Will getting rid of the Sun’s Page 3 change anything?


by Septicisle    
10:55 am - February 12th 2013

      Share on Tumblr

It really doesn’t take much these days to get a news story running. Rupert Murdoch responds positively to a tweet saying “page 3 is so last century“, and almost instantly there’s about half a dozen reports up on the Guardian website debating exactly what it means.

I’ll believe the end of page 3 when I see it.

Those against it really can’t have it both ways. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, editor of the Vagenda blog, writes that her problem with page 3 is not the nudity but the commodification and objectification of the female body. That’s fine and is also my secondary objection, yet if the issue isn’t the nudity then why are there not such long running campaigns against the Daily Mail’s Femail pages, and the “sidebar of shame“?

Page 3 exists because of the cooperation of women, not all of whom are either brainless or in it purely for the money. By comparison, the tabloids as a whole rely on the paparazzi effectively stalking celebrities and the almost famous to fill their pages where there is no such permission or exchange of money, except between the paper and the photo agency.

If anything these stories are often far more leery than page 3 now is, or indeed, if the celeb is not deemed to be looking their best, far more likely to have an effect on those who worry about their own body image. True, page 3 is unique in that it has such a cachet in the public imagination, and can be used by giggling adolescents to particularly revolting effect, but let’s not go into such ridiculous exaggeration as “lascivious drool”, as though some men go into Pavlovian reveries at the mere sight of a printed boob, at least in public at any rate.

If anything, as Karen Mason’s original tweet can also be read, page 3 is last century in that really the whole debate about objectification and the pornification of culture has moved on.

A few years back we were worrying about the rise of Nuts and Zoo, and the often disgustingly sexist content of lads’ mags, whereas now even that seems old hat when “revenge porn” sites have entered the news.

Where once it was hip-hop videos that had an abundance of flesh on display, now the utterly mainstream likes of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj perform in costumes which can’t really be described in any real sense as clothing. At the same time, porn might be going through a transition period where it’s unclear what its end business model will be, yet the material itself has never been so easily available, with all that entails, the possible effects unknown.

Cosslett is right in saying it’s fundamentally “about a demeaning and disrespectful attitude to women”, yet the fact is as, she admits, both “men and women … cynically manipulate young women’s bodies for commercial profit”.

If page 3 were to disappear tomorrow then its effect would barely be measurable. The problem modern feminism has to face is that it’s women as much as men who are behind the shift in culture, and at the moment it doesn’t have a proper answer as to what this means and how it can be fought against.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
'Septicisle' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He mostly blogs, poorly, over at Septicisle.info on politics and general media mendacity.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Feminism ,Media


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


1. Gavin Saunders

Might make the leering morons slightly less dangerous…

“Might make the leering morons slightly less dangerous…”

Unlikely. Try this engaging number from Chorus Line: Dance Ten, Looks Three:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-yjj6_LBCs

Remember Hollie, the human rights expert on page 3: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/human-rights-with-hollie/ ? Wouldn’t we all miss these qualitative contributions to the political debate?

@3 – Do you have your own blog or somethinG?

what you say you’re right, you need to respect women’s rights

Those against it really can’t have it both ways. Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, editor of the Vagenda blog, writes that her problem with page 3 is not the nudity but the commodification and objectification of the female body.

Take away the nudity and how does the commodification and objectification of the female body differ from the commodificatiin and objectification of anyone employed in manual labour and the performing arts?

Passing over, for the moment, the fact that the editor of a blog named after female genitals is ‘concerned’ that women are objectified as body parts (there’s obviously good synecdoche and bad synecdoche) denying women the choice of career is infantilising and objectifying to a greater degree.

Women on page 3 might be partly objectified but they are still active agents; denying them agency is paternalistic and patriarchal – even if the ‘patriarch’ is a woman in metaphorical drag.

Where once it was hip-hop videos that had an abundance of flesh on display, now the utterly mainstream likes of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj perform in costumes which can’t really be described in any real sense as clothing.

The objection to the hip-hop videos was that bikini-clad women were a backdrop to male performers not stars in their own right.

Rihanna and Nicki Minaj are the main attraction in their videos – in both senses of the phrase.

Shatterface: and surely that’s even more troubling? I understand all the arguments about it being about exploiting men and the women being in control, but to me the sight of a singer wearing next to nothing while performing is just depressing.

All those statues in museums of Aphrodite from classical times really ought to be clothed to prevent visitors from having unwholesome thoughts:
http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/images/hb/hb_52.11.5.jpg

I’m reminded of the SINA campaign in the 1960s against animal nudity with its tag-line:

A nude horse is a rude horse.

10. Churm Rincewind

@8 Septicisle: “to me the sight of a singer wearing next to nothing while performing is just depressing.”

Well I’m sorry to hear that. Do you mean that you find the mere sight of a near naked body depressing? Or just near naked singers? Or perhaps only near naked female singers? What about music videos of singers surrounded by near naked dancers?

The advent of page 3 doesn’t seem to have done much to stop the forward march of women’s rights.

Like it or not, under capitalism the female body is obviously a commodity. Of course it is. The Sun is merely responding to a demand that will never go away.

There is not one woman whose life would be improved by the demise of page 3. In fact, there are a number of glamour models who would be worse off, so overall it would be a bad thing for women.

And don’t get me started on the Mary Whitehouse types behind all this.

Maybe The Sun is making a serious attempt to appeal to female readership and drop it’s blokey image. For those males who might miss it, they could go along to the various museums and art galleries which show far more nudity than any of the national rags.

13. Another Chris

I don’t think that Page 3 debate should focus on nudity, it is about consistency. If magazines like Nuts have to be covered up because they have pictures of breasts then why doesn’t the Sun and other tabloids? These papers are often delivered by children on their paper rounds and if the nudity in mags are considered unacceptable for kids then the same restrictions should apply.

For the record I find covering and top-shelfing nudey mags acceptable.

Page 3 exists because of the cooperation of women

As does female genital mutilation.

Cosslett is right in saying it’s fundamentally “about a demeaning and disrespectful attitude to women”, yet the fact is as, she admits, both “men and women … cynically manipulate young women’s bodies for commercial profit”.

And to an ever increasing extent men’s too, the sidebar of shame wasn’t exactly shy of printing pics of James Corden on holiday and pointing out that he was a fat bloke in swimwear, and that was something he ought to have been ashamed about, and JLS and 1D are hardly not flaunting their bodies to shift CD’s and downloads.

The problem feminists are facing is that what was thought was the problem (a process of patriarchy) is turning out to be a symptom of something else (a process of capitalism/corporatism), and as they tackle the perceived problem what has started occurring is that things have begun equalling out a bit gender-wise without the exploitation actually reducing any. One wonders where the commodification of our bodies might end.

Rincewind: Don’t be facetious. My point, as much as I had one, was that on the whole there isn’t a equivalence between male and female performers when it comes to flesh bearing. There might be the odd male singer who bares his chest for videos/live performances, but on the whole the likes of JLS/Bieber/One Direction don’t. You don’t have to be a puritan or a radical feminist (and I’m certainly neither) to find the direction mainstream pop ala Rihanna/Minaj has taken just a little icky.

The Sun website has already adopted the Mail model with its own “sidebar to shame.” The link to the Page 3 website, once a core part of the brand, is now quite difficult to find (um…not that I was trying to or anything). In the same way, the print version Page 3 will quietly wither on the vine (they already drop it on Saturdays). The question is, will two rival Daily Mails be any improvement?

@ Chris

Like it or not, under capitalism the female body is obviously a commodity.

The female body is a vital component of the heterosexual male sex drive and, as such, was a “commodity” before capitalism was ever thought of. Indeed, this comments thread seems to be stuck in amber- to our children, brought up with open sexuality and internet porn, page 3, or even nuts magazine, seem as quaint as did the Venus de Milo to a 20th century audience.

Unfortunately for all feminists and their acolytes, the standard male response to sight of a nude female(blood engorging the penis)is a component of our nature and is immutable. They, or you, can rail against it all you like but, ultimately,it is God’s politically incorrect joke.

And not laughing at it will change nothing.

18. the a&e charge nurse

[15] “to me the sight of a singer wearing next to nothing while performing is just depressing.” – CR is right to pick you up on this (@8 + 10).

Perhaps you mean the idea of scantily glad female performers SHOULD evoke such a response in a world conditioned by certain social forces, especially those that you may subscribe to ideologically?

Whether we like it or not we cannot control our feelings we can only try to regulate them by deciding what to reveal (or hide) after the event.

19. Churm Rincewind

@ 15 Scepticisle: “There might be the odd male singer who bares his chest…but on the whole the likes of JLS/Bieber/One Direction don’t.”

@ 14 Cyclux: “JLS and 1D are hardly not flaunting their bodies to shift CD’s and downloads.”

Oh yes they do. Try googling any of these bands with the tag “shirtless”.

20. Churm Rincewind

@ cyclux: Sorry, I misread your post. My previous comments does not apply.

I’ll take your point on Bieber, he’s not exactly my area of expertise. As for JLS and 1D, it’s true there’s plenty of pictures of them shirtless but not performing, which is what I said, but not many of them going topless while performing. Just as there’s plenty of pictures of countless other pop stars with few clothes on on holiday etc.

22. Chaise Guevara

“now the utterly mainstream likes of Rihanna and Nicki Minaj perform in costumes which can’t really be described in any real sense as clothing.”
-Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

I agree with Shatterface on this, and would like to know why using a labourer’s brain and muscles, or an office worker’s brain and typing fingers, doesn’t count as “cynically manipulating bodies for commercial profit”. Frankly this article seems to be written on the assumption that the reader has a hang-up on sex and therefore sees it as incomparable to other parts of life, with a side helping of it being “inherently dirty”.

As for your purported change in “culture”, I suspect that if porn is getting more fetishy, that’s more to do with the existence of the internet. More broadly speaking – sexy people on TV and such – I’d like to know why we’re expected to see sexual liberation as automatically bad.

@21 While I’m sure the boybands do have their share of adult fans they are largely aimed at a teenybopper marker, whereas Rihanna and Nicki Minaj are more ‘young adult’ aimed. That could well be the source of the disparity. It’s not unusual for say rap stars to perform shirtless, particularly if they’re ripped to fuck.

septicisle @ 8:

“…to me the sight of a singer wearing next to nothing while performing is just depressing.”

What’s depressing is the utter lack of talent, not the costumes.

Chaise: I think you’ve misunderstood me. I was quoting Cosslett, not agreeing with her on that point. I have no objection to people choosing to do whatever the hell they like with their bodies, as I said when the problem for feminism is that it’s women just as much as men who are responsible. I also wasn’t saying that the change in culture is definitely for the worse, rather that surely we’ve moved beyond page 3 being worth uniquely campaigning against. As for whether sexual liberation is automatically bad, that’s a whole different debate but again, I don’t think I even suggested here that it was, personal feelings on the aesthetics of pop stars aside.

26. Chaise Guevara

@25 septicisle

Fair enough – I’d assumed you quoted that statement because you agree with it. I certainly agree that treating Page 3 as a standalone issue is odd. Even if you were specifically worried about nudity in the papers, the Star would be a better target (I’m discounting the Sport as I think that’s into the porn category). I think it’s more that Page 3 has become the poster child for a sort of everyday, cheery eroticism.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs




Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.