Page 3 debate - The views of glamour models must be listened to

11 Jan 2014

One of the best things about feminism today, in my view, is that there isn't one defined ideology which all feminists subscribe to. It is a mix of views, powered by contrasting ideologies and ways of seeing the world, which come together to make feminism the collection of ideas it is today. For me, a mix of views is key to any kind of democracy and getting anything done in politics, and it is particularly important when looking at inequality between men and women in Britain today.

 

What needs to change for that inequality to be addressed and eventually eroded, is very obvious. Attitudes. During the course of a bitter Twitter feud between former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell and ex Conservative MP Louise Mensch in October 2013, Campbell questioned Mensch's credentials as a feminist on the grounds that her continued employment by the Sun newspaper and refusal to sign up to the End Page 3 campaign were, according to him, at odds with her desire to see the 'News in Briefs' item removed from the newspaper.
 

Campbell then reinforced his point by retweeting a tweet suggesting that Mensch pose topless on Page 3, something he later apologised for.

Campbell is perhaps the most pertinent example of this lack of willingness to engage with ideas around the debate and, at times, shows a wilful ignorance; but he is far from the only culprit. The Sun's own political editor, Tom Newton-Dunn, attracted widespread criticism late last year when he questioned Labour MP Stella Creasy's right to take David Cameron to task over Page 3- on the grounds of the skirt she was wearing.
 

I do not think that either Campbell or Newton-Dunn are sexists, their tweets were poorly thought out and ill-timed and served only to make themselves look stupid and anachronistic. However, the attitudes of both men served to epitomise the closed-mindedness which has marred the debate over Page 3. The big problem with the debate is that it has ignored the people who are at the centre of it and to whom it matters most.

The Page 3 debate is one which is centred around the objectification of women for the sake of male gratification, so the obvious starting point for the debate would be to get the views of the women it concerns- the glamour models themselves.

Except that hasn't happened. The closest glamour models have come to having a say in the debate is by having quotations from Catallus and his peers put in their mouths on Page 3, a horrifically kitsch gesture from the Sun which I consider to be more derogatory than any picture of a topless woman. It implies that the women on Page 3 cannot think for themselves or have something intelligent to say on the issues of the day, and it has summed up the attitude towards glamour models in the Page 3 debate. This is their jobs, their livelihood being talked about, and the chances are that many, if not all, glamour models have strong views on the subject, so why are they not being asked what they think?

Last November, in an interview with Leeds student newspaper The Tab, Emma Kuziara (better known by her professional name Emma K) said that she felt that the End Page 3 campaign was 'effectively contributing towards inequality towards men and women' and that she felt empowered by her job.

Kuziara, who is also a Sociology student at Nottingham University, said: “I have issues with the idea that Page 3 and lads' magazines such as Nuts and Zoo objectify women. We choose to be glamour models, we enjoy what we do and upsettingly, many women are trying to take these jobs off us.”

“I personally feel that glamour modelling provides the complete opposite to objectification, both the Daily Star and the Sun celebrate the beauty of the female body, whatever size or shape, and allows us to feel empowered.”

The Derby-born model went on to explain how she feels empowered by her career: “For men, they have it easy. They can model topless, sunbathe topless and take their top off whenever they feel the heat.”

“But women are restricted- they can't model topless without a fuss, sunbathing topless is highly frowned upon and for a women to walk the streets topless in the summer would most likely result in an arrest for indecent exposure.”

“Shouldn't we be questioning why it's considered 'normal' for males to be topless but wrong for females to be half naked?” Quite.

Page 3 is just one of the issues affecting women in our society today, but attitudes seen on both sides of the debate could be said to sum up why such inequality between men and women exists in the UK today. Too few real issues are being debated; too few attitudes and societal conventions relating to what is considered 'normal' are being questioned. It is absurd that glamour models are not at the centre of this debate which relates directly to them and their life choices.

Emma's views on the No More Page 3 campaign and her conviction that she feels empowered by her modelling career highlight how ridiculous it is that glamour models are not being asked for their views on the debate. After all, the fantastic thing about feminism is that it isn't just one entrenched ideology that one has to subscribe to; there is no 'party line'.

Why on earth can a glamour model not be a feminist? Since when were your views on the society you live in compromised by taking your clothes off?

Page 3 is a hugely significant issue and this is an excellent opportunity for us, as a society, to change the habit of a lifetime and start questioning attitudes that have become ingrained within the fabric of our social system. However, we should start by listening to the people who it matters to most- the women who choose to work as glamour models, enjoy it and feel empowered by their career. It might not be your kind of feminism, or society's kind of feminism, but it's feminism all right.

By Alex Shilling

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