Tuesday, 27 August 2013

This week in Idiotic Things People Do In The Name Of Feminism: Boob parade! By Meghan Murphy

Accessed 27th August 2013

August 26, 2013

This week in Idiotic Things People Do In The Name Of Feminism: Boob parade!

Sunday was, apparently, “Go Topless Day.” According to media coverage of the event in Vancouver, the purpose of the march is to “stand up for women’s right to go topless in public.”
CBC’s headline read: “Topless women march in Vancouver for gender equality,” which naturally led me to wonder what, exactly, about fighting for our “right” to bare our breasts in public had to do with gender equality.
First things first. In Canada, women won the right to bare their breasts in public in 1996, so the claims that this march is about gaining rights is a little misleading. Spokesperson, Denise Belisle, said the women participating in the event in Vancouver were fighting for women in other places where going topless isn’t legal:  “For the women who do want to go topless, they should have that option. They do here in Vancouver, that’s great, but not everywhere.” How, exactly, women parading topless down Robson Street, in Vancouver, where it is already legal, impacts the law in other places is unclear.
Second, it seems relevant to mention that Go Topless Day is, as The National Postreported, “organized and promoted by the Raelians, a UFO cult founded by former French journalist Claude Vorlihan (i.e. a dude), author of ‘Extraterrestrials Took Me to Their Planet.’” The National Post seems to stand out as an exception, calling the event “a publicity stunt,” unlike the many other media outlets who placed it under the banner of “gender rights.” Though this information should be cause for skepticism, in terms of the credibility or relevance to feminism, the media seems to be taking it quite seriously. It’s no strange coincidence that news outlets seem most interested in covering “gender rights” when we’re dealing with either Slutwalk or female nudity.
It is true that there is a double-standard. Aside from the douche-factor, people tend not to pay much attention to men who go shirtless in public places. Women, on the other hand, are likely to be gawked at, harassed, cat-called, or treated as though they are doing something socially inappropriate.
Now, as far as “gender rights” go, near the bottom of the list of concerns I have about inequality is my “right” to go topless. There are very few moments in my life wherein I feel I would be freer or cooler if only I could bare my breasts. That said, the reasons behind the fact that women don’t go topless in public places as casually as men, do matter.
Breasts are sexualized in our culture. In general, women’s bodies and body parts are fetishized in a way that men’s are not. This is why people get so worked up when women breastfeed in public. Because breasts are, we’ve been made to believe, reserved for male sexual fantasies. Feeding babies with sexy sex toys doesn’t fit very well with that notion.
It is for this same reason that The Province covered Sunday’s march with the headline: “Everyone’s a photographer on Go Topless Day in Vancouver.” Because,obviously,  a bunch of disgusting pieces of shit felt that a march that (were we not so terribly simple-minded and misguided) could have been about women’s right not to be objectified should actually be about objectifying women.

The National Post reported that “at least one participant had to hold the crowds back shouting ‘You’re too close,’” because, of course, female nudity is an invitation to men to behave rapily. Men think they have the right to access women in public spaces regardless of how clothed we are, but they particularly believe that women’s naked bodies exist for them. What else could they possibly be for?
Of course, the message that this double-standard is sexist (I actually don’t think that was the message, or really that there was any message at all — but let’s pretend for argument’s sake) failed because those behind the march don’t quite get it. The chant, “free your breasts, free your mind,” tells me that the GoTopless folks have avoided looking at the root of the issue. There is little that can be changed at the surface, particularly when we we don’t understand why the inequality exists in the first place. There is also little that can be changed, with regard to the objectification of women, simply by “freeing one’s mind.”
Belisle, said: “It’s an education for men. Men are learning and they’re learning to be more respectful.” Of course, as demonstrated by the behaviour of the men witnessing the event, the exact opposite was achieved. Men did not learn to be more respectful, nor did they learn anything about women’s rights or “gender equality.” The march merely reinforced their belief that women’s naked bodies equate to pornography — they are to be looked at for the purposes of male pleasure.

I find it consistently sad and lazy (many days I simply don’t have the energy to feel angry and am certainly not surprised) that the media and the general public refuses to engage with  “gender rights” unless it can somehow be pornified.

Gender stereotyping is unhelpful and counter-productive – whoever's doing it by Deborah Orr

Accessed 27th August 2013



Gender stereotyping is unhelpful and counter-productive – whoever's doing it

Assuming that men are not responsible for their actions harms them just as much as it harms women

The Guardian, Friday 23 August 2013 15.45 BST
How much do the reactions of a particular and self-selecting group to an unusual and disturbing incident tell us about our culture generally? Photographs of a teenage girl seemingly performing a public sex act on a young man at a festival in Ireland last weekend were published by a third party on the internet, where they were quickly shared on social networks. Other people offered their opinions. Many condemned the female as "disgusting", while the male not only escaped censure but was even described as a "hero" or a "legend".
This, it is now being said, is a "typical" example of age-old sexist double-standards, whereby women are condemned for flamboyant expressions of their sexuality while men are admired. What rubbish. This may be the view of an ignorant, immature and vocal minority with more technology than sense. But otherwise, there is nothing typical about any part of this episode, and it should not be seen as an invitation to bang on a feminist drum any more than it should be seen as an opportunity to jeer at and judge a young woman. Far more telling, and far more cheering, is the fact that the mainstream media has been low-key in its reporting of the incident and its aftermath, realising that witch-hunts are not any longer something that responsible adults should indulge in or encourage.
It's true that a female has been subjected to vicious criticism, while, as my colleague Sarah Ditum put it in the New Statesman, "in the world of popular sexual mores, public oral sex is apparently seen as pretty much neutral for men". But is that true? Am I that out of touch? My impression is that the vast majority of men wouldn't in fact give or receive oral sex in public, wouldn't stand around taking snaps if they saw others doing so, wouldn't put those pictures on the internet and wouldn't go online to offer their uncharitable view on the matter. I just don't believe that it's useful to insist that general truths about contemporary sexual mores can be extrapolated from deliberate humiliation and cruelty by an almost universally condemned minority.
It has been made known that the girl is deeply distressed. It's reported that she was hospitalised and sedated and that her blood is being tested, to see if her drink was spiked, not least because other photographs have emerged, of sexual harassment by a group of men, in an earlier incident that she had complained about. There is talk of designating all of the people who shared the images, especially the Belfast man who is accused of creating them, as publishers of child pornography, since the girl is under 18. The suspicion is that she has been manipulated, exploited, taken advantage of, because something made her vulnerable. Perhaps it was alcohol, taken by her knowingly. Perhaps alcohol or drugs were given to her without her knowledge, and with malicious intent. Either way, the man involved is no hero. He behaved appallingly.
Yet there is no suggestion that his outrageous actions are anything other than self-explanatory. Maybe that's right. Maybe he has no excuse. Maybe he's pleased with himself. But the idea seems to be that he was just doing what all men would do, given the "opportunity". He wasn't though, was he? To suggest that he was is a grotesque caricature, insulting to most men. Reaction to this case, unfortunately, reeks of misandry as well as misogyny.
Of course, it's unfair that the man involved in the incident has not been showered with online disapprobation – no one denies that misogynists can express themselves online in a way that they can't in real life, and for obvious reasons. However, he nevertheless doesn't seem to be keen to capitalise on all of the "neutral" publicity. Instead, he is lying low. This suggests that he either knows that his behaviour is inexcusable, or understands at least that most people, far from seeing him as a hero or a legend, would be disgusted by him.
Can I be so bold as to suggest the unthinkable – that he might have regrets, might be appalled by his own behaviour, might be frightened for the consequences that may yet come, and be miserable at home with a family who are horrified by his appalling lapse? Maybe he was also drunk, or on drugs. Maybe he finds the people who call him "legend" repulsive. Who knows? There's been a distinct lack of curiosity about any of that.
Because that's the trouble with gender blaming. All misogynists are also misandrists. All misandrists are also misogynists. Saving your misanthropy for only one gender is just a not-so-fine distinction that leaves you stereotyping half of all people and archetyping the other half. Elevating individuals to archetypes may be less negative and nasty than reducing them to stereotypes. But it's still a refusal to see people for who they are, insisting instead that we are all identical microcosms representing all of our sex.
The type of sexual misogyny that has been meted out to this unlucky woman has come to be known as "slut-shaming". But slut-shaming is a prima facie example of the Janus-faced nature of woman-hating. Slut-shaming, by implication, doesn't just unfairly and negatively stereotype women. It portrays men as unwilling and unable to control their sexual impulses, reliant on women to take responsibility for policing their sexualrelationships, therefore making them blameless when sexual acts or sexual relationships are unsatisfying or abusive.
Anyone who indulges in "slut-shaming", somewhat paradoxically, has an unhelpfully and unfeasibly low opinion of what should be expected of men, and an unhelpfully and unfeasibly high opinion of what should be expected of women. This is not to say that it isn't important to identify and challenge this kind of reductive and biased name-calling. On the contrary, the debate is skewed and divisive, precisely because it concentrates far too much on exonerating all women and condemning all men. It does exactly what the thing it professes to hate does, and insists women are always hapless victims and men are always ruthless aggressors.
And as for the fact that women "slut-shame" too, often with great enthusiasm? Well, that's the fault of "the patriarchy", whose greatest triumph as an oppressor of women, as a destroyer of female agency, seems at present to be its ability to reassure susceptible women that men are always to blame.
There's a querulous passivity to some feminist debate; an endless search to put misogyny up on a podium of shame, rather than just drown it in the majority's common-sense attitude. Common sense tells us that misogynistic people are insecure. Cultural noise – broadly feminist – tells us that misogynistic people are powerful and dominating. But it's a bit silly really, a bit counterproductive, telling insecure men with feelings of inadequacy that there's this way of thinking about women that will make them feel powerful. The worst of men – and women – sign up to active misogyny and misandry, and they are then the people whose behaviour increasingly fuels debate. It's a downward, negative, abject spiral, that risks always seeking difference instead of similarity.
Common sense also tells us that public oral sex is not to be encouraged, that public embarrassment of people who make mistakes is horrible, that drinking or drugging yourself or others into insensibility, or taking advantage of those who do, is vile and that young people, male or female, sometimes behave in a confused or immature fashion. There is no great divide in opinion between men and women on these matters. So what on earth is the benefit to anyone of making out that there is?

Tits, out - The Economist

Accessed 27th August 2013



Tits, out

What a row about tabloid nudity says about sex and society

Aug 17th 2013 |From the print edition

AN ENGLISHMAN likes a routine: Marmite on his toast, warm beer in his glass, bad teeth in his mouth and, for a couple of million readers of the Sun, a squint at Kelly from Daventry’s boobs on Page 3. Such is the claim made by Britain’s biggest-selling tabloid: that since its topless photos were introduced in 1970 under the new proprietor of the day, Rupert Murdoch, they have become a harmless fixture of national life. Yet, cheekily venerable though it may be, Page 3’s days could be numbered. Its fate casts light on evolving attitudes to sex, feminism and the media; on what has changed in Britain since 1970, and what hasn’t.
People have always complained that Page 3 demeans and objectifies women. But the impetus for a rethink now is new. A year ago Lucy-Anne Holmes, an actor and writer, began an online campaign, No More Page 3, and a petition that has since attracted 114,000 signatures. Her success is salutary. Death threats made recently against female MPs and journalists highlighted the use that deranged misogynists make of Twitter and Facebook; Ms Holmes’s efforts demonstrate how valuable the internet has been for feminists, too. Suddenly women and girls no longer feel like the only person in the office or classroom who cares.
Previous opponents of Page 3 have been dismissed as puritanical killjoys. With the especial venom the tabloids reserve for those who threaten their own interests, the Sunlabelled Clare Short, a former Labour minister who advocated a ban, “fat”, “ugly” and “jealous”. Wisely, today’s campaign is not calling for legislation, nor even for the Sun’s banishment to the top shelf or a minimum age for buyers (the print equivalents of a television watershed). It is politely requesting that Page 3 be discontinued. The Irish version of the Sunrecently did just that. The word is that a revamp may be coming in the British paper, too.
But meanwhile fans of Page 3 are marshalling their arguments, as familiar as the new activism is nimble. One is that critics’ real concern is not sex but class: that the underlying anxiety is not for the women on the page but the (largely) working-class men who ogle them. The snooty prosecutor at the obscenity trial of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”—who asked if the jury would want their servants to read the book—sometimes gets a look in. This defence is itself a form of snobbery—as if Sun readers would not cope without a daily dose of nipples, or are irredeemably sexist.
Then there is the lazy appeal to the sovereignty of the market. That is the line taken by David Cameron and other senior politicians (though 138 other MPs support Ms Holmes). This is a matter for consumers, they say, sometimes proceeding to reject the idea of a ban, even though no one is proposing one. Like most papers, the Sun’s circulation has declined; it has been tarnished by a scandal over phone-hacking and the bribery of public officials, in which dozens of journalists have been arrested. Evidently, however, bigwigs still prefer not to alienate it, or Mr Murdoch. The prime minister’s blasé approach sits uncomfortably with his alarm at the spread of salacious images online.
That is something that definitely has changed. These days, raunch is everywhere—not only on the internet and television, but on advertising hoardings and the sides of buses. Another online campaign is aimed at sanitising the covers of sub-pornographic “lads’ mags”. In this context, Page 3 can scarcely be titillating for anyone over the age of 13. Like the saucy “Carry On” films of the 1960s-70s, or Benny Hill’s puerile comedy sketches, it is more cartoonish than erotic. Britons seem to have an enduring taste for coy, almost evasive smut.
Which is not to say that it is harmless. As with much nastier material, only more so, linking Page 3 to violence is highly speculative. But, given its brand and (despite the falling circulation) its ubiquity, it is silly to deny that the Sun plays a role in shaping views on women. In particular, the attitudes of boys to girls and girls to their own bodies: Page 3 supplies invidious comparators and narrow, retrograde stereotypes.
The paper itself seems to understand that tits are not for kids, and drops them in its family-friendly weekend editions. But children pick up the Sun at bus stops or kitchen tables during the week. In a way, the new, hypersexual environment strengthens the case against Page 3. In the emerging, rough-and-ready rules of the pornofied world, adults can look at what they choose, but children should be shielded where possible.
Turn the page
Besides the issue of whether Page 3 should be scrapped (it should, but voluntarily), there is the question why, in this age of wall-to-wall filth, readers might remain attached to it. Here the fallback plea of the Sun’s editors—that the boobs have become a tradition—may be helpful. Page 3 has been going about as long as the Super Bowl in America: not very, but long enough to become a staple for a couple of generations of men. It has spanned decades in which much of British life has been transformed, not least in off-the-page relations between men and women.
Tough. Traditions can die, and many are unlamented when they do. The time-honoured tradition of displaying girlie calendars in motor garages and other workplaces is now defunct. Even Page 3 itself is not immutable. It ditched surgically enhanced breasts and swore off girls younger than 18; ironic jokes at the models’ expense have gone the way of all flesh. Too prim to arouse yet too lewd for a modern newspaper, the flesh itself is a throwback to a cruder, simpler past.
Encouragingly, in February Mr Murdoch hinted in a tweet that the topless shots might be replaced by pictures of “glamorous fashionistas”. On occasion he has seemed ruthlessly aware that institutions have a half-life. The phone-hacking furore began in 2011 when theNews of the World, the Sun’s much older Sunday complement, was accused of raiding the messages of a murdered schoolgirl. Mr Murdoch closed the paper in a heartbeat.