McDonald's are pushing soft porn to kids by screening hyper-sexualised content on their in-store TV screens throughout restaurants across Australia.
Our petition for McDonald's to implement a national policy regarding family friendly content has gained thousands of signatures.
Over the course of the campaign we have had comments from selected individuals excusing McDonald's behaviour and showing a true lack of understanding of the problem. We have addressed those arguments below.
1) Don't like it don't take your kids there
Did it ever occur to those making this argument that people who stopped taking their own children to McDonalds might care about other children too? Or that couples and single people without children also care about children's welfare?
McDonald's is a multi-billion dollar global enterprise. This is a powerful corporation with a duty of care that precludes the screening of pornographic material in their family restaurants across the country. If anyone has the power to prevent children’s exposure to pornography in McDonald's restaurants, it is McDonald's - so why haven’t they?
The notion that it is parents alone who are responsible for protecting children lets global corporations off the hook entirely, absolving them of any and all responsibility.
Back in 2008, the Senate Inquiry into the Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media concluded that, “the onus is on broadcasters, publishers, advertisers, retailers and manufacturers to take account of these community concerns [about the sexualisation of children]”. It was recognised that parents cannot do it alone, they cannot instill healthy attitudes and beliefs in their children about their worth, bodies and sexuality if they are continually being undermined by advertisers, media and corporations with profits at stake.
2) Maccas didn't make the music videos, campaign against them instead
McDonald's has opted to screen softcore pornography in their family restaurants across the country, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. We’ve been contacted by supporters over the years who have been brushed off by McDonald's after making similar complaints. McDonald's is aware of the issue yet have taken no steps to rectify the situation, which, let’s face it, they could do immediately if they were even remotely concerned about their behavior.
As for highly sexualized and porn inspired music videos, we have and continue to criticize the demeaning treatment of women in this medium. We also campaign against companies who actively promote this content to children. We can campaign against sexually objectifying music videos and also hold to account companies that promote them. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
3) Why don't you change the channel
We’d absolutely recommend changing the channel if that is an option. However, the responsibility here does not lie with parents, but with McDonald's, who have set up TV screens in their stores and determine what they will broadcast and when.
Changing the channel does not solve the problem. An individual could certainly do this in any given store, assuming they can reach the screen or have access to a remove control. But this is nothing more than a temporary measure- all it does is prevent exposure to porn-inspired content for that brief period. There is nothing to stop the channel being changed back immediately after, or to prevent exposure for other children. Do all children have rights to a childhood free from pornography, or only children with parents who are committed to protecting this right?
4) Their food is unhealthy anyway
While there are many worthy causes, and many campaigns surrounding children’s physical health and wellbeing, Collective Shout’s scope is the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls. This campaign is not about McDonalds’ menu.
Some parents that have contacted us were only at McDonald's because their child was invited to a friend's birthday party. Whether or not parents choose not to take their children to McDonald's on this basis does not change the fact that McDonald's is an iconic brand, still regarded as a family restaurant and a place where parents do and should be able to take their children.
5) Children don't even notice, they are too busy playing
One parent said her four year old turned to her and said "Why is she showing him her bottom like that?" after viewing a hyper-sexualised music video in a McDonald's restaurant.
However, even if children do not appear to respond to porn-themed music videos, the content still has an impact. The very fact that they are being broadcast, and with no opposition, indicates that the subjugation and demeaning treatment of women depicted in the music videos is routine and normal- so normal that nobody blinks when this material is screened in a McDonald's restaurant where families and children congregate. That this is how men regard and treat women, and this is how women behave.
The idea that dominant and sexually aggressive treatment of women could be seen as unremarkable is exactly the issue.
6) The videos are not rated 15+ so Maccas aren't doing anything wrong
Given the examples that have been sent our way, many music videos featured on McDonalds TV screens would be at least rated 'M' for mature audiences. Here's what an 'M' classification means:
"Children under 15 may legally access this material because it is an advisory category. However, M classified films and computer games may include classifiable elements such as violence and nudity of moderate impact that are not recommended for children under 15 years.
Parents and guardians may need to find out more about the film or computer game’s specific content, before deciding whether the material is suitable for their child.”
McDonalds is a business that aggressively targets children with advertising from a very young age. Playgrounds, children’s birthday parties and toys with ‘Happy Meals’ often piggy backing on the latest children's movies. The restaurant’s mascot is a clown.
It is in this environment that McDonalds wants to screen ‘Mature’ content, effectively bypassing parental responsibility and ability to moderate or restrict such content. Why is this ok? What is to be gained?
Further, the current ratings system has a major weakness in that it fails to take into account the objectification of women into its classification determinations, despite the vast research into the harms of objectifying women and impacts on the status of women as a whole. Some scholars have called for a ‘sexist’ label rather than just an ‘explicit’ label.
It doesn't have to stay this way. Unlike Australia, Britain has taken steps to address the sexualisation of children, proposing tighter regulations on the music video industry, among other things.
7) It's just ladies dancing, it's harmless.
Music videos frequently objectify and sexualise women’s bodies. They are often depicted semi-naked while performing highly sexualized actions, grinding, gyrating, mimicking sex acts. Music videos serve to reinforce sexist stereotypes about sex and unequal power relations between men and women, with males in a position of dominance and females subordinate. Fully clothed men rap or sing, near naked women are positioned as decorative objects, subordinate.
This trend to reduce women to their bodies and sex appeal of course goes much wider than just music videos. Music videos are just one symptom of a broader culture where women are valued not for their intelligence, efforts or contributions, but primarily for their bodies and sexuality.
There is a significant body of research concluding objectification of women is harmful, that sexist and objectifying treatment of women in media contributes to women’s second class status.
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