Research Spin

If you’ve been anywhere near The Guardian for the past three days you will have come across this “intent” to curb the hypersexualisation of our beloved media.
There’s absolutely nothing in this new report or in the proposed “action plans” that we feminists haven’t seen at least a billion times since the ‘70s. This is a well known tactic used by governments when they can’t possibly avoid an “issue” any longer: they commission research. “You say there’s a problem? Don’t worry, we’ll look into it, leave it to us.” Ten years pass by and nothing gets done, on accounts that the research is not “conclusive” enough. So then more research is commissioned, another ten years pass by and the whole thing repeats itself again. This system of permanent “spin” is applied to anything that the public might show interest in, from acid rain to advertising aimed at children. The excuse for inaction is “we don’t know for sure yet”. In the meantime, the concerned public is appeased, the outrage conveniently dispersed. It’s a “safety valve” designed to stop pressure from effecting change. Or causing explosions. Both of which are dangerous to the status quo.

The problem is not lack of research, you see. We have known the harmful effects of pornography since the very invention of pornography. Not only we do not need further research, but we have never needed research in the first place. Accepting that we ever did acts to sow doubt in our minds. “Maybe we don’t know it all. Maybe the blatant truth in front of us is not quite what it seems”. So we better go to the big institutions, the big authority figures, the State, the Universities, all of which are designed to keep the status quo intact, to provide us with irrevocable proof that yes, the truth is indeed true.
We don’t need research to tell us that poisoning a river is “bad” any more than we need research to tell us that denigrating images of women are “bad”. And for good measure, we don’t need research to tell us that torture in Guantanamo is “bad” either.
The way to fight back against this “spin” nonsense is to do away with research altogether. You want proof that hypersexualisation is harmful? Our rage is proof enough. We want this to stop and we demand this to be stopped. End of story.
The way to rationalize this approach is to understand that the current state of affairs wasn’t put in place because the research proved it to be the best possible alternative. No one carried out extensive research comparing the benefits of a hypersexualised culture versus a non hypersexualised one and concluded that, yes, hypersexualisation was the way to go. If “they” didn’t need research to put it there we shouldn’t need research to take it down.
Or you can think about it this way: did the government commission studies to prove that bailing out banks was the most favourable social outcome? Thought so. Furthermore, did they go back and said “the evidence is non conclusive, come back in a year or two with better data”? Exactly.
Those in power get to call the shots, independently of whether they make sense or not. The rest of us don’t have that privilege. If we want to change something, we better justify it a thousand times over.

Just to finish this off, take a closer look at this line in the editorial article about this very topic:

“Today a Home Office report proposes action to try to reduce access to the kind of magazines and advertising that appear to objectify young girls, and more education to arm all young people against it.”

Did it occur to anyone that maybe there shouldn’t be stuff in our society for which young people should be armed against? What is this? A war?

Maybe it is. A war over who gets to decide what goes on in our minds. And we are losing.


5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    berryblade said,

    One of my biggest grievances of this kind of thing is that they always seem to erase the fact that it IS a gendered problem and it’s MEN who need to learn that exploiting womyn is just unacceptable. Period.

  2. 2

    veganprimate said,

    No one carried out extensive research comparing the benefits of a hypersexualised culture versus a non hypersexualised one and concluded that, yes, hypersexualisation was the way to go. If “they” didn’t need research to put it there we shouldn’t need research to take it down.

    Brilliant line!

  3. 3

    marytracy9 said,

    Thanks, BBB. I try.

  4. 4

    Spicy said,

    Spot on analysis!

    There is however one tiny bit missing from how the whole sexualisation review went down (and here’s an insider snippet to make your head spin) – the one having to provide the proof i.e. the one without the power was the Home Office who was being dismissed by the Dept. for Culture Media and Sport and the Dept. for Children, Schools and Families who actually hold joint responsibility for this issue. Both refused to play ball, demanding more evidence thus forcing the Home Office to commission this research. Go figure.

  5. 5

    Laura said,

    As a teenager I took rather a shine to magazines targeted at young girls. My po-faced girls, horrified that I would be utterly corrupted, did everything they could to stop me reading them. (I still managed to get my hands on a few). When I look back now they are so utterly innocent it is unreal. I suspect that a lot of the strong sexual imagery of some aspects of the media has led to the same kind of sexual panic. I taught in schools for a little while, and have many friends with teenage kids and I wonder how justified the assumption is that teenagers are accessing hardcore, aggressive porn on the internet. Most of this is paid-for, so unless they’ve got credit cards they are not going to be accessing very much. It reminds me of the panic over “video nasties” in the 80s – very few kids in reality were watching this stuff.

    Most of the stuff there is panic about is adult-oriented entertainment and frankly a lot of teenagers find it boring, I suspect that the overall impact is exaggerated or assumes that young people have the same exposure as adults do.

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