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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.

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 21:37:49

And anyone against it could always buy a different newspaper.

I'm surprised noone has ever thought of that before.

DyeInTheEar Tue 30-Apr-13 21:44:12


emcwill74 Tue 30-Apr-13 21:45:08

clamping I've already answered your point about topless men above, but it's about context. The 'topless' boxers (do you really, honestly, think a topless man boxing is the same as a woman on page 3?) are active participants in sport. It is not their nipples that are problematic. They are not standing there, passive, silent purely to be decorative for the arousal of the other half of the population. IN A NEWSPAPER!!

As to the 'don't like it don't buy it argument', oh for goodness sake! Of course you're not the first to say this! But it is a non-argument (page 3 affects society as a whole in how it presents our sex, whether we choose to buy the Sun or not), and covered in the blog post to which this thread refers!

Childeyes Tue 30-Apr-13 21:52:19

The issue is not about censorship, it is about ending the packaged female to be bought and sexually exploited and thrown away. This is what page 3 encourages. We campaign to protect children from sexual images in public. We find that sex sells media is drip fed into every youngster in the UK. It is accepted and has become a norm. We need to change this culture and begin to appreciate women. Page 3 encourages all types of sexual exploitation by its mere existence. If Page 3 was no more, would it really be missed. maybe for a few days by a few men but in a few years people would be saying, 'remember when topless women were ogled daily, fresh meat in the nation's favourite newspaper, can't believe it ever existed'. Get rid and then lets start working on the barrage of other sexually explicit images our children are forced to see.

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 21:54:57

Are the page 3 models trafficked victims? I doubt it. There is no shortage of willing women wanting to be page 3 models (as evidenced by the 100s adn 100s of women that enter the sun's online "page 3 idol" contest each year).

Are the page 3 models underage? Nope. All 18 or over.

I've also heard arguments about wanting to move the sun out of sight to the top shelf, but it's not like page 3 is on the front cover is it?

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 21:56:53

"We campaign to protect children from sexual images in public."

Do you have any idea what children of today get up to on the internet? Maybe it's best you didn't know. You might die of shock.

emcwill74 Tue 30-Apr-13 21:59:51

clamping I've already said that the models do it willingly. But that doesn't make it OK, and I have already explained why. As to it not being on the front page, right, and that makes a difference when the Sun is read in public on buses, trains, cafés, park benches etc etc etc, right? All places people go who don't want to see page 3, or to have their children do so.

emcwill74 Tue 30-Apr-13 22:00:59

clamping, can I just ask, and I do so politely, have you actually read the blog post at the top of this page? I get the impression from your posts you haven't?

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 22:01:55

If an adult chooses to do something, is it ok for someone else to take their job away from them because they find it immoral?

BOF Tue 30-Apr-13 22:03:28

What has trafficking got to do with anything? I don't think you have read (or understood?) the points made above about the models' participation.

What do you think Page 3 contributes positively to our culture, clamping?

LittleDirewolfBitJoffrey Tue 30-Apr-13 22:04:01

Clamping, you seem to think you are the first person to come up with all these counter arguments.
You aren't.

LittleDirewolfBitJoffrey Tue 30-Apr-13 22:04:28

A brilliant blog post btw!

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 22:07:16

"What do you think Page 3 contributes positively to our culture, clamping?"

I don't think anything The Sun prints contributes anything to society. But I'm not campaigning to ban the sun, I just don't buy it.

emcwill74 Tue 30-Apr-13 22:08:07

I don't want page 3 to stop because I find it 'immoral' - that is if by immoral you mean because I'm a prude who faints at nipples and think women should wear burqas. I have already outlined why I think it should end so won't repeat myself. But as to the take jobs away - as I have said, Page 3 alone will not earn a model enough to pay the rent on. So if she lost that contract she would have other work anyway.

If an adult chooses to do something that negatively affects society as a whole (and specifically, but not only, women), then yes, I have a right to a political point of view that it would be better if we sanctioned against that. The slave trade earned people money but we decided as a society to take that potential for income away because slavery was wrong. No I am not equating page 3 with slavery, just making point that making the world equal and better sometimes disadvantages a few.

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 22:10:28

Best way to get rid of something is to campaign with your wallets and purses. If noone bought the sun it would disappear and take page 3 with it and no banning would be needed.

But millions of men and women still buy the sun and that's why it still exists.

AshtonL Tue 30-Apr-13 22:11:16

I think this is a wonderful blog. I have two young daughters and I worry a lot about the sexualisation of young women in our culture. I think page 3 is an iconic example of how engrained sexism is in society and it is time that it went.

reader12 Tue 30-Apr-13 22:12:04

Brilliant blog. Page 3 is horrible - porn very cleverly and successfully rebranded as simple family-friendly innocent fun. Its ubiquity makes young women worry about their developing bodies, enables and excuses sexual harassment and makes successful breast feeding really difficult. I am so looking forward to the day when it's all over.

LauraRedhead Tue 30-Apr-13 22:13:00

I really think Mumsnet should support NoMorePage3 because Page 3 shows women as nothing but boobs for the sexual enjoyment of men. It even mocks their intelligence. It really is gratuitous pornography in a newspaper which should be about news. Women should not be stripped and humiliated in a newspaper, even if they are willing to do so for money, it sends out all the wrong messages in the most popular newspaper in the country.

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 22:15:48

I'd love to see some credible proof that page 3 is directly linked to sexual harrassment.

IMO it's like saying violent video games cause violence in real life.

emcwill74 Tue 30-Apr-13 22:16:49

The petition doesn't ask for a ban, it asks Mohan to voluntarily withdraw it.

And I'm afraid that there are no stats that I know of that correlate buying the Sun with liking Page 3. Yes, some people will buy it for page 3, some will buy it for its sport/politics/easy reading style and not care one way or the other about page 3, some of those will be a bit embarrassed about p3 and probably prefer it not to be there, and will some hate p3 but ignore it because they prefer that paper to others. Some people might buy the Sun who don't now if p3 were not there. The Sun exists because people buy it, but you cannot infer that people buy the Sun because of page 3. After all, people buy it at the weekends when the girls wear bikinis (though I wouldn't be happy if they simply bikini'd up the week-day girls TBH, it's not about nipples, it's about what it says about women in this country).

BOF Tue 30-Apr-13 22:16:49

Its circulation has never recovered in Liverpool, but obviously it is still popular. It can survive a pretty hefty boycott.

To change things, sometimes you have to take positive action.

The miners dropped page 3 in their union paper when their wives stood up and fought alongside them in the strike. Because that view of women was no longer compatible with seeing them as actual human beings worthy of respect. Sometimes people need educating. This is a debate we should be having.

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 22:19:58

"It can survive a pretty hefty boycott."

No wonder it's doing so well with all the free advertising they are getting!

clamping Tue 30-Apr-13 22:20:52

Nothing like a little controversy to get attention and increase sales. I'm sure anyone in marketing can tell you that.

BOF Tue 30-Apr-13 22:21:44

That's a pretty facile argument. I hardly think that people promoting this campaign are rushing to buy The Sun.

LauraRedhead Tue 30-Apr-13 22:30:40

There is no defence for Page 3 - it is unashamedly sexist and nothing else but gratuitous pornography which is totally inappropriate in a paper which is supposed to be about the news.

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