Are there a significant number of men who identify as both religious and feminist?
Two weeks ago when I was in the thick of nasty trolling over my views on lads mags, Carl Beech the founder of an organisation called Christian Vision for Men, contacted me to express his support. I tracked him down for an interview.
VB: Thanks again for your support and for speaking up when the trolls were bashing many of us women recently!
CB: My pleasure. I was almost ashamed to be a man when I saw those comments from twitter trolls directed at women. I was disgusted and angry.
VB: It’s encouraging to hear from a man who is angry about the magazines, rather than angry at women for complaining about them.
CB: Thanks. For over two years now my organisation has been getting behind petitions and taking direct action through formal complaints. I really do wonder, what do these small-minded people think about children seeing porn at eye level? Now hear me clearly, I’m an ordinary guy with a penis and a pulse. I have a sex drive, love cars, bikes, sport and bonfires. Define me as a cliché if you want. I also however have a strong sense of justice. The trolls revealed that this is far more than about censorship, freedom of expression and speech. Their behaviour was vile in the extreme.
VB: So you don’t think the trolls are winning on the lads’ mags issue?
CB: No. I for one, hope that my feminist friends continue to speak out. I’ll be first to say that we wont see eye to eye on everything but on this one, the trolls have managed to bring us together. My female friends and feminists everywhere can be sure of one thing. On this issue and probably others that I’m waking up to, we stand shoulder to shoulder and we will not shut up or budge until sense is seen and the injustices corrected.
VB: What’s been your journey with lads mags?
CB: I first started to speak out about them about four years ago. The seeds of my discontent and anger were first sown when I was sitting on the London Underground about seven years ago. Opposite me was a bloke wearing a t-shirt with a sexual obscenity based around what he would like to do to (not with) women blazoned across the front. My youngest daughter was six years old at the time. I couldn’t help myself wondering what she would’ve made of it had she been with me.
VB: What did you do?
CB: Not being one to keep quiet when I probably should, I leaned forward and asked him how he would explain what his t-shirt said to a six year old girl like my daughter, who as able to read well and has a curious mind. This wasn’t a mindless drunken yob. He was reading the Guardian for one thing. His response was however less than thought through and involved two, one syllable words. The incident stayed with me and kind of gnawed away at the back of my brain.
VB: What was the next step in your journey?
CB: Years later I had another epiphany. Walking into a newsagent four years ago with my then 9 and 11 year old daughters to get a newspaper, in my direct line of sight and at eye level to my daughters was a lads mag. This magazine was almost immediately next to another magazine called “Girl Talk” which had caught my youngest daughters eye. For those that don’t know this is a kids title. Radical readers will rail against the female stereotyping of “Girl Talk.” Okay, that’s fine but it in my opinion it pales into insignificance next to the lads mag headline which read something like “every single pert, peachy, round bum booty ass in one single gallery,”
VB: So knowing your daughters saw those suggestive covers upset you?
CB: Yes. What these lads magazines say to my daughters are this: “you are an object for the sexual gratification of men. You need big tits and you need to put it out there. That’s what you’re for. Fact. And by the way, if you want men to find you attractive, this is how you have to look.” What they say to me as a man is: “We know what drives you and defines you. Its lust. So we’re going to dish it up in bucket loads. We know what you really want. Fact.”
VB: Do you think things are changing for the better?
CB: Totally – fast-forward four years and after lots of campaigning and awareness from both genders (sadly not as supportive of each other or joined up in thinking as we should have been) there is some action out there with Tesco, Sainsbury and now Co-op requiring modesty wraps. It’s a start. David Cameron also has an agenda to bring in “opt in” requirements to receive porn into your household via the internet. This is all good. You have to start somewhere.
VB: What questions would you ask the men who want to keep these magazines uncovered and on display in supermarkets?
CB: Why should children have to see this stuff? Why should a publisher be allowed to objectify women? If you want to look at this stuff then you don’t have to inflict it on everyone? How dare someone define what my masculinity means?
VB: Does your Christian faith have a part to play in all this?
CB: It does – my faith informs me that all people are Gods beautiful creations and aren’t just there for someone’s gratification.
VB: Do you like the term ‘feminist’ or are you not keen on it?
CB: So many people begin an introduction to ‘who they are’ with the low down on their work, achievements or position. Increasingly, the trend is to introduce yourself with a post or pre fix such as; I’m a humanist, I’m an atheist, I’m a Christian, I’m a feminist etc (or combination of any or all). In all honesty, I’m far too healthily mixed up these days to be so category driven.
VB: How would you describe yourself?
CB: I’m very keen to define myself as a married man with two teenage daughters. It’s my journey through this sensational adventure called “life” with my family, that tends to inform my actions. My reading of the bible and my prayer life are also crucial in giving shape to the way I lead my life. Finally, a number of close friends and co-workers have a significant and ongoing impact on me too. All of these things are the fuel that makes me want to fight the battle against false concepts of masculinity. Feminists and people of all faiths can find common ground on that and stand shoulder to shoulder.
To find out more about Carl’s organisation CVM click here.