Friday, February 05, 2010

Cordelia Fine, hapless David Kiely, Macquarie, and near naked images of Miranda Kerr ...

(Above: magazine publishers, this is how to show a nice Miranda Kerr. Sure, the knees are exposed and some men drool at the sight of knees, but we recommend a ruler to check on the length of dress so that errors like this - even if minor - can be avoided).

It's official, and thank the lord for that.

News Corporation is a purveyor of porn, a dealer in smut, a supplier of salacious images - to whit and to jot: near-naked images of Miranda Kerr.

It turns out that the Macquarie Banker recently named and shamed as a porn user, one David Kiely, is part of a festering world of workplace porn:

The drip, drip, drip effect of male workers viewing porn is the creation of an environment that is hostile and degrading to women - and this is in violation of the Sex Discrimination Act, as human rights lawyer Professor Aileen McColgan pointed out in the Fawcett Society's recent Corporate Sexism report. But when public responses to transgressions are casual and forgiving, women may be reluctant to complain about their male colleagues' use of pornography, for fear of seeming prudish.

So go ahead and feel sorry for Kiely, by all means. I do. But don't forget all the clothed women at Macquarie whose careers he helped make that much harder.

Yep, when next you see a scantily clad woman, of the Miranda Kerr kind, in a fashion magazine, or in News Corp's extensive set of galleries, remember these are pornographic images, designed to inflame men and immolate women.

Yep, when next you see a scantily clad image of Tony Abbott in budgie smugglers, remember this is a pornographic image.

Yep, when next you see a fully clad image of Tony Abbott, remember this is a pornographic image too. He forgot to cover the ears. Those bloody ears, flapping in the breeze like some prehensile metaphor for another part of the body ...

Now you might think that there are plenty of images of a scantily clad Miranda Kerr out there in the world, and what's worse on the covers of magazines commonly reckoned or dubbed or deemed to be "women's magazines".

Naturally we mean nothing by that stereotypical description. We like to think of Cosmpolitan as a mag eminently suitable for men, as are Cleo and Bazaar, while we understand that men who read Rolling Stone do so only for the articles and the reviews.

Women of course don't read Rolling Stone, because they are congenitally incapable of understanding music - not that we mean to demean women with a stereotypical view of teenage girls shouting and wetting their knickers at boy bands - but as a result women will be totally unaware that Rolling Stone once ran a shockingly near nude picture of Miranda Kerr.

The image even has a slight bondage feel to it, what with the chain and the padlock, made all the more salacious by linking talk of "greens" and "green issues" with this filthy image. As well as mentioning that perverted Pink.

It almost goes without saying that if you're looking at this image at work - or even placed a copy of this magazine somewhere on your desk - you're being profoundly offensive. Worse than a free love hippie in San Francisco in the summer of love. More like Charlie Manson.

Indeed I probably should have labelled this whole piece Not Safe For Work for fear that any stray reader might destroy the equanimity of their office.

... these kinds of sexually provocative images of women are so ubiquitous that it's completely understandable that many are left thinking, "What's the big deal?" With rather more sexually explicit images regularly confronting us all on billboards and the magazine stands in convenience stores and petrol stations, it might be hard to work up too much outrage over a picture of Kerr directing a gentle come-hither look over her modestly shielded naked breasts.

Indeed. And it seems that this trend started with women. Why here's Miranda Kerr back in November 2008 on the cover of Dolly. Do I detect a hint of breast of a female kind behind that splash of yellow?

Worse still, it seems that she's been doing it for Dolly as long ago as 1997:

Think that let's men off the hook? Think again:

But that doesn't mean that Kiely's behaviour should be dismissed as the harmless manifestation of red-blooded maleness, or that objections to it should be decried as ''wowserism'' or over-the-top political correctness. At a time when business leaders are wringing their hands over the dearth of women in finance and executive management roles, it's worth considering how sexually explicit images of women affect us, and what kind of message they send in the workplace.

Oh indeed. It's completely understandable that Kiely stands as an example for everything wrong in the workplace. Not for stripping billions out of the economy and sending it to the billionaires' bank. But for his unedifying gaze. What's the behaviour of the banks during the recent great recession compared to the matter of a perverted stare?

Perhaps the most disturbing of all the Miranda Kerr covers I reviewed was this one:

What on earth is the girl from Gunnedah doing with this horse? Stroking, caressing, fondling it? Surely I hope not, I dare not think, this might not, must not, be an example of b********** ...

No, no, I can't go on. Gunnedah is so close to Tamworth, and all that's good and pure. Women, and girls, love horses. Let's say no more about it.

But it does make this cover seem quite tame:

Oh wait, there's a provocative hint that she's nude, and worse, there's a nice little knotted bow tie on the back of her bum which suggests it, or the frilly knickers, might be some sort of present to the masculine gaze. Those filthy Germans.

Oh dear, and I forgot to label it NSFW, and as it so happens, I'm sure some innocent male viewer just happens to have a job interview scheduled this very day. The result will no doubt be dire:

For a start, male workers who think that viewing these kinds of images at work won't influence the way they perceive and interact with their female colleagues are probably mistaken. Consider a study that showed one group of men a series of ads portraying women as sex things, and compared their behaviour with that of men shown instead advertising material without sexual imagery. Later, each man was asked to interview a female job candidate, and their behaviour was carefully observed.

Men who had recently seen women portrayed as sex objects sat closer to the interviewee, flirted more and asked the candidate a greater number of sexually inappropriate questions. These men also rated her as less competent, and remembered a great deal about the woman's physical appearance but less information that would help them decide her suitability for the job.

Please, men readers. Remember to sit stiffly in a corner, looking like a bishop and asking wooden questions without any salacious modulations. Lip smacking and spittle is particularly frowned upon! You know how simple minded you sound when the pheromones kick in. And when we say stiffly, we of course don't mean that kind of stiffly, you perverted drones.

Now I know - despite everything I've said or endorsed - you might be thinking that this is over the top political correctness or rampant wowserism, proving you've learned nothing, and that you still think with your dick.

... images of sexually objectified women prime men to perceive and respond to fully clothed women in the same way. The GQ images of Miranda Kerr may not be hardcore (a fact presented by the Here is the City website campaign, which is attempting to save Kiely's job), but they may still leave male bankers with a stronger impression of the cut of a female colleague's blouse than her opinion of the financial markets.

Those deluded big end of town types are campaigning for Dave.

But we have no sympathy for Dave, or any worthless male gaze that might have innocently stumbled on these images or even taken that vile Rolling Stone into the workplace, on the pretence that they're interested in music rather than bondage and sexual harassment.

Because women, especially in places like high finance, are such tender flowers of a Jane Austen kind, that a look at one of these images can reduce them to quivering jelly, and ruin a day's work:

When sexual material changes men's work interactions with women in this way, the cost to women is more than the potential overlooking of their mental, rather than physical, assets. Crucially, it can also blight her ability to perform well at work.

A now vast literature on a damaging phenomenon known as "stereotype threat" shows that environments that cue gender stereotypes - such as the stereotype of the empty-headed bimbo - impair women's ability to perform well in traditionally male domains. Women have to expend mental energy unconsciously suppressing the unflattering stereotype, and this interferes with the task at hand.

Indeed. So bereft of mental energy that I had to immediately revert to checking out what's happening at Victoria's Secret:

Oh dear, did I forget to label this as NSFW? Whatever you do, don't ask a female employee whether it is!

Never mind, I forgot the label because I was shocked to see that Miranda Kerr is still one of Victoria's Secret angels. To whit (and to woo):

Victoria's Secret "Angels" are a small group of models contracted to the company, and as such are the brand's most visible models and spokeswomen. The Angels made their d├ębut in 1999 in the fourth annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Daniela Pestova, Karen Mulder, Laetitia Casta, Heidi Klum, Stephanie Seymour, and Tyra Banks are among the "Angels" from the original promotion. In May 2007, the Victoria's Secret Angels, including Adriana Lima, Selita Ebanks, Alessandra Ambrosio, Izabel Goulart, and Karolina Kurkova were chosen to be part of People Magazine's annual "100 Most Beautiful People in the World" issue.

Oh that's so offensive and threatening, and surely will bring the worst out in bankers:

Psychologist Christine Logel and colleagues found that when men interact with female colleagues in even a very subtly dominant and sexually interested way, it triggered stereotype threat in female engineers, who then performed worse on an engineering test.

Women in male-dominated workplaces who doubt that their performance has ever been undermined in this way may also be mistaken. In Logel's studies, the women's ability was harmed by the subtly sexist behaviour of their male peers even when they weren't aware of it.

Yep, and while a banker looks at images you can find on any magazine or most Chairman Rupert tabloid rags, and as avidly consumed by women as by men, it's alleged a rugby league star shoved his tongue down the throat of a young woman. (Don't you know who I am? Manly star's sex assault case hears of confrontation).

Never mind, let's keep bashing the banker:

Even as psychologists learn more about how gender stereotypes adversely affect women trying to gain ground in male domains, material that primes those very stereotypes and attitudes becomes more common. Pornography is increasing in work settings, according to the Fawcett Society in Britain. And pornography in the workplace, however mild, serves as a signal to women that they are in male space. (Do male primary school teachers read Zoo magazine in female-dominated staff rooms? I very much doubt it.)

Indeed, and thank the lord that the only people who shop at Victoria's Secret are men. Women? I very much doubt it. Do girls read Dolly in school? I very much doubt it. Do young women read Cleo at work? I very much doubt it. Do fashion ponces look at Vogue at work? I very much doubt it. Does anybody read magazines at work? If Cordelia Fine has her way, I very much doubt it.

Well naturally, all the many fine thoughts penned herein by Cordelia Fine, in Feel sorry for Kiely, but pity more his female colleagues, naturally stirred the pond to a fine old squawking.

And I'm sorry to say that in the comments section you could find this kind of primitive defensive masculine thinking:

Oh get real. You criticise him in a roundabout way for being a chauvanistic pig yet remain blissfully unaware that you can barely open a newspaper on any given day without "Miranda Kerr's sexy new swimsuit shoot" or "Revealing designs from Milan" or "Golden Globes: all the hot pics". Would this article exist had he been browsing such a gallery on The Age online? And can we please stop saying "semi naked" and "near naked" she wasn't naked and such terms are a "little extreme".

I was so shocked by this Chris and his offensive thinking that I began to brood about an acceptable image for Miranda Kerr in the workplace, and here it is, thanks to Deborah Kerr. And of course thanks to Cordelia Fine. Sure it's a little dark in this workplace, but a lantern and the light of the Lord will cast out the gloom:

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