Yes, I know I’m late to the party. You’ve had a good few days to gloat over your little coup. Pulling the wool over the eyes of the boring, prudish types who dared to tell you what to do. Hope the victory was worth it.
I’ve got to admit, I’m not inclined to celebrate with you. I’m much more inclined to celebrate people like Aung Sun Su Kyi, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu…real heroes of free speech, who spoke out against prevailing custom to address serious evil. All your pathetic, misogynistic hoax achieved was to tell a subset of people, disadvantaged and belittled for endless centuries, that they don’t matter. Yet again.
And no, I’m not blaming your publishing of topless models for centuries of women’s oppression. Frankly, you’re just not important enough. But you are a small cog in an endless machine that seeks to objectivity women. And when we treat anyone or anything as an object, suddenly a lot of scary stuff becomes permissible.
Rape. Abuse. Discrimination in the workplace. Harassment. Economic dis-empowerment. This stuff happens, and is happening. Right here, right now. And no, you haven’t caused this But you’ve added your contribution to the pile of crap that gives the consistent message that women are not as worthy as men. That they are objects to be admired for the physical assets, not recognized for their worth as humans.
And maybe this doesn’t matter to you. But the little girl being sexually abused by her relative? It matters to her. The teenager convinced she’s fat, and ugly, and no matter how many people tell her how precious she is, she simply sees the lies each and every time she looks into a mirror? Because she’s not a size 8 with perky boobs and it really hurts. It matters to her. The woman desperate to advance in her job, but consistently banging her head on the glass ceiling? It matters to her. And these aren’t isolated examples. They’re your wife, your daughter, your colleagues. Your fellow humans. If you don’t care, you bloody well should.
You had – and actually, you still have, a real chance to make a difference. To stand up and tell the world that you’re no longer going to conform to old patterns. That women matter, not for their boobs but their brains. That women are real people too.
And no, it won’t change everything immediately. But it would be a drop in the ocean, and your drop matters. Because you really do have the power to be part of the change here. You’re a well read and influential newspaper and your voice could be part of the solution instead of the problem.
I’d like to think that my words here will make a difference. I’m not convinced they will though. Because whilst you’re reveling in your arrogant, juvenile prank, you can convince yourself that you’re in the right. That you’ve stood up for free speech. That you’re a lone voice in a prudish wilderness.
But whilst you’re doing that, women and girls will still suffer. Wives and partners will go to bed trying to work out how to hide their latest bruises. Young girls will go to bed wondering if maybe, tonight will be the night they won’t get molested. Women will go to bed feeling hopeless, because they know they can never advance further in their careers. Teenagers will go to bed nursing the cuts they’ve inflicted on themselves because they just can’t bear the image in their mirror anymore.
You could be a small part of what changes that. But if you choose not to be, I do hope you’ll sleep well.
Many others won’t be.