Monthly Archives: September 2009

Il corpo delle donne

Thank you, Giovanni, for the pointer to this nuanced documentary about representations of women on television.

Il corpo delle donneWomen bodies

Some quotes:

Since the only sign of desirability we are able to recognize is an explicit reference to sex, we have changed our entire imagery into that of a strip club. To film these images you have to position the camera before the shot the same way you do in pornography starting with the breast, the pubic area, thighs, exactly like a porn movie. But we are actually watching public broadcasting. (8.58 ff minutes)

The damage caused by the lack of visibility of older faces is not a small one: the faces showed to the public are only shaved faces, wearing make-up, ready for the screen to sell products, goods, or politics. (15.22 ff minutes)

We see only a few images of adult and non artificial women, and those images are fierce ones: these women are harpies that attack younger ones, with whom there is can be [sic] no aesthetic comparison. This is unfair because of the age difference, and the young girls are humiliated. what happens when faces can’t show their vulnerability any more. Where can we find pietas, sincerity, where can we look for those answers that stand the grounds for cohesion in a society? (17.27 ff minutes)

Watch with care. Some of the images are disturbing (eg. 22.56 ff). Even more disturbing is that I found so many of the images… ordinary.

New Zealand Book Month challenge

NZBMsmlOctober is New Zealand Book Month, and Ele of Homepaddock has issued a challenge: blog a New Zealand book every day of the month. Rob Hosking is taking up the challenge, promising some real delights:

Bollard and Buckle’s “Economic Liberalisation in New Zealand’ is a real page turner. And Malcolm McKinnon History of the NZ Treasury will have you on the edge of your seat. [link]

That’s clearly Rob’s area of expertise. I don’t have an area of literary expertise, but we do have a lot of New Zealand children’s books. So each day in October, I will write about one (or more) of these books:


Because it’s never wrong to use women’s bodies to sell things

The Otago Daily Times (ODT) is one of New Zealand’s more conservative papers. So it’s not at all surprising that it has turned down this advertisement for a restaurant in Queenstown:


The National Business Review (NBR) reports that the advertisement was turned down because it was “too suggestive.” Apparently, the restaurant and its advertising agents were trying to create an advertisement that would go viral, with “a good level of interaction that would capture people with humour.” The NBR describes the ad as “cheeky” and “naughty” – words that indicate a trivial level of wrong doing, mischief rather than anything wrong at all. Clearly, anyone who doesn’t like the ad just doesn’t have a sense of humour.

Well, that would be me then. Because I see nothing amusing at all in exploiting women’s bodies.

And of course, the ODT is now being derided for being “wowsers.” Great. NB: DON’T read the comments thread in that link.


Chally has the fifth edition of the revived Carnival of Feminists up at her place, Zero at the Bone, illustrated with a beautiful wordle of the words used in the posts in the carnival. The carnival has posts from feminists all over the world; make yourself a large cup of coffee, and go read.

dufclogoAnd the monthly Down Under Feminists Carnival is coming up soon. It’s being hosted by the fabulous Queen of Thorns, at Ideologically Impure. You can send submissions to QoT via the DUFC submission page, or if the page won’t work for you, send them to her e-mail address: qotblog at gmail dot com. Any feminist post, broadly interpreted, published in September by any down under blogger (broadly interpreted) is eligible for the October edition of the carnival. Just for once, this reminder is not going to be accompanied by a plea for people to volunteer to host the carnival: Lauredhel now has a schedule of hosts for DUFC that extends out to this time next year. Fantastic.

Tiger Airlines breastfeeding fail and win

A mother from Melbourne was asked to cover her baby up while she was feeding him on a Tiger Airlines Flight.

Airline Breastfeeding Bungle

The fail bit – a flight attendant covered the baby up with a blanket without even asking the mother, saying, “I know it’s natural, but some people may not like to see it.” When the mother checked with the passenger near her, he assured her that he wasn’t offended at all – “No, not at all.” So the flight attendant retreated to suggesting that people walking up and down the aisle might be offended.

I’m guessing that it was the flight attendant who was twitchy about a mother feeding her baby, and she just used “other passengers” as a handy excuse. It’s a big fail on the part of the flight attendant.

But the Tiger Airlines win? They reviewed the incident, disciplined the staff member, set up a new policy and are training staff in it to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Excellent!

Moral luck, Gauguin and Polanski

Sometimes, we’re just plain lucky that the right outcome, or at least not the wrong outcome, has come about. Such as when you don’t put the handbrake on properly in your car, and it starts rolling backward, but by great good fortune it misses the toddler on the footpath behind you. Everyone is shaken, but no one is hurt, and most of all, no one seems to be to blame. It seems to be a matter of moral luck.

And sometimes, even though something we do is wrong, if later on it brings about something good, then we accept that the wrong thing may be morally justified, and not so morally wrong after all. But at the point at which we do the bad thing, we can’t know how events will turn out. If events turn out well, then our action is justified, but if they don’t, then it is not. And it’s a matter of moral luck as to whether or not our action will ever be justified.

So far so good?

Philosopher Bernard Williams wrote about moral luck, and used an example which has become famous, in moral philosophy, to illustrate the idea of moral luck. Imagine a man who has a wife and children, and further imagine that he could become a talented painter. Let’s call this painter, “Gauguin.” Imagine that his art means so much to him that he does a morally bad thing, leaving his wife and children in poverty, and heading off to say, Tahiti, where his art flourishes, and he paints works that are now recognised as masterpieces. Williams says that at the time when Gauguin left his wife and children, in order to pursue painting, it was a matter of moral luck as to whether his decision was justified. It depended on whether or not his art flourished. If it did, then his decision was justified, but if it didn’t, then it wasn’t.*

Whatever. For me, the project doesn’t even get off the ground in the first place. Gauguin may or may not have become a great artist, but that simply would not ever justify abandoning his wife and children. They were left destitute, and without any means of support. Personally, I can understand someone walking out on their partner; people change, relationships break down, stuff happens. It was however a somewhat different matter back in 1885; women then simply did not have access to earning an income in the way that women do now in 2009. But I can’t see how walking out on responsibilities to your young children can be justified, at all. It wouldn’t matter if you subsequently painted the greatest painting ever. Art does not justify moral dereliction.

All the more so in the wretched case of Roman Polanski. I don’t care how great a filmmaker he is. The fact is that he was convicted of raping a thirteen year old child, and he fled from justice. And I am sickened not only by his outrageous moral wrongdoing, but even more by the swathe of rape-apologists who have been trying to justify his behaviour. They should be ashamed of themselves.


* NB: this is my take on Williams’ account of Gauguin’s story and its relevance to moral luck. You can access the original through Google books: Moral Luck.

Just sayin’

This afternoon, I put together this flatpack bookcase from Ikea. I did it without swearing, without having to go back and re-do anything, without damaging the wood or paintwork, without even breaking into a sweat perspiration all-of-a-glow. However, I did cheat a little.


My cheating technique? I followed the instructions. Exactly.