The Soapbox Debate: Should Page 3 be banned?

YES – Umu Jalloh 

Page three models have often encountered controversy, with many calling for the practice to be banned. Having recently discussed this matter with a friend, a debate ensued with the inevitable coming up: do I think the use of page three girls is immoral and that it should be abolished? I simply answered yes. This surprised him, how could I find it immoral when it is their bodies? Surely they can do whatever they wish with their own bodies?

In a way, I think he was trying to get across that I should see it as a new form of freedom of expression and liberation. Perhaps he was implying that it had been prolonged from the sixties, when the model Stefanie Raun became the first page three model at the turn of the decade in 1970. In my opinion, all that it brought with it was angry protesters. Clara Short had even gone as far as to describe it as being “ degrading pornography” asking for it to be outlawed in 2004. However, it was the response from the newspapers that is the central point of the issue. They criticized her calling her a “ killjoy” and “ fat and jealous”.

It was this point that I found even more intriguing than the debate about the abolishment of the page three girls themselves. To me, it wasn’t if they were immoral, or even if I agreed with them being able to do what they wanted with their body. No, it was more about the ideology behind page three girls. There isn’t, (at least that I know of, nor do I go looking for), the male equivalent of page three girls. For me, this has led many women to try to aspire to standards of  ‘beauty’ that perhaps can only come about by redoing their face through plastic surgery, enlargements, implants and botox. Some women only then can be satisfied and feel like they have achieved their goal of being ‘beautiful’.  Many feminists would see it as a patriarchal control over women, and although I wouldn’t go as far as that, it does appear that there are double standards with regards to women and men, which page three emphasises.

Nonetheless, it is true that the liberation of the ‘swinging sixties’ allowed women a new freedom of expression, and that women are entitled to express themselves however much they wish, (even if their own bodies are one of the few retorts). It is true that many have escaped destitution by being a page three girl. In answer to that argument: why not through other means or other occupations?  Perhaps they don’t want to do any other job, and perhaps they see it as providing them with a stable income. Again, why is it necessary to be topless in a tabloid newspaper in order to gain such recognition, or to gain a wage? If this is the case, does it not in some way give the impression that those who do not do so are prudish and unliberated? To me, this underlines the double standards, as well as the sexism that exists in our society, which makes me think that page three should be abolished.

NO – Natalie Oliver

Recently, a petition was started on aimed at getting The Sun to stop featuring topless Page 3 models – a petition with now in excess of 44,000 signatures to its name. The rabid feminists behind the campaign argue that Page 3 demeans women, portraying them as nothing more than sexual objects for arousing and entertaining men.

People assumed that in a debate on Page 3 I would support the ban. After all, I’m a woman. Shouldn’t I loathe Page 3 on principle because of the way it portrays women? Well, I don’t, and while I’d never label myself as a feminist, I was always assumed that feminism supported women’s empowerment…along with the right to choose their own careers. Yet, it appears this is only true if they don’t aspire to be a topless model. Women’s autonomy is fine, but only as long as it doesn’t upset Laurie Penny, and her fellow Guardianistas?

The argument against a ban of Page 3 is one centred upon choice: choice of the consumer, choice of the worker, and the choice of how willing you are to force your views on other people. Forcing their views on others is exactly what the pioneers of this petition are all about. Personally, I don’t find the idea someone taking off their top off on camera, for a fairly large amount of money, demeaning. I do, however, find it insulting for other women to tell me what is, and is not, acceptable for women to do. Bare breasts in a newspaper aren’t physically or mentally harmful in any way. Choosing to either look at, or even be those breasts is a perfectly acceptable decision, one I’m capable of making myself.

The women modelling in The Sun aren’t the ones who started this campaign, it’s actually a highly sought after job for glamour models. The Katie-Price-crowd have even been known to argue that they couldn’t be further from being exploited – they are exploiting the publications’ readers for their own financial gain. After all, their jobs aren’t wildly different from the models who appear topless in Vogue, or actresses in films. Yes, that is argued to be ‘art’. Art is subjective, someone may find Page 3 artistic in its own way.

Nonetheless, if it doesn’t appeal to your inner art-lover (or any other part of you), then as the consumer you have another choice; do you buy The Sun, or a different newspaper which doesn’t have a massive picture of breasts right inside the cover? Embrace the beauty of living in a multi-newspaper society. If everyone hated The Sun as much as these petitioners, no one would buy it, it simply wouldn’t exist. This thus proves the petitions position isn’t indicative of that of the The Sun’s readership.

The decision to vilify Page 3, if successful, would also be the start of a slippery slope to further and more extreme censorship. In China, government mandated internet filters restrict access to pornography, or any other sexual content. This petition is a step in that direction. This step towards an up-tight Britain sends out a message that nudity is in some way shameful, when it shouldn’t be.

Issues of sexual objectification tend to be a small number of people who disagree with something fairly tame. They distract attention from real problems, such as low rape conviction rates, women being stoned to death in Iran, and innumerable other human rights abuses. Page 3 isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if that’s true of you, maybe don’t pursue a career in glamour modelling, and opt for the Leeds Student, not The Sun.

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