Topless shots – more thoughts

I wanted to do this follow-up post from yesterday’s because I have been mulling over what I wrote, and a few feedback comments on twitter and I want to try to be a little clearer about what my issue is with topless women in the mainstream media. In arguing back against anyone’s comments here I have tried not to be aggressive in my language. Posts on this blog are only ever my opinions, and if you want to comment back then yours are equally valid. I really welcome comments, both agreeing and disagreeing with my opinions. I learn a lot from every comment on this blog – they make me question and think through my opinions, which often then alter.

1) It’s not pictures of topless women I don’t like… its where they are and the double standards. Society deems sexualised or erotic images of near-naked women to be OK over your morning coffee, while equivalent shots of men are consigned to the top shelf.

2) One comment I received on twitter was that “there’s a class aspect to that judgement that i find problematic”. Maybe the working class is more comfortable with these images. Or perhaps it is the upper classes. I am not sure which was meant, and I am certainly pretty middle class in my background and upbringing. But I am unsure why class matters at all in this. Are working class women less oppressed/repressed than their middle class counterparts if they find these images acceptable (if indeed they do), or does it merely indicate that their familiarity with the status quo stops them from noticing the inequality of the situation?

3) There was also a comment that “I know of lesbians who like those mags”. It is often easy for people to hold up lesbians as the natural owners of feminism – for after all, don’t they perfectly live the feminist ideal with all that man-hating? Well, no, in my opinion they are no more representative of feminists than straight women. For starters, a penchant for the feminist philosophy does not equal a dislike for men (and nor does, I might add, lesbianism). Secondly, Lesbians are simply sexually attracted to women rather than men. That makes them no more likely to identify, care about or fight for women’s equality. Sometimes they might live in a unique (and perhaps socially enlightened) community of friends and family which means they don’t experience inequality. Sometimes their sexual preferences and life choices give rise to more difficulties in their life than the average woman – highlighting inequalities more than normal. But I can’t see why any of that would mean that lesbian approval on an issue of female equality should undermine a straight woman’s objection to it. To me it is frankly a non-argument. Misogynists often classify feminists and lesbians in the same over-used pigeon hole. It gets boring.

4) The most interesting thought I was left chewing over, and one I may need to do another follow-up post about in time, was based on this comment that calendar girls and topless models are “probably more of a symptom than a cause” of repression of women. This comment seems to reach right to the heart of so many of the issues surrounding the women/equality debate. Does society tolerate naked pictures of women but not men in the mainstream *because* women have been oppressed for so long, or do these images continue to feed the stereotypes and social constructs which continue the inequalities? I would tend to believe it is both, which for me justifies a call to address the matter. Whether sexualised images should be in the mainstream media – accessible by children of all ages – is one for society to decide. I am calling for equality in those images, whichever way that falls (and my own vote would be for erotic poses to be top shelf only, regardless of the gender).

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2 responses to “Topless shots – more thoughts

  1. I reckon we’ve all been desensitised to a great many things. Nudity, swearing, lewd behaviour – all of these are now part of primetime TV and the rest of the mainstream media. Just last night I was watching Beach Rescue and in the cut-aways between scenes there were close-ups of a woman’s butt in a g-string and a topless woman covering her breasts with her hands. Don’t get me started on swearing…Masterchef, as an example, was great viewing but having one contestant repeat the word “shit” several times in frustration and Gary using the word “bastard” while cooking a meal was not what i wanted my kids to hear during a supposedly family friendly timeslot.

    I suspect that the entire page 3 girl phenomenon came about because newspaper sales were falling and, frankly, it was shocking and sex sells. Now, it’s become so ingrained as to be acceptable. It’s little wonder that young boys grow to to expect women to cavort around half naked.

    I guess this all makes me sound like a prude. Perhaps I am but I’m trying to raise three kids to a standard that is perhaps a little higher than what the mainstream deems to be acceptable these days. We don’t allow any swearing (stupid and bum count as swear words at our house. English is a rich enough language for kids to learn a more rounded vocab) and typically watch any DVD or read any book that the kids bring if we’re not certain that the content is appropriate.

    Better stop the rant now 🙂

  2. my point about lesbians liking them is not that they’re the natural owners of feminism – a quick look at the rates of domestic violence in lesbian relationships will show that, in any case. My point was that it problematises the notion that it’s a gendered form of oppression. If lesbian publications begin using half naked women to sell products to other lesbians, that tends to indicate a deeper issue. The use of half naked men to sell products to gay men is an interesting parallel.

    I personally dislike the use of naked women to sell everything, not because i think it’s necessarily oppressive – that’s an argument i’m still thinking about – but because it’s infantile and patronising.

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