Week Woman

A Pox on the Patriarchy

Who’s Laughing Now? The Sun’s Spectacular Own Goal Over Hattie From Camberwell

- Caroline Criado-Perez

Yesterday, Harriet Harman declared her support for the No More Page 3 campaign. Not long afterwards, the following tweet appeared on No More Page 3’s twitter feed: “would respect her for addressing endemic muslim paedophilia, but no, nice soft target”

This piqued my interest, not only because of the bizarre idea that ‘paedophilia’ is either exclusively Muslim or indeed endemic, but because it is a response that has been often thrown at the campaign and its supporters. These commenters are under the impression that feminists should campaign “on some REAL issues rather than this pathetic shit.” They think that the campaign is an easy way for us to “preen” and insidiously present ourselves as “jolly brave and radical”, when the reality is that we are afraid to tackle the real sexist issues – which they have helpfully informed us reside almost exclusively within the UK’s Muslim community.

I’m sure these commenters are trying to be helpful to the feminist cause; unfortunately, they are somewhat misguided.

Firstly, and hopefully reassuringly for them, people are capable of focusing on more than one thing at a time; as an example of this phenomenon we need only look to our MPs who seem to manage to focus on quite a few things at the same time as they run the country (in a manner of speaking). So for those concerned that Page 3 is not worthy of our time when, globally, one in three women will be abused, don’t worry: we will continue to campaign against all forms of violence and oppression.

Less reassuringly for these sanguine commenters, the aggressive reactions of those who object to the removal of page 3 (and it’s always object to the removal, rather than positively support), demonstrate that this is far from a “nice, soft target”. They also demonstrate that sexism is not an issue that can be conveniently filed away under “things we have already dealt with”.

The most common tactic deployed by those who disagree with the campaign is to try to undermine the position from which we object. This takes a number of forms, the most regular being to suggest that we speak from a position of “envy”, “jealousy” and “insecurity”. We are “bitter”, “self-obsessed”, “pitying” and, strangely, “vain”, because we are “ugly”, “flat-chested”, “older”, “less pert”, and, almost inevitably, “lesbians”. These attacks on our looks are closely followed by comments which dismiss our arguments and evidence as “nagging”, “whining” and “moaning” – undermining tactics which are linked with the next most popular approach, which is to call us “immature”, “pathetic”, “little girls” and patronise us by addressing us as “dear”.

Harriet Harman herself came in for a disturbing level of direct abuse following on from her declaration of support. These ranged from the predictable cries of jealousy (“ur just jealous some women have tits worth looking at but nobody want 2 see ur droopy spaniels ears”), to more aggressive attacks, such as “Suck my cock you fucking ginger nannying arse bandit”.

While perhaps more imaginative than your average slur, this final comment employs the age-old tactic of silencing women with threats of sexual violence. And this is particularly interesting in the light of Lynn Featherstone’s comments that page 3 has an effect on domestic violence, for which she was attacked by unrenowned domestic violence expert Charlotte Vere.

Vere accused Featherstone of ignoring “the real causes of domestic abuse” – rhetoric which is reminiscent of comments that accuse No More Page 3 of ignoring the “real” causes of sexism.

And Vere is being just as disingenuous.

Just because Featherstone suggested a potential link between page 3 and domestic violence, that does not mean that we need ignore all the other “causes”. Furthermore, while a direct causal link is impossible to prove until we have complete transcripts of everyone’s brains, charities that specialize in domestic violence, such as The Freedom Programme and End Violence Against Women (EVAW) both consider the objectification of women in the media to be a considerable contributory factor towards violence against women. They cite a number of independent investigations, one of the most compelling being a 2009 Princeton study which scanned the brains of heterosexual men looking at sexualized images of women in bikinis. The areas of their brains that lit up were those that light up when we anticipate using tools; these women were responded to as objects to be used. Small wonder then, that the American Psychological Association cites a range of studies demonstrating that when people view media that portrays women as sex objects, they become significantly more accepting of sexual harassment and interpersonal violence.

And this acceptance is borne out by comments which defend page 3 by saying that “The day women stop portraying themselves as sex objects is the day I might think of doing the same, ie never”. It is borne out by assertions that the models “demean themselves”. And, perhaps most disturbingly, it is borne out by the claim that the women who pose “voluntarily risk sexual assault”, and therefore it is no business of ours to interfere.

The comments which suggest that Page 3 models are fair game because they post topless form part of the same culture that considers Harman fair game because she speaks up. This is a culture that views women as no more than an a tool to be used for the sexual gratification of men. And that Page 3 proclaims this message across the UK every day was starkly highlighted by today’s Page 3, which featured “Hattie, 23, from Camberwell”. The Sun’s message to Harman, MP for Camberwell? You may be an MP, but you’re still just a pair of boobs and don’t you forget it. Or, to quote Andrew ‘Thrasher’ Mitchell, “best learn your place”.

The Sun’s political editor claims in a tweet that this is a “joke”. And he’s right, it is a joke. It’s a joke that The Sun claims that Page 3 is ‘a bit of harmless fun’ and yet still uses it to undermine women who object. It’s a joke that The Sun claims that Page 3 is ‘empowering’ and yet sees no problem in substituting the model’s true name (Lacey Banghard) for another – because boobs are interchangeable, right? And it’s, this time, a genuinely funny joke that The Sun cannot see that they have just shot themselves squarely in the foot.

With this clumsy attempt to shame and silence Harman, The Sun has joined the ranks of internet commenters who refuse to engage with the arguments of the No More Page 3 campaign. And the reason for this is the oldest in the book: they don’t have an argument. Because there is no positive argument for Page 3. All there is is bullying, silencing and sexual aggression.

So yes, today’s Page 3 is a joke. And the joke’s on them.

Sign the No More Page 3 campaign

9 comments on “Who’s Laughing Now? The Sun’s Spectacular Own Goal Over Hattie From Camberwell

  1. Pingback: 29 Things The U.K. Does That The U.S. Needs To Start Doing | Buzzfeed | Core Collective

  2. Sarah
    November 16, 2012

    I think the point that is being made by the Tweet is a valid one. Western feminists are failing to tackle the misogyny that is innate (yes innate) in Islam, apparently because of cultural sensitivities.

    At least that is the perception.

    I agree that page 3 is important, but I also think the hijab is important – it sends out equally negative messages about objectification and entitlement. I think women being enjoined to submit to male authority is important, I think that unequal financial, legal and sexual rights are important, the fetishisation of virginity, polygamy and so on.

    You say feminists can tackle more than one thing at once, but they don’t appear to be actually doing so.

    • youssra
      December 28, 2012

      People tend to forget a certain aspect of Islam it came in 600. It was the most innovant religion and the first to give written rights to female. In all our society, we still recognize an authority to the father. and the hijab have to be a choice forcing someone to take out her hijab is it more tolerant than letting people make their own choices? You speak about fetishisation of verginity it is for men AND women.
      it is a prescription to prevent people from not knowing who is the child of who and a great solution to avoid consanguinity.

      I think speaking about Islam and criticize it today is really not necessary, people do it on tv and internet for so many years already, it is always the same because it is the stranger, the people we don t know really much they are scary- speaking about the society we live in, and do a real introspection is much more difficult. Say we live in Europe (or States) and we have real problem with women, we hate them, treat them badly, pay them less, we promote an image of soumission, for them no other choice than being desirable, and hoping to have a brilliant carrier in the sex industry. I am not saying that porn should be banned, but I don t want to see such pictures when I don t want to, in magazines in ads, in the street. Any product is sold with sex and I don’t want my children to be exposed to that.

      Finally, I would like to speak about prostitution, some people argue to say that there is less rape thanks to prostitution, but this is not true. why? because a rapist he doesnt want a consentent relathionship so he rapes, he doesnt want to pay or smthg normal. Which lead to the violence against prostitute, they also are raped and as always nobody cares about that.

  3. Heather Shaw
    November 9, 2012

    I wrote this blog about banning Page 3 (http://ladybitsandbobs.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/no-more-page-3-why-you-should-sign.html) and it was shocking to see the comments that justified it being printed. One said this to me:

    ‘Why do people insist on banning things they don’t like? What is the difference between that an Islamists who want to ban books and cartoons. If you don’t like something don’t subscribe to it. You have the choice.’

    Apparently feminism is now the same as Islam. Who knew?

    • youssra
      December 28, 2012

      Islam and Feminism is much more alike than we think. Equal rights for men and women, huge respect of the mother( can be understood more generrally as the women also), etc. It is a biased idea to think that muslim are not feminist. Of course some people will have a reprehensible behaviour and try to use religion to hide it or justifyt it, but those are the ignorant and we should fight that. It is a double sin: first have disgusting behaviour and instead of asking for forgiveness, they lie on the religion.

    • Guls
      January 22, 2013

      Bit of a late comment I know, but I’m a newbie to WW. I also blogged about the p3 campaign http://musicbugsandgender.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/detecting-hypocrisy-the-adventure-of-the-anti-red-top-league/ and on reflection, I do feel I came across rather cynical (though I still stand by the hypocrisy of plaing the ‘family values’ card – had Holmes outed herself as a feminist and campaigned on that basis I’d have responded differently). Liked your Jon Snow angle, Heather – good post :)

  4. Pyromaniac Harlot
    November 5, 2012

    I like the article, but I feel really uncomfortable about the accompanying image. I was under the impression we were trying to ban these??

  5. Pingback: [link] Who’s Laughing Now? The Sun’s Spectacular Own Goal Over Hattie From Camberwell « slendermeans

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This entry was posted on September 28, 2012 by in Features and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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