Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 22nd 2015 Contents B9
Thursday, January 22, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
As a child growing up in Britain, your
first understanding that nudity was some-
thing naughty often came from your first
glimpse of Page 3 of The Sun newspaper.
Seeing a discarded paper with a picture
of a smiling young woman baring her breasts
was both shocking and exciting. The reaction
of your mother or grandmother signified
that this was something essentially bad.
Instinctively, you just knew that you
shouldn t really be looking at this woman s
breasts. Old men in builders cafes should
be looking at them---for decades there
appeared to be an unspoken rule that those
sorts of men had special dispensation from
the usual societal rules of decency and gender
Just a handful of feminists railed against
it back then.
As you got older, your reaction remained
shock and perhaps excitement but a sense
of bafflement, surrealism, distaste and despair
crept in that this relic of yesteryear with its
unreconstructed male-focused sensibilities
was still present on a daily basis in Britain s
A new wave of feminism emerged deter-
mined to put an end to Page 3. No longer
did old men and builders feel secure lingering
on the third page, they began looking over
their shoulders and feeling grubby.
This sense of shame or guilt at admiring
the female body in states of undress has not
reached Trinidad yet. Everywhere you go,
pictures of scantily-clad buxom girls wearing
tiny shorts bearing the names of beers are
unavoidable. Nobody bats an eyelid, it s not
As far as I m aware, the T&T Guardian
used to have a page devoted to pretty girls with no
context other than that they were pretty. I even heard
talk that some parties wanted that regular feature
restored. These days, that s called objectification.
Personally, I m not against objectification. As long
as all people and things are equally objectified I see
no problem. I m an anthropologist of the material
culture variety. Things are there to be looked at and
people are part of the material world. Objectification
as a word has become loaded with negative conno-
tations but let s not kid ourselves, some humans love
to be objectified: Page 3 girls, for example.
But a newspaper purporting to be reporting national
news and sport is clearly not the forum for naked,
smiling women. It s weird and demeaning, and because
there are no pictures of naked male models it is clearly
The Sun newspaper and its owner Rupert Murdoch
finally woke up to that fact this week and banned
Page 3 forthwith. A victory for the feminist campaign
and a sign that even longstanding bastions of sexism
are capable of being forced to change.
But is this a victory or a defeat for the women who
modelled for Page 3? And why am I not seeing any
part of the feminists campaign talking about alternative
career paths for the models?
It seems to me that to remove Page 3 and other
forms of topless modelling removes a form of employ-
ment or economic opportunity for particular types
of women, just as getting rid of promo girls or cheer-
leader work in Trinidad would take away a revenue
stream from young women, often students, trying to
earn money from their physical appearance.
You might argue that Carib girls and topless models
are different things but in Britain they would fall
under the same category: sex objects premised on
men s pleasure.
The most obvious social group affected by banning
topless glamour modelling is the uneducated young
woman who leaves school at 16 with little academic
or vocational prospects but has the ability and desire
to do topless modelling.
I asked a friend what other career would a girl like
that do and she said: "Page 3 is not a career; she
could work in a store."
But why should a woman who likes doing topless
modelling work in a shop her whole life earning far
less money and having far less of an enjoyable life?
Page 3 girls aren t forced into modelling, their parents
usually support and encourage them and the Sun s
photographer is a woman.
It s not just working-class women with no prospects.
An ex-girlfriend of mine did topless modelling in Liv-
erpool to save up enough money to move to London
and fund her second degree. Her explanation, "I saw
it as exploiting men s stupidity by using what I had."
Feminists are meant to support women from all
walks of life and while going topless may not be an
empowering career to a middle-class Oxbridge-edu-
cated mindset, some women do find it empowering
and a platform to better themselves economically.
It s a complex issue but I see a hypocrisy in the
feminist stance which transcends gender and speaks
Take boxing as a (predominantly) male comparison:
a brutally-violent sport which society could find many
grounds upon which to call for it to be banned. I
couldn t legitimately, consciously or morally defend
boxing (or Page 3) but given that banning it would
remove an outlet for young men born into poverty
who can t do maths or study law at Harvard but can
use their fists (like Page 3 girls can use their breasts)
I couldn t consciously argue for banning it either,
unless I was able to suggest a better alternative.
Good riddance Page 3
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