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

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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real issue is not women ‘demeaning’ themselves or nudity per say, it’s that page three perpetuates inequality and the outdated belief that women’s bodies are there to please men.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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Thoughts on Justice for Men and Boys, the anti-feminist political party

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Some ramblings on men’s rights

It’s a tough old world if you’re a man – lazy women who naturally put less effort into their careers are stealing all your jobs, they’re over represented in government, have infiltrated the criminal justice system, and to top it all off, every time I click my fingers (click, click), an innocent man’s life is ruined by another false rape claim. Thanks to feminism’s evil dominance, it’s a woman’s world now.

This is life according to political party Justice for Men and Boys (JMB) who are hoping to win over some marginal Tory seats in Nottinghamshire at this year’s general election. It was founded in 2013 by Mike Buchanan – ex-Conservative party consultant, men’s rights activist and, no doubt, lady killer – in an attempt to stand up for Britain’s men (click) in this appallingly unequal “anti-male state”. Some of the comments above came from his interview last week with the Independent about “vile” feminists, my favourite comments I’ve included below:

“Whereas women are born with worth, they grow up knowing they’re valuable… men just have no worth as human beings.” They’re nothing more than “walking wallets”.

A statement my boyfriend will no doubt be most upset by – he’s always considered himself pretty good at washing up too.

After a brief glance at their manifesto, its main focus appears to be the supposed marginalisation of men. Women – feminists – have driven them out of the work place, out of families and marriages, destroyed their education by employing female teachers and compromised their health care. To be honest, it reads a bit like a teenager having a strop – ‘it’s all their fault’.

JMBPolicies include removing women from government, reducing the legal time-limit for abortions, GBH convictions for women who drink during pregnancy, anonymity for sexual offenders and compulsory paternity testing for babies. Sorry, which gender is attacking which?

Although valid men’s issues such as high suicide and fatal accident rates feature, the main rhetoric is one of ignorance and thinly-veiled mysogony – “there are no ways in which the state disadvantages women and girls,” “women continue to seek partners who are better-off than themselves” etc.

And then there’s ‘male genital mutilation’. While circumcision at birth is something I don’t agree with, the JMB manifesto implies that efforts to combat the awful practice of FGM (born with worth – really?) have in some way solved the problem – it’s now taking up an unfair amount of attention. This makes my blood run cold.

I have nothing against efforts to address issues concerning the health and wellbeing of men (the little mites have got to fill their time with something) – Keele University recently fought off NUS opposition to keep its men’s rep. Fine. But JMB’s policies are something else entirely. Something that goes hand-in-hand with another recent story about an American cardinal who blamed feminism for peodophile priests. It’s an attempt to undermine equality, to restore male dominance under the guise of victimisation.

Women fight inequality every day of their lives in some way or another. Denying that is not men’s rights and it has nothing to do with male disadvantage or identity crisis, it’s about taking women down a peg or two. But there is some good news – this sort of backlash can only mean one thing: we’re winning.

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Breakfast TV: Why are female presenters so glam at 6:30am?

From the Daily Mail

From the Daily Mail

I was asked to write a piece for the Guardian G2 Shortcuts. Hope you enjoy…

Once upon a time, if a conversation arose about breakfast glamour, it would probably have been concerned with shiny high-class toasters. But something has happened to breakfast TV over the past few years, it’s gone sexy. So sexy, in fact, that Clare Balding said in an interview with the Mail on Sunday last weekend, that the female presenters look “as though they are going to a cocktail party.”

While most of us are still wiping the lip cheese from our mouths at 6:30am, presenters such as Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid are already glossy and preened. Even at this ungodly hour, they manage to bring us the news in killer heels and dresses as tight fitting as a lace wetsuit. More controversially, the trend for plunging necklines is revealing a bit more tattie than most people are ready for prior to their morning caffeine hit. Especially when the only growths you were looking for were the ones concerning the war in Syria.

“Why do you have to do that?” Balding said, pointing out that women should be judged by their talent, not their appearance. “Why would it be wrong to sit there in trousers? Why don’t they wear a dressing gown, present the show in their pyjamas once a week, maybe every Friday?”

And she’s right, the worth of female breakfast TV presenters – who, after all, are just doing their jobs, not running for Miss England – is assessed far more on looks than their male counterparts. A few weeks ago, Australian TV anchor Karl Stefanovic admitted to wearing the same blue ­suit for a year in order to make a point about the way his female colleagues are unfairly judged. He came up with the idea after hearing that co-presenter, Lisa Wilkinson, had been sent a letter by a viewer telling her to “get some style”. But predictably, no-one noticed despite the fact that blue, like, isn’t even his colour.

In the eighties, our wake up call came from Anne Diamond in an array of high-necked blouses and garish jumpers. In the nineties, it was a floppy haired Kirsty Walk. Today’s presenters might look as though they’re about to be whisked off to an impossibly classy soiree (not a single Ferrero Rocher in sight), and it may not be progressive, but with women in the media now under such close scrutiny, it’s understandable.

In the interview, Balding also talked of how she’s uncomfortable wearing “a skirt or dress because it is difficult to look good sitting down… I want to feel like nothing is going to distract from the job I am doing.” But until things do change, it’s likely that even pyjama-Friday would be a glamour-fest.