Feminism and the Right to Get Naked

Feminists should advocate equality for women, including the ones that get naked for a living.

The government’s own research shows that there is a link between the portrayal of women as sex objects in the media and greater acceptance of sexual harassment and violence against women. That being the case, will [the Prime Minister] join me in trying to get our own house in order, calling on the parliamentary authorities to stop the Sun newspaper being available on the parliamentary estate until Page 3 is scrapped…?

This was the question posed this week during Prime Minister’s Questions by Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion. In Mr Cameron’s response, he disagreed with the idea of banning the availability of a newspaper and stated “I think it’s very important that we can read all newspapers on the parliamentary estate including the Sun newspaper.” Hear hear. I’m not a supporter of sexually objectifying women, being as how I am one and I’m sympathetic to the pressures that we feel, but I am an avid supporter of everyone’s rights to buy (or boycott) whichever newspaper they wish, to do with their bodies as they wish, and to get their baps out, if they so desire.

The campaigns ‘No More Page Three’ and ‘Lose the Lads Mags’ are working to take these liberties away from others. How can the women leading these campaigns claim to be feminists, when the very work they are undertaking aims to take away other women’s rights, the right to pose naked if one wishes to? I have always assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that to be a feminist, you need to support the rights of your fellow women. Indeed, the dictionary defines feminism as ‘The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men’. With that in mind, if we are striving for equality, are these campaigns also suggesting that men’s magazines, such as Men’s Health, cover up their topless men? Should women’s magazines, such as Cosmopolitan and Glamour, stop publishing pieces about ‘sexy men’ and pictures of scantily clad male celebrities? Of course not! In asking for Lad’s Mags to cover up and Page Three to disappear all together, they are taking away from women the rights that men currently enjoy.

‘Lose the Lads’ Mags’ uses a quotation on their website from the ‘Sexualisation of Young People Review‘ to explain why Lads’ Mags are harmful and promoting inequality; “depicting women as sex objects and including articles that feature strategies for manipulating women.” In the same vein, then, women’s magazines should be viewed as harmful surely? If you have picked up a women’s magazine recently, you will see that they all do these exact things to men. Time and time again in literature intended for women, I see photographs of topless men who needn’t be topless, attractive men advertising a new perfume, articles exploring ways in which to manipulate men into finding you more attractive, more dateable, more fuckable. Cosmopolitan even has a male centrefold! There is no call for equality from men, asking to ban women from objectifying them, and why should there be? Grown women and men should have the option to buy these magazines if they so wish, because that’s their right. If the aim of feminism is the equal status and rights of men and women then this is a valid comparison.

Most modern day feminists want to get away from the ‘bra-burning’, slightly hysterical image that early feminism invokes, but these campaign leaders come across as exactly that. Women claiming that ‘Lad’s mags’ are “deeply harmful to women”, but what does that say to the women posing in them? The implication is that the product of their job is harming other women, that the very act of showing off their glorious bodies is damaging other women. I’m sure if you asked any one of them, they would feel quite differently. Modelling is not always a dirty job, and all of the women who do it are engaging with it by choice. They haven’t been herded into doing it, they may feel it’s an “easier” option than bar work to pay off student debts, for example, but that’s their choice. Many of the models who choose to pose rely solely on their pay packages. If you ban Page Three and Lads’ Mags, then many women (strong, independent women who have chosen to pose nude) lose their jobs. This doesn’t support women’s rights, this takes them away.

Truly progressive feminists should take the initiative and look at the problems facing women today. The issue is not that some women choose to pose nude for a newspaper, nor is it that the newspaper publishes them and people choose to buy it. The issue is that out in the big bad world, there are men (and women, for that matter) who think it is acceptable to disrespect and abuse women; people who don’t understand the seriousness and enormity of abuse, people who don’t have a respectful attitude towards women. This is the problem that women face, and although I personally find Lads’ mags distasteful, removing them is not in the spirit of progressive feminism. We need to work towards changing the way people think, encouraging people to be more courteous, encouraging people to be more accepting of one another. Censoring newspapers and covering up front covers of magazines won’t achieve gender equality. Nor will removing the Sun from the parliamentary estate. Where would our politicians be without the News in Briefs?

Amy Jackson thinks things and writes them down. She is tormented by the voices in her head and two small children. Between parenting and unconciousness she tweets @amyrosejackson

4 COMMENTS

    • “Sex is still naughty. The body is still shameful. Touching yourself is still dirty. These attitudes are changing, but painfully slowly.” This. Absolutely this. Now that is a fantastic article. I agree with every point you raise. I just hope that attitudes start changing faster and we can start educating our children and young people to have a healthier attitude towards sex and bodies. The call to ban naked ladies etc. is unbelievably worrying, yet another line in the “legislate everything!” book and a giant leap in the wrong direction.

      • Thanks Amy. I don’t thinks its a coincidence that the US and UK have the most prudish attitudes to nudity and sex, and yet have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STD’s in the developed world.

    • I would and do. Well done for speaking up for the Page Three girls. And vile calumny on the Lucases and Harpersons who think they have the right to define what women can and cannot do.

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