Misogynistic Violence for Breakfast

By Tracee Sioux

I’m up in the gym working on my fitness too! That’s right, Fergie. . .

Yeah, I’m not here for your entertainment either! You tell ‘em Pink, . . .

If everyone cared and nobody cried . . . we’d see the day no body died . . .Okay, Nickleback good point, good point . . .

Scream! Graphic violent beating of a woman who looks like a poor dog scampering to the four corners of the room, futile escape. Flash to sociopath watching the beating on monitors, obvious voyeuristic sexual pleasure from beating. Kicking, punching, Is that this hotel room? Asks actress, who is evidently next. Vacancy, coming soon.

Flash of violent attack on faceless woman. Dead bloody woman in slinky slip thrown on floor like useless garbage. Coming soon.

Has anyone else noticed that commercials, especially for movies or television programs, have become disturbingly graphic? With a very clear dynamic of sexuality and voyeuristic misogyny? The message being that horrendous and unspeakable crimes, especially against women, are entertaining. Worse, a turn-on.

I became seriously disturbed about a year ago when I saw a commercial for a crime-solving drama during some innocuous program I was watching with my four-year-old and the words, You raped her and then killed her unborn baby before you strangled her, was screamed into my previously peaceful house.

I wrote the Federal Communications Commission (FCC, the federal agency which is responsible for monitoring our communication channels, including television) to find out what could be done about the graphic violence aired on commercials.

They responded with a form letter explaining that it is their responsibility to monitor only the actual programming, but that each network is responsible for monitoring their own commercial content.

What? Why? Says who?

The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America upholds freedom of speech:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;

Obviously, I love this constitutional right. I’m a writer, so I make my living using my freedom of speech. It is, I believe, the most vital freedom for a democracy.

Yet, according to the FCC website: http://www.fcc.gov/eb/oip/FAQ.html#TheLaw

Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1464, prohibits the utterance of “any obscene, indecent or profane language by means of radio communication.” Consistent with a subsequent statute and court case, the Commission’s rules prohibit the broadcast of indecent material during the period of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. FCC decisions also prohibit the broadcast of profane material between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Civil enforcement of these requirements rests with the FCC, and is an important part of the FCC’s overall responsibilities.

Now that I’ve stated the technicals, it becomes a matter of semantics.

What exactly is obscene, indecent or profane?

Am I the only one who would rather see Janet Jackson’s accidental flashing of a breast than a decapitated head, a woman’s body floating dead in the bathtub, or a woman being beaten like a dog for sexual pleasure?

It seemed the whole entire world stood up in indignation over a little booby, but 30 – 60 seconds of gratuitous graphic violence is totally acceptable in every genre except perhaps The Wiggles.

I’m totally on board with CSI: Special Victims Unit being allowed on TV. I think its 55 minutes of blatant, graphic, and violent misogyny and 5 minutes of punishing the perpetrator. But, if you want to watch that, okay. It’s your choice. I believe in your choice. I believe in the network’s choice to air it. I can change the channel. And I do. No harm done.

But, during a commercial when I’m watching something I choose to watch, like VH1’s Jump Start during my morning workout at the gym, I am a captive audience subjected to gratuitous violence.

Whether or not to fill my mind with images of violence should be my choice. But, it’s not my choice if it’s popped on the screen with zero warning while I’m watching something else. Even if I change the channel as fast as I can, there are already enough graphic images coming into my brain for me to be pissed off that my mind has been polluted without my consent.

What to do about it?

First I’m writing the FCC again explaining my position that, in fact, it IS their responsibility to monitor commercials according to Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1464, prohibits the utterance of “any obscene, indecent or profane language by means of radio communication.”

Obviously, commercials are by means of radio communication and that falls under FCC jurisdiction. The FCC websites states it will attempt to respond to my complaint in a swift 9 months. Join me in my campaign by filling out this electronic complaint form http://svartifoss2.fcc.gov/cib/fcc475B.cfm. It takes about 2 minutes if you copy and paste paragraphs from this story right into the comment portion.

Reading the published FCC statistics (of the 327,198 complaints in the first six-months of 2006, they took action on 7 – yeah seven). I feel sure the complaints will be promptly discarded without adequate action and I’ll get another form letter telling me it’s not the FCC’s problem. But, I’m saving my ever-important confirmation number (FORM475B: 07-WB12918467) just in case they don’t contact me with an adequate result in 9 months.

Simultaneously, I’m going to write my representatives at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/. If you copy and paste directly from this story it takes about 2 minutes to write each of your elected officials an email. Type in your zip code and they’ll link you to the form you need for the people who work for you Don’t forget to remind them that 2008 is an election year.

Since 2008 is an election year I’m also going to write those who wish to become my elected officials: Hillary Clinton http://www.hillaryclinton.com/help/contact/ , Barack Obama http://my.barackobama.com/page/s/contact2 , John Edwards http://johnedwards.com/about/contact/form/. (Obviously, if you intend to vote for a Republican you’ll have to research how to contact them about this issue – just Google their name).

Lastly, I am emailing VH1, help@vh1mail.com , which claims on its public affairs page http://www.vh1.com/public_affairs/ : We are committed to providing meaningful, pro-social initiatives, using the reach and power for VH1 to create awareness and motivate action for current issues affecting society, with this message:

Please stop airing violent commercials during Jump Start. I’m trying to start my day with a positive, empowered, I-can-handle-anything-that–comes-my-way attitude. Gratuitous misogynistic violence is a buzz kill and I’m fairly sure all the sociopaths who like it went to bed a few hours ago. Stop it! Please.

Now, maybe I can’t change the whole system, but I bet if everyone who reads this takes action it will be a lot more effective. I’ll post any replies or answers I get from these organizations and elected officials as a “comment” to this story. So make sure you check back and subscribe for email updates on new postings.

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