On Saturday, the Essex Feminist Collective had our first awareness raising stall at the Oyster Festival in Colchester’s Castle Park. Though we were prepared for people being mean (and had practised our responses in the car on the way there) it turned out that pretty much everyone was really lovely and those that weren’t were just silly. We had some excellent conversations with women and men alike and, on more than one occasion, were told to “keep up the good work”. Many people were understanding about why meetings are for women only and I even sold a ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ badge to a teenage boy. It was all just so marvellous . . .
. . . so maybe I’d become lulled into a false sense of security that people are nice because away from the frivolities of Medieval jousting, the not-so-supportive comments have appeared and, quite frankly, I’ve got myself all cross about it.
The comment that’s really given me the absolutely ragin’ ‘ump is “surely there’s more important things to worry about than Page 3?” So, in the safety of this blog where no one will read it, here’s my response to all those people (because, unbelievably, there’s been *loads* of them!):
1. I agree. There are lots of very, very nasty things out there in the world. And, yes, internet pornography is definitely one of them. Yep, so is female genital mutilation. Totally not keen on domestic violence and sexual exploitation either. We agree on these things. Hurrah! But, you know what? I’m not sure Castle Park on a Saturday afternoon in September is the place to emblazon my loathing of these things across a t-shirt. Call me old-fashioned (and terribly middle-class) but it just doesn’t seem like it’s the nice thing to do. Might put someone off their sausage and cider feast.
2. While we’re on the subject of internet pornography, and I really appreciate your faith in me and my chums with our vegan ginger biscuits and comedy badges, but I’m not sure we’re *quite* in a position to undermine global capitalism just yet. That little industry has a turn over more than Amazon, Google and loads of other big companies I can’t remember COMBINED. I know it seems strange that they’re not listening to a few opinionated Essex women but, I assure you, they just aren’t. (I think it’s something to do with the massive amounts of money they make from exploiting women and their connection to global technology corporation who rely upon porn-makers to make their new technologies a success, but I can’t say for sure.) And, for that reason, we support campaigns that focus on what I like to call ‘mini-goals’; things we can achieve (because, believe me, Page 3 is going). We’re taking baby steps towards bigger goals until we get to the point that the objectification of women in any form is considered unacceptable by everyone. But we can’t get there straight-away.
Oh, and now would probably be a good time to ask what it is *you’re* doing about the things you think are worse? I do struggle taking those comment from people who aren’t actively involved in changing things they don’t like. If you’ve got your own campaign you support then that is awesome and I salute you; together we can do it (whatever your ‘it’ happens to be)! It would probably be better, for the sake of solidarity and all that, not to dismiss *my* thing as not important though. There’s enough of us to do all the things, after all. If you’re not active in any way and you’re just being negative to make me feel sad with your bad vibes, then you can just shush, thank you very much. You are not part of my solution, my friend, and I did some campaigning training that said I can ignore you (apart from when I’m writing therapeutic blogs to you, obviously).
(If you feel like starting an anti-pornography campaign, may I suggest you read this? Gail Dines is ever so good. http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005OS3AJQ/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb )
3. My brain is a complex thing. It can hold lots of information. Sometimes too much and it keeps me awake in the small hours. Anyway, big brain = lots of space for lots of things, therefore, I can simultaneously care about Page 3, internet pornography, female genital mutilation, domestic violence AND sexual exploitation. You know what? Let’s throw in sexism in schools, street harassment, lad culture, unobtainable beauty standards, disordered eating, the gendered pay gap and whether Beyonce is a ‘real’ feminist too. I can do ALL of that. How do I know? ‘Cause I just wrote that list without even Googling anything or looking at my notes. It was all in my noggin’. And, for the record, I’m down with Bey.
4.a) Now comes the point where I’m going to stop being nice about this and just straight out tell you: “You, mate, are wrong. Getting rid of Page 3 *is* important. IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT” (important enough to be in capital letters). Remember when we agreed about internet porn all those numbered bullet points ago? Well, unless your local ASDA is different to mine, you can’t actually get any internet pornography there. What you can get though is a nice selection of paper based pornography. No, no, I don’t mean they’ve started stocking Razzle. I mean there’s actually a pile of it by the pre-packed sandwiches and carbonated beverages. Right there, for anyone to see. Even those people who don’t buy The Sun (you were going to tell me not to buy it if I don’t like it, amiright? Ha! Got there first). If you’re a responsible parent, you have filters on your home internet, you monitor your child’s mobile phone use and you have a chat every now and then about what they’re doing online at their friends’ houses. You can’t totally control what’s happening but you can have a good go. Well done, I think you’re a good parent. You know what you can’t have any control over at all? All those boobs in ASDA. And Sainsbury’s. And Tesco. And left on the bus. Or in Costa. Those boobs are a law unto themselves.
b) “So what?” you say “they’re just boobs, everyone likes boobs, they’re nice.” Hurrah, we’re back to agreeing again (temporarily); boobs are lovely. They do all sorts of marvellous things like feed babies and make the writing on too-tight t-shirts look weird. Go on, boobs! The problem is though, and here we are not agreeing once more, those boobs tend to be attached to a thinking, feeling, living person who is quite a lot more than a PhotoShopped set of mammary glands. She’s someone’s daughter, she might have done well in her exams in school, she might have been bullied for having those very boobs when she was too young to be considered worthy of them. Who knows? We don’t. Because The Sun doesn’t tell us. The Sun just says “look at the bangers on that” which makes it seem like she’s just those bangers and not anything else. That I just don’t like. It makes me feel funny, like a bit sad but a lot cross. I’d prefer it if that young woman could do something else to make money, something that means people ask “have you heard the problem solving abilities on her?”
c) Which brings me to the money question. Page 3 girls get paid. That’s generally how capitalism works (I say ‘generally’ but that is a whole other rant on a whole other subject on a whole other blog so let’s just go with it). I can’t say I know how much they get paid but I’m confident in saying that it probably seems like a lot for a few hours work but then wouldn’t sustain a person as a wage for very long. Page 3 isn’t the career it once was. No more of the likes of Sam Fox nowadays. I’m also confident in saying it isn’t going to be a plus on anyone’s CV. I feel like I want to be all crazy and say: “Hey, let’s have jobs for women where they get a decent wage, career opportunities if they want them and a gorgeous CV all whilst being fully clothed!”
d) Let’s end now (it’s almost over, promise) on the “it’s their choice” one, shall we? “It’s their choice. They choose to do Page 3. You’re trying to stop women doing what they want and that’s not a feminist attitude and you’re a Nazi”. Gosh! That escalated quickly. Let’s calm down and see what we’ve got here. OK, free choice. Now there’s an interesting premise. Are our choices really free? Are any of our choices free? Am I free to choose not to do the washing up? Yes, I am. Until I run out of forks then I have to do it again. Am I free to not go to work? Yes, I am. Until I get sacked for not showing up and lose my flat for not paying my mortgage and become homeless so can’t get another job. (Do not even mention benefit fraudster. Really. Let’s not fall out completely.) Am I free not to shave my female armpits? Yes, I am. But I’m repeatedly told it’s repulsive and asked what my boyfriend thinks about it because, apparently, I signed them and possibly my reproductive organs too, over to him though I have no recollection of it and I’m sure it can’t be legally binding. We’re free to do lots of things but all our choices are affected by the society we live in. When a young women ‘chooses’ to model for Page 3 she’s had a good few years of a society that only values women according to what they look like behind her. Why has she made that choice? Who knows? Maybe she needs the cash. Maybe she likes positive male attention and she knows she can get it from her boobs. Maybe she was convinced to do it when she only wanted to do clothed modelling. I’d love it if the Sun started telling me why the young women chose to do Page 3 along with all the other things I wanted to know about her. But I have a feeling it wouldn’t make good reading and might make me more sad and cross.
OK, I’m stopping now. And, I have to say, I feel so much better! Thank you mean people for making me blog. And thank you more lovely people of Colchester for being totally awesome on Saturday.
Here’s to many more meetings with the public and a few less rage inducing comments afterwards from people who weren’t even there to see how amazingly great it was!