Monday, February 28, 2011

That's what I'm talking 'bout! (Part 2)

WARNING: This post contains offensive images. Please don't scroll down unless you are prepared to see them. These images appear on t-shirts and are for sale in regular shopping centres.

City Beach (again). Openly displayed, as are they all, often in the front window for all passers-by to see.

Roger David, from the new line "Blood is the new black". The one on the right is copied from a Roxy music CD cover.

To be fair, I have never seen this one for sale at a shopping centre, and it doesn't qualify as pornographic. I use it as another example of some of the offensive content on t-shirts.

This is from Krank clothing, found in a Westfield shopping centre. Similar shirts were displayed out the front of the store. Centre management was dismissive to complaints. Krank stocks Hustler brand shirts (yes, Hustler like the pornographic magazine). Some slogans on these shirts include "Bitches get stiches", "Get a tattoo, pussy" and "Talk sh*t, get hit".

This shirt is from Target.

Even "family friendly" Target is getting in on the soft porn menswear action.

I figured I've already mentioned Nena and Pasadena and their gross sexist like three separate posts.

In all my research to find out who is responsible for regulating clothing, and laws surrounding these issues, I have found a giant gap. I have spoken to Consumer Protection, Human Rights Commission, the Ad Standards Bureau (while they do cover outdoor advertising, that does not extend to clothing) and my local member of parliament who has discussed this with the police.

I am told the Minister for Police is considering legislation in this area, as it is becoming more necessary I suppose. I will be in touch with his office too!

That's what I'm talking 'bout!

WARNING: The images below may be offensive. However, they are all openly displayed on t-shirts and in shopping centres.

This is a Hustler shirt, for sale at a small t-shirt store in a shopping centre.
For sale at Krank clothing store, in a Westfield shopping centre, displayed out the front of the store.

This one is currently available at City Beach surf, one of their many soft-porn shirts. They have also been known to sell R rated toys in the children's toy section.

City Beach surf again.

I quote straight from the website: "Ladies, show a little glamorous attitude...bold and feminine in one sexy package!"

Yes, this shirt is actually designed for women. Not just women, but women who have attitude, and are bold and feminine! They forgot to mention women who have no self respect.

Looks like I'm not the only one who's sick of this

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sufjan, the king

Hi there! I thought I'd take a little break from advocacy, which seems to be a theme on here. A few weeks back, I had a night that changed my life. Seriously. Dave and I went to see Sufjan Stevens live in concert. We were both fans, but had only recently really discovered him.

For those of who aren't familiar with his music, I would probably describe it as folk, and some of his newer material as electronica. It's really hard to label his music, as it is constantly evolving. He is an amazing songwriter and a true musician. I usually don't like songs the first time I hear them, but this guy is incredibly.

Check out Chicago, which is at least a few years old. And for something newer, here's a live version of Now that I'm older from The Age of Adz. (The lyrics start just before 1. 30)

There were times as I was in the audience I just felt like my head could just explode from all the beauty and brilliant music. Go check him out today!!! Best concert of my life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Buddy Franklin's not inviting me to his birthday party and most likely not going to be my friend anymore...

I read on a football message board a few weeks back a discussion about the new line of N&P shirts, and one of the young men mentioned in passing that he liked shirts with "hot naked b*tches" on them.

If that doesn't give any indication of why I think these images are so harmful- when pictures like these exist on t-shirts, it becomes more normalized, more acceptable to objectify women and to view them as 'less than human'. They're not people with thoughts and feelings, they are just breasts, butts, legs.

I just thought I should update those who are interested on the Nena and Pasadena situation. You know that letters were exchanged and phone calls were made, but without any real success. Since then, through the very helpful medium of facebook, there have been others to share their feelings with Nena and Pasadena, contacting them through their website and their facebook page. Some also contacted the ASB about the billboard in Busselton, and some more also contacted the various stores to stock Nena and Pasadena clothing. See here to read more info, and to read some brilliant letters in the comments section.

Lance "Buddy" Franklin, AFL player, is one of the designers and also models for the brand, and while members of Collective Shout were doing some research, the AFL Respect and Responsibility Policy was discovered. To summarize some of the most relevant points,

"to work towards creating safe, supportive and inclusive environments for women and girls across the football industry as well as the broader community.

The Respect and Responsibility Policy is about shifting attitudes – ensuring that people throughout the Australian Football industry are aware, and have structures in place, that recognise that violence against women and behaviour that harms or degrades women, is never acceptable."

Next, letters were written to the AFL regarding Buddy Franklin's "extra-curricular" activities, being the face of a company that promotes soft porn t-shirts. Here's mine.

Buddy Franklin is the face of Nena and Pasadena clothing. The shirts blatantly objectify women, in overly sexual poses, revealing naked body parts. The women’s heads are often absent, reducing them to a series of “hot” body parts. There are slogans like “Angel of silence” and “I can be whatever you want me to be”. Women are portrayed as playthings men use for their own sexual gratification. In a workplace this would be sexual harassment.

Players are heroes for young boys, sending a disappointing example. It sends a message women’s bodies are for men’s entertainment. This is inconsistent with the Respect and Responsibility policy which sats “behaviour that…degrades women is never acceptable”. Does the AFL condone the making and promoting of degrading shirts? What actions does the AFL plan to take?

Do I really believe the AFL is committed to promoting respect for women? I would like to, but I do acknowledge that many corporations do not prioritize acting in a moral or ethical way over revenue. However, if anything is to make a difference for the AFL, it would be public pressure.

Yesterday an article came out on ABC's news website by Canberra author Melinda Tankard Reist about Nena and Pasadena and the AFL. Last night, after I posted a link to this article on Nena and Pasadena's facebook page, I was blocked, along with others who (even politely) shared their concerns. Apparently they posted this message on their page.

"I am the Head Designer of NENA & PASADENA & I'll make this very quick and easy to understand! - FASHION IS FOREVER CHANGING! - All designs in question were designed over a year ago! - They have been delivered and sold already! ALL your comments and attempts to slander my designs and our brands will only increase the sa...les!! I wish it wasn't so, but Unfortunately that's how it works. I pride myself in designing t-shirts which appeal to my customers.. Please feel free to message me with all your concerns. But know your not helping your own cause by posting on this page. Kind Regards,Paul Edwards Tim Arandt Ryan Griggs"

This morning I recorded a Melbourne radio interview on this same issue, which will be broadcast next week. I have also heard that James Valentine was discussing the issue on Sydney radio today.

To quote Julie Gale, founder of the organization Kids Free 2 B Kids, "When there is so much violence and sexual abuse committed against women- it is utterly incomprehensible why anyone would willingly perpetuate objectification. Dehumanising women is the first step that allows for such behaviour."

If these shirts are unacceptable to you, I would ask you to please consider writing even just a short letter to N&P to say so. Your voice means something.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What went down when I called Nena and Pasadena....

So, let's get up to speed. Nena and Pasadena clothing has released several offensive t-shirts with semi naked women in provocative poses, including topless. (Refer to my previous post for more information.) Several people that I know have have made complaints, either directly to Nena and Pasadena, to the Advertising Standards Bureau, or to the stores that choose to stock this clothing. My sister in law Kylie received the following response from Nena and Pasadena.

Thanks for your comments and views but we feel we know what young people want to wear so we choose to continue our design concepts in full. I have three teenage boys of my own and have discussed your email with them, they were humored by your thoughts and added that the 6 o'clock news contained far more adult contact than a tshirt!! If you feel that we degrade women or promote violence against women please further your emails to the editor of the herald sun.

Kind Regards

Tim Arandt.

This response was unsatisfying to me, as it didn't actually address anything we mentioned in our letters. Tim also left a mobile phone number, so today I called it and had a chat to him. We had a pleasant enough conversation, well, debate. I will summarize what his argument was.

  • There are plenty of other companies making similar soft porn t-shirts.
  • There is a market for the shirts- teenagers want to buy them.
  • They do not believe in censorship of any kind.
  • They are acting within the bounds of the law.
  • They actually already removed some of the worst offending shirts, including those with drug references, suicidal references, and some kind of machine gun shirt.
  • Kids already see porn everywhere.
  • The shirts are not aimed at children (as consumers).
  • It should be up to parents to decide what they will allow their kids to wear- and he also thinks the shirts are distasteful and would not let his teenage sons wear them.

Some fair points. I also shared some additional ideas.

While there may be other companies doing it, and regardless if there are teenagers who will pay for them, these images are distasteful and offensive, and as a corporation they should act responsibly- and pornographic, sexist images and slogans are not that.

As for the freedom of speech/censorship issue (which always comes up)- he said "I don't believe in censorship." I agreed education and discussion is important, especially for young people who need to learn to think critically for themselves. And I don't think teenagers are stupid, but I do think they are bombarded by a hyper-sexualised culture and become desensitised.

I asked him if he did not believe in censorship, would he think it was appropriate to put racist slogans on a t-shirt. He said if someone chooses to wear a shirt with the word 'Nigger' across it, he should be free to. (Question: Then am I free to smack said person?) While I agreed that people should be free to wear what they choose, I pointed out that by designing and manufacturing these shirts, they are not just allowing people to choose to wear offensive clothing, but providing the offensive clothing for those stupid enough to wear them. There is a difference there.

I quote Melinda Tankard Reist, author and activist for women's issues, "Free speech shouldn't mean hate speech. Free speech should be fair speech."

I agree that kids do see soft porn all the time. The public sphere is covered in it. This is damaging to their natural development. Children when faced with adult, sexual material do not have the emotional maturity to process it and make accurate judgments about it as an adult might. It gives them false ideas about what it means to be a man, or a woman and qualities that are considered the most valuable i.e. being hot, thin and sexy. They should be free not to have this material imposed on them, as should I, and anyone else who chooses not to participate in viewing pornography.

AND- the fact that kids are already exposed to pornography doesn't make it okay to manufacture pornographic t-shirts too. I can choose not to allow my children to watch video hits, and control their internet use (as they become older) but a t-shirt is a walking billboard. Regardless of the age group these shirts are intended for, they are t-shirts! I have seen many of them as I am out and about, just as children will as young men wear them out in public. I can not choose to not see them, my choice has been taken away.

I agreed with him that to a large extent parents are responsible for what they allow their children to wear/watch etc, and I do prevent my children from watching or seeing certain inappropriate material. But I'm not that naive, when my kids are teenagers, who are they going to want to listen to? Their friends, or their Mummy? Especially when a lot of things (like stylish clothing) is specifically marketed to them as desirable, cool, and necessary to show off their identity? Plus, once again...they are t-shirts! If I want to keep them from seeing a t-shirt someone is wearing, I will have to lock them away in a tower or something. (Yes, I just watched Tangled.) And what about the kids whose parents aren't so vigilant?

The fact that he acknowledges the t-shirts are distasteful and he would not let his own children wear them indicates pretty clearly to me that the shirts are offensive, but the fact that they would still defend their right to sell products like this also clearly indicates they are profitable!

What's the big deal? I'll tell you!

First of all, for those of who you are thinking, what's the big deal? It's just a shirt, and there is far worse out there.

The t-shirts reduce women down to a collection of body parts, or even just one body part, e.g. o naked lower body from the back only (see here), exposed breasts only (see here) etc. Or here or here. Often the women pictured does not have a head, or her head is deliberately covered up. This is completely objectifying women. The pictures are not women anymore, they are just bare breasts, a naked bottom, bare legs. When women become merely objects for men to use to satisfy their lusts, they become dehumanised. They are viewed as less than human, a piece of meat, having less rights, being just a thing.

Certain pictures depict women being silenced. The one with a woman's exposed breasts actually has a head attached (progress!) but it is completely covered by a scarf. Another, with a topless woman covering her breast with her hand, reads "Angel of silence". Silencing women and displaying their body parts as entertainment is very disturbing to me. Even more so to see these images represented as fashion, and seeing it on a man's t-shirt.

I am not saying that all men who buy a t-shirt like this view women as objects and will go on to rape and assault them. But I do believe that when women are depicted as sexual playthings for men, on music videos, magazines, advertisements etc that is becomes more normal and more acceptable to view them as such. Particularly as they are typically portrayed as available for sex and eager to be used, some men feel a sense of entitlement to them. There is certainly enough evidence to suggest that similar attitudes towards women are problematic, as increasingly more often we read in the newspaper about the latest AFL scandal, or a gang rape scenario, likely with high school aged students, and possibly filmed and uploaded online. Our culture is one that can be dangerous for women, and each of the media I listed before, including these t-shirts, contributes to this culture.

A common argument is "If you don't like it, don't look" or something close to it. Let's ignore the fact that many times, if you leave your house, you can no longer not look. As a woman, regardless of whether I buy or wear one of these shirts, I am affected. As more young people grow up surrounded by a buttload of advertising and degrading material to women (yes, a buttload), feeling that this is completely normal, the more acceptable this will be.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Nena and Pasadena....uncool.

Some of you may have come across the clothing brand “Nena and Pasadena”, stocked at City Beach, edge, Globalize and Live clothing stores. It is a major contributor to the pornographic t-shirt trend. To see what kind of images are on their t-shirts, check out the following link.


There are images of women from the back, naked from the waist down. There is one with a topless women, with her breast and nipple uncovered and exposed-with a scarf covering her entire head. Another has a topless woman covering her breast with her hand along with the slogan “Angel of silence”. And there are plenty more.

Having pornographic images on t-shirts is both confronting and offensive to women. They are made worse with sexist slogans and depictions designed to silence women, e.g. “angel of silence”, and the topless woman who has a scarf around her head so she cannot talk.

Nena and Pasadena have a billboard on Queen Street in Busselton, WA, featuring a two pictures- on the right, a woman wearing a dress, and on the left, and man wearing a white t-shirt with the words “Angel of the City” underneath and the image of a woman’s naked lower half from the bottom down. This is just another example of images of women reducing them to specific body parts, as she has no face, just a naked back side. (This picture is also the profile picture for Nena and Pasadena’s facebook page, found below.)

You can help by making a complaint to the Advertising Standards Bureau about this billboard. You can do that here.

To make a complaint to Nena and Pasadena, contact them here.


To make a complaint to the stores that stock this brand, you can contact them here.

City Beach




Thursday, February 3, 2011

That awkward moment when your child calls your bluff

Hi there! I'm back from my holiday, settling into my new place slowly, and ready to blog some more. The kids are getting used to the new house, the backyard seems much more interesting and they have new, exciting bedrooms to destroy (I give them about 8 days.)

Moving house really disrupted their routine, as it tends to do when all of your things are in a box, and you suddenly live in a different town. Jack and Isabel have shared a room for maybe a year, and never been fantastic at going to sleep at night from toddlerhood up, but in a fresh house, they seem to have renewed energy levels for playing up at nighttime. In the past, we locked their doors with an extension cord- but then I kept needing to use an extension cord for things, so we progressed to a door lock fashioned out of some of Dave's old ties. This way, they can't come out of their room and eventually seem to give up and go to sleep.

In our new house, though, we have no tie-lock, unless I put it in a special box for weapons- to -use- on- children when we were packing, and haven't found it yet. So every five minutes, either Dave or myself bursts into their room with the usual "What's going on!? Back to bed. Blah blah. Random threat." After doing this for awhile, you quickly begin to realize if you have to go in every five minutes, what you are doing is not effective! Smacking bottoms- not working. Threats to take toys away for a whole day- not imminent, therefore not working. I'm tired and my brain is fried...I ran out of ideas. But then...

I burst into their room. (Using 'stern' voice...)"If I catch either of you out of bed or calling out AGAIN, you will go and sleep in the shed. Do you understand!??" They look at me with wide eyes and say "Yes Mummy," and I leave the room, satisfied that surely this time I have gotten through to them.

About 2 minutes later, almost on cue, it starts up again. Right! "Time to go to the shed." Jack panics. "No I'll be good! I'll stay in my bed!" and pulls his blanket up protectively. I reach out for Isabel and she quietly and compliantly takes my hand and follows me. "I like sleeping in the shed," she assures me," cos I'm brave."

Aww, crap.

I keep leading her to outside. "You know it's very dark in the shed".
"And you'll be all by yourself."
I know, here I am helping my child develop a phobia of the shed. Gold star for Mummy.

So I just keep marching her to the shed, pretending I, and not my three year old daughter, am in control. I will not lose to a three year old. I refuse.

We get to the shed and I open it up. I look around and wonder what I actually expected her to do in there. Oh well, keep acting, can't show weakness. "Lie down,"I instruct her, and she obediently lies down on the concrete. I can't believe how pathetic this is. "Good night." I walk out the door leaving it open, and go back inside to sit down with my husband who has just witnessed my embarrassment. And now I wait.

Luckily for me, within a few minutes, Isabel returns and announces she is ready to stay in her bed, giving me an out. (YES!) So keeping up the stern facade, I escort her back to her bed.

And you know what? They both went to sleep without any more trouble. Dave thinks this is pure coincidence. I have no comment.

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