Sunday, 6 July 2014

Feminism, Boobs, and Petitions, by Thomas Bailey

Feminism is a pretty hard topic to write about, for everyone. It’s even harder for a teenage boy. Particularly one from a public school where the ‘macho man’ stereotype still thrives.

Last year I wrote a blog about the No More Page 3 campaign and why we should all support it and, following its publication, a number of my male friends began to question my sexuality.

I know, I was surprised too: I was completely unaware that feminism and homosexuality were linked in the teenage mind. Apparently so.

But it’s not just guys who get ridiculed for their feminist beliefs: we all do.

Whether it’s fighting for the right to vote or trying to prove that ‘boobs aren’t news’, the feminist movement has been laughed at, mocked and often ignored since it started. There’s even an organisation out there trying to prevent equality for women.1

The whole idea of misogyny and ‘anti-feminism’ completely and utterly bewilders me. What is it about feminism that angers so many people? What on earth is wrong with wanting equality?

In my mind, everyone should be a feminist, and I use the word here to mean somebody who wants equality amongst men and women. If you are not a feminist, then you must be delusional.

There is no rationale behind the belief that women are inferior and shouldn’t have equality. If you genuinely think there is, please do enlighten me.

So why do so many shy away from the word ‘feminist’? Why do some people actually believe that “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism, and become lesbians”?2

It’s pretty clear that feminism has a bad rep. In fact, when people say they are feminists a common reaction is: “So you hate men?”

There are a number of reasons for this, but this is the main one: there are a few (and I mean very few) feminists who actually do have a problem with men, and sadly these are the feminists that get into the news.

It is this same kind of skewed thinking that leads many members of the public to believe that all Muslims want to implement Shariah law in the UK and behead all non-Muslims: because there are one or two extremists, and unfortunately they tend to make the press, giving a bad name to anyone who associates themselves with the same label.

Valerie Solanas3 referred to men as walking dildos, and this kind of misandrist belief goes against the fundamental stance of feminism: that men and women are equal.

Just because one or two radical feminists express their all-men-are-bastards beliefs does not mean that all feminists hate men.

Trust me, I don’t hate myself; I hate patriarchy.

And that’s another problem. Some feminists actually end up being sexist themselves. In an effort to dispel patriarchal ideals and beliefs, some feminists of the past have claimed that men are inferior.

Obviously, this approach isn’t going to work either, and, in fact, is rather counterproductive. Feminism is fighting for equality, not matriarchy.

In my view, the various nuances and sects of feminism should be ignored and replaced by one single maxim: that people should not be judged and subjugated due to their sex.

The failures of feminism in the past and the stigma attached to it ought to be forgotten.

People should decide for themselves what they believe ‘subjugation’ entails, and whether they believe that things like porn or different punishments for men and women are sexist.

These topics have always and will always divide opinion. However, what should not divide opinion is the drive for equality that ought to be at the centre of the movement.

One particularly controversial topic is Page 3 of The Sun.

First printed in 1964, The Sun is a national tabloid newspaper that has an average daily circulation of 2,409,811 copies.

In 1970, The Sun had its first model standing nude on one of its pages. It seems almost ludicrous to me, for a number of reasons, to have a topless woman in the UK’s most-read newspaper. The No More Page 3 campaign agrees.

I personally have few problems with so-called ‘Lad’s Mags’ (although they too are going out of fashion), but the fact that The Sun thinks it is legitimate for a national newspaper to display these images is what alienates me: it is on show for the whole country to see.

Anybody could be reading The Sun anywhere, and young boys and girls are therefore likely to be exposed to nudity from a very early age.

Now some may argue that it is the parents’ duty to protect their children from this exposure; but is that realistic if, for example, there is a man sitting next to your child on a train, ogling at the bare breasts on page 3?

The fact that The Sun is a newspaper makes men feel it is acceptable to look at nude pictures in public places, where they would be very unlikely to read Nuts or Zoo. There are more appropriate places for sexualized images.

One of my other problems with page 3 is this: it is incredibly embarrassing for our country.

To have more-than-soft porn accessible in a newspaper in the twenty-first century makes me feel almost humiliated to be English.

We are one of very few countries to still cling to outdated institutions like page 3 and, in my view, it ought to be withdrawn.

Moreover, the message that page 3 sends to society is certainly not a good one: that women are simply sex objects and images for men to gawk at. If feminism is about equality, then page 3 contradicts its fundamental thesis.

For me, these are the three most convincing arguments.

The reason that the No More Page 3 campaign has caused such controversy is that many people mistakenly believe that the petition is calling for a ban.

No More Page Three is not the first attempt to challenge page 3. In 1986 Clare Short MP put a bill forward in the House of Commons explicitly asking for page 3 to be banned, saying that it is a “phenomenon in Britain’s press”.

She received huge amounts of ridicule from the public saying she was “jealous” and indeed many MPs at the time sneered at her in the House of Commons, making rude and unpleasant personal remarks.

Given the enduring right of freedom of the press, Clare Short’s proposed bill never became law.

By contrast, the No More Page 3 campaign is simply calling for Dinsmore and Murdoch to reconsider the whole idea of page 3, in the hope that they will realize how unbelievably outdated and damaging it really is. 

The campaigners are not trying to ban it, but only suggest to Dinsmore to “drop the bare boobs from The Sun newspaper,”4 albeit rather imperatively.

So why don’t we just have a boycott of The SunWell, it wouldn’t work.

The fact is that nobody (or very few people indeed) who has signed the petition actually reads The Sun on a regular basis.

The campaigners may know people who read it, or their partners may read it, but very few Sun readers have signed the petition, and this is because they have no problem with page 3. If they did have a problem with it, they wouldn’t buy it and they wouldn’t read it.

That is one of the reasons why many people argue that this petition is flawed. Perhaps it is trying to take something many Sun readers like away from them? If they want to get rid of it, then they should simply stop buying it. 

This is perhaps the main reason that I am unsure about the petition: the majority of the supporters are likely to be middle-class women who read papers like The Times and The Guardian and who have only read The Sun once or twice in their lives.

It therefore seems a bit unusual for page 3 to be taken away by people whom it affects far less.

Nonetheless, I still disagree with page 3 and the message it sends, and for that reason I have signed the petition: not in the hope that it is banned, but in the hope that readers of The Sun and supporters of page 3 realize how outdated and inappropriate it is.

For me, that is the most important thing: that the readers themselves begin to support the campaign.

Yes, I support the campaign. No, this does not make me homosexual. Yes, I do like boobs. But there’s a time and a place, and until nude women are taken out of national newspapers, there can never be true equality.

The fact that there are versions of Nuts etc. for females makes me less worried about magazines of that sort. 

However, when the pages of a national newspaper are filled with images of important men in suits adjacent to images of topless ladies, something is clearly not right. This is not equality.

For that reason, to be a feminist means to oppose page 3.

Thomas Bailey

1.    The organization STOP ERA, now known as Eagle Forum, is an anti-feminist group in the U.S. that lobbies against equal rights for women.
2.  Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson, a former Southern Baptist minister, generally supports conservative Christian ideals, and presently serves as Chancellor of Regent University and Chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network.
3.   Valerie Solanas was an American radical anti-feminist, made famous by her assassination attempt on Andy Warhol.
4.     The petition, set up by Lucy Holmes, can be found on