A Closer Look at the Fight Against Page 3
Those of you living here in the UK, and and even some of you that don’t, will most likely be aware of the great British institution that is Page 3. I’m not going to go into too much detail about its much too long history, but if anyone has been lucky enough never to stumble across it, Page 3 refers to the third page of one of our national tabloid newspapers: The Sun. Each day a topless photo of a female model is printed on this page for the general public to admire (well, except on Saturdays and Sundays when presumably we’ve all had enough of looking at breasts and just want to have a lie in). The newspaper has been doing this since 1970 with a fairly low level of controversy – the most notable effort to ban the page being a denied attempt by Labour MP Clare Short in 1986, when she proposed a bill banning all topless models in British newspapers.
However, the most recent attempt to get this page removed from The Sun seems promising. A few weeks ago Lucy Holmes, an actress and writer living in the UK, started a petition asking Sun editor Dominic Mohan to remove the page from the newspaper. The petition has gained 46,906 signature so far. Although there is definitely a long way still to go to the petition’s target of one million signatures, the flurry of coverage online, on TV and in other national newspapers has inspired discussion.
I signed the petition without hesitation. On a personal level, Page 3 is something that I have always been aware of and felt uncomfortable about. As a young teenager going to school I would see boys of my age buying the newspaper from the local shop, specifically to look at the women on Page 3. Puberty is a testing time – a party of raging hormones setting up camp and causing a carnage of greasy hair, spotty skin and the desire to burst into uncontrollable floods of tears at any given moment is never great. It’s made worse when a national newspaper is telling you that this is what you should aim to look like at the end of it. That’s right girls, when you grow up you’re effectively just going to be a great big pair of tits for men to ogle at.
Even as an adult I have continued to feel the same awkwardness around the page. When commuting to and from work, I would always let out an inward sigh when the person sitting opposite me on the train would whip out a copy of The Sun and turn to that inside page. I’m pretty sure that if someone pulled out a few A4 photos of a topless woman and shuffled through them in a public place they would get a few strange looks, but apparently this doesn’t transfer to those reading The Sun.
Before starting the petition, Lucy Holmes came to the conclusion that
The page 3 girl image is there for no other reason than the sexual gratification of men. She’s a sex object.
And there really is no other argument for the page’s existence. Of course, the editors of the newspaper reassure us that these are happy, wholesome images – after all the women are pictured standing beneath palm trees grinning madly in a pair of colourful knickers, rather than suggestively baby oiled up to the eyeballs with their legs crudely wrapped around a pole. They’re the friendly girl next door, a retro nod to the cheeky seaside postcards of yesteryear. But all I can see when I look at the page is a narrow minded representation of how this newspaper expects women to be. It propagates a white, heterosexual image of beauty which is degrading to both women and men.
For me, Page 3 is synonymous with sexism and plays a negative role in a patriarchal society where women continue to be viewed as objects. It should of course be considered that the models themselves have chosen to be there, are not forced into it, get paid for their time and are, most probably, more than happy to be photographed without their tops on. The free will of the models is often an argument used by those that disagree with the page being banned, along with the old favourite that it’s all ‘just a bit of fun’. The women involved are consenting adults with free will – but so am I, and the simple fact they agreed to model does not mean I agree with the page being published.
Even if you don’t think that it’s sexist and degrading and objectifying to women, surely the page should be removed for the simple fact that a topless woman isn’t news? Newspapers should be there to inform their readers about current events and topical stories, not to show the nation what a 19 year old’s breasts look like. Is a newspaper really the place to see a photo of a topless woman? I think there are magazines you can buy (albeit slightly higher up on the shelves so you might have to stand on your tiptoes) and websites that you can go to, if that’s your sort of thing.
The targeting of The Sun in this petition has rightly raised some major concerns from commentators and feminist groups. The Sun is renowned as a working-class newspaper for working-class people, and the demographic of its readership widely reflects this. The petition has come under critique for seeming to point the finger at working-class culture as one of the major causes of sexual inequality. The targeting of The Sun in particular, when there are other publications that print images like this, has caused some to brand the campaign as a classist attempt to shame the women involved as morally repugnant and to brand the men that purchase the newspaper as Neanderthal cavemen controlled by what’s in their trousers rather than their brains.
The petition apparently disregards the array of other British newspapers and publications that continue to print questionable images of and content about women every day without the same level of contest. Take another British tabloid: The Daily Sport, where distasteful ‘upskirt’ images of female celebrities are the norm on the front page. Typically middle-class publications are also in on the act with the controversial recent issue of GQ causing quite a stir after its ‘Woman of the Year’ cover. Lana del Rey appeared completely naked in somewhat stark contrast to the suited and booted ‘Men of the Year’ on their respective covers.
I strongly believe that these are issues that need to be discussed and debated. If some women feel segregated from the feminist movement for class reasons then this needs to be looked at. If people believe that there are other sexist publications being ignored then this must be acted on. However, these issues don’t take away from the fact that Page 3 is an outdated and irrelevant institution that has no place in an equal and progressive society; and that is what the petition is all about.
What do you think about the fight against Page 3? Share with us in the comments below.
Written by Mica Kelly
Opinions expressed in our editorials belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of Feminspire or its staff as a whole.
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