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Some Fights are Bigger than Others (But all People are Important)

There's a lot of talk today about the possibility of The Sun ditching page three girls (for the non-Brits amongst you: The Sun is a trashy newspaper; page three girls are glamour models). The majority of the people I interact with online are celebrating this as a step in the right direction; a handful of the people I interact with are arguing that women should be able to earn cash from their boobs in any way they like; and a tiny number are up in arms - not because they support page three but because they feel this is "privileged white girls trying to steal attention away from the more important feminist issues."

I'm not going to get into the page three debate here (although, for the record: no, I don't think it's appropriate in a newspaper; yes, I do think women's weeklies do a lot of damage, too) but I do want to question the notion that some women's rights are not important enough to spend time on.

Actually, I want to question the notion that some people's rights are not important enough to spend time on; I have seen similar statements made about the presumably fluffier varieties of racism, homophobia and other kneejerk hate campaigns.

I don't believe it matters how many elements of privilege a person has, we all deserve to be treated with respect and to have that right defended.

To be clear: I do think there are much bigger feminist issues than glamour modelling. Compared to many other cultures, the average British woman is in a good position - she can reach puberty without being mutilated; she can marry (or not marry) whomever she chooses; she has access to contraception and healthcare; she can get a good job and own property and largely determine the course of her own life. There are much, much bigger feminist fights out there than the appropriateness of page three.

But this is not a competition. We are not limited to caring about a certain number of issues. We do not have to have eradicated all the really bad situations before we start tackling the littler ones.

I am tired of seeing people's campaigns belittled because they're not "the most important one". If somebody sees a problem and addresses it, isn't that a good thing? One more issue ticked off the list is better than no progress at all.

Because the fact is: nobody is immune to difficulty.

Some of us are more or less likely to face difficulties than others. If we are (or look and sound) white and British, we're less likely to face prejudice. If we are straight (or currently in a male-female relationship), we're less likely to face prejudice. If we like the genitals we were born with (or keep our displeasure to ourselves), we're less likely to face prejudice. If we are (or have become) wealthy, our life will in many ways be less difficult.

But not even straight, white, rich men are guaranteed good fortune all the time. Anybody can develop terminal illness; anybody can lose a child; anybody can be attacked or assaulted; anybody can be bullied by schoolmates or colleagues; anybody can be surprised by difficulties at any point in their life.

I want to live in a society where women who are assaulted don't have to worry that they'll be dismissed as "privileged white girls looking for attention."

I want to live in a society where women who complain about being ogled and propositioned don't have to worry that they'll be dismissed as "privileged white girls looking for attention."

I want to live in a society where women who speak out when they're passed over for promotion don't have to worry that they'll be dismissed as "privileged white girls looking for attention."

I want to live in a society where, if somebody is treated with injustice, they have the right to speak out and be listened to, where they won't be told that they've had their share of the luck already and to get their priorities straight.

Somebody will always be in a worse situation than us, no matter what happens. It's inevitable. But we can't all wait around, suffering through our own smaller indignities, while the rest of the world catches up.

We all deserve respect. We all deserve to have people stick up for us when we are treated badly. We should not need to join a queue.

So, whatever your views on the feminist debate of the day, please don't use "there are worse things in the world" as your standpoint. It's not a reasoned argument and it's not a reasonable argument; it's telling people that they are unworthy of care; and one thing all feminists should be able to agree on is that all women - all people - deserve equality and dignity, no matter what their starting point in life.

8 comments

  1. THANK YOU! I got so pissed off yesterday seeing people I follow on Twitter moaning that this isn't a victory; that there are more important things to campaign about; that this is all privileged white girl stuff. Misogyny is misogyny, whether that's bank notes that don't represent 50% of the population, or on page 3 of the most popular newspaper in the country, or rape culture, or genital mutilation. Saying that just because an issue isn't the most important issue means we shouldn't bother to tackle it is, quite frankly, crap reasoning. Start small, make changes at a micro level, give women confidence that they can campaign and speak out, and bigger issues can be tackled too.

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  2. I have to admit when I first moved to the U.K. I was STUNNED by the existence of page three, I mean, for a small but vocal element of the male society to still cling on to it as some sort of right really perplexed me.The women doing it perplexed me, they just seemed like normal girls who didn't get much out of it really. My mother in law buying it for my father in law enraged and perplexed me. So I never really understood the whole "it's not a big deal really" weird Benny Hill British shrug-ness towards it, being an American where laugh at us all you will for our strident p.c.-ism, we just don't allow breathing room for this kind of archaic sexist crap. I have no room for the attitudes of which you speak (somehow I've avoided them on my timeline but have mostly been writing today!). I don't care if it's a small victory, I completely agree with you, we all have a right to all of the dignity we deserve regardless of background. Grr!

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  3. EXACTLY! If somebody is trying to do something positive they shouldn't be told that their concerns aren't worthy of the effort.

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  4. I'm more baffled by the women who defend it - if you want to make money getting naked, there are still plenty of ways to do so; why would you want it to be in a newspaper all your male relatives read?!

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  5. Yup, the water gets so muddied sometimes when feminism is mentioned. A woman being unfairly passed over for promotion has nothing to do with feminism, in the sense that *anyone* being unfairly passed over for promotion has a right to speak out. It may be a feminist issue to a point, but inequality is inequality regardless of gender, race, sexuality, whatever.


    As for The Sun, its a small but significant victory, it shows what can be achieved if enough people can get behind a cause. My issue with page 3 was always the fact that children can see it, and it gives them the wrong view of what a woman's body should (a) look like, and (b) be used for. The bottom line is, there's always 'worse things in the world' but with that attitude we might aswell not bother fighting about anything.

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  6. Oh, yes, I could have phrased that bit better - I was thinking specifically of [my previous] bosses who refused to promote/train women in their 20s because they were "just going to leave and have babies" or to recruit mothers because "they need too much time off". But, yes, there are loads of reasons anyone could be unfairly overlooked.


    Totally agree about page three - I don't object to grown adults looking at arousing images but I don't want my child having them influence his/her view of women. Likewise "circle of shame" features, overtly sexual music videos etc.

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  7. Well said Sarah!!!

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Please play nice.