The “No More Page 3” campaign has recently received particular media attention after The Sun newspaper appeared to have put an end to its Page 3 feature. However, this lapse in the publishing of photographs of topless female models was revealed as only temporary with Page 3 returning to full swing shortly after. As a feminist and a long-time supporter of the campaign for the removal of Page 3, I consider this a great disappointment and a missed opportunity for what would have been a great victory for the representation of women in the media. I also find myself continually dismayed by the misinformed opinions aimed at the work of the campaign. Despite the circulation and press that this campaign has received, it seems that many people are still perplexed as to its true aims and purpose. As with many debates relating to gender equality, words like “bra burning man-haters” start to get thrown around and the true focus behind the campaign seems to be lost beneath that special hatred seemingly reserved for feminism. Therefore, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell people about the No More Page 3 Campaign, the reasons behind its establishment and finally, the deeper repercussions of Page 3 and why the campaign for its end is important. No man-hating or bra burning involved, I promise.
What’s the story so far?
The No More Page 3 campaign was started in 2012 by Lucy-Anne Holmes and is targeted at The Sun newspaper, who since the 1970’s have featured a photograph of a young topless female model on page 3. The campaign is not aiming for a legislative ban of Page 3 but instead would like The Sun to simply drop the feature and stop publishing the photographs. An online petition has gathered over 200,000 signatures and the campaign has received support from Caitlin Moran, Jennifer Saunders and Caroline Lucas as well as organisations such as Woman’s Aid, Breast Cancer UK and Girlguiding UK.
So what’s it all about?
First things first – let’s talk about what it’s NOT about. Many people react to the No More Page 3 Campaign as political correctness gone mad or an over sensitivity to nudity and sexual images. Let’s face it, we see much worse images on late night television or in pornographic magazines and films than on page 3 of The Sun. The campaign against these images isn’t about censoring nudity or protecting the British public from…*gasp* bare breasts! It’s about taking a step back and thinking about what it means to us as a society – one which claims to be pretty forward thinking when it comes to gender equality – when we show a topless woman on one of the first pages in a widely circulated family newspaper. Not a porn film, not a lads mag… a newspaper. This all begs the question – since when were breasts news? When we watch the BBC news at six, we aren’t suddenly interrupted by a topless lady. So, why does it happen in print? In short, the campaign is not about censorship or offence, it’s about the incorrect format in which these images are published which subsequently portray certain messages about women.
By displaying photos of topless women in the format of an everyday family newspaper, we normalise the concept of women being portrayed in this way, rather than confining such images to media specifically intended for this purpose (pornography, lads mags etc). This subsequently contributes to gender equality and derogatory “laddish” attitudes that women are first and foremost objects of sexual pleasure as opposed to successful and interesting creatures – even with their clothes on. Many people attempt to defend Page 3 by arguing that the models are successful in their own right and that showing their bodies is empowering to them. Yes, women are attractive and sexy and should be allowed to feel confident and comfortable in their bodies, but this isn’t the only thing they are. One of the reasons that Lucy-Anne Holmes started the campaign was because during the 2012 Olympics, she noticed that the large image of a topless model was more prominent than the photos and reports of the achievements of the female athletes. It seems that women’s bodies become viewed as primarily tools of sexual gratification above all else. Why is it that some people kick up a fuss if a woman starts breast feeding in public but are totally cool with breasts on page 3? This suggests that so long as they are being used for a sexual purpose then breasts are ok and accepted as opposed to being parts of the female anatomy intended for other purposes than just sexual imagery..
Arguably, the images on Page 3 do not only give the wrong message to men but also contribute to intense pressure on women to look and be used in a certain way – in other words, your body is something which should look good and should be shared for the pleasure of others. Unfortunately, a common response to revealing yourself as a supporter of the campaign is “Well, obviously you’re just jealous that you don’t look like those girls”. This single comment merely proves my point – that even the pure validity of your own opinion comes down to what you look like and the comparison of your body to that of another woman’s.
Why is it so important?
To many people, the No More Page 3 campaign seems trivial, leading to questions such as “aren’t you more concerned about more important women’s rights issues?” and the classic: “If you don’t like it, then don’t buy it”. Yes, I am very concerned about important issues such as the shockingly high rates of violence, domestic abuse and sexual offences committed against women. But how can we even begin to tackle these problems when a family newspaper essentially gives the message that women ARE most importantly sexual objects and contributes to casual everyday sexism. And even if I don’t buy The Sun newspaper, myself and other women still suffer the consequences of the messages portrayed by page 3 for so long as it continues to be published in such a prominent and widely circulated format. It we want to see change we need to start small and understand the root causes of people’s attitudes and behaviours towards women. No I am not implying that Page 3 is the key cause of all poor treatment towards women – nor that everyone who has ever looked at Page 3 subsequently treats women in a sexist manner- but I can’t help but worry about the messages and contributory effect that this feature has.
There is so much more to a person than how good they look naked – personality, intelligence, strength, humour etc. Why can’t girls be celebrated for being successful or smart or inspiring other people – why must it always come down to how they look? The media comments on female politicians for what they’re wearing more than what they’re saying, female sports receive minimal coverage and then we wonder why they are less popular than their male counterparts, lads mags are filled with gadgets, sex and sports while the girls get diets and beauty products. Most male models look strong and fit, oozing success, charm and power while many female models prance around in their undies looking sultry and submissive. Girls are pitted against each other instead of encouraged to work together and those who do take the lead get called bossy madams. I could go on and on about the various issues of gender equality yet the single point I want to get across is to think of the wider picture and the overall effect that the format of these images in The Sun have. The topless models on Page 3 may be confident, attractive and successful women, yet they are not news and their presence in a family newspaper is just plain mind boggling, especially in 2015. In short, Page 3 is old fashioned, sexist and essentially encourages uncomfortable ideas and attitudes towards women. Needless to say, I would very much like to see it removed from publication to make room for actual news and the portrayal of a different message: that women can be successful, inspirational and admired because of who they are and what they do and not just due to their sexual appeal.
I hope that I have helped explain the purpose behind the No More Page 3 campaign, however, please take a look at the following website for more information, research documents, resources and to sign the petition: