OBJECT: Guidelines for Group Activism
1. Stay within the law. Ask permission where necessary.
In the street, if you endanger others while protesting, you can be arrested if you do not move on when asked to. A protest that blocks vehicle or pedestrian traffic is illegal without a permit. You do not have the right to block a building entrance or physically harass people. Stations and shopping malls are usually private property where you may be moved on at once.
BUT a swift, amusing, photogenic protest may be worth doing despite getting moved on, if it makes its point and attracts interest or sympathy, especially if it is repeated elsewhere (eg at another branch).
See the Object Tesco pyjama protest. In-store we danced the conga and sang ‘Let’s get rid of Lads’ Mags’.
OBJECT’’s “Porn is worse than pajamas” protest - in reference to the the fact that Tesco sold pornographic material (lads’ mags) but banned customers from wearing pajamas in-store:
2. Stick to Object’s remit – media or business sexualisation of women: we are women not sex objects, we want objectivity not objectification; our key issues are porn, prostitution, strip joints, surrogacy and trans. For anything outside this, please check with us first. We need to keep our message clear.
3. Be creative and have fun. People notice this. It’s infectious. Take photos and video to share online. Make it visual and audible, singing is good so long as the words are simple and to the point. A tambourine, bells or guitar is good to support voices. Give out a flier or leaflet – eg the Object leaflet open at the relevant page. Have a clear slogan or two ‘porn harms women’, ‘stop transing children’, Nordic model now’ or the classic two-hander ‘Women not sex objects – OBJECT!’
4. Preparation – best to meet shortly beforehand in a pub or café to agree exactly what will be done. This allows for some bonding, and gives newbies to protesting a chance to gain confidence, get to know you a bit, and decide to what extent if at all they will participate. It’s fine for them to just watch the first time or two.
5. If you have participants who don’t want to appear in photos, be sensitive to this without holding back the protest. Can they wear a hoodie or scarf or stay at the side or at the back? In the middle of a protest you will not have time to sort out who wants in or out of a photo. Remember passers-by take photos too.
6. Stay safe, both physically and on social media. Keep your personal details private, watch your settings etc. Remember transactivists have threatened and carried out violence against those who want an open debate on transgender issues. Don’t protest alone, watch each other’s backs, stay together and don’t leave anyone alone where there may be danger
7. If you see any threatening presence, discuss whether to leave or to stay and have cameras and voice record discreetly at the ready to expose intimidating behaviour.
8. Talk pleasantly to people if they approach you. Briefly explain the issue. We need to come across as what we are - ordinary, rational women who see the harms of sexualisation. This does not mean you need to waste time on drunks or people (usually men) who just want to take up your time.
9. Be polite to everyone, particularly staff – the business’s actions are not their choice, they are only doing their jobs. It’s fine to apologise for giving them extra work, and remember they may support us in their personal life. If they want to talk to you outside the protest, give them OBJECT’s contact details – their ‘take’ could be valuable.
10. Let the local press or any media contacts know your plans. A good relationship with people in the media including local journalists, can be very productive.
11. Go a pub/café afterwards for a debrief and review of how it went. By then you will need a rest and a drink! Protesting can be emotionally exhausting but is also exhilarating.
12. Send us in a brief report and photos, and pat yourselves on the back. You have made a stand for women and equality. We will get you up on our website and social media
13. OBJECT would like to set up local groups across the UK operating under these guidelines. We can provide online templates for a banner and leaflets via Snappysnaps or similar. We appreciate and accept that people have other loyalties to existing groups. Collaboration is important and a known name like OBJECT can save reinventing the wheel.