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‘Ralph’ employees sacked for downloading positive images of women

[Edition 20] MELBOURNE, Wednesday: Following the dismissal of 27 Telstra employees last week for downloading hardcore pornography on their work computers, Ralph magazine sacked five employees yesterday for downloading positive images of women.


 

[Edition 20] MELBOURNE, Wednesday: Following the dismissal of 27 Telstra employees last week for downloading hardcore pornography on their work computers, Ralph magazine sacked five employees yesterday for downloading positive images of women.

The workers have not been identified, and left the Ralph office with paper bags over their heads. However, it is unclear whether this was to prevent them being identified as the guilty parties or as Ralph employees in the first place. Whether the employees were male or female is also unknown, because when the media asked the magazine about their sex, the ‘spokesbabe’ (her term) followed what is apparently company practice by answering "yes" and sniggering loudly.

The magazine has, however, detailed some of what it termed the "offensive material" that was discovered on the employees’ computers. A cache of images was discovered, including photos of feminists such as Naomi Wolf, Catherine McKinnon and Simone de Beauvoir in a variety of aggressive poses. "The photos were quite provocative," said the spokesbabe. "I’d say that all of them involved provocateurs."

When a journalist suggested that photos of women with their clothes on didn’t seem particularly outrageous, especially compared with the kinds of photos that Ralph publishes all the time, the spokesbabe reacted with some shock. "No no, you don’t understand," she said. "From what I’m told, these feminists are really hardcore."

In response to the suggestion that the sackings violated the civil liberties of the employees, Ralph followed Telstra’s attempt to muster public opinion behind it by issuing a statement claiming that the material discovered had included several obscene videos. These apparently included "graphic, disturbing anti-rape films" such as The Accused and Thelma and Louise and "female pornography" in the form of Jane Austen and Merchant Ivory movies.

Ralph has also announced that other videos depicted "shocking scenes of women performing depraved acts" such as wearing clothes, working in the non-modelling professions and generally making independent decisions.

Feminist groups have criticised the decision, arguing that not only is there nothing wrong with positive images of women, but also that by suppressing such images, Ralph is actually going against its own commercial interests.

"The whole new lad culture that Ralph seeks to perpetuate is a reaction to feminism’s many successes," said Rose McGrath, a Monash women’s studies academic. "If I was Ralph, I’d be secretly funding feminism, so as to create the kind of backlash among confused, weak men that created their market in the first place."

But Ralph’s editor, Eddie Smythe, says that he took what he believes was a principled stance. "The kinds of images that were downloaded by those staff members goes against everything we stand for here at Ralph," he said. "We’re not against the violation of liberties. As a matter of fact, our sex advice columnists encourage men to take as many liberties as they possibly can. But feminist ideas strike at the heart of our values, and we believe that our values are worth fighting for – preferably in a way that involves two naked women, a camera, and a large amount of jelly."