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A petition (and a disclaimer) August 22, 2006

Posted by Winter in censorship, media.

I recently received an email asking me to sign the following petition:

“Subject: Urgent: Stop Channel 5’s Sitcom on Prostitution

Sign the petition. Channel 5 are planning to screen a new comedy, set in a brothel. According to a national press article the show, ‘Respectable’, features women who sell sex to pay for shoe collections and ‘beautiful things’. Click here for more information about the sitcom. Eaves Housing have already written a letter of complaint and Women’s Aid intend to write to Channel 5 too. Eaves have organised a petition and are collecting signatures to show that this is not the kind of viewing audiences want.”

I also noticed the below addition:

“The campaign against Strictly Come Pole Dancing in May resulted in the event being withdrawn – it would be great to achieve such a victory again. Please take a few minutes to sign the petition and forward the details to anyone you think will be interested in objecting.”

I want to say a couple of things here, because I’ve decided I can only post this petition if I also express my anxieties. I feel extremely ambivalent about censorship on principle and I really don’t like objecting to anything I haven’t actually seen. So I’m posting this call in the interests of feminist information sharing, as I’m of the view that people are entitled to make up their own minds about what they should do.

Personally, I find this kind of campaign problematic. On the one hand, I think freedom of speech and artistic expression must be protected but, on the other hand, I live in an area where we have a lot of street prostitution and women get brutally beaten up every week. The fact that Eaves housing and Women’s Aid are objecting means that they’re taking this one very seriously and they know what’s going on out there.

I don’t think people should ever stay silent if something offends them, but I wonder is there a difference between protesting, and requesting that something should be banned or prevented from happening altogether? Frankly, I’m delighted that we weren’t subjected to the horrors of Strictly Come Pole Dancing, but if we’re going to demand that the shows which offend us as feminists are actually stopped from airing, how can we differentiate ourselves from all those people trying to stop the Jerry Springer Opera from being shown on TV, or those who got that play about women and Sikhism cancelled in Birmingham?

No doubt I’ll sound like a wishy-washy feminist to both pro- and anti-censorship feminists, but I just can’t come to a simple conclusion on this issue. It’s so difficult to combine the necessity of protecting freedom of speech with the realities of living in an incredibly violent society.

Anyway, you have links, so if you think signing the petition is the right thing to do, go right ahead.

If you’d like to write and complain, letters should be sent to:

Customer Services
22 Long Acre

It may also be useful to copy any letters of complaint you sent to five to

Riverside House
2a Southwark Bridge Road