So I’m sitting happily in a Melbourne cafe eating brunch and having a leisurely read of the newspapers. All of them. Kid-free. A total indulgence. As I ate my poached eggs with sides of spinach, smoked salmon and avocado, I noticed a promo on the front page of one section for an opinion piece by Angela Shanahan.
I don’t usually read Angela Shanahan’s editorials because I find them rather shouty and predictably right wing. Extremely conservative, often at the expense of common sense.
But the headline was “Raunch Culture Drowns Us All In A Sea Of Sleaze” and it was illustrated by some magazine covers. The two I could make out were Cosmo and, perplexingly, the Australian Women’s Weekly.
How could I resist that? So I turned to the page and began to read. It was confusing stuff. I really had no idea what Angela was trying to say, starting off as she did with some long-winded analogy about a Ben Elton novel I wasn’t familiar with.
I persevered out of sheer determination to discover how The Women’s Weekly was related to ‘raunch culture’ (I’m still none the wiser on that one) and was rewarded (or punished) by stumbling over my name. And not in a good way.
Apparently, I am somehow responsible for encouraging raunch culture and promoting the sexualisation of girls. Me and the Women’s Weekly.
….When you listen to some of the sneers and jeers that emanate from the present priestly, and priestessly, class every time the subject of sex is mentioned by someone with an ordinarily conservative view of life –and that includes sexual modesty and a reverence for procreative sex within marriage — you would think overt sterile sexuality is now compulsory, a bit like sport used to be when I was at school.
We really are living in looking-glass land. The people advocating continence, faithfulness and virtue are jeered, while the promoters of sexual promiscuity, fecklessness and vice pass po-faced feminist judgment.
Using the moral yardstick of the women’s magazine, today’s little Alice reads Dolly and gets tips on fellatio, while her mum is addicted to Twilight and is trying to look 16. It is amazing any girl comes out with her sanity, let alone her virginity, intact.
How did this happen? One explanation is the huge power of media aimed at women.
If you value sex, marriage and sexual modesty, the last magazine you probably read was Australian Knitting Patterns, 1970, or thereabouts. These days even The Australian Women’s Weekly, once bastion of common sense and taste, has been forced down-market.
If you read the magazines for women that are supposed to set trends you will certainly have a different view of Australian sexual norms.
Rather than men such as Tony Abbott being moralisers or the arbiters of moral norms in Australia, it is actually the powerful female editors of women’s magazines, especially Cosmopolitan and its junior version Dolly, which are the moral arbiters today.
When Abbott made his comments in Women’s Weekly about his daughters and sexuality, who did the news media turn to? The likes of blogger and tweeter Mia Freedman are routinely asked for their opinion on sexual matters and we have also come to expect comments from female academics such as Catharine Lumby, author of The Porn Report.
Their comments are usually steeped in the pernicious gobbledygook of sexual politics, while at the same time advocating a degree of sexual licence that is very damaging for all young people.
No wonder there has been a series of popular online protests against the overt sexualisation of girls such as Kids Free to be Kids, Young Media Australia and Australian Women’s Forum. The people doing the protesting are mostly ordinary mums.
They are fed up with more than the imagery of the media. They are frightened by the huge potential to harm their children. This used to be called corruption. Publicly protesting this stuff is a direct slap in the face to modern raunch culture.
However, at the same time, the women’s media sneers at the “new moralists”, who are preventing expression of sexuality by “young women” (as they insist on calling prepubescents to 30-somethings). But, with appropriate gravitas, the editors tell us they are very worried about the body image problems of girls .
There is even a government group set up to deal with this, the final imprimatur for any useless agenda. Solution? A few size 10 models instead of size 6s.
This phony angst about body image in a sea of sleaze almost prompts me to take seriously a naked Hawko, hoping to be a “role model” with her less than perfect left elbow.
Perhaps Dolly wants to encourage Australian girls to lose their body image inhibitions, so that they can lose their virginity if they wish when they morph from girls to young women, most of whom are morphing rapidly, to size 20.
Sexuality is the domain claimed by feminists. But sexual politics is really about the women who have influence, such as Freedman, who claims with a straight face after working on sexually exploitative women’s magazines in Australia that “diversity, empowerment and reality” were her editorial mantras during her time as editor-in-chief of Cosmo in Australia. She should have thrown in world peace. We might have believed her.
Alrighty, Angela, where to start?
You seem to be pissed about rather a lot of things and they seem to be rather muddled up. I won’t bore everyone by refuting your wild claims one at a time because that would take far too long.
Instead, I’ll summarise.
I have no idea why you seem to think women’s magazines or indeed women like Catherine Lumby and myself are the enemy. Plainly we are not and if you had taken the time to inform yourself of our work and our views you would know this.
Yes, the media often come to us for comment about women’s issues surrounding pop culture and media. Perhaps this is because we have decades of experience in these areas as well as being parents ourselves. We’re also able to see the nuances and shades of complexity in certain issues in a way that you cannot due to your extreme and broad brushstrokes approach.
And here is where there IS an important distinction to be made about the sexualisation of girls.
Even when there are certain basic issues we agree on, I am always very reluctant to march along side right wing social conservatives such as yourself who campaign under the seemingly agreeable banner: “Anti-Sexualisation Of Girls”.
On the surface, it seems impossible to argue against. If you’re not Anti-Sexualisation-Of-Girls then by default you must be pro-it, right? Wrong.That term is a very broad and subjective one. It’s also highly emotive. In its name, Angela, you veer wildly in your editorial from Dolly to the Autralian Women’s Weekly, from oral sex to body image, mocking the latter while making false accusations about the former.