A newly open cafe on Clare Street and Corn Street, right in the centre of beautiful Bristol, is happily advertising itself as a place where they have copies of Playboy for the customers.
Here is the tweet which promotes this “entertainment for men”
Great night at the @birdcagebristol last night. Very cool and loving the 1980s copies of playboy
— forkmagazine (@forkmagazine) September 20, 2012
If you click on the link you will see that the images are not just hazy, fuzzy nods towards a respectful appreciation of the female human form. They are graphic images of a woman’s body in provocative poses.
I am honestly bewildered by how trivial this seems to many people. In the week that Lucy Ann-Holmes has been leading a campaign to stop the Sun from publishing topless women on its page 3 and Deborah Orr wrote and called it misogyny, no one seems very fussed that the Birdcage in Bristol thought it would go one step further and show women with all their clothes removed, let alone just their tops.
Orr writes “So often the publication of breasts as popular entertainment is there to say: “Look! She’s only a woman. That’s all.” This is true even when the woman in question is enthusiastically compliant.” – That does not ring true for me. Men, and some women, are essentially just looking at breasts. Just looking at physical parts that are sexually attractive and that sell. They are not looking at the woman behind the breasts.
In a newsagent you do not get a chance to look at the breasts and the rest until you purchase that type of magazine off the top shelf. This made me wonder if it was illegal to have this material in full view and with ready access to little children such as my 19-month-old daughter. However, the reason newsagents place magazines away from normal access is out of a voluntary sign-up to a code developed by the National Federation of Retail Newsagents (NFRN),(see Bailey Review pdf) so there is nothing illegal in it.
They do suggest something that the Managing Director of Birdcage may want to keep in mind – “Making your customers aware that you adopt a ‘family-friendly’ policy on display, you may find that parents with children are much happier to shop in your store.” (National Federation of Retail Newsagents, 2011)
So it is not illegal but you would not be able to show the images in those magazines on television. You could not post them on advertising billboards and you would not be able to post them on Facebook without them being deemed offensive.
I asked Bristol City Council whether such a display was illegal and they failed to reply. I won’t address the moral and cultural implications of pornography but it is on my mind as I read about the Istanbul convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence and read Lauren Wolfe’s interview in New Europe. There is further research about the effect of pornography on children but maybe this isn’t of interest to the Birdcage either.
So tell me, Giorgina Haslam, how do you justify using women’s naked bodies, positioned for the sexual pleasure of men, to advertise your cafe? What does this say about your cafe? You obviously don’t want people like me visiting.
I would rather visit somewhere where people looking at me want to know about me and not about what pleasure my physical form could give them. Especially when most of the time my breasts are exposed in order to feed my child.Tweet