The Feminist Media Reader #8 - Nigel Farage, Breastfeeding and Pornography Censorship

by - Monday, December 08, 2014

Image courtesy of the Mirror

Hello there! My little corner of the internet has been suspiciously quiet of late hasn't it? I promise it's not been through lack of interest - more a distinct lack of time, daylight hours and a pretty huge distraction in terms of my career fortunes, which I will be announcing properly next week!

ANYWAY, I was incredibly touched and honoured to find that in my absence, more than five people stopped me on facebook/telephone/in the street and demanded to know what had happened to the Feminist Media Reader. This unprecedented level of attention - yeah I know right, five people is unprecedented, I'm basically internet famous - warmed my heart, and so this week, I've found a nugget of time to put some thoughts down on some of the distinctly non-feminist nonsense that has been going down at the hands of our British politicians.


Words cannot describe to you how grateful I am to live in a country where writing this blog will not get me beheaded, and by and large, I am incredibly proud to be British. However, my one big problem is with classically british prudishness, and the conflict surrounding it. Now, I'm hardly a contender for Geordie Shore. I've had one boyfriend in my life, favour Mormon-like skirt lengths at social occasions and feel a little bit naughty every time I write a blog post with a 'rude word' in (sorry Mum). However, since taking an active interest in feminism a few years ago, I've become incredibly desensitised to women's bodies. Maybe it's due to a slightly obsessive interest in Beyonce and Kim Kardashian, but a flash of someone's bum or boobs really doesn't bother me, as long as it is their decision. Bodies are bodies, and public objection often says more about the person who is offended that the perpetrator themselves.

Which brings me onto breastfeeding. Now, I have no children of my own yet, but I'm guessing, much like when you've had one too many drinks in Wetherpoons, 'break the seal', and can't stop peeing, when a child needs to eat, a child needs to eat. This could be at home, in McDonalds, in the middle of the M25. It won't always be practical, and it may cause embarrassment. But this goes for many facets of being a woman right? Like the first time your boyfriend absent-mindedly strokes your leg on the sofa, only to realise that they feel like King Kong's because you couldn't be arsed to buy razors when you did your food shop. Or starting your period in Maths class but not being able to go to the loo during lessons, and having to worry the whole time about your pale grey school skirt. Being asked to apologise for it is like being asked to apologise for human nature, or, more pertinently, for being a woman at all.

Of course, Nigel Farage's comments that breastfeeding women should 'sit in a corner' are on the surface, heavily problematic. "I know a lot of people do feel very uncomfortable," he said. "It isn't too difficult to breastfeed a baby in a way that's not openly ostentatious." Now, on one level, I'm sure most mothers would agree that for privacy's sake, if nothing else, they'd prefer not to whip their boob out in an crowded room without seeking a quiet spot. I know that personally, I would rther have that intimate moment in a private place, if at all possible. I do agree that openly breastfeeding can cause a fair level of awkwardness in the sort of store that openly appeals to an older market, the same way changing your baby's nappy in the middle of a shop floor might. But feeding your child is not the same as hitching your skirt up and running around Claridge's singing 'Anaconda' - it doesn't come from a place of being an exhibitionist. That older generation would probably be similarly outraged to find a black person like myself picking up my shopping, but does that mean I should stay at home and do it online in a corner?

What it boils down to, in my eyes at least, is thus: could this women have found a less 'ostentatious' spot? Absolutely. Would I personally try and find a more private place? Again, absolutely. But should you have to ignore your starving child's cries until you can find a private bathroom stall, which simply might not be practical? Definitely not.

What does however concern me, is that all the blame is being heaped on Farage rather than Clariges themselves. Calling old Nige a feminist would be like calling Dapper Laughs a gentleman, and for obvious reasons (hello, I'm definitely not white), I'm not a fan of his politics. But, worryingly so, he is fast becoming an enigmatic speaker, and for once, I don't think the outrage fits the crime. While his comments that Claridges are inclined to make their own rules indicates a typically UKIP outlook of business over human rights, I actually thought he was quite fair in his statement:

"Let me get this clear, as I said on the radio and as I repeat now, I personally have no problem with mothers breastfeeding wherever they want. If the establishment in question, in this case Claridge's, wants to maintain rules about this stuff, then that is up to them, as it should be. I remarked that perhaps they might ask women to sit in a corner. Did I say I believe they should have to? No. Did I say I personally endorse this concept? No."

Image courtesy of the Independent

So while I feel like Claridges have far more to answer for than Farage does in the feminist issue of breastfeeding, Pornography is a whole different ballgame. Now, let's make this clear: I am definitely not into pornography. I have studied it on an academic level in some light detail, but I'm far from being an advocate of it, simply because I do not know enough/have properly watched any. I've never claimed in these blogs to know everything. However, I couldn't help but laugh at how gloriously sexist and ultimately quite damaging, the new british pornography laws 'banned content' laws are. While I'll allow you to google for yourself what and what is not now acceptable to be shown in UK pornography (my Mum is my blog's biggest fan, let's not ruin her dinner), one trend became very apparent to me when reading the list. Anything that benefits men? Green light, go ahead, however graphic you like. Anything that might exclusively provide pleasure to women? Good gosh no, fetch the smelling salts! We absolutely can't have that!

It's pretty clear form my previous blogs that I am all for sexual liberation of all genders, and to see that women have been resigned once more to a position of meekly completing their duty towards men makes me sigh very heavily (in a distinctly non-sexual way). As the erotic film director Erika Lust, told the Independent, it's a classic sign of female oppression, further enhancing stereotypes that will teach young boys that it's okay to demand the world with no affection in return:

“With this legislation, the UK is in danger of finding itself back in an age where porn is simply the boring, unrealistic, male fantasy of bimbos eagerly pleasing men as if it is their duty, where women are submissive and lack ownership of their sexuality. Women in the industry will now fear the loss of their livelihoods as well as their sexual independence.”

While some acts such as whipping and caning may help cut down on 'kinkily acceptable' cases of domestic abuse, I can't help think that this decision, so sneakily amended on the sly, is just the final straw in our culture of raising young boys to see women as objects. I have never believed that there is an excuse for rape, or that boys can be 'taught' to rape, but when so many studies have proven that most young people's first experience of sex is by viewing pornography that sees the man in a clearly dominant position, I do fear that in a child's mind, this will be seen as evidence that it's okay to use and be used, without any mutual enjoyment or affection involved. I could well just be displaying my ignorance of the genre, but surely a much healthier video would be one a couple who are clearly both providing love to one another. Why are we so scared of accepting that women may want to be sexual too? Is this the middle ages? 

So many questions, so little answers. When it comes to the Government, it appears we're constantly taking one step forward and two back in the quest for female equality. The only way we can hope for change is by making sure we all vote in the election - that's if your hands aren't too busy breastfeeding or, er, enjoying yourself to hold the polling pencil. 

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