50 Shades of Deception

I want to make a brief comment on the phenomena that is 50 shades of Grey. But first, I need to make a disclaimer – I have not read the book, and I have certainly not seen the movie. But, I don’t need to eat rat poison before I warn others about it. It promotes violent sex and psychological abuse in the name of ‘romance’. This book romanticises weird, kinky and potentially harmful sex acts, and that is not real life. It is porn.

Porn is always self-seeking, never honest, never truthful, never trusting, and never protecting. There is no hope in it, no kindness, no sacrifice. Porn moves sex from being sacred to being profane.

Men are the major consumers of porn. Australian research shows that by 16 years of age, 100% of boys have been exposed to porn, with the current average age of exposure to boys being around 11-12 years of age.

Girls are also being exposed to porn at an early age – both in seeing it, but also as victims of the boys who have now seen porn as their first sexual experience. The girls become confused and distressed because they want the boys to like them, but what they’re asking for makes them question themselves – they are left thinking something is wrong with them for not wanting to do the acts depicted in porn.

Most women hate porn. They recognise that porn destroys actual relationships. So why are women loving Fifty Shades??? I believe the answer is in the supposed “happy ever after ending”. While a lot of the sex in Fifty Shades is cruel and sadistic, as in mainstream porn, it is deceitfully packaged for women who want a “fairy tale” ending. In male-targeted porn, the woman is an object, and only interesting for as long as the sex lasts. Once done with her, the man is onto the next, and the next, and the next. She is disposable and easily replaced. No happy ending here for women. But in Fifty Shades, the young woman – I prefer to call her the victim – captures the rich, sadistic, hero, and he doesn’t move on to the next conquest once he has his wicked way with her. In fact, he actually marries her and confesses undying love.

This is why groups fighting against Domestic Violence are so angry about this movie. It’s perpetuating a lie. Violence doesn’t lead to love – we know that intuitively, and life confirms it. In the first 7 weeks of 2015, 13 Australian women had already been killed as a result of domestic violence.

But this awful movie encourages victims to hang in there. It perpetuates the lie that he ‘really does love her’, despite torturing her, that in the end it will work out, and they will live happily ever after. They have denied the truth that porn objectifies women, and sold us the lie that he really loves her, despite his sadistic cruelty.

But that is not love! It is lust and I want to sound a warning that we need to know the difference. We need to stand up against the sexualized, objectifying, pornification of our society that is happening. Because when women become objects, they lose their humanity and the accompanying respect and human rights that they deserve.

Before we go any further, let’s establish what love actually is. Our authority is the bible and this is what it says –

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

So, on the one hand we have lust, which results in the objectification of women, and on the other hand we have love, which results in honour and respect.

Which of these two – lust vs love – are we being inundated with?

We have so much information about sexuality coming at us from everywhere – the media, advertising billboards, movies, TV shows, music clips, just everywhere. Recently, the Australia Institute research found that this sexual saturation is contributing to a wide range of risks to children and is, in fact, derailing the natural process of sexual development which commences in childhood and is a normal part of development. Our sexual health is closely related to our mental and emotional health. Because sexuality is more than biological – it is also relational, emotional, cognitive, social and spiritual.

Let’s consider a few of the outcomes of this pornified culture we currently share –

  • 70% of adolescent girls have body dissatisfaction
  • Eating disorders are the second leading cause of mental disorder, and the third most common chronic illness for young females in Australia.
  • 1 in 5 young Australians suffer mental illness with young women twice as likely as young men to be affected.
  • There has been a dramatic increase in the hospitalisation of young Australian women who have intentionally harmed themselves.
  • Over the past decade, the number of cases of self-harm using a sharp object have more than doubled
  • The average age of first sexual experiences for both sexes in Australia is 16
  • 20% of Australian girls have intercourse before their 15th birthday
  • almost one in three girls has had sexual intercourse without a condom by year 12.
  • 13% of adolescent girls aged 12-15 years who were tested, had chlamydia.
  • The number of chlamydia cases reported annually in Australia is far higher than for any other infectious disease
  • One of the side effects of chlamydia in females is sterility
  • The Australian Kids Helpline reports that between January and March last year, 500 young people contacted them about sexting. 75% were female. One in three were aged between 10 and 14.

In drawing these facts to your attention, I am not trying to be sensational. The Australian Medical Association reports that sexualised marketing and advertising is contributing to children focusing on an inappropriate sexualised concept of body image. This impacts on their growth and physical functioning, including a reduced ability to think and learn. They also say that much of our advertising idealises a particular kind of female body, specifically one that is slim, toned and shapely and that this is contributing to the increasing number of children dieting at younger ages, trying – often in vain – to copy this concept of ‘physical perfection’.

Inappropriate sexual advertising and messaging should not be dismissed lightly.

There are so many opportunities for us to get involved and really make a difference.

Yesterday, I was sent a photo of this display outside a local Target store.

50Shades

I immediately sent the following email to centre management.

For many years my children and I have shopped at your centre. The reason for my message is to ask you to please remove the Fifty Shades of Grey promotion in the mall outside Target. This book and movie mainstreams women as victims. There are many harmful aspects to this including an early introduction to bondage and sadomasochism themes to children.
Everyday Australians are sick of having sexually explicit messaging wallpapering our lives. If you disagree that is your right, but I would appreciate you explaining to me why it is ok to promote sexualised themes and messaging that are unsuitable for children, where children are. Adults can choose to read or watch what they like. Please allow us the right to protect our children’s innocence in their childhood. Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Later in the day I received a call from the Marketing Manager for the centre who had spoken to Target – they had agreed to move the display.

50Shades2Today, we see the same DVDs on checkout counters in Target stores.

Please consider taking the time to contact Target and request that DVDs that are not suitable for children, such as this one, are not be placed where they cannot be avoided by children.

Jesus said that His followers are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”. Being salt and light is not optional. Jesus did not say you can be…or you have the potential to be…He said you are.

Norrie is loved and valued.

Norrie is loved and valued. That’s my message to Norrie, who has won the right to be registered as neither a man nor a woman in the High Court.

But this is a decision with far-reaching implications across Australia and what I want to ask the high court is what it actually means? And where does it end? This is an artificial category that we have created to satisfy people’s preference. It’s not a category based on reality, but rather it is based on a person’s preference. This case came about because Norrie was born a male but decided to have a sex change to become female, but now doesn’t wish to identify as either. As reported, the court’s ruling only applies to someone, like Norrie, who had sex reassignment surgery to become a woman, and now has decided they wish to be non-specific.

Norrie’s lawyers argued that forcing Norrie to choose male or female was to maintain a fiction. To put in law that Norrie is gender neutral is what is maintaining a fiction.

As I write I can’t even shift in my comment to refer to ‘he’ or ‘she’. There is no gender neutral pronoun in English to refer to a person apart from the usually plural ‘they’. Online suggestions include ‘it’, which I refuse to use as it implies that Norrie is not human. Norrie IS human – made in the image of God and loved by God and loved by humanity. But Norrie is very confused. And the High Court has cemented that confusion. Not only for Norrie, but for our society as a whole. We are sowing seeds of great confusion for our future generations.

Already in 2013, the Qld Government has been legally challenged to provide separate toilet facilities for students who identify as transgender and gay. Schools are now assessed on a case by case basis to assess the need.

A person choosing to identify as having no gender at all is another category altogether.

Our culture has largely rejected God and what it means to be male and female in the image of God. But it will never succeed in obliterating gender differences between men and women. I pray that God will enable me to be a woman who bears his image for his glory.

Dismissal of “Boobs” campaign complaints’ undermines women’s worth

Last month the Advertising Standards Board dismissed complaints from the public about Bond’s “Boobs” campaign. The ASB’s decision to dismiss all complaints regarding the campaign was unsurprising given that in the past year the self-regulated body has dismissed most complaints it’s received from the public. Of the 3,640 complaints made to the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) the board looked at 473 and only 68 were found to have breached its Code of Ethics. There is an obvious difference of standards between the ASB and the community – the Advertising Standards Bureau is not in line with community expectations and one of many reasons why the ACL believes government should regulate outdoor advertising to make sure it’s G-Rated.

However, what was surprising though, was the title of their website report on the dismissal of all Bonds “Boobs” complaints, “Storm in a B cup”. The campaign should not have been labelled in such dismissive terms; the concerns regarding this advertising campaign were serious and worthy of respect. The advertiser, Bonds underwear, was certainly treated seriously. In fact, Bonds was quoted in this report as intending to change their name to “Boobs” during their campaign to demonstrate how seriously they take the product of bras.

This is not the first time Bonds has had to defend its product and marketing. In 2010, after public outcry, Bonds withdrew their range of bra-like products for girls from 6 years old. In this current case, the common complaint from women was to do with objectification; women are tired of marketers promoting them as body parts. The fact that Bonds then linked this campaign to breast cancer is poor taste. Breast cancer survivors are outraged. The last thing a woman who has just had a mastectomy needs is for billboards to be highlighting the body part they’ve just lost. Women are more than body parts. Marketers need to start seeing each woman in the context of being a whole unique person.

This blog post was first published at http://www.acl.org.au/2013/11/dismissal-of-boobs-campaign-complaints-undermines-womens-worth/

Every freedom has a form

In an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph this week www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/standing-up-to-the-politciallycorrect-bully-boys/story-fni0cwl5-1226757595694 author Ross Fitzgerald said that “freedom of speech has never been more threatened in Australia”.
He drew attention to the current Queensland government inquiry into sexualised outdoor advertising: “If you’re trying to get a message out in Queensland via outdoor advertising, don’t say anything even vaguely sexual. As a result of pressure from the Australian Christian Lobby, the Queensland government has ordered an enquiry into whether there is too much sex on advertising billboards. If our democratic system is to survive, the right to speak the unvarnished truth needs to be nurtured, even protected.

He is referring to my campaign to make outdoor advertising G Rated in Queensland and the current inquiry on this topic. Whilst I agree that freedom of speech is an important value in a democratic society, it is not an absolute right. It carries with it responsibility and boundaries. Children deserve to be protected from material in public that is likely to harm or disturb them. Freedom of speech should not override the freedom of the community not to be confronted by sexualised imagery or advertising that demeans others – mostly women.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA), The Australia Institute and even the Advertising Standards Board all agree that sexualised advertising is on the rise. The Australian Medical Association has identified that increasing numbers of children are focusing on an inappropriate sexualised concept of body image and that this impacts on their growth and physical functioning, including a reduced ability to think and learn. The AMA affirms that marketing and advertising contribute to this problem. The Australia Institute research found that this sexualisation contributes to an increased risk of sexualised and attention seeking behaviours at an earlier age. They conclude that “the sexualisation of Australian children in advertising and marketing is increasing and involves a wide range of risks to children”. It is clear that the welfare of children should take precedence over absolute freedom of speech in this context.
And if it’s the unvarnished truth that Ross Fitzgerald is after, then I would think he should join my campaign to remove the photo-shopped images of unrealistic women from our outdoor advertising.

Well done Senator!

I applaud Greens Senator, Sarah Hanson-Young for her decision to sue over a photo-shopped image of her in Zoo Magazine. The magazine demeaned the Senator and by extension all women seeking to make a serious contribution to public debate. Zoo magazine is appalling and the staff there are obviously short of ideas and creativity, so they simply decided they could separate the senator’s head from her body and replace her body with that of a bikini model.

Who gains from this? Zoo magazine must think they do.

Who loses? Well, apart from the obvious victim of disrespect, Ms Hanson-Young, every other Australian woman, old and young alike, who aspire to be taken seriously in their chosen profession.

But it’s not just the serious issue of objectifying women that needs to be pointed out here. Not only did the cut-and-paste photographic job demean Ms Hanson-Young, it also demeaned one of the most important issues facing our country. The article, titled “ZOO’s Asylum Seeker Bikini Plan” was published in July 2012, a week after the Senator, with great emotion, addressed the Senate regarding Australia’s humanitarian intake of asylum-seekers.

Shockingly, NSW Supreme Court Justice Lucy McCallum does not agree with the Senator and said this week at the hearing into the matter that she did not believe the photo made the senator look incompetent or immature. Justice McCallum, however, granted Sarah leave to argue her case in front of a jury. The case is going to be heard at a later date.

Meanwhile Zoo magazine continues to corrupt our society with immunity.

The inconsistency of modern western morality

“…you should say what you mean,’ the March Hare went on.
“I do,” Alice hastily replied; `at least–at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.”
“Not the same thing a bit!”, said the Hatter. “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!’.” “You might just as well say,” added the March Hare, “that ‘I like what I get’ is the same thing as ‘I get what I like’!”

I wish we all made a habit of saying what we mean and meaning what we say.  There are so many glaring inconsistencies in our society – we say we expect a certain standard in regards to behaviour, but then promote the opposite as being perfectly legitimate.. until it produces what we originally opposed in behaviour.

You reap what you sow is a modern day idiom which originates in the Bible in Galatians 6:7. It is a valuable lesson.

This year we as a nation have been shocked as we mourned together over the savage and brutal rape and murder of 29 year old Jill Meagher, and the terrible tragedy of young Joan Ryther, also raped, then murdered along with her unborn child by an 18 year old man while she was on her way to work. Her distraught husband pleaded, “Please, please don’t forget my wife, my child and please, don’t let this happen again”.  But on the very day that the memorial service was being held for Joan Ryther just south of Brisbane, on the other side of Brisbane, the Eatons Hill hotel hosted US Hip Hop entertainer, Tyler the Creator, whose lyrics include, “Rape a pregnant b*tch and tell my friends I had a threesome. You got a f*cking death wish? I’m a genie, it’ll get done”. In their promotion of the event they said they were “thrilled to have our venue chosen” and that it was “very exciting”. Murder and rape is not exciting. Rather it is widely condemned in our society. But Tyler the Creator with his message of rape and murder was ‘welcome’. This was despite a 20,000+ strong petition calling for him to not be allowed to spread his messages of hate against women. There was wide-spread, justifiable shock and outrage recently at the alleged assault by Nigella Lawson’s husband, Charles Saatchi, as we viewed in many forms of media, from many angles, photos of him mistreating her and grabbing her throat at a restaurant. As a society we took the opportunity to enforce the fact that women should not put up with domestic violence or any bad behaviour from any man. Bravo! But at the same time, our major cities, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane hosted this Tyler the Creator man, as he ‘entertained’ all-age crowds with lyrics such as “Punch a bitch in her mouth just for talkin’ sh*t”, and we called that art. From the stage in the Sydney concert, the artist shouted out to his loyal fans, “who is going to go out of here tonight and rape and kill someone?”. The shouts of support with many fists raised in the air should send a chill through every Australian. Young people attending the Tyler the Creator concert could be justifiably confused at the outrage directed towards Charles Saatchi for a comparably minor offence.

Respect for our Australian military took a dive this year with more sex scandal details revealed, resulting in the dismissal of five officers. Women had once again been treated as objects rather than equals with some degrading behaviour. This is a huge disappointment to Australians who, every year on Anzac Day, rightly celebrate the bravery, the courage and the heroic behaviour of our soldiers past and present. When those who we look to for protection act in a way that takes advantage of vulnerable people, our national sense of security and pride dissipates because we all acknowledge that there is nothing courageous or heroic about misogyny. But, in the closing hours of the very week that the sexual misdemeanours were revealed, and Australia’s top military representatives were using every means available to convey the message to the public that this behaviour would not be tolerated under any circumstances, a strip club billboard was erected opposite the Gallipoli army barracks in Enoggera, Brisbane. Objectifying women and treating them as less than equal is unacceptable in our culture and we expect more of those in positions of trust. But our Government advertising watchdog dismisses all complaints when a huge brightly lit billboard appeals to our military officers, after a week of scandal, to relax by coming along to a club to objectify women.

We allow the grooming of our society to accept the objectification of women through our advertising and then we are shocked at the outworking of that culture.

But it’s not just the military that is impacted by this sexual advertising. The exact same strip club billboard had been removed weeks before from outside Brisbane Boys Grammar School, 8km away. This was not because the Advertising Standards Board had said it should go. They dismissed all complaints. In the end it was taken down on the back of a successful petition, signed by thousands. If this billboard was deemed to be unsuitable for Spring Hill in Brisbane, why would it be suitable for Enoggera, Brisbane? Both locations are within 500 metres of local schools and kindergartens and are situated on main thoroughfares.

What sort of society is it where we do not allow advertisements showing a person smoking a cigarette and yet it is permissible to portray explicit sexual advertising to children that objectifies women, sending messages that contribute to eating disorders, depression and self-harm?

It’s time we matched our messaging with our expectations. To say what we mean, and mean what we say. Otherwise it’s just too confusing.

A Girl Like Alice

Alice: Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

The Mad Hatter: That is an excellent practice.

In Lewis Carroll’s story of Alice in Wonderland, we meet an inquisitive, bold and brave young girl who believes in the impossible. I identify with Alice in so many ways – I love an impossible project! There’s a lot that puzzles me in life. Sometimes I look around and think the world has gone mad! I am prepared to fight for what is right. I value friendship. I tend to take people on face value. And I hate injustice.

My favourite part in Alice’s story is when she comes face to face with the arch enemy, the Jabberwock, who is the champion of the red Queen. Alice has no idea how she will defeat this formidable foe but then the white Queen hands her the Vorpal sword – the only thing that can defeat the evil Jabberwock. As Alice takes the sword, the Queen tells her that it will know what to do and it will win the battle for her. Once on the battlefield, the dialogue between Alice and her foe is fabulous.

Jabberwocky: So my old foe, we meet on the battlefield once again.
Alice: We’ve never met.
Jabberwocky: Not you, insignificant bearer. My ancient enemy, the Vorpal one.

And so, trusting in the sword in her hand, she steps up to the fight. And after a fierce battle, OFF goes the Jabberwock’s head!

I grew up in a godly, loving home with four amazing sisters who I love very much. My husband and I have been married for 34 years, we have 3 married children and 10 amazing grandchildren. Add to that the blessing of being Australian. In this wonderful country, I don’t wake in the morning wondering whether there will be a long wait at the well when I go to draw water for the day. At the upcoming federal election I will not experience any undue pressure to vote a particular way. Neither do I expect to be in any danger when I turn out to vote. I go shopping and eat out without fear. I have access to good doctors and hospitals. Yes, I am blessed indeed.

In the book of Luke in the Bible we read, ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’  I feel this weight of responsibility that comes with great blessing. But Jesus has promised that His yoke is easy to bear and the burden He gives us is light.

In Matthew 25 we read a story that Jesus told his followers of a master who is going away on a trip. Before leaving, he gives to three of his servants an amount of money according to their ability to use it wisely in his absence. Those who enlarged the original gift were rewarded, but the one who buried the gift was sent away in shame.

Each of us are created with a purpose, with God-given talents to use for His glory and for the good of others. And when I am using those gifts, I feel the wind beneath my wings. It’s not that life is easy. I, like so many others, have experienced deep and intense sorrow. But I am convinced that God’s plans for me are for my good and not for harm. They are where I will find hope and a future.

From a professional background in University and Church management roles, God placed on my heart a deep concern for the families and children in our society who do not know Him. So many are hurting. Badly. Our foster system is failing. One in four of our Qld children are known to child services. In high risk areas this rises to two in every three. Our society is so hyper-sexualised that our children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing is being affected with the rise of eating disorders, depression and appearance anxiety. Their cognitive and emotional development is being affected, they are having sex younger and they do not understand gender roles.

The mantra that I seek to live by is to “Speak the Truth in Love”. We are called to be salt and light and to bless the place where we live (Matthew 5:13-14); to work for its peace and prosperity (Jeremiah 29:7); to free the captives. This is a spiritual battle. And there is so much that each of us can do. Like Alice, there is only one weapon that can win the battle. But unlike Alice, our weapon is real. It is our sword – The Word of God (Ephesians 6:17); it is God’s Truth. And as we take up the sword, we watch as God does the impossible “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).