So… Page 3. As an outsider now I can point and laugh and blame as much as the next person, as doing so takes zero brain cells and is easy to to. After all, it make no odds to my life if Page 3 were banned, I have no investment in that world anymore. Except, in a way, I do. I would have to be a massive twunt to work in an industry for 8 years then just stand back and watch the people I worked with get picked on by a bunch of petitioners who literally know nothing about it and assume we’re all just a bunch of airhead idiots being damaged and exploited.
To me, Page 3 is a British institution greater than the sum of its parts. I don’t quite know how a Majorcan swimming pool, an innocuously pneumatic girl-next-door, and a pair of Primark pants co-conspire together to make something great, but they do. It’s an oddity, a quirk, something peculiar and very ‘ours’, like a seaside postcard or a Carry On film. As a part of our current sexual landscape of hardcore porn and S&M themed music videos it is about as harmless as an Andrex puppy, but some people don’t seem to think that way and are very afraid of lady-bits (or the ‘objectification’ of them), so have made a petition to try and get rid of it.
Which makes me all the more sad to see women like Jennifer Saunders, Caitlin Moran, and Lauren Laverne backing this petition. They are all women who should know better than to follow on from what looks like a knee-jerk reaction from an angry mob of Mums.net readers with a particularly inarticulate argument: “Tits are wrong!” “You wouldn’t see this on the 6 o’clock news!” blah blah blah… oh, bore off.
Feminism, truly, has a lot to answer for.
I have a problem with self-identifying feminists who use the feminist platform as a free pass to attack other women. To establish boundaries of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘good women’ and ‘bad women’, ‘feminist’ and ‘unfeminist’… it all seems a bit juvenile and misogynistic and sends a message of “love all women, except those - those women are bad: they let themselves be objectified.” Surely, from a feminist viewpoint, we should all be equal? There shouldn’t be this backwards hierarchy perpetuated by women themselves, where we are all judged according to who is better at being a ‘proper’ woman. You see, women are perfectly capable of being misogynistic. In fact, these days it is more common to find women being misogynistic than men, which is a sad state of affairs.
This recent uproar against Page 3 is a classic example of women using feminism as an excuse for enforcing their own personal morals on everyone, by taking offence at something small and trying to give it a wider significance: “Page 3 is damaging to all women”. Quite clearly, it isn’t (it would be awfully hard for anything to be damaging to ‘ALL’ women), it just makes some women feel uncomfortable, which is causing a vocal few to throw their toys out the pram in an attempt to ban it.
Page 3 as a societal being is a symptom, not a cause. Our current state of over-sexualisation was not caused by a bit of chip shop paper, it was caused by the sexual revolution in the 1960s. The Kinsey report, the birth control pill, various changes in legislation, hippies, the Rolling Stones… I won’t give you a history lesson, suffice to say that this particular floodgate was opened a long time ago and has been drip fed into many of us since birth. It infiltrates everything: advertising, news, and the whole of the entertainment industry. Declaring a tiny part of it morally bankrupt and trying to cut it out won’t change anything. One mole does not a cancer make. What really needs to change is people’s perceptions of others, and this petition’s judgmental banter is not doing anyone - male or female - any favours in that respect.
But why all this furore? Tits are just tits, bits of skin, lumps of fat, sexual objects that also have a useful evolutionary function. Some are nice to look at, some aren’t, but so what? We should embrace ALL their uses. Why must we make these things that are natural and normal out to be so wrong and taboo and corruptive? Why must a topless picture always be paired (in ‘intelligent’ society) with the word ‘demeaning’, when it’s not? One person’s demeaning is another person’s empowering. One person might look down on cleaning as a demeaning job, yet for someone else it is a job that can empower and provide for their family. Take away Page 3 and you take away a lot of girls’ jobs… now, is that pro-women? Oh sorry, I forget, these girls ‘should’ be employed in ‘better’ jobs.
In a recession. Right…
Why not leave Page 3 girls alone? They’ve not been rounded up and forced into what they do. Unlike sexual trafficking, which IS (actually really) damaging to women and should be of more concern to these petitioners, it was very much a conscious decision for them to get into. I’m sure most Page 3 girls enjoy what they do. For the most part they are not exploited and it can be a well-paid job. Just because Page 3 might not be something you would do or approve of doesn’t mean it should be banned outright, and it doesn’t mean it is necessarily wrong. People are entitled to have a choice. There are plenty of things I don’t approve of (martians, red M&M’s, Beautiful South and Dido fans…) but I wouldn’t call for them to get banned as that would make me a fascist dictator.
People rile against Page 3 because they don’t think the image of a topless woman belongs in a newspaper. “It’s not news” they insist. No, and neither is anything Peter Andre or the TOWIE kids get up to, but The Sun still publish all that crap on a daily basis. Anyone with half a brain can attest to the fact that the contents of The Sun is not news and never has been. It is a TABLOID newspaper full of gossip, hearsay, and conjecture. Yet with phone-tapping scandals and the recent Hillsborough revelations, you find a cross to bear with the tits?? The tits are about the most ethical thing in there. At least they are real.
Another gripe is that Page 3 is too easily accessible by families and kids. Right. All those kids out there that read newspapers… who I have yet to find as most kids are surgically attached to their iPad/iPod watching Nicki Minaj videos and wouldn’t dream of even touching a book let alone a newspaper. Yet it’s these same families and kids who might regularly go to art galleries and museums that - guess what - are chocca block full of topless women (and men). “But oh…” they cry, “that’s art.” As are pictures of Kate Moss with her fanny out and anything ever published in a fashion magazine. Can anybody say double standards? Seeing as this particular petition seems very middle class, backed by supposedly liberal (yet deeply middle class) ring leaders (people whom I suspect have never even read The Sun), what we really have here is not feminism, or even concern for the well-being of women-kind. It’s snobbery.
Let me explain; the problem with Page 3 is that it is low brow, it’s not classy enough for Tarquin and Tamara to even bear to see on their peripherals as they inadvertently flick past a pair of tits in Waitrose as they try to get their hands on their beloved copy of The Guardian. I can guarantee that this is the only time any of these people have seen Page 3. Either that or a glance in the garden as those filthy builders go on a break in between perfecting the wet room. The Sun is seen as a paper that poor people read, it belongs in the realm of the white van man, along with builder’s tea, uneducated opinions, and easily available women. All of which, of course, are stereotypes. Much like my parody of the ‘average Guardian reader’ above. Page 3 girls are seen as too willing, too present, and too goddamn smiley to be looked on with anything other than distain by the ‘average Guardian reader’. Unlike the cold, detached, women of fashion and art, Page 3 girls are seen to actively participate in their sexual objectification, which seems to be what makes them so bloody offensive. But what would you rather your children saw? It seems parents are shunning the smiling, natural, girl next door, in favour of what? Lady Gaga? Rihanna? Kim Kardashian? REALLY? Granted, we had a boost over the summer with the injection of some actual real-life proper role models into our lives (female athletes) but that didn’t stop Grazia and The Guardian alike trying to ‘sex them up’ in photo shoots. What message is that giving exactly? How is that any better?
So basically our priorities are fucked, EVERYTHING is over-sexualised, and in the grand scheme of things Page 3 is actually the most harmless thing on our landscape, which is probably why these women are attacking it as it must seem like an easy target, what with The Sun going down the shitter and all. So basically these petitioners are just opportunists who - like school bullies - pick on the weakest, which is super pathetic and - dare I say it - ultra unfeminist. Feminism should be about equality among women and women’s rights. Picking on and excluding an under-represented group of women and trying to shame them into submission is not progressive, it’s repressive. In this respect, how is what Moran and co doing not misogynistic?
Tolerance, not censorship is what we need to go forward. I have a million ideas on how we can make things better, but you know, you’ll have to wait until next week when I’ve set up a petition about it.