It was confirmed last week that Page 3 as-we-know-it hadn't ended at The Sun after all. I strongly suspect I am not the only feminist for whom this will mean very little. The Sun was sexist when it included pictures of topless models, remained sexist when they briefly went away and I expect it will continue to do its usual sexist thing now that those pictures are back. However, one thing this turn of events probably does mean is that the mainstream media will continue to host polarised debates about Page 3, where feminists will still be assumed to be involved in the campaigns against it, regardless of our campaigning backgrounds and what we actually say.
So when I received a call from BBC Radio Somerset last week regarding taking part in such a debate, I made sure my views were clear; I said that, yes, I think Page 3 is out-of-date but, ultimately, the bigoted commentary typical of The Sun is far worse. I also mentioned that I have not been involved in any of the recent campaigns against Page 3 and actually thought at least one of them was really dreadful. I was told this view was still of interest and there would be a few different voices in the mix.
Despite this, there were several tweets from the presenter that evening that indicated there would be just two of us and we received the following introduction on the show the next morning (02.10):
...We're going to hear the debate from both sides. We're going to hear from a Page 3 model -- a glamour model -- who says the campaign against [Page 3] is annoying and she wants to openly and freely express her sexuality. We'll also hear from a writer and feminist who says she's happy to see it go because she thinks it's outdated and it objectifies women. [My emphasis.]
I appreciate that radio researchers, producers and presenters are under pressure to host juicy debates with clearly divided opponents, but surely caricaturing contributors regardless of what we actually have to say shouldn't be necessary? More to the point, this tendency seems to lead to a significant strand of intersectional feminist thought going unrecognised. Indeed, after I had clarified my position, the presenter, Ben McGrall, seemed bemused when introducing caller, Gwyneth (19.34):
I've got in my notes here about you: you're a self-proclaimed feminist. [answers yes] I got that one right then! Now, I'm going to take a wild sweeping assumption here: you're not a massive fan of Page 3...
Once bitten, twice shy, I guess. Also, to be fair, Gwyneth agreed that no, she wasn't. But it isn't as if my position is even that unusual. Plenty of other feminists have expressed opposition to or at least ambivalence towards campaigns against Page 3. It is also hardly ludicrous to point out that candid shots (celebrities being photographed on the beach etc without clear consent) and patronising blurb along the lines of News in Briefs (which thankfully ended in 2013) are far more problematic than including a topless picture that a model openly posed for.
The bemusement I observed seems to sit alongside the dismissive reaction that former Playboy bunny Samantha Rea got from her boss when it became apparent she was against Page 3. (I'm not really down with the quickfire 'family newspaper' angle per se, as I personally think it tends to lead to a blurring of the distinction between suggesting children should not be repeatedly exposed to limiting gender stereotypes and implying they are actually harmed if they happen to see partially nude images designed to mildly titillate adults.) I firmly believe there is nothing incongruous about a woman who has worked as a Playboy Bunny suggesting that pictures of topless models are out of context in a newspaper. And, regardless of whether I entirely support Samantha's arguments, I'd say it's pretty outrageous for her boss to be telling her what she should think.
And that's the point. It's one thing for us to knowingly consent to be objectified in a transient way but quite another to have the nuances of our arguments stripped away so that we can fit more easily into rigidly pre-defined boxes.
Hearteningly, the recent BBC Radio Somerset discussion became more open as it progressed; there was a good rapport between two callers with quite different views, while another mentioned double standards when it comes to sexy images of men. The presenter also drew attention to Laura and I having "different opinions on some things" (we only disagreed strongly about one thing and it wasn't Page 3!), but agreeing about candid shots. It's just a shame that, in keeping with usual stereotypes, we were framed as automatic adversaries.
NB: This post, along with any others on this site about Page 3, does not constitute 'The F-Word view' on the subject because, of course, there is no such thing!
A photograph of two women, wearing hats made out of newspapers. They are photographed side on, facing each other with their faces close together. Both are shouting. Whether they are yelling at each other in conflict or playfully expressing mutual frustration about the position they find themselves in is open to interpretation. The picture is called 'Shout it!' and is by Ian Quantis, shared under a Creative Commons License.
Welcome, welcome. It's the weekly round-up of things that have happened, and open thread. Usual disclaimers apply!
The nagging wife: symptom or cause? (Hannah Mudge)
Bjork calls out sexism in the music industry (Bitch Magazine)
Interview: women unequal under Lebanon's law (Human Rights Watch)
Next on Black Mirror (The Toast)
What having two mums taught me about feminism (My Motherfull Family)
The This Girl Can campaign is all about sex, not sport (The Guardian)
Menstruation: the last great sporting taboo (The Guardian)
'Imitation trans awareness poster reveals ignorance of creators' (The Telegraph)
I won't fear Muslims (Salon)
Photo by Liz Henry on Flickr, shows the cover of issue 2 of 'Period: The Zine'. The cover is a line drawing of someone in a bath, possibly with period blood? Shared on Flickr under a creative commons license
Neneh Cherry's fourth studio release Blank Project continues to have resonance in today's political climate. David Wilkinson listens again.
We did not have to wait long in 2014 before being graced with one of the standout albums of the year. Largely positive reviews of Neneh Cherry's first solo material for 18 years have usually portrayed it as a 'personal' record. Cherry herself has stated that her return to releasing music that began with 2012's avant-jazz covers collaboration The Cherry Thing was a cathartic response to the death of her mother. Blank Project, furthermore, is baldly, boldly frank about the supercharged emotions and difficulties of coupledom and motherhood.
However, one of the many captivating aspects of this album is how well it captures a feeling, intimately connected to the times we're living through, shared by more and more people now. As hopes and chances of security in employment, romance, domestic arrangements and even basic human rights recede ever further for what's becoming known as the 'precariat', one song title on Blank Project that seems to particularly encapsulate the collective mood is 'Weightless'. The combined talents of musical duo RocketNumberNine and producer Kieran Hebden kick it off with a sound that suggests being fired out of a cannon and finding yourself flailing in mid-air. Just at the moment when vertigo is starting to set in, you're locked into a tight, dirty synth and drum combo. Its shadowboxing repetition perfectly complements Cherry's evocations of putting your all into clinging to the merry-go-round as it spins ever faster, threatening to hurl you off: "Moving in circles, but I'm wasting away..."
Cover of Blank Project. This shows a slightly over-exposed left-facing profile shot of Neneh Cherry against a greyish background. She is wearing a white top with a glittery stripy patch on her left shoulder and her left hand is raised up to that side of her face. "Neneh Cherry" is written in white at the top. There is a round blue sticker in the top right corner with the following written on it in white: "THE NEW SOLO ALBUM, PRODUCED BY KIERAN HEBDEN, INCLUDES 'OUT OF THE BLACK (FEAT ROBYN), *VINYL INCLUDES CD*."
Welcome to this week's round up and open thread! This is our regular digest of links we've come across recently - whether they involve inspiring success stories, heart-warming blogs, concerning new research, exasperating news or anything else F-Word relevant, we thought you might be interested.
Of course, we didn't write these things and we don't all agree with everything that all of them say. We also try to indicate where content might need a warning but please exercise caution when clicking on any external links.
Want to debate some of the points made? Think we missed something important? The comments are your oysters!
Also, remember that there are lots of opportunities to get involved with us at the moment. Recruitment for regular content, guest content and social media editors is ongoing until the end of the month, and you have until tomorrow to express interest in being one of our monthly guest bloggers. Any questions about any of that? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CBB's Chloe Slut Shamed for Glamour Modeling (Huffington Post)
How Women Are Pressured into Being Sexy, But Punished for Being Sexual (Everyday Feminism)
Channel 4's diversity policy won't work (Another Angry Woman)
More Surveillance Won't Protect Free Speech (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
I am Charlie, but I am Baga too: On Nigeria's forgotten massacre (Daily Maverick)
Women Make Music funding opportunity (PRS for Music Foundation)
The image of two pink dice is by Amy the Nurse and is used under a creative commons licence. It shows two pink translucent plastic dice next to each other on a grainy wooden surface. The light is behind them and can be seen shining through them, with their shadows in front of them. Both show 6s on top, with 3s facing us; the left one also has a 2 visible, whereas the right one also reveals a 5. Chosen for this week because I've been immersed in various board games over the weekend!
The Broken Rainbow Helpline is set to become the latest in a long list of domestic violence services facing government cuts. Broken Rainbow provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* victims of domestic abuse as well as training to other organisations. The announcement that funding would be cut comes in the same week as the news that the only refuge for gay and bisexual men in London may also have to close.
There are no reliable statistics about domestic abuse as experienced by lesbian, bisexual and trans* women in the UK. The United States Centers of Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) published a 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, finding that 43.8% lesbians and 61.1% bisexual women would experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, next to 35% heterosexual women.
Levels of domestic abuse vary between countries and cultures, as do levels of discrimination, so UK numbers might be quite different. However, it is a near certainty that lesbian, bisexual and trans* women experience domestic abuse at higher levels than our straight cisgender sisters.
Everything about our culture that makes queer people isolated, secretive and self-doubting makes us more vulnerable to abuse. The high rates of parental abuse and schoolyard bullying that LGBT children experience creates adults who find ill-treatment unremarkable.
All this puts tremendous pressure on queer communities and couples; it's very much harder to rock the boat when you were drowning at sea before you came on-board. As happens within immigrant and religious communities, an LGBT victim of domestic violence can fear betraying - and losing - their entire support network if they speak up about one of its members. Then there's the threat of exposure, of being outed, of having previous identities, surgical and sexual histories disclosed to others.
Even without extreme bullying and social isolation, having loving parents who are nevertheless grossed out by the way your heart works, or having friends who use homophobic or transphobic slurs to describe the things and people they hate, can get you used to the idea that love always comes with sharp spiky edges. With equal marriage still regarded as a social experiment by some, even same-sex couples in the most comfortable circumstances face a lot more pressure to seem contented and committed than their straight peers.
Gender provides a vast arsenal of insults, caricature and humiliation for any abuser with any victim and sexuality almost doubles this. Bullies are inconsistent and hypocritical creatures and being queer or gender non-conforming themselves won't stop them using every conceivable slur and stereotype to abuse a partner, to question and denigrate their sexuality and gender identity. Transgender women are particularly vulnerable to this, often being abused as both inadequate men and inadequate women.
Then there's the fact that we have gendered domestic violence narratives to such a great extent that it's difficult to perceive of an abusive relationship which doesn't feature a straight cisgender man abusing a straight cisgender woman. Obviously, this cliche represents both the most common dynamic and the one where the greatest physical harm is likely to take place, but our culture sees both violence towards men and violence perpetrated by women as trivial, even comical. Stereotypes about gay men being volatile slaves to their passions and lesbians being angry and aggressive promote the idea that violence within these relationships is natural. Given our internal and external battles to establish that same-gender sexual activity is not disgusting or wrong, and that there's nothing predatory about fancying people of the same gender, it can be hard to acknowledge that sexual abuse and rape can occur among us.
Most victims of intimate partner violence in straight relationships will be assured that their experience is normal, that this is just what men and women are like together. Gay and bisexual people have far fewer counter-examples when they are told that abuse is a normal part of a relationship like theirs.
All this make it much harder for LGBT people to recognise situations of abuse, let alone seek help and get to safety. These factors, being social and cultural, also mean that LGBT victims of domestic abuse are less likely to find appropriate support with police, mental and physical health services and even some domestic violence charities.
As with arguments around supporting male victims of domestic violence, different victims should never be seen in competition with one another. Domestic violence services have long been inadequately funded and the coalition government has demonstrated its contempt towards victims through repeated cuts, as well as the benefit cap, bedroom tax and cuts to legal aid which make it harder to leave abusive relationships. I don't know exactly how much it costs to run a helpline, but I'm guessing the House of Lords champagne budget would stop the gap for a short while.
If we are to tackle domestic violence, we need to recognise that it can happen to anyone at all, but that anyone who is marginalised for any reason will be more vulnerable; disabled people, people of colour, religious minorities and poor people as well as LGBT folks. This is another example of how greater social equality not only improves people's lives, but it can help prevent violence and save lives.
Note: In this post I have used the term trans* with an asterisk, as Broken Rainbow does (they provide a trans* specific service). This term represents all those who identify as transgender as well as others with a minority gender identities such as non-binary or genderqueer.
[The image is a photograph taken of a broken window or pane of glass against a blue, almost cloudless sky. The glass is dramatically cracked, with the sun shining beyond it. This image was taken by Humusak and is used under a Creative Commons License.]
Joanna Tocher checks out Hanne Kolstø's forthcoming album (released 19 January) and discovers a poppier sound than in her previous work, despite the sometimes gloomy themes.
Forever Maybe is Norwegian singer and multi-instrumentalist Hanne Kolstø's fourth solo release and it's a slightly poppier affair than her previous three excellent solo albums. This aspect has its good and its bad sides in that several of her more pop oriented tracks work very well and it's interesting to see her experiment, but, for me, a few of the songs veer a little too close to mainstream pop.
Opening track 'BlankO', with its dark synths and refrain of "I don't wanna feel anything, I don't wanna think anything" sets the tone for an album with repeated references to solitude, leaving and moving on. At the 01:30 mark, the beat becomes a little more up-tempo and, as Kolstø's wistful vocals glide over the music, the track achieves the paradox of being joyfully bleak. The occasional whoops that follow "Is it in me or outside" towards the end of the track could be euphoria, anguish or both. It's a triumphant album opener.
The album continues with the more melancholy and dreamlike 'Synnecrosis' and, again, the theme is focused on the act of leaving. Kolstø sings the line: "I am leaving you 'cause I'm lost and found" almost breezily, as if leaving is an inevitability she has learned to cheerfully accept. However, as the song progresses, uncertainty creeps into the lyrics: "...and if I choose to stay behind, would you come look for me later?" As the song closes, the music falls away and the way Kolstø sings "I will never never never, never never ever be alone" sounds so assured, it seems like a threat...
Head and shoulders shot of a winking Hanne Kolstø in a black cap and off-the-shoulders black top made from T-shirt style cotton and black lace. She stands in front of a light blue wall, throwing a small shadow behind her neck area. Her right cheek is slightly puffed out by what appears to be a piece of orange behind her lips and in front of her teeth.
Publicity shot supplied by Prescription PR.