A few years ago I would rather have admitted to being a Justin Bieber fan than a feminist. To me the term “feminist” was someone who banged on about “causes” and “campaigns” and looked a lot more like Germaine Greer than Angelina Jolie. They were feminists because they had to be right?
I am experiencing a shift. A pretty sharp shift. I am baffled and perplexed at the world we live in at the moment. The number one song in the UK charts right now is called “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke. If the title doesn’t grab you as a bit rapey then maybe the lyrics will: “I know you want it” and “I’ll give you something big enough to tear that ass in two” and also the very lovely “You the hottest bitch in the place”. Nice. What if I want to be the smartest bitch in the place? Or maybe not even a bitch? Since he has become a father, even Jay Z doesn’t use the word “bitch” anymore. He didn’t stop it when he became a “husband” but something dawned on him when he became a father so at least there is some progress.
I’ve not even started on the song’s video which features lots of models stomping about in flesh coloured G-strings while the fully clothed Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams gawp, stroke and paw at them. In one shot, a girl is having her hair brushed by one of them. For all you guys saying: “Lighten up it’s just a bit of fun” then imagine that’s your teenage daughter dancing around naked in a room with two much older guys. Not only is the video horrific, the message it sends out is that this behaviour is acceptable. It’s not. It’s really not. It’s exploitation. I’m staggered the models agreed to it in the first place.
So that’s the “music bit” of what’s pissing me off about the way woman are treated. They made the song, made the video and then everyone validated it by sending it to number one – don’t get me wrong – I like the tune but everything else makes me want to sit my daughter down and explain to her how to keep herself safe, even if broadcasters don’t think it’s an issue.
There have been a few photos that have appeared on my Facebook timeline – mainly because of people complaining about them – but I’m shocked to see them. A girl lying at the bottom of stairs with the caption “You shouldn’t have got pregnant”. There were others but I’ll spare you. Alarming, as these photos were, what worried me more was the comments beneath them, ranging from “LOL” to more graphic responses.
How is this allowed to happen? When did boys start thinking this was funny? Has access to porn numbed their sensibilities so much that this is now funny? When I was at university, there was no way guys would be openly sexist like this. That violence against women isn’t seen as shocking really disturbs me.
One page on Facebook recently published a story about American soldiers raping prisoners in Iraq. They published photos of the rape taking place. A women’s rape was photographed and up online for everyone to see. As if she hadn’t suffered enough trauma, no one thought how utterly appalling this would be for her.
Reading the evidence about the Steubenville Rape in Ohio distressed me enormously. That young girl was taken round parties for six hours and no one stepped in. No one. As if what the boys were doing to her wasn’t bad enough, no one saw fit to stop it. Why? What is going on?
I was gutted to see Nigella Lawson being physically abused by her husband in the papers this weekend. She is an intelligent successful woman was being grabbed by her husband round the throat. She lost her mother, sister and first husband to cancer, has overcome that and still becomes a victim. If that’s what goes on in public, what on earth happens behind closed doors?
I’m not sure if there is a cultural shift where it’s ok to be demeaning to women or if it’s just easier to access now. What I do know is that it is completely unacceptable. Now I’m far from a reluctant feminist. I’m a strident one.