Sunday, 25 January 2015

Contemplation: "Get your wits out for the lads" -- how we were burned by The Sun

Dear Friends of Quirk

If you put up with follow me (as myself, not as The Quirky Brunette) on Facebook it won't have escaped your notice that I've been somewhat vocal this week over the behaviour of The Sun newspaper.

On Wednesday it looked as though, after three years of protesting, and forty-four years of objectification plus, the excellent No More Page 3 campaign had finally triumphed, resulting in the red-top dropping topless shots from their newspapers (albeit in favour of photos of models in underwear).

It was a tiny victory in a much larger, less fathomable, war, but a victory nonetheless. Break open the Bolly, my friends, we're actually being listened to.

For years the campaign has stated, rightly, that boobs aren't news, and therefore the topless photos have no place in what purports to be a 'newspaper' (though let's face it, 'news' is a little bit strong, isn't it... Oh snap).

The news that Page 3 was to be dropped was leaked, so I understand, by The Sun's sister paper, The Times, so there was no reason for us to doubt it. The removal of the topless photo from Page 3 looked to be a significant coup, overthrowing a grim tradition (laughingly referred to by one particular individual as a 'heritage') that should have been thrown out years ago but yet had taken until 2015 to be removed.


We're supposed to have hover-boards by now. And they call that progress?! 

More seriously, of course, every day we're exposed to news that suggests that we're actually moving backwards or at the very least we're stagnant: abject poverty, terrorism, outrage over freedom of speech... and that's just in the 'first world'. And even in this 'first world', the playing field is not a level one for women.

Needless to say, as a fully signed up advocate of the No More Page 3 campaign, I, along with many others, celebrated.

I read a lot of the publicity (positive and negative) that had come out of this announcement with vested interest (links to a good few are at the bottom of this post).

And I was interested to read the counter-arguments and comments. Some disgusted me. Others confused me. And many surprised me, notably those that voiced the opinion that, really, was the abolition of Page 3 worth the fight, and if we were that concerned about the maltreatment of women wouldn't everyone else in favour of the NMP3 campaign be better off defending the rights of women sold into sex slavery, or subjected to FGM, or victims of rape and domestic violence?

Aren't we getting just a little too worked up over a photo in a cheap publication we can choose not to buy?

No, we're not.

(Incidentally, I have my friends Evie and Eloise to thank for effectively fleshing out my arguments here -- I've learned more about feminism in the last few months through knowing those two women than I had done in 35 years prior.)

My stance against Page 3 as an institution is simple: it's sexist, outdated, and portrays women as passive and compliant to the (primarily) male gaze, and perpetuates the dangerous and misguided belief that a woman's currency is her body alone.

In addition, to place a photo of a sexualised woman in direct juxtaposition to editorial masquerading as news devalues any integrity a story may have had.

It's not just that when I sit down on a train at stupid o'clock in the morning, I don't want to be confronted by a photo of a young woman with breasts bared in the open paper of the person sitting next to me.

It's an inappropriate image to display in a public place. Yes I can choose not to buy the paper itself but I can't necessarily choose not to be exposed to the image if someone else has bought the paper.

It's not just about the image, either. It's about what it represents. To reiterate, boobs aren't news. Women will have breasts, and nipples, tomorrow. They had them yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. It's a biological thing. Yes, they're beautiful, and moreover they're functional. They've been so for millions of years. BUT THEY'RE NOT NEWS and thus, they do not belong in a newspaper.

To have had this fairly basic message get through to The Sun, resulting in their subtle removal of the topless page three photo, seemed like a major breakthrough.

But not for long.

..The Sun giveth, and The Sun taketh away.

By Thursday morning, the topless shots were back. The hint-of-a-promise of their removal was nothing more than a publicity gimmick.

The reinstatement of the topless photo was a slight to everyone who had believed they had been listened to, and that progress had been made. Stalwart consumers of the paper no doubt rubbed their thighs in smirking glee.

On one end of the scale it was unsurprising. I mean, why would The Sun pull their USP, archaic and sexist as it is? And what on earth were we doing taking the news as gospel from a fairly unsubstantiated, and subjective, source, when that news was neither confirmed nor denied by the paper itself? (Because the media is after all to be believed at all times...)

On the other end of the scale, it was a bad move, insulting, frustrating and unfair.

The message being put out there was, "we know what the punters want and we're not going to lose out on loadsamoney to silence a bunch of bloody feminists who should just relax; it's just a bit of fun, innit? It's an institution." An institution run by a faction of individuals who can't function for two days without ooooooh, giggle, giggle, looking at pictures of BOOBIES.

But to counter the argument of those who believe that the campaign against Page 3 is too minute an effort to matter in the grand scheme of things, the position for women's equality and dignity can be rooted in their representation in these publications.

Page 3 sends out the message from too early and too impressionable an age that women are solely to be looked at, and their opinions and achievements can be glossed over or even omitted from the press in favour of speculation on their appearance. How will women ever stop being maltreated on a global scale if our worth is calculated solely on the basis of our bodies and our sexuality? We are more than those parts. We have minds and voices. But until women are no longer objectified and silenced through passive representation, we are a long way from winning the larger battles.

The Sun is not the only publication guilty of feeding into this particular issue, but it's the most prominent perpetrator and it could so easily have taken a higher moral stance and accepted that the 'culture' of Page 3 does a massive disservice to women.

Alas no.

And so the battle continues.

My red No More Page 3 t-shirt is in the post

and I shall wear it proudly.

A red top to counter the red-tops.

qb xx

PS Thanks to R for his inspiration on the title of this post!


No More Page 3: Our grassroots campaign took on a huge corporation, and we won

Page 3's demise smacks of censorship

Is the Sun's scrapping of Page 3 topless models a victory for women?

The Sun’s Page 3 cynicism isn’t just about lust. It’s about resentment and power

Page 3: The Sun brings back topless women

The “return” of Page 3: the Sun revels in the chance to make women with opinions look stupid

Page 3 returns: The only organisation that comes out looking stupid here is The Sun

Why aren't there men on Page 3?

See also

No More Page 3 | NMP3 on Facebook | NMP3 on Twitter | Petition to remove Page 3

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