International Women's Day: The week we found out about ‘Keep Calm and Rape A Lot’ t-shirts

Sometimes I find people arguing against the No More Page 3 campaign entertaining, but some things just aren't funny

Lucy Anne Holmes
Friday 08 March 2013 07:00 GMT
(Getty Images)

I have a sense of humour. I do.

An ex boyfriend used to tell me I was ‘quite funny for a girl’. Contrary to popular belief, senses of humour are very common amongst feminist campaigners. (Without them we would all be on our knees tearfully wailing the words, ‘when will society listen to women?’ but that’s another matter.)

Sometimes I even find people arguing against the No More Page 3 campaign entertaining, the chap who wrote ‘tits, tits, I love walking over tits’ made me laugh, for example. There’s nothing like a typo when you’re trying to write wanking. ‘You may as well campaign for people to stop breathing,’ raised a smile too.

Last week I wrote here about The Sun and sexism. I tried to keep it upbeat and I managed it. Just. But this week I’m not sure that’s possible.

You see, I’ve been trying to keep things upbeat, perky and polite for six months since I started the No More Page 3 campaign. But my perky polite dam is perilously close to bursting after a weekend of reporting T-shirts with slogans that say, amongst other things, ‘Keep Calm and Rape A Lot’. My sense of humour is liable, at any moment, to up it and say ‘Luce, how am I supposed to work under these conditions?’

It’s been quite a week.

First there was ‘We saw your boobs.’ The opening song and dance number at The Oscars ceremony. ‘We saw your boobs’ (‘We’ presumably being ‘men’) listed Hollywood actresses, starting with Meryl Streep, and the movies in which their breasts were revealed, i.e. ‘Jodie Foster in The Accused’ (yes, the film where she was gang raped, hence showed her breasts) Although Scarlett Johanssen was also featured in the song, she hadn’t revealed her breasts in a movie, rather her phone had been hacked and photos stolen and posted online.

It wasn’t funny. There was no rousing verses of ‘We saw your scrotum on our phones, Matt Damon’ Not that that would have been funny. After about the age of eight that sort of thing isn’t really, if at all. As Jane Martinson put it, ‘we all saw the boob’.

Now, some say that the song wasn’t sexist at all, but was in fact a satirical look at the way ‘that in Hollywood, women — even when playing victims of violent crime — are reduced to the sum of their body parts, not the sum of their movie parts.’ That’s probably true but it’s a sad indictment of the culture we live in when we can’t be sure if something that sexist is satirical or not.

Before I go on, we should probably stop and rest here for a moment. This is but base camp. We haven’t really got going yet. I haven’t told you how our most widely read family newspaper, The Sun, reported this. Have some energy drink. You’ll need it.

Now, in case you’re reading this thinking The Sun isn’t a family newspaper,’ I’d best just point out that it’s latest advertisement on television stars a toothless little girl and last week (half term) they gave away free LEGO.

The Sun covered this controversial choice of Oscar song by revealing the ‘nude babes’ from Seth's 'We Saw Your Boobs' Oscars song. ‘Nude babe’ Hilary Swank’s picture showing a cut and bruised breast, post brutal rape in Boys Don’t Cry for which she won an Oscar.

It gets worse. In the same edition as this spread of breasts was pullout section which included a massive LEGO free toys promotion, so that pictures of ‘nude babes’ or actresses showing their breasts whilst depicting rape scenes, could be seen close to pictures of LEGO toys. On the day the ad appeared, Lego issued a statement:

“We know that activities like these are good opportunities for families to get acquainted with our product. Through this promotion we will be able to provide millions of LEGO play experiences to children nationwide through their parents. We listen very carefully to the opinions and input that people share. We will continue to do so as we develop our communication in the future. We will therefore take your thoughts and opinions into consideration when reviewing our promotional activities”.

While LEGO don’t seem to me to care too much, a petition set up by a concerned father appealing to LEGO to stop partnering with The Sun has garnered over 12,000 signatures in a week. Steve Grout who started the petition says he has received no response from LEGO despite emailing all the email addresses he could find for LEGO UK and Denmark:

‘Zero contact from them. I got more response last year from Waitrose HQ when I complained about out of date butter.’

It’s interesting that LEGO apparently chooses to be so cold regarding this. I’d be surprised if they liked seeing their beloved LEGO brand depicted in this way. It’s interesting but not surprising. I’ve long realised that if people could make money out of helping women achieve real equality we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Editors and staff at The Sun don’t even like the Page 3 content. I’ve spent a fair few hours over the course of this campaign outside News International, where staff going into work at The Sun have told me how they agree with the No More Page 3 campaign. Roy Greenslade has stated how Page 3 ‘has been an embarrassment for several editors and many of the journalists down the years.’

It’s quite hard to stomach all this, isn’t it? Mind you, the fact I find hardest to stomach about The Sun and Page 3, is that when Clare Short stood up and spoke out about these pictures, she had thousands of letters of support. 12 were from women who had Page 3 mentioned to them while they were being raped. Yet The Sun branded her a ‘killjoy’.

The editorial team knows that Page 3 is sexist and they don’t want to expose their own children to it. They know that they are bastions of misogynist culture that makes life for many of our daughters a dangerous and uncomfortable place. But they don’t care. Well, perhaps they do care, but just about profit margins, not about women.

There was a moment this weekend when I put my head on my keyboard and just started sobbing. I thought, ‘I’m campaigning because the largest female image in our most widely read family paper is of a woman in her pants and now I’m frantically sending complaints about a T-shirt that says ‘9 out of 10 people enjoy gang rape. How is any of this even possible?’

Oh dear, I so wanted to end on a positive note.

Anyone know any jokes?

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