That page 3 Thing

Since it has been brought into the argument, and as one of the instigators of the original campaign, 25+ years on, I’d like to revisit that Page 3 thing.

The early 80’s Thatcher had just come to power. ‘Ditch the Bitch’ was the kind of popular anti-Thatcher slogan that focussed on her gender rather than her class, and conflated working class frank sexism with outspoken working class expression. (An earlier version of that was ‘Ted Heath is a queer’.)

The Yorkshire Miner, paper of Arthur Scargill’s most militant area of the NUM, ran a regular topless page 3 girl. We argued, I still think rightly, that such sexism, implying a lads-only labour movement, undermined the unity of the fightback against Thatcher. All credit to Dave Douglass, then of Yorkshire NUM, who took the battle into the heartland of working class militancy and sexism, and won.

I think we were vindicated in the Great Strike of 1984/5, When  women of the pit communities were the backbone of the struggle. You could argue fairly that it was their pivotal role in the strike, rather than our puny propaganda offensive, that decisively changed the consciousness of the labour movement on sexism: militancy was no longer presumed to be the province of the lads alone. It would be a false counterposition, I think. The material obviously weighs heavier than ideology, but ideas do have their place.

So where does the argument stand today?The argument about sexism in the labour movement has largely been won. I am not denying persistent material inequalities. Nor am I precluding reactionary attempts to roll back these gains. but women’s equality is now the default assumption. Sexist language is frowned upon. When we took up the issue of the Miners’ page 3, we were going against the tide; it flows the other way now.

Does sexism still exist in the labour movement? Of course.

Are there individual boorish men in exalted positions in the movement? Yes indeedy.

Is sexism used as stick to beat yesterday’s heroes- turned today’s villains? Undoubtedly.

Do victim-feminists protest too much? Get a grip. Yes, the remarks were crass: you’ll tie yourself in knots trying to defend them.

Were they ‘indefatigable’ George’s worst moment? Not by a long shot.

Georgeous Arse!

The offending quote from the Georgeous One:

“Take Kylie Minogue. For a singer she’s always been not a bad looker.I voted with the majority for a change when her rear was the year’s champion sight. I even bought my woman Kylie’s range of underwear” 

It has been defended along the lines of, if not ‘political correctness gone mad’, then ‘we are guilty men’ for admiring a nice arse. I don’t think it’s just heterosexual men either. Women, straight, bi, and lesbian, have admired it. Kylie is a gay icon, I wouldn’t be surprised if many gay men also took an interest.

Kylie’s arse doesn’t just grace the pages of ‘Nuts’. It has featured in women’s, gay, and family entertainment magazines. In the world of commodity fetishism and fetish consumerism, it approaches the universal value. When the banking system breaks down, perhaps we should exchange token’s of Kylie’s arse as the universal equivalent.

Let me tear myself away from the vision of billions of Kylie’s arses, to the question of sexism from our mouthpieces.What strikes me – and I’m not the only one – is the embarrassing nafness of the comment. It’s not witty, it’s barely articulate. Yet it wasn’t just tossed off at a pub table. It is a national newspaper column. George, whatever you say about him, knows about presentation: he is the consummate rhetorician.So why would he say that?

I don’t think it displays his contempt for women, or women singers, or Kylie herself, so much as for his audience. Sharp-suited, globe-trotting, silver-tongued George is trying to present himself as ‘one of the lads’, a man of the people, ‘bloke down the pub’. He misjudged it direly, but the point is the attempt. This is what he thinks the man in the street wants to hear. Presumably it is not aimed at his muslim constituents, to whom he presents his tee-total, religiously observant face. He is aiming at a perceived blokeish audience. George is all things to all men.

What he is to women is more complex.

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