The above quote appears in this article on the Guardian website, in a short piece written by well-known writer and radical feminist, Bidisha. This is in response to The Sun quietly deciding to cover up its famous “page 3 girl” with underwear yesterday, thus signalling the end to a decades old tradition of naked models posing on page 3 of the newspaper every day.
But it’s not really the end. Simply adding underwear doesn’t stop the paper from continuing to value women only for their looks. And the demise of page 3 seems like a drop removed from the ocean of female objectification in other publications and online. Even The Sun itself will still feature “hot page 3 girls” nude on its website. The boobs live on.
Some former and current page 3 models have claimed that it is their choice to pose nude and surely feminism is all about women having the choice to do what they want? This is a difficult issue. In theory, this is exactly what feminism is about; but it is also about educating women. It’s about making it possible for women to see how posing nude objectifies them. It’s about women learning that by doing this, they are contributing to the everyday sexism which women encounter and the drip, drip of messages that both men and women are receiving throughout there lives, telling them that sexism is fine. It’s just a bit of fun. We shouldn’t take it so seriously.
I think it’s very serious that one in three women will be sexually assaulted or raped in her lifetime. I think it’s very serious that children are developing image-related illnesses like anorexia and bulimia at ever earlier ages. I think it’s very serious that men are increasingly becoming sex objects too. I think it’s very serious that we are being told constantly that our bodies are not good enough – we have too much hair in the wrong places; we’re allowing ourselves to age; we’re not toned enough, too fat, too thin…the list goes on and on. Page 3 may seem like a bit of fun out of context, but it contributes to all this, and children seeing this at the breakfast table, being bombarded with it from every angle in fact, is extremely serious.
We are a culture obsessed with appearance, and it seems an unstoppable tide. However, we must fight on. Every small victory (and this is one, despite what I’ve written here) is a step forward and I do believe the battle can be won if we fight hard enough.