“Give A Blowjob To Save Your Career”

This was the title of one of Triple J’s Hack most recent, and controversial news piece. Presented by journalist Tom Tilly, Hack is unique in that it is both a popular media text and mediated public sphere, as news stories are both presented and then discussed on the program.

‘Give a blowjob to save your career’ was a news story presented by Tom Tilly on the 26th of March 2015; the story itself detailed the comments of top female surgeon, Dr Gabrielle McMullin, who suggested that female trainees would be better off having unwanted sex to save their careers (Hack Triple J 2015). This raised issues about the extreme sexism present in the medical field and the apparently ‘untouchable’ position of male surgeons.

This out of context quote was relayed again and again in promos for Hack in order to gain increased debate in the mediated public sphere and thus a higher listenership for the program.

Which it did, domestic advice campaigners called her comment “appalling and irresponsible”.

On the Hack on Triple J Facebook page, this story had 194 likes, 36 shares and dozens of comments from people like Jessie Foote (Hack on Triple J Facebook 2015):

 “Ridiculous. This is why we struggle for gender equality in the work place because people like this woman open her mouth and make it look like it’s acceptable to be sexually harassed in the work place. It is never ever ok. Not for any reason and not by anyone. No one is above the law.”

Even I myself, hearing the standalone comment on my radio as I drove to uni that morning could not understand what kind of woman could give such an inherently sexist and degrading message as advice for the career of other women in the medical field.

And so, I tuned in. This is the power of the popular media text; subconsciously forcing people to somehow interact with the story they are telling.

However, the context of Dr McMullin’s comment was the story she was recounting of neurosurgical trainee Dr Caroline Tan, who took her sexual assault case to the courts and won, but was never again appointed to a position at a major hospital.

Dr McMullin then explained her comment further within the discussion segment on Hack (Hack Triple J 2015):

“She would have been better off, for her career if she had given a blowjob to that man that evening… the point was that if she would have given him a blowjob not that she should have.”

This story from Hack illuminates the different facets of the mediated public sphere. There is the extremely moderated discussion segment of the show, where guests are elected by the program, but anything they say is moderated by the host Tom Tilly. While there is also the more free-range platform of the Facebook discussion page and then there is the even more random and unique public sphere of real-life discussion, which I found to be the most engaging with this particular media text.


Hack Triple J 2015, Give A Blowjob To Save Your Career, [17/04/15]

Hack On Triple J 2015, Give A Blowjob To Save Your Career, [17/04/15]  

Hack Image 2015 [17/04/15]


Nevermind The Semiotics


September 23, 1991: Nirvana releases their second studio album and begins a controversy that will last for decades to come. The most recent example being Facebook’s temporary removal of the image from Nirvana’s page when it was posted for the 20th anniversary in 2011. Understandably people interpret this image differently, according to their ideologies or ‘the way they imagine the world to be’.

But what is physically there for us to interpret? The signifiers of this artwork are:

  • The naked baby underwater.
  • The money on a fishing line.
  • The ‘Nirvana: Nevermind’

Some people understand the context of the image as the grunge band’s rebellious condemnation of society’s conservative values as Michael Azerrad is quoted

“Nevermind united an audience that had never been united before – the twenty-somethings. [The music] expressed the feelings they felt. The band expressed strong feelings about feminism, racism, censorship and especially homophobia. This was passionate music that didn’t pretend. Getting into Nirvana was empowering for a generation that had no power.” ( 2011).

For Nirvana the image was connotative of these ideals; combined with the influence of a documentary that lead vocalist Kurt Cobain and drummer Dave Grohl viewed on the subject of water-births.

For the youths that consumed this music at the time, this image signified their own struggle in finding their place in a rigid and stagnant society as well as the government’s prevalent and corruptive influence of the newest generation, themselves included.

However, other individuals saw the signifier of the naked child with clearly-visible genitalia as connotative of child pornography. The people with this set of ideological values created a public outrage against the image, and demanded to have it changed or removed.

Despite the band’s and the majority of generation Y’s interpretation of this image as a symbol of their empowerment, the record label forced a change to placate the masses’ much darker interpretation. Consequently, the image was altered… slightly. Cobain would only acquiesce to a sticker placed over the child’s penis that read, “If you’re offended by this, you must be a closet paedophile.”

A whole new set of complaints and indignation arose from the public. The new signifier was interpreted as a direct attack against those who were offended by the original connotations of the child’s genitals. And thus Nirvana itself became further synonymous with social discord and unruliness.

Contrastingly, for the teenagers and 20-somethings that supported the music, the sticker addition was interpreted as a further example of society’s desire for censorship and control, and accordingly, that generation’s disparity and dissatisfaction with the world in which they lived.

Yet who can definitely answer which interpretation is right, or even if there is a right interpretation?

The study of semiotics reveals the unique ideologies that shape each of our views of the world. We reveal the ideals and values that we hold most dear, that make us who we are. For are we really anything more than the opinions that we spit out to the rest of humanity?

Reference List

Robyn Chelsea-Seifert, July 27, 2011, Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ kicking up controversy twenty years later, viewed March 23, 2015,

Nirvana: Nevermind Image, viewed March 23, 2015

We create the media, the media does not create us.

Humanity is characterised by our need for information. We crave more; to know more, do more, see more, to be more.

We happily consume this indulgence of knowledge presented to us by our ever-growing media platforms… as long as we view it as producing a positive benefit for ourselves. For once society begins to believe that media has suddenly distorted into a harmful influence upon the individuals we see as most ‘vulnerable’:

  • Children
  • Youth
  • The uneducated
  • The working class

we immediately forgo our instinctual need to further ourselves with knowledge. Instead we demonise the information outlets that serve only to provide us with a reflection of ourselves.

Thus we create an epidemic of anxieties about the effects of the media, as seen through the deprecation of society’s mental health and body image.

Mental Health


This current ‘media-induced’ damaging aspect of humanity has stemmed largely from the growing power and influence of the social media giant Facebook, as mentioned in this article

Here we see mental health researches analyse the effects of Facebook on social anxiety through some fairly limited experiments.

“A team of researchers performed an experiment to see whether reviewing a person’s Facebook profile before picking a person out of a picture would decrease anxiety levels. The researchers looked at the social anxiety levels of 26 female students between the ages of 18 and 20 using the Interaction Anxiousness Scale (IAS).”

The narrow range of participants in the experiment could not and does not provide an accurate demographic of society. Consequently the conclusions drawn that an individual is more likely to experience social anxiety in meeting a new person if they have viewed their Facebook profile first is not viable as a definite effect of the media, as the article itself accedes

“The study was limited, as it did not reflect real-world situations and only included encounters with the same sex. Therefore, more study is needed.”

And yet despite the inconclusiveness of media’s effect on social anxiety presented in this study and many others, society still insists on representing our own anxieties in the form of a malignant information source. It is not the role or the function of media to influence us at our core; only to reflect what we sometimes do not want to admit in ourselves.


 Body Image

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Perhaps the most vilified of all media anxieties, the representation of the ideal body image is flashed constantly throughout all informational platforms. Yet is it the representation or inclusion of such impossible standards in our media that forces women and men alike to become dissatisfied with ourselves as we are? Or is it our consciousness as a society that we must strive for the elusive perfect figure in order to be happy? And thus is media only serving to mirror this desire back onto ourselves?


This scholarly article from Aileen Pidgeon and Rachel A. Harker argues that media began our unhealthy obsession with body image with the instigation of

 “…a level of thinness that is impossible for most women to achieve…”

which was then internalised and compounded by our societal standards.

Yet what is the benefit for the media to present something that society does not wish to see? Despite the predisposition for some researchers to view the audience of media as ‘gullible victims’ and ‘easily influenced’, it is us as the consumers of media to dictate what we buy. There would be no profit in a media that presented information as it desired; with no thought for the masses that create and continue its existence. We create the media, the media does not create us.

Consequently, the social anxiety of

“…the mass media target[ing] women by promoting new diets, exercise regimens, and beauty treatments to rectify and conceal flaws in their bodies to achieve attractiveness and the thin-ideal.”

is, as are all societal fears of the media, not an effect of the media upon our seemingly weaker individuals.

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The anxieties of media are our flaws. They embody the aspects of humanity that we deem unworthy to be associated with. And thus we force upon the media the blame of our nature as imperfect, inconsistent beings.

The media is inanimate device; a machine that feeds upon our mistakes and our fears, and then regurgitates them back to us, but we have become blind to our own hand delivering the food.