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This Sporting Life

Once you realise how much sexism there is in sport, it’s impossible to look away, it is everywhere.

Women athletes are subject to the same bullshit misogyny as the rest of us but ramped up to 11. They are judged on their looks more than their skills; remember Flo-Jo’s nails, The Sun called Jessica Ennis “The Body” earlier this year, type “Serena Williams Fashion Disaster” into Google and you get 85,700 hits. The International Olympic Committee’s charter states “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” and yet Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have yet to send female athletes and are yet to be banned. They get less funding, less sponsorship and less coverage. There is a perception that if you don’t look good, you won’t get any attention at all. As mentioned in a previous blog, lady footballers were encouraged to wear tighter shorts to get more attention. Fuck you Blatter!

Last Sunday I did a little non-scientific research of ITV’s Euro coverage (no need to call in Ben Goldacre, hands up, it wasn’t expertly done) in order to see what the representation of sports women would be like – I was expecting sporty adverts, it being the football and that. Over two matches and way too many advert breaks we saw male athletes, being identified by their sportiness; advertising cars (lots of cars), chocolate, beer, tyres, Nivea, The Sun, logistics and betting sites. Lots of “manly” and “non-manly” things that couldn’t possibly be represented by a female athlete… During all of those hours of adverts, we had two incidences of sports women; a lady fencer for UPS (who doesn’t really do any fencing) and some lady tennis for Magners but that’s being played in the dark so as not to offend. A nod of appreciation to Morrisons who seem prepared to accept that women watch football, not play football obviously, that would be silly. The ad for the Kia falls into a similar category, pretty lady drives to football stadium but she’s there to sing – know your place pretty lady.

Of course the most offensive football related advert is for WKD in which a pub hilariously goes silent while a man pretends to his partner that he’s working late, the helpful barman adding sound effects to make the call sound authentic. You know, because ladies won’t understand you having a night out with the boys and would lock you in the house using their ovarian tubing if they suspected you might want to socialise rather than hunter-gathering or husbanding. Also, lest we forget, girls don’t like football and therefore it’s better to lie than let on you are watching it. As Springbreak (@sayrahtonin) said, “I hope the fictional girl in the wkd ad who’s being lied to by her pathetic bf about being in the pub is fucking someone else while he’s out”.

So here’s a bit of everyday heroics for give us all a bit of faith…

A few weeks ago I went with my little sister to watch a local charity basketball game. On the team was one girl, let’s call her Becky, because I’m fairly certain that was her name. Becky didn’t even have a real kit; she had a home-made t-shirt. When Becky was knocked on her arse by a giant man, Becky offered a forgiving high-five that the giant begrudgingly accepted. However, Becky had the most amazing talent that none of the other players seem to possess, Becky was invisible. Neither her own team nor the opposition could see her. She could get herself into wide open spaces because none of the defenders saw her, but then no one would pass to her because her own team couldn’t see her either. Everyone watching could clearly see her and some of us were getting very frustrated by the lack of play she was getting. When we mentioned this super-power to Becky she shrugged and said that it had always been the same, whenever she plays with men and she’s been doing this for 10 years. Becky was invisible, because she is a woman. I don’t know Becky, so I can’t tell you why she carried on playing on a team that was trying its best to ignore her. But I can tell you that she was awesome.

My little sister is a huge basketball fan and I hope, for her, Becky was visible. Becky is a fucking hero, an everyday crusader.

If you’ve been affected by any of the themes in this blog, try Stylist Magazine’s Fair Play campaign (you can read it here http://www.stylist.co.uk/people/support-stylists-fair-game-campaign#image-rotator-1).

New Look Who’s Talking

A big big thank you to everyone who joined in the campaign against New Look. Today they announced the withdrawal of the Fantasy Football t-shirt. Which is amazing and has given me a tiny bit of hope that the Feminists might get listened to once in a while.

To all of the bloggers, tweeters, facebookers and nuisance makers who helped NL see what we thought of their “fantasy” t-shirt I am sending huge amounts of love.

So, we get 1 drink, 1 high five and then it’s back into battle…

They might have withdrawn the primary target of our rage but these beauties are still on sale:

Girl of your dreams     http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/white-technicolour-girl-ttoshirt_256105916

“Aztec” Girl      http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/gold-aztec-girl-print-ttoshirt_251977293

Let me be your fantasy (2 for £15, bargain)   http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/green-let-me-be-your-fantasy-printed-ttoshirt_251984532

Nice Cans       http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/pale-grey-nice-cans-printed-ttoshirt_251990902

Team Double D (They need your support)!!!!!          http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/team-double-d-ttoshirt_252545710

And I only looked at the first 100 because my head was exploding.

And if you think it’s just New Look, try these from Burton…

Cross Hatch (dark series) featuring hand prints on her arse:            http://www.burton.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33052&storeId=12551&productId=5582793&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=426992&parent_categoryId=277076&pageSize=200

Porn ice cream                       http://www.burton.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33052&storeId=12551&productId=5582815&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=426994&parent_categoryId=277076&pageSize=200

Faceless invite to anal            http://www.burton.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33052&storeId=12551&productId=5565624&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=426994&parent_categoryId=277076&pageSize=200

Indie decks girl, correctly in bra and collar     http://www.burton.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?beginIndex=0&viewAllFlag=&catalogId=33052&storeId=12551&productId=5562056&langId=-1&sort_field=Relevance&categoryId=426994&parent_categoryId=277076&pageSize=200

Much thanks to Little Tweets (@stfumisogynists) for her sterling research into hideous t-shirts.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been wondering why this matters to me so much? They’re just t-shirts right? Aren’t there bigger battles to fight? Well maybe, but I think it’s the very casual nature of the t-shirt that offends me so much. I made the point about the gorilla/rape t-shirt (http://wp.me/p2t9bD-b), if we can treat misogyny so lightly that we put it on a t-shirt, what hope is there?

Someone, quite rightly, challenged me on this by asking if it was alright that teenage girls have t-shirts which feature scantily clad JLS members. I had to think on that one before pointing out that JLS are famous for doing a thing (singing jaunty pop/R&B and backflips). A JLS t-shirt celebrates your love of JLS and their backflips. Whereas the t-shirts above feature nameless, unknown models. The only thing being celebrated is her breasts/arse/ab’s/ability to eat ice cream seductively. It reduces the woman to the level of a symbol or a logo…

“When I got dressed this morning it was a straight choice between iPooed or a woman suggesting anal, but the iPooed one needed ironing”.

I am in no way undermining our win today; I don’t think anything has made me that happy in a long time. But there’s still work to do, so if you’re feeling mischievous and/or outraged, why not post a review of one or all of those t-shirts on Burton’s website.

About Last Night

Firstly a bit more on New Look; thank you so much to everyone who has been reading, retweeting the blogs, contacting NL and joining the Facebook group. So far I don’t believe New Look have responded to anyone, but the more we keep the issue in their faces, the better!

So, last night after a lovely dinner and cocktails my friend and I decided to head to The Piccadilly Institute for some dancing. I know, it’s not the classiest of establishments but they have Tanqueray behind the bar, a light up dance-floor and play The Spice Girls; I don’t have many more needs in a nightclub.

The problem is that I have taken the Feminist Red Pill and now find it really hard not to see the patriarchy everywhere. So maybe I should shrug off the Gentleman’s Corner of the cocktail menu in the Slug and Lettuce, I don’t really like whiskey based drinks anyway. And of course there was street harassment, it was Saturday night in the West End; it’s not right, of course, but it was inevitable really.

Maybe through my cloud of cocktails and laughter I could let it all wash over me. I probably would have done, if I hadn’t started talking to the lovely ladies who work behind the bar at The Piccadilly Institute…

I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, it has lots of different rooms, each with its own theme and music; there’s a party room, an R&B one, another R&B one, one that just seems to be noise and probably some that I’ve missed which also play R&B. Behind each bar works a team of very attractive ladies in themed outfits. The ones that I saw for certain were sexy nurses, Geri Halliwell-esque Union Jack dresses or basques and tutus. Meanwhile the men wear either medical scrubs (no idea) or I Y PI t-shirts. So I asked several of the female employees if they had a choice about what they wore and was told a variety of “yes, but they are all revealing” or “not really”.

So I asked, “you do realise that’s discrimination don’t you?” and guess what, they did, they all knew that their employer was discriminating against them and they also felt pretty much powerless to do/say anything; not if they wanted to keep their jobs. One even said, “discrimination pays well”… Wow! I know discrimination happens frequently in workplaces across the country, but how often is it that blatant do you think?

Now I will fight for anyone’s right to wear whatever he or she wants to wear, as long as it is absolutely what he or she is choosing to wear. If a group of girls chooses to go out on a Saturday night in basques and tutus, well fair play to you ladies. Back when I thought I might be Courtney Love I used to wear baby doll dresses, silver DM’s and a necklace that said “slut”. All of which was very much my choice and I thought I looked amazing.

But I didn’t get the sense that any of the ladies working last night would have chosen to wear those outfits if they had an alternative that was less revealing – especially in a building packed with drunken harassers. They are at work and working behind a bar is tough and hot and messy, no one wants to do it while worrying that their breasts might spill out of their basque do they?

There is no argument that I can find for the necessity of the outfits, these are women who (I imagine) look stunning in cat-hair covered sweat pants and a t-shirt blotched with hair dye; well better than I look right now anyway. Are the managers of The Piccadilly Institute by any chance suggesting that their female bar teams are part of the aesthetics of the club? Could it be that they put their employees in purposefully sexy outfits to titillate and excite their guests? Does that sounds a little bit like objectification?

Seriously, there is no need to do this. All you are doing is creating an environment where you are legitimising harassment by choosing outfits that scream “look how sexy our team is”. Those women are employed to make drinks, give good customer service and ensure your guests have a good time. They are not there to provide wank-bank fodder for the stag does and birthday boys.

Here’s my BBC style “helpline” sign off… If you have been effected by any of the issues raised in today’s blog, please contact me and I’ll do what I can to help (I know a thing or two about employment law).

Oh and if you enjoy my little feminist rants, come follow me on Twitter @seja75 where I am currently enraged by sexism in sporting adverts amongst other things.

New Look Back in Anger

This weekend, I was out shopping and I saw this t-shirt in New Look menswear http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/red-fantasy-football-ttoshirt_252533060. The blurb says “featuring fantasy football girl print on front”; in case you thought she was, you know, a real girl. For further evidence see Let Me Be Your Fantasy t-shirt, (http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/green-let-me-be-your-fantasy-printed-ttoshirt_251984532) and Nice Cans t-shirt (http://www.newlook.com/shop/mens/mens-ttoshirts-and-polo-shirts/pale-grey-nice-cans-printed-ttoshirt_251990902).

Yes, it’s ridiculously sexist, totally offensive and it made me immediately put down the clothes that I was about to buy and walk out of the store; I will never shop in New Look again if they think that this is okay.

Is it okay to sexualise a young women in this way and then parade her publically? To link her sexuality to a sport which is lead by a man who famously said that the women’s footballers should wear tighter shorts in order to become more popular? No, no, no!

If you need more info on why this (and the similar t-shirts are so vile) I recommend you read http://londonfeminist.com/site/dear-new-look/ the fantastic open letter to New Look from @Londonfeminist.

However, I decided not to write another blog about the casual sexism inherent in this, because I felt there was a bigger point to make, a point about how young girls are perpetually bombarded with these images of what (literally in this case) is identified as a fantasy female. Look at her, she’s gorgeous; abundant breasts, tiny (wide open) thighs, perfect skin and the knowing come-hither look. Who wouldn’t want to look like her? She’s the female equivalent of a fantasy football league; she might even know the off-side rule.

This t-shirt was in a prominent place, visible as you travelled up the escalator from womenswear to accessories and the youth range aimed at ages 9 to 15. It was also on the natural route between the 9-15 range and the shoes. So, that’s every one of New Look’s not unsubstantial customers and in particular their younger customers, who will see a clearly identified “fantasy female” who, I’m guessing, is a long way from the physical reality of most of those shoppers. A double-whammy there; the fantasy is an unrealistic beauty plus women are there to be the equivalent of a sport. Wow, I hope my 15 year old sister and her friend saw it…

Did you know that New Look have a foundation, to give them some additional Corporate Social Responsibility points… Can you guess where this is going? You’re right, one of the aims of their foundation is:

Learning to deal with issues – helping people to help themselves and their friends by tackling anxieties linked to such issues as eating disorders, obesity, body image, bullying, alcohol or substance abuse, sexual health, domestic violence or gun and knife crime. (http://www.newlookgroup.com/newlook/en/sustainability/foundation)

New Look is a sponsor of B-eat (http://www.b-eat.co.uk/), an amazing charity which helps adults and young people with eating disorders in the UK. B-eat is brilliant and doing brilliant, important work. Any support they get is fantastic.

However, doesn’t New Look have a responsibility to stop perpetuating the causes of the body image crisis that we are trying to resolve? How do their young customers feel when confronted by New Look’s vision of the fantasy women? How does that help? It can’t! Images like this can only hurt someone who is already troubled with low self-esteem and body image worries.

New Look are letting young women down when they should be building them up. Confidence is what we need to give women of all ages who are struggling with their body image. The confidence that they are powerful and have value well beyond anything that could or should fit on a t-shirt.

I emailed a draft of this to New Look before publishing, but have had no comment – I don’t think @LondonFeminist has heard anything either.

If you care (at all) about the negative messages that the UK’s biggest fashion retailer for young women are sending to that audience, please contact them and let them know how you feel – how we feel.

And thank you for listening to another of my rants – I shall keep them coming!

UPDATE: There is now a Facebook group you can join https://www.facebook.com/NewLookMisogyny please do!

Do I Amuse You?

I always intended this blog to be about my experiences and the things that make me mad. So, I should be honest, I’ve told jokes about terrible things, I’ve laughed at terrible things. Having said that, let’s move on…

I know a lot of this has been covered, but rape jokes hey, aren’t they funny… You know, edgy, dark… Get a sense of humour about it, Jesus, these chicks are so uptight. Really? No, really?

The “best” rape joke I was ever told was on a date (oh stick with me, it gets better). About once a year I think I ought to give in to the social expectations placed on me and give dating a go. This year I found a barrister online, he claimed to believe that women should be treated like princesses (we’ll cover that another day), seemed funny, smart and interesting so I agreed to meet up with him. In between insulting me and his family, he told me that he mentors more junior members of chambers. As an example of what a great guy he is, he told me that he had been approached by a young female barrister who was struggling because she was working on her first rape case. In order to help her feel better about it, he thought the best thing to do was to tell her a rape joke; a joke that he then told me.

For completeness, here’s the rest of the date:

Me:        Did you just tell a rape joke?

Him:       *Cross between a snigger and a shrug* Yup

Me:        *Downs drink* Well this isn’t really working for me, good luck *legs it to Tube and texts all female friends*

So let’s just run through that one more time… A male barrister supported a female colleague by telling her a rape joke. But it’s alright, they regularly use gallows humour, it’s just what they do, I was taking the whole thing out of context.

We hear a lot of talk about ‘rape culture’ and I think there is a certain amount of scepticism that it either exists or that there is any impact on women if there is one. My previous post showed a casualness to rape via the medium of a t-shirt. However, that’s nothing compared to the idea that someone who might be prosecuting or defending my attacker felt that making a joke of it was ever, in any circumstances, an appropriate thing to do. This thought makes me feel physically sick.

Plus this man, regardless of his career choices, felt comfortable telling women that he couldn’t have known very well a joke about rape. He’s not the only one, I’m not singling him out because he was extraordinary, I’m singling him out because it happened to me and this is my blog. A friend recently overheard two of her male colleagues discuss “which female here would you most like to rape”. Let’s assume (because assuming anything else would be too horrific to live with) that they were joking, so that’s two men, in front of a female colleague, having a lovely jape about which women they would sexually assault. Was my friend supposed to feel flattered or insulted if she was/wasn’t chosen?

I like dark edgy humour, I do and I think it’s okay to be offended by things. But right now, we’re fighting a losing battle in a world in which people can tweet the most vile things about a rape victim (thank you again to @stfumisogynists Little Tweets for showing up the full horror of it). This is not a battle that is going to be helped by finding the humour in it.

So, here’s my advice on rape jokes… if you can be absolutely, 100% positive that no one you are talking to has been raped or sexually assaulted or knows someone who has been raped or sexually assaulted then you go ahead and tell your jokes… But guess what; hiding under the covers of almost every woman out there is an experience of sexual assault, physical abuse or rape. Maybe not personally, but to someone they are close to, someone they have picked up and tried to put back together again. So, that’s your mum, your sister, your aunt, your best female friend, your grandmother, your niece, your best mate’s girlfriend, your colleague, your date, your wife… Now, tell me that joke again.

Gorillas in the (red) mist

I’ve been playing with a few ideas for blog 2 over the last week but nothing was quite working; maybe the weather was making me too happy, maybe one blog had got it all out of my system, or perhaps I just hadn’t had quite the right thing to rail against. But fear not, this evening I paused at the supermarket on my way home and came face to face with (brace yourself) a man wearing a t-shirt which appeared to show a young woman being raped by a gorilla (or possibly a man in a gorilla suit)… Just play with that visual image for a minute… Got it? Now put it on a t-shirt, in broad daylight, on a normal looking man. Anyone else feeling the need to have a little yell with me out of the window?

Let’s just break that down for a second or two before we all run for the gin…

So, the first thing that happened there is that a t-shirt designer took an image of a gorilla and an image of a beautiful woman bent over with a pained look on her face and put them together. Without thinking “Too rapey for a t-shirt? We’re okay with the bestiality are we?” or if they thought it, they answered “no”.

Next a retailer saw that design and thought, “that fits a gap in our product range, we’ll buy some” and that’s what they did and then stocked them in their stores. Without thinking, “is this a little bit offensive?” or if they thought it, they answered “no”.

Then someone walked into that shop (let’s assume it was the man wearing it) and looked at the slightly rapey/definitely bestiality inspired t-shirt and thought, “haa haa haa, look at that gorilla and the pretty girl he’s fucking, that’s hilarious, I need that t-shirt” at no point did he stop and consider if it was at all inappropriate or vile or sexist or just not a nice t-shirt, or if he did think that, he answered “no”.

And then he wore it… He wore the rapey/bestiality t-shirt…

For those out there who question the concept of a rape culture and its impact on the victims of sexual violence, I point you towards the comedy rape t-shirt. I’m not going into the whole rape joke thing here, that’s for another day. My point is that if you can treat rape so casually that you put it on a t-shirt, what hope is there?

Dear T-Shirt Designer/Retailer/Man Wearing T-Shirt

Please, go and look at http://www.womenundersiegeproject.org/ see what an amazing thing they are trying to do. Women are subjected to the worst possible violence in the name of war and we’re just starting to tackle it.

Now, how do you feel about that t-shirt? Because I know how I feel and it’s furious.

Kindest regards

Sarah

My First Blog

Today I finally reached my Network moment, as I read the Indie’s article on public harassment(http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/catcalls-whistles-groping-just-another-day-for-a-young-woman-7786185.html) I could think of nothing better than yelling “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore” from the nearest window. So, rather than terrifying my parents’ neighbours, I thought I would use the internet as my window and write my first blog. Brace yourselves…

I might be outside of the study’s age group, but my experience as a woman living/working/playing in London is all too familiar. Here are some things that have happened to me in public (this excludes bars/nightclubs as that’s a whole other blog): 

  • Subjected to verbal harassment by a group of about 10 men for around 20 minutes on the Tube, the only way off the train was passed them, they blocked the exit so that I had to squeeze passed, at least 2 put their hands up my skirt – this was a Saturday afternoon
  •  Followed home by a man who was angry that I hadn’t responded to his comments to me on the bus which I genuinely hadn’t heard. I had to walk away from my front door as I was so worried he would find out where I lived, he eventually got bored of walking round in circles and just yelled what a bitch I was at me as I walked away
     
  • Conversations along these lines are frequent:

Him:               Where are you going?
Me:                *stony faced silence*
Him:               Bitch

Or

Him:               Where are you going?
Me:                Home
Him:               Where’s home?
Me:                *Look that says, ‘none of your business’*
Him:               Bitch 

  • Eyed up and obviously talked about by two young guys on the platform. I get into a different carriage on purpose. They walk through the train to sit in my carriage so that they can carry on discussing me.

 Those are on top of the almost daily staring, whistling, gesturing and commenting that we all live with.

 Which is what is making me so angry today (despite a rather wonderful massage this morning), that women in London and I suspect the rest of the UK have just learned to live with this bullshit. We sigh, we roll our eyes and we tut at the lower level stuff and then I hear stories of women changing how they dress, travel and socialise in order to avoid the bigger stuff. Did you notice that, it’s the women changing their lives to accommodate men’s bad behaviour?

I completely understand why any woman would choose to protect herself from the harassment she suffers while out and about, but to all my friends and family who might be reading this, I’m not going to be one of those women. I will not accept this as the way life is and I will not change what makes me happy in order to avoid it – I might keep having massages to calm me down though.

Maybe I am over-reacting; a lot of women enjoy a compliment… But if it’s okay to stare down my top on the Tube, does that mean that you don’t believe I deserve your respect? If I don’t deserve your respect, then why do I deserve equal pay? Or the right to do with my body whatever I want? Or how about protection from unfair government cuts? Because if my gender gives you licence to treat me differently than a man while I just happen to walk passed you, then why not treat me differently everywhere?

So, that’s my shout out of the window today. Do I feel better for having a shout? Not really, but I’m working on it.

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