'We cannot end violence against women without addressing the cultural drivers which normalise and fuel it.'
November 25 is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It marks the first of 16 days of activism to raise awareness about male violence against women and amplify the global call to end it.
In our decade of work to end sexual exploitation we’ve repeatedly highlighted the links between a culture which glamourises violence against women - in advertising, marketing, products, music and film - and societal attitudes which tolerate it. We cannot end violence against women without addressing the cultural drivers which normalise and fuel it.
To mark IDEVAW we've put together a collection of our best content challenging objectification of women in advertising, media and pop culture with the broader aim of ending violence against women. We've included some of our biggest campaign wins against corporates which have used exploitative, objectifying portrayals of women - even glorifying rape and murder - to sell products and services.
Last month we exposed a Bakers Delight ad campaign depicting two tween age girls bound and gagged to sell lemon tarts. The chilling image portrays two frightened girls bound with Christmas tree lights and their mouths stuffed with tarts, alongside the slogan "Silent nights". We said the image trivialised the serious issue of the abuse and torture of children.
Shortly after, Bakers Delight wrote in a comment on our Facebook post that they had instructed their bakeries around the country to remove the image. Read more.
We called out Melbourne-based BBQ company Boss Hogg and the Duchess of Pork for their violent, misogynist advertising to promote its barbecue- themed products. The image depicted a woman bound with an apple shoved in her mouth, about to be roasted alive by a monstrous male-pig figure. We argued that the advertising contributed to normalising violence against women and shared the disturbing image on Facebook with details on how to make complaints.
After pressure from Collective Shout supporters, the company issued an apology later that day, stating that the image had been removed from social media. Read more.
In 2010 - the year of of Collective Shout's inception - co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist was sent an image of this Calvin Klein billboard, depicting gang rape:
Another example of violence against women being promoted as sexy, with intimations of the gang rape of an inanimate young woman. Where the hell is the Advertising Standards Board (ASB, now Ad Standards) on this and others like it?
After we alerted our supporters to the billboard and encouraged them to make complaints, the ASB contacted us to ask if we would encourage our supporters to use the online complaints form instead of post or fax. They had received so many complaints about the billboards that entering information into their system from faxes and posted complaints was causing delay.
After reviewing the ad, ASB upheld complaints against it and Calvin Klein was forced to pull it down.
Video games promoting rape and violence pulled
Ahead of a scheduled release last year, we called on online gaming platform Steam to pull 'Rape Day'. Rated for ages 13+, the game allowed users to assume the persona of a sociopath who rapes women during a zombie apocalypse. Developers described the content as including violence, sexual assault, non-consensual sex (ie. rape), necrophilia and incest.
In repsonse to backlash the game's distributor Valve pulled the game from the platform.
Back in 2009, a similar game 'Rapelay' which allowed users to simulate the rape of a mother and her two daughters, was banned after a single complaint by Collective Shout co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist. Read more.
Following our campaign against Kmart and Target for their sale of Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA-V), both companies withdrew the game. Our petition called on the retailers to dump GTA-V for its portrayal of extreme violence against women and drew over 40,000 signatures. Read more.
Netflix's 365 Days
In June, Campaigns Manager Caitlin Roper wrote a piece on the viral Netflix film 365 Days, concluding that the 'last thing we need is yet another film glorifying abuse and violence against women':
Not only does the film sexualise men’s violence against women, it paints these acts of aggression as sexy and desirable.
The takeaway messages from the film are that male aggression against women is ‘hot’, that women secretly desire and enjoy violence and abuse, and that even ‘no’ really means ‘yes’.
While some might say “It’s just a film”, as though it has no power or influence, the normalisation and eroticisation of violence against women has serious real-world consequences for women.
Despite a growing awareness of the scourge of men's violence against women, and the reality that one woman is killed by a current or former partner every week in Australia, as well as the well-documented links between objectification and violence against women, Honey Birdette continues to promote female subordination and eroticise violence against women.
Bound, headless: Honey Birdette's porn style ads routinely depict women as subordinate sex objects
We cannot stand by while unethical corporates like Honey Birdette continue to objectify women and glamorise violence against them. Selling female sexual subordination might be profitable, but women's lives are worth more.
Submission to Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence Inquiry (July 2020)
In our recent submission to the Inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence we drew attention to some of the broader issues which influence, drive, and reinforce violence against women and children. We made 18 recommendations including that the Committee acknowledge the role of pornography and sexual objectification in violence against women and children and support a co-regulatory advertising industry complaints-handling system with powers of enforcement to rein in any company which objectifies and sexualises women in advertising and marketing.
Caitlin Roper: Challenging everyday sexualised depictions of women in media, advertising and pop culture is critical to addressing male violence against women.
Melinda Tankard Reist: Eroticising violence against women
Caitlin Roper: Sex robots and male violence against women
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