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Australian student newspaper has its issue recalled for showing the naked truth

Jesse Colautti | Fulcrum Staff

Photo courtesy of Honi Soit

A RECENT ISSUE of Honi Soit, the University of Sydney student newspaper, was pulled off stands after the university decided the cover—featuring photos of 18 different vaginas—was potentially offensive. The university’s concern was that, even after the vaginas were censored with black bars, the cover was indecently sexual and under Australian law, could be considered a criminal offense.

The editors of the paper defended the cover on the basis that there is nothing inherently offensive or sexual about the vagina—it’s just another body part. The story has made international headlines as thousands of people from around the globe have used social media to express their support for the decision of the editors.

Now, before you form your opinion on whether or not genitalia is appropriate for the front page, consider that years earlier, the same paper—which has a reputation for provocation—featured an uncensored penis on the cover. There were no repercussions from the school or talk of criminal offense.

As an editor of a student newspaper, this story appalls me. The first reason I ever picked up the Fulcrum was because it wasn’t like all the other newspapers I’d read—it was a student paper. I expect the students of our world’s highest institutions of knowledge to be the ones to provoke thoughtful discussions,  push boundaries, and challenge the status quo. Yet, here is a story of a paper being punished for doing exactly what should be expected of them. If the unique university voice is censored, then where else should we look for social change and progress?

For me this story isn’t really about pushing boundaries. Honi Soit already pushed boundaries when it published an issue with a penis on the cover. The censorship is fundamentally a sexist act.

How else can one justify that a penis is a decent image for a cover, but vaginas aren’t? The most sexual parts of the vaginas were censored, while the penis was shown in all its glory. The school is sending the message that it’s OK to challenge the norm, as long as you don’t bring up female sexuality.

When did isolated photos of body parts suddenly become offensive? When did we become so conservative as a society that mere images of natural body parts become a potential criminal offense?

These vaginas aren’t saying or doing anything. They are just vaginas—about half the world has one— and it’s about time the rest of us got over it.