Sunday, 25 January 2015

Contemplation: "Get your wits out for the lads" -- how we were burned by The Sun

Dear Friends of Quirk

If you put up with follow me (as myself, not as The Quirky Brunette) on Facebook it won't have escaped your notice that I've been somewhat vocal this week over the behaviour of The Sun newspaper.

On Wednesday it looked as though, after three years of protesting, and forty-four years of objectification plus, the excellent No More Page 3 campaign had finally triumphed, resulting in the red-top dropping topless shots from their newspapers (albeit in favour of photos of models in underwear).

It was a tiny victory in a much larger, less fathomable, war, but a victory nonetheless. Break open the Bolly, my friends, we're actually being listened to.

For years the campaign has stated, rightly, that boobs aren't news, and therefore the topless photos have no place in what purports to be a 'newspaper' (though let's face it, 'news' is a little bit strong, isn't it... Oh snap).

The news that Page 3 was to be dropped was leaked, so I understand, by The Sun's sister paper, The Times, so there was no reason for us to doubt it. The removal of the topless photo from Page 3 looked to be a significant coup, overthrowing a grim tradition (laughingly referred to by one particular individual as a 'heritage') that should have been thrown out years ago but yet had taken until 2015 to be removed.


We're supposed to have hover-boards by now. And they call that progress?! 

More seriously, of course, every day we're exposed to news that suggests that we're actually moving backwards or at the very least we're stagnant: abject poverty, terrorism, outrage over freedom of speech... and that's just in the 'first world'. And even in this 'first world', the playing field is not a level one for women.

Needless to say, as a fully signed up advocate of the No More Page 3 campaign, I, along with many others, celebrated.

I read a lot of the publicity (positive and negative) that had come out of this announcement with vested interest (links to a good few are at the bottom of this post).

And I was interested to read the counter-arguments and comments. Some disgusted me. Others confused me. And many surprised me, notably those that voiced the opinion that, really, was the abolition of Page 3 worth the fight, and if we were that concerned about the maltreatment of women wouldn't everyone else in favour of the NMP3 campaign be better off defending the rights of women sold into sex slavery, or subjected to FGM, or victims of rape and domestic violence?

Aren't we getting just a little too worked up over a photo in a cheap publication we can choose not to buy?

No, we're not.

(Incidentally, I have my friends Evie and Eloise to thank for effectively fleshing out my arguments here -- I've learned more about feminism in the last few months through knowing those two women than I had done in 35 years prior.)

My stance against Page 3 as an institution is simple: it's sexist, outdated, and portrays women as passive and compliant to the (primarily) male gaze, and perpetuates the dangerous and misguided belief that a woman's currency is her body alone.

In addition, to place a photo of a sexualised woman in direct juxtaposition to editorial masquerading as news devalues any integrity a story may have had.

It's not just that when I sit down on a train at stupid o'clock in the morning, I don't want to be confronted by a photo of a young woman with breasts bared in the open paper of the person sitting next to me.

It's an inappropriate image to display in a public place. Yes I can choose not to buy the paper itself but I can't necessarily choose not to be exposed to the image if someone else has bought the paper.

It's not just about the image, either. It's about what it represents. To reiterate, boobs aren't news. Women will have breasts, and nipples, tomorrow. They had them yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. It's a biological thing. Yes, they're beautiful, and moreover they're functional. They've been so for millions of years. BUT THEY'RE NOT NEWS and thus, they do not belong in a newspaper.

To have had this fairly basic message get through to The Sun, resulting in their subtle removal of the topless page three photo, seemed like a major breakthrough.

But not for long.

..The Sun giveth, and The Sun taketh away.

By Thursday morning, the topless shots were back. The hint-of-a-promise of their removal was nothing more than a publicity gimmick.

The reinstatement of the topless photo was a slight to everyone who had believed they had been listened to, and that progress had been made. Stalwart consumers of the paper no doubt rubbed their thighs in smirking glee.

On one end of the scale it was unsurprising. I mean, why would The Sun pull their USP, archaic and sexist as it is? And what on earth were we doing taking the news as gospel from a fairly unsubstantiated, and subjective, source, when that news was neither confirmed nor denied by the paper itself? (Because the media is after all to be believed at all times...)

On the other end of the scale, it was a bad move, insulting, frustrating and unfair.

The message being put out there was, "we know what the punters want and we're not going to lose out on loadsamoney to silence a bunch of bloody feminists who should just relax; it's just a bit of fun, innit? It's an institution." An institution run by a faction of individuals who can't function for two days without ooooooh, giggle, giggle, looking at pictures of BOOBIES.

But to counter the argument of those who believe that the campaign against Page 3 is too minute an effort to matter in the grand scheme of things, the position for women's equality and dignity can be rooted in their representation in these publications.

Page 3 sends out the message from too early and too impressionable an age that women are solely to be looked at, and their opinions and achievements can be glossed over or even omitted from the press in favour of speculation on their appearance. How will women ever stop being maltreated on a global scale if our worth is calculated solely on the basis of our bodies and our sexuality? We are more than those parts. We have minds and voices. But until women are no longer objectified and silenced through passive representation, we are a long way from winning the larger battles.

The Sun is not the only publication guilty of feeding into this particular issue, but it's the most prominent perpetrator and it could so easily have taken a higher moral stance and accepted that the 'culture' of Page 3 does a massive disservice to women.

Alas no.

And so the battle continues.

My red No More Page 3 t-shirt is in the post

and I shall wear it proudly.

A red top to counter the red-tops.

qb xx

PS Thanks to R for his inspiration on the title of this post!


No More Page 3: Our grassroots campaign took on a huge corporation, and we won

Page 3's demise smacks of censorship

Is the Sun's scrapping of Page 3 topless models a victory for women?

The Sun’s Page 3 cynicism isn’t just about lust. It’s about resentment and power

Page 3: The Sun brings back topless women

The “return” of Page 3: the Sun revels in the chance to make women with opinions look stupid

Page 3 returns: The only organisation that comes out looking stupid here is The Sun

Why aren't there men on Page 3?

See also

No More Page 3 | NMP3 on Facebook | NMP3 on Twitter | Petition to remove Page 3

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sunday Summary

Happy Sunday!

Hope you've all had fabulous weeks.

This week, I have mostly been...


Taking in some art | at the Courtauld Gallery

On Friday afternoon my cultured workmate Katerina and I paid a visit to the gallery as she wanted to see the Egon Schiele exhibit (The Radical Nude) that closes today (Sunday). I knew absolutely nothing of Schiele before I went along but I think it's safe to say I've now been schooled. :-)

Self-Portrait, via here
The prodigious Schiele attended the Vienna's School of Arts and Crafts when he was sixteen, studied under Klimt, and went on to produce a prolific, if controversial, body of work before his death, age 28, in 1918. His portraits are an interesting dichotomy: to a modern-day viewer, it's perhaps of interest that the men are portrayed, primarily, as emaciated, and almost coy, while the women are more often muscular and curvaceous, and with limbs splayed.

Schiele's attention isn't always on capturing the whole body but the pertinent parts, and there is a frank appreciation of the human form in his work. Some works are of an explicit nature so for the various sensibilities of my readers I won't reproduce any here but do feel free to take a look via the links above.

I went on for a little wander around the Impressionists and early-twentieth century avant-garde artists, and found me some Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir and Degas which pleased my naive little soul. I also tripped a little over this painting:

Natalia Goncharova | The Little Station
Something about the fragmented composition (according to Wiki that's Cubo-Futurism...), and the inclusion of the station typography, caught my eye.

Walking | and hunting down...

...the perfect pair of earphones.

When it comes to choosing the perfect earphones for piping through my power tunes, I'm Goldilugs.

The earphones can't be too small, too hard, or make the music sound like it's being played through a station tannoy speaker covered in tin foil.

I've bought about four (exceptionally cheap) pairs in the last few weeks, in the vain hope that I might happen upon the one that makes Spandau Ballet sound like liquid Gold pouring into my ear'oles.

And finally, finally, I found The Ones.

Step up, TIGER's running earphones. WINNERS. These ones are just right.

Incidentally, if you ever find your energy flagging while walking, Gold will boost you. Gold will make you feel indestructible. Gold will make you believe in your soul. Yeah.

It may also make you want to punch the air in triumph at your own achievements, but I wouldn't advise that on a crowded road in Battersea. Just sayin'.

Which compels me also to share my...

Top Five Power-Walking Tunes of the Moment

Gold | Spandau Ballet
Children | Robert Miles
Titanium | David Guetta feat. Sia
Try (Cosmic Dawn Remix) | P!nk
Million Dollar Bill (Frankie Knuckles Radio Mix) | Whitney Houston

All of which make me feel a little bit like this dude:

except with ever so slightly less chest hair.

Now, my friends, kindly ready yourself for a substantial number of...

Weekly Weblinks

Literary Linkage

The man in the background (left) is judging you
for your tweeting-bird text alert and your
copy of Fifty Shades Freed

Non-literary Linkage

But it's OK because here's how to stage a chocolate revolution! And apparently Kraft don't produce Cadbury products now. The kings of plastic cheese are absolved.

And in case this was all getting just a little too serious and profound...

Stay warm, stay cool, my friends.

qb xx

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Sunday Summary | The 100th episode!

Happy Sunday, friends!

Excitement: this is the 100th post on The Quirky Brunette! I think that calls for a celebration, no?

The first post can be read here, if you fancy.

Before I start this post proper-like, I'd like to extend a wry gesture of thanks to my never-ever pedantic friend R, who pointed out the irony of my declaration that this year, "it's not all about me"... on a blog that is, effectively, all about me. Apologies for this indulgence but, with the exception of my grievances against all rail companies ever, this week, I'm just keeping it here so it's not on Facebook. I'm doing peeps a favour. Honest.

And on the subject of Facebook, this little film is a very interesting commentary on the 'reality' of our Facebook selves:

How much of our lives do we edit for effect?

"Ultimately, Facebook is a narcissistic playground where the best, the funniest, the most charming aspects of our lives are publicized and the sh***y stuff, the boring stuff, the beige that is most of our daily grind almost never gets posted."

Almost never, but not actually 'never'... so says the vocal, aggrieved commuter. Ahem. Sorry.

This week, I have mostly been...


Now, I'm not going to document every training walk I do between now and May (you'll be delighted to hear) but I've clocked up over 17 miles this week in my first set-of-steps towards the London 2 Brighton Challenge which I'm walking for The MS Society. Hurrah!

What is it Confucius say: "A journey of a thousand sixty-two-point-one-three-seven miles begins with a single step"? (Or was it Lao Tzu? Either way, true story.)

I did of course get somewhat Befuddled in Battersea (and not for the first time) when I took a wrong turning and ended up retracing my steps like an eejit. But hey. It meant a few more steps on the pedometer so that's nice. Plus, before I took that wrong turning I got to see this view over the river. Made me hate London about 0.02% less.

I've also upgraded my membership of MapMyWalk so I can take advantage of the live tracking function that my wise cousin Jo has been employing for years.

And, thank you to those lovely people among you who have already sponsored me; it's very much appreciated.

Reading | We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Confession: I've only read the first few pages. But still. Yay.

Watching | Tangled

Laughed. Cried. Had moments of forgetting it was an animation.

Yep. Pascal thinks that's ridiculous too.

Oh and this song? Just a bit marvellous.

"Strumming Mahalia with my fingers..."

Yep, that sounded less filthy in my head.

This is Mahalia:

named after this lady:

I need to work on teaching her (the red, wooden Mahalia, that is) to hold a note but she's a beauty. Very excited about learning to play her properly -- the ambition is to be playing this song by this time next year (speaking of being able to hold a note...):

Weekly Weblinks

Literary Linkage
*because he doesn't have any actual friends with whom to form a book group in person, maybe? Oh snap (!) Already there's a self-publisher on the group page, pimping their own book. No thank you, I'll pass. Now, anyone else want to share their feelings on Wide Sargasso Sea?

Non-literary Linkage
And finally...
by Pierre-Adrien Sollier | See more here

Catch you on the flipside, amigos.

qb xx

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Sunday Summary

Happy Sunday, you lovely people, and may I say a big thank you to all of you who've commented on previous posts over the last week. Oh, what the heck, in fact over the last year. Thank you for reading!

Big awkward Sheldon-Penny hugs to you all.

This week, I have mostly been...

Spring-cleaning (well, sort of)

A new year requires a new look an' all that, so to that end, I've streamlined the blog a little bit.

There's now a Pinterest widget to your right, so if you're into that sort of thing you can browse the boards and pins at will, rather than scroll through ten near-identical images of flapper dresses, camels or motivational quotes by someone we've probably never heard of. (Confession: I do like a motivational quote.)

{Permission to be quirky? Thank you,
Mandy Hale. Whoever you are.}

And up to your left, you'll spy a Goodreads widget, although I will still be dropping into conversation the book/s I'm currently reading. Fear ye not, bibliophiles.

Oh and there will also always be plenty o' gifs.

Rewatching | The Fault in Our Stars

So... many... feels... (and yes, I am 36 not 16 but nevertheless...)

and a choice episode of 1990s Mark McManus-era Taggart featuring my crush of, oh, let's say 26 years, Peter O'Brien

with a delightfully 1990s curtain hairdo...

{It's on YouTube? What?! No!}

both on DVD and both Christmas gifts. And finally...

Reviewing the Year Wot Woz

I've eschewed (bless you) the Facebook Review of 2014, and instead created my own little mini slideshow of my Photos of the Day.

You can tell the days on which I'd had zero inspiration (the bed, or my socks, or a magazine, usually features), but with the exception of one day on which I just clean forgotted and another day on which my phone died, taking its Photo of the Day (of friends Fiona and Bianka) with it, I took a photo every day last year.

It's clear to see the prevalent themes (the Voicerox lovelies, the work tribe, the morning view from Imperial Wharf, coffee, wine, cake, legs, skies, churches, swim-selfies...).


Weekly Weblinks

Literary Linkage
Non-literary Linkage
*Fear Of Missing Out  | **Joy Of Missing Out

Have good weeks, good people. First day back on the coalface tomorrow. This will be moi:

And good luck to Evie who starts her new role tomorrow. We will miss you but you will rock! Here's a motivational penguin just for you:

qb xx

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Sunday Summary Wednesday Witterings Wesolutions

Wow. This blog post title isn't laboured at all, is it (!)

As it's New Year's Eve I'm doing what all hip young folk are doing at this time, and making elaborate plans... to stay in, watch Strictly Ballroom for the umpteenth time

feverishly cough up some promises to myself which I will of course endeavour to keep but please don't hold me to that, drink something bubbly, set off some Poundland deluxe party poppers, then head off to bed round about 12.06am. 

Good times.

But first, kindly allow me to disclose what I have, this week, mostly been doing*...

Reading | the last 3 books in my 2014 Reading Challenge


I did it! 50 books read this year, and two days shy of NYE as well! Now to begin cultivating the new list of To-Reads. Thanks to Jo for these two recommendations to boost the list:


* Actually that's a fib. In between 
  • Seeing friends and family
  • Faring averagely in quizzes
  • Being soundly thrashed in UNO by mother...
  • Eating my bodyweight in biscuits and drinking it in fizzy tipples
  • Having about five turns on the curly wurly slide at Minor Mania with my bestest's youngest,

I've been reading.

I've also been spoilt rotten by aforementioned friends and family again this year. 

And I've bought a ukulele.


I now feel morally obliged, it being NYE, to 

Review | my Resolutions Promises to myself this time last year

So let's review, shall we? And let's throw some gifs and memes in for good measure.

I promised to: 

Read 50 books | DONE AND DONE

Complain less | Umm... I promise to try even harder this year. Deal?

Rein in my jealous streak | Again, will try a little harder this year

Save money | I did not go overdrawn this year. At all. And I paid myself back for any borderline misdemeanours. I'd call that saving. Even if I'm nowhere near being able to afford a deposit on a tiny shoebox of a house. Baby steps, friends. DONE.

Swim regularly | I did, while I had swim membership. Then the open sessions were run too late, and were too crowded. So I had to give up. New challenge for the new year coming up, however!

Create and Write | I did. I wrote. I slapped down over 50,000 words for UnOfficialNaNoWriMo in November. I created my animation. Why, I wrote this very blog with considerable if inconsistent regularity. (Oxymoron?) I'd say that was mission accomplished.

Be open to more invitations | except when they involve any sort of contrived dating experience. I'm saying a tentative Done and Done here, though, because when Charlie and/or Jos extend invites I can't resist. That's just how it is. :-) Get me to that dance floor and pronto!

Cook and bake more | Well, I bake a mean lemon drizzle loaf these days, and the slow cooker has had more outings this year than ever before but... still a lot of improvement needed on this front. Now I've recovered from Scaldgate I may try making soup again. Maybe.

Or, not.

Eat more healthily | Let's just admit this is one of those ever-so-earnest, well-meaning resolutions that we all make, which last a week. I'm striking this from the official resolutions list. Then it stands a good chance of happening.

Take a photo a day | Well, today's output is still outstanding but, yes! Done! The photostream is here and I hope to put together some sort of slideshow soonest...

I will however say that I've downplayed the photographic highlight of my year:

{NYC, baby!}

so I also need to do something about compiling those photos and captioning them before I forget where it was I even went... Because my New York trip alone was an epic step out of my comfort zone, it was a ticking-off of one more item on the ever-fluid Bucket List.

And it was the actual highlight of my year.

I promised not to:

Complain about trains | And I didn't. Quite as much. Instead I spent a great deal of time complaining about the people on the trains. 

I think I misunderstood the assignment...

Be so needy | This was a rather nebulous promise-to-self anyway, and I can't even really remember to what it referred. Everyone likes to feel needed, wanted, etc. But it's rarely a desirable quality to project this need to be wanted all the time. That's probably what I was attempting to rein in.

And finally...

Do anything I don't want to do | I won't dwell on this one for too long but I'm still trying to stick by this promise to myself. Because life is far too short to force oneself into situations in which one is almost guaranteed to feel uncomfortable.

{Kirsten Dunst, making the patented Awkward Face!}
So! What's in store for MMXV?

On Monday when I met up with Nats (aforementioned bestest) we set to writing our goals and resolutions for the coming year, thus resurrecting a tradition of bygone years when we used to review the past few months on Halloween -- always felt rather appropriate on All Hallow's Eve!

We took as our starting point this list of goal prompts from Pinterest:

A bad habit...: to be less paranoid and slightly less obsessive about things. Also to remind myself:

If this means I spend less time on Facebook, so be it...

A new skill...: I'm going to learn to play the ukulele.

A person I hope to be more like: I'm naming two people here: my Voicerox sisters, Jos and Charlie. Because they're superb.

A good deed...: I'm going to do this 100k walk from London to Brighton for charidee (The MS Society). Now, as regular readers may know I'm a little averse to boasting about charitable deeds but this is for resolution purposes so I'll have to let it slide this one time...

A place I'd like to visit: passport renewal permitting, I'm citing Dublin or Berlin!


{The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin}

A book to read: As well as those above, I want to read Wide Sargasso Sea | Jean Rhys, the prequel to Jane Eyre, written before prequels were cool...

It's an Edward Rochester thing.

A letter to write: To Natalie (in response of course to the one Nats has pledged to write to me!). Also, a new submission letter for the novel I'm determined to finish writing (off the back of NaNoWriMo).

Food to try...: One of the more exotic salads from this book (one of my Christmas gifts!)

Do better at: drinking water

I also promise to try not to put myself under pressure this year.

Well, this has taken me a suitably long time to construct so on this note I shall sign off, and wish you all a very

I hope it is indeed a happy one for each and every one of you. 


qb xx