Last week London’s Evening Standard reported on a new website that had been growing in notoriety on blogs and websites not only in London but all over the world, one where people took pictures of men on the tube for others to rate online. This website is called Tube Crush and little did the Standard know that this supposedly fluffy trends article stuck in at the back section of the paper on a slow news day would spark a furor that has men, women, feminists, bloggers and commuters alike either firmly outraged at this blatant sexist behavior or throwing their hands up in the air in frustration at the PC brigade.
Guardian writer Sunny Hundal hit back the next day with his Comment Is Free piece called The Dubious Joys Of Perving Over Fellow Passengers Online. He said, “Erm, is it just me or if this site was about women, people would be getting arrested right about now?” He criticised the casual (lazy) way the Standard had reported on a trend without thinking about the (quite obvious) issues of sexism and voyeurism involved.
Looking at the comments below these articles it is clear a debate has been sparked, with both sides going up in arms. “I find this all rather disturbing.” Said Amy from South West London. “This website is an invasion of privacy and I think it quite abhorrent that photographs of people attempting to go about their business are being uploaded without their consent onto the internet for others to judge.”
Emily, also from London agreed, “I thinking this is ABSOLUTLY disgraceful and completely invasive behaviour. What makes you think they are happy with this? My boyfriend is a good looking guy but would hate for this to happen for him.”
Men are also complaining about the double standards involved in saying that it is Ok to take pictures of men on the tube, yet if it were the other way around it would be considered sexual harassment. “This is sexist, sinister and invasive,” complained Peter from London, “If Tube Crush has one purpose it’s to illustrate the double-standards faced by men.”
Others have raised the issue that with the rise of street style blogs like The Sartorialist and celeb mags, it has become more acceptable to take pictures of strangers and that people are over-reacting if they think Tube Crush is offensive. What this does illustrate is the rise of voyeurism on our streets. With the introduction of camera phones and digital cameras, it has become so much easier to take someone’s picture, often without them noticing. Do they have the right to do this, is anyone in the street is fair game?
Tube crush and the subsequent reporting of it struck a real chord with me, and I also tweeted about it when I saw it published saying, “Oh it’s ok to stare n take pics of ppl we fancy now? #tubecrush cnt believe @standardnews is condoning turning strangers into sexual objects.”
This was because we at OhDearism recently wrote an article on HollaBack London and UK Anti-Street Harassment. In it, my fellow writer Rosie talked about how it made her feel to be leered at, shouted at, hit on, photographed and even groped on the tube while on her way to work. For those who would say that Tube Crush is just a bit of fun and that people are over-reacting, I would just like them to pause and imagine how it feels to be sexually harassed on a nearly daily basis while you are just trying to go about your business. By saying that it’s Ok to take a picture of a stranger and post it on a website for people to leer over and comment on, you are basically saying that people in the street are public property and they don’t have the right to say who can take their picture and where they can put it.
I think this is why I was so disappointed with the Evening Standard, instead of highlighting an important issue faced by its readers, it chose to glorify a very dubious site and completely ignore the pandora’s box of issues Tube Crush opens and what it says about us as a society. Yes maybe it is fun to giggle about a good looking man on a website, but is it really worth enforcing the belief that people are public property and can be treated like objects. Do the women (and gay men) who use the site think about how they would feel if it was done to them?
Finally I would just like to share a story of one of my most recent incidents of street harassment (sadly I do also encounter it on a daily basis). Last week while standing on a street corner waiting to cross the road, a young man came up to me, said I was hot and tried to give me a high five. I said (quite politely) “No thank you” to which his group of friends responded by calling me names and saying I was ‘stuck-up’. All I was doing was trying to cross a street, I had no interest in interacting with this man and yet when I quite politely exercised my right to be left alone, I got a torrent of abuse that really upset me and ruined my night. There is a nasty attitude among some men (possibly a minority) in this city that they think they own and have power over women in the street and have the right to do anything to you, including taking your picture.