Ines Schumacher
Ines Schumacher

FHM to blame for corrective rape ‘joke’

Here are some simple rules, people of the world who have jobs. If you work for a food manufacturer, don’t post something about food hygiene. If you work for a media organisation, don’t post something prejudicial. If you work for a woman’s magazine, don’t post something sexist. It’s not brain surgery.

Yet, for some people it seems to be just that. Yesterday, FHM features editor Max Barashenkov posted a “joke” about corrective rape on his Facebook account. And then made it worse by commenting that he’s “allowed” to make these kinds of jokes.

*facepalm*

FYI, Montle Moorosi is a writer for FHM, which just makes things worse for the magazine which doesn’t have the best street cred on feminist issues to begin with. There are accusations that FHM and its competitor GQ are simply gentrified porn mags.

Added to that, last year FHM came under fire after one of its models issued a racist tweet.

So, basically, you don’t want to be screwing with public opinion regarding people who run the magazine. And that’s exactly what the features editor did. Unsurprisingly, some took a screenshot of the Facebook status and comments and tweeted it, causing what South Africans are best at — outrage.

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FHM then did the only thing they could and tweeted:

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Yes, you better take immediate disciplinary action.

Predictably, people are making the wider issue about company’s social media policy when it should really be about men’s magazines. Someone who thinks it’s okay to post a corrective rape “joke” = the same person who makes decisions about content in a men’s magazine = passing on prejudice to the consumer. For a magazine to have that sort of culture to begin with is shocking. And let’s just remember that it was not just the features editor — a writer piped up to join in on the “fun”. Boy am I using a lot of inverted commas in this post.

If you post things like this (see Twitter pic below) on a daily basis, I think it’s important to educate your staff about women, women’s issues and sensitive publishing. Any media organisation should be held responsible for their staff’s prejudices and act appropriately.

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It’s important to realise that employees don’t make these comments out of the blue or out of context. Anyone who has worked at any company — big or small — will know that people will act professionally most of the time, but when they banter and let their guard down, which happens after a few hours/days/weeks/months (depending on the person) it will be clear where they stand on all issues, including controversial ones.

Having worked at a magazine in the past, the environment is way more relaxed. There is no doubt in my mind that this writer and features editor have expressed this kind of prejudice in the past. How could FHM be unaware of it? Easy. The wrong kind of company culture. It is especially important in a media organisation to be aware of these prejudices. Journalists have certain obligations to the public and I expect certain ethics when I’m reading someone’s work. Do you want to read a story about Israel-Palestine and find out the journalist is anti-Semitic or a Jewish extremist?

I know plenty of people who make baby rape jokes or racist jokes. Depending on my mood, I will gasp or laugh or lecture or not react at all. But you can’t deny: they are certain types of people. You aren’t surprised when they let rip. If I heard a person in my office making a corrective rape joke I would report it. Call me a tattletale, but it’s important to the company’s culture to nip this kind of behaviour in the bud.

You want a case study? BOOM! In 2011, the Mail & Guardian suspended an intern for an anti-Semitic comment posted on Facebook. Facebook member Benji Shulman requested that users suggest a “basic decent history of apartheid”.

Intern Ngoako Matsha: “Petty apartheid is building tall walls to separate Israel from Palestines.”

Shulman: “Thanks for that peace of pseudo-politics but I need something that will stand up to logical argument.”

Matsha: “You racists! No wonder Hitler killed all the Jews, because you’re all a bunch of racists.”

Editor Nic Dawes almost immediately once the controversy hit sent out an internal email to all of the staff saying that “the remarks made on Facebook discussion are fundamentally at odds with the most fundamental values of the Mail & Guardian, the Constitution, and basic human decency. Justifying the Holocaust in this fashion is hate speech and is completely unacceptable in any forum.” He went on to tell us that Matsha had been suspended.

Company culture is not dictated by the staff, it’s dictated by their leadership. And that is the right form of leadership to display. I was very proud to be working for the M&G that day.

Until I see that the FHM editor immediately suspends the features editor and writer, follows that up with a dismissal and issues some sort of public statement about how it could have come to this, I don’t think any member of the public should be satisfied.

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