I trudged into the portacabin at my day job the other morning to make coffee. It was 6am and snowing sideways, so my mood was already pretty low when I noticed a copy of The Sun on the table.
For those unfamiliar with The Sun, it’s a British tabloid of the lowest order, Rupert Murdoch’s own pet propaganda organ – like Fox News inked on a dead tree. It’s about the only paper you regularly see on British building sites, except the occasional copy of the Daily Star, which is a cross between the National Enquirer and softcore pornography.
The only construction sites that are unlikely to feature The Sun are ones in Liverpool, after the paper casually slandered the entire city in the late eighties. Liverpudlians, like most people, have a long memory when it comes to being baselessly accused of grave-robbing, and in some stores The Sun is only sold from under the counter by request, as a form of contraband. I digress, although the day Rupert Murdoch dies will be a hell of a party in Liverpool.
I have a compulsion that means I read whatever is put in front of me. I sometimes read the back of cereal boxes or the like. So, as I waited for the coffee, I read the cover of The Sun.
The paper was irate about televised sports ditching bikini girls. They claimed that this was due to pressure from joyless “snowflakes.” Further, they had enlisted professional model Kelly Brook to front their campaign of objection.
A good number of my co-workers took up the fight, decrying this politically correct madness and arguing in favour of bikini girls – including one guy who took against Kelly Brook because he hadn’t read the first paragraph of the story or the large sub-header. To give you some idea of the Olympic level gun-jumping on display there, the opening paragraph was in a box less than two inches by two.
I had a tape measure on me, I checked.
Anyway, once that wrongheaded anger had been stamped out and someone had explained the cover of a fucking newspaper to a grown man, all assembled agreed that this plot to remove scantily clad women from sport was some sort of left-wing killjoy bullshit.
Nobody asked me for an opinion. People I work with have learned not to do that. Luckily for both my regular readers, I’ve recorded it here.
First and foremost is the term “snowflake,” an irritating American import that doesn’t offend or upset me, but does let me know that whoever is using it hasn’t thought through their opinion. It’s designed to patronise because us liberal types allegedly all consider ourselves to be special and individual.
This flies in the face of the idea that the right is the political force for rugged individualism. “We’re all individuals and don’t conform to a set pattern, unlike the snowflakes!” scream various right wingers, obliviously. It’s a confused metaphor, at best.
Chilly precipitation aside, there’s the lazy idea that people want sports models done away with because they hate fun. I can’t speak for everyone, but personally, I don’t hate fun. Or attractive women wearing very little. I do still think models at sporting events are a bad idea, because casually objectifying women is the top of a slippery slope. If women are just voiceless objects to leer at, silently holding a scorecard and smiling, they stop being people. They’re just things. Sexual things. Like a fleshlight. You don’t need consent to stick your dick in a fleshlight, right…?
That’s an extreme example, but even if we ignore the undertones of sexual assault, paying a woman to smile while men ogle and whistle at her teaches the lesson that women LIKE being ogled and whistled at. It’s fine to stare at strange women’s tits, the implication goes – the women on TV let us do it and they’re not complaining! (An easy fix for this one would be to make a new law: you can ogle and catcall all the women you like, providing you first pay them the same money as a bikini girl at a sporting event.)
If we’re pretending that Kelly Brook really is fronting a campaign to keep sports models – rather than my personal suspicion that the never-before-politically-active Ms. Brook is simply selling her endorsement to The Sun for a quick buck – then there is a kernel of truth to her argument that women are being robbed of gainful employment. Sports models and cheerleaders don’t work under duress and they’re almost certainly savvy enough to understand the business they are involved in, even if that business sends a message that is harmful to women as a whole. It’s laughable, however, to pretend that The Sun has ever given a shit about jobs (or rights) for women.
Until recent years, Page 3 of The Sun would always be a full-page picture of a topless young woman. This was eventually stopped for being tacky, but for years the captions on these topless photos would be quotes attributed to the young lady in question, giving high-brow opinions about the news items of the day. For example “Tiffany, 22, from London, thinks that Trump’s State of the Union Address did not do enough to heal partisan rifts.” The tone was always subtly mocking – of course Tiffany didn’t really say that, The Sun implied, because Tiffany is an idiot. They only put an intellectual caption on the photo to sarcastically pretend she’s a thinking human being.
Ultimately, gratuitous appearances by models at sporting events make everyone look bad – men come off as slavering dullards and women are used as voiceless eye candy – and in an ideal world, people would aspire to be better on both sides of the gender divide.
That being said, women should absolutely be free to expose their bodies for money. So should men.
Perhaps this is the best solution to the problem – keep scantily clad women at sporting events, but have them alternate with male bodybuilders in speedos. Equal opportunities objectification. Because if staring at someone as a sex object is just harmless fun, it should still be harmless when that someone is male, right?
Something tells me The Sun would disagree with that assertion…