Why it's understandable that many people were offended by the Slipper text
I was asked today if I was offended by the Peter Slipper private text that likened a vagina to an unshelled mussel.
The very idea of it took me back to the days of the Cleo and Cosmo sealed sections, with entire 16 pages jammed full of images of female genitalia or penises of all sizes and shapes. They had to be sealed, not because the images were offensive to the readership but because they may have caused offence to anyone casually flicking through at the newsagent.
I wasn't personally affronted by that particular text message in the context of all the alleged indiscretions of the former Speaker. But it is entirely understandable that many people were.
The point of it for me is this. He is a man who doesn't admire the female body and that's ok with me. There are many women who similarly are not fans of the male form. We like what we like. Is it damaging to the reputation of his office to have this particular detail revealed about him? No. Is it an issue that he describe a vagina in those graphic terms with what was clearly a negative sentiment? Well, yes if it becomes accessible to the public, for the same reasons described in the sealed section example above.
I was once asked if I would be comfortable allowing a magazine to run a cover photo of a man with an obviously erect penis. It was about seven years ago when I was being interviewed for the Board of The Office of Film and Literature Classification. Part of the rigorous process in sorting the reasonable from the unhinged was to attend an experiential day. We were shown movies, videos, photographs and video games and asked to rate them with an accompanying explanation. The items were mostly borderline pornographic (with some horrific exceptions that (I thought) were beyond pornography) and they were keen to see which side of the socially acceptable line we were on.
I don't mind admitting that the day's events traumatized me, even though I had been desensitized to all manner of genitalia of both genders via my previous women's magazine experience. It wasn't what things looked like that troubled me, it was the messages that the scenes were conveying. We were treated to the likes of misogyny, rape, pedophilia and bondage. I rated and reported with a mixture of anger, horror and sadness.
With regard to the erect penis cover try, my decision was that it wasn't a goer unless it was sold in a brown paper bag (defeating the purpose of the cover). I didn't decide that because I'm a prude. My concern was with the consequences of the accidental viewer. Children, for example, do not need to see that.
And young girls who are already body conscious do not need to see Peter Slipper's thoughts on their body either. The issue, of course, is that the text messages were private. But he is a public figure and at the time had a key Parliamentary role so should have behaved better. Perhaps we could put our politicians through the experiential day that I went through before we elect them, just to be sure.
In case you were wondering, I must be on the acceptable side of socially acceptable because I was deemed suitable to join the Board.
Were you offended by Slipper's text?
Marina Go is GM of Hearst-Bauer, publisher of Harper's Bazaar, ELLE and Cosmopolitan. She is also chair of the Wests Tigers, a director of Odyssey House McGrath Foundation and a member of the advisory boards of the Walkley Foundation, The Remarkables Group and Women's Agenda. She has an MBA from The AGSM and is a member of the AICD. Her new book is Break Through: 20 Success Strategies for Female Leaders.