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.”
I am affected today by the final paragraph in this piece by former UK Prime Minister now UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown. It echoes, I think, the mood of myself and my colleagues in Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation. The time for politeness is over. We are tired of Zoo magazine (read by 28,000 14-19 year old boys each week) cutting women in half and asking men to comment on which dismembered half they prefer and calling it ‘Men’s Lifestyle’. (See here and here). We are tired of companies like Condom Kingdom being allowed to sell Lolita virgin vibrating sex rings (promoted as just like having sex with a young virgin every time), with government departments and so-called regulators passing the buck (“not our responsibility” is a common refrain). We’re fed up with illegal porn in corner stores and milkbars promoting sex with little girls, rape and incest. And countless other women and girl-hating cultural expressions.
Why is it that we have a Royal Commission into responses to child sexual abuse (rightly so) but no inquiry into the permission-giving drivers which encourage and enable men to abuse women and girls? As Jayneen Saunders, author of Some Secrets Should Never be Kept wrote in a blog comment last night: “I continually despair. Here so many of us are fighting tirelessly for sexual abuse prevention education and reducing the statistics of 1 in 4 girls being sexually abused before 18, and business such as this are allowed to sell , market and encourage fantasies of the sexual abuse of young girls. Where is government regulation when you need it!”
There’s a Federal election this year. Don’t expect us to be demure. Those in high places who are supposed to protect the interests of women and girls have failed. Over and over again. There’s little political will to do anything of substance to call advertisers, marketers, Lads Mags, pornographers and other sexploiters to account. But there is a tide of rising anger and we’re going to harness it. Watch this space. Here’s the Brown quote:
I see in recent protests a real shift. Demonstrations that started as cautious, often gentle, admonitions to the powers that be, with respectful requests for change, have now come to encompass a set of defiant, non-negotiable demands in the form of ultimatums — and rightly so. Protests that once were pleas to ‘please stop this’ have become protests that insist ‘no more and never again’.
Zoo Weekly has published a two-page spread in its July 16 issue asking asylum seekers to send “pics and a short story about your tragic past”.
The text reads: “Are you a refugee not even the immigration minister could refuse? Then we want to see you!
“We’re looking for Oz’s hottest asylum seeker, so if you’ve swapped persecution for sexiness, we want to shoot you (with a camera – relax!).”
This competition comes after Zoo had pressured Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young to pose for them, saying they would accommodate ‘the next boat load’ of asylum seekers in their office if she did so. When she refused the offer, they photoshopped her head onto the body of another bikini model.
It seems there is no line that Zoo won’t cross in order to exploit women and sell magazines.
I live amongst and count as close friends a number of female refugees from several war torn nations in East Africa. Their stories of fleeing their countries include horrible accounts of sexual assault and even rape at the hands of militia and the military. Many of them lost husbands, children and other family members. They still suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress as a result, which includes frequent nightmares, flashbacks, depression and other associated health problems. To joke as the competition does that – “if you’ve swapped persecution for s-xiness, we want to shoot you (with a camera — relax!)” – is completely insensitive to these women’s trauma. However it seems that’s exactly what they’re after, finishing with, “Send your pics and a short story about your tragic past to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
After we shared the news.com.au article on our Facebook, a supporter had this to say:
I dont think I have ever been so incensed by something in my whole life. I have spent 3 years working with refugee women, most of them surviving some form of sexual assault. Some have even witnessed their own little girls raped. Not quite so “entertaining” then is it??
Take a stand against Zoo magazine’s contempt for women.
More sexploitation from a repeat corporate offender
Men’s deodorant brand Lynx – owned by Unilever – has added to it’s ongoing list of degrading ads with the company’s latest promotion, “Lynx, cleans your balls.”
We began hearing from CS supporters about the ad via our Facebook page when it aired on television. We checked out the video on YouTube where it was promoted on the home page. The company’s teenage target market are frequent visitors to the site.
We were asked to comment on the ad for the Herald Sun:
The controversial three-minute Lynx ad titled Cleans Your Balls stars actor and singer [Sophie] Monk in a mock tele-ad showing men how to wash sports balls.
The ad, which is full of double-entendres, has been criticised as crass and oversexualised by lobby group Collective Shout.
Co-founder Melinda Liszewski said up to 10 members had lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Bureau because it was degrading to women and condescending to men.Read entire article.
Melinda Tankard Reist was also asked about the ad on Melbourne radio 3AW:
Co-founder of Collective Shout Melinda Tankard Reist said she was unsurprised by the tact that “repeat corporate offenders” Lynx had taken with their latest campaign.
Number of complaints is reported again in the media, view this as free advertising
When the ASB upholds complaints (if they uphold complaints) act indignant but agree to comply with the ruling even though you can’t do anything about the majority of other sites still hosting your ‘controversial’ ad. This will be perfectly timed with the natural end of the ad campaign anyway.
Slap each other on the back for a job well done and roll around in money, like Scrooge McDuck
Here’s something Lynx may have missed.
Lynx may be advertising deodorant and body wash, but they are also advertising the failure of the ASB to reign in recalcitrant advertisers. Lynx have done this before and they will do it again. They will face no financial penalties for continuing to run ads that are sexist, demeaning and that breach the Advertising Industry code of conduct.
We will keep speaking out because we believe silence has never changed anything and never will. Lynx’s latest ad campaign – like their previous ad campaign – highlights the inadequacies of the ASB and demonstrate why an independent body or authority is needed to replace it. Penalties should be put in place to ensure that advertisers cannot use self regulation to do whatever they want.
So thanks Lynx for helping us to make our case for independent advertising regulation in Australia. We will be sure to ‘advertise’ you at the next government enquiry.
As for Lynx’s claim that their ad is ‘sharp and edgy’ we’ll leave the last word to Allison who wrote:
I sat through that ad on the big screen. You could sense every person in the cinema cringing. No one thought it funny at all. My male companion felt embarrassed to be the target of such purile crap & he grew up watching Benny Hill.
More Reasons to Hate Lad’s Mags: Zoo advises spurned lover to slash ex girlfriend’s face
I’ve written before about lad’s magazines which thrive on the objectification of women and act as porn training wheels for boys.
Now Zoo has run an advice column by British hardman actor Danny Dyer urging a heartbroken reader to “cut his ex’s face, so no one will want her”. The advice was written by regular British columnist and actor Danny Dyer.
As well as the suggestion that he slash his ex girlfriend’s face, the reader was told: “You’ve got nothing to worry about, son. I’d suggest going out on a rampage with the boys, getting on the booze and smashing anything that moves.”
Zoo said it was a “production error”. Like really what they meant to say was “Time mends a broken heart son, give yourself space to heal and relax in a bubble bath”.
Fortunately the reader rejected the advice and said he couldn’t ever hurt the woman he was with for a year.
Kira Cochrane has written an excellent piecewhich asks, if Danny Dyers slasher comments were an error, what about the rest of Zoo?
I’m glad that people have picked up on this comment, but I hope the anger won’t flare up and die away as it usually does. This shouldn’t be an excuse simply to lambast an individual…but to take notice of a magazine, and a wider culture, that depicts women as meat. If anything positive was to come out of this stupid throwaway comment, it would be that.
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