The other day, while I was busy being snowed on outside a courthouse that had been locked to keep people like me out, there was apparently a development in the ongoing No More Page Three campaign. It had sort of passed me by, I’ll admit; the only news that day that came to my attention was the papal resignation (it’s alarmingly disconcerting to emerge from the toilet to discover the pope’s resigned. Makes one wonder just how unholy one’s urine is).
It seems, though, that Rupert Murdoch has alluded to modifying Page 3 to make it all fashionable or something, and possibly taking the boobs off the dedicated boob-page. This has breathed new life into the No More Page Three campaign, and it’s been everywhere once again.
I’ve tried to bite my lip on the No More Page Three campaign, being painfully aware of my burgeoning reputation as that feminist who spends too much time shouting at other feminists, and thinking it ultimately rather harmless and easy to ignore. The thing is–to use a figure of speech befitting the theme–the No More Page Three campaign has been getting right on my tits. At best, it won’t get much done, and at worse, its supporters will think this lack of things getting done is some sort of a victory.
Let’s start with a tweet from an online repository of jokes, many of which are sexist, ableist, racist, cissexist, heterosexist and any other form of oppression you can name (and probably some that don’t even have names):
So, Rupert Murdoch is considering axing Page 3 of The Sun. He should axe pages 1-2 and 4-76 while he’s at it.
— sickipediabot (@sickipediabot) February 11, 2013
Strangely, this tweet actually manages to Get It far more than vast swathes of the No More Page Three supporters. The Sun is a buzzing wasp nest of misogyny: itsjustahobby documented just a day’s worth of sexism in the top stories of their website alone. I find Page 3, with its large picture of boobs taken with the woman’s consent, actually somewhat better than all of the other pages of longlensings and body-shaming and gleeful rubbing over celebrities and their mental health, and so forth. That’s not even including the frequent bouts of overt racism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism that pepper its foul pages. The whole publication is absolutely fucking vile, and participates actively daily in outright harassment of women who have the misfortune of being famous, or poor, or brown, or whatever other excuse they can conjure to invade their privacy and pretend this is somehow in the public interest. Whether words or images, all of this is irrevocably harmful to both the individuals “exposed” by this pathetic excuse for journalism, and to society for thinking believing the propaganda in the Sun is anything other than hideous.
And when you think about it that way, you realise that the whole of the media is rotten all the way down: all of the tabloids stoop to the same low tricks as The Sun, and everyone else is complicit. They all revealed their true colours as they closed ranks against the findings of the Leveson Report. Combatting a single page of a single newspaper doesn’t even leave a dent in this apparatus. It feels almost like going after this one page legitimises the rest of the sorry mess by its omission to even address this.
Now, one could say this campaign is a transitional demand in ending the objectification of women. However, that’s ignoring the fact that objectification is itself a symptom; the problem of objectification did not magically spring from nowhere: it is a product of capitalist patriarchy. Sex sells. And to end that, one sort of has to absolutely rip this shit out at the roots and enact a global revolution, which is a bit of a big ask for liberal feminists. Even on its own terms, getting rid of that single page in a single newspaper won’t exactly do much for ending the objectification of women, because this shit is absolutely everywhere.
However, that’s assuming that No More Page Three is actually about objectification, which many of its supporters argue it is. I’ve read the text of the No More Page Three petition. I read it before deciding–with all of these criticisms already in mind–not to sign it. And it is just about boobs. It’s literally just about the presence of boobs and how they’re not on This Morning and other such stuff. I couldn’t agree with the fact that boobs shouldn’t be in a “family newspaper”, which is all that the text of the petition said, so I didn’t sign it.
And actually, if anything, we need more boobs everywhere. Diverse boobs. Parents breastfeeding openly, pictures of all colours and shapes of boob captioned “look, boobs, aren’t they pretty?” and boobs depicted like they ain’t no thing, because a lot of people have boobs. And not just boobs: cunts and cocks and bums and naked bodies in all their glory. Willingly shown. The human body is kept a mystery, and nobody knows what’s normal these days: the truth is everything and nothing. When I was young, I thought I had a weird cunt because it looked nothing like the narrow range of cunts society saw fit to show me: textbook illustrations and porn. It was only when I started fucking other women that I became sure there was nothing wrong with mine. The naked body needn’t be anything to do with sex (although it’s nice when it is), and it’d be lovely if we got over all our hangups about nudity and were just naked more, in film, print and in person.
But of course, this dream can’t be realised because of the aforementioned capitalist patriarchy which is in dire need of a smash and it’s very difficult to have that revolution in the buff.
Unfortunately, the No More Page Three campaign is not part of this revolution. It’s largely orchestrated and supported by those who would never buy The Sun in the first place, probably for at least some of the reasons I’ve already discussed (or perhaps for others, e.g. Hillsborough, phone hacking), and, due to the way businesses work, they really don’t give much of a flying fuck about people not buying the product continuing to not buy the product while also hating it. Asking nicely doesn’t really cut it. You need to be vicious and take action that’s a little more direct. Once I annotated a copy of The Sun that I found in a greasy spoon, highlighting sections which were particularly egregiously racist or sexist to the next reader who picked it up. It wasn’t much, but it was something which might have changed someone’s mind.
To me, No More Page Three feels like a synecdoche for the shortcomings of a particular flavour of liberal, bourgeois feminism. It’s something which is nowhere near enough and popular precisely because it will not rock the boat for those in power. And it’s a compromise I see no point in making.