By Marie Gardiner – This week, two annoyances collided. With shades of a Shakespearean farce, this is a play of three acts.
Act I: Getty, a highly popular stock image site posted an article on their Twitter account called ‘World Cup 2018: The Sexiest Fans’. Unsurprisingly, these fans were all women, and there was a mild cry of outrage from many followers; enough to make them quietly delete the post, and when asked by news outlets, promise an investigation.
I’m sure we don’t need to go into the reasons that roundups sexualising women are dated and inappropriate, but for argument’s sake, here are a few of the major points to quieten the naysayers.
1. The shots were candid snaps of women enjoying football – did they even know they were being rounded up into an article about how they look? Spoiler: they didn’t. ‘Confirming that Getty had not sought individual permission from the women pictured to feature them in the gallery in this way, a company spokesperson said there would now be an internal investigation’ – The Guardian.
2. The photographs were exclusively women. Dress it up as ‘fans’ all you want, but where were the guys if we’re talking about equality?
3. This is a cheap way to cash in on a label of a football fan seen as only interested in sport, drinking and women’s bodies – it doesn’t do women or men any good to perpetuate these toxic stereotypes.
Act II: I spot an article by popular photography site FStoppers, titled… ‘Five Inspirational Landscape Photographers You Should Follow That You Probably Aren’t.’ There were actually six in the list, not five – and 100% of them were men.
Now, I’ve written about this lack of representation before, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much. What I will do, is pre-emptively bat back the most popular criticism I’ve had yelled at me in the past. Just because I feel that women should be represented, doesn’t take anything away from the men that were. It’s common among certain groups to think that when you’re pushing for parity, it’s at the detriment of men. It’s not.
If we think statistically that a ‘fair’ representation would be 50/50 then that would have been three women in the list. There weren’t three. There weren’t two. There wasn’t even one. So, are we to think that the women photographers were all on holiday, or perhaps in hiding from the limelight on the day they were contacted to be featured? It’s lazy, and it’s easy; and it’s why, if we don’t highlight it and shout about it, it won’t change.
Act III: Act three is where these two, seemingly unrelated events clash in a spectacular, earth shuddering, collision. Well, it tinkled some warning bells for me anyway.
FStoppers posted an article about the Getty incident, called, ‘Getty’s ‘Sexiest Fans’ Gallery: Is the Outrage Justified?
I have to say, I was encouraged – I expected a balanced article coming to the conclusion that most sensible people have: of course it’s justified. Boy was I naïve.
What I actually read was something that was immediately on the defensive: a comparison to an article that Vogue magazine ran about attractive footballers, the crux being, hey well Vogue did it first so Getty did nothing wrong.
First of all, it’s a poor argument to condone something distasteful because somebody else is doing it too. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and it’s a weird distraction tactic I’ve seen used many times; ‘hey this thing you’re angry about can’t possibly be bad because here’s someone else doing it too.’ Maybe, just maybe, both are inappropriate?
Second, if we were to compare them, you actually can’t say they’re like for like. The tone is very different and ain’t that always the way. While Vogue swoons like a teenager in a young adult romance novel, ‘Those lips! That hair! That smile!’ Getty was more, well let’s be blunt: it was tits, arse and legs. And that’s exactly the dialogue it was encouraging with its roundup, fishing in a dated pool of stereotypes for an easy bite and some quick hits to their site.
The next part of the article on FStoppers, defending Getty, is where we really get into the meat of the matter, and frankly it’s a story we see again and again. Get ready for it folks, because here comes the lingering whine of ‘but what about men??’ For this next part, we’re going to need to break down the article a little.
‘Is it more offensive to objectify women than it is to objectify men?’
This is a bit of a loaded question and at best it’s a very naïve comment from someone who doesn’t understand history or chooses to ignore it. Is it right to objectify anyone is really the question this is asking, and no, of course it’s not. Comparing it to men though, is a little like an angry heterosexual asking when they can have a straight Pride.
‘Personally, I do not believe the article from Vogue causes any offense, nor do I think it requires any outrage, so why do many of us consider the Getty gallery to be offensive? If society considers anything negative against women to be more significant, is that in itself a form of sexism?’
Oh great, another man has told us we shouldn’t be outraged. Pack up your feelings ladies and gents, they’re not needed; because it wasn’t just women that were outraged, there were many men who joined the discussion, to stress that they thought the Getty article was dated and inappropriate too.
The author clearly doesn’t understand what sexism is, and again there’s a half-hearted comparison to the Vogue article. Sexism primarily affects women and girls because historically men have been the dominant ones. Even now, many of us condition our behaviour to ‘keep the peace’; we try and brush off harassment with smiles and apologies so as not to come across as ‘hysterical’ or ‘bitches.’ Men are still in the majority of top, high-paid positions – something that the recent transparency of the Gender Pay Gap in the UK has made achingly clear.
‘Some could assume that men simply don’t care as much as women when it comes to these issues and that people are becoming overly prone to outrage.’
As anyone who isn’t the subject of the issue in question, as a man, you don’t get to march into a virtual arena and wave your whataboutery around when it comes to the objectification of women. This quote is suggesting women get hysterical about nothing, while men are far more chilled out, ‘we don’t care when we’re objectified, so why should you?!’
It’s laughable, and here’s the thing – much of the furore (as is actually mentioned later in the article) was actually comments from men who were angry about women for being outraged… go figure! They cared enough to call the women who objected, jealous, triggered feminists and then to add insult to injury, these same women are now being told that their feelings don’t matter: calm down dear, stop being overly prone to outrage!
Fin: And here is where what we thought was a farce, turns out to be a tragedy. Equality isn’t about tearing men down, it’s about lifting us all up, and companies like FStoppers publishing MAN HAS OPINION ON WOMEN BEING OFFENDED nonsense like this does us all harm. What we should applaud, are the men who are allies in this, the ones who stood up to say they too, were offended, despite the battering they would take from other men.
Rejecting legitimate grievances, discomfort and sexism as gratuitous outrage or offence is our modern-day equivalent to the women who once rebelled against Victorian domesticity being labelled ‘hysterical’ and committed to asylums.
The word troll, in internet terms, has moved from something that used to describe someone engaged in a light-hearted prank, to anything up to and including threats and abuse. This trivialises the abuse people suffer online and the very real way that can manifest itself. Likewise, saying everything has become PC is a way to dismiss racism and bigotry as something more benign. Rejecting legitimate grievances, discomfort and sexism as gratuitous outrage or offence is our modern-day equivalent to the women who once rebelled against Victorian domesticity being labelled ‘hysterical’ and committed to asylums.
The article screams, ‘Look! Look at how angry and offended the women are now, over nothing,’ whilst not actually scratching the surface of the real issues:
Were the women (who were just watching football) asked before they were curated into a roundup that focused solely on their looks? No, they weren’t.
Does it make it any less wrong if you compare it to the Vogue article? No, it doesn’t.
Was the outrage justified? Yes. It was.
All stock photos provided by Marie Gardiner, via Pexels
About The Author
Marie Gardiner is a photographer and writer based in the north east of England. After completing her degree in Film & Media, she worked in media for several years as a broadcaster and web manager. Mostly, she writes educational photography articles and courses for a number of well-established, international companies but she also takes on bespoke commissions for articles and blog posts.
Marie’s first book, Sunderland, Industrial Giant: Recollections of Working Life, was published in November 2017 by The History Press and centers on the area in which she was born and grew up.