Yesterday afternoon, Russell Brand posted this tweet:
‘And finally, through the love of a good woman, teenage, sexist me was slain.’
(https://twitter.com/rustyrockets/status/423605729342128128) along with the picture you can see below:
Entirely understandably, the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign leapt on this public display of support from a very public and outspoken figure. Why wouldn’t they. It’s practically a coup for them. He’s young (ish), male, popular, and a well known ‘ladies man’ (ew). What better way to distance themselves from all those feminists in the background.
(This may sound an awful lot like a critique of the campaign. It really isn’t. I fully understand that the proPage 3 lobby like to frame the campaign as being just about a bunch of prudish, out of touch feminists, relying on the public perception of feminists as being marginal and extremist in nature to carry the narrative for them. Much like the pro page 3 lot needing to have women on their ‘team’, the anti page 3 campaign needs men, if only from a public perception angle. In single issue activism, pragmatism is par for the course.)
But this picture and tweet follows on from what appears to be an attempt from Russell Brand to rebrand *ahem* himself as ‘not a massive sexist’. In a ‘Conversation with HuffPost’ in which he fielded questions from an (undoubtably adoring) audience, he said that whilst he didn’t think of himself as being sexist, that women would be in a better position to judge that than he would.
I’m a woman. So I will judge. And I hate to break it to him (that’s a blatant lie, I’d love to break it to him. But I doubt he would read this, so it hardly counts), but yeah, he has been incredibly sexist over the years. Some quick examples in case you need them:
When he was invited to guest edit the New Statesman recently, he wrote, “I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me”, as well as declaring “I bow to no one in my appreciation of female beauty”.
Objectification is so often couched as ‘appreciation’ or ‘a love for women’.
During an MSNBC morning show interview (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDCtFTyw6fI) Brand commented on a presenter’s cleavage and made sexually suggestive comments about how she held a bottle of water.
Ah yes, women have breasts, let’s not let them forget that. And also make sure that we all think of your penis too.
His article on the death of Margaret Thatcher (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/apr/09/russell-brand-margaret-thatcher) mostly revolved around what an unloving mother he thought she would have been.
Because women are supposed to be nurturing and kindly at all times! And to not be makes you a monster.
When hosting a radio show in 2008 he thought it would be hilarious to call Andrew Sachs and inform him that he had “fucked” his grand daughter.
Woman as sexual conquest. I think this one is almost the most telling. That is how he sees women.
So yeah, definitely a massive sexist. But he’s changed, so he declares! He has discovered that he suffered “from the ol’ sexism”, so is going to ‘check’ himself from now on. And why has he had this revelation? Ah yes, ‘the love of a good woman’. This ‘good woman’ has made him see the error of his ways, made him change. The trouble is, I don’t believe it. Oh I believe that he is trying. I believe that someone with whom he is currently in a relationship has told him uncomfortable truths, so he’s toning it down. But we all know men who can talk the ‘right on’ talk around women, if they think it will help them ‘get laid’. And I don’t think that he has changed in any fundamental way in himself. It is relatively easy to change outward behaviours (pointing out a woman’s cleavage for example), and a lot more difficult to change the thought processes that underpin them (woman as sexual objects, conquests first and foremost).
So what do we do with men like Brand that declare they have changed? I posit that we should treat them a little like unexploded fireworks: observe the current lack of sparks, but approach with extreme caution. Maybe he genuinely wants to change. Maybe. Maybe we should be encouraging change by acknowledgement, by praise (because men are like puppies? We really don’t want them to pee on the rug, so we cheer them when they pee elsewhere). Maybe. But what we shouldn’t do is act as though everything else he has done didn’t matter. One declaration that you don’t think naked women constitute news does not make you automatically not sexist.
So I am glad that Russell Brand has come out in favour of the No More Page 3 campaign (not least because I think that page 3 is awful). But I’m not putting out the bunting just yet.