Tag Archives: feminism

Why ‘upskirting’ should be a sexual offence: explained

Cover photo: Tobias Zils

Everything you need to know about this act and what you can do to make it illegal.

After months of campaigning from different sides, Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, tabled a parliamentary bill to make ‘upskirting’ a criminal offence. Having cross-party support, it is to be debated on 11 May. But what exactly are MPs debating?

What is ‘upskirting’?

‘Upskirting’ is the act of photographing someone’s groin area beneath their skirt (also applies to dresses) without their consent. It is often performed in public places where it is hard to spot offenders.

A recent Freedom of Information request done by the Press Association revealed that only 34 percent of police forces in England are keeping records as it is not classified as a sexual offence. Only 11 out of 78 offenders pursued were charged since 2015.

A 10 year old girl was involved in one of these cases, but it couldn’t be taken forward because of insufficient evidence, as reported by Avon and Somerset Police.

Similar cases have led to girls wearing shorts to school underneath their skirts to protect themselves from being exposed. Dr. Mary Bousted, president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) told The Daily Telegraph: “Social media just provides a new vehicle, another way girls can be harassed.”

What is being done about it?

Campaigners are working towards amending the Voyeurism (Offences) Bill 2017-19 currently passing through Parliament. Clearer laws are needed regarding image-based sex abuse, especially when it involves minors.

Gina Martin became a lead campaigner for upskirting becoming a sexual offence after her own experience at the British Summer Time music festival in London’s Hyde Park. Making the offender delete the picture was the only thing the police could do, and her case was closed because there was no legal way to prosecute.

Martin says: “So many cases can’t be prosecuted because there is no specific offence to prosecute it under.”

The Fawcett Society’s sex discrimination law review (SDLR) panel has called to make it an offence on their Final Report published in January. Chief Executive Sam Smethers told The Guardian “technology meant women are experiencing sexual harassment in new ways and that legislation needs to respond”.

What is a sexual offence then?

A sexual offence happens when there is no consent from any of the parties involved in any kind sexual experience. It can be touching, groping, grabbing, unwanted sexual remarks, penetrating, etc.

This is outlined in the Sexual Offences Act introduced in 2003 for England and Wales, which the Ministry of Justice insists covers upskirting already. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) say upskirting can be prosecuted under Section 67 of the Act regarding voyeurism or the criminal offence of public nuisance for outraging public decency.

However, the former only applies in private spaces where the victim is “in a place which would reasonably be expected to provide privacy” and they’re in the bathroom, their groin or breasts are covered only with underwear or exposed and/or they’re performing a sexual act that is not of the public kind.

Similarly, the victim is completely disregarded when it is prosecuted for outraging public decency as this revolves around the public and its accepted standards of decency and there must be at least two witnesses of the act.

Gina Martin is working with MPs from all major political parties, law authorities, police high commissioners, academics, and has 98,000 signees on her petition to change the law.

“There is a big gap in the law and it has to be a sexual offence because the law sets precedent of what is right and wrong in society. It would also means victims have anonymity and persecutors are prosecuted as sex offenders as they should be.”

Upskirting infographic

Graphics by author

How can you help?

You can write to your local MP and sign Gina’s petition on Care2.

You can raise awareness by sharing on social media and telling your friends and family about it, like ITV presenter Holly Willoughby.

You can start your own campaign, like Anna Dovgalyuk, a Russian student trying to make it illegal worldwide. The caption on the video reads: “This video is ‘dedicated’ to all who love to peek under skirts. On the behalf all women who became your victims – here, look! And stay away from us.”

If you’ve been a victim of upskirting, don’t be afraid to tell the authorities. Even if they can’t prosecute the offender, they can make them delete the picture from their phone.

If that makes you uncomfortable, Safeline provides specialist services to support people affected by sexual abuse. They recognise upskirting as a type of abuse.

If you’re not comfortable talking about it but still want to share your story, Martin is building the first data base for upskirting cases.

From words to activism

This video doesn’t exist

Marta Guerreiro, is a Portuguese writer that came to London three years ago, “I wanted to study abroad, in a place where I would have more opportunities, where I could have my freedom and my independence.” She is studying journalism at the University of East London, but her career started way before that.

How did that the book started?
I had a lot of free time; I was finishing the second year of high school in Portug226045_109673569131279_8215099_nal. Instead of going out I decide to stay home during the summer. I never harsh about it as a book, but just a story. But when I finish I realise it was big enough, and that was good, I send it to publishers, and one of them wanted to publish the book, and some days later it was on sale in bookstores.

How was it deal with fame at such a young age?
It was weird. I never thought that something that I wrote would become so famous in my country. After the interview that I did for a Portuguese channel, everyone knew who I was, but not for a long time. It was strange because by the time I was just 15, and my book was related to the subject of cerebral palsy and depression. For me, at that age, it was hard to answer questions related to this topic, just because I was not able to give them the right answer at that time because I was so young.

Can you tell me a little more about the questions? What was the hardest question that someone asked you, or the one that you remember the most?
Well, the one that I remember the most was this lady that accused me of using my sister to get money, what is wrong, because or you are already a successful writer, or is hard to get money from your first book. About the questions once there was this email from a lovely lady, that her mother had a disability, her husband tries to commit suicide she was desperate asking me for help, help that I didn’t know how to give. That was the time that I said to my mum that I had to stop to receive this kind of emails, it was not healthy, at least not for me. I was not the person to ask this kind of things; I didn’t know anything at the time, I was just a kid. But there was one that I really could help; it was a lady, with two children, one with cerebral palsy and the other one healthy, she asked me If I could talk to the healthy one to help him out on how to deal with the situation. That moment gave me straights because it shows that my book could and can help people, I just felt such a bliss.

“I couldn’t handle the subjects that I was writing about”

Situations evolve, so where were you after all this?
After I write the book, I felt a lot of pressure from the editor, my friends and all the people525845_285509671547667_3114445_n that follow me on social media. So, I wrote the second one, not because I wanted but just because of the pressure. As a result, I never read that book because I don’t like it, I don’t even like to look at it. Is not something that I’m proud. After that experience I quite writing, I wanted nothing to do with that. I wanted to be as far as I could from writing because people always associated me with that young girl that wrote about something so mature. So, I spend about four years without writing, just writing some things on my blog but not in the same way that I use to write.

So how do you look at that girl now? And how you see yourself in the future?
Now, I look at that girl as a girl that had an amazing experience and a privilege for having something publish so young, but in my future projects, I don’t want to have the same experience the way I had before (like that girl). I want to do something that I’m proud of and about something that I can handle. At that time, I couldn’t handle the subjects that I was writing about; it was supposed to be something personal and become something famous. Right now, I’m back to writing, for magazines and blogs but is an activist kind of writing; now I’m different Marta.

You told before that you add a break of 4 years of writing, but was in that four years that you become an activist. How was that change?
When I stop writing, I felt that I should be something that I wanted to be, not the perfect child that write a book, and every parent want it. I was perfect for the other people eyes, that wasn’t the truth I had a lot of difficulties, as a person and people didn’t know that they were expecting something of me that was not me able to give. After that experience, I became an LGBT+ activist, because I want it to shout out loud that you can be a writer, do amazing projects and still have your voice. You don’t have to be the perfect person that society wants you to be and being activist an LGBT+ person, and still, do amazing things, so one thing does lien to another, you can be queer, have tattoos, pricings, whatever and still be a foreign student, a writer. I have the impression that people aren’t aware of that when I was writing the first book.


“If people are anti-feminism at least they heard about it”


How was your activism? Where you a part of any group or association?

I was a volunteer for a group of family planning since I was 12 till I was 16, mostly of what I did was go to school and events talk to young people the importance of protecting yourself, and offering condoms in the end. With that, I work with LGBT+ people, in events as the Pride where I had the contact with the community.

The LGBT+ society changes a lot since then till now. Does this society still rep17806996_697783313726269_1670027891_nresent what you believe?
I am a part of this community (LGBT+), but I understand that inside of the community there’s a lot of homophobia, racism, transphobia. I’m still part of the community, but I’m aware of the problems that exist inside of the community, it doesn’t mean that doesn’t represent me, but at the same time I want to be sure that I know the problems inside the community and I want to be able to deal when this kind of situations happen.

Talking about other activism that you do, being a feminist, you saw the evolution of this movement. How this affect you has a woman and as a writer?
I think feminism become so mainstream because the social network is a tool now that did exist back in the days, but this social network as a great importance because it makes you share information, reaching young people and reaching the right meaning of feminism. I don’t think it was awesome for the word to be an underdog, I don’t even know for real that it was that underdog because I was so young, but when I was 16, I saw a lot of grown up women fighting for feminism. Maybe it was mainstream for us as young people, but now that I’m aware that a lot of individuals are feminism and a lot of individuals are anti-feminism I find it more mainstream. It is essential that we talk about it, the fact that people think is a bad word it means that the word is out there, people are reading it, people know about it. If people are anti-feminism at least they heard about it, they are just misinformed or are just sexists, but at least they know it exists is not a taboo anymore.17807183_697783317059602_909501900_n

To finish, do think we live in a men’s world?
I don’t think I know for sure if you see politics is about them. For example, men can be described as good actors, but women normally are described as a hot actress, the pay gap is also a good example. But what show me that we live in a men’s world is the different way that we judge different genders, as the men are more likely to be judged by their character, the women are more judge by their looks. It hurts me because I see amazing women, that have fantastic ideas, but they are cut down because they aren’t man. There was a lot of women doing amazing thing for science, maths and other areas but they are not recognised in the same way as men, as you can see in the film High Figures for example. Women are still considered guilty for being rape; women are killed in some countries because they try to fight for their rights. So obviously is a men’s world and I end up suffering for being a woman. The politic situation now shows that the world is not a safe place for us and we still need to continue fighting.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/207698266″>International Women’s Day</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user11314748″>Marta Guerreiro</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Casual sexism and social media

The standardisation of social media as a tool for young people to communicate and share their experiences has faced a lot of criticism. We want teenagers off their smart-phones and romanticise simpler childhoods spent playing outdoors. Yet social media can be a great source for good. It allows people to connect long distance and to find people with similar interests. Mostly it allows us to share our experiences and interests, good or bad. The bad tending to be expressions of prejudice.

I'm not a feminist I shave my legs

I’m not a feminist I shave my legs’, original illustration by author 

Society is doing a great job of eliminating sexism and whilst we’ve still got a long way to go we currently have a better gender balance than ever before. Social media is a great tool for political engagement, particularly with teenagers and young people. It is way to share positive messages and inspiring stories that educate. Feminist content from Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post receive thousands of likes and shares from people of all generations, nationalities and genders. However on the other side there is still sexist content going viral.

The focus of social media as an outlet tool for young people is at once freeing and a little horrifying. With 71% of teens aged 13 to 17 on Facebook and 52% on Instagram, it is clear that we are all likely to be heavily influenced by our interactions on them. Social media, particularly for young people comes down to sharing. Sharing your experiences within your own network in a controlled manner. By simply liking or sharing a post you can show your political views to the world, your world of followers that is. Whilst popular news sites and viral sites such as Buzzfeed and Upworthy that post mostly amusing or politically positive content have great shareability, so do some uglier messages.

UNILAD and The Lad Bible, websites that are based around the idea of ‘Lad culture’ are hugely popular, with each Facebook page having six and ten million likes respectively. Originally containing content that included scantily dressed women for sexual gratification, they have recently tried to overhaul their image to something a little more ‘respectable’. In a recent article, Buzzfeed reported that The Lad Bible is now ‘trying to shake off its image as a boobs and banter site, full of sexist jokes and soft porn’. And whilst the pages main posts consist of amusing viral content, its previous laddish connotations have seemed to infect the comment culture surrounding them.

Lad culture is something that has come to light in the past year. Whilst always having existed in some form or another, the current trend is for a grand show of traditional masculinity, influenced by American fraternities. At it’s most extreme a source of homophobia and misogyny, at it’s mildest a representation of ‘brotherhood’ trying to hold on to traditional macho ideals through so-called ‘banter’. Dapper Laugh’s fall from grace began with a petition to stop him speaking at Cardiff university and ended with the removal of his show from ITV. The comedian shot to fame making Vines of pranks and ‘pick-up artistry’ but caused concern over his promotion of rape culture. Last October there was also a huge controversy surrounding the LSE Rugby society after a pamphlet was circulated that contained misogynistic and homophobic content. It is a clear sign of how the general public, particularly the student body are no longer standing for sexist humour. 

Britain First are also masters shareability, engaging beguiled animal lovers to share animal rights posts from the infamously nationalist group, without thinking of their political agenda. In fact, a lot of the most disturbing viral posts are often a mix of Islamaphobia and sexism. An American post suggesting, supposedly in humour, that Muslim women should go naked to show that they were not suicide bombers went viral on Facebook last year. Though this one of the most despicable examples, images objectifying women with a humorous slant are often shared. One of the most recent examples that popped up on my feed was an image showing a woman dressed in underwear making breakfast comparing her to the stimulation of caffeine. With these examples and many more like them, it is clear that young people on social media are regularly exposed to sexism. It only takes one person with an ignorant sense of humour to share content with a harmful message.

The internet provides anonymity, and whilst your Facebook profile may have your name and face plastered all over it there is still a sense of security that comes with voicing your opinion from a screen. Whilst social media doesn’t perpetuate casual sexism, it does provide and outlet on which there seem to be fewer consequences for your actions. Due to the immediate nature of online, there isn’t much thought that goes into the click of the ‘share button’.

The rise of the Meninist movement is also a recent social media based phenomenon. Calling ‘down with feminism’, the moment focuses on gaining rights for men whom they believe have been repressed by feminist ideals. Claiming to seek equality, the movement started with relatively comedic tweets and memes but has gone so far as to mimic anti-rape posters and tweet abuse at feminists. The Meninist Twitter account has over 929k followers and tweets sexist comments such as ‘all the girls with a cups need to stop wasting money on bras and just buy some tank tops like the rest of us.’ Recently they released their own t-shirts with many women sending in pictures of themselves wearing the top featuring ‘#Meninist’.

However, it is not all negative. More and more young people are attempting to combat sexism and feel comfortable calling themselves feminists. Earlier this year Emma Watson’s He For She speech quickly went viral with people of all genders sharing the video, related articles and memes. The speech was also backed by many male celebrities. The endorsement of celebrities often capture the attention of a wider audience and make for stronger response in our fame obsessed society. These contributions seem to help de-stigmatise feminism, particularly in the eyes of young people.

The worrying issue of causal sexism on social media is the way in which it normalises misogyny. By no means the only distressing issue on the Internet, the displays of sexism masquerading as humour and lad culture may seem rather harmless. Yet when young people are convinced that these views are ok, there is a risk that they will carry them over to their daily lives.

To add some voices to the issue I had some sixteen and eighteen year old girls discuss the issues surrounding sexism and social media.

What Is Feminism?

‘I don’t think it’s just for women, it’s a movement to abolish inequality, it’s for everyone.’

‘Everybody interprets feminism differently and there are so many different classifications of feminism now.’

‘I think people also stereotype feminists, they think of radical feminists and have negative associations.’

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

‘I don’t know enough about the movement to consider myself a feminist, I think it would be insulting to other feminists to call myself one’

‘I think if you believe in equal rights between men and women than you are a feminist, why not identify yourself as one? I don’t think you have to be active, to join a club or protest, it is more to with mind-set, it’s an ideology.’

‘The word feminist has been so tainted over the years that people may judge you for saying that you are one.’

What are some of the negative connotations that come to mind when you think of the word feminism?

‘I think of angry women telling me not to have sex or wear short skirts.’

‘With social media people can easily express their views and those with an extreme view seem more likely to share it. For instance you have feminists on Tumblr who just bad mouth men and seem to give feminism a bad name.’

‘You’re always going to have groups that give an ideology a bad name and they tend to be the loudest.’

‘You don’t hear much positivity about feminism in the media, the only thing I’ve seen is the Emma Watson He for She speech’

‘I think the word feminism has too much negative history, it is difficult to change people’s perceptions of that word. Maybe they should come up with a new label.’

In your opinion what view do your peers hold on feminism?

‘My friends feel like they’re feminists, they feel strongly about it yet we don’t discuss our views on it often.’

‘In my Psychology class we were asked who considered themselves a feminist and only four people put their hands up. However, when asked who believed in equal rights for men and women, everyone put their hands up. There were so many people who didn’t want define themselves as feminists as they didn’t want to be seen as extreme. I just think that there’s no education on it.’

How Important is feminism?

‘I think it’s very important, if we didn’t have feminism where would be now? We have come so far because of feminism and I think we will always need it to challenge inequalities.’

‘I think we are lucky because our society is quite forward thinking and has developed and I think we can pass this on to other cultures to help them achieve equality.’

What do you think of groups such as The Lad Bible and UNILAD?

‘I love The Lad Bible, I think they’re hilarious. They take the piss out of things and share funny videos.’

‘It started out being about men being laddish but now it’s reclaimed the term as something that can be applied to men and women as a commendation for being funny.’

‘Though they have moved on, there is still content that is misogynistic, like Dapper Laughs. He started out funny but then became overly sexual and started making rape jokes, it’s just not ok.’

‘Men seem to think you should be complimented by cat-calls, but they’re so aggressive about it. The first time we went clubbing we walked in and instantly felt men look at us and it made me fell so uncomfortable that there was nothing I could do about it.’

‘I think that’s the problem with (lad culture inspired) pages and Dapper Laughs, it can make that sort of abuse funny, it normalises it. Men see this and they copy it because they think it’s ok.’

Do your friends on social media ever share anything that you find offensive or sexist?

‘There are girls who will share posts that are so derogatory to women and I can’t believe they share it as it can’t be what they really think.’

‘People often share sexist posts about what women should be doing in bed and how men should behave in a relationship and it sets a double standard. Like women should be in the kitchen, guys should pay on a date, it’s so old fashioned’

‘I think when girls see these sexist posts and feel pressured to share them, they’re learning and accepting those values.’

‘There’s so much slut shaming on social media. I think as girls we do that a lot, we do it to each other more than men. We enable men to talk to women this way by doing it to each other. We call other girls who have slept with lots of people ‘sluts’ but don’t criticise men for doing the same.’

Do you use social media to make your political views known?

‘I think it’s hard to share your views on Facebook, if there’s something I felt passionate about I would, but I mainly use it for talking to friends. There’s so much going on, on Facebook I feel as though it would get lost and no one would pay attention to my views.’

‘I like sharing my views, even if my granddad’s the only who will look at it and comment on the posts. I feel validated by sharing things that I find and interesting and that I think matter.’

How important do you think social media is in achieving equality?

‘I think it’s really important because it is the way young people communicate and is one of the only ways we learn about issues such as the feminist cause.’

‘I don’t watch TV, something like the Emma Watson video, I would have never seen had someone not shared it in my social network. The ability of videos and posts to go viral is how we find out about them.’

‘The way I hear about political issues is by watching something such as Russell Brand’s The Trews. And if something sparks my interest I then might look it up but I don’t watch or read the news to get information.’

‘I think one of the problems is people think that social media is not the place to share your political views. I’d be scared to share certain views considered extreme, and when I see feminist posts I agree with I don’t feel the need to share it.’

In a society that is ever-progressing when it comes to fighting in equality, it seems that casual sexism on social media goes unnoticed. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow us to choose our own social network and therefore create our own news feeds. If we are offended by, or dislike content posted we have the option to unfollow accounts and even report the post. But doing so is an active process. As a teenager today with a vast amount of your social interactions occurring online, you are unlikely to want to delete a friend just for sharing something you don’t agree with. When your social status depends on how many likes and followers you have it is a natural instinct to not want to risk alienation. Maybe it is time we start teaching young people more about their right to equality and support them in navigating the vast exposure that comes with social media and living in an online world.


Do you think there is a problem with casual sexism online? Let me know in the comments of @DarcieTF.


The Post-Feminism Era

Much of the recent news has been centred around the issues of feminism and misogyny. Most recently, Rosetta scientist Matt Taylor’s latest choice of attire has received thousands of complaints worldwide due to images of scantily clad women on his shirt, ‘pick up’ artist Julien Blanc has been banned by the Home Office from entering the UK due to a high level of criticism surrounding his pick up techniques (which have been labelled as “sexually abusive”)and ITV’s Daniel O’Reilly, better known as Dapper Laughs who is blamed for giving a platform to “everyday sexism”. 

Read more