Saturday, May 22, 2010

'Progressive' Britain: Proudly taking the fun out of life since 1997

Lynne Featherstone is Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green, part of the Liberal Democrat party and a twit.

This is the woman who called the emergency services because her boiler was 'making funny noises' and brought to the government's attention the dangers of the terrifying, but utterly fictional drug Progesterex (featured in a ten-year old hoax email) and praised the Daily Telegraph for their work uncovering the MP expenses scandal (ignoring that her underlings had bought £22,000 of stationary in a single month to wriggle out of complying with government stationary allowances.)

But perhaps the worst thing about her is her dedication to the so-called 'progressive' agenda - which basically involves controlling how people express themselves to ensure they comply with what is deemed 'politically correct.'

One of the targets in her sights? The British institution that is the 'Page 3 Girl.'

My American and Australian readers might not be familiar with this concept, so I'll explain. On Page 3 of some tabloid newspapers - most notably The Sun - you'll find a half-page photograph of a topless beauty. This is a tradition dating back to 1970 and I personally believe it's one of Britain's only truly significant contributions to world culture in the last forty years (the other one being Doctor Who.)

Anyway. If Lynne Featherstone had her way (and God help the world if she ever did) there'd be a ban on topless models in newspapers.

"I would love to take on Page 3," she pompously declared.


Page 3 girl Peta: "Knife and gun crime at alarming levels, our troops being killed in Afghanistan and the highest youth unemployment for a generation. But all the Lib Dems are thinking about is putting me and my pals out of a job!"
A ban? Really?

How come Britain's solution to everything is a ban?

But of all the things to ban, Page 3 girls are, quite frankly, the most ridiculous. I don't really understand how a ban would contribute anything of benefit to British society. Page 3 girls aren't raising crime rates, triggering riots, preaching religious extremism or bulk-buying £22,000 worth of biros and envelopes with taxpayers money.

The only justification for wanting to ban them is because Featherstone (she should be called 'Featherweight') is a prissy little control freak with delusions of being a feminist (and most self-respecting feminists are probably all too keen to distance themselves as much as possible from this blithering harpy.)

But more pressing than the question of why anybody would ban Page 3 girls is the question of how. What justification could there possibly be? It's just government censorship - dictating the contents of national newspapers seemingly oblivious to the fact that this is the sort of thing that goes on in Iran and North Korea.

"Oh, wait," cry the so-called progressives, "this is different! We're only banning topless women, not dictating what the newspapers can write about!"

But how long is that really going to take? In America we already had the first injection of political correct lunacy when critics called a political cartoon in The New York Post racist because it suggested the stimulus bill was written by a runaway chimpanzee that happened to be in the news that week.

Britain's just the kind of country to introduce bans - always with the bloody bans - to control what newspaper content they deign to be 'offensive' or 'racist' or 'homophobic' (and, like in the case with the 'racist' New York Post cartoon, what's designated 'offensive' is almost invariably critical of the progressive agenda.)

Enough is enough.

You can't start censoring the British press - just like you can't start arresting people for preaching Christianity or ban people from entering the country for criticizing radical Islam. We're supposed to live in a free democracy - but under the guise of 'progressive' and 'liberal' policies, Britain's slowly turning into nothing short of a politically-correct police state.

Thank goodness that I live in America - where freedom of expression and freedom of religion are the cornerstone of this nation's identity.

Yes, it does mean I have to listen to an awful lot of offensive, inaccurate, blithering rubbish (have you ever listened to the Glenn Beck show?) However, it means that I can happily express my own offensive, inaccurate, blithering rubbish with absolute impunity (welcome to Militant Ginger, by the way.)

Britain has never had any formally dictated 'right to freedom of expression' - which makes it all the more easy for so-called progressives like Lynne Featherstone to tarmac over what shreds of free speech we Brits still have left.

9 comments:

Lloydie said...

Roland

A great piece, yet again.

As a liberal and as a Lib Dem I broadly agree with your assertion. I would argue that there is a slight difference in this case to see some adjustment in how we view page 3 (pardon the phrase).

I absolutely agree that we should not be in the business of going around banning things just because we find them distasteful. What Lynne raises here (and she's actually a fine MP, albeit to the left of me in the party, and not without her foibles) is the role women play in society.

I'm for equal rights. I'm for women being treated as people not objects and I'm interested in how media portrayal of women impacts the viewer, however unconsciously.

There is a body of evidence to support the view that objectifying women, such as in page 3 of The Sun, might be damaging. We currently live in a society where women still earn less than their male counterparts and where some still regard them as second class citizens.

The equal right movement has come a long way, but equality still isn't there for women. My former university lecturer Dr Mallory Wober exposed us to research on the portrayal of women in TV and film. Attitudes, particularly amongst younger audiences, were negatively affected when they saw women in subservient roles or "objectified for the gratification of men".

Other studies have shown pornography to be "addictive and progressive" although to what degree remains the subject of debate. I'm left wondering where the line between "family newspaper" and "unacceptable objectification" lies.

I'm not for banning page 3. I remain to be convinced, however, that it has a place in a newspaper that can be bought by a 6 year old walking into a news agent. I'm even more concerned that a 6 year old could buy the Daily Sport and everything that newspaper contains.

For me, liberalism is allowing people to hold the views they wish, and allowing them to view the things they wish to view, including pornography, art and "suggestive" imagery providing so doing does not diminish the rights and liberties of others.

The longterm effects of such images in the Sun are extremely hard to quantify, but as an NLPer I know how images and contexts can have a strong effect on people's unconscious attitudes towards things. I see no reason that newspapers, or any other medium, should escape possible age restrictions (like movies, DVDs and games) if they are deemed to be effective, necessary and enforceable and feel this might be something worth considering for The Sun. I doubt it would impact greatly on the numbers of copies it sold, but it might keep inappropriate images away from those not able to provide sufficient context to them.

Roland Hulme said...

Hi Lloydie,

You make a very valid point about the age thing; although I'm debauched enough to think that a 8-year-old who sees a pair of naked boobies isn't going to be damaged by that - I mean they were sucking on them six years earlier and will be able to see them on TV when they're old enough to stay up past the watershed.

As for the rest - I totally see your point. I think the whole NLP aspect is fascinating and can't deny that there's some weight to that.

HOWEVER - banning things because *some* experts think there *might* be a link towards what OTHER experts think *might* be a social injustice (after living in America, the inequalities between women and men in the workplace in the UK seem significantly less) is ultimately so subjective and open for corruption as to be laughable.

Banning Page 3 girls because they 'objectify' women is based on the assumption that it does - the models themselves might disagree with that (I copy edit a men's magazine jacquesmag.com and the models are amongst the smartest and most capable of all the people I've met - and the ones I've spoken to don't consider themselves objectified or exploited - quite the opposite.)

One of the people I link to in my blogroll - Pandora Blake - is a fierce lib dem, a fierce feminist AND a producer of truly world class erotica. I'd love to know what her view on Page 3 girls is, and will have to approach her about that (you'd really, really like her too as she is fiendishly smart AND a lib dem.)

Lloydie said...

Hmm. I guess the point I was making is that we ought to do some research on the impact these images make (and any image makes some impact be it positive, negative or, indeed, a mix of both).

I don't agree with an outright ban but I do agree with reviewing the place of page 3 in a "family" newspaper and, potentially, placing an age restriction on it should a sensible review recommend it.

For me it's about context. It's not about banning breasts or "boobs" being evil or "wrong" to look at. Breast feeding serves a very useful purpose and thus seeing that happening at any age makes perfect sense. Page three serves a very different purpose. I doubt The Sun aim it at 7 year olds so I'm thinking, that being the case, and them being very morally righteous when it comes to the early sexualisation of children these days, that they'd be only too keen to come to some form or reasonable arrangement on the matter.

Teehee... I said "boobs" in the middle of a discussion.

One Salient Oversight said...

Australia used to have page 3 girls - but we banned them way back in the late 80s I think.

The effects of the ban? A tidal force of protests? An infringement of rights? None of those.

Pornography isn't banned in Australia, so it is not as though we live under a Feminazi autocracy. FHM and lad mags aren't banned either.

I suppose it's a way of saying - everything in its right place.

It's fine to be nude at home. It's not fine to be nude in public. It's okay to smoke in your home. It's not okay to smoke on public transport.

The removal of the page 3 girl was, I think, a way for newspapers to focus on news reporting rather than sex. People pick up and read newspapers because they want to know what is going on in the world. Having a topless woman on page three gave the newspapers a dual soft porn/news reporting role.

Sexism is an issue that needs to be dealt with, and tabloids with page 3 girls were a way to make sexism mainstream.

My sister entered a male-only workplace in the 1970s and was subjected to all sorts of sexist remarks and behaviour. Even I remember fellow workmates in the 1980s treating female co-workers without respect. It made it very difficult for women to work in and succeed in a workplace.

The removal of the page three girl will make sexism less acceptable in workplaces. It's not a completely direct link but it is a link nonetheless. There's nothing stopping anyone from purchasing porn or accessing it on the internet, so it would be best to leave the newspapers to focus on the news and project a society that doesn't view women as sexual objects.

You see it is the presence of a sexual image (the topless woman) amongst the seriousness of news reporting that does the damage. People read newspapers to find out what is going on in the world and when their understanding of the world is accompanied by a topless female image then their understanding is accompanied by a sexual image. Thus it is "normal" for women to be objectified as such, as opposed to being limited just to pornography.

Besides, it is a crass way to sell papers. It debases the importance of fair and objective news reporting. The use of sex to sell products has a long and inglorious history and has been rightly changed through advertising laws - why shouldn't newspaper be any different?

Andy said...

Roland...your friendly neighborhood right-wing conservative here!

I want to thank you for the...ummm...education! I had not heard of a Page 3 girl before. Just as a side note, as I was reading this post, and scrolling down the page...guess who walked into my office?

Yep! My wife...I've got some 'splainin' to do now. Thanks!

I enjoyed the piece, and the comments by Lloydie and OSO. If it was up to me to decide, I wouldn't ban the photos. I'm a believer in letting the market take care of itself.

When it becomes bad for business, the papers will drop it.

The only concern that I have is the one Lloydie raised about children being able to purchase it. But, that horse is out of the barn already. The internet, television, video games, etc.

Heck, when I was a kid we had National Geographic, and my friends' father's Playboy stash. Boys are going to find a way to look at boobs. They always have.

It will, as it always has, take good parenting, and supervision to keep a child from being exposed at too young an age. And that "age" can really only be determined by Mom & Pop.

Good discussion, though. Okay, now I've got to go convince my wife that I came across that photo entirely by accident, and that it was a complete shock to me!

Wish me luck...

Susanne said...

"Just as a side note, as I was reading this post, and scrolling down the page...guess who walked into my office?

Yep! My wife...I've got some 'splainin' to do now. Thanks!"

Ha, ha! When I saw this post the other day I had to watch out because my husband was coming down the hall. I didn't want him to think I was interested in viewing topless women on the 'net. So Andy's comment made me laugh. :)

Angola said...

Angola said...

I am the entertainment editor for a South African tabloid called Sondag. We publish boobs on p.3 in the same tradition as the British papers.
A previous regional tabloid paper that I worked for, decided to go against the boobs and to replace p.3 with bikini girls.
In the process we reduced out readership by HALF.
So here is the dilemma: so-called appropriate journalism versus public demand.
What are you going to choose if you run a newspaper business with the aim of making money?

Now, I would very much like to comment on the following p.3 statement on this blog:
It is a crass way to sell papers. It debases the importance of fair and objective news reporting.

Before you accuse newspapers of something like this you must understand the concept of tabloid reporting (not tabloid format, tabloid style).

Firstly, we DO NOT publish stories that other papers regard newsworthy. Our approach is FUN, rather than "fair" and "objective".
We don't do politics and we don't do crime (even though South Africa is a country with lots of crime stories!)

In the same paper where you find boobs on p.3, you might as well turn the page and read a story about a UFO sighting or a baby that was born with three legs.
Or even better: a story about somebody who was screwed by an institution. We publish scandals and we publish bar room jokes.

We have three motto's at our newspaper:
- no politics
- no soft shit
- champion for the underdog.

With that in mind, you might as well reconcider the roll of the p.3 girl. We are not the kind of publication that is concidered a serious read amongst the crowd who buy the dailies in South Africa.

Complaining about "sex" selling tabloids is like walking into a public restroom and complaining about the smell of urine.

Really - if you can't take the heat...

Angola said...

Angola said...

I am the entertainment editor for a South African tabloid called Sondag. We publish boobs on p.3 in the same tradition as the British papers.
A previous regional tabloid paper that I worked for, decided to go against the boobs and to replace p.3 with bikini girls.
In the process we reduced out readership by HALF.
So here is the dilemma: so-called appropriate journalism versus public demand.
What are you going to choose if you run a newspaper business with the aim of making money?

Now, I would very much like to comment on the following p.3 statement on this blog:
It is a crass way to sell papers. It debases the importance of fair and objective news reporting.

Before you accuse newspapers of something like this you must understand the concept of tabloid reporting (not tabloid format, tabloid style).

Firstly, we DO NOT publish stories that other papers regard newsworthy. Our approach is FUN, rather than "fair" and "objective".
We don't do politics and we don't do crime (even though South Africa is a country with lots of crime stories!)

In the same paper where you find boobs on p.3, you might as well turn the page and read a story about a UFO sighting or a baby that was born with three legs.
Or even better: a story about somebody who was screwed by an institution. We publish scandals and we publish bar room jokes.

We have three motto's at our newspaper:
- no politics
- no soft shit
- champion for the underdog.

With that in mind, you might as well reconcider the roll of the p.3 girl. We are not the kind of publication that is concidered a serious read amongst the crowd who buy the dailies in South Africa.

Complaining about "sex" selling tabloids is like walking into a public restroom and complaining about the smell of urine.

Really - if you can't take the heat...

Angola said...

Angola said...

I am the entertainment editor for a South African tabloid called Sondag. We publish boobs on p.3 in the same tradition as the British papers.
A previous regional tabloid paper that I worked for, decided to go against the boobs and to replace p.3 with bikini girls.
In the process we reduced out readership by HALF.
So here is the dilemma: so-called appropriate journalism versus public demand.
What are you going to choose if you run a newspaper business with the aim of making money?

Now, I would very much like to comment on the following p.3 statement on this blog:
It is a crass way to sell papers. It debases the importance of fair and objective news reporting.

Before you accuse newspapers of something like this you must understand the concept of tabloid reporting (not tabloid format, tabloid style).

Firstly, we DO NOT publish stories that other papers regard newsworthy. Our approach is FUN, rather than "fair" and "objective".
We don't do politics and we don't do crime (even though South Africa is a country with lots of crime stories!)

In the same paper where you find boobs on p.3, you might as well turn the page and read a story about a UFO sighting or a baby that was born with three legs.
Or even better: a story about somebody who was screwed by an institution. We publish scandals and we publish bar room jokes.

We have three motto's at our newspaper:
- no politics
- no soft shit
- champion for the underdog.

With that in mind, you might as well reconcider the roll of the p.3 girl. We are not the kind of publication that is concidered a serious read amongst the crowd who buy the dailies in South Africa.

Complaining about "sex" selling tabloids is like walking into a public restroom and complaining about the smell of urine.

Really - if you can't take the heat...