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One step forward, two steps back: The Sun’s recent Page 3 hoax is yet another addition to the long list of reasons why feminism is still vitally necessary today. First introduced in the 1970s as a cheap way to increase sales, the practice of printing photographs of half-naked women has since become painfully outdated.
At the core, this is an issue about equality that’s so simple I’m amazed there’s still discussion about it. Let me ask you this: When was the last time Kanye West’s bare buttocks graced the cover of a magazine? Whatever happened to a massive leak of male celebrity nudes? Where is Page 4, featuring a man posing provocatively in the nude for anything but insant gratification? Nowhere. None of these things exist because we live in a culture where women are still, after so many years, treated as lesser human beings whose sole purpose is to cater to male desire. Media and news outlets like The Sun ensure that women are reduced again and again to one thing: their body to the extent that it satisfies men, with Page 3 being a prime example.
One of the main concerns voiced by ‘No More Page 3’ activists is the effect this has on children, and it’s a valid one. Body image is something many adult women struggle with, and who can blame them? From an early age, girls learn that there is a ‘perfect body’ and are put under immense pressure to conform to it. Page 3 demonstrates this body type exactly by featuring, almost exclusively, slim, white, big-chested women. Of course, this limited portrayal of women is a widespread disease that infects everything from advertising to film. But what is problematic in entertainment becomes even more so in a national newspaper.
Unpleasant, too, is how media like The Sun with Page 3 perpetuate the idea that female sexuality belongs to everyone but the woman in question. It goes in circles: the way our culture views women; the way women are portrayed in the media and the way women respond to these portrayals – there is no escape. There is a sense of grim irony that comes with the fact that media pressures women into being sexy but punishes them for being sexual. And empowerment? Sure, some of the models on Page 3 may be seen as exploiting the male gaze and using it for their benefit, but playing to a system that devalues women’s agency for the sake of personal gain isn’t quite the solution.
And what does Page 3 teach boys (or even men)? When they see a newspaper filled with fully clothed men in positions of power, expressing opinions and doing things whilst, contrastingly, the woman on Page 3 is featured only because she’s naked? It too cements the idea that women exist only to physically appeal to and gratify male desire in this grotesque, gratuitous way. Along with all other media, this helps instil a deep-rooted, distorted sense of entitlement. In the extreme, that manifests itself in murderous shootings by men like Elliot Rogers in revenge against all women for not sleeping with him. The frighteningly more common cases of domestic violence and sexual assault are further by-products of a culture where women are presented and treated as objects instead of equals.
Page 3, and the ignorance of Sun editor David Dinsmore, are just a small part of a much larger problem. What we need is a cultural change, and one important way of achieving this is by fixing the way women are portrayed in the media. Finally getting rid of Page 3 would be a good place to start.