Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
vfl
afl
phil on...
politics
people
history
travel
music
literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature Home : Politics Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature

 

***
Billboard sex? No way.

Street prostitution? No worries.

By Heather Merle Benbow
June 20 2002

The Bracks Government's poor timing this week in relation to two issues
has exposed its contradictory attitude to women.

On Tuesday, the Minister for Women's Affairs, Mary Delahunty, announced
that the government was developing "gender portrayal guidelines" to
encourage the positive portrayal of women in outdoor advertising.

Then, yesterday, Attorney-General Rob Hulls announced a new "harm
minimisation" approach to street prostitution in St Kilda - which will
allow the exploitation of Victoria's most vulnerable women to be swept
under the carpet.

The Attorney-General's Street Prostitution Advisory Group was formed in
response to St Kilda traders' and residents' concerns about an increase in
street prostitution. From the outset the group took a narrow view of the
more than threefold increase in the number of women working in street
prostitution in St Kilda in the past 15 years.

In its interim report it stated: "The advisory group has not concerned
itself with moral arguments about whether street prostitution should be
permitted; it accepts that prostitution will continue."

Rather than pondering what the presence of up to 50 women working as
street prostitutes at peak times in St Kilda tells us about the status of
women in Victoria, and the safety of those particular women, the advisory
group sought to achieve "reduced harm to the community caused by street
prostitution".

Yet surely those who are most harmed by street prostitution are the
prostitutes themselves.

The advisory group acknowledged the disadvantage that drives women into
street prostitution in the first place: "They are the victims of serious
abuse and violence, and confront problems in relation to drug dependency,
homelessness, and mental and sexual health." In fact, a 1996 Victorian
report found that 80 per cent of street prostitutes had a substance-abuse
problem.

These are some of the most economically and socially disadvantaged women
and girls in our community, yet the government opts for a quick fix - move
them on so the curb crawlers (dignified with the title "clients") can be
"serviced" in tolerance zones.

After paying a fee, the woman will be used in a "sex-worker centre"
located away from residential areas, schools, places of worship, hospitals
and retail areas.

Meanwhile, Women's Affairs Minister Delahunty worries about the portrayal
of woman in outdoor advertising as merely "cute, curvaceous and
compliant". The minister last year convened an advisory committee after
complaints about a spate of sexist stereotyping in billboard ads.

The shoe manufacturer Windsor Smith was rightly criticised for a series of
advertisements that evoked a kind of brothel-chic: there was a woman
apparently fellating a man in a suit, a woman with breasts bared wrapping
her legs around a football player, and a man in a seedy room removing his
shoes as two emaciated women wait patiently for him on a bed.

Such images are clearly not "positive" representations of women, according
to the minister. Fair enough. But why is the hand-wringing over
representations of women as objects for sexual use not accompanied by
concern over the purchasing of real women and girls in St Kilda, as
sanctioned by the Attorney-General?

And what of the state's legal brothels and strip clubs? How can their
advertising be improved to project a positive image of women?

The Women's Affairs Ministry seems not to realise that Victoria's legal
sex industry is one of the busiest (and one of the most tolerated) in the
world - there are an estimated 60,000 visits to legal brothels in this
state every week. It is little wonder that advertisers have taken their
cue from the burgeoning sex industry.

An alternative approach, and one that the Minister for Women's Affairs
could proudly promote, would be to see sexual exploitation of women as a
human rights issue. This approach would require the de-criminalisation of
soliciting, so women are not further victimised, and penalties for those
who seek to buy sex. Most importantly, though, the government should fund
exit strategies and social services for street prostitutes wanting to
leave prostitution.

The Bracks Government is sending out mixed messages on the status of women in Victoria: a business may sell sexual use of women by the half-hour, but the government frowns upon advertisers who portray women as sexual objects to sell shoes.

The femocrats of the Victorian ALP appear content to tolerate the sexual
exploitation of Victorian women - so long as they don't have to drive past
it on their way to work.

Heather Merle Benbow

Heather is a doctoral student at The University of Melbourne.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Phil Cleary's view on Australian politics, people, vfl and afl football, music, history and literature
[home]   [vfl]   [afl]   [world sport]   [politics]   [people]   [history]   [travel]   [music]   [literature]

© 2000 Phil Cleary Holdings
site by five