This is just a comment, rather than a fully-fledged blog post; but it’s on the back of something that is currently happening on Twitter. This morning I read a re-tweet from Caitlin Moran, the Times columnist and author. Caitlin had re-tweeted a campaign link from a girl trying to get the editor of The Sun newspaper to stop printing pictures of women’s breasts on page 3. Of course I signed. I find it wearisome that nearly 42 years after it first appeared, it is still going. Using Moran’s own yardstick of feminism ‘are the men doing it?’ No, they’re not.
Or are they?
What about the low-level insidious objectification of both sexes that goes on without us seemingly batting an eyelid. To my knowledge, nobody ever went into acting to be a pretty face on a screen. I’m sure it isn’t in any actor’s career plan, that they stop at 25 because they’re not looking as fresh-faced as they once did. In the same way, it isn’t any music artists’ reason for doing what they do, to pack it all in once the calendar sales dry up and they’re no longer the centre spread in Mizz magazine. Actors don’t go into acting and musicians don’t write and perform songs to be nothing more than a pretty face on a TV screen.
It doesn’t seem that an actor or a musician’s ability to demonstrate their craft is the measure of success these days; but how good they look. They are hired or marketed on the basis of how sexually appealling they are to teenage girls, to young men, or to the massed-ranks of middle-aged women. We don’t judge on ability these days, we judge on looks and it’s to our detriment.
I have double standards. I am very happy to sign a petition to end Page 3, but I do not speak out about the pressure that young male actors / musicians are under to ‘look good’ and remain as bankable as they can for as long as possible. Inevitably, they will lose the fight with gravity and end up pushed aside. Or worse, they buckle under the expectation and end up being treated for an eating disorder, or some other stress-related side-effect of an industry that only values how they look. Never mind that they could be 5 years away from an Oscar-winning performance, or a Grammy-winning album. Why is it that the media are so obsessed with airbrushing everybody to within an inch of their lives, only to turn around and poke them with a sharp stick, if they leave the house without 3 inches of make-up or a six-pack?
I know, quite possibly that Dominic Mohan or News International won’t take a blind bit of notice of mine or anybody else’s wishes. But just stop yourself the next time you find yourself noticing how attractive someone looks. Is that all they are to you, a pretty face? Or do you know something of the person behind it? Perhaps it’s not just Page 3 that needs to change, but our whole attitude to people, as well.