February 15, 2015
A while back, I had a chin wag with students about the fine line that is present in many a discussion about females – in that case, their dress. A recent example has been the great deal of to-ing and fro-ing over the release (on Valentines’ Day, no less) of the film, Fifty Shades of Grey. The argument surrounding this narrative has been bugging me in a similar way the aforementioned discussion with my students did.
My understanding of this issue can be put into two simple points: 1. The books sold like wildfire and seemed to have predominantly titillated the ‘housewives of suburbia’ who saw a love story with consenting adults and 2. It brought to the fore, many psychologists, feminists and survivors of abuse, who have presented an alternate and more dangerous perspective; one that looks at a male grooming and trying to utilise complete control of a naïve female; a demonstration of psychological and physical domestic abuse.
I have not read the books and even wrote post at the end of 2012, asking those who had read 50 Shades to write their thoughts, without judgement from me; because I support women and fight for their complete agency to choose and participate in this world with freedom and safety. This novel is simply a great example of where – if anywhere – the line gets drawn between ‘sexy’ and ‘sadistic and sociopathic’. The issue of choice and consent is also smudged for me when grooming is involved as that’s what grooming does – trick people (and children) into thinking something’s OK, when it’s not.
The prevailing argument in its favour is that it’s just a fictional story and is just a fantasy. I completely understand this perspective and think, each to their own. If the sexual escapades of this novel pushed the saucy buttons of women worldwide, then I say, whatever floats your boat. The pro-50 Shaders seem to be more about the steamy, naughty, forbidden [insert own adjective] sex, not so much about the screwed up male (due to his prostitute [of course] mother) ‘discovering’ himself emotionally and physically through Ana.
But the two issues are married together – the psychologically disturbed man, comes with the sex.
So having heard all the arguments in various articles about this relationship and its representation of varying abuse, I simply want to ask:
Question #222: Why him?
Maybe there are women who want to escape their predictable sex lives and find this story does in fact help them do just that. But what about the man himself; not just his skill with a whip?
Maybe there’s also a secret want to have a rich and ‘powerful’ male be a dominant figure, in his expensive suits and play/torture dungeon.
Maybe women like the idea of ‘fixing’ a damaged male – that love will conquer all. That if she stays, he’ll get better – even if it means enduring a controlled and abusive existence .
Is that it?
What if Christian were, let’s say, a newsagent, would there be as much sexual excitement in finding one’s own Mr Grey?
In terms of the story, the sexual awakening would be the same for Ana, wouldn’t it?
What I’ve heard, from friends who have already gone to see the film, is that the sex wasn’t as ‘good’ as in the novel but found other differences. This is from a friend of mine in her 20s:
‘I found it uncomfortable to watch but didn’t find it uncomfortable to read. I’m not easily phased but it was unpleasant. Personally I enjoyed the development throughout the series. It was an interesting read. But seeing it in film was sort of next level. It was basically porn. The sex scenes were not overly graphic but the violence was too much. It made me feel sad.’
Isn’t the following image from the film, eerily similar to the very real Julian Blanc many found to be abhorrent in his behaviour towards women. The thought of being grabbed by the neck chills me. That’s because I have been grabbed like that. But it’s still not the reason all this bothers me.
On one hand, Rosie Waterline wrote the following review for Mamamia, where she was shaken by what she saw and left the cinema nearly in tears, through to Mia Freedman’s review with her opposing take. One quote stood out in Mia’s piece, that came from a friend of hers:
‘If some women view Christian as a catch – that’s disturbing but it’s their call. The value of the books and the film is the accompanying conversation about what a healthy relationship looks and feels like. A healthy relationship doesn’t involve your partner dictating what you wear or eat. But the author isn’t writing about a healthy relationship! It’s the story of a messed up relationship!’
The first line encapsulates the problem for me – Christian Grey is being touted as a catch and someone to be dreamed of, despite being in a ‘messed up relationship’.
One example (of many) is this bus stop advertisement, of which I got a photo:
This poster grooms – just like Christian Grey – for selfish reasons.
And that’s what bothers me at the core. How this narrative is being sold.
I think it’s dangerous for those – especially our youth, without the experience to know differently – to believe this is a relationship to aspire to – because it has sex in it that supposedly pushes the boundaries of pleasure?
There are adults who enjoy this story; those who enjoy BDSM (even though many are saying it does not accurately portray BDSM correctly); and that’s fine.
But ultimately there’s one thing that seems to be agreed upon:
It’s not a healthy relationship.
Question #223: So why is it being romanticised?
October 19, 2014
Just recently I had the incredible honour of presenting at the International Women’s Liberation Summit. It was an enthralling few days, hearing stories from such a rich pool of experience – not all nice, of course, but profoundly unifying.
The biggest issue I explored was the predictable and pedestrian narrative being spewed forth – one that has not deviated much, in essence, since the ’50s [Man = strong, brains, breadwinner, leader; Woman = weak, multi-tasker, housewife, follower] by the media and advertising at a ground-zero level; mainly through the common TV, the medium of choice, consumed by the masses.
My presentation – and my actual main concern with us human beings – addressed the way in which we perceive ourselves and categorise each other into labels; ever-restricting ones. I believe our obsession with labelling, will be our eventual undoing as a species.
It’s permeated every crevice from sex + gender through to race + religious beliefs; from what needs to be ‘tested’ in school to determine a student’s worth (label at the ready) through to perceptions of who a person is just from what job they have, where they live, clothes they wear, what they earn etc – all of which we know is ludicrous and non-sensical but something we sadly participate in (and consume), nonetheless.
The worst labelling by far, is sex; the label that hurts women and girls the most. It hurts us all, actually. We mustn’t forget the boys – because as easy (and true) as it is to say that males commit the most crimes, we must ask ourselves – how did they become the ‘monsters’ we keep reporting they are?
They were taught – just like girls are taught.
As the battle rages over what exactly a woman or man is, our media manages to showcase very strict guidelines as to how men and women are to be represented and perceived – this is the very labelling I want to debunk with our youth. They are our hope of change.
So I started a business to channel my activism toward them.
About three weeks before the Wicked Campers campaign in July, my business was born – to present workshops about media literacy, how we relate to each other as human beings, resilience, consumption and more.
I’ve called the business Questions for You, as the questions will be the springboard toward healthy discussion – using critical thinking.
The central theme – and what I titled my presentation at the Summit – is:
The standard we walk past, is the standard we accept.
I’ll tell you why our young ones are the answer. Recently, I had the privilege of seeing a volume of work, created by students, using film to tell a story. It was such an enlightening experience. I loved it. Some narratives blew me away and others reinforced stereotypes. The point is, however, that I saw a balance. And the incredible part is that I had no idea what sex had created what piece. Logic tells me that I saw sophisticated pieces equally from both males and females; all telling unique stories. This needs to be preserved and nurtured.
Turn to the TV and movie narratives, however, and we see something formulaic and banal. Our youth have the capacity to see beyond this but some need a guiding hand in helping them open their eyes to the ‘product’ they’re being sold – mainly what they’re being taught about each other and ‘how it is’. This sort of language will also be explored in workshops, as well as a lot of the clichés that keep humans bound to restricted perspectives; dealing equally with boys and girls.
Question #211: Does this sound like a program your school, child’s school, business or parents may benefit from?
My website: questionsforyou.com.au is ready for your perusal. Please peruse.
Action speaks louder than words, and this has never been more apparent for me. After 20 years of teaching, I feel a deep connection with our budding youth and have never felt more driven to do something, as I do with this.
I hope you’ll join me in this quest.
Deep, positive breath.
PS: Below is the back of my business card, which was designed by my dear friend Katy Donoghue of Giddy Up Graphics (I’ve known her since we were 7 years old). She rocked it. I do love it so. x
July 18, 2014
To begin I would like to express my awe at the overwhelming and resolute support I received during the last six days, due to the petition I initiated. I am truly humbled.
I want to quickly address a few points, as I need to sit down and have a moment of normalcy again. The last six days have been a surreal mix of many emotions.
I started the petition for one reason only – to remove slogans, like the one that upset my 11 year old daughter, from the outside of Wicked Camper vans.
And they have complied.
Have they had a change of heart? Well, that remains to be seen.
But, as I wrote in my penultimate post – we must judge people on their actions.
Only time will tell – so give them time.
Under the law of Freedom of Speech, Wicked Campers are not obliged to take down any of their signage – which is why they had chosen to continue practising as they were, despite numerous attempts from the Advertising Standards Board to have offensive slogans, deemed to have crossed ethical and community standards, removed.
But this wasn’t about the law – it was about the standards we hold as human beings.
Thanks to the staggering amount of people who supported this campaign – 127 752 signatures – in such a concentrated amount of time, we were able to send a clear message that this sort of signage was in fact not a standard we were willing to accept.
* For the clichéd response telling me (us) to ‘not buy it if we don’t like it’; I answer you with the fact that the ONLY person who doesn’t see the signage, is the driver him/herself – it’s the public that has it rammed in their face, regardless.
* For those who have said there are far more important issues to fight for – like the horror in the Gaza strip (for example) and where the petition for that is; I answer you in two ways.
Firstly, calling out misogyny is a paramount issue to fight.
Females around the planet are being sexually assaulted and murdered for the simple fact that they are female. This wouldn’t be happening if they were respected. One woman a week dies from Domestic Violence in Australia and a slogan that says ‘a wife is attachment you screw on the bed to do the housework’ degrades females to nothing more than that and it is hateful.
I also believe many slogans demean males too. Grooming males to believe they’re mindless and sex-obssesed, do no favours to our boys and, in turn, our girls. Slogans such as the following are disturbing – both the visual and what it’s saying:
We would never see, ‘We’re here for your sons’ because we all know what the slogan above means.
Secondly, if one feels that there are issues out there worth fighting for and that a petition will do something, then by all means, create one.
I found it incredible that people provided me with a list of issues I *should* be fighting for – basically saying I shouldn’t be bothering with my daughter’s emotional response to the slogan she saw, but rather appease strangers and their vocal outrage that I had the gall to do it over other issues.
To you I say – Do something about it yourself. I did this for my daughter.
* To all those who said I gave Wicked Campers free advertising, I say to you that it is an irrelevant argument.
My motives never were, nor do they continue to be, about bringing down Wicked Campers – it was to remove certain morally offensive slogans. In fact, if this petition causes the company to reevaluate their business model to better fit the ethical standards of society – well, wouldn’t that be the best victory of all?
Only three days after releasing the petition I received a personal email from Ross, a representative for Wicked Campers, apologising to my daughter and myself. He wrote:
I wish to commend you on your campaign, I believe you’ve carried yourself with poise and intellect and kept your side of the discussion civilised (where others have resorted to physical threats)
I would like to say at this point, that anyone who writes to someone, saying they wish to incite violence against them (or anyone for that matter), is abhorrent and goes against the spirit of this petition.
I have also received graphically violent death threats due to this stance and it’s quite distressing and completely unnecessary. Noone deserves that.
Wicked Campers also included the following press release; sections which have now been used in a number of articles outlining the commitment they are making to do as the petition asked. This is the full statement:
Statement: John Webb on behalf of Wicked Campers Australia
First and foremost, we sincerely apologise for any distress that has been caused.
Anybody who is familiar with our brand would probably know that we are strong proponents of free speech and pushing the limits of humour – we are a ‘cash for chaos’ kind of company.
As is often quoted ‘A sense of humour is a sense of proportion’. And in this instance, we admit that we have taken things out of proportion and out of the realms of what is considered to be ‘socially acceptable’.
We are a small company, with eclectic, creative and multi-cultural staff. It is impossible for us to conceive that a throw-away message written on a van could have such far-reaching implications for the community at large.
Over the past few years Wicked has supported numerous charity endeavours including:
Free hires for Returned Servicemen & Servicewomen (2011 – 2013)
A Mardi Gras float for the Metropolitan Christian Church Sydney to promote social & religious acceptance of homosexuality in the community (2014)
Support for the ‘Free to be Kids’ Charity, whose goal is to facilitate child centered community development in Kolkata with the aim of improving the community’s capacity to protect children. Wicked Campers have donated over $70,000 to this organisation in the hope of improving the welfare of children in India (2012 – 2013).
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. Bear in mind however, many of the images presented in the media of our vehicles are from up to 8 years ago, and the vehicles simply do not exist anymore.
In the spirit of being ‘actionist’, Wicked Campers also invites anybody who feels strongly offended by a slogan to either paint or tape over it.
Mr Webb implores everyone to also focus their passions and energies on a worthy cause such as funding for women’s refuges and shelters around Australia.
“If everyone who signs this petition were to donate to a worthy charity – even just $10, we’d be closer to achieving something truly positive from this campaign.
It is easy to get caught up in the news cycle and the mob-mentality of the internet, but the fact remains, the world’s problems will still exist next week, long after this has blown over. Don’t forget the cause – it’s still there, hidden amongst the memes and useless drivel that pops up in your feed.
We’ve given and we will continue to give – so if you give to a women’s refuge or charity this week, send us the receipt and we’ll write you a personal apology for any offense that has been caused”.
Wicked Campers would also like to commend all petition signers for their passion and commitment to the cause – and their openness to actively working with us towards a compromise. Again, we apologise for any distress that has been caused.
For receipts for donations made, please email: email@example.com
Owner – Wicked Campers
Lastly, what is very important to note, is that this victory happened because ultimately, my daughter and I were respected throughout this journey – by everyone; the populous that cared more than it didn’t and joined the fight; the reporters – ALL of them (I thank you all for that, I still feel honoured to be asked); to being listened to by the business itself and even had a motion passed in the Senate.
In four and a half days.
We just achieved a really good thing. We stood up for a better standard.
My daughter is so happy…in her 11 year old way.
Thank you everyone. Thank you very much.
June 2, 2014
*** Warning – pornographic images from Facebook are used in this post.
I know – we all know – that Facebook is evil, but I feel a line has been crossed with their ‘Community Standards’ practices and I’ve just about had a gut-full.
Before one starts typing the tired, clichéd counter argument of, ‘If you don’t like it, don’t use it’, let me just say that:
1) I think Facebook is a fantastic tool for staying connected with loved ones (esp overseas) and equally awesome for things like blogs, businesses etc.
2) if I were to stop using it, myself and many other amazing warriors out there, would not be there to fight (ultimately) for the rest because ignorance, naivety or turning away never changed anything…. although I’m starting to think we should just about roll over on just about everything because nothing changes; in fact things are actually being made more difficult to fight and I have grown weary.
I am livid with Facebook.
Last week I (along with so many others) continually sent complaints about the Elliot Rodger is an American hero page, petitioning it be taken down every time it popped up….over and over. Every single time I was told it was dandy for general viewing – as the screenshot below shows. Eventually, with so much pressure, Facebook took down all the pages glorifying Elliot Rodgers – and finally informed me that it was taken down.
But this begs the question: So why were all the other protests rejected to start with?
One of Facebook’s suggestions is that one can complain about a particular photo or post, rather than the whole page. OK, I thought, I’ll try that. As you can see above, I reported posts, such as the following, for hate speech:
Facebook thought it wasn’t hate speech against gender. It’s dandy for general viewing.
Last night I stumbled across an ad for…well, let’s see if you can guess. What do you think this is for?
Coffee. It’s for coffee.
I complained about the above image and the following one (for nudity or pornography); one which degrades a woman to the floor of a toilet cubicle, to give a male ‘head’ and couples it with a disgusting tag line:
You guessed it. Dandy.
There are more images like these on the page – sexualising and objectifying females on different levels.
Funnily enough, the only photo using a male with a sexually implied text, is this:
An ordinary man – who is showing his face; an honour the sexualised females aren’t afforded as they’re merely objects – doing something stupid. And is that a coy arm covering himself up a bit?
The thing is: females don’t rape males for being represented as stupid; in the way males rape females for being represented as hyper-sexualised.
Question #207: Can people not see the danger in this sort of ‘advertising’ about women?
Yes, it’s just one ad. But there a millions – billions – of images like the females above; shaping our psyche.
So why does the world then reel in shock when atrocities happen? I mean, REALLY? We are smack bang in the middle of an insidious culture which now confidently drives forward this misogyny and females are ultimately paying the price.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Write on this corrupt Perth coffee brand’s Facebook page here (or any other Facebook page promoting misogyny)
Write to the Advertising Standards Board here as the above images are ads for coffee.
Now, what about Facebook?
Facebook is dictating what pornography is and according to them, the above isn’t. I decided to look at the wording of their ‘standards’ and we’re ultimately screwed:
‘Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content.‘
So a woman with her had on her clitoris, between her spread legs, in heels, on a bed, with bare breasts (except for little boxes with the brand name covering the nipples) with a head seductively thrown back with the word ‘Ecstasy’, is not pornographic?
Well what is?
The worst part is that Facebook has taken away the chance, one used to have, to write a response to their ruling. Now they just say no and that’s that.
I feel that that is so very wrong.
Question #208: Can anything legal be done about this?
I’m shouting out to any ‘legal eagles’ because with every fibre in my being, I feel this needs action and we have to start somewhere.
If you have complained about a page or a post/photo on Facebook and have been knocked back – keep a screenshot of the page or copy the photo. I think we need to start collecting evidence.
March 30, 2014
I have grappled with the issue of pitting and comparing the actions and/or adversities of one gender by using the other to illustrate, for a long time – but it simply does not sit right with me.
It is like comparing apples with oranges.
For the most part, I believe the intention is generally a positive one (which is a refreshing step toward good), but when perceptions and customs related to gender are so profoundly entrenched, it falls short of accurately addressing the deep-seeded issues of gender disparity.
This is a familiar visual representation that now seems to be common practice in highlighting gender-label ridiculousness – namely, a female’s.
There are two issues I have with this sort of juxtaposition:
1. Females have always been represented in this way – used as (sexual) ornaments. Males never have. So when we look at the females in the images, we see ‘normal’ and when we scan across to the males in similar poses, we see humour.
Steve Carell, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert recently did a photo shoot, emphasising the ludicrous poses females are encouraged to do:
Its intentions are admirable but – it’s not the same. It’s just funny.
That humour can (ultimately) also work negatively for the females they’re trying to help, by making them look stupid for participating in their own exploitation; for posing that way in the first place.
I recently saw a snippet of reality TV the other day – one that does renovations on houses. There was a moment where all the contestants had an impromptu dance-off, which lead to the inevitable circle where they strut their stuff in the middle. One of the women chose to be semi-provocative by doing some fetching grinding moves against her partner.
Next was a male. He also did a bit of a provocative dance. It was funny. Everyone laughed.
2. The biggest issue, however, is vulnerability.
When a female is posing sexually, she is vulnerable – her breasts may be practically exposed; she may be bending over something with a short skirt; she may be wearing impossible-to-walk-in-heels (not easy to escape anyone in high heels btw) – you follow my drift.
The males in these representations, however, are not vulnerable.
Their only place of vulnerability is their penis and that is (as always in this current paradigm) *fully* covered.
Everywhere; every time.
How ironic that we seem to find comfort in the male gender – dipped head high in privilege – outlining the woes of the ‘lesser’ gender. Double irony? In most cases it’s statistically males pushing females to pose this way in the first place.
OK, let’s turn the tables; in format as well as gender reversal.
Let’s look at how men are represented and doing the switch.
The image above is from the show, Beauty and the Geek. Never before have I witnessed such a blatantly sexist prime-time show; super-gluing more gender stereotypes to an already fragile equation.
Female = sexy, hot and DUMB;
Male = be who you want to be, you can still get a ‘hot’ female.
Can you imagine a show – heck, a REALITY – where we see females who are daggy/geeky/nerds of various body shapes, together with ‘hot’ males?
I can – but know it’s a concept that is (for the most part) a flash in the pan.
I remember through ads that Glee had a moment where an overweight girl was coupled with the hot football player.
I wonder how many people were genuinely comfortable watching that visual?
I say visual because that’s all ANY of this is based on.
It’s irrelevant whether personalities gel or if people have a profound connection, because ultimately that’s not the message that wants to get taught; there’s no money to be made, if females are secure within themselves, after all.
I intensely wish for a more equal and balanced playing field for females and the bottom line is that females are more than just being the packaging for males’ sexual fantasies.
Question #199: Isn’t this world ready – YET – to unlock the wonderful array of possibilities – just by getting past that horrifically limiting idea of females?
I’ll leave you to think.
My next post is my 200th Question.
Bring your thinking caps along.
January 12, 2014
The penny has dropped for me.
It happened last week; the week that saw this blog turn two – a blog that was spawned from the chasm of questions I had about myself and the world I was navigating through with my two daughters. At risk of sounding like a colossal cliché, it was, in fact, my phase as a mother that really drove the creation of the blog…I was starting to lose myself in the label and rubber stamp that is, ‘mother’.
The intention was to engage with others and make some sense of the madness; to dig down to the dark and selfish root system our species seems to be drawing its inspiration from an attempt to unpack the question: How did we get to this toxic point in time?
An online discussion with radical feminist, Sister Trinity, saw me reach a pinnacle in my thinking.
The problem is gender; more specifically gender roles and labels.
Before I delve deeper into that nugget, let me explain the angle from which I am coming.
I’m currently engaging in an intensive workshop with my daughters these holidays, teaching them to be smart about the actions they take. From as simple as how to hang a wet towel out to dry, to more complex scenarios – basically everything, really.
I’m teaching them to think of the big picture. Think and be smart; unlock some ingenuity. Narrow the problem down to its core and then take action that’s intelligent. The big picture has to include their fellow human beings (from a starting point of kindness) and therefore actions must cater to others’ rights. It all starts in the home in how we deal with each other and extends out. I am also participating in this little workshop I’ve concocted with the girls.
The A-Ha moment
Up until last week I systematically accepted that men and women had certain ‘characteristics’. Sister Trinity’s words to me, however, finally ignited a long-awaited burst of clarity which resonated succinctly to me:
“There is no ‘female mind’ – sex is physical.
Our bodies shouldn’t define who we are IN ANY WAY.
This is what feminism fights (should fight) for.
The idea that we are born with essentially ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ personalities – not just male and female bodies – is deeply offensive; since if you look at what ‘femininity’ stands for, it’s clear patriarchy has assigned the inferior and submissive caretaker role to us.”
And we know it’s correct because we know we don’t teach according to ‘gendered’ brains. I am not altering what I’m teaching my daughters (nor in my classroom) due to whether they have a male or female brain – I’m just teaching. As do you.
I still think that nature (which always pushes for procreation) draws man and woman together, but that should be it. Everything else is a construct. An ever-shrinking label of conformity. Everything.
If you’re shaking your head and thinking (as I do at times), ‘But I AM this way through my choice’, I would simply ask you to just ponder how much has really been your choice? It’s not black and white, I know, but it deserves thought. This is not the moment for the discussion of ‘choice’ but we human beings have to agree that we have little choice in our lives – planet wide – when you sensibly think about it…except on how to spend your money, of course.
Nature v Nurture? I think the majority of it, is nurtured.
If life is a complete construct and you’ve been told, since birth, how each gender ‘should’ behave and more importantly, what it should strive for in life (especially in the ‘western world’), then it only stands to reason that gender IS the root of many of the serious conundrums we’re facing today – stretching back through a very long and entrenched system.
To explore even further, my birthday question to you is:
Question #196: What IS a woman?
Really think about this.
Pretty? Dumb? Sexy? Hairless? Mother? Nurturer? Weak? Desperate? Emotional (crying)? Whore? Wants to get married to a man and have babies? Bitch? Can’t make her own money so has to marry a man? Credit card addict? Shopping addict? Likes pink? Squeals if she sees a mouse? Likes housework? Nag? Knows how to get stains out? Multi-tasker?
Whatever you add, these are all simply labels (what gender roles basically are) and countless women will vehemently disagree with being pigeon-holed into these labels because we know that what’s inside us is unique and that the only thing women have in common is a uterus.
For that matter, what is a man?
The boss? Bread winner? Player? Intelligent? The Man? Powerful? Ruler? Strong? Stupid? Emotional (violent)? Rapist? Detached emotionally? Hates the idea of being ‘tied down’? Under the thumb? Needs a man cave? Handyman? Car hoon? Ejaculation obsessed? Blue wearer? Sports obsessed? Violent video games obsessed? Dickhead? Useless? Pants only?
Same goes here, as above. All constructed labels. The difference is that males benefit greatly from this list.
The world we have designed is ludicrous. We have become stupid.
We have allowed this design to nurture an obsession with greed and to revolve around giving the penis full privilege in seeking out what it needs to gain satisfaction. Mainly women.
Whilst the subservient females fulfil their destinies as mothers and housekeepers, whilst juggling all the injustices and inequalities that are thrown their way – again only due to owning a uterus.
In short, we are suffocating the true potential of what we can achieve – for all – as a species.
This stagnant construct can change through how we raise our children. To quote Yoda, we have to ‘unlearn what we have learned‘ and give our children a basis that teaches that we all have unique and amazing bodies that provide natural functions and miracles, but it is our mind that can do, be and express itself in whichever way it wants – as long as the rights that one expects for oneself, are afforded to the rest.
To practise humanity.
We need to be smart about this.
November 28, 2013
It has recently become more painfully apparent, that there is a common thread to what we consume when watching a screen – whether large or small.
Stories of boys and men. Males.
Please understand that I have no problem whatsoever with these kinds of stories – many of my favourite movies fall in this category – but over the last 10 years, it’s become a tad tedious.
Endless stories of boys coming of age – men fulfilling their destinies – older man taking younger man/teen/boy under his wing etc. etc. etc.
But where’s the female equivalent?
I recently asked my husband why he doesn’t watch women’s sport and he answered: “I only want to watch the best.”
I was dubious of this answer because I thought: ‘Women are the best of their sports too.’ To explain, he used a sport he doesn’t watch – Boxing. He said that if he were to watch a boxing match, he wouldn’t watch a featherweight fight, he’d want to watch the biggest and strongest men battling it out. The best.
I actually understood. I even think most people would agree with that logic.
Question #192: What do we worship about women on an equal level?
And it IS worship. Sportsmen with flames superimposed behind them on TV snippets, slow motion footage, both males and females equally celebrating them and what they do. Worship.
If men are physically strong and we honour that about them – what do we honour about women?
We can’t have a world where one half of our human race is continually watched, nurtured and guided to feel they can achieve ANYTHING and not have that same respect for the other half.
But that’s exactly what we have.
So what is there? I asked this of my husband but he had no answer or chose not to.
The only thing I can think of – is porn; there is nothing else.
Now, let’s have a squiz at what’s happening up on the movie screen.
The Bechdel Test comes from a cartoon strip by Alison Bechdel from 1985, in which ‘The Rule’ for evaluating films was explained:
In order to pass, the film or show must meet the following criteria:
- It includes at least two women;
(Some make the addendum that the women must be named characters)
- who have at least one conversation;
(Because of quibbles regarding what length of time makes a valid conversation, some have proposed the addendum that it last at least 60 seconds)
- about something other than a man or men.
(The exact interpretation of this can vary; some feel that it’s okay to mention a man or men so long as they’re not the primary subject of the conversation, while others will demand a conversation where men aren’t mentioned at all. Some make the addendum that the conversation also cannot reference marriage, babies, or romance)*
Most films – sadly – fail this test.
Have a look for yourself. TV shows too.
In her 1929 essay A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf wrote what she observed in regards to the literature of her time:
‘All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. So much has been left out, unattempted. And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that; and how little can a man know even of that when he observes it through the black or rosy spectacles which sex puts upon his nose.’
How fascinating…and depressing.
So what is it with us?
Why do we find it so hard to watch women in equal (but different) representation to men and boys?
November 10, 2013
Here in Australia we have a t-shirt company named Nena & Pasadena.
The t-shirts they sell show degrading images of women – generally with their faces cut out of the image so that their value only lies in their breasts, buttocks and the all-important pose.
You get the idea.
A few months ago, this company started an all-ages ’Casting Call’ on Instagram #npcasting – calling out for men and women (boys and girls) to post photos of themselves, to then be judged by a group of privileged lads – deeming them the ‘hottest’.
To the truly tiresome argument that men are objectifying themselves too, I reply with the obvious – it’s not the same. Men have their shirts off, flexing chest muscles. Strength. That’s it. They’re not sexually posing with their legs spread or bending over with their butts in a g-string (thong).
Simply – the males are not vulnerable. And that’s the glaring difference.
There is also the fact that there are far more females posting up their ‘selfies’. I’m sure you don’t need to go over to the site to verify you’ll see predominantly women and teen girls in hyper-sexualised, or sexy-kitten, or innocent-young-girl-ready-to-be-deflowered etc., looks and poses.
I took the following images off the actual competition page:
So here is my perspective on this pandemic:
Yes, women are doing it.
This is not empowerment.
And there’s a very simple reason for it – it’s done for validation from a vulnerable position, not one of power. Once someone seeks validation, they are in a submissive position to the person they’re awaiting judgement from.
Period. And this obviously gives the ‘judge’ ultimate power and places them in a dominant position.
This is not what we want for our girls and we don’t want our sons to see and judge girls and women this way. And yet…
What we also seem to forget – but shouldn’t – is how these girls and women will be spoken about. It won’t be about their sunny disposition, it will be crass, degrading, demeaning and more – calling them bitches, sluts, whores, gangas (girls who like gang rape; a term used by teens) and so on.
We know that.
Question #190: So, why do we continue to act so blind and ‘unaware’ of the effect this is having on our psyche?
- That women are being collectively objectified and seen as submissive (by BOTH sexes), in everyday life;
- That our youth’s perspective on gender is becoming alarmingly skewed and toxic;
- That there is no equal modelling on what healthy and loving relationships look like.
All of this is for the male gaze – one that’s becoming insatiable.
As a tiny example, this ‘casting call’ is evidence of that.
Why does Nena & Pasadena need to incite this behaviour? It’s a win/win for them – they get the benefit of seeing to what levels women will go to be validated in this way and get wonderful material for men everywhere (including predators) to masturbate over.
Sadly the images are posted up by a large contingent of girls and women who have been brainwashed to think their value lies only in the collective sum of their body features; although the differentiation in their ‘hottness’ is miniscule – they all look the same. The fact that women’s faces are absent (like on many N & P t-shirts) just confirms this.
Why doesn’t that annoy women enough to stick two big fingers up at it all?
These t-shirts are just a cog in the machine; the machine that includes porn magazines in newsagencies and petrol stations all the way through to the infinite collection of violent and degrading porn on the Internet.
I recently featured in the article Too much, too soon – in the Sydney Morning Herald magazine, Sunday Life. This is a succinct and illuminating piece by Melissa Jacob, about the toxic relationship our kids are having with Internet porn.
This is an emergency.
These women are the supply; Men are the demand.
And we all know that when demand is strong – and supply is waning – extreme measures, like trafficking, are taken to keep the demand happy. That road leads to a desensitised world – one that will stoop to anything, while the rest turn a blind eye.
Are we there yet?
Deep Breath…and make a stand!!
PS Want to take action?
1. Nena & Pasadena is owned by AFL player Buddy Franklin (who joined the Sydney Swans in 2014). The AFL has a policy regarding respect for women that this ‘business’ does not comply with. You can write to the AFL or the Sydney Swans and let them know your thoughts – especially from you good males.
2. With some friends and the gals from Collective Shout, we’ve been posting our own memes on the competition page.
Why not do your own? It’s as easy as writing a sign, taking a photo of it and posting it on #npcasting on Instagram.
I put up the following one:
and this one:
GO FOR IT!!
October 13, 2013
I’m finding my mind swimming – literally swimming – with thoughts and perceptions that I want to articulate in a coherent and succinct manner. But there are so many and sometimes it just doesn’t help that I want to shout and use a shit-load of profanity.
I’m getting so weary and disappointed at our microscopically slow pace of change, that I have this to say:
One important lesson to gain from Malala (not the obvious one).
Yesterday I read an article that had a great impact on me.
This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armour to save her.
The actions of the West, the bombings, the occupations the wars all seem justified now, “see, we told you, this is why we intervene to save the natives.”
I agree. It practically looks like a PR stunt and I don’t like that Malala looks like she’s being used as a pawn in this seemingly deceptive agenda.
I also agree that there are A LOT more Malalas out there.
But this is the point where I want to deflect and add something important.
It’s not just that these girls need urgent saving – and they absolutely do – the motivation that has to power the movement of change, is the realisation that:
This world NEEDS girls and women like Malala.
It’s the missing ingredient for things to improve.
Girls and women.
NOT to take over. Equal representation.
If women – according to the Patriarchy – are supposedly the nurturers and carers, then the question shouldn’t be, ‘What have we got to lose?’ (because the only answer is money) but:
Question #187: What have we got to gain?
Simply, I think a great, great deal of good.
When are we going to evolve?
Don’t we want a happy planet for all, instead of this realm of greed, despair, rage and destruction?
I just want to finish by saying, that I think Malala is astonishing. A true hero. An inspiration.
I don’t care in the foggiest that the western world has made a big fuss about her – she absolutely deserves our full attention.
What a wonder she is.
Now let’s WAKE UP and channel that toward educating our children – in schools and at home – by teaching them to be the cogs of change.
Our youth is the answer – with our guidance.
If you’re thinking that you’ll give it a try (which would be awesome) – I would also like to respond with the famous words of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back:
“Do or do not; there is no try.”
What are you going to do?
Anything. However small.
We must start to act as a collective.
September 11, 2013
Rapists or Lads’ Mags?
That’s the question.
I have always discussed how degrading and misogynistic magazines like ZOO are to our world and have also let you know that together with my partner in crime, Lily Munroe – with the strong support of Collective Shout and people such as Steve Biddulph – we are close to launching a sister campaign to the UK’s Lose the Lads’ Mags, here in Australia.
These magazines have now crossed the line and I’m over the clichéd arguments: Yes, porn has always existed. Yes, you can see a woman on the beach in a bikini. But my favourite has to be when a man responded to me on Twitter by likening a man with a bare chest on a Men’s Health magazine, as being in the same league of objectification as this:
Snore. These covers are now the gateway to what’s inside because women are not only being exploited and objectified in the images on the covers and on the pages inside – it’s also how women are being talked about. A gentle reminder (which is in the ZOO link above) was when ZOO asked its followers to pick a ‘half’:
But there’s more – there’s violence. Talk of violence against women – in magazines with NO age restrictions. It’s Rape Culture. It’s Porn Culture.
All of our rights are being exploited by having them so readily available.
Psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey discovered that the line between comments from convicted rapists and ones made in Lads’ Mags, were starting to blur. The following article explains: Are sex offenders and lads’ mags using the same language?
Question #182: So – do you think you can tell the difference?
Leading up to the launch of our Lose the Lads’ Mags sister campaign in Australia we have compiled our own list of quotes taken from Lads Mags such as Zoo, Maxim, FHM and Picture as well as interviews with convicted rapists.
*** Take the quiz >>> HERE
Please let me know how you fared!
Deep Breath. x