Category Archives: Media Images

The curse of Mills and Boon

As reported by the Daily Telegraph earlier today Mills and Boon apparantly cause marriage break-ups, adulterous affairs and unwanted pregnancies.

The reason: women are unable to distinguish between real life and romantic novels.

The research, published by the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, claims the romantic novels, famously published by Mills and Boon, promote values which run counter to the aims of family planning clinics.

Susan Quilliam, a relationship psychologist and author of the article, told the Telegraph:

“What we see in our consulting rooms is more likely to be informed by Mills & Boon than by the Family Planning Association.”

So can it really be true?  Are modern day women so easily confused? Or is this research more akin to something which might be published by Mills and Boon themselves?

Comments are welcome!

 

 


Cardiff Slutwalks: saying No to victim blaming.

Photo: Anton Bielousov

Slutwalking may have got itself a controversial reputation but organisers of the Cardiff march are keen to emphasise there is much more to this latest trend than fishnets and short skirts.

The slutwalking movement, which has spread over several continents in just over a month, is meant to tackle attitudes towards rape and victim blaming culture.

Women worldwide, angry at comments made by Canadian police officer Michael Sanguinetti that “women should avoid dressing as sluts in order not to be victimised”, have taken to the streets to challenge rape myths and reclaim the word slut.

More than 650 people have already signed up on Facebook to take part in the Cardiff walk, which will take place on June 4.

The Cardiff organisers, Beccy Pert, 20, Leah White, 25, Hannah Caddick, 21, and Lemon Cottrell, 21, have been overwhelmed by people’s responses.

From Left, Lemon Cottrell, Hannah Caddick, Leah White, Beccy Pert.

Hannah, an English Literature finalist at Cardiff University, said:

“We saw an article about it and I thought it was really inspirational and made me want to organise our own march.  We started an interest group on Facebook and within an hour we had fifty members and so many responses.  It really just snowballed.”

But not all the reaction has been good.  Leah said:

“The reactions we have had proves how important it is.  Victim blaming is a massive problem and so many people have reacted against it saying things like ‘what do women expect?’  It makes it obvious what a big problem it is and why we need to have the march.”

A survey of Welsh students by NUS Wales and Amnesty International in 2008 revealed more than one third [36 per cent] of people questioned believed a woman is responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted if she had acted in a flirtatious manner, while a quarter [23 per cent] thought a woman is responsible if she is wearing sexy or revealing clothing.

In another survey by the Havens Sexual Assault Referral Centre, 23 per cent of men questioned thought even a women said “no” right from the start, sex from that point was not rape.

Images of women marching in bras and fishnet stockings on marches in places such as Toronto and Boston have dominated the media but the Cardiff organisers are keen to make it clear women do not have to dress up to take place.

“The really extreme images aren’t really representative of the movement as a whole,” Leah said. “We are not encouraging people to dress up or behave like sluts, we want people to be comfortable.  We do not have the right to tell people how to dress and neither does anybody else.  That is what this is all about.”

The controversial name of the walks has been one of the main talking points in the media.  The idea of reclaiming the word slut has caused a lot of debate, not least among feminists.

Beccy said:

“Reclaiming the word slut is definitely a secondary to our main aim but I do think it is quite important.  There is no real male equivalent of the word.  Words like seducer or womaniser are used but they have this sense of admiration, while women who are sexually promiscuous are made to feel shamed and degraded by being called a slut.”

Cardiff Feminist Network [CFN] member Molly Zacharias, 27, of Alma Street, Treherbert, said:

“I think reclaiming the word is either really brave or really miscalculated but personally I think it’s really great we are trying to reclaim the word, like gay people did with the word queer.  I don’t think a lot of people are going to get it though.

“I think this is a great opportunity for feminists but it might be wasted because people are spending too much time debating whether or not the word slut needs reclaiming instead of getting together a more positive campaign.”

But not all supporters of the walk are so keen to reclaim the word.  Deputy director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs [IWA] and Llandaff councillor Kirsty Davies, who will be attending the walk with her daughter, said:

“I would hesitate to call any woman a slut so I don’t think the name is very helpful, though at the same time is has been useful in getting the attention of the media.

“While I am not interested in reclaiming the word I do think the message of the walk is very important.  It is an issue which doesn’t really get the attention it deserves, really because it happens so often.”

The focus on attittudes towards rape was heightened recently as Ken Clarke, Minister for Justice, faced controversy over comments he made suggesting there are different types of rape, some of which are more serious than others.

The Welsh Government has already made its position on rape and blame culture clear and in December launched a Stop Blame campaign to tackle attitudes.

At the time of the launch last December former Social Justice Minister Carl Sargeant said:

“Victims or rape or sexual assault are in no way responsible for what happens to them. Apparent justification such as ‘she was too drunk’ or ‘she was asking for it’ just doesn’t wash. This attitude can be extremely damaging for the victims and we must put an end to it now.

“There is absolutely no excuse for committing rape or sexual assault and the blame should never be placed on the victim.”

In stark contrast to the reaction to the slutwalks campaigns like Stop Blame and other events focussed on eliminating violence against women like Reclaim the Night have struggled to reach a wide audience.

Cardiff Feminist Hannah Austin, who also works for Welsh Women’s Aid  said:

“I have worked with government campaigns and it is really, really difficult because they hardly get any media attention.

“All the feedback has suggested the Stop Blame campaign has been successful but it is difficult to know if it has changed attitudes.”


Why is Baroness Hale a “woman judge”?

The UK Supreme Court

 

In a recent article by the Daily Mail the headline reads:

“Shout at your spouse and risk losing your home: It’s just the same as domestic violence, warns woman judge

There are three things wrong with this headline.

Firstly, its not really an accurate summary of the Supreme Court’s decision and if you’re interested why there’s a good post on it here.

Secondly, the decision came from the Supreme Court, rather than a single “woman judge” as suggested by the Mail.

And thirdly, it was completely unnecessary to highlight Lady Hale’s gender as her single most important defining feature.

And yet it is so often the case that when a woman judge makes a decision her gender is almost inevitably mentioned, as though of crucial importance.  By contrast a male judge is only ever a judge.

By qualifying a judge as “woman”, her authority is inevitably undermined and her judgments questioned.

When the Mail challenged Baroness Hale’s decision by calling her a “woman judge”, they decided not to challenge her legal judgment purely on the merits of her argument, but instead chose to make her gender part of the criticism.

And this is not an isolated example of this sort of gratuitous labelling. If you search “woman judge” in the Daily Mail search the first three results are

  • “How a top woman judge dragged her neighbour to court over a pair of Dobermans and landed him with a £20, 000 bill”
  • “No mercy: Woman judge jails Czech sham wedding bride who is pregnant with third child”
  • “‘It’s a f****** travesty!’ Woman judge’s foul-mouthed outburst after being convicted of failing to control her Alsation.”

And the Mail is by no means alone in using these sorts of unnecessary prefixes on a regular basis.  But everytime it happens, the female judge is labelled as different.

This is surely dangerous in a society where difference in our judges is not acceptable.




The Sky Sports Sexism Saga

This week the media has been engulfed in the drama surrounding the sexist comments made about lines woman Sian Massey and the subsequent sacking and resignation of pundits Andy Gray and  Richard Keys respectively.

The topic even made it onto Question Time on Thursday night, where business woman and former contestant on The Apprentice Katie Hopkins caused her own controversy by suggesting women could not take equal treatment.  She  said:

“I think Sky Sports has completely lost its sense of humour. I think as a nation potentially we have lost our collective sense of humour.

“I think people like Karren Brady, who have appointed herself patron saint of all things equal, does not speak on behalf of all of the sisterhood.

“I think women actually don’t want equal treatment, they couldn’t handle it if they got it, quite a number of them. It’s a tough world out there.

“I think the art of banter is something we should be proud of as a nation. I worked for a while in the military and our forces, the best in the world, in my opinion, they survive in banter. I think we need to keep that, we need to look after it.”

But does the sacking of a sports commentator, who incidentally is paid 1.7 million for the pleasure, really constitute Sky Sports losing its sense of humour?

For a start it is  questionable whether the comments made by Gray and Keys should even constitute “banter”, which surely is more than just being rude, and not to mention clichéd.

The term “banter”  covers a multitude of sins.  It seems you can call anyone anything, cover it with a veneer of humour and call it banter, no matter how nasty or unpleasant the underlying sentiment.

The fact is that male dominated work industries can be sexist and bullying towards female members of staff.  And even when its labelled a joke, its hard to deal with being constantly undermined on a daily basis.

In these sorts of industries it is important to question whether perhaps bullying may simply have been re-labelled as banter.

If this is the case, it is simply not acceptable.

Today, the most read story on the Daily Mail website is

Sky Sports sexists made my life hell, says woman worker who lost her home after being reduced to a nervous wreck

In it, Vanessa Bridger, former employee of Sky Sports told the Mail:

“Sexism and bullying is a culture which can be found throughout Sky Sports,

“When you work there, it’s so accepted that you think it’s normal. But it’s damaged so many people, and it has to stop. Maybe now it will.”

If women are ever going to achieve equality in the work place, cultures where sexism is perceived as normal will have to be tackled.

 

 

 


Rape myth busting campaign from the WAG

Last week the Welsh Assembly  Government [WAG] launched a campaign to tackle attitudes towards rape.


This comes after some a study by the havens last month revealed some shocking statistics:

  • A third (34%) of people in the UK believe that a woman is partially or totally responsible for being raped if she has behaved in a flirtatious manner
  • More than a quarter (26%) of people think a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was wearing sexy or revealing clothing
  • Around one in 12 people (8%) believe a woman is totally responsible for being raped if she has many sexual partners
  • Nearly a third of people (30%) say a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk

 

The campaign is focused on stopping blaming victims of rape, and asks the key question

Is it possible that a woman who drinks, dances and flirts, ALL in a short skirt, is doing it for her own enjoyment?

The following video highlights how some men feel they have ‘earned’ sex if they do certain things.


The campaign focuses on trying to dispel myths that the way a woman dresses, behaves or drinks means she is “asking for it.”  The campaign goals are to:

  • Challenge the endemic culture of victim blame.
  • Stop blaming the victim for rape and sexual assault committed against her.
  • Stop handing the rapist – the assailant – excuses that serve to make his behaviour more socially acceptable.

The bottom line of the campaign:

Rape is a crime in every sense of the word- emotional, physical, psychological and legal; the most intimate violation imaginable. No woman is ever ‘asking for it’.

 

 


The trivialisation of rape

The term rape is increasingly being used  out of the normal context on an everyday basis.

‘Fraping’, [Facebook raping] is just one example of how modern culture has trivialised a devastating and traumatic event that is a reality for thousands of women.

In 2009/2010 almost 14,000 women in the UK reported being raped to the police.

Online trader Etsy is following this trend by producing the following card, designed by ‘Youstupidbitch’:

The tag line on the card;

Get creeped on, get raped? Know someone that has? Then this card is for them

If this is tasteless and crass, what is it when you liken someone putting an unwanted comment on facebook to being sexually assaulted?

Completely different or a little bit the same?

Tell me what you think.


Why are Women’s Magazines All the Same?

Women’s magazines are generally obsessed with the things they think most women are interested in; fashion, diets, men and sex.

Of course many women are interested in these things, but are they really the only things they want to read about?  Especially when most of the content isn’t even that original.

It seems every month readers of magazine such as Glamour [the biggest selling magazine in the UK] and Cosmopolitan are given the same menu of sex tips and beauty shortcuts.

It seems there is no market for women’s magazines which are not full of shiny, beautiful [and airbrushed] people who we can aspire to be like.

The French market is very similar, but in 2009 Grégory Lassus-Debat launched Causette [or “chat”],  a magazine where the women are not airbrushed, have cellulite and are interested in things such as politics.

Lassus-Debut was denied a loan because the bank thought such a magazine had no market and no future.

However, sales last month had reached 25,000 for this year, about the same as She or Easy Living in the UK.  Not a huge market, but a sustainable one.

Lassus-Debat told The Times

“I didn’t do any market studies, but I instinctively felt that there would be a demand for a magazine without Kate Moss and diets in it,”

According to Lassus-Debat the magaizine is not feminist per se , but

“A magazine that is interested in women’s lives, in their struggles and in the defence of their rights,”

The last issue included stories about the women’s lobby in the European Union, non-violent resistance on the West Bank and the decline of the  le Mouvement de Libération des Femmes [The women’s liberation movement].

Not your typical women’s magazine fodder.

I argued last week that women’s magazines in the UK reinforce stereotypes rather than challenge them.  Chausette does the opposite.

And if there is a market in France, why not in the UK as well?