Fuelled by popular personalities on Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, cosmetic surgery is pushing further into the mainstream. Huge numbers of people, predominantly young women, are choosing to alter their appearance as though it’s as simple as buying a new set of clothes. Social-media stars get free procedures in exchange for promoting certain doctors or agencies or products to their audiences. Going on the numbers alone, audiences seem to love this blatantly cacophonous advertising, following their social media stars closely, and taking out huge personal loans to get surgery and “keep up with the Kardashians.” Doctors offering the surgery are even becoming media stars themselves, and it’s redefining the meaning of doctor/patient relations. Underpinning this entire industry, is a business model of targeting women who can barely afford procedures by selling the dream of a dream of a “new you.” Social-media laps it up, and the cycle repeats. But as this investigation shows, when things go wrong, the physical and financial costs are devastating. Doctors left to pick up the pieces are warning that the booming industry is creating a dangerous legacy, and not just to the concept of beauty.
In 2013, seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life. She had been gang-raped a year and a half earlier by her classmates and labeled a “slut” as a result. Despite transferring schools many times, she could not escape constant online harassment and in-person bullying. But Rehtaeh’s story is horribly not the only one like this to make headlines in recent years. Why is the sexual shaming of girls and women, especially sexual assault victims, still so prevalent throughout this culture? UnSlut tackles this question through a series of conversations with those who have experienced sexual shaming and how it manifests, while also offering immediate and long-term goals for personal and institutional change.
Made over five years, with contributions from hundreds of women and over 200 Australian films, For Love or Money is a pictorial account of women’s history in Australia over the past decades. The film chronicles the cycles of women’s gains and losses as they are moved in and out of the workforce according to demands of the age, revealing how women’s unpaid and voluntary work over the years has kept and continues to keep an entire system running smoothly, both in peacetime and in war. In this culture, women do the work that is never paid or still not even recognised as real work. This film shows how this system determines the kinds of jobs women do in the paid workforce—the low-paid, low-status jobs—and how women have fought and organised for equality and wage justice for over a century. For Love or Money remains relevant today as women continue the unfinished campaigns for equal pay, maternity leave and childcare, and still carry the major responsibility for caring and nurturing in the culture of individualism.
The Mask You Live In unpacks how this culture’s narrow and harmful definition of masculinity effects boys, young men; girls and women; and society in general in myriad ways, as our children struggle to stay true to themselves when confronted by this culture. Pressured by their peer group, heavily influenced by a barrage of media messages, and even their very own parents and other adults in their lives, our protagonists confront messages encouraging them to disconnect from and suppress their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence, control and manipulation. These traits and stereotypes closely interconnect with problems of race, class, and circumstance, creating a maze of identity issues boys and young men must navigate to become “real” men as the culture expects and perpetuates. Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media also weigh in, offering empirical evidence of how these issues intersect, and what we can do about it.
Rape on the Night Shift is a harrowing investigation into the rampant sexual abuse of the many thousands of unseen women who clean the shopping centres, banks and offices of some of the largest companies throughout the United States. The cleaning companies and contractors themselves are some of the largest companies throughout the country and the world. This report follows a prior investigation about systemic abuse of migrant women working in America’s fruit and vegetable fields, as well as packing plants and industry. Both set out to document the many aspects of a booming rape culture, driven in part by the synergy of a failure of criminal prosecutions, the legal system, a culture of pornography, the realities for migrant workers, and a perfect storm for human trafficking.
Rape in The Fields is the first part of a year-long reporting effort into the systemic abuse of migrant women working in the fruit and vegetable fields, packing plants and industry of the United States. The film travels from the almond groves of California’s Central Valley to the packing plants of Iowa, from the apple orchards of Washington’s Yakima Valley to the tomato fields of Florida, speaking with dozens of women who have been sexually assaulted and abused on the job. What is shown is that in the vast fields and orchards of today’s vast agribusiness, it’s easy for a rapist to stalk his victims, and the systems function in such a way to protect the rapist, rather than the workers. Many workers are also immigrants who dare not even denounce their attackers for fear they’ll be deported. The situation on the whole is rife for ensuring abuses. A Human Rights Watch report published in May of 2014 found that rape and other forms of sexual abuse and harassment of female workers was a common problem. This report sets out to shed a light on that problem and expose the new-style slavery and abuse of workers that still continues to this day.
Pornography has moved from the outskirts of society into the very mainstream of this culture in over less than a span of a generation. From MTV to Internet pornography everywhere, pop culture industries continue to bombard all of us with sexualised images of idealised women and men that jump off the screen and go straight into our lives, profoundly shaping our identity, the ideas and acceptability of body image, and our most intimate relationships. In this video essay, based on the book of the same name, leading scholar and activist Gail Dines argues that the dominant images and stories disseminated by the porn industry, produce and reproduce a system that perpetuates social inequality and encourages violence against women at its very core. In direct opposition to the claims that pornography has delivered a more liberated, equitable and edgy sexuality, Pornland reveals a mass-produced vision of sex that is profoundly sexist, destructive and pervasive in this culture—a world that severely limits and undermines our collective ability to live authentic, truly equal relationships, free of systemic violence and degradation.
We Will Not Be Moved documents the unpredictable reality for thousands of Cambodia’s poor that are being forcibly evicted from their houses in the name of urban development. Cambodia’s land ownership was thrown into chaos when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge extinguished private title but now money and corruption are playing havoc with the country’s attempts to bring back private property. There is one brave group known as the BK13—a group of 13 women—that are not prepared to let greedy developers take the very, very little they have. But with half a million residents forcibly evicted in recent years, it’s an enormous fight they have on their hands…
The Dark Side of Porn is a six part series of films that each examine an aspect of the modern porn industry. Using specific examples of films, and by speaking directly with former performers, filmmakers and families themselves; the series of films journey through the firsthand and often unseen issues that are pervasive to modern pornography—such as STIs, the use and abuse of relationships, rape, human trafficking, the recruitment process, and the seen and unseen cultural impacts of films such as Deep Throat and Emmanuelle, to name a few. Consequently, this series offers a disturbing account of the tip of the iceberg of modern mainstream pornography…
Peter Francis, a former undercover police spy turned conscientious whistleblower, breaks ranks by speaking to the media after becoming troubled by the unaccountable culture of secret police operations throughout the United Kingdom targeting peace activists for decades. Tactics included undercover police officers having sexual relationships with activists, even going as far as commonly having children with the women they were spying on. Undercover agents also often assumed the identities of dead children in order to have “solid cover stories.” We also see how undercover police were asked to look for intelligence that could be used to discredit the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and their campaign. The Lawrence family both speak of their shock at hearing about that the police did this to them. This short investigation opens a flood of questions about the secret history of covert police operations, and indeed the future of them in the context of the sprawling surveillance state of today.
Demand investigates the commercial sex trade, across four countries: The United States, Netherlands, Japan, and Jamaica. The film reveals a harrowing first-hand account of the impact of soaring consumer demand for vulnerable women and children, to be victimised in sex trafficking markets. By exploring the entrenched connections of pornography, to widespread sexual assault, to a pervasive globalised human trafficking market, Demand questions the conditions that keep the inertia of the commercial sex trade roaring across the globe…
Ever since three reactors went into meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011; a broad, disparate, anti-nuclear movement is growing in Japan. Nowhere is that more apparent, perhaps, than in Fukushima prefecture, where a group of local women boldly protest the deafening silence of the Japanese government over the worst nuclear accident of this century. Largely ignored by their own media, these brave women brush aside cultural shyness and share their honest views on the state of the cleanup, the cover-ups, the untruths and the stagnant political climate in today’s Japan…
Far from ending with the abolition of slavery, the trade in human beings is thriving more than ever before. Today, 27 million men, women and children are held, sold and trafficked as slaves throughout the world. From the sex slaves of Eastern Europe to China’s prison labour slaves; from Brazil’s hellish charcoal slave camps to entire families enslaved in Pakistan’s brick kilns, this series exposes the people behind modern slavery and the companies who profit from it.
In a visual exploration of institutionalised prostitution, Whores’ Glory travels the globe to show how these people really live and work today, across three economically divergent countries. In Bangkok, Thailand, women punch a clock and wait for clients inside a brightly-lit glass box. In the red-light district of Faridpur, Bangladesh, a madam trafficker haggles over the price of a teenage girl. On the border town of Reynosa, Mexico, crack-addictions run high while women pray to ‘Lady Death.’ Whores’ Glory is a unobscured look at the realities of sex-trafficking today and the industry that continues to spawns it and keep it alive.
As an exposé of human trafficking, Very Young Girls follows a group of adolescent African-American girls who were seduced, abused and sold on New York’s streets by pimps, having survived the life to share their story. Each recount their experiences, captured alongside startling footage shot by the brazen pimps themselves, giving a rare glimpse into how the cycle of street life begins for many women. Following the work of Rachel Lloyd and the journey each go through to exit their life on the streets, Very Young Girls portrays first-hand the occurrences of human trafficking throughout the United States.
Based on interviews conducted with hundreds of young women, Flirting With Danger examines how the wider culture’s frequently contradictory messages about pleasure, danger, agency, and victimisation enter into women’s most intimate relationships. The result is a candid and nuanced look at how women are forced to grapple with deeply ambivalent cultural attitudes about sexuality and relationships. These interviews are essential viewing for tackling the problematic issues surrounding consent, coercion and sexual violence throughout the culture.
Rape Myths on Trial is a provocative presentation by a career criminal prosecutor and advocate for victims of sexual violence, Anne Munch. She examines how cultural attitudes shape the outcomes of rape and sexual assault cases by drawing on years of experience prosecuting sex crimes, showing how rape cases often turn on the involvement of an “unnamed conspirator” — the often-unexamined complex of myths and stories we tell ourselves as a culture about sex, gender, power, and responsibility. By using examples from real cases, and harrowing evidence from actual emergency calls, Munch reveals how these assumptions that juries bring into the courtroom often stack the odds against victims, and at the same time challenges us to think critically about how our own assumptions might unintentionally reinforce victim-blaming. The result is a stunning look inside the criminal justice system and an incisive analysis of this culture’s warped views of women’s sexuality and rights as human beings.
Once relegated to the margins of society, pornography is now the most pervasive and visible aspect of popular culture, assuming an unprecedented role in media as its content becomes more harsh and extreme, racist and abusive. This eye-opening and disturbing film moves beyond frivolous “liberal versus conservative” debate and tackles the real issues surrounding pornography by placing the voices of performers themselves, producers and critics directly alongside the observations of women and men as they candidly discuss the role porn has played in shaping their sexual imaginations and relationships. The Price Of Pleasure reveals a nuanced portrait of how pleasure and pain, commerce and power, freedom and responsibility have become extremely twisted by popular culture, usurping the most intimate area of our lives.
An ex-pornstar, a 12 year old girl, and a 22 year old who yearns for the ‘normal’ genitals as seen in porn movies, are just some of whom are chronicled in Sexy Baby to draw together how the current relentless culture of pornography, social media and popular culture are deeply and profoundly affecting the lives women and girls. Based on intimate and candid conversations with kids in middle school classrooms, suburban shopping malls, nightclubs, college dorms, and high school house parties, the film chronicles trends among small town and big city kids—the pervasive culture affects everyone, everywhere. Most youngsters know someone who has emailed or texted a naked photo of themselves. Many kids have accidentally or intentionally had their first introduction to sex be via hardcore pornography online. Facebook has created an arena where kids compete to be “liked” and constantly worry about what image to portray. Much of what was once private is now made public. The list goes on. Sexy Baby is a powerful indictment of the Internet age and the hyper-sexualised culture affecting women and girls everywhere, as well as an insight into the struggle of parents navigating this new culture, wanting what is best for their kids and the generations to come.
What stories do contemporary music videos tell about girls, women, boys, men, sexuality and gender? What are the cultural values portrayed? And from whose perspective? Dreamworlds encourages viewers to consider how these narratives shape individual and cultural attitudes about sexuality. Illustrated with hundreds of examples, the film accounts both the continuing influence of music videos and how popular culture generally filters the identities of young men and women through a narrow and dangerous set of myths about sexuality and gender; asking viewers to re-look at the images that have been normalised and meanings taken for granted throughout popular culture…
The Purity Myth takes a look at the resurgence of a movement of abstinence, brought about by a powerful alliance of religious ideologues, right-wing politicians, conservative media pundits and policy intellectuals who have been exploiting irrational fears about women’s sexuality. From daddy-daughter “purity balls,” taxpayer-funded abstinence-only curricula, and political attacks on ‘Planned Parenthood,’ to recent attempts by legislators to de-fund women’s reproductive healthcare and narrow the legal definition of rape, The Purity Myth identifies the single false assumption underlying this huge push: that the worth of a woman depends on what she does—or does not do—sexually. This film also argues that the health and well-being of women is too important to be left to figureheads bent on vilifying feminism and undermining women’s autonomy.
The Bro Code unpacks and takes aim at the forces of masculinity that condition boys and men to fundamentally dehumanise and disrespect women. The film breaks down a range of contemporary media forms that are saturated with sexism—movies and music videos that glamorise misogyny, pornography that trades in the brutalisation and commodification of women, comedy routines that make light of sexual assault, and a slate of men’s magazines and TV shows that propagate myths of what it means to be a man in this culture: that it’s not only normal, but “cool” for boys and men to control and humiliate women. There’s nothing natural or inevitable about this mentality. And it’s extremely harmful in the real world. By setting the myths against reality, The Bro Code challenges young people to step up and fight back against this culture, to reject the fundamental idea that being a ‘real man’ means disrespecting women.
We’ve been told again and again that sports and politics don’t mix, that games are just games and athletes should just “shut up and play.” But Not Just a Game argues that far from providing merely escapist entertainment, American sports have long been at the centre of some of the major political debates and struggles of our time. By tracing the good, the bad, and the ugly of American sports culture, Not Just a Game shows how American sports have glamorised militarism, racism, sexism, and homophobia; but also traces a largely forgotten history of rebel athletes who stood up to power and fought for social justice beyond the field of play.
Author and activist Jean Kilbourne analyses the depiction of women in advertising and media by decoding a large array of print and television ads. What is revealed is a torrent of stereotypes; sexist and misogynistic images and messages; laying bare a world of frighteningly thin women in positions of subservience; collectively, the restrictive code of femininity that works to undermine girls and women in the real world. By examining these messages, Killing Us Softly asks us to take advertising seriously, and to think critically about its relationship to sexism, eating disorders, violence against women, popular culture, and contemporary politics.
A young woman is raped when a one-night stand far from home goes terribly wrong. In the aftermath, as she struggles to make sense of what happened, she decides to make a film about the relationship between her own experience and the tangle of political, legal, and cultural questions that surround issues of sex and consent. Using a hidden camera, filmmaker Nancy Schwartzman goes head-to-head with the man who assaulted her, recording their conversation in an attempt to move through the trauma of her experience and achieve a better understanding of the sometimes ambiguous line between free will and coercion. The result is a powerful documentary about the terrible reality of rape and sexual violence, and the more complicated and ambivalent ways sexual assault is often framed and understood in the wider culture, examining issues too often deemed embarrassing, shameful, or taboo.
Filmmaker Darryl Roberts goes on a five year journey to examine this culture’s burgeoning obsession with physical beauty and perfection, showing how increasingly unattainable images contribute to the rise in low self-esteem, body dismorphia, and eating disorders for young women and girls who also happen to be the beauty industry’s largest consumers. In almost 40,000 media messages a year, young people are being told that unless you look like supermodels and rock stars, you’re not good enough for anyone. In 2004 alone, people across the United States spent $12.4 billion on cosmetic surgery. America the Beautiful explores why these people are spending so much money to cover up their discontent that is mainly driven by advertising. What are the true costs of this culture’s obsession with youth, plastic notions of beauty, and impossibly slender physiques? Who actually benefits from this high-priced journey towards a fake ideal, and does it justify an entire nation’s psychosis?
Filmmaker Denice Ann Evans draws heavily on the voices of students in this powerful exploration of hookup culture on college campuses. Supplementing the stories of students with analysis from health professionals and social commentary, the film’s main concern is whether hookup culture is offering young people a new and potentially liberating set of sexual rules, or whether it’s simply reinforcing traditional gender roles and blurring the line between consent and coercion. The result is a timely film that asks tough questions about the relationship between hookup culture, gender politics, and the alarming levels of sexual assault and binge drinking that continue to plague college campuses.
Presented by author and activist Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth explores the phenomenon of how the social power and prominence of women has increased in the past few decades, alongside a paradoxical increase in the pressure they feel to adhere to unrealistic social standards of physical beauty, appearance and presentation. It seems the more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us. Women have breached the power structure, but meanwhile eating disorders have risen exponentially and cosmetic surgery has become a fastest-growing specialty. Pornography has become the main media category—ahead of legitimate films and records combined—and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal. How did this come to be? The Beauty Myth shows how the edacious commercial culture drives this pressure and leads to a pervasive preoccupation with appearance in both sexes, compromising the ability of women to be effective in and accepted by society. The film is a call to question the culture and redefine the notions of success, beauty and indeed what it means to be a sane human being in this toxic culture.
The United States heralded many grandiose promises of freedom and equal rights as they invaded Iraq. But still years on from the invasion, the reality of everyday life for women inside Iraq is of course a different story. To make this film, two Iraqi women risk their lives to spend three months travelling all over the country with a camera to record the lives and experiences of women they meet. Iraq — The Women’s Story provides a compelling account of a life inside Iraq that is never seen on news bulletins…
With humour and refreshing candour, Red Moon provides a fascinating, often ironic, take on the absurd and frequently dangerous cultural stigmas and superstitions surrounding women’s menstruation. As educational as it is liberating, the film functions as both a myth-busting overview of the realities of menstruation, and a piercing cultural analysis of the ways in which struggles over meaning and power have played out through history on the terrain of women’s bodies.
Generation M looks at misogyny and sexism in mainstream media, exploring how negative definitions of femininity and hateful attitudes toward women get constructed and perpetuated throughout popular culture. The film tracks this across a broad and disturbing range of media phenomena: from the hyper-sexualization of commercial products aimed at girls, to the explosion of violence against women in video games aimed at boys; from the hysterical sexist rants of popular hip-hop artists and talk-radio shock-jocks, to the continually harsh, patronizing caricature of women found in virtually every area of media. Generation M posits the consequences of misogyny in all of its forms, showing that when we devalue more than half the population based on gender, we harm everyone—boys and men, women and girls alike.
Sex Slaves documents an extraordinary journey deep into the world of sex trafficking from the perspective of Viorel—a young man trying to find his wife Katia who was four months’ pregnant when she left home looking for a job. Along the way, the production team takes a rare, hidden-camera look at various traffickers, pimps and middlemen who buy and sell hundreds of thousands of women each year. Lured by traffickers who prey on their dreams of employment abroad, many of the women are then kidnapped and “exported” to Europe, the Middle East, the United States and elsewhere. During this process, they are sold to pimps, locked in brothels, drugged, terrorised and raped repeatedly. In Eastern Europe, sex trafficking has become the fastest growing form of organised crime, with Moldova and Ukraine widely seen as major suppliers of women into the global sex trade…
With its tropical beaches and buzzing nightlife, the island of Koh Samui in the Gulf of Thailand attracts many hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. The island is renowned in the West for sex tourism, and every year many male tourists form relationships with women working in the bars of Koh Samui. But how does this work? And what dynamics are at play? Love Me Long Time is a film that speaks to the men that travel back and forth to Thailand for these holiday romances that are for sale in a country ravaged by the oppression of the west, human trafficking and prostitution driven by poverty. Do these men know what they’re doing?
Between 1999 and 2000, nearly 8,000 women reported a rape to the police. Out of those women, 90 per cent identified their attacker, and DNA evidence helped place the accused at the scene of the crime. But the admission of a prior relationship with the perpetrator counted against the victim. In any case, the conviction rate for rape is unbelievably low—only nine convictions for every 100 cases reported. Film-maker Rachel Coughlan follows the heart-wrenching stories of five women to win their fight for justice, showing in the process the systematic failures of the legal system in why such cases—the ones that do even make it to court—often don’t result in conviction.
At the turn of the millennium, a group of eleven girls aged 8 to 16 from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds were interviewed about their views on media culture and its impact on their lives. Their insightful and provocative responses reveal how the attitudes and expectations of young girls are influenced by a saturated media culture. Using excerpts culled from a typical week of television broadcasting alongside the interviews, What a Girl Wants aims to provoke debate about the effects of media culture and, ideally, act as a catalyst for change in media content.
During a ten-hour period in January 1995, Annabel Chong had sex with 251 men in front of cameras. The event was a world record and the resulting video sold more than 40,000 copies, starting a trend of record-breaking gang-bang pornography. Chong states that she intended for this act to “challenge the notion of women as passive sex objects,” and added, “I wanted to take on the role of the stud. The more [partners], the better.” Sex: The Annabel Chong Story revisits the story of that day and connects it to Chong’s life as a student and as the daughter of a middle-class Chinese couple in Singapore. She talks about her decisions, and the film also follows her to an AIDS test after the world-record-setting recording where she also self-harmed and was never paid the $10,000 she was promised. The film closes on route home to Singapore, where Chong visits her parents who do not know about her dealings with the porn world, while friends and professors do. Should she tell her mother?
War Zone is a short film about street harassment. Filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West walks crowded urban streets armed with a camera and microphone, trailed by one or two women also with cameras. Whenever a man harasses her, with ogling or words, she turns the camera on him, moves in close, and questions his behaviour. The questions are not usually for dialogue but more for making him as uncomfortable as he’s made her. More than 50 such encounters are included: the men react with bravado, embarrassment, or anger. None apologise. Interspersed are the filmmaker’s voice-over stories of growing up and dealing with men, as well as interviews with several women who talk about how they handle similar street harassment and what they feel about it. What does it feel like to be a woman on the street in a cultural environment that does nothing to discourage men from heckling, following, touching or disparaging women in public spaces?
This film examines the forces of culture influencing young people’s decisions about sex: media, family, religion, alcohol, and so on. By examining the cultural environment in this way, this film becomes a tool for facilitating informed discussions about the myriad influences facing young people. Filmmaker Dan Habib features the stories of eight young people, ages 16-24, and weaves them with observations about the messages young people get from popular culture.
Slim Hopes shows how the stories advertising tells us about food, femininity, and the female body directly contribute to anorexia, bulimia, and other life-threatening eating disorders. From ads that glamorise emotional eating with catch-phrases like “you can never have too much,” to ads that promote thinness and tell women to watch what they eat, Slim Hopes takes the advertising industry to task for sending young women in particular, a set of deeply contradictory and unhealthy messages about food and body image.
By the early 1990s, solid research and overwhelming evidence had prompted a growing awareness of the epidemic nature of date rape, especially on college campuses. But, starting in 1993, the media used the anecdotal comments of one young woman, Katie Roiphe, to undermine efforts to stop this continuing crime against women. How did this happen?