Page 3

I want to write about something very close to my heart. Literally. I want to discuss breasts and how they continue to evoke such strong emotions in everyone.

If you turn to the inside sections of one of the UK’s best selling newspapers, you will see a young woman with her bare breasts. This was one of those things that, arriving back in the UK after eight years overseas, I was shocked still to see.

Since The Sun started to print pictures of bare boobs on page three in 1970, public views of what is acceptable behaviour has changed incredibly. It is no longer perfectly OK to pinch your secretary’s bottom, for example. Happily we now have the Sexual Discrimination Act. It’s no longer acceptable to call women “dear”, rape in marriage is finally a crime, and we’ve had a female Prime Minister.

It’s not just in relation to women that public mores have changed. With good reason, gollywogs are no longer pictured on jars of marmalade and The Black and White Minstrel Show has not been recommissioned. So, given we have moved on so far, should we really still have pictures of women in their knickers in a daily national newspaper?

There are so many reasons why Page 3 is outdated and demeaning to women that it’s hard to know where to start. How about, women being held out as sexual objects rather than real people? How about, this is a mainstream NEWSPAPER yet where is the news on tits? (Actually there is some, see later). Now, I’m not against images of naked bodies, just not in a newspaper that a child might pick up and flick through. If you want your kicks from seeing naked women, reach up to the top shelf.

What I really hate is this normalisation of women as sexual objects, that their sole reason for being is to gratify male lust. Children, or people with already skewed views of women, will think it is OK to ogle a woman’s breasts, I mean, they have them in a newspaper, don’t they? Can it really be right that we live in a society that apparently thinks it’s acceptable to have bare breasts in a newspaper, yet frowns on women breastfeeding their infants in public?

If you think that Page 3 is a sexist anachronism then sign the petition against it. Over 100,000 people already have. The petition, started by Lucy Holmes, has garnered much public support including from Frances Barber, Jennifer Saunders, Alistair Campbell and Juliet Lewis. Click here to add your voice.

Then there are women who, rather than sitting around grumbling about objectification of women (ahem), are using this fascination with bare breasts to bring greater awareness to their fight for female victims of oppression across the world.

Femen, a radical feminist group which started in 2008 in the Ukraine, state they are “transforming female sexual subordination into aggression” and they protest naked from the waist up. The cameras love it. It is insanely shocking to see them protest, these modern Amazons, with their bare breasts on show. But how powerful too, as Vladimir Putin can attest. They know this will increase media coverage and in itself makes a statement: “this is my body, I will do with it as I choose”.

Have I just undermined my argument against Page 3 models? No, I don’t think so. Femen’s overwhelming purpose is to fight for women’s rights using their sexuality to their own end. The Page 3 girls’ overwhelming purpose is to titillate. Yes, they get paid, and view it as a career, but they are a cog in a machine that does nothing to promote, and ends up prejudicing, the welfare and rights of women.

There is a strange fascination in society with breasts. These givers of initial sustenance and comfort, become a totem of the exquisite differences between the male and female form, and yes, sex. It’s a universally accepted truth that the naked human form can be a thing of great beauty. Or so I rather bizarrely found myself telling my nine year-old son in an art gallery recently, his face red with embarrassment at all the pictures of naked ladies. He didn’t get it. Yet.

There are several differences with him seeing naked images of women (and men) in an art gallery. First, I took him there with an explanation ready rather than him stumbling in the door to be greeted by a naked Venus. Secondly, the images are a celebration of the human form; they are there to please not to arouse. Finally, the actual nakedness depicted is secondary to the artistic intent and talent. Art galleries celebrate art, not nakedness per se.

This fascination with breasts makes the decision of Angelina Jolie all the more admirable for being slightly controversial. She uses her twin assets of acting talent and looks to forge her career, and her breasts are a key part of her physical image, as they are of all women, only hers appear on huge billboards and are seen around the world. Yet she took the brave decision to undergo a double mastectomy so that she would reduce her risks of contracting cancer, and was criticised for it. Had she had her ovaries removed for the same reason, I doubt there would have been such a kerfuffle.

So, boobs. Emotive, erotic, maternal and part of a woman’s body. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be seen, but just at the right time, place and for a purpose which doesn’t demean or objectify women. All of which mean Page 3 should go.


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