Can you be a Page 3 girl and a feminist?
In the last few years, The Sun’s notorious ‘Page 3’ has become a go-to example of the lingering and anachronistic misogyny that underlines our society. The ‘No More Page 3’ campaign has gone from strength to strength and The Sun has been banned from sale in our own union because of this.
In January, The Sun showed that they were unfazed by the controversy surrounding their feature by removing Page 3 only to bring it back the following day. Rather than respecting the views of those who oppose Page 3, they’ve started to use the backlash to gain publicity whilst making a mockery of its critics.
Their blasé attitude sadly suggests that Page 3 isn’t going anywhere soon. But when thinking about how next to tackle Page 3, it is important that the spotlight remains on The Sun itself rather than on the models who feature in it. After all, the single unifying principle that underpins the idea of feminism is that of gender equality. So really, it’s a backward step to undermine the pursuit of this equality for the sake of a disagreement over what a woman does with her own body.
It is counter-productive to the feminist movement to dictate what women should do with their bodies and perpetuates the false idea that feminism is an uncompromising movement with a strict entry policy.
The real issue with Page 3 models identifying as feminists is that posing for The Sun is a lot different than doing the same for any other medium. Female nudity has an unsettling place within a newspaper. Setting aside the questionable journalistic value of the newspaper itself, the casual placement of specifically female nudity in between the weather and current events is a problematic one. It normalises the objectification of women by removing the naked woman’s body from the sexual sphere and dumping it in the everyday.
Allowing the blatant sexualisation of women in a newspaper sets a worrying precedent for everyday life. It is important for women to be able to choose how to use their bodies free of judgement; but there is a time and a place for it which is dependent on the medium and intention. It is also important that feminism remains an inclusive movement as this is the only way that real gender equality can be achieved.
The Sun is clever, but Page 3 isn’t. Page 3 models who identify as feminists should be able to do so, but should also take a critical glance at the corporation that they’re baring their bodies for.
It seems quite clear to me that you cannot simultaneously be a Page 3 girl and a feminist. To say that you are a member of a movement seeking to establish the equal place of women in society is not a claim that you can make whilst being a daily ‘f**k you’ to the very idea of that movement.
Page 3 girls are a daily reminder that women are more-often-than-not seen as nothing more than sexual objects by an alarmingly large amount of men. They are a daily perpetuation of the ‘Dapper Laughs’ mind-set. There is no equivalent objectification of males to the objectification of women on Page 3 of the Sun, and this is an important point to remember: when we talk of Page 3 girls we are talking about the third page of the highest selling national newspaper in Britain – not a top-shelf magazine – and every day that page bears a manifestation of the inferiority of women in society, and every day it helps reinforce that perceived inferiority.
A large step towards establishing the equal place of women in society would be to abolish Page 3, for how can women seek equal roles to men in society if society does not even see them as having equal worth as people? When women are still seen as mere objects by so many men, how can we possibly expect to see an equal representation of women in Parliament, say, or a more equal number of females on boards of directors helping to lead large companies?
This should not be mistaken as a criticism of the girls themselves who appear on Page 3, but instead as a criticism of what this represents and the attitudes they arguably justify by appearing on Page 3.
By getting rid of Page 3, we would be making a clear statement that it is no longer acceptable to view or treat women in this manner and that it is time for society to progress towards a more harmonious situation. As long as Page 3 exists, I do not think that the cause of feminism will be able to advance towards these noble and necessary ends.
This should not be mistaken as a criticism of the girls themselves who appear on Page 3, but instead as a criticism of what this represents and the attitudes they arguably justify by appearing on Page 3. I think it is irresponsible and unfair to label this a case of ‘telling women what to do with their bodies’, rather it is asking women to respect themselves enough as people to fight the perception that the only thing that matters about them are their bodies. If this can be achieved then I doubt that the cause of feminism will have ever been quite so strong.