It’s been an interesting week to be a Feminist. The big news story, which you can’t fail to have missed, was The Sun – a self-proclaimed “Family Newspaper” – apparently stopping it’s 45 year long tradition of sexually objectifying women and then, in the tabloid equivalent of teenager trashing their room immediately after being forced to tidy it said “fuck you women, you’re not the boss of me” and apparently brought it back.
The message couldn’t have been clearer. The Sun was saying we will do what we want, when we want. We don’t give a toss about the No More Page 3 campaign or the “horrible elites” who dislike the idea that women are reduced to sexual objects on a regular basis in a paper with such strange hypocritical values that it won’t even write the word tits. Sorry, T*ts.
Once again, I find myself having to justify, as a sex-positive body-positive pro-making-your-own choices feminist type, having to explain why I don’t like Page 3. And it’s complex, because it’s not a simple problem, and problems that are not simple do not have simple answers.
Why do you hate boobs?
I like boobs. I have boobs, and I like my boobs. I have been known to enjoy other people’s boobs. But that doesn’t mean that I agree with boobs being on the pages of a daily newspaper, a newspaper which rarely features any stories about women in clothes actually doing or achieving things, or being anything other than bodies for looking at, thereby positioning women as nothing more than nice things to look at rather than, you know, people.
I am not even anti-porn. I think porn is fine, for consenting adults. I think it is NOT fine when porn is easily accessible for children. I think it is NOT fine that music videos are getting increasingly more hard core so that they are becoming indistinguishable from porn. And if it’s porn, it belongs on the top shelf, away from children.
You’re a BAD FEMINIST you are restricting my right to be paid to take my top off
Leaving aside the rather complex theory that a choice made by a woman in a patriarchal society is limited by that society, and therefore less of a choice that it may seem, and leaving aside the school of thought that feminism actually shouldn’t really be entirely about the right to make any sort of choice you want and have that choice be perfectly ok because it’s a woman making it, there are problems with saying “I have a right to do this” about *anything* you might want to do when your RIGHT to do that thing seriously impacts the rights, freedoms and/or safety of other people.
You might want to leave all your windows open in your shared house all the time. It’s not illegal. It’s your RIGHT. But your flatmates also have a RIGHT to not be fucking freezing and close the windows. Your flatmates closing the window doesn’t impinge on YOUR RIGHT to have them open, but it does mean you can’t actually have the windows open all the time, you selfish git. There are rights, and there are responsibilities. At the time of the introduction of the ban on smoking in public places in England in 2007 there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth about people’s RIGHT to smoke; however the right of people to not suffer the by then proven effects of second-hand smoke trumped that ‘right’ to smoke. Where the exercising of one person’s ‘right’ to do X is demonstrably harmful to others, that ‘right’ becomes no ‘right’ at all.
The same is true of Page 3. Sexual objectification is demonstrably harmful. Therefore the ‘right’ of a woman to be half-naked on the 3rd page of a ‘family’ newspaper could be considered a right that no one else has an obligation to protect. And anyway, even in a world without Page 3, it’s not as if any of those women who are choosing to make money from being half-naked are suddenly out of a job – there are lots of magazines that will pay you to be naked. Ones that are sold on the top shelf where children can’t see them, and ones that aren’t generally seen as acceptable for people to read on public transport where they’ll make other people feel uncomfortable.
If we have to ban page 3 we should also make women cover up when they breast feed
Oh for the love of….NO. NO false equivalence fanatics, women breast feeding in public is NOT THE SAME THING as page 3. The only thing they have in common is that both involve boobs. In one act, a baby is eating. In the other, a woman is being presented as an object of male desire. I would suggest that in fact our society’s entire issue with seeing babies eating naturally in public stems from our over-sexualisation of women’s breasts to the extent that we can only see boobs as sexual organs and not as handy portable milk dispensers.
You don’t even buy the paper. It’s just a bit of harmless fun. Why don’t you campaign for something proper, like ending FGM?
Of course I don’t buy the paper. In my opinion it’s a badly written dishonest heap of a publication and I would be glad if sales plummeted putting the paper out of business. I don’t buy cigarettes either but I care that they cause cancer. I don’t have to buy the paper to object to the mainstreaming of normalisation of sexual objectification of women.
Jenga is a bit of harmless fun. Reducing an entire gender, 51% of the global population, to things for men to look at is not harmless fun.
Most people are capable of caring about, and campaigning for, more than one thing at a time. But really, FGM and Page 3 are not mutually exclusive issues. They both represent parts of a structural system which views and treats women as lesser beings than men. Page 3 is part of, and helps to perpetuate, a society in which women’s bodies are seen as objects for the pleasure of men, and FGM happens because women and girls are seen as bodies existing for the pleasure of men.
This is what happens when people see women as objects. This is why things like page 3 – normalised everyday objectification – are so harmful. It’s not about boobs. It’s about a culture that sees nothing wrong in continually representing women as things there for the sexual gratification of male desire.
Feminists are ugly, flat chested shrill harpies who want to destroy fun and subjugate men
Ah, you’ve got me there. Of course I only object to Page three because I am not “getting enough D”. I assume they mean vitamin D, and perhaps they’re right, after all it’s winter.
I have hope though. Page three is 45 years old, it’s getting on a bit. In terms of generations, it’s looking pretty creaky. There’s a whole new generation of young people starting to look around at this society and go hey, wait a minute. This isn’t what we signed up for. This isn’t what we want for our future. At the Our Bodies Our Future conference yesterday I was absolutely floored by the ambition, drive, confidence and eloquence of the young people leading the event. They are seeking out opportunities to develop the language and the opportunities to fight the imbalance they see. They aren’t afraid to call themselves feminists. They have a sophistication to their ideas around equality, fairness and issues of gender identity which are beyond those of many of my generation.
Page 3, to these young people, is irrelevant. It’s an outdated relic of an adult generation that has nothing to do with them or their future. Their heroes are Malala Yousafazi, Stella Creasy, Hibo Wadere. They’re increasingly self-aware and media savvy; wiser to the messages about what they ‘should’ look like or ‘should’ want. If the young people of Waltham Forest are representative of young people in the rest of the country, our future is in safe hands.
And if we’re called shrill? I’ll take that. Shrill means you can’t block us out, you can’t not hear us. We’re irritating you because you can hear us. And if you can hear us, we’re having an impact.