The ‘return’ of page three: Why it’s not just harmless fun

nomorepage3

All my life, I thought The Sun was just a lame celeb rag with a penchant for sexism and bad puns, but it turns out they’re comedy geniuses. Get this, right – they started putting bikinis on their page three models so all the stupid hairy lesbian feminist types and champagne socialists that read the Guardian would get all excited about a small shift towards equality. But then, once all the jumped-up ugly women – who hate the pretty models because they’re so wizened no man would look at them – started calling it a victory, they brought the titties back. Ha ha ha ha, ha ha, ha… ugh.

They should be up for a comedy award, they could certainly give supposed King of Comedy, Jack Whitehall, a run for his money.

Yes, unfortunately The Sun’s uncharacteristic move towards the 21st century was all a big ruse and topless models are back on page three along with mutterings about a brief ‘mammery lapse’. Heaven forbid a national newspaper might treat half the population with some respect. As a result, the debate has intensified with feminists likening the paper to a lecherous uncle who doesn’t get the message and, er, other-ists claiming that smelly militant man-haters ought to butt out – the models like posing, don’t you dears?

Sadly, all too many seem to misunderstand the argument. Glamour model Chloe Goodman wrote in the Independent that it is her with the power, not the men looking at her (despite the paper’s editor and owner both being men who undoubtedly hold the real power), and Jodie Marsh took to Twitter to ask feminists – “if I stop shaving my armpits and wearing make-up, can I still [topless model]?” But the real issue is not women ‘demeaning’ themselves or nudity per say, it’s that page three perpetuates inequality and the outdated belief that women’s bodies are there to please men.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 16.00.07Page three legitimises an over-sexualised view of the female form because it’s a ‘family’ daily, not a porn mag. We have a culture that balks at the sight of a woman breast feeding in public – which is what boobs are there for – yet is happy with breasts being exploited for male titillation (that is the difference, nay sayers, between page three and art or beach nudity). I am all for nudity, in fact, I think we could do with more nudity in general, but not when it fetishises women’s bodies. This sort of imagery points to male privilege which, at its most extreme, can lead to further inequality, harassment and sexual assault.

Feminism is merely a belief in a woman’s right to choose for herself. Choose to pose naked, choose not to be a feminist – whatever the decision, it’s a woman’s right to make her own life choices. No one is telling anyone to keep their clothes, or body hair, on. It doesn’t bother me one bit if someone decides that nude modelling is their chosen career, tits are great and the female body is beautiful. But we do have a collective responsibility to ensure that material that subjugates women does not appear in a context that implies it’s normal – i.e. a week-day current affairs publication.

Of course, many argue that if you don’t like it, don’t buy The Sun. I can’t claim to be much of a Current Bun reader. Not just because of the online paywall or the fact I now live in Turkey, but because I’m a ‘soppy wet lefty’ who’s not that interested in whether or not someone from Big Brother had sex with a sadist immigrant hamster, or whatever. Besides, everyone claims they ‘only read it for the sport’ and that’s not really my thing either. Buying the paper or not buying it will not change how I feel about page three – I don’t subsidise Isis or watch their videos, but I still take issue with their work.

Others argue it’s a matter of freedom of speech and the right to offend, a la Charlie Hebdo, or that feminists would be better off spending their time fighting FGM. While I agree there are far more extreme cases of sexism out there, that doesn’t mean we should ignore the issues that enable base-level sexism. Everyday sexism. Women are more than tits, fanny and arse.

NMP3

Freedom of speech also means a freedom to criticise and groups like No More Page 3 (NMP3) have tackled the issue with protests, articles and by lobbying commercial outlets to stop stocking the paper. Ultimately, any change will be driven by financial decisions as Rupert Murdoch is no feminist. The fact that nipples were replaced, briefly, with bikinis proves that. But before they do roll over on the matter once and for all, as BBC analysts have predicted, they wanted to have one last hoorah – a last act of humiliation in the face of the inevitable rejoicing of feminists and many other media outlets. Their PR officer even trolled selected journalists by tweeting them nuddy pictures.

It’s desperately sad, when you consider that many of the campaigners were children. The Girl Guides are keen supporters of NMP3. What sort of message does that send out?

I don’t find the disparity between The Sun’s portrayals of men and women ‘cheeky’, ‘fun’ or ‘entertaining’ as Jodie Marsh described it, I find it an affront. I feel uncomfortable in pubs when someone opens The Sun and everyone nearby is trying not to look because they don’t want to be caught looking like a perve. This is not, as many have said, because I am a prude, because I’m not proud of my body, because I want to tell others what to do with theirs. I don’t have a problem with women wearing make-up or provocative clothes (feminist stereotypes are ridiculous – by the way, I shave my armpits too). It’s because it’s 2015 and I have the right to bare, or not bare, my own body, free from the assumption that that means I want sex.

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