EFA's Time to Tell Mum campaign continues to go well with over 42,000 people reporting that they told their mums about the Government's dodgy internet filter policy. There's still a lot of people to reach, but we're very pleased with the impact the campaign has had so far. Overall, the feedback from the public has been great; we've had plenty of feedback along the lines of "it's about time you got the message out there to the families."

EFA vice-chair Geordie Guy, who has been running the campaign, posted some comments a few days ago. Once again, I'd like to thank Fnuky, the creative agency who put it together for us.

Of course the reception hasn't been entirely positive - a few people thought it unfunny or merely unnecessary, but some thought it was a bit sexist with all this focus on Mums. So why are we exhorting Australians to dob Conroy in to their mums?

Firstly, it's not because we think mums are too clueless to understand technology, and need things explained to them in simple words. Nor because we think mums only care about their kids and need matters of public policy rendered to them in these terms. If that was true, the campaign might indeed be described as sexist.

In reality, we liked the idea of telling mum for the opposite reason - because our families can understand the policy and make a rational decision, if only they can get adequate information. In contrast, the Minister has treated Australian parents with contempt by trying to scare them with misleading rhetoric about protecting children from internet nasties. By substituting alarming statements about bestiality for actual information on what the filter would do for children (nothing), Conroy himself has not given mums the respect they deserve.

It's been suggested that it's offensive to behave as if mums only care about technology if it affects them or their kids. Far from being an inaccurate sterotype, I think this is actually true - not just about mums, but about most people. Unless you're a nerdy technophile (like me), you aren't going to be particularly interested in technology for its own sake, but what it can do for your life and that of your family. This is the core of the campaign - reaching out to people who wouldn't take an interest in technical things, and educating them about a government policy and how it affects them directly.

Finally, the campaign was never meant to exclude non-mums. "Time to tell mum" has more of a ring to it than "Time to talk about policy with the wider community". Everybody has a mum, and most of us talk to our mums on a regular basis. Who better to start with when spreading important news?

So contrary to reports elsewhere, like this piece in ZDNet, we aren't apologising for the campaign - we're happy with the way it turned out. Of course, we'd rather nobody was offended, and sincerely regret it. But offending nobody is only possible without any risk-taking, and a risk-free campaign is unlikely to break any new ground.

However, we welcome your feedback. How can we make out next campaign even more successful at reaching the ears of ordinary Australians?


  1. I think this is a great campaign, as I fitting into the 'nerdy technophile' group assumed anyone on the net would have heard about it, so I asked my Mum.

    Her response? "What internet filter?"

    So over the phone I phonetically spelt out "efa.org.au" to my Mum and my Dad typed it into the laptop . A bit later I got a call saying "that's outrageous!" and we now have 2 more supporters of the campaign, two supporters we'd never have had if I didn't take the 'Time [to] Tell Mum'.

    Comment by Peter on 2 June 2010 at 02:18
  2. So you're going on record here that you think that yukking it up about how mothers can't work DVD players, and stereotyping mothers as being only interested in cooking and children and sensible cardigans and Kerri-Anne and gossip, is "giving mums the respect they deserve"?

    Comment by lauredhel on 2 June 2010 at 02:25
  3. While I was telling Mum, I told my Grandparents (2 of which are online and self funded retirees so poorly conducted trials being used as evidence that could lead slower or less reliable and more expensive Internet matters to them) and my Dad.

    I got similar reactions from them, first it was "What internet filter?", then it was "As long as it stops child abuse I'm happy to make the sacrifice", then it was "Wait, even I can bypass the filter, and the Senator knows about this?" and a blank stare.

    The more accurate and factual information the public has the better. Enough of the spin, one liners and lying by omission from Senator Conroy. If he wants to continue to claim that the truth is "misinformation" or "misrepresentations" good for him, all the further for him to fall once the truth is out.

    Comment by Akira Doe on 2 June 2010 at 02:31
  4. Thanks lauredhel, that's my question too.

    How can you make a more successful campaign? How about trying one that doesn't depict a large portion of those affected by the intended censorship as vacuous Luddites? Shouldn't be too hard if you just give it a little thought.

    The fauxpology really only cements the crankiness about being dissed in the first place.

    Signed: owner of a website concerned about being "filtered" by this who also happens to be a "mum".

    Comment by Janet on 2 June 2010 at 02:40
  5. I'm a Mum and I've also been known to stand up and fight for equal opportunity when a situation warranted it, but I fail to see how this campaign is sexist. The only impression I got from it was the old schoolyard "I'm telling my Mum on you!" type thing, like kids do when someone does something they don't like - and like we all should do with regard to almost anything that comes out of Senator Conroy's mouth.

    Personally I'd be focussing on the MASSIVE amount of money they're going to waste which could help our children in many better ways, and the fruitlessness of spending that amount of time and taxpayer money on something that won't work, and that most people don't seem to want, when it could be better spent on things like education. This is a generalisation that I'll probably be condemned for, but I've talked to quite a few parents in the schoolyard and most of them don't seem as concerned as I am about the word "censorship" or the technical aspects of slowing down the internet, and most of them don't really care what uber-geeky types are muttering about when they get all technical. But when it comes to wasted taxpayer money and their kid's educations, they jump right onto the bandwagon. :>

    Comment by Nicky on 2 June 2010 at 02:46
  6. So it's not possible to make up a catchy title that doesn't single out mothers? How about "Time to Talk"? Are you really going to say we need sexism to get an audience?

    You say, "It's been suggested that it's offensive to behave as if mums only care about technology if it affects them or their kids. Far from being an inaccurate sterotype, I think this is actually true - not just about mums, but about most people." So why don't you talk about *most people* in your campaign, rather than mums?

    What could you do in future campaigns? Read the Geek Feminism Wiki. Develop a set of guidelines to avoid future recurrences of the "invisible women" or "so simple your mother/girlfriend can understand it". Value the contributions that women have made to this campaign. Work harder to include diverse participants in the EFA.

    I have been so disappointed by this campaign. I've been writing about the filter for a long time. I don't feel like there's a place for me in the EFA, and I don't feel like the EFA values my contributions. First, you accepted a sexist campaign. Ok, I get that you didn't realise that it was sexist, and didn't mean it to be. But you also clearly haven't taken any active steps to avoid the casual sexism that's so rampant in tech circles. Second, when people called you on it, you refused to educate yourselves and refused to apologise.

    Comment by Sky on 2 June 2010 at 02:46
  7. What the hell is wrong with people? It's a catchy campaign, it's funny and it's trying to spread the message that (apparently) ALL of us agree with: that censorship is naughty!

    Nicky is right, it's trying to play on the old feeling of "I'm gonna tell my Mum on you!" and I think that's a great idea. But from that, you get sexist!? I'm sure Melinda Tankard Reist, Abigail Bray and Julie Gale are proud!

    Stay classy, Australia.

    Comment by Nik on 2 June 2010 at 02:56
  8. Those who can't see how this could possibly be sexist should read the Geek Feminism Wiki page on the campaign. I can't, apparently, insert a link here, but you can google it or read the text below:

    "As part of a political protest against proposed mandatory Internet filtering in Australia, Electronic Frontiers Australia created a campaign in May 2010 called "It's Time to Tell Mum", which gave talking points for people to convince their mothers to oppose the filter. Some of the talking points assumed that mothers were (a) largely unacquainted with technology and (b) solely responsible for moral education and protection of their children. This made it a negative version of So simple, your mother could do it incidents.

    Examples included:

    * Portrayal of mothers as the last people one would expect to be interested in tech for its own sake: "Even mums want an internet connection that's faster, cheaper and more secure"
    * Portrayal of mothers (as opposed to other parents and carers) as responsible for children: "If mums begin to rely on the filter to keep their children safe, rather than monitoring their children’s internet use themselves, children will actually be less safe than before the filter was in place."

    The campaign also had a Twitter feed that played on mother stereotypes:

    * "Well, it's Saturday. What's the topic of conversation while mum drives you to soccer?"
    * "If you ring your mum to tell her now, it's probably not too late to lock in a roast."
    * "I'm sure you've explained more complicated stuff to your mum before. How the DVD player works, what happened to that vase... #openinternet"

    Vice-chair of the EFA board Geordie Guy posted a defence of the campaign that included arguments such as:

    * It's just a joke and Women weren't the intended audience

    "The contact target of the campaign isn’t mums, it’s their kids. I was stoked when we started filming with Akmal because his humour has always been particularly adept at dealing with sensitive topics."

    * Essentialism:

    "By focussing on mums, the campaign is just targeting a group with a very special sort of connection to their families – the type of connection that gives rise to phrases like 'maternal instinct' instead of 'paternal instinct' (even though fathers have instinctive connections to their children as well) and 'motherhood statements' instead of 'fatherhood statements' (even though fathers are as susceptible to loaded political platitudes as mothers are)."

    Guy removed his blog entry some days later. Board member Dave C posted a more apologetic reaction to the criticism at Hoyden About Town.

    Political and technical bloggers who were also mothers and who opposed the mandatory Internet filtering and had been active allies to the EFA were particularly annoyed by the campaign. "

    Comment by Sky on 2 June 2010 at 02:59
  9. Well done on the campaign.

    I think that there are a lot of people out there who want to be offended and who look for things to criticise as a bit of a sport rather than being constructive. I wonder how much the critics can claim to have contributed towards spreading the word to anyone (let alone 'mum')!

    "Telling mum" is a colloquialism that most of us have used or at least heard of. Anyone who cannot see it for what it is rather than some sort of blatant sexism, has completely missed the point.

    I'm not really an Akmal Saleh fan, but I think he deserves big kudos and acknowledgement for being prepared to speak out in support of this campaign - to put his face, name and celebrity on the line considering all of Conroy's vile name-calling against anyone who speaks out against the filter, is something that should not be underestimated.

    I find the comment by "lauredhel" to be particularly mind-boggling. Suggest you watch the video again, put all your preconceived ideas to one side, listen and think about it. I don't believe there was any suggestion at all (nor was it said) that mothers are only interested in the things you have named (if I was going to nit-pick I'd tell you that "old people" were the ones targeted as far as Kerri- Anne is concerned - should they also be offended by the campaign??).

    Shouldn't we be focusing more on the fight against the filter rather than nit-picking over a well-intentioned and targeted campaign strategy?

    Comment by Bandicoot on 2 June 2010 at 03:05
  10. Actually, up until now I've fully supported the EFA's work. I admired what they did, told my students about their excellent campaigns, and daydreamed about finding the time to work with them. I am also a vocal opponent of the filter. I didn't come to this campaign looking for something to criticise.

    Being against the sexism of this campaign doesn't mean that I'm for the filter. Akmal Saleh made a similar point in the video posted: I can be against child porn AND against the filter, not liking falafel doesn't mean you hate muslims, not liking sexism doesn't mean I don't support activism against the filter. Just not activism that devalues the many contributions made by mothers to the anti-filter campaign, that singles out women as being particularly politically uninformed, that reinforces the casual sexism rife in many tech activist circles.

    Comment by Sky on 2 June 2010 at 03:18
  11. For a start, I didn't suggest that being against the campaign translated to being "for" the filter.

    There are plenty of people out there who still don't know about the filter or who don't understand the debate. My mum was one of them, and there are many more mums like it. But, guess what - you don't need to take the campaign literally...it's okay to tell other people who are not mums (just so you know)! Tell anyone you like, but from marketing point of view "Time to Tell Your Mum" has a catch to it that your suggestion of "Time to Talk" does not. I think it's as innocent as that.

    I'm really struggling to understand how on earth it "devalues" the contributions made by women, whether or not they are mothers, and how you find sexism in it as a result.

    And if you've truly supported EFA's work in the way you suggest, then I would hope that you will continue to support them in the greater fight and not be swayed by a single campaign that you didn't really like.

    Let's all move on and agree to disagree on one little marketing strategy.

    Nicky's post @4.46pm got it in one. It's

    Comment by Bandicoot on 2 June 2010 at 03:34
  12. Bandicoot: I've watched the video more than once, read the twitter feed and responses to it, read the blog posts, followed the publicity, read and written critiques, and more. If you think this is just about one video and one tagline, you need to do some more research.

    And nice attempt at poisoning the well, there. Since you asked (or assumed), my activist work against internet censorship dates back over more than a decade, including everything from liaising with Senatorial staff to marching in the streets. I've also been one of very few Australian non-tech bloggers writing consistently on this issue to a mostly non-tech audience ever since Conroy raised it.

    Comment by lauredhel on 2 June 2010 at 03:58
  13. Haha, my mum and dad have known from the start. Mum has told most of her office, and bar a few apathetic people, they are all up in arms. It's gotten as far up as the executives, apparently, who are now (apparently) seriously discussing the future of the business should the filter go ahead. She's already decided who will be her last preference at the next half-Senate election.
    As for my Dad...well, he thinks it's evidence that there are Communists in the government who are trying to take over the country. (Yeah, uh...I'm lost there too. I tried to tell him that this has nothing to do with Communism and he just keeps disagreeing so...yeah, I give up. Whatever he wants to believe, I guess.)

    The idea is also that mums do have political power. Mums are the ones usually roped in by 'family values' appeals, because they want safety and security for their families. Showing them that they are losing it if the filter goes through is essentially informing the group that would otherwise be roped in.
    Also, mums talk. A lot. They talk to their spouses, to their kids, to their fellow employees, to their bosses, to their subordinates, to the guy on the bus, to the girl at the coffee-shop...it goes on. If mums start talking about this internet filter that is so bad for us, they will be talking to a lot of people about it. Mums act like a spreader for the message. It's a good way to go - because geeks are a sad minority in this country and even collectively we don't have enough political power to stop the filter in its tracks.

    Comment by dartigen on 2 June 2010 at 04:08
  14. I showed my mum and she loved it and was laughing pretty hard! But she understood the serious message behind it and promptly started spreading it around her friends. I'd call that effect a campaign epic win. Those who get offended by it need to chill out and stop being so over-sensitive!

    Comment by Daniel Chambers on 2 June 2010 at 04:51
  15. Lauredhel: Didn't assume anything about anyone (yourself included), just made a comment - some people find it easier to criticise and find fault than to actually do anything themselves. If you've been doing all you say you have, then good for you. I'm not trying to poison anything - there's no need to be so sensitive. I've never heard of you or your blog, so you're not reaching everyone and I see nothing wrong with the way this campaign has been targeted.

    The bottom line as far as I am concerned - are we not all on the same side here? Move on.

    Comment by Bandicoot on 2 June 2010 at 05:37
  16. "is only possible without any risk-taking, and a risk-free campaign is unlikely to break any new ground."

    Breaking new ground would be not relying on an antiquated sexist trope. Playing safe with an extremely established cliche of gender roles in technology is not taking a risk.

    Learn the difference. It'll come in handy for when you want to really break new ground.

    Comment by Dr Stephen Dann on 2 June 2010 at 05:41
  17. Here here.

    Out of interest - how many females are on EFA's board?

    "campaign continues to go well with over 42,000 people reporting that they told their mums"

    do you mean there were 42,000 page impressions? or did 42000 people actually tell you they've told their mothers about the campaign? they're two very different things of course - best not be disingenuous.

    Comment by Ben on 2 June 2010 at 06:59
  18. Ben, the counter at the top tracks the people who clicked on the "I told my mum in person" button, and presumably the other four links above it.

    Comment by Toejam on 2 June 2010 at 07:16
  19. I'm always incredibly sad to see these sorts of discussions deteriorate into some form of gender warfare.

    I'm female and I cannot comprehend the accusations of "sexism" - and I don't believe anyone has put up a plausible argument to support the suggestion. It's laughable. Talk about missing the point...

    Comment by Bandicoot on 2 June 2010 at 07:53
  20. I appreciate the comments on this issue. Naturally, we encourage online speech as long as it's civil, and I think this debate has been.

    Of course I can't agree with all of the remarks - but I sincerely hope that those who are upset at the campaign can at least give us the benefit of the doubt that we acted in good faith and keep an open mind about supporting the rest of our campaigns in the future.

    And of course, thanks to those that appreciate what we were trying to accomplish, the support is valuable - it's why we do what we do.

    @ben - the 43,000 are people that reported telling their mum. Of course, it's not a scientific or audited number. But we think it translates into real exposure for the issue. (And yes, the EFA board is a bit Y-chromosome heavy at the moment, I'd love to rectify that.)

    Comment by Colin Jacobs on 2 June 2010 at 08:44
  21. @Colin: I have never thought, not tried to imply, that the campaign was developed in anything but good faith. It showed a thoughtlessness that has been common in many tech circles, but I always assumed that there was no malice behind it.

    However, what's disappointed me most has been the response to criticisms, and the fact that the EFA has gone out of their way to say that they're not apologising and that the campaign isn't sexist. The EFA *could* have, and still could, acknowledge the criticism, apologise, and develop a plan for preventing future recurrences and encouraging more diversity of perspectives within the EFA. Doing so would do far more to help me keep an open mind about supporting the EFA in the future than saying, "there's no sexism, you just need to get a sense of humour".

    Comment by Sky on 2 June 2010 at 09:05
  22. I would assume with the opinions and outrage expressed by some on here, that the next EFA Board election will be a hotly contested one! At least that's what I would expect.

    Easy to criticise and throw opinions around in this fairly anonymous manner, but much more difficult to step up, give your time and contribute in a comprehensive and ongoing manner.

    Comment by Bandicoot on 2 June 2010 at 09:32
  23. Thanks again to those who have offered support. For the detractors, the final word will have to be something like this:

    We don't want to dismiss the complaints, because we take them seriously and don't think they are ridiculous; they are at least thoughtful and sincere and we have discussed them at length. We definitely regret causing offense and alienating any supporters.

    On the other hand, we can't just apologise for the campaign as we are happy with the way it turned out and the results we got. "Time to tell <other people>" wasn't an idea that was pitched to us, nor would it have been very interesting; and after things were underway, the EFA board was not going to edit the material produced by a professional comedian and a creative agency to ensure that it was inoffensive.

    We're online civil liberties campaigners, and can't win or constructively engage in a debate on sexism. For better or worse, we have to focus our limited resources on taking the fight to Conroy, Rudd and his Government over the filter. Our next campaign idea is very unlikely to have a similar message, and regardless, we will bear your feedback in mind when we consider it. For now, we must return our energies to making sure people - mums, dads and everybody besides - understands what's going on.</other>

    Comment by Colin Jacobs on 2 June 2010 at 09:50
  24. FWIW, I spoke to my mum about it today. She was (surprisingly) against the idea once she realised it won't work. Her big thing was the false sense of security argument.

    Comment by Yasmin on 2 June 2010 at 10:51
  25. To the team at EFA,

    This is a beautifully orchestrated campaign. Don't let a few hypersensitive individuals detract from your efforts. 99.99% of the Australian populace can understand the intended comedic value. Keep it up!

    Comment by Ryan on 2 June 2010 at 12:08
  26. Of course. Heaven forbid that one would expect civil liberties campaigners to undertake some kind of basic self-education about sexism. Clearly these issues are not at all connected. Forgive me.

    Comment by Sky on 2 June 2010 at 12:09
  27. My latest blog post, google it if you want the version with links.

    "Dear Electronic Frontiers Australia,

    I used to think you guys were pretty awesome. I wrote about you in my PhD thesis, recommended you to students as the best source for finding out more about the anti-filter campaign, suggested you to friends as a great organisation to donate to, and supported your campaigns.

    However, your response to criticisms of the 'Time to Tell Mum' campaign has completely undermined my support for you. While I realise that the campaign had no malicious intent behind it, your refusal to acknowledge that the campaign was sexist, apologise for it, undertake some kind of self education, and put in place a policy to prevent future recurrences gives me no reason to suppose you'll do better in the future. The Specials have some great advice on what to do with friends who support discrimination.

    I'll still be working to support civil liberties online, but I'll be doing it with other organisations. GetUp!, for example, have managed to put together a campaign that isn't racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory.

    So, let's reiterate what happened here.

    To begin with, the criticisms of the campaign:

    1) It uncritically draws on and reinforces negative gender stereotypes.

    The campaign contains an implicit message that mothers are particularly in need of educating on this issue, drawing on stereotypes of women as politically uninformed and technologically backward.

    The video from Akmal Saleh includes lines like, "Mums love gossip" and "We all know it's Mums that do the best job of looking after their kids, not the government." (And what to Dads do? Go out to work, presumably?)

    The Twitter feed positioned mothers as uninformed and defined solely through their caring activities, with such gems as, "Well, it's Saturday. What's the topic of conversation while mum drives you to soccer?", "you could catch up with mum tonight. It's cold and she does a great lasagna", and "I'm sure you've explained more complicated stuff to your mum before. How the DVD player works, what happened to that vase..."

    2) There's no reason to single out mothers.

    As far as I'm aware, at no point has the EFA or the advertising company that came up with the campaign shown any evidence that mothers are overwhelmingly the group that support the campaign. There's therefore no particular value in building a campaign around educating mothers.

    Now, let's look at what the EFA and commentors on various threads have said in answer to these criticisms:

    1) The government did it first.

    "The government has been using 'mums' as a pawn in this issue since they were elected and this strikes me as an attempt by the campaigners to try to own it themselves." (from this thread)

    Reply: your opponents being sexist, racist, or otherwise discriminatory doesn't make it okay for you to compound the problem. If your whole point is that what the government is doing is wrong, adopting their tactics seems a strange strategy.

    2) I'm a woman and I'm not offended, so it can't be sexist.

    Several commentors on my thread, the EFA's page, and other blogs have noted that they're women, and find the campaign effective/funny/inoffensive, so it can't be sexist.

    Reply: If this is a valid argument, then I see no reason why "I'm a woman and I am offended, so it is sexist" isn't valid. However, this is not the argument I and other commentators have used. We have outlined specific arguments to support our position that can be addressed, rather than making an evaluation based on our gender identity.

    3) We didn't mean "mothers", we meant "everyone".

    There have been quite a few instances of this, for example on the EFA's We're Not Sorry page: "we liked the idea of telling mum for the opposite reason - because our families can understand the policy and make a rational decision", "This is the core of the campaign - reaching out to people who wouldn't take an interest in technical things, and educating them about a government policy and how it affects them directly", "the campaign was never meant to exclude non-mums".

    Reply: "mothers" is not a synonym for "families", or for "people who wouldn't take an interest in technical things". If you meant "everyone", "families", or "people who wouldn't take an interest in technical things", why didn't you say something that fits your meaning better?

    4) We had to use "Time to Tell Mum" because it's catchy.

    Again, from the EFA's We're Not Sorry page: ""Time to tell mum" has more of a ring to it than "Time to talk about policy with the wider community"". And on the comments thread: "Perhaps the campaign should have been called: Time to tell the person of non-specific gender who may be your parent or guardian." There are also variations on this in the comments on my previous thread, EFA's site, and other blogs.

    Reply: Are you really trying to tell me that the ad agency involved, Fnuky, is incapable of coming up with an effective campaign that isn't sexist? Really? I'm not an advertising executive, but how about something like, "Time to Talk"? Somehow, you guys managed up until now to build a campaign that wasn't sexist. GetUp! has also been doing fine so far. Possibly I'm a hopeless optimist, but I really do think it's possible to build an engaging, effective, humourous campaign without resorting to sexism or any other kind of bigotry.

    5) It's not sexist because it's funny.

    Again, this pops up all over the comment threads. As the Geek Feminism article notes, Geordie Guy's initial response to criticism (since retracted) claimed that, "I was stoked when we started filming with Akmal because his humour has always been particularly adept at dealing with sensitive topics."

    Reply: The use of humour is not some magical fairy wand that makes sexism disappear. Imagine someone telling a racist joke and then insisting it wasn't racist because it was a joke. Would you accept that? I hope not.

    6) The filter is terrible, the EFA is opposing it and so are you, so you have to support this campaign.

    Again, this pops up all over the place, including in the comments on my previous thread. Over at Cast Iron Balcony Kate, writes in the comments: "Why don’t you instead of lashing out the EFA, who are from what I can see, are on the same side as you on this issue, and work towards the bigger issue and use your obvious built-up negative energy trying to fight the government, rather than slamming the people who are on the same side of the debate".

    Reply: Sexism has real effects on people's lives. For example, a 2004 report found that women in Western Australia get paid significantly less than men, and mothers are often disadvantaged when looking for jobs and in terms of wages. The filter is bad, but so is sexism. I shouldn't have to support sexism in order to oppose the filter. It's not fair, just, or useful for the EFA or anyone else to ask me to make that choice.

    7) You're being oversensitive, you're not very clever, and/or you're just trying to be difficult.

    Again, this comes up all over the threads. Examples from the comment thread on my previous post: "I think you're overreacting", "Quite a ground swell has been formed by a few unintelligent people claiming this campaign to be 'sexist'", and "'harden the f*ck up' stop being precious". In the comments at Red Pill Survival Guide: "You're obviously not smart enough to get the political strategy behind this campaign". And from the EFA We're Not Sorry comments thread: "Don't let a few hypersensitive individuals detract from your efforts", and "there are a lot of people out there who want to be offended and who look for things to criticise as a bit of a sport rather than being constructive".

    Reply: "You're too sensitive" isn't actually an argument that addresses the critique of the campaign. It doesn't provide any reply to claims that basing a campaign on outmoded and unhelpful gender stereotypes is not something a progressive organisation should be doing. Similarly, "you're not very clever" is just more name-calling that completely fails to address the arguments made. And as for "you're just trying to be difficult": as I've said previously, up until now I thought the EFA was great and supported their work.

    8) We're actually empowering mothers.

    This seems to be what the EFA is aiming for with the title of their We're Not Sorry page ("More power to the mums").

    Reply: implying that mothers are more likely to be politically uneducated and technologically inept, and that they spend their days gossiping, going to the hairdresser, driving children around and cooking does not help to position them as a powerful political force that the government and general public should be paying attention to. Those stereotypes have been around for decades in various forms, and oddly enough they haven't done much to empower women.

    9) It's not sexist because we didn't mean to be sexist.

    Again, this comes up all over the comments threads with claims that the EFA weren't being malicious and weren't trying to be sexist. On the EFA's We're Not Sorry page, they write that they support the campaign "not because we think mums are too clueless to understand technology, and need things explained to them in simple words. Nor because we think mums only care about their kids and need matters of public policy rendered to them in these terms. If that was true, the campaign might indeed be described as sexist."

    Reply: It's actually quite possible to be sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory without meaning to be. It's particularly easy to do so if you're in a privileged position and haven't taken the trouble to educate yourself about the assumptions, stereotypes, and behaviours that reinforce existing discrimination. Think, for example, of people who use "that's so gay" as a pejorative term. They may not be aware that they're perpetuating homophobia, or that their language may make people around them uncomfortable. That doesn't mean that we have to shrug it off and say, "oh, they didn't mean to be homophobic so we shouldn't say anything".

    Once again: how hard is it to do a little reading, educate yourselves, develop an anti-discrimination policy, and apologise? Too hard, apparently, although I have no idea why.

    No love,

    sky. "

    Comment by Sky on 2 June 2010 at 12:30
  28. Perhaps the campaign should have been called: Time to tell the person of non-specific gender who may be your parent or guardian.

    Comment by Derek on 2 June 2010 at 21:27
  29. Sky - Wow. Just wow.

    WE GET IT.

    You didn't like the campaign and found it offensive. Fine - your call and who is anyone else to judge how you perceive something. But, honestly, can you just move on already? Throw your energy and passion into more campaigning against the filter and less petty ranting about one, SINGLE campaign that didn't do it for you.

    What on earth do you think all this hot air is going to achieve - what difference does it make to the end cause? Let me help you out - it won't make any difference and all it is serving to do is to detract from the main focus. And that can't be a good thing, whichever way you try to spin it.

    Comment by Bandicoot on 2 June 2010 at 22:50
  30. Sky,

    Your actually being disrespectful in the manner your approaching this, and if you were looking to rally some support for your cause, against EFA, your failing dismally. Posting that amount of recycled content onto a comment board makes people disengage. Feel free to voice your opinions, this is entirely your right, but your just imposing upon other peoples right to comment by flooding the public forum.

    Congratulations on losing credibility and disengaging your audience.


    Comment by Adrien on 2 June 2010 at 23:50
  31. Reading your posts, one would assume that you are a troll who is actually in favour of the filter.

    I am truly saddened as I believe that you truly are against the filter, but have a unrealistic view that this can only be solved by the world coming together holding hands and singing songs without offending anyone. Where you say you shouldn’t get on the same level as the government who you acknowledges is being ‘sexist’ in your opinion, shows the complete lack of depth to your understanding of how to really change opinion and policy.

    You are clearly an insane academic who is so out-of-touch with reality that you are reading into something that isn’t really there. Out of the 40,000 or so people who have pledged their support, there are about 10 irrational women are trying to be offended by it, who even censor their own blogs when a logical argument is raised against their ranting.

    Instead of being constructive, you probably are now causing real damage to the cause. If Conroy gets his way and the filter gets up now, I’ll be blaming all the irrational, unintelligent ‘feminists’ who spoke against the one campaign that could be strong enough to see this policy killed off.

    Shame, shame, shame, shame… SHAME on you Sky and your small herd of loyal online followers.

    The Internet Censorship Policy should be stopped by ANY MEANS NECESSARY. In this debate, the ends do justify the means. It most countries where policy is either raised or in place against human rights, there are riots where hundreds of people are killed and injured as part of the process. We’re talking about a policy that would put our country in the same category of human rights as Iran, China, Saudi Arabia to name a few, and all we have to do to stop this policy is upset a very, very, very low minority of proud techno-junkie middle aged females. Seriously wake up and see the light.

    Comment by JE on 3 June 2010 at 00:10
  32. @Sky

    Whether you are right or wrong, there is one thing we know. You chose to come here and publicly undermine EFA's efforts. You could have undertaken private dialog expressing your concerns to EFA. But no, you are just a pugnacious narcissistic attention-whore.

    Comment by Ryan on 3 June 2010 at 00:19
  33. @Colin Jacobs:

    How hard is it to understand that being a civil liberties campaigner isn't carte blanche to use sexist imagery in your campaigns without expecting to be criticized for it?

    You can constructively engage in the criticism of your work if you choose to. Your "I'm sorry if you were offended" fauxpology is a cop-out. You can do better in the future - or at least I hope so, for the sake of the freedoms you're fighting for.

    Comment by Leigh Honeywell on 3 June 2010 at 00:28
  34. I notice that everyone criticising Sky's comments has failed to actually refute any of them. Instead we get personal attacks ("insane", among MANY other insults), or claims that it doesn't matter (really? the means always justify the ends? there is zero drawback to offending a non-zero number of people? ), or that rebutting a public statement in public is somehow inappropriate, or unsubstantiated claims that Sky commands a herd of loyal followers (did it occur to you that maybe all these people are actually genuinely, personally offended? do you have evidence suggesting otherwise?), and so on...

    If you disagree with Sky, or anyone else, how about providing an actual argument why, rather than throwing insults, making spurious assumptions, and trying to derail the discussion. Sky can do it, so surely someone that isn't an insane academic out-of-touch-with-reality irrational pugnacious narcissist attention-whore can manage it too.

    (For what it's worth, I'm a man, and thought the campaign was sexist too, and that the EFA's response to the criticism has been poor. And yes, I oppose the filter.)

    Comment by Andrew on 3 June 2010 at 00:43
  35. This campaign and the EFA's response to criticism has made me less likely to get involved with future EFA campaigns. It has made me feel like any contributions that I might make to the campaign are not valued because I am a woman. I am tech-savvy, I understand the issues surrounding the internet filter, and I oppose the internet filter. I also oppose the EFA's use of negative stereotypes in this campaign. I also oppose the covert and overt marginalisation of woman and men alike that this campaign encourages.

    I don't think that I should have to put up with being patronised because of my gender in order to oppose an issue that is so entirely unrelated to my gender. Especially from an organisation whose main focus is the promotion and protection of civil liberties.

    Comment by L on 3 June 2010 at 00:57
  36. Just my 2c worth:

    - the campaign is not ideal, and does reinforce negative stereotypes. Is it a big deal? To me, probably not, but then I'm writing this as a straight white middle-class male, so I'm aware of underlying bias on my part. I don't think it's the sort of campaign to argue about for a week, but I do think it deserves all the disapproval and shaking of heads that it gets.
    - EFA, your weird sort of non-apology apology ("we're sorry you were offended" rather than "we're sorry we made something mildly offensive") didn't do you any favours. If you apologise, then apologise! - don't sort of half apologise but make the offended party come across as prudes.
    - Sky, I think your arguments are well made and highly valid. Hopefully in future campaigns the EFA will take some of it onboard.
    - Ryan, you're an idiot. More than that, you're an offensive and childish idiot. Calling someone a "pugnacious narcissistic attention-whore" doesn't win you points, and it makes you look very, very stupid.

    I'm assuming everyone on this thread of replies is broadly on the same side, re: the filter, so all those being criticised take the damn criticism with some intelligence, and all those being mindlessly insulting either stop doing it and apologise or stop posting on the Internet.

    Comment by Grant Watson on 3 June 2010 at 01:05
  37. What is truly astounding is NOT that someone, or a group of people, find a campaign to be sexist. It's that people who obviously sympathise with a group fighting for freedom can't appreciate why they would. The commenters who have most venomously dismissed the charges of the campaign's sexism read like commenters on a News.com.au story. Nothing but ad hominem attacks and the mystifying exhortation for anyone who found the campaign to be sexist, and who gave a bunch of reasonable arguments for why they think it was, to simply think for a minute and decide it isn't. Frankly, your dismissal with a refusal to engage with arguments is EXACTLY like Conroy's. Conroy refuses to explain why the filter WILL work when presented with reasons that it WON'T. So, lift your game. Counter the arguments if you disagree. Argument gives you insight to both your own position and to others.

    EFA are obviously hesitant to offer any kind of Mea Culpa for something they spent a bunch of money on. But that money isn't magic money - it comes from members. EFA will need to think about their response to criticisms from people who provide their funding and whether or not it is adequate.

    I can easily see why the campaign is considered sexist. I don't find it 'offensive', it clearly doesn't seek to cause harm and any harm it does cause would not be major, but I do find it dissapointing.

    I believe EFA has a responsibility to be better than those it seeks to oppose. An organisation fighting for civil liberties should have strong policy guidelines to guide their campaigns. Handing a bunch of money to an advertising agency and saying "make funny and popular!" is a terrible idea. And at the end of the day, the board approved the tender for the campaign. There was a chance to check if it measured up to strong guidelines. If EFA does not have such guidelines in place, if could do a lot by adopting some right away and talking to its supporters about them. If they have them, why not publish them? Organisations are only as good as the standards to which they hold themselves. Conroy has shown he has no standards of accountability and no guidelines in place to prevent him making offensive generalisations. Why would EFA not want to show that they do?

    Comment by Jarrad on 3 June 2010 at 01:14
  38. I noticed this campaign and it fundamentally changed me.

    I suddenly realised it was entirely mother's and by extension women's fault that the internet filter existed. I immediately went up to the first woman I saw and told her to get back into the kitchen and then loudly bemoaned how letting her gender have the vote is the only reason we were in this predicament at all....

    Well, that is what would have happened if I was an irrational loony with a chip on my shoulder.

    As a rational adult I was able to clearly see that no malice or sinister (sorry for offending all the left handed people with that comment) intent was part of the message and that it was just a simple and effective way of getting the message out there.

    Realising that the people who had made complaints about the "sexism" were all coming from places of extreme privlege and security to be making such a frivolous complaints, that they clearly have never suffered any actual oppression or hardship in their "accesstointernetandtimetowastewritingblogs" lives. As such they should be treated and dismissed with the disdain they truely deserve. Who knows they may even actually suffer a real sexist comment because of it. At least they could then have a justified rant.

    Comment by Greymalkin on 3 June 2010 at 01:20
  39. Sigh. First of all, Sky, don't let the negative commentary get you down, it's par for the course, as I discovered when I took issue with Richard Stallman's telling a sexist "joke" as part of a keynote speech at the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit last year. And, in fact, I got the analogues of every single one of the sort of responses you point out.

    The fact is that "do-gooders" can be hugely insensitive and blind to precisely this kind of issue, since they frequently adopt a view that the ends justify the means, whatever the means happen to be. It's a shame that people who are trying to address what they see as "civil liberties" issues will be so quick to whitewash their own egregious failures in extending basic respect to others.

    Comment by Lefty on 3 June 2010 at 01:23
  40. I don't particularly want to engage in the back and forth because I think this discussion has descended into a bit of a rabble. However I did want to address one point Skye made.

    "at no point has the EFA or the advertising company that came up with the campaign shown any evidence that mothers are overwhelmingly the group that support the campaign." (by campaign I assume you mean filter..)

    In fact, there is very strong evidence that mothers do overwhelmingly support the idea of this filter. The most famous is the Hungry Beast/McNair Ingenuity Research poll in February that found that women (87%) were much more likely than men (73%) to support the question with the likelihood of support increasing with age and people with no children were among the least likely to support the filter (28%).

    It's evidence that compels us to reach those most likely to be in support of the filter by leveraging those who are most likely to be against it.

    Importantly, these are the same group of people that the Government most needs on their side.

    Comment by David Campbell on 3 June 2010 at 01:25
  41. Great! Some engagement with my actual argument, thank you David. The thrills!

    Okay, so 87% of women support the filter, and 73% of men do? Frankly, that doesn't seem like a big enough difference to make women the main focus of the campaign. Sure, if a negligible proportion of men (10%? 15%?) supported the filter it might justify the focus on women. But the 87/73 breakdown doesn't really seem to justify it.

    Comment by Sky on 3 June 2010 at 01:34
  42. Opinions have been voiced from a number of different views and that's great, but for ongoing discussion EFA operates multiple email lists for discussion of a range of topics. The EFA site itself is not a discussion forum, nor is it a publishing platform for third parties. The comments are closed.

    Comment by Geordie Guy on 3 June 2010 at 01:38