“I Will Slap You Down…Trust Me!” These are the exact words that came out of the mouth of Australia’s Next Top Model judge Alex Perry. He was addressing six young girls who are contestants on the show. Their photo shoots from the previous week were apparently not up to scratch and if he didn’t see better results delivered this week….well, the comment speaks for itself.
What was heart-breaking was the girls’ reactions to the threat. Initially shocked and then submissive, nodding in agreement as if the punishment was fair and warranted. This is not a criticism of these young girls as they are clearly intimidated; it’s an observation of what their accepted reality is.
Where do I even start in responding to this?
How is it okay for any man to physically threaten violence against a woman or a group of women? Let alone in a highly public arena, a space where young girls look for inspiration. Whether or not you have moral issues with the concept of the show is totally irrelevant at this point.
There are two key issues here,
1. That Alex Perry, as a mentor on the show, threatened violence to young girls if they didn’t not meet his standards, and
2. That the network allowed it through edit.
I am well versed in the media saying that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ but really…? Surely there is a line. The humiliation and degradation of vulnerable young girls has clearly crossed that line.
Is it any wonder that we are in a society fighting a losing battle in regards to violence against women? The rewriting of policies, the campaigning, the awareness raising are obsolete in light of these brazen comments made when the target audience is our young women. Some may play this down, but we are living in a climate where media is dictating the reality of a young person’s perception of the world! The effect this remark has already had must not be underestimated.
Alex Perry recently removed himself from Twitter in response to claims that he sanctioned bullying whilst being the host of TV show The Real Housewives of Melbourne. In contrast, Perry has been a visible advocate for his close friend, the late Charlotte Dawson who took her own life after experiencing ongoing and horrific cyber bullying. Critics accused Perry of having double standards in his stance on bullying.
He responded by saying “I think bullying is an incredibly serious issue, and I think there are ill- informed people on Twitter, who are – how can I say this nicely – of low intelligence, that are just on there to use it as a toxic forum”.
Interesting! Surely threatening physical violence to vulnerable girls on national television would be seen as bullying, in the very least.
We all say things that we shouldn’t, and some may argue that this may have been the case. However, there appeared to be no attempt to retract the comment or to apologise to the girls. This is where we rely on editing. The magical wand that can tidy things up and make them acceptable to the viewer. Let’s keep in mind the target audience here; young girls and boys. Not only did a team of editors deem this comment as worthy, but to get to air it would have had to be signed off by, not one, but several of the production staff. In a nutshell, a whole team of adults responsible for the framing of young girls’ perceptions of their place in the world have all deemed this as acceptable.
They have sent a clear message to girls that this is what you are to expect if you don’t come up to scratch. Furthermore, what Perry is doing is unequivocally teaching boys how to treat girls when they do not behave ‘properly’. The editing made sure to show the submissive response, further highlighting the assumed roles.
For those who are still questioning the gravity of such a threat, let me put this in context.
If a male teacher was to stand in front of a group of young female students and threaten to slap them down if their work standards didn’t improve he would be, without a doubt, up on charges. In the very least he would have a lot of explaining to do. Likewise if he was an army officer, youth leader or anyone in authority. It is the role of such mentors to instill appropriation into the minds of our young and there are governing bodies and boundaries to ensure this happens.
One of the greatest issues affecting our youth today is confusion regarding the mixed messages delivered from parents/adults and digital media. Certain behaviours, such as the above mentioned are, in no way acceptable in the ‘real world’, but behind the guise of digital media – all bets are off. As adults, we regulate digital media content. Surely in an attempt to pull our young out of the grey area, we need to be looking at cohesion across the board.
Alex Perry has greatly underestimated the injustice of violence against women, especially given the media it has received in the past few months. His comment degrades all those affected by violence who continue to fight to be heard. As a mother of daughters, I have battled to have my girls challenge what is presented as acceptable and to stand up for their rights, irrespective of who the intimidator is.
I guess the only thing in Perry’s favor, at this point, is that he did not say this to one of my daughters.
What did you think of Alex Perry’s comments? Share your thoughts below…