‘Sexist’ competition draws Anglican ire

Anglicans in Melbourne say the competition exploits “the desperate situations of female asylum seekers escaping horrific situations” and is “shameful.” Photo: ACNS
Anglicans in Melbourne say the competition exploits “the desperate situations of female asylum seekers escaping horrific situations” and is “shameful.” Photo: ACNS
By on August 23, 2013

An Anglican committee for promoting equality and respect has called for change in print and online media after a men’s magazine ran a competition to find “Australia’s Hottest Asylum Seeker.”

In a statement, the Diocese of Melbourne’s Anglicans Promoting Equal and Respectful Relations committee said it was “disgusted” by the recent article in ZOO Weekly magazine.

Spokesperson Dr Ree Boddé, who is also Program Director for the diocese’s Anglicans Preventing Violence Against Women initiative, said, “Exploiting the desperate situations of female asylum seekers escaping horrific situations is shameful.

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“The magazine’s dehumanising objectification of women’s lives (and those of their children) is the root cause of why violence against women continues in Australia and internationally at such alarming rates.”

ZOO Weekly, which describes itself as “funny, topical and agenda-setting” did apologise for the article, but only after more than 6,000 people signed a change.org petition complaining about it:

“ZOO Weekly regrets any offence caused to any of our readers, and to any asylum seeker or refugee and their families and supporters, by the article “Sexiest Boat People” on pages 32 and 33 of the July 16th 2012 issue of ZOO Weekly, which included the competition ‘Are you Australia’s Hottest Asylum Seeker?’ We apologise for being insensitive towards asylum seekers and refugees, and the traumatic experiences they have experienced.”

The article was published off the back of last month’s asylum-seeker boat tragedies and subsequent debate in Australia’s House of Representatives.

The magazine managed to add insult to injury by offering to host asylum seekers in its offices if Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young did a photoshoot for the magazine. It then published a photoshopped image of the 31-year-old’s head on a bikini-clad model’s body.

They subsequently printed an apology to the senator too.

Dr Boddé said it is imperative that the media environment in Australia changes. She said, “There is excessive objectification of women in some parts of the press, reducing them entirely to sexual commodities in a way that would not be broadcast on television, nor allowed in the workplace because of sexual discrimination legislation. The portrayal of women as sex objects and body parts, to sell magazines has absolutely no news value in and of itself.”

Dr Boddé added, “To prevent violence against women, an important first step is that the media promote equal and respectful relationships. We need also to work towards this in our families and relationships.”

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