Topless women in newspapers are not ‘tough, rough, challenging’ ideas’
In a piece titled ‘Politician-Led Attack on Media Freedom is a Sentence on the public’, in The Australian last Thursday, Spiked Online editor Brendan O’Neill wrote an impassioned defence of free speech. O’Neill argued that attacks on press freedom were not only attacks on those who write and publish but also on the reader – hurting the “man on the street”. He condemned the “licensing of the press by the back door, the use of extreme financial pressure to make every paper, mag and zine bow before new codes of conduct.” He described (now failed) moves to regulate the press in Australia as a “wicked undermining” of the readers’ right to exercise their own moral judgement about the content. “…restrictions on the press are a sentence on the public, passed by elites who think we morons cannot handle tough or rough or challenging ideas”.
Tough, rough, challenging…
I support him on that. I’m all for giving as many column inches as possible to touch, rough and challenging ideas.
But O’Neill fails the argument when he includes as an example of content deserving the protection of free speech, the Page 3 semi-naked images of women, a regular feature in Britain’s The Sun newspaper. He labels as “censorious feminists” those who condemn the objectified and sexist images (over 87,000 so far in a Change petition, see below). Labelling the images as merely “saucy”, O’Neill mockingly collapsing the argument against them as being “because it makes men rapacious.”
By including The Sun’s Page 3 girls feature in his passionate treatise against the “mugging of press freedom”, O’Neil has undermined that fragile right. I was about to write about why, when I came across this piece by writer and actress Lucy-Anne Holmes, in Women’s Views on News (originally published in Huffington Post). Holmes has summarised it perfectly: “We are all affected by Page Three whether we buy it or not, because we all live in a society where the most widely read paper in the country makes ‘normal’ the idea that women are there primarily for men’s sexual pleasure.”
‘If you don’t like it don’t buy it’ – Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that?
Guest post by Lucy-Anne Holmes, writer and actress currently working on the No More Page 3 campaign ‘to take the bare boobs out of the Sun’ newspaper.
This article appeared in The Huffington Post on 15 March 2013.
There was I, ballistically campaigning about Page Three being damaging when, oh, I really am feeling very stupid now, because I could just not buy it and everything would be fine. So, I’ll be off then. Sorry about that. Or rather. No. Just no.
There are so many reasons why “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” doesn’t work as an argument for Page 3, that I will be breaking out the big gun bullet points.
So, here goes. This is for you, Mr If You Don’t Like It Don’t Buy It and all the others before you, and that includes you, Nick Clegg.
1) I was most affected by these images at the age of 11 when my breasts were developing and my brother and his mates would be commenting on Page Three girls breasts everyday. I really looked up to my big brother and this situation taught me that my breasts were only there for men to look at. Mine fell short of the ones that were in the daily newspaper, therefore I was failing somehow and I was ashamed. I didn’t buy it. Read more here.
Click image below to sign the petition.