As #HeforShe continues to build momentum, it would be irresponsible to ignore the need for #SheforShe.
I was discussing Page 3 with a female friend today. She’s a confident, assured woman who enjoys a successful career in an industry dominated by men and is a mother to a three-year-old daughter. We were talking about how I think Lucy-Anne Holmes (Founder of No More Page 3) is nothing short of a genius, a woman with an amazing balance of vision and confidence, courage and kindness. I wish I had the ambition and foresight of Holmes in 2006, during my one-woman campaign challenging Mancunian newsagents as to why they sold ‘lads mags’.
And then my friend turned to me and told me that she doesn’t see anything wrong with porn being in a newspaper.
Now, I have a couple of friends who don’t care too much if Page 3 exists or not, and they generally think that it’s outdated, harmless enough or in one case they were a bit surprised that it was still in existence but carried on drinking her coffee with a shrug of the shoulders and a roll of her eyes.
However in this instance, I’m not only taken aback by the “Page 3 is absolutely fine for 21st century life” argument, but most people I have spoken to about this who are comfortably nonchalant about Page 3 don’t consider it to be porn. I’m utterly shocked that a woman can be okay with images of topless young women in a national paper that, for better or worse, until recently reported the news to more people in this country than any other printed publication.
Sit me down next to a person with opposing views for a scheduled discussion, and I can debate passionately. However when I’m confronted with a woman who thinks severe sexism is okay, I’m speechless. I then spend the rest of the day considering if I am in the wrong for questioning – or should that be judging? – my friends for not having the same belief system as I do.
Perhaps today’s conversation wouldn’t have made me feel as queasy if it wasn’t for two more shocking examples of women against women that have occurred over the past week.
Nice Guys Commit Rape, Too
Last month, after a brief chat on twitter with an editor of The Good Men Project (GMP), I sent a few examples of my work in the hope that I could become part of what their tagline refers to as “the conversation no-one else is having.” I was becoming quite excited at the prospect of examining what it means to bring up a boy with feminist principles in the patriarchy of our society, whilst having the opportunity to write for a unique and ever-so-slightly chaotic project.
My email with my ideas and examples of previous features was well received. I was then asked to write something “on-brand for GMP” with a view to a regular blog. I was in the middle of writing said piece when I happened to google upon a discussion with an apology for rape at its core.
When I spotted the title “Nice Guys Commit Rape, Too” I read it sarcastically, expecting that the eye-catching title would lead to a feature on how rape is wrong. Rape is wrong. Once more for the nice guys at the back. Rape is wrong.
The feature, written by freelance writer Alyssa Royse, describes a real life situation where her male friend rapes a woman whilst she was sleeping, and then later asks Alyssa if it was indeed rape. It’s at this point in the article that Royse makes the point that more often than not rapists are not known to their victims prior to the attack, before going on to suggest that more often than not rapists are just guys who “may genuinely not realise that what he is doing is rape.”
She then digs deeper by stating:
“In this particular case, I had watched the woman in question flirt aggressively with my friend for weeks. I had watched her sit on his lap, dance with him, twirl his hair in her fingers. I had seen her at parties discussing the various kinds of sex work she had done, and the pleasure with which she explored her own very fluid sexuality, all while looking my friend straight in the eye.”
Whilst she clearly states on a number of occasions that the act of raping someone when they are asleep is indeed rape she continues to tell the reader, who are presumably looking at the Good Men Project because they are interested in reading features about genuinely good men, that her friend is a nice guy and that society is “partially” to blame for the temporary blips nice guys can have when they rape a fellow female.
The truth of the matter is that we don’t need Royse to tell us that her friend is a rapist. After reading the feature, we know she knows (and for the record we know he knows) because this is about as clear cut as it can possibly be.
What women around the world need is for Royse to not write statements such as:
“The problem isn’t even that he is a rapist.” (YES, it is)
“But if something walks like a fuck and talks like fuck, at what point are we supposed to understand that it’s not a fuck?” (How about when she is a-fucking sleep for starters?)
There are points within Royse’s piece which I agree should be discussed openly and courageously, such as the pressing need for society to educate people on sexual boundaries or what it’s like to have a friend commit an atrocious crime. I empathise with the caring, confused friend in Royse who wants to “partially” blame society for the behaviour of her rapist friend. My own close friend from school was found to have sexually abusive images of children on his computer. I removed myself from his life and him from mine the second he admitted it to me.
Royse’s friend may have been a nice guy prior to raping a woman whilst she slept, he may forever regret what he did, and he may one day become a nice guy again. But none of this has anything to do with the fact her friend is a rapist. When, as a widely read writer and public speaker, she puts her name to such a sickening idea as –
“But if something walks like a fuck and talks like fuck, at what point are we supposed to understand that it’s not a fuck?”
whilst discussing the rape of an innocent woman, Royse herself becomes part of the problem society has to deal with. How can we live in a world where we have a universal #heforshe when we are so far from achieving a universal #sheforshe?
If there’s one thing I hope GMP are correct about, it’s that I no-one else is having a conversation quite like this.
Loose lips sink ships
This piece was originally intended to end with the last point on GMP, but as I write a twitter alert has caught my eye. It seems that yesterday Judy Finnigan fucked up her debut on Loose Women whilst discussing convicted rapist and professional footballer Ched Evans’ return to Sheffield United upon serving two years for raping a woman in a hotel room.
Loose Women is the flagship example of women against women. During the early weeks of maternity leave I did watch this show until I realised just how damaging it is to hear famous women berate other women (celebrities and non-) in front of a live audience of women who laugh and applaud rotten comments and opinions. Judy must have watched too as she took that idea and ran with it.
During a conversation which was intended to discuss whether a convicted rapist who had “served his time” had the right to return to a professional footballing position, Judy stated that the rape “was not violent”, that “he didn’t cause any bodily harm to the person” and “she had far too much to drink.”
Why are intelligent women who enjoy privilege and position – and have daughters and mothers – doling out excuses whilst offering a pass to certain men (too many men) to continue to undermine and abuse other women?
I celebrate the fact that there are many different ideas and movements within the network of feminism, some pulling together and some pushing away from each other. I accept this and I’m thankful that it’s happening in my lifetime. However when female writers publicly support the idea that a man can rape a sleeping woman because he finds her flirtatious behaviour confusing, or when a well-known female tv presenter refers to how much alcohol a rape victim consumed prior to the attack or when female friends think it is okay for the largest images of women in a national newspaper to be pornographic, I begin to realise how far we do still have to go before we can confidently say that every woman knows what her fellow female is capable of, how she is entitled to be treated and how to support her in achieving those things.