The New Snobbery Towards Feminist Activism


“In 2017, Gina Martin was the victim of a sexual offence that was not, at the time, a sexual offence. Martin was attending a festival when a stranger took a photograph up her skirt without her consent. For her, this was the moment when ‘politics became personal‘; when she decided, with no prior experience of feminist activism, to start campaigning to change the law. It was ‘the most difficult work I have done, or will ever do’, she recently wrote in the Guardian. She was ultimately successful: in April 2019, ‘upskirting’ was listed as a criminal offence under the Voyeurism Act, with perpetrators facing up to two years’ imprisonment and a place on the sex offenders register.

What Martin achieved in such a short space of time is remarkable. Like the criminalisation of marital rape, it is a change that forces us to reconsider social norms. When it comes to the body — particularly the female body — what is and is not illegal matters. It shapes how we understand both ourselves and how we expect to be treated by others. Following the law change, guidance on upskirting was added to the Department of Education’s Keeping Children Safe in Education booklet. This has not led to the imprisonment of multiple snap-happy teenage boys; its punitive impact is minimal. But as my partner, a teacher, tells me, there’s now an awareness in schools that it is unacceptable to dismiss upskirting on the basis that ‘boys will be boys’.”


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