12 Oct 2012

How the 'No More Page 3' Campaign made me feel less alone

I’m a full supporter of the hugely successful ‘No More Page 3’ campaign. I love the fact it was started by a young feminist, because it gives me hope that the next generation of young women are still prepared to call out moronic sexism wherever they see it, rather than passively accept it the way our sexist media hopes they will. I love the fact that due to the powers of the internet – which are often a very mixed blessing for feminists – this campaign looks like it may succeed where previous campaigns have failed, with 45,000 signatures and growing. I love reading the Twitter messages of support, many from men themselves who are speaking out against the assumption that possession of a penis means you will inevitably accept the objectification of women.

Of course various straw man arguments are being mounted against the campaign, either of the simple ‘You’re all prudes’ variety, or of the ‘There are loads of examples of media sexism, you’ll never change them all’ defeatist argument. When responding to these I feel a massive sense of déjà vu, because I feel like I’ve been responding to these overly simplistic dismissals for years. And when I look back at some of my first blog posts from over four years ago, I realise I actually have!

In July 2008, I wrote "One of the easiest and laziest accusations to throw at feminists is that they're ugly and bitter because they can't get a man, and as a result, are anti-men and anti-sex. This is a tricky one to circumnavigate. If I correct my critics and inform them that I'm happily co-habiting with a most grabbable male, they usually change tack to demand 'what are you complaining about then?'. As if gratitude that one non-sexist man who treats me well exists should somehow erase every grievance wrought upon women by misogynist men and other self-defeating women."

and in November 2010 I wrote "I'm tired of the implicit message that one is anti-sex, or not sexual, or not sexy, because they refuse to buy into this porned, plasticised, men-pleasing schtick. I'd tell Jordan and Belle [de Jour] to go fuck themselves, but that seems unsisterly - although in a society that increasingly dictates to women that man-pleasing is all, fucking yourself seems to be the only shot a woman has at any pleasure these days."

 And going back to my July 2008 post...
The media are becoming so comfortable and protected in the knowledge that their use of the female body as window dressing to the whole of existence will never be challenged, that they don't even have to pretend that they're trying to use it as anything but irrelevant frippery any more ... Am I the only person who thought that practices such as draping wimmin over cars and motorbikes - the juxtaposition of the fluffy female with a MANLY item - was already crushingly embarrassing when it was done in the 60s and 70s, and has only got worse as those responsible no longer have the claim of ignorance to fall back on? The idea that, because time has passed, it's somehow less offensive to persist in this sleazy behaviour, is about as convincing as the idea that it's now OK to be racist, because, hey the civil rights movement was 40 years ago, you got your equality so stop being so uptight now, sweetheart!"
In a more recent post, I considered the hypocrisy of Sun readers condemning extreme pornography (which they claimed was a contributing factor in the murder of Joanna Yeates): “What these Sun readers don't stop to consider is what precisely is so 'normal' about being served sex with your morning breakfast and being aroused by tits as you eat your toast. It's only because that ritual is considered socially acceptable, due to the dominance of a deeply sexist media, that the sexualised Sun is beyond question whereas alternative sexual practices are apparently beyond the pale. Violent porn did not kill Joanna Yeates. The man who chose of his own volition to strangle her, did that. The jury who found Vincent Tabak guilty were able to see that without needing to hear about his porn tastes. Sun readers would do well to remember this, and also to remember that their own attitudes to women are not beyond reproach simply because they consider their sexual tastes 'normal'."

And as for the ‘Oh, lads’ mags/women’s magazines/The Daily Mail/Angler’s Weekly are just as bad, why aren’t you campaigning against THEM too?’ argument, this is a classic attempt to try to heap collective responsibility for changing all of society's sexist failings onto feminists’ heads, whilst abrogating everyone else of any responsibility to improve their behaviour. But getting rid of Page 3 would send out a huge message. It would be a game-changer, an altering of the media landscape, the destruction of a sexist institution in place since the 70s. No, it would not immediately destroy all other media sexism. But it might just make other producers of sexist media content stop and wonder how much longer they can get away with objectifying women when a large swathe of the British public has now proudly declared ‘I’m not buying that shit any more’. The fact that some women do read The Sun, or devour celebrity magazines that objectify the female body in (arguably) possibly a more harmful way is not an argument in Page 3's favour - being a woman doesn’t automatically make you a feminist, or incapable of anti-feminist or self-destructive actions (Yo, Nadine Dorries! Yo, Maria Miller! Yo, Friend of Julian Assange, Lady Gaga!). It doesn’t mean your actions are above questioning, and we certainly should be questioning the culture that encourages us to mock another woman’s legs/thighs/stomach/breasts/hair/nose on our lunchbreak as an ‘inevitable’ part of female bonding. But we have to ask, which came first – the moronic celebrity culture which prizes breast implants and inflated lips above all else, or Page 3? Heat magazine started in 1999, Page 3 in 1970. You do the maths.

My point is, just because we can’t slay all the dragons at once is not an argument for not attempting to stick a big sword in the jugular of one of the largest and most powerful. Maybe we’ll never ‘change the world’. But if we can make a little corner of it a more habitable place for the next generation of young women, I’m damn well on board. Thank you to the #NoMorePage3 campaign for vindicating what I've been writing about for the past 4 years, and despairing about for a lot longer than that.

1 comment:

Della said...

Well said. Personally I'm saddened by the way the 1960's attempts to dismantle the double standard by liberating women has backfired so spectacularly. I don't like tarring all men with the same brush, but it does seem to have played us into the hands of the worst kind of man - and when those men dominate vast swathes of the media, look at the consequences.