Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Lads Mags and Bags

On Monday the Guardian published an article pinned to a letter signed by ten lawyers and a QC threatening supermarkets with legal action unless they stopped stocking so called 'lads mags', claiming displaying the magazines "in workplaces, and/or requiring staff to handle them in the course of their jobs may amount to sex discrimination and sexual harassment contrary to the Equality Act 2010."
The letter is written in support of the Lose The Lads Mags campaign started by UK Feminista and Object, two lobby groups that have a history of opposing free speech. Indeed, Object lobbied Leveson to grant the new press regulator the power to investigate third party complaints from 'representative women's groups', though who they claim to represent besides a few extreme feminists I'm not sure.

The crux of their complaint is that magazines such as Nuts and Zoo are harmful to women, exploitative of the models who appear in them, and promote a misogynistic and sexist culture amongst their readership. This is a view shared by the likes of Harriet Harman who wants to ban page 3, for example. It never occurs to any of these so called feminists (we'll get to that shortly) that the girls who appear on the pages of these magazines, might actually enjoy their work. Most girls who work in this industry that I've come across appear to be genuinely enthusiastic about it, get excited for new shoots, love appearing in magazines and newspapers (though I use the term newspaper extremely loosely in this context), and love the lifestyle it affords them. Let's not forget that they can make a hell of a lot of money doing this type of work. By extension too, lap dancers/strippers - some of whom supplement their income by doing glamour modelling - at least the ones I've met (when you play in hard rock bands, you have the pleasure of meeting these people from time to time) take a lot of pride in their work. You have to be incredibly fit to work in an industry like that. Where your work depends on your image, taking great pride in your appearance and your figure is a must and the hours these girls must spend in the gym, maintaining their physique is ridiculous. Not to mention those that have a talent for pole dancing as well. There is immense skill in that particular art, not to mention a herculean amount of upper body strength.

It appears to me that complaints of these types tend to originate from groups that call themselves 'feminist' when, in reality, they're anything but. In fact, they're far more conservative than they are liberal. Feminism was once about the empowerment of women, and their sexual liberation too! However, today there seems to be an increasing number of feminists who, far from wanting women to have the power to do whatever they want, including flaunting what god (or their surgeon) gave them, want women, and men, to become increasingly gender neutral. There is nothing unequal or oppressive about celebrating femininity, masculinity and the differences between the sexes. There's also a certain hypocrisy at play here too. The lawyers aren't going after say Attitude mag, which is basically FHM for girls. Plus, if they're concerned about women becoming depressed by comparing themselves to the models, there's a far greater problem to be addressed with fashion mags and their size zero models than the women who appear in lads mags, curves and all. Also what's the difference between the cover of the Sunday Sport and say, an M&S underwear ad? Or the Diet Coke ads for that matter?

But the main point here is this: it's just a magazine. There's nothing illegal about the retailers stocking it. The majority of places put the mags on the top shelf. There's never any hardcore sex pictures, it's just topless modelling - much like David Beckham's underwear ads, and I'm not hearing any women complaining about them. Finally, and most importantly, these are privately owned stores. If someone really, really has a problem with handling them, don't work there. It's HUGELY unreasonable to expect massive national retailers to stop stocking a well-selling range of magazines because of the vocal nature of a prudish minority. If you don't like the mags don't buy them. If you find Page 3 offensive, don't buy the Sun. But don't force your particular hang-ups on the rest of us. Some girls like to get their kit off, feel sexy, and earn a bucket load of money posing for pictures, and believe it or not, some of us enjoy looking at them. It's not an outrageous notion to believe that men can find women sexually attractive and appreciate that they have a brain, personality, thoughts and feelings as well.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Woolwich & Faith

Following the attack in Woolwich yesterday, there was an interesting debate taking place on Facebook around the nature of Islam, violence and the problem of tarring all muslims with the same metaphorical brush. This is what I had to say on the matter. 

The problem here is faith. Faith is considered a virtue and something that should be respected, but that is the complete antithesis of an intelligent, critical thinking human being. Are all Muslims the same? No, of course not. The British Council of Muslims has come out and condemned the attack that happened in Woolwich yesterday. However, all Muslims, all Christians, all Jews, all Buddhists etc etc believe that it's ok to believe in something for which there isn't a single iota of evidence. They believe and respect Faith. So how can ANYONE who has faith condemn the attackers yesterday, or the 9/11 terrorists, or the London bombers, or the Crusades, or the Spanish Inquisition, or Hamas, or Hezbollah and so on, when they are all acting on Faith? I'm reminded of a great quote from Derren Brown, of all people; "Moderate religious people may of course express distaste for such violence, pretending that the clear calls for grotesque and violent behaviour in their sacred book aren't there and cherry-picking the nice bits. But they are still guilty of not opening up the subject of belief to rational discourse, and in doing so are part of the machinery that leads to all the ugliness caused by fundamentalism."

Let's not forget the main difference here. If a serial killer decides to murder a bunch of people, or a rapist indulges in his particular dark art, they know that it's wrong. They hide it and try to get away with it. The difference is, religious extremists genuinely believe that what they are doing is morally right and that they are commanded to do so by their particular god. Everyone condemns their acts, but very few people condemn the manner in which they reached the desire to commit their atrocities, namely, religious faith. Of course there are bad atheists too, but I defy anyone to find a single act of terror committed in the name of atheism, and therein lies the difference. As Steven Weinberg said "With or without religion you will have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things, but for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

As for 'kicking them out', you can't deport someone for being an idiot - no matter how appealing that may seem - and complaining that idiots can claim benefits etc is just as bigoted and intolerant as the religion one seeks to condemn. We should of course deport the likes of Abu Qatada, who is wanted to stand trial for terrorism elsewhere but due to the nature of the threat, we can't just worry about terrorists that are home grown. It is a global problem and should be treated as such. As for anyone who commits crimes in this country then they should of course face the full extent of the law, and I'm inclined to agree with the train of thought which says that sentencing in general in this country is far too lenient. If there are foreign born criminals, the question of whether we lock them up here or deport them to a country where they will be free to commit further crimes is quite a moral and ethical dilemma and one that I'm not sure I have the answer to. But you can't deport people for believing in a god any more than you can for denying evolution or believing in fairies. 

For any apologists that have somehow found their way here, I would leave you with a thought experiment devised by the late great Christopher Hitchens, to which there has yet to be an answer:

First, think of an immoral act that could only have been done in the name of, or because of, religion.

I daresay you've got a few.

Now, try to think of an immoral act that could only be done by someone of no religious faith whatsoever.

Answers on a postcard.


Monday, 20 May 2013

To blog or not to blog... and indeed, what to blog?

When one decides to write a blog, there seems to be two approaches: either set up a single issue blog on something you're involved in or passionate about or write about the minutiae of your life. Whilst I'm sure the latter approach can be quite cathartic, I've never really had much interest in reading them, much less writing one. There's a great quote from Eleanor Roosevelt which says; "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people" and whilst I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to say I have a great mind (I daresay this blog will soon attest to that) it is certainly an aspiration and so ideas shall be the main focus point of my mental diarrhoea here. 

I've been toying around with what the subject matter for this blog will be for a couple of months now. I'm writing it primarily as a way of keeping my hand in, and improving, my writing but also to further explore some of the ideas I come across whilst debating elsewhere on the web, (mainly twitter: @philmyth), and in life in general. For the most part I wanted this to be a single issue blog, rather than a personal one but if I made it a political blog say, I wouldn't be able to log on and write about theology or music or morality or video games or any of the other things that interest me. So whilst this blog will mainly contain posts on atheism and my exploration of libertarianism, I might throw in some commentary on a few other subjects as and when the mood takes me. Rest assured though that even if you read all my posts here, you'll still be clueless as to what I've had for dinner! Just for kicks though, I may stick a 'currently reading/playing/listening to at the end of each post. It will serve no purpose but I don't want this blog to be completely devoid of any personal touches.

The best thing about the Internet so far as I'm concerned is that it allows you to converse and exchange ideas with people from all over the world, from all different backgrounds and with all manner of different viewpoints. I hope this blog will allow me to do that, so that I may better inform and educate myself, and perhaps give someone else a different perspective to consider than they have before.

As for the title, mythology won't be the subject matter here (although Bronze Age/Christian mythology may crop up from time to time in some of the more atheistically focused musings!), it's merely a reference to my stage name 'Phil Myth', from my time playing in bands. I've been using it for a good few years now and there are a few people who know me by that and don't even know my real surname! Anyways, it's stuck and I've grown rather fond of it (what's life without whimsy eh?!) so it stays, at least for now.

I think this will do as an introduction to what I intend to write about here. I should get my first proper blog up either tonight or tomorrow. I hope you enjoy reading them and will indulge me in a bit of debate now and then! Feel free to follow me on Twitter if the mood takes you; my handle is @philmyth, and I shall speak to you all soon!