Feminism, objectification of women, and how we regain power when we all stand together
A couple weeks ago I saw a flyer for a night club in Glasgow which made me really upset, because of the way it objectified women and referenced sex work as “sexy”. But I felt there was nothing I could do about it, and just felt sad and frustrated about it. Then, yesterday, I sent a message about it to the uni feminist society. Then they all got angry as well, but in a really empowered/powerful way, and collectively organised to challenge the night club, and the night club backed down, and removed the sex work imagery from its publicity!!
There’s not some line you cross, where you suddenly become “politicised” or an activist, or whatever and then suddenly you’re this incredibly evolved human being who has, in one foul swoop, divested yourself of all your socialisation. And in the couple of decades since I became an Anarchist, I’m still embedded in an oppressive society, with constant disempowerment conspiring to make me feel shit, little, and that there’s nothing i can do against immensely powerful organisations and institutions that fuck me over. My daily contact with businesses tell me that I’m just a consumer, and that if there’s a problem I’ll have to use what precious energy I have left at the end of the day attempting to do battle against their vast army. Often these days I don’t even try. I take the shit I’m handed and try and keep ahold of my integrity, and bitch about it, and try and stay afloat and not turn to alcohol or some other self destructive crutch to try and get through life.
A couple of weeks ago I was pretty happy, walking through Glasgow city centre with some friends on a night out. We stopped at a cashpoint and I saw what looked to be a flyer for a sex worker blue tacked next to it, but it was pretty glossy, and it wasn’t in a phone box, so, while I was waiting my turn, I pulled it down. On the reverse side was the same image – that of a naked female’s back with a red heart “classily” over part of her bum, and the text “booty call. come and see us Friday night. 07xxx xxxxxx”* – but also details of a weekly club night at a student venue, for which the flier was advertising.
My friends asked me why I had suddenly stopped being lively and chatty, and was now looking miserable and in on myself. I showed them the flier – “that’s just a phone box … oh” – and put it in my pocket, determined to not let sexism spoil my night out. It took me a while to recover, and even then I only managed to feel better by distracting myself and not letting myself think about how sex workers are used and abused and that popular culture is putting out messages that women are there to be looked at, female sexuality is for the use of men and prostitution is sexy.
Yesterday I went to a really interesting night of sex positive feminism. The depictions of sex and the female form were entirely different, and I was in a large crowd of feminists who were challenging mainstream patriarchal porn, and the objectification of women. When I got home I decided to do something about the flier, and sent off a message to Glasgow University feminist society, of which I’m a paper member :
The Garage “Glasgow’s most popular student club, bar and music venue” are putting out fliers purposefully (and successfully) looking like sex worker fliers for a phone box, in order to advertise their Friday nights. There’s the actually less offensive side (yes, you really need to see the other side …) on their website at : http://www.garageglasgow.co.uk/Nights/fridays.aspx
I’ve limited time due to studying, but could probably help a wee bit with a campaign if others were? Or maybe even just complain to the ASA? Seriously, the other side of the flier is even more disgusting and looks *exactly* like a sex worker leaflet.
Well, how to say what happened next? It was like a beautiful, spontaneous yet synchronised dance of empowered feminist action. The messages started, I felt too stunned to participate. They were AWESOME! They started a hashtag and began a concerted effort against the night club’s social media presence. They wrote blog articles and a press release. They began discussing direct action options. They were clearly ready to take this fight to whatever level it needed to go.
And what happened? Well the night club were deleting their posts as quickly as they could, but obviously couldn’t control everything. I think sensing the righteous and organised anger they were up against they quickly backed down. They’ve already (less than 24 hours after I sent the original message alerting the feminist society) fixed the most overtly disgusting elements of their publicity!!
The fight is ongoing, as the publicity and description of the night is sexist, but I think the major offences have been so much altered that I feel what has been achieved already is a tremendous, delightful, immense victory.
And me, a 30 something activist, who’s been an Anarchist Feminist for 2 decades? I learned that I am small when its just me and I feel disempowered, but actually I’m far from alone, and the oppressive forces that need challenged include that part of my brain that initially told me “there’s nothing you can do about it”
To everyone that got angry, organised and took on the fight. THANK-YOU! You’re all so amazing I’m almost in tears at how beautiful the world looks again. You had the spirit to stand up to something that to me felt couldn’t be fought. You were strong and organised and clever – but I think all that naturally flowed from your initial solidarity with me and each other, and your belief that you could effect change.
You’ve reinspired me. I love you all, sisters.
* There is a real mobile number there.