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The inconsistency of modern western morality

By Wendy Francis - posted Monday, 1 July 2013

At times I feel like I am caught in some sort of weird ‘Alice in Wonderland’ scenario.

“ should say what you mean,' the March Hare went on. `I do,' Alice hastily replied; `at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know.' `Not the same thing a bit!' said the Hatter. `You might just as well say that "I see what I eat" is the same thing as "I eat what I see"!' `You might just as well say,' added the March Hare, `that "I like what I get" is the same thing as "I get what I like"!'

The real-life scenario I refer to is the inconsistency of what we as a society say we expect in regards to behaviour, as opposed to the behaviour we promote as being perfectly legitimate.. until it produces what we oppose in behaviour.


You reap what you sow is a modern day idiom which actually originates in the Bible. It remains a valuable lesson.

This year we as a nation have been shocked as we mourned together over the savage and brutal rape and murder of 29 year old Jill Meagher, and the terrible tragedy of young Joan Ryther, also raped, then murdered along with her unborn child by an 18 year old man while she was on her way to work. Her distraught husband told Australia via the press, "Please, please don't forget my wife, my child and please, don't let this happen again".  But on the very day that the memorial service was being held for Joan Ryther just south of Brisbane, in a northern suburb of Brisbane, the Eatons Hill hotel hosted US Hip Hop entertainer, Tyler the Creator, whose lyrics include,“Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome. You got a fucking death wish? I'm a genie, it'll get done”. In their promotion of the event they said they were “thrilled to have our venue chosen” and that it was “very exciting”. Murder and rape is not exciting. Rather it is widely condemned in our society. But Tyler the Creator with his message of rape and murder is welcomed. This was despite a 20,000+ strong petition calling for him to not be allowed to spread his messages of hate against women.

Respect for our Australian military took a dive recently with more sex scandal details revealed resulting in the dismissal of five officers. Women had once again been treated as objects rather than equals with rather degrading behaviour. This is a huge disappointment to Australians who, every year on Anzac Day, celebrate the bravery, the courage and the heroic behaviour of our soldiers past and present. When those who we look to for protection act in a way that takes advantage of vulnerable people, our national sense of security and pride dissipates because we all acknowledge that there is nothing courageous or heroic about misogyny. But in the closing hours of the very week that the sexual misdemeanours were revealed, and Australia's top military representatives were using every means available to convey the message to the public that this behaviour would not be tolerated under any circumstances, a strip club billboard was erected on Samford Road, opposite the Gallipoli army barracksin Enoggera, Brisbane. Objectifying women and treating them as less than equal is unacceptable in our culture and we expect more of those in positions of trust. But our Government advertising watchdog dismisses all complaints when a huge brightly lit billboard appeals to our military officers after a week of scandal to come to a club to objectify women.

We allow the grooming of our society to accept the objectification of women through our advertising and then we are shocked at the outworking of that culture.

But it's not just the military that is impacted by this sexual advertising. The exact same strip club billboard had been removed weeks before from outsideBrisbaneBoysGrammar School, 8km away. This was not because the Advertising Standards Board had said it should go. They had already dismissed all complaints. In the end it was taken down on the back of a successful petition, signed by thousands. If this billboard was deemed to be unsuitable for Spring Hill in Brisbane, why would it be suitable for Enoggera? It can't be because it is not in the vicinity of schools. The local schools and kindergartens are within 500 metres of the billboard and it is on the main thoroughfare to and from the same.

What sort of society is it where we do not allow advertisements showing a person smoking a cigarette and yet it is permissible to portray explicit sexual advertising to children that objectifies women, sending messages that contribute to eating disorders, depression and self-harm?


There was wide-spread, justifiable shock and outrage recently at thealleged assault by Nigella Lawson's husband, Charles Saatchi, as we viewed in many forms of media, from many angles, photos of him mistreating her and grabbing her throat at a restaurant. As a society we took the opportunity to enforce the fact that women should not put up with domestic violence or any bad behaviour from any man. Bravo! But at the same time, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane hostedTyler the Creator as he 'entertained' all-age crowds with lyrics such as "Punch a bitchin her mouth just for talkin' shit”, and we called that art. From the stage in the Sydney concert, the artist shouted out to his loyal fans, "who is going to go out of here tonight and rape and kill someone?". The shouts of support with many fists raised in the air should send a chill through every Australian.

It would seem reasonable to me that young people attending the Tyler the Creator concert could be justifiably confused at the outrage directed towards Charles Saatchi for a comparably minor offence.

It's time we matched our messaging with our expectations. To say what we mean, and mean what we say. Otherwise it's just too confusing. 

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About the Author

Wendy Francis is Queensland State Director for the Australian Christian Lobby. Prior to this Wendy has served in managerial positions at the Centre for Public Culture and Ideas at Griffith University and also Queensland Baptists. Wendy also ran for a senate position with Family First in 2010. She commenced a campaign in 2009 calling for outdoor advertising to be G rated.

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