A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at Nottingham Women's Conference and even luckier than that I was given a stall which was positioned beautifully to the side of the main auditorium so that I didn't miss any of the great speeches.
I would love to give you a full run down of all the amazing things I learnt about that day but there just isn't room here. What I do want to focus on though is one particular moment that made me clap longer and louder than I have in a long time.
Dr Julia Long (feminist academic and campaigner) gave a fantastic speech about objectification which was brilliantly informative and thought provoking. At the end of this an audience member in an utterly exasperated voice raised the issue referring to campaigns such as drop the Lads Mags. In one sentence she explained what so many misunderstand.
"I am" she said, "an adult woman. I do not need protecting from tits!"
What this woman worded so beautifully was what had been rattling around in my head trying to escape in a logical form for months. That it is not the sight of tits and nudity in the supermarkets, newspapers, workplaces, billboards, music videos, shop windows and newsagents, that we find offensive (although some may) it is the fact that these media editors, the retailers, the music industry, radio producers, TV producers are colluding in a practice of subjugating and belittling women.
In her speech Julia had explained some of the academic theories behind objectification. The way that societies can keep any section subjugated and in their place by presenting them as less than human, as a tool to be used, as inert and passive, as interchangeable, as vulnerable to violence and defenceless against violation, as something to be owned and lacking any autonomy. Image after image on the fronts of magazines, on beauty ads, music video's games covers, movie covers etc all fulfilled these criteria along with Page 3 which disarms women in public with overt soft porn bought repetitively into public space and so out of context next to serious news and contrasting images of men in suits and sports wear.
We are not asking newspapers to stop printing topless pictures everyday because we find naked breasts or naked women upsetting, how ridiculous would that be, we would be affronted just by looking down or catching sight of ourselves in a mirror. We are not offended by the sight of this soft pornography when buying milk and bread because we wish to avoid nudity, we are offended by it because we are then acutely aware of the retailer, the editor or maybe even a readers collusion with the idea that we as women are inferior. We are unhappy not because there are so many breasts everywhere but because we only see one type and because nobody seems willing to accept responsibility for continuing to perpetuate the subjugation of 50% of the population.
Even our objection regarding children seeing this is not about nudity. I have no issue with children seeing a naked person on a beach, in a changing room or on TV when in context with other naked people of all shapes, sizes and genders, but when they too are bombarded with predominantly female, predominantly white, very slim, sexualised nudity, with very big breasts they too are learning the overriding message here that women are not people with voices, opinions and aspirations they are things, to be acted upon, seen and not heard, passive and not active in their own sexual experiences and only to be valued if they match up to this presented ideal.