On Friday, the pettiness of modern, online protest feminism versus the stark truth that Britain is becoming increasingly hostile toward men was brought cruelly into view, when two seemingly unconnected news stories collided on the same day. To add a typically British undercurrent of black humour, both stories centred around the human bottom.
In the feminist corner, we had the Athena “Tennis Girl” poster, one of the iconic images of our time; a cheeky classic that has sold over 20 million copies globally since its release in 1979. For generations, it’s been seen a wholesome; a quasi-erotic image that helped spawn millions of healthy, harmless male (and no doubt some female) fantasies.
Only now, 26 years later – in the world of freely-available online porn, no less – the sclerotic eye of online protest feminism has seen something altogether more sinister in it. Of course, Tennis Girl is sexist – and regular observers of modern feminism like myself only half-sobbed: “How did it take you so long?”
The hoo-hah started last Wednesday, when the Wimbledon Twitter account tweeted a picture of the poster, which had been selected to appear at the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s “Powerful Posters” exhibition.
Under the self-righteous standard of the Everyday Sexism Project, Twitter protesters immediately went to war. First, they hounded Wimbledon into deleting the tweet and issuing a ludicrous, grovelling apology: “We apologise for offence caused by the Athena Tennis Girl poster. It is a controversial piece of poster history but we do not endorse it.”
(For the record, Athena Tennis Girl is about as ‘controversial’ in the history of contemporary pop culture history as boyband East 17 – although it shifted considerably more units.)