“Who the fuck is Richard Herring?”
“You know, from Lee and Herring.”
“Isn’t that a sauce? The salty one?”
“No. The comedy duo, from the 90s.”
“I was born in 1994.”
I’ve had that conversation a few times over recent days when discussing the disappearance of the Sun’s page three ‘beauties’, ‘lovelies’ and ‘stunnas’, and their associated breasts. Young men know about page three boobs, but not about Richard Herring. Weird.
An (apparently obscure) male comic has been at the centre of my discussion on whether the page three concept is degrading to women and/or their breasts. How did that happen? Well, it happened because, via the medium of Twitter, he put himself there.
He did the same thing at the beginning of last year with a persistence gag based around International Women’s Day. It was a funny gag, and very persistent. I laughed for ages, stopped laughing for a bit, and then laughed again; persistence genius, no-one can say Herring isn’t a quality comedian. Just like his recent explosion into gender debate, he entered the discussion last year in apparent support of women, but ended up single-handedly making the phrase ‘International Men’s Day’ trend on Twitter… on International Women’s Day.
Richard Herring started the ‘sunmannips’ hashtag on Twitter. If you haven’t seen it, don’t look, spare yourself. It is exactly what it sounds like, a collections of furry little man-nips; ain’t nobody got time for that. Ostensibly, the point of this horror show of scruffy man tits is to highlight the sexist nature of the Sun’s page three displaying only feminine mammaries. Or something.
I think these men are being a bit dismissive of their penis-bearing brothers who actually are models. One look in Cosmo or Attitude will show anyone that male models’ bodies are as well maintained, waxed and photoshopped as their female counterparts. The nipples displayed on #sunmannips are not so close-up ready; these men are, like me, not currently qualified to be models. I can see droopy, unwaxed man-chests by looking out my Salford window between May and October; I don’t need to buy a magazine or newspaper to see that sort of body!
If the point of this hashtag was to show that all imperfect bodies can be beautiful, then why not have #imperfectnips? Why would a comedian jump on the gender bangwagon other than to use it as a vehicle for self-publicising? Oh.
So what’s my fat, feminist problem here? Shouldn’t I be happy that something as ‘out of date’ and ‘demeaning to women’ as page three is being obliterated, however that is achieved?
Well, I’m not, and not just because I’m a lifelong fan of a beautiful pair of luscious lady lumps.
Wiping models off the 3rd page of a print newspaper is not a significant victory towards the eradication of the ‘sex-industry’ which has for so long mortally offended feminists. All it achieves is the removal of what I can only imagine was a fairly well paid shoot by industry standards. The Page Three Lovelies will now just have to whap out their baps for a lower fee. Well done, feminists and supporters; next stop, The Internet, good luck with that.
The root of this issue is not the exposure of the breasts of either sex, it’s that we’re all so damn comfortable objectifying each other. We all so quickly objectify another’s body either as one to want to look like, a body to fuck, or a body to use as a symbol for a cause. The other is just a body, where the self is so much more, right?
How can we show young women (or men) images of liberated, owned bodies and talk over that with a narrative that suggests monetising one’s supposedly free-flesh is a negative? An open dialogue on the reality of that lifestyle has got to be far better. Cultural repression is undesirable, wherever it comes from. By this, I mean, somebody obviously wants to look at these tits, how is ever better to pretend that isn’t the case?
Every service in our economy tends to basic needs or fulfils natural desires, and yet somehow the industry that tends to that most basic of needs and glorious of natural desires is a kept as a dirty secret. Get it off the front page.
The change that needs to be affected is that we all need to understand that a person may offer themselves in the service of other-objectification but that this cannot be applied to all people all the time. You go to a supermarket to buy milk and bread, you don’t just hand your food stamps to a random guy on the street and think that’s okay. It is never helpful to deal with the symptoms of an oppression and ignore the root of the problem. The lairy feminists who claim page 3 sexist, or those who call for equality by demanding The Sun display man-boobs too, are doing just this.
The men on #sunmannips aren’t affecting any change, they’re just re-iterating that objectification is ‘normal’ and ‘equalising’. Use your words, not your nipples, lads. I’m very sure they’re all well-meaning chaps, but they are not helping any cause except Richard Herring’s campaign of self-promotion.
Objectifying a male or female model in the pages of a magazine is not wrong, they have given me permission to do that by arriving at the photo shoot, stripping off and rubbing themselves down with glitter oil. Failing to recognise that model as a person behind the images or assuming that all bodies of that gender should or do look like that naturally, is wrong.
Don’t automatically objectify another on your own terms and you are contributing to changing the mentality of society. If you simply jump on an apparently beneficial bandwagon that is fuelled by the old regime, then you are compounding an archaic way of thinking. I’d be happier in a world where the institution of Lee and Herring had greater longevity than bare boobs in a national rag, but that is not how it is. It is not possible to change natural human desires, it is possible to change how we manifest them and increase our own understanding of them; repressing outlets for sexuality can only ever hinder this process, and it’s already a long one.
These are just my opinions, but whatever your opinions, acting in the truth of your beliefs is always more admirable than hijacking an issue in an attempt to breathe life into your career. If Richard Herring becomes a penis-POV spokesperson for ‘feminist issues’ I’m having a species change and becoming an iguana. Watch out for #reptilenips, it’ll drive you wild with sex-feelings you’ll be instantly told to repress.