There are some things that just don’t fly in public spaces. Going out of my house for the groceries, for example, I can be reasonably sure that I’m not going to see a racial slur printed in giant letters on the side of a bus stop.
Neither am I going to trip over a giant penis on a billboard while trying to buy an ice cream. It would be unthinkable to see Gareth, 24, from Swansea, revealing all while offering ‘his’ opinion on future fiscal policies in a kitschy speech bubble. And yet, somehow, it’s still publicly acceptable for The Sun
to print giant pictures of breasts on prominent display in their newspaper.
For these pictures end up in the sticky hands of a male commuter on the train or bus, or in a café, or in the office. I know I find it disturbing as another male sharing the same space. But what sort of messages does it send out to other travellers? To the 14 year old girl already wondering if she should drop maths, because that’s a ‘boy’s subject’ (“don’t bother darlin’ – as long as you look nice for the lads!”). What about the aid worker on her way to a policy meeting (“So what if you have a PhD on the difficulties of delivering effective humanitarian solutions? You’re biggest achievement in life is to have successfully grown a pair of breasts. Well done!”).
Having made the air uncomfortable for everyone and drunk his fill in the café, Mr Page 3 Reader then goes back to his job as a benefits assessor or as a judge or hiring a new industry researcher. How’s it going to affect how he reacts to a vulnerable female in need of emergency support versus a vulnerable male? What about factoring in the well-documented special risks for women in the criminal justice system? How’s he going to assess the female candidate’s ability to predict market trends if he’s just been devouring an objectified shot which says that the main competence she brings is to be sexually available for male desires?
It’s important. The presence of Page 3 in the public sphere exists on the same continuum as street harassment of girls in school uniform, as asking a female manager to see ‘the real manager’, as work places filled with sexual comments and creepy customers, as wage disparity and as groping on public transport. As a society, we need to do better.
As Christians, we know that all human beings are uniquely honoured as sharing God’s image, and so all objectification is morally wrong. And as a society, we have legislated against any discrimination or harassment based on someone’s sex.
The presence of Page 3 undermines this. It represents a sharp undercutting of the abilities and skills of half of our population and reduces them to a two-dimensional cameo pair of boobs, existing in the public sphere only for the satiation of debased male desire. It’s time this bombastic relic of male privilege crawled back into the stinky pond it came from.