£3 well spent?
I found myself in a situation (one I seem to encounter too often) where a guy is asking ‘what’s the big problem?’ and, perhaps more painfully, a woman saying to me ‘there are bigger problems’. No, I’m not talking about adult acne or my inability to parallel park (both things that continue to concern me and are absolutely legitimate gripes to discuss over drinks…despite what the majority of my friends say). I’m talking about sexism. Obviously.
I was in a situation where a guy I was with (a great guy, might I add) said a throw away comment about FHM. Bless him, he didn’t realise who was standing behind him, or perhaps ‘what’ was standing behind him is more accurate. Hurricane Talat.
So there began a conversation about equality, sexism and objectification. He stood firm and said “I’m not a sexist, but there is nothing wrong with FHM”, now this is something I hear often, and I do understand that for many (and many who would describe themselves as feminist) lads mags, page 3, and others, are no big deal and that, provided it is consensual, it is perfectly OK. I get where you are coming from, I genuinely do, I agree that consent is, perhaps, the single most important element of feminism. But I disagree with where lads mags fit in. If we lived in an beautifully equal Utopia where patriarchy didn’t reign, I would feel differently. But we don’t live there, we live in a place where a guy in a van can shout something derogatory to me as I wait for the bus. We live in a place where teenage girls are being exploited by something as simple as a picture message. We live in a place where consent is being manipulated. So, for now, lads mags and the top less front covers on them are on my hit list.
So, back to this guy, I asked him if he got why some feminists fought against objectification or violence against women, and he said yes. I tried to explain the link and there was still no connection. And that right there is the problem. There is a connection between what are considered ‘OK’ images of women and sexual violence against them. The connection is an escalating negative value placed on women in society.
Still no dice. So I took to drawing a diagram on a napkin. Seriously. The poor guy just wanted to go home, but that just wasn’t going to happen (now that I think it of it, I’ve not seen him since…I should check if I’m still his facebook friend…). I went to work the next day and decided to draw the diagram properly (I was kinda proud of it) because he got it. He nodded, found it difficult, but he got it.
The point is, as one is normalised, we become more likely to be ok with the ‘next level up’ and so on…This attitudinal normalising means that inequality and devaluing of women is normalised, and makes the fight of gender equality a lot harder.
In Utopia, we would value women for more than their bodies, so those women who consensually want to be on the cover of FHM, can be, but are first and foremost considered and respected as human beings. The attitudes in Utopia would be based on equality, so this impact towards how women are viewed in general would not, necessarily, be impacted by the cover of a magazine. Maybe once we are have reached Utopian equality, we can investigate the place of lads mags. But until then, for me, it’s just a £3 investment in inequality.For those of you who haven’t been amazed and dazzled by my powerpoint diagram (Ha! As if! It’s awesome). You should read this excellent article written by the Every Sexism project and visit the page where women across the UK have written what they encounter. You’ll get a vivid understanding of just how far we are from Utopia, and how many, and how often, women encounter sexism. If the diagram hasn’t done it (!) then this will get across, how a throw away comment here, a sexist joke there, an FHM cover on a newsagent’s shelf down the street, creates a society where women are continually considered ‘less’ and this ‘less’ is considered acceptable.