Boys, page 3 and Kate Middleton’s boobs

I’ve claimed before that I’m not a feminist so it might seem odd for me to be writing a post about page 3, but it turns out that I am a feminist after all. I defy any woman to read Caitlin Moran‘s ‘How To Be A Woman‘ without realising that they’re a feminist too. I think I just had the wrong idea about what feminism is (or, more to the point, what feminists are).

Stitches and Stretchmarks has always had something of a feminist voice; I just hadn’t noticed it. But, really, what is the effort to empower and inform women if not feminism? So, at this stage I am now (mostly) happy to call myself a feminist, but I actually think that all of the feminist issues I care about are really just issues that will shape the world that Ted will grow up in. Of course I want him to grow up to respect women. I want him to grow up to respect everyone but I’m not so naive as to think that the two things are the same. The way society sees women is not the way they see people.

My growing awareness of what it’s like to be (by way of raising one) a boy growing up in today’s society has led me to this post: a post about boys, page 3 and Kate Middleton’s boobs.

I’ve always been of the opinion that women should be free to be what they want, do what they want and say what they want (the usual Harm None clauses apply, of course), including being porn stars and glamour models. If they’re doing it of their own free will and they can make money out of it then there’s no issues, so far as I can see. (Edit: there are plenty of issues I see now, a year later!) As a result BabyDaddy asked me why the same doesn’t apply to page 3.

The reason it doesn’t apply to page 3 is that it’s not page 3 of a porn magazine, or of Nuts or Zoo; it’s page 3 of The Sun, a self-proclaimed “family newspaper”.  Of course women still have the right to pose topless if they so choose and men still have the right to look at those pictures. But generally men don’t leave their magazines in the living room they share with their family. You don’t tend to see Razzle or Playboy on the coffee table.

There have been calls to end page 3 several times in its 42 year history, from Clare Short‘s attempts thirty years ago to the current petition by Lucy-Anne Holmes, and while I’ve tended to agree with the sentiment I’ve never been especially bothered before. That was because I didn’t have a son before.

I’m not stupid; I know, no matter how much I want to deny it, that one day my little boy will turn into a teenager and, eventually, into a man. I know that during that process he will discover girls (or boys, but that’s a different entry) and that he will, I have no doubt, look at pictures of some without their clothes on. That’s all fine. That’s adolescence and sexuality and healthy development.

Putting him in an environment in which he sees topless women presented as “news” is a completely different thing. Allowing him to see Keely, 19, from Brighton fretting over the state of the ozone layer, naked but for the skimpy thong she’s pulling down on one side whilst biting her lip, is just not an option for me.

There’s another reason it’s not an option, and that is that I refuse to buy newspapers. They’re morally void, factually incorrect and promote a variety of inequalities. They predict death, misrepresent facts and consequently risk people’s lives. The Sun is not the only newspaper guilty of the casual objectification of women; it’s just one of the most brazen.

The British press have made a huge song and dance in recent weeks about the fact that they’ve respected Kate Middleton‘s privacy when foreign magazines have printed photos of her topless. Disgraceful! How very wrong of them to photograph our princess without her permission! How dare they take pictures of a national treasure without her knowledge?

You see, when it’s Katie Price it’s a different matter. She’s not royal and she’s in the public eye, therefore she’s fair game. Katy Perry deserved to have a camera shoved up her skirt because she should have been wearing trousers! Paris Hilton has the nerve to be rich and pretty and thinks she should be allowed to get out of a car without photographers checking whether she’s wearing knickers? You’re joking!

All of the newspapers, broadsheets included, seem to think that when male celebrities win awards we want to know who was on their arm when they attended the ceremony, and that when female stars are in the same situation we’re desperate to know what they were wearing. They’re either jewellery to decorate a man’s arm or an accessory to a designer’s dress. Assuming awards ceremonies and reality show contestants’ marriages actually do constitute “news” I still struggle to see how what they wore or how many wrinkles they’ve got or how high their heels were is worthy of printing.

But this is the world Ted’s growing up in. And I don’t like it.

I don’t want him to look at women as sexual objects. Yes, he will look at them as sexual beings and that’s a good thing. I’m okay with that. Or I will be. One day. Or I’ll try really hard to be. But I also want him to see women as the myriad other things they are or can be.

I know I can’t protect Ted from the world forever, and I know that even if the page 3 campaign is successful the media isn’t going to suddenly change its attitude to women, but I can try my best to limit his exposure to trash like The Sun and to talk to him about why it’s important to see beyond a pair of boobs.

If, one day, Ted has a sister, I hope he would be one of her biggest supporters and that he would expect more of her than the tabloids might try to convince him is her lot. I hope that he would be as devastated as I would be if her greatest ambition was to be a WAG.

More than anything I hope that if Ted ever has a daughter his generation will have been stronger than my own have been, and that his little girl will be born into a world where to consider a woman’s breasts newsworthy is to consider a laughable quirk of history.

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About Stitches and Stretchmarks

Honest and frank Mum of one.
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22 Responses to Boys, page 3 and Kate Middleton’s boobs

  1. mymillsbaby says:

    Great post. I completely agree as a mummy of a boy myself. I suppose my only reservation, and one I’ve had since hearing about the Kate debacle, is why she sunbathed topless in the first place. When you’re in the public eye, paticularly in a position of responsibility, why would you risk it? Maybe I’m being too critical…

    • I know what you mean, but it sort of seems like a (very) watered-down version of “she was wearing a short skirt, she was asking for it”. It was naive of her to think she was immune from international press invasion based on an agreement with the British press, but it’s sad that our response is to say she shouldn’t have sunbathed topless. The issue should be that there’s a culture which thinks it’s okay to print pictures of women that they’ve taken through a telescopic lens, and I think finally that is being discussed more. If “normal” women are photographed through their bedroom windows it’s called stalking or voyeurism and there’s criminal action. If we think it’s okay for women in general to sunbathe topless then it should be okay for *women* to sunbathe topless. Apparently it doesn’t apply if a few thousand people know who you are.

      It’s such a *big* social and cultural issue that it’s hard to know where to stand on all of the smaller issues that make it up.

      • mymillsbaby says:

        Agreed. There are just so many privileges for a girl in her position that sadly you have to give up some of the things other people take for granted. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s morally wrong and feel appalled by the press over this, I just feel lessons should be learnt from Harry. In the grand scheme of things though – no harm can come of this. If the pics leak – there’ll be forgotten in a week and could even serve to increase advocacy for the Royal family – it hasn’t hurt Harry!

      • Pike says:

        That was the exact argument I had with my otherarf t’other night. You are saying the very things I said.

      • Mymillsbaby, even a woman of Kate’s class suffers gender oppression. Her high social class does not cancel out her sex-class status. Hinting around that she should have known better is victim-blaming. The responsibility belongs to the photographer and to the papers who exploited her.

      • This is exactly how I feel too. I also read a blog today that made me angry in a similar way, but in a much more WTF kind if way, about domestic abuse. It’s being whirled around my head into an entry, hopefully.

      • I’m not exactly wild about monarchy or any other form of elitism either, but it seems some people care more about taking the duchess down a notch than they do about ending gender oppression. I end up having similar conversations with people who think it’s okay to make misogynist remarks about the likes of Sarah Palin and Louise Mensch. It’s one thing to disagree with a person’s views, but no woman, however ignorant or unpleasant she might personally be, deserves sexism.

  2. Pike says:

    Yes! Yes yes yes!

  3. Write on.........." says:

    Ted is one lucky little man, with a mummy like this.

  4. Piccadillio says:

    While reading I was reminded of this: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/men-of-the-year/home/winners-2012/men-of-the-year-issue-covers
    Note the only person photographed without any clothes on those covers!

  5. Pingback: Feminism, Kate Middleton’s Boobs and Raising Boys… | Tots 100

  6. It’s sad to see how pervasive the misconceptions about feminism are. Aside from driving women away from the one thing that could really help them, it also pressures women who do want to be feminists into acting more beauty-compliant and presenting themselves as “sexy” in order to prove that they don’t fit the stereotype of Hairy Old Humorless Feminist. Unfortunately, all this does is reinforce the prevailing belief that women are decorative buckets for male bodily fluids, and not human beings.

    • It’s difficult because putting a label on something immediately makes people want to either belong or not belong, but there inevitably has to be a label. Caitlin Moran’s book has done wonders as far as I can see. We just need a few more like that!

  7. Helen Mary Jones says:

    Wise words. We don’t say often enough how the way women are portrayed not only effects and hurts us, but also damages boys and young men, messing up their perceptions and potentially their future relationships. Sounds like your boy has a better chance than many to grow up with realistic respectful views about women – his mam is clearly a good model. But this post highlights that feminism isn’t just about a better future for us women and our daughters, but for men and our sons too. For everyone.

  8. Wonderful, well written and a great read

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