Working with Collective Shout, it’s not often we can confidently celebrate timely and appropriate action taken by those we’re trying to get onside, ahem, Jay Jays, Honey Birdette, Wicked Campers, Guess… But, this time, we can safely breath a sigh of relief as Blacktown City Council takes swift and decisive action in response to complaints that were recently brought to their attention.
Each year, New South Wales’ Blacktown City Council puts on an excitingly memorable celebration for both residents and visitors to mark the conclusion of its City Festival. Blacktown’s CBD is closed off to traffic as people take to the streets, viewing performances and partaking in the colour and culture of the day.
The 2016 Streets Alive and Parade Day was particularly memorable but for all the wrong reasons.
Excited about supporting Kiwi Daddys’ Walk of Life, I took my young son to the festival. In the lead up to the parade festivities, we meandered through the streets, stopping at Stage 3 as Master Two started dancing furiously. Watching him, my heart melted. But, alas, my joy was short-lived as I was soon accosted by a familiar melody better suited to an adult’s only venue. Looking up, I saw children no older than twelve dancing to Jason Derulo’s ‘Talk Dirty to Me’.
I stood there in disbelief as my son continued to dance, unperturbed and unaware of the misogynistic filth that emanated from the speakers:
“First class seat on my lap girl.”
“Your booty don't need explaining.”
“Talk dirty to me.”
“We can ménage à three.”
“You can suck my penis.”
Assaulted by a series of unsolicited pornographic waves, I took my still-dancing and newly confused son across the street and sought the help of some equally surprised gentleman from Cumberland Woodworkers Inc. It was then I decided that I would make some waves of my own.
The following day, I wrote an email to Blacktown City Council and Councillor Karlo Siljeg, cognisant of his interest in the effects of violence and misogyny in popular music.
In my email, I detailed what had happened the previous day and argued that because Derulo’s song brazenly objectifies girls and women and promotes stereotypical portrayals of women as sex objects, it had no place at the family-friendly festival.
Providing links to research, which demonstrates that sexually explicit and derogatory lyrics do not simply “go in one ear and out the other”, I called on Blacktown City Council to implement changes which would prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future.
In less than an hour, Councillor Siljeg replied. Supportive of the concerns I had raised, he assured me that policies would be implemented to prevent the use of songs “not valid for a PG setting” in the future (personal communication, 30 May 2016).
The next day, I received an email from Mr Peter Filmer, the Manager of Community Events at Blacktown City Council. Mr Filmer thanked me for contacting Blacktown City Council and assured me that the “Council does not countenance performances by any group that uses explicit language or sexual reference[s]” (personal communication, 31 May 2016). Mr Filmer further assured me that, in future, letters of engagement to each performance group for all festivals will include a statement which clearly defines unacceptable content.
On June 2, Councillor Siljeg informed me that he had a motion moved which requires Blacktown City Council to advertise its future events as G, PG, or M. The motion further requires that each performance group for all Council festivals be given a statement clearly defining what is unacceptable content, just as Mr Filmer had said.
Soon thereafter, this article was published.
Breathe easy, Collective Shouters: we can make a difference. Sometimes it’s easy; sometimes it’s not. But with tact, passion, and perseverance we can make a change or at least prompt it. We are activists. Hear us roar!
Collective Shout would like to thank Blacktown City Council for its unmistakable cooperation and support in creating a safe environment for its residents.
Written by Violeta Buljubasic
Thank Blacktown City Council for taking action:
To read Violeta's full letter to the council click here.
For tips on writing a complaint letter for issues in your area see our Lodge a Complaint page.