Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary claimed in yesterday’s Telegraph that he had posted one of his ‘calendars’ to me. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the history of this tale, last year I criticised the mindless objectification of women in this article for the Guardian’s Comment is Free after he published a calendar for charity which contained his ‘sexiest airline stewards’ in which they ‘bared all’. He said I was ‘anti fun’ and went onto stoke the fire even further by offering ‘beds and blow-jobs’ on economy flights in (as I said then) a nauseating bid for further coverage.
Do I care that O’Leary labels me as anti-fun? Not a bit, because there is a serious point to be made here.
My concern is the message that charities, which align themselves with this calendar, are sending to their supporters. Charities are based on values and aim to improve people’s lives, but by accepting donations of this kind and inadvertently supporting the cause, they risk jeopardising their reputation.
One charity which is set to be a beneficiary of the proceeds is KIDS which aims to develop both the thinking and services that create an inclusive world for disabled children, young people and their families. And yet there is nothing particularly inclusive or progressive about the Ryanair calendar, quite the reverse in fact.
The charity is inadvertently aligning itself with a linear one dimensional idea of beauty that objectifies women in the most nauseating way.
The ethics of charitable funding is a difficult, delicate and complex issue when it comes to instances like this. And in this case charities like KIDS must measure the damage it could do to its reputation against the monetary value of the donation it will receive.
It is not implausible to think they may find themselves in a situation where they accept the money from an organisation or a cause that they may seek to criticise in the future and that goes against its basic principles.