The UK tabloid “The Sun”, marketed as a family newspaper, has a “tradition” of featuring topless photos of young women on its page 3. Using women’s bodies is popular on both sides of the pond, as the below photo shows.
There is no newspaper with a tradition of showing naked men. Even the recent naked photos of Prince Harry didn’t really shock the world. Why not? Can’t we just throw in some male nudity and call everything equal?
Well, no. We can’t. Male nudity is different from female nudity, because men and women do not have equal power, privilege, or access to resources.
The vast majority of the world’s resources are owned and controlled by men. They have created a system that conserves those resources for their own benefit.
This system doles out crumbs to women who look young, fertile and easy to control. The system punishes women who don’t fit the ideal-woman template by withholding resources from them. The more a woman deviates, the more resources are withheld.
There’s a reason those “faces of meth” photos don’t show women who don’t look like models. Though drug abuse contributes to their condition, being considered ugly guarantees a low social status and the kinds of pitfalls that come with a desperate, impoverished existence. (I won’t link to those photos, because they are taken without permission of the subjects and I don’t believe being arrested or jailed should mean that a person no longer has control over her own image.)
For a woman, survival depends on being judged as visually acceptable: not just by men, but by other women, most of whom are aligned with male interests and judge according to male criteria.
Women who fit the template of “acceptable” are endlessly pressured to make their bodies available for male use. They are told that being deemed worthy of male attention is the greatest honor ever. If they resist this pressure, they’re scorned, called prudes, denied opportunities, shunned. If they acquiesce to this pressure, they get money and apparent validation of their attractiveness, which women are culturally conditioned to believe is vital to their existence.
Look around you and see the way men are dressed – for utility and comfort, with little skin showing unless the weather is hot. Look at the way women are expected to dress: in silly outfits that show more and more skin, regardless of her comfort. Showing skin is a sign of vulnerability and submission.
Making someone take off their clothes for your entertainment is all about power. Even if she “chooses” to because she needs the money, or she needs the attention, it’s not a real choice in a world that systematically deprives her of both. Deprivation is powerfully coercive.
Meanwhile, Prince Harry, who was born into a virtually bulletproof position of race/gender/class privilege, can do naked cartwheels across the Buckingham Palace lawn, and it won’t negatively affect his life one bit, except for annoying his gran.
Women whose bodies are exposed in the media aren’t so fortunate as the prince. They are subjected to that noxious combination of obsession and loathing that are such key elements of male desire on the collective level. Men leer at them, insult them, think it’s okay to rape them. And this attitude spills over onto all the other women around them.
That’s why we need to stop accepting the media’s exploitation of female bodies. It hurts us. It robs us of dignity and respect. And it reinforces the idea that we’re less than human.
Dominic Mohan described Page 3 at the Leveson Inquiry as ‘a bit of harmless fun’, but in a society when so many women a day are sexually assaulted, perpetuating the belief that women are there for men’s sexual pleasure doesn’t seem harmless to me. At all.
- Bea Magazine. Read the whole post. It’s terrific.
Are you thinking, “But what can signing an online petition really do?”
It will raise awareness and attract supporters. This is key to the next step: taking action.
Please consider boycotting the Sun’s advertisers, and telling them why. The media don’t exist to entertain or inform us. The media make money by publishing whatever rubbish they think will get our attention, and then sell us, the audience, to their advertisers. We can complain to the media, but it will mostly ignore us. But if we go to the advertisers, and make them lose business, the advertisers will pull their advertising. Even the threat of pulling their advertising will scare the living daylights out if the Sun. (Pun possibly not intended.)
Compared to the rest of the suffering that women are expected to endure every day, getting our bodies off of page 3 may seem like a small thing. But we’re living in a framework where everything is connected to everything else, even if we can’t immediately see those connections. A spark is tiny, yet capable of starting an enormous fire.
Even if you’re not in the UK and you can’t participate directly in this boycott, please consider showing your support for women by signing the petition. Every single voice counts.