Thursday, 25 September 2008


You might remember on Monday morning that I posted about Kate magazine, the women's mag at the University of Auckland which came out this week as an insert in Craccum (AUSA's student rag). Sophie Klinger, Women's Rights Officer at AUSA, had told me before it came out that she had heard the editor, Dan Sloan, intended to surround Kate with sexist content, but I didn't see it for myself until last night. And it's pretty full on.

The cover, which I've included a photo of with this post, possibly against my better judgement, is a pair of disembodied breasts, and according to this comment on Cactus Kate's blog it appears to have been taken by Meg Sloan, who I am assuming is some relation of the editor (although I do find it odd that he didn't acknowledge her contribution as photographer in the credit list next to his editorial...) The cover seems designed to turn women off from picking up the magazine in the first place.

And if they did grab it, they'd have to wade through a number of misogynist articles before reaching the lovely pink edged pages of Kate in the centre section. Lord Jacob of Mussfordshire has contributed an article entitled "Women as Property" on p17 (a "satirical" discussion between a number of men at the Northern Club), a page and a half of ranting arguing "It's a privilege for women to be in pornography" from next year's AUSA Media Officer Thomas Carver on pp18 & 19,* a piece about stripping as empowerment which isn't actually all that bad (albeit predictable) on p20, then two full page (inoffensive) ads before the glorious Kate begins on p23.

Following Kate's cryptic crossword, and the return to the parts of Craccum controlled by Sloan, we have two pages of purported letters to Craccum sharing sexual experiences (because we all know that any magazine that has a significant portion of feminist content needs to be "balanced" up with a sizeable portion of smut to remind us that really it's all about sex), an article on why men are better than women (including an insert box on why women shouldn't be allowed to vote) whose authorship is not revealed, and a short piece by one Scoop Chang on why the women characters ruin a number of movies (actually I think George Lucas could take a significant portion of the blame for Episodes I - III of Star Wars).

Later in the magazine there is the usual, interesting, Arts section (books, films, CDs, comedy etc), and four pages of AUSA-centred content which is mainly about the Cultural Mosaic on this week. I venture to suggest that if the editor had decided to surround the stuff about Cultural Mosaic with racist content on a par with the sexist content Kate is almost subsumed by there would have been an outcry.

Sloan tries to cut off the complaints about the content by stating in his editorial:
The point is that a good portion of this magazine is tongue-and-cheek. So before you come knocking at our door or flooding our inbox with an assload of "well done guys, women and porn and period jokes, hurf durf" emails, it's not serious. If anything, we hope we've drawn attention to how incredibly stupid some of these assertions are.
That's right ladies - Get A Sense of Humour Already!

Now my understanding is that because the advertising manager of Craccum made it pretty clear he wasn't interested in selling ads for Kate, the 12 page insert was funded by the WRO's budget for the project, and was effectively treated the same as paid advertising. Yet I somehow doubt that Craccum's editor would have treated any other advertiser in such a way - surrounding the content they had paid for with stuff that so ridiculously denigrated what they had put together. I'm not saying they should have only had articles that were nice to girls, far from it, but they didn't have to so deliberately try to basically sabotage Kate, and the hard work of all those women who contributed to it.

I hope there are some positive outcomes from this situation, and I hope that Kate's target audience do get to read it despite the obstacles in their way. It would be great if this incident creates discussion on campus about how to put challenging points of view side by side in the media without treating people like crap. Maybe it will even give next year's women's magazine editor the support to do a stand-alone publication, and be less reliant on the whims of elected editors who, in my experience, often end up quite isolated from their readership in the Boys' Club that Craccum seems to become each year.

Big ups to Sophie and all those involved in putting together a great Kate. Don't let the bastards get you down.

* Maybe this is satire too? It's hard to see how anyone could seriously believe in the statement "We all know that women are wothless pieces of meat whichdeserve no respect and simply exist to meet the needs of males. And by that logic, I am honouring a woman by allowing her to be involvd with porn; I mean, as a male it is my right to go out and have sex with any womanI want without her consent (call it rape it [sic] you will, you fucking feminist Nazis) and to do what I want with her." At the end Carver kindly offers to "drill some sense into you free of charge." Urgh.


Craig Ranapia said...

*sigh* Isn't it funny how years of work in student media trying to be... well, taken seriously can be undone with the snap of a bra strap. I really wonder if there's a few people out there wondering, "why the fuck did I bother?"

As for Sloan's "get a sense of humour, hairy-legged lemon-lips" defence, I'd just say "you first".

Rosabel said...

Hi Julie,

I enjoyed reading Kate and I also must congratulate Sophie on a job well done, but I have to disagree with a lot of what you’re saying: I personally don’t feel that the issue sabotaged, or detracted from, Kate [And if I am misguided in my beliefs, then surely by surrounding Kate by such offensive content, it only makes the magazine all the more appealing? Perhaps that logic is a little off the mark though].

But mostly I wonder why those who contribute to Kate can’t contribute to Craccum on a regular basis - the issues addressed in the magazine are important, and I think they need to be raised consistently rather than once a year in a specialist magazine targeted specifically towards women. I think by doing this, you run the risk of alienating a large proportion of people – guys for instance - who would be interested in what you have to say, but miss out because they don’t perceive a woman’s magazine as relevant to them. The topics you discuss are relevant to females sure, but they’re relevant to society in general and surely they should be targeted as such. So why is it necessary to distance yourself from the publication? By continuing to publish Kate aren’t you inadvertently purporting the belief that Craccum is a boys club? Female contributors are certainly underrepresented at Craccum but it wouldn’t be hard to change this. Just some thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this too.

From what I can see, it is, in a really odd (read: lame and misguided) way, trying to be supportive of Kate to show what the horrible sexists look like.

There are little clues (i.e. silly and over the top statements) sprinkled throughout the articles to signal with a knowing wink to readers that the content is outrageous.

However, while there is ridiculous and overt sexism out there in the wider non-Craccum world, more powerful sexist media content isn't going to be this hammy and over-the-top.

Maybe the Craccum dudes could have thought about that... among many many other things.

Anonymous said...

Meh, I think I am too old for it - the 'sexism' just came across as tired and lame attempts at attention-seeking.

alison said...

Female contributors are certainly underrepresented at Craccum but it wouldn’t be hard to change this.

Not hard? Not with the right editors, perhaps, but in the past decade, only two women have been editors for Craccum, and then only co-editors with a male ( I saw little sign in my 7 years as a Craccum reader that any of the editors was trying very hard to even up the disparity.

Yes, in principle it's not hard to change it. In practice, not so much. It's very much still a bastion of not-yet-old-boydom (or has it become more like that in the past decade? Women were substantially better represented among the editors in earlier decades).

I'm actually inclined to believe that this was an attempt to show that there is still sexism, but I think it fails dismally by dealing with only the most stereotypical, easily identified and therefore, least pernicious examples.

Julie said...

Thanks for your comments so far, I hope to come back with a few responses tomorrow (Friday), but here's an email I got from Nick Withers, who does the design at Craccum, and also did the lay out for Kate, reproduced with his permission:

Hi Julie,

Just a note in regards to the section on the Advertising Manager in your blog entry "Sigh" on The Hand Mirror.

During the original Kate meeting on or around the 19th of August the Advertising Manager did make it clear that he would approach the people who advertised in the last Kate magazine, as well as any advertisers that Sophie or anyone else could suggest or refer. On the Monday production day for Kate the advertising manager informed me the no one had responded to his enquiries about Kate magazine, and thus the magazine was printed sans-advertising.

Having been involved as the designer of the majority of Platform/Kates since 2000 I have noticed that advertising has always been difficult to secure for the magazine. I believe this is primarily due to the fact that Kate/Platform does not have a fixed publication date during the year, but rather is done when the WRO/Platform Committee finds time (sometimes difficult for busy students). This gives a small window for seeking advertising. This is a situation that could be remedied perhaps by establishing a publication date well in advance, and is something that Sophie, the AUSA Media Officer, the Advertising Manager and myself could discuss in terms of next year's Kate (along with costing a stand alone magazine).


Cactus Kate said...

On the positive front.

They are good breasts.

Anonymous said...

I went to school with Dan Sloan, and his sister, Meg Sloan.
Dan loved to make misogynist jokes when I knew him. He was smart enough to always make them as jokes- but jokes always conceal some truth, don't they?

unPC lesbian said...

Not being a breast girl myself, the arms aren't too bad either.

What a laugh, and funnily the boy students will think they are being dreadfully clever and that no one would have ever thought of doing this before.

One does wonder how they would have fared in the oh so heady days of the early 80's when the English dept was ruled by radical lesbian feminists......maybe hunted down and tied to a lamppost outside their residences....

Sophia said...

I think the problem here is that Dan and the rest of the team have tried to point it all out as satire. Yet satire is a specific type of humour which Carver's article woefully lacks.

If anyone wanted to see a good piece of satire that Craccum should have done - they should check out the Onion - especially the article ' Man finally put in charge of the feminist movement'.

Lita said...

Ugh. Craccum's 'satire' is so 1986.

Julie said...

Sorry I didn't get back to this sooner.

I think if the Craccum team had been trying to be supportive then they might have communicated with the Kate team about what they were doing. They might not have produced a cover that would turn Kate's audience off even picking the magazine up in the first place.

By juxtaposing Kate with the content Craccum chose, it did indeed show the superiority of the women's mag content. But I'm not sure that was intended.

And I agree about the lack of regular contribution by women to Craccum. I don't read it much these days, not being at Uni very often, but it strikes me that a lack of women (or indeed many from outside the dominant demographic of young white men from the North Shore or Eastern Suburbs) is a real problem. When I was at uni it was a problem too. And I wondered then if partly it was a product of the elected editor system - that the skills and attributes needed to get elected don't necessarily gel with the skills and attributes needed to be a good editor who works on including a wide range of people.

Finally - props to Alison, pernicious is a FANTASTIC word.