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Banning Page 3 is the Cry of the Insane

Tom Winnifrith
Sunday 21 October 2012

I have just discussed whether page 3 girls should be banned with a feminist. She was quite reasonable about it. Others are not. It is a sign of the decadent decline of or political and media elite that they even regard this as a major issue to start with. Hell’s teeth the country is going bust, our relationship with the EU is utterly broken, we have 9 million economically inactive folks, etc, etc – and yet some insist on getting their knickers in a twist about THIS issue.

Perhaps the simplest way to look at this is to see who supports banning Page 3. Polly Toynbee, Harriet Harman, the Liberal Democrats etc. That should instinctively tell you which side to be on. The other one.

The Toynbee case is that Page 3 should be banned because a) it exploits women and b) it causes men to view women as sex objects/not treat them with respect. Let’s start with the exploitation issue because folks like Toynbee see everything in terms of exploitation. Capitalists give jobs to people who would otherwise not have jobs but because those who own the means of production earn more (or lose everything, Toynbee forgets that part) than the “workers” she sees that as exploitation.

Of course it is not. Capitalism is the best system going for increasing the absolute material wealth and living standards for the most people. And much to Toynbee’s dismay, the other system just did not work. Grudgingly the old trout therefore lives in a capitalist world.

For her and other privately educated members of the elite there is a choice about where you work. It is not the dole or Tesco’s. It is whichever loss making paper is prepared to pony up £300,000 a year for you to serve up lamentable tripe. On a wider scale, those of us lucky to have been born into middle class backgrounds do have some element of choice in determining our terms of trade and where we fit into the capitalist system. But for most folks there is no such choice.

Innate to capitalism (the system that is the most efficient at eliminating absolute poverty) is that most people have to accept jobs where they cannot dictate their terms of trade (i.e. pay) and frankly the jobs they do are the sort Toynbee et al would never consider doing. And so for Katie from Basildon the choice is, in Toynbee’s terms, a pretty grim one: be exploited by Tesco, by Asda or go on the dole. But there is a third way: get your tits out for the Sun. That route offers money, an escape from poverty, an escape from a 9-5 existence and possibly a break into a crap reality TV show. It is exploitation yes (as workers we are all exploited in Toynbee’s world view) but exploitation that offers money, escape from Basildon and possibly a fun lifestyle swilling champagne with moronic football players. Is the world really improved by stopping this?

And then to the second point – Page 3 changes the way men view women. Where is the hard evidence for this? If men wish to see women in a far greater state of undress than Katie from Basildon there are plenty of places to go. One might be any beach in Southern Europe. I spent a summer with topless women walking past me as I sat on the beach. Some looked like Toynbee and others looked like Katie from Basildon with others somewhere in between. In the world of 1970 naked breasts might have been thought rather risqué. Today we just accept them as a normal facet of life. I do not view birds any differently simply because some of them opt to pose topless in the Sun. Not that I read The Sun. Nor is there any evidence that those who do buy the paper view birds differently either.

I accept that some find pictures of topless women distasteful. I find some other things in the press distasteful. Pictures of Polly Toynbee with her kit on, Guardian Op Ed’s written by Hamas Jew hating killers, articles by anyone called Blair, Editorials from the Independent in 1992 explaining why anyone who thought the Euro was a bad idea was a xenophobe and a racist, do I have to go on? But a free society means tolerating that which we find distasteful. I am not forced to read the Guardian, not (as of yet) pay for it and Toynbee is not forced to read the Sun and the State should have no right to dictate what appears in either paper.

The Toynbee approach is one that (albeit in a trivial way) accepts that the State has the right to determine newspaper content. It is one that denies opportunity to folk less fortunate than herself, those who have far fewer choices about which role they play in a capitalist world and it does nothing for women, except consigning a few more of them to leading a life based on a career as a shop assistant at Tesco.

The Toynbee rule stands firm: if Polly supports a cause, that cause is a duff one.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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