A student magazine has brought Australia’s censorship laws into public debate, after its front cover, featuring uncensored photos of 18 students’ vaginas, was deemed a criminal offense.
To see a censored version of the cover, scroll down (NSFW).
Sydney University’s Honi Soit magazine is named after French motto: Honi soit qui mal y pense or ‘Shame upon he who thinks evil of it’. The phrase has become particularly significant as the magazine editors and Student Representative Council (SRC) debate whether the cover, which was intended to “empower” women about their bodies, should be censored.
Update: all the Honis on campus are being seized by the SRC, guillotining pending because of the transparency of the black bars #vaginasoit
— Honi Soit (@honi_soit) August 21, 2013
The university’s SRC says by displaying “indecent articles”, the Honi Soit’s cover is in breach of section 578 of the Crimes Act; a criminal offence punishable by up to 12 months in prison.
Women’s blog, Mamamia, writes that after being advised by the SRC, the magazine editors decided to publish the cover with opaque black boxes over the most ‘indecent articles’.
But a printing error meant that the boxes came out as transparent, prompting the SRC to cease all 4000 copies.
In a statement on the magazine’s Facebook page, the editors said the purpose of the cover was allow women to see their bodies in a non-sexualised way.
We are tired of vaginas being either artificially sexualised (see: porn) or stigmatised (see: censorship and airbrushing). We are tired of being pressured to be sexual, and then being shamed for being sexual.
The editors go on to say that women are not exposed to “normal” vaginas and are therefore uncomfortable with their own.
“We believe that the fact that more than 1200 Australian women a year get labioplasty is a symptom of a serious problem. How can society both refuse to look at our body part, call it offensive, and then demand it look a certain way?”
The controversy, which has been dubbed #Vaginasoit on Twitter has become a topic of public debate with singer and feminist Amanda Palmer voicing her support of the cover in her blog (photo NSFW).
“Speaking as a vulva-owner with a labia the size of rhode island, i think it’s very nice to see vulvas portrayed in their natural states,” she writes.
“Since porn images generally depict such a skewed view, where else are women going to see reality, if not…on tumblr?”