The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 24 Jan 2015, and is filled under Uncategorized.

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I’ve been called a cunt a lot recently.

Not, you understand, while walking down the street, which would be a sign that this area had gone significantly down hill, but online. And entirely on Twitter. In the normal run of things, this is inevitable. Trolls swing past, you block them and don’t really give it much mind as there are other more interesting things going on. What makes this odd, or sad, is that it was in response to something I’d done.

And that was to wear a ‘No More Page Three’ t-shirt. A friend is involved with the campaign with the result that in recent weeks I’ve gone from being vaguely aware of it and passively supporting it to being prepared to speak out for its aspirations on social media and also to wearing the ‘No More Page Three’ t-shirt. Which is where things took an odd turn.

I had my friend, Boosty, take a picture of me and then put it on Twitter. As I have the social media reach and heft of an unpopular feather, I assumed that this would disappear into the ether. And in this I was wrong.

For a start, it’s been reshared 47 times, which dwarfs anything else that’s ever happened to me, but it also attracted the interest of a group of men who would, seemingly, like to kill me and scatter my entrails around a public space while pondering the carnage with spittle flecked mouths and the wide, desperate eyes of men taking part in a massacre.

This make me thinks several things. Firstly, that calling someone a cunt on social media is about as effective as poking them with a daisy and invites mockery, but secondly, that there is something altogether sadder and more poignant going on.

Once people have called me a cunt and got that out of their systems, some kind of debate generally starts up, which consists of them telling me what I think. This list includes, variously, that I want the display of breasts banned (I don’t) that I want porn banned (I don’t) that I want The Sun banned (difficult this, but I don’t) and that I want women wearing burkas (what?).

Once I say that I don’t want anything banned and they’ve called me a cunt again just to see if it works this time, the debate resolves itself into a free speech issue. ‘If you don’t like it,’ they say, ‘don’t buy it.’ Or ‘You’re trying to stop these women earning a living.’ The best, or most provocative comment I’ve heard is that crosswords aren’t news and if the objection to Page Three is that it isn’t news, it fails this test.

Here’s the thing. Page Three represents a totemic statement of a certain attitude to half the population. It says that they’re only worthy of a predominantly male gaze if they’re under 30, have nice breasts and are prepared to show them to the camera. It says that women’s value is wholly and utterly dependent on male approval. And it says that if capitalism as a system can give you enough money you’ll do anything.

I’d like The Sun not to do this, not because I want it made illegal, but because it’s harmful, wrong and says something very dark about our attitudes to women’s bodies. As to taking away the women’s freedom of choice or to earn a living, there are other outlets for ‘glamour’ photography that would entail posing elsewhere in different contexts.

Finally, the idea that newspapers should contain only news is a good rule of thumb, but it doesn’t hold up unilaterally as there are things in there which are not news. And in that case, we should say that newspapers perhaps should not contain things actively injurious to other members of the same population, which as this contains Jews, Muslims, gay people and other people regularly given a verbal kicking by white power structures, is a formulation I like.

If all this makes me a cunt in some people’s eyes, then that is a badge that I am happy to wear. Equally, if daring to articulate ideas that go beyond ‘Oooh, tits’ makes me a cunt, then I’m happy to wear that badge as well. What I will say is that me and everyone I’ve argued with to date is trapped in as narrow a definition of what it means to be a man as the definition that they’d trap women within and that’s the subject of the next blog.

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