Was banning Page 3 for five minutes this week a victory for women who refuse to be used as sexual decorations for a national newspaper or is just contributing to the Victorian-old view that naked female bodies should be treated with shame and secrecy?
The main argument against the banning of Page 3 is that shaming other women is not feminist. They're doing what they want to do, they're not being forced to take their clothes off, they look great and they're earning their own money, so what exactly is the problem? We live in a society which recoils in horror at the sight of a woman breast feeding her child in public. Is body-shaming and judging other women who dare to display their nipples in a newspaper really helpful in the fight against shaming naked female bodies?
The problem I have with Page 3 is that, just like in many women's magazines which constantly tell its readers new ways on how to better themselves, female sexuality is validated by what a straight man will find attractive. That's it. It is reminding you, as a woman, of your place in a man's world: you are here to basically shut up and look pretty. Get your tits out and be silent and submissive about it. Is Page 3 fighting against the shame surrounding female nudity and telling its readers "hey, these are a pair of boobs which are really used for feeding a child. What's the big deal?". No. It's saying: "hey, these are a pair of boobs which, just like you are seeing right now, have been overtly sexualised since the beginning of time and don't worry straight men of the world because they're still here for your pleasure."
After all, sexism still exists. Some people really prefer it when women accept submissive roles and just deal with it. The rise of lad culture, the outcry over the cancellation of Dapper Laughs, the Ched Evans case, the ant-feminist party run by some fruitcake standing in this year's general election and the pitchforks and fire torches which were hurled when it actually looked like The Sun's readers had lost their Page 3 shows this: there are people who are utterly outraged when women dare to speak up and fight against gender inequality. How dare a woman call herself a feminist? How dare a woman claim her own body? How dare she take this power away from a straight man?
I have no doubt that many Page 3 models enjoy what they do but they are not really exploring in different types of sexiness nor are they challenging what it means to be a woman. That's not being a 'hater' or a 'jealous cow'- that' just stating a fact. Their sexy display is pretty safe and the models are, for the most part, young, slim, white and large breasted. How is that making any progress in ceasing the shame surrounding naked women when you are, in turn, silently and subtly shaming those women who do not fit into that category? Women with piercings and tattoos, for example. Women who are larger than a size 12. Women who are older than 30.
What's more, plonking a naked lady slap bang on the 3rd page of a national newspaper can offend straight men in that it suggests they can't read news without needing to get their daily dose of boobs. Can't go on... Can't go on... Must... See... BOOOOOOOOOBIEEEESSSS!!!! Page 3 does absolutely nothing in stopping the illusion that all men are sex-mad and think about sex 24/7. It does nothing in scrapping the stereotype that all men only want 'one thing'. It does nothing in challenging the idea that all men love big boobs, slim waists and long, flowing locks in a woman. If you are a guy who has been painted with the same brush that "all men cheat", if you have ever been accused of lusting over a hotter, slimmer, naughtier version of your girlfriend, just take a look at the people behind The Sun's Page 3 who are telling everyone, men and women, that this is exactly what all men need and want.
I love burlesque and I support it 100% because the women are in control of their own bodies and they are displaying themselves in a way in which they have thought about properly. If you are smiling sweetly into a camera with your hands placed delicately over your nipples you have to really think about what you're actually bringing to the conversation.
I've been to a circus-themed burlesque performance where one dancer donned three boobs with three nipple tassels. I'm not saying every woman should parade around with a third breast but we're talking about a woman who was sexy but weird and funny at the same time. In something like burlesque, we're talking about a type of sexiness which isn't restricted to certain proportions and ideals. We're talking about women who are really proud of their bodies, who have invented their own kind of sexiness rather than drum out a pose which they believe to be nice because that's what society has told them is sexy and fun and normal. We're talking about women praising other women because they're celebrating a type of female sexiness which has not been dictated by what a straight man may or may not find acceptable.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman who is nude, a woman who embraces her sexuality and feels great doing so, but does it always have to be for the titillation of a straight man? No. And if we accept that, maybe women won't be tutted at if they go topless sunbathing. Maybe a woman won't be accused of being a 'whore' if she dares to sleep with more than one man and god forbid actually enjoys sex. Maybe then the seriousness of a woman's rape won't be measured by whether or not she was wearing a short skirt. Is that not something we should all aim for if we want to lose the shock and horror reaction when a woman takes her clothes off?