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#Page3gate, and why the feminists got all angry…*

A STATEMENT BY KCL FEMINIST SOCIETY

Bloody feminists complaining about something or other again; what is it now..?

So you may or may not have heard the furore at the end of last term, which saw Roar! fall under accusations of sexism and misogyny. This was the result of a full page article published in the Christmas special edition, entitled: In Defence of Page 3. As word spread and the article was circulated, people quickly moved from disbelief to genuine anger and outrage, reading lines such as ‘with a bit of plastic surgery and a decent diet, any girl can look like that. Women have a duty. Could be the motivation they need’. There were so many offensive lines such as this that we’re not going to offer a point by point response to the December article; instead, we’re going to explain our position.

One of the most obvious issues with the article was that it was supposedly ‘just a joke’ and therefore shouldn’t be taken seriously or found offensive…. However, there were many at the time who were unsure if it was a joke or not (including members of the Roar! Editorial Team!) and this is hugely telling. The fact that we can’t immediately discern whether such sexist hate-speech is meant to be humorous or not, shows how prevalent these attitudes have become; that it has somehow become acceptable to find fun in discrimination. Furthermore, even if it was meant as a joke, at whose expense was the joke being made? It’s clear that the ‘arguments’ were not aimed at stereotyped sexist men who buy The Sun, but rather at ‘fat old women’ who complain about Page 3 and ‘are probably just jealous themselves’.

Irony, satire or just political humour are meant to ridicule and belittle sexism; not perpetuate it. It’s not good enough to say that irony is in the conception, not the reception: the entire premise of irony is to show contempt for something contemptible, whilst mocking it. If you fail at the contempt you fail at the irony, and simply end up reproducing and thus reinforcing that which you’re meant to be criticising. (After the article was published, members of the Feminist Society shared various brilliant satires i.e. John Scalzi’s ‘Hi I’m a Rapist’ to prove this point).

Whatever your intentions, if you say something sexist you’ve said something sexist, and need to accept your responsibility. You cannot simply spew sexist bile by slyly hiding your words under the veil of ‘satire’, and then dismissing other peoples upset as an ‘overreaction’. If you walk up to someone and accidentally step on their foot, you can’t blame them for having their foot there: you walked up to them and you ought to have watched where you were going. It also raises the question: Would Roar! have ever printed such derogatory comments about a race or religion? Probably not, and this brings us to the wider issue.

Right now the national No More Page3 Campaign (@NoMorePage3) is collecting signatures and raising awareness through activism of how people feel about the widespread availability of teenage breasts in a family newspaper, and what impact it is having on society. To state the bleeding obvious, the Roar! article ‘In Defence of Page 3’ was actually accompanied by an airbrushed photo of a skinny white glamour model.  Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with the image itself, but by choosing this, rather than a satirical cartoon or a photo of readers of The Sun, once again shows the real attitude of the piece. As research by the Everyday Sexism Project (@EverydaySexism) shows, there is strong evidence that such images contribute to ‘a deeply problematic ideology in the public consciousness relating to women’s breasts’; who owns them, who has the right to touch them and who is entitled to judge and comment on them. The Page 3 issue is therefore important because it feeds into a wider sexist culture (brace yourselves for some stats).

Sexism IS important because we’re living in a world where less than 1 in 4 of our MPs and only 1 in 5 of those in the House of Lords is female. Where only 15% of the 573 listed statues commemorating people around the UK are of women and less than 1 in 10 of our engineers are female.

This problem pervades every part of our society: in Chemistry 50% of undergraduates are women, but only 6% of professors, and only 5% of the 250 major films last year were directed by women.

Perhaps most terrifyingly, in a Home Office survey as recent as 2009, 20% of those polled said it was acceptable in some circumstances “for a man to hit or slap his wife or girlfriend in response to her being dressed in sexy or revealing clothes in public”, and 36% said a woman should be held fully or partially responsible if she is sexually assaulted or raped whilst drunk.

As MP and former equalities minister Lynne Featherstone said, the link between Page 3 and domestic violence is “about the constant drip, drip of women being sexualised in the public space [which] has a great bearing on attitudes and domestic violence”.

So where do we go from here? Well on the bright side it’s Women’s History Month in March, and our Society and the whole of KCLSU will be celebrating amazing women, who despite the odds have overcome this everyday sexism to achieve great things.  You can also join the KCL Feminist Society (@KCLFemSoc), an open liberation group founded this year for all King’s students (yes, including the boys) where we can come together to try and figure out how to eliminate sexism from our university, and our lives.

* Headline chosen by KCL Feminist Society.

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