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Massey University’s student magazine MASSIVE, has come under fire for the representation of women on the cover of its recent issue—causing massive outrage.
Tertiary Women New Zealand’s Rights Officer, Izzy O’Neill, said the cover art fetishised sexual violence, “presenting sex work as an inherently violent occupation helps to maintain cultural beliefs that violence is a hazard of the occupation. Fetishised, homogeneous representations help to normalise this kind of violent behaviour in these workplaces.”
O’Neill was concerned about the message the image was sending to women on campus.“The image is triggering, and the lack of control in being able to not see the image as it is the cover is appalling. If someone showed you this image in the workplace, that would constitute sexual harassment.”
New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective spokesperson Ahi Wi-Hongi said “’the picture is not an accurate reflection of sex workers who are also students. An accurate picture might be a woman in her lecture theatre with a bag of books, spare clothes and condoms.”
The editors of MASSIVE did not respond to requests for comment, but released a statement on in response to the criticism. They acknowledged the cover, “may be triggering or cause harm for some students” and added, “we feel it is our role to raise awareness about challenging topics, and to create a healthy discussion about issues that may affect students.”
To reduce further possible harm or offence to students, MASSIVE removed the image from their Facebook page and covered their magazine stands to obscure the cover.
Massey Wellington Students’ Association (MAWSA) released a statement stressing their independence from MASSIVE and saying they did not condone the cover.
This is not the first time MASSIVE has been criticised. In May 2015, their ‘Guru’ advice column was heavily criticised for promoting sexual violence.
Massey University have told media they will not be getting involved.
“Massey is not the publisher of student media, it’s published by the students association,” said communications director James Gardiner. “We don’t have any comment. The complaints need to be directed to the magazine editor.”
“For MAWSA or the University to say that they have no say in determining the safety of their students is a failure of leadership,” O’Neill commented. “Institutions, and especially students’ associations, should be actively trying to foster a campus climate where students feel safe and respected; where they can pursue their studies with dignity; where misogyny is intolerable.”
O’Neill commented that if this wasn’t already a value of the University that “this is a clear opportunity for the people with the power to influence, educate and advocate for better campus cultures and to step up and take action now.”