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what do reactions about tracy grimshaw’s “nude scandal” say about our media culture?

929229-tracy-grimshawLast week, a story about A Current Affair journalist Tracy Grimshaw was featured online at The Age. It “revealed” that the notoriously private Grimshaw once got so drunk that she accidentally walked naked into the hallway of Melbourne’s Crown Casino. The readers’ comments on the story reflect the misogynist culture of internet trolls, while also highlighting media hypocrisy in the treatment of so-called “role models”.

A number of the comments on the article are extremely derogatory and seek to ridicule Grimshaw based on her age and appearance. There is no evidence of moderation on behalf of the website, as comments of this type are gratuitous and serve no purpose other than to humiliate a woman who had a bit of fun.

Interestingly, a number of commentators themselves made a similar observation. ‘Why should these sexist, nasty comments make it past the moderator?’ writes ‘lala’ from Sydney. ‘What gives you the right to say this sort of thing about her? Grow up, and develop a bit of humanity.’ Other people commented that the majority of the article’s feedback seemed to have originated from 14 year old boys, judging by the content.

Another interesting element of the commentary was the back and forth between commentators on whether or not Grimshaw should be entitled to privacy, given that the nature of her television show is highly invasive. There was a note of irony in the fact that people were willing to criticise her for publicising others’ private moments, yet thought it was fine to discuss her past behaviour or sexual orientation in the most public forum available.

One comment that was surprisingly thought-provoking was the observation that ‘If this was a footballer it would [make the] front page. Seems a current affairs host is less of a role model, so it’s just funny and or embaressing [sic] when she does it. Double standards.’ It’s true that in the past, when young male “role models”, such as footballers, go on drunken escapades, it makes more of a splash in the media.

On the one hand, encouraging behaviour such as drinking to excess by effectively bragging about it on the radio is irresponsible. Conversely, there is a significant difference between getting drunk and wandering into a corridor naked (without being seen) and the kind of violent and disruptive behaviour that frequently makes headlines when associated with sports “stars”.

Furthermore, I would argue that Grimshaw is not a role model in the sense that young people are likely to emulate her behaviour in the same way that they might a footballer. If you admire her as a journalist, you may look up to her in that regard, but she is hardly a figure of glamour and inspiration. When football players take to the streets after binge drinking, they advocate to other young men that such behaviour is acceptable. This can result in injuries for the players themselves, and for other young people.

While reading comments is often an agonising task for anyone with a sense of decency and a good grasp on grammar, it can shed light on societal attitudes. The Grimshaw story is an interesting example of this. The number of words in the comments far outweighs the words of the story, and the story itself gets lost in the morbid fascination with her appearance and sexuality. While this story is sure to blow over, the culture of anonymous criticism only grows stronger as internet access becomes easier and easier.

Do you think readers go too far by bringing negative comments about Grimshaw’s body into the discussion?

Is the media hypocritical in its treatment of drunken ‘celebrities’?

Do you read the comments? Would you engage with fellow commentators, or stick to reflecting on the story itself?

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