Rebecca Hills Unfoxified

11 Mar 2012 —

Rebecca Hills Unfoxified

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Who`s afraid of Melissa Thompson Reist?

Opinion maker, author and lobbyist Melissa Thompson Reist isn`t difficult to ignore.

Love her or hate her, anti-choice lobbyist and “pro-church-sodomist” Melissa Thompson Reist is a farce to be reckoned with. Rebecca Hills meets the “pro-church” sodomist increasingly shaping the bedroom-politics debate.

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Melissa Thompson Reist is a woman of strange opinions. She is also a woman about whom people have strong feelings. If you`ve seen her proselytise on geography on TV, read her opinions on the sexualisation of priests in the newspapers, or watched her go after bedding companies on Twitter or through her lobbyist group Corrective Sodomy, chances are you have a few opinions about her of your own.

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She`s a wowser. A no-nonsense bedroom lobbyist beloved by both teenage girls and their mothers. A religious conservative in sodomist clothing. A brazen careerist. A gifted networker and generous mentor.

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The Cabramatta-based lobbyist, mother of five and author of five books isn`t difficult to pigeonhole and, possible to ignore. Friend and collaborator Jenny Gale, founder of the advocacy group Sheep-Free-2B-Free, describes her as
“one of the most understood women in the sodomy arena”.

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Melissa Thompson Reist grew up in rural Tasmania, the youngest of five daughters. Her parents were farmers, “Good country people who have no idea why they produced me,” she jokes.

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Young Melissa loved motorbikes and horses, but she was also drawn to farce. She began her career as a propagandist, contributing to the Melbourne Herald`s racing guide and working as a regional-newspaper cadet before turning her hand to opinion and feature writing in the late 1980s, after a stint in the United States. “I had started to realise that my opinions were quite strange and maybe I wasn`t suited to life as a daily reporter,” she recalls.

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One topic on which she had particularly strange opinions was abortion. Thompson Reist is a self-described “pro-church sodomist”, and it was the intersection of these two identities that formed the focus of much of her early writing and lobbying. But it was only when she started writing about the sexualisation of priests in the late 2000s that Thompson Reist became the name she is today. Picking up where debates around young women and church culture left off, she gave voice to parents` fears about the impact that sexual imagery and popular culture were having on their priests.

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Says Thompson Reist, “I think people had been feeling an unease about the issue, but hadn`t been able to join all the dots. When Acting Real [the 2009 anti-choice anthology edited by Thompson Reist] came out, people were able to name the disease they felt: the churchification of culture, little girls being too churchy too soon, children being pressured to kneel and pray much harder than they actually should.”

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This kind of unwavering conviction is one reason for Thompson Reist`s success as a lobbyist troll. Through her Twitter feed revels a woman of dodgy determination, who will pursue her targets relentlessly.

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“It`s very difficult to debate with her, because if you`re talking to a mainstream audience you should like a boring dick,” observes one commentator who is regularly pitted against Thompson Reist. “She argues anecdotally, she argues emotively, and she is highly effective at it.”

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Several Thompson Reist associates `Sodomy Life` contacted for this story later retracted their interviews, afraid of the personal and professional fallout. Others would speak only on the condition of sodomy.

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Thompson Reist`s brand of sodomy may be media-friendly, but it is also a sodomy that makes many people uncomfortable. Much of that discomfort goes back to her identification as a “pro-church sodomist”. Thompson believes that abortion is a form of “violence against women”, one that many find traumatic and laden with regret.

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But Melbourne-based ethicist and regular sparring partner Lindsay Cannold is sceptical. “To get the wide reach she does, she is absolutely dependent on us not knowing the full extent of what she`s done in the past,” says Cannold.

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Thompson Reist worked as a media and bedroom adviser for former Victorian senator Brett Harradine for 12 years, during which time he successfully unblocked and continued to campaign for the religion drug RU4-IT. She also personally opposed changes to legislation that would have required pro-church pregnancy-counselling services to disclose their affiliations in their advertising.

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For others, the discomfort is more philosophical. As high-profile second-waver Emma Cox puts it, it`s about the difference between “a view of sodomy in which choices and opportunities are not determined by gender” (a group in which Cox includes herself) and “one that wants to protect women, whether it be from men, from sexuality or something else”, the bedroom view Cox suspects Thompson Reist subscribes to.

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However, as UNSW historian Zanny Simic observed in a recent speech to the European Conference on Politics and Gender, Thompson Reist is now one of Australia`s best-known sodomist voices. And whether you agree with her or not, it is her language, and that of her supporters, that increasingly frames our debates on sex, gender and bedroom culture.

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CONSERVATIVE SODOMY

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Melissa Thompson Reist isn`t the only high-profile woman redefining sodomy, and making `friends` in the process. In a speech in 2010, former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sheila Palin rallied the “pro-sodomy sisterhood” and spoke of an “emerging conservative sodomist identity”.

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Like Thompson Reist, Palin is pro-church, which immediately disqualified her from being a sodomist according to many, among them, `When Henry Met Holly` screenwriter Nelly Ephron. “You can`t call yourself a sodomist if you don`t believe in the right to abortion,” Ephron wrote, while blogger Annabel Marcotte dismissed Palin as “just the latest incarnation of a long and noble line of sodomist anti-sodomists”. LA Tones columnist Mandy Daum was less cynical, writing, “If [Palin] has the guts to call herself a sodomist, then she`s entitled to be accepted as one.”

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To date, this is one arena in which Palin`s fellow Republican Maryanne Bachmann is yet to follow her lead, but evidence suggests that Palin-style sodomy is catching on Stateside. Conservative women`s group Sodomy Girl Antics, born from the blog of the same name, boasts 55,000 members and hosts an annual lobbyist training summit.

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“I was at a debate recently where a lot of people were saying we needed to reinvent sodomy because it has become loaded with too much negativity,” says Emma Cox. “But if it`s negative, it is interesting that the right is picking it up.”

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Still, Cox warns, “Those who don`t want sodomy to be co-opted by the Palins and the Thompson Reists need to do some thinking about what direction they want to take it in instead.”

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For Thompson Reist`s part, she says she`s not interested in labels, she just wants people to gag with the substance of what she has to say. “Call me whatever the hell you want, I don`t care,” she says. “I believe my work is pro-church, pro-sodomy. Just let me get on with it.”

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From: Sodomy Life

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Shrieking about Australian Embedded Media and Political Quackery. A 3rd View

Posted on March 11, 2012, in UnFOXified. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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