I love student media, especially when it engages with difficult issues. I also love a headline and image that grabs and surprises, makes you whistle through your teeth and say to yourself: “I wish I’d thought of that.”
This issue of Tharunka, the University of New South Wales’ student magazine, did exactly that:
It definitely catches your attention, doesn’t it? I mean, it certainly caught the eye of Andrew Bolt on Tuesday. He attacked the front page, writing:
“What kind of contemptuous and arrogant barbarians do our universities now produce to stock our ‘elite’? Judge by the cover of the latest magazine of the University of NSW students – and, caution, do not read on if bad language and graphic sexual imagery offend.”
A few things. Firstly, it is not barbaric to produce media that asks hard-hitting questions. Horrible things happen in this world and we’d be fools to shy away from it. Bolt, and indeed any journalist, knows this all too well.
Offensiveness (or lack of) aside, it is important that people engage with issues they might not feel comfortable with.
Many people on both sides of the debate feel so strong about the topic of abortion and women’s rights that they wouldn’t hesitate to use even stronger language than is printed on this particular front page of Tharunka.
Secondly, it’s ironic that Bolt is offended by this. For someone who is seen as a patriot of free speech, it’s a little bit strange to be whining about being offended by bad language and a drawing of a vagina.
Bolt makes his career out of offending people. Just because this is about women’s rights instead of the impending doom that asylum seekers will bring upon our country doesn’t make this a stupid front page.
Notice how Bolt doesn’t say Tharunka, but rather the much more obfuscatory phrase ‘magazine of the University of NSW students’.
This implies what was depicted on the front cover was a collective view shared by all students at UNSW.
It’s always lovely when people make grandiose generalisations about university students – as though we’re all one homogenous breed (I’m sure Bolt would like it if we were, no prizes for guessing which ‘breed’).
It’s also important to realise that the graphic had a given context. It wasn’t out there to simply slander religion – it was there to make people read the very detailed and well-written feature article by Ammy Singh.
I asked what people thought about the front page on Twitter, and there was a wide range of responses. People said they thought it was smart, while others said it made them cringe.
An editor of a popular independent news website pointed out that the image was particularly “rough” because it’s Easter this weekend.
I don’t think the front page of Tharunka constitutes hate speech. I think it was very smart and brave to run with that graphic. After all, it’s got us all thinking about it (and hopefully the struggle it represents).
What do you think? Do you find Tharunka’s front page offensive?