Monday, 17 September 2012

Let's get rid

Now - I consider myself quite worldly wise, I'm don’t believe I’m naive, I've been out into the big bad world. I've worked in journalism, publishing, PR. I've worked in male dominated, macho cultured organisations. I know there is still inequality for women in opportunities, in employment, in society, in all sorts of ways, and to all kinds of degrees. I do though like to feel that we have moved forward, that things improve with time. But for a couple of weeks I've been musing about some things that didn’t just make me feel uncomfortable, but disturbed me. It may be that things have been heading this way and I just haven't been aware - or it may be that there really is something going on, some kind of shift - backwards.

I guess it was visible most recently by the ongoing Assange case where, as everyone came out with an opinion, at least intelligent, considered, thoughtfully written pieces counteracted the odd, the extreme and the ignorant.

But this article below turned up in my daily regional (and usually very sensible) newspaper the Newcastle Journal. This link is to the writer's blog but was reproduced word for word in his column (of 'wit and wisdom') in the Journal. And I found it neither witty nor wise but disappointing and disturbing.

In focusing this particular piece on rape he describes a scenario that could come straight out of an episode of Mad Men (era late ‘50s). "She made her reluctance clear. I carried on". This is not a confession that our columnist appears ashamed of nor seems to want to apologise for - but rather he is relieved not to have got into trouble for it. Mr Hann then goes on to ridicule the fact that no means no "Of course the consequences for human reproduction will be simply disastrous."

At around the same time I came across something via Twitter - another article that was being RT'd by other (rather more respectable) journalists who had found it unbelievable too.

In his interview with classical violinist Nicola Benedetti the reporter immediately sets the snidey, sniggering tone for the whole article, "I must have hit a bum note after asking why the sexy Scot doesn't make more of her fabulous figure - when she suddenly flies off on one." Ms Benedetti's desire to talk about her music and achievements rather than any desire to take her clothes off doesn't stop him: "So I guess Nicola won't be posing for the lads mags anytime soon. Pity because she looks as fit as a fiddle." He is not interested at all in how dedicated, talented, creative, intelligent or hard working this young woman is.

Both of these articles depressed me but I'd filed them away in the 'must look into properly later' part of my brain until I read this Saturday's Guardian.

Deborah Orr's brilliant article you can read here focuses on The Sun and a new campaign to get rid of Page 3 but as it so rightly points out that this is just ‘the highly visible tip of misogyny's iceberg'.

And I think the two articles that had recently made me feel so uncomfortable are prime examples of what happens when what should be outdated attitudes are allowed to linger. They display such a misogynist, demeaning view of women and the only positive was that were plenty of people who had the same reactions to them as I did. They are truly dreadful pieces of ‘journalism’.

Yet they were deemed acceptable to be printed in mainstream newspapers. The writers, the editorial team, the editor all thought it acceptable to print them. No doubt if asked why the 'justification’ would be because it's opinionated/ humourous/ controversial/ witty.

It’s not. And this isn't a women versus men thing. I don't know of any man I’ve spoken to who have found either of these articles any of those things. Nor is it a sense of humour versus humourless thing, nor a freedom of expression thing. It's about a respect thing, a treating each other as you would want (male or female) to be treated thing, a being an intelligent species that doesn't need to put each other down in this way thing.
As Deborah Orr puts it so well “[Page 3] carries the message that objectification and exploitation are all that human beings can offer to each other or expect."

So, that's why I am signing up to the new campaign wanting to see the end of page 3. Getting rid is sending the right message that this is from an era that is well behind us or at least should be, that we have moved on, attitudes have changed (they have, surely...) – for the better not worse, that we have all grown up. Getting rid of page 3 would be empowerment for women - and men. Let's get rid of outdated pictures and outdated attitudes. And move to where I’d prefer to be living - in 2012.

The campaign’s on Twitter @NoMorePage3 and the petition is here

And one last thing to ponder – below is something also currently doing the rounds of social media. This, I believe, is a genuine article from about 60 years ago – just how far have we come?


  1. Thanks, Sharon. Great points. Ugh. Shudder. I've just signed the petition. It's crazy we are in the 21st C and these attitudes are not only still prevalent but *allowed* and overlooked on the whole, even published without a doubt by those publishers. That reporter was lucky Nicola Benedetti's violin remained in its case. I know what I'd have been tempted to do with it.

  2. Great post, Sharon. Scary stuff but I think it works both ways now and both men and women have been objectified; and that our society now thinks it's "cool" to be rude, sexist, nasty and ignorant. I try to avoid most mainstream media as much as possible and live in my own world where it's cool to like manners, to respect talent not celebrity,and to focus on trying to achieve the things I want in life rather than expecting it be handed to me on a plate! I'll get off my soapbox now :)