Archive | June, 2012

Wallpaper women

26 Jun

When I was at school my male friend had pictures from porn magazines on his bedroom walls. I went to the housemaster about this, wondering why he hadn’t been told to take these pictures down. The school was very strict on things like eating in public or showing affection in public, so I assumed they would have some rules about pornography. Yet, I was told that as long as the nipples and private bits were covered up, it was absolutely acceptable. Which is why it wasn’t just my friend who used these women as wallpaper, but every boy in our school had a room ‘decorated’ in exactly the same fashion.

Girlfriends didn’t seem to mind visiting boyfriends with almost-naked strangers on their walls. In fact, it was nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to feel awkward about. So comfortable were the boys and their teachers about this nude presence that when parents came to visit (it was a boarding school) the pictures didn’t even get taken down.

Boys as young as 13 were accessing porn too. Whilst I was a prefect of 13 year old students, I went in to take the register one morning and found that the boys had put porn up on the walls of the room. I tore these down and took them to the housemaster. Different housemaster, same response. He laughed it off and never dealt with it. The following day there was a message on the same wall – that had previously shown semi-clad, sexually available women – saying that I was jealous of how the women were more attractive than me, which is why I’d taken them down.

Nobody, from 13 year old boys to middle aged housemasters were recognising that porn is a problem. They were failing to notice how deeply pathological it is to use women’s bodies as wallpaper.

It’s pathological because these women who decorate the bedroom walls of my former school, they will get looked at when the guy wants a pleasant distraction and ignored when the guy is too busy to recognise that there is a human being up there.

For a woman to be an object of sexual desire – part of the decoration, a piece of paper, something to masturbate to – and nothing more, that won’t help us create more healthy and equal relations between the two sexes.  A woman is more than a piece of paper, and yet the porn industry reduces her to just that, a voiceless object without character or intellect.

 

Men and feminism, can it be?

5 Jun

I can’t believe it – Marmite Feminism is entirely devoted to feminism and yet I haven’t yet talked about the meaning of feminism. Surely that would have been a good place to start?!

Last week I was cycling back home and an old friend pulled up alongside me at the red lights. It was one of those fantastic encounters that leaves you grinning for hours afterwards. The whole journey back home, cycling side by side, we were catching up on seven years of not seeing one another.

I told him about my work and that I’d gotten married and he asked me to describe my husband. I lead first and foremost with what is most important to me – that my husband is a feminist. My old friend looked really surprised and asked what I meant.

This led me to realise that the reason why there are so few male feminists is because men, generally speaking, either…  1) don’t understand how it applies to them and indeed why it should apply to them or worse, 2) perceive it as an attack on them and in opposition to their existence. That is why it is not – in my friend’s eyes – possible for a man to be a feminist.

But why wouldn’t my husband be a feminist? When all that feminism calls for, is equality between the sexes, when all that feminism is, is an intellectual movement seeking a fairer and better coexistence between the sexes.

Feminism aims to ensure recognition of women as equals. To ensure their full value and capabilities are recognised and realised,  so that women are not seen as “less than” and to stop the subsequent engendering of exploitation, abuse, subjugation, oppression and discrimination.  Feminism counters any system, culture or action that aims to reduce a woman’s capacity to fulfil her potential as an equal.

So, just like Joey (in Friends) when he’s eating Rachel’s trifle, says, “what’s not to like”?