As Far As I'm Concerned, The End of Nipples On Page 3 Is A Triumph For Women
The Debrief: Ladies will continue to be objectified everywhere from the streets to the sheets. But it is a tiny triumph, and one we can build on...
'The thing about Page 3,' said my boyfriend, ‘is that, and this isn’t a reason in itself not to do anything, but people in other countries who come here and see it find it really fucking weird. Not the tits themselves, but when they realise they’re in something that purports to be a newspaper.’
Our foreign brothers and sisters will no longer be baffled when they visit UK newsagents. (I like to imagine them angrily slamming the Sun down on the counter shouting ‘Hold on, I thought this was a bongo publication!? Why is there a six page feature on Alex Ferguson?’) The Sun has been, at the time of writing, super quiet about what’s going on, but rumour has it that following a decision coming from someone at the News International New York outpost, there will be nary a nipple in the paper. We have had Rosie H-W shilling some of her M&S pants, a pap shot of some sexy soap stars in their bikinis on the beach, and today a tribute to the beloved deceased Corrie star Anne Kirkbride. But no traditional posed glamour models, hooking their thumbs into the sides of their pants and, to quote Katie Price, making a ‘blowing bubbles while staring into the sunset’ face.
This is absolutely a victory for the #NoMorePage3 team, who had an objective, campaigned for it, and got what they wanted. It isn’t a victory for people who hate the Sun - 'Now it’s time to get rid of the rest of the pages!' - or for people who think that seeing women in their bra and pants really isn’t that different from just seeing them in their pants, or Jodie Marsh, who tweeted ‘So called "feminists" really annoy me. Telling girls they shouldn't do page 3 is NOT being a feminist; women should do WHATEVER they want!!’ and my friend and ace writer Katie Glass who commented ‘Hooray! Hot on the heels of cries for free-speech some so-called-liberal women have managed to force girls to put their clothes on. #NMP3’.
When the #NMP3 campaign first started to get going in the summer of 2012, I wasn’t sure that it was for me. I didn’t (and I shudder at this now) want to be one of those feminists - the ones who were always being accused of hating sex and fun. Surely Page 3 was an unquestionable, unshiftable part of our cultural heritage like putting sherry in trifle and not wanting to join the Euro? I’m a massive fan of the Carry On films, and I like watching porn. If chicks are choosing to get their norks out and being paid handsomely for it, surely that’s an example of capitalism at its thigh rubbing best, right?
But the more I thought about it, the less sure I was.
With a few exceptions, these women were almost always white, extremely young, often blonde. It was unusual to find a model over 25. It set a weird precedent - ‘We will celebrate the sexuality of women, so long as they fall within an extremely narrow set of parameters! Hurrah!’ And that vacant, sexy, ‘mysterious’ half smile - well, if there was an Instagram filter called ‘male gaze’ that is the effect it would have on someone’s expression.
Then there’s the matter of the children. Whenever someone demands that we ‘think of the children’ I picture Helen Lovejoy of The Simpsons, wringing her hands before spreading some especially poisonous gossip. But we’ve all got a story about putting newspaper down before Art in Year 4, and the boys finding the boobs and giggling at the girls - and maybe drawing big red breasts over their smocks, with poster paint. (Oh, Nathan Williams, I will never forgive you for that.) Or being stuck on a train with a bunch of hysterical 12 year old boys who have got hold of an abandoned copy, and keep waving it at every woman who walks past. Or babysitting a pair of adorable, smart girls who ask whether they should get breast jobs when they’re grown up because they ‘will need bigger boobs to get men to marry them’. We grow up, we grow out of it, but seeing women in that sort of sexual context from a young age isn’t good for anyone’s development - especially when it is only women. Had The Sun thrown in an Attitude centrefold every other day, for luck, Page 3 would be way less weird. But seeing boobs abound only makes sense when everyone is nearly naked. Otherwise it’s objectification of the worst kind.
The other argument is that Page 3 is totally tame compared with porn, or indeed, what you can watch Rihanna getting up to at two o’clock in the afternoon on 4Music. I think that it’s great to see women celebrating and enjoying their bodies when they are clearly doing it on their own terms.
Not all porn is created equal, and periodically pop stars will do something that we find especially troubling. (Looking especially hard at you and your Terry Richardson collab, Lady Gaga.) But broadly, you watch porn and you’re watching at least two people moving together experiencing the same sexual moment, and there’s safety in numbers. I don’t want my little sisters, cousins and young people I work with to be confronted with any sexual images they’re not ready for, but I think it’s far better for their feminist souls to see a woman on screen having a brilliant orgasm than to watch a picture of one pouting coyly and proffering their tits ‘for the lads’ like a tray of knock off Ferrero Rocher.
The end of Page Three as we know it might feel like a small change, rather than a massive victory. They have yet to use the page to feature something completely different, like a picture of a man in a polo neck with a massive beard, or a load of bears in a tree. Ladies will continue to be objectified everywhere from the streets to the sheets. But it is a tiny triumph, and one we can build on. It’s an acknowledgement that sexism isn’t just pernicious and problematic, it’s a bit daft, and having context free nipples in a national newspaper is as mad as putting a Kerplunk championship on TV. One day, we will tell kids that pictures of breasts used to be published every day, and weird dudes would buy them and stare at them on buses - and they won’t believe us. That’s progress.
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