Tag Archives: Kanye West

Tankard Reist, Anne Hathaway’s pink bits & Girlfriend’s sex survey

4 Jan

On Melinda Tankard Reist’s website is this post by Nicole Jameson titled ‘The up-skirting of Anne Hathaway.” Jameson is an activist in Tankard Reist’s Collective Shout, the organisation that churns out on-line petitions against retailers, the music industry and various other companies and individuals who they feel are sexifying, pornifying and exploiting girls and women with their merchandise.

Jameson’s piece morally critiques paparazzi who apparently got a shot of Hathaway’s genitalia as she exited her limousine wearing no knickers. The shot went viral. Of course it did. This is, I gather, an abuse of Hathaway’s human right to go about her business sans her undies if she feels like it.

Personally, I could care less, however what is interesting in this piece is the following statement by Jameson:

The violation of Anne Hathaway’s privacy was repeated by every media outlet and media consumer who circulated or viewed her picture and by every writer or commenter who gave the peeping Tom cameraman a free pass by turning the focus away from his harassment”

I’m astonished to find such a statement on Tankard Reist’s website. After all, this is the woman who, in an explosion of incandescent outrage against French Vogue not only republished photos of children she alleged were pornographic and sexualised, but linked to the source so we could see more of them.

In a post here titled “Feminist Christian reproduces sexualised images of children on website” I wrote:

The point of the post is to cause outrage in readers at these sexualised images of little girls. In order to do that, I suppose their argument goes, readers have to be able to see them.

But there’s something awry about this reasoning. You don’t want these images viewed, you think it’s wrong that they are readily available in the media, and yet you reproduce them on the Internet to make a point?

You disseminate these images yourself, while at the same time railing against their publication in other arenas?

What is going on here?

On the face of it, it would seem Tankard Reist has double standards. It is fine for her to reproduce images of little girls she considers pornographic and sexualised. It is not fine, however, for other outlets to reproduce them. If the images are of an adult celebrity’s genitalia, reproduction of the photos is a violation of her privacy and every instance perpetuates that violation. Yet Tankard Reist apparently did not violate the privacy of those little girls? Or maybe she just did it in a good cause?


Also on Tankard Reist’s front page these holidays you’ll find a post titled “Newsflash: 75% of Girlfriend readers not sexually active.” 

Girlfriend is a magazine for 12 to 17 year olds that as well as offering beauty and fashion advice, takes on issues such as bullying, and self-respect. They have also launched a green campaign aimed at informing girls and young women about global warming.

The results of the Girlfriend survey would seem to undermine Tankard Reist’s moral panic about our “pornified” culture forcing our girls into acting as “sexual service stations” for the gratification of boys and men.

The reasons given by the young respondents for refraining from sexual activity are as follows:

  • Waiting to be in love (56%)
  • Not wanting to have sex (37%)
  • Feeling too young (31%)
  • No particular reason (26%)
  • Waiting to be married (17%)
  • Waiting to be the legal age of consent (14%)
  • Waiting for their boyfriend/girlfriend to be ready (8%)
  • Not being interest in ever having sex (1%)

These reasons don’t seem wildly different from reasons my generation might have given had we lived in an era when it was acceptable for magazines to conduct such surveys, or indeed, in an era when reading material such as Girlfriend was available in the first place.

Tankard Reist says she finds these results “revealing,” but revealing of what? After years of claiming that society has gone to the pornification dogs, breeding boys who become (according to her colleague Gail Dines) “amoral life support systems for an erect penis” and girls who are inevitably forced into exploitative sex long before they are ready, the Girlfriend survey would seem to indicate that things are pretty much as they have long been, and 75% of girls have the strength and self-respect to resist the demands of (100%?) brutalized males for self-gratifying sex.

Of course it would be better if 100% of girls were comfortable enough with themselves to tell the amoral life support systems to take their erect penises and sod off. But I am willing to bet the reasons they are unable to do this are to do with many complexities, not simply Diva selling Playboy bracelets or Spotlight flogging Playboy pillowcases, or even Kanye West making videos of women done up as corpses.

That so many of them are hanging out to be “in love” might be an issue, depending on just what girls and young women understand by that term.



Peddling fiction as fact: whose nightmare is it really?

5 Mar

Don't tell me I'm gonna be a monster, lady.


“Expect to hear boys singing along to it soon. This is the message they are imbibing: Women are slaves and bitches who can service a man’s sexual needs, even in death. Men are brutal and dominant, and have no empathy for women. Men enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment. The female body is to be devoured, reduced to the same status as meat. Female bodies should be displayed before men as a great feast for their consumption.”

This is an extract from Melinda Tankard Reist’s Drum article on the controversial KanYe West 30 second video clip.

I’m not going to discuss the clip, that’s been done to death, except to say I don’t agree that is the message of the clip. And this is part of the point – we don’t all see through the same lens, so it becomes very important to know just what lens public opinion makers are looking through, and that ought to be disclosed.

Reist expresses great fear that all boys will like the song, and all boys will sing along to it. She then claims that as a consequence of this, all boys will “imbibe” the perception of all women as “slaves and bitches,” all boys will think that all men “are brutal and dominant, have no empathy for women, and enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment.” All boys will think that all female bodies are to be devoured like meat. And so on.

This is the message Reist imagines all boys are imbibing.

But this message comes entirely from Reist’s own mind.

In psychological terms, the messages she claims all boys are imbibing are entirely Reist’s projections.

She hasn’t consulted with KanYe West about what his vision and intentions are. She hasn’t done any  research to ascertain other interpretations of the clip, or if she has, she’s not talking about it in this article. She has no evidence at all of how boys respond to the clip, or if she has she’s keeping to herself.

She’s made it all up.

In other words she hasn’t taken a reality check. She’s constructed a fictional narrative founded on personal fears that she then peddles across the media as truth.

The logical conclusion of Reist’s made up truth: all boys and all men are monsters or are in the process of becoming monsters.

Truth claims such as these need to be taken out of the sphere of personal projections and imaginings, and backed up with evidence.

If there is no evidence they should not be made because they are dehumanizing claims, and in this case, they are dehumanizing all boys and all men.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

Reist does not allow that boys have agency. She portrays them as passive and indiscriminate receptors that can only be acted upon. (Just as she portrays “sexified” women.)

She does not allow that boys experience any other influences, such as parent, schools, extended family, ethical and moral systems.

Reist’s perception of boys and men as revealed in her imaginings is more terrifying than KanYe West’s video clip could ever be, because in her imagination, they are robotic, without human feeling, and murderous.

If she expressed these same perceptions and imaginings about others, say Muslims, a group currently subjected to discrimination and irrational public fear, she wouldn’t be published.

If she claimed that Muslims were “imbibing” information that would inevitably lead to them engaging in necrophilia and all the rest of her floridly imagined consequences there’d be an uproar. If she implied that Muslims have no agency and are empty vessels waiting to be filled by the most vile knowledge she can imagine, that they might then act upon, would the ABC publish that?

But she can do this with impunity to all men and boys?

Hell, imagine if some man made all that conjecture about women?

KanYe West, Melinda Tankard Reist, and the control of the representation of desire.

26 Feb

by Lucero Design via flickr

At Melinda Tankard Reist’s website underwear manufacturer Victoria’s Secret is under attack, two hapless tools from the Gold Coast trying to sell real estate using a woman in her undies are copping it, and oh no! Not that, still! Yes, the KanYe West Monster video clip, months after we all got into that epic tussle at the Drum, is still absorbing the Tank’s attention.

Last week MTR was described by Stephen Harrington at the Punch as “Australia’s Helen Lovejoy,” for her complaints about this video clip, as well as the “what about the children” rhetoric she invokes as an argument against just about everything.

(For those not familiar with the Simpsons, Helen Lovejoy is the ultra conservative wife of the local Christian minister whose catchcry is “But what about the children!”)

Melinda pours retributory scorn on Harrington here. The West video is, she claims, a “significant watershed in the de-humanisation of women.”

That’s a bit hyperbolic, in my opinion, given the on going, grave, and global abuses of women’s human rights that certainly do de-humanise those groups subjected to them.

The psychotherapists’ interpretations

At New Matilda, psychotherapist Zoe Krupke interprets the video clip from her professional perspective, and explains that violence such as is portrayed therein can be a consequence of “denial of personal weakness and fragility,” resulting in projection of these qualities onto others, in this case the strung-up, zombiefied and helpless women.

In other words, controlling others through violence allows the perpetrator to bury feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability, and replace them with an illusion of power.

All of which is true enough, but if you read the lyrics it’s clear that they are about nothing but West’s feelings of personal weakness and fragility; rage at perceived exploitation by the music industry, and women, rage at his admitted inability to behave in any way other than monstrous; identification with other monster figures, and a pathetic plea for someone to love him.

by Maximillian Dinslage via flickr

None of which are expressed in ways that are likely to get him any of the things he seeks, but rather are an explosion of fury, frustration, and self-mockery.

I’m a monster
no good blood-sucker
everybody know I’m a
muthaf*cking monster
None of you n*ggas know the carnage I’ve seen
I still hear fiends scream in my dream…

And so on. The thoughts and feelings of a disturbed being, a rapper having a laugh, or both, depending on your perspective.

Feminists aren’t the only ones with opinions

You've Been Dickrolled. by David Jackmanson via flickr


What is certain (I’m sorry, at this point I can’t help myself, the only certainty is the certainty of uncertainty, thank you so much for the philosophical insight, Tony the Tool, another of the known unknown unknowns littering the political landscape, and pictured here damn near naked) is that while a feminist analysis of the work is worthwhile, it’s far from being the only possible analysis. The video and lyrics are complex, with racial references as well as those mentioned above, and to attempt to have it censored because it “dehumanises” women is, in my opinion, the kind of sadly unimaginative reaction we’ve come to expect from some media feminists these days.

What the video clip certainly is: the concretisation of one rapper’s subjective vision of his world. If it weren’t as popular as it is, there would be no need for further discussion. But it is tremendously popular, (listed in Rolling Stone’s best 30 albums of 2010) and has received critical acclaim from that magazine’s  informed commentators

These accolades suggest West’s Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasies strike a chord, so to speak with millions of others. It may not be the kind of chord MTR wants struck, whatever that is, and I can’t figure that out. What do these women want? Nevertheless, it’s popularity alone makes it culturally significant, and worthy of examination.

Not that I’m suggesting popularity is the only criterium for cultural significance because clearly it isn’t. The bizarre and complex vision represented in this piece lifts it out of the mundane.

It isn’t everybody’s vision of the world. Then again, neither is a man nailed to a cross, blood seeping out of his wounds and a hole pierced in his side everybody’s vision of a healthy religious experience. John the Baptist’s bloody head on a silver platter doesn’t cut it as inspiring religious commentary for all of us either.

I have a strong visceral response against most moves to censor. No matter what you think of the aesthetic quality or otherwise of the KanYe West video, it is the expression of an artist’s vision.  Are we to live in a world bereft of all dark and difficult imagery? Are we to censor all representations of emotions and passions because they make some people uncomfortable?

Cindy and that sexy thong. by Dave Lee via flickr


When women choose to earn their living from their bodies

Women who model for Victoria’s Secret do so of their own free will, and are well paid for their work. Likewise the women who appeared in the West clip as simulated corpses and zombies.

The luscious woman in the Gold Coast real estate agents’ ad was also, presumably, paid for her work. Many women with lovely bodies enjoy using them as a source of income. Many other women and men enjoy looking at those bodies. Is this really “objectifying” women? Or is it merely admiring, and maybe sometimes envying their beauty?

I’m not likely to meet any of them. They are likely to remain only one-dimensional images to me. So why do I have any responsibility at all to see them as anything else? Why is it wrong for me to take pleasure their beauty? How am I offending them?

If I were to treat the women and men around me as one dimensional, then I would be objectifying and insulting them. But like most people, I know the difference between an image and a fully fleshed human being.

There are some who try to make the people in their lives more closely resemble a one-dimensional image they’ve seen on screen or in a magazine. Their problems, and the problems of their partners, won’t be solved by banning the images. I’d suggest their difficulties are deep, and if no images are available they’ll manifest in some other equally unfortunate way.

The desire to be desired

The desire to be desired is a normal human need. Practically everyone at some time wants, indeed needs, to bathe in the glow of somebody’s desiring gaze. But desire and its expression and representation are intensely personal matters. Lacy panties or cottontails, stilettos or bare feet, cleavage or buttoned up modesty – there’s a place for everything, but not in the world of Melinda Tankard Reist. In that world there’s only one possibility for the expression and representation of desire, and that’s hers.

Baffled by her negativity, I’m as yet entirely unable to ascertain what her vision actually consists of. Though she unrelentingly castigates us for our unhealthily fetishistic and voyeuristic gaze, I’ve never once heard MTR give an example of how she thinks female sexuality ought to be represented and expressed.

We should pretend we aren’t sexual beings, and deny that we love to look at each other, even though much of the time society requires us to do that with a furtive gaze?

We should pretend that erotic zones are not of intense interest to us, starting when we emerge from the latency period laughing ourselves silly at jokes about underpants?

If every publicly revealed body is an exploited and objectified body, are we all to cover up to protect ourselves from a gaze that MTR would have us believe can only be interpreted as exploitative and objectifying?

The battle for the control of the representation of desire

by Breezer, via flickr


MTR is fighting a two fronted battle for  the right to determine not only what we should look at, but how we should look at it. She wants to be inside our heads, telling us how to see things. Where she see exploitation, so must we.

She wants to control the representation and expression of human desire. She wants to control the interpretation of the gaze.

MTR seeks to superimpose her moral vision upon everyone else, a vision that cannot allow the possibility of a benign desiring gaze, a vision that insists the desiring gaze is always dangerous, unless it is confined to encounters between to consenting adults (preferably married) in the privacy of their own homes. Once desire is provoked outside of the marriage bed, her thinking goes, it must inevitably result in damage of some kind. I have long suspected this to be at the heart of MTR’s crusades. Now she’s proved it, by taking on Victoria’s Secret.

In her vision, the free flow of desire in the world, far from being a driving creative force, is miserably reduced to a threat to women.

This is why MTR does not offer her vision of an acceptable public representation of female sexuality. There isn’t one in her moral framework.

In this, she’s a bit like the followers of Sharia law.

But feminists fought for freedom

MTR and her followers justify their desire to impose their desire, by dressing their arguments up as feminist rhetoric, and indeed there are some conjunctions.

But feminists fought for freedom. If a woman chooses to use her body to earn her living then it’s nobody’s business but hers. Melinda Tankard Reist makes an unfortunate conflation between free choice and exploitation. That exploitation and abuse of women exists is not at issue. However, it does nobody any good to confuse the two, and in the process attempt to shame women who are making a free choice, and attempt to deprive them of that right. That’s an anti feminist move, in my book.

The argument that we’re brainwashed to think we must do our best to look like underwear models or we’re inadequate, holds some water. There’s a great deal to critique in fashion magazines that manipulate insecurities in order to get us to go out and buy something to address those perceived failings.

On the other hand, one of MTR’s fellow campaigners, journalist and researcher Nina Funnell, whose tirade against the KanYe West video can be read here recently took part in a Cosmopolitan (October 2010) competition to find the year’s most influential woman. All the competitors were young, and had the Cosmo look, including killer heels, and sexy masks. There were obviously initial selection criteria that had everything to do with the contestant’s physical appearance. Only after those requirements were met, were the women’s career and personal achievements considered.

There were no older women in the contest, baffling, given that older women are often excellent mentors and influential figures.

In my book, an outrageous and insidious abuse and objectification of women right on our doorstep, sending the message that how you look matters much more than what you do and are, from a magazine read by thousands of young Australian women. Yet not a  murmur was raised in the MTR camp.

To wrap it up…

The Gold Coast tools are pretty funny, I thought when I watched their video clip on Melinda’s website. Their ad is so over the top as to be bordering on a spoof of using sex to sell. It wouldn’t make me want to buy their penthouse, so in that sense it’s an advertising failure.

Corset, Paris 1902. Unknown via Wikimedia

Corset, Paris 1902. Unknown, via Wikimedia

As for Victoria’s Secret well, good luck with that one. While the sight of stunning women in lacy thongs and balconette bras might not be everyone’s idea of beautiful or sexy, it is currently a dominant cultural expression of those qualities. Once the sight of an ankle did it for us, and who can forget the practically (in my opinion) only good bit in Jane Campion’s The Piano, when Harvey Keitel caressed Holly Hunter’s leg through a hole in her stocking? Aaaargh, the recollection can make me shiver with delight even now.

Flesh eating coffins and women in masks

28 Dec

by Rochus Wolff, flickr

Seeking respite from the Assange material last week, I opened an article in ABC’s The Drum irresistibly titled “Who says female corpses aren’t sexy?” written by Melinda Tankard Reist.

The article turned out to be the author’s objections to a 30 second video clip teaser of rapper Kanye West’s latest song. The author describes the video clip as “gendered violence”, and claims it is fetishizing “female pain, female passivity, female suffering and female silence.”

Tankard-Reist continues:

Expect to hear boys singing along to it soon. This is the message they are imbibing:

Women are slaves and bitches who can service a man’s sexual needs, even in death. Men are brutal and dominant, and have no empathy for women. Men enjoy dead women as sex and entertainment. The female body is to be devoured, reduced to the same status as meat. Female bodies should be displayed before men as a great feast for their consumption.

That was quite a lot to glean from a 30 second video clip, I thought admiringly.

But then it turned peculiar. I read: Then there’s these lines: “I put the p-ssy in the sarcophagus” (which, in case you’re wondering, is a flesh eating coffin) …”

What? I shouted, though I was alone except for the dog.  A flesh-eating coffin? How can that be?

And anyway, what about all those pharaohs buried in sarcophagi who when disinterred still had their flesh?

Dried, maybe, but certainly not eaten.

I then made my next mistake. I got onto the Comments. I used a pen name I’m not stupid enough to let these people know who I am. Quite quickly I became an embattled defender fighting off a full frontal feminist attack. (They said they were feminists but they aren’t like any feminists I know and love).

You’re pro male, they told me. Why aren’t you pro woman?

I’m actually pro human I replied. And there’s no such thing as flesh eating coffins, I added. You aren’t doing your credibility any good adding in rubbish stuff like that for effect, I told them.

You need to read Susan Faludi, they said.

I’d rather have needles in my eyes than RE-read Susan Faludi, I replied.

She writes about people like you, they said, she says you pro male collaborators in the gender wars are Uncle Toms.

Really, I replied. A few years back radical feminists used to say a “pro male” woman had a pr**k in her head. That was far more picturesque, I said. Dali-esque, in fact.

But the moderator didn’t publish that. They seem to have inconsistent moderating rules at The Drum. I can’t work them out. They let someone make nasty remarks about my “corrupted” children, and a few people got told they were sleazy pornographers who should crawl under stones and all that was published.

You people aren’t a feminist’s bootlace, I finally told the pro Melindas. Where are your manners?

(I refer to them as the pro Melindas because their posts included:

Melinda could be said to be awakening others to the suffering of women, and many have pilloried Melinda for her point of view, and Go Melinda! Many of us love and applaud you!)

Then someone posted the following:

What you need to know about this author:

1. She believes in god

2. She believes in flesh eating coffins

3. She’s up close with the Australian Christian Lobby.


Well. It was on then. Not a stone was left unturned. Derrida, Barthes, Picasso, Christians, lions, ethics, necrophilia, disclosure of religious affiliations, domestic violence, grandmothers, sex of all kinds, censorship, children, science, and the un dead; Madonna, archaic patriarchal religion, PhDs, Finns dancing, Finns singing, accusations of racism about Finns doing stuff; 70’s music, Tropic Thunder, Russian politics before the end of the cold war, corpses and raw meat. Oh, there was no stopping us. For four days and four nights we kept at it, we barely ate or slept. The ABC should award us with something.

The increasingly hostile exchanges between a pro Melinda poster and someone called Amazonia ended thus:

Pro Melinda Person: Those in favour of the video under discussion are getting fanatic. Now I’ll turn my thoughts to the homeless in our society and their extra plight with extreme temperatures about to begin.

Amazonia: I hope somebody warns them you’re coming.

The day before I succumbed to all that madness I had to go to the dentist. Uneasy in the waiting room, I picked up the October Cosmopolitan magazine as a distraction from what might be going to happen to me. I found that Cosmo are conducting a competition for the year’s most influential woman. The contestants were displayed in a three-page photo shoot. They were all young. Almost all of them wore killer stilettos, some with slave girl ankle bands. Most skirts were high on the thighs. The women wore masks, as if they were going to a masquerade ball or something much darker, and I think some of them were armed.

I studied these pages for a long time. It seemed to me that in order to be considered as eligible for this competition you first had to satisfy another set of criteria that has no obvious link to your ability to be influential and mentor young women.

I continued to think this through as the dentist apparently drilled into my brain. God moves in mysterious ways, and blessed distraction comes from the most unexpected places.

Now, I have nothing against killer heels, except when you watch someone trying to walk in them they inevitably lack grace, tilted as they are at an unmanageable degree from the earth. From behind, it’s not a good look. Wear them, darling, by all means. Just don’t try to walk in them. Maybe one of those nice men will carry you.

And I really am the last person on earth to tell anybody what she should or shouldn’t wear for any reason other than the aesthetic, and mostly not even then unless I know them very well.

But I do deeply object to the demand that before she can be considered to be influential, a woman must fit a certain physical profile.

This is the message sent to women who read Cosmopolitan. You can be as influential as you like. You can be an outstanding mentor to younger women. But if you don’t have the look, forget it. Whatever skills you’re offering, we aren’t buying.

I thought this was a pretty good example of mainstream objectification and denigration of women.

So, because I can be thick sometimes and not see what’s coming at me, I brought it up in the comments about the flesh eating coffin and the video clip.

Who are you to tell a woman what she can or can’t wear? The hostile forces howled back at me.

I suppose you want everybody to go round in a burka? They spat.

Stunned at how quickly I had become cast in the role of the clothes police, ousting the pro Melindas to whom it seemed quite naturally to belong, I didn’t reply for a few hours. I ate dinner, took the dog out, watched TV and thought that I really didn’t have to bother with these people any more. This last was encouraged by my household, which by now was heartily sick of me lurching obsessively from Assange to Melinda, and just wanted me to focus on buying their Christmas presents.

At bedtime, I couldn’t hold out any longer. I sat down and I wrote:

Well, I wasn’t saying what women should wear. I was just pointing out an example of sexism in a very popular women’s magazine. I thought it would be of interest to you as your goal is to eradicate sexism and the objectification of women. (Eradicate was their word, not mine. I objected to it on the grounds that it sounds like pest control).

You really need to stop lecturing people, replied one of the pro Melindas, and who wants to be in Cosmopolitan anyway?

What? I yelled at the dog, seeing as nobody else would talk to me about it.

Aren’t they supposed to be campaigning against sexism in the media?

Then I wrote: Well, if you’re going to be like that, who wants to be in a cruddy rap video, anyway either? Huh? And BTW does being pro male just mean you don’t want to kill them?

It’s been quite a year. Many of us are very tired.

P.S. It’s not over yet! Now a male poster has hit back: Just look at all the magazines in the supermarket talking about orgasms, he typed. Whose orgasms? Well, come on, whose orgasms? Women’s, he crowed triumphantly. Not men’s, oh no not men’s! All women’s!


This article first appeared in On Line Opinion, December 23 2010



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