If we lived in a world where gender equality was not such an issue, where equal paternity and maternity leave existed, where there weren’t still cultures that heavily oppressed women – then Page Three would be, almost, fine.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where this is so evidently not the case. Many attempt to justify Page Three by claiming it’s ‘empowering’ – women ‘choose’ career of a Glamour model. Interestingly enough, it’s an issue that extends to all ends of the feminism perspective, embodying the controversial-ish ‘third wave’ feminism. The defence for Page Three is no longer ‘wheeey she’s got great tits’ but an entirely different rhetoric, frequently coming from women as well, surrounding its self around ‘choice’ and ‘power’.
The reason why these justifications don’t necessarily work has a lot to do with the society we live in. On the whole, people don’t intellectually engage with most of the things they do – this extends to those ‘reading’ the The Sun (If you can call it reading. I like to think of it more as mindlessly imbibing) and those who chose to become models. Growing up in a world when girls play with heavily made-up Bratz dolls and giant-anorexic-disproportionate Barbie dolls, the message of what women ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ look like is indoctrinated into us from a young age. The idea that women are commodities, to be viewed by their quality of breast to waist ratio is a repulsive idea promoted everywhere, even before we can even realise it. This is why the language of ‘choice’ is so out of place here – when you cannot escape a society that tells you to value yourself by your breast, you can hardly expect getting your boobies out as a free choice.
There’s also a big difference between being sexually empowered, and being defined wholly by your sexual worth. In the glorious 60s, where The Beatles counted as ‘pop’ music and a whole movement of sexual liberation occurred, there was a breakdown of the idea that sex was a disgusting thing – our perceptions changed, and women were liberated from a controlling idea that you were a whore if you had sex. ERGO sexual liberation (good). Today, where almost entirely a male demographic look at pictures of women in their panties, seeing them as an object, an image, as opposed to a person, it’s just simply got nothing to do with liberation – in fact it’s the opposite, it’s hugely oppressive. ERGO sexual objectification (bad).
But not only is becoming a Glamour model not a free choice, the whole franchise of Page Three is extremely pernicious. To see women depicted as not only buying into a culture that commodifies them, but also as nothing more than a pretty face (…and boobs) you entrench the perception that this is where a woman’s worth lies. To every 14 year old boy or girl that picks up The Sun, they don’t read ‘men and women are equal’ but read ‘Getting your boobs out = good’. And because it’s in a paper, it is somehow legitimised: this isn’t a secret porn collection; this is sold in Sainsbury’s, next to Gardener’s Weekly. It’s perceptions like this that mean women feel expected to look good for men, that their self-worth lies in the certification of a man.
Getting rid of Page Three doesn’t mean you don’t like sex, or boobs. But allowing Page Three to continue is promoting a lot more than pro- boobs. It’s dated, it’s moronic, it’s harmful, and ultimately, boobs ain’t news.
By Ruby Lott-Lavigna
Written October 2012 for the Leeds Student Newspaper, in the debate ‘Should We Ban Page Three’