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Feminists, Put Your Tops Back on - Men, Listen Up!

Last week, a post on the subversive "ChinaSmack" caught my eye with a headline

"Beijing Student asks "What My Vagina Says" About Feminism."

Her photography project contemplates what female genitalia would say if they could talk. Women hold boards with imagined witticisms. Some capture the crux of the issue very aptly. Some are admirably honest - "I can be coquettish but don't harrass me." "I'm shy, embarrassed."

But take a look at the others, in fact the majority. They range from advertising the girls promiscuity ("I'm open for business") to advocating younger sexualisation ("Virginity is bullshit!"). Many are sayings that I could just as easily apply to my own, or any mans, genitalia (and no I'm not going to say which sayings apply).

I was disappointed - probably because I'd been subconsciously and basely titillated, and then let down by a really crap piece of feminism.

Her location in the world particularly frustrates me. China is a place where almost all dissent is ruthlessly squashed. When activists do manage to squeeze out from under the CCPs boot - it is only with the most dramatic of acts (e.g. self-immolation) or most intelligent (e.g. Ai Wei Wei). Great determination and care is taken to make the protest really count. No opportunity is squandered. Chinese activists must rank, other than the "Beijing Student," to be among the bravest and most capable in the world at resisting oppression.

The feminist on ChinaSmack acted with far less sophistication. She said a naughty word to get peoples attention. It's not political activism, it's childish. Show some respect. You are lucky that you are able to speak at all about these issues - most other causes in your country can't. Do something better with your airtime.

The feminist group Femen has also disembarked into London, sporting their peculiar brand of topless tabloid tyrantry.

It seems ironic - when you consider that British feminists are at the this very moment trying to get boobs off newsagent shelves, then these curious foreign invaders bully their way into newspapers by taking their tops off? I really don't follow.

Their rap-sheet also includes dispatching streakers to Islamic Tunisia. The commandos were duly ejected by local, more capable, feminists, who said they were being insensitive and just making things worse. Mission fail.

The advertising agency, Mother, recently held an event where womens pubic regions were individually photographed. Again, the whole thing stank of sensationalization, media-friendly hype - rather than taking anything particularly seriously. Even the cake served to guests was a giant silly vagina.

The advertising bods at Mother should know this already - but the way you deliver the message is as important as the message itself .

Talking about breasts or vaginas, promising breasts or vaginas, or showing your breasts and vaginas, simply degrades feminism, and distracts men from what you are saying. And before you object to that - we can't help it. It's science.

Feminism is not about your sexuality. It's about terrible inequality in the workplace and violence. It's about issues which affect half of our population - the largest example of inequality there is. It's about the half a million women who get raped or sexually assaulted each year, mainly by men that they know. It's about the Amnesty report in 2011 that showed male attitudes were becoming less sympathetic to rape, not the other way round.

Those issues are serious enough - you don't need to take your top off. If you do, it turns everyone off.

To demonstrate how silly Femen are being - a businesswoman could make a very reasonable appeal to her paymasters, quietly explaining that she wanted to earn the same as men for doing the same job.

But if she finished this persuasion exercise by suddenly taking her top off and just standing there, she'd look ridiculous.

Femen are doing the same. They are forgetting how serious the issue is. They devalue feminism with naked pantomime.

Forget the physicals aspects of womanhood. Focus on the inside.

Please, let's talk about the beauty of the female psyche - and how different it is from us mean, uncouth menfolk, how those differences should be a source of pride, how working out what differently qualities women and men have is exciting, not grounds for prejudice.

Talk about how Italian men love their mothers. Italy has one of the lowest rape rates in the developed world. What of their psychology can we borrow and foster?

What is the role of men going to be in this?

I was, about this time last year, asked to leave a women-against-violence march called Reclaim the Night, for being a man. Despite marching through a very public Trafalgar Square, I was told to show some respect and not march with the girls. I duly stepped aside.

To me, I find it utterly bizarre and alien, that a woman cannot safely walk in certain parts of her own neighbourhood at night without a male chaperone. While actual rape is of course terrible, fear of rape stunts freedom of movement - a basic human right. For these two reasons, I am against violence towards women.

To be honest, I wasn't so sure about the female marchers, when it came to violence.

Clutching banners, they yelled in unison - "Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the judges on the top , the Tories in the middle, and burn the fucking lot,"

Should their banners, which read "End Violence Against Women" been replaced with "Start Violence Against Men"? Is that what they meant? The contradiction was honestly a little confusing.

My friend did point out , as we were being booted off, that organising a march for a few hundred men might be more effective.

On reflection - I vehemently agree. After all it's us lot perpetrating the fear and violence. Men marching against rape could be truly amazing - a historical event like no other, half a million men saying no to rape, subjugation and prejudice, shaming the problem out into the open. It would change social history.

There was, we later found out, a separate march that had been organised for men. Just one attended.

I say once more - 2013 will have seen half a million British rapes and sexual assaults by Christmas. The incidences of this terrifying crime are going up. The conviction rate has been described as "a postcode lottery." Male attitudes to rape are hardening.

I don't think women marching against rape is working. Nor is taking their tops off. Men need to be marching too, and feminist need to beware of attention-seekers masquerading as activists, thwarting womens journey to equality.

This post first appeared on Unequal Measures, a blog about inequality, citizen solutions and smarter policy. Head here to read more.

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