The Blog

The English Are Way Behind Politically in the Page 3 Debate

A good number of men have always supported the No More Page 3 campaign from the start but as the debate about Page 3 receives more and more publicity the proportion of men signing the petition has grown exponentially.

A good number of men have always supported the No More Page 3 campaign from the start but as the debate about Page 3 receives more and more publicity the proportion of men signing the petition has grown exponentially, with many more giving their reasons, such as:

'This is making porn too accessible to young children. It should never have been there in the first place.'

'It degrades women and does nothing to educate youngsters about how to respect women.'

'Because it is damaging the body image of so many women, and warping the perception of so many boys/men.'

'Because women are human beings, not subjects of ridicule, to be gawped at by infantile males, they are people not toys.'

That's from the 'man on the street', but last week we also heard several men in positions of power making their views public. Here are two sets of quotes so we can play a little game of 'Spot the Difference.' Can you guess which quotes are from a sample of grown-up men, and which set is an example of a lads' conversation down the pub? Here's the first set:

- 'Page 3 is repellent; people do not want to see it. When I buy one of those newspapers, get on the train and turn the page, I feel embarrassed when I get to page 3, so I turn the page quickly to get to the next page. As a father of three daughters, what is on page 3 is not something that I want to see in today's world. It is not the time or the place for it.'

-'I hope that I speak for a large number of men who love and respect women in their totality, body included, but who oppose the sexual objectification of women, the subjugation and belittling of women, and the rampant sexism and inequality that are splashed across page 3 every day under the cover of press freedom. I am sure that we all support press freedom in principle, but I reject the freedom of men to exploit and oppress women, I reject the freedom of men to objectify and stereotype women, and I reject the freedom of men to deprive women of their rights, respect and equality.'

-'When reading some of the online comments that are critical of the no more page 3 campaign, it is easy to find the same tired old arguments that we have seen over many years: "It's just a bit of harmless fun", or "You're only jealous." Many members have demonstrated--through evidence of a connection to serious acts of sexual violence, or of the driving of attitudes that inform a countless myriad of thousands upon thousands of smaller examples of everyday sexism, whose cumulative impact is just as important in our society--that it is not harmless fun.'

-'I worry that the casual acceptance of what is essentially porn in family newspapers is harming our children. When a young boy sees his father reading The Sun... it normalises the idea that one of the main purposes of women is as sex objects. Looking at naked women and commenting on them becomes a normal activity, which is okay because dad does it. That in itself speaks volumes.

Even more disturbingly, young girls see that it is okay to pose naked for pictures because it is in the paper at home. They see it regularly and they do not feel intimidated. How can that not twist the minds of our children? How can it not make them confused about what is and is not appropriate? Why are steps being taken to eliminate searching by children for inappropriate materials when they can find such materials at home?'

And here's the second set of quotes:

-'How would you feel if your daughter was a Page 3 topless model? Would you be happy? Would you be cool with that?'

-'Yeah. I've never had any strong feelings. Breasts have always been a big part of our life. [Laughter]. I think my mother had them. My wife has them.'

-[Laughter] 'They're quite widespread, aren't they?'

-'They are pretty commonplace.'

-'They're not often on display quite as much as on Page 3.'

-'Yeah, but you know, crikey, I went on holiday and the beach was full of them. You just can't avoid them these days.'

-[Laughter] 'Yeah yeah.'

-'I think there are much bigger issues in the world!'

So what's your guess? OK I admit it was a trick question, I lied about the lads down the pub. The first set of quotes are excerpts from speeches made by various male MSPs* in support of a motion to support the No More Page 3 campaign proposed by Jackie Baillie in the Scottish Parliament on November 6th, a motion that was unanimously backed at its first reading.

The second example is a conversation between John Pienaar, BBC Radio 5 Live's Chief Political Correspondent, and David Dinsmore, Editor of the Sun newspaper, broadcast on Pienaar's Politics on November 10th on Radio 5 Live.

With the Welsh Assembly having already come out in support of No More Page 3, and the Scottish Parliament looking set to follow, here in England we are still waiting for the schoolboy sniggers to subside and the serious debate about gender discrimination in the press to begin. When the BBC, the Prime Minister and political correspondents all see this as an issue undeserving of critical thought and give the Sun carte blanche to do what they want, we may as well be governed by a bunch of lads down the pub.

*In order: Christian Allard (SNP); Malcolm Chisholm (Lab); Hanzala Malik (Lab) and Patrick Harvie (Green).

(With apologies for leaving out the inspirational Jackie Baillie (Lab) who proposed the motion, and Annabel Goldie (Con); Sarah Boyack (Lab); Alison Johnstone (Green); Elaine Smith (Lab); Sandra White (SNP) and Shona Robison, Minister for Commonwealth Games and Sport who all made eloquent speeches in support.)