Alan van der Weegen

About Alan van der Weegen

Alan Van Der Weegan is a mysterious, philosophy-obsessed Sydney-sider and reluctant social/political commentator. He has a passionate love for literature, avant-garde music and William Blake. His daily caffeine intake would kill a lesser soul.

S&M: Protesting Anna Musson’s “tattoo shaming”

Last week Sunrise ran a rather baffling discussion segment on tattoos.

As Kochie introduced the topic – “Ladies Who Ink” – audible groans could be heard from one of the patriarch-ally-named “Kochie’s Angels”, Anna Musson.

When it came her time to speak, Anna gushed about her (and apparently society’s) deep distaste for tattoos:

“I think (getting a tattoo is) a mistake. I think we make negative assumptions about a person with a tattoo, I do not think it is attractive, I do not think many men find that attractive…I think they make a negative statement.”

The response

We’ve all seen spates of “outrage sharing” on social media (where groups virally vent their frustration at social or political controversy). On one hand you could argue this phenomena illustrates increased socio-political engagement. On the other, that such engagement is usually vapid, reactionary, unreflective, and can turn ugly fast.

Members of the online community “Sydney Grrrls Club” quickly responded to the Sunrise segment on social media. It was refreshing to see that, instead of merely expressing negativity and outrage, they took the chance to put out a more positive message:

“We wanted…to show people that despite some negative comments made by Sunrise about their image, we love them so much and they should be proud of themselves!”

“(This is a) good chance to show Sydney that we’re here and we’ll stand up for them by converting our anger into love!”

They assembled last Wednesday to hold a “positivity rally” outside Sunrise’s Channel 7 Studios.

Reaction to Sydney Grrrls Club was mixed. Some (predominantly men) questioned whether “tattoo shaming” is really important enough of an issue to focus on – and whether it was detracting from the “real issues”.

This argument is, of course, a non-sequitur – it is hardly a question of caring about the looming potential genocide in the Central African Republic or body image. Even if you accepted that reasoning, you’d find yourself caught in your own logic-loop; publicly commenting on a non-serious matter is even less serious and therefore even less worthy of energy expense.

So, what can we make of all this?

My initial reaction to the initial controversy was one of utter confusion. I could not understand how anyone could take any of the human beings on Sunrise seriously.

For instance, Anna Musson describes herself as an “Etiquette Consultant”. Her very livelihood involves squishing women into conservative gender roles and traditional models of femininity. I wouldn’t exactly expect her to be in touch with “the youth”.

But, as I reflected and discussed the issue with friends, I was able to put the issue into context. According to the NEDC, over 70 percent of adolescent girls suffer from body dissatisfaction. To more impressionable members of society, Anna’s comments are unhelpful and potentially damaging. (It isn’t clear whether she also takes a firm stance against botox use.)

Additionally, I found the way in which the Sydney Grrrls Club responded commendable. They avoided the typical snarky, bitter tone that dominates most social media “outrage sharing”. By focusing on respectfully countering a negative message with a positive one, they’ve provided a great template of how these issues can be handled in a more effective, and conciliatory manner.

In an age where social media is awash with self-righteous condemnation, I am grateful for the example of Sydney Grrrls Club – and I would love to see others follow their lead.

As for Anna Musson?

Perhaps she could benefit from a little humility and self-reflection.

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