If you think it’s OK to demand that a stranger shows you her breasts, you’ve probably been told from somewhere that you can get away with this. That this is normal.
Sexual objectification, I think, is the reduction of somebody’s worth and role in the world to that of an object for sexual pleasure. It can happen at a societal level, and it can happen between individuals. Here’s an example: It happens everyday in our national newspapers, like on page 3 of The Sun newspaper, where the largest image of a woman is that of a topless one, and it happened when a boy of about 17 or 18 shouted ‘GET YOUR TITS OUT’ at me from his friend’s car when I was out running.
Now, I wonder if these two are linked- either directly or indirectly… because as Caroline Lucas said in a speech in Westminster Hall last week:
“… none of that is happening in a vacuum. We have to recognise the impact of wider culture, and today I want to focus on just one aspect of that: the objectification of women in the media. Women have been degraded, belittled and served up as sex objects in some of our daily newspapers for many years, despite the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women repeatedly identifying the links between the portrayal of women as sexual objects and attitudes that underpin violence and discrimination against women and girls”
Of course, I can’t be sure that there is a direct causal link between The Sun’s page 3 and to the irritating street harassment I was unlucky enough to encounter on that particular day last month. But it strikes me that if you think it’s OK to demand that a stranger shows you her breasts, you’ve probably been told from somewhere that you can get away with this. That this is normal.
Caroline is right. These things aren’t happening in a vacuum. And The Sun’s page 3 is playing a small, but significant – and I think symbolic – role in telling people ‘it’s OK to treat women this way’.
I am hopeful that one day, in the not too distant future, the UK media will have been re- calibrated a bit. I look forward to the time where people think what used to be on page 3 was rather extreme, instead of now, where if you’re against page 3 you’re considered by some to hold extreme views.
I’m optimistic. I think we are making progress. Look at the appalling way Clare Short (former MP of the constituency I lived in in Birmingham) was treated by her fellow Members of Parliament and the media when she put forward the idea of legislating against the page 3 phenomenon in the British press. She was laughed at and bullied. The Sun superimposed her face onto the body of a topless model. They called her fat and jealous.
Last week Caroline Lucas wore a No More Page Three campaign t-shirt to the Media Sexism debate at Westminister Hall. I’ve no doubt she will have received all manner of offensive tweets/emails/letters afterwards, but I think the tide is changing.
Would The Sun dare to treat Caroline Lucas in this way now? I don’t think so. Do you?