In My Opinion: Ellen Arnison: It’s time to ditch the Page Three girls

I USED to believe Page Three was just good, clean fun. At the time, I worked for the Daily Star of Scotland and often handled those bare breasts, as it were. The girls who got their vests off weren’t exploited; they were well paid and gorgeous. So what if men wanted to look at their tits?

Things changed one lunch time in a Glasgow bar. I was meeting a friend and, while I waited, I read my own newspaper. Then suddenly I realised that several of the men in the quiet pub were watching me with a ‘right pair’ spread out on the table. I blushed and hastily shut my paper.

But it didn’t stop there. With the printed knockers folded away, they contented themselves with gazing on mine. The moments until my friend arrived were some of the most uncomfortable I’ve ever endured. That was when I started to ask questions.

There is a huge difference between an admiring glance at a whole person and a drooling leer of that person’s breasts. One is flattering and uplifting, the other leaves the recipient’s skin crawling.

These days, I have no qualms in telling a tit-ogler exactly what they’re doing wrong. My younger self was far too shy, inhibited and, often, concerned for her job.

Back in the 1970s, when Page Three began her defiant wobble across our news print, things were very different. But while lots has changed since, this most sexist of institutions – the inappropriately-exposed naked woman – has not. How can this be?

Of course, there’s not a single causal link between Page Three nipples and the horrible sensation of been leered at, or commented upon, because of your breasts. But it has to be part of the equation.

Is it because newspaper people are male chauvinists, even the women? Of course, you aren’t. I’ll bet you don’t consider yourself to be sexist. But then you probably tell yourself you’re a good driver and a moderate drinker.

And surely you want all women to feel comfortable in their gender all the time. And never to feel awkward and uncomfortable – or judged – for the size and shape of their mammary glands. Who would want that?

Then let’s make 2013 the year when we get rid of the flipping tits. It’s not as if someone seeking to gaze at bosoms has any difficulty these days doing so from their phone, tablet or computer; anytime, anywhere?

There may be nostalgia, mild fury even, but in a week or so it’ll be just another quirk consigned to history. They have no place in a modern newspaper.

Before you say it, yes, certainly, this will be a slippery slope – those feminists and their ideals of equality will get everywhere.

Before you know it people will get equal billing in the paper depending on the quality of the story, not the way they look.

And then women’s achievements will be valued just as much as men’s, their salaries will be the same as men’s and little girls will stop dreaming of growing up to be nothing more than a great beauty.

But let’s tackle one thing at a time…

Ellen Arnison worked for the Daily Star of Scotland and the Scottish Daily Mirror. She now works freelance, including writing, subbing, search engine optimisation, brand journalism, ghost blogging, blogging, copywriting and social media. She is the author of ‘Blogging for Happiness: A Guide to Improving Positive Mental Health (and Wealth) from Your Blog’.