What happened to your body image and self-respect policies Girlfriend mag?
In the year 2013, I wrote the ‘Girl Mag Watch’ reviews for Generation Next, which were published on the website of the youth mental health social enterprise and in its newsletters to thousands of subscribers. I reviewed Girlfriend and Dolly (an example of a review can be found here).
After years of criticism the mag, leading up to my becoming a reviewer for Gen Next, I started to notice that Girlfriend was improving. I didn’t have as much cause to be critical. In fact, I found myself commending Girlfriend for publishing positive content to help girls navigate life’s challenges. Unexpectedly, on March 26, 2013, I received an email from then editor Sarah Tarca. She was “genuinely excited” to see a positive review in GF’s March issue.
Would I be interested in meeting? She said she would be pleased to hear my concerns face-to-face and that “I truly want Girlfriend to be a magazine that has a positive influence on teens”. Three months later, with Collective Shout’s chair and Body Matters Australasia co-director Sarah McMahon, I found myself in a café with Sarah Tarca and head of Pacific Magazines youth department Mychelle Vandbury. The meeting went well, and we were persuaded that GF had learnt from errors of the past and was genuine in its intention to be a good influence on girls, especially at a time of distressing mental health figures and growing body image dissatisfaction in girls.
But now, five years after this mutually beneficial exchange, things appear to have gone downhill at the teen mag. So much for the positive body image and diversity commitments. So much for the ‘Self-respect’ checklist. We’ve posted on this at Collective Shout (reprinted below). I am certain this would not have happened under Sarah Tarca’s watch. Girlfriend, surely our girls deserve better.
Girlfriend Magazine to teen girls: ‘Kourtney Kardashian poses butt naked on Instagram and we’re feeling it’
Girlfriend Magazine has published an article fawning over naked photos of Kourtney Kardashian published in men’s magazine GQ.
Girlfriend Magazine is described as “Australia’s number one teen magazine brand, with a brand community of over 2.3 million teens.” Its target market is teen girls aged 14-17, although we know anecdotally that the magazine is read by girls younger than this.
GQ on the other hand, is a sexist men’s magazine that routinely publishes sexualised photos of naked and near naked women.
The short article that Girlfriend promoted on social media presents Kardashian as a role model to look up to. Her posing naked for GQ is framed as an act of bravery and an example of the ideal woman.
Kourtney Kardashian is one hot mumma, and she’s not afraid to show it!
Kourtney ditched her clothing for an entirely stripped down photoshoot with GQ Mexico, and we’re completely obsessed.
What a woman.
Little sister Khloe had a major fangirl moment too, posting an unseen of Kourtney lying naked on the floor.
“♔ How do you look this fire Queen @kourtneykardash ?!?! You are stunning sister, especially in @gqmexico ! ♔” she wrote. (bold ours)
The article was published with a naked side profile photo of Kardashian cupping her breast and another photo of her lying on the ground.
Grooming girls for porn
In her TED talk titled “Growing up in a pornified culture” Dr Gail Dines spoke of a magazine called “Details.” The magazine, described as “like Cosmopolitan for men” featured an article titled “How Internet porn is changing teen sex?”
“They interviewed a pornographer called Joanna Angel, and she said, “The girls these days, they just seem to come to the set porn-ready.” What does that mean?“
“This culture is socializing our young girls to be ready for pornography whether they ever end up on a porn site or not. And the reason for that is that they are being taught to hypersexualize and pornify themselves.”
Teen girls are under enormous pressure from boys to send naked photos of themselves. We know this because this is what they tell us. The demand on girls to send sexual photos is a pressing social problem that puts young people at risk. The esafety office, developed to address online safety and image based abuse advises teens that “sexting can have serious social and legal consequences”.
What is Girlfriend saying about posing naked for men’s entertainment? “Go girl.”
What a betrayal.
The perpetuation of the body beautiful stereotype
Reading through the reviews I wrote back then, I came across a piece I published written by Erica Bartle, then editor of Girl With A Satchel and a former deputy editor of Girlfriend magazine – now rocking the world with the award-winning ethically sourced, environmentally friendly social enterprise Outland Denim launched by Erica and her husband Jim (and the favored jeans of the Duchess of Sussex).
‘Why I regret being a teen model judge and threw my women’s mags away’ explores teen girl mag culture and the message it perpetuates. I’d hate newer readers to miss it. So here’s an extract, but you really must read the whole thing.
But never in history has the “image”, of self and of others, been so intensely present, forcing us to compare, assess and validate ourselves by these externalities seen on the screen and in print. In turn, the selves projected out into the world are edited, controlled and Photoshopped, and one’s internal politics are governed increasingly by a conscience distorted.
There need to be options for girls. Most will simply never measure up to TV/celebrity/model standards, the prevailing benchmark for women in our culture, as far as their physicality is concerned (and we know it is a concern: the surveys continue to tell us, but you only have to sit back, listen and observe). These external pressures should not be reason for them to loathe themselves. What is the answer?
In consuming these images via television, the internet or in the magazines, though it might sound trite, we are participating, to an extent, in the perpetuation of the body-beautiful stereotype, as well as the idea that men can wear the same suit but stand-out because of their personalities, whereas women need to compete on physical points. In this act, their full personhood is essentially stripped of them, while at the same time we create and consume still more unattainable beauty benchmarks.
A failed body image code
Refresh yourself on the history of the National Body Image Advisory Group, the Body Image Code of Conduct, the body image positive tick, the Body Image Friendly awards scheme, in this piece I wrote in June 2011.
Ask yourself what happened to these (tax-payer funded) initiatives?
The Report of the National Advisory Group on Body Image, released a year ago  announced new initiatives to address negative body image in young people. The aim was to bring the beauty, fashion and advertising industries to the table, to get them on board in a ‘partnership’ to address the growing problem of body image dissatisfaction.
The Code of Conduct provided a list of “best practice principles to guide professionals in the media, advertising and fashion industries about body image”…
One of the report’s recommendations states: “If, after a sustained period of continued developments… there is a broad failure of industry to adopt good body image practices, the Australian Government should look to review the voluntary nature of the code.”
Industry has had long enough to cooperate. It hasn’t. It is now time to review the voluntary nature of the code.
As originally published on melindatankardreist.com
They even film themselves doing it [video]Read more
Honey Birdette is a serial sexploitation offender. The sex shop, located in shopping centres around the country, has attracted hundreds of complaints for its sexist advertising. Ad Standards has investigated complaints over almost thirty separate advertisements, upholding half, but Honey Birdette continues to sexually objectify women.
Last year, father and Collective Shout supporter Kenneth Thor launched a petition calling on Westfield shopping centres to stop Honey Birdette’s porn-themed advertising, but to date Westfield has failed to take any action. Enough is enough- Westfield must act on Honey Birdette sexual exploitation of women.
In this blog, we’ve compiled responses to some of the more common defences of Honey Birdette sexism.
1. "You see more flesh at the beach"
In response to Kenneth Thor's petition to Westfield, Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan claimed, “You see more flesh at Bondi at 10 am.” Monaghan has clearly missed the point.
The presence of female flesh alone does not constitute sexual objectification. The inclusion of attractive women in an ad campaign does not constitute sexual objectification.
Sexual objectification occurs when a person, often a woman, is treated as a body, or series of body parts for others’ use and consumption, when her physical attributes and sexual capabilities are regarded as representative of her whole self or seen as determining her worth.
Commenting on Honey Birdette advertising, Australian researcher Dr. Meagan Tyler said:
"These are not just images of women's breasts, they are sexually objectified and commodified images of women's breasts in public space. These representations of women, that reduce us to consumable body parts, reduce our recognition of women's full humanity and make it more difficult for women to participate in public life."
As Dr Linda Papadopolous stated in Sexualisation of Young People Review:
“Although sexual objectification is but one form of gender oppression, it is one that factors into- and perhaps enables- a host of other oppressions women face, ranging from employment discrimination and sexual violence to the trivialisation of women’s work and accomplishments.”
Honey Birdette routinely promotes the sexual objectification of women in their floor to ceiling porn-themed advertising, featuring hyper-sexualised depictions of women’s bodies or even just parts of their bodies. The women in Honey Birdette advertising are portrayed as though they are for men’s pleasure, defined only by their sexual appeal and availability. The message is that women exist for men’s enjoyment and entertainment.
Objection to the sexual objectification of women is not an objection to women, nor is it an objection to women’s bodies. It is an opposition to sexism, to corporates who profit from the sexual exploitation of women and have the audacity to claim they are empowering women in the process.
2. "It's just women expressing their sexuality"
If Honey Birdette advertising is an expression of female sexuality, “for women, by women”, then why is it indistinguishable from the content in men’s softcore porn magazines?
Honey Birdette promotes a very narrow view of female sexuality, one in which youthful, slender, and typically white-skinned women are depicted as passive objects of male desire. Female sexuality as represented by Honey Birdette entails women being sexually appealing to men, exposing their bodies and mimicking porn-inspired poses and acts. How does this differ from the sexually objectifying depictions of women for a male audience? Essentially, it doesn’t.
In her TED talk about growing up in a ‘porn culture’, Professor Gail Dines encouraged the audience to critically analyse porn-inspired depictions of women in media and advertising. Pointing to a hyper-sexualised image of a female model, she said:
“Look at her clothes, look at her face, look at her posture, and look at her gaze...who is she speaking to? Because the notion is that every image has a reader in mind. Before you answer, do you think she’s speaking to her mother, saying, ‘Let’s go for a cup of coffee after the photo shoot?’ So who is she talking to? Who is she speaking to? Men. And what is she saying? ‘F*ck me’.”
Who is the ‘reader’ or the intended audience in Honey Birdette ads? And what is being communicated to them?
Note the differing treatment of men and women in Honey Birdette ad campaigns. Lingerie clad women are posed alongside fully clothed men. What does this unequal treatment represent? Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth said, “Cross-culturally, unequal nakedness almost always expresses power relations.”
It is in Honey Birdette’s interest to reframe their commodification of female bodies and sexuality as ‘female sexuality’ or ‘empowerment’. “For women, by women” may be a great marketing hook, but the promotion of sexist stereotypes and sexually objectifying imagery of women does not become an ‘expression of female sexuality’ simply because a company with vested financial interests says so.
3. "You're just easily offended"
This is not an issue of offence or personal taste. Our opposition to Honey Birdette’s constant sexually exploitative depictions of women is not on the basis of offence, but documented evidence of harm.
Representations of women that reduce women to mere sexual objects, as sexually available and existing for men’s use are problematic not because some people might be offended but because they cause harm, primarily to women and children.
Researcher Rebecca Whisnant distinguishes between offence and harm. Offence is “something that happens in one’s head”, whereas harm is “an objective condition, not a way of feeling; to be harmed is to have one’s interests set back, to be made worse off, to have one’s circumstances made worse than they were...Whether a person is harmed does not depend on how she feels.”
The harms of sexually objectifying portrayals of women are well established. A review of twenty years of research, from 109 publications containing 135 studies found:
“consistent evidence that both laboratory exposure and regular, everyday exposure to this content are 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.”
Honey Birdette’s attempts to paint those who object to their routine sexual exploitation of women as easily offended, prudish or even religious fundamentalists is a deliberate tactic to silence those who might threaten their profits, and to avoid engaging in meaningful discussions about the harms to women and children from the very sexual objectification they promote.
4. "It has no impact on kids"
Some people believe that children are unaffected by floor to ceiling soft-porn advertising in public spaces, such as Honey Birdette shopfront advertising. This view is not supported by the international research into the sexualisation of children and its corresponding harms.
Sexualisation of children refers to the imposition of adult models of sexual behaviour and sexuality on to children and adolescents at developmentally inappropriate stages and in opposition to the healthy development of sexuality. It encompasses sexual objectification and representation of children in adult sexual ways and in ways that imply the child’s value is dependent on conforming to a particular appearance, sexual display or behaviours. Children may also experience secondary sexualisation through exposure to sexualised advertising material and products aimed at adult consumers- like Honey Birdette shopping centre advertising.
Pic credit MTR/Caters Media
The harms of sexualisation are extensive. In its 2007 Task Force into the sexualisation of girls the American Psychological Association concluded there was “ample evidence to show that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains including: cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and beliefs”.
Harms from exposure to sexualised content
There is a “growing body of evidence” of the harms to children from exposure to adult sexual content. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists noted that premature exposure to adult sexual images and values has a negative impact on the psychological development of children, in terms of self-esteem, body image and understanding of sexuality and relationships.
The objectification of women in media and advertising puts pressure on girls and women to conform to stereotypical sexualised beauty ideals. According to RANZCP, exposure to sexualising messages contributes to girls defining their self-worth in terms of sexual attractiveness, and the “excessive focus on appearance and narrow definition of attractiveness” contributes to the development of abnormal eating patterns and lack of positive body image.
Links between sexist advertising and violence against women
The NSW Government acknowledged the links between media and advertising reinforcing sexist and stereotypical gender roles and men’s violence against women in their 2016 report on sexualisation:
“The exposure to media representation of genders...can provide templates for what it means to be a boy/man (equated with sexual conquest and entitlement to access women’s bodies) and girl/woman (sexually available).”
“The NSW Government further maintains, in line with the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022, that such stereotyping contributes to attitudes that support or justify violence against women and girls.”
Honey Birdette targets kids
So far, complaints have been made against 28 Honey Birdette advertisements, with rulings against the retailer on 13 occasions. Children around the country are exposed to Honey Birdette advertising every day. Honey Birdette is well aware of parents' concerns for their children, as outlined in frequent complaints, but it is clear the wellbeing of children is not a priority for them.
In addition to their standard sexually objectifying advertising material, Honey Birdette have gone out of their way to attract the attention of children in their advertising in public spaces. Several Christmas ad campaigns have included imagery of beloved children’s figure Santa alongside lingerie clad women, in various BDSM themed scenarios. One advertisement even addressed children directly, with the slogan ‘Sorry Kids! We gave Santa the night off.’ Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan dismissed complaints about the “fun” Santa campaign, commenting, “You can’t please everyone.”
The retailer continued to put profits before the rights of children, refusing to take down the ad even after Ad Standards had found it was in breach. “Nobody tells Honey B’s when to take down her signage”, the brand posted on their Facebook page.
The harms of sexualisation of children are well established and significant. We know that sexualisation presents a threat to the health and wellbeing of children, yet Honey Birdette arrogantly and repeatedly breaches the AANA code of ethics, showing a complete disregard for the most vulnerable members of our society.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.
Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution is a documentary about coming of age in today’s young adult hookup culture. Following the journey of college students on Spring Break, the film provides shocking insight into attitudes and behaviors regarding sex, the normalization of sexual violation, and the struggle against conceptions of gender and sexuality shaped by the media.
The new documentary reveals a “culture of sexual violation” where women are viewed as sexual conquests to be discarded, and men display an entitlement to women and their bodies.
A range of experts, including Caroline Heldman, Gail Dines, Robert Jensen and Sut Jhally, discuss the role of media and popular culture in shaping attitudes and behaviours:
“Young people in our culture learn what it means to be man, what it means to be a woman, how they’re supposed to relate to each other, how they’re supposed to have sex from popular culture, whether its social media, film, television, pornography, their peers. And you see this theme of non-intimate sex, you know, throughout every type of popular culture that’s out there, which is a different type of sex from the sex we used to see,” says Caroline Heldman.
The routine sexual objectification of women in media, advertising and popular culture leads to the view of women as being defined by their sexual appeal and availability. Sut Jhally, founder and executive director of Media Education Foundation notes:
“Any part of popular culture in one sense tells the same story about female sexuality, which is female sexuality is a key component of what it means to be female.”
A still image from the film.
The film also attempts to explain young women’s participation in hook-up culture. Author and founder of Culture Reframed, Gail Dines said:
“Let’s take a young girl and think about what does it mean that, you know, you’re on the cusp of puberty, you’re trying to figure out what it means to be female. And you’re looking around the culture and what’s coming at you is Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus... Today, the culture is saying if you behave in a certain way, act a certain way, dress a certain way, then you are an empowered young woman.”
Caroline Heldman argued that young women may believe being treated as a sexual object is “empowering” because it makes them feel wanted and desired.
“But the idea that our bodies are our value means that we are forever dependent on men to validate us, we’re dependent upon an outside source to say that we are important, to say that we are valuable...What’s the ultimate way to get validation? It’s to be wanted sexually.”
The film showcases the real-life impacts of the pornification of culture and the sexual objectification of women. The view of women as things existing for men’s use and enjoyment was striking, with young men speaking openly about their tactics to hook up with women, and young women describing frequent and normalised sexual harassment and sexual assault from men who felt “entitled”. Is this really progress? Is it empowerment?
Watch Liberated on Netflix.
Collective Shout’s primary mission is campaigning against the objectification of women and the sexualisation of girls. While we have spoken out against the objectification of men on occasion, the bulk of our time and efforts are focused on women and girls. Why?
While both men and women can be sexualised, it is primarily women who are being objectified, and women who are far more likely to be negatively impacted by objectification.
Women are routinely sexualised and objectified in mainstream popular culture. Hypersexualised representations of women in media and advertising are everywhere. Women are positioned as passive, decorative objects, reduced to a collection of sexualised body parts, defined by their physical attractiveness and sexual availability, and even depicted as (still glamorous) victims of violence. Women’s sexualised bodies are used to sell everything from beer to burgers to organ donation.
Research out of the University of Southern Carolina found that the hypersexualisation of men in films has increased substantially in under a decade.
The Economist reported:
Of the 100 top-grossing films at the US box-office in 2007, 4.6% of male characters were seen dressed in “sexualised attire” and 6.6% were shown “with some nudity”. In 2014 those figures stood at 8.0% and 9.1%. 2013 marked the highest point of this trend with 9.7% of male characters shot in sexually alluring clothing, and 11.7% taking some—or all—of their kit off on film.
However, women in film fared much worse:
In 2014, 27.9% of female characters wore ‘sexy’ clothing and 26.4% exposed their chests, legs, or other body parts on camera: they are roughly three times more likely to be objectified on screen than men. Considering, too, that women make up less than a third of all speaking characters and less than a quarter of leading roles, the percentages are all the more alarming. Women are less visible in films, and those that are present are exponentially more likely to be featured in sexualised terms.
While both men and women can be objectified, the outcome is not necessarily the same.
We live in a culture in which the value of women and girls is determined in large part by their physical beauty and sexual appeal, to the exclusion of their intellect, abilities and contributions to the world. This treatment does not extend to men.
When men are sexualised in media and advertising, they are not typically demeaned, portrayed as decorative objects or posed as vulnerable and submissive in the ways that women are. Men are also rarely dismembered and presented as a collection of sexualised or individual body parts. Instead, men are depicted as hyper-masculine and strong. The sexualising and objectifying treatment of men may serve to enhance their power and status rather than to reduce it.
Activist and filmmaker Jean Kilbourne has spent decades studying the image of women in advertising. In her documentary Killing Us Softly 4, she responds to the suggestion that men are now being objectified in the way women traditionally have been:
Reporters called me up from all around the country and said, “Look! They’re doing the same thing to men they’ve always done to women.” Well, not quite.
They’d be doing the same thing to men they’ve always done to women if there were copy with this ad that went like this:
‘Your penis might be too small, too droopy, too limp, too lop-sided, too narrow, too fat, too pale, too pointy, too blunt, or just two inches. But at least you can have a great pair of jeans!’
It would never happen and nor should it, and believe me, this is not the kind of equality I’m fighting for. I don’t want them to do this to men any more than to women, but I think we can learn something from these two ads, one of which did happen and one of which never would.”
We do not support ‘equal opportunity’ objectification. No person should be reduced to the status of object, or treated as a thing for another person’s use.
A Melbourne based shoe designer has attracted complaints over a sexually objectifying image on their Facebook page depicting a series of semi-naked, headless women wearing their shoes.
Facebook users weighed in on Preston Zly Design’s photo, with a series of witty and insightful comments:
“But why does the model have to take her pants off to sell shoes?”
“Hi, can you please clarify, will I be able to wear these shoes if I have a head attached to my body? Also I put clothes on prior to my shoes, will these shoes still work with my dressing style?”
“Can we expect similar ads for men’s footwear with headless men missing their clothing also, or is it just sexual exploitation of women that sells shoes?”
“I don’t need nudes to sell me shoes.”
“Women are not inanimate objects and selling to us by exploiting us isn’t edgy.”
“Oh look, headless bodies of young, thin, conventionally attractive white women being used to sell a product. How artistic! So revolutionary and challenging! It’s almost like this outdated and sexist practice hasn’t gone on for decades!”
Designer Johanna Preston responded,
“We are not clothing designers- it’s all about the shoes here” – as if featuring clothed female models is a skill limited to clothing designers.
“The images aren’t exploitative- but if you choose to think they are that’s your prerogative.
“I understand that the use of the female body offends you but we are proud of our work and stand behind our beautiful shoot.”
But the use of women’s bodies as props, the depiction of women without faces, the treatment of women as interchangeable and the use of women’s near naked bodies to sell a product is objectification- whether it is acknowledged or not, whether it offends or not.
There is a wealth of research on the harms of objectifying women- decades of it- finding that this sexist treatment leads both men and women to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality and humanity. In short, treating women like things is bad for women.
It’s hard to understand how in 2018, in the wake of the #MeToo movement and with a growing awareness of the scourge of men’s violence against women, companies can continue to exploit women’s bodies to sell a product.
During the morning of August 3, Channel 7's ‘Morning Show’ host Kylie Gillies gifted her co-host Lary Emdur with two celebrity nudes.
During a four-minute spiel about “How Airtasker can help you say thank you” to the people in your life, Kylie Gillies decided against Airtasker ambassador Jules Sebastian’s suggestion of “food and coffee”.Read more