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Articles > Current Affairs January, 21, 2015

The Page 3 uproar had nothing to do with feminism

Adina Wineman
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8.19 / 10

It’s great for the campaigners at No More Page 3 that change has finally happened, but I don’t really view the event as a mark of progress for women, and I think it has slightly distracted from the more serious problems. The real reason for the change was not a shift in the view of women, but a shift in the economics at The Sun.

When porn is so freely available online, topless girls begin to seem a bit bland. For a guy, they don’t really provide any incentive to buy the paper, when you could see more on your mobile, much more discreetly. Since the page 3 girls were only putting people off buying the paper, and The Sun is trying to create a more family-friendly image, it made financial sense to drop them.

Photo by Philip Taylor

Photo by Philip Taylor

But does this reflect an improvement worth celebrating? It mainly reflects the rise of online porn, which is a tough issue with feminists. Some people seem insistent that all porn is degrading, others that there should be more porn targeted at women. To me, topless women seem harmless compared to the alternatives online, and I’m not so absolute that I’d ban all porn. It’s good that children aren’t going to see the pictures by mistake in The Sun, but they’re much more likely to see them online, and many far worse images.

Photo by xdxd_vs_xdxd

Photo by xdxd_vs_xdxd

I can see the reason why people do get excited over the small things in feminism. It’s a “broken windows” policy, that if you sort out the trivial (fix the windows), then bigger issues will follow (the house won’t get robbed) because it sends out a signal of no tolerance. But with feminism, it’s just not practical to sort out all the little problems, and tackling the bigger ones is much more likely to help. I’m a girl, and so like most of my peers, I’ve been whistled at by builders since I was about fifteen. I’ve also been told that I’m unlikely to be good at maths, and heard friends complaining that guys have threatened to rape them. We need to have priorities when tackling sexism. Otherwise, people will feel that feminism is an issue that is over, and that the war has been won. Sorting out surface-level problems is just counterproductive.

Photo by craftivist collective

Photo by craftivist collective

Some people say that women are just better suited to some subjects than others, and fighting sexism will never fill the gender gap. To be honest, I can’t say I know either way, and I don’t think anyone really understands how the brain works enough to determine whether women really are worse at maths. What I do know, is that discrimination does exist and so we can’t really look at the figures of how many girls do maths, and go from there to any views on how good women actually are at maths. Even at top levels of science, submitting a paper with a female name attached makes it less likely to be accepted than if you submit the same article anonymously. That was found in Nature, in America, not in Iran. The bias may be unconscious, but it is everywhere, and so we need to try to weaken it, and use other safeguards such as anonymizing more academic submissions.

Photo by Keoni Cabral

Photo by Keoni Cabral

I don’t want to tell people how to be feminist, because feminism is incredibly broad and should stay that way. Feminism is just the belief that men and women should have equal rights, and so it doesn’t matter if you think we can get there in a different way, so long as you think that we should head in that direction. At the same time, I think we should try to look at the big picture now and again. Without thinking beyond each campaign, we won’t really achieve change.

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  1. ilona dul

    If it is such a huge deal because it is simply a woman featuring on page 3, why not have a man as equally exposed?

    • Audrey Madden

      Yeah feminism is equal treatment of both men and women in society, so my first thought would be to show men in the same way to make it “equal”. However, even with both man and woman equally exposed side by side, there will linger a more biased view of women; an image then sexualizes them more then the man. It is a hard problem to fix.

  2. Chloe

    My problem with Page 3 is that it’s in a newspaper. Newsflash: boobs are not news. It’s true that there is a lot of pornography online etc., but the Page 3 girl is usually the biggest picture of a woman in the paper. This doesn’t show a woman defying patriarchy in high-powered job, it shows her being used as a sexual object for men. I know everyone is going to scream “but it’s her choice!”, but I believe that those Page 3 girls could still get those sorts of jobs, just not in a newspaper – they can still make that choice.

  3. Rebecca Greig

    I think the change in the page 3 models is a slow but vital step to equality due to how long this form of pornography has been established. Of course the online world has a more severe view on women’s sexuality and is the hardest to erase, but the image of women of online porn is also more exaggerated and fake. I hope it is obvious to everyone, including young men, how these ladies are just acting. If not, then I pray that these individuals get a reality check.

  4. Nika Buknova

    Without realizing how big the problem is, no real changes can take the place. This is just a small bit, but the real picture is huge.

  5. Tashayna Morgan

    If more people came forward and tackle the problem, I believe it could make things better.

  6. Emily Watkins

    I don’t think the scrapping of page three was any real success – and as a member of the feminist society at my Uni I can say that pretty much most of the other members felt the same. Our opposition to page three wasn’t necessarily about the nudity, it was about the objectification and sexualisation of women. The Sun was not going to scrap this altogether, they were just going to stick some underwear on their models; this does very little to reduce the objectification of women, rather it almost increases it at this would have been seen as more socially acceptable, whilst not making much difference for women at all..

  7. James Matthews

    I am not that bothered with page 3, people buy the news paper because they want to see naked girls. I am bothered on what it resembles, page 3 is 100% sexist. I dislike the fact that someone could past a picture of a naked lady and it will be socially acceptable, The Sun has been doing it for year but it has now come to light. however, if they posted a picture of a naked man then it would be hole different story. It would course a bigger uproar. Its the fact that women could be posted and it would be liked but if it was a man it would not. its just entirely sexist towards girls and it is not right.

  8. Adam Stelmach

    This is such garbage that it’s hard to know where to start with it.

    Firstly, the headline – ‘The Page 3 uproar had nothing to do with feminism’ – is demonstrably wrong. It had everything to do with feminism because a ton of feminists, both individuals and groups, supported the campaign to the point where it was rightly perceived as a feminist campaign. So whether the uproar you’re referring to was positive or negative, it definitely WAS very much to do with feminism.

    Secondly, saying “I’m not so absolute that I’d ban all porn” implies that you would ban some or most porn. This shows a complete and utter contempt for the concept of individual rights and freedom of choice which is increasingly common among feminists. It is an individual’s choice whether or not to view porn and what on earth makes you think that you or anyone else has the right to remove that choice just because it’s not to your taste and you don’t like it? In fact, a campaign against porn would be very similar to the No More Page 3 campaign, which also showed a flagrant disregard for personal choice.

    Here’s a reality check for the author: you do not have the right to be the arbiter of what someone else can and cannot do. Imagine if every other demographic took the same attitude as feminists take – ‘if I don’t like something I’m going to have it banned.’ Maybe one group doesn’t like alcohol, so now that’s banned. Another group doesn’t like your favourite genre of music, so that’s banned. Some others decide they don’t like fast food, so that’s banned too. Do you see where I’m going with this? Feminists need to get out of this ‘I don’t like it so we should ban it’ mentality.

    Thirdly, your article shows the huge dissonance between what you claim feminism is about, and what it is actually about. You claim in your last paragraph that “feminism is just the belief that men and women should have equal rights” so I ask you, what RIGHTS are you fighting for when you campaign against Page 3? Because as far as I can see, if Page 3 was banned, the only effect would be that everyone would LOSE the right to choose to buy The Sun to view Page 3 and the women who are employed as Page 3 models would LOSE the right to continue working in their job. Nobody would gain any rights. And the same arguments would apply to any potential campaign to ban porn. Western feminism is not fighting for anybody’s rights, it is only interested in removing people’s rights when it doesn’t agree with them. And that’s authoritarian and oppressive.

    I strongly encourage the author to rethink her poorly thought-out opinions in the hope that she may improve upon them and reach much better conclusions.

    • katrina-anne hamilton

      There are a lot of good points portrayed in this article, but surely if people have such issues with females being portrayed in a highly sexualised manner, the shouldn’t males also be prevented from being sexualised in newspapers too?
      People dont seem to notice as much male actors, sportsmen etc who are portrayed in a sexual way such as being topless.
      Further more, the only reason these images are considered sexual is because society makes us believe it is. There are many cultures in which being half-naked is considered normal and not sexual in any way or form.
      I do think easy access to porn online isn’t the most appropriate of things, especially as more and more “strange” things are being uploaded. Giving people from young ages to have unrealistic believes of what is acceptable or real when it comes to sex.
      And I think everyone understands we need freedom to do as we please, but personally I agree with the article that more pornography should be banned or have age restrictions. However, for those who show interested in the “unusual” when it comes to sex, more help and explanations should be offered. Individuals should never feel isolated for their desires, although this could be criticised because of areas like paedophiles.
      And with the Page 3 issue, if women who model in pornographic images- loosing their employment with the sun doesn’t mean they wont have any work after… If they truly want to model in this form there are other means to do so and even agencies which are used to help find employment.
      Not only that but if these women are so desperate to model then surely they should be willing to take other forms of modeling too- I.e. Lingerie models, catalogue models, plus size,petite, swimsuit models etc etc…
      Just a bit of a babble in response to most of the article and comments I read… Feel free to correct me?

    • Adina Wineman

      Thanks for the rather lengthy comment, Adam. I appreciate and respect your right to titillating images that men have fought for throughout the ages. However, I hope you’d agree that some things – such as paedophilic images – are off-limits? If you are a hardliner on this issue, I’m not going to argue because we clearly don’t have any common ground. If you think paedophilic porn should be banned, then we’re just arguing about where we draw the line.

      I’m not going to respond to all your points, partly because your comment was pretty long, but I’d just like to point out that our country does ban things we feel are wrong for other reasons. Drugs are banned, as are guns, and it’s just a matter of whether these actually cause harm to other people, beyond not being to some people’s taste.

      • Adam Stelmach

        Comparing Page 3 nudity to child pornography is absolutely laughable. No, we are not “just arguing about where we draw the line” because child porn is clearly a criminal offence and an exploitation of vulnerable children, whereas Page 3 is an enterprise freely entered into by consenting adults. There is no comparison to be had, they’re not even on the same spectrum.

        As for your second point, of course certain things such as guns and many drugs are banned. Do you want to know why that is? It’s because those things are demonstrably dangerous, both to individuals and society (people may not all agree that prohibiting them is the best response, but it is nevertheless done for the legitimate reason of preventing harm). If you want Page 3 to be banned as well then it is for you to provide EVIDENCE that it also causes harm. Nobody has yet done so, because it doesn’t cause any harm, except to your Victorian moral sensibilities. And that leads me to wonder: if it doesn’t cause any discernable harm, why are you and so many others against it? Really, what is your motive?

        And again, this is symptomatic of modern feminism. Right now there are feminists campaigning that video games are sexist and cause sexism in real life, that video games are violent and cause violence in real life, and that Page 3 should be abolished. And one thing these 3 campaigns all have in common, besides being promoted by feminists, is that they provide ZERO EVIDENCE for their claims.

        So I’ll repeat: bring some evidence that Page 3 causes serious harm and we’ll talk about getting rid of it. Until then, accept that nobody is going to bow down to your personal whims and stop other people from doing something just because you don’t like it.

        • Maximillion

          Adam – Okay dude, we get that you like porn. Calm down and stop being such a keyboard warrior.
          I don’t think even “compared” is the right word to use in this instance. There was no comparison between child porn and page 3. It is not a matter of how “ban-worthy” something is. The point was that you asserted that you can’t ban something you don’t like without evidence. Child porn isn’t the only type of porn which is banned. Animated child porn doesn’t cause anyone harm, technically, but it is very illegal nonetheless. Some types of violent porn are also illegal, but there’s no proof of the fact that it’s harmful. Plus, alcohol has been proven time and time again to have myriad harmful effects, but it’s legal. Contrarily, marijuana’s harmfulness has been repeatedly called into question but it remains illegal. So your point doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny.

          Anyway, if someone thinks it’s a good idea to even ban “some” porn, this is not your cue to go on a hateful tirade telling the person that their views and opinions are inferior to your vastly enlightened thinking, and insinuating they are backwards and need to update their firmware before being accepted in the 21st century. I see this behavior on the internet all the time from pathetically arrogant 13 year-old cyber propagandists. It really speaks volumes about your attitudes towards and respect for other people. It’s essentially an aggressive attempt to bully and shame someone out of their way of thinking. Your far-left liberalist discourse is nothing but a thinly-veiled hatred for sexual conservatism, which is wholly unjustified.

          The truth is, if enough people don’t like something, this is reason enough for a business to abandon it, as they cater to popular opinions and preferences. If there was a strong enough counter-campaign to keep page 3, maybe they would have kept it. This is different from “banning” something, which only the government can do. Nonetheless, if a majority were to be in favour of a ban against any particular entity, it’s likely the ban would be effected, even with a total lack of scientific evidence. It’s called Democracy. Minaret ban in Switzerland?

        • Ben Chivers

          Adam, I applaud your sentiment. I believe you have hit the nail on the head. This issue comprises the subjective views of a certain group of vocal and active people resulting in a change of policy, which the target may not have wanted to be party to, without the pressure of the feminists. In essence, the rights and freedom of the models, the publishers and the consumers have been stripped from them. This can and does happen but as you so rightly point out, any enforced change of policy must be backed up with good evidence (peer reviewed, objective and as much as possible). The key point here is the lack of evidence as to how effective such an action is for any advancement of female rights (or anyone’s rights). In light of such lack of evidence extreme care must be taken when the party of a certain viewpoint makes demands of another person/entity. I believe the stopping of page 3 girls does not constitute a victory for feminism as the lack of evidence and the mewlings of the uneducated have robbed the movement of all credit (I count myself largely uneducated on the topic and so refrain from serious public discourse on the matter). The whole thing seems at best unmerited and base and at worst it represents a travesty of human rights.

          However, sexism is a serious issue and one which should be addressed. Education, I believe, and not censorship is the way forward. People are worried about young people viewing objectified images of women, and yet why is it at such a young age that stereotypes are already understood and accepted. For the juvenile human in the western world sex is a subject of taboo, not to be embarrassingly discussed with family or taught about at school but falteringly discovered through personal investigation. Perhaps educating children better would allow them to develop with a broader sense of gender roles that would not be affected by seeing images of women in apparently objectified roles (this also has the merit of not having to censor and stifle the actions of other parties).

        • Roberta Willis

          Adam – I think your outrage stems from the fact that you have misunderstood quite a few points of a nuanced and very perceptively written article (be it for ignorance or lack of intelligence… I can’t judge from your comments).

          Ms Wineman has answered your first comment so even though I have a little to add, I’ll move to your second. She is clearly not equating child pornography to page 3. That you are choosing to read that into her answer is, frankly, a little worrying. You say that its “an individual’s choice whether or not to view porn and what on earth makes you think that you or anyone else has the right to remove that choice just because it’s not to your taste and you don’t like it?”. Ms Wineman has answered with an astute point which I charitable assume you dismissed having not understood it. We do ban things which we don’t like (child pornography, for example).

          This leads to a more general point which you appear a little stuck on. Freedom of choice is most certainly not absolute. First of all, the Sun banning page 3 does not remove your ability to look at topless women. If you would like to look at topless women, you can find many on the internet. The Sun is a newspaper and a business so it does not have to provide every service anyone could ever want.

          The issue of freedom of choice is also interesting and you assuming that Page 3 causes no harm has patently been refuted in the article (which you maybe did not finish). There is a pay gap between men and women in science (look it up in ‘Nature’) and, as already cited in the article, a prejudice against papers written by women. Page 3 is part of the larger issue, as this article so correctly pointed out, but these images of women do cause harm and feed into an overall objectification of women. This objectification results in perceptions of women as being not as intelligent as men, and this in turn results in women still not earning the same amount as men for doing the same job. This is undoubtedly harmful . I don’t really see the need for more proof but I would welcome a response if you have anything which is coherent and vaguely logical and considered to say.

          I commend Miss Wineman on her article – a brilliant piece on a very topical issue and I am sorry for anyone who simply cannot understand it.

          • Adam Stelmach


            Firstly, no, the author did not “answer” my first comment. I made 3 broad and clear points in a lengthy comment and in response I was merely told that ‘we do ban things we don’t like’ – which is inaccurate, as I explained in my second comment, because we ban things because they are harmful, not because we don’t like them. She literally cherry-picked one of my points to respond to and barely even did that.

            Secondly, I never said she “equated” page 3 to child porn, I said she “compared” the two. There’s a difference. Perhaps your comprehension skills are a little off today or perhaps it was a deliberate switch on your part? Anyway, she compared the two by implying they both lay on the same spectrum of potentially ban-worthy activities; again see my second comment for why that is not the case.

            Thirdly, since you repeated the author’s argument that “we do ban things we don’t like”, I will repeat the refutation for you. We don’t ban things we don’t like, we ban things because they are PROVEN TO BE HARMFUL (see e.g. guns, many drugs, child porn).

            Fourthly, indeed freedom of choice is not absolute. But the point is if YOU want to restrict it, the onus is on YOU to justify it. Your justification is that Page 3 causes harm but neither you, nor the author, nor anyone else party to this campaign has brought ANY EVIDENCE of harm. Your justification remains invalid until such evidence is provided (more on this below).

            Fifthly, you claim that not only does Page 3 cause harm, but that the author proved this. At this point I am left wondering if you even read my second comment because in it I wrote 3 times the word ‘evidence’, twice capitalised to emphasise its importance. In the words of the late, great Christopher Hitchens, “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” This is a basic principle of both science and logic. Bearing that fundamental principle in mind, here is what you have asserted:
            – That Page 3 causes harm
            – That the author proved that Page 3 causes harm
            – That Page 3 causes objectification of women
            – That such objectification causes negative perceptions of women and results in women earning less than men for the same job

            Here is the evidence you provided to back up your claims:
            – …

            None. You provided none. Neither did the author. Merely asserting your opinion is not evidence. You have therefore proven nothing whatsoever, nor has the author.

            Sixthly, and finally: having already made this point forcefully in my second comment, which you evidently opted to ignore, I will try to restate it here as simply as I can: If you want to ban something, the onus is on you to show it is harmful. To show something is harmful, you must provide SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE of it. Until you provide such evidence, YOUR ASSERTION IS MEANINGLESS.

            If you intend to reply further, please respond to the ACTUAL substance of my arguments (kindly numbered to assist you) rather than responding to the comment you wish I had written, thereby ignoring my points.