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 Fri 03-May-13 13:53:57

Calling these gross, sexist, misogynistic, aggressive comments "childish", shows how ignorant you really are.

emcwill74 Fri 03-May-13 14:03:33

'Normal boobs'? On page 3??!! Oh sure because they regularly feature women with, say, A-cup boobs don't they? Or boobs that aren't generally big and bouncy? Or boobs that are obviously bigger one side than the other. Or the saggy low-hangers that most of us get left with after BFing babies! Oh yes page 3 shows the whole darn range. Not.

fcknits I'm totally with you on being concerned about BFing women being asked to cover up. When I was BFing my DD 10 yrs ago my uncle told me he thought seeing women BF in public was 'disgusting'. I wonder if he thought men staring at page 3 in public was disgusting. That same summer a woman visiting Hampton Court Palace (just near where I lived at the time) was asked by an employee to stop BFing because 'it might offend'. Would he have asked someone to put the Sun away because page 3 might offend? I don't believe for one single moment that page 3 encourages BFing. In fact I think it does completely the opposite. I've had friends of mine who had babies later than me tell me when pg they weren't sure whether they should BF in case it left their boobs not looking nice. See the post above where a father made it clear his partner's boobs were there to look nice for him, not feed a baby! Yes it is terrible to give out a message that BFing is unnatural, completely agree, but as far as I can see all page 3 does is reinforce the message that our boobs are all about looking nice, and looking nice for men. If BFing is going to compromise that, well...

And as for the beaches thing! Again, it's all about context. Of course women should be free to sunbathe topless, but the majority are not doing so because they want strange men staring at them, wanking over them, scoring them out of 10 etc. They are just sunbathing. Nothing wrong with that. But not remotely the same thing as a model posed and lit to show her breasts to advantage, stuck in a 'news'paper next to a patronising comment she didn't make, for the the gratuitous pleasure of male readers.

chocoluvva Fri 03-May-13 16:08:17

Arguing in favour of page 3 on the grounds that images of topless women are everywhere, so it's pointless to take pictures of women out of newspapers doesn't work. It's all the more reason to stop having Page 3 girls. There are so many sexualised images of women (and girls) that taking them out of a newspaper would be a small step towards correcting the excesses of our oversexualised culture.

Page 3 is not necessary, no-one is being harmed by not having it, many people think that Page 3 is harmful therefore just stop having it.

newfashionedmum Thu 09-May-13 14:10:38

PLEASE get behind this campaign mumsnet, you could make such a difference...

gedhession Sun 18-Aug-13 14:46:07

I recall well the time Samantha Fox was immensely popular. In fact I do recall many Page 3 girls, Linda Lusardi, Maria Whittaker, Jo Guest, Katie Price, Melinda Messenger and Keeley Hazell being very popular as Page 3 girls and go on to become popular media personalities. I find it interesting that Clare Short tried to ban Page 3 at the time Samantha Fox was at the height of her popularity. Of course, just because something is popular is not a defense to some...

TheLondonMum Tue 10-Sep-13 12:59:52

As an ex glamour model (and I hate using that term because people pre judge your abilities and intelligence) and now giving it all up as I'm about to become a mother, I do find it funny that people have an opinion on this kind of work when they've never worked in it themselves.

I made a fortune working as a topless model. I never once felt exploited. If anything all the girls I worked with felt the same in the fact we are actually using men's visual needs to exploit men from their cash. It sounds horrible but it's a job. Our job was to make our money.

The world itself is a visual place, women go on diets, get hair done, wear push up bras. Why bother if you don't care about appearance. Working as a model doesn't stereotype you into what men want to see. Men will look at anything that's semi clad if it's in front of them. (Again not being harsh but men are visual creatures and are genetically programmed to look).

I don't agree with girls at school aspiring to become page3 girls. And I'd hope if I had a daughter she wouldn't want to become a page3 girl. I never sought out the job but actually it sought out me. I was unhappy with having such large breasts and wanted a breast reduction at 17 (I was refused treatment as I hadn't fully developed), and going down the topless route after graduating at university did actually provide me with reassurance that perhaps I was perceiving myself too harshly.

As for the debate over breast feeding, I have never once considered anything other then breast feeding my child (if I'm able to). So no I don't objectify my breasts as an income revenue.

Breasts are breasts they really aren't a big deal. Every woman has them in varying sizes. I remember my dad buying The Sun when I was a little girl and I'd draw bras on the page3 women. It only becomes an issue when it's targeted like this.

Ps don't all scream at me at once! This is just an opinion of someone who has worked on the other side. An opinion of the girls.

gedhession Sat 21-Sep-13 11:30:25

TheLondonMum As far as I've been concerned glamour modelling is a job, a job with the purpose of selling newspapers and magazines. I actually recall a Page 3 girl back in the 80s who took up modelling to pay for her studies to be a barrister and another Page 3 girl who was a schoolteacher! I find it interesting that a third of lap dancers have degrees and us it to finance their studies. As for a daughter wanting to be a Page 3 girl? I could tell her about Samantha Fox or Maria Whittaker, who despite enjoying great success and fame on Page 3 ended up with immense personal and financial hardships. On the other hand, we have Melinda Messenger, Gail McKenna and Linda Lusardi who have enjoyed some media success.

gedhession Sun 10-Nov-13 16:17:51

Did anybody see the Daily Politics today? Did you see that feature on Page 3 where they went to Bedford (where Lacey Banghard, the CBB contestant, happens to come from) to ask for peoples opinions. Most people seem to be marginally in favour and even the women had a broad range of opinions. Andrew Neil then spoke to Harriet Harman but I was too bored to take any notice.

gritts1 Sat 23-Nov-13 14:12:44

I never understood why Mumsnet has not supported No More Page 3 with its history of the Lads Mags campaign. The Sun had this headline recently on it's front page with a picture of Abigail Clancy in her bikini, it read: 'Have you seen Abby's pussy?' What is the difference between that and a Lads Mag cover, knowing that on page 3 is soft porn imagery?

David Dinsmore the editor states it is a family newspaper. As a bloke, I have issues with titty pics in so called family publications.

So lets move the paper to the top shelf, stop advertising at children (Lego / The Sun adverts on kids TV http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOoQxDOxPho) and/or simply ask the Sun editor nicely to end page 3 and the general sexism. NMP3 do not want a ban.

gedhession Sat 23-Nov-13 16:46:07

Abi Clancy is a popular model, no doubt thanks to the fact that she's the partner of the popular footballer Peter Crouch. I'm sure the Sun has subjected many popular celebrities , such as popular actresses and sportswomen, to inuendous headlines and I'm sure it's not the only tabloid to do it. I recall it being no big secret that Samantha Fox was popular amongst youngsters and the media treated as such. I was 15 when I kept pictures of her. She appeared on childrens' TV quite a few times and had a column in Smash Hits. My favourite story was in an interview given by Lads' Mag star Keeley Hazell who claimed that Nuts got an email from a mother protesting that she'd bought Keeley's calendar for her 14 year old son only to be dismayed that the pictures were topless. She only allowed her son to post non-topless pictures of Keeley oh his bedroom wall. In haste Nuts released the Keeley Hazell bikini calendar.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now