The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘Media Watch’

Forget The “Sex Predator”, How ‘Bout His Wife, Eh?

Posted by Clem Bastow on August 28, 2009

A brief MediaWatch-ish post for you this morning. I was reading “the papers” online and when I reached the bottom of the page, noticed Fairfax’s ‘Top Stories’ lists for their various interstate publications. This headline was holding the #1 spot in the “charts”:

Picture 1

Naturally, I clicked on the story, detailing the sentencing of Luke James Colless, who pleaded guilty to “five counts of rape, five counts of assault with intent to commit rape, six counts of sexual assault and two counts of assault occasioning bodily harm, over the attacks on 11 women”. Well, you might not assume as much given the story’s headline, but the “wife” in question rated a mention that lasted for less than a sentence; she wasn’t even noted by name. Here’s the full extent of the rapists’ wife’s appearance in the article:

Colless’ barrister Tony Kimmins said despite his offending, his client was supported by his wife and family.

And that’s it. In other words, out of the 556 words in the article, approximately 17 made any reference whatsoever to his wife.

What gives, Exactly which champion is coming up with your headlines? This may seem like subeditorial semantics, but there’s something particularly insidious about this headline that ignores the full horror of Luke James Colless’ crimes and, instead, makes some sort of Tammy Wynnette-esque comment on his wife standing by her man.

I hope I’m not the only one who thinks a simple “Sex predator faces life in jail” would have sufficed.


Posted in law, Media Watch, Sex Crimes, sexual assault, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Sex Crimes: How Much Does The Public Need To Know?

Posted by Mel Campbell on January 29, 2009

I hope we’d all agree that it’s better for crimes against women – especially sexual crimes – to be vigorously prosecuted, and for the details of these shocking offences to be made public so that the perpetrators are publicly shamed and in general these issues are talked about rather than swept under the carpet.

That said, there’s also a line between reporting a sex crime and finding its details titillating. I found the extreme detail in this report about the 2007 gang rape of a 13-year-old Sydney girl pretty upsetting to read:

Over the next few hours, the boys took turns entering the toilet cubicle, where they had oral sex with her.

One 15-year-old announced to the others “I’m going to root her”, but it took several unsuccessful attempts before he penetrated her while she experienced a tearing sensation that she said felt “terrible”.

When council workers interrupted them, they moved to a different public toilet in a nearby reserve where the activity continued, while outside the cubicle the boys made comments such as “smile like you’re enjoying it”.

They made her take off her clothes and watched one another violate her, causing her to bleed.

The issue here, I think, is to what extent journalists are obliged to report the particulars of a crime, especially if it involves children. (The victim in this case was 13; the perpetrators’ ages were not specified but at least one was 15.) I feel uncomfortable with the possibility that reporting of court cases like these is deliberately lurid because that way, the story is considered more ‘newsworthy’.

It’s illegal to name minors involved in court proceedings, but I can’t help but feel that the anonymity of both victim and perpetrator, coupled with the detailed description of the crime, dehumanises the crime. Does this then desensitise readers to horrific crimes in general? Elsewhere in journalism, it’s becoming common practice not to refer to the method of a suicide in case you give depressed people ideas, but what about giving potential sex offenders ideas?

This is an ethical issue I haven’t really worked out for myself yet, and I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

Posted in Media Watch, Sex Crimes, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Muslim Women In Australia: Fighting Back, Yes, But Not For The First Time

Posted by Rhiana Whitson on November 26, 2008

Courtesy the Age website

Pictured: Silma Ihram. Sourced from the Age website, photograph by Angela Wylie.

You may have read last week’s media reports on the current situation of Australian Muslim women, particularly the provocative headline, “Muslim Women Start Fighting Back.” The sudden interest in the situation of Australian Muslim women was sparked by last week’s conference held at the University of Melbourne’s National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies. First of all, I must say I have a problem with the headline “Muslim Women Start Fighting Back”, for this to me implies that it is the first time Muslim women are fighting back, when Islamic feminism, a hotly debated topic in itself, has existed for a very, very long time.

One particular report funded by the previous government, and undertaken by the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria, entitled, ‘Report of the community consultation of training of Muslim religious leaders’ provided some startlingly findings about the religiously sanctioned mistreatment and abuse of women in Australia.

The findings of the report are the result of broad community consultation, including interviews with police, lawyers, court workers, academics, and meetings with the Victorian Board of Imams.

As reported in the Age last week, according to the findings:

Women seeking divorces have also been told by Imams that they must leave “with only the clothes on their back” and not seek support or a share of property because they can get welfare payments.

And the report says some Imams knowingly perform polygamous marriages, also knowing that the second wife, a de facto under Australian law, can claim Centrelink payments.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Faith and Religion, Media Watch, Politics, Sex Crimes, violence against women | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Australian Art World, Meet the CoUNTesses

Posted by Mel Campbell on November 25, 2008

Who here knows about the Guerrilla Girls? These New York art activists have campaigned for over 20 years for a more equitable representation of women artists and artists of colour in galleries and museums.

Now Australia has its own band of anonymous, angry art ladies. They call themselves the CoUNTesses, and on their blog, CoUNTess, they point out all kinds of gender inequality in the Australian art scene. This is the sort of research that often goes on in university or government environments, and I for one find it exciting to see it out in the open.

One of the valuable things they do is number-crunching the gender representation in art world magazines: what proportion of male and female writers and editors work for them, and what proportion of male and female artists get cover stories, features and even just mentions. Dishearteningly, while male and female editorships are equal, and women art writers actually outnumber men, the contents are still distinctly skewed towards male artists.

They also talk about the startling discrepancy between the number of female art students and the number of women being collected in major art museums or holding major solo shows. Where are all the women going?

It’s great to have some hard statistics to begin talking about a kind of ingrained, systemic sexism that can be hard to tackle. Already the commentary at CoUNTess is focusing on whether women art critics need to focus on women artists, and whether mid-sized galleries need to follow the Australia Council’s example and provide precisely equal exhibition opportunities for men and women.

Ultimately this raises the contentious spectre of affirmative action. I’ve always found affirmative action difficult to defend in practice, because it favours one aspect of a person – in this case, their gender – over other considerations like economic and cultural capital, geographic location (perhaps 24HrArt gallery in Darwin exhibits more female artists because it’s seen as peripheral in the art world), and of course, the ‘quality’ of their ideas and of their finished work. And some people who might benefit from affirmative action find it patronising, and ultimately unhelpful because it leaves them open to criticism later in their careers (“you only got this far because we helped you, not because you’re any good”).

For now, I’d like the see the CoUNTesses get the resources to do the kind of in-depth content analysis of media, and qualitative social research in the art scene, that are necessary to show that gender inequality in art is a real problem and not just the whining of unsuccessful chick artists.

Posted in Blog Watch, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Palin Newsweek Cover “A Clear Slap In The Face … Why? Because It’s Unretouched

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 9, 2008

So says Republican Media Consultant Andrea Tantaros, who – along with her colleagues – is up in arms about Newsweek‘s latest issue, featuring a close-up photo of Gov. Sarah Palin (pictured at right, click through for full-size).

Speaking on Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, the Republican media team – not to mention the show’s host – cried foul, suggesting that Newsweek have done Palin a gross disservice by failing to airbrush her into a palatable cover girl. As Tantaros says:

“It highlights every imperfection – that every human being has – but we’re talking unwanted facial hair, pores, wrinkles…”

Tantaros then suggests that Newsweek‘s Obama covers have made him look “Presidential … flawless”.

(Briefly, to compare and contrast and provide some perspective, here’s a Newsweek John McCain cover, and a Barack Obama one. And, to even things up, here’s their Hillary Clinton effort, and Michelle Obama. You’ll agree there’s not a lot of airbrushing going on anywhere, and why would there be? It’s Newsweek!)

The host then barks:

“I mean, c’mon … Any respectable magazine should be doing a little retouching if you’re going to have the extreme close-up”

Fortunately Julia Piscitelli from American University’s Women & Politics Institute then offers some sage words (saying that Palin is clearly “beautiful” either way), before Tantaros cries out that the cover photo is “mortifying! … [Any] woman who sees this cover would be shocked and horrified“.

Really? Have we become so sucked into the airbrushed world that to see a woman unretouched is “horrifying”? As Piscitelli notes, Palin’s cover is the Newsweek ‘Women & Leadership’ issue, “which means that she’s one of the top women in leadership in the country” – what is more important here?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in body image, Media Watch, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

I Am Not An Animal!

Posted by Mel Campbell on August 18, 2008

Sorry to channel The Elephant Man there, but John Merrick’s infamous cry was the first thing I thought when encountering Wrangler’s new “We Are Animals” ad campaign.

These disturbing images, seemingly evoking discarded dead bodies, were created by French ad agency FFL Paris. Clearly their brief was to move the Wrangler brand away from folksy cowboy imagery and into the edgy territory already occupied by Diesel. It’s very tempting to join in justifiable criticisms that these ads are aestheticising violence against women: to decry the “deeply screwed up culture” behind the imagery and ask angrily if murder is the new black.

But as Trendhunter notes, the TV commercial puts the confronting print ads a little more in context. The models in the ad are meant to look like wild animals caught on film, and the jeans are meant to be their skins or pelts. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Fashion, Media Watch | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »