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April 23, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soap Box: Extreme Outrage

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Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Byron’s Back

‘Byron’s dead’. That’s the statement that I often hear. Or ‘I never go there anymore it’s lost’ or ‘Byron died years ago’. It always makes me feel a bit sad and defensive. I have such a love for this place, although I curse it when I get stuck in snaking traffic at 8am on a weekday morning or I can’t find a park near where I am going.

Extreme Outrage

Last week I wrote about the inappropriate representation of women on the mural on the Extreme Sports Stars ride at the Brunswick Carnival. It was a very straightforward thesis: men are represented in sports outfits as heroes and the women are represented in what looks like stripper poses, or something from a porn mag. The women need to be repainted as sports stars. Simple. Apparently not so. It has created a bit of a social-media shitstorm for both me and the local men who stood in silent protest against the representation on the mural. You might say we’ve stirred up a very angry mob. Some of the comments are almost Pythonesque, like one of my faves ‘I don’t speak cunt’.

Ironically the violence of the Outrage just proves the point. Images like this ARE about violence. They underpin it. They incite it. Right now in Bruns there is a small group hell bent on defending the indefensible. Deep down I don’t think any of them actually believes it. In any other context they’d agree that the image is not appropriate, particularly for children. But they are understandably worried their local carnival is going to up and leave so instead of saying: ‘Hey, the local community has been complaining about this for four years now, and it’s finally come to a head. Can we help do something about it?’ they’ve turned on the community who have expressed their offence.

As often happens, it’s degenerated into an ‘us and them’ kind of tug o’ war of ‘Locals’ versus ‘Blow ins’. The seething hatred a small section of the community has for what they see as a bunch of lefty feminist hippies boils to the surface and the conversation gets skewed into some very weird places. Some of the delightful Facebook feedback I’ve had includes: ‘You’re a bad mother’, ‘Why don’t you hippies do something useful and try and cure cancer!’ One woman went way out left field and said I was responsible for a farmer’s suicide!? And a typically hateful comment directed at me: ‘Who would want to rape her’. Thanks, I didn’t realise rape was something women were supposed to aspire to. (And BTW I have been raped; I must put a tick on my bucket list.)

Another bloke used the argument as a chance to share his meme that depicted a white stick figure kicking a rainbow (gay) stick figure viciously in the groin. That’s the way to do it. When intellect and reason elude you, resort to violence and abuse! It was like an audition for ‘Australia’s Got Cyberbullys’ or ‘Lord of the Flies on Facebook’. One woman actually told me I was jealous of the image because it depicted a fit woman. Clearly it was her way of calling me fat. Then she said I was picking on a woman. I had to explain it wasn’t a woman, it was paint. Some people just don’t get it, or don’t want to get it. In America you’d call them Trump voters. When challenged they get violent, hateful, threatening and abusive.

Most people defending the integrity of the mural don’t seem to be able to grasp why people have a problem with it and it was abundantly clear that, although many were tanked up on outrage, none them had actually read my article. One bloke abusing me for what I had written actually admitted it! Like kindy kids, many had clearly read the headline and looked at the picture. They thought because it was called Extreme Tits that I was offended by tits. Let me explain the title. It’s got two meanings. (Strap yourself in for this.) The first is taking the name of the ride and using it to explain what I can only assume is the women in the mural’s sport of choice – she’s an Extreme Tit champion. The second is the word tit has another meaning: It means idiot. This is what comedians call satire. ‘Satire is the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.’ And of course it’s got very, very personal. It’s a put the boot into Mandy Nolan Facebook fest.

People really don’t know how to have an argument without playing the player instead of a ball. I should add that I haven’t said anything negative at all about the carnival business, nor will I. Some called me out as a hypocrite for the shots in my underwear to promote my comedy show Women Like Us. The image that I use is a satirical joke on the objectification of women. It’s a joke. Lots of people get it but some don’t. (But I’m happy they keep sharing my posters; thanks guys, it really helps with the publicity.) A couple of people have attacked my kids on social media. One person even dredged up one of our family Xmas cards of our family that depicted A VERY Bogan Xmas. All the kids are dressed in character… as pregnant smoking teenagers, tattooed, etc. We’ve done zombies, hippies, bikies. A little off topic. But that’s what happens.

Most of the debate has drifted wildly off topic into hate speech. A lot of the ranting is because mural supporters think those aggrieved by the image are upset because the woman was showing her boobs. ‘Bodies are natural and beautiful,’ they said. ‘Should we start wearing burquas on the beach?’ said another. I wondered why it was so difficult to follow the argument. Some people said: ‘It’s Liz Hurley because it’s “stars”.’ Okay, so why isn’t Magic Mike up there wearing little jocks and pushing his balls up? It would still be an inappropriate image for a children’s ride, but at least the messaging would be equal. It’s actually not a moral issue at all – it’s political. No-one is whingeing about seeing titties. We all love breasts. We just like women to be represented equally to men. I still can’t see how that’s too much to ask?

The biggest stumbling block in the whole debate seems to be the inability to understand how culture works. Many seem to think that mothers and fathers are the sole providers of social messaging for their kids, and that images like this have no effect. But it’s the current narrative of the sexualisation and objectification of women that underpins violence against women worldwide. It’s why we die. It’s why none of the awareness campaigns, the help lines, the interventions have done anything to lower the statistics. To change a cultural epidemic of violence against women you have to change culture. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women has stated exactly this on their Unicef website:
‘Sexual objectification contributes to harmful gender stereotypes that normalise violence against girls.’

Of course, these stereotypes are not only harmful for girls, but for boys as well. Boys see how their bodies are portrayed in relation to girls’ and learn to believe success or attractiveness is tied to dominance, power, and aggression.

Unfortunately, the media are not empowering women. The media send the message that girls need to be pretty, not powerful; noticed, not respected. And this is incredibly harmful, not just to a girl and her development, but to our culture at large. I know to many it seems like a non-issue. People say ‘get over it’. But to me that’s like saying ‘get over violence against women’. If we don’t stand up for what seem like small issues, then nothing changes. And I’m sorry, this is a bigger issue than a country town Xmas carnival. This is global. Forget the mindless outrage – it actually achieves nothing.

So the challenge goes out to the McGregor Family’s Carnival: Don’t leave, but don’t do nothing either. Do something Extreme. Change the mural. You’ll have the respect of a town, and a story you can tell a nation. Be part of creating a narrative for the future. Now that’s a ride I want to be on.


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27 COMMENTS

  1. THANK YOU MANDY!!! Keep going, I love all your words. I have been part of this protest and appreciated the echo support last year by printing my photo and protest but that pales into comparison by what you and the guys have taken this to a whole new level this year and you are SO APPRECIATED!!! It just feels exhausting sometimes having to point out what to me is the bleeding obvious disconnect between public imagery and sexual violence. I felt alone in my protest but now I feel part of an important movement. I look forward to seeing a tennis player, swimmer, footballer, whatever she becomes on that mural! Please listen McGregors – you have such an opportunity to make a real difference here to a LOT of peoples lives. Not just in our community but in all the communities you travel to throughout the year.

    • Yes THANK YOU Mandy for putting it in perspective so beautifully.

      This tired old, innapropriate 1950s carney is taking up precious parkland that normally would be full of families enjoying picnics in the shade.

      Does anyone know where the wastewater from THREE onsite vans goes? Or how much rent these people pay to take up a whole park for TWO months?

  2. Well said.
    Once we make it the norm to not have sexist posters in our faces, those that still want them can find it in the privacy of their homes in front of the computer.
    My local gym had some similar sexist murals on the wall and when they were finally painted over ( by the new owners ) both male and female members agreed it made the gym a nicer place to be.
    Little by little it will help people see that men and women are equals, even if we are a bit different physically.

  3. Thank you Mandy for voicing our concerns so well. I’m also disgusted and disheartened by the abuse I’ve read towards you on Facebook- they just don’t get it. Just because people depict women like sluts everywhere around us doesn’t make it right.

    Thank you

  4. Liz’s thigh gap is nearly a wide as her leg, how could anyone think this is a healthy image for a childrens ride. Go Mandy!

  5. Just a carnival. Yes. Still, I believe [having worked with rape crisis years ago] that life
    is a circus… good, crook, or extra bad. The circus takes all forms & outlooks. And I do
    agree with Mandy since ‘people’ [that’s us] do, or should, matter. So many don’t think,
    know, let alone understand what they have as a family, friend or Nation. It hasn’t
    occurred to them what it is they have actually “got” until it’s hurt [emotionally] &
    wronged.

    • Yes a circus like you say … and mostly the hurt doesn’t register … one is left every day crawling out of bed … male female ford holden makes no difference … you get up and … crawl out of bed … maybe more but no … every day you get up and crawl out of bed … til you hear it sung and somehow life goes on …

  6. Well said Mandy. I wonder from which US junk pile they found this banner
    Must have got it for free as not many Grid iron players & stockings and suspenders girls around these parts …
    The owner of this carni doesnt seem to have a clue about making a dollar.
    Does he realise that this huge banner could be used to promote his ride instead of denigrating it?
    How much money has this pleb lost due to his idnorance &stupidity.
    If he took it down he prolly would have made double or triple the scheckles
    Stupid is as stupid does… Dohhhh

  7. The way you have explained the issue should meet a very wide audience. I personally have been stunned by the numbers, of which would undoubtedly go into the hundreds either as active participants or silent watchers, as a result of your courage to be as forthright and fearless on this issue. Congratulations Mandy, well done and so undeserving of the flak you and your household have and are enduring over this.

  8. I’m just flabbergasted that people object to what Mandy wrote. Are there really people that dumb out there that they don’t get it?

  9. Doeth the lady complain to much

    A stroll through Bruns on any day reveals the human form in all its glory
    both male and female

    Frankly , the graphic is tame compared to real life .

    Live and let live a little

    Mandy i never thought anyone would have to say this to you

    “Let it all hang out babe”

    • James I think that ‘The Lady doth complain in appropriate measure’. Relative to the vitriol she has been subject to I think her complaint could have been far stronger. The graphic may be tame compared to a porn site but I have yet to see any women in Brunswick thrusting her breasts up in the manner depicted in the mural, however, the point Mandy is making is the relative depiction between the women and the men in the mural ie porn star versus sports hero, is that too hard to grasp? If this seems ok to you then I look forward (not) to seeing you in your tiny jocks pushing your balls up & strutting around the streets of Brunswick sometime soon.

  10. Thank you Mandy. Now can you please take on those sexist ukulele night posters that appear in Club Mullum each month. Why are women in bathers (various poses month after month) needed to promote ukulele playing?

    • Thanks Anne,

      Duly noted. Though when I used this poster https://www.pinterest.com.au/pin/535646949403601357/
      less than 10 people came along… twice… in two different territories. The posters I make are intended to remind the viewer of a more innocent time when fun was fun and a little bit of riské cheek was a healthy part of a sense of humour. There’s such a thing as P.C. gone mad. I hope we don’t get all Hitler and start burning books again. There’s been plenty of beefcake in my posters as well. Here see them all: https://www.pinterest.com.au/stukulele/uke-night/ – If it is really such a concern to you, I invite you to please tell me which ones are offensive to you and why. Sincerely and many thanks for the feedback, Stu.

  11. Mandy – I fully support you on this issue. Keep speaking out and thanks for bearing the shit you have thrown at you. These images that women are just sexual objects whereas men are athletes are wrong on so many levels. I am sick of how our youth are still confronted with these double standards.

  12. Thank God for intelligent spokespeople like yourself in our community Mandy… And thank you for taking the time and effort… Most of us are very grateful…

  13. Thank you for taking this to another level. As the father of two daughters, and having two granddaughters, I appreciate your stand for women.

  14. Thank you Mandy! for saying it so well for so many of us. It’s brought the grubs out of the undergrowth, but exposure to the light may dissolve their nasties..
    Deep gratitude for your huge contribution to the community, and mind-blowing comedy, your intelligence, insight, courage, vision, and for all the laughs.

  15. Good on you Mandy. Well said. With you all the way. American sportsman with helmets etc and a skimpy clad girl. Definitely not kosher on any level for an Aussie family carnival!

  16. Just came to this story now. Can see the problem with the depiction but why does it only concern women? Whatever the statistics they’re still just that. Me, I’m a spotted white blob. And there are plenty women who look to marry the right one. We males only dance to maybe entertain, til the years take even that from us. Maybe we have a partner by then. Or else, we’ve done with the dance. The depictions make no difference. It’s always been a matter of pheremones. And how quick you are.

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