Honey Birdette falsehoods exposed : A Current Affair publishes our statement correcting baseless claims

A recent segment on A Current Affair, covering community complaints against shopping centre sex shop retailer Honey Birdette, featured a statement from Honey Birdette's CEO Eloise Monaghan which contained a number of false claims.

The program has now published Collective Shout's statement on its website, correcting the record. The statement can be read here and is published in full below.

Statement from Collective Shout - published November 15, 2019

Ms Monaghan claimed that we "equated wearing lace with rape, see Collective Shout campaigner and Journalist, Sherele Moody."

Collective Shout has never "equated wearing lace with rape." Sherele Moody is a journalist and women and child safety advocate, who wrote an article about Honey Birdette for the Courier Mail (November 29, 2018 'How is this allowed at shopping centres?') We reprinted part of his article on our website. Neither ourselves nor Ms Moody made this claim. We have never said that women are prone to violence because of what they are wearing. The claim that women being outspoken and advocating for other women and girls amounts to "hysteria" is an outdated and offensive sexist trope.

In her criticism of our exposing the sexualised portrayal of women in the company's 'breast cancer awareness' themed advertising, Ms Monaghan failed to mention that the McGrath Foundation instructed Honey Birdette to pull down advertising displaying the McGrath logo alongside sexualised images of women. These ads included an instruction manual for checking breasts which contained sexual innuendo and pouting models. We pointed out that many breast cancer survivors found this advertising offensive. A number of survivors - who had lost their breasts - supported our campaign and shared their feelings about sexed-up ads like these. The McGrath Foundation said this marketing was not in line with an agreement they had with the brand. 

Ms Monaghan claims we push a "repressive agenda"

Collective Shout has campaigned for Honey Birdette to comply with the same advertising standards as any other retailer. According to Ad Standards' rulings the company has breached the advertising industry's Code of Ethics 38 times. In response to Ad Standards determinations, Honey Birdette either ignores or creates even more porn-inspired depictions of women.

It is not 'regressive" to state the facts about harms to women caused by sexualised depictions. The global research is solid. A meta-analysis of 109 publications containing 135 studies found consistent evidence that:  

"regular…exposure to [sexually objectifying] content is directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women's competence, morality, and humanity." (L. Monique Ward (2016) Media and Sexualization: State of Empirical Research, 1995–2015, The Journal of Sex Research, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26979592)

In its submission to the 2016 NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the sexualisation of children and young people, the Australian Psychological Society outlined other impacts from ongoing exposure to sexualising and objectifying material, including 'self objectification', where girls learn to view and evaluate their bodies as objects of others' desire. This internalising of highly sexualised ideals had negative impacts on cognitive functioning, ability to concentrate and focus their attention. Sexualisation has also been linked with depression, low self-esteem and eating disorders.  (https://www.psychology.org.au/About-Us/What-we-do/advocacy/Submissions/Public-Interest/Submission-inquiry-sexualisation-of-children

The model (who is of course paid to pose as directed) appearing "confident" does not offset the harms of sexual objectification in advertising. Sexual objectification refers to the portrayal of someone - even if they appear confident - as an object for someone else's sexual gratification. Advertising focused on body parts, emphasising sexual appeal with models who are virtually interchangeable in appearance meet this criteria. We note that it is only thin fair skinned, cosmetically enhanced 20+ year old models that Honey Birdette portrays as "empowered and confident."

It is also not "regressive" to  highlight allegations of staff mistreatment. In 2016 former Honey Birdette employees launched a petition "Not YOUR Honey - Honey Birdette Workers Need Safe Workplaces!" in which they describe their time at Honey Birdette as "a nightmare." They allege unpaid work, bullying and intimidation from management and sexual harassment from customers. One troubling allegation that management instructed employees to put up with sexual harassment from men and to "turn that into a sale." Worksafe subsequently found breaches of health and safety laws in 14 Honey Birdette stores. 

We have never claimed the female form is 'vulgar' or 'indecent'. 

Ms Monaghan claimed Honey Birdette was "NOT a champion of explicit nudity" or "overly sexualised poses in outdoor space."

Exposing women's nipples and genitals violate the advertising industry's Code of Ethics. Honey Birdette has done so multiple times.

Monaghan also claimed her company was not a champion of "unequal power dynamics". Yet a Honey Birdette ad depicting lingerie clad women at an 'office' party with fully dressed men was found to be in breach of the Code due to the "obvious imbalance between the men and the women." (Advertising Standards Case Report, 11 November, 2017 Case number 0514/17).

For further information see: Collective Shout disputes Honey Birdette claims 

See also: Why feminism deserves better than Honey Birdette - Caitlin Roper


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