Friday, 8 August 2008

Upskirting is "Sometimes Annoying"

This morning, IMDb says to me:

Actor David Thewlis once threatened to attack a photographer - for trying to film up his girlfriend Anna Friel's skirt while she was pregnant.

The Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban star hates it when the paparazzi try to get unflattering pictures of his partner, Pushing Daisies actress Friel.

And he once confronted a snapper who deliberately tried to get an embarrassing shot - when Friel was expecting their first child.

He says, "It's sometimes annoying when a cameraman tries to put a camera up her skirt.

"The only time I've got close to hitting a cameraman is when one tried to put a camera up her skirt when she was pregnant - that's sexual assault.

"I said 'What the f**k are you doing?' I could have understood if she was wearing a mini skirt but to put a camera below a knee-length skirt with a pregnant woman...That's weird. It's illegal I'm sure."

The couple's daughter, Gracie Ellen Mary Friel, was born in 2005.

I'm confused. It's "sometimes annoying" when a guy puts a camera up your partner's skirt? It's only sexual assault when she's pregnant? It's fine for a guy to put a camera up your partner's skirt if said skirt is short?

I see two possible theories here. One, Thewlis regards women as public sexual objects. Of course a photographer will try and take pictures of his partner's underwear, why wouldn't he? She wears short skirts. It's kind of annoying, but hey, that's life. However, when a woman is pregnant, she is not sexual. She is off-limits because she's some sort of holy vessel for his seed, or something like that.

The other theory is that Thewlis has simply got used to this. Friel has been constantly treated like a sexual object (first lesbian kiss on British TV and all), probably since long before they got together. Maybe she said to him, "It's alright, they always do this." So it's not outrageous, it's just annoying. Sometimes. Photographers are permitted to take pictures in public so long as their subjects have no reasonable expectation of privacy, and we've been told again and again that if you're out in a skirt, you can have no reasonable expectation of your underwear remaining private. I find this depressing as both a woman and a photographer - you can be banned from photographing your own children, but not from sticking your camera up a stranger's skirt.

As we all know, things are different for pregnant women. Pregnant women are pure, fresh-faced and shiny, provided they're not chavs, in which case they're sluts and probably have four more by different fathers at home (© The Daily Mail). But decent pregnant women are a class unto themselves - in exchange for automatically getting a seat on the bus, you must resign yourself to your lack of entitlement to personal space from the moment you start to show (taking pictures up your skirt is unacceptable, but grabbing at your stomach is the right of everyone), take advice and stern tellings-off about your diet, exercise, sleeping patterns, reading material and sex life from stranger and friend alike, be bullied about your future sprog's name ("You can't call it Jake/Andrea! I went to school with an evil Jake/Andrea! What do you mean he is/isn't getting the father's name?"), and become an enormous hypochondriac after every single newspaper publishes contradictory reports about tiny things you should or shouldn't be doing, all of which will be cut out and brought to you by someone who's heard you're pregnant. All this you must take with a contented smile because a baby is coming. It's almost as if pregnancy turns you from a slut into a child.

I just can't get my head round a world where a man thinks it's reasonable for people to be shoving cameras up his partner's skirt and publishing the pictures in national media. It's bad enough that women have had to write it off as "one of those things": we know no policeman will bother his arse, and we'll just get a lecture on how some things aren't appropriate to wear in public and next time perhaps we could try wearing some shorts. We know people will roll their eyes at us and tell us it was only a picture of our knickers, let it go, it's not that big a deal. You go out in a bikini, right? We sort of have to let it go, because we're sick of being whacked round the head with the slut-shaming stick. I'm not saying if someone did it to me I wouldn't at least try to stamp on his camera, but if it's already so normal as to be "sometimes annoying", like pigeon shit, what chance have we got? Proper post about "letting it go" coming up soon.

Whether this is Thewlis's issue, or society's, I'm scared.


Renee said...

What I find interesting about this whole phenomenon about up skirting is that they then turn around and blame the women for being insufficiently modest...hello, your camera does not belong there in the first place.

Jen said...

I totally agree. It frightens me that we have the kind of society that can say, "Hey, you had a skirt on, what did you expect?" As though we weren't banned from wearing trousers for centuries.

Sabertoothed Screaming Lemur said...

Yeah, that's deeply weird. It's okay if it's a short skirt, or she's not pregnant. Yeah. Isn't it sexual assault, no matter what?
And as for "you shouldn't have worn a skirt even though it's unladylike to wear pants"... maybe they're trying to bring back pretticoats/crinolines? C'mon, girls, be properly modest again! You don't really need comfort or freedom of movement- you're feminine!