Caroline Lucas of the UK Green party has been in the news recently for wearing an inappropriate T Shirt in Parliament during a debate on sexism in the media (for some background on that see here). You might think that meant a T shirt with offensive words or pictures on. No, not at all. It was T shirt calling for a national family newspaper to remove the daily topless woman from its content. The newspaper’s riposte is that it is empowering women….see opposite for a model wearing it.
Caroline Lucas stood up to speak wearing this shirt and was swiftly asked to put her jacket back on as she was contravening the rules.
Here is an extract from that encounter:
Mr Jim Hood (in the Chair): Order. Can I tell the hon. Member that there are standards of dress that Members must comply with, both in the House and in Westminster Hall? I ask her to respect that and to put her jacket back on, which she was wearing when she came in, please.
Caroline Lucas: I will of course comply with your ruling, Mr Hood, but it strikes me as a certain irony that in this place people can get copies of The Sun. Perhaps I can even show you what is in The Sun. In eight places in this House—
Mr Jim Hood (in the Chair): Order. I am not commenting on what the Member may wish to say in the debate; I am only addressing the appropriate means of dress. If she does as I asked, she can carry on with her speech.
Caroline Lucas: Thank you, Mr Hood. I was simply going to say that it strikes me as an irony that this T-shirt is regarded as an inappropriate thing to be wearing in this House, whereas, apparently, it is appropriate for this kind of newspaper to be available to buy in eight different outlets on the Palace of Westminster estate. That is why I have written to the Palace asking for them to be withdrawn, and for them not to be on sale until page 3 is removed.
I was describing a violence against women strategy in Brighton and Hove and was about to quote from it. The city’s new strategy for prevention offers real insights into the way that violence is normalised, saying that:
“violence against women and girls is a continuum: it is the basic common characteristic that underlies many different events in women and girls’ lives, involving many forms of intimate intrusion, coercion, abuse and assault, that pass into one another and cannot always be readily distinguished, but that as a continuum are used to control women and girls. Many women and girls learn to discount and minimise forms of violence and abuse both as a way of coping but also because much of it is normalised.”
This is not just about extreme cases. It is an epidemic, with the symptoms identifiable at an early age.
And further on…
Women in Journalism’s analysis further underscores how much men dominate the news agenda and examines the particular function that women fulfil for newspapers. Although there are generally strong news-related reasons for the appearance of most images of men on a sample of front pages, the same cannot necessarily be said for the women who feature. It cites as an example the Middleton sisters, for whom:
“the wearing of a new hat or new dress could be enough to prompt a lead front page picture, in a way that would be unlikely to be the case, say, if Prince William or Harry stepped out in a new tie.”
An improved code of conduct needs to go hand in hand with ensuring that the proposed new regulatory bodies are fit for purpose. That means that the post-Leveson regulatory frameworks need to institute and include a statutory body with proper women’s representation on it and full rights for third parties and groups to complain about prejudicial treatment in the media. That is essential if the press is to be held accountable through fair public scrutiny in line with its own press code.
You can the entire debate in full here.
I take my hat off to organisations like NoMorePage3 and others like The Women’s Room who are doing something remarkable to address the negative images of women appearing daily. I urge you to support their campaigns, and similar. We have a voice in this and it’s getting louder.
PS. I have interviewed both Lucy Ann Holmes and Caroline Criado-Perez, the faces behind the two organisations I’ve mentioned. Do read about them and even more importantly, consider offering them your support. They’re doing this for us!
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Posted on June 13th, 2013 by Jane