Today an old friend of mine posted this picture on his wall.
As you can see it’s a charming depiction of a motorbike with a chassis (or whatever that middle bit is called) painted to look like a naked, headless woman who is taken from behind by the rider.
It popped up as my 3-year-old son and I were scrolling through looking for pictures of his bestie, Harry. A nice little image to plant in his brain.
Admittedly, using Facebook with my young son was a mistake. There’s a reason Facebook restrict age to 13, but I guess I thought I was safe within my relatively small (in FB terms) group of friends. Lesson learned.
Now while I totally accept that Facebook is a free forum and that people can post what they like, I’m afraid I found this all kinds of offensive.
Should I ignore it and just scroll past?
He’s a friend after all. It’s his page, it’s his sense of humour. Freedom of speech! I hear you cry.
I couldn’t. I simply couldn’t make myself scroll on.
But then I’m left with a problem: how do you tell someone nicely that they’re being sexist?
I posted a quick ‘pathetic’ to which he posted back ‘blah blah’.
Perhaps I should have left it there but this irritated me a little so I then responded with:
‘Blah blah so hilarious, when the 12-year-old girl sees some twat driving this bike, what does she think? All women should be naked, headless and fucked from behind? Adult women can look at the driver and think ‘Ah, must be sexually inadequate’; younger girls wouldn’t know what to think. Sorry if I don’t find it funny. Blah blah.’
To which he retorted:
“If u don’t find it funny then scroll past Kate – it’s called a sense of humour #strewth”
I came back with:
“It’s not called a sense of humour, it’s called sexist and misogynist. You’re allowed to post it. I’m allowed to comment. It’s called Facebook.”
For this I got the impassioned response of:
…at which point I bowed out and got on with my day. I’d made my point, he hadn’t got it, so why waste more time?
When I logged in later the following comment popped up in my stream:
“Maybe I should start a blog about uptight feminists who need to get over themselves…. I have no problem with women going to Chippendale shows or such like IF THEY WISH so it works both ways. Democracy is about free speech and expression – I am free to have a rude sense of humour, you are free to dislike it, I am free to think ‘if u don’t like it just ignore’ or ‘unfriend’ #touche Now back to the BRITS on telly for my entertainment.”
Well – now he’s used the double whammy of ‘Chippendale shows’ and ‘uptight feminists’, I really can’t argue can I?
A friend sent me a great quote this morning from Dame Rebecca West, which is very apt:
“I myself have never been able to find out what feminism is; I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”
So while I think this was a random slip from a genuinely nice bloke, I’m pretty sure he left my exchange thinking: ‘What a humourless bitch, it’s just a bit of fun, go burn your bra.’
I wished him luck with his future blogging efforts (that site would be crazy popular, right?) And after that several other people commented saying that in reality the image was tame, and that most teens had probably seen much worse.
Of course most of us are faced with this situation every day – the casual sexist joke, the unfunny stereotypical advert, the throwaway sexist remark.
Do we pull people up on it or let it pass? Is commenting on a picture like this making a big fuss about nothing, or is it by chipping away at vaguely offensive images like this the way we solve the bigger problem? That women are relentlessly objectified by the media as sexual objects.
Imagine if the person were making homophobic or racist remarks. Imagine the joke isn’t about a ‘woman’ but instead focuses on ‘blacks’, ‘Jews’, ‘Gays’ or ‘Muslims’.
How does it sound?
Would you laugh it off or stop and point it out?
So tell me people; how do you tell someone that they’re being sexist? Is it even possible to argue your point without coming off like some kind of pinched, prudey killjoy? Or should you just keep your mouth shut?