THE BLOG

It Is Class, Not Gender, That Divides

21/01/2015 16:24 GMT | Updated 23/03/2015 09:59 GMT

In a victory for vociferous prudes, page three is no more. It's official: tits are out, and all that's left to say is thanks for the mammories... [drops mic]. Having only read the Sun in waiting rooms, or awkwardly and shamefacedly at the barbers, I won't be shedding too many tears, but the demise of this daily dose of shoddy pornography, and the campaign that proceeded it raises a couple of worrying questions about where we're headed as a society, and where our priorities lie.

Foremost, censorship of any form shouldn't be celebrated. In our increasingly cosseted, prissy age, any constraint on what constitutes "acceptable" material for publication - even if it is patently unsexy, grainy shots of surgically-enhanced twentysomethings - should be met with dismay. It's become something of a bromide to say that people are too quick to be offended in this content-saturated world, where taking issue with countless contending opinions could be a full time job. Yet there's a notion that comfort and conformity should prevail; that no-one should have to be challenged through exposure to troubling viewpoints which conflict with their own (at least without a "trigger warning"). Albeit in different guises and with divergent underlying motivations, this trend can be seen in the recent suppression of pro-life voices by Oxford university, David Cameron's porn laws, the Charlie Hebdo attacks, and the refusal of the majority of the "mainstream" parties to engage with the Greens in televised debates. In all of these instances, the frustrating, infuriating but very necessary proliferation of conflicting opinions - the very fabric of democratic society - was under assault.

One of the main problems facing feminism at the moment is that the most vocal segment is largely comprised of a cartel of white, wealthy women more concerned with bandying about hashtags and printing t-shirts than tackling the real societal structures which keep so many people (of all genders) down. There is a reason why the page three campaign was so beloved of Harriet Harman and every bandwagon-jumper among the ruling class, and that is because it was a means of paying lip service to change without effecting any radical departure from the status quo.

For the real underlying cause of every inequality is economic. Class is the universal dividing line, and false constructs like nationality and gender only serve as means of obfuscating the only true divide - that between rich and poor. Under close examination, it becomes obvious that the attacks on page three are couched in a snobbish mentality. So many powerful women hoped to see an end to a degrading page three, but when Kiera Knightly goes topless, or performers do nude in the theatre, the response is a warm celebration of the "courage" of all involved. This double standard reveals a hypocritical, patronising and quasi-paternalistic attitude to the financially disadvantaged shared by these self-proclaimed champions of equality. As they constitute a positive assertion of individual agency, the tits of the rich are allowed to be free, but those of the poor must now be covered up by department store bras.

Like a creepy uncle contemplating emigration, page three is unlikely to be missed. But the hydra-headed jubilation in some of the press is little more than an unseemly basking in a class-tinged tyranny of some people's taste over others, which distracts from an appreciation of painful economic inequality. And let's not forget, there are now a handful more women out there who have been deprived of their income.