QLD and TAS say Wicked in breach of anti-discrimination laws
My colleagues and I have been speaking out against Wicked Campers for around eight years. It’s taken a long time to build momentum. But now, at least, we are getting some traction at state level with the Queensland Government condemning the camper van company, and more recently, the Tasmanian Government also going public with its concerns. Let’s hope other States will follow and we will soon see a nation-wide ban.
Wicked campers must pull vile slogans or get off the road
Palaszczuk government moves to curb offensive advertising slogans
The Palaszczuk Government has moved to get offensive slogans on vehicles removed from Queensland roads.
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the plan to get sexist, misogynistic or otherwise clearly inappropriate messages off Queensland roads comes after extensive co-operation between the Department of Justice and the Attorney-General, the Department of Transport and Main Roads, and the Advertising Standards Bureau.
“Under the new arrangements, commercial vehicle registration holders who fail to comply with determinations by the Advertising Standards Bureau will face the prospect of having the registration of offending vehicles cancelled,” said Mrs D’Ath.
“I understand clearly the level of community concern about the vulgar, crass and offensive slogans that have been displayed on some commercial vehicles in Queensland and other parts of Australia.
“They have been the subject of frequent complaints to the Advertising Standards Board.
“When the ASB has deemed those slogans to be offensive, the typical response from the holders of those commercial vehicle registrations has been deafening silence.
“Now, if they refuse to remove the offensive slogans, their vehicles will be off the road.”
Mrs D’Ath said targeting the issue through commercial vehicle registrations provided an innovative solution to what has been a difficult problem for governments in Australia and overseas.
“The owners of these vehicles are in business, and some may see the offence and outrage they cause as a form of free publicity,” she said.
“Now, they have a strong financial incentive to comply with the ASB, because if they don’t, their vehicles will be unregistered, off the road, and unable to generate revenue.
“Should they attempt to relocate their businesses interstate, I would encourage other jurisdictions to consider similar laws so that these offensive slogans cannot continue to be displayed.
“This is a solution that imposes minimal additional regulatory burden.
“I believe this is the first time any government in Australia has taken action of this kind, and I want to thank Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey and his Department as well as ASB CEO Fiona Jolly and the Advertising Standards Board for their co-operation and diligence in enabling us to arrive at this solution.
“I would also like to thank members of the community, community organisations and my parliamentary colleagues, who have all voiced their concerns over this issue.”
Mrs D’Ath said it is important to note the vast majority of advertising and advertisers comply with decisions of the ASB.
“I will continue to work closely with Minister Bailey and would hope legislation can be brought before the parliament by the end of this year,” she said.
“In the meantime, I would encourage the owners of these commercial vehicle registrations to see the writing on the wall – and get this offensive writing off their vehicles.”
Like many in the community, the Hodgman Liberal Government is very concerned about some slogans on interstate-registered campervans operating under the Wicked Campers brand.
As previously advised, I have spoken with the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner on this issue, and she has confirmed the owners of these vehicles, and possibly even the drivers, are likely in breach of a number of provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tasmania), particularly relating to incitement to unlawful conduct.
As a Government we have encouraged concerned Tasmanians to contact Equal Opportunity Tasmania to discuss the process for lodging a complaint.
In the meantime, I have been investigating possible regulatory or legislative options to stop these vile, sexist and misogynistic vans from operating in Tasmania.
Under the current law, these offensive vans which are Queensland registered, can spend up to three months in Tasmania.
The Tasmanian Government supports any action by the Queensland Government which would see these vans taken off the road and if there were any attempt by the company to register vans in Tasmania, the Hodgman Government would consider taking similar action.
Attempt to silence critics fails: trends on twitter
So there I was relaxing on the couch under two blankets wearing two pairs of socks and my puffy jacket, with a block of chocolate and LSD* beside me, unwinding to the Chaser’s Election Desk on ABC TV Wednesday night. Suddenly, I see what looks like classic Wicked vans with standard sexist decals painted on them. There’s the Chaser girls, with the van….and look, there’s Mr free-speech-down-with-the-nanny-state Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm getting angry with them. Why? Because the slogans are targeted at him, rather than at women. Leyonhjelm has come out in support of Wicked Campers describing them as “fun” and opposed only by wowsers, hippies and feminists. Chaser give him a taste of his own medicine. The Senator tells them to ‘F-off’ and threatens to call the police. You can see the video here:
Collective Shout, which I helped to get off the ground, has a long history opposing Wicked Campers and its misogynist, sexist, rapey car slogans. You can read examples of our actions here. So I commended the Chaser team for going after Leyonhjelm. After he tweeted his anger about Chaser’s antics outside their home, I tweeted this:
Then things got really interesting. @DavidLeyonhjelm didn’t take too well to my tweets. Here’s how he responded.
Then Twitter went nuts.
Who would have thought I would trend above ‘Swimwear’. Even Bill and Malcom were left behind.
Here’s how ABC News told the story:
After becoming the butt of a Chaser joke for his support of Wicked Campers’ controversial slogans, Senator David Leyonhjelm has lashed out at a women’s rights activist, telling her to STFU (shut the f*** up) on Twitter.
The Liberal Democrats senator had said slogans on the vans like “A wife: an attachment you screw on the bed to get the housework done” are freedom of speech and “you need to be a particularly wowserish type of person to not find them funny”.
Satirical comedy group The Chaser this week approached Mr Leyonhjelm with vans covered in personalised slogans including “The best thing about oral sex from David Leyonhjelm — 5 minutes of silence” for a skit.
Senator Leyonhjelm reacted by telling the crew to “f*** off”.
On Thursday he tweeted author and women’s rights activist Melinda Tankard Reist to “STFU” in response to her post about his views on the vans, in a move she said was “surprising” from a political leader.
“I’m used to abuse … but when it comes from someone in high office, someone who is a representative of the people, a civic leader, that is a little bit more surprising,” she told the ABC.
“This is what passes for political discourse now in the country, is telling women like me to ‘shut the f*** up’.”
She said it was ironic he was the “greatest defender of freedom of speech”, but when it involved him, as The Chaser skit did, he was “threatening to call the police”.
Senator Leyonhjelm told the ABC: “Twitter is not a debating chamber, so this language was entirely appropriate for the medium. Standing up to authoritarians is my job, so it certainly won’t hinder my chances of re-election.”
He said while he had “no problems” with The Chaser commenting on his policies, it had crossed the line.
“The Chaser came to my house, did not identify themselves, displayed homophobic slogans in my street, and alarmed my wife.
“I also thought they were intending to enter my property, which is why I told them I would call the police.”
Ms Tankard Reist helped establish the Collective Shout campaign which she says has led the charge to ban the Wicked Camper slogans.
“Attitudes shape behaviour and when you engage in sexism and misogyny, and sexualise women and girls, it has outcomes in the real world,” she said.
“We don’t need political leaders who think that violence against women and misogyny is funny.”
We don’t need any more men justifying rapey car slogans. We don’t need any more men laughing at images and messages which reduce women to objects and playthings. And we certainly don’t need men who tell women to ‘Shut the F—k Up’ holding positions of power in public office up there on the hill. Let’s hope he’s no longer there after Sunday.
Governments and regulatory bodies continue to ignore the culture drivers fueling sexist attitudes and behaviours
This week we’ve had big name global clothing companies General Pants, Calvin Klein and Queensland fast food eatery, Burger Urge, in our sights. GP and CK are repeat offenders. It’s the first time this slimy burger chain has come to our attention. The only urge we now have is to expose the lot of you for your sexism and women hatred.
This time they have released a video and poster campaign called “Fit in” to advertise their new denim range.
What is most obvious from the in-store posters and the accompanying video is the way the women in particular are sexualised (one is even topless) while the men appear mostly fully clothed.
What makes matters more unbelievable is that General Pants recently partnered with White Ribbon selling ribbons and wristbands in-store and online to raise funds for the anti-violence campaign. This is ironic considering objectification of women, sexist jokes and language are all contributing factors to violence against women… Read full article and take action here
General Pants seems to think it can white wash its sexism by flogging a few white ribbons
I’ve seen some pathetic responses from corporates in my time. This would have to be in the top five.
This doesn’t even make sense. It won’t happen in future by you stand by it? Have you thought of taking up a course in ‘Logic for Dummies’?
If you want to be inclusive why not stop objectifying half of humanity?
Trying to capitalize on its relationship with White Ribbon, General Sexism, sorry, General Pants, issued another statement Friday. Nice try, but you’re still not excused. And this is hardly a ‘singular’ example. You have an entire culture of sexism shown through repeated sexual exploitation of women which we’ve been documenting since our formation.
White Ribbon needs to take a strong stand and dump General Pants as a partner. As my colleague and Collective Shout’s director of operations Coralie Alison pointed out, the anti-violence organisation expressed concern about General Pants late last year.
General Pants can’t white wash its sexism by flogging a few white ribbons.
Calvin Klein’s Sexist Billboard – Men Make Money, Women Seduce
It’s 2016. Yet companies all over the world continue to push the toxic message that women are only valued for their sex appeal. We’ve spoken out about Calvin Klein before for their ‘gang rape’ billboards which thankfully at the time were ordered to be removed after complaints to the Advertising Standards Board.
Now they have come out with this:
The text accompanying the image of the woman says “I seduce in #mycalvins” and the text accompanying the man says “I make money in #mycalvins” suggesting that while men can be successful in business women are only there for their sex appeal. There is an obvious contrast between the way the two images are styled and posed.
One successful businesswoman, Heidi Zak, who is a CEO of ThirdLove, the company she founded, saw the Billboard and decided she was going to do something about it….Read full article and take action here.
Burger Urge Delivers Sexism
Brisbane-based restaurant chain Burger Urge says “We Deliver!” It sure does – delivering sexism with this new ad campaign. A woman, spread legged and reclining as though giving birth, delivers a big juicy hamburger into the hands of a waiting man. Mocking the profound act of birthing a child, the woman is treated as a piece of meat delivering meat.
This is one of the most sexist burger ads we’ve ever seen. And unfortunately there have been a few…
Collective Shout founder Melinda Tankard Reist says that this is just one more example of the “sexist, backward, misogynist advertising” that we are being confronted with every day.
“You wonder if these companies realise it’s the 21st century,” she says.
“We’ve all had enough of this, we’re not buying it, we think women should be treated as women not as objects.”
Tankard Reist notes that the Burger Urge ad is just one of a barrage of sexist ads that have become the wallpaper of our society.
“The cumulative effect of this sort of sexism creates and contributes to sexist and misogynist attitudes which in turn create sexist behaviour that ultimately hurts women and girls,” she says. Read full article here.
Let Burger Urge know what you think of them on their FB page. And urge your friends to do the same.
Or call their QLD outlets: (07) 3254 1655, (07) 3844 8777, (07) 3839 2187 and ask to speak to management.
Thousands of people have joined a group calling for the boycott of Wicked Campers after a Byron Bay man was threatened with prosecution because he sprayed over an obscene slogan on the back of one of the company’s vehicles.
The company’s vans with their lurid spraypainted slogans, some even promoting, if not inciting rape, are popular with young tourists travelling around the northern rivers.
Byron shire grandfather Paul McCarthy told media he had a ‘brain snap’ when he saw the slogan ‘A b..w job a day beats an apple’ on the back of a Wicked Camper vehicle recently and spray-painted over the offending word (blow).
There’s a new petition calling on the QLD Attorney-General to take action. Please support it.
Collective Shout’s Coralie Alison and Sydney activist and educator Paula Orbea asked Lonely Planet to stop promoting misogynist camper van hire company. Lonely Planet responded:
“thanks for flagging this important matter, Coralie. Listing was removed from our Australian 18 guide (produced last year; hitting shelves in Nov)…the listing still on the site has been raised with the online editorial team.”
Paula launched a petition against Wicked Campers last year after her daughter was confronted with a disturbing misogynist slogan on a Wicked Camper van. Collective Shout wrote about the campaign here.
The campaign achieved widespread media attention. As the petition approached 130,000 signatures Wicked Campers agreed to remove the slogans over a period of 6 months. They lied. Here’s the latest update at Paula’s site.
As Paula pointed out in her article, it is worth continuing to speak out.
Contact camp sites and caravan grounds, ask if their policy is to turn away Wicked Camper vans with sexist or explicit slogans and imagery.
If you see a tourism, travel guide site or publication promoting Wicked Campers, let them know why Lonely Planet has stopped promoting the company and ask them to do the same.
Let us know about any action you take and especially if you receive a response via comments section below.
Here’s the exchange with Lonely Planet
UPDATE: Violence against women just a joke says Wicked
This would have to be the most condescending media statement I’ve ever read. Those who object to Wicked’s women hating slogans lack a sense of humour.
But see how things are suddenly not so funny when protestors took the company up on its recent offer to anyone who doesn’t like their slogans to paint over them?
Re-facing of their vans is more serious than the degradation of women.
Protestors, let this fire you up for further action.
A new wave of indignation
Since publishing the last update on this petition, I have continued to work toward attaining what was asked for of Wicked Campers in the first place – to eliminate degrading and misogynistic slogans and images from their vans.
Obviously, Wicked Campers themselves have made it abundantly clear that they will not be upholding their promise as evidenced by my ‘Literally Wicked’ post that I keep updating with images as they’re sent to me. Sign petition now
People power forces Wicked Campers to withdraw misogynistic marketing
Wicked Campers withdraws sexist slogans from vans after 110,000-strong change.org petition; petition starter Paula Orbea says it’s a “people powered win against sexism”
The campervan company at the centre of a people-powered revolt over sexist van slogans has today issued an apology and committed to reviewing and removing sexist or misogynistic marketing from all vans in the next six months.
Paula Orbea, the Sydney school teacher who started the 110,000-strong change.org petition against Wicked Campers says it’s a stunning people-power victory against sexism, with the result coming just four days after starting the petition.
In an email from Wicked Campers received by Paula, she says they’ve offered a personal apology, have now removed the sexist slogan Paula’s daughter saw, committed to reviewing and removing insensitive slogans from all vans in the next six months. The statement reads: “Wicked Campers Owner, John Webb wishes to acknowledge the prevailing community opinion by REMOVING the slogan in question and making a commitment over the coming six months to changing slogans of an insensitive nature.”
Wicked Campers have been at the centre of numerous ad watchdog complaints and social media backlashes in the past, and Paula says that it was the change.org petition which gathered more than 110,000 sigantures that made the difference.
“I’m overjoyed at the result, and commend Wicked Campers for eventually listening to consumers that their misogynistic slogans weren’t acceptable.”
“This was a people power win. The change.org petition worked just as it intended, with more than 110,000 people signing, it was an overwhelming show of community support.”
“The kind of sexism and misogyny on those Wicked Campers vans isn’t trivial – it’s degrading to women, harmful for our children to consume, and condones a rape culture that sees one-in-three Australian women sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.
“I’m pleased my daughter said something, and that we stood up against it. It’s important that we call out sexism wherever it exists – and my change.org petition enabled me to actually make a difference and win change.”
Paula is urging those offended by the vans to continue to call out examples of misogynistic and offending vans by contacting the company and posting on social media about them – and she will be monitoring the company’s progress in removing offending slogans.
Karen Skinner, Australian Director of change.org says it’s an example of the growing success womens activism is having through online petitions.
“More than ever before, women are calling out everyday sexism and fighting back through social media and change.org petitions.”
“Online tools are giving women the ability to join together and achieve change incredibly quickly, in stark contrast to the individual complaints processes.”
“Women’s rights issues are among the most popular on change.org, and women make up more than 60% of our most active users. There’s a growing community going online and winning on these once-ignored issues.”
Unanimous vote for Greens anti-Wicked Campers motion in Senate
The Senate has unanimously passed a Greens’ motion condemning the sexist, misogynistic and racist slogans that Wicked Campers have on their hire vans.
“The Senate is sending a strong message that promoting violence against women is completely unacceptable in Australian society,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens spokesperson for women, said.
“I’m pleased to hear that Wicked Campers have said they will remove the specific slogan that sparked on online petition signed by more than 120 000 people, and have committed to remove more of what they describe as “insensitive” slogans in coming months.
“I wholeheartedly congratulate and thank Paula Orbea, who started the petition after her 11-year-old daughter read the slogan which incited sexual violence against women and girls.
“Paula has shown that by calling out sexism and misogyny, we can put a stop to it, and change the culture that normalises and condones it.
“These sexist slogans promote violence against women, which is sadly a massive problem in Australia.
“One in every three Australian women over the age of 15 have experienced violence and one in every five have experienced sexual violence.
“Most often women know their attacker, with one Australian woman a week killed by her partner or ex-partner.
“Violence against women is certainly no laughing matter – it is a national emergency,” Senator Waters said.
Wicked assigns women and girls to a place of inferiority: Dr Helen Pringle
…Wicked Campers is a serial offender at the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB), which has formally considered dozens of complaints against the company since 2008. What is most striking over that time is that the ASB has completely failed to counter the campaign of derision and intimidation against Australian girls and women by the company. In fact, in the last two years, Wicked Campers has simply not responded in any way to complaints lodged with the ASB, or to determinations against its conduct by the Bureau. And the Bureau is powerless in the face of the company’s contempt for it….
One of the most egregious violations by the company did not even become the subject of a complaint to the ASB. During the 2012 Queensland state election campaign, a company campervan was painted with a garish cartoon of a naked middle-aged woman, with her legs spread wide apart so as to expose her whole body to the world, and her genitals obscured by two squares, marked as 1 (her vagina) and 2 (her anus). The caption to the cartoon shouted out to its audience, “Tick the Right Box!”. The cartoon represented Anna Bligh, then Queensland premier, who had earlier criticised the company’s use of a racist slogan on a van (“Save a Whale – Harpoon a Jap!”)…
In his book The Harm in Hate Speech, Jeremy Waldron argues that a flourishing and fair society rests on the equal standing and treatment of its members – and on the recognition and assurance of that equality in society’s “signage”. The Wicked camper vans assign girls and women to a place of inferiority and frustrate the assurance of equality to which we are entitled, in public places just as in workplaces. Read full article
Thousands support Sydney mother’s petition against misogynistic Wicked Campers.
Wicked Campers are known for their campervans emblazoned with sexist and demeaning slogans.We’ve written about them before.
One of our supporters, blogger and activist Paula Orbea, decided she had had enough after her young daughter was exposed to a certain van while out with her grandparents. She wrote on her blog:
“A few days ago, I went to pick up my 11 and 7 year old daughters from a holiday stint with my parents. As we greeted each other with hugs, my 11 year old did not hesitate in telling me, with great concern, that she saw something terrible when she was in the car with my dad – a van that said all girls were sluts who want to try it just once.
“So it’s official – something I personally called out has encroached and touched my family directly.”
Paula and her daughter contacted the Advertising Standards Bureau where her young daughter made an official complaint. She wrote, “I am a little girl and I am not a slut.”
Paula recounted her frustration as she discovered a long list of complaints against Wicked Campers for similarly misogynistic and demeaning slogans and imagery. Many complaints against Wicked Campers had been upheld, but Australia’s system of industry self regulation means there is no enforcement of the ASB’s ruling, and Wicked Campers have no obligation to remove the advertising. As such, Wicked Campers are free to disregard the ASB’s ruling and do whatever they want- there are no penalties, fines or legislation in place that would prevent Wicked Campers and other advertisers from using misogyny, racism or homophobia to sell their products.
We have raised this issue before, in submissions to inquiries for advertising and outdoor advertising, calling for a complete overhaul of the current system. We have called for regulation by an independent body rather than the industry itself, as well as pre-vetting of advertisements and substantial penalties for those who continually breach standards and codes, like Wicked Campers.
Paula decided it was time to take action, so she created a petition on change.org calling on Wicked Campers to remove misogynistic and degrading slogans and imagery. Her call to action resonated with many people, with thousands signing the petition and condemning Wicked Campers for their sexist and hateful slogans. Sign Paula’s petition here.
In just two days, Paula’s campaign has sparked national media coverage. Wicked Campers has removed the option to post on their Facebook wall after being inundated with complaints from people now empowered to speak out. This is a great lesson to Wicked Campers and other media and advertisers, that demeaning women to promote products is no longer acceptable and will hurt their business. As such, Paula’s campaign is already a success, and we are thrilled to see people like Paula speaking out.
As author and activist Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Wicked Campers has once again violated Advertising Standards with its latest slogan “fat girls are harder to kidnap.” The vehicle hire company is a repeat offender, well known for printing vile and degrading slogans on its vans.
The Ad Standards Board has upheld many complaints against this company, but as reported by Mumbrella, Wicked Campers no longer bother to respond to such rulings.
Why would they? There’s money to be made – sexist, pornified messages are apparently a big hit – and there are no penalties for violating advertising standards. According to Wicked Campers, even violating the law is worth it. Here’s Wicked Campers on Facebook, mocking Queensland Police and gloating about the cheap fines!
Here’s a sample of some of the other misogynist messages Wicked Campers broadcast in the public space.
The Qld Government recently held an inquiry to determine whether the current system of advertising industry self-regulation is sufficient to prevent sexualised, objectifying or otherwise inappropriate content being broadcast in the public space.
Collective Shout participated in the inquiry and argued that self-regulation does not work. Wicked Campers is just one example of a repeat offender continually defying the advertising industry code of ethics.
The Parliamentary Committee Report was released in January 2014 with a list of recommendations which if acted on, would stop companies like Wicked Campers in their tracks.
Recommendations include significant and ever increasing fines for repeat offenders and a requirement for recalcitrant advertisers to submit to pre-vetting of future ad campaigns. We are calling on the Attorney General, the Minister for communities and child safety and the Qld Premier to act on these recommendations and make them law.
Violence against women is no joke and Wicked Campers have gotten away with this behaviour for too long. Your voice will make a difference!
Attorney General and Minister for Justice Jarrod Bleijie: firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister for Communities, Child Safety, Tracy Davis: email@example.com
Premier Campbell Newman: firstname.lastname@example.org
You might like to make the following points in your email:
I/We support the recommendations in the Parliamentary Committee Report for the Inquiry into sexually explicit outdoor advertising especially those that discuss financial penalties for advertisers that repeatedly violate the code of ethics
Companies like Wicked Campers should not be allowed to use slogans that degrade women and make light of violence against them for profit
Please take action on these recommendations and make them law.
Your voice DOES make a difference! If you have any questions, let us know in comments below. If you leave a valid email address (we will not publish your email address online) we can respond to your enquiry via email.
Framing Gillard in pornographic terms is part of a concerted backlash against women in power, argues Dr Helen Pringle
This is an edited extract from an essay by Dr Helen Pringle in Bewitched and Bedevilled: Women Write the Gillard Years, a collection of essays published by Hardie Grant and edited by Samantha Trenoweth.This book, write the publishers, “looks at the reasons Julia Gillard, our first female Prime Minister, was so vehemently attacked, the varied reactions to being a female prime minister, her unfortunate position at the receiving end of a barrage of sexism and misogyny and how much this played a part in her political problems, her public perception and her ultimate undoing”.
By Dr Helen Pringle
Picture this: a naked middle-aged woman, her face distorted by a crooked grimace, is sitting with her legs spread wide apart so as to expose her whole body to the world. Her breasts are bare, but her genitals are obscured by two squares, added by the sketcher of the picture as if he wished to avoid accusations of obscenity, while simultaneously humiliating his subject by marking the squares, in a juvenile way, as 1 (her vagina) and 2 (her anus). The caption to this cartoon commands its audience, ‘Tick the Right Box!’.
This picture of Anna Bligh, then Labor Premier of Queensland, was sketched on the side of a hire van during the state election campaign in March 2012. The van belonged to Wicked Campers, a global hire company founded in Queensland by John Webb. A photograph of the van was posted on the ausgamers.com site, along with this note to clarify the political issue at stake: ‘I am not sure if anyone else has seen this van getting around Brisbane but I just had to share. So people, please remember to tick the correct box, otherwise we could end up in the crapper.’
One comment on the picture read: ‘That is an eerily accurate likeness.’ Most posters on the ausgamers site laughed at the picture, writing comments on the thread like ‘rofl’, ‘hahaha!!!!!’, or ‘fucking hilarious though’. Another poster to the thread contributed to the general hilarity by adding a photoshopped picture of a naked Kevin Rudd being spanked by Julia Gillard, with Kristina Keneally looking on, both women wearing black leather and dominatrix boots. The figure of Rudd was posed to suggest he was greatly enjoying his ‘pussywhipping’.
The world to which the cartoon Anna Bligh opens her legs is increasingly shaped by such pornographic motifs and themes. The term ‘pornography’ once referred to artifacts like magazines, books, films and videos — things that were, for the most part, bought masked in special covers and consumed in non-public or intimate spaces. But our public spaces are now increasingly shaped and marked by pornographic traces, through what Linda Williams has called ‘on/scenity’ — that is, ‘the gesture by which a culture brings on to its public arena the very organs, acts, bodies and pleasures that have heretofore been designated ob/scene and kept literally off-scene’ (‘Porn Studies: Proliferating Pornographies On/Scene: An Introduction’ in Porn Studies ed. Linda Williams, 2004). Like many other academics, Williams argues that this appearance of sexual themes and scenarios on the stage of public and political life should be welcomed as indicating a lifting of sexual repression and as heralding a greater openness about sex.
Cartoons like that of Anna Bligh on the Wicked Campers van, however, make such a view of public sex seem simplistic, and suggest instead that pornographic themes and motifs can be effectively used to humiliate women and to shut down their voice in public life. That is, when our culture brings sexual themes on to its public arena, it provides new ways to subordinate women in such spaces. At the same time as women, in increasing numbers, are standing for political roles, ‘on/scenity’ accentuates the character of politics as ‘a man’s world’, in which women’s place remains insecure. Political pornification is striking not only in Australia but also in other countries where women have sought or hold high office. The form taken by derision of Hillary Clinton when she ran for the US Democratic nomination in 2007 is a case in point.
In thinking about how the pornographic is put to work to subordinate women in political life, an analogy with women’s entry into male workplaces is helpful. In some industries, like construction, engineering, and mining, the percentage of women workers still hovers around 10% (Women in NSW 2013). Women’s entry into such segregated industries is often marked by systematically intimidating, hostile and abusive behaviour towards them, such as name-calling and commands to ‘show us your tits’, hostile graffiti, or the display and use of pornographic pin-ups (Helen Pringle, ‘Pornography: The Harm of Discrimination’ OnLine Opinion 10 October 2011). A business that requires employees to work in such ‘an unsought sexually permeated work environment’ is subjecting them to unlawful discrimination.
Women’s equal standing in and enjoyment of political life is corrupted by the acceptance of similar forms of behaviour as those that qualify as discriminatory intimidation in workplaces, even where not legally actionable. When men at work display sexual cartoons or photographs of naked men or women, or call women obscene names and epithets, it is not merely rude, offensive and inappropriate behavior. It is a form of gendered power that creates and sustains a hostile environment that puts women in their (proper) place, the place of inferiority. It is also a sign, to both men and women, that women are not assured of equality of treatment.
The abuse and ridicule targeted at Julia Gillard after she became Prime Minister in June 2010 often took this gendered form. The most extreme exponent of pornographic imagery and themes as a form of political criticism and satire is the cartoonist, Larry Pickering, notorious in the 1970s for his ‘Jungle’ series and ‘Playmates’ cartoons, which depicted male politicians with strangely-shaped penises, accompanied by smutty captions. Pickering claims that he came out of retirement specifically to combat Gillard’s Prime Ministership. The full range of his post-retirement cartoons was displayed on his website, The Pickering Post, with all designs available to be printed on t-shirts and purchased from his website shop ($38, or $48 with collar).
Pickering’s characteristic style of satirizing Gillard was as a cartoon figure with a strap-on dildo. His websites also feature vicious diatribes against Gillard and other women in politics, or women commenting on politics, such as Anne Summers. ‘Understand this, Summers, it’s obnoxious vermin like you who emboldened Gillard to take the misogynist road,’ Pickering ranted after Gillard lost office (‘A vile piece of trash called Summers’ The Pickering Post, 28 June 2013, ).
Pickering’s cartoons remind women in politics, like Julia Gillard, that they are not men, and that women can only play at doing politics. The cartoons make clear that being a woman and being politically competent are out of alignment. They also make clear that a woman who attempts to ‘play the game’ as if she were a man opens herself to derision. Pickering uses his own pen to discipline such women by showing them as out of place and as thus inviting mocking laughter. The cartoons also function as a sort of ‘Virility Monologues’, a shout out to men about what is at risk or threatened by powerful women, and a warning to men about what happens when they do not successfully play the man part of the political script.
Men like Pickering who use, or rather wield, such brutal language against women are thereby marked as properly masculine — they have the capacity and power to police the world of politics to ensure that those who enter it know that its structure and its script are defined in male terms. Femininity and democratic competence are made to part ways.
It is crucial to add that Pickering’s cartoons of Julia Gillard are pornographic not because their intention is to produce sexual arousal or to incite desire for the subject of the cartoon, as is the traditional understanding of pornography. Rather, to call them pornographic is to draw attention to the way in which they incite a cruel laughter that takes delight in humiliation and that finds subordination funny. In fact, perhaps the most effective form in which sexual hierarchies are policed today is pornographic laughter, which has become the stock in trade of unrepentant discrimination.
Pornographic laughter is also used against those who voice concerns about any kind of demeaning treatment of women, whether in entertainment, advertising or political discourse. That is, the response is that pornography is all just one big joke — and that women, in particular, need to stop taking things so seriously.
Chiding women for lacking a sense of humour in regard to pornography crosses party lines. The self-styled humourist, Ben Pobjie, for example, wrote in the left-wing magazine, The King’s Tribune: ‘There are many reasons a person might be weird enough to not like pornography. For example, that person may be suffering from nervous hysteria and just need a good finger massage or fire-hose-induced orgasm to set things right’ (‘Porn. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it’ The King’s Tribune, 5 January 2012). Complaints about the pornographic depiction of women become the occasion for further mocking laughter and derision.
Images and themes drawn from pornography are increasingly used to belittle women and denigrate their standing through making them figures of fun. This is not entirely new: the cartoons and rape jokes in Playboy and Hustler, for example, have been standard features since the magazines’ inception, and were not just ‘filler’ for the nude pictures. What is new is that the use of the pornography to incite laughter against women has migrated into the heart of political discourse, as a way of humiliating those who do not know their proper place.
It is no longer considered acceptable to bar women from the political world, or to say outright that they do not belong in that world. The primary way to practise exclusion now is through a pornographic laughter at the women who enter the political world. In that world, a woman may still be openly lampooned for being (or being like) a lesbian. A woman may still be ridiculed for having too shrill a voice or for having too manly a voice (in the case of Kerry Chikarovski, for example). A woman may still be derided for being too fat or too thin or for being both at the same time (big bottom and small breasts, say). The infamous menu at the Mal Brough fundraising dinner included ‘Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail – Small Breasts, Huge Thighs & A Big Red Box’. The menu was explained away by the restaurant owner as ‘an in-house joke’, as if it was just a Benny Hill-style prank (Ben Packham, ‘Restaurant owner says demeaning menu mocked up as an “in-house joke,”’ The Australian 12 June 2013).
The criticism of women in politics in the form of crude and often cruel pornographic derision is always ready to mask itself as ‘just a joke’. This peculiar mix of the pornographic and the snigger deploys itself as discrimination, while trying to defuse itself as playful and fun. The use of gender (or racial) stereotypes is often excused in this way, giving the mistaken impression that it can’t be discrimination if it is a sleazy joke.
A flourishing deliberative democracy rests on the equal standing and treatment of its members and, as Jeremy Waldron has argued, it also depends on the recognition and assurance of that equality in society’s ‘signage’ (The harm in hate speech, 2012). My concern here is not what the cartoons might cause someone to do after viewing them. The concern is what the cartoons signal or tell us about ourselves — that we live in a world in which the hatred of women is still acceptable, and still able to be openly spoken, and spoken for. Abusive or hostile remarks and jokes about women (made even to their face) are rarely prefaced by the disclaimer, ‘I’m not a misogynist but…’ Such jokes are rarely introduced by the phrase, ‘You can’t tell this joke any more, but…’ Misogyny still falls within a framework of acceptability and this framework helps to convert the prejudices of individuals into discrimination.
Our world is increasingly shaped by pornographic motifs and themes, as well as by pornographic artifacts like magazines, books, films and videos, and these motifs are no longer quarantined from political culture and public life. The migration of pornographic imagery and discourse from entertainment and commercial arenas into political spaces was accenutuated during Julia Gillard’s tenure as prime minister. Images and narratives from journalism, pop culture and especially cartoons placed Gillard in a pornographic frame, a frame signifying not just political opposition to her and her government, but a concerted backlash against women taking positions of power.
The cartoons I discuss do not merely target specific women in politics, like Anna Bligh or Julia Gillard, but assign women more broadly to a place of inferiority in the political order, and reinforce the picture of politics as a man’s world for which women are ill-suited and in which they do not fit. Pornography in public is not sexual freedom but same old, same old subordination. And despite the sniggers of its proponents, this is actually not a laughing matter.
Virginia Haussegger is right to lament the status of women in other countries and the brutalities and indignities they suffer daily.
But attitudes towards women in our own so-called liberated western democracy desperately need an overhaul as well.
While I frequently write about the objectification of women and girls, this issue has been unrelenting of late. Sexism is alive and well. Is it really the 21st century?
Lynx sexual performance in Martin Place
Last Thursday global brand Unilever staged a ‘Pop-up spadate’ in Sydney’s Martin Place to promote its ‘man-cation’ travel destination, the Lynx Lodge. Young bikini-clad women splashed about in a hot tub. The amply breasted models had shower gel splattered across their chests (a reference to ejaculation, for those unfamiliar with the porn genre).
Nina Funnell described the scene in The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday:
“… Martin Place was transformed into something resembling a cheap porn filmset…The hot tub was placed on a raised platform, blocked off by rails. Male suits pulled out iPhones to take photos through the rails…Other Lynx models pranced around in tiny French maid outfits. Another had set up a masseuse table and was busy giving a semi-naked man a massage. Unsurprisingly men ogled the women, slapping each other on the back, while making comments like “she’s a bit of all right” or “I wouldn’t mind a bit of that”. I felt like I’d walked into a middle aged man’s seedy buck’s night. It was 9am on a Thursday morning.”
Did Sydney City Council and its female Lord Mayor approve this sexual display in the middle of Sydney city? No qualms about sending men off to work all aroused? No second thoughts about the message to boys that they are entitled to ogle women in public places?
The Lynx Lodge appears to be parent company Unilever’s foray into the sex industry, with all the trappings of a brothel without identifying it as such. “Lynx Lodge – Get Laid Back” declares the website:
“The ultimate man-cation destination to get you back to your primal roots”
“Get laid back, as lodge staff pamper you with breakfast in bed and on-the-spot massages”
“Golf range: Grab your wood”
“Pool hall: Scared of being beaten by a girl? Some of our guests quite enjoy it.”
“Ball Games: Teamwork is everything, so be sure to focus on your partner’s backside to make out her block signals.”
Women are advertised as ready to do a man’s bidding and to entertain and excite him.
A video ad shows young women lonely and desperate for men to arrive at the lodge. Helpless and passive, they need a man to serve and give them attention. One girl wades naked into the lake waiting for him to arrive.
You can see just how mainstream sexism has become. Woolworths is in bed with Lynx, co-branding in the promotion of borderline prostitution at the Lodge.
Yet Woolies claims a “high level of social responsibility”.
How is supporting a view of women as subservient sexual slaves acting responsibly? Woolies, the women-as-fresh-meat-people?
Does this look like one of your fresh food mums, Mr Michael Luscombe, Managing Director and CEO?
Evidence of the Lynx Effect can be found on its Facebook page.
“DO I WIN A BLONDE , NICE ASS , LARGE NATURAL BREASTS,NICE EYES ” asks one man. About the spa girls:
“you no [sic] that you would ruin that all night long”
The Gold Cost Turf Club: Parading women like animals
The Gold Coast Turf Club is planning a special summer carnival in which women in bikinis take the place of horses. Herded into horse barrier stalls, they will be released to sprint down the straight for a prize.
The entry form calls entrants “mares and fillies”. The club takes no responsibility for “injury or death”. Women must wear a bikini and “acceptable running shoes”. Of course, her feet must be supported but her breasts need be free to bounce around for the entertainment of male punters.
The responses from Women in Racing and the Brisbane Women’s Club were lamentably weak. Women in Racing Director Jennifer Bartels said: ”We love anyone who will promote racing, but perhaps this isn’t quite racing. Good luck to them though.” Good luck to them?
Turf Club CEO Andrew Eggleston wants to see elite sportswomen take part. Just not in their usual sportswear.
Calvin Klein violent billboards
Then I was sent this billboard image from a woman in Sydney. Another example of violence against women being promoted as sexy, with intimations of the gang rape of an inanimate young woman. Where the hell is the Advertising Standards Board on this and others like it?
Yesterday my sister contacted me from Byron Bay about the three Wicked Campers she’d just seen with slogans: “Jugs” “Random Breast Testing” and “Shaved Pussy” across their vans. Sexism on wheels.
Everywhere they look, women and girls get the message that they exist for male gratification and pleasure. Their reason for being is to serve men and meet their every need. They should enjoy sexual harassment.
Fortunately there is a grassroots uprising against this. You can find it at www.collectiveshout.org. We’ve had enough. Vive la revolution.
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