Page 3 – Sexism in print or an unhelpful distraction

Jess Collett,

It’s that time of year again. Every so often, feminists of all ages and genders gather together to launch a petition to ban Page 3. It’s culturally barbaric, a remnant of a bygone age of Les Dawson and mother-in-law jokes, and what do breasts have to do with news anyway? It’s demeaning to women and merely trains a new generation of men to objectify and hold back women, making them see women as mere sexual objects.

I do not support this petition and am perfectly happy to say so. I have no problems with Page 3, aside from general thoughts that the inside cover of a newspaper isn’t the greatest place for a massive picture of breasts. My real problems lie with the reasoning behind the petition. I fail to see how a picture of breasts can be so morally corruptive; I don’t think that a picture of a topless woman automatically sends men into some kind of objective frenzy. The assumption is that because someone is depicted in a sexual way there must automatically be some sort of objectification going on there – even if there aren’t any specific definitions or reasons. It’s demonizing men into some kind of animalistic mind set; that as soon as they see a pair of naked breasts, they devolve into some sort of sexist, misogynist primal state. That’s right; nipples present a clear and present danger to your menfolk. Even the most sensible minded can have their minds swayed by their display! It doesn’t matter that the psychological evidence shows us that sexist attitudes are down to a multitude of factors, or that that there is no clear evidence proving a link between sexualised images and misogynistic attitudes. Obviously, nudity is a clear and present danger to the minds of our youth.

The petition could have severe negative implications. For a start, it does run the risk of giving the negative message that nudity is a shameful thing, that people will never take you seriously if you take your clothes off or that displaying the nude female form is somehow betraying the ‘sisterhood’. If Page 3 is teaching our children a terrible message, isn’t the message that the human body is a bad thing to have on display an equally terrible message? In Britain, we have a fear of showing skin. It’s an almost comically Victorian hang-up, this idea that a nude body is always sexual and always inappropriate. Attitudes are much more relaxed in Europe about the human body. Shouldn’t we be teaching our youth to be comfortable in their skin, to feel proud of who they are and how they look? What does it really matter that there are pictures of breasts in a national newspaper? They’re just breasts. I hear they’re fairly common. I even have some myself. Just don’t tell anybody.

But Jess, I hear you cry, don’t you call yourself a feminist? Shouldn’t you hate Page 3 on principle that it forces women to be seen in a certain way? Well no, I don’t. Feminism is about striving for equality and empowerment. Why can’t women who choose to be topless models be empowered by their career choice? They’ve made a choice. They have chosen to take a certain career path because it’s something they’re good at. I respect that they made that decision for themselves. What I find insulting or demeaning is other women telling me what is and is not acceptable for women to do. As a young feminist, I will make my own choices, not have acceptable choices dictated to me. Pictures of breasts just don’t bother me that much. I’m more bothered by the fact that campaigns to increase awareness of sexual violence and Britain’s woeful conviction rate on rapists (seriously, we have one of the lowest in the entire world, it’s pretty reprehensible) don’t seem to attract as much interest. No, protecting people from the evils of breasts is far more important.


  1. An excellent piece.
    The idea that ‘my feminism is better than your feminism’ is more damaging to the movement than any photograph will ever be.

    As you said, feminism is about enabling women to choose for themselves, not adhere to a dogma set by other women.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here