Free from ‘toxic chemicals.’ Not free from toxic messages
Last week, 15 girls aged 14-16, and involved with Fusion Mornington Peninsula’s Real Girls program, took on Australian make-up and skincare brand Frank Body over its lip and cheek ‘Send Nudes’ product.Read more
Organisers of the Miss America pageant have announced they will scrap both the swimsuit and evening gown portion of the competition.
The changes to the pageant came after the Miss America Organisation was faced with their own sexual harassment problem, with chief executive Sam Haskell resigning in December over lewd emails.
New chairwoman Gretchen Carlson attempted to distance the pageant from its sexist origins, telling Good Morning America, “We are no longer going to judge you on your outward appearance.”
While this may represent a step in the right direction, the more likely explanation is that Miss America’s tradition of parading young women around in bikinis to be scrutinised and evaluated by male judges is no longer good for business in the current social climate.
The New York Times summarised the move as follows: “It appears that #MeToo has done what a protest could not: eradicate one of the most derided aspects of the competition, the swimsuit.”
In a commentary piece for CBC News, Meghan Murphy rejected the notion that these changes amounted to a rejection of the objectification of women:
Miss America has declined in popularity since the 1980s, though objectifying women has not. The porn industry, for example, generates more revenue than CBS, NBC and ABC combined, and more than all major sports franchises. Porn sites get more visitors each month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter together.
The kind of objectification available to men during the heydey of Miss America was nowhere near comparable to that which exists today. We have access to women's bodies at our fingertips, performing in any way we can possibly imagine, at any given moment. With all of that available, who needs a swimsuit competition?
Other beauty pageants have not taken similar steps. Miss Universe Australia, as well as Miss Universe internationally, have not removed the swimwear component from their beauty pageants, with current Miss Universe Australia Olivia Rogers arguing the practice of assessing women based on how they look in a bikini was “a tradition worth maintaining” and “less objectifying than it used to be”.
The entire premise of beauty pageants is evaluating women on the basis of their physical appearance, and ranking them based on how desirable they are to men. While the strategic removal of the swimsuit round – a business decision- might seem like progress, real female empowerment is not found in a Miss America pageant. Progress comes not by making minor changes to inherently sexist traditions and institutions, but by shutting them down.
For #MeToo to truly be a reckoning for male sexual entitlement and cultural norms of sexual harassment, abuse and assault, we need to talk about porn.
In fact, it seems rather extraordinary that pornography hasn't figured much in the current #MeToo moment. We've heard a lot about how pop culture shapes harmful sexual scripts, but ignoring the role of porn in shaping pop culture is faintly ridiculous.
Pornography is ubiquitous. While more than three-quarters of Australian men report having watched pornography in the last year, younger cohorts are even more likely to consume pornographic material and use it habitually - on either a daily or weekly basis.
The increasing accessibility and acceptability of pornography have been mutually reinforcing.
A smart phone is now the dominant way in which (mostly male) consumers access online porn, thus moving pornographic content from the private realm of the home to virtually anywhere in the public sphere - including workplaces.
The workplace connection is more than mere speculation. Many online porn sites show their traffic is highest during standard working hours, suggesting access to pornography while at the office is relatively unremarkable. Which reminds me of an aside made by a sports journalist, some years ago, about a fellow colleague in the press box:
"tabbing between his match report and a constant stream of hardcore pornography ... The thing that initially staggered me was the sheer audacity of it, that the presence of both female and male colleagues, who were sitting metres away with clear views of his screen, hadn't been enough to deter him and that he felt perfectly comfortable doing it in full view. Welcome to Blokesworld."
The #MeToo movement has shown that we are quite capable of understanding the way movies, music and the mainstream media are implicated in shaping social norms of sex and sexuality. If we can manage this, then surely we can understand that the material most men masturbate to also deserves scrutiny.
So, for all the men who have been asking what they can do in light of #MeToo, here's a place start: stop linking your sexual arousal to women's sexual subordination. Stop watching porn.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, a range of businesses and industries have been forced to re-examine their business practices. Last month, Formula One announced their decision to discontinue the practice of using ‘Grid Girls’, recognising the use of women as accessories was not in line with modern societal norms.
More recently, large automakers Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co and Ssangyong have all shied away from the tradition of using attractive women to sell cars. Ssangyong’s “booth babes” will be replaced by male and female models in sportswear, and Nissan has stopped hiring fashion models.
Photo by Saso Domijan
“Times have changed,” said Sara Jenkins, Nissan spokesperson. “It makes more sense to use product specialists because we’re selling cars.”
Bloomberg reported on the changes:
Lexus, the luxury brand of the world’s second-biggest carmaker, Toyota, confirmed it’s dropping models altogether at the Swiss event, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is said to have canceled contracts with several female models over concern about being criticized on #MeToo. The maker of the Maserati, Jeep and Alfa Romeo nameplates will instead feature men as well as women in less flesh-exposing garb than in previous years, two people with knowledge of the plans said.
This is in sharp contrast with 2017, when Alfa Romeo’s display had women in little black dresses hovering around its Stelvio crossover. Nearby, a brunette with a beehive hairdo and a bottom-grazing sixties-style dress kicked up her red heels next to a Fiat 500. At Lexus, a woman in an off-the-shoulder burgundy gown was stationed beside one of its sedans.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, exposing the epidemic of men’s sexual exploitation of women, the casual sexism and objectification of women must be recognised as a significant contributing factor. There can be no gender equality while women continue to be treated as eye candy or props, valued primarily for their physical attractiveness. It’s great to see positive steps forward.
Trigger warning: sexual abuse.
A new video shows men presented with a range of sexual scenarios and having to determine whether they are from pornography or a #MeToo story.
“Be Frank” is a seven-minute video project featuring men discussing the recent #MeToo campaign and ways men can join the fight against sexual violence.
The men are visibly uncomfortable as they read aloud certain scenarios, including the following (*trigger warning*):
“I came home late from a party. My step-dad was waiting in the kitchen. He was mad at me for being late and wanted to punish me. He told me to be quiet and nobody in the house would hear me. He had sex with me in the kitchen.”
“I was sleeping in my dorm room alone. Two guys walked in and started touching me. I was confused. I didn’t say anything. They both had sex with me.”
The men struggle to distinguish porn scripts from real sexual assault situations. One observes, ”That feels like a sexual assault.” Another speculates that the situation before him is a #MeToo story. At the conclusion of the video, it is revealed that all of the scenarios were taken from pornography.
This does not come as a surprise. Mainstream pornography is dominated by acts of violence against women. Common sex acts in pornography, like fellatio induced gagging, heterosexual anal sex and multiple penetrations, are not enjoyable for many women, but are degrading, painful and humiliating. An analysis of the most rented pornographic films found that 88% of scenes included physical aggression, with perpetrators being primarily men and targets overwhelmingly women.
What does it mean when pornography, the primary form of sexual education for young people, is indistinguishable from real life sexual abuse of women? What does it mean for women and girls? What does it mean for men and boys watching this content regularly, and from childhood? What is the impact on sexuality, intimate relationships and attitudes towards women when men and boys are socialised to find enjoyment in the abuse of women?
Defenders of pornography assert that pornography is about freedom. But whose freedom?
Read more about the abuse and exploitation of women in the porn industry.
Porn performers recount physical violence, STIs and trauma in the industry.
Growing Up in Pornland: Girls Have Had It with Porn Conditioned Boys, by Melinda Tankard Reist