I am writing to you in response to the request that popped up in my inbox earlier this afternoon. I have also copied in Charity Comms, which deemed your request as relevant to charities that fall into the “women’s group”, “children” or “family welfare” categories. I do hope that you receive several replies from “women’s groups” and that said “women’s groups” tell you exactly what they think of you.
Let me recount for you a memory from my childhood. I recall a day out with my father in which we passed a man on a bench staring fixatedly at the highly sexualised image of a bare-breasted young woman in a newspaper. I remember how this sight provoked a feeling of surprise, disgust and anger in my heart but, given my young age, I could not articulate why. When my father and I returned home, I found my mother breastfeeding my younger sister. My immediate reaction was to fetch a tea towel to cover her bare chest, lest a stranger should ogle at her body in the style of that same repulsive man in the street. I think that is the day that I became a feminist. I wanted my mother, my sister and indeed women and girls in general to be seen by all as more than objects, mere pieces of meat, for men’s sexual gratification. Your newspaper, filled with men in clothes doing “useful” things, a single giant image of a girl in her pants, and, apparently, as of Tuesday, naked Real Women TM in “nude thongs” who can only “get happier” when men rate their bodies favourably, is, therefore, not one of my favourite publications. Just so you know.
Your request implies that women have psychological problems and that we are “overly negative” on ourselves when we “needn’t be.” I completely agree that many women have a much lower sense of self-worth than they should have. We are plagued by body dismorphia, eating disorders, shame and crippling insecurities. However, I would argue that having men publicly rate the sexual attractiveness of naked women does little to improve women’s self-confidence and self-worth. Rather, it does the exact opposite. Why do women, generally speaking, have such low body confidence? Because we are taught, you might even say brainwashed, from birth by the mainstream media, fairytales, toys, films, advertisements, adults, peers and so on that our worth is inextricably tied-up with male approval and that male approval is dependant on being beautiful, attractive and sexually available. We can escape this, not by having Sun Readers, Gok Wan, Dove or Boots tell us that we possess Real Beauty TM, but by severing the ties between our self-worth and our perceived sexual attractiveness. The “health feature” you plan for Tuesday’s edition of The Sun, on the other hand, reaffirms for many women that their very happiness and psychological wellbeing should be based on male perceptions of their naked bodies.
I would like to end my letter in a civilised fashion. However, I’ve had a long day at work, which was made longer by my outrage at receiving your shitty request. So, I’m just going to bid you farewell immaturely and, in a petty fashion, wish that someone who is more technically savvy than me photoshops a picture of you (and perhaps also Rupert Murdoch and your other misogynist colleagues) so that you appear naked but for a “nude thong”, ready to be rated by millions. I wonder if a Sun psychologist will tell you that this is an empowering experience and that you will “get happier” as a result. I think not.