Monday Media Study: Lad-mag lip service

Monday Media Study: Lad-mag lip service

Media commentator, author and Collective Shout co-founder Melinda Tankard Reist and I had a DM marathon this morning. We often do. Since meeting Melinda last year, we've become regular online sparring partners; she thinks I'm soft, I think she's too hard-line. But we generally respect each other's opinions. What's more, she has research to back up her opinions. Piles of it. And books. And co-collaborators, such as Clive Hamilton, University of NSW academic Nina Funnell and her fellow Collective Shouters.

On her blog, she writes about "issues affecting women and girls, from body image, to eating disorders, to harmful cultural and media messages, to the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in the media and popular culture... the global subordination of women, the worldwide trade in their bodies, about the sister industries of prostitution and pornography".

She is always firm in her viewpoints; unwavering in her mission. And she attracts more than her fair share of haters for her boldness. But it's a boldness I believe is needed to counteract the sheer volume of opposing messages being fed into the pop-culture and media mainstream, causing a general apathy around issues such as premature sexualisation of both young girls and boys, which has been shown to lead to a plethora of problems linked to negative self-image.

Mission Australia's latest survey results show just how much of a problem that is becoming, as did the front page of the Gold Coast Bulletin on Saturday, which headlined a story linking steroid use and violence to male body image issues. 

This blog is different; both friend and foe to media, it aims to celebrate practises and content that enhance and benefit the lives of women, while asking questions about accepted practises and providing a general overview of what's happening on the "glossy beat".

Often I edit by omission, choosing to ignore things that I don't think are worthy of discussing or polluting the blog space. Sometimes I feel indignant, most often as the result of a cumulative effect of media transgressions, a personal, God-led conviction or general disenchantment with the world (woe!), and am led to write something more vitriolic than usual. I'm very wary of being a puppet for anyone's cause unless I feel a strong personal affiliation with it. 

In Philippians, Paul encourages Christians to think only on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable... excellent or praiseworthy."

Unfortunately, that often leaves slim pickings. So imagine my excitement when a publication that usually disappoints does something to pique my particular Christian/feminist/media interests and middle-brow art/fashion/political/humour sensibility. I simply have to share it!

Hence the tweet "Have to give one to Zoo mag this week for Brendan Fevola Un-Australian of the Year commentary". Posted prior to actually reading the feature (later shilling out $4.40 for the privilege) off the back of an SBS news report. "Hurrah!", was my first thought, "Zoo is actually shaming a fella for his transgressions against the female sex!".

"Hey there," responded Tankard-Reist. "I read Zoo's commentary re Fevola as total sarcasm, not deserving of any points. It is mocking the outcry."

Just like it mocked the canonisation of Mary MacKillop. First rule of journalism: check your sources. Another rule: tenuous story hooks often lead to misguided outcomes.

Zoo magazine is an extreme and obvious example of some of the lesser publications the media world spews up for mass consumption. I think it's generally accepted that it is diminishing for women and helps to perpetuate the idea that men should aspire to hooking up with Barbie-like pin-up girls while passing their time looking at pictures of animals mating, revelling in the stupidity of mankind and watching new TV shows "featuring cannibalism, child molesters and rashy crotches" (FYI Bob's Burgers is the creation of a guy who's worked with Ricky Gervias).

To give Zoo's readers and editors credit, a lot of the content is tongue-in-cheek. But flicking through the most recent issue bile actually rises in my esophagus. 

Meet the "perky blonde" Zoo babe, aerobics champ and former Miss Universe finalist who survived a Gold Coast shooting who is still hot! Celebrate the comedians who mock people with Tourette's, buy underage drinkers alcohol and who "want to abduct the bitch, chop her up and juice her"! Check out this picture of a passed-out drunk chick! Ha, ha, ha!

And then there's the "UnAustralian of the Year 2011" feature, which places Julian Assange in first placed, followed by God (responsible not only for the resurrection of Hey Hey but also the Queensland flooding), Princess Mary, accused of the crime of speaking with a Danish accent: "Despite being the daughter of bogan parents from Tassie, the Crown Princess of Denmark now speaks with a Danish accent. Come off it, Mary – before you met Fred, the only Danish that past your lips was the odd pastry from Hobart Bakery after a big night on the sauce".

The list also includes Julia Gillard ("stabbing a mate in the back to get a promotion"), Kevin Rudd ("for being a giant wuss"), the Big Banks ("who indulge in legalised extortion, robbery and fraud on a daily basis"), Jimmy from MasterChef ("We're still not sure how the slave to spice made the show's final four by cooking curries for entree, main course and dessert"), Joseph Guiso ("married Honey, a labrador he adopted five years ago"), WA Liberal MP Peter Abetz ("campaigning to have a popular wet T-shirt competition scrapped") and David Koch.

If knocking people down while celebrating man's woeful ways is being Australian, by Zoo's definition, I'd rather not be one. And I'd like to retract that Tweet*.

See also:
Media Study: Bingle v Markson, Fraser-Kirk v McInnes, and sexism in the Australian media
Monday Media Study: Grazia's Bingle Bungle & Groggate
Media Study: Gossipy Goodwill
*Monday Media Study: Social Media Twits
Dude With a Duffle's Lad Mag Adventures

Girl With a Satchel


Melinda Tankard Reist said...

Others would dig their heels in and refuse to reconsider. Not you Erica. Commendations. And hope you get to discover my soft and cuddly side soon. Much love. Melinda.

Anonymous said...

Please, please, please - no more mention of Melinda Tankard Reist.

She's pure sensationalism. Ugh