... and ain't i a woman?: No to a nunnery
No to a nunnery
The ABC's youth radio network, JJJ, has been regularly playing a song in recent weeks called "Get thee to a Nunnery" by the band This is Serious Mum, known to its fans as TISM.
The song opens with the line "Is it God or the devil, tell me somebody, who put Sophie Lee in Sophie Lee's body?" It also poses the "serious" questions: can Sophie speak English? Is she human, or a cartoon?
The song's lyrics have offended many more than just Sophie Lee. It is a personal, sexist attack upon a young woman on no basis other than her gender, sexuality and public profile.
Presumably the TISM boys felt Sophie was a fair target because she is young, sexy, attractive and the presenter of the program Sex on the Channel 9 network. She also used to present children's afternoon cartoons on Channel 9, where her wardrobe was legendary. Urban myth has it that middle-aged men used to rush home from work in time to watch Sophie throw to Bugs Bunny cartoons.
From Sophie's point of view, cartoon presenting was her first job in TV, and she was concentrating upon the obvious difficulties involved in introducing Bugs Bunny cartoons. As she has rightly pointed out: "What do you say?"
There is no doubt Channel 9 enjoyed the attention paid to Sophie's wardrobe, and that the wardrobe department got full marks from management, but if TISM's song is protesting against the use of sex to sell, they chose the wrong target. Twenty-three year old Sophie Lee has done more to demystify and normalise sex and sexuality for ordinary Australians than any bunch of pop star boys with a need to convince their mothers they are serious.
JJJ announcer Angela Catterns interviewed Sophie on September 4, after receiving irate letters and faxes from female listeners who objected to blatant sexism on a radio station they had come to trust as anti-sexist.
In the course of the interview Sophie explained that she thought "Get thee to a Nunnery" was a boring song by a boring bunch of bourgeois boys. She asserted her political commitment to sex education and to developing a more relaxed and enlightened attitude to human sexuality. She explained that Channel 9 had originally invited her to present the first one hour Sex special because she had been identified with the political battle to publish the Family Planning Association's Fact and Fantasy File (or so-called "sex diary").
Lee said she believed that, to its credit Sex was one of the first mainstream TV programs to treat homosexuality with the same respect as heterosexuality, and to use the term "partner", rather than "husband" or "wife", as most mainstream sex education material does.
As Angela Catterns pointed out, Sophie Lee is not the first woman to have her looks and her public association with sexuality used as evidence that she does not have a brain. Gloria Steinem's feminist re-examination of the life of Marilyn Monroe is historical evidence of a sexist society's use and abuse of female sexuality.
But Sophie Lee refuses to get herself to a nunnery. By her refusal she, like Madonna, is a symbol of hope for young women who want to be everything they can be: sexual, intellectual, female, human and free. As Sophie says, "Young women should be able to choose who they want to be, not be dragged down all the time".
By Karen Fletcher