Racist, sexist: why porn mags had to go
The last issue of the Picture magazine to ever hit shelves
On September 26 2019, I walked into the Park Street Sydney offices of Bauer Media Group, to meet with its CEO.
This moment had been a long time in the making.
In 2010 I wrote an expansive piece on the nature of porn titles in convenience stores - and the failure of our classification system to regulate them - for the ABC.
That same year as part of Collective Shout’s campaign against lad’s mag Zoo, I wrote this piece, ‘Because all women must be brought to their knees’, also for the ABC. Our campaign saw Zoo pulled from Coles five years ago – thanks to the help of a young Coles employee who, with support of her union, told Coles it was creating a “hostile workplace environment” by requiring young women like herself to sell the magazine and to see boys ogling the magazines in store. Coles subsequently pulled the title, which was “catastrophic for sales” and saw publication cease in 2015 (Zoo devoted its final cover to us).
In 2019, we revived the campaign, this time focusing on The Picture and People Magazine. The renewed campaign was prompted by my colleague Melinda Liszewski walking into a 7-Eleven store to get a Coke, when confronted with the headline “X-RATED AUSSIE TEENS 18 & 19-YEAR OLDS STRIP” on the cover of People Magazine. Our campaigns team spent many hours going through the titles. We discovered the fetishizing of schoolgirls, encouraging sexual fantasies for “fresh young flesh”, the extolling of nurses and female tennis players as existing for male gratification and pleasure and racially eroticized Asian women. We asked how content like this could be permitted in a society that claimed to care about the status of women. We made the point that a sexist culture was grooming sexist boys and that these titles were normalizing that idea.
Our rapid-fire social media campaign highlighting the content and the failure of 7-Eleven to exercise corporate social responsibility, along with correspondence with the CEO, resulted in 7-Eleven pulling porn titles Picture and People from 700 stores three weeks later. BP soon followed, removing the titles from 350 servos. Then Bauer Media Group’s CEO Brendon Hill offered a meeting. He had good news. Only in the role a few months, he agreed with our views that these titles were inconsistent with Bauer’s core values and pro women position statements. It was a positive exchange. We commend Brendon for his actions.Read more
Gone in 24 hours. But why does this keep happening?
Well that was quick.
On Tuesday afternoon I posted on my social media pages this hoodie for primary school aged boys.
It was found in the Canberra outlet store of surf style chain shop Quiksilver, which describes itself as ‘The World’s Leader in Snow and Surf Clothing’ by Rachel Grant. She’s a mum who was looking for clothes for her 6 and 9-year-old sons who were with her. She then told me about her unfortunate discovery on the rack of clothing in her son’s sizing.
Quiksilver was about to become a world leader in objectified and sexualised clothing for little boys.
At a time when we are (at last) having a global discussion about the mistreatment of women and girls, calling out the bad behaviour of so many predators, gropers, sexual abuse apologists and general thugs and with governments adding in new budget items for respectful relationships programs in schools, corporates like this go about their merry misogynistic ways, creating fashion items which enmesh objectification of women and male entitlement in the culture.
Supporters went into action immediately – women like mother, grandmother and teacher Lisa Ashdowne who wrote in part: “I’m writing to make a complaint about the messages your products and advertising send our children, girls and boys, about who they are in the world, how they should think and behave, where they belong in society, the value they hold for themselves and for others – living in Torquay, I am faced daily with the overriding message that boys and men are valued for their skills and effort in surfing and girls and YOUNG women are valued when they are skinny, semi-naked…being on display, not valued for anything other than another’s pleasure. I will be actively campaigning against your company until your values and guiding principles change and they are EXPLICITLY demonstrated in your products and your communications at all levels”.
Then, the next day, supporters began receiving this message.
I’ve thanked Quiksilver for their prompt response. And they deserves thanks.
But activist Melinda Liszewski, whose has been working with me in cultural jamming actions for more than a decade, asks this pointed question on twitter:
That’s the thing, isn’t it. There are people who decided that plastering semi naked women on a jumper for little boys, suggesting those women are a ‘paradise’ for them to enjoy, is acceptable. There were entire design/buying/marketing departments determining that turning little boys into walking billboards for spreading harmful ideas about women and girls was fine. Where is the quality control? The ethics? The corporate social responsibility?
It’s great to go into the New Year with a win straight up. And we are thankful when companies respond to community concern. But we must remain vigilant and keep fighting until there is genuine change at every level.
One woman's battle against porno and violent fashion
HRC needs to take stronger action on images which contribute to harassment and excuse violence
Last month I wrote about Caitlin Roper’s campaign against pornographic t.shirts and featured an interview with the young Western Australian woman and sociologist Michael Flood on the subject. One of Collective Shout’s most active members, Caitlin had attracted a list of heavy hitters –including Noni Hazlehurst, Steve Biddulph and Dr Joe Tucci - to a statement condemning the proliferation of porn-themed shirts and calling on retailers to choose corporate responsibility over profiting from hyper-sexualised and violent images. Caitlin also recently wrote to leading asking them not to stock these t.shirts. One reply was received, from Bernie Brookes, CEO of Myer, who wrote: “I have copied and circulated your information to our product designers, developers and buyers to assist them in the understanding of the Collective Shout’s stance.” Not exactly what you’d call a commitment, but at least he’s responded. Caitlin is justifiably frustrated. She said in an email:Read more