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Feminism and religion and litigation oh my!

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Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor

Self proclaimed “pro-life feminist” Melinda Tankard Reist (MTR) has called in her lawyers to demand an apology from blogger Dr Jennifer Wilson, or be sued for defamation, who stated in her blog that MTR is a “Baptist” and voiced her opinion that MTR “is duplicitous and deceptive about her religion”.

For those of you folk out there who have never read, seen or heard MTR advocate then let me run through it quickly. She is an anti-porn campaigner who claims that anything from pornography to advertising and products, with what she perceives as any hit of sexuality, is objectifying and damaging to women and girls. She also advocates against the sexualisation of children by, for example, complaining too many children have raunch culture products shoved down their throats from visible lad's mags in the newsagent to surf shops selling pencil cases (aimed at teenage boys mainly) featuring images of beach going women. Being pro-life, MTR is also against abortion.

Academically published psychotherapist Dr Wilson runs her blog entitled No Place For Sheep where she posted the supposed defamatory piece. MTR claims she is not a Baptist but it is documented she does have a religious side but she doesn't want that to be seen as the underlying reason for her feminist work. I always thought feminist and religion were poles apart. Feminism to me is about equality and choice. Why a feminist would want to be a part of a patriarchal system such as religion confuses me.

Personally, I think MTR's views on everything are nothing but weak attempts at rabble rousing and scare mongering praying on fears of today's selfish, blindly consumerist, vacuous, my-family-stickered SUV driving soccer mums. If these type of mothers are actually the ones buying into MTR's gender politics then perhaps she is onto something here by demanding an apology. I'll give her a dash of credit, she sure must know her audience and if this is the case then she sure knows that in wider society, small and seemingly strange denominations of religion can actually take away from her message, thus changing the perception of her from being a feminist on a zany crusade to a hardcore religious nut in need of a good crack in the sack.

What is really interesting however, is her targeting of Wilson on this occasion because as the title of her blog suggests, it's No Place For Sheep so presumably anyone who follows MTR would be too busy hanging out elsewhere. Add to that the fact Wilson isn't as prominent in the public eye as MTR and attracts a different audience, this apology demand from her lawyers could be seen as nothing more than bullying.

Since Wilson received the legal threat this topic has whipped up fervent discussion on Twitter (use #MTRsues) and the blogosphere about the disclosure of religious affiliations for those in the public eye with political affiliations, which denomination of religion she follows and more importantly, the crux of defamation and is saying someone attends x church when they in fact attend y church defamation.

As the word kept spreading about MTR's legally heavy handed apology demand, the left wing political party Australian Sex Party (ASP) is going to revisit a defamation case they considered against her where she claimed on her own blog the ASP had links to 'pseudo child pornography' (which they don't).

By sending this legal threat to Wilson, MTR has inadvertently began a crusade against herself and the Streisand Effect is kicking in across the internet as we speak. Is she a feminist or litigious religious bully? Is she pro-life and anti freedom of speech? Is she a hypocrite? One thing is sure, she might be knowledgable about the “damage” internet porn can cause, but she doesn't really have a clue about the damage social media, social networks and word of mouth can cause, when you're the one drawing attention to something you didn't want to discuss in the first place.

To sign the online petition to stop MTR's legal action against Wilson and for links to the articles mentioned above click here: Check out #MTRsues to see it unravel.

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