How on earth do you start an article discussing The Sun’s Page 3? I’ve been writing and re-writing this introduction for weeks it seems like! I’ve been contemplating whether it’s best to start with a safe and generic sentence like ‘these are just my own opinions’ or ‘I know many will disagree with what I’m about to say, but…’. I seem to have an inherent desire to justify my opinions, and on some levels feel like a ‘non-woman’ because I wasn’t jumping for joy over the news that page three was gone. Either way, I’ve accepted that this topic is going to be controversial, and there’s nothing I can do about it. Except maybe not post this article… but where’s the fun in that?!
So in case you’ve been sunning yourself on a Mediterranean island somewhere (if you have, stop reading and go away, because I hate you), you cannot have failed to hear about the page 3 ‘scandal’. Basically, for the first time in 43 years, The Sun released its newspaper without a topless girl on the third page. Instead it contained a very flattering photo of bikini clad ‘celebrity’ on a beach. I don’t know about you, but I was hardly ecstatic at the supposedly progressive step towards liberation (but that’s a whole other topic). The only way to keep this post coherent is perhaps to break it down in simple terms, conceivably for my benefit more than yours.
Do I think Page 3 is out-dated? Yes. Perhaps we should begin there, so not to offend too many people at once. In today’s society, I am of the opinion that we no longer ‘need’ page three. Try not to read into that verb too much and just get the general gist of what I mean. We’ve all seen a pair of breasts. Whether you simply see them as sexual organs, or have a deeper appreciation, we’ve all seen them. So is there really a ‘need’ for them to be in a national newspaper? Much like the gossip pages… The last thing I would ever buy a newspaper for is to read about Joey Essex’s new haircut… or look at a pair of breasts. So I can sympathise with the first reason listed on the official ‘no more page 3’ website… LINK HERE.
Another argument presented by many is that the page creates damaging ideologies that brain-washes children. This is the first part of the opposing arguments I struggle to fully comprehend. When the lads mag debate arose, surrounding the problems with overtly sexualized magazines being accessible to children, I was right there on the bandwagon. Front covers of magazines containing scantily clad women provocatively posing should not be in children’s eye-level when they’re in the shops with their parents. I did hurrah when the decision was made to move them to the top shelf with a cover; those magazines should be as far disassociated from children as possible. However, I must differentiate between those magazines that are essentially ‘soft porn’ (as described by the former editor of LOADED magazine), and a national newspaper. Whether you hate The Sun and everything related to Murdoch, or not, the topless page 3 girl, in my humble opinion, is not advocating pornography and therefore shaping the views of he country’s young people. I recognise that the newspaper doesn’t contain photographs of half-naked men on a daily basis, which you could use to suggest the overt sexualisation of women. However… you could flip that argument entirely. By choosing to take part in these shoots, woman could be seen as empowering themselves. I know many advocates for the removal of page three will laugh at that somewhat popular suggestion, but these women cause thousands of men to buy newspapers by using their sexuality. My beliefs dictate that women should be allowed to express themselves however they desire, so if using their sexuality as a tool is one way, who am I, or anyone else, to say that’s wrong? By dictating their beliefs and behaviour, I’d be going against my feminist views of freedom of expression. It’s really that simple.
I have to say a little something else on some of the arguments presented. By suggesting that this publication revokes respect for women you’re accepting the way in which men react. If a man looks at a photograph of a topless women and comes to the decision that women are merely sexual objects, than that’s them in the wrong! Perhaps it should be suggested that there is a lack of education and it needs to be clear that a topless woman demands as much respect and grace as someone fully clothed. These arguments, which I completely understand are not those of the aforementioned ‘no more page 3 group’, but are dominant opinions nonetheless, have remnants of the controversial NHS posters that stated ‘one in three rapes happens when the victim has been drinking’, for which I found abominable, and was unable to formulate any coherent arguments as I was blinded with anger. I appreciate it’s dangerous to lay these two examples next to each-other, but I’m simply trying to explain why I struggle to understand how people are able to use an untoward man’s reaction as a reason why woman can’t publically pose topless. To me, using the argument that these women’s free choice to ‘glamor model’ encourages unacceptable male behaviour culminates in the same ethos of which suggests that women drinking encourages rape. A woman, just like a man, should be able to go out and drink as much as they like without the worry of being raped. Equally, a woman should be able to pose topless without the opposite sex assuming the right to develop them into sexual objects. Perhaps the campaign should focus more on shaming the men who develop these attitudes, rather than removing the platform in which glamour models choose to work with. Let’s not forget, plenty of women have established a successful career through this publication, so is it really right to dismiss this? Perhaps not.
I’ve struggled to structure my arguments in order to write this piece, because as I said in my introduction, I can wholeheartedly sympathise with both sides. However, I’ve known girls who have made career for themselves after being featured in this notorious publication, so for me, it’s very hard to passionately believe the condemnation-hype. I recognise that the official ‘no more page 3’ group is targeting the newspaper, and not the models, but either way they’re ultimately revoking these women’s freedom of expression. And, despite feeling strangely ‘masculinised’ for saying it, I don’t have a problem with some women using their sexuality to capitalise. I agree with the official ‘no more page 3’’s argument of the publication being feasibly outdated, but to make claims that it sexualises women in a broad and general sense seems bizarre to me. Like a friend of mine pointed out on twitter, it’s becoming common to see feminist protests sporting the label ‘MY BODY MY RULES’ and ‘THEY’RE JUST BREASTS… aren’t they essentially arguing for the same thing? They’re just boobs people! They shouldn’t evoke a strong reaction in any form… whether seen on the beaches around the world, or on the page of a newspaper.
Thanks for reading! ~
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“So, I feel like if you do believe that, if you believe that men and women have equal rights, if someone asks if you’re feminist, you have to say yes because that is how words work. You can’t be like:
‘Oh yeah I’m a doctor that primarily does diseases of the skin.’
Oh, so you’re a dermatologist?
Oh no, that’s way too aggressive of a word! No no not at all not at all.’”
(Comedian Aziz Ansari in an interview on The Late Show)