me and Page 3 – Am I a Sub Man Po Face?

I was asked to write this by someone who questioned No More Page 3. As with all my blog posts, it is what I think I think. There may be much have forgotten, and there may be things  I will disagree with by tuesday afternoon. I am interested to hear your opinions, so if you do want to write down your disagreements, and if arguments break out in the comments section, please play nicely. 

This weekend, I performed at The End of the Road festival. It has one of the most delightful comedy areas, a small canopied stage in sloping woodland. As I yelled about Nick Cave and western cultural failures, I could glance up at heavily leafed branches and occasional squirrel leaps. This is how I like it. After my gig, Mark Watson and I were approached by two No More Page 3 campaigners and we happily posed next to them for a photograph that will obviously be used for their “extreme alpha males support No More Page 3” Special. You can find out more about them here. After RTing their photo twitter, I had a few people question why I should support their campaign, so let me explain (or don’t let me explain, you are quite free to stop reading now unless I really am the final distraction on the internet before you have no other option but to start work again).

In the 1980s, when politicians like Clare Short campaigned against page 3, the default position was “yeah, of course women like her are against page 3, she is jealous of these superior mammalian teens and their ostentatious bosoms”. The arguments, or at least some of them, have moved on and possibly up from then. 

There are those that see page 3 as free speech issue. Did our grandfather’s not die on the River Kwai for our right to see new bosoms at a reasonable price, on a daily basis, while eating bacon? Firstly, I don’t believe the campaign is calling for a ban on page 3 toplessness, it is asking for consideration via argument and persuasion, that perhaps we have grown up enough to not demand that a newspaper’s major selling point is inky nipples. 

It is easy to declare that those against page 3 are po-faced fun destroyers, their core aim is to remove joy from society, but this just doesn’t seem to ring true with the people I know who support the campaign. I do not see a Cromwellian frown on their face every time they hear laughter in a room. They do not wish to ban dancing in the town square. There are those on the right or thereabouts who like to declare all such ideas as a clear demonstration of being without humour. They have such wonderful joie de vivre, until you make a joke about them, and then the emails of legal warnings arrive. I’d show you some of them, but they said they’d sue me if I did. 

 There are others that ask, “what about oppressive images of men?”. They may illustrate this with the bulging underpant salesmaniship of David Beckham. Personally, I find those adverts banal and base. The fact that No More Page 3 is not dealing with all sexualised images in the media has led to a suggestion that it is unfair or just not trying hard enough. 

As if supporting the Royal Society for Protection of Birds is pointless, because what about the fish and the children.

The constant use of sex and genitals to sell things is also extreme laziness relying on an eternal evolutionary inevitability that our eyes are drawn to the bulges of the sex we are attracted to. We are complex animals, we are simple animals. In one intriguing episode of vivisection, it was discovered that male monkeys would forfeit food in exchange for monkey porn. (see Bill Hicks’s Drink Coke routine for a snappy summary of this paragraph). 

The media I see on display in railway forecourts and on billboards still seems to portray  women predominantly as objects of sexual desire. Even the “quality magazines”, the ones that may vaguely blush at the idea of putting phrases like “boobiest issue EVER” on their cover, still prefer their female personalities in states of artistic undress when promoting their flicks. While the lead male promotes his film in thick tweed, she promotes hers in a satin sheet or something sodden. A popular modern narrative is to say that heavily buttered and airbrushed nudity is empowering; the shock discovery of flummoxing men through their simpler desires. Wouldn’t it be more empowering to see a greater number of talented women given the front cover while dressed in duffle coats and bobble hats or the fiercely cut woolen suits that Marlene Dietrich would have worn. 

Increasingly, we see images of humans airbrushed to the point of a pubeless caricature from a thirteen year old’s imagination. As the first cultural images splinter further from flesh reality, how long before more and more find themselves like Ruskin on his wedding night. Having been in a world of nineteenth century painterly images of women, when his wife disrobed on their wedding night, he was disgusted to find she had the bizarre aberration of hair growing around her genitals. The marriage was never consummated. The images of fictionalised humanity masquerading as reality can damage and disappoint.

This is not a call for the covering all in perpetual hessian, but there are too many fictionalised images of men and women everywhere, are we not able to face a reality?

The journey to equality seems to be continuing, but still the overheard words of some men about women are often infused with fear and desire, an amalgam that seems to mess up the mind enough to turn that into hate and derision. These are still times when male gatherings may get suspicious if you don’t join in talking about “that barmaid’s breasts” or making derogatory remarks about that “fat piece over there”. Times when groups bother a lone woman on a train and think she must like the attention, it’s a lovely compliment. Where a lone woman, particularly an attractive one, sitting in a bar must have some sort of agenda. 

I hope that equality can be found, not by a downward move that sees more men being photographed in their speedos and financing themselves by spinning round poles, but by a move upwards where beauty can be celebrated, but not at the expense of creating two dimensional people worthy of nothing more than our lascivious glare and sexual intention. 

 

I am currently on tour, and off to Kings Lynn, Totton, Windsor, Evesham, Leicester, Cirencester, London and then a whole heap of Christmas shows with Prof Brian Cox and more. See dates here</p>

 

 

 

 

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40 Responses to me and Page 3 – Am I a Sub Man Po Face?

  1. “…it is what I think I think.”
    Genius. Beautiful. This tops my list of favorite disclaimers. You make an art of them.

  2. thouhght you might ‘the human anime’ of mild interest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFvYUNHZLZI

  3. Dean says:

    What bothered me about the campaign was when the Irish branch of The Sun decided they were ‘right’ and not to have topless women on Page 3 any more. They’d still have a woman on there for eye-candy reasons and ready to be objectified, there just wouldn’t be nipples any more. And this was branded a ‘success’ for the campaign. I’ve not followed it since, but I don’t recall seeing anything in their initial response that said as much as “it’s a start, but we want to end it entirely”.

    Which confused me, because if it’s about objectification, then nothing has changed. My issue with it was always the sneering that went along with it in the newspaper. The “here’s an attractive woman saying something complicated about the news, which we’ve clearly made up because she wouldn’t be able to think that would she?”. Get rid of that and Page 3 is one of the least misogynistic things in the paper.

    • Lisa says:

      Hello, Lisa here from the No More Page 3 team :),

      This was our statement after the Irish announcement http://nomorepage3.org/news/statement-in-response-to-the-irish-sun/. To be clear, we marked the Irish decision as a step in the right direction and if the same occurred in the UK addition we would consider it a partial victory BUT we would absolutely not stop there. We would continue to fight for more equal representation of women in the media across the board. Page 3 would simply become a less obvious focal target. In short – we wouldn’t be going away at that, we agree, its not good enough.

      And thanks Robin for this awesome blog 🙂

      • Dean says:

        Thanks Lisa. There’s actually more in that than I realised. When I initially read it I saw “step in the right direction” as meaning “one newspaper down, X to go” rather than “first step in sorting the issues in that paper”. I stand corrected on that.

        I’m still not entirely convinced though. The Irish Sun still has Page 3, which is a specific place where they objectify a woman. It’s just now they don’t show nipples. I don’t see that as solving any problem at all? Maybe I can’t see through my privilege, but I don’t see how a photo of a woman posing sexy and showing nipples is any more objectifying than a woman posing sexy and not showing them.

        I guess maybe the hope is that without the nipples, Page 3 becomes less attractive to men, and so eventually they drop it and stop caring about it?

        If so, I think that argument needs making explicitly. Because as I see it, the Irish Sun didn’t say “we’re going to objectify women less” they said “we’re going to objectify women differently” and we all cheered.

  4. Martin M says:

    Well said Robin. The ‘freedom’ to enjoy Page 3 is the same freedom enjoyed by those who describe #slanegirl as a “vile slut”, and yet see no contradiction in describing the recipient of her affections as a “hero” [http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/sep/01/slane-girl-twitter-scandal-women]. Promiscuous, both. But neither crime more heinous than the other, surely.

    I’m not unaffected by visual stimuli of a sexual nature–on occasion I have even appreciated the breasts of a barmaid. But hopefully discreetly and not disrespectfully; I’ve never felt the need to do so as part of some traditional, oppressive group ritual.

  5. Liam Mullone says:

    I would be remiss not to plug my own deeply reviled take on this subject, purely to invoke debate: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/liam-mullone/tts-please-im-a-liberal_b_1882894.html … I do however agree with many of your points Robin. Although i guess i do care more about ‘the fish and the children’ … The most undeniable result of maladjusted sexuality is the 30-40 prostitutes murdered in the uk every year, most of whom get onto no page of any national paper.

    • Paul Nelson says:

      Why do you claim to be “a liberal” when you regurgitate the same tiresome, right-wing ‘libertrairan’ [sic] rhetoric that you always have? You’re a Tory who is ashamed of yourself and try to cloak it in some trendy miasma of nuanced wordplay.

      Women are as much a homogenous group, a class, just as an other oppressed section of society. You only have to look at the pay scales and glass ceiling to see that.

      The fact that you honestly believe that entire working-class households do not purchase and read The Sun exposes your lack of knowledge and experience of the working-class. Tell you what, poppet, nip down to your friendly local newsagent and observe who buys it; it will surprise you to know it isn’t the colourful burly male prole on his way to a building site or greasy spoon who is the entire demographic.

      To defend a form of pornography that has become so ingrained into our national psyche that any challenge to it offends your oppressive minset speaks volumes; about a patriarchal society that tolerates domestic abuse, rape, and murder; and about you as someone who seems happy to maintain that status quo.

      • Steve James says:

        Society tolerates rape and murder? Now there’s a thing I didn’t know.

      • Liam Mullone says:

        I’m not responsible for how the Huffpo subedits, Paul. I won’t bother answering your points because they don’t really make sense and I think you are being argumentative rather than discursive. I’m sorry that I unfriended you on Facebook all those years ago, but I think you should have got over that by now.

  6. sumflowerducky says:

    Reblogged this on angsty dilemma. and commented:
    Amazing.

  7. The RSPB is all nature now. So they have the fish covered

    http://www.birdwatch.co.uk/channel/newsitem.asp?c=11&cate=__14537

    and children.
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/join/youth.aspx

    I don’t think they have any specific campaigning on sexual equality yet though I wouldn’t like to defame them

  8. Rachel says:

    Recently I worked on a project involving academics specialising in sex and history and our local museum, with various groups of teenagers that involved interpreting historical ‘sexual’ objects from the Wellcome Collection and using these as a way to discuss issues of sexual health and gender identity today. I have been shocked to the core to learn that young women and girls (apparently from the age of about 13) believe that in order to be seen as sexually ‘acceptable’ they must remove all of their pubic hair. This being borne out by their male peers. The fear of being discovered as a ‘hairy’ is as real and horrifying as my fear of being discovered as a closet knitter at the age of 14. The young people are aware that this oppression is as a direct result of images portrayed through easily accessible air brushed porn and they genuinely believe that it is also essential to shave/wax/pluck or whatever for reasons of hygiene. Body fascism at its worst. They are also aware that the image they are portraying for their genitalia is of pre pubescent girls – the implications of which I can’t even contemplate.

    Ruskin’s marriage may have played out very differently had he been alive in 2013.

    Page 3 – just the start of it. 100 years since the Suffragettes marched on foot across the country and our young girls and women are more oppressed than ever.

  9. Not The News in Briefs says:

    Thank you for your support, it was lovely to meet you at End of the Road. I think the ‘extreme alpha males support No More Page 3’ idea is a good one and somebody should be working on that… Can I just take this opportunity to say what a great stand-up you did at EOTR and that everybody should take the chance to go and see you live if they can…

  10. Jim Gardner says:

    I am Robin’s twitter follower who asked him to blog on this, so we could expand beyond the limitations of 140 characters. Partly this was because I seem to have inherited the same virus as many others on the ones and zeros version of Speaker’s Corner, where saying what you think ends up sounding like something you don’t.

    In that rush to reply with something direct and to the point, our words seem to magically transmogrify between the brain and the send button into some reactionary received opinion. As a result of this affliction, I found myself arguing with one of the few people I follow on Twitter who rarely says anything I even remotely disagree with, even when he’s utterly wrong. Hopefully I can clear up some of the confusion caused by my own haste here, while adding something to the debate which I don’t hear anyone else saying — although, admittedly, I have had to put my fingers in my ears quite a lot lately, due to all the screaming and gnashing of teeth.

    I’m a musician — that is I play a musical instrument which, from time to time, earns me money. I’m not a DJ, who plays two records at once while a computer loops James Brown “break beats”, nor am I a male model masquerading as a musician in order to further an acting career (an acute observation on Boy Bands beautifully made by the comedian Steve Hughes). No, I’m just a regular, practise for 4 hours every day, fingers on the frets, moderately talented, Prince fan of modest means.

    Every time I turn on the TV, or switch on the radio, people with no discernible talent, much less any noticeable difference between one another’s personality, sense of style, or musical tastes, lie to my face about how talented, attractive, stylish and tasteful they are. In a world that tolerates the basic existence of Justin Beaver, while being blissfully unaware of Dirty Loops, I have no choice but to accept that my tastes, my personality type, sense of style and taste are simply out of step with those of the multimillionaires who own us. I’m not angry about it, I simply don’t care about it or pay any attention to it. But just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean that it doesn’t bring some kind of joy to those who do like it. So I simply resign myself to being 40, and brush it off. The world has moved on without me, and I couldn’t give a rat’s geranium.

    I’m not blind to the fact that Rupert Murdoch’s Sun tabloid is the gaping anus of Beelzebub out of which such notions of what constitutes “entertainment” issue forth on a daily basis. But neither am I naive enough to think that if the Sun stopped parading vacuous morons in front of us, as if we’re the ones who are missing out on all the fun for not Sky Plussing TOWIE, that Ascent of Man would suddenly become a compulsory element of GCSE History, and BBC Three would shut down. Neither do I think that by scoring one little victory against Page 3 would extreme end of the spectrum morons cease harassing women on The Tube, or stop joining the EDL.

    Now, I’m not deaf to the idea that ‘you have to start somewhere’. And for the most part I support people who say that Page 3 is an artefact of a well rid of age. But I worry that many, if not most of the women who support the campaign indirectly — that is those honestly motivated mumsnet subscribers, who sign petitions, tut at lads mags, and even dare I say it comment on Robin Ince’s blog — were a-whoopin and a-hollerin’ along with everyone else this past Sunday, when Bland Man Number 4245 shat himself out of The X Factor production line, singing out of tune, out of time, and in a muscle hugging T-Shirt with ‘I was preselected to be on the live finals months ago” written on it.

    “But he’s so dreamy!”, they cry. “And he sang in Spanish!” they doth quiver. Dripping like a fucked fridge all the way to the bottom of the barrel they have the barefaced cheek to insist men uniquely occupy, just because some of us think that if Miss Pretty Face number 4536 wants to pose for the highest paid gig she’s had in her fledgeling career so far she should be allowed to get on with it.

    If you don’t like looking at boobs, don’t look at them. If you don’t like getting them out, don’t get them out. I don’t like Coldplay, life’s a shit-house. But pretty please with a cherry on top, focus your energy on something which actually matters. Google “creationism in UK classrooms”, or “cabinet ministers who attended Bilderberg” and brace yourself for a shock — because none of these people give a flying spaghetti monster about whose nipples have attacked you in the street and forced you to buy a Tory rag.

    • Not The News in Briefs says:

      I’ve just got to reply to that last paragraph…One of the main reasons the nmp3 campaign tackles page 3 is that the ‘don’t like it don’t buy it’ argument, which you have used above, doesn’t work. It works for pornography, say, but not for images freely available in the public space, which have been rebranded as ‘a bit of fun’. I have never bought the Sun but I have seen page 3 on a vast number of occasions in my life because people read the paper in public, it is left around on trains, cafes etc, people don’t hide it because it’s not considered porn – it’s in a national newspaper after all. You may be surprised to know that there are men out there who enjoy deliberately showing page 3 to women and making the appropriate comments! No. really! This first happened to me when I was 13. The Sun allows these men to think it’s ok and endorses a view of women which is open to abuse. Lots of us don’t like it, don’t buy it and see it anyway. It’s all about the context is what I’m saying…And, quickly, on the ‘focus on something that matters’ point, it is hard for some men to understand the effects of objectification, that’s why we need women to get together to tackle it. No disrespect but when people point me in the direction of other human rights issues I can’t help feeling that if women’s rights were included in human rights, rather than being perceived as a minority interest, then maybe we wouldn’t need a campaign like this one. I like the sound of your music though…

      • Jim Gardner says:

        Some people are idiots. They have no respect for themselves, let alone anyone else. But the idea that were it not for Page 3 these people would cease to exist is just fanciful. We might just as well campaign for ‘No More Petrol Stations’ because it exposes people who ride a bike to carbon culture.

        It’s the 21st century my friend. Women have been showing their boobs to men for a very long time. Branding all men who have the effrontery to enjoy looking at them back, as being trench-coat flashers with mother issues, is like saying we should put gaffer tape over Arthur Hacker oil-paintings because they encourage people to think about feminine beauty as being one and the same as base masculine lust. It’s nonsense.

        Do the people behind the No More Page 3 campaign have a point? Absolutely. Are they barking up the wrong tree in the grand scheme of things? Yes, they are. Having an opinion, and having an opinion worth listening to, are two very different things.

      • Not The News in Briefs says:

        Jim, I did not claim, and nor does the campaign, that getting rid of page 3 would get rid of idiots at the same time – this would indeed be fanciful, as you say. But the continued existence of page 3 condones these idiots and in some cases gives them ammunition. With society’s blessing apparently. And that’s not fair on women is it? In a society which loves to claim enlightenment and equality I would have thought we could expect a bit more respect than this. The toleration of the media’s incitement to view women primarily as sexual objects is partly what gives the images their power. It’s harder to argue against something which is officially sanctioned.
        Also, nowhere in my comment did I brand all men as anything, let alone flashers with mother issues. I mentioned the bad behaviour of SOME men, and I would expect decent men to agree that encouraging these SOME men by providing them with daily justification for their attitudes is a bad thing. For women obviously, but for men too, who do not wish to be tarred with the same brush (which I DID NOT DO…). And it really is nothing to do with art and the appreciation of the female form – of course it’s natural for most men to love looking at the female body, and of course it’s natural to experience lust. But why should that take precedence over a woman’s right to feel respected and safe? Constantly providing images which suggest sexual availability does women no favours : it impacts on the other things we would like to do with our lives, because those images far outweigh any other representation of women in the public space, making it harder to be taken seriously and to be respected in an equal way to men. There’s a time and a place, and page 3 of a national newspaper is not it.

  11. Jim Gardner says:

    To mikewcook’s video linked above.

    I’ve seen for myself the weird and disturbing world of lap-dancing clubs and strip joints, when I was dragged kicking and screaming to a club in Prague, where I accidentally went on a Stag Doo with some friends of a friend a few years back. It was a choice between being the only guy in the group who opted to wander the streets of an intimidating tourist district alone, where the police hand out pamphlets on how to not get stabbed for your shoes, or sticking with the only group of people I knew in the whole country who could find their way back to the hotel. The dead eyes of the woman who attempted unsuccessfully to take me behind a red curtain will stay with me for the rest of my life — as will the size of the clodpate who stood guard at the booth of win, with his pockets full of mixed denominations, and his eyes full of the will to maim all.

    But there is a vast difference between people trafficking, and the part of a woman’s body which gave the world every other painting hanging in every other art gallery from Newcastle to New York, and, indeed, Ursula Andress’s iconic emerging from the waves scene in Dr. No. And if you think Daniel Craig’s homage to that same scene many years later is any less offensive to those of us distinctly lacking in the six-pack area as Page 3 clearly is to the people behind this recent campaign, you should notice the deafening silence with which Mr. Craig’s decision not to reprise his ‘Our Friends In The North’ guise of ‘Geordie’ was met with, in that particular movie, from those same so-called moderate feminists, who now insist in their best Guardian reader rhetoric that — for purely artistic reasons you understand — one has nothing to do with the other.

    Well, some may say that — and I’m sure that given enough reasoned argument I would agree with such people, depending on the ratio between their shrill insistence and their ability to present substantive evidence of actual harm caused by one versus the other.

    But I do worry that the real objection here isn’t so much about boobs with or without nipples in a Murdoch or otherwise owned tabloid, and more about telling people who enjoy looking at that sort of thing that they’re so unsophisticated in their inability to differentiate between criminal sexual exploitation and some Essex tart, who — heaven forfend — might actually enjoy flashing her mammalian protuberances in exchange for 15 megabytes of fame, that they have to have their choices made for them by people who know better. After-all, we can’t be having any of that freedom of choice malarky when it comes to what some unread woman chooses to do with their own body now can we? Next they’ll be asking for the right to vote. The very idea!

    • Will J says:

      “But I do worry that the real objection here isn’t so much about boobs with or without nipples in a Murdoch or otherwise owned tabloid, and more about telling people who enjoy looking at that sort of thing that they’re so unsophisticated in their inability to differentiate between criminal sexual exploitation and some Essex tart, who — heaven forfend — might actually enjoy flashing her mammalian protuberances in exchange for 15 megabytes of fame”

      Big straw man there.

      It isn’t about snobbery, it’s about the everyday objectification of women as sex objects in a national newspaper. And the fact that said newspaper is freely available and visible to all on buses, in cafes and on breakfast tables.

      Oh, and by the way – phrases like “some Essex tart” make you sound like a misogynistic d1ckhead, which I’m sure you’re not.

      • Jim Gardner says:

        You make it sound as if this is something exclusively done to women by men and I don’t think it is. I think image obsessed women who happily identify with terms like “Essex tart”, and “Slapper” and who wear their sexual promiscuity as a badge of honour, have been queuing up to use Page 3 as a way to get into the nightclubs which attract z-list soap actors since long before lefty snobs decided they should be stopped, and very few of them object, when coming out of the doors two hours later, they’re photographed again, arm in arm with him that scored a blinder against Arsenal last week.

        If we’re talking about the objectification of women and misogynistic magazine editors you won’t get any argument out of me, but it’s a mistake to say the two are always synonymous. Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vogue, and Gratzi are as complicit in pumping nonsense idealised images down people’s throats as Hello, TV Quick, and Celeb Gossip Weekly, but no-one complains about the middle-classification of our culture because it hides behind London-centric bistro culture, and ernest Radio 4 book-talks about “empowering women”.

        It might be tatty and low-brow, and it might be the sort of thing which Pimm’s sozzled yah-yahs prefer not to think about, but the girls who choose to appear on Page 3 aren’t immediately huddled into a van, and secretly flown to Thailand to fire ping pong balls at the chairman of The Carlyle Group, like some hopelessly dumb blond with no understanding of the world around them. They’re just ordinary girls who make a career choice which some people, who perhaps have nothing better to be offended by think they shouldn’t be allowed to make, because ‘think of the children’. It’s absolute cobblers.

        I don’t like it when someone leaves The Daily Mail on the bus. I don’t like it when every time I walk into a pub everyone there is gawping at Sky Sports News instead of talking to one another. I don’t like lots of things. But I have to say that if the real problem here is that human beings are hardwired to find sinusoidal curves and long-legged pretty girls more attractive than beige mundanity and practical workwear, Page 3 pales into insignificance compared to your average Bacardi advert.

  12. Pedantry note: the Ruskin story is a myth. They said so on In Our Time aka the source of all knowledge and goodness.
    http://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/mar/14/john-ruskin-wedding-effie-gray

  13. Lara says:

    I’m glad you wrote this, I’m a right on lefty, but haven’t signed the petition and am trying to work out why.

    I grew up with The Sun on the breakfast table; we got it because my Mum, a teacher, liked the cartoon strip, and isn’t interested in politics. So there you go, family newspaper. It certainly didn’t do my brother and I any harm. If anything, while his teenage friends were smirking over it, he’d shrug and say “that’s Tracey from Newcastle”.

    The thing that holds me back from signing is, The Sun is available without boobs. Just get the Mirror, or the Mail. The reason The Sun is the UK’s best selling newspaper is because people are choosing it over everything else, because it gives them what they want. The problem is not that it’s there, it’s that they want it.

    I’d like to see The Sun experiment with a boobless issue running alongside a page three issue, then readers could vote for themselves. Maybe they’d surprise us. Incidentally, when I came home from Uni and suggested The Sun was, well, shit, I returned later to my parents saying “we thought about what you said, and you’re right; we get the Daily Mail now”. Facepalm.

    Finally, a word to the people banging on about Daniel Craig and David Beckham; the crucial point is that those people have other jobs. You see “that lovely actor/footballer” with his top off. Ditto when a female actress/tennis player does a sexy shoot. The issue with page three is that the girls are just a vehicle for boobs. I suspect my brother was unusual in noting their names. An anonymous male model wouldn’t sell to women in the same way.

  14. What’s a London-centric bistro culture? Page 3 isn’t a class issue, it’s a gender issue. Men too are increasingly objectified in films and the media, but there’s quite a way to go yet before they catch up with women, and still 96% of ‘objectification’ in ads is of women. So it’s not a level playing field anyway, but re Page 3, the only purpose of that image is sexual titillation, and this simply doesn’t happen to men. Men may be ‘objectified’ but they are not displayed as willingly available sex objects, always up for it. That’s the message of Page 3, and being in a newspaper makes it a normal and culturally-sanctioned view of the role of women.

    It’s irrelevant that some women feel ’empowered’ by doing it, that just shows the power of social conditioning – women view themselves as objects (hence the women’s mags too).

    Jim, if there was a young hunk in the newspaper every day thrusting his above average size equipment at you (and the women in your life) for the past 43 years, you may be just as insecure and pissed off as many women feel and I bet you wouldn’t be as quick to defend the choice of those young men or frame it as just a matter of taste. Walk in our shoes for a bit.

    • Jim Gardner says:

      Stephanie, there are “young hunks” in all the media all the time, and as I pointed out in my original reply they are paraded before us as if they are the standard to which everyone should aspire, despite the fact that they are often talentless and ugly on the inside.

      I don’t need to be invited to walk in your shoes, I understand the argument. And I’m not saying I support Page 3 or, indeed, anything that the Murdoch press does. I’m simply making the point that just because we might find something offensive, it doesn’t always mean it is being deliberately made with the intention of causing offence.

      It might not be for you, and it might be the sort of thing which seems shallow and hard to understand why anyone would, but pretty people really do enjoy being photographed naked — men and women alike. There are people of all ages who, as we speak, are photographing themselves naked, and posting these pictures on the public internet. In-fact, in ‘let’s all be beautiful’ circles it’s considered more unusual to not have at least one naked “selfie” ‘go viral’ than it is to keep the wedding tackle private.

      I grew up in the 1970’s. Women were treated appallingly. Crass jokes on laugh-track SitComs, Benny Hill’s Angels for heaven’s sake! Looking back on that stuff now it’s almost impossible to believe it actually happened. So I see why taking down Page 3 would be an important symbolic gesture, to finally draw a line under a time no-one wants to see come back — but a symbolic gesture is all it would be.

      What I find interesting about the conversation which the campaign has prompted, is almost all of those who are making similar arguments to myself, are shouted down with “how would you like it if men were treated like pieces of meat…”, and so on, without seemingly any understanding of the fact that we already are. As I also mentioned in my original reply, I occasionally work as a musician, and I’ve had some genuinely scary encounters with groups of women who seem to think being on the stage means I’m, as you say, “up for it”.

      But I don’t focus on people like that and assume all women are the same. Some of the best jobs I’ve had have been headed by women. Some of the strongest friendships I have are with professionally powerful, in control, make it happen women. And I don’t think any of them have found it harder to get ahead in life, just because some of their fellow females choose a career in glamour modelling instead of something deemed more acceptable to the chattering classes.

      I do, whoever, know of plenty of women who unashamedly use their sexuality to win contracts, negotiate fees, and generally manipulate dumb blokes. So let’s not pretend that sexism is something only men are capable of perpetrating against women, because that just isn’t how real-world relationships between the sexes actually work. We all play the game, it’s just that some of us are more honest about it than others. When a man flirts with a women, he’s a pervert who only wants one thing, because The Sun told him it’s OK, but when a woman harangues a man, she’s “empowered”. It’s a steaming pile of nonsense.

  15. So 43 years of daily cocks in a newspaper wouldn’t have bothered you?

  16. Lifestyle magazines are the biggest peddlers of objectification. Page 3 seems to be only an archaic precedent for printed-bare-breasts-with-banal-opinion on the objectification front. Marketing, our susceptibility to marketing, and a lack of nurtured empathy appear to be the main problems, but they all start way before an innocent eye catches a 2D boob.

  17. Mary says:

    When you find writing that sums up your thoughts better than you ever could, and it also makes you smile, it makes for a happy day. I can now sit down and Watch Toy Story for the 57th time knowing the world is a better place than I thought it was. Still lots to do. But we are you going to get there.
    Thank you.

  18. Jon G says:

    Is page 3 still going? I had no idea. Really.
    As always with these “it’s bad”/”no it’s not” arguments, the vital factor of context seems ignored. It’s not the image/sight, or even one’s reaction to it, that determines whether it is right or wrong, but the context.
    I’ve admired unknown women’s attributes from time to time, and even commented on that to friends (who know me, and therefore understand the spirit in which any such comment is made). It takes a significant effort of will not to do so – we are all physically present in this world, and therefore are objects. As such, when all the data we have about a person is their physical presence, it is almost impossible NOT to objectify them. We all do it – “Doesn’t she dress well?”, “He’s good looking, isn’t he?”, “She really should do something about her hair”. Objectification is inevitable, and when it is about the gender we are attracted to, there will be a sexual subtext somewhere.
    I understand that the discussion is about viewing people as sexual objects, but context is still important. Many people are happy to be viewed as a sexual object from time to time, so long as it is by a person, or people, of their choosing (preferably with low lighting and Barry White in the background). As Mr Ince rightly pointed out, sexual response is an eternal evolutionary inevitability, and most of us succumb to it on an almost daily basis. And in many cases it is part of daily human interaction, with no power-struggle subtext, and no offence meant or, crucially, received.
    I suppose what I am saying is that, merely viewing another person as a sexual object is not automatically oppressive. Men AND women do it to each other all the time. I, and everyone else I knew, did it at every party we went to in our early 20’s. We weren’t trying to oppress anyone, just get laid (unsuccessfully most of the time, in my case).
    Media images is a different issue, although still not black and white (do you see what I did there?). Showing an attractive woman in a bra in a lingerie advert clearly makes her a sexual object (unless it’s Anne Widdicombe, if my reactions are to be trusted), but that’s what she’s selling. It’s adding the line “Hello boys” that can be argued to be deliberate objectification/oppression.
    I come back to my point – context is all. If you ignore context, and argue that ALL such images are oppression, you run the risk of alienating people who agree with, and try to adhere to, your principles, but as a result of your stance feel like they are being tarred with the same brush as those who are your true targets.
    FWIW, I agree that page 3 is oppressive, not to mention a relic and a dinosaur. However, I find it difficult to believe that, in the internet age of access to pretty much any image, anyone would seek it out, or even have their attitudes to women affected by such an anachronism. The glossy style magazines, however, are a much more insidious matter.

  19. stephaniedaviesarai says:

    You’re right that we all objectify each other, the human brain does that automatically, beneath the level of consciousness. It’s how we treat people that is within conscious control, and treating people like objects dehumanises them which engenders disrespect and makes abuse easier.
    The Sun treats women like objects every day – and specifically sexual objects – and the effects of that commodification subtly conditions all of us. That’s another thing the brain does automatically, beneath the level of consciousness, it believes repeated images – even if consciously you know that the world is actually not full of large-breasted young women dying to have sex with you.
    Images have a huge impact, as the advertising industry knows, and the Sun advertises young women as passive sexually available objects on its most prominent page every day, amongst men who are wearing clothes and doing things – like jobs and running the country.
    As a man I’m sure you are not aware of the humiliation felt by girls and women every time we are made aware of Page 3 in public but you might try to imagine a world where it is only young men who are reduced to their sexual apparatus for the titillation of women in a national newspaper.
    You’re right that this is an issue of context, a newspaper is not the place for images designed only to give men a boner at the expense of women’s dignity. The fact that you do not have to ‘seek out’ Page 3 is the whole issue – newspapers are opened in public (as porn mags are not as that would be socially unacceptable).
    Professional feminists (I’m a bit of an amateur) would probably tell you to ‘check your privelege mate’ before you pronounce on what is ‘much more insidious’ for a group you are not a member of.

    • Jon G says:

      I accept the criticism to some extent – but while I’m not a woman, I know quite a lot of them quite well (yes, some of my best friends are women. Sorry for the cliche but it’s true) and I am interested in their view of the world around them. We talk about it a lot. In the context (that word again) of my female friends’ world, page 3 is not an issue. That’s all I have to go on, I’m afraid.

      I understand the arguments, even if I’m less convinced of the extent of the effect on a lot of men.

      It’s a good argument, though – you’re right and I’m not qualified to reply because I’m not a member of the group that feels oppressed. I suppose I am allowed to speak as part of the group that is accused of oppressing, however, and I am pretty sure I don’t oppress women. I certainly make a conscious effort not to. I guess I need to try harder in future.

      Others would probably tell you to ‘check your privelege mate’ before you pronounce ‘As a man I’m sure you are not aware of the humiliation felt by girls and women’ for a group you are not a member of. I wouldn’t, though, because we all fall into the trap of presuming we know how others think. 🙂

    • sam says:

      No point being puritanical about it, the working man likes looking at tits.

      • Jon Gowshall says:

        I don’t understand this comment. While I like looking at selective tits, they need to be attached to someone I find attractive as a person (although I’m not going to deny that the tits might not have caught my initial attention, albeit as part of an overall impression). I have no interest in viewing random breasts, particularly in fuzzy black-and-white newsprint.

        And yet I’m a man, and I go to work every weekday, for which I am paid, and need to be paid, to support my family.

        So I seem to be a working man who doesn’t like looking at tits, at least on page 3.

        Should I be worried?

      • sam says:

        Maybe you are more of a bum man. To be honest I find the breasts the only non offencive bit in the Sun, it would be nicer paper if it only had breasts and nothing else it

  20. stephaniedaviesarai says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I know some individual women are not affected by Page 3 (although it’s hard for a woman to admit that it bothers her, we know that means we are ugly jealous prudes, the Sun has made that clear, and none of us wants to be seen as that) – but in the end individual opinions don’t count (including mine). The question is whether portraying women as primarily sexual objects in the press is harmful to women as a group. There is lots of evidence to suggest that it is. And the other question is whether women should have the right to be represented equally to men in a national newspaper, or whether as a society we allow discriminatory treatment of one gender.
    If it was one cultural or racial group being offered as sexual entertainment daily for the rest of us I think people would be up in arms. Somehow we accept that it’s ok to do that to women. Maybe it’s 43 years of conditioning by the Sun.
    Thanks for the debate 🙂

    • Jon Gowshall says:

      And thank you too. I’m amazed how many people think that civilised debate (e.g. trying to understand the other point of view, presumably with the aim of reaching a compromise acceptable to both) is unacceptable.

      I’m intrigued that you feel that, if a woman admits page 3 bothers her, you feel she is seen as a “jealous angry prude…”. I certainly don’t see you (as a representative of that group) in that way, nor would any man I consider a friend (although there’s an argument that this is a self-selecting group). But why do you care if The Sun makes that argument? That’s the very publication that perpetrates the act in the first place, so its own reaction must be at least partially invalidated by its original stance. If you want proper validation of either opinion, you surely need to look to a disinterested party – as a neutral, its response is more likely to be considered and logical.

      Good luck finding a disinterested party, of course. 🙂

      I understand your concerns. All I can say is, from my perspective, as a male, I perceive bias to women as less of a problem in the circles in which I move (I agree – very specific) than racism or xenophobia. If I think about it, that’s because, generally, even subtle sexism is noted, however subtly, by members of my group,, while insidious racism can be allowed to slide.

      But that’s just my experience, and I acknowledge, that I live in a pretty cloistered world.

      Thanks for the debate – it’s been stimulating.

      PS This has affected me. I was at a restaurant tonight with individual toilets – one male, two female. I was queuing for the Men’s when a woman emerged from her toilet. “Are you queuing?” she says. “Yes”, I say, quick as a flash (I clearly have a career in standup). “Why don’t you go in here?” she asked, gesturing to the empty, lockable, toilet.

      I declined. Not because I wasn’t desperate – I’d broken the seal a couple of hours ago – but because, as a result of this debate, I was agonising over whether, if a woman saw me emerging out of her toilet, she might feel in some way oppressed. That really isn’t a joke – as soon as you realise there might be an issue and you are in the majority (I’m white, male and middle-class, so I’m screwed there), you agonise about doing the right thing in every damn situation.

      Just so you know. :-))

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