On Thursday, Russell Brand generated a lot of excitement by tweeting a picture of himself holding up a t-shirt advertising the No More Page 3 campaign, with the caption “And finally, through the love of a good woman, teenage, sexist me was slain.” I was not impressed.
It’s hard to work out where to begin with this, so maybe I’ll counterintuitively start at the end with the reaction. Women - feminists - have been praising Russell Brand and expressing gratitude for his support of the campaign. I don’t believe Brand deserves this positive reaction. It’s hardly a conversion, or a redemption narrative. That’s taking a t-shirt and not even bothering to wear it.
I somehow doubt that Russell Brand has slain his internal sexism, and I certainly don’t think it was some sort of teenage phase. It would take rather a lot of work to get over such unpleasant behaviour as bragging to a woman’s grandfather about her sexual behaviour, or prank calling a rape hotline, for example.
Frankly, I don’t think an expression of support for one this small thing in any way makes up for what he did, and in order to move forward, first he must show understanding of his past sexism and hold himself to account for this. To move forward, first we must look back and make amends for the very near past.
Of course, that’s a moot point, when the very tweet in which he ostensibly renounces sexism is dripping with benevolent sexism. It was not winning the argument that brought Russell Brand round. It was a sexy lady with her magic lovely lady powers. It is only in thinking about getting laid that Russell Brand was persuaded to take a photo of himself holding a t-shirt. This is not mere speculation: this is what he himself tweeted. It has handed the fedora brigade - the relentless misogynists - an excuse for sexism: if women won’t shag the sexism out of them, how will they ever learn?
And something murky lurks beneath this “ good woman” narrative. No other women in Russell Brand’s life are apparently worthy to convince him that women are actually human. No wonder he treated Katy Perry so appallingly – she wasn’t good enough.
It is only the good that can change the hearts and minds of sexists through having sex with them, says Russell Brand, to rapturous applause from some feminist corners. And who was this good woman who seemingly managed to change Russell Brand’s mind? None other than Jemima Khan, who posted bail for Julian Assange. Forgive me for becoming even more pessimistic.
Russell Brand deserves no praise or gratitude for his participation in a blatant publicity stunt to get the heat off him a bit. He surely knows by now that a hell of a lot of women find him a boorish sexist, and has provided a redemption narrative in which to ingratiate himself back in. It’s nice to think people can change, and ultimately, they can. But we can’t see this evidence from a single tweet, we see it in a complete modification of behaviour. Whether you support No More Page 3 or not, there is no reason to fawn over Russell Brand right now. Let time be the judge of whether he has changed or not.