I love it when my phone pings and I have a message from my friend Emily. It's usually something funny enough to make me "LOL". Not today. I heard the "Ping!" but this was the message:
"What the actual fuck... Bunnies against breast cancer at Paddington Station. Basically a girl dressed up as a bunny girl holding a collection bucket and having her photo taken with men..."
No LOLs. Just grumpy muttering and swearing to myself as I started looking online to find out exactly what was going on in Paddington Station today.
I'm 33 years old and I have breast cancer so I feel like I should be unreservedly championing Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October. But to be honest it's been doing my head in. I just don't see how making everything pink and saying it's for "breast cancer awareness" actually helps anyone. And, call me cynical, but I'm pretty sure all those companies selling pink versions of their products and donating "a portion" of the profits to breast cancer charities are making more money for themselves than they are for the charities. Please, don't bother buying that pink spatula because it's marketed as being for "breast cancer awareness". If you want to help, just donate some money directly to a breast cancer charity instead.
Anyway, on a scale of 1 (Minor Irritation) to 10 (Blood Boiling Fury), pink spatulas, pink colanders and pink frying pans register somewhere around a 2.
Police officers posing for photos in Paddington Station with women dressed as Playboy bunnies as part of Playboy Club London's #BunniesInPink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month on the other hand.... this registers much further up on my Scale of Annoyance.
(Images taken from the @PlayboyClubLDN Twitter feed)
I believe these men are British Transport Police. But if I'm wrong and the Metropolitan Police or any other police force would like to claim them as their own, please let me know and I will, of course, make a correction here.
These photos raise a couple of questions for me.
1. What's the real motive behind #BunniesInPink? Is it to raise awareness of breast cancer, raise money for the charity Against Breast Cancer, or promote Playboy Club London?
Although Playboy Club London are saying this is for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I can't find any awareness raising of anything useful about breast cancer (like signs or symptoms) in amongst all the Bunnies In Pink stuff I've found, so it's not that.
The information on the Playboy Club London website starts by saying "the club will be raising funds for the essential charity Against Breast Cancer." So I guess I should shut up now, because anything that raises money for a breast cancer charity is a good thing, right? Wrong. I am firmly against the objectification of women, under all circumstances, because:
"It is long established that the overwhelming portrayal of women as sex objects in society plays a role in maintaining inequality between women and men. This has been recognised at the international level by the United Nations Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which calls on States to take decisive action to tackle objectification – which it links to stereotypes and prejudices based on gender." - Object.
Of course I want charities to have the funding they need to do the important work they do. But I just don't believe that raising money for a charity justifies any activity that objectifies women. There are plenty of ways to fundraise without portraying women as nothing more than sex objects in the process.
In the same way that I think The Sun newspaper used "Page 3 vs Breast Cancer: Check 'em Tuesday" as a pathetic attempt to justify Page 3, I think that Playboy Club London is using a show of #BunniesInPink fundraising in order to promote their own club.
"...our Bunnies will be proudly supporting the fundamental work that Against Breast Cancer do by wearing pink attire for the whole of October. Have your picture taken with our Bunnies and show support for this cause by sharing your photograph with your friends on social media sites."
Seriously, putting a photo of yourself on Facebook with a Playboy Bunny isn't showing support for Against Breast Cancer. It's promoting Playboy.
2. Was it ok for these police officers to pose for photos with women dressed provocatively as pink Playboy bunnies?
Hmmm... no. I'm going to assume that as all three of these police officers are in uniform, they were on duty when these photos were taken. I will assume that they made a donation to Against Breast Cancer in order to have the photos taken, but that doesn't make it ok. They are police officers on duty in Paddington Station, and this isn't how they should be spending their time. They should be focused on what's going on around them, and be accessible and approachable to any members of the public that need help.
Now, to help make my point, let me think of an example of what they could have been doing in Paddington Station other than posing for photos with Playboy bunnies..... hmmmmm.... I know! How about patrolling the station to prevent sexual offences in line with the aims of Project Guardian. I learned this fact from the British Transport Police's own website.
According to the TfL safety and security survey, around 15% of females have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour on the network, with around 90% not reporting it to police.
This is awful, and why Project Guardian is so important. It "focuses on increasing awareness and confidence amongst the public to report unwanted sexual behaviour to the police or members of staff, particularly those offences which are often unreported, such as sexual touching, exposure, outraging public decency, lewd comments, leering and harassment."
I don't know for sure that these are British Transport Police officers - they might be Metropolitan Police - but either way, and regardless of the existence of Project Guardian, it makes no difference. They are police officers. And looking at the photos above actually raises a third question for me.
3. If I had been in Paddington Station today, and was the victim of sexual harassment, and the first police officers I found were these ones busy having their photos taken with Playboy bunnies, would I have felt like I could report it to them and be taken seriously?
No, I don't think so.
And now I realise that as well as annoying me, those photos have left me feeling pretty sad.