Ladies: Your boobs, explained

As a woman, I often suspect I am just too close to my tits. After all, there they are, just there, morning, noon and night. There are times I’ve longed for a break. Those few days after giving birth when the milk came in and I suddenly find myself with red-hot, rock-hard, agonizing boulders of pain – I’d have happily gone tit-less then. And then there’s early on, back at school when I realized what an object of ridicule these things made me to bra-pinging, girl-fearing classmates –  that’s not an experience I’d call soarawaytastic, either. But still, it’s not all bad; they provide occasional “adult” amusement, plus they’ve fed my kids. On the whole, I’m happy that my breasts are still with me. Like Bagpuss, they might be baggy and a bit loose at the seams, but I love them. Alas, this means I lack objectivity on all matters tit-related.

When it comes to campaigns such as No More Page 3, it’s worth noting that many of those shouting loudest are in possession of womanly bosoms themselves. This is clearly a worry. What can these people – these women – really know about the role of tits in society? Having never been mere passive observers, they’re simply too involved. What can they possibly understand about the representation of breasts and consequent responses to them? Obviously, a man is required to explain all this (preferably one without moobs).

Many women have written wise, thoughtful arguments explaining precisely what is wrong with Page 3. Deborah Orr, Caroline Criado-Perez, Becca Reilly-Cooper and many others have made clear, cogent points, one or two of which are  repeated by Martin Robbins in a New Statesman piece in which gives the impression that no one has ever thought of them before. Perhaps, because Robbins is a tit-less person expressing / hijacking these views, and then using them not to support the campaign, there’s some validity in granting them extra weight. Nonetheless, when Robbins then turns on No More Page 3 founder Lucy Holmes – accusing her of developing her arguments simply by “doing some searches on That Internet and regurgitating some Daily Mail sound-bites” – it’s hard to get all that incensed about originality.

Robbins does not like the No More Page 3 petition because he views it as “slut shaming” and simplistic. He argues that “the petition says nothing about the problems with Page 3 I’ve raised […], fixating instead on the nipples”. Is it just me and my brain-distracting tits, or is this not total nonsense? Holmes uses flippant comparisons and references to “family” newspapers to highlight the incongruity between what Page 3 does and what the Sun claims to stand for (regardless of what it is). The No More Page 3 campaign really does not strike me as a campaign against nipples. And yet Robbins goes on to claim the following:

It’s worth pointing out that the belief that bare boobs are family-wrecking weapons of child corruption is not a particularly helpful one, and fuels exactly the sort of mood that makes it difficult for mothers to breast-feed in public places.

There’s many a time when I’ve whacked my tits out in public to feed a child. I can assure Martin Robbins that the existence of a petition such as this does not make it any harder, but the existence of Page 3 does. It shapes the context of breasts in public and whom they’re for – and establishing whom they’re for is a big enough battle for breastfeeding women as it is.

I’ve witnessed feminists on twitter debating the risk of No More Page 3 becoming puritanical, victim-blaming or anti-sex. I’ve even had a bit of a ponder about it myself. Martin Robbins is not the first person to worry about this, although he may be one of the first to use it as an argument against the whole campaign. What’s more, it is unfair for him to do so. His whole tone smacks of someone taking pleasure in batting down those whom he wrongly assumes are far less thoughtful than him. Holmes does not hold “breakfast TV shows up as some sort of feminist standard for The Sun to meet” – she’s simply making a joke about context. Moreover, to see a drive for “sexual hegemony” behind a simple request to remove an offensive feature from a national newspaper is far-fetched and intellectually dishonest.

Robbins claims that “Removing the nudity from Page 3 would not in any way decrease the misogyny on that page, or in the paper as a whole”:

At best, misguided attempts to censor nudity distract from the real battle that must be fought, to challenge a tabloid culture in which misogyny oozes from every page. At worst, campaigners are engaging in exactly the same sort of sexual policing and censorship that The Sun does: one side attacking non-conformists, the other belittling the choices of ‘sluts’.

So once more, we’re back to being told to battle “real” misogyny instead of – well, instead of what? Is Page 3 simply free sexual expression? Is it really?

Personally I can’t stand Page 3, but I say the answer is more nudity in newspapers, not less. Put more boobs on Page 3, and add some cocks too. Show people of every size, shape, colour, gender and sexuality; let them speak in their own voice, and celebrate them all. That, rather than self-censorship of adult-oriented content, would be a progressive tabloid revolution worth fighting for.

Well, Martin Robbins, as someone who has had her non-conformist tits on display in many a public place, what you’re suggesting sounds insincere and inconsistent. Diversity in porn sounds fine to me. But to view Page 3 as merely “adult-oriented content” actively disregards the way in which it objectifies women in a broader context, far beyond the world of porn itself. It says “this is all you are, all the time, every day”. And what you suggest as an alternative – “people of every size, shape, colour, gender and sexuality” – simply wouldn’t be Page 3 any more, as it would be performing a different function. So in essence you are asking for an end to Page 3.

So maybe you should sign the petition after all?

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56 thoughts on “Ladies: Your boobs, explained

  1. Hell yeah! Too tired to put much else, and too irritated by the patronising tone of “I am capable of higher and greater thoughts than you plebs” Robbins. I hate men telling how I think about my own boobs. Grrrr
    Thanks
    B

  2. Great post. For some reason (fixation?) I always find myself blogging about boobs. Without fail, I argue myself in and out of my opinions and eventually conclude that a woman should do what she likes with her boobs. It’s the sexualisation of them through things like Page 3 that fuels the breastfeeding debate. When are we going to be grown up enough to let that one go?! 🙂

  3. Brilliantly put! I was trying to think of a response to that piece, and you’ve done it for me better than I ever could. Thank you. (FWIW I am male, and I like boobs in the traditional male way. But I don’t like the way they get used as a tool for promoting and justifying barely-hidden misogyny and know-your-place politics.)

  4. “Moreover, to see a drive for “sexual hegemony” behind a simple request to remove an offensive feature from a national newspaper is far-fetched and intellectually dishonest.”

    If a campaign composed predominantly of middle class white people tries to silence or even erase alternative ways of being or versions of personhood or identities, then it is indeed being hegemonic. Second wave feminism wants women’s liberation and equal pay and so on. Third wave feminism is skeptical about the homogeneity of those women. Not all of them are identical. They all have equal RIGHTS and equal OPPORTUNITIES, but they are not all equal in their sexualities. This campaign promotes a monolithic version of womanhood. That is what makes it hegemonic.

    How many non-white and/or non-middle class and/or non-cis-women have signed this petition? Or been represented in the debate at all? How many feminist theorists have leant their support to it?

    If you don’t want to engage with these questions because you believe that removing page 3 is “obviously right”, then you should know that THAT is what being intellectually dishonest means.

    1. I genuinely find it hard to understand how a campaign against a feature which promotes a monolithic version of womanhood is a campaign that promotes a monolithic version of womanhood. Do you seriously think Page 3 promotes “alternative ways of being or versions of personhood or identities”? The point is surely that it pushes against it. Moreover, white men lecturing women on their privilege and failure to recognise variety in sexual identities – simply because they object to a feature aimed at white men at the expense of any recognition of female sexual subjectivity – does not seem fair or reasonable to me.

      1. Brilliant response to that particular nonsensical argument. As if the Sun would ever feature flat chests, saggy breasts, mastectomy scars, inverted nipples or man-boobs.

      2. It’s equivalent to a campaign against war trying to kill some soldiers. In one sense it’s an pacifist campaign, but in another sense… it isn’t. The campaign to remove page 3 is pitting one monolithic version of womanhood (according to which posing on page 3 is deemed “non aspirational”) against another (which only presents a narrow range of womanhood).

        One doesn’t have to be in favour of page 3 in order to reject the hegemonic femininity upon which the campaign to remove page 3 is predicated. To set those two concepts up as a binary opposition is over-simplistic and, check this, it actually serves to exclude and silence alternative points of view! Polarizing the debate is a way of being hegemonic. So, in form and content, your argument is hegemonic.

      3. You can’t tell from names alone whether people are white or middle-class, so if you’re looking at the names of people who have signed: at least where *I* am from this rarely tells you anything. And Page 3 is not “promoting” women at all — it is reducing us to objects before the male gaze.

    2. @newsbarf

      > “If you don’t want to engage with these questions because you believe that removing page 3 is “obviously right”, then you should know that THAT is what being intellectually dishonest means.”

      Yep. Absolutely spot on. I wish some pro-NoMorePage3ers would write some articles engaging with those questions.

      Where am I?

  5. First: It is dishonest to say my post “disregards the way in which it objectifies women in a broader context” – I spent several paragraphs explaining in detail why Page 3 objectifies women – because it mocks its subjects, enforces a rigid sexual hegemony on them, and denies them their voice, using them instead as sock-puppets for editorial views. “The most disturbing thing about Page 3 isn’t the fact that there are naked breasts on it; it’s that every pair of naked breasts looks the same, expresses the same opinions, and exists in a context where the owners of naked breasts are casually belittled and dehumanised.” Unfortunately, the petition addresses virtually none of this, hence my problem with it.

    Second: It’s dishonest of you to claim that this is about a man disagreeing with women. My post was inspired by several women feminists who approached the topic first with similar concerns, it was edited by Helen Lewis, a feminist woman editor, and I’ve had support from many since it went up – there have been numerous articles about this by women which you’ve chosen to ignore here, in an attempt to make this about gender. To pull out the ‘mansplaining’ card denies a voice to the many women who don’t agree with your particular brand of feminism, portraying them as the mere puppets of men. It’s not on. (For anyone interested, I would highly recommend Googling the two excellent posts by Hayley Stevens on the subject.)

    Third: It’s a shame that you’ve completely ignored the points about the Beautiful Sex Manifesto (which you’ve not linked to), and the worrying attitudes that led to the creation of this petition in the first place. It’s also worth picking through the comments on the petition, to see that these attitudes aren’t just limited to the petition’s owner, but prevalent across a large cross-section of the people signing.

    Anyway, rather than just whine unconstructively I’ll leave my own manifesto for Page 3, and you and your readers can feel free to engage with that and tell me what you think is wrong or right with it:

    “Put more boobs on Page 3, and add some cocks too. Show people of every size, shape, colour, gender and sexuality; let them speak in their own voice, and celebrate them all. That, rather than self-censorship of adult-oriented content, would be a progressive tabloid revolution worth fighting for. “

    1. Your manifesto for Page 3 is admirable, and I wish it could happen. Whenever people complain about Page 3, someone else says “Bring back the Page 7 fella” or something like you’re suggesting, but that’s not going to happen because it doesn’t sell newspapers. I would prefer to have no boobs in The Sun than hope for some sort of feminist sexual revolution in our tabloid newspapers. But the No to Page 3 campaign does strike me as being simplistic in a lot of ways, and this is all making me think I should find out more about it. It’s all too easy to vaguely align yourself with something without really knowing what it’s all about.

      Also, angry Scrabble followed by whisky and punishment sounds like an excellent night in to me.

    2. Yeah! This! Fuck, yeah! Right on, brother! Fight the fuckin matriarchy! It’s, like, total discrimination that only women can get their tits out on page 3. Let’s have cocks on there as well. [But only really big ones.]

      One day later…
      Yeah, man! We’ve, like, got loads of tits and cocks on page 3. Hang on, though. Surely, if there are cocks, there should also be cunts? Let’s chuck some cunts on there as well!

      Now that would be a progressive tabloid revolution worth fighting for.

      [As an afterthought, would page 3 actually be an appopriate place to have pictures of cocks? Shouldn’t they be in the women’s pages?]

    3. The wording on the petition is simple and accessible. The petition needs to be understood by all who read it. If it is simply explained in academic language then it becomes elitist. Do you honestly think it is egalitarian to word a petition in which Basil Bernstein dubbed- restricted codes? Surely that would be attempting to undermine the monolithic representation of women present in the Sun with a language which itself supports hegemony? Please don’t take this as me patronising “the working class” by suggesting they cannot understand complex arguments against Page 3. I’m a poor little council house resident who had to leave school at 11. Many of the women I know do not find that sort of discussion accessible and it would be intellectually dishonest to exclude them from the debate.

      I’m a bisexual boob lover, who has whipped her tits out at a funeral in order to breast feed- I’m neither anti-sex or prudish, But I agree with this campaign, in part because of the reasons you’ve outlined. To be honest, I am more annoyed by The News in Briefs then I am by the tits. But at the same time I don’t think it is right to confuse news with glamour modelling be it inclusive of wonky breasts and cocks or not. It isn’t right that young children are exposed to these views of objectified sexuality, and I do bellieve it should be kept to top shelf rags. I’m not a Daily Mail reading puritan, but I am a mother and I am concerned about the view of human sexuality my children are confronted with. So many studies have shown that children are growing up with a confused idea of sexuality as they so rarely have it explained to them within the context of emotions. I want my children to grow up with a healthy idea about sex. That is why I oppose Page 3. It doesn’t matter if I agree entirely with Lucy’s wording, so long as I agree with the end result.

    4. Thank you for commenting (sorry for late response).
      Many of your objections seem to be about the precise wording used by Lucy Holmes. I don’t agree with your interpretation of her examples, but even beyond that, a far broader discussion has taken place amongst supporters of the petition and your piece, while using some of the same arguments, does not acknowledge this. This seems to me unfair – it miscasts all those who sign the petition as doing so because they’re duped by an anti-sex agenda which they’re too foolish to identify. You don’t give them the credit they deserve.
      Regarding the issue of whether it’s a man or woman arguing the point – I know not all women have the same view about this issue. However, in your piece there seemed to be a very personal focus on Lucy Holmes and a total failure to acknowledge nuanced feminist commentary in response to the campaign, and in such a context your absolute confidence in explaining what misogyny is and, in particular, the use of breastfeeding in your argument, struck me as exploitative and patronising.
      I have looked at the comments on the petition – I actually went through them when I was having my own misgivings about some aspects of the campaign (in other post I linked to). Most of them I agree with – they do not all seem to me to be about slut-shaming but about the impact of Page 3 on broader representations of women. Not all of them are reasons I would use myself, but I don’t see how a petition can police the motivations of those who sign it. I didn’t link to the Beautiful Sex manifesto because I really don’t believe those who sign the no page 3 petition are being asked to sign up for that.
      Many of the reasons you present for objecting to Page 3 do coincide with those of people who’ve signed the petition. So would you have signed it if Lucy had used different wording to meet the same objective? (Your own wording, for instance?)
      Regarding your manifesto – you are suggesting something which is entirely unlike Page 3 (so to my mind it would be getting rid of what Page 3 is and does anyhow). But this isn’t a petition about the “self-censorship of adult-oriented content” – it’s about a very specific representation of women’s bodies which appears in a newspaper. Whatever you say about the Sun being a “comic”, this distinction is important.

  6. Hi lucybottomface,

    The language of the petition and the reason for the petition existing are two separate issues. The really worrying thing about this campaign is that a lot of writers and journalists (who punch above their weight in terms of shaping opinion) are calling themselves feminists without trying to engage with contemporary feminist thought. This anti-intellectualism means that they become a narrow type of feminist. If a narrow type of feminist campaigns forcefully enough then we have a hegemonic voice which excludes alternative versions of womanhood. This is bad.

    What are these studies you mention? If there is empirical evidence that page 3 causes harm, then this campaign is irrelevant: page 3 could be straightforwardly censored. In the absence of such evidence, there is debate. The debate as it stands seems to rely on promoting a monolithic version of womanhood (or misleadingly representing evidence so as to appear more conclusive than it in fact is).

    1. @newsbarf

      Read this…

      “So many studies have shown that children are growing up with a confused idea of sexuality as they so rarely have it explained to them within the context of emotions.” (Bottomface, 2012)

      …and then try to explain how you responded with this…

      “What are these studies you mention? If there is empirical evidence that page 3 causes harm, then this campaign is irrelevant” (Barf, 2012).

      …because I really can’t understand how you made that leap.

    2. You aren’t responding to what I have said. I stated that studies show that children are not taught about sex in the context of love. I did not say that there are studies which conclusively show page 3 is harmful. I cannot remember the names of the studies off the top of my head as I am referring to my studies of 3 years ago- but if you wish to search I am sure you can find them. These were studies from the US which sought to understand teenage pregnancy rates. They found time and again children were receiving messages of sexuality which made it seem purely as a mechanical function, a result of this was an attempt to speak about sex within sex education classes within the context of a loving relationship.

      Are you against the petition or against the journalists who have written about the petition? You say they are distinct, yet in taking a stance against a broad-ranging campaign you seem to be conflating the two. Being against the wording of the petition is elitist and suggests many women should be excluded from the debate. But, if as you say, you are against the wording of journalists then perhaps you are placing too much emphasis upon the articles themselves. I believe most people will have made up their minds previously about page 3, and therefore rather than being a persuasive exercise the main effect of these articles is to draw attention to the petition. However, your statement regarding “engaging with modern feminist thought” seems to me to be rather disingenous. The women who call themselves feminists are the creators of modern feminist thought, they are not there to channel the thoughts of a few academics. Feminism is not a purely academic exercise, it is also practical, reactive and instinctive.

  7. If you don’t think it’s harmful, then why petition?

    Saying that “blah-blah study shows…” is no argument. I would cite research to prove that, but I left it my other jacket.

    I’m against page 3, AND against the spirit of the anti-page 3 petition and its promoters who don’t engage with academic feminism.

    Journalism should make people aware of issues so that they CAN make up their minds, not preach to a pre-supposed choir. My gut response is to be against page 3, but I am concerned to find no convincing argument for the petition.

    Your point about feminists at large not being there to channel academic opinion is trivially true. Following the discussion here, I restate that the real question is two-fold:

    1. Why don’t you care that some versions of womanhood embrace and value that which you seek to expunge?

    2. Why won’t you answer question 1?

    (And I didn’t mention hegemonic monolithic anti-intellectualism once;)

    1. Is this aimed at me? If so, I have not stated once that I do not believe it is harmful. I do believe it is. But that is based upon my own perceptions which are not trivial simply because they are not linked to academic feminism. Your very argument undermines the thoughts and beliefs of absolutely anybody who is not academically motivated. I’m sorry, but that is simply a shamefully intellectually elitist stance to take!

      So because I cannot name the study I read 3 years ago I am therefore not allowed to base my opinion and response upon it? I am only allowed to care about page 3 if I can keep a bibliography to hand? Dear me, what an odd stance to take. This isn’t an academic research paper- it’s a conversation on a blog. However, if it were a research paper I would not simply be expected to parrot, but to analyse data.

      I see absolutely no reason why they should engage with academic feminism. Between the feminist movement, which is made of many different kinds of women, and academic feminism, the academics are the far more trivial of the two.

      Personally, I do care that some versions of womanhood seek to embrace it. I care so much that I read every article and book I can which seeks to discover why women self-objectify. And this is why I oppose page 3. I believe that raunch culture leaves young women with fewer aspirations, I believe that it makes women sell themselves short. I understand that even if we accomplished the destruction of raunch culture, there would still be women who wanted to glamour model. I do not want to dictate what they should do. But by keeping these pictures in a format in which they don’t belong: a newspaper, I am concerned that the women who are “embracing” this culture are simply doing so as a result of its ubiquity and normalisation, leaving them with the notion that their sexuality is the most significant gauge of their worth.

  8. Dearest Lucybottomface,

    “You aren’t responding to what I have said. I stated that studies show that children are not taught about sex in the context of love. I did not say that there are studies which conclusively show page 3 is harmful.”

    “Is this aimed at me? If so, I have not stated once that I do not believe it is harmful. I do believe it is.”

    Yes, you don’t need studies to have a belief, it’s true. But you do need them to advocate social change. Right now, Michael Gove is using his opinion to destroy exams and schools in England. Andrew Lansley used his opinion to destroy the NHS. These men may even believe they were doing something good. Without evidence, their beliefs mean nothing in a debate that changes society so deeply.

    The charge of intellectual elitism suggests that my position is not based in real world experience. However, since I haven’t said much about my real world experience, I think you are using that as as a way of shutting down a line of argument you can’t engage with. To side-step this issue, I will put my argument in these terms:

    This campaign tells everyone what kind of woman to be. It tells women that page 3 is wrong, and that if they have ideas about sex that don’t match what outspoken middle class writers tell them, then they should be ashamed. It bases this not on interviews with individuals representing a wide spectrum of sexual identities, nor on scientific evidence of harm, but upon the experiences of a limited range of women who deem themselves uniquely capable of telling good from bad.

    That is a third-wave feminist perspective. It’s not confined to the ivory towers of academia, which in itself is no reason to reject it, but it is just not permitted to be part of a debate skewed by a version of womanhood that wants to destroy it. Why do you want to destroy it?

    Academic feminism isn’t there for academics. It’s there to give voice to people who are systematically shut down by the unthinking mainstream. Don’t call me elitist for pointing out the flaws in your breathless crusade, especially not after quoting Bernstein. The existence of codes is not a licence to close down a debate for being elitist.

    1. I’m sorry, but there are very few studies regarding page 3, so where should we draw our sources from? Academia is patriarchal, if you have studies feminism then you will surely know this. By stating that it is a neccessity that women’s views be supported by academia you are stating that their right to assert social change must be reliant on a patriarchal construct. If your response to this is to say that academia is not patriarchal then I would draw your attention to feminist debates regarding biological determinism. If women choose to sign the petition then they are being self-assertive. This is all that should matter.

      I was making no assertions about your real life experience. I was suggesting that you were undermining other women’s real life experiences. You are confusing the two. Your responses to what you think I am saying, rather than what I actually, clearly am, are becoming rather tiresome.

      I am not demanding that anyone do anything- if women feel strongly enough about Page 3 they will sign, if they don’t they will not. The platform has given women a platform for self-expression, it cannot force them to sign. In opposing the petition you oppose women having a platform for expression. That is disempowering. If there was a petition which gave women the opportunity to oppose oranges I wouldn’t berate that either on the very same grounds.

      You demand academic discourse and then disparage me for making an academic reference? Dear me! That’s rather desperate. I am saying that the petition and cause cannot be based on feminist academia. Not that either you or I are disallowed from referring to academic studies.

    2. This campaign tells everyone what kind of woman to be. It tells women that page 3 is wrong, and that if they have ideas about sex that don’t match what outspoken middle class writers tell them, then they should be ashamed.

      Many things tell women “what kind of woman to be” – Page 3 is a particularly pernicious example of this. You may have greater distaste for the words of middle-class women whom you view as ignorant than for the images pushed by the Sun, but don’t pretend you’re not pushing your own version of good and bad. You’re not being inclusive.

      Academic feminism isn’t there for academics. It’s there to give voice to people who are systematically shut down by the unthinking mainstream.

      I honestly have far more respect for academic feminism than to simply dismiss it as the tool of those who, on the one hand, claim to “give voice to people” by using them as caricatured fronts for their own beliefs, and on the other dismiss whomever they disagree with as “the unthinking mainstream”.

  9. Lucy:

    I’m sorry, but there are very few studies regarding page 3, so where should we draw our sources from?
    1. Peer-reviewed studies. Patriarchy is no argument.
    2. Talk to people who have different experiences from you.
    3. Real-life experiences are fine unless they all sound and look the same.

    As you know, but are not addressing, I don’t oppose a platform for “women” provided that all types of women are able to use it. You are repeatedly ignoring this point and at the same time accusing me of being tiresome.

    “You demand academic discourse and then disparage me for making an academic reference? Dear me! That’s rather desperate. I am saying that the petition and cause cannot be based on feminist academia. Not that either you or I are disallowed from referring to academic studies.”

    Just read back through our discussion and see how much sense that comment makes.

    Glosswitch:

    I don’t like page three and I don’t like the campaign because they both demand conformity to a narrow version of womanhood. I have said this half a dozen times now, but no one wants to take the point seriously. Because no one wants to take it seriously, I think the label of unthinking is justified.

    1. I don’t like page three and I don’t like the campaign because they both demand conformity to a narrow version of womanhood

      But many people are saying that they don’t believe the latter does. You might not like that, but reiterating your position without explanation is hardly going to change people’s minds.

    2. @newsbarf

      > “I have said this half a dozen times now, but no one wants to take the point seriously. Because no one wants to take it seriously, I think the label of unthinking is justified.”

      What I think you mean to say is: “Even though I have said this half-a-dozen times [Is it really only half-a-dozen? It seems like much more than that.], most people that have responded have not agreed with me. Because those people don’t agree with me, I am going to dismiss their views as ‘unthinking’.

      1. Adam and Lucy,

        I think we are moving closer to actually exchanging ideas now. I am not dismissing people as unthinking for disagreeing with me, but for not engaging in a discussion about a serious criticism of the campaign. Unthinking means not thinking, not not agreeing. Let me try to show you why I think you are wrong with an analogy.

        If your argument is merely that “many people believe” something, then that would also be a good argument for all schools in Britain being Christian. Even if all the Christians were campaigning and had tens of thousands of signatories, the secularists and Muslims and Jews and whatever else would still feel excluded by the idea of ONLY having Christian schools. Then say a counter campaign came along saying “we must only have secular schools because religion has no place in schools” This would be removing one narrow idea of religion in schools and replacing it with another. Personally I happen to agree with the latter position, but since we have freedom of religion, I don’t have any justification for trying to impose that on everyone. If I wanted to convince others that secular schools are best, I would have to rely on arguments about evidence and scientific method, or more practicably, arrive at a consensus between all groups (i.e. not just relying on what a large number of Christians or secularists think).

        Can you agree that in this case, both the campaign for Christian schools and the campaign for secular schools marginalize lots of people? If you can, then you must see that the same applies to the page 3 campaign.

      2. @newsbarf

        > “I think we are moving closer to actually exchanging ideas now.”

        I really don’t think that we are. Well, certainly I couldn’t count as part of the ‘we’, as I’m only chipping in from the sidelines. I’m way way out of my depth when it comes to the substance of discussions in this area.

        From the sidelines, though, it seems that the ideas that you want to exchange are:
        1. Your own ideas;
        2. Your own interpretations and misrepresentations of what other people are saying.

        > “I am not dismissing people as unthinking for disagreeing with me, but for not engaging in a discussion about a serious criticism of the campaign.”

        Right. There are articles that have engaged with the criticisms you raise. The majority of this comments thread is devoted to engaging with the criticisms you raise. But, your gripe is that people aren’t engaging with criticisms of the campaign?

        And, strangely, it’s only people that disagree with you who are not engaging with your criticisms and are therefore unthinking.

        > “Unthinking means not thinking, not not agreeing.”

        Hallefuckingllujah! [Can I recycle these scales that have just fallen from my eyes?]

        > “Let me try to show you why I think you are wrong with an analogy.”

        Nah. That’s okay. Oh…you’re going to anyway…

        I have so much admiration for the other people in this comments thread who are patiently and eloquently engaging with you in a way that I would never be capable of doing. Personally, I think they’re being far too generous.

        The main thing that undermines every comment you make is that they are based on false premises. Usually, this might be hard to spot, because you reframe other people’s comments to suit your purposes, and you do it in a way – I guess some credit to you here – that sounds plausible and reasonable. You also use, like, loads of really really long words.

        But sometimes it’s obvious, as in: “If your argument is merely that “many people believe” something, then that would also be a good argument for all schools in Britain being Christian.” You mean you set up that whole tenuous analogy on the basis of uncertainty? Why not check what the argument is first, listen to the argument, make sure that you understand the argument, and then respond to that argument?

        > “Can you agree that in this case, both the campaign for Christian schools and the campaign for secular schools marginalize lots of people?”

        No, no I can’t. Mainly because I’m stubborn, but also because the analogy was bullshit. Although I might only think it’s bullshit because I’m stubborn.

  10. I think it would be wonderful if we could have polls, just for women, of who would actively wish to keep Page 3 and who would prefer to see it gone. Then we could have a wonderful majority rule and these arguments would be unneccessary. Alas that is just not reasonable or likely. If we could though, I’m pretty sure more women would feel inspired to take the time to oppose page 3, than there would be a number of women who actively seek to defend it.

    So all we are left with reasonably is a petition which women, and men, can choose to sign or not. Your argument above would render all forms of petitioning moot because they can only ever express the views of those who decide to sign. Unless on every subject two petitions were run concurrently: for vs against. To be honest, your above statement comes across as you being against the theory of petitioning in general. Petitions are an important form of lobbying- one which I think it is important that we maintain, it is one of our most accessible forms of direct action afterall.

    Your whole point seems to be dismissing the women who have chosen to take action on this. But by doing nothing, that is also a course of action which results in many women being unhappy. It is lose/ lose. Though as I stated above, I’m pretty sure more women would actively seek the removal of, than would actively seek to defend, page 3

    If the petition is successful it wouldn’t result in a monolithic vision of womanhood it would just remove it from ONE “newspaper” which sits in the newstands, on the bottomshelf in shops, and is left lying around for children to see and be informed by. My first view of a naked woman, outside of the family home, was within my Gran’s copy of the Sun when I was about 7 years old. I don’t believe that is right or acceptable. This is only about The Sun. It is not about all forms of glamour modelling, therefore accusations of monolithic representations are unfounded.

  11. Majority rule doesn’t do a lot for minority rights though. By definition. The only way any progress has been made for minority rights has been by exposing intellectual dishonesty, by challenging unthinking mainstream beliefs.

    I haven’t made a general argument against petitioning. I think your survey idea is excellent though. It should also gather demographic information to see the extent to which the desire to ban page 3 is socially universal. Why not do it?

    Please don’t misrepresent my clear argument against this single-voiced campaign. People have a perfect right to want page 3 to go, but my point throughout has been that this doesn’t trump all other views. I am against totalizing discourse, not against having a point of view.

    You obviously feel strongly that page 3 should go because it offends your sensibilities. My gut reaction is the same. My considered response is to question where those sensibilities come from. My answer is that they come from the class structure of British society. This is not a reason to sign the petition; it is a reason to reduce class disparity.

    1. Majority rule is the only democratic solution. We can’t have a Schrödinger’s page 3, it is either there or it isn’t. Simply not doing anything is as offensive to women who don’t want it as it is to women who do. It isn’t a complete imposition to suggest it is removed from only one form of media which is particularly accessible and therefore ubiquitous. I would be very surprised if there were very many women at all who ardently wanted to keep glamour modelling in a daily paper, other than models/ aspiring models themselves. Both of whom would have plenty of other avenues for their profession. We wouldn’t keep an unsafe factory open because a few people wanted to keep their job, eventhough there was another much safer factory open along the road.

      I don’t think you do have a clear argument- you ask questions and yet have failed to offer a solution. You seem to agree that most may feel negatively about it, but “what about the minority”. Your single attempt at a solution appears to suggest that I should suddenly start a poll which would be an absolutely huge task to promote and would probably not get a single piece of representative evidence as a result, because the sample would be too small, and furthermore, we would have to have a way of ensuring that only women voted because anything else is just open to abuse by men who objectify women.

      I don’t know why you believe your claims of intellectual dishonesty are founded. If this was an academic study seeking for academic integrity then perhaps, but it isn’t. It’s just a campaign offering women/ men the opportunity to say if they don’t like it too. Journalists will write persuasive pieces. There is hardly a journalistic article out there without some sort of bias, whether it be editorial, personal etc. It isn’t the same as academic writing- articles do not have to seek objectivity. So just as one person will extend their reasons for being pro-no more page 3, another will extend their reasons for opposing it. That is the nature of debate. Those who are pro-no more page 3, have done no more than extend their argument, which they absolutely have the right to do. If you’re argument is against “intellectual dishonesty” then perhaps your focus should be upon the entire nature of journalism- in my humble opinion that would not be a worthy debate. But do not focus your censure upon No More Page 3 as if they are the only symptom of a disease and therefore are the root of the problem.

      Why do you believe it is a class issue? Are you suggesting you believe those who sign the petition are doing so because of their class, or that those who model are doing so because of their’s?

  12. I’m ignoring the first two purely argumentative paragraphs which I doubt you really believe.

    Intellectual honesty is not just a matter for academics! It means that you consider evidence first and THEN decide what to believe, not believe first and then decide what evidence to use.

    Your point about the media bias surrounding this issue being a small example of a more widespread media bias is correct. This is no reason not to attack this campaign. I’m sure you sympathise with that argument since it has been made about attacking page 3 in the context of the more widespread problem of sexist imagery in Western culture. The reason I don’t think page 3 should be attacked in this manner is BECAUSE THE CAMPAIGN MARGINALIZES NON-MAINSTREAM VERSIONS OF WOMANHOOD.

    I believe class is an issue because http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality

    1. You haven’t demonstrated that the campaign marginalises non-mainstream versions of womanhood. You’ve just said it does, lots and lots of times.
      You write as though you have just found out about second and third wave feminism in a lecture and are terribly excited about sharing it with everyone and applying it to everything, in a manner which completely lacks any nuance whatsoever. Same goes for intersectionality. Theories are exciting, sure, but you can’t just apply them wholesale to whomever you like and thereby misrepresent what they’re saying and doing.

    1. Ok, well I’m a bisexual disabled woman, who has experienced mental health issues, living in a council house, so please understand I know what intersectionality is. I am asking how you are applying it? Because as a poverty stricken council tennant I am fed up to the back teeth of people trying to tell me that it is a case of middle class-hate page 3, working class-champion it. It is simply not that simple and it is an incredibly paternalistic, patriarchal, and elitist stance to take, and reduces women to just two camps.

      Do not dismiss half of my argument as me not meaning something, just because you have chosen not to interact with it. That is intellectually dishonest.

      Thirdly, who are you to say that women haven’t looked at the evidence? Academia is not the only way for us to become involved with the world around us. Science is built upon observation. Any woman can look at the world around her, observe what is going on, and analyse it until they reach a personal conclusion. They do not have to read feminist literature for their arguments to become validated. Which once argument, your argument seems to be reduced to.

  13. p.s. Don’t rant on about intellectual dishonesty and link to a wiki article- hardly fitting for your “academic” obsession. And secondly, don’t send mansplaining articles, based on the presumption that I won’t know what intersectionality is. If I didn’t I would have been able to look it up. Though I’m unsurprised that you have linked to such an article as the main thrust of your argument seems to be based upon patronising assumptions about what women have and haven’t done prior to forming their opinions.

  14. Sigh. OK, I will respond to all of your accusations and disingenuous arguments this one last time.

    “I would be very surprised if there were very many women at all who ardently wanted to keep glamour modelling in a daily paper, other than models/ aspiring models themselves.”

    The fact that this would surprise you shows that you are operating within a restricted conception of (sexual) identity. Besides, all I have been arguing about is the tone of the campaign, not whether page 3 should exist or not, and even if everyone in the world is in favour of it, that still doesn’t justify misrepresenting science or refusing to examine the origin of that consensus.

    “Both of whom would have plenty of other avenues for their profession. We wouldn’t keep an unsafe factory open because a few people wanted to keep their job, eventhough there was another much safer factory open along the road.”

    I don’t know enough about the working conditions for page 3 models and these other avenues you talk about to respond to the substance of your assertion. I imagine you don’t know enough about it either. Even if you do, this is again irrelevant to the tone of the campaign, which is the thing I’m objecting to.

    “I don’t think you do have a clear argument- you ask questions and yet have failed to offer a solution.”

    Did you get that line from David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions? My solution to having a crap level of discourse that misrepresents scientific studies and fails to engage more deeply with feminist thought is to not do those things. I would have thought that was clear after I wrote it all those time above.

    “You seem to agree that most may feel negatively about it, but “what about the minority”. Your single attempt at a solution appears to suggest that I should suddenly start a poll which would be an absolutely huge task to promote and would probably not get a single piece of representative evidence as a result, because the sample would be too small, and furthermore, we would have to have a way of ensuring that only women voted because anything else is just open to abuse by men who objectify women.”

    So, asking marginalized people what they think is too difficult and WOULDN’T MATTER ANYWAY is what you’re saying, because the sample would be too small to be representative. It might be if the poll wasn’t done properly, yes, but I naturally meant that the poll would be a designed so as to be valid. Your point about ensuring that only women vote betrays your prejudice and your restricted binary conception of sex… or was it just a bit of lazy writing?

    “Ok, well I’m a bisexual disabled woman, who has experienced mental health issues, living in a council house, so please understand I know what intersectionality is. I am asking how you are applying it?

    I am applying it by suggesting that one’s judgements about whether page 3 is bad or not depend not just on one’s attitudes to women per se, but also on one’s attitudes to people who read The Sun, who are predominantly working class.

    “Because as a poverty stricken council tennant I am fed up to the back teeth of people trying to tell me that it is a case of middle class-hate page 3, working class-champion it. It is simply not that simple and it is an incredibly paternalistic, patriarchal, and elitist stance to take, and reduces women to just two camps.”

    I haven’t said that middle class hate it and working class champion it, but if I had, then your being sick to the back teeth of that idea would be no argument against it.

    “Do not dismiss half of my argument as me not meaning something, just because you have chosen not to interact with it. That is intellectually dishonest.”

    It would have been intellectually dishonest if that had been the reason why I dismissed it. In fact, as I said, I dismissed it because I thought you were just being argumentative. Now I’ve responded to it seriously.

    “Thirdly, who are you to say that women haven’t looked at the evidence?”

    Never said that.

    “Academia is not the only way for us to become involved with the world around us.”

    That’s actually a really nice way to put that point, and I completely agree.

    Science is built upon observation. Any woman can look at the world around her, observe what is going on, and analyse it until they reach a personal conclusion. They do not have to read feminist literature for their arguments to become validated.

    They do. They can make observations and draw conclusions, but to build those into an argument about the damage that page 3 does to society, they do need to engage with research or at least get more different sorts of opinions into the mix.

    With regard to poverty, disability, and sexuality, I’m not sure why you mentioned this except as a counter to my suggesting that this campaign is monolithic. I don’t want to be circular here, but I almost want to say that the very fact you agree with the narrative of the campaign erases those aspects of your identity. Unless the campaign incorporates those aspects of identity, it doesn’t matter what its adherents are like economically, physically, mentally, behaviourally– the campaign itself remains one-voiced, totalizing, monolithic.

    1. So you believe there is a very large minority of women who would actively seek to keep Page 3? Rather than a few who would want to keep it, and many more who wouldn’t care?

      My point about the factory was a metaphor- I should’ve thought that was rather obvious. Feel free to look it up on Wikipedia!

      I don’t believe that what you see as a problem with the campaign is a problem. Right now we are debating it- numerous articles both for and against the campaign have debated it. I have not seen what I would deem “bad science” to be conspicuous in this debate at all. People have written persuasive arguments- they are unlikely to extend oppositional points of view.

      It was neither lazy writing nor binary- I did not say biological, cis-women- I said women, as in those who identify as women- my reasons for that being they are the ones shown and therefore represented by Page 3. That was rather clutching at straws on your part. I understand you would want a valid sample and I am saying that it would not be possible for me to spare my time or be able to grab enough attention to be able to find a valkid sample. I barely leave my house thanks to my illness, and trust me, putting calls out on Twitter is not some magic toolbox where you get enough valid samples. For a start- those who responded would most likely know me and would therefore be more likely to have things in common with me. If you are able-bodied and time rich, I would love to see you make a poll though. I think that would be brilliantly illuminating for the debate.

      My problem with your arguments are not about me being vociferously anti-page 3. My problems are with the emphasis you place upon academia. If we had more everyday people talking about their views I would welcome it entirely. Whether they agreed with the debate or not. I think regular women are engaging with this, and it is that which I am defending vociferously, not my anti page 3 stance.

      Regarding class, there is the view of The Sun as a working class paper. But how do you think that is impacting upon the debate?

      I’m arguing that peope with numerous identities are able to engage with the campaign. Surely, that was obvious. The campaign isn’t simply being kept going by a couple of women. Many women, with many identities have been speaking about, blogging about etc. the campaign. This is what my point has been. It isn’t just about what Lucy says and thinks. The campaign has become hetergeneous. Many women with many backgrounds, many of whom would have done their own reading re: research are engaging with and keeping the campaign going. I don’t see this amorphous blob of a singular identity who have only argued in this singular way that you keep referring to. That is the very essence of my disagreement with you.

  15. “Don’t rant on about intellectual dishonesty and link to a wiki article- hardly fitting for your “academic” obsession.”

    See above for my explanation of “intellectual dishonesty” and for me being accused of academic elitism.

    And secondly, don’t send mansplaining articles, based on the presumption that I won’t know what intersectionality is. If I didn’t I would have been able to look it up.

    Er… WTF. You asked how class was related to gender so THAT made me think you weren’t familiar with the concept. If by “mansplaining” you simply mean “patronizing” then please use that word instead. If you are implying that there was some gendered aspect to my linking to that article after you claimed not to understand that there could be a relationship between class and gender, then please explain how that is supposed to work.

    “Though I’m unsurprised that you have linked to such an article as the main thrust of your argument seems to be based upon patronising assumptions about what women have and haven’t done prior to forming their opinions.”

    Oh my god. The main thrust of my argument (nice sexist metaphor BTW) is that the frickin CAMPAIGN is monolithic. That is the thing I am arguing about. It presents a singular one-size-fits-all version of womanhood.

  16. I didn’t ask you about how class was related to gender! I asked you how you felt that class was linked to the campaign i.e. in what particular ways you felt that class was impacting upon it.

    Yes I did think it was patronising and to be honest I used the term “mansplain” rather tongue in cheek. Because I was insulted.

    Thrust isn’t necessarily a sexist metaphor- for goodness sake, swords are thrust, tennis rackets are thrust. Cheap shot btw.

    And re: the final point- you see a monolithic campaign, I see a heterogeneous campaign made up of a myriad of people and experiences etc.

  17. I don’t know how large the minority is.

    OK, you are still saying that consensus among different types of women is not monolithic because there are different types of women involved. I’m saying it’s monolithic because of the “consensus” aspect. If you think that other identities ARE being represented IN THE CAMPAIGN’S MESSAGE, then fair enough. I didn’t see it in this article in any case.

    I wonder if that research is already going on? There’s one very good way to find out, and that is to engage with academic research! I agree that it would be brilliantly illuminating for the debate!

    How is class impacting this debate? I SUSPECT that the issue of page 3 is being used for a similar purpose as that of language mavens who tell people how to speak “correct English.” I SUSPECT that the campaign is not so much about sex and sexuality itself, but more about not liking a particular version of working class masculinity which consumes these images. I THINK that this campaign is really about disparaging those lower class people. But that’s just what I suspect and think. I haven’t got any real evidence for THAT.

  18. My point was that this article is one of many articles. I haven’t agreed with every article regarding page 3 that I have read, and I have agreed wholeheartedly with others.

    I have searched through Athens and found no such research, which is a pity, but it neither proves nor disproves that it is being undertaken, Though I am glad that we can agree that it would be significant.

    Perhaps you are right about those versions of masculinity. I am very interested in hypermasculine culture and am aiming to use it as a focus for research in the future (hopefully for my PhD if anyone will have me). But I disagree that it is about disparaging those people. I feel that there is a very real concern about hypermasculine culture. I’ve seen some interesting work in this area. You might be interested in looking up Searle for instance. An area of interest worth looking into is the link between hypermasculinity and rape and DV. You may also be interested in looking into Connell’s “Masculinities”.

  19. Thanks, I’ll check em out. Don’t know anything about it really, but it sounds interesting (if a bit elitist…;) Have you seen any articles/blogs supporting this campaign that are sex-positive/ third wave/ womanist… (i.e. that make arguments using these ideas rather than just making the same arguments but written by people who also happen to identify with those movements), or that tackle this class issue?

    Thanks for bringing this exchange to a constructive resolution.

  20. I’m a bit bleurgh tonight due to health issues but if I come across more I will tweet you the links- I take it that is your twitter @name? I’ve seen quite a few sex positive arguments- will keep an eye out for you.

  21. As a psychologist I would argue that an important aspect of this debate should be what enables sound mental health and well being. As social beings we rely on respectful,loving and meaningful relationships in order to achieve and maintain this state.

    Page 3 girls are valued for their looks, their body and how much of it they are prepared to display in a newspaper. None of these activities meet the above criteria.

    In addition, as social beings we are influenced by what we see and hear, even if we don’t agree with it. Page 3 is therefore not benign it promotes an objectification of women in this case. Objectification of men would of course be equally poor.

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