This is a funny post to be starting back with; but as I told some of you, I would need to write something while I wasn’t tweeting and blogging, this is one of those nights.
I listen to podcasts a lot, it means I can dip in and out of Radio 2 and 4 in the UK. I also listen to some obscure podcasts, ones that I’ve found by accident and keep downloading, impatiently waiting for the next week’s update, twitching like an addict waiting for their next fix. During my self-imposed sabbatical, Woman’s Hour featured two stories, on two separate days, but on the podcasts made no correlation to each other, despite me linking the two together clearly in my head.
First up: Women struggling with street harassment, where you get unwanted attention from men, everything from a wolf-whistle, to comments, to out-right verbal assault. The discussion was quite interesting, women have been told to variously ignore it or be flattered by it, but if you ask for it to stop, the assault can turn from verbal to physical. The counter argument was that if you ask men to stop behaving like that, you’re restricting freedom of speech. Hmmm.
Next day: Anti-Porn Men, a group started by two young men, one of which is 22 years old, and horrified by the objectification and degradation of women that they have grown up with. Again, the interview was interesting, with the roles being reversed, a well spoken young man sticking up for us girls, while a girl who works within the porn industry desperately trying to condone the legalised content, while distancing the industry from the illegal content. Which is precisely the stuff most teenagers can get hold of.
Is it me, or does it not link directly back to men leering at women in the street, and thinking it is acceptable to grope women on the underground, or shouting ‘Look at the tits on that!’ I can remember when Loaded magazine was launched, I can remember when The Sun ‘newspaper’ proudly announced it was only going to feature page 3 girls with natural boobs. The two subjects go hand in hand, because men are now taught from a young age by the 1000s of images and videos that form a large part of their sex education, that women are objects – so women get treated like objects.
I am not asking for women to be protected, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Nancy Astor, Christabel, Adela, Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst fought too hard for equality for us for that. What do I want? I simply would like men to respect women, the rule of thumb for me is would you treat your sister/mother/daughter like that. Most men do respect women, but some don’t, can’t or won’t because it’s asserting their right as superior beings innit? The prevalence of lads mags with women pouting all over them, fingers to their lips, bodies airbrushed to look like Barbie dolls has bred a generation of men, who as Matt McCormack Evans says ‘Think that sex is something you do to a woman’.
Boys, Men, let me tell you now. If you think that sex is something you ‘do’ to a woman, as Daphne puts it in Some Like It Hot: ‘You are barking up the wrong fish!’ And you are in for a short sharp shock when the woman in question asks ‘Is that it?!’ Learning the ins and outs of sex (ahem) via a porn film will not teach you anything about making love. Sex is not something you do to someone else, it is something you do together. Sometimes magically; sometimes not so successfully; sometimes sleepily; sometimes in exchange for back-rubs; sometimes in broad daylight; sometimes sniggering quietly so you don’t get caught; sometimes loudly because O My God, the planets are in alignment tonight!
It takes time, practice, a sense of humour, patience and above all, compassion to learn about what your partner wants and needs. You have to put aside what you want sometimes because you can only learn that when you have respect for who you are sharing your bed with, and also when you know what you want. A friend of mine was shocked when we were talking about his teenage daughter, he didn’t want to know what she got up to in her bedroom, or his two younger children either. I argued the point that unless she learnt what her body could do for her, she could end up having a spotty teenage boy teaching her instead.
I am not a fan of political correctness, it has gone too far, but at the same time, lets move back to some fundamental values. Treat people how you wish to be treated. I hate the trashy magazines that are in the staff room at lunch, they represent what is truly awful about the human condition. Putting others down, so we appear bigger and better. But even those shitty magazines are nicer than those who feature Shardonay with her 36c boobs bound up in gaffer tap holding a screwdriver and pouting over a plug and socket. There is no reality, only perception, people’s perception of women for the past 10-15 years has been skewed out of alignment, and unfortunately, there are very few young, strong women changing the perception. Lady Gaga, as much as she is feted for writing and singing her own songs, still looks like she is in a porn film in her videos.
Ladies, we can do better than this, Men, we are better than this.