Letter of the Week
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the 40 year old international Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, I write to express our extreme dismay at the University of Otago’s censorship of the student magazine Critic’s Menstruation Issue, and our support of and solidarity with the current and former editors of the magazine.
Censoring material relevant to menstruation has a long and shameful history, of which the University is now a part. University officials’ justification of their removal and destruction of 500 copies of Critic under cover of night is disturbing.
In so doing, the University ironically made the students’ point for them. That depictions of and education about menstruation are considered “objectionable” and unfit for public consumption makes plain the very need for the special issue! We would point out the hypocrisy of such censorship in a world where every media format is rife with images of victimized girls, women and trans people that are actually sexually explicit and bloody, from Law and Order: SVU to the nightly news, while most people remain uneducated about the menstrual cycle and other aspects of their body’s health and functioning.
Critic’s menstruation issue was designed to address the taboo that silences, hides and makes shameful what is actually a simple fact: blood happens. To censor this effort is to reflect and sustain misogyny. We call shame on that.
Tomi-Ann Roberts, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Colorado College
President, Society for Menstrual Cycle Research
From the Vice Chancellor,
I can assure you that Critic is regarded as an important part of the fabric of life at our University. We respect Critic’s independence and freedom as publishers and understand and support the important role they play in challenging ideas and currently accepted beliefs.
It is important to stress that the “University” made no decision to remove the editions of Critic this week. What did occur was an incorrect assumption by staff independently in the Proctor’s office late on Monday. Because Critic staff had removed copies of the edition from the Dunedin Public Hospital on Monday, as it is a public place, staff in the Proctor’s office believed that copies should also be removed from campus. Unfortunately, they removed approximately 500 copies and disposed of them. No directions were given to Campus Watch from senior staff on this matter. This was a mistake, based on a misunderstanding. The actions that were taken are regrettable and the Proctor has personally apologised to the Editor of Critic who, I understand, has accepted the apology.
Although these events are regrettable, there is a silver lining here. First, this edition of the Critic has received a much wider readership than it otherwise might have which I view as a really great outcome. Personally, I felt the content was excellent. I grabbed a copy as I walked through campus on Monday morning, read it Monday afternoon, shared it with my family on Monday night and emailed the Editor of Critic on Tuesday morning telling him I thought it was a particularly good edition. I am pleased to see that access to the online edition has been substantially higher than normal.
Second, this experience has highlighted how much we all value not only our rights of freedom of speech, but also the important role of universities as critic and conscience of society. In the midst of our busy daily lives, it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves about the values we hold most dear.
I have been astonished to find such a news. I wasn't aware that in a country like NZ such mentality still exists. I fully agree with the views of the past student editors and the democratic representanion of the protest. Thank you and thanks to all the students of your University.
Amitava Hazra from Kolkata India.
As an ancient former editor of Critic, I wish to join other former editors protesting the removal of hardcopies of your “Menstruation” edition.
Back in my day, there was intense debate about the role of the Proctor in the “mixed flatting” imbroglio. Perhaps it is time to revisit the role and purpose of a Proctor?
I also note that whilst the online edition of the Australian Guardian has an unexpurgated picture of the cover, NZ media have used pixellation. Which rather proves your artist’s point!
I understand that the Proctor of the University has issued an apology to Critic for what occurred in relation to the removal of copies of Critic and while that is a positive step, how this happened in the first place must be examined to ensure it does not happen again.
There seems to be an unclear pathway as to who authorised the removal and what authority they had to do so.
• If the Proctor personally, then an examination of whether he had that authority;
• If persons under his authority, then an examination of who authorised the removal and what steps were taken to check the right to do so; and
• An examination of why there was no conversation with Critic staff or other OUSA personnel before the action was taken.
In my view the University, universities in general, must come out clearly in favour of freedom of expression unless harm is imminent. Where there is debate about the causing of offence, conversations need to be had, so that the moral views of some in administrative areas of the institution are aware of how that is a different issue and not within their prerogative to impose. I do hope there will be an attempt to work this through for the future.
On this issue in particular I applaud the Critic staff for the production of such a courageous issue. I’m now 57, now through the menopause, but I, like many of my friends have experienced the highs and lows of menstruation. I also support all initiatives to ensure girls and women do not lose out on opportunities, in particular educational opportunities due to “period poverty” – both here and overseas.
OUSA president 1984
Hi team at critic,
As a graduate of Otago and former editor of OU literary review I would like to give my opinion on the current situation.
It is true that you did run a risk with that cover but if it was the cover that was deemed inappropriate the covers should have been removed and the magazine left.
I think the registry should pay for a reprint with another cover.
Keep up the good work.
The censorship of this issue angers me. I sincerely volunteer to pose nude with period blood (real or fake) on my leg or crotch. Get back to me if you're interested.
In 2003, most of us weren't exactly aware of scandals that didn't include playdough. So what was the great orange juice supplier scandal?
Sounds like some juicy goss.
Just wanted to say that I'm deeply saddened to hear that Finn Shewell is running for NZUSA VP when he is actually Harlene's bobble head prodigy. Why you may ask? Well on one particular occasion, I saw Harlene spouting some (irrelevant) shit on campus about topics she has no idea about and Finn just sat there nodding so much, I'm surprised he didn't dislocate his vertebral column from his head. He is too far up any university bureaucrat ass to actually be a decent student representative at something as important as NZUSA, so here is hoping the National Executive don't vote him in. Also can we talk about how he's been in hiding since losing the OUSA President role to Caity?
This is blatantly saying that womens bodies hold no place in public spaces. The reason this makes people uncomfortable is because of the lack of conversation, understanding and knowledge about periods. Censoring womens health issues only makes people feel more shameful when discussing them, and teaches young girls that it's something to be embarrassed of. University of Otago should be ashamed of this censorship and demonstration of disregard for womens health.
this a short note to offer my thanks for what you were trying to achieve with the latest issue which was binned for being - inexplicably - 'degrading' to women. The issue of 'period poverty' is really important and should be highlighted. It's just a shame people don't talk about it because some people find the topic vaguely icky. I suspect this is the real reason people wished to bin your magazine - they don't want to be reminded that such tawdry activities as menstruation might be taking place near them.
I would also add that, as a woman, I don't feel degraded by the magazines cover in the slightest, though I do feel degraded by the attempt to censor it.
Bloody stupid of them to pull all the Critics off the shelves; with one fell swoop, the only source of entertainment and happiness in my dark and dreary HealthSci life is gone up in flames.
Please do me a favour and put a giant middle finger on the front cover of your next issue so the bastards can get a piece of my mind.
As an atheistic, pessimistic, narrow minded Bsc student, I was horrified to find that the level of accuracy in the horoscope in last week's stolen issue was existential crisis worthy. I turned to peer at the Sudoku that will get me through the 2 hour rehash of medieval European politics that my philosophy lectures have slowly devolved into, absentmindedly sucking my pen, only to be horribly offended by a (literally) bloody magazine; and not in the way that most people were. As a Gemini, my gross habit to fix was apparently 'putting things in my mouth and sucking them'. I mean really, how dare you tell me something that I should stop doing? Did the cosmos really align in such a way so as to sign me to stop getting meningitis? Or is God himself watching me and mildly grossed out with me so he sent me a sign through the stars to stop? Or is it plainly a coincidence, like I always thought it was. Why have you forsaken me and what I thought I knew about the world Critic? I thought we were friends.
Sincerely, a confused Bsc student (with a minor in philosophy)
Hey Critic team!
Just wanted to say how much I fucking loved and appreciated your recent issue on periods.
Great content, important conversations to have, and I just spent my lunch break laughing manically in empathy and recognition of the weird and wonderful experience of bloody periods.
Thanks for being bold and I'm sorry to hear the University was freaked out by a bit of blood.
I would like to point out two factual inaccuracies on the cover illustration of your Menstruation Mag.
1) The anus should be 1 millimetre more towards the right.
2) From recent first-hand observation, when women menstruate, like my wife Meghan, their blood is purple not red as your cover erroneously illustrates. I trust you will apologise for this oversight in your next edition.
I understand that this doesn't fit with Critic's general tone. I don't expect to be published, but I felt the need to voice my dissent regardless.
The cover was gross.
The content of the menstruation issue issue was important, well-written, and provoked valuable discussion, but unfortunately, its cover was gross. Menstruation, I might add, is not inherently gross, at least no more so than other imprudencies of the body.
This particular representation of menstruation, however, was. Because of this, more narrowly, because of the complaints of the general public, who had no say in whether or not a grotesque caricature of a bodily function was thrust into their days (and if you believe that looking at something is a choice, I do hope you test that thesis by standing naked in public), the issue was removed from the public eye, which includes university spaces. This is no more ‘censorship’ than is choosing not to say cunt in front of your gran.
With all due respect I’d like to express my disappointment over recent blind date editorials.
What happened to sexual deviation in public places? Where’s the twists with two totally different stories leaving the reader to their own conclusions? If this is true journalism shouldn’t there always be a slight spin on the truth to entertain and inform?
Jesus, I dont care what types of drinks you had and what degree you do. I want to know if your pussy tingled when he tried to toe you under the table.
A bored, lonely third year who wants the blind dates to live up to the rest of the critic standards.
I read (and was enlightened by) your cheap booze article. However, in the beer section you failed to mention the cheapest legal beer in town. Sold at PacNSave in an enormous 900 mil can, Baltica (Brewed in Russia) works out as 6 standards and is in fact $5.99. Having drank it once, I can only surmise that its production consisted of soaking homeless Russians in grey-water from a bakery and then fermenting the resulting stanky liquid and canning it. This said, it gets you pissed and still tastes better than Goon. I advise nothing, but I feel the public is entitled to the truth: Baltica is King, Queen and Regent of cheap beers.
The hero Gotham deserves
Are you thinking of running a Bachelor NZ season 4? I suppose you're busy with Dancing with the Stars now. That's a shame.
If you change your mind I would like to offer myself humbly as an ex-capping show, just-over-the-line freakishly tall male at a whopping 6'4". Citing the recent(-ish) Meaningful confessions #356 Short arse lads I wondered how a female also standing in at 99th percentile in height has evaded me thus far.
I request your aid in finding this 5'11" girl or much like, so that we may breed and produce children destined to bring feverish patriotism to New Zealand when they inevitably get drafted into the NBA.
Do it friend. But not for me. Do it for New Zealand.
I'm bloody pissed! I know people put their blood sweat and tears into period week and getting the period issue off the ground. It was a fantastic, respectful, humorous, humanising and destigmatising issue on something often treated so taboo. periods.
The uni has over stepped the mark and this isn't the first time. I was part of a student initiative last year and they also ordered our posters to be removed from all the campus. Being silenced sucked. Student media should have independence, should have freedom of speech. Of course the influence and responsibility shouldn't be taken lightly and the platform should be used for creating positive cultural change, which the period issue totally was.
The bottom line is, by censoring periods, by censoring vaginas, the uni has made a dick of themselves. (ahah yes pun intended)
An Angry Menstruator!
(I'm not angry cuz I'm menstruating, I'm angry because of the university and their silencing BS)
I am horrified and disgusted by the recent cover photo you published.
The bottom left corner of the cover showed the oxidation state of iron in blood as fe3+. This is incorrect. Unless there is a serious pathology, menstrual blood is fe2+ not fe3+ as was falsely portrayed
I am disgusted that my children might see this cover and have their innocence defiled. The university was right in destroying copies of this misinformation campaign.
Critic would like to apologise to Abby Smith, Marine Science for publishing a letter to the editor last week which was not intended for publication.
Woman Unbound: Travels in the Hypercube
The proctor smiles at his freshly-pressed pants, stiff crotch creased like the solid bodies of Roman gladiators striding the midday sun. Ancient scents, bodily torque—DESCARTES, KANT, LOCKE—I HAVE READ THE ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS OF MY FOREFATHERS. He descends into the HYPERCUBE, latest technological development of the MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL-COMPLEX, BILLION DOLLAR INVESTMENT, STATE TERRORISM. Hard edges, long lines, the rectilinear destiny of manifest enclosure. I as the SOVEREIGN SUBJECT, the ONE, the PANOPTIC GAZE that penetrates all OTHERS. ME! ME! ME!
But what is this? The proctor squints at his infinity screen. The twelfth issue of Critic (2018)? He leans in, the creases upon his crotch multiplying. Is that . . . A WOMAN? No! Flashes of The Revolution Betrayed assail the proctor’s mind. NO! He shirks back in fear, not only at the BLEEDING VAGINA, but also, the thumbs up, the signifier of approval. Unable to take his eyes off the MATERIAL SCENE, the BODILY FLOW, the ORGANIC INTERPENTRABLE SUBJECT OF POSTMODERNITY, the proctor screams.
After an hour of panting, the proctor crawls limp out of the HYPERCUBE. Th-that woman! He hisses, searching his neck for the key to his drawer. Sh-she cannot—! WOMEN ARE VIRGINAL! WOMEN ARE MOTHERLY! WOMEN ARE ENCLOSED. NEED TO BE CLOSED. CLOSED CLOSED CLOSED CLOSED—He pops open his drawer and the latest issue of Women’s Weekly lands at his feet. He grasps it with shaking fists, eyes darting between it and the Critic. The complete woman the complete woman the complete—Mother . . . MOTHER!
Gargh! The proctor falls back into the HYPERCUBE, activating SELF-SURVEILLANCE mode with his flailing limbs. His chair whirs into motion; a kaleidoscope of the Critic blossoms before his eyes. THE FLOWING ORIFICE; THE WOMAN UNBOUND. He screams, and the images scream with him, spraying tears and snot across a fractal infinite. In a sudden bout of insight, the proctor realises he is not looking at the Critic. No—he has been looking at himself all along.