Rupert Murdoch has hinted at a change of heart about “Page 3 girls”. Pressure from The No More Page 3 campaign has pushed the issue to the forefront of public debate and now boasts more than 203,000 petition signatures asking for the “bare boobs” to be “taken out of The Sun”.
Murdoch stormed the Twittersphere by tweeting:
Brit feminists bang on forever about page 3. I bet never buy paper I think old fashioned but readers seem to disagree.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) September 10, 2014
He followed this by posing the question: “Aren’t beautiful young women more attractive in at least some fashionable clothes?”
Murdoch is probably right – it is quite possible that many British feminists don’t buy The Sun. I myself am one of them. What he fails to understand is that the reason we don’t buy The Sun is because of the topless woman on Page 3. Perhaps Murdoch was hoping that the excellent and accurate journalism The Sun offers its readers would distract feminists from caring about the inclusion of a topless woman.
And in terms of “beautiful young women” being “more attractive in at least some fashionable clothes”, we have to question the extent to which this would really resolve the problem of Page 3. Yes, it would distance it from the soft pornographic tones it currently prides itself on, but are young, pretty girls really all the British public want to see over their cornflakes in the morning?
Of course we should celebrate young women. We should also celebrate elderly women, middle-aged women, British African-Caribbean women, British Asian women and inspiring mothers and children from all cultures and backgrounds.
The women that are making positive and revolutionary changes in the world today are currently being overlooked in favour of a smiling woman who is willing to bare her breasts to the world. This is a travesty and will continue to be a travesty if soft porn is merely replaced with beauty queens.
Page 3 has been defended in the past by a former editor of The Sun, Dominic Mohan, as “celebrating natural beauty” through being an “innocuous British institution”. Unfortunately it seems that this celebration of “natural beauty” carries some very strict requirements in terms of age, skin colour, body weight and condition of breasts.
If we are to brand Page 3 an innocent part of our culture, then we are internalising sexist attitudes and beliefs that will only serve to disadvantage a future generation of women.
Page 3 was introduced in November 1970, when the Equal Pay Act had still not taken effect and second wave feminism was rife. Three decades later and despite the undeniable advance in social mores the feature remains prominent.
Despite the downturn in newspaper sales in the UK, The Sun still sells more than 2m copies daily and continues to be the most-read tabloid newspaper in the UK. Until people stop buying it – and so condoning Page 3 – editors will continue to argue that there is a public demand for the inclusion of a topless woman.
Most detrimental to the fight to end Page 3 is the way in which it has become normalised. It’s a familiar part of everyday media – this has enabled the likes of Mohan to label it as a “British institution”. The sexual objectification of women in other tabloids and lads’ mags has become too pervasive in the mainstream consumer market and needs to be made unfamiliar and unacceptable.
A key way in which the sexual objectification of women is normalised in The Sun is through its campaign “Check ‘em Tuesday”. The campaign aims to raise breast cancer awareness by flaunting the breasts of glamour models at readers to remind them to check their breasts.
There is no concern for the thousands of women who are currently suffering from breast cancer or are in remission, unless of course they are applauding The Sun’s use of sexual objectification as a form of awareness raising.
While airbrushed glamour models pose topless in the name of breast cancer awareness, (apparently this is a compassionate move rather than a career move), stories from readers are included which serve to justify Page 3 as life-saving. Eva, an 81 year-old widow, and mother of two Susan claim that “Page 3 saved their lives”.
Unfortunately, Page 3 has only served to hinder the lives of women such as myself. It makes our breasts commodities and so renders us subject to a male gaze far too frequently. In the words of The No More Page 3 campaign: it’s time Murdoch realised that not only are boobs not news, beautiful young women in “some” clothes aren’t either.