Lynne Featherstone: Good riddance to Page 3

There’s some interesting discussion on my social media timeline about  the Sun’s decision to stop printing clothes of topless women on Page 3. On one hand you have the male dominated group of people who think this is a dreadful infringement of liberty enacted by sinister feminists with An Agenda. Just you wait, they’ll be after your porn yet, they warn. They don’t like the fact that the No More Page 3 campaign started by Lucy-Anne Holmes and backed by more than 200,000 people has got what it wanted. It’s illiberal, they scream, for one group of people to interfere with the freedoms of others. That’s interesting. Presumably they would also be in favour of continuing to use the deeply racist language that was deemed acceptable when I was a child. Perhaps they’d oppose interfering in employers’ rights to send children up chimneys.

I just wonder how some of the men complaining about this decision if, every single day, there were pictures of naked men in a newspaper in a society where most of the positions of power were occupied by women who were never depicted in such a way. I don’t think they’d like it very much.

This is not about being prudish, it’s about making our society safer for the majority of its population. You objectify a woman in a paper, some men think they have some sense of entitlement to comment to and hassle women walking by in the street.

Anyway, Lynne Featherstone, who has long supported the banning of Page 3, said:

Congratulations to all the campaigners that have made this happen. Good riddance to topless photos on page 3. But I’m far from overwhelmed by the replacement.

This is one step in the right direction but we still need to do more to stop objectifying women.

Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said:

I welcome this apparent step forward from the Sun, but I would encourage its editors to consider whether parading women in bikinis is really a modern reflection of the contribution women make to society.

We need to ensure that media representation of women reflects the great achievements that women make to business, to families and to society. I’d like to see us providing positive role models for young girls instead of suggesting that women’s contribution is in how they look.

Until we see partially clothed men being objectified on alternate days on Page 3, though, its hardly equality.

This is symbolic, but there’s so much more that needs to be done to make our society more equal for women. As long as people buy those newspapers which print stories about men doing interesting stuff alongside myriad stories about women which could be filed under the general heading: Woman goes out wearing clothes, there will still be a huge cultural inequality. Remember when they tried it with human rights lawyer Amal Clooney when she went to the sexual violence summit last year?  They’ve done it with businesswomen and female cabinet ministers, talking about their heels rather than the way they do their jobs.

Society has a lot to do to drag itself into modern times and treat everyone equally. Today’s development is a baby step forward, but getting the misogyny out of the tabloids is a much bigger job. That  will go on.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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32 Comments

  • “Until we see partially clothed men being objectified on alternate days on Page 3, though, its hardly equality.”

    I admit to never having had cause to pick up a copy of Gay Times, but I’ve seen the cover. Where’s the rancour over that?

  • “….Perhaps they’d oppose interfering in employers’ rights to send children up chimneys.”

    Wasn’t there a chapter in The Orange Book suggesting that all that stupid Health and Safety nonsense should be rolled back and the burden of unhelpful regulations be removed from employers?
    I assumed that Marshall Laws were all in faour of shoving children up chimneys. Surely this why the free market and Thatcherism are all about?

    As for pictures of people with no clothes on — I cannot remember what was on page 3 of the Orange Book but I am guessing it was not David Laws stripped down to his boxers?

  • I find it irritating at film premieres and award functions to see endless celebrities lining up for photographs and videos in order to show off their looks. These are often the people who are hot on the rights of women. They twirl and pose, wearing hugely expensive and usually scanty and flimsy clothes. It is not the nudity that annoys me, just the hypocrisy.

    Perhaps they could be next on the list?

  • Peter Watson 20th Jan '15 - 6:30pm

    Typo in first sentence: “the Sun’s decision to stop printing clothes of topless women on Page 3″
    To be honest, I don’t think that printing pictures of lingerie models instead of topless models is a big step forwards, and I am more vexed by the hypocrisy of the Daily Mail in particular on whose website vitriolic outrage about moral decline is “balanced” by a stream of sleazy photos and articles down the right hand side.

  • Andy Hinton 20th Jan '15 - 6:46pm

    A wise move from the Sun. The removal of an obvious symbol and lightning rod for the ire of all of us who object to its wider streak of misogyny and assorted other bigotry. It now makes taking them to task over all the rest of the objectionable and problematic things they do that much more of a nebulous campaign to frame.

    Still, small victories and all that.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 20th Jan '15 - 7:34pm

    Naked men on page 3? I very much doubt that those complaining about the loss of “their” page 3 would complain. As for the objectifying men trope, I only caught a glimpse because I don’t watch the program but 10 Cats does Countdown appears to have semi-naked men instead of bikini clad women as stage assistants (or whatever they’re called). I just wish we could get beyond objectify people.

  • Tsar Nicolas 20th Jan '15 - 7:34pm

    Online pornography has been referred to a bit in the discussions on free speech and in a thread over DVD censorship.

    It seems to me that there is a bit of doublethink on the part of some posters and activists on this matter – ban page three, but no censorship of hardcore pornography.

    In fact, it makes me laugh (maybe even cry) when I hear of people exulting over the page three decision when you can access infinitely more degrading and damaging stuff online.

    It’s a bit like those folk who gleefully advocated charges for plastic bags while ignoring three full nuclear reactor meltdowns at Fukushima.

  • Tsar Nicholas
    “…..It’s a bit like those folk who gleefully advocated charges for plastic bags while ignoring three full nuclear reactor meltdowns at Fukushima.”

    Are you saying Davey’s Hinkley Points should have been exposed on Page 3 ?

  • Tsar Nicolas 20th Jan '15 - 8:12pm

    John Tilley

    “Are you saying Davey’s Hinkley Points should have been exposed on Page 3 ?”

    I suspect that even Murdoch has his red lines.

  • Tsar Nicholas

    The only red ink that Murdoch cares about is the sort that appears on balance sheets.

    He has calculated that this non-story will bring The Sun hours of free advertising on mainstream TV.

    The BBC and ITN havd been slavishly talking about it all day.
    How much would that amount of TV advertising have cost him? Tens of millions of pounds at least.

    This obvious fact does not appear to have even crossed the mind of some people who are “celebrating”.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Jan '15 - 8:54pm

    John, I suspect Mr Murdoch and his executives will be getting people to sign up to their website which is behind a paywall in order to access the photographs of topless women.

  • Tsar Nicolas 20th Jan '15 - 9:04pm

    I agree that this story is a a massive free publicity stunt for Murdoch, but why on earth would people sign up and pay to look at pictures of naked women?

    My point about online porn, for which, incidentally, I have no policy remedy, is that it is massively available and free.

    Murdoch’s paywall doesn’t work for his ‘news’ let alone anything else.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jan '15 - 9:39pm

    I’m indifferent about Page 3, but the Lib Dem infographic saying “Good Riddance” is not appropriate when a lot of the female glamour industry appears to be feeling anxious about their jobs in a culture of political correctness.

    Next it will be the ring card girls, the car girls, women in some adverts. People will say “get a man to pose alongside next to them”, but that will mean lower wages. PS, I know some don’t like to use the word “girls”, but it is almost an industry phrase and I regularly call my male friends boys.

    There is no killer argument to this topic, I just think the women have genuine anxieties that shouldn’t be written off.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Jan '15 - 9:44pm

    Tsar Nicholas, I think the only solution to the prevalence of online porn is decent sex ed which tackles the often violent, unpleasant, entirely misogynistic imagery that most 11 year old boys are watching. Every time I speak to a youth worker I hope they’ll allay my fears that this stuff is seriously harmful. They don’t. In fact, they say it’s even worse than I think it is and young women are being seriously abused by boys who have watched online porn and who have some fairly warped expectations about what women are for in a sexual relationship.

    You aren’t going to tackle it with web filters. I note that Sky has said that content filters will be the default option for all its broadband customers. I sure as hell wouldn’t trust Rupert Murdoch ( or any other internet supplier) to determine what I can and can’t access. But even if I had them here, which I won’t do, I wouldn’t be able to control what my teenager watched at someone else’s house. Far better to discuss this kind of stuff openly and ensure that young people have healthy expectations of their relationships, know what consent is, and know that much online porn is pretty vile. The liberal solution probably calls for better quality porn as well.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 20th Jan '15 - 9:49pm

    @eddie I’m not feeling that sorry for the glamour models. There is clearly going to be plenty work for them in the Sun. They will just be wearing, or nearly wearing, clothes of some description. If those women feel that it’s topless work or nothing, there are plenty of outlets for those sorts of photographs. I’m just glad it’s not going to be in the pages of a national newspaper, easily accessible by anyone, especially children who get the idea that women are simply there for decoration rather than active participation and decision making.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jan '15 - 10:05pm

    Thanks Caron. I understand. If I were running a newspaper I wouldn’t have Page 3 and I watch boxing and think it’s bad taste to have half naked ringside women.

    Importantly, we need to look out for things such as the welfare state so people do feel less anxious about money problems.

  • Tsar Nicolas 20th Jan '15 - 10:12pm

    Caron,

    I think “anti-human” is a better way to describe current day pornography than misogynistic., since both sexes suffer from the current representations of sexual behaviour, and it is simply not fair to frame a problem in a way that implies that everything is the fault of the male.. When you put things like that, a good number of males will simply switch off and cease to listen.

    I am dubious as to the idea that better sex education alone can resolve the problem because with modern technology young people (and old) can have continuous 24/7 access to porn that undercuts any positive, restraining and corrective message from sex education.

  • The question Liberals should be concerned about isn’t the content of a rubbish newspaper such as the Sun
    but recreating a Liberal newspaper such as the News Chronicle.

  • Jenny Barnes 21st Jan '15 - 8:59am

    ” it is simply not fair to frame a problem in a way that implies that everything is the fault of the male.. When you put things like that, a good number of males will simply switch off and cease to listen.”

    So who was it creating page 3 in the first place? It’s difficult seeing one’s own privilege – that’s partly how privilege works. Aren’t you lucky to be able to switch off and cease to listen, when women point out that the media continually objectify us?

  • Good riddance, yes good riddance ….. BUT, it does not stop the many, many other abuses against women and men. Also the hypocracy, I do not know, but can think the same person who objects to this stopping on liberty grounds may well be the same person who would be upset by say a Muslim women dressing modestly ??
    But without thinking to deeply over Murdochs motives,or the bikini replacements, it still feels like a small victory 🙂

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jan ’15 – 10:05pm
    “……I watch boxing and think it’s bad taste to have half naked ringside women.”

    Eddie,
    Are you saying that you think it is in perfectly good taste to watch half naked men beating the living daylights out of each other for your entertainment ?

  • Jane Ann Liston 21st Jan '15 - 11:32am

    The message being given by the topless models on Page 3 was that to be a real/successful/attractive woman you had to have perfect breasts. At least 1 in 9 women now require breast surgery and the number is increasing. How do you think having this image thrust into their consciousness across the breakfast table or on a bus makes those who no longer have 2 unscarred breasts and nipples feel, or those who have been told they have to have this surgery?

  • It’s something, perhaps they can get someone in who can write articles with words of more than 2 syllables next, also I think bra on or off is fairly immaterial if they’re going to keep having lingerie models on that page. It’s the concept I dislike most, that the third most important item must be some women wearing very little, and if that’s going to continue then nothing has changed. I think this is because the “banning” campaign that Lynne supported was focussed on “boobs not news”, the whole approach was wrong and now they’ve actually managed to secure page 3 for another generation!

  • “As long as people buy those newspapers which print stories about men doing interesting stuff alongside myriad stories about women which could be filed under the general heading: Woman goes out wearing clothes, there will still be a huge cultural inequality”

    You’d be better off concentrating on your party’s much-noted lack of equality, which is of far more significance than anything the Sun might print.

    Just about the only people whose opinions on Page 3 I’m interested in – since they are the only ones directly affected, rather than pretending to be affected – are the models themselves :-

    http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/showbiz/news/a622873/page-3-models-lead-backlash-at-ban-blaming-no-bra-wearing-man-haters.html#~p229f4gUwXokLv

    As Jodie Marsh rightly points out, No More Page 3 is simply yet another example of feminists adding things to the list of Things Women Must Not Do. Meanwhile men can carry on doing as they please. All this is done, apparently, in the cause of empowering women to be more equal.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Jan '15 - 7:32am

    And now it transpires that the topless girl on page 3 has gone nowhere (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30928544) but The Sun has had a shedload of free advertising.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Jan ’15 – 7:32am

    Quite right Peter Watson — as I was saying only a couple of days ago —

    JohnTilley 20th Jan ’15 – 8:38pm
    ………… this non-story will bring The Sun hours of free advertising on mainstream TV.

    The BBC and ITN havd been slavishly talking about it all day.
    How much would that amount of TV advertising have cost him? Tens of millions of pounds at least.

    This obvious fact does not appear to have even crossed the mind of some people who are “celebrating”.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jan '15 - 11:04am

    The best article I have ever read from someone who is against Page 3:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11359993/Page-3-helped-create-the-Jimmy-Savile-era.html

    The headline isn’t great, but people should read the article. She takes the time to explain to us men what the problem is with Page 3. I am still uncomfortable with aspects of her argument (she seems to suggest a campaign against the Niqab too), but at least it is a start and I find it much more hard hitting than alienating levels of outrage.

  • @Eddie
    I find the following much more convincing. This point has been made many times before, including by people at the Sun :-

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/11357671/The-campaign-against-Page-3-kept-it-going-a-decade-longer.html

    The Sun carries on printing Page 3 for the simple reason that when a bunch of censorious busy bodies try to stop you from doing things, the instinctive reaction is to carry on doing it all the more.

  • @Stuart
    I’ve always loathed Page 3, but Caron’s authoritarian stance prompted me to go out and buy a copy of the Sun once, simply to talk my daughter through what it was and what it all meant. The Sun + Ban Page 3 = self-perpetuating-PR cycle.
    Liberals that seek to improve society by banning things have missed what this ideology has to offer people over and above telling others what they can and can’t do.

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