Collective Shout – Why?

collectiveshoutcensor

Does it Matter that Collective Shout is run by Christians? Do they fight sexism, misogyny and objectification, or do they fight S*X?

On some things I agree with Collective Shout. I agree that sexist, exploitative and objectifying advertising is sexist, exploitative and objectifying. I agree that misogyny is offensive and should be named and argued against.  It’s also clear the best credible research has established that unrealistic body expectations do long term damage to developing minds.

Feminism Makes Sense, Duh

Separate from the campaigns of Collective Shout, and sometimes at odds with them, I agree with what I understand of the foundations of feminism – that women are equal to men in every way and should have equal power, status, legal rights, pay, respect and the right to control their own bodies and reproductive rights.  It’s obvious that we live in a patriarchal society with repressive traditional gender roles that harm everyone.  Daily expressions of misogyny aren’t just ‘a bit of fun’, they are evidence of a patriarchal society, institutions and power structures that oppress, subjugate and do violence to women, while maintaining male power and privilege. I think it’s blatantly obvious that physical, verbal, electronic, structural and systemic violence against women is a form of daily terrorism more real and far more damaging than any imagined or real threat from a foreign power or disenfranchised minority. This violence is an ongoing national emergency as important as climate change, a gross injustice that demands a range of real, effective, evidence supported responses right now, thank you very much.

I disagree with Collective Shout in a number of ways, because I don’t believe they are fighting patriarchy or sexism so much as sex. They’re not just campaigning against sexist and misogynist advertising and pop culture. They are also fighting sexual images and representation, sex workers, assertive female sexuality, confident sexual body display, consensual adult sexual fantasies and games, and almost any cultural expression or depiction of human sexuality in real or fictional form, in any genre or art form.  I think the christian religious faith of the team motivates their campaigns and they argue from dogma and inherited religious prejudice, fear, and christian sexual repression. They use common fears about sexual exploitation of children, and progressive disgust at sexism, as wedge politics to push for a tightly restrictive censorship regime of all cultural material dealing with sexuality, for adults also. You can read their submissions to Government on censorship here…

Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children?

We broadly agree as a society that sex and sexually explicit material is for consenting adults and should be restricted from underage audiences. Collective Shout use this agreement to argue that children will inevitably be exposed to sexual material so it should not be available to anyone, including, of course, adults who most of us believe are able to make informed choices.  Their core business is as a pro-censorship anti-sex lobby, looking for an acceptable angle to get public support for more authoritarian and theocratic style policy.

Collective Shout blame ‘porn’ for it’s harmful effects on children and want to ban any sexual material they define as ‘porn’ – which has included not just sexually explicit media but sexual humour, sex toys, sexual lyrics, depictions of sexual activity in films, television, print, games, animation and on the internet, sexual innuendo and themes in advertising, and lingere advertisments with no nudity or sexual themes. And yes women’s magazines that discuss sex are on their radar too, despite their role in sex education and frank discussion of sexual politics for many women –

Cosmo

Interestingly these christian women & parents are not advocating for more responsible parenting, but for total censorship. They aren’t arguing for ideas that parents & schools around the country put into practice every day – like not giving your child an internet connected smart phone, or unsupervised internet access, or unfiltered internet at home or school. Ideas like giving young people a framework to understand age restrictions on sexual material and to navigate it safely. No they are arguing for tighter restrictions on all content, for all ages, all media, all platforms and devices. It seems responsible parenting is impossible in their view. They peddle an old-fashioned, revival tent style, christian moral panic in which your child WILL be exposed to violent porn that ruins their relationships forever, you can’t stop it, you better panic and over-react.  The only solution they can see is a nation wide, impenetrable border fence of mandatory IP filtering and censorship bans that would return us to the 1950s. Oh and lingerie advertising should not show women in lingerie apparently.

There’s always been censorship in Australia, we have no constitutional right to free speech or an equivalent like the USA. For what it’s worth I’m in favour of the kind of censorship we have in place in relation to film. I think it reflects community standards well – age restricted access to sexually explicit material and impactful violence for adults only, and total bans on the small amount of media we currently ban for things like pedophilia, holocaust denial, incitement to racial hatred and the glorification of violence etc.  The internet has made that kind of restriction practically a lot more difficult. Net filtering at a home and device level may be effective enough if it can be done in a way that tech savvy kids can’t get around, and if kids are also educated in why adult material is not appropriate for them.

Some commentators claim the only way to protect children from exposure to hardcore porn and violence will be to have some kind of filtering at an ISP level which can only be unlocked by effective Age Verification Technology.  The contentious and tricky part of that proposal is whose definitions will get used to decide what gets blocked. That discussion will always be political and needs to be based on sound research, and reflect community standards not sectarian ideologies and religious dogma. Collective Shout are engaged in that political discussion. They want a very wide censorship regime going far beyond what’s needed to protect children, in keeping with the christian values they do not disclose to the public. The censorship they advocate would ban outright huge amounts of important, challenging and inspiring culture, film, TV, literature and music, and some shitty sexist advertising. And this is the point that’s conveniently missed out of their arguments – they want to filter the internet for adults and children. That’s the whole point of arguing for ISP filters, to put in place a legislative and technical censorship mechanism which seems innocent enough at first, we’re just saving the children, but once in place it can later be adjusted to meet the sexual and political paranoias of whichever groups can get access to power and political influence.

 

Christianity as a Patriarchal Institution… the Bible is pretty shit for Women.

  • The Collective Shout Team are conservative Christians
  • Claims that religion is personal and private are disingenous when you are trying to influence government to make laws that affect all citizens. I believe their Religion is relevant because they campaign for political and legal restrictions on public morality and culture. They want to regulate public and private behaviour and sexuality. When you campaign on public morality your moral values are always going to be relevant.
  • Their religion is relevant because the bible is a foundational document of Patriarchy and misogyny in our culture. It seems to me that the bible contributes more to rape culture and promoting violence against women in our culture than any rap artist like Tyler The Creator possibly could. And yes I have read it, all of it.
  • The bible that the women who run Collective Shout  believe in is full of horrific and systematic violence and sexual violence against women. The violence is sanctioned and sometimes commanded by ‘god’ and the appointed (always) male leaders of his chosen people. The bible is full of justifications for male power, and also for rape and slavery. Look it up.
  • Biblical literalist Christianity is fearful of sex & portrays women’s bodies as a location of sin and temptation beginning with the Genesis story of the woman Eve bringing sin into God’s paradise and causing the man to sin also. This is an allegorical attack on female sexuality that has formed the basis of church misogyny and sexual repression for millenia. There is a long and excellent history of feminist criticism of biblical christianity which I admire for it’s insight and relevance.
  • Of course there are progressive branches of christianity that advocate equality of women, LBGTQI rights, Indigenous rights, women’s reproductive choices and that don’t accept a literalist interpretation of the Bible. For example the Uniting Church in Australia has had women ministers and in leadership roles for decades and has a strong social justice commitment. Those are not the branches of christianity that the Collective Shout team apparently belong to.
  • The evangelical and traditional Churches that Collective Shout team members attend typically do not allow women in leadership roles over men. The highest station a woman can achieve is usually to be the Pastor’s wife. Women are allowed to lead ministry to women and children, but they do not exercise authority over men because the bible does not permit it. Several members of the Collective Shout team run ministry to women and children in their churches. This must be frustrating as hell for capable, intelligent women who know they are equal to the men running the church but are denied that role by the central teachings of their religion. It would be even worse being Catholic or Mormon.
  • 1 Timothy 2:12 “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence
  • 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.  If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”  If you choose to believe the Bible is the literal word of ‘god’ you are making a decision to be a massive sexist, or to be massively in denial about the truth of your religion.
  • Of course if CollectiveShout disclosed they’re effectively a conservative Christian censorship lobby they wouldn’t get the same support from the public and media. The influence of Christianity is fading, and many people question the relevance of arguments from a position of dogma that seeks evidence to justify it, rather than a reasoned position from the available evidence and research. When you become a christian you are expected to adopt a pre-existing set of beliefs, values and judgements, the world is prejudged and those judgements are inflexible as they are supposedly the word of god. It’s the very definition of prejudice, beliefs handed down before you were even born are not beliefs you arrived at by reason and evidence, they are an inherited ideology.  So the Collective Shout team don’t disclose their shared ideology, and when questioned they argue it is personal and not relevant. That’s spin of course.
  • Collective Shout are a Political Lobby group.  They are funded and backed by the Christian Right, but they consistently fail to disclose the religious ideology of their team, and of their backers. In a democracy like Australia we expect the highest levels of transparency and disclosure from groups trying to influence politics and legislation. We want any citizen to be able to examine their claims, their allegiences, who is paying them, who their friends are, and what they believe. This is crucial for the public to have faith in the integrity of government and the political process. But magically if you are a ‘grassroots’ campaign you are not required to disclose, uh, anything. That’s handy.  Collective Shout get supporters on a campaign by campaign basis, people who are sick of sexism and objectification. They are exploited as a human sheild to protect the christian team from scrutiny and proper disclosure.
  • We already know censorship and prohibition doesn’t work, there are enough very well documented historical examples of this. We also know misogyny, gendered violence, sexism and objectification existed even before the invention of the printing press. In fact the evidence points to many cultures gradually improving women’s rights over the centuries, rather than going to hell since the invention of the TV and internet etc.  I think we need to address the causes of misogyny not the expressions of it. Repressing or banning the cultural expressions of misogyny won’t stop it, it will just make it taboo and cool to some people.
  • One of the central causes of misogyny is traditional gender stereotypes and roles, and gender inequality. Historically one of the most influentual sources of those traditional, unequal gender roles in our society has been the christian religion and its Churches. Christianity is still a dangerously sexist religion, in most of its branches. Collective Shout never question the traditional gender roles and sexist gender politics of their religion or their churches. They do not fight the causes of misogyny, just its cultural expression – separate from religion.
  • There’s a whole other argument about the causal influences of cultural works. Do song lyrics, games or films cause violence, sexual violence, peadophilia, or attitudes that lead to them? There’s no definitive research to support that so far. The PMRC hearings in the U.S. in the 1980s showed there’s no evidence song lyrics influence fan behaviour, and censorship only served to increase sales. That’s a question I don’t have time to look at just yet. I want to see the evidence for those claims, and I haven’t so far. Collective Shout, like most right wing christians, love arguing from anecdote, stories, testimony, and the more shocking and emotionally motivating the better. That’s not going to cut it if you want to censor popular music, you’re messing with my community and we’re going to examine your claims very closely. David Gauntlett writes about the failure of the ‘media effects’ model and research here – http://www.theory.org.uk/david/effects.htm
  • While there is a lack of investigative journalism in political discourse in Australia citizens, including artists, sex workers and feminist women who advocate for reproductive rights, will do that important work in defense of everyone’s rights when they are attacked by powerful groups like the religious right. This blog is a project of citizen investigative journalism, in the interests of transparency and uncovering the astroturfing and incrementalist wedge politics of the Christian Right. In the USA where freedom of speech enjoys different kinds of legal protections this kind of information is more readily available. Australian political apathy and the artificially engendered short memory of the 2 minute news cycle online means there is little effort to collect and share information over a longer time period, to build a more illuminating bigger picture. We love backstory and origin tales in cinema, but we forget about it in democracy. I’m collating just some of the backstory on Melinda Tankard Reist’s lobby group Collective Shout here, for the public record. Knowledge is power, and hiding relevant information, or neglecting to disclose it, is intended to rob the public of the power of an informed view.
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