They say you should never meet your heroes. But if your hero is a writer, even with the literary separation of church and state that is ‘characters’ and ‘the author’s personal opinion’, you’re probably, at some point, going to run into your hero’s True Self in print. Or on screen. Or, let’s be honest, probably in 140 characters.
*Fair warning: some Newsroom spoilers ahead*
Breaking pre-holiday work craziness just to say: this video and song are wonderful. Reminds me of Amy Poehler’s perfect response to a guy who was interviewing her complaining that there were too many expectations of how men should be because, “Being cool is, like, passé. And now you have to be awkward and adorkable.” Amy:”Well, this feeling that you’re having right now – which is like “I’m supposed to be all things” – is a feeling that women have every day and have their whole lives. So you’re just starting to experience it now.”
Has anyone noticed how many brands have been nailing gender issues in their advertising lately? I’m a little conflicted about it because, yes, in the main, they’re selling products. But I love the fact that you can change the discourse around women’s products, beauty products and the lexicon we use to discuss things that are usually just spray painted pink and handed to us with patronising pat on the head. Sure, some of the ideals in the ads have but a tenuous link to their products (the Always and Pantene ads spring to mind) but doesn’t it make a refreshing change from this dreadful ‘Beauty Patch‘ one by Dove? OMG you mean there’s nothing on there and I have self esteem that you’re saying is my own but actually that came from pretending that there’s some crazy chemical thing that can make me beautiful because that’s basically the formula/life ideal you’ve been selling women since the inception of advertising?
Here’s my run down of my favourite feminist ads of the minute:
1. #ShineStrong – Pantene
The second I saw this I both cringed a deep, deep cringe and immediately loved it, because if there’s a word that I overuse, it’s sorry. Sorry you bumped into me, sorry for speaking and giving an opinion (in a business setting), sorry for having the armrest first, but oh no, you have it. There’s being polite (and erm, British) and then there’s apologising for your existence. Nope. No more.
2. #LikeAGirl – Always
What has throwing “like a girl” got to do with period paddage? Well, I’ve been in marketing for ages so I could probably give you an answer to that question, but I see your point…it’s a bit tenuous. But I literally could not care any less: this ad is so wonderful and simple and to the point that it got someone I love dearly but who thinks feminism isn’t necessary or important, to see its point of view and actually LIKE it. Hi five, Always. Hi five.
3. First Moon party – Hello Flo
This one isn’t obviously about changing discourse, but it still has the same effect – because who’d have thought you could openly discuss periods on tv. And be funny! Think of it as the female version of the amusing Dollar Shave Club ad, except it’s generally more accepted to discuss on TV that men have to shave a face than the fact that women have to deal with a crampy, monthly mess. And not a jar of blue liquid in sight! Nice one Hello Flo.
4. Princess Machine – GoldieBlox
Because girls don’t always want to be a princess in a tower. And spray painting everything pink for girls starts YOUNG. Hey, I’ll tell you what, Riley the (then) 4 year old explains it awesomely.
Phew. I’ll take these ads over ones that tell me I should have softer, smoother, more beautiful armpits. In fact, basically, Dove should just sack their ad team and take hints from these guys – they’re nailing it.
She’s now (in)famous for her “I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance” feminism comments, which, coming from someone in the two biggest teen blockbusters this year, with two complex and brilliant female characters was disparaging to hear. (I don’t need to point out that feminism is literally about balance, do I? Equality?)
But I just read an interview with her and Brie Larsen on Vulture in which this excellent paragraph pops up about a recent interview Shailene Woodley did on Jimmy Fallon’s show:
Halfway through the conversation, Fallon, who can border on golly-gee cheerleading during his interviews, said, “How do you feel about being compared to Jennifer Lawrence?”
Woodley paused. “Well,” she said. “Comparisons always lead to despair.” There was sudden silence, and then the audience, which was shocked and angry, began to boo. Fallon said something like “Whoa,” and Woodley held her ground. “As women, we are constantly told that we need to compare ourselves to a girl in school, to our co-workers, to the images in a magazine,” she told me later. “How is the world going to advance if we’re always comparing ourselves to others? I admire Jennifer Lawrence, but she’s everyone’s favorite person to compare me to. Is it because we both have short hair and a vagina? I see us as separate individuals. And that’s important. As women, our insecurities are based on all these comparisons. And that creates distress.”
According to the Vulture interview, that section was cut from the show and never made it to air. So depressing, when she’s articulate about a very real issue for many people, but especially so for women and girls in the public eye like herself. Just look at how The Guardian (even the Guardian!) portrays successful women in the arts:
So well done to Shailene Woodley for trying to get a vital point across – even if the Jimmy Fallon show didn’t see fit to air it.
“The recreational body-shaming of female celebrities matters to a great many people who look at what you have had to deal with and are reminded, with a familiar chill, that whatever women and girls achieve, we are nothing if we do not conform to society’s demented definitions of beauty.”
“Nobody told you it wasn’t enough just to be a champion athlete – you also have to put up with the sort of boring misogynist bullying designed to make an example of any woman who is successful on her own terms.”
Brilliant piece by Laurie Pennie on the news that Rebecca Adlington may or may not have had a nose job, mainly because of gutter press taunts about her appearance throughout her entire time of being a world class athlete. Because women can’t be something talented and not pretty in the eyes of the media. And then the second they do something about it, they’re some sort of hideous, self-obsessed person. The media, ladies and gentlemen…
“I think let’s see how it goes and to be fair to broadcasters they’re looking at it and getting better,” she says. “You have to give it the chance don’t you. Let’s see how we do at the Olympics.”
^This is an actual quote from our Minister of Sport and Equalities when asked about the fact that there was little-to-no coverage of the women’s Ashes, which the female cricket team actually won. May I respectfully say that suggesting we watch for potential Olympic success as an indicator of women’s broadcasting/winning potential (after giving virtually no funding to the women involved) is like planting 3 lonely seeds, settling back for a while and saying ‘let’s see how well the orchard grows’. Just 0.5% of commercial sponsorship goes to women in sport and only 5% of the media coverage. So, really, do we expect to win so many Olympic medals that Sky Sports will suddenly say, “guys! Hey guys! Oh god, we’ve been getting it all wrong! LOOK at all the talented women!”…?
…yes, because that tactic worked so well for us post-summer games, didn’t it?
Over a year on from London 2012 and though Helen Grant makes the reasonable and true point that “we need to get to the point where women’s sport is looked on and regarded as equal to the men’s game.”, she then disappointingly moves on to suggest it’s about ‘asking grown women what they want…whether it’s a Zumba class or rounders”.
I have nothing against rounders. I actually really enjoy it. But by suggesting that we focus on ‘more feminine’ ways into sports for women will absolutely not close that gender gap. By suggesting a nice gentle Zumba class might be just what we secretly really want won’t garner more coverage for our utterly deserving women’s teams. Plus, staring down a chasm of funding disparity with an offer of ballet and gymnastics and femininity won’t garner more respect for women who are winning more medals in traditionally ‘male’ sports than the men are. Nor will it mean that brilliant olympians like Beth Tweddle won’t face disgusting levels of sexism for not looking ‘feminine’ enough or, quite frankly, for just being a woman in sport.
Emily holding my last-minute sign that almost nobody got. Me = totes N0ob
Despite the fact that I’ve never been one to either hide an opinion or political preferences, the one thing I’ve never done is march for or against anything. Probably because the more I learn, the less I feel I know, and paradoxically though I enjoy a good heated debate about really anything, sometimes I feel like the less I know, the more I should just stop talking. But mainly because I remember watching the march against the Iraq war in 2003 in sixth form and despite the fact that millions of people turned out for them across the UK literally nothing changed. The war still went ahead, and politicians in Westminster remained, until the General Election, completely untouched by the public voice. I haven’t seen that many people just show up to demonstrate in my life and it was pretty dispiriting thing to see fail at the age of 17.
But feminism is something I’m both a) pretty well-versed in and b) proud to stand up for. So, on a freezing cold winter day in London, I joined the No More Page 3 Campaigners on a march on the anniversary of the first ever page 3. I’d had a pretty heated debate with my sister and her fiancé about it the weekend before…basically the best way to cement my determination to go and put my money where my mouth was for once. They’re a warm bunch, a friendly group. And though small in number in comparison to some marches, we certainly made up for it with some loud singing.
So. Things the No More Page 3 Campaign isn’t against: boobs, women’s sexuality, porn in generic terms, nakedness of women in general.
The thing No More Page 3 campaign is against: the blatant use of a woman as pure sexual titillation in an inappropriate setting for David Dinsmore to sell newspapers with the insinuation that actual news about women won’t sell, because they’re only worth printing for the casing of their mammary glands (yeah, couldn’t sound less sexy could it?).
Page 3, even though it was only installed in the 70s, is one of the most archaic “institutions” our country is clinging on to. I despise it. I also hate that there’s no one genuinely good reason why it should stay, and yet there it is 6 days a week, a glaringly obvious example of sexism in our supposedly so modern culture.
Terrible Argument Why Page 3 should stay #1: “it’s their choice isn’t it?”
Wow, I hate this argument. I positively deplore it. Why? Because it is in no way the question to ask; it’s pure misdirection to cause everyone to argue in circles, gradually and slowly falling in on each other and basically melting into the ground as they argue about how ‘feminist’ it is to own (or not) your own nakedness to the point where you can trade on it for cash.
Yes, it’s their choice to pose naked. No-one is suggesting it isn’t. But the question you should really be asking is: “why does David Dinsmore make the completely inappropriate choice to place this image in the most-read national newspaper that is available all day, six days a week?” We have the watershed on TV for a reason and the sight of a mother breastfeeding in public is still enough to whip people into an angry lather, but objectification like this is okay? David Cameron can set upon the colossal crusade of trying to subdue internet porn for the ‘good of children’, but this blatant soft pornography available all the time (frequently where someone who hasn’t bought into it can unwittingly see it) isn’t to be gotten rid of? Seriously? Rupert Murdoch: puppet master and PM-tamer. Apparently.
Terrible Argument Why Page 3 should stay #2: “It’s their choice, therefore it’s not objectification.”
Again, that woman’s personal choice isn’t the issue here, it’s much, much wider than that. It’s objectification when it’s just a woman in her knickers and there’s no male equivalent. It’s objectification when on page two there are reports of fully-clothed and besuited male politicians making important decisions about the state of the country and on page three are important women deciding the fate of – oh no sorry, boobs. Just boobs.
This blend of journalism and sexism apparently qualifies the Sun as “agenda setting” in Dinsmore’s mind, and something worthy of a “brand” of newspaper in the 21st century. We should be asking Dinsmore why he doesn’t think he can sell more newspapers reporting the uh, oh – the news. Sometimes I wonder if NMP3 shouldn’t just start a collection to send Dinsmore back to J-school to learn how to create and report actual news in a way that will sell, because the poor man hasn’t yet figured out how to do it in this century.
Terrible Argument Why Page 3 should stay #3: “If that were a man you wouldn’t be complaining”
Well a) if it was just a man in his shirt, it would even be on a par with the objectification of page 3 because men can and do walk around in public with their tops off when they like. The only way it could be on a par is if they basically whipped their trousers off too, because then and only then would it cause as much controversy as a woman naked to the waist down in public, and
b) yeah it’d still be inappropriate in context to have it in the newspaper so yeah, I’d still be complaining.
Terrible Argument Why Page 3 should stay #4: “aren’t there more important things to worry about?”
There are many, many insidious and blatant examples of sexism in our society, of which this is just one. NMP3 won’t solve all of them, but it’s a step in the right direction. Also, show me what you’re doing to stop those ‘more important things’?
And these arguments, they’re just scratching the surface. The things we can specifically pin down and say: this is how page 3 is a dinosaur thing that needs to be consigned to the scrap heap. The rest of what Page 3 stands for in our culture, the nebulous attitudes, the nebulous damage, the nebulous everything about women’s self esteem and “place” in this society, is more difficult to articulate. But it won’t stop me trying. Nor will it stop the NMP3 campaign, gathering signatures, wearing tees and adding, day by day, to the roster of universities and organisations adding their voice and boycotting the sun until David Dinsmore sees sense. Because unlike him, these are the voices of the future…and they won’t be buying into his “brand” any time soon.