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>