Thursday, December 1, 2011

Next Top Nothing

In our enlightened age of women’s rights and equal opportunity, it’s hard to believe there is such a competition as America’s Next Top Model

Or that it’s endorsed by scores of sponsors and celebrities.

The pseudo-reality tv show was created by Tyra Bank – or at least by her PR agency who must have thought it a smart business move. And how right they were. 

Her production company, Bankable Productions (apt name choice), has spread the competition and programme to Australia, Canada, Britain and Ireland. Quite the lucrative little franchise.

The show is aired on prime time television in Australia and their Facebook page boasts a following of nearly 5 million. 

Since when did 5 million individuals start to think that the objectification of women was a thing to ‘like’? When did we start to think that modeling was all about conformity rather than creativity? 

That women across the globe are lending their support to the objectification of a select group of other women proves how far we have fallen from an earlier equality with men.

It is truly mind-numbing to sit through even 5 minutes of the show. Never mind an enter episode. And it would be comical if it were not so tragic and offensive.

In past seasons, contestants have been made to participate in lesbian photo shoots, size 8 hopefuls have been told they are too fat and women have been forced to portray brawling and abuse, making a mockery of real abuse crime.

In the 2007 season of America’s Next Top Model, one potential posed with “MY CHOICE” sprawled across her naked midriff and is styled in what looks like a back alley.

The show took the glorification of violence to a new level, again in 2007, with the modeling of crime scene shoots for all contestants. The girls were asked to play dead in a shoot which effectively glamorised murder and made it imperative to play dead while still looking sexy. 

Because everyone needs to look sexy after they’ve been decapitated, thrown off a building or had their organs removed. 

In a recent survey of eight hundred British teens aged between 11 and 16, 50% of girls said they compared their bodies to those of television personalities, and that they would be willing to take diet pills or laxatives to lose weight. The survey comes off the back of revelations earlier this year that 5 year olds are being hospitalized with severe anorexia.(1)

With this kind of toxic entertainment lingering on, communities shouldn’t wonder at such frightening survey results.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Remove the Market

Kmart made headlines earlier this week for responding to pressure to remove a line of children’s underwear from their retail outlets.

The underpants, geared at girls 16 years and under, brandished slogans such as “I love rich boys”, “I love boys in uniform” and “call me”.

Melinda Tankard Reist, spokesperson for Collective Shout, an organization which campaigns against the objectification of women and the sexualistion of girls, said the underwear was "part of a trend of sexualing girls by treating them as older than they are. It's reducing them to sexual playthings for someone else, and encouraging them to think of themselves in that way."

What is perhaps more disturbing than the confirmation that a big company is trying to make money out of the sexualisation of young girls is the fact that there are parents prepared to buy the products. As with all products of this nature, if there was no market for them, they would cease to be manufactured.

The retail giant removed the line from all of its stores after a brief but vehement public reaction, mobilized through Twitter and Facebook.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Barbie Goes Punk

Barbie has been a lot of things in the past 50 years. She’s been a vet, an astronaut, a race car driver, a surgeon and served in all four American military forces. More recently she’s been Catwoman, Grace Kelly, BeyoncĂ©, and now – Punk.

This new Barbie is very much a rich-trashy kind of gal. From her designer sunnies to her sparkling silver stilettos, leopard print tights, pink mini skirt, bangles, belt and bag - this Barbie is all about stuff. Even her dog, Bastardino, is dressed in a cactus costume with a diamond-studded collar.

The neck and back tattoos she sports are hardly a shock amidst the rest of her outfit, which screams “KARDASHIAN”. But it’s the tattoos that have everybody talking.

The response from media and online forum debate has been mixed and heated. A common theme from online opinion is that of relief. Mothers relieved that this “realistic” doll will help their children not to be judgmental of people with tattoos.

(Hate to break it to you “Anonymous Mum”, but it’s actually your job to raise your child to be non-judgmental. It’s unlikely Barbie will achieve this for you. At least not until they make an obese Barbie.)

Other parents find her tattoos repulsive and unnecessary, demeaning and objectifying. But Barbie has always been the model of female objectification - over-sized breasts, non-existent hips, long (usually blonde) hair, flawless skin and the perfect toosh. Nothing about Barbie has ever been real.

At any rate though, the tattoo having an impact on impressionable little girls is kind of beside the point. Mattel’s Barbie Collector website mentions that this new punk Barbie is for the adult collector. (Yes. Adults collect Barbie dolls.) And at $50 USD she isn't priced for the kiddie market.

Toy manufacturers outdo each other in making baby dolls look more like real babies – crying noises, newborn wrinkles, umbilical stubs. But Barbie is in a class of her own. Mattel has never tried to make her more realistic. She’s never been anything but anorexic. And she’s never had a breast reduction to make her anatomically correct. She's never had hips. Opinion columnists coming out of the woodwork to slam Barbie's relatively innocuous tattoos are trying to catch a boat that left 50 years ago.

But during an economic downturn, any publicity is good publicity and, tattoos and all, Mattel is lapping it up.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A New Breed of Social Retard

Forget the stigma of homeschool. There’s a new kid on the block when it comes to social retardation. And he’s far from educated at home.
Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room last week, I was conscious not to pull out my iPhone and check my email. Conscious because I was worried that my 10 month old might pick a scrap up off the floor and swallow it while I wasn’t looking. Conscious also of the fact that I would have been choosing to connect with this gadget rather than talk to my 3 year old. Conscious – just a little – of what everyone in the waiting room might think of my practicing what I think epitomizes today’s social retard.

I needn’t have worried about the latter pang.

Across from me sat a mother and her 15 year old daughter, still in school uniform at 5 pm. Both were equipped with mobile phones which clearly did more than just make phone calls or send text messages. Neither said a word to the other during the 30 minutes we sat in the room together. Both were completely engrossed in whatever it was their fingers were doing, their eyes were seeing, their minds were taking in.

I was impressed by the concentration of the teenager. Shame it wasn’t an exam. But more impressed by the mother’s interest in her gadget.

It is perhaps not surprising that children and teenagers pick up and become obsessed with digital communication. What is surprising is the rapid rate at which men and women in their 40s and 50s have caught on to this phenomenon. What’s more, they haven’t just caught on, they seem to be engulfed by it. What's missing in the lives of these midlifers that they feel the need to fill them with media?

Facebook and Twitter accounts. MySpace and blogs. Work and personal email addresses. Text messaging, iPhone apps, iPods and iPads. We seem to have more ways of communicating with those outside our sphere than we do with those within. Family members receive a few words a day from us – a conversation or two. Our 450+ Facebook friends receive multiple status updates, the value of which is utterly meaningless. We don’t live in the world of our numerous Facebook friends or Twitter followers any more than they live in ours. We’re lucky if we see half of them in a decade. Yet we pride ourselves on our level of social sophistication.

It must be that socialization has been redefined, because back in the day, if a child sat glued to her mobile phone (to say nothing of the mother) in the doctor’s waiting room… oh wait. Back in the day kids didn’t have mobile phones.

Welcome to the age of social retardation en masse.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Large Family Hysteria

Sometimes – not very frequently - stories of large families are published in magazines and their interviews aired on current affair programmes. These ‘day in the life’ style accounts serve rather to sensationalize than normalize the large family.

These days, any more than 4 children tends to catapult the family into the ‘large’ category, but for the purpose of gossip rags and current affairs television, 8 or more children is usually required.

Always the follow-on opinion, letters to the editor and online comment seethe with an abhorrence for these ‘breeders’, with many a dig about the lack of television, almost-certain religious foundations and cult-like indoctrination that must surely dominate the lives of these children.

How can someone handle so many children? spectators ask. One might ask how a teacher handles 30 children. Surely a mother can handle 8 or 10 of her own children of varying ages better than a teacher who has the care of 25-30 children who are all of the same age. Yet no one interviews the classroom teacher, turning her in to a cover story. It is just the late-30s mum with 8 children who bears the brunt of society’s anti-child vehemence.

So why do some families subject themselves to society’s scorn by agreeing to media coverage of their lives, even if only for a brief moment?

There is something to be said for living a quiet, happy life. Away from the media spotlight and without feeling the need to bring cameras into one’s home to show off how well one is doing with many children.

Children are a blessing. They are not an accomplishment.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Unplanned - A Review

The tale of Abby Johnson’s journey from Planned Parenthood director to pro-life inspiration - Unplanned - made it to the New York Times Bestseller list. And it’s little wonder.

While still in college, Johnson was won over as a Planned Parenthood volunteer, by the idea that increased access to contraception drives the abortion rate down. Johnson herself was twice a victim of this fallacy. Three times she fell pregnant and twice she aborted. All three times she was using contraception.

“There’s an incredible irony in the fact that I had a career in educating women about contraception and yet, for the third time, conceived while using contraceptives.”
(page 66)

Her book offers an insight that both pro-lifers and abortion rights advocates can learn from. Pro-lifers could take note that violent and provocative demonstration does more harm than good (note: the murder of notorious late-term abortionist from Kansas, George Tiller, served only to solidify abortion providers) and the pro-abortion camp could perhaps understand the reason pro-lifers stand outside clinics for hours on end in inclement weather - and it's not only to save the babies.

During Johnson’s time at the clinic, the peaceful, prayerful presence of pro-lifers outside the fence amazed the staff and impacted clients in a way the pro-lifers would never have known had Johnson not defected.

The book documents Johnson’s own harrowing experience with a chemical abortion and the ultrasound-guided abortion that led her out of the Planned Parenthood clinic and into the pro-life movement.

It also gives a clear picture of the far-reaching effects of the pro-life movement and the broad spectrum in which pro-life organizations facilitate women to make an informed choice.

Recommended as a challenging read for both pro-lifers and abortion proponents.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Good Mum, Bad Mum

The now infamous incident of Jackie O crossing the road while simultaneously feeding her baby is set to become a hallmark case in both sides of the ongoing good mum-bad mum debate.

Jackie O is a 2DayFM co-host and gave birth to her first child on December 10 last year. Last week, her parenting skills were compared to those of Michael Jackson by NSW minister for families, Pru Goward.

"We all were horrified when Michael Jackson dangled his baby out the window and this woman is crossing the road not just holding a baby but feeding a baby and I think it was unnecessarily cavalier," Goward told the Daily Telegraph.

The Daily Telegraph does not reveal why Goward was approached for comment, but a smart move by the politician would have been to refuse comment. Or tell the low-grade newspaper to find some real news. The online beast of anonymous opinion has backed Jackie O and dealt harshly with Goward, with mothers rising in unanimous support of the multi-tasking millionaire mummy - from forums to column comment to Facebook.

The Daily Telegraph has an unflattering track record against Jackie O. It recently published a columnist’s open letter which questioned Jackie’s decision to return to work after the birth of her child.

The journalist, Annette Sharp, was adamant that she was “not judging” Jackie O’s decision. She was just curious as to why she returned to work so soon.

Regardless of one’s opinion about mothers who work outside the home, it is difficult to understand how it is the business of a national newspaper to question the parenting decisions of a celebrity in an open letter format, more befitting to New Idea and Woman’s Day.

If anything, the Daily Telegraph’s continued minute attention to trivial celebrity occurrences effectively demonstrates the worth of the publication as nothing more than a gossip rag, fit to cover your seat on the train.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Passing of Dr Bernard Nathanson

Dr Bernard Nathanson, abortionist turned pro-life advocate, died on February 21 in New York after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Nathanson was responsible for over 70,000 abortions in the clinics he directed and personally responsible for about 5,000 prior to his conversion in the late 1970s. He was co-founder and last surviving founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).

Nathanson’s story of conversion resembles that of Abby Johnson’s. Both left the business after seeing an ultrasound-guided abortion in which the unborn baby recoiled from the instrument that was being used to dismember and suck him from his mother’s womb.

In both cases, the conversions had nothing to do with religion, but rather the scientific evidence of ultrasound. Prior to his change of heart, Nathanson described himself as an atheist Jew; it would be nearly two decades before he would convert to Catholicism.

While at the same time enjoying the unrestrained enthusiasm of pro-life groups at his conversion, Nathanson suffered much at the hands of former colleagues and friends, who likened him to infamous traitors and political spies.

Nathanson, who converted to Catholicism following his renunciation of the abortion industry, took pro-life activist Joan Andrews Bell, as his Godmother. Bell is best known for her active opposition to abortion and has spent many months in prison for peaceful civil disobedience - trespassing and blocking the entrance to clinics.

Bell related that Dr Nathanson spent much time fasting in reparation for his past. A past which he would spend the remainder of his life speaking against.

Dr Nathanson is known for his videos The Silent Scream and Eclipse of Reason which show the gruesome realities of abortion. His book Aborting America describes how he and other abortionists fabricated statistics to advocate for legalized abortion.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Drumming Up Business

Apparently today – 14 February or Valentine’s Day – is National Condom Day. I know, I know it just makes you feel so warm and fuzzy inside, right?

Of all the things to celebrate on a day meant to celebrate love, the Family Planning NSW has chosen to shove the ‘safe sex’ message into clear view of university students across the state with O-Week information stalls and condom dissemination (pardon the pun).

The FPNSW website claims that condom use is one of the best ways to avoid STIs, but this inaccurate to say the least.

A few notes from Human Life International’s Condom Failure Rate Fact Sheet:

"24 sets of condoms tested and all failed" and almost 71% failed "In respect of one or more of the physical requirements of the specification, notably freedom from pinholes." SABS report April 89.

"Spillage from condoms occurs as much as 65% to 75% of the time." Bjorklund and Gordon. Univ of Manitoba. Nov. 1990.

"The rubber comprising latex condom has intrinsic voids about 5 microns in size." The HIV virus is 0.1 micron. Roland, Rubber World. June 1993. Roland and Sobieski, Rubber Chemistry and Technology. Vol. 62, 1989.

Condoms reduce the risk of HIV infection by about 70% if they are used "consistently and correctly" IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) Medical Bulletin Feb. 1997.

"It is not established whether the condom is as effective at preventing heterosexual transmission of HIV as it is for preventing conception." "The level of protection approximates 87%, with a range depending upon the incidence (of HIV) among condom nonusers. Thus the condom's efficacy at reducing heterosexual transmission may be comparable to or slightly lower than its effectiveness at preventing pregnancy." Family Planning Perspectives, 1999.

The failure rate for condoms in preventing pregnancy is 10%. K. Niswander. Manual of Obstetrics 1980.

The ISO standard for condoms allows 2 per 350 to be defective (about six defects per thousand.) (Tough luck if you happen to be one of those six)

"Increased condom use will increase the number of [HIV/AIDS] transmissions that result from condom failure" and "a vigorous condom promotion policy could increase rather than decrease unprotected sexual exposure if it has the unintended effect of encouraging a greater overall level of sexual activity." "Condoms and seat belts: the parallels and the lessons" The Lancet, 29 Jan 2000

In one test, 33% of latex condoms leaked HIV sized particles. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. vol.19. 1992

Ontario Ministry of Health campaign to promote condoms by means of televised AIDS messages made respondents more inclined to use condoms but less inclined to avoid casual sexual partners. Wilde, Target Risk, PDE Publications, 1994.

IPPF indicates that the risk of contracting AIDS during so-called "protected sex" approaches 100 percent as the number of episodes of sexual intercourse increases. Cates Medical Bulletin, IPPF 1997.

The only sure ways to avoid sexual transmission of diseases (including AIDS, chlamydia, genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B, and syphilis) are not to have sex at all or to limit sex to one uninfected partner who is also monogamous. Food and Drug Administrationc (USA) Consumer Magazine Sep 1990.

So given the statistics, why does FPNSW continue to distribute copious quantities of condom? What are they hoping to achieve by giving these away? How can they possible benefit?

Perhaps condom failure is seen as a positive for FPNSWs bottom line which would then benefit by treatment of the ensuing STI. Or abortion of the resulting baby.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More fodder for Jerry Springer

Do-it-yourself paternity tests are now available at one the UK’s leading pharmacy chains, Boots.

The tests cost around $50 AUD plus a further $180 for 5-day laboratory testing. Particularly impatient speculators can double the lab test fee for results within 24 hours.

Many are applauding the wider availability of a product which could see a dramatic shift in the way child support payments are enforced but paternity testing experts say there is a danger.

Dr Helen Watt, Bioethics expert at Oxford University said, "The test could be harmful long-term if the child is not told, but grows up sensing that things are 'different' and that there is some mystery, or that something is 'wrong' with him or her."

The kit’s manufacturer, Anglia DNA Services, say half of the tests it processes are for children under one, which is only slightly comforting. One might expect the emotional fallout to be significantly reduced in cases where the child, although perhaps already attached to his/her father, does not yet understand the arguments that may arise from the procedure. But there’s still no guarantee that even a newborn will not later on be impacted by the ordeal.

Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, summed the dilemma up. "It will be used almost exclusively as weaponry between battling adults in fraught relationships, to the detriment of the unfortunate child caught in the middle. This child will be unable to give informed consent to the use of his or her tissue, but the emotional impact of the test results, which could include paternal rejection, are likely to be devastating."

In the US, where nearly half a million paternity tests are performed every year, experts are questioning whether a man should have the right to conduct the test after a child has reached the age of reason.

Thanks to a growing number of celebrities whose paternity has been questioned and tested, DNA testing for paternity is not the taboo topic it was a decade ago. Its continued discussion in soap operas, talk shows and reality television has also contributed to the real life glorified stories of misattributed paternity that have begun to emerge in the media. Perhaps Australia’s most famous recent case was that of Tony Abbott’s alleged son who discovered, 26 years after adoption, that Mr Abbott was not in fact his real father, as had been assumed.

Anglia DNA Services currently analyses more than 3000 DIY paternity tests every year, but this number is expected to sky-rocket with the wider available of the tests through 375 Boots outlets across the UK.

With infidelity and “paternity fraud” (a term used to describe the situation that occurs when a woman tries to gouge money from a partner she falsely claims is the father of her child/ren) on the constant rise, it seems the widespread availability of paternity testing kits is indicative of the direction of a society that has no understanding of the meaning of sex.

One thing’s for sure. It will make plenty of fodder for Jerry Springer, et al.

© Eva Whiteley 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

We Did Vote Her In

Amongst all the vocal dissent against Julia Gillard after last week’s flood levy announcement, many seemed to forget that they voted her in. And it doesn’t seem to be the levy itself as perhaps the way it is proposed and the Government that is proposing it.

All evidence suggests that Tony Abbott, despite opposing Gillard’s levy, would have imposed a similar levy were it his decision to make. And the Howard Government imposed a number of levies that were not has vehemently opposed as this current flood levy.

Many decry the levy because they’ve already donated. Others dislike the idea of subsidizing the rebuilding of infrastructure on flood plains. Still others don’t understand why they should have to fund the building of public infrastructure at all, considering the many billions of taxpayer dollars which currently fund the erection of bridges and roads. But there is a minority who doesn’t particularly care what the money would be spent on; they believe it won’t be well spent regardless of good intentions. They simply don’t believe this Government has the ability to spend well.

The Government could scrap any number of overly generous grants which subsidise the lifestyle choices of Australians – first home buyers, paid parental leave, baby bonus, child care rebates. Perhaps it should have thought with the budget in mind when they paid for election campaign advertising. Or maybe they could slash the public service workforce like the Opposition promised to do if they made it into power.

One would not begrudge a levy if the Government was able to manage the budget, but it is difficult to trust a Government who went from a $20 billion surplus in 2008 to a $54 billion deficit less than 2 years later. After all, we have a Prime Minister who has never had to pay school fees or buy over-priced school uniforms; never struggled to pay a mortgage while meeting the other financial demands of raising a family.

But then, we did manage to vote her in.

© Eva Whiteley 2011