Emily holding my last-minute sign that almost nobody got. Me = totes N0ob
Despite the fact that I’ve never been one to either hide an opinion or political preferences, the one thing I’ve never done is march for or against anything. Probably because the more I learn, the less I feel I know, and paradoxically though I enjoy a good heated debate about really anything, sometimes I feel like the less I know, the more I should just stop talking. But mainly because I remember watching the march against the Iraq war in 2003 in sixth form and despite the fact that millions of people turned out for them across the UK literally nothing changed. The war still went ahead, and politicians in Westminster remained, until the General Election, completely untouched by the public voice. I haven’t seen that many people just show up to demonstrate in my life and it was pretty dispiriting thing to see fail at the age of 17.
But feminism is something I’m both a) pretty well-versed in and b) proud to stand up for. So, on a freezing cold winter day in London, I joined the No More Page 3 Campaigners on a march on the anniversary of the first ever page 3. I’d had a pretty heated debate with my sister and her fiancé about it the weekend before…basically the best way to cement my determination to go and put my money where my mouth was for once. They’re a warm bunch, a friendly group. And though small in number in comparison to some marches, we certainly made up for it with some loud singing.
So. Things the No More Page 3 Campaign isn’t against: boobs, women’s sexuality, porn in generic terms, nakedness of women in general.
The thing No More Page 3 campaign is against: the blatant use of a woman as pure sexual titillation in an inappropriate setting for David Dinsmore to sell newspapers with the insinuation that actual news about women won’t sell, because they’re only worth printing for the casing of their mammary glands (yeah, couldn’t sound less sexy could it?).
Page 3, even though it was only installed in the 70s, is one of the most archaic “institutions” our country is clinging on to. I despise it. I also hate that there’s no one genuinely good reason why it should stay, and yet there it is 6 days a week, a glaringly obvious example of sexism in our supposedly so modern culture.
Terrible Argument Why Page 3 should stay #1: “it’s their choice isn’t it?”
Wow, I hate this argument. I positively deplore it. Why? Because it is in no way the question to ask; it’s pure misdirection to cause everyone to argue in circles, gradually and slowly falling in on each other and basically melting into the ground as they argue about how ‘feminist’ it is to own (or not) your own nakedness to the point where you can trade on it for cash.
Yes, it’s their choice to pose naked. No-one is suggesting it isn’t. But the question you should really be asking is: “why does David Dinsmore make the completely inappropriate choice to place this image in the most-read national newspaper that is available all day, six days a week?” We have the watershed on TV for a reason and the sight of a mother breastfeeding in public is still enough to whip people into an angry lather, but objectification like this is okay? David Cameron can set upon the colossal crusade of trying to subdue internet porn for the ‘good of children’, but this blatant soft pornography available all the time (frequently where someone who hasn’t bought into it can unwittingly see it) isn’t to be gotten rid of? Seriously? Rupert Murdoch: puppet master and PM-tamer. Apparently.
Terrible Argument Why Page 3 should stay #2: “It’s their choice, therefore it’s not objectification.”
Again, that woman’s personal choice isn’t the issue here, it’s much, much wider than that. It’s objectification when it’s just a woman in her knickers and there’s no male equivalent. It’s objectification when on page two there are reports of fully-clothed and besuited male politicians making important decisions about the state of the country and on page three are important women deciding the fate of – oh no sorry, boobs. Just boobs.
This blend of journalism and sexism apparently qualifies the Sun as “agenda setting” in Dinsmore’s mind, and something worthy of a “brand” of newspaper in the 21st century. We should be asking Dinsmore why he doesn’t think he can sell more newspapers reporting the uh, oh – the news. Sometimes I wonder if NMP3 shouldn’t just start a collection to send Dinsmore back to J-school to learn how to create and report actual news in a way that will sell, because the poor man hasn’t yet figured out how to do it in this century.
Terrible Argument Why Page 3 should stay #3: “If that were a man you wouldn’t be complaining”
Well a) if it was just a man in his shirt, it would even be on a par with the objectification of page 3 because men can and do walk around in public with their tops off when they like. The only way it could be on a par is if they basically whipped their trousers off too, because then and only then would it cause as much controversy as a woman naked to the waist down in public, and
b) yeah it’d still be inappropriate in context to have it in the newspaper so yeah, I’d still be complaining.
Terrible Argument Why Page 3 should stay #4: “aren’t there more important things to worry about?”
There are many, many insidious and blatant examples of sexism in our society, of which this is just one. NMP3 won’t solve all of them, but it’s a step in the right direction. Also, show me what you’re doing to stop those ‘more important things’?
And these arguments, they’re just scratching the surface. The things we can specifically pin down and say: this is how page 3 is a dinosaur thing that needs to be consigned to the scrap heap. The rest of what Page 3 stands for in our culture, the nebulous attitudes, the nebulous damage, the nebulous everything about women’s self esteem and “place” in this society, is more difficult to articulate. But it won’t stop me trying. Nor will it stop the NMP3 campaign, gathering signatures, wearing tees and adding, day by day, to the roster of universities and organisations adding their voice and boycotting the sun until David Dinsmore sees sense. Because unlike him, these are the voices of the future…and they won’t be buying into his “brand” any time soon.