Driving up the A40 into london I held my breath while under the Hanger lane bypass. This junction between the A406 and the A40 marks the border between the inner and the outer city. Countless times I’ve driven through there with my younger charges who’ve all urged me to hold my breath as we went through the tunnel which like a portal ushers you from the first world into the busy one. You can tell the difference by the significant increase in traffic lights and billboards. It is to the latter that my attention today is drawn.
As I exhaled, emerging out from the tunnel, my thoughts were on how foolish I felt to have done that while alone in the car. Embarrassed but happy I reflected on how the littlest and most childish things gave me the most joy when done. My thoughts were interrupted by two images on the billboards ahead. They were of a half naked woman with crimson lipstick provocatively postured. I immediately ceased being a child and read what it advertised – a ‘gentlemen’s club’. It was 10 o’clock in the morning.
I find it interesting that the link has been created between a disregard for the dignity of women and the sense of manliness. The link is so strong that it has created an industry for itself. Sex, sexuality, and their power is such a potent thing that if mishandled can yield great pain. We live in a world that tries it’s hardest – and succeeds – in convincing the majority of that it is okay and actually quite ‘gentlemanly’ (or manly indeed) to see women as mere objects to be gaped at, wolf whistled, picked up and dropped off once used. Evidence for this is the billboard in question which, for me, surmised the commercialisation of what should be a gift. What’s more tragic is that the machinery has been at play for so long that some women have taken to it, mastered it and now use it effectively; perpetuating the problem. The yield is a generation, or two, for whom femininity and sexualisation for women, and masculinity and infidelity for men are tied.
There is a fine balance to be struck between collective responsibility (legislation) and personal responsibility (response ability) when it comes to this issue. We can all stand and watch while the generations that follow spiral further into a warped – and warping – planet, blind to the truth of healthy sexuality. That world where intimacy and commitment are continuously choked and sex – which should be a by product of good relationship (in the balanced diet with intimacy and commitment) – is heralded as fast food. We can indeed stand and watch…. Or change.