Guest Blog: Time to listen to young women - Page 3 is not 'innocuous'

(110 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 30-Apr-13 11:11:51

In today's guest blog Stephanie Arai-Davies, who blogs over at Communicating With Kids, argues that The Sun's Page 3 primes girls to accept being sexually objectified.

What do you think? Is its influence innocuous in comparison to that of internet porn? Or are the two intrinsically linked, as Stephanie suggests? Let us have your thoughts on the thread - and if you blog on this issue don't forget to post your URL.

"Last week, the Girl Guides made an eloquently simple statement about why they support the No More Page 3 campaign. I think it's time we gave these young women our serious attention.

The objection I still hear from some parents is this: 'Why are you so bothered about Page 3? It's very innocent compared to online porn - why don't you campaign about that?'

But Page 3 is far from innocuous. Yes, our 'raunch culture' already contains endless images of sexualised women - but Page 3 is unique in its purpose of providing sexual titillation as an end in itself. The model's 'object-status' is reinforced by the juxtaposition with images of clothed men doing newsworthy things.

It's not 'female sexuality' which is being celebrated here, but a male fantasy version of a passive sexual commodity within a very narrow beauty 'ideal'.

Publicly available everyday images like Page 3 reinforce that fantasy - if you see this image every day you unconsciously internalise it. It's impossible not to do so without a conscious effort, because the resistance of the message takes up a lot more energy. That's why advertising works.

Girls are socialised in this way to understand two things about themselves: how they should look, and how they should behave sexually.

The main area of concern with the ubiquity of porn is that it will cause real harm to girls, who grow up believing that they must perform like, and resemble porn stars - and to boys, who believe that this is the normal way to treat women.

But for this 'internalisation' of porn-style sexuality to take hold, there needs to be some groundwork laid. For a girl to be influenced by porn, she needs already to have established herself as an object. Without that initial conditioning, porn would have far less effect on young women's sexual behaviour, and girls would be more able to view it objectively. Young men would also be more able to see it as 'fantasy' rather than reality.

Page 3 images lay that groundwork. Being in a national newspaper lends these images public presence and, more harmfully for young people, the perception of mainstream cultural approval. Our society, through Page 3, tells both girls and boys 'that's what women are'. Our culture confirms the message of pornography. Pornography simply extends the message of our culture further.

A girl looks to porn to find out what it means to be a sexual woman, and she finds that she must be forever sexually available and willing; she has no sexual needs of her own, but exists primarily to serve those of men. She looks back to her culture to check her perception, and finds that her society is in agreement with that message - reinforces it daily, in fact. Page 3 establishes the basic premise which today's, increasingly extreme, pornography carries to its logical conclusion: dehumanise, then abuse.

She doesn't have to actually see Page 3 every day for its message to be loud and clear. She knows that its presence is accepted, and she knows what happens to women who complain about it. She knows that society sees it as 'innocuous' - if she objects she must be over-sensitive, or a prude. She may legitimately shout about abusive porn, but Page 3 silences her: and it is this disempowerment which makes her more susceptible to the damaging influence of porn.

Of course we must think about the accessibility of online porn, and what we can do to help our teenagers deconstruct its messages. But if we are serious about protecting them, it's also time our society stopped providing the fertile soil necessary for its influence to grow. Our mainstream media needs to stop reflecting back to young people the basic values on which pornography is built.

The Girl Guides have just told us that Page 3 is not innocuous for them. We really should listen.

Stephanie Davies-Arai is a parenting consultant who specialises in communicating with children. She blogs over here.

Creeping Tue 30-Apr-13 22:33:47

Excellent blog! And yes, I think it would be great if Mumsnet could get behind the campaign! Remember what the I believe you campaign did, it was fantastic and educated us all. This for me, fits perfectly with Mumsnet. Making a difference to mums and children (and anybody else who is on our side).

I particularly liked the way she explains how mainstream soft porn is complicit in the damaging effects of hard porn. Dripfeeding to girls and women that it is normal and fine to see themselves as an object, which paves the way for all sorts of exploitation of women as objects.

It also makes very clear to me why the idea Page 3 is okay because it is a free choice on the part of the model, is faulty. The glamour models are not the only party that we need to consider. Soft porn appearing in mainstream culture affects us all, and not in a good way!

Hypnobirthingmum Tue 30-Apr-13 22:50:46

As the mother of a 5 year old boy, I totally support this campaign. Boys get their ideas of how women are "supposed" to behave and look from the media too. And if Page 3 continues he'll be totally unprepared for the reality!

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 23:32:41

"And if Page 3 continues he'll be totally unprepared for the reality!"

Page 3 was around when I grew up. However I managed to survive and prepare for reality I will never know!

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 23:33:30

I managed to grow up without being traumatised by the dreadful page 3. I'm sure your son will be fine.

BOF Tue 30-Apr-13 23:51:25

Really? You seem to have internalised a few strange ideas.

clamping Wed 01-May-13 02:26:09

"stange ideas"?

What? Like thinking adults should be able to make choices for themselves, and that we shouldn't ban things just because we don't like them?

clamping Wed 01-May-13 02:28:51

It is interesting how things like page 3 exist in the countries where women have the most rights.

Afghanistan won't allow anything like page 3 but look at how they treat women. Victorian-era UK wouldn't have allowed page 3 but they weren't too hot on women's rights either.

Dervel Wed 01-May-13 04:53:47

Well I'm swayed, having read the article and people's responses here I think at this stage we need it gone. I was all ready with an argument prepared as to how nudity is not necessarily a bad thing, and an appreciation of the female form is not an inherent evil, but I am afraid not even I can muster an argument that page 3 accomplishes anything other than a base reduction of half the population down to mere sexual objects.

It is a shame, as I am usually pretty liberal, but I cannot help but be disheartened with how human sexuality as a whole seems to always get dragged down to the lowest common denominator. It should be something that liberates us, and we enjoy together. The sheer fact we are sat here discussing how we should (rightly) protect our children from picking up our bad habits tells me something has gone horribly wrong somewhere.

Page 3 may be a symptom, but the question that remains is: how can we fix the cause?

SullenCrescent Wed 01-May-13 06:43:17

Great blog. MNHQ should definitely get behind NMP3.

caroline8899 Wed 01-May-13 07:20:04

It's time to go. It has made me feel uncomfortable and insecure about my body growing up. It's not possible to simply turn the page as David Cameron says. It is left everywhere and read everywhere so it is very likely you will come across it. In this society where girls are suffering from poor body images, we should be trying to help these girls not reinforcing that their looks is the most important thing about them. Getting rid if page 3 is a good starting point.

MsPitstop74 Wed 01-May-13 07:30:49

The example above about Boxers is not relevant. A man's naked chest has totally different connotations for a young white woman's bare breasts. The latter is used for titillation. The point the blogger is making is the relevance of context and the normalisation of women's bodies as a site of sexualisation. A topless MALE boxer is entirely normal - but when was the last time you saw a topless female boxer? Can't say i've ever seen one. Nicola Adams (the female Olympic champion) wears a vest - always. So, it's not the same. The other point is that the male boxers are seen in a context of a specific sport - their bodies are not being sexualised for the arousal of one section of society. The sad thing is - there are plenty of young female icons who could be used to inspire - but they're not. Lucy, who set up NMP3 did so (in part), because during the Olympics despite the amazing success of female athlete's the dominant images of women in the Sun remained as glamour models with their tits out. That is the point. I think this campaign is great. It's not radical -it's not calling for a ban, it's just saying if you want porn - get it somewhere other than a family newspaper. Mumsnet should definitely get behind it!!!!

MsPitstop74 Wed 01-May-13 07:32:34

The example above about Boxers is not relevant. A man's naked chest has totally different connotations compared to a young white woman's bare breasts. The latter is used for titillation. The point the blogger is making is the relevance of context and the normalisation of women's bodies as a site of sexualisation. A topless MALE boxer is entirely normal - but when was the last time you saw a topless female boxer? Can't say i've ever seen one. Nicola Adams (the female Olympic champion) wears a vest - always. So, it's not the same. The other point is that the male boxers are seen in a context of a specific sport - their bodies are not being sexualised for the arousal of one section of society. The sad thing is - there are plenty of young female icons who could be used to inspire - but they're not. Lucy, who set up NMP3 did so (in part), because during the Olympics despite the amazing success of female athlete's the dominant images of women in the Sun remained as glamour models with their tits out. That is the point. I think this campaign is great. It's not radical -it's not calling for a ban, it's just saying if you want porn - get it somewhere other than a family newspaper. Mumsnet should definitely get behind it!!!!

MsPitstop74 Wed 01-May-13 07:53:26

The whole point of the blog CLAMPING is that you can't escape the message it sends - even if you don't buy the paper. That's the essence of the argument - P3 normalises the sexualisation of women in the context of news and sport. For example you seem to think a male boxer can be judged the same as a topless glamour model. No. The comparison would be does Nicola Adams (female boxing champion) do so topless. No.

Dervel Wed 01-May-13 08:15:54

Maybe the visual representations the media agenda should be pushing for both genders should be one of athleticism rather than sexualisation. We are facing an obesity crisis in this country after all, and perhaps we could kill two birds with one stone. Also it doesn't hurt to celebrate human excellence when it includes more than just looks.

matthewturnbull Wed 01-May-13 09:15:09

Page 3 is sexist and anachronistic. It is high time it went.

persephone22 Wed 01-May-13 09:32:22

Page 3 HAS to go! The messages it send to children are really negative and even though it's one small step, maybe then we would see the changing cultural attitudes that would mean an end to rape culture, lads mags and the rest. Dropping page 3 would be the first move towards a really important cultural shift in the direction of a kinder more respectful society. Who wouldn't agree? I think most reasonable people would say this.

emcwill74 Wed 01-May-13 09:38:36

It is interesting how things like page 3 exist in the countries where women have the most rights.

Is it clamping? I am wondering if you are zaraa who seems to have been banned (or at least had a lot of comments deleted by MN and then resurfaced as zaraa1 so I am assuming was banned), as that poster used very similar wording to this post about the far east not being too hot on women's rights in another Page 3 thread.

Forgive me for repeating what I have said in other threads on MN on this topic, but the whole comparison with Afghanistan is a complete red herring. The logical extension of not having Page 3 is not women with no rights clad in burqas. In fact, that is simply a manifestation of exactly the same issue: at one end of the spectrum a woman's body naked in the mainstream tabloid press (disconnected from any news) simply because it arouses men; at the other the same body covered up because it is sinful for arousing men. What about men's bodies? Why can they just 'be' without a doctrine of either get it out or cover it up, prescribed entirely by the other half of the population? Why am I not free to live in a society that doesn't judge me largely on my physical appearance when the same does not apply to men?

Again, I have said this before, but when I have argued against page 3 on the internet, be it twitter, facebook, Huff Post article comments, wherever, I have had complete strangers tell me I am jealous, insecure, ugly, my body is clearly not good enough for page 3. Why is it acceptable to shout women's political views down using insults that go straight to her physical appearance? How often do you read comments about men's political views along the lines of 'yeah Cameron would say that because he's fat and ugly and hates sex'? Of course there is a connection to this culture and the way the media, but particularly page 3, depicts women as decorative items whose sole concern is their appearance and what men think of it.

Creeping Wed 01-May-13 09:51:12

Don't be sorry for repeating it emcwill74, it is worth saying it again and again for those who are a bit slow on the uptake, or think they have come up with a new argument for page 3. All the arguments in favour of Page 3 that I've seen have been very clearly and logically and intelligently answered, so that now I don't see any valid argument in favour anymore.

An attitude change is what we need, and that takes a lot of repeating. I'm glad there are lots of us who don't mind doing it!

persephone22 Wed 01-May-13 10:00:43

emcwill74 and creeping I totally agree! This needs to be shouted from the rooftops because attitudes in society need to change. There is no valid argument for the existence of the demeaning page 3.
Mumsnet - please back this campaign! As a mum, I can't think of anything worse than trying to breastfeed next to a man ogling a page 3 image in a public space. Or being leered at from building sites because you look like todays 'stunna'.
Horrible, demeaning and tacky. Show you really support mums Mumsnet and back No More Page 3!

Childeyes Wed 01-May-13 10:37:20

Mumsnet, will you please put your power behind No More Page 3 and the Child Eyes campaign. We need to work together to change sex sells culture and to protect children. Your lad mags campaign was great but it has not had a lasting effect, we need you to jump back on board to help parents. Parents cannot even leave the house now without children seeing sexual media. Help us.

funfun Wed 01-May-13 11:03:02

Very well written. I walk into my local news agents and look at the other people in there and think 'who's it for?!?'. All those half naked girls on the front of the 'newspapers' at eye level to toddlers. Even though they have their bottoms in the air or crotch shots it's deemed ok because you can't see any nipple! I'm so sick of it.
And I think it impacts breast feeding in this country too. Breasts are considered to be for the men not the babies.
Women are there to be judged on their looks. And this goes for all those awful women's mags on who's gained weight and who's lost weight too.

HumphreyCobbler Wed 01-May-13 12:18:04

I have personal experience that page 3 contributes to sexual harassment Clamping. When I was younger I was told on at least five or six occasions by random blokes in the street that I would make a great page 3 model hmm, whilst they eyed me up suggestively and revoltingly. It was NOT what I wanted or needed to hear as a teenage girl. It silenced and humiliated me.

If you read the excellent "Dear Clare" book consisting of letters to Clare Short detailing women's responses to the existence of page 3 in our society you will read many more incidents like those I have related. And sadly many much more serious.

YoniMatopoeia Wed 01-May-13 12:19:05

Brilliant blog post.

Dervel Wed 01-May-13 14:54:35

A sad anecdote from many years ago, I had occasion to visit my then partner's sister in hospital. She had just given birth to her first child, and the nurses helped establish breastfeeding, Mum and baby were thriving and happy. After I left apparently the father turned up and pitched a fit that the Nurses had "assumed" breastfeeding would be chosen, told the poor girl that her breasts were for his gratification primarily, and they had no right.

Personally it's lucky for me I wasn't there at the time or I'd be typing this at Her Majesty's pleasure...

CharlieB73 Wed 01-May-13 18:25:23

I really support this campaign. Growing up in the late 70's and 80's I remember as a young girl being very embarrassed and uncomfortable when around men who were reading this and opening page 3 in my presence (also to be fair often whizzing past it because they were embarrassed too). It has no place in a 'newspaper' and just serves to encourage this type of objectifying behaviour. I hope my daughter grows up in a world where she is valued for who she is and that some worthy role models emerge and are made accessible for her in the media. Here's hoping. As some others have already mentioned I am surprised Mumsnet isn't already supporting this. Let's help give our sons and daughters a healthier view of the opposite sex and keep highly sexualised imagery away from the easy access of young children.

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