What Breed Is She?
It was just over a hundred years ago that Emily Davison died while campaigning for the right for women to vote – a martyr for feminism, Davison was trampled by a horse at the 1913 Derby and died from her injuries. In 1928, Parliament passed a long awaited act that enabled women to have the same voting rights as men. Some would argue that since Davison’s death, equality between the sexes has progressed in leaps and bounds.
Last year two distasteful, sexist t-shirts were taken off the shelves of hundreds of British stores after an online outburst of disapproval. It would seem, however, that the tolerance of sexism, undeniably in the form of objectifying, offensive and sexist t-shirts have become the norm in contemporary society.
Clothing that offends and objectifies women have become increasingly easy to come by. There are hundreds of t-shirts available both online and in mainstream high street chains that pose casual pictures of only-just-clothed women and others with tasteful slogans such as ‘If you’re drunk, I’m single’ or 'Nice girlfriend, what breed is she?' Such t-shirts have filtered into mainstream culture and for some unknown reason, are seemingly deemed acceptable. The question I pose is this: what should we make of these t-shirts? Harmless humour or ignorant sexism?
Official statistics paint a very different picture of gender equality in the UK. 19% of MPs in the UK are women, only 15.9% of partners in the UK’s largest law firms are women and female graduates on average earn 15% less than their male counterparts, despite the fact that they statistically gain higher levels of degrees. Studies show that if an employer was deciding between a man and a women with the same qualifications going against each other for the same job, they are four times more likely to choose the man over the woman: it would seem that ovaries are an unnecessary inconvenience to hundreds of UK employers.
Many argue that these t-shirts are harmless fun, merely banter to an easily humoured male generation. But the topic poses a crucial question: is sexism on any level acceptable? There is no denying that t-shirts with pixilated naked women on objectify women: how can equality be maintained if men think that is acceptable to present women as meaningless entertainment and objects to be gaped at? The point is, how can a woman demand respect while working in a high-status environment if her male employer goes home and is bombarded with page three girls plastered onto their son's chest? Sexism on any level is not acceptable and the attitudes towards objectifying women should be zero tolerance. These t-shirts remain a trophy to a time when women were second-class citizens, merely pretty, mindless and naive possessions of their pig-headed husbands – is this acceptable? Is it acceptable to let old values creep into mainstream culture through ugly pieces of clothing? Is the only value of a woman of 2012 to be an object of entertainment plastered onto a hideous, objectifying and distasteful t-shirt? I would suggest otherwise. But I suppose that doesn't matter – I am a after all, a woman.