Page 3 is a debate I’ve kept out of a fair bit, simply because people ‘expect’ I will feel one way or the other. It’s just not really my place. I may have strong views on feminism, but first and foremost, the brand I most subscribe to is that of personal choice – empowering women to make decisions for themselves and not becoming yet another person (male or female) who tries to make decisions for them. However, much like the time I spoke out against criticisms of the Alt World, while also covering the very real sexism concerns, I think I’d like to address both sides of the coin on this one, too. Ultimately, I don’t want to shout something from the rooftops simply to make a point, when very real people’s feelings could get hurt on either side. Sensitivity, people. SENSITIVITY! So, here’s my ’2p’ on Page 3…
[EDIT: This article discusses the fact that The Sun stopped its ‘iconic’ Page 3 this week. This edit reflects that it has now been reinstated. No, I’m not happy, but blame the stupid paper and not the women! However, I do think that this says a lot about what The Sun will happily do for publicity and sales, including upsetting the girls it allegedly ‘values’.]
What Is Page 3?
I’ll start, as I always like to when writing something for a varied audience by explaining what Page 3 is, and what the 411 is here (yes, I’ll stop soon with the stupid number puns, I promise!). So, dear Americans (because I assume that’s who will be struggling here), I forgive you your insular ways on this one, because this truly is a British ins’tit’ution (seriously, I am not funny…), which involves women baring their breasts on Page 3 of a popular tabloid newspaper. It’s a tradition that has finally stopped this week, after a bit of a bitter war. I’m aware that it sounds more than a bit weird when you put it like that, but that’s how it’s been done since the 1970′s… you can thank Rupert Murdoch for that. It’s worth pointing out here that I’m not exactly his biggest fan, and that my dislike of this particular newspaper – The Sun (from here on out referred to as The S*n) – extends beyond something as trivial as boobs.
Where Do I Stand?
First and foremost, I want to point out that the women who are on Page 3, until now, have chosen to be there. They’ve been celebrated, admired and, whilst you may believe objectified and sexualised, they’re the ones in control of that, to a point, by making money off the ones who pay them to be ogled at.
I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Page 3 at all, but I’m going to deal with the women as opposed to Page 3 itself. Real, human women with their own autonomy. I know two of these women through my collaborations with Big Deal Clothing and Uprawr, and let me just say that they’re lovely, smart girls. But even if they were bitches, that doesn’t give me the right to tell them their job demeans them if it doesn’t, or patronize or look down on them.
Me and Lucy Vixen In December Hard At Work!
I don’t want to judge them. I don’t want to call them a ‘slut’ or a ‘tart’ or any of those other things that dismiss these women before making any attempt to personalize them – isn’t that precisely what people who argue against Page 3 say? That it reduces women to simply a body part? I don’t want to do that, no matter the reason.
I’m also all for the ‘Free The Nipple’ movement. If men can walk around topless – why not women? I’m just not quite sure that means sexualizing everyone, as this page undeniably does. However, if you get your breasts out, are getting paid, and don’t feel exploited, shouldn’t that be the end of story?
By telling these women to stop, aren’t we doing ourselves a further disservice in equating ‘sexual freedom’ with intelligence? I don’t know about you, but I hate the ‘good girl’/’bad girl’ bullshit that allegedly makes one better than the other.
I will defend women – the irony isn’t lost on me that suddenly, a new group of people is trying to police their personal choices. I will not question their search for other outlets to do what they love. They’ve lost their jobs after all – I want to have a bit of respect!
No doubt there are a fair few creeps reading this newspaper for the boobs, but they need to get a life, not the women. Let focus on that! Plus, let’s not ignore that 3 million women apparently read The S*n every day – no, I can’t explain why, but nobody forces them!
Positives About Page 3
The women on Page 3 come in different shapes and sizes. Lucy Vixen – star of Page 3 – is a curvy girl and she isn’t apologetic about it in the slightest. I’m sure she’s sick of being typecast a certain way so I’ll say here – I’m sorry for doing that to you. You’re a woman, not an example. But you look great, so obviously you came to mind. The size 6 women also look great, as do the women of all colors and sexualities and the rest of it. Yes, I’m only talking about appearance here, but it’s not a crime or even bad to be pretty, providing you don’t value it above all else. They could of course feature a larger variety of races and stop the over photo-shopping – but that’s most media and that’s something I’m not denying needs to change.
Also, I hate to burst the bubble but being a glamour model is not a solely a class thing – at least not as much as people say. To say it is almost agrees with the concept that these women lack any class and decorum. I won’t do that to them – it’s not fair. If anything, it’s the people reading this paper that come from a more working class background… but class shouldn’t matter either way, and again, let’s not exclude the viewpoints of these women simply because of it. They don’t need our help.
Those Women Might Be Fine, But Are All Women?
People who are pro-Page 3, without debate, please don’t kid yourselves in thinking sexualization has no consequences! The media has a lot to answer for. Young girls are growing up insecure, feeling forced to conform to ridiculous beauty ideals, and feeling inqaequate if their boobs don’t match the ones they’ve seen in their family’s newspaper. They’re also being exposed to sex even when it makes them uncomfortable, and the messages they’re receiving about sex are continually warped, and even demeaning. It was heartbreaking during the Olympics to see that the women who worked hard as athletes got less coverage than the glamour models, and yes, that should be considered.
However, let’s not kid ourselves. These things are disgusting, but get rid of Page 3, and you’re not eradicating the issue. Don’t be naive. The issue is even more dangerous in the so-called permissable things kids are allowed to consume, such as women’s magazines and the adverts they see daily. It’s somehow worse, because these women are often NOT healthy body shapes, or confident with themselves like the girls of Page 3. The message? They’ll never be good enough. But instead of focusing on, again, bringing down women doing their jobs, why don’t we do OUR jobs as adults by teaching them more about self-worth and value?
Instead, we’re doing a lazy job by accusing other women of not having ‘self-respect’, but it doesn’t actually teach young girls anything at all – other than to judge and to think they’re better than these ‘fallen’ women who take their clothes off.
This is important for men, too, so let’s stop treating them so differently. We’re not being fair to our women or our men in our attitudes and teaching right now, but we are all capable of respecting and appreciating as opposed to contributing to an era of equal parts ‘slut shaming’ and ‘rape culture’.
Let’s just put emphasis on giving young girls a range of options and role models to look up to. Let’s show them that they have choices, and that at the end of the day, how they feel about themselves is the main thing. We also need to stop quantifying women’s worth in terms of looks: “she’s so sexy… for a geek!” and “not just a pretty face” make me sad, like someone can only have one setting as default.
Yes, let’s cover the issue of objectification. But let’s also cover the concept that grown women can reclaim their sexuality if they choose, too.
STOP BLAMING FEMINISM.. ALL OF YOU!
Should feminism protest oppression or celebrate loving our bodies? Let’s be real for a second. Most campaigners against Page 3 aren’t actually offended by boobs. They’re offended by the sexualization of the media, as discussed above. Campaigners aren’t man haters, they’re simply standing up for what they think is right. Which they can do, and fair play to them, as some of their reasons are fine. It’s nice to see young women standing up for something – anyone who’s scared of that arguably wants women to be submissive, or brand them as unfeminine. Censorship sucks on both sides.
I understand why people are angry when they’ve lost their jobs, but marginalizing a group who’ve allowed you to get to the point where you can voice your opinion in public is a bit counterproductive. Just as they shouldn’t tell you what being a ‘real’ woman/feminist/human being is, nor should you.
People don’t appreciate what feminism has brought – and we are not all the same. We are still very much working to end the ‘bigger’ issues like FGM, and rape (I know I am!), but it arguably all links in. Yes, some people give it a bad name, but not all of us believe that topless women are the root of all evil. Or that Page 3 is explicitly bad. However, those who do are entitled to their views.
One key point here is that if we’re campaigning for something, or even just calling ourselves feminists, it’s not because we all feel jealous. Plus, I don’t think it’s because we’re all ‘ugly’ – but is that relevant when they’re bringing debate to the table? Let’s not get personal, everyone! Plus, I’m willing to bet a lot of feminists could be models of the topless variety if they wanted to be, but they’ve simply made other choices OR have different career paths in mind for themselves which (rightly or wrongly) wouldn’t be possible if they were glamour models. In fact, some people who pose topless already are feminists, they just don’t realize it because the media would have you believe we’re all men-hating, butch and evil.
Perhaps we should talk about society which makes women feel embarrassed for having a body/thinking about sex, etc? It’s hardly sex positive when most of us are mortified at the idea of going topless in public. I’d like to say I’m enlightened in that area, but I’m not. It’s the way I’ve been conditioned, and that makes me way more sad than seeing women who’ve managed to get over that. When you’re a kid you are enticed by things which seem forbidden. It’s this type of thinking that leads to objectification, not the owning of boobs themselves (which all women do!).
I read a tweet yesterday about the end of Page 3 which made me laugh. It was something along the lines of “It’s the hair & beauty course or nothing now for these girls”. I shouldn’t laugh though. As much as I can find humor in that, when I pick it apart, there’s no mocking needed in these women. There is space for modelling women. For hairdressers and beauticians. For academics. And of course, women who have no desire to be any of these things, or even women who want to be all of these things. Nobody’s better than anyone else.
I know it’s fiction, but I thought it was cool when Bernadette from the Big Bang Theory wanted to pose in a sexy magazine. Why can’t she be gorgeous AND smart? She was talked out of it – and I can see both sides – but let people do what they want.
To me, true feminism = personal choice.
Maybe It’s All About Context
When I read a newspaper, I’m looking for quality news. Yes, there’s depressing stuff going on every day, and I want a break from that, but the answer isn’t really to use women (from a young age) as an object to help you through it. Boobs don’t have a place in making people feel uncomfortable, if they do, and they shouldn’t have a place so blatantly in a tabloid. The S*n is allegedly a family newspaper, and I’m just not sure it’s a good idea to teach kids so young the blatant fact that sex sells. I think we’re looking at it wrong – rather than blaming boobs, blame the context which we allow young people (and ultimately men) to associate them with. Teach them manners and respect first, and appreciation not objectification second.
With the rise of the internet, we’re now all capable of reading news in between breaks. Pictures of baby animals, funny articles, and yes – even porn.
Dear models: You can get another job. I’d prefer topless modelling in this manner (eg where it’s solely for gratification) was something targeted especially to just adults. Hopefully in future, they’ll be more enlightened adults who’ve had better sexual messages growing up that allow them to appreciate a beautiful woman without judging. Equally, if your modelling is good, and you really are good at what you do for something other than your chest, then you can look for other types of it, too. You don’t have to be restricted to just boobs… and ask yourself why you are, if that’s the case.
To the critics of models, who say their job is easy, or unecessary, or simply playing to their own egos? A lot of things are like that, but you think it’s okay to judge here because of old-fashioned reasons to shame women. I might not be shouting from the rooftops if my daughter wanted to be half naked instead of learning, but it’s not my life. All I could do would be to guide her to be confident and know her worth.
If there’s a market – which there is – maybe there should be a focus on making better outlets for it. Perhaps adult magazines could feature these women in a way that shows off more of who they are? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers.
I’ve heard that now, instead of women modelling topless on Page 3, they’ll instead show celebrities on the beach and stuff like that – no doubt with the intention for us all to ‘judge’ or ogle at. Somehow this is weirder to me. Like women who don’t have a choice in the matter should be perved on, or put down. Or worse, that they should be fair game because they’re famous. Somehow this doesn’t scream victory.
Why The Sun Just Generally Sucks
I went to University in Liverpool, where The S*n is a dirty word. After the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, they published awful things about the Merseyside people and Liverpool supporters. Their refusal to retract this or apologize until it was too late lead to perceptions about the city and the tragedy that to this day are hard to shift. All they wanted was Justice for the 96 who died.
The S*n is not respected in Liverpool to this day, even by store workers and even the Mayor- but in fairness, they post a lot of crap, so most educated people don’t like it anyway. If that makes me a snob, or stuck in the past… it’s just the way I am and I am proud to support Liverpool in this.
There’s also the fact that Rupert Murdoch is dodgy as hell AND profiting off the young women who have posed in between pages 2 and 4 for years… but there’s another rant for another day. He doesn’t give a damn about these women, and as much as I’m saying about the empowerment side, to him it’s all about £££ $$$.
Let’s empower women and men to make their own life choices, and simply create a landscape which allows them to do so in a safer, less sleazy way.
I don’t like The S*n and I hope that this will lead to poor sales and their stupid paper closing down – providing the good people there can find better jobs. It’s got nothing to do with boobs or rights or feminism, I just think they’re kind of gross.
We can live and dream…