In recent months, one of the biggest news stories from the UK has been the publication of topless photos of Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. The world’s reaction, it would seem, is a mixture of disapproval, shock and disappointment – not in Kate herself, but over the decision to publish the photos by the French edition of Closer magazine.
An obvious and rather useful event to compare this to is the recent emergence of nude photos of Prince Harry in Las Vegas. The public reactions to these events were quite different, however, with a royal spokesperson identifying the “grotesque and unjustifiable invasion of privacy” in the Middleton case, while most others found Harry’s incident vaguely amusing and the publication of the photos no major issue, despite threats of legal action from the palace.
It is worth mentioning that the contexts of these candid photographs are vastly different. We know Prince Harry likes to push boundaries to have a laugh (remember the Nazi uniform?), and his reputation as a hell raiser features heavily in his public image. The Royal Family, however, has gone a way to present the Newbury-born Duchess with little more than a hair out of place. What’s more the photographs were taken on a private holiday using a super-long distance lens, 1.3 kilometres away from the private complex in Southern France where they were staying. THE SUN’s Lorraine Kelly seemed to speak for many people when she said Harry “let himself be humiliated” whereas Kate was attacked by the “sleazy” paparazzi.
It is easy to think it was just the circumstance of these scandals that sparked such different reactions, yet Kate has hardly been untouchable in the media. Gossip columns are often poking holes at her weight loss with shock headlines such as ‘Kate Middleton too Skinny to Have a Baby’, so why such a fuss now? Could it be that our attitude has changed?
It’s easy to say that we’re horrified by the photographs of Kate Middleton or reviled by the daily publication of topless young women in THE SUN – but our actions tell a different story. Despite the thousands of people online who say that “boobs aren’t news”, the market is clearly there. According to the DAILY MAIL, about 20 per cent of adults in Britain with access to the Internet have viewed the intrusive pictures. Meanwhile, THE SUN is branching out its page 3 feature for an online audience with ‘Page 360’ – an interactive Page 3 girl who you can spin around for a 3D close-up .
So, are we really fighting for more equality for women in the media? The fiery passion of anti-Page 3 advocates is largely made up of younger social media users and it is probable that the campaign hasn’t quite reached the vast majority of THE SUN’s 2.6m readers. As a result, it is virtually impossible to know how they feel about the issue, but we can only assume, as Britain’s biggest selling daily newspaper, that at the very least readers aren’t morally offended by it.
It’s difficult to say whether this progressive surge of feminist activism is really progress at all, or just a small wave of interest in a media that continues to depict women as sex objects and take advantage of their insecurities and vulnerabilities. An apparent waning interest in objectifying women is certainly positive but, with the recent media attention given to Kate Middleton’s photographs, it is not entirely convincing. It seems the upset has been caused by her status – not her right to privacy – and that our nation’s lust for objectifying women remains as passionate as ever.