to commit suicide and threatening to rape and murder us along with our children has made it very clear to me that that normalised misogyny has and does impact on attitudes. Essentially, I think it’s easier to paint all criticism of Tyler’s misogyny as uptight women who want to ban things they don’t understand than to actually engage with the issues.
There has been some speculation that campaigns like ours set a dangerous precedent in terms of free speech and censorship. I hope that as well as free speech, we value the rights of women to dignity, justice, equality and safety, and that as a community we are equally committed to upholding these rights.
In our letter to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, we pointed out the hypocrisy in spending $15.6 billion on a National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women – a plan including prevention strategies and education – only to welcome rappers who undermine the government’s attempts to address violence against women.
We’ve been critical of various artists – and not just artists, but advertising, media and popular culture – yet some issues and campaigns certainly do seem to attract more media attention than others. As a non-profit organisation, we don’t have the resources to organize and carry out campaigns against every artist who promotes the sexual exploitation of women, nor has it ever been our goal to pursue every artist with questionable lyrics.
We’ve been critical and sparked a dialogue about various artists over the last few years and campaigned against a few, including Redfoo, Brian McFadden, Robin Thicke, Snoop Dogg/Lion and Eminem. Some also suggest we unfairly target hip hop, but a look at our website will prove the wide range of issues and campaigns we have run. Is hip-hop somehow off-limits for critical analysis? Should hip-hop culture not be held to the same standard as the rest of society?
The reason we called on Immigration to deny Tyler a visa back in 2013 was because we felt his lyrical content vilified women and arguably incited violence against them. We felt it was impossible for us to remain silent. We only became more convinced after seeing his treatment of women on Twitter, setting his fans on women who were openly critical of his work, and his onslaught of abuse to Talitha at his 2013 concert – the footage of which was instrumental in his 2014 ban from New Zealand.
This has been expressed to us repeatedly over the last few months, that we haven’t done our research, that it’s art, that Tyler is playing a role, that he’s evolved as an artist, etc. I’m well aware of all of these arguments as well as the nature of Tyler’s work. We have done our research. We’ve listened to his songs, watched music videos, interviews, performance footage, read numerous articles and even attended his concert. It’s not that we don’t understand the arguments – we just reject them. We have taken this knowledge and come to a different conclusion.
I think it’s entirely possible for musicians and artists to use art, humour and irony to pose meaningful questions and comment on the state of the world and society, and even to explore dark subject matter. But I reject the notion that that is what is going on here. Tyler’s near constant uncritical exploitation and abuse of women for entertainment purposes doesn’t even come close to that. What is the statement being made? Where is the condemnation of abusive treatment of women? Rather, the men who degrade and demean women are positioned as badasses who don’t give a f**k and women are reduced to bitches. None of this is challenging the status quo or posing meaningful questions. Tyler’s “art” is at the expense of women, even survivors of rape and physical violence.
If Tyler has truly evolved as an artist as he claims (a notion I’d reject based on his recent behavior), why is he yet to take responsibility for it? Even now, he continues to justify and excuse it, never owning it. He’s built a career of the degradation of women, made a name for himself and profited from this material.
Tyler claims he doesn’t even perform his earlier work anymore, but concert set lists from as recently as last year show that he has. He’s also made his earlier albums available to stream via his Golf Media App. A few weeks ago he performed Rella on Jimmy Kimmel – here’s a few of the lyrics: ‘Nigga my d*ck’s in her jaw … my bitches white and I need f*cking head … bitches on my d*ck … Your girlfriend had a really nice meeting with my d*ck, I killed that p*ssy and grabbed that knife … met up with bitches, gave ‘em c*m on their dimples.’
Is this supposed to be progress? Is this an indication he’s concerned with equality now? It’s ironic that those men arguing for freedom of speech here have failed to notice that the women they are criticising don’t share this same freedom. These men are not impacted by misogynistic ‘art’ – they aren’t the ones being targeted. They aren’t likely to be on the receiving end of rape and death threats, won’t need to engage the police, nor be genuinely in fear for their safety as a result of sharing their views.
For these men to dictate how women, including survivors of rape and sexual violence, should feel about, respond to and challenge misogynistic attitudes demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the issues and perhaps more disturbing, a lack of empathy.”
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.
While there has been significant attention given to his suspected terrorist activities, his conviction and jail term for threatening to kill an ASIO officer and his angry claims that Parliamentary Secretary Steve Ciobo was inciting Australian Muslims to travel to Syria to join ISIS, less has been said about his threats to Australian women.
In January, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris, Mallah threatened women columnists Miranda Devine and Rita Panihi in a twitter post:
I’ve always held the view that women who express opinions and are then subjected to violent threats and vilification should be defended, regardless of whatever political or ideological side of a fence they are on. I wondered, when some in the audience clapped in support of Mallah, if they were aware of his rape threats against Australian women or whether this didn’t matter enough to them to refrain from applauding?
And why don’t threats of sexual terrorism against women attract the same condemnation as other terrorist related threats? Mallah may have distanced himself from some of his earlier views, but his gang-rape tweet is only five months old.
Political scientist and commentator Dr Jennifer Oriel had been invited to be part of this week’s Q&A panel. She refused because of Mallah’s threats of sexual violence. She wrote this about her decision.
Last month, I was invited to appear as a panelist on the ABC’s political talk show Q&A.
Last night, Q&A featured a self-described “Muslim activist” who tweeted about gang-raping female columnists in January and pled guilty to threatening to kill an ASIO officer.
Why would I want to appear on Q&A following such an outrage against freethinking women and our nation’s protective forces?
The man who tweeted the idea of gang-raping female journalists also has expressed support for an Islamic caliphate.
I consider him such an inferior example of manhood that I would prefer not to stain the page with his name, but here it is for the record: Zaky Mallah.
After deploying the standard Islamist narrative on the ABC – i.e. Islamists are victims and anti-terrorism is unfair – Q&A’s audience applauded Mallah.
That tells us a lot about the state of Left-wing politics today.
In the 21st century, the hard Left goes soft on men who attack liberal democracy and promote violence against women as long as such men belong to a Left-anointed minority.
Q&A host Tony Jones upbraided Mallah, but only after he had blamed the government for jihadism.
Today’s limp corrective by the ABC falls well short of the explanation we need and the apology Australians deserve.
The terms of reference for the investigation into the ABC’s indulgence of Mallah must include why a man who threatened to kill an ASIO official was cast as a victim while offending our liberal democratic government’s anti-terrorism policy.
And why a man who promoted the gang-rape of female columnists was welcomed into the ABC studio and given the privilege of being a selected speaker from the audience.
What might have happened if either of the two female columnists Mallah proposed should be gang-raped in January were on the Q&A panel last night?
Unlike those female columnists, I was actually invited to be on a Q&A panel this month.
I have written extensively on Islamist terrorism and have been threatened for doing so.
The thought that a man such as Mallah might have been sitting a few feet away from me unrestrained is, quite frankly, horrifying.
There are serious questions which must be answered about the contemporary Left, and its continued indulgence of Islamist terrorism and misogyny.
We might begin by asking why the taxpayer-funded ABC indulged a man who promoted the idea of gang-raping female columnists.
Is it because the targeted columnists, Miranda Devine and Rita Panahi, are politically conservative and therefore considered deserving victims by Islamists and their Left-wing allies in the West?
Are we seeing a new form of politically correctness in Australia – politically correct misogyny?
Perhaps misogyny is permissible to the Left when the victim is a conservative woman.
As a female political commentator who leans conservative, my right to free speech and bodily security may not mean much to the ABC.
But I did not spend my formative years in the 20th century fighting for women’s rights only to surrender to an Islamist-Left alliance of misogyny in the 21st.
I expect a public apology from the ABC for its outrage against freethinking women, freedom of speech and the basic security of Australians.
Until such an apology is given, I will not consent to appear on Q&A.
Update: Mallah and some others have argued that he used the phrase ‘gang bang’ not ‘gang rape’. A man who calls two female journalists whores, and argues they need to be gang-banged on popular morning television, is not inviting them to join him in a mutually pleasurable experience. Note he has continued to tweet misogynist messages about and to them, in which he upholds his use of the term ‘whore’ to describe them.
The Hon. Mr Peter Dutton MP
Parliament House Ministerial Office
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
We are writing to you regarding visa applicant Tyler Gregory Okonma -stage name ‘Tyler the Creator’- who is due to arrive in Australia for a national music tour September 3.
Australian Immigration Fact Sheet 78 on Controversial Visa Applicants refers to “people 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.”
We believe the application by Tyler the Creator meets the Department’s definition of ‘Controversial Visa Applicant’. Our views are based on the content of his song lyrics and his behavior during his July 2013 tour.
Tyler the Creator seeks to enter Australia in order to profit from the broadcasting and selling of these lyrics. While his activities are therefore commercial, the content of the product he sells propagates discriminatory ideas about women and other groups, and represent a danger to a segment of the Australian community on the potential basis of incitement to acts of hatred.
Tyler the Creator has received widespread media attention over the span of his career for misogynistic hate speech against women, as well as homophobia. He is renowned for his songs advocating rape and extreme violence against women, including murder, genital mutilation, stuffing them into car boots, trapping them in his basement, raping their corpses and burying their bodies.
A characteristic feature of his songs is retribution against women who he perceives have wronged him. For example, he sings about strangling and chopping up women who reject his sexual advances and raping their corpses.
“Raquel treat me like my father like a f*ckin’ stranger, She still don’t know I made Sarah to strangle her, Not put her in danger and chop her up in the back of a Wrangler, All because she said no to homecoming.’”
“You’ll be down in earth quicker if you diss me tonight, I just wanna drag your lifeless body to the forest, And fornicate with it but that’s because I’m in love with you…c*nt.”
Other lyrics include:
“F*ck Mary in her ass.. ha-ha.. yo, I tell her it’s my house, give her a tour, In my basement, and keep that bitch locked up in my storage, Rape her and record it, then edit it with more sh*t”
“You already know you’re dead, Ironic cause your lipstick is red, of course, I stuff you in the trunk”
“You call this sh*t rape but I think that rape’s fun, I just got one request, stop breathin”
“I wanna tie her body up and throw her in my basement, Keep her there, so nobody can wonder where her face went, (Tyler, what you doin’?) Shut the f*ck up, You gon’ f*ckin’ love me bitch, Sh*t, I don’t give a f*ck, your family lookin’ for you, wish ‘em good luck, Bitch, you tried to play me like a dummy, Now you stuck up in my motherf*ckin’ basement all bloody, And I’m f*ckin’ your dead body, your coochie all cummy, Lookin’ in your dead eyes, what the f*ck you want from me?”
The messages propogated in these lyrics pose particular risk to the Australian community by conveying the message that interpersonal conflict might be legitimately resolved through violence. Unfortunately this message still enjoys resonance in significant parts of our society which heightens the risk posed to women and children of his entry.
We draw your attention to a previous Collective Shout campaign in June 2013 calling on the former Minister to revoke Tyler’s visa. As a result of our actions, Talitha Stone, a young activist who led our campaign, was subjected to multiple rape and death threats from Tyler’s fans, with the artist himself inciting violence against her on twitter and at his Sydney (all-ages) concert, where a young woman was also raped.
The footage can be viewed on You Tube:
The abuse continues and police have been involved. The incident attracted widespread international media attention and resulted in Twitter implementing a ‘Report Abuse’ button so it could address more quickly online abuse and threats made through its platform.
In January 2014, New Zealand Immigration denied Tyler entry to the country, citing his incitement of violence to Ms Stone at his 2013 Sydney concert as well as inciting crowd to riot at a 2011 concert which left a police officer hospitalized.
Tyler the Creator is a Controversial Visa Applicant also because of specific conditions that continue to prevail in Australian society. In Australia today, two women are killed each week by an intimate partner. Victoria Police respond to domestic violence calls every ten minutes. In this social context, Tyler’s lyrics pose a particular risk for incitement to violence against women. The manner of the propagation of these lyrics in highly energised, crowded, loud, and technologically staged produced environments makes their threat greater. The fact that concert audiences will be dominated by young men exacerbates the risks.
The Commonwealth Government’s National Plan of Action to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022 notes that violence against women and their children costs the Australian economy around $13.6 billion a year. If prevailing social conditions continue, “an estimated three-quarters of a million Australian women will experience and report violence in the period of 2021-22, costing the Australian economy an estimated $15.6 billion”.
There are therefore economic grounds to examine Tyler the Creator’s application on the basis of conditions recognised by the Commonwealth Government to cost more in their aggravation.
The National Plan also states that, “While living safe and free from violence is everyone’s right, reducing violence is everyone’s responsibility”. There is further grounds to consider Tyler’s application on the basis of this assertion.
As a society which claims to be serious about eradicating violence against women, there should be no place for singers who glorify misogyny and degrade women for entertainment. Welcoming artist like Tyler sends a message that our leaders don’t really care about stopping the promotion and glorification of violence against women, and that the National Plan exists in word only.
The artist’s presence here would contradict the Plan, in that his commercial product and behavior undermines the human rights of women and girls and respectful relationships, and impedes attitudinal and behavioural change especially in young people.
It is our view that your Department has failed to conduct due diligence prior to advising you to grant this visa.
On behalf of women and girls, and all who care about them, we ask that you place the safety of our female citizens before a recording artist with a criminal history, who wants to exploit women for profit and who will contribute to a harmful cultural environment for them.
We request that you act urgently to revoke Tyler the Creator’s visa so that he cannot promote his misogynistic attitudes here. Please demonstrate that your Government is serious about addressing the scourge of violence against women by taking this action as a matter of urgency.
Petition Creator Laura Pintur writes for Mamamia on Collective Shout’s campaign to get Zoo Weekly out of Coles and Woolworths.
Laura Pintur has started an online petition calling for lad’s magazine Zoo Weekly to be removed from supermarket shelves. Today, she writes for Mamamia about why she’s taking on a mag that is read by 36,000 boys aged 14-17.
I was so happy when I heard Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young had won her defamation case against Zoo Weekly. When I saw what they did to her, putting her head on a semi-naked bikini model’s body, I thought – how can they get away with that? Happily, they didn’t get away with it in Senator Hanson-Young’s case.
But every day they’re getting away with objectifying women, teaching boys to be predatory, encouraging sexual harassment and violence, spreading rape culture – all while calling it ‘humor’.
My friends and I don’t think it’s that funny to say to men and boys: “If the object of your affection is drinking, that’s already a point in your favour… you want to pick the “loosest/skankiest” one of the lot and fetch her a drink…separate her from the flock. You’re off alone, boozed-up and charming — these are three green lights!”
Giving men and boys the green light to assault women who are under the influence of alcohol is inciting them to commit a crime – when what we need to be doing is educating young men and boys about respectful relationships.
A recent Zoo column joked about punching your ‘misses’ in the face – and this kind of language is important. A 2011 UK study compared lads’ mags’ – including Zoo – and statements from convicted rapists. It found many people could not distinguish the source of the quotes.
Zoo Weekly uses the same language as rapists in its magazine. Sexually objectifying imagery and demeaning content feature on Zoo’s social media sites.
Zoo contributes to a culture that is hostile and threatening to women. It puts my friends and I in danger.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012 Personal Safety Survey found one in five Australian women over the age of 15 had experienced sexual violence. When big supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths sell Zoo it normalizes harmful attitudes to women. Zoo magazine is unrestricted, meaning there are no age restrictions on who can purchase the magazine. Zoo Weekly’s parent company, Bauer, has commissioned their own statistics that show 36,000 boys aged 14-17 read Zoo.
This is why I’ve started a campaign through Change.org, with the support of Collective Shout, calling on Coles and Woolworths to stop selling sexist Zoo Weekly. More than 37,000 people have now signed.
If Coles and Woolworths want to pride themselves on their corporate ethics and support for communities, why do they think it’s OK to profit from degrading women and girls?
I know there’s a lot more that has to be done. This is just one thing I felt I, as a 23-year-old woman could do. It’s my first campaign, the first time I’ve done media or spoken out. But I felt I had to do something.
I have seen first-hand the costs of what this magazine endorses, not only in my life but the lives of other young people. What chance does my generation, and those younger than me have when such major corporations help groom boys to treat us badly?
If you would like to sign Laura’s petition, you can find it here.
Lads’ mags, sexual violence, and the need for feminist intervention
Magazines such as Zoo not only reproduce and legitimise sexist and predatory views of sexual violence and gender roles. They also make such attitudes seem normal and acceptable.
Laura Pintur’s accusation that Zoo reproduces “rape culture” is particularly insightful because of the emphasis on cultural and socio-political contexts of these media texts. The implied understanding is that sexual violence is woven into the very fabric of our wider society and culture. Full article.
Lost Innocence: Why girls are having rough sex at 12
They know, or think they know, a few other things, too. That oral sex doesn’t count as sex. That sending nude pictures via text or Facebook is the new flirting. That boys their age watch porn regularly, and demand from their girlfriends the sexual menu they see online – hairless, surgically-enhanced bodies, ‘girl-on-girl action’, and much, much more.
They are learning from the 21st century’s version of sex education class, the internet…But these lessons are a dangerous mix of misinformation and distorted images of sexuality, which is contributing to behaviour that can leave young women with deep psychological and physical scars. Full article.
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.
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“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
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