The worrying backlash against #NoMorePage3

I know I promised another cycling post but it’s been waylaid by the exciting news that the Sun has taken its first baby step towards removing the outdated, sexist, narrow-minded, patriarchy-perpetuating “institution” that is Page 3.

In what can only be described as an incredibly minor achievement on a still-long road to victory, as of this week the paper will clad its Page 3 models in bras and bikini tops.  Sadly, this was a pretty clever move on their part; is it a victory, is it not?  Should we be happy, should we be disappointed?  It’s not the total disappearance of this hideously backwards tradition, but it’s certainly preferable to bare breasts in a national family newspaper.

Still: I’m going to view it as a moderate victory.  But what has saddened me are the number of people who’ve escaped from the woodwork in support of Page 3.  It’s not even been annihilated – just asked to shuffle grudgingly, but barely, into line with the 21st century – but a shocking wave of ignorance washed over social media, seemingly misunderstanding the very concept of the campaign.

Here are a few quick notes on the most common arguments against the campaign.  Tweets are randomly selected, but sadly representative.

https://twitter.com/MilanMya/status/557844913849921538

This has been covered a million times but let’s – once again – make it perfectly clear: the campaign is not asking for a ban.  It’s calling for the Sun to understand how the images undermine women as people, objectify them, pit pictures of women looking pretty against men doing stuff, and then voluntarily remove those images.

Sadly the Sun haven’t understood any of the objectification issues, but hey, that’s why we won’t stop campaigning.

As for the incredibly overused “Don’t like it, don’t look” argument, that’s a) not always an option (see here for examples of how it’s affected people who’ve never bought the paper) and b) encourages members of society who see something inherently wrong and dangerous to simply look the other way.  Isn’t that phenomenally selfish?  Is that really the attitude we want to instill in our children?  “Oh yes darling, that man’s wanking on the bus.  Aren’t you enjoying it?  Just look out the window instead”.

We don’t hate nudity.  We like breasts.  Many of us have some ourselves.  We object to those breasts in a national family newspaper – the clue being in the word “news”.  Are boobs news?  If not, why are they in a newspaper?

We aren’t against free speech.  In fact, we are all indulging our right to free speech by joining this campaign and arguing against the existence of Page 3. This is free speech in action.  We don’t want it to be banned (see above), and now that the Sun has taken one (very, very small) step along the road, they too have indulged in their right to free speech by choosing to publish photographs of bikini-clad models on their pages.  Perhaps sadly, they are free to print what they want.

I can’t tell another person what to think or feel, and I’m happy this woman considers herself a feminist.  However, I wonder whether she’s considered the underlying causes, meanings, and repercussions of Page 3.  If any of the NMP3 supporters criticise or mock topless models then that is absolutely at odds with the ethos of the campaign.  I want women to embrace their bodies; but alongside their achievements, ambitions, sporting successes, business acumen, educational results; all of the things that men are praised for in the same newspaper, whilst women exist merely to be ogled at.

https://twitter.com/secularistjim/status/557615101981638656

The profile picture on @officialpage3's twitter account represents the Sun's definition of
The @officialpage3’s twitter profile represents the Sun’s definition of “beauty”: big breasts, slim, white.

Body confidence, sure: for a tiny section of the population.  Every Page 3 girl is slim with big breasts, young, and white.  This sends the message that one can’t be black or plus-sized or small-boobed or over 25 to be deemed attractive – otherwise surely women with those attributes would also be featured?

Equally, what about the considerable numbers of men who support this campaign for any number of reasons, amongst them “I don’t want to be told what I should find attractive”?  Why can’t we embrace diversity and indeed celebrate the female body for its many, many variations, sending a true healthy body image to all women, not just those who fit the narrow, prescriptive margins so helpfully defined by the Sun?  Isn’t that being truly body-positive?

Unlike last week’s fanatical extremists, Lucy Ann Holmes and her cohorts started an online petition rather than shooting David Dinsmore in the face.  They embraced legal, ethical and socially-acceptable means to spread the word about an activity they found went against their feminist principles.  And now, they’ve (sort of) won.  The British press is still 100% free.  No laws were passed, and crucially, nobody died.  The similarities are non-existent.

I have no issue with women who choose glamour modelling as their career.  I’m a feminist: full power to them and their choices.  Luckily, they won’t be out of a job, for one fundamental reason.  Each model has one photo, I don’t know – every year?  Perhaps a few times annually?  If anyone is seriously suggesting that this pays 12 months living wage then hell, where do I sign up?  But evidently this is not the case.  Modelling for Page 3 is one tiny element of their annual income, which is either supported by something really quite mundane, or topless modelling for any number of the porn magazines, websites, films etc which are still in circulation and will continue hiring.  There is absolutely nobody in this world whose financial livelihood depends in its entirety on the existence of Page 3.

(Another obvious point, but one which apparently needs to be made nonetheless is that they’re still hiring models at this stage, unfortunately, just models with bras on.  So it really depends whether these women are simply desperate to pose with their breasts out – in which case, see aforementioned magazines/websites/films – or if they merely want to be on Page 3 of the Sun – in which case, buy a bikini and carry on).

Again, not a ban (see above).  Most pertinently: we are not against nudity.  I like nudity.  I like it in context, though.  Do I find the Heat Torso of the Week objectifying?  Well yes, I do.  But this isn’t about a ban (again) and we might also tackle the issue that women are predominantly viewed as sex objects whereas men are coming from a position of being appreciated for what they do, not how they look, and therefore the occasional (and it really is occasional) objectification of men simply cannot be put into the same category as that of women.  But that’s a complicated issue and long debate for another day.

In addition, if Lewis feels so strongly about Heat Torso of the Week then there is absolutely nothing to stop him from starting his own petition, and I’m sure many members of No More Page 3 will happily sign up.  For the moment, we’re focussing our attentions on what we consider to be one far more pernicious area of popular culture.  But if you want to pour your time, care and attention into another overlooked area of objectification then you crack on, my friend, crack on.

FGM is horrific.  As is domestic violence, rape, the pay gap, and any other number of issues that feminists fight.  It is possible to be concerned simultaneously about more than one issue.  It’s also possible to understand that the slow drip-drip-drip of sexism, misinformation and body-shaming which Page 3 perpetuates is representative of the everyday sexism which wears down our resistance and makes it ok for women to be treated as objects . . . and, at the other end of the wedge, as victims of FGM, rape, and domestic violence.  No, Page 3 doesn’t cause these, but it sure as hell doesn’t help to raise women’s standing in the world, and increase the likelihood of these far more major issues being tackled and fixed.

Start with what you can fix in the world.  That’s what Lucy Ann Holmes did, and I support her every step of the way.

There are countless other mindless oppositions to the No More Page 3 campaign but most have been answered very intelligently on the No More Page 3 FAQs.  There are some excellent points in this round-up of responses by feminist writers in the Guardian (although I’d avoid the comments unless you want to despair for humanity).

If you’re opposed to the No More Page 3 campaign for reasons not discussed here, then I would be interested to hear why in the comments.

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  1. > If you’re opposed to the No More Page 3 campaign for reasons not discussed here, then I would be interested to hear why in the comments.

    Sure 🙂

    First of all I’ll just say that I regard the Sun as trash, not for its boobs (which I have no strong feelings about one way or another), but because of the crap they pass off as journalism. The same applies to ALL mainstream newspapers FWIW. The Sun’s only redeeming feature is that it does not really pass itself off as a quality source of information, as some other newspapers do. The Sun is basically Heat magazine for builders. So I am not in any way a supporter (or reader!) of the Sun, although I respect people’s right to buy it if that’s what they desire.

    But by campaigning against the newspaper, rather than appealing to (or DEBATING the issue with) the women who chose to model topless in it, this campaign has spectacularly stripped those women of their agency and in doing so completely objectified women, belittled women, insulted women and to use that much loved word OPPRESSED women.

    The irony and hypocrisy is almost too much to bear!

    What these mad feminists have done is no different to shutting down a local cafe, market stall or corner shop because they didn’t like what it sold. Those are also places where young women might earn some extra income to help them through college or just help to pay the bills.

    I just composed this set of questions for another blog post and to save time I will repeat them here because I feel they cut to the heart of the issue. Please feel free to answer them.

    Do you agree that adult women have free will and agency and are NOT helpless ‘children’ or objects and should never be treated that way?

    Do you agree that the women who chose to pose for page 3 and get paid for it were adults as defined above?

    By shutting down page 3 feminists have prevented these adult women from doing what they wanted to do with their lives which is to model topless and get paid for it.

    Is is fair for feminists to treat these women like children or objects and stop them doing what they want to do?

    Do feminists have any right to act like authoritarian ‘parents’ to other women?

    Do feminists have any right to act like authoritarian ‘parents’ to men, like the poor guy who landed on spaceship on the comet, who feminists reduced to tears because they didn’t like the shirt he was wearing?

    Do feminists realise why so many people are sick to death of feminists telling men and women what they can or can’t do with their lives/ bodies/ clothes etc?

    Do feminists realise why so many people regard feminism as a personality disorder or even a mental illness?

    Are feminists aware that while some feminists were busy banning women from going topless on page 3 some other feminists were wandering about topless in public with balaclavas on their heads demanding their right to go topless in public without being told to cover up?

    Do feminists have any self awareness at all?

    Do feminists have any idea how they appear to normal people?

    • Right. Ok. I can’t help but wonder whether you actually bothered to read my post, since most of your questions have been answered already. Still, I’ll give it a go . . .

      Do you agree that adult women have free will and agency and are NOT helpless ‘children’ or objects and should never be treated that way?
      Absolutely I do. They are not objects. Page 3 objectifies them, hence I am against Page 3. I never doubted that these women were (and are) modelling under anything beyond their own free will.

      Do you agree that the women who chose to pose for page 3 and get paid for it were adults as defined above?
      Yes.

      By shutting down page 3 feminists have prevented these adult women from doing what they wanted to do with their lives which is to model topless and get paid for it.
      Is is fair for feminists to treat these women like children or objects and stop them doing what they want to do?

      I think I’ll just copy and paste the section from my original blog post which answered this already:

      I have no issue with women who choose glamour modelling as their career.  I’m a feminist: full power to them and their choices.  Luckily, they won’t be out of a job, for one fundamental reason.  Each model has one photo, I don’t know – every year?  Perhaps a few times annually?  If anyone is seriously suggesting that this pays 12 months living wage then hell, where do I sign up?  But evidently this is not the case.  Modelling for Page 3 is one tiny element of their annual income, which is either supported by something really quite mundane, or topless modelling for any number of the porn magazines, websites, films etc which are still in circulation and will continue hiring.  There is absolutely nobody in this world whose financial livelihood depends in its entirety on the existence of Page 3.

      (Another obvious point, but one which apparently needs to be made nonetheless is that they’re still hiring models at this stage, unfortunately, just models with bras on.  So it really depends whether these women are simply desperate to pose with their breasts out – in which case, see aforementioned magazines/websites/films – or if they merely want to be on Page 3 of the Sun – in which case, buy a bikini and carry on).

      Do feminists have any right to act like authoritarian ‘parents’ to other women?
      We’re not acting like parents. Again (please see above), we are merely campaigning against something we feel has implications against society at large. It has nothing to do with the individual women involved as models.

      Do feminists have any right to act like authoritarian ‘parents’ to men, like the poor guy who landed on spaceship on the comet, who feminists reduced to tears because they didn’t like the shirt he was wearing?
      I’m not sure what this has to do with Page 3, but since you’ve asked . . . no, I don’t think that anybody has the “right” to tell other people what to do and wear, and I am very disappointed that he was reduced to tears. Did I like his shirt? No. Did I find it distasteful and objectifying? Yes. Would I allow it to diminish my respect for his work? No. Was it the right forum for such clothing to be discussed? Probably not.

      Do feminists realise why so many people are sick to death of feminists telling men and women what they can or can’t do with their lives/ bodies/ clothes etc?
      Do you realise how sick to death women are of sexist men telling us what we can and can’t do with our lives/bodies/clothes? For example: being accused of leading a man on by wearing a short skirt; teaching daughters not to get raped, but not telling sons not to rape; dress codes for girls in schools, but not boys; expecting older women to cover up, cut their hair, wear less makeup, but having no similar expectations of men; allowing men to legally and socially-acceptably walk around topless, but not women; etc.

      Do feminists realise why so many people regard feminism as a personality disorder or even a mental illness?
      Wow. Astonishing. I don’t think that “question” is worthy of even this response.

      Are feminists aware that while some feminists were busy banning women from going topless on page 3 some other feminists were wandering about topless in public with balaclavas on their heads demanding their right to go topless in public without being told to cover up?
      It’s not a ban. I’ve said this several times. It’s getting quite boring now. And yes: these two issues are linked. It’s illegal for a woman to be topless in public. And yet it’s legal for a newspaper to publish photos of topless women. So come on, you tell me: how does that make any logical sense?! You can’t have one without the other! Some feminists are fighting against Page 3; others are fighting for the legal right to be topless in public; and many more are proponents of both campaigns. They can, and should, exist simultaneously.

      Do feminists have any self awareness at all?
      See above: not worthy of a response.

      Do feminists have any idea how they appear to normal people?
      It depends what you mean by “normal”. I’m perfectly happy with the way I appear, thank you. If you don’t like it then hell, as with your own feelings re: the Sun – don’t look 🙂

      • >Page 3 objectifies them, hence I am against Page 3.

        You cannot be against objectification per se. Otherwise you would have to be against catwalk shows, fashion mags, pop videos, tumblr, ballet and the national portrait gallery. What you object to is that MEN are the main target audience. Basically you don’t like the idea of women pleasing men, and making a profit from it. That’s fine, you don’t have to like it….. but you cannot possibly claim you have the right to interfere in their business and stop them. Perhaps they don’t like whatever it is you do for a living. Imagine if all the page three girls got together and petitioned your employers or clients to abandon your services.

        This whole idea of objectification being a problem is a red herring anyway. It doesn’t make any sense. We agree these women are acting of their own free will and so we have to accept they are choosing to objectify themselves for whatever motives (self expression, the money, their portfolio, the media exposure, the hell of it etc). There is nothing inherently wrong with objectifying oneself, or being objectified by others. We all self objectify and objectify others all the time.

        When you hire a plumber you are only interested in him as a ‘tool’ to fix your pipes. And that’s what you pay him to do. You objectify him as a plumber, rather than treat him as a friend coming over socially. Likewise, he is selling his services as a ‘pipe fixing tool’ in return for your money. You do not care about his feelings, or hobbies or ambitions or thoughts on art… you just want him to fix your pipes. And he WANTS you to treat him as a tool (as an object) so he can get on with the job, get paid and then return home in time for dinner with your money in his pocket. As long as you offer him a cup of tea he is happy 🙂 And likewise the models also WANT to be objectified like that while they are ‘on the job’. They do not want the ‘concern’ of busybody women telling them how awful it is for them to be objectified as beautiful, buxom women.

        This campaign is like a bunch of men campaigning to stop plumbers from working on a contract because “They are just treating you like objects! It’s demeaning! They have reduced you to the level of a tool and they are just USING you to fix their pipes!” LOL

        The plumbers wouldn’t say “Thank you for saving us from that job opportunity!”……they would say “YES WE KNOW… and that is how we want to be treated!! It pays the bills and we enjoy the work!”

        And if any of these campaigners bothered to ask the page three models for their views they would also say “YES this is how we want to be treated. We WANT to be objectified, that is why we posed in front of a camera FFS you idiots!”

        Both plumbers and models WANT to be objectified and paid for their services. And both understand the difference between their ordinary relationships with friends, family and lovers ….. and their professional relationships with their employers or customers. They understand – and embrace – their different roles in each situation.

        But apparently feminists cannot grasp this obvious distinction. Saying these models are ‘objectified’ is no different to saying plumbers are ‘objectified’. Yes they are. But what is the problem? As long as it’s all voluntary (and it is) it’s all cool, right?

        You don’t have to like how plumbers are objectified by their clients…. but you have no right to try and stop it.

        > Each model has one photo, I don’t know – every year?

        That is a TERRIBLE argument. I can’t believe you actually said that. Suppose they chose to work on a market stall instead. They are selling topless calendars for £5. You walk past and decide you don’t like it and so you pick up a box of 10 calendars and set fire to them. Then you say “Hey, don’t get mad…. it’s only £50 worth… I’m sure it won’t make a difference to your annual income”.

        Seriously, you are deranged if you think you have the right to prevent them from earning even £1. I would imagine a page three shoot pays a decent amount of money. You can sell gossip and blurry photos of celebs coming out of restaurants to tabloids and get paid thousands. And if you are pursuing a career in modelling (or pop music or media or whatever) being showcased in a national newspaper could be your big break.

        Your justification is insane and completely immoral.

        > We’re not acting like parents.

        You have just justified denying somebody work and an income just because it displeases you.

        > ….we are merely campaigning against something we feel has implications against society at large. It has nothing to do with the individual women involved as models.

        So as well as stripping these women of agency you are now saying their earnings don’t matter. I’m sorry but this is blatant in-your-face oppression of women. There is no other way to define it. If men were advocating this sort of bulling of women and saying their loss of income was irrelevant to the ‘wider social issue’ there would be rioting on the streets.

        > Did I like his shirt? No. Did I find it distasteful and objectifying? Yes.

        If the shirt had featured images of feminist icon and ’empowered’ woman Beyonce in the same skimpy attire and if it has said “Beyonce World Tour 2009” on the back would you still have found it distasteful and objectifying? If Matt Taylor had worn a Beyonce shirt, instead of a shirt made for him by his female friend do you think there would have been any outrage by feminists? What’s the difference?

        > It’s illegal for a woman to be topless in public. And yet it’s legal for a newspaper to publish photos of topless women. So come on, you tell me: how does that make any logical sense?!

        The laws on topless women in public are primarily there to protect women’s safety. Men can go topless but men can’t claim sexual assault if someone touches their chests. If women go topless in public they are not thrown in jail or even charged with any crime (as a man would be if he pulled his willy out). The worst that will happen is the police will cover them with a blanket and escort them to a more private place. Most women (and indeed most men) have no desire to go topless in public. It’s usually too cold and most women enjoy the support of a bra when out and about. Certainly men are not going to oppose women going topless in public, it’s mostly women who would object to any radical changes in the law or social conventions. If women were treated like men they would gain very little (because most women don’t even WANT to go topless in public) and they would lose the protection of the law when it came to mild sexual assault (groping etc) which most women don’t want to happen.

        > Wow. Astonishing. I don’t think that “question” is worthy of even this response.

        It’s a perfectly valid question. A lot of people genuinely do consider feminism to be a personality disorder/ mental illness. A lot of people have genuine concern for feminists, just as they do for people with paranoia or agoraphobia or depression. The youtubes is full of incredibly privileged young women surrounded by soft furnishings making videos about how oppressed they are and a lot of them genuinely believe that they are victims of real oppression. A lot of them genuinely believe men hate women and that all men are rapists and that society has been set up to oppress women. The modern feminist shows all the symptoms of narcissism, sociopathy and a whole host of other psychological disorders. It is a real issue and a real concern to many.

        You yourself said right here that you don’t care about denying these women an income, and that they’ll make it up somehow. That’s some serious sociopathic tendencies right there.

        • The fact that you consider feminists to have a mental disorder, and think women are stopped from going topless for their own safety is, frankly, indicative of your stance on women’s rights. Sadly it doesn’t appear that you’re even considering what I’m saying, so I won’t be responding to your comments any further after this post.

          However before disengaging I will try once more, since your example of burning calendars was so poor and unrelated, to offer a more pertinent comparison.

          A little over 100 years ago, you could buy cocaine from pharmacies all over the country. Eventually the damaging affect that cocaine had on society at large was realised, and the dangers it posed clarified. Even those who didn’t actively take the drug were affected, as we entered WW1 and there was such a large culture of cocaine-taking that large numbers of people were incapable of performing at their best, damaging the war effort.

          So for that and many other reasons, laws were passed prohibiting its sale. Now, I would imagine that regular cocaine users were pretty pissed off by these laws, and more relevant to the Page 3 argument, the pharmacies which sold it would have been up in arms due to a significant portion of their income being taken away. But should this society-saving law have been redacted simply because a small number of people wanted to continue experiencing temporary pleasure, regardless of its dangerous, long-lasting, wide-reaching affects? Or indeed because a small number of people would have their incomes temporarily reduced? Regardless of your feelings on drugs, surely you can see that if it had been decreed that society, generally, would be improved by this law, those pharmacists’ temporary change in income would be unfortunate but necessary collateral damage?

          That’s how I feel about these women having to take a potential (and, I say again, very small and ultimately insignificant) dip in their income. If it’s for the greater good, then yes, it’s necessary. And if this particular part of the issue is that about which you feel so strongly, I presume you campaign against redundancies, job cuts, the gradual creep towards people being replaced with computers. If not, you should probably start.

        • The cocaine analogy is a good one. You have just as much right to stop an adult taking cocaine as you do to stop an adult posing topless in front of a camera.

          Both are examples of bullying other people who are doing you no harm whatsoever. And the motivation for both is the same.

          Cocaine was only made illegal so that it would become more profitable for the mafias to deal in, having just eliminated all competition. These days the global cocaine trade is completely dominated by mafias including the CIA (which is just an arm of the mafia operating within government).

          One of the main motivations to ban porn, including soft porn like page three, is to reduce supply. When the supply is reduced it artificially drives up the value of the female form, just as making coke illegal artificially drives up the value of cocaine.

          The higher the value of the female form (the more coveted it is) the more power women have over men. This is why feminists will campaign to bare their breasts in public on the one hand….. while campaigning to stop men from looking at topless models on the
          other. They want to have their cake and eat it. They want to show off their female form, while hiding it from men so that they still have a bargaining tool to get free stuff and special treatment from men. Feminists hate the idea of non-feminist men and women transacting for mutual benefit in a free market. They want to control a monopoly on femininity so they can squeeze the maximum resources out of men.

          Feminists do not object to nudity itself, but to men having access to nudity in a way which does not directly benefit feminists.

          This attitude is indicative of a psychological disorder….. being a ‘control freak’ or being sociopathic or even psychopathic. The same traits are often found in the mafia and government or any other group trying to impose a monopoly onto society.

  2. Wow. Brilliant. I’m sharing this.
    Loving all your answers btl as well but doubt it will make much difference. Cognitive dissonance.
    Hey ho! Onwards and upwards!

    • Hmm, B+ for the unusual choice of “femicunts” instead of the more traditional “feminazis”, but C- on the lack of overall creativity. I suggest: “you stupid fat lesbians”, “you’re just jealous you flat-chested losers”, “don’t like it don’t buy it”, “you’ll die alone with your cats”, “feminism ruins lives”, and “why do you hate all men”. Any combination should work.

      General conclusion: must try harder!

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