Why ban page 3?

(583 Posts)
jackburton Tue 12-Feb-13 20:44:18

Hi, this is my first post, please be gentle smile . I'm looking for some thoughtful discussion on page 3 and the objectification of women, my wife suggested posting here. Any recommendations for good articles or feedback would be great.

My main issue with a lot of the traditional discussion on this issue is that there seems to be an implicit assumption of passivity and conformity in women that I can't really relate to as a man (or feel is present in many of the women in my life). I don't particularly worry about my son seeing body building or gay lifestyle magazines or other fetishised representations of men because I see them as part of a range of different types of lifestyle that he could adopt. I would think it quite alien that the occasional image of men in this way would significantly affect me (or him). In contrast, advertising and lifestyle magazines aimed at women seem to impose a very disturbing level of conformity and one that I feel would not be acceptable to most men. Frankly a lot of female targeted products seem to objectify (in the sense of judging purely by appearance) and be misogynist (in the sense of appearing to gain pleasure from and dwelling on the humiliation of women, particularly if their superficial appearance is non-conformist). In contrast most pornographic products aimed at men include a great diversity of female personality types, some are passive but many are not, Jordan being a classic example. They aren't treated as objects in the sense that their desire is critical to their appeal, sex dolls are relatively undesirable. While there is certainly some pornography and lifestyle discussions that appear to encourage pleasure in the suffering of women I feel this is in the minority with most magazines presenting their female models as stars who are the centre of attention and whose happiness and desire is an important part of their appeal.

My initial feelings about the campaign against page 3 is that these images are being judged assuming they were present in the kind of magazine targeted at women i.e. they are a conforming image and that they would lead to humiliation of those that didn't conform. I think the majority of male culture is not oppressive in that way. Personally I find mainstream female culture to be much more of a problem for women's liberation than these products. What am I missing?

ashesgirl Tue 12-Feb-13 21:22:45

No I don't think people who want to ban Page 3 are essentially worried about the images being very conforming.

I also don't think it is much about objecting to nudity per se.

This article sets out some very good reasons why. Page 3 is a very big statement that men are the default, that women are the 'other' - there to titillate and decorate ... for men.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/11/page-3-women-rupert-murdoch

ashesgirl Tue 12-Feb-13 21:23:24
AmandaPayne Tue 12-Feb-13 21:54:37

Have a think about reading Living Dolls by Natasha Walter. It's very interesting on the pornification of our culture. It's not necessarily about page three, but I'm not sure you can totally get page three without understanding the issues people have with porn itself. Because a lot of my issues with page three are about it putting porn into an acceptable public sphere. Why on earth is it acceptable for a man to be sitting next to me on a bus looking at soft porn?

jackburton Tue 12-Feb-13 22:07:48

Thank you, that article is very interesting. Here are my thoughts on it.

The article's main criticism seems to focus on the issue that whether clothed or not a page designed to make men aroused in such a 'normal' location as a newspaper is objectionable.

The article appears to use the term objectified to mean that a man is aroused by a woman's appearance (rather than say viewing them as an object, like a dishwasher). It seems that this is often assumed to be illegitimate, presumably because it is threatening, which is understandable to a point. I don't find the notion that women would find me arousing to be illegitimate or threatening, but I suppose I'm unlikely to be raped. Perhaps this sense of threat is the real issue and ban Page-3 is an indirect objection to that.

The author also objects to the asymmetric influence that male interests have within the newspaper. I am not a big Sun reader so I can't comment on that. For commercial reasons if nothing else I would imagine there would be reason to have somewhat balanced female centric content, or perhaps it is merely the paper choosing to preferentially target men with other publications targeting women to a greater extent.

The final paragraph objects to Page 3 on the grounds that the models are being manipulated into doing something objectionable for money. I'm not sure that this is clearly the case, many people feel manipulated into doing unpleasant and to some extent humiliating work it's not clear to me that the models in question experience this more than most workers. Much of the humiliation would seem to focus on the public perception of their profession which would have more to do with anti-page 3 campaigns than anything inherent in their role as objects of sexual desire.

FastidiaBlueberry Tue 12-Feb-13 22:09:13

One of the major problems with page 3 as ashes says, is the "othering" of women.

Women are presented as being objects there to titillate men. Not all women, only the ones who fit a very narrow view of beauty, but they set the standard for all women to aspire to and are presented for your consideration as objects.

Imagine if we had complete sexual equality and men considered women full human beings, so it would be unthinkable to present them habitually as objects to admire and assess and mark out of 10. But we still had racism. And black people were presented every single day in mainstream, daily newspapers, read by families and children, as pretty objects to admire and assess.

How do you think that would advance the cause of equality for black people? Do you think it would be harmless or helpful?

Page 3 happens in the context of a society which constantly presents men as the default human and women as something other than the default. It's both a symbol of objectification and a cause of the normalisation of objectification. If your kids can see it at the breakfast table, it's no big deal is it? But what is it teaching our daughters about what it means to be a woman? And what is it teaching our sons about women?

ashesgirl Tue 12-Feb-13 22:15:07

No it's not about making men's attraction to women's appearance illegitimate.

It's the promotion of attraction above all else that irks women.

As in, our main purpose in life is to exist and look good for men. Our brains, opinions, feelings are all secondary to that. That's what objectification is. It's reducing us to our appearance and our usefulness as a sexual object.

And then to say, men and women both read this newspaper. But essentially the men are the most important and that's why we're devote a whole page to pleasing them. It ignores the fact that more women read the Sun than men, (I believe). It's saying mens' needs and wants are paramount.

FastidiaBlueberry Tue 12-Feb-13 22:20:27

"I don't find the notion that women would find me arousing to be illegitimate or threatening, but I suppose I'm unlikely to be raped."

I think here what you're doing is referencing the "sauce for the goose" argument.

On the face of it, that looks reasonable, if you believe that men and women operate in conditions of equality on an even playing field.

In reality, because that doesn't happen, what it actually does is apply a false symmetry to a non-symmetrical situation.

(See, I managed to get that concept in! grin)

ashesgirl Tue 12-Feb-13 22:23:55

It's called false equivalence. You can't just reverse the situation to get a fair assessment.

littlemrssleepy Tue 12-Feb-13 22:26:25

I think the No More Page 3 campaign is quite clear in that they are not objecting to glamour / pornographic pictures per se. As they say, that is a far bigger argument. The argument is simply that it should not be in a national newspaper. Boobs aren't news, as the saying goes. Certainly in The Sun and others of its ilk, women are often only portrayed as semi naked, rated on attractiveness etc. Men are clothed, important, going about their business / career. The top 3 pictures of females are Kate and Pippa Middleton and Madeleine McCain - so we view females in relation to who they have married (or their sister has married for Christ sake!) and in a victim status. What kind of message does this give to our daughters?? On the basis of this I still wouldn't consider Murdoch's potential climb down on Page 3 - to be replaced with 'glamourous fashionatas' much of a victory - women will be still be judged on what they look like rather than what they can offer.

FastidiaBlueberry Tue 12-Feb-13 22:27:29

That's the one.

I just lurve it.

It's so succinct.

Because false equivalence is so normal and so prevalent that when you're presented with it, it's really hard to see how to argue against it because on the face of it, it's so reasonable.

Until you learn the term False Equivalence.

jackburton Tue 12-Feb-13 22:31:53

Thank you for your comments.

The concept of 'othering' is not something I am particularly familiar with. In male culture there seems to be a great diversity of roles and so any particular representation of a man e.g. a body builder, or a film star like Brad Pitt, doesn't seem particularly restricting or threatening. As a fairly nerdy guy I feel there is an anti-nerd minority who are comfortable publicly expressing disgust of nerdy people and behaviour. To that extent I am familiar with 'othering' but only in the more blatant and personal sense, a predominance of muscled action stars or sporting heroes doesn't threaten me significantly.

I think there are clearly underlying issues with the presentation of role models for women, the lack of meaningful female dialogue in movies would be a big issue for me, but I don't think Page 3, and pornography in general, is a significant limiting factor. I am disturbed by a lot of female lifestyle magazines and feel they are much more explicitly enforcing conformity and restricting the potential for female self expression. There also seems to be virtually no working class female role models other than Jordan, which I think is one of the reasons she is such an idol for many teenage girls. But I think this needs to be addressed by some more active 'myth-making' either fictional or real of more diverse set of heroic female personalities. Demonising glamour models, or worse, pitying them, seems to be undermining one of an already small set of aspirational female archetypes.

kim147 Tue 12-Feb-13 22:38:33

Banning page 3 will probably not reduce the number of images of near naked women in the Sun. They seem to not need any excuse to publish celebrity pictures in their paper.

Just like the DM sidebar of shame. It just seems a constant at the moment. I've just been watching Stargate. That passes the Bechel test well but they've introduced a new alien character. So she's got large breasts - and they are covered in the most skin tight costume you could imagine. Straight out of a sci-fi comic strip. You don't see any of the male characters like that.

AmandaPayne Tue 12-Feb-13 22:42:41

Glamour model as aspirational female archetypes. Honestly, read Living Dolls.

jackburton Tue 12-Feb-13 22:42:50

I think the false equivalence point is interesting. It sort of gets to the heart of the issue which I'm not sure the Page-3 ban really does. It makes it clear that the real issue is not necessarily that men should not have entertainment designed to arouse them but that women should not feel overly judged or expected to adopt a particular lifestyle. I think this is certainly true but I think it is much more strongly expressed within products aimed at women, rather than those aimed at men. Pornography for men is highly diverse and there is almost certainly a subfield of pornography that fetishises most female appearances, there is certainly no 'fashion' in the same way that it exists within female lifestyle magazines.

ashesgirl Tue 12-Feb-13 22:43:03

Perhaps the conformity angle means more to you as you can emphathise with it - if as you say, you don't quite conform with the alpha-male steretype.

And a lot of what concerns us largely boils down to empathy.

I see this all the time when some people don't get sexism, they simply cannot imagine the effects of it enough to care.

All the issues you raise above are legitimate concerns for feminism. Page 3 is an extension of them and feeds back into them. Sexism is made up of hundreds of subtle and not-so-subtle issues.

Ps. yes women oppress eachother in women's magazines all the time. I'm getting very interested in how women oppress eachother.

jackburton Tue 12-Feb-13 22:45:49

Thanks for suggesting the book (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Living-Dolls-Return-Natasha-Walter/dp/1844087093) I've added it to my Amazon basket.

ashesgirl Tue 12-Feb-13 22:48:53

Oh and most feminists would not demonise the page 3 models - not at all.

AmandaPayne Tue 12-Feb-13 22:49:15

Pornography really, really isn't diverse. It's generally women with very similar body types who enjoy sex at the drop of a hat. No pubic hair, love anal. Often like it rough. This isn't a diverse range of sexual appearance.

You also aren't really getting the idea of feeling 'judged or expected to adopt a particular lifestyle'. It is not as simple as overt pressure on women to be a particular way. It is an invidious culture that will teach my daughter that, as she reaches puberty, her natural body (pubic hair, unarm hair, leg hair) is revolting. That her breasts should be larger, rounder, more pert. That, purely because she is a woman, it is ok to judge her appearance every single day. That even if she is prime minister, she will be assessed on her shoes and her suit as often as her policies.

ashesgirl Tue 12-Feb-13 22:50:38

Glamour models themselves are not the problem here.

It's the patriarchal system which demands and reinforces the 'need' for them.

FastidiaBlueberry Tue 12-Feb-13 22:53:59

I think the point about men having entertainment designed to arouse them, is that if it's necessary at all (really? Do men really need to be aroused at the breakfast table with their kids or on the train sitting next to a random woman?) is that a national daily newspaper is not the right venue for wank fodder. The normalisation of men's right to assess and be aroused by women in any given situation, even where it would be mind-blowingly, puzzlingly inappropriate (see breakfast table while pouring out the kids' cornflakes) is one of the problems of Page 3.

Also the idea that getting your tits out is a reasonable aspiration for working class girls, is hideous. I really don't see the benefit of a role model like that.

FastidiaBlueberry Tue 12-Feb-13 22:56:50

Yes I remember a big row here with Mary Beard, because she did a little talk in on Radio 4 in which she said that she didn't really mind about beauty pageants as Miss Venezuela just wasn't a problem for her anymore.

But for feminists, Miss Venezuela never was the problem. It's the context in which such a being as Miss Venezuela exists, in a way that Master Venezuela doesn't.

ashesgirl Tue 12-Feb-13 22:59:06

Was reading that a lot of the staff who write for the Sun are way too embarrassed to bring the paper home in case their kids see it. What does that say?

jackburton Tue 12-Feb-13 23:02:14

"Pornography really, really isn't diverse."

...

"It is an invidious culture that will teach my daughter that, as she reaches puberty, her natural body (pubic hair, unarm hair, leg hair) is revolting. That her breasts should be larger, rounder, more pert."

Although I'm tempted to post some links, I'm not sure that would be a good idea smile. I feel that the more mainstream the entertainment the more conformist its appearance is. Within more mainstream pornographic material there is a preference for exaggerated secondary sexual characteristics (Breasts, bottom etc) and appearances which enhance the difference between male and female (no hair) and those that imply strong sexual desire (enthusiasm for taboo sexual acts). I don't think this preference is necessarily harmful, just as I don't think a cultural preference for body shapes that imply power and strength are necessarily harmful, its mostly a matter of degree and the degree to which people feel free to adopt different lifestyles if they wish.

"That, purely because she is a woman, it is ok to judge her appearance every single day. That even if she is prime minister, she will be assessed on her shoes and her suit as often as her policies."

I know that this can be common in the press but I don't feel it so strongly within male entertainment. It is, however, widespread in female targeted journalism and advertising. It is something I am surprised there is not a larger backlash against.

ashesgirl Tue 12-Feb-13 23:03:11

Apparently Murdoch does not like Page 3 AT ALL on a personal level. Nor much of the other salacious stuff they print.

But he will always favour the business over any of his personal beliefs.

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