Page 3 isn’t the problem
Yesterday some folk celebrated the possible end of Page 3 girls in The Sun as a victory for feminism, for women’s emancipation, as a crucial battle in the long war against female sexual objectification.
‘Page 3 so last century’ someone tweeted. And Mr Murdoch agreed, intimating that he might swap the topless girls in pretty knickers for ‘glamorous fashionistas’.
That is not a good thing.
We need more images of pretty, healthily slim, natural-looking girls smiling confidently at the world. Yes, they’ve got their boobs out. But they aren’t aggressive, sexually explicit or peddling infantile vulnerability as desirable. ‘News in Briefs’ is gently comic – today Staci, 22, from Preston shares both her boobs and her thoughts on Pope Benedict’s resignation. And then she quotes Churchill.
Page 3 is a bit last century – but only because it’s too perky, friendly and attainable to sit comfortably in the visual landscape of 2013.
Far more insidious than Page 3, far more threatening to women everywhere, are the provocative, sexually aggressive images that assault us from TV, adverts and PR shoots every day.
In these images, the girl is likely to be clawing at her knickers, about to rip them off because she’s horny and up-for-it. Or she’s bent over, and although she’s just about clothed, you’re left in no doubt that her bleached, waxed arsehole is yours for the taking. Or she’s dishabille on a bed, her mouth open, orgasmic, ready. Or, worse still, she’s looking vulnerable and scared in a sexy-virgin kind of a way.
These sophisticated clothed-but-sexual images are far more damaging to boys who feel as much peer pressure to ask girls to ‘sext’, as girls feel about consenting. If the girls do it, they’re easy. If they don’t, they’re frigid. If the boys don’t want them to, they must be benders.
The template for a desirable sexual relationship is one that starts with filming your blowjobs and anal rather than kissing and fumbling hands.
I’d rather those boys get an eyeful of tame and friendly Staci in the newspaper than have them share violent, explicit online pornography, or ‘sexts’ from the girls in their class.
And if we want to emancipate women from objectification, it’s not just the explicitly sexual images we should target. What about the Daily Mail ‘sidebar of shame’ and the like?
Women are savaged for being too thin, too fat, wearing the wrong clothes, for bulging, starving or sweating. Other women share their secrets to staying skinny and gorgeous, others celebrate their transformation from ugly duck to Cinderella through rapid weightloss, seemingly overnight recovery from mental illness or a new commitment to a new workout schedule.
Every now and then there’s a resolute call to arms to celebrate our curves, just like Adele. “Isn’t it so great that she doesn’t mind she’s fat! Oh, I wish I was strong like her. But sometimes I just cave in and binge diet. Again. Oh, it’s the woman’s curse, isn’t it, girls?!”
That’s far more damaging for girls and women than any number of boobs from Staci, Hollie, Molly and Chloe.
Women’s bodies have been, and always will be, controlled. By men, by women and by the intangible bonds of opinion and censure that form society. On a fundamentally biological level, controlling sexual access is an imperative for all species who invest heavily in their offspring. And women’s bodies are enormously powerful sources of political and cultural capital.
We need to empower girls and boys by offering them healthy sexual images and role models, enabling them to make well-informed decisions. We must protect them from violent, demeaning sexual material, and help them develop healthy body image and respect for each other.
Sure, swap Page 3 girls for images of healthy, inspiring and confident citizens who haven’t got their boobs out. But if Staci is replaced by insidious images of ‘glamorous fashionistas’, we all lose.
www.maryannochota.comTagged in: anthropology, boobs, feminism, page 3
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