‘Sluts’ and Sunrise

Hannah Smith looks at the sexist narratives that continue to plague media commentary

rose cartoon
Cartoon: Rose McEwen

Last Wednesday morning, I happened to click on a video link posted on the Sunrise Facebook page: “Father stands up to drunk girls.” The video shows two young, drunk women at McDonalds, throwing food around and laughing. Next, a man enters and pulls both women away from the counter, making one girl fall to the floor. He loudly tells them to “stop behaving like sluts” and continues to drag them back to their seats where he berates them for at least a few more minutes.

After this, it cuts back to Kochie and the rest of the presenters who congratulate ‘John’ on his bravery in standing up to these dangerous and menacing characters. Kochie references ‘terrible’ new statistics, which say that incidences of binge drinking are increasing amongst young women. To finish, Samantha Armytage cautions the ‘girls’ watching against getting drunk: “girls, look at that video, it’s not attractive.”

This clip is reflective of larger social narratives about women, violence and alcohol.  Consider the title of the clip: “Father stands up to drunken girls.” Why do we need to know that he is a father? Does this carry more weight than ‘person’?  Using ‘stands up’ implies that there is something dangerous about women being drunk, and referring to them as girls implies that drunkenness strips them of their womanhood.

By congratulating John on national television, Kochie is sending a message to men that it is okay to act aggressively toward women who are behaving in a disorderly way. It sends a message that paternalistic acts of violence are good in defense of ‘proper behaviour’.

There also exists a harmful double-standard in this presentation. John admits that he wouldn’t have intervened had the disruptive young people been men. This sends a message to young women that only they should be reprimanded and shamed for their drunkenness. By calling them ‘sluts’ he implies that girls who are not sitting at home, knitting and in bed by 10 are somehow less worthy of respect.

When Samantha says “it’s not attractive,” she is telling young women that their sole objective should be gaining the attention of men.

This type of incident happens all the time. Women are regularly reprimanded for acting in ways which are not considered adequately dainty.  What is notable about this incident is its implications and its message to young women: If you are drunk it’s okay for you to be called a slut, thrown around and shamed on national television.