BAW BAW // MANY have accepted sexist marketing and products as a fact of life, but a seminar in Warragul on empowering women has told locals they need not stand for it and action can cause change.
Above: Anti-sexism campaigners and supporters: Kelly Koochew, Katrina Jackson, Felicity Langton, Anne Cutchie, Leanne Anderson, Kandi Burke, Erika McInerney, Sallie Jones, Kerry Irwin, Donna Lewis and Sarah Smethurst. Photo: William PJ Kulich.
First published in the 11 September 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
Eighty people attended the event [in September] to hear Felicity Langton, chair of gender equality group Collective Shout, discuss her group’s successful campaigns and ways the influence of sexist marketing on children can be lessened.
Collective Shout campaigns against groups engaging in activities potentially harmful to women and girls, as well as men and boys.
Ms Langton told the audience of occasions when women had been used as plates at events, Hooters sponsoring youth football teams and the sexist decorations of rental camper van company Wicked Campers.
Sexualised clothing aimed at every youth bracket including “I’m a tits man” baby shirts and underwear for six year old girls with “call me” and “I heart rich boys” slogans was also discussed, as well as bras pitched at girls under the age of 13.
“You can’t be telling [girls] they should have bigger breasts,” she said.
The group has also campaigned against the Lingerie Football League and successfully saw Target and Kmart pull Grand Theft Auto 5 from its shelves for promoting violence and sexual assault against women.
Through these examples, Ms Langton explained how the campaigns worked and the kind of message Collective Shout had tried to send.
“Sometimes we’ll get people who come on and say ‘all men should die,’ [but] this is not about having an antagonistic gender war,” she said.
“It’s about respectfully putting our opinion and evidence on the table.
“It’s not a one sided debate – everyone together has to talk about respect for everyone.”
The take home message of the talk was one of action.
“Change will not come if we wait for someone else,” Ms Langton said.
“We are the ones who must make this happen.”
And word is the message has had an impact – a forum organiser told the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen some of those who attended the talk have since successfully lobbied local retailers to remove inappropriate posters.
The problem of sexist behaviour is so entrenched even small changes can be difficult but effective, including basing praise of young girls on achievements, not looks.
“Tell girls they’re okay as they are,” Ms Langton said.
“It’s really hard to criticise little girls not for their looks. Not talking to her about her looks takes a lot of reprogramming.”
Ms Langton said teaching children media literacy was important in lessening the impact of sexist messages. To teach children media literacy, try these activities with them:
- watching photoshopping demonstrations on YouTube to show many photos of women in the media are not reality. This also includes looking at photoshopping bloopers to bring humour into the conversation.
- looking at images in advertising carefully and comparing the bodies of people in ads to “real bodies.”
- reviewing song lyrics together; adults can give context to words and phrases children may not understand.
Ms Langton also suggested watching films with the Bechdel test in mind. To pass the test, a film must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man.
Taking action on sexist messages can take many forms, and Ms Langton said it was important for children to see parents taking action.
“Let your kids see you standing up,” she said.
“Tell your kids how you are changing a purchase, sign petitions [and] share messages on social media.”
You can find resources for dealing with sexist campaigns and images, including research papers on the sexualisation of children, at collectiveshout.org.
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