There are two dimensions to the #nomorepage3 campaign that has been waged by leftwing British feminists against The Sun newspaper that I agree with.
Firstly, it is avowedly libertarian to ask, rather than force, a publication to not publish something you don't like, and to ask people to boycott it. By and large the campaign has been about persuasion, not force. However, that's about as far as that goes.
Secondly, I personally find the page 3 topless image in a newspaper to be rather dated and not so interesting. If they disappear for commercial reasons, I wont care.
However, every other side to the campaign is quite odious, patronising and fundamentally Orwellian in its philosophical position. The reasons for the campaign are claims that publishing images of topless women "objectifies" them, portrays the view that "women only exist as sexual objects and nothing else" or even that it promotes the latest trendy slogan "rape culture".
It is only when you deconstruct the reality behind the photographing and publishing of the image, and the alleged contribution to crimes that the insidious authoritarianism of the position is apparent.
1. The opinion of the model is deemed irrelevant: Bearing in mind that the women that appear in The Sun choose to do so, and apparently get paid rather well for it, it is curious that their opinions are dismissed by the feminist left. In an almost archetypal example of the sort of "class-bias" that the feminist left sometimes rally against, these women are treated as though their views don't matter. This is exactly what the feminist left accuse "the patriarchy" of doing, but they do it to the women who they presume are not university educated or who are complicit with the patriarchy (bearing in mind that the most radical feminists eschew men for political reasons altogether).
Here are women, who through their own conscious volition (which the feminist left would stand up for in respect of many other choices regarding their bodies, like marrying another women, getting pregnant, not getting pregnant, having an abortion) choose to expose their breasts for a camera for a newspaper. The women are not forced to do it, the newspaper is not forced to print it, and nobody is forced to buy the newspaper (and many others are on the market). Of course, those opposed to "page 3 girls" don't buy the newspaper, which is entirely appropriate.
Even worse are some who will claim the model is a "victim", even though none of the models believe themselves to be victims. This is classic totalitarian psychology, whereby you seek to convince someone who has made their own choices and decisions that somehow, someone has taken advantage of you and that your decisions were made fraudulently. The "victims" don't understand that they are victims, and if only they understood the philosophical position of the protestors, they would realise they are being exploited.
Yet in this totalitarian world view, if the women don't accept that position and even actively argue against it, they are dismissed as being "victims" or worse, "sell-outs". There is no scope for ideological plurality in their world. At no point does the feminist left think that the point of view of the women posing really matters, because they look down on them and diminish their minds, in exactly the way they accuse men of doing.
2. They speak for "all women": Frequently the claim is made that the image "objectifies women" or "makes them look like they are just sexual objects", on the basis that women never want to be seen that way or thought that way. For those asserting this, it may be perfectly valid and indeed for most women most of the time, this may be true. It is unlikely that most people want to spend their entire day being treated by others as a potential sex partner rather than whatever other roles they pursue in life. Of course, the likelihood of this happening will tend to reflect how relatively physically attract someone is compared to others of their sex, and the demographic of those they interact with. Healthy, fit, attractive young women will get looked at by men (and some women) because they are sexually attractive. Indeed, sometimes, some women dress and present themselves so they can be seen that way, they want, sometimes, to be seen sexually by men. That's their choice, as appalling as it may seem to the feminist left. Again, the feminist left would ignore women making that choice, or say they are obviously "victims", perhaps playing out "sexual abuse" they experienced from men. However, once again, the totalitarian world view comes out that women should never be treated as sexual objects, and those that choose to do so, need help. Women can't be free to choose to seek to be seen in whatever way they wish, they must fit the "accepted" range of the feminist left.
3. They seek to end thought crimes: The end result of the proposed ban is to "stop women being seen as sexual objects", but of course the people they want to stop doing this are men. They want to stop men thinking, talking and acting certain ways. Certainly any libertarian would agree that anyone who assaults another sexually is behaving immorally and criminally. Beyond that, it is rude, condescending and stupid to treat most women like that most of the time. Most employers do not tolerate it, and most women (and many men) quite readily patrol such behaviour. This is entirely how it should be. People should treat each other with respect, and it is entirely appropriate for people to campaign to change behaviour that is not criminal.
Yet the feminist left want to go further than that. In seeking to "stop women being seen as sexual objects" they are seeking a sanitisation of human discourse. You can see this overlapping with the strenous and successful efforts to regulate sexual behaviour on US university campuses, with the odious concept of "affirmative consent".
If you're unfamiliar with "affirmative consent" it is an attempt to regulate how individuals pair up sexually. The intention is to reaffirm that just because a woman kisses a man, doesn't mean she consents to intercourse, and it is intended to confirm that if, during any encounter, a woman says no, then it should stop. In itself, it is difficult to disagree with that intention, but its implementation and net effect is effectively sanitising every step of a sexual encounter by requiring that the man (it is always about men seeking consent from women, other couplings are not considered to be an issue) gain consent for every placement of his hands, mouth, genitals with a women. "Can I touch you there..?" is required at each step, and at any point if he doesn't obtain consent, and touches her, it is sexual assault and it's all over. The attempt to sanitise intimate human relations to the point that "can I kiss your neck" "can i kiss your breasts" "can I kiss you belly" becomes what is required at every step without a man being accused of sexual assault, will kill it. Particularly given that "affirmative consent" advocates seek such consent, on every occasion, regardless of the nature of your relationship. If you cannot kiss another whom you have been in a steady loving relationship with for some time, without asking explicit permission, then it loses its appeal. Indeed, it fundamentally undermines having relationships of trust and the expression of spontaneous affection, which many people enjoy receiving.
The feminist left want page 3 shut down because they want to control what people think, and what they do:
- Women shouldn't consent to having photos taken of themselves with their breasts exposed;
- Newspapers shouldn't print those images;
- People shouldn't look at such images;
- Women shouldn't want to be seen as sexual objects;
- Men shouldn't think of women as sexual objects.
If you deviate from this, you're either a man and so sexist and part of the "rape culture" (consider just what that actually means for those accused, but also how much that diminishes the agency of actual rapists), or you're a women who is either an uneducated "victim" or a traitor to her sisters.
So when it comes down to it, while I'm relaxed about whether The Sun publishes tits or not, I am not relaxed about the philosophy that drives those campaigning against it. When Islamism, which threatens to treat women as chattels, continues to grow. When women in the UK of minority backgrounds find it hard to fight misogny within their communities, because the left gives those minorities a "free pass" of "victimhood and disadvantage", you'd think the feminist left would have plenty of targets to focus on whereby women face actual violence. The blindspots towards sexism within some Muslim communities is palpable, but remember the feminist left police the views within their community like Maoist Red Guards.
Instead, they cling to their 1970s campaigning, at a time when most people can find countless images of women naked online with a series of clicks, many of whom took the image themselves, so they could be admired sexually.
Unless they want to join religious fundamentalists in a new call for censorship of images of womens' bodies, the feminist left might be better just letting newspapers like The Sun, make their own decisions based on what their readers want, or if they think the models are exploited, convince them of the merits of their case. Better yet, how about re-evaluating their entire philosophical premise - that women should all think the same as they do.