An exploration of lad culture and feminism in the mainstream media after the temporary end of page 3.

Page 3: It’s only the beginning

The end of Page 3 would only have been the beginning of what is required in our society.

Last week the media was full of rumours that The Sun newspaper would finally be scrapping its controversial Page 3. These rumours, which The Sun neither confirmed nor denied, were hailed by the media and campaigners alike as a huge success for feminism. Although The Sun did publish a picture of a naked woman on its third page only days later, the debate concerning Page 3 and feminism was very much reawaken. 

The decision, which has been campaigned for by ‘No To Page 3’ for many years, would finally have seen the end to pornographic images of women being displayed in mainstream media and a step towards an end to the objectification of women in society. But that’s all it would have been, a step. Many in the media were hailing this as an advancement in feminism and recognition of its place in modern society, but instead of an image featuring a topless woman on Monday, The Sun instead printed an image of two Hollyoaks actresses in bikinis and a link to where readers could find an image of a topless girl on their website, hardly the step forward the nation’s top selling newspaper should be aiming for. Furthermore, many former Page 3 girls and female readers of The Sun criticised the supposed move, arguing that they are missing out on the ability to express themselves and embrace their sexuality because of ‘jealous feminists’.

These women are missing the point. If The Sun were to publish images of topless men as well as women, perhaps there would never have been a campaign because then they would be right, The Sun’s feature would merely be an expression of sexuality in society, but it isn’t. By only including women in their feature, The Sun are perpetrating to both men and women an old fashioned, sexist idea that women are only as good as their appearance and have little place in society otherwise. Men are portrayed most often in the media for their achievements and successes whereas women are mostly presented for what they are wearing or how they look, even if what they are actually doing is of huge benefit to society.

It is this idea which is fuelling what has come to be known as ‘Lad Culture’ in society, where young men in particular feel that it is normal to sexualise every move a woman makes on the street and can see nothing wrong in ‘a good old rape joke’, despite the fact that this can be very intimidating to women of all ages. This kind of behaviour is mainly sourced from the vast availability of porn, particularly online, which allows men to view women as nothing more than sexual objects. I feel it is worth clarifying at this point that I am neither for nor against pornographic images, what people want to do in their own time is entirely up to them and if women want to celebrate their sexuality then it should of course be celebrated, but there has to be some boundary between private and public life. Porn and the message that it portrays of women should not be viewed as a true representation of what is acceptable in real life and should remain a private activity, not one which is encouraged by mainstream media.

But again we are focusing on one very small part of the issue. The media is full of instances where woman are viewed as objects, whether it be films and TV shows where women are only presented as the love interest of a man, to the constant obsession with what celebrities wear and how they look rather than their achievements, and that is only the instances where they appear with their clothes on.  In a society such as this, it is very difficult for women to aspire to greatness when they are constantly worried about how they look and what other people think of them. And that’s not to mention the fear and intimidation felt by many when they walk past a large group of men on the street, unaware of what they might do or say. Whilst this is perhaps unfounded, it is an example of the kind of effect ‘Lad Culture’ is having on the lives of women. Clubs and bars are full of men ‘on the prowl’, looking for a drunk girl to take home and spend the night with. Ched Evans is not the first man to ever take advantage of a woman he met in a club, but that still doesn’t make him right. Men need to realise that there are many actions deemed ‘acceptable’ and ‘a laugh’ in society today which are demeaning and sometimes downright offensive to women. Women are still not respected in society and this is not going to change simply because one national newspaper decided to give in to rigorous campaigning by women fed up of the way society functions.

Women are no longer only looking for equality in society, that is a different issue which is now affecting men as much as it affects women, but we are continuing to look for the respect that we deserve, the respect to be viewed as people rather than mere objects for men to play with. The removal of the page 3 girl from our newsstands would have been a step towards that goal, but it would have been a very tiny step and there is still a long way to go. A huge societal shift must occur before women will ever be able to feel 100% safe and respected on Britain’s streets.

Image: ‘The Sun’ front cover © Lis Ferla (lastyearsgirl_, flickr). 

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Katherine Halliday

I am an English and History graduate from Dundee with a passion for travel and a passion for writing.

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One comment

  1. Really interesting article Katherine, really enjoyed reading it, and I absolutely agree with your argument, removing page 3 would have only been a small step towards equality for women. It is interesting, however, that you touched on the issue of power. For example, I personally do not think it is progress that 50 Shades of Grey is being considered as a female liberating book/film, the plot certainly is one which promotes the woman as the love object of a man. However, I also find the idea that someone (female or male) thinks that being subject to “star” in pornography, can feel like they are being liberated, when they are doing this for large companies who effectively own their material.

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