nia, a London based charity supporting women and girls who have experienced sexual and domestic violence, strongly objects to Lush's 'Get Naked' stunt in which staff across the USA, described as 'willing participants', worked naked, save an apron, purportedly to raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by excess packaging.
We note from media coverage of the 'events' and also from a photograph on Lush's website from earlier renditions in 2007 and 2008, that there is a marked preponderance of women, of course, young women.
nia is a feminist organisation, formed by women and led by women, with women delivering services to women, girls and children. Being a feminist organisation means that we deliver services from a framework that recognises that there are inequalities between women and men in society, and that male violence against women and girls is both a cause and consequence of inequality.
Male violence against women is not simply about individual acts perpetrated by individual men. Men, as individuals, must always be held accountable for their choices and actions, but male violence against women is also a cause, consequence and enabler of men's domination of women. This is supported and normalised by patriarchal attitudes, social norms, gender stereotypes and values. While delivering services, it is our ambition to contribute to long term social change to end inequality between women and men and therefore to end male violence.
Women and girls are routinely objectified within many cultural practices and representations, this itself is a key element of men's subordination of women and this is the reason for our objection to Lush's campaign. The objectification of women, including sexual objectification, in advertising is widespread, one of the impacts of this is that we are socialising generation after generation of females as well as males, to view women from the male perspective. Women are seen as objects, not subjects, and as objects to be appreciated by the male gaze. When women are objects, our role in society is diminished. This contributes to a conductive context for men's violence against women and girls.
It is disappointing that an organisation based on ethical principles and one which claims to care about human rights cannot extend their analysis to the links between the sexual objectification of women and girls and violence against women and girls, according to the United Nations, one of the most prevalent human rights abuses across and throughout the world.
As a feminist organisation supporting women and girls, of course our concerns also extend beyond this issue, so we have an 'Environmental Policy' and an 'Ethical Fundraising Policy too. Our Ethical Fundraising Policy mainly concerns income and is built around a list of the types of businesses or potential donors that generate money from activities which we consider directly or indirectly contravene human rights, in particular women's rights. Although we are a small charity with limited resources, we will not take money from those who make money from activities that are to the detriment of women and children's well-being. Consequently, we are pulling out from an (albeit small) event that we had planned in our newest Venture, the Huggett Women's Centre in Dagenham, East London. We had made arrangements with Lush for them to come to the centre and deliver a workshop to women about making homemade cosmetics and toiletries. We're under no illusion that this will cause any hardship to Lush but our ethical principles are important to us.
The objectification of women is a harmful cultural practice. We applaud Lush and others who want to raise awareness of the need to protect the environment, but this should never be at the expense of the safety and status of women.