So I was wearing my NO MORE PAGE THREE t-shirt in a supermarket the other day (support the campaign and contribute to breast cancer clinical research trials by buying yours here), when a
pair of breasts woman passing me said, “Ha, I don’t believe you!”
Now, I don’t know, maybe she was just saying that she thought I still had the figure for it (and maybe, just maybe she was right); however, given the frequency with which I encounter similar reactions, I suspect that she simply thought I was being insincere because I’m a bloke – like that somehow precludes me from holding a balanced opinion on matters of gender bias. Honestly, I can’t tell you how sick I am of people making presumptions about my mental acuity based solely upon my chromosomal make-up.
Of course, the reasoning behind objecting to the objectification of women on the pages of newspapers (not to mention in advertising and music videos) is fairly elementary and has been documented extensively but, alas, my accuser vanished into the scrum of shoppers before I had a chance to present a defence of my sincerity. So, just because I’m tired of justifying my position over and over again, I’m going to lay it out here one last time for the cheap seats:
Reducing women to the level of trinkets for amusement, mere objects of titillation for the masses, is and always will be a bad thing because it belittles women and infantilises men. By allowing the female physical form or female sexuality to be made the object of humour or derision, we mock humanity itself and ridicule our own intimate feelings and desires. Worse, we effectively deny the worth of women beyond their outward appearance, thus robbing our species of half its chance to fulfil its own potential.
One of the reasons that men joke about women’s bodies is that it allows us to mask our insecurities about our own. The average penis (and, believe me, they’re all average) is not a pretty sight: when it’s down, it’s rather pitiable; when it’s up, at best it looks like some kind of a tumour or deformity. Well, there’s no better way to deflect attention from oneself than to point and jeer at another, and the male psyche’s best defence is therefore to deride the female.
A great many men will react to accusations of sexism with the standard banter defence. This is, of course, no defence at all – it is just the shield of raucousness, behind which the simple-minded have no need to fear recourse to thought. “It’s only a joke!” Quite. It’s always the same joke, too, isn’t it? Then again, minds which are easily pleased seldom seek to be put to the test of any intellectual effort.
So, to those of you who find sexual objectification amusing, here’s what I’d like you to consider: when you are content in your mind to reduce a woman to no more than a sex object, that is also how you are defining any woman: your mother, your sister, your daughter, your grand-daughter – and don’t try to convince yourself that that isn’t as vile as it initially sounds, for if you consider a woman to be but a life-support machine for a pair of mammary glands after she reaches sexual maturity, what possible regard can you hold her in prior to that point?
The trouble with the “bit of harmless fun” that is Page Three is that it gives shape to a society which dehumanises women until they are merely ejaculate receptacles, units to masturbate over or into. This is a society in which sexual harassment becomes commonplace; a society in which acid attacks on women will become more frequent and normalised; and a society in which rape is considered by some to be no more than “bad sexual etiquette” and its victims are able to be vilified and harassed on social media.
One wonders whether perhaps a society in which male rape was less uncommon might have more of an understanding of the sheer brutality of the experience – because there’s a whole world of difference between the mock-unwillingness of a rape-fantasy and the mind-paralysing fear and bewilderment of being subjected to an attack which leaves one bloodied and bruised both inside and out – physically, mentally and emotionally. Rape isn’t about sex and it certainly isn’t about humour: it’s about stripping away another’s control of their own life and body, about denying their right to exist as an individual intellect, about violence and abuse and naked aggression – and it’s a natural progression from the normalisation of exploitation in the pages of a daily family newspaper.