JAMILA: Are we overusing our sexism outrage?


I’m rather good at being outraged.

Okay – enough with the false modesty – I’m exceptionally good at being outraged. Outrage is my default position. Outrage may not be my ACTUAL middle name but it’s certainly one of my nicknames. I enjoy writing about, talking about, heck, I occasionally indulge in a little interpretative dance about my outrage.

And feminist outrage is my specialty.

So you can imagine my angsty anticipation when I logged onto Twitter yesterday afternoon and saw that lingerie brand Kayser was being slammed for blaming rape victims. “WTF! Who did? How dare they? What’s wrong with the world! Damn the patriarchy. Let me at ’em!” I thought.

Kayser Lingerie had sent this tweet out to their followers:


And this was followed by a lot of outrage. Outrage on Twitter. Outrage on Facebook. Outrage on Kayser’s website. And outrage on various online opinion and news websites.

Kayser have since explained that the offending tweet was written by an intern (a penis-owning-one) and the tweet was eventually deleted once the social media manager at Kayser figured out how to, you know, use social media.

I wasn’t impressed by the tweet. I really wasn’t.

Implicit in that sentence is a message that sex is entirely about men and what men want, with blatant disregard for the wishes of women. It also paints the woman as the passive character in the exchange. The movie watching and what follows is not about her and her choices; the consequences of her movie watching are pre-determined.

But… I wasn’t really outraged.

Why? Well, the impact that tweet was going to have just didn’t seem outrage-worthy. Because I seriously doubt the author realised or intended the message the tweet’s phrasing actually delivered. The author probably just meant that when you’re going on a date and it’s at a bloke’s house and you’re going to be sitting in close proximity and it’s going to be dark, said bloke is probably hoping you’ll take your top off at some stage during the evening and why not be wearing a pretty bra (ideally purchased from Kayser).

Sandy and Danny at the movies.

My mum taught me that much when I was 14 (well, not the pretty bra bit but the ‘boys will try something on and you should be prepared for that’ bit). And she certainly didn’t cause me any offense – so why should I get up in arms this time around?

The tweet was dumb. The tweet was ignorant. But in a country where one in five women experience sexual violence in their lifetimes, why are we bothering to get outraged about the semantics of some barely-out-of-his-teens intern at a clothing manufacturing company, when we could be channeling that outrage where it really matters?

I’m treading tentatively here. Partly because I’m worried that I haven’t switched my holiday brain off properly and that once work-brain kicks back in the outrage meter will go through the roof.

Moreover, Kayser have since announced they will be donating a percentage of their proceeds to White Ribbon Australia. That’s a direct result of the outrage generated – so surely it was a good thing? White Ribbon will use that money to make a real and meaningful difference in the attitudes of the community about violence against women.

And at a time in Australian politics where sexism and misogyny are finally getting the airtime they are due, do we actually hurt our cause by getting up in arms about the small stuff? Does that just give fodder to the other side of the sexism debate, to say we’re making something out of nothing? Should we be reserving our outrage for the bigger, more public, intentionally offensive stuff?

I’m confused. I don’t know what to think. And I don’t know where to put my outrage. What did you think of the tweet?


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