When the media ran the story of The Sun dropping Page 3 I didn’t fully buy it. Part of me celebrated it, and part of me just didn’t believe it at all and ignored it. The part of me that didn’t believe it was obviously the savvy part, and as Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth’s winking, topless image is whizzed around social media to equal parts joy and equal parts rage, the world comes to terms with Page 3’s continued existence.
Many declared the continuation of this “hallowed tradition” as a “finger in the eye for feminism” as though taking down a feminist with the naked breasts of a beautiful young woman is some kind of achievement. That knocking feminists at all is good. Because heaven forfend women get the respect and equality they have been denied systematically.
I consider myself a feminist. Absolutely and no doubt feminist. I do not believe that women should be denied any rights or opportunities based on their sex, I do not believe that men should have any control over women’s bodies, and I do not believe that women are in any way less equal to men. We are not better, we are not worse, we are equal. Society is starting to get there.
So why did I celebrate?
1) The news in the Sun is full of men. Men in suits running the country, men in suits controlling the world’s money, men in sports kit running around kicking balls to much adulation. Amongst these powerful men given respect and reported on for the intellectual skills, power, and sporting prowess, there stands a half naked 20 year old woman. This woman is not given respect for her interests or skills, she is not acknowledged for her input into society, she is purely there to be gawped at. She is valued exclusively for her looks, her body, her sexuality. The men have the power and respect, the woman has the boobs.
2) We live in a world full of sexual abuse and domestic violence. The newspapers run stories of the gang rape in India, the sex trafficking of young women from Africa, honour killings of women in Iran, and cases of Female Genital Mutilation here in Britain. Women are traded, abused, cut and raped routinely and we are horrified. Then slap bang next to these stories, the outrage on behalf of women being seen as sexual objects worth nothing more than their bodies, is a woman being viewed as nothing more than a body. An object of lust and desire. An object. Not a woman, not a person, an object. You can use an object with no ramifications, no consequences. You can beat up an object, cut an object, throw and object to the ground and stamp on it.
3) The Sun is aimed at families. It is a “family” publication. What place does soft porn have in a family setting? In any other situation we would be disgusted by the suggestion. Take your children to the new Disney movie and see topless, thong wearing models strutting their stuff? No. Wander round the family theme park and see a big poster with pert breasts, erect nipples, and a saucy pout? No. If you are aimed at “family” you should respect that responsibility. Miss Rose deserves better from something she has theoretical access to (theoretical because there’s no way I’m letting her get her hands on it). Little girls across Britain need the news to give them aspirations beyond getting their tits out for the boys.
But what about the arguments for keeping it?
1) Nobody should be allowed to tell a woman what to do with her body. It is my body and I shall do with it as I please. I consider countries where women are prevented from showing any skin to be terrifying, because it’s a male dominated world where a woman’s body is not her own. I choose to go out showing more of my body than some do, and less than others. I have that right, as do the other women. Telling women they should cover up offends me far more than a naked woman.
—— But I’m not telling women to cover up. If women want to be topless models, nude models, porn actresses, or pole dancers, they have every right and that is a right I respect. But there is a time and a place, and a newspaper sold at child eyeline and calling itself a “family paper” is not that.
2) Women’s bodies are beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of. I am naked around Miss Rose regularly and I do not want her growing up thinking there is anything wrong with her body. She sees naked women at the swimming pool every week, she sees family naked, friends naked. Nudity is normal and natural. I want her to grow up knowing that therefore to actively seek to ban the publication of women feeling comfortable and natural with their bodies is contradictory.
—– But it’s not natural, they’re photoshopped models. They’re not there for the sake of nature and self acceptance, they’re slathered in make up and tweeked by professionals until they look like perfect sexual images. It’s not about nature and being comfortable in your own skin, it’s about selling sex.
3) If the models want to do it, and the audience want to buy it, why is that a problem? I don’t like it so I don’t buy it. A free market allows for such choices. I don’t like lots of things and so I speak with my money, if I don’t like it I don’t buy it. If enough people felt like this the paper would fail, therefore the majority rules and Page 3 should stay. I do not feel comfortable imposing my own moral beliefs on others.
—– The problem is the systematic objectification of women DOES need looking at. Just because the majority are okay with it doesn’t mean it’s acceptable. The majority of people didn’t want women to get the vote and it took a fight to get there. The majority of people thought being homosexual was an abomination and should be illegal, indeed punishable by death, but a vocal minority fought that and fortunately ended it. Sometimes the majority are just wrong. They are following outdated traditions, old values that no longer fit modern society, and are scared of change. Millions of people CAN be wrong. Small voices CAN make a change.
There are so many more reasons both for and against page 3, and I definitely land on the side of it being wrong. I want Miss Rose to grow up in a world where women are not valued for their bodies alone, but seen as valuable and respected members of society, not having to fight against the patriarchal boy’s club that is our society. To not have to fight for her voice to be heard because she’s got breasts and a vagina that are oh so distracting from the point she wants to make.
Poke feminism in the eye all you want, but slowly and surely we are getting there. It takes time, but it’s a fight worth taking on. One day we will look back on Page 3 with an uncomfortable eye roll. Did we really think that was acceptable? Were photos of 16 year old models dressed as slutty school girls with their boobs out really run alongside main news stories? Yes. Yes they were. Not that long ago. Times change. Times ARE changing. You’ll be on the wrong side of history if you don’t acknowledge it.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!