Yesterday we saw the end of Page 3, for those of you who don’t know, Page 3 refers to the British tabloid ‘newspaper’ (I use the term loosely) The Sun and its spread on page 3 of a busty topless girl, its been a cornerstone of The Sun since time immemorable. But after years of campaigning by Women’s Rights groups and activists of all kinds it has finally seen its end, sort of anyway, you can still access all the topless women you like if you subscribe to its new online version.
Now I’m not going to sit here and say how upset I am that Page 3 has gone, because I’m not, I think its archaic and mis-representative of women, and actually does harm to the progress of women’s rights everywhere. That’s not to say though that I’m offended by seeing semi or even fully naked women, I am a great admirer of the female figure in all its forms, but I don’t think that it has any place in a newspaper in the 21st Century. I’m also not going to sit here and talk about the shocking way women are represented in the media in general, that’s another topic for another day. What I am going to talk about though is the right of The Sun to print whatever the hell it likes, regardless of our opinion.
I do understand that a newspaper has a moral obligation to print the truth, and we all know that The Sun can sometimes be a little ‘economical’ when it comes to that, but moral obligations aside. The Sun, just like The Guardian, BBC News, even you and I, live and operate in a free country, and we are free to write, print, or shout about, anything we want. If The Sun wants to print a full-page picture of a topless woman, who are we to say that they can’t? It’s not like these women are being exploited, they choose to pose for these shoots, they get paid well to do it, and as far as I’m aware they go into it with their eyes open. Their body is their business as far as I’m concerned.
But let me illustrate my point with a quote from Harriet Harman MP
“I’m proud to have stood with thousands of women who fought to see the end of page three and today I’m delighted its gone” – 20th Jan 2015
That quote came 13 days after the horrific mass shooting at Charlie Hedbo’s offices, a shooting that happened because a group of people chose to express their freedom of speech by printing a picture that gave offence. I’m not in anyway trying to say that the cowards who shot up Charlie hedbo’s offices and the activists who protested Page 3 are the same! I want to make that very clear, but you must be able to see that there is a parallel there.
Once the world heard of the attack we all stood together, Celebrities, Politicians, Muslims, Christians, Old and Young alike, all marching under the banner of ‘Je Suis Charlie’
and advocating that publications right to print what ever it wanted, and now, not even two weeks later we have people like Russell Brand saying.
“It’s good that page 3 has been dropped it was demeaning and daft. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write.”
In France too, I saw a report of a sixteen year old lad getting arrested for posting a picture satirising another Charlie Hedbo cartoon, although the picture was in very poor taste, where was that lads right to print whatever he liked?
I think there are two ways to look at all this, one way is to just get all cynical and say, ‘Oh yeah, well, your only free to do as your told.’ I think this is a cop-out and is counter productive if anything.
Personally I think that freedom of speech is great, but that freedom must go hand in hand with responsibility, Nick Clegg said the other day,
“at the end of the day in a free society people have to be free to offend each other. You cannot have freedom unless people are free to offend each other. We have no right not to be offended.”
And while that is true, we have a responsibility to minimise that offence, it’s not good enough to say ‘this offends me stop doing it’, and its also not good enough to say ‘I’m free to say what I like, it’s your problem if it offends you!’. It’s everybody’s responsibility to find a middle ground, if you find something offensive, don’t look at it, if you are creating something offensive, you need to ask yourself why you’re doing it. And you have to be aware that some people won’t like it! Anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about modern Islam knows that by printing pictures of the Prophet Mohammed you are going to cause deep offence. I really hope that this goes without saying, but here we go anyway, THAT DOES NOT ADVOCATE THE KIND OF VIOLENCE THAT WE SAW THIS MONTH AT CHARLIE HEDBO! What we saw in France was a backlash so extreme that no one could have predicted it, but that being said, they had to expect a reaction.
If I can draw another parallel, people who read this blog will know that I censor my more colourful language, if I use the word c**t, I will asterisk the f**king s**t out of that c**t, that’s because although I am free to swear my filthy mouth out, I know that people may be offended by it, so I have taken responsibility to minimise that offence by way of self censorship.
So to bring this all back to my original point of page three, The Sun (as I said before) have moved their page three online, but that hasn’t stopped the activists from trying to get it banned all together. But maybe instead of pushing harder for the eradication of page three, maybe they should just be celebrating. They have achieved their goal! By page three moving online, only people who want to look at it can/will, The Sun has self-censored itself. Just like I do with my swearing. You can read my blog, and if you don’t know what c**t stands for, you haven’t seen an offensive word, if you do know what it stands for but it offends you, you can pretend I’m saying cost or something, and if you do know what it stands for, and you’re not offended, then you know I’m really saying Jeremy Clarkson.
Obviously this is far too complex an issue to be sorted out by little old me, but I just think that it’s a little soon to be celebrating the demise of Page 3, especially given the current contextual backdrop of the Charlie Hedbo shooting, and that we all need to have a really good think about what freedom of speech really means and how we can work together to minimise its ramifications.