Tag Archives: Melinda Tankard Reist

The Senator, the camper vans & The Chaser

30 Jun

fiat car ad


Some of you may remember back in May this year there was a swell of outrage against Wicked Campers, the organisation that spray paints its vehicles with slogans such as: A wife: an attachment you screw on the bed to get the housework done; Inside every princess there’s a slut waiting to get out; The best thing about a blow job is five minutes of silence, and so on.

The slogans are usually accompanied by cartoonish illustrations of disembodied breasts, Snow White sucking a penis… you get the picture.

Free speech advocate and libertarian Senator David Leyonhjelm was scathing in his criticism of those who protested the vans:

“If you want to take offense that’s your choice and you’ve got to remember it’s a choice and other people make different choices. 

Most of the statements I’ve read from the vans are able to be interpreted in a couple of ways and they require a degree of sophistication to know what they’re getting at.”

Leyonhjelm told the ABC Wicked made funny statements, “which obviously have sexual connotations.”

“But surprise, surprise sexual connotations are part of life. You need to be a particularly wowserish type of person to not find them funny,” he said.

But surprise, surprise ABC TV’s The Chaser recently parked a van outside Leyonhjelm’s residence that bore the slogan The best thing about oral sex from David Leyonhjelm – 5 mins of silence, and the Senator has gone ballistic.

When called on his perceived hypocrisy by Melinda Tankard Reist, an anti-Wicked advocate, Leyonhjelm tweeted to her: If you don’t understand free speech STFU. This a problematic prescriptive if ever there was one: the right to free speech isn’t supposed to be contingent on whether or not you fully understand what you are saying about free speech, or anything else, for that matter.

It is true that the Senator didn’t call for the Chaser to be silenced, he merely complained vociferously about their intrusion into his street. He also claimed the slogan was “homophobic,” a complaint I find quite baffling unless of course he doesn’t know about men orally pleasuring women.

My Twitter friend Kate Galloway recently wrote this post on sexist language in public discourse in response to Eddie McGuire’s expressed desire to drown journalist Caroline Wilson. What is it with some men and their desire to drown us? Alan Jones wanting to send Julia Gillard in a chaff bag out to sea, and of course that legendary test to see if we’re witches, perhaps from which this obsession with drowning us stems: tie us to a stool and drop us in the river and if we drown we’re witches and if we survive we’re witches, so burn us. Yeah.

I think I’m a woman with a sophisticated sense of humour. I can also laugh myself silly with a four-year-old. But I find absolutely nothing humorous in the Wicked van slogans, or in Eddie McGuire and his mates cackling hideously over the possibility of drowning Caroline Wilson. Nor  do I accept the apparently unassailable belief amongst some men and women that it is fine to say things about women that if said about any other human group would be thought crass, unacceptable, and even illegal.

There’s no right not to be offended, but there is the right to speak about what offends. A frequent response to expressed offence is an accusation of political correctness (gone mad, for added emphasis), or a judgement that one has “over-reacted.” These are  attempts to derail any discussion of the offensive nature of the commentary, and focus instead on the offended person’s alleged weakness and lack of humour. Such attempts at derailing should be treated with the contempt they deserve. As a general rule, people who make sexist comments don’t take kindly to being challenged and their first line of defence is attack.

Leyonhjelm is outraged that The Chaser’s stunt upset his wife, yet he was seemingly oblivious to the upset caused to women, girls, and men who had to attempt to explain to their children the slogans on the van next to their tent. One grandfather round these parts took to every van he saw with a can of black spray paint, so fed up was he with having to see the denigrating and misogynist garbage every time he went on the highway with his grandchildren. But according to the Senator, this man is an unsophisticated wowser with no sense of humour who has chosen to be offended.

Well, Senator, if the tiara fits…




On s*x work and freedom of speech

5 Apr



On April 9 and 10, Melinda Tankard Reist is hosting a conference marketed thus: ” ‘World’s oldest oppression,’ the first ever gathering of sex industry survivors and abolitionists in Australia, will be held at RMIT University in Melbourne next weekend.” On Tankard Reist’s website it is further described as a “two-day conference for a world free of sex trade abuse,” and a “feminist human rights conference.”

Various parties have called for no platforming action against the conference, on the grounds that it offers an opportunity for hate speech, and the furthering of a religious/moral agenda against all sex work. This agenda intentionally conflates sex work with an international and abusive sex trade of women and girls. The two are not the same, and Tankard Reist et al do their cause no favours by this conflation. Given my knowledge of Tankard Reist and other participants in this forum, I’d be inclined to agree with the apprehension of conflation: these participants steadfastly refuse the possibility of sex work as a choice, and make no distinction between women who are the victims of sex trade abuse, and women who choose sex work as their career.

Reist, Caroline Norma and Julie Bindel have all at some time made the argument that women who choose sex work as their profession are victims of a kind of false consciousness, that is, they don’t actually make a choice because they have been abused to the point where choice is no longer possible, they just don’t know that about themselves. This seems to me a most presumptuous and offensive conclusion for anyone to arrive at, other than the women concerned, and it should be identified and challenged.

I need to disclose here my personal encounters with Tankard Reist, when she threatened to sue me for defamation after I’d written on this blog about her religious affiliations and their influence on her moral and political sensibilities . While it was a difficult period in my blogging career, and brought all manner of people from Anne Summers to Julia Baird to Miranda Devine down on my head, and made me for a nanosecond a global cause and the subject of a change.org petition to save me, it also taught me valuable lessons about efforts to silence a contrary point of view, and it is this learning that I’m drawing on in my argument that Reist et al must be permitted their platform.

After my experience of Reist attempting and failing to bully me into silence with threats of financial ruin if I didn’t shut up and retract, (supported in her efforts by some of the mainstream press) I’m highly sensitised to any form of censorship. As an academic committed to the deconstruction of controversial ideas rather than their silencing, I baulk at the current penchant for refusing a platform to those who hold a position with which I strongly disagree. I can’t support authoritarianism in any form, and withholding the right to express ideas is an authoritarian act. Who is to decide which ideas may or may not be expressed? And since when was it possible to destroy any idea by denying opportunities for its expression?

The fact that RMIT hosts this conference (which at first blush appears perfectly acceptable, after all, who wouldn’t like to abolish sex trade abuse) doesn’t indicate administrative support for views expressed during the conference. Permitting the expression of ideas does not indicate  acquiescence or agreement with those ideas. If ideas are forbidden expression on a university campus, we are in deep excrement.

Tankard Reist is adept at tailoring her marketing to fit her desired outcomes: in this instance she is using an understandable abhorrence for the trafficking of women and children into sexual slavery as an opportunity to attack all sex work. This approach needs not to be silenced, but identified and challenged.

Reist also states that survivors of sex trade abuse are speaking at the conference and I cannot, in any universe, agree to the silencing of the voices of survivors. Undoubtedly they are survivors who support Reist’s opinions: they ought not to be denied a voice because of this. I’m a survivor of child sexual abuse: is someone ready to instruct me that I may speak of this only within their terms of reference?

The weapon in situations such as this is not censorship but protest. Demanding that a third-party, in this case university authorities, step in and take action on students’ behalf is infantile. If you don’t want someone speaking on your campus get out there and protest and hopefully the academic staff who agree will support you. No platforming is the first resort of the weak.  You can’t no platform the world and everything in it you don’t want to hear. You have to learn to use your own voice for the whole of your life so you might as well start at university.

I’d like to add that Vixen Collective, who are protesting the “World’s Oldest Oppression” conference, have not called for RMIT to no platform. They have simply asked for an opportunity to have a voice in the discussions. That request has been ignored by the conference organisers. 




Reist, porn and sexualisation.

11 Dec



For a long time now, I’ve wondered how Melinda Tankard Reist is able to conduct her extensive and lengthy campaign against the “sexualisation” of girls, without addressing the sexual abuse of children.

I can think of no more powerfully destructive act of “sexualisation” than childhood sexual abuse, and yet Ms Reist goes nowhere near it, choosing instead to shame various outlets into withdrawing whatever product she currently believes is causing the “sexualisation” of children.

As the Royal Commission into CSA continues to demonstrate, the sexual abuse (and inevitable real sexualisation) of children was occurring long before there was an Internet, long before there was anything like the licentious climate Reist claims exists today, and long before the creation and availability of any of the clothing, toys, music clips and magazines that she currently holds responsible for “sexualisation.” What child victims wear had and has no bearing on a paedophile’s decision to molest her or him.

I continue to maintain that if an adult sees a child dressed in a “sexual” manner and assumes an invitation, there is something seriously awry with that adult’s perceptions. A dressed-up child is still a child, not a sexualised being, “sexualised” implying that the child’s purpose has become to provide sex by virtue of her appearance. Only a dangerously perverted thinker would make such an assumption.

Popular sexual culture is like the hydra: as soon as Ms Reist chops off one head another one grows. Which will, of course, guarantee her a career and an income. Popular sexual culture might be a symptom, but is never a cause, and sexuality is always a reliable source of fuel for moral indignation and the impulse to ideological control.

However, what has brought Tankard Reist to mind is her appearance on an ABC 2 program on pornography the other evening. In anticipation of the program, activist and academic Caroline Norma published a piece on ABC Ethics and Religion, castigating the ABC for giving a platform to the dirty business of pornography. You see the common motif: porn is dirty, and morally wrong like “sexualising” clothes and raunchy music videos, and shame on aunty for giving it airtime because we know how well repression, censorship and prohibition work for us.

One of the things that disturbs me about Reist’s opposition to porn is her definition of that genre. She and her followers are wont to wax eloquent about “true intimacy,” and “real loving relationships” etc, which to me suggests Reist considers she has somehow acquired the right to define what is “true” and “real” in sexual relations and is compelled to foist her definitions on the rest of us.

“True’ and “real” seem, in this context, to require marriage, or at the very least long-term commitment, with the qualifier that it only applies to heterosexuals.

Another aspect that disturbs me is Reist’s penchant for lumping together all kinds of porn, from snuff movies to amateur and everything in between, as being equally destructive and harmful to health, well-being, and intimate relationships. It’s like saying all food is harmful because Macca’s burgers don’t get the Heart Foundation tick of approval.

There must be no porn of any kind, and we must not have sex with anyone unless we are willing to commit our lives to them.

Personally, I would not enjoy being fucked to camera by some dude whose only asset worthy of note was a long schlong. The reasons why women engage in the manufacture of porn are many and varied, and how much choice or freedom is involved is as variable. I can’t for the life of me see how any of these variables can be addressed and redressed by forcing Coles to withdraw a Zoo magazine.

I have no doubt, however, that Ms Reist and her followers get a lovely warm glow when they do force the withdrawal or banning of one thing or another. While they are glowing, sex trafficking continues unabated. Child sexual abuse continues unabated. Sexual assault continues unabated. They are, as my first husband would say, pissing against the wind.

There are very real and very frightening and certainly criminal acts of sexual expression in which there is no consent, that no society ought to tolerate. If we are raising boys who believe they have the right to demand from girls sexual acts girls do not wish to perform, then we are raising misogynistic male supremacists, and Zoo magazine is an expression of that culture, not the cause. You can burn all the lads mags you want: it won’t stop those particular lads wanting to forcibly sexually subjugate girls.

“Sexualisation” and “pornification” take place within a context: the context of the inequalities of patriarchy, the demands of capitalism, and religious notions of what is and isn’t sexually moral. It’s only by tackling these impositions on humanity that we’ll ever make inroads into exploitative and non consensual sexual practices.

But hey, if it’s band aids you want, Reist’s website provides you with a long list of what not to buy for Christmas, and where not to buy it. But there are other ways to get a nice warm glow…








Dark vision: the world of Melinda Tankard Reist

24 Sep

Last night’s Australian Story on ABCTV invited its audience into the world of the remarkable photographer Poli Papapetrou and her family, in particular that of her daughter, Olympia.

When Olympia was six, Poli took a portrait of her naked in a re-creation of a much earlier image made by Lewis Carroll, known as the author of Alice in Wonderland, as well as for his photographic studies of young girls.

Poli’s photograph caused expressions of outrage from Kevin Rudd, Bravehearts founder and child advocate Hetty Johnston, and of course my old nemesis, Melinda Tankard Reist, all of whom found Olympia’s image highly offensive and her mother even more so for making it.

Olympia, now sixteen,  has become interested in what’s known as “selfies” which for the uninitiated are self-portraits, usually taken by teenage girls in various stages of undress, and posted on the internet. Her critique of this practice can be read here.

Australian Story  invited Melinda Tankard Reist to comment on selfies, and the manner in which we gaze upon young girls in our culture. Tankard Reist declared that because our vision is so tainted by pornography thanks to the pornified, sexualised atmosphere in which we dwell, it has become impossible for us to innocently view images of girls, whether they be those made by Poli Papapetrou of her daughter, the notorious photographs of Bill Henson, or selfies.

My damn spell check will not accept selfies as a word and insists on changing it. That means something, doesn’t it.

The sudden appearance of Ms Tankard Reist in the middle of what had, up till then, been an engrossing  portrait of a loved-filled, creative family life complete with what I suspect were rescued greyhounds, was something akin to the shocking effects felt at the  manifestation of a bad fairy at a joyous christening. Dark, forbidding, increasingly grim-lipped, Tankard Reist described to us of our loss of innocence, our inability to ever see a naked child as anything other than sexual fodder, thanks to the porn saturated universe we have wilfully allowed to engulf us.

We have, whether we realise it or not, had our capacity to gaze innocently upon the young stolen from us by pedophiles. In some abominable alchemical exchange, that gaze has been replaced with their dark and evil vision, and most of us do not even know what we have lost. Obviously, it is up to Melinda to tell us.

I don’t know about everybody else, but when I see a naked child the last thing that comes to mind is sex. I don’t think, oh my, that child is sexualised!Heavens, I even take photos of my grandsons with their willies out and their gorgeous naked buttocks that I could just kiss and kiss!

Set against the backdrop of Olympia and her family, Tankard Reist’s message has never sounded so insanely deviant. Of course there are situations in which girls are exploited and abused. But to lose the ability to tell one thing from another is a dangerous tragedy. Most of us retain that ability. Tankard Reist does not. In warning us of the loss of the innocent gaze, she reveals only that hers is lost. Mine is not and no matter how many pornographic images I’m bombarded with, it will never be lost.

Olympia’s family are an excellent example of how to combat pornographic assaults on the gaze, and raise children capable of distinguishing between art and beauty, and exploitation and abuse. Tankard Reist’s dark vision has no place in this world, and indeed, brings only destruction.

If you see a child as “sexualised” there’s something wrong with your vision

4 Mar

On morals campaigner Melinda Tankard Reist’s website you’ll find this breakdown of a survey conducted by Girlfriend magazine on the sexual habits of their young readers. The magazine’s demographic is girls aged between twelve and seventeen.

The survey found that 75% of Girlfriend readers are not sexually active. The reasons given:

  • 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 appear to differ from reasons given by young women over the last few decades. It’s also possible, though unverifiable I imagine, that over the last few decades 25% of young women have engaged in some kind of sexual activity for a variety of reasons, just as they do today.

The Girlfriend survey appears to contest anecdotes such as those in the article “Stealing the innocence of children” published yesterday in the Fairfax Press. Using language such as onslaught, obsession, bombardment, and phrases such as “placing the child in a sexualised space,” “increasingly sexual and sexualised culture,” “hyenas circling” our young, and “people conditioned to see themselves as ‘product,'” the article paints an alarming picture of an apocalyptically sexualised society, controlled by a terrifyingly nebulous “them.”  The closest I can come to identifying “them” are as the manufacturers, producers, distributors  and marketers of a perceived “sexualised” and “pornified” popular culture.

They are further identified in the article as  “the seamier side of humanity” which has persuaded K-Mart, Target and other retailers to provide children’s clothing modelled on the imagined uniform of sex workers.

Children’s primary carers are obliged to buy  this inappropriate clothing and give it to kids to wear, causing them to look “hot” and “sexy.”

It takes a particular kind of perverted vision to see a child as “sexy” or “hot,” no matter what the child is wearing. I do not see children dressed in “sexy” clothing as “hot.”A child dressed like an adult looks to me like a child dressed like an adult. If the child is perceived as “sexualised” or “pornified” it must be the gaze of the adult viewer defining her as such, not the clothing and certainly not the child. It is impossible to “sexualise” and “pornify” a child by dressing her or him in any kind of clothing. Only a sexualising and pornifying gaze can impose that interpretation.

Further, I’d suggest that those currently most responsible for “sexualising” and “pornifying” children’s appearance are the very campaigners who complain most loudly about it. These people are demanding that we all adopt the pedophile gaze, and interpret a child’s appearance as “hot” and “sexy” rather than seeing it for what it is: children imitating adults. There is no innocence lost in the imitation. The innocence is destroyed by the adult’s sexualising gaze.

To others less inclined to make moral judgements based on bits of cloth, children are neither sexualised nor pornified. They are children in bits of cloth, funny, silly, imitating their elders, remarkable or unremarkable, but they are children. If you think they are sexually objectified, the problem is with you.

Is there any space more sexualised than that of an institution such as church or family, in which the child is raped? Is there anymore devastatingly sexualised, objectified and “pornified” child than the child raped in the home, church or other institution outwardly dedicated to her or his welfare? When a child’s body is used to gratify adult desire, that child’s innocence has indeed been destroyed. That child has indeed been sexualised and pornified. And the number of children whose innocence has been thus stolen is incalculable.

Yet is any of this mentioned, even in passing, in an article titled “Stealing the innocence of children?” No. It is not. It is far easier to blame a nebulous “them” for the  crime of clothing and music videos.

This is bandaid stuff. What actually demands our attention is the numbers of adults only too willing to see, to describe, and to use children as sexual objects, even those who perceive themselves as being on the side of the good. Campaigners such as Tankard Reist, Steve Biddulph, Emma Rush and Steve Hambleton unwittingly reproduce the pedophile gaze with their own determinedly sexualised readings of popular culture.  The pedophile claims in his defence that  “she looked like she wanted it,” even if she was only three. The campaigners are in great danger of saying something very similar, albeit for very different reasons.

If you want to protect the innocence of children, don’t impose your sexualising vision on them. If you want to let kids be kids just do it, by recognising that they cannot be sexualised by the clothing they wear, but only by your interpretation of what that clothing signifies.

The campaigners are railing against a particular sexual aesthetic, one that given their reference to sex workers and aspects of popular culture may well be class-based. It’s not so long ago that girls who dressed in a certain way were described as “cheap.” That meant sexually easy, and the girls thus described were not middle class. Today “cheap” garments and attitudes are increasingly infiltrating the middle class, blurring class distinctions and causing what can only be described as a moral panic as those who are well used to controlling an orthodox conservative sexual discourse find themselves challenged as never before.

In another article titled “Save your daughter from the wild-child syndrome,” Steve Biddulph states ” If a girl is going to go wrong, it will be at 14.”  If a girl is going to go wrong? This binary of good and bad girls, right and wrong girls, is at the heart of the sexualisation and pornification panic. “Good and right” girls are increasingly indistinguishable from “bad and wrong girls” in their clothing choices. Hell, these days everyone’s looking like hookers and pole dancers! Clothes, once a primary signifier of middle class status and morality, now make  “good” girls look like they’re “bad.”

The conservative middle class, whether secular or religious, prescribes a morality that condemns the perceived sexually “easy” girl or woman. There remains, even among the non religious, a code of sexual manners that frowns upon any perceived flaunting of female sexuality.

The morals campaigners are of course never going to question their dogma about how girls and women should express our sexuality. In feminism’s second wave, we learned the folly of unquestioningly accepting the authority of the orthodoxy, and the unnecessary suffering involved in attempting to adjust ourselves to its man-made rules. We need a similar revolution in which we vigorously contest the domination of conservative sexual morality on our culture. Indeed, perhaps such a revolution is already underway, and the current moral panic is the outraged and fearful reaction.

Confusion: just because a girl wears a short skirt doesn’t mean she’s asking for it. On the other hand, the short skirt sexualises, pornifies and objectifies you so if you wear it, you look like a girl going wrong, and asking for it.

The bizarre marriage of radical feminism and right wing religious activism, occasioned to contest that other bogeyman, pornography, is an example of how the desire to censor and control is not confined to the religious. Russell Blackford considers this in his piece on Iceland’s recent initiative to ban certain types of pornography. “You can’t assume that secularism in a country’s population will solve all problems of moralism, anti-sex attitudes, and a general wish by governments and electorates to interfere with people’s lives” Blackford observes. While we know Melinda Tankard Reist comes from a Christian fundamentalist background, and Steve Hambleton is a devout Catholic, their conservative sexual politics are shared and promoted by the non religious as well.

When religious beliefs can’t be invoked to substantiate moralities, psychology, psychiatry and regurgitation of received knowledge is often as, if not more, effective. All of these traditionally accept an initial cultural premise: that there are particular ways of behaving and expressing sexuality that are unquestionably right, and veering from them is wrong. The stranglehold this perspective has on society is currently under great pressure, nowhere as evidenced in the rebellion of the young,who’s collective determination to clothe themselves like porn stars, as the horrified adults would have it, is breaking all the rules of sexual propriety and class.

The extreme manifestation of this propriety is manifested in remarks such as those made by Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, who famously declared that the virginity of his three daughters was the greatest gift they could offer anyone and he hopes they’ll wait till they marry to bestow it.

I recall a sex talk given to us fourteen year olds by the Mother Superior, in which she advised us that we should not be like cream buns in the bakery window. Who, she asked rhetorically, wants to buy a cream bun from which someone else has already taken a lick? It’s only in retrospect I can see the bawdiness of that analogy, and I’m sure Mother Dorothea had no inkling. However, her advice does indicate there were enough girls being cream buns, even several decades ago, for us good girls to be warned of the perils that entailed.

There are, of course, real causes for concern. Five year old girls ought not to be so obsessed about their weight and appearance that their mental and physical health is threatened. I suggest that’s a separate issue from the “sexualisation and pornification”   claims, but it is a habit of these campaigners to conflate all the issues (as is exemplified in the Fairfax article)  into an “ain’t it awful” catastrophic expectation, won’t somebody think of our children who will save our girls meme.

I can’t watch shows like “Biggest Loser” because of their cruelty,and their commitment to fat-shaming, treacherously disguised as concern. No wonder little girls are scared to death of gaining any weight. They’ve got the message: everyone will hate and shame them if they aren’t reed thin. Many of them have close adult females who angst over their weight, teaching little girls that their lives will be good or bad depending on how much they weigh. I suggest this is far more insidious than any piece of sparkly skimpy cloth K-Mart has on its shelves.

Likewise, the idea of someone dressing a baby in a shirt bearing the slogan “All Daddy wanted was a blow job” is my idea of over-sharing. I’ve never seen such a shirt, though I don’t doubt they exist.

Children have always been born into a “sexualised space.” Planet Earth is a sexualised space, sex is a powerful human drive that everyone encounters, one way or another. Children are sexual beings, and understand from an early age that there is something profoundly mysterious in the adult world that is forbidden to them. Naturally, they want entry into that world, and one of the ways they achieve a semblance of belonging is by imitating adult appearance and behaviour. What kind of a mind construes this imitation as reality, and demands that the rest of us do the same?

What we need to do is really see the children, and not take flight into a moral panic that they cannot understand. There is a child at play inside the “hot” “sexy” clothes. That child shouldn’t have to choose between being a good girl or a bad girl, between going wrong or going right. Adults are responsible for the paucity of role models on offer for children to emulate. If we really care about the children, this is what we’ll address. But that’s going to be a lot harder than blaming K-mart.


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.



How Collective Shout shames women and girls

11 Sep


It’s with some amusement I note that Melinda Tankard Reist’s Collective Shout claim they are not “slut shaming” women and girls who want, buy and wear clothes that organisation considers “sexualises” them.

They are not, they claim, targeting women and girls who wear the clothes, rather they are attacking the retailers who sell them. I suppose they are “slutty retailer shaming.”

If they attack retailers who sell the clothes of which they so strongly disapprove, they cannot help but “slut shame” the women who freely choose to buy and wear them. They are telling women and girls that the clothes “sexualise” them, that is, make them look like tramps and sluts available for male use and abuse. You can’t have these clothes, Collective Shout says, because they make you look available.  If you won’t stop buying them, we’ll stop them being sold.

Their argument that they are not focussed on women but on retailers is entirely disingenuous. Of course the focus is women and girls.

Their argument fails entirely to grant women who buy these clothes agency, instead promoting the notion that certain women are incapable of choosing clothing for themselves and their daughters wisely, and are being led by the nose by retailers who should be prevented from selling these garments, thereby saving women from themselves.

Whichever way you look at it, Collective Shout is indeed “slut shaming” women and girls, as well as striving to deny them the right to choose how they will dress themselves. They are attempting to impose a dress code on women and girls, one that accords with their notions of what is and is not “sexualising.” They are attempting to gain control of the appearance of women and girls by intimidating retailers to the degree that they will only stock what Collective Shout determines to be suitable apparel.

No retailer on earth stocks products nobody wants to buy, and hopes to prosper. Clearly somebody wants the clothing Collective Shout loves to hate. Not everybody shares their aesthetic. Maybe it’s a class thing. I notice they aren’t going after David Jones and Pumpkin Patch who service the middle class and peddle a different aesthetic from Target.

What’s certain is that if someone is trying to prevent stores from stocking the clothing you want because they think it’s immoral, you are being judged and shamed for your choices by people who believe they know better than you do how you should look.

 I’ve never looked at a young girl and thought, “she looks like a tramp” or more formally, “she’s been sexualised,” no matter what that girl is wearing. It’s a mystery to me why anyone would choose to first perceive a child in this way, and then speak about her in such pejorative terms.

Girls aged between seven and fourteen usually have their clothes bought for them by their mothers or primary carers. If they are allowed to shop alone, they must be given the money to do this by parents or primary caregivers and as they are living at home, presumably these adults see what the girls buy and wear. If the responsible adults don’t like what they see, I assume they can make sure they accompany the girl when next she goes clothes shopping, and exercise control over what is purchased.

I’m not sure what “trampy clothing” is or looks like. I assume it’s clothing that reveals a lot of flesh, or is cut to emphasise certain aspects of the body that are considered erogenous and therefore sexy, and therefore “trampy.” Clothing that signifies a woman who likes sex without feeling she has to get married to enjoy it, or is a sex worker.

It seems to me one can only view the body from this perspective if one first holds a moral position in which certain kinds of sex and the female body are both regarded as immoral, except under specific circumstances such as marriage or monogamous relationships.

It also seems to me that the people creating an uproar about the “sexualization” of girls have an extremely narrow understanding of what “sexy” is, and an alarming tendency to impose this limited understanding on children.

Further, they pretty much adopt the consciousness of paedophiles, of the kind that says “the girl made me do it because she was flirting and being sexy,” because what they see when they look at a girl dressed like a “sexualised” “tramp” is not a child with a child’s consciousness, but an adult looking to attract sexual encounters. A normal adult will see a child dressed up like an adult, but still a child and not converted into a sexual object by her apparel.

You can dress a child as “sexily” as you like. You can pose her as “sexily” as you like. To a normal adult human she is still a child, and not a sexual opportunity. Anyone who is imagining otherwise is potentially a paedophile. There’s no two ways about this because we are talking about interpretation, perception and desire here. These are what “sexualise” the child, not the clothing she wears.

In order for a child to be perceived as “sexy” the adult gaze must confer on her the power to arouse the desire and sexual imaginings that voluntarily occur in the adult. Otherwise she is simply a little girl in adult-like clothing that one likes, dislikes or doesn’t give a damn about.

That there are serious difficulties for girls when it comes to how they want to conduct a sexual life and how they want to present themselves to the world, is incontestable. Girls today struggle with influences and images to a degree previously unheard of, and unfortunately those influences and images portray an extremely narrow view of beauty  and sexuality. We all labour under the tyranny of the majority, and the majority in large part sucks. Collective Shout will do nothing to address these problems by “slut shaming” girls and women who choose clothing that group dislikes, or by teaching girls to shame one another. They may temporarily win a minor skirmish with Target, but they will not bring about significant change in the life of girls. Shaming never achieves a thing, nor does imposing one’s own narrow perception of “appropriate” sexuality.

We live in a culture that attaches extraordinary value to appearances. Collective Shout only add to the obsession with their focus on the rightness and wrongness of what women and girls choose to wear, and the fundamentalist morality that underpins their beliefs about the female body.


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