BY SOPHIE STONE AND SAM ILIEV
Several weeks ago, a well-regarded LGBTQ news outlet, PinkNews, published an article that could have easily been mistaken as satire. The article titled ‘Smallest Penises in Hollywood’ allegedly broke down the smallest and largest of celebrity junk, including actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Jude Law, and Tom Hardy, by using information compiled by Mr Man, a website documenting male nudity in the media.
With PinkNews being perhaps one of the most prominent and progressive LGBTQ news outlets, we and many others were pretty damned surprised to see them post an article based entirely on objectifying men. For many, this article may have slipped between the cracks of the overflowing cauldrons of online content, but it evidently struck a chord with those who chanced upon it. The comments section of the article was teeming with negative reactions.
“Congrats on reproducing more toxic masculinity, hope yr proud” and “this article is everything wrong in the world”. “Shame on you PinkNews” were some of the most popular comments, in addition to “Wow, what’s next, a graph of boobs by size? No, of course not, because no one would stand for that. To have posted this PinkNews is shameful.”
This article is a notable case because the objectification of men wasn’t something you’d expect to come across amongst their content. It’s difficult to exactly pin down how understanding Leonardo DiCaprio’s penis size is relevant to the LGBTQ community. We can only assume that a slow news day resulted in dredging up meaningless celebrity gossip and creating clickbait content to get their website hits up. In this case, it was the kind that serves to exploit personal features and objectify people in the public eye.
The thing is, this isn’t an isolated event. The media objectifying men and women is a recurring issue and, while in recent years we’ve rightfully cracked down on the over-sexualisation of women, it’s only fair we also call out instances of men being body shamed too.
You may think that a rich, successful actor would be immune to the hurt from this kind of criticism. Even if that is the case, what about your everyday man who would read that article? People expecting to find thoughtful, engaging content, would be disappointed to stumble across what one reader described as “a form of bullying” to put it in the mildest form. In an ideal world, every man, woman and person on the spectrum between should be free of any negativity concerning their physical appearance.
Over the past year, toxic masculinity is an issue that has been brought up time and time again with the #MeToo movement and more recently, razor company Gillette’s advertisement, with the intention to refocus our perspective and tackle the damaging norms around masculinity.
When we claim that we want to create a more inclusive society, we cannot ignore content that reinforces outdated negative attitudes on physical appearance and influences what should be entirely personal preferences. Surely, we are ready to leave behind this childish mindset of making someone insecure over something they have no power to change. To have an outlet publish content saturated with distasteful body profiling is immature and regressive, it stands in the way of spreading positive messages through today’s media.
Since the article’s release on the 16th of January 2019, the online outrage has died down. After all, anger is hard to maintain and while some readers were calling for the article’s removal, the article still remains on their website.
The thing is, we should still be angry. To clarify, we are not calling for anger to be manifested in the way of a hate campaign, or to boycott PinkNews. If you saw the article and decided you didn’t want to read any more of their content, that’s fine. What we are calling for is anger to be directed towards all journalism that perpetuates such toxic attitudes about the physical attributes that men are born with.
As journalists, we can do better. And we should.
As a spearhead in the media world for the LGBTQ community, organisations like PinkNews have a responsibility to cloak the community with arms of unity, inclusion and understanding. With an influential reach spanning Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and their website, you are sure to have stumbled across some of their content in the past. PinkNews has achieved a reach that would have been impossible ten years ago. Utilising technology and, more specifically social media, has been vital in bringing together a minority group and making them feel part of one giant unique family.
This article is like that unintentionally hurtful comment said to a sibling that needs to be taken back and apologised for. One of our contributors contacted the journalist via her Instagram account with a screenshot of the article and some of the comments on Facebook, asking that it be removed from their page and online in general. Here is the response they received:
“Hi Jack*, thanks for this. We generally don’t remove articles as a policy. I will, however, take your feedback on board for articles like this going forwards – as I can see that some would perceive that headline in particular as degrading.”
Looking a bit deeper into their policies online, the Historic Content section within their Editorial Policies states that they receive a vast number of requests for the change or removal of content that they have published.
“Our policy is to not remove or make alterations to previous articles on request, unless factual inaccuracies are present or we are compelled to do so by a legal ruling. We do not make exceptions to this policy, as we feel it would compromise the integrity of our journalism, and our value as a historic record.”
This leads us to the following questions:
How can you confirm the factual accuracy of male genitalia to begin with? The variables of factors influencing it’s natural bodily function makes something like this impossible to compare, not to mention genital size being of no relevance to somebody’s character.
And why is there such a strong stance on not having any exceptions to this policy? Where is the integrity in body shaming, and the value of categorising men according to their alleged, yet unconfirmed phallus dimensions?
We highly suggest PinkNews review their policies, in particular, their stance on ‘Historical Content.’ Exceptions should be made for pieces that are perceived as hurtful, morally unsettling, distasteful, and not to mention have already clearly upset a lot of people.
We hope that you will see the significance of spreading a positive message surrounding body image, and refrain from ever having something as degrading and quite frankly insignificant as this, passing the editorial desk in the future.
(*Name changed for privacy reasons)
SOPHIE STONE is a geeky 19-year-old who loves Doctor Who and has been writing for TEARAWAY for two years. She is currently trying to navigate her gap year, wishing she could pursue a degree in chicken nugget tasting.
SAM ILIEV loves pranking people, photography, making theatre prosthetics, and poetry.
SHARE THIS POST...