TWERKING is a word I wish I never knew existed, but I do thanks to the rather sad and embarrassing antics of Miley Cyrus at the MTV video awards.
As she writhed around the stage and up and down the misogynistic singer Robin Thicke, rubbing parts of her body which should generally remain unrubbed in public with a foam hand, it was one of those moments that had “watershed” all over it.
Here was a young girl making a spectacle of herself in an attempt to shed her wholesome Disney image and become “empowered” by her sexuality. Cyrus, it seems, is just another girl who has fallen for the long told lie that the only way to be popular, to be successful (sell downloads, be talked about), to get on in life as a woman is to become a sex object.
Never mind her singing and songwriting talents, it’s all about whether you can “twerk” in a nude bikini to the lyrics of Blurred Lines, a song which, catchy as it may be musically, promotes rape culture: “I know you want it, but you’re a good girl”.
This lesson, that being attractive and desireable is more important than anything else you have to offer as a woman is constantly reinforced. Just ask Mary Beard, a brilliant historian who, whenever she appears, is ridiculed for having long grey hair and imperfect teeth, or any older female newsreader, put out to pasture as soon as a wrinkle appears.
It’s reinforced by the easy access to porn through the internet which is putting huge pressure on girls and young women to “perform” in certain ways. It’s reinforced by lads mags which shout from newsagent shelves that big breasts are the only qualification you need in life, normalising the idea that it’s acceptable to treat women as sex objects and, of course, it’s reinforced by one national newspaper – the biggest-selling tabloid – which seems to think a photo of a near-naked woman on page three is news.
Of course sex sells, that’s not new. What is newer perhaps is that now it means the complete degradation of women as Cyrus so blatantly proved. Which is why campaigns like Lose the Lads Mags and No More Page 3 are hugely important at trying to make a change – not just to how some men perceive women but how women perceive themselves. It’s not “empowering” to act like a prostitute, it’s giving in to the pressure.
A letter that the No More Page Three campaign recently sent to the editor of the Sun spelled it out with many examples of how this so-called harmless bit of fun is perceived by some men such as: “Working in a small restaurant staffed mainly by 16-year old girls, the manager tells everyone to gather in the back room, he holds up page three and declares that this is our new uniform” and “I once worked in a company where I was the only female on a floor of men. They would look me up and down, laughing. They would bring in the Sun, put it on my desk open at Page 3 and ask if I looked like the topless woman pictured.”
Wonderful aren’t they? And there were many, more upsetting, examples. So that’s why I applaud Labour MSP Jackie Baillie for bringing forward a motion to the Scottish Parliament to start a discussion about whether we in Scotland want this “feature” in one of our papers. She’s positive pressure can be brought to bear to have it removed – as it has in Ireland.
She rightly states that there is a connection between “the portrayal of sexualised images of women in the media and attitudes that reinforce sexist attitudes, sexual harassment, abuse and violence toward women”.
At a time when pop stars feel they have to “porn-up” their act to sell music while domestic violence is the lead concern for Police Scotland, her motion should be supported by every MSP. Write to yours to make sure they do.
Taking Bridge a little too far
IS it possible, for once, for Edinburgh to take pride in something it has without trying to compare it to something similar in another country and ruining it in the process? I’m talking, of course, of the wonderous Forth Bridge, a marvellous feat of engineering, which needs no ghastly visitor centre and cafe at its foot, all in the chase for tourist dollars. The Forth Bridge is an icon. Feel free to take tours to the top – like the Sydney Harbour Bridge – but do not deface it with a lift, and do build a vistor centre but put it near the new Queensferry Crossing instead. Leave the Forth Bridge alone.
Many could speak out for our Gadge
LAST year, this paper lost one of its longest-serving sport sub-editors, Colin “Gadge” Greenhill, after a battle with post-polio syndrome.
He was a man of big heart and great wit, so it’s a shame that he’s not here to take part in a documentary that’s being made about PPS to mark next year’s 75th anniversary of charity the British Polio Fellowship. Gadge would probably have hated being in front of a camera, but filmmaker Tony Klinger is looking for anyone dealing with polio and/or PPS, or their families and loved ones who’ve watched them go through it, to help him raise awareness of this appalling disease.
So if you have a tale to tell, then get in touch with Tony and be part of this potentially life-changing project. You can contact the British Polio Fellowship on 0800 018 0586 for further information.
Role models must step up
GREEN MSP Alison Johnstone made an important point this week – girls need to be more active. It’s ironic that when there’s so much pressure on young girls to be physically “fit” they shy away from the idea of exercise.
Role models are the answer. Johnstone is one but here’s hoping in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games we’ll hear more about the many others.