I can recall with remarkable clarity the first time I posed topless for Page 3 of the Sun. I don’t remember the moment because there was anything exceptional about it; it wasn’t weird or creepy like you might assume… it was quite fun if anything. The reason I remember this moment was because it was a pivotal moment in my life. We all have these moments – big decisions that change the course of your life forever. Just pause for a moment and I’m sure you can recall one too. It could be the career you’ve chosen, a relationship you shouldn’t have got into. We’ve all got them. It almost feels like you’re standing at a crossroads looking at two very different paths and picking which one to take.
It’s one of those crossroad moments that would explain the reason I remember the first time I posed for Page 3 so clearly – a two-sided conversation inside my head deciding if being a Page 3 model was the right choice. I had this internal conversation with myself, not because I had a problem being topless or being featured in the paper – it was more to do with the way I was going to be perceived, pigeon-holed and stereotyped in the future.
It is, after all, widely assumed that Page 3 girls are intellectually uncomplicated, incapable of accomplishing anything other than appearing to be an object for men. We conjure up this image that women who are glamour models are bimbos, that they’re sexy but stupid, and that they possess one quality: showing their breasts to the masses, apparently.
By this point it’s quite apparent that I made the decision to become a Page 3 model. That decision gave me various other opportunities. And even though I’ve had to deal with the burden of the Page 3 stereotype, this didn’t stop me from being saddened this week when I heard the news that the Sun had dropped Page 3 from the newspaper.
I was saddened in the same way you would be if you worked for a business that closed down. I was nostalgic and upset. Admittedly I agreed with Rupert Murdoch that Page 3 is ‘old fashioned’ and the removal based on that is plausible, but surely Page 3 is an institution? What I don’t fully agree with is the feminist standpoint that seemed to be the real reason Page 3 had disappeared silently overnight.
I should make it clear that I’m on the same side of the fight for women’s rights and support any change in society that allows men and women to be equal. Here’s the thing – I don’t see Page 3 as the problem. The problem is that we have acquainted ideas about sexiness and sexuality in our culture- views that need to be reshaped.
As a society we single women out as being one thing in all aspects. Society tells women that you can’t be a complex human being with contradicting qualities. Having been a Page 3 model I know what is it like to be singled out as one thing, to be dismissed as unintelligent and only possessing one quality. This was the predicament I had deciding to be a model – I’m frequently told that I can’t be a former glamour model who wants to be a serious actress. It’s not just me. Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo is told she can’t be a CEO of a company and pose for Vogue magazine, seemingly for caring about how she looks. Actress Olivia Munn is told she can’t be on The Daily Show, a show considered ‘smart’, and be on the front cover of Maxim magazine.
We receive mixed messages and begin to think that if you’re sexy you can’t be smart. Therefore we don’t want to be viewed as sexy because we believe it disregards our intellectual abilities. But is avoiding sexuality and getting rid of things like Page 3 the answer to our problem? Or is it just repressing sexuality?
By getting rid of Page 3 based on sexual objectification, are we not saying, “I don’t wish to be viewed as a sexual being because it undermines my intellectual self”? Is that really a step forward for society? Or does it not confirm the problem – that we can only be one thing.
I always thought that being a feminist was about being equal, and to show you can be a complex person who is both smart and sexy. Not censoring one side of yourself in order to taken seriously in the other.
I just hope that the removal of Page 3 is a step forward for women in society, and not a step back.