Some old fashioned censorship reheated with modern terms

April 5, 2010 |

It is a regular feature of the Simpsons to have the good burghers of Springfield transform into a mob is baying for a knee jerk reaction to a complex moral/social issue.  At the moment of truth, when the situation takes its crazy course to high farce, Helen Lovejoy, appears centre stage, panicking and screaming “Will someone please think of the children!” It is wickedly clever satire because the problem, whatever it is, has nothing to do with children or their morals.  Screaming public morals is no new trick for reactionaries.  Pleading for protection of minors is a very effective way of pushing an argument along while stymying the opposition.  How could anyone not give protection to the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. In this age of hypersensitivity to paedophilia and abuse the argument has further momentum.

Using this argument often means logic takes back seat, if it gets a ride.  Mia Freedman has used thsi rhetoric when reworking a  complaint about a rapant raunch culture.   It is not a novel theme.  The argument is that this culture of flaunting sexuality and participating in activities once the domain of men of a certain mien is harming women.  The argument is that a  woman’s liberation from  constraining mores which then extended to participating in this behaviour results in the caricature, stereotype and debasement.  This thesis has  been the subject of books of varying quality, most notably Female Chauvenist Pig; women and the rise of the raunch culture by Ariel Levy.  That was back  in 2005.  Now Mia Freedman,ex of Cosmopolitan, reworks and refocuses the argumet when she recently complained about the raunch culture’s effect on children.   It appears things have gone to hell in  handbasket of late with:

The former glossies queen and high-profile blogger says: “It is becoming more prevalent, this hypersexualisation, and this idea of raunch being OK and normal.

“You’ve got mums doing pole classes or babies wearing T-shirts saying `I’m a tits man’ at three months.”

Mia, dodgy T shirts and bumper stickers have been around for decades and double entendres are part of the language, any language in fact.  Bad taste is a mainstay in society.  The  seventies was the decade of raunch and only because it outdid the sixties.  Remember that for a while hard core porn was being shown in general release, starting with Behind the Green Door in 1972. The fad was shortlived and hard core porn never crossed  over into the mainstream cinema.  But Playboy and Penthouse were sold throughout this period and into the eighties and nineties without noticeable  social mayhem.

Mia Freedman, before she hopped onto the express lane to Damascus, was part of a stable of glossies where a regular feature was the sex advice column, preening columns (how to get the best bloke and best sex) and the sealed section.  Was she not looking at the layouts or the covers of her magazine or the competition. If not  for what was she  handsomely remunerated.  There is an element of having had a big cake and eating it too with her Helen Lovejoy bleating.   Mia in going into high dudgeon mode about hypersexualisation, whatever that means, shows truly Rupilstiltskin like  qualities.

It is interesting to see Mia “what have I got myself into the middle of” Mamamia running a justification line while doing a side step away from some of her anti raunch compatriots in her blog entry today.  She makes light of the Oz article that got her into the middle of the fight.  She protests that she is being built up as a spear carrier for the cause.  Protests too much!  The thing is, the  journalist from the Oz wasn’t just passing by your mansion Mia, with a photographer in tow, and somehow caught you in a weak moment.  You are a seasoned media operator, irrespective of the peaches and cream ah shucks bubbly style you affect.  There was an interview, some juicy Maureen Dowd like quotes and a happy snap in a leafy part of somewhere, possibly your casa.  And now you wonder why you are front and centre in the issue.

Her blog is interesting because Mia tries to defend her past work while trying to avoid appearing to be an aspiring censor and bluestocking.  On defending her socially redeemable past work with the sealed section she says:

Many were about sexual health. Some were about contraception. And many others focussed purely on female enjoyment. Nothing wrong with any of that and it’s no different or more explicit to the material published by women’s mags for more than 30 years

Yeah right Mia!  It weren’t no Womans Day or Home and Garden so drop the guff about equating it with the tame end of the womens mag market.  There was plenty of titilation and suggestion when it wasn’t a rehash of the “how to get better sex” or “how to get more sex” literary mulch.  She also tries to justify her now not so clarion call to arms.  In this she falls back on the tried and true and intellectually dishonest “Now that I am a mum” and everything is different line.  The scales have suddenly fallen from her eyes.  She also cites that highly objective evidential source known as “Unquestionably, there’s a feeling among parents that we’ve lost control over the imagery and messages reaching our kids…”  Unquestionably eh?  I question it.  So do those who give the subject a bit more than an Oprah like analysis.  Assertion upon assertion written in uber trendy, but still as thin as rice paper.  What I find amazing is how none of these issues came to her attention as she swirled about being editor in cool of Cosmo? Then it was about not being tied to moral constraints and giving young women what they wanted to know .  That libertarian approach gives way to upper socce mum censoriousness.  Now we have Helen Lovejoy of the North Shore with a funky blog.  The net result is Mia playing intellectual Twister but needing a few extra arms and legs.  She writes well but intellectual sloth and slip sliding is hard to hide even when given a glossy overlay.  The problem is Mia, you can’t digitally alter basic principles and logic, try as you might.  And you tried mighty hard.

The Age’s  Put soft porn out of view: experts reports a group of worthies, described as leading child experts, calling for a ban on the sale of Playboy, Penthouse from newsagents, supermarkets and petrol stations.  There is apparently a major concern about the content of Zoo and Ralph.  I have a problem with those magazines.  They are appalling rags, badly written, overpriced and  tedious.  But so what.  Where is the evidence that they should be given an R classification, especially the Ralph, Zoo and Maxim lad mags.  Their content falls far short of the mark.  What is utterly nonsensical about this confected  “Will someone please think of the children!” outrage is where is the evidence that 20 years of Australasian Post, Penthouse,Playboy and other risque mags in newsagents has led to the corruption of minors.  How is the newer product of Maxim, Zoo and Ralph objectively changing the mindset of some or all of our children.  The complaint by the experts is based on assertion after assertion.  An example, courtesy of the Age:

Julie Gale, director of lobby group Kids Free 2B Kids, says easy internet access meant young people were exposed to pornographic images, voluntarily or involuntarily.

”But allowing pornography and overtly sexualised images to be sold in the public arena with easy access for children and teens tells them that this is acceptable,” Ms Gale said.

Does allowing such mags being sold in the public tell teens that this, whatever this is, is acceptable? Teens, and others of the  species generally, are more discerning than that.  Where is the evidence  to support these serious allegations.  On Gale’s  logic a biker magazine in a newsagent tells a teen girl to become a biker chick and the boy to get a patch, put on 40 kilos, tat up and forget to shave for 30 years.  Doubtful.

To limit someone in the sale of a legal product in his or her own store one would hope there is more than assertion, late onset sensitivity (in the case of Mia Freedman) and questionable logic. This new Victorianism is driven by hysteria, twisted logic and no evidence.  By continuing to  allude to children’s safety and supposed pornographic images in vague terms the hope is that all resistance will fade away.  Not a bad strategy when dealing with governments in election mode but intellectually dishonest.

After the US “porn wars debates between anti porn (pro censorship) feminists, such as Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, and their libertarian sisters (who found censorship an abomination on Second Amendment grounds as well as regarding this as another form of stereotyping behaviour), such as Nadine Strossen (a hero of mine) and Camile Paglia, in the eighties and nineties the former group found itself singing from the same song sheet as conservative (often Christian) groups.  I would not be at all surprised if such an unholy alliance develops here.

As a postscript it is interesting to see Mary Anne Toy, previously activist feminist of the left at Monash in the eighties pushing out the Age article.  Probably a good idea to give it to an stager in this field.

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