The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘media’

Best of the rest on PM Gillard

Posted by Nic Heath on June 25, 2010

Australia might be ‘tickled pink at having its first female prime minister’, but what else is being said about the dramatic leadership change that saw Kevin Rudd suddenly ousted by Julia Gillard this week? 

Eva Cox at Crikey sees Julia Gillard’s achievement as the first step, rather than the end point, for those desiring gender balance in positions of power: 

‘We will know we really have made progress when women in top positions become normal and not worthy of comment. It will also mean we get better leaders, not just because many are women, but because we no longer exclude good people because of their gender.’ (register to read) 

Also at Crikey Shakira Hussein warns us that Gillard’s ascension to the top job means that some will think that feminism is finished: 

‘The danger now (well, one of the dangers) is that feminists will be told that the battle is won, that anyone who is still on the battlefield is just a whinger, that if a woman can become prime minister, then we have no further reason to complain.’ 

Annabel Crabbe acknowledges the sense of hope that has accompanied Gillard’s promotion:  

‘The approbation of her colleagues, seasoned with a groundswell of genuine delight at the elevation of Australia’s first female prime minister, give her an opportunity to make the sort of progress that eluded her predecessor.’ 

Catriona Menzies-Pike at New Matilda considers Gillard’s momentous caucus win and is left seeking answers: 

‘Once the fuss dies down, some of these questions will be answered and a bigger one will emerge: are Australians really ready to elect a female prime minister? 

‘There’s no doubt that Gillard’s promotion is an important symbolic victory for Australian women. But is this the exemplary trajectory for female success? To act as deputy until those whom you have vehemently opposed act to support you?’ 

 The Australian’s Caroline Overington sees evidence of change stamped all over our new PM: 

Julia Gillard is a woman, but that’s not the only extraordinary thing about her rise. 

She’s got a de facto. 

Imagine that, 30 years ago: an unmarried woman, living in sin with a man. Who is a hairdresser. And aspiring to high office. 

Leo Shanahan at The Punch believes Gillard could be the person to get the government back on track: 

Call me a honeymooner if you want, but in both policy and rhetoric Prime Minister Gillard made a lot of sense today, and that’s something that’s been missing from the Federal Government as of late. 

In Josephine Tovey’s piece at SMH, Gillard’s fruit bowl runneth over, Tovey wants women to stay on their toes: 

Just being a woman in power is not enough. There will be questions, rightly so, from women across the feminist spectrum. 

Will she, as Prime Minister improve the lot of other women, and make their paths to equality easier? 

But these are all questions for tomorrow. For now at least, we should all celebrate this landmark moment. 

 More excitement over at Femisting, with another reminder that all is not yet equal:

Julia Gillard, our new WOMAN PM – sorry, I can’t stop writing that in delighted caps – is a very impressive woman, and I have high hopes that this ouster will get voters’ approval in the upcoming Federal election. But one woman leader does not an egalitarian society make. 

At The Drum Helen Razer, enjoying ‘a little gynaecological bloat as Her Majesty’s female representative swore in the female representative of the people’, writes: 

‘A colony founded in masculinity, Australia can still feel like the land that feminism forgot. On this “historic” day, perhaps Overington, Wilkinson and co can be excused their greeting card gush.’ 

Mia Freedman briefed her readers about their new PM, adding: 

Julia Gillard is a remarkable woman. A fighter who has fought and won against many odds. A self confessed feminist and socialist, Gillard has survived the many attacks from the media and conservatives in Australia to become the Prime Minister of Australia, put in the position by the right wing factions that have previously tried to tear her down. 

Catherine Deveny sees Julia Gillard’s win as ‘a victory for all who do not fit into the category of white, middle aged, middle class, straight (or acting), god fearing (or pretending) university educated males granted a priority pass access to power (and therefore money, control, leisure and choice) at birth.’ Deveny affirms her faith in Gillard, writing: 

I believe in Julia Gillard. Not because she is a woman. But because she’s Julia Gillard. Smart, brave, strong, experienced and independent. I believe in equality and diversity. Which means knowing she can be a maggot and a mongrel when necessary. Delight and disappoint. Her promise not mine.  


If you have read any great comment or analysis that I have missed feel free to post it in the comments.


Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jackie Frank: doing her bit for ethical editorial standards

Posted by Nic Heath on January 5, 2010

Next month Marie Claire will hit newsstands with an untouched photograph of a nude Jennifer Hawkins gracing the cover.

According to the Daily Telegraph, editor of Marie Claire, Jackie Frank, said the publication of the images…

“…will raise funds for eating disorders support group the Butterfly Foundation, [and] were inspired by a Marie Claire survey of 5500 readers which found only 12 per cent of women were happy with their bodies.”

Putting on a magazine cover an untouched photograph of a naturally beautiful woman, and one whose body is a commodity and thus the product of much investment (time and work), and saying it is because 88 per cent of the surveyed readership are unhappy with their body, is an exercise in untruth. Crucially, it is also admitting that the publication of airbrushed photos of women is detrimental to the self esteem of the female audience who reads the magazine, no matter what the editors say.

Untouched photographs of Jennifer Hawkins and Bianca Dye published in Australian magazines (

Publishing this untouched photograph, amid the unsurprising media hoopla, is more about ethical editorial standards than boosting female body image. It’s about honesty and transparency, and about admitting that positing images of digitally altered women as pinnacles of beauty has a negative effect on female readers who are led to believe that in order to be as beautiful as possible they need to look like what are effectively cartoons.

Jen Hawkins as role model is not what should be happening here. Photographs of women who don’t represent the zenith of current ideas about beauty would be more suitable to be marketed as providing women with role models – and since the story broke Mumbrella has quoted Jackie Frank denying the role model spin (“we’re not saying Jennifer is what all women should aspire to”). Jen Hawkins here is just being beautiful, as she is. Jackie Frank’s decision to use this photo on the cover should not be considered “daring” or “revolutionary” – it should be accepted practice.

It is more educational than anything – that something as insignificant (and I would say fetching!) as a model’s waist crease would normally be removed from a photograph destined for magazine publication astounds me. I would love to see magazine pages filled with women who have not been digitally enhanced and homogenised – like these photos of Jen, and too Bianca Dye in Madison.

Clem Bastow makes a necessary point when she writes, “It’s imperative that women stop defining ourselves by our body shape. There are simply more important things to worry about – pay issues, maternity leave and sexual violence spring to mind – and better things to celebrate, such as our minds, hearts and work.”

However right now, in this imperfect world, women are influenced by the images they see on billboards, in magazines and on the Internet. If the practice of digitally altering photographs to remove perceived flaws and blemishes is not to be outlawed immediately, then in the short term magazines such as Marie Claire should be impelled to clearly state when photographs have been airbrushed.

Posted in body image, Celebrity | Tagged: , , , , | 15 Comments »

Seen and Heard, Cutting Edge Women’s Film Festival – Call for Entries

Posted by Cate on November 16, 2009

Seen & Heard is a film festival that battles the celluloid ceiling, celebrates the diverse and extraordinary work of women filmmakers and their not-to-be-underestimated diverse and extraordinary audiences. Seen and Heard in 2010, its second year, will follow on from a showcase of questions on class, race, ability/disability, gender and sexuality.Gender equality behind the camera is serious business. Seen & Hear are seeking films of high quality in which women have played significant production roles.

Taking entries now:
Seen & Heard in 2010:
January 14th-17th
The Red Rattler
6 Faversham St, MARRICKVILLE
NSW, Sydney
found via

Posted in events, Film & Television | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Crikey Wants To “Pull Chicks”

Posted by Mel Campbell on August 20, 2009

Online media outlet has been doing some audience research and is dismayed to realise that subscribers to its daily email service are 70 per cent male. Deputy editor Sophie Black points out today that this is despite a 50/50 gender balance in its editorial staff. Meanwhile, editor Jonathan Green says (tongue in cheek, I’d assume) that even the male staffers have “considered carefully the advances of feminism over the last few decades and placed ourselves within that context, while still pulling chicks.”

Initial fact-finding missions via Twitter uncovered a mix of potential reasons, which seemed to fall into recurring themes:

  • Women are too busy fulfilling myriad domestic responsibilities, on top of their work commitments and social lives, to sit around reading about Australian politics, media and business;
  • Women are not interested in the minutiae of party politics and the Canberra press gallery
  • While Crikey’s staff may have an even gender balance, freelance contributors are largely male
  • The editorial tone is blokey and macho, from the topics chosen to the way headlines are phrased
  • The industries covered in Crikey tend to be male-dominated
  • Women aren’t prepared to pay money for Crikey subscriptions, preferring to get Crikey’s emails forwarded from others, or getting their comment and debate for free on the web

I contribute occasionally to Crikey (and some of my writing at The Enthusiast gets picked up by their new aggregator-style website), and I feel a little embarrassed that my articles about stuff like fashion, media and advertising tend to look lightweight compared to the ins and outs of the Liberal leadership. Even though these are my professional interests, I feel worried that this kind of writing is considered “female-friendly” because, to be frank, many of my Crikey stories are deeply, gleefully silly. Although it’s come to seem that way, silliness is not “women’s interest”.

Crikey is considering starting a political blog written by women, possibly similar to Double X. But is the answer to its gender woes simply to increase its coverage of  “women’s issues” – and to ghettoise these on its website – when the original problem was an imbalance among its email subscribers? Perhaps a more pertinent issue might be Crikey’s definition of ‘politics’ – and its subscriber model.

In general I find Crikey’s current policy-wonk focus quite dry and boring. For instance, it does not intrigue me in the slightest that “ASIC, normally the country’s most timid regulator, is calling for bans on commissions and a slew of tighter regulatory requirements to end conflicted advice and impose greater responsibilities on financial planners.” (from Bernard Keane’s story in today’s email, Canning advisor’s commissions would be super start to reform.)

Perhaps women are more interested in social, cultural and sexual politics – that is, real-world politics. These are not just issues directly involving women, such as sex crimes, workplace and media sexism, consumer culture and work/life balance. Instead I’d suggest that women also respond passionately and empathetically to human rights and ethical issues of all sorts, from the environment to policing tactics, health funding to drugs in sport. These are not abstract policy debates but rather humanist debates.

Crikey’s email subscription model is also a linear method of content delivery – it’s sent out to subscribers, who can write back with comments, which are then sent out in the next issue. However, Sophie Black cites studies showing that women are heavy users of blogs and social media technologies. These are not linear but use metaphors of networks and communities. (In the past, Crikey subscribers have vehemently rejected the jocular name for the site’s community, “the Crikey Army”.)

In my experience as a woman (but, sadly, not “as an athlete, and a mum”), women like to share information by emailing their friends and joining in discussions at favoured online locations, whether these be Facebook, Twitter or The Dawn Chorus. Perhaps Crikey does have more female readers – but its 30 per cent of female subscribers are forwarding the emails to their friends. Perhaps online debate among women is happening in places that don’t have paywalls.

Why do you think women aren’t subscribing to Crikey? What kind of politics do you think women want to read about? And if you don’t read Crikey, where are you heading for your political reading?

Posted in Media Watch, Tech & Net | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Travails of beauty

Posted by Nic Heath on August 6, 2009

The beauty industry, and how much money women invest in it, has popped up on my radar a couple of times recently.

‘Because I’m Worth It’, in the July 25 Good Weekend, runs through the expenditure of four women on maintaining their appearance. The article’s author, Maggie Alderson, posits that in one school of thinking, 

‘…adequate personal care is – like doing your tax return, being punctual and saying thank you – an adult responsibility.’


 ‘…leg-hair is a complex grooming issue, requiring military-precision planning to be smooth on key dates…which is why I invested serious time and money having mine permanently lasered off.’

 And final advice:

‘Choose a significant person – an ex, a work nemesis, the other woman, or the one who got away – and be exactly as gorgeous as you would like to be if you happened to run into them by chance. Every day.’

I have two major concerns with this ‘belief system’. One – the expense. Multinationals’ profits depend on women feeling insecure about their appearance. Canna Campbell spends $17754 a year on beauty, Wendi Snyder $19016, Mary Shackman $11187 and Vina Chipperfield $19090.

The second is pain and/or discomfort. Canna Campbell is my age – 28 – and has been having Botox injections for 18 months. Vina Chipperfield, 39, says:

‘I loathe having Brazilian waxes, which I get every two months. I really have to psych myself up.’

 And then, ratcheting up the pain/discomfort scale, last week ABC2 screened The Ugly Truth abut Beauty, a documentary charting journalist Kate Spicer’s dalliance with cosmetic medicine. Spicer approaches her mission with equal measures of enthusiasm and cynicism – while like many women ‘not 100% happy with her appearance’, she is not the stock-standard candidate for cosmetic medicine. In an article published in The Australian she writes:

‘Previously, I had found cosmetic surgery curious, fascinating, not for me. Instinct told me it formed the deepest, darkest recesses of the misogynistic capitalist system that is the beauty industry.’

On ABC’s site:

This film follows Kate as she immerses herself in the wide range of bizarre, radical and invasive procedures now on offer to normal women willing to undergo a gruelling quest for exquisite, youthful looks. Just how far is Kate willing to go? And will it be worth it?

With a personal interest in improving her looks and a beauty industry cynic’s interest in exploring just how easy it is to be sucked into the world of cosmetic improvement, Kate wants to find out what’s really involved in our quest to look beautiful. “I’ve got two motivations here,” says Kate. “One is can I get to look better? Can I get to look hotter? But there is a more earnest desire – to try to be the guinea pig that illustrates just how ridiculously seductive that world is”.

After a few rounds of Botox, the final procedure on Kate’s face is performed with Fraxel laser technology. It makes for singularly disturbing vision. Metal plates are put over Kate’s eyeballs, while her voiceover tells us she was so medicated that this didn’t bother her, and the rest I couldn’t tell you because I couldn’t watch it. The immediate effects were bloody; she looked as though she’d been punched in the face or worse, a number of times.

Describing a photograph taken straight after the treatment, Spicer says:

‘It’s of a glassy-eyed woman, drugged up on Xanax and morphine, with eyeballs that appear to be weeping bloody tears, her skin red, oozing and bruised, and her eyelids glossy and raw like tuna tartare.’

It wasn’t Kate Spicer’s face though that was the most affecting consequence of the procedure. In the clinic, she’s laid low. She clearly feels terrible. She speaks of feeling depressed – the woman attending to her suggests it could be from the drug cocktail she’s ingested. And yet as the doco finishes, Kate suggests she likely hasn’t had her last Botox injection.

Writer Emily Maguire, delivering her speech ‘The Accidental Feminist’ for the Pamela Denoon lecture earlier in the year, says it pretty simply. It is that women are constantly being given the message that they are not good enough just as they are. A woman needs to cleanse, pluck, tone, wax, scrub, moisturise, bleach, alter, amend, enhance etc.

Kate Spicer certainly hasn’t glamourised cosmetic surgery, but she shows how hard it is for (some) women to resist the constant pressure to look a certain way – and to go to great lengths while trying. With so much money invested in the beauty industry – made clear by the lists of products and treatments upon which Good Weekend’s four featured women spend their money – I can’t see the pressure to look younger/better/different lessen anytime soon.

Posted in Fashion | Tagged: , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Kyle Sandilands: “Rape Happens”

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 30, 2009

As Caitlin yesterday noted, Kyle and Jackie O – and, by extension, 2Day FM – have been embroiled in a particularly distasteful “scandal” after a 14-year-old girl they cornered (at the request of her mother) and forced to take a lie-detector test live on radio yesterday revealed she’d been raped at the age of 12 – to which Sandilands’ response was “Right… and is that the only [sexual] experience you’ve had?”

On today’s show – and via the News Ltd stable – Sandilands and Jackie O have responded to the fury that rightly exploded within both the media and broadcasting industry and from rape counsellors, and child psychologists (and, and…). Prepare yourself to be enraged/appalled/mind-blown by Sandilands’ defense of his behaviour on-air (emphasis mine):

“It is just one of [those] things, unfortunately rape happens in society.”

Incredible. Not only has the poor girl had her rape revealed on live radio (and then played and replayed on various media sites) – not to mention being in the “care” of a mother who evidently knew about the rape but did nothing about it, and forced her to discuss her sexual activity and drug use on live radio – but now she has Sandilands essentially shrugging and saying “shit happens”.

No, Kyle, it’s not just “one of those things” – and I dread to think where we’ll end up as a society if people think that “rape happens”. Get this idiot off the air, NOW.

Update: tigtog from over at Hoyden About Town has set up a comprehensive site, Sack Kyle & Jackie O, which offers all the background information you need on the debacle, plus instructions as to how to lodge a complaint – the latter being particularly important, as ACMA won’t formally investigate 2Day FM over the matter unless written complaints are sent to the broadcaster first.

Posted in Celebrity, Film & Television, Media Watch, Parenting & Family, Sex Crimes, sexual assault, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Fairfax can do better

Posted by Nic Heath on July 1, 2009

Fairfax’s nest of gender stereotypes, the online Life & Style section has some smashing content to provoke a mid-week ponder.

Thanks Lisa Pryor for asking what men want in a wife, and thanks too to the subs who stuck ‘Maid to Order’ on the graphic linking to the story. Domestic help then I gather.

I hope included in this story simply for effect, ‘nightclub impresario’ Nicholas Atgemis ticks all the chauvinist boxes and more.

Having addressed the emasculation that comes with a financially independent wife, ‘Atgemis is fine with the idea of a wife with a career, so long as she stays home with the children for the first seven years or so; years he considers crucial to a child’s development.’

He actually talks about the future primary care giver of his children in these terms: “I want something a bit exotic, something no one else has got their hands on.” Straight from the showroom floor then?

It is clear that Atgemis represents the extreme end of a spectrum of views, and his inflammatory comments are balanced by the spirituality of Anglican Minister Justin Moffatt and construction manager Luke Keller’s balanced salt-of-the-earth approach to relationships.

Freedom of speech and all that, but this two-dimensional article isn’t breaking any new ground in the area of personal relationships or representations of character.

Australian model Alyssa Sutherland reflects on pole-dancing for fitness:

“It’s not in the bedroom, it’s in the living room. But it’s a brand new pole and it’s way too slippery. Apparently, it needs to be worn in. One trick is to put shaving cream all over your body so you’re sticky,” she says.

Definitely newsworthy.

Meanwhile Sam at Ask Sam taps into a mob-like single consciousness in her look at interstate dating. Inhabitants of Melbourne and Sydney attain a single gendered voice – Sydney women say their men are commitment-phobes! Melbourne women are livid Sydney women are on their turf!

As Sam is clearly in possession of some sort of literacy I assume this obtuseness is a stylistic choice, but that doesn’t save it from being pointless and dull and actually counter-productive.

Melbourne/Sydney rivalry is artfully rendered by Sam in a totally novel way:

Melbourne men are only too happy to meet a new crop of singles. One gent told the media Melbourne women were too hard to meet because they were all “introspective and introverted,” while saying Sydney women were “much more assertive.” (Which is interesting, considering Sydney men will say that Sydney women are impossible to talk to!)

And answering Sam’s opening gambit, “what do you think is so wrong with women in this city these days?” – I’d say it’s that any of them read her blog. Advice I usually follow, when not seeking to stir myself up on a quiet day.

To finish on a positive note, The Guardian’s website has a Life & Style section that doesn’t rely on such formulaic content. The articles on the Women page regularly engage with serious issues affecting women – such as legislation affecting the sex industry – and call on feminist perspectives. Fairfax on the other hand have turned tabloid – probably because it is easier to do so than trying to surpass standard tropes.

Posted in Media Watch, Relationships | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Appropriate result for the long term abused

Posted by Cate on March 27, 2009

Supporters of victims of domestic violence are no doubt relieved to see that the case against a teenager charged with murdering her stepfather after years of abuse has been dropped.
The 19-year-old from northern Victorian had been accused of shooting her stepfather, 34, after he threatened her with a firearm. She had been subject to year of ongoing physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

You’ll recall my take on the case earlier this year. I’ve still not recieved any information about the repercussions to the school who failed to mandatory report the ongoing abuse.

Posted in Sex Crimes, sexual assault, Uncategorized, violence against women | Tagged: , , | 2 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 »

What A Silly Murdered Lesbian!

Posted by Mel Campbell on December 12, 2008

Just now I was reading a very sad story about a woman in Yagoona, NSW, who was found dead under suspicious circumstances in a hotel where she and her lesbian partner were long-term residents. But the way the Daily Telegraph “exclusively” decided to cover the story was very dispiriting: “Dead Yagoona woman a lesbian who thought she was a man”.

Headlines like this really expose the patriarchal idea that being a man is the best thing evz, being a hot hetero woman is the next best, and being a butch lesbian – a woman who doesn’t want to fuck men, but adopts other ‘manly’ attributes – is the absolute bottom of the heap.

The story goes on to detail how the dead woman’s partner is allegedly pregnant from a one-night stand – because, y’know, lesbians secretly crave spermination – and that the dead woman “had convinced herself she was the father of the child”. What a silly lesbian! Thought she was a man – and now she’s dead! Ding-dong!

Seriously, though, the most disgusting part about this story is that way it presents lesbianism as just another one of the “grim” yet sensationalised circumstances of a woman’s death. I found this story through a link on another page that read: “Tragic delusion: Lesbian’s life and death at Snake Pit”. The Snake Pit, you see, is a bar the couple, “both heavy drinkers”, frequented. The story repeatedly juxtaposes the victim’s sexuality with the run-down surrounds of the hotel where she lived. (The latter forms a “grim scene”, which the paper has helpfully made into a photo gallery.)

It’s just shoddy, exploitative journalism. The entire angle, complete with quotes, – that the murdered woman “thought she was a man” – comes from an unnamed “friend” of the couple who spoke to the paper. Didn’t the journalist, Lauren Williams, treat this story with any skepticism or compassion at all? Perhaps she even made the whole thing up – there’s no evidence she didn’t.

I hesitate to say dismissive stuff like, “Typical Daily Telegraph tabloid crap!” because we shouldn’t allow tabloids to get away with sexist, homophobic crap just because they’re tabloids. We should demand rigorous, unbiased reportage from all newspapers: bleeding-heart broadsheets and populist rags alike.

Posted in glbt, Media Watch, violence against women | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »