A few days ago was the first ever international day of the girl, and a couple pieces of news from both places I call home are converging to make it especially poignant.
In Vancouver, 15-year-old Amanda Todd killed herself because she could no longer handle the bullying and taunting after she flashed a webcam, and a photo of her naked breasts was used to shame and ridicule her for years afterward.
It’s being painted mostly as another issue of bullying – but it goes so much further than that.
The Feminista column on the Vancouver Observer site goes exactly there with the piece “Why isn’t anyone talking about the misogyny involved in Amanda Todd’s life and death?”
There was no discussion of the pressure girls like Amanda experience to measure their worth through their sexual desirability. From her story it sounds like this man had the hallmarks of a predator—he tried to use her photos to blackmail her and yet she’s the one who got blamed….In a context in which women are told in manifold ways that everything about them is wrong— their emotions, their bodies, their fat, their lack of fat, their developing, their aging—when someone comes along and tells you that you are perfect and beautiful, that’s some powerful stuff.
This man’s intention, when he threatened Todd with exposure of the coercive images, was to make Todd feel like a whore.
If we diffuse the judgment, and look at the behaviour of the attacker, we can weaken the attack. We need less focus on “the mistake” and more on the sexism in our society that this man wielded—successfully—to rid the planet of another young woman.”
Which brings me to this side of the pond, and the fact that Page 3 of The Sun still exists.
As long as we are glorifying the dissection of women down to body parts, and marking their “newsworthiness” by their willingness to show their breasts, we are going to have girls like Amanda who believe showing off their bodies is the only way to gain attention and acceptance. And boys who “have been encouraged by a wider culture to see girls’ bodies as property which they can own.”
They may be an ocean apart, but the issues are distressingly related. It’s why the UN declared it the international day of the girl. So while you are forging ahead with your anti-bullying activities, perhaps you can remember to sign the No More Page 3 petition as well.
For Amanda. For all of us.