Saturday, 1 October 2011

The Page 3 debate

Currently the liberal democrats agenda reviewing ‘page 3’ is being debated. They propose “Tackling the projection of women as sex objects to children and adolescents by restricting sexualised images in newspapers and general circulation magazines to the same rules that apply to pre-watershed broadcast media.”

The Daily Star quotes page 3 girl Porchia Watson to argue against the proposed ban: “This is the last thing they should be thinking about. Only a few weeks back we had riots on the streets, now they are wasting their time with Page 3... We are not hurting anyone.”

Page 3 is part of what is often described as ‘raunch culture’ or the ‘pornification’ of our society. Aspects of pornography are everywhere, from newspapers and magazines to music videos and adverts. The problem for anti-page 3 campaigners is the normalisation of this; ‘Lad mag’ porn is being sold under ‘men’s general interest’ and topless models under the ruse of ‘news’. Thus the correct label is taken away from what it really is, making it more acceptable, readily available as part of our groceries and completely normalised. The problems with pornography include: unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies, distorted expectations of sex, self-esteem problems and habituation. While it is not being claimed that page 3 causes rape, it is a contributor to a culture in which women are increasingly seen as nothing more than sex objects for men’s enjoyment.

Providing an example of how normalisation can promote insensitivity, Cameron Forrest, 22 from Australia says; “Back home I hadn’t heard of page three, when I came to England I was very surprised to see topless women sold in every day newspapers.“ He added “It’s one thing to have it in actual porn magazines but I was really shocked that they’re being sold as news, it’s very strange.”

I was eager to see hear arguments from the page 3 supporters but unfortunately after several messages, nobody came forward directly. On the public Facebook book page of The Daily Star however, readers argue that “It’s all harmless fun” “They shouldn’t be talking about shit like that when the country is up the shiters” [spelling rephrased] and “if they think children need "protecting" from the sight of a partially-clad female body in a picture, the next logical step is to ban children from beaches and swimming pools.”

I have personally found that a common pro-page 3 argument is that it’s women’s own choice and that they get paid for it. While I agree with this statement, I don‘t think that it makes the outcome okay. It seems to go over most people’s heads when I try to explain I have absolutely nothing against the women who pose for things like page 3. I’m opposed to page 3, not the page 3 ‘girls’. In the same way as I may be opposed to an unethical chain store but not against the individuals who choose to work there.

I don’t think women or feminists in general are against the women in page 3 either. Actually, I found during a party I attended with guest page 3 models, that I was both the only female and the only feminist in the group yet I was the only person defending the women. While the men openly stared at their bodies and found them attractive, they thought badly of them as people. They were labelled a ‘shallow’, ‘teases’, ‘dumb’ and ‘sluts’ by the same men who ‘support’ their choice to strip. To me, that’s not respectful of the women’s choice at all. Instead they’re supporting page 3 merely because they enjoy participating in objectification.

I took many photographs of Sam Cooke, The Sun’s page 3 model at the party. I thanked her for posing for me and she smiled back politely, she seemed to do her job happily and professionally. I realised while photographing her absolutely for certain that I don’t hold anything against these women. Despite being told that I hate them and must just be jealous of them, I didn’t have any bad feelings towards her at all. I was happy to get the chance to photograph her and pleased for us both that the pictures turned out well. Topless models may be stereotypical or they may not be, they may be nice people or they might not, but it doesn’t matter to me. They’re just people the same as us, who deserve respect. I think this not despite of being a female or feminist but because of it.

Text and photography: L. Connett. Thank you to Sam Cooke and Cameron Forrest.

1 comment:

  1. Great article. I notice how one of the 'facebookers' wondered why we didn't want to ban lads mags too? I think he missed the point, as I'm sure most anti-page 3 people feel similarly about lads mags too; it's just that Page 3 is such an icon, it's a good place to start.

    I particularly like how you explain the problem with people assuming feminists hate the models, and how the men who support their choices actually tend to have no respect for them as people. It really does highlight the problem. I also have to wonder what it is that makes women want to do this sort of thing for a living.