Page 3 of The Sun – Are Naked Breasts Really So Bad?

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There is much media attention surrounding the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign launched by Lucy-Anne Holmes, aimed at banning topless models featuring on page 3 of the The Sun newspaper.

The petition is a hot-topic on Mumsnet, and supporters include Eliza Doolittle, Jennifer Saunders, Frances Barber, Lauren Laverne Frances Barber, Tony Hawks, Chris Addison, and Graham Linehan. Caitlin Moran has tweeted: “Teenage tits aren’t news OR a feature.”, and Janet Street-Porter wrote in The Independent: “Page 3 girls started in the 1970s as part of a tabloid circulation war. They seem so old-fashioned today… it’s hard to see how a pair of nipples can sell a paper in 2012.”

At the time of writing, the ‘No More Page Three’ petition had reached 45,376 supporters. Yet, despite 45,376 signatories, recent figures published by the National Readership Survey suggests that that “a pair of nipples” do not deter a person from buying a paper, as The Sun is the most read newspaper (both in print and online) in the UK, reaching an audience of approximately 13.6-million per week. Based upon these figures, it would appear that the majority of the UK population do not have that much of an issue with Page 3.

This latest campaign to abolish page 3 as we know it, is nothing new. In 1986, Labour MP, Clare Short, was branded “fat, jealous Clare” by the newspaper when she launched her campaign against page 3. Last year the feminist campaign groups, ‘Object’ and ‘Turn Your Back on Page 3’, made a joint submission about “the hyper-sexualisation of women in the press” to the Leveson inquiry. MP Evan Harris also backed the campaign, stating: “Why should it be considered acceptable and mainstream in hypocritical family newspapers to portray women in this way? It’s just wrong in my view that this should be seen as normalised.” Dr Harris added, “These images can be available for adults if they want to access them, but they should have to reach up to a higher shelf than what is at the general view for young people.”

Why are we so offended by the human body, and is page 3 really as degrading as the protesters claim?

Lucy Holmes felt the necessity to launch the latest campaign after reading a copy of The Sun during the Olympics. Despite the extensive coverage given to the victorious achievements of British female athletes such as Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton, Holmes stated the dominant female image in the paper was “a massive picture of a girl in her pants”.

Journalist, Deborah Orr wrote in The Guardian that “The Sun’s Page 3 is the highly visible tip of misogyny’s iceberg”. Orr claims:

‘A lot of women feel the people who want an end to Page 3 are uptight harridans, envious, bitter, prudish and prescriptive. They would love to be glamour models themselves, given half a chance. They want it for their daughters. You can see them in any city on a Friday night, hobbled by their Lycra dresses and towering heels, so keen to be viewed as “empowered” that they can barely walk…. They are on Team Katie Price, those women, not Team Lucy-Anne Holmes.’

Being neither in support or condemnation of Page 3, I would like to believe my view is a little more objective. I am not at all enamoured by the “busty-babe” look, and I am most certainly not a woman who is on “Team Katie Price”. In fact, when spending time at a friend’s house during my childhood, we would sometimes spend our afternoons giggling at the nonsense printed in The Sun, which her father would leave lying around on the kitchen table we used to do our homework. We would draw moustaches on the face and a bra on the breasts of topless page 3 models, etc., and draw big breasts, fangs, and long hair on John Major and William Hague, whilst (supposedly) working on algebraic equations. “Dear Deidre” – The Sun’s Agony Aunt page, was also a hoot. Yet, I do not pretend to understand the minds of those who buy The Sun because, to be perfectly honest, I am now educated and middle-class. However, I do possess a keen sense of humour, and this has ensured that I have never taken frivolous tabloid stories, or Page 3, too seriously. In my view, The Sun is little more than an adult comic bought by the working-class, and is not really a “family newspaper”. It is only deemed a “family paper” because it happens to be stumbled upon by the rest of the family, as they lounge around on the sofa watching daytime TV, or happen to find it lying on the kitchen table when grabbing a snack, or perhaps whilst the children do their homework – which, of course, was my first encounter with the paper.

Not every person shares my permissive perspective, however. Deborah Orr seems to believe that glamour models affect a woman’s sense of self worth, stating: 

‘I remember, as a teenager, studying the breasts of the women who appeared in the tabloids, and fretting about the dismal fact – to me, then – that mine weren’t “like that”.’

Contrary to Deborah Orr’s belief, not every woman wishes to have large breasts, or to look like a glamour model. Not once have I ever looked at a Page 3 model and compared my body to hers, nor have I ever aspired to look like a glamour model. Every person has a different take on what they believe to be attractive. Furthermore, if Page 3 were to be abolished, and more “positive” body images were featured by the media, such as pictures of victorious Olympic athletes like Jessica Ennis, the new body comparison will subsequently become, “My abs don’t look like that”, or “I’m not that muscular”. The subsequent trend could, thus, become a cocktail of steroid abuse, over training, and eating disorders; instead of the breast augmentation and eating disorder combination that society is familiar with at present.

Women will always be of the belief that her outward appearance is dependent and related to her personal worth. No matter how confident one particular woman is, she will always compare herself to other women. As psychologist A. Schopenhauer has stated: 

‘ … women are all in the same profession (competitors for the attentions of men), they all stand much closer to one another than men do, and consequently strive to emphasize differences in rank.’

In many cases, this is unfortunately, true. An interesting study can be found in this psychological article: R. Joseph, Competition Between Women (1985), (Psychology, 22, 1-11, 1985).

Ironically, the misogyny Orr suggests, appears to lie not in the media’s sexualisation of women, but in womens’ hatred of sexualised women and their naked bodies. If that were not the issue, one must question why this campaign is so focused upon naked breasts on page 3, and not the unpleasant, opportunistic, civilisation-eroding content, and the blatant lies that so regularly appears on other pages of The Sun. This is, after-all, the newspaper that invented the phrase ‘gay plague’, and ironically, if anything is at all misogynistic in the paper, it is some of the text and headlines featured on pages 1,2,4,5, etc. Why is Page 3 such an issue, and why are the campaigns not drawing attention to Mail Online and its “sidebar of shame“? It would appear that the petition is rather distastefully using the subject of misogyny merely as an attempt to rally support. Let us remember that the term ‘misogyny’ means a hatred or dislike of women. Surely, those who enjoy looking at the women on Page 3, are more philogynistic and misogynistic, because if they hated women, why would they wish to ogle at their breasts? Does a woman with a hatred of men enjoy looking at a penis? – No.

Nevertheless, the politician Lynne Featherstone has felt it necessary to focus her argument on a different aspect of misogyny, by specifically linking page 3 to domestic violence – an assertion made without any evidence whatsoever. In her “farticle” ‘Page 3 pictures cause domestic violence’ against women‘, Featherstone claims: 

‘When you know that one in four women experience domestic violence in their life, two women are killed each week by their partner or husband, there is a very long way to go. While a lot of blokes say ‘You are mean, sour-faced, whatever – it’s harmless’, actually it’s not harmless at all.’

Perhaps Lynne Featherstone would be interested to learn that despite her absurd assertion that Page 3 pictures somehow drives men to kill their partners, the National Centre of Domestic Violence statistics suggest that 1 man dies every 3 weeks as a result of Domestic Violence perpetrated against them. However, due to factors such as shame and embarrassment, most men will not seek help to get out of the abusive relationship. Approximately 4 million men are affected every year by domestic violence, and practically the same percentage of men as women are victims of severe acts of Domestic Violence. Bearing in mind the large amount of non-reporting, official Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09. Yet, men assaulted by their partners are often ignored by police, have far fewer refuges to flee to than women, and usually see their female attackers get away with their crimes.

I think this goes some way in invalidating Featherstone’s unsubstantiated assertion that page 3 is the cause of domestic violence. This is, of course, assuming the victim is female, and not the man – for, ironically, looking at page 3 pictures.

If the mere sight of naked breasts really are too offensive to have a place in a ‘family newspaper’, as the protesters claim, I must also question why it is considered acceptable for women to openly take her breasts out in the middle of Starbucks to breastfeed her child in public, whilst in front of a number of families with young children. Consider the vast number of “Breast is Best” pictures published and broadcast on daytime television, in order to promote breastfeeding, not to mention the large-scale breast cancer campaigns featuring photos of naked breasts, and topless women on daytime television shows, such as ‘This Morning’ – a program broadcast before approximately 11 hours before the watershed, and viewable by young children. Last year, the family TV show, ‘This Morning’, featured a woman with the largest breasts in the world (ironically, this link is to the Daily Mail – another “family newspaper”), and most recently a feature on a man with the world’s largest penis. Yet, there was no furore over either. There are also the vast number of breast photos published in school encyclopedias and anatomy books, used for so-called educational purposes, and are uncensored. The Guardian also features this picture:

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Reproduced from article ‘The wonder of breasts’, featured in The Guardian newspaper.

If it is the sexualisation of breasts that is the problem, rather than the image of breasts per se, why are there no protests against adverts such as that for Herbal Essences Shampoo? This is, after all, an advert that sexualises both the hair and product, whilst portraying the man as useless and humiliated. The Western world condemn Islam for oppressing women and forcing them to wear a hijab, which essentially prevents the sexual objectification of hair in the same way as wearing a sweater does for a woman’s breasts. Yet, if we find the objectification of hair to be acceptable, when we condemn Islamic countries’ condemnation of oppressing women with a hijab for the equivalent reason the Western countries revolt the revealing breasts, is this not further hypocrisy?

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Herbal Essences is, by far, not the only example of sexual objectification. Just take a look at some of these examples, and furthermore, women are not the only ones subject to it. Take into consideration how the Lindt advert with Roger Federer and the adverts for Emporio Armani and H&M featuring David Beckham, and the infamous Diet Coke advert, all objectify men just as much as women. Yet, if this objectification were reversed and instead featured female objectification, there would be the same ever-so-familiar heated debate on the subject.

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Also consider that naked breasts are not the only form of sexualisation in the media, which again discredits the argument against page 3. Bear in mind that for a foot fetishist, a photo of bare feet can be just as provocative as a page 3 photograph for a man who likes large breasts; and for a hair fetishist, the sexualisation of hair in a Herbal Essences advert, may also be provocative. Furthermore, there are a number of websites for those with a breast feeding fetish. Consider how a person with such a fetish will sexualise a woman who chooses to breast-feed openly in Starbucks (which is her right), in a similar way that women, who autonomously model for page 3, are sexualised by another.

One of the signatories of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign has stated: “How are women meant to be taken seriously in the workplace when this is how they are seen?”. I argue that abolishing page 3 pictures will not change the perception of glamour models, as long as pornographic sites exist. In fact, page 3 is far less obscene than pornographic sites, which so often reveal women and men performing a number of lewd acts, which I shall not mention here. Whilst glamour models may, perhaps, degrade themselves, it is their autonomous choice to do so. Just because some women like to be objectified, does not make it wrong, and as long as the objectified person consents to being objectified by others, where is the problem? Live and let live.

If the answer is to reject any form of glamour modeling in order to prevent women from degrading themselves, it would not only infringe their right to autonomy, but it would drive the industry underground where it cannot be regulated. It would also result in the loss of newspaper sales, and less work for models, photographers, and publishers. At a time of economic downturn, this is surely not advantageous.

It is important to remember that sexual taste is incredibly diverse and complex. Not every man is attracted to the sight of breasts: Some may be sexually attracted to bare feet, just as some women may be sexually attracted to the sight of a “beer-belly” – because being with an overweight man makes some women feel less self-conscious about their own “imperfections”. It would appear that any photo could potentially be subject to sexual objectification depending upon the viewer and their sexual preferences. Perhaps the campaigners should review their protest, and call for a ban on all photos – or just airbrush out all people, just as Ikea removed women from the Saudi Arabian Ikea Catalogue. 

I am sure that even the ‘No More Page 3’ supporters would find this a ludicrous proposition.

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A photo from the Swedish Ikea catalogue (left), next to the modified picture in the Saudi Arabian catalogue. (Image reproduced courtesy of BBC)
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Please Mind The Gap!

No, I’m not posting about the London Underground on this occasion.

I am instead referring to the wage gap between men and women, which continues to make headline news.

Just the other day, the International Business Times reported that the U.S. Census Bureau found no progress had  been made to close the gender wage gap in the United States. It reported that womens’ wages have continued to hover at an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man in an equal position, since 2005. This is despite Obama passing the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, shortly after taking office in 2009. Whilst the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act may be relatively new in the US, legislation to ensure equal pay has been in place in the Britain for 40 years. Despite this long established legislation, the gender pay gap not only still exists in Britain, but the discrepancy remains among the highest in the EU.

In Britain the full-time gender pay gap between women and men is reported to be 14.9%.  The Fawcett Society report that the pay gap varies across different sectors and regions, rising to up to 55% in the finance sector, and 33.3% in the City of London, with 64% of the lowest paid workers being women. Progress in closing the gap has been slow, and now there are concerns that the wage gap may now widen, as the economy faces difficult times. The US has already seen the wage gap widen: the median income for women working with full-time jobs in 2011 was $37,118, compared to the median of $48,202 for men. In 2010, women averagely earned $38,052 compared with the average male earnings of $48,202.

The poverty rate for women is reported to be considerably higher, particularly among the elderly. The US Census Bureau reports 15.5% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 were living off less that $11,170 per year, meaning that 15.5% of women are officially living in poverty in the US. This is compared with just 11.8 percent of men. 10.7% of women over 65 were living in poverty last year, compared with 6.2% of men in the same age category.

Such a pay gap inevitably translates into a significant economic disadvantage for women in female-headed households, and especially in is the US where women are already reported to be less likely to have health insurance. In 2010, 20% of women between the ages of 18 and 64 are reported not to have had any form of health coverage, according to The Kaiser Family Foundation. Most did not qualify for Medicaid, and did not have access to employer-sponsored plans. This is all the more worrying when one considers that many female-headed households in the US, are thus also less likely to be able to provide health coverage for their children.

In Britain, nine out of ten single parents are women, yet the median gross weekly pay for male single parents is reportedly £346, while female single parents will averagely receive £194.4. Although Britain has the NHS to rely on for free healthcare, a number of single mothers are still, nevertheless, living poverty, and this inevitably effects their children.

There could be a number of factors influencing the wage gap. Feminist theory has speculated that the differences may be due to the discriminatory undervaluing of women, and “women’s work”, but I doubt this is the case. Even if struggling to find work, very few women will actually choose arduous manual labour over shop-keeping, nor will many women choose manufacturing work over a job in the nursing sector. How often will one see a woman laying bricks or operating a digger, rather than claim benefits or work part-time? Although more women may choose a career in engineering today than they may have in previous eras, it is still a case that relatively few women will actively *choose* such a career over the more traditional female dominated careers such as primary school teaching, nursing or secretarial roles, which are generally lower paid than more male-dominated careers in astronautics and space engineering.

A female JCB driver?

It seems unlikely that the reason behind the gender gap is largely due to sex discrimination, when it is actually the women themselves, who so often select the sector in which they choose to work in. That is not to say that sex discrimination is never a factor, of course, as both women and men could potentially be open to experiencing sex discrimination within the workplace. Indeed, there have been reports of an increase in employment tribunal cases where men have been subject to sex discrimination by their female colleagues. Sex discrimination is not exclusive to women.

There is also the factor of a lack of available flexible work opportunities, which means that single mothers who cannot afford childcare, can find it hard to reconcile paid work with family responsibilities. This might result in women working in part-time positions for fewer hours, or taking on a number of different temporary jobs. The so-called “motherhood penalty” could also arguably lead to discrimination in companies. There have previously been a number of employment tribunal cases revealing how employers have been less likely or refused to hire or promote women of childbearing age, for fear the female employees will prioritise pregnancy and childcare  over their commitments at work. One factor which may heighten the case for this argument is that lesbian women are reported to earn higher than their heterosexual counterparts.

According to the research the site pointed to, lesbians make about 6 percent more than heterosexual women when factors like race, education, profession, location and number of children are accounted for. There are other factors to take into consideration as to why the gap exists between heterosexual and homosexual women. One being that heterosexual women may expect their husbands or partners will earn more than they will. As a result, heterosexual women might choose to make career sacrifices, such as rounding a family, and thus choose to invest less effort in making themselves appear more indispensable to employers.

It may also be that employers and employees of either gender are unaware they may be either experiencing or perpetuating a gender pay gap, and so it remains unnoticed. Perhaps the mere knowledge that a male in a similar role at the same company is being paid more, might be enough to trigger a change. As a result the Fawcett Society has long proposed that businesses employing more than 250 people, should routinely audit, monitor, and publicise any pay gap between male and female employees. The 2010 Equality Act also included a clause, requiring companies to carry out gender pay audits if they failed to make enough voluntary progress. Unfortunately, the Section 78 clause was dropped by the coalition in 2010.

Whilst the Fawcett Society reported that the wage gap is even bigger in certain professions, such as financial management, a similar picture is mirrored in the findings of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study conducted at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, found that male doctors reported making an average of slightly over $200,000 per year, whilst women earned about $168,000. However, the study researchers found women were more likely to work in lower-paying specialties such as paediatrics and family medicine. Female doctors also tended to work slightly fewer hours – an average of 58 hours per week, compared to mens’ average of 63 hours. Although such differences were responsible for some of the salary gap, Dr. Reshma Jagsi, the lead author of the new study, found that despite factors due to career and life choices, women still made about $12,000 less than men doing the same type and amount of work.

The finding of the study does not reveal the underlying driving force between the salary differences between men and women. In this instance, perhaps female doctors accepted slightly lower pay in return for less time being on-call to spend time with families.

One significant explanation is that women are less aggressive about negotiating for pay. Indeed, a report by Shuchita Kapur in Emirates 24/7  reveals how experts believe the gender gap to be a result of female unwillingness to negotiate.

The article points to the suggestion that companies will generally present every employee with a low starting offer, and it is usually up to the individual to negotiate any salaries rises. Professor Horacio Falcao who specialises in Negotiation at INSTEAD has suggested that men are much more likely to negotiate pay than women: “Research actually indicates that in many countries around the world, women are more likely to accept the first salary offered than men. This usually results in men entering the company with a higher pay than women and then making more money in the future as raises tend to be percentage increases relative to the base pay.”

The opinion of Grainne Fitzsimons, Associate Professor of Management at Fuqua School of Business, also coincides with Falcao’s, and stated that: “Research suggests that women are less likely to negotiate salary, because women feel uncomfortable in that role and worry about the impression they will make if they ask for more money. In fact, research suggests that this unwillingness to negotiate is extremely costly for women, and leads them to be underpaid in a number of domains,” she told Emirates 24/7.

A research study by Carnegie Mellon University in the US, revealed that while 51.5% of men negotiated their initial offers, only 12% of women did.

So, ladies; perhaps the moral of the story (at least in part) is: If you don’t ask; you don’t get.

More to the point, whilst a job providing the benefits of full-time pay with flexible hours, may be ideal for working mothers, the truth is, we cannot have it all. Nor should any of us expect it. Salaries should be based upon merit, hours of work, and dedication. Until modern medicine discovers a method in which men can give birth and become mothers, women cannot realistically expect the salary statistics to match those of men.

Given the subject of ” Please Mind The Gap”, I decided to include this rather wonderful photo of Hannah Dadds, who made history by becoming the first ever London Underground Tube driver, in 1969. Story can be found here.

Is Chivalry Dead? – If only!

Since blogging on WordPress, I have encountered a number of interesting blogs written by fellow bloggers. One post that provoked some disagreement was ‘Chivalry – it’s not just for knights’, written by author, Stephen Liddell. Whilst I respect Stephen’s views on the matter, I must confess that my views do not coincide. Why should one gender be treated differently to the other when it comes down to something that, essentially, should be nothing other than good manners and common courtesy?

From a female perspective, the underlying patriarchy of chivalry has always sat uneasily with me: The implication that men are the strong protectors, who tend to the perceived weaker gender, like a knight in shining armour. Feminists argue that chivalry is, therefore, misogynistic, but I disagree with this view entirely.

Misogyny is defined as being a “hatred, dislike, or distrust of women”, and even if men really are chivalrous as a result of their inherent beliefs that women are weak (as the feminists claim), I fail to see the correlation between the belief that someone is frail, and hating them. A newborn baby is more fragile than a fully-grown adult; does that mean that we nurture and protect a child who is so precious to us, purely out of hatred? Such feminist theories are preposterous, and as such, do not stand any validity in forming a well constructed argument or reason. Chivalry may very well be patriarchal, and exasperating for women such as myself, but it is surely not a feature of misogyny.

 

On average, men are only about 15-percent larger than women, although the average male is usually physically stronger than most women, because of greater muscle mass. Of course, there are exceptions, and even if a woman is physically weaker than her male suitor, that does not make her too frail to open a door for herself, or to stand during a train journey. Women such as the suffragette, Emily Davison, died in the fight for female equality in our history; so what a kick in the teeth to the memories of women who fought for equality, when there are still some instances of women being perceived as the “weaker” gender, so many years on. Perhaps such patriarchy is the result of modern women demanding they be “treated like queens”, just as much as men are at fault for bestowing it upon women whilst, quite hypocritically, failing to treat their fellow men with such good manners.

When a sports injury necessitated the use of crutches last year, I was admittedly, very grateful when a seat was offered on public transport, and was genuinely touched by the number of kind people who would stop and offer to help – both men and women. Usually it was men who offered to help, and I could not help but wonder how many of them would have been so helpful had I been male. No doubt the men who stopped to offer help, believed they were just being kind, and maybe they really would have been as helpful towards a male as they were towards a female. But, as Steven Liddle wrote in his blog, “I do it for me” –  Is such a statement not a form of moral superiority, whereby the person is rather egotistically making the gesture, merely to make himself believe he is the “good guy”? I cannot help but object to, what is essentially a patriarchical moral high ground, particularly as good social etiquette dictates the obligation that I should graciously say thank you for something I neither wanted, nor asked for, but was imposed upon me nonetheless.

Being a humanist (as opposed to a feminist), I advocate equality between both genders. Men should be treated the same as women, with good manners bestowed upon both genders – and not forgetting the transgendered, too. When a man runs to hold a door open a door for a woman, or offers to carry her bags, then he should offer the same to a fellow male. If a woman is genuinely in a position where she appears to be in need of help, such as being on crutches and struggling to carry heavy bags, or may need a seat; then yes, by all means offer her help – but also offer the same assistance to a man on crutches. I certainly would, and very often have, much to the surprise of the men in question. With regards pregnant or elderly ladies (and elderly men!) unsteady on their feet; yes, a physically healthy man should give up his seat – but so should other women who are not pregnant, elderly, or less physically able to stand (I.e. on crutches or recovering from surgery, etc.) It is a matter of priority and common courtesy.

My message to all the “Knights in Shining Armour” out there: Instead of behaving in a chivalrous manner, try being an all-round decent human being instead. People will respect you for it more.

My little anti-feminist joke of the day!