Ctrl+Alt+Shift? How about Delete

// 10 July 2008

ctrlaltshift.gifIn this guest post, Charlotte Cooper considers how Christian Aid’s new user-generated magazine stumbles on issues of women’s oppression

User-generated content has been the bon vivant of publishing for the last few years: engaging people, breeding loyalty and ensuring a wide range of voices and opinions are presented to an audience. So it’s no surprise to see Christian Aid jumping on the bandwagon for their new venture. Aimed at the youth audience, Ctrl+Alt+Shift is a new magazine and online community aimed at helping despondent teens get keen on human rights and global issues of poverty, disease and climate change.

While the main body of content is user generated, Chantelle Fiddy, journalist with her finger on the pulse of young blood, grime and giving a shit, via her work as senior mentor at Live! Mag, and Neil Boorman, founder of Shoreditch Twat as trashed in TV series Nathan Barley, keep watchful eyes as editors. But with articles voted into the magazine by community users, it’s hard to know who to take to task for two seedy and offensive articles approaching women’s issues. Page Three Stunnah is a feature about prostitution in India and is handled with little interest or empathy and illustrated with an image of a prostitute, shirt pulled down to bare her breasts for the flash of the camera (don’t worry, it’s tastefully adorned with two red stars…) The jokey tone of the article, which opens: “Anybody fancy an Indian?”, and chortles through the fact she had her cheek slashed, seems totally inappropriate.

Sold! For Two Cows and a Bottle of Beer stumbles through bride price in Africa and after a series of irksome questions (Is your mum filth or a Milf?) the mag’s handy African correspondent tells us what the girls are really worth.

I’m all for a laugh and fully support the effort to mainstream perceived troublesome ideals in feminism, equality and social justice but perhaps we could find a way of doing it without treating anything involving women as a bit of a sexy joke.

Saying this, an article on the dangers of pregnancy in Afghanistan breathes a little balanced, informative and interesting life into Ctrl+Alt+Shift and it’s only fair to remember this is just the first issue. User-generated content means everyone gets a say so I recommend signing up and contributing, voting with your fingers and helping choose the content and saving the magazine from making Christian Aid look desperate and stupid enough to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Comments From You

orlando // Posted 10 July 2008 at 12:04 pm

It sounds like you’re being much too generous.

Amity // Posted 10 July 2008 at 12:22 pm

The last link isn’t working.

Anne Onne // Posted 10 July 2008 at 1:40 pm

Those arguments are the most insulting and degrading attempts to help women I have seen in a while (and we all see a fair bit on the net!) I worked my way through page three stunnah only to be shocked that although they were supposedly about helping this woman who has been forced into prostitution, something that risks her life, and exposes her to abuse, we get a jokey tone about fancying an indian. I just don’t buy the tone of the article, though someone could make the argument that it’s meant to be satirical, with the hard fall to reality at the end, but to me, it reads as not shocking enough, and too chatty. The really colloquial, lighthearted manner they joke about it all is appalling, because it trivialises the rape and abuse of prostitutes, many of whom are still children. You could never imagine someone writing something like this about white, British girls or women, because it would be seen to be supporting prostitution, and the dangerous promiscuity of British women and girls, and not being proper enough. Or it would be seen to be degrading or offensive, which it is. But it seems that if you’re talking about poor WOC somewhere else, making kijes about their being abused and raped when you’re trying to help them is OK.

Really, really nasty. I guess that’s what happens when they let anybody publish. I guess I’m still waiting for websites to catch up with what written publications have known for years. That nobody is obligated to give anybody who can string together a few silly sentences a public forum to express their ideas, and that some opinions, or methods of expressing them do discourse around an issue a disservice.

Charlotte Cooper // Posted 10 July 2008 at 2:41 pm

I’ll just post this link to a press gazette feature about the mag, it’s not just online the first issue gets a 40,000 print run and will be distributed in select bars, venues and art spaces


So do feel free to complain to Christian Aid about it’s sexy repositioning.

‘Others journalists involved include ex-Countdown champion and senior writer for Nuts magazine Pete Cashmore and Emma Warren who helped set up Jockey Slut.’

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 10 July 2008 at 9:32 pm

There is nothing funny or humourous in having an article entitled ‘Anybody fancy an Indian?’ This is not only racist it is also misogynstic. As for the article title ‘Sold? For Two Cows and a Bottle of Beer.’ Again this title is racist and deliberately dehumanises women of colour. Are women of colour ‘cows then?’

Christian Aid imagine they are being edgy and forward-thinking whereas in fact they are backward and catering to those who believe women of colour are sub-human or dehumanised beings. There is nothing remotely funny or humourous about Indian women being forced to become involved in prostitution. Neither is it humourous when African women are subjected to being sold to the highest bidder.

Nor for that matter is this magazine remotely sexy – rather it is more white male supremacist hatred and given the authors have experience in women-hating magazines such as Nuts and Jockey Slut then it is not surprising such women-hating articles have been published. Would these writers engage in insulting men I wonder? Of course not because that would be male -hatred and would cause an uproar.

Sian // Posted 11 July 2008 at 12:13 pm


What were they thinking?

This is beyond insulting.

Sabre // Posted 11 July 2008 at 2:30 pm

I was really f***ing upset reading the ‘Page 3 Stunnah!’ article. It was racist (fancy an Indian?) in the extreme, that very first sentence casts her as something to eat (i.e. a bit of meat, not a person). The use of the phrase ‘a gals gotta do what a gals gotta do’ shrugs off any effort to explain why she’s forced to be a prostitute and makes it sound all jokey and inevitable. Referring to Reetu as a girl not a woman is so patronising. And to top it off, for a magazine that postures as if it cares, the article ends with a feeble hope that some unnamed project in India will rescue her. How dismissive.

I think I can see what they were trying to do – use humour to get a serious message across. But what was the message? That some Indian women are prostitutes, what a shame, let’s all cluck in sympathy and not bother to really understand why. But this has gone too far – they’re actually encouraging people to have a laugh at her expense. As a WOC of asian origin I am furious.

The other article about bride prices is similarly infuriating. They’re being tongue-in-cheek but not really making that clear enough. The mysoginists out there will be having a real chortle.

Well done Christian Aid.

Naomi // Posted 16 July 2008 at 11:18 pm

I agree that this content is unacceptable and have complained to Christian Aid. I work for a campaigning NGO and understand the need to engage a young audience and sometimes shock people into acknowledging issues, but this example simply does not work and strikes me as deeply racist and sexist.

I am doubtful that Christian Aid have a gender policy unit/officer because this should not have got past them. It looks like this was put together by a marketing/ad agency and CA should have insisted on more creative control.

As well as the derogatory tone, the obscure message (‘Western’ girls have no morals? How would you feel if you were sold? Your Mother’s sexuality? What?) the image on the ‘Page 3 Stunnah’ seems deeply unethical. If it is a genuine picture of a prostitute, and it looks like it is, it is unlikely she would have given informed consent for its use. There is a lot of literature and guidance on the use of imagery in the NGO sector ensuring that there is no exploitation of the subject, no ‘pornography of poverty’. And this image does not meet those standards.

Ultimately, this damages Christian Aid and the NGO sector. Women’s organisations have been suspicious of other NGOs getting involved in ‘women’s issues’ because of the perceived lack of a feminist analysis. This kind of content proves them right and tarnishes the rest of the sector that has done a lot to gender mainstream its work.

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