Reading the comments section of an article on, say, the BBC website, is a favourite past time of mine. In fact, I do it every lunchtime, without fail. It’s probably not very good for my blood pressure, and the social scientist in me tells me it’s a totally skewed barometer of public opinion …but, as well as causing me to squank my cup of tea in my open plan office, reading people’s comments reminds me exactly why I care about the things I care about. Especially when it comes to everyday sexism, and all the thousands of reasons why we need feminism in the UK today.
Today has been an interesting day. The No More Page Three campaign (https://twitter.com/NoMorePage3) has been widely reported in the media – because Girlguiding UK has shown their support for the movement. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22064433
This development has inevitably brought to the fore the various, predictable arguments in defence of page3; there was the ol’ ‘it’s a British institution’ chestnut, the ‘don’t buy it if you don’t like it’ one, and many, many comments about the evils of press censorship…( I would point out that the No More Page Three campaign is not seeking to ‘ban’ the practice, but is asking Dominic Mohan to take it out.)
There were also comments that I think represent more widely a depressing summary of the arguments against feminism.
I respectfully disagree…
1) The “aren’t there more important things to care about”/ The “you don’t hear men complaining” argument
“…I guarantee if their was a half naked bloke on the cover nobody would care! Be happy and live life stop complaining about stuff that does not matter.”
2) The “it’s empowering, not demeaning” argument
“Have any of these groups ever considered (or bothered to ask) the opinions of the page 3 girls, the ones who voluntarily pose (and get paid for it) rather than just assuming they know what the girls want? It’s rather patronising to say to the page 3 girls “you can’t want to show your boobs in a newspaper. I thought feminism was all about supporting a woman’s right to choose how they live?”
3) The “it’s a compliment” argument
“Women are fair, beautiful and will always be subject to men/women who find their form attractive…”
4) The “you shouldn’t even have a view” (non)argument
“I do not buy the Sun and I am not interested in Page 3 however I think Girlguides should stick to making cakes, helping old people cross the road and sitting round the camp fire”
Rebuttals (or should I say reboobtals…nope that doesn’t really work does it…)
1) A) There are lots of things to care about, and the objectification of women in a national newspaper is one such valid concern for us in the UK.
B) As a feminist, someone who, above all else, believes in equality, I too disagree with the sexual objectification of men.
2) One that divides opinion I know, but I don’t think standing half naked in your pants is empowering. I think it perpetuates a damaging attitude that women are primarily sexual objects.
3) As above. (And while we are at it, being shouted at in the street / from a car or van is not a compliment either. It’s horrible.)
4) This is quite a sneaky, divisive argument that sometimes goes under the radar. Anyone, including organisations such as Girlguiding, is perfectly entitled to show their support for a cause they feel strongly about.
Good on them, I say.
Here is the petition: https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dominic-mohan-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3 ).