Written on 2 December 1975 and published in NSW Young Labor journal, Sydney, 19 January 1976, no pagination, but at p. 6.
Many members of YLC committed themselves to helping distribute the National Citizen during the election campaign. When they saw that photograph (à la Mirror Bird) a number just plainly refused to distribute the paper. Others persevered but insisted on letting the editor know what they thought. Below is a copy of a letter sent to the editor…
Mr. Tony Reeves,
The National Citizen
232 Castlereagh Street,
SYDNEY NSW 2000
As members of the New South Wales Young Labor Council Executive, we wish to congratulate you and all the journalists, printers and other workers on bringing out the first edition of The National Citizen. We realise that to bring out a newspaper in such a short time and with such adversities as we know exist was a mammoth task indeed.
At this point of time let us confirm that we will give you and your staff all the assistance possible to ensure that the Citizen continues to reach the public, at least for the next two issues.
We would, however, be remiss in not conveying our disappointment with one aspect of the paper; that is the photograph of the woman on page 5.
The Executive of the Young Labor Council believes that Australia is a patriarchal society. One of the factors assuring that this form of power structure is maintained is the ideological domination of men and the degradation of women by means of role stereotyping.
These role stereotypes are presently being reinforced by media in their representation of women as sex objects (e.g.: “Mirror Bird”) rather than as equal beings; their social usefulness being defined as the degree of sexual utility they provide to men.
Consequently, we see the photograph on page 5 as one which is in conflict with our policy and objectives and embarrassing, especially to the sellers who feel strongly about this issue.
We hope that our comments are taken in the spirit intended. We are trying to be constructive in our criticism in order to assist you and your staff in your arduous task.
Again, congratulations and good luck for forthcoming issues.
Tony Reeves (1940-2013) apologetically replied in the same issue of the Young Labor journal.
The National Citizen was a news sheet published at the end of 1975 in the wake of the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and as a protest by “progressive” journalists upset at the unremitting hostility to Whitlam by the mainstream media. In Sydney the latter included such now defunct afternoon papers as the Daily Mirror and The Sun which typically, at page 3 or 5, featured a scantily clad female figure often with drooling captions and/or headlines.
The signatories were all then on the Executive of NSW Young Labor. If I had much to do with the authorship of the letter, it would have been limited. Suzanne Jamison, I recall, came up with the idea of writing a protest note.
Understanding how women considered themselves objectified and, effectively belittled, in the media was worth appreciating. Fighting sexism is a worthy cause.
Interestingly, the combined letter is signed “Yours fraternally”. It would not be long, however, before the brotherly, comradely sign0ff “fraternally”, in the hermeneutics of modern feminism, would be deemed sexist. I consider that a loss to the language. Alternatives like “Yours in solidarity” sound dogmatic and Bolshie, “Yours fraternally and sororally” never took off as “sororal” as the sisterly equivalent to fraternal is so uncommon a word. Whereas I once prided myself on writing something distinctively more interestingly than “Yours sincerely”, the “Yours fraternally” phrase was policed off the public square.