Opinion: Let’s look at the harm caused by Page 3

Given that Page 3 wasn’t in The Sun this week, it sure took up a lot of media space, especially among Lib Dems. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that loads of us want to wade into a fight that was framed as free speech and sexual expression vs gender equality and quality news reporting. But that’s not actually what’s going on at all: so here is a rundown of what Page 3 is, and why it’s harmful.

Page 3 is normalising objectification of women. The Sun makes printing nude women for the sole purpose of titillation in a national newspaper, which would otherwise be totally weird, normal. Images of nude women and breasts are perfectly normal and widely available in a sexual context (see, 80% of the internet), but a daily national newspaper is not the place for it, because it’s supposed to be for news. “Women have breasts” is pretty much the oldest story there is. Unless, like my mother, your breasts make it into the paper because they are testing the new mammogram machine at your local hospital they don’t need to be in there. If the Guardian decided to swap Polly Toynbee for a massive naked man next week, I’d find that equally inappropriate, because quality reporting is not about getting your rocks off (unless you have a particular fetish for bad photos of Ed Milliband).

The Sun’s behaviour about Page 3 bleeds into the rest of our press culture too. I agree that replacing it – albeit briefly – with women with their breasts covered by tiny string bikinis is hardly a huge step for mankind, but maybe it would have been harder for British tabloids to develop a culture of sexualising every women whose picture they print if they hadn’t had the stick of “but you think Page 3’s ok” to beat any who complained for the last 40 years?

Page 3 is also defining “sexy” in a narrow and damaging way. Glamour models have said they feel empowered by their choice to bare their bodies. Good for them – if being naked and getting paid for it is empowering for you, go ahead. Try one of the many, many places where that would still be possible if Page 3 didn’t exist. If glamour models say they will only model on Page 3, however, their argument is not “nudity is empowering”, but “loads of men confirming they find me attractive by ogling me is empowering”, which is a different ballgame. In that case, the model is really in the same position as the many other girls who look at the Sun every day, because she is valuing herself by what the paper has defined as attractive, and the Sun’s version of sexy is a very narrow spectrum indeed. For every glamour girl who makes it, there are those who are too large, too short, too small-breasted, too not-white to be considered sexy by the Sun. Thousands of girls are fed the image everyday of a white, young, (usually) blonde woman, who carries all of her body fat on her ribcage. This image was originally decided for us all by old, straight white men and it has barely changed in forty years. The image says that a woman’s only value comes from her ability to be sexual and decorative, and that if your body doesn’t fit their mould, you cannot be either – it literally tells young girls they are worthless. If we can get rid of it, more young women may feel like their body and their sexuality is in their control, and feel free to determine their value for themselves.

My next article will focus on free speech and why getting rid of Page 3 would be an infringement of absolutely nobody’s liberty anywhere.

* Alice Thomas is a member of the Federal Board and leads the FB working group on the disciplinary procedures. She is a solicitor based in Southwark who joined the Lib Dems in her hometown of Bromley & Chislehurst in 2006, just in time for her first by-election and has been campaigning ever since.

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61 Comments

  • Max Wilkinson 25th Jan '15 - 9:11am

    Alice,
    Thanks for writing a thoughtful article on a newsworthy topic.
    Are you advocating legislation to ban page 3?

  • Some things in life are just not that important to the vast majority of people (men and women) and page 3 is one of them. I haven’t read the Sun for years, but as a youngster I was in love with the lovely Linda Lusardi, happy innocent days.

  • Tsar Nicolas 25th Jan '15 - 9:37am

    I would like to see someone come up with some suitable wording for the banning of page 3. Personally, I doubt it can be done without having all sorts of unintended consequences.

  • NONE I im in my sixties gay and recall page 3 starting come on its the human body and page3 was is a bit of fun lol the girls made lots money an well what harm I don’t see harm

  • I suppose the LDV decision to show the above advert with a half naked muscle bound young man will be blamed on “old, straight white men” as well.

  • Thanks for the article Alice.

    Your are proposing two arguments here:
    1. It’s harmful – but you provide no actual evidence…only your opinion.
    2. It’s upsetting to people who don’t look like the models – an odd argument that would require e.g. we stop printing images of football players because it upsets disabled people.

    A lot of the motivation behind this campaign seems to be a rather misguided idea of male sexuality, and it’s disappointing to see it propagated here. The article refers to “oggling” and “getting your rocks off”. I suggest that people who think men are “turned on” by Page 3 need to get out more and speak to some actual men, rather than just extrapolating what they think men do from school-boys. Germaine Greer asked her builder what he thought of Page 3, and he said “it cheered him up”. That’s about it really. I know it’s very trendy right now to think that men are depraved and icky, but while that attitude is good for a laugh, it won’t take us forward.

  • “Images of nude women and breasts are perfectly normal and widely available in a sexual context… but a daily national newspaper is not the place for it”

    One of the things the Sun achieved this week was to show how bogus that argument is, since when the breasts were (temporarily) covered, the response from NMP3 was: “the fight goes on – now we need to get rid of the pictures of clothed women”.

    I should think most men who view Page 3 (I’ve never been one of them) have the same sort of healthy response as Malc and Tez. They are not “objectifying” the women (where is the evidence for this nebulous concept?), in fact I recall back in the heyday of Page 3 a lot of the models (such as Malc’s favourite, Linda Lusardi) were successful personalities in other areas of the media. In fact Lusardi still is. It’s the feminists who are seeking to reduce these women to “objects”, not the men who like looking at them.

    But by far the weakest argument deployed by NMP3 is the one you put as: “The image says that a woman’s only value comes from her ability to be sexual and decorative”

    The images are certainly saying that that is one way of having value. But the only way? Where do you get that from? It is pure hyperbole. I think you are probably too young to remember the many years when the Sun lionised Margaret Thatcher. They printed pictures of her daily and proclaimed her the greatest Briton since Boudicea. Whatever the Sun’s faults – and there are many – it is ludicrous to suggest that they have promoted the idea that the only thing women are good for is Page 3. The Sun wanted a woman to run the country 40 years ago. For the Lib Dems, with their derisory number of female MPs (12% at the last count) to be lecturing the Sun on holding women back makes no sense at all.

  • I thought we were meant to be a ‘liberal’ party and people were free to make their own descisions,if you don’t like page 3 don’t buy the paper,it’s really not that complicated.

  • The Sun’s official response to NMP3 back in 2010 is interesting reading :-

    http://nomorepage3.org/reply-from-richard-caseby/

  • What a pity that my earlier comment fell fowl of the censor.
    It was am attempt to put this discussion into context by making reference to women in Saudi.

  • My Spill Chucker does not know the difference between “fowl” and “foul”.

  • Tsar Nicolas 25th Jan '15 - 12:27pm

    Again I ask, how on earth could you a law to prohibit page 3?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Jan '15 - 12:42pm

    If people made sure they stuck to the rules, e.g. not just copying screeds from a link and putting it in a comment, and sticking to the actual topic, they might find their comments got published.

  • Caron Lindsay 25th Jan ’15 – 12:42pm
    If people made sure they stuck to the rules, e.g. not just copying screeds from a link and putting it in a comment, and sticking to the actual topic, they might find their comments got published.

    Caron, as my comment that got disappeared was only about five lines long I am guessing that this is not directed at me.
    Would it be possible to list in the comments guide those words which automatically trigger the electronic censor?

    It is difficult to have a discussion on an article like this without using the word that begins with “s” and ends with “x” and is not a number between 5 and 7.

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 1:45pm

    Max Wilkinson and Tsar Nicholas – I am not advocating banning it, and in my follow up article I’ll be explaining why arguing that it should be removed without ban (the position taken by the NMP3 campaign) is a valid liberal position to hold.

    MBoy – the harm, as explained in the article, comes from the way men and women are encouraged to view women as objects to be stared at, and the idea of what is worth staring at is then narrowed to only a very small group. It causes problems for women over their self-image and self-confidence, and men in their relationships with women around them. There is a very good section of a Telegraph article here – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11359993/Page-3-helped-create-the-Jimmy-Savile-era.html – describing the negative effects of objectification on women.

    The situation you suggest is not analogous because the purpose of the pictures and the resulting message they send is not analogous. The reasons we include photos of footballers in the paper is to illustrate stories that discuss the activity, autonomy and ability of the men involved, so the picture itself isn’t about summarising their value as an object to be looked at. We know that’s true, because a paper could reasonably publish a whole sports section without any pictures and it would still make sense. The values demonstrated on the sports pages are all traits a disabled person can and does have, so having a photo is unlikely to offend, upset or affect the disabled person’s self-worth. Page 3, by contrast, is only the image. You’ll notice that when they removed it this week nobody complained about the loss of the girls’ “comments” on popular issues. By not requiring any background, story or purpose for the image other than its ability to titillate, Page 3 is saying “this woman has no value other than her image”, and therefore has the effects I listed in the article. Incidentally, that’s why I, and NMP3, would be perfectly ok with a picture of a female footballer playing on the back page in short shorts – because that image in that context sets up positive values, that everyone can aim for and that encourage self-confidence.

  • @John Tilley
    “It was am attempt to put this discussion into context by making reference to women in Saudi.”

    Page 3 certainly wouldn’t be allowed in Saudi. In fact, women tend to be treated like slaves in those countries where Page 3 would not be allowed. This is perhaps surprising considering that NMP3 keep telling us that getting rid of Page 3 will lead to a more equal culture. It’s a fundamental mistake to think that you can increase freedom and equality generally by restricting certain specific freedoms that you don’t like.

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 1:52pm

    MBoy – I don’t buy the idea that all the people buying the Sun for Page 3 simply find boobs “cheering”, but if I did it still wouldn’t justify the level of harm for what is a relatively small benefit, or explain why those boobs need to be in a newspaper. I would suggest men who desperately need a pick-me-up carry a smartphone where they can access photos of boobs whenever they are feeling down. It would also save them 25p every day.

  • I’m sorry but to link page 3 to Jimmy Saville is a disgrace. There were perverts and sex pests long before there was a page 3 and – unfortunately – there will be long after

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 2:00pm

    Stuart – I do not recognise the response you attribute to NMP3: “the fight goes on – now we need to get rid of the pictures of clothed women”. Statements made by their supporters included that the next step was to change the perception of women in the media, by printing images of women who are active and effective in their various fields of expertise. Oddly enough, for most of women’s professional and personal successes we are fully clothed, so often that will mean fewer pictures of bikinis – in the same way that far more of the Sun’s photos of men involve a suit or a sports kit than a speedo. Nudity itself is not problematic – just unequal, non-news-related nudity in a newspaper.

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 2:03pm

    Stuart – There is a correlation/causation problem in your statement on Saudi Arabia. There is a correlation between a lack of Page 3 in Saudi Arabia and a lack of personal liberty, especially for women, and the presence of Page 3 in the UK and greater personal liberty. There is no causal link whatsoever, though, and to imply one is ridiculous, which I am sure you know.

  • Simon McGrath 25th Jan '15 - 2:12pm

    Alice – can you point to any actual evidence page 3 does harm – rather than asserting it does? ie peer reviewed studies ?

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 2:25pm

    Stuart – to deal with your other arguments: Objectification has been well defined – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-objectification/ is one good example – and its effects well documented – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kMS4VJKekW8 this is a particularly good rundown.

    You argue that glamour models cannot have been objectified if they successfully use this as a base for their later career. This is flawed logic because it is, in fact, possible to make an entire career out of being objectified, because our media constantly objectifies women. This would still be true if they posed topless in other publications that are not news sources as explained in the article. Even if I accept the premise that Page 3 can be used to deliberately springboard a different type of career, it is incredibly rare. The only examples anyone has been able to find for me are Linda Lusardi (actress), Jordan (tv personality) and Jodie Marsh (bodybuilder). The last time any of them appeared in the Sun was in the early noughties – none of the recent generations of Page 3 girls have achieved that success, and given the number of actresses, tv personalities and bodybuilders there are in the world, it is clearly possible to achieve it without such support. If being a Page 3 girl is neither necessary or sufficient to success, why should the low value of gain outweigh the general harm it causes?

    Finally, I never suggested that the Sun have promoted the idea that the only thing women are good for is Page 3.What I said was that Page 3 promotes the idea that the only thing women are good for is as sexual objects of a specific type. If the Sun has and continues to promote a healthier, more varied image of what women can and do achieve, good on them, but it would be easier to get the message across without Page 3 there counteracting anything good they do.

  • @Alice – with respect, your opinion on what the readers of Page 3 think they get from it is irrelevant, and actually it’s rather odd that you should think you are in any position to dispute what they think they get from it. (Would you accept someone you’ve never met defining what you think tomato sauce tastes like?) Simply repeating that their benefit isn’t worth the “level of harm” to society isn’t enough, as you still dont provide any evidence for this harm – simply re-stating an opinion that it causes “objectification” is neither evidence that it does cause any more objectification than intrinsically exists in life, nor that objectification itself is harmful.

    I saw that article a few days ago – to be honest trying to blame Jimmy Saville on Page 3 was frankly ludicrous. It might have just as well blamed Gary Glitter on the “Carry On” films, or Fred and Rosemary West on ‘Brookside’. Liberals should really be above such baseless hyperbole. This is one of those areas where people have spent decades trying unsuccessfully to demonstrate that “X is to blame for Y” – e.g. that violent films and computer games are to blame for school massacres, or that porn is to blame for rape – and in all that time those links have never been demonstrated. There comes a point in demonstrating evidence when, like failing to link mobile phones to brain tumours, people just have to move on from the things they thought were true (and probably wanted to be true) but couldn’t prove.

  • “The image says that a woman’s only value comes from her ability to be sexual and decorative, and that if your body doesn’t fit their mould, you cannot be either – it literally tells young girls they are worthless.”

    “the harm, as explained in the article, comes from the way men and women are encouraged to view women as objects to be stared at”

    So how is the Sun page 3 so vastly different to the vast array of images and messages we see every month on the front covers (and inside) of many magazines specifically targeted at teenagers and young women that also satifisy the above claims? Yes page 3 is most probably an anachronism that should be quietly dropped, but as a parent I’m more concerned about the stuff they and their school friends get exposed to all the time. [Aside: has any one else noticed how Disney’s latest batch of female cartoon leads have gone back to wearing blue?]

  • @MBoy
    “I saw that article a few days ago – to be honest trying to blame Jimmy Saville on Page 3 was frankly ludicrous”

    Yes, I’m surprised anyone would think Pearson’s article is well argued. Her main problem with Page 3 seems to be that someone once teased her for looking like a Page 3 girl when she was at school. It’s frightening to think about how many things we’d have to ban if we wanted to get rid of everything that had ever been used to tease a schoolchild about. Now I’m wondering whether the ginger-haired friend I had at school is going through life hating Duracell batteries.

    Whether the Sun genuinely does only print pictures of women for their attractiveness is something that can be quantified. It should also be possible to quantify whether the Sun’s depictions of women are more or less skewed than other sections of the media, or other institutions such as political parties.

    I don’t read the Sun and I’m not a Lib Dem. But as an outsider, it seems completely bizarre to me that women who support a party which has only 12% female MPs (and a less than enviable record in other areas of gender equality) should be lecturing the Sun on how it represents women in society, when the Sun had a female editor for many years and did more than anybody else to install a woman in 10 Downing Street. Lib Dems just talk about empowering women, whereas the Sun has a track record of actually doing it.

    The following page is far more harmful to women, and more worthy of a campaign, than Page 3 :-

    http://www.ukpolitical.info/female-members-of-parliament.htm

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 3:34pm

    MBoy – a comment containing links to a definition of objectification and a video from a researcher who has looked at its harms is awaiting moderation.

    The Telegraph article title states that Page 3 helped create the Jimmy Savile era, by which it encouraged 1970s’ sexism , not caused his behaviour. As stated, the sections I suggest you read relate to the writer’s experiences of being objectified and being made uncomfortable as a result of Page 3, as evidence of its harms.

  • > a daily national newspaper is not the place for it, because it’s supposed to be for news

    This semantic argument doesn’t hold – the Sun is a tabloid, by definition they’re not supposed to be “real” news, rather a populist format for sensational and lurid trash. In this sense “news” is fairly arbitrary, it’s a report of recent information, so if you’d like to be kept up-to-date with is the vitals of Karen, 21, from Slough it could qualify.

    > it literally tells young girls they are worthless.

    If you’ve been reading the Sun and you feel as if you’re worthless because of it, Page 3 is the least of your concerns. If you read the words, you’ll see that it “literally” tells everyone that nearly everything is worthless! It devalues life as a whole, not just women – right now you could be reading a story about a child killer who’s on a dating website, saving up for a £9.50 holiday for the kids, or learning which celebrities are doing what drugs, all written to the literacy standard of the average 7 year old. Thing is, you’re not, and neither am I.

    To say a newspaper is changing how you perceive yourself is deeply disempowering, it means that your self-image is determined by the media. If this is the case, you’ll bend to all further media requests and can be manipulated in all sorts of damaging ways. Page 3 won’t affect that, you need to start filtering this nonsense out – don’t allow them to warp your mind; ditch the TV, ditch the papers and find nice people to be around that don’t consume this stuff.

    It’s of no surprise that people that consume rubbish feel rubbish. I’d like to think you can put that pint/burger/porno/paper/ukip/tv show/etc down and move on with life without telling people what to do. Otherwise, let’s look at the harm caused by McDonalds, Big Brother or the monks of Buckfast Abbey, all of which I’m sure I can find compelling arguments for banning.

    I believe this issue is a matter of parenting and and has nothing at all to do with newspapers, who are simply retailing product that people want. We need to attack the root cause of the problem, not this minor symptom. Lib Dems are continuously trying to change the lower tiers of society, but they themselves aren’t on those tiers, so it’s all middle classes telling working class folk what they should and shouldn’t do. I know you don’t read the Sun and I doubt you’ve suffered from the problems you’re purporting; you want other people to change, but I don’t believe this is the change that will achieve what you want. You can ban Page 3, but if Mum’s still in the kitchen getting dinner whilst trying to look like a footballer’s wife it won’t make a jot of difference.

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 4:01pm

    Jedibeeftrix and ChrisB – this article, and the NMP3 campaign, are not arguing for a ban.

    Roland – its not massively different, but it is the most extreme example on a spectrum. As stated in the article and previous comments it is necessary to change the way women are portrayed in the media generally, and one step forward which will make it easier to fight less blatant examples of objectification is to get rid of Page 3.

  • jedibeeftrix 25th Jan '15 - 4:08pm

    @ Alice – no, indeed not. Just enslaved by a conformity that declares it unacceptable. 😉

  • @Alice, the links you have provided don’t provide any evidence for anything – they are just standard feminist philosophy on objectification (includes acres of stuff from McKinnon/Dworkin – are we really back there again? The section on “positive objectification” was interesting though.)

    But more fundamentally you have quickly widened the scope from “Boobs shouldn’t be in news publications” to “Objectification in society is wrong”, and this is why so many people cant take the NMP3 seriously. If it’s really about objectification (which it quickly becomes whenever the campaigners are pushed to defend their argument) then firstly, the NMP3 campaign is clearly a Trojan Horse for other motives, and sceptics are right to be suspicious of its ultimate goals; and secondly, Page 3 is an utterly trivial example of this in society compared to e.g. internet porn, fashion magazines, Hollywood, etc, and you advising that “men who desperately need a pick-me-up carry a smartphone where they can access photos of boobs whenever they are feeling down” is actually very harmful advice and making the objectification problem worse.

    If you are against boobs appearing in news publications you cant use generalised “objectification” arguments without making it actually about objectification in society. And if you are against objectification in society you need to be more honest about it and not just pretend that it’s really about what is called “news”.

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Jan '15 - 5:27pm

    I think they should drop page 3. I can’t see how they wouldn’t boost sales by appealing to a wider audience.

    Having said that, much of the feminist left appears to be anti glamour models and as others have pointed out: page 3 is only the start of it. I don’t think we should be anti any groups in society.

    Regards

  • @Alice
    “As stated in the article and previous comments it is necessary to change the way women are portrayed in the media generally, and one step forward which will make it easier to fight less blatant examples of objectification is to get rid of Page 3.”

    You confirm my worst fears – NMP3 is just the thin end of a wedge.

    Can you give some examples of those “less blatant” things that will be fought once the campaign against Page 3 is successful?

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 6:15pm

    MBoy – I’ll redirect you to Caroline Heldman’s research (the speaker who summarises the findings in her field in the youtube video I posted), which is about objectification.

    In your second paragraph you seem to be confusing objectification with sexualisation, which are actually two different processes. Objectification is about treating a person as an object, with no autonomy or capacity of their own. It appears in most forms of media, most of time in relation to women, is harmful for the reasons set out in the article, comments and sources provided, and this article and the NMP3 campaign argues it should stop everywhere. Sexualisation is – as the word suggests – about treating a person or thing as sexual, and Page 3 does this because it provides an example of what the Sun thinks is a hot girl presented with her boobs for no purpose other than to be looked at. Sexualisation is not harmful in the correct context, but is not appropriate on page 3 of a national newspaper. So NMP3 does make both arguments, which are not incompatible.

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 6:28pm

    Stuart – yes, if and when their primary campaign is successful NMP3’s arguments should continue to be heard to the extent that they are about other much needed changes to our press culture. You will need to look to NMP3 to ask them what they intend to campaign on in future.

  • @Alice
    I’ve looked on their FAQ and they don’t mention anything. Which makes these vague suggestions of further “fights” to come all the more worrying. Whatever they’re planning, they seem to be keeping well under wraps.

    I think we have a chicken and egg situation here. Does a sexist press culture cause women to be held down in society? Or does the lack of status for women in society lead to a sexist press culture? My instinct is that the latter is the case, and that there are much more effective ways of bringing things like Page 3 to a natural close – such as the Lib Dems stopping making excuses and increasing the number of prominent women in their party.

  • David Woodbridge 25th Jan '15 - 7:16pm

    “The image says that a woman’s only value comes from her ability to be sexual and decorative, and that if your body doesn’t fit their mould, you cannot be either – it literally tells young girls they are worthless.”

    You’re reading way too much into it, which isn’t surprising because The Sun is not for you. You don’t buy it. You don’t look at Page 3. You certainly don’t define the worth of your body image by comparison with a Page 3 model. So why do you care?

    It’s because you’re a snob and believe, like this entire campaign instigated by middle-class women, that poor people are too stupid to know that looking at Page 3 is bad for them. Your earlier comment about how men should buy smartphones rather than spend 25p on The Sun is extremely revealing. Have you ever considered that there are people who cannot afford such devices, and that those people might be the same ones who read The Sun? Of course you haven’t, because you’re a snob.

    I don’t read The Sun so I don’t really care whether Page 3 continues to exist or not. However, I do care that this party should be able to speak to all sections of society, Sun readers as well as Guardian readers, which is why I think that this class-based moralising should be called out for what it is.

  • Ruth Bright 25th Jan '15 - 7:58pm

    The evidence issue is an interesting one. Were a daily newspaper to carry a daily picture where a black person was portrayed in a demeaning way there is no way evidence would be required for us to know the harm it would do.

    I cannot prove that when a former Lib Dem PPC compared the breast size of two Lib Dem councillors in my hearing that he was influenced by Page 3 but his teenage years in the 70s when women were continually portrayed as “dolly birds”can hardly have helped.

  • @Ruth Bright
    “I cannot prove that when a former Lib Dem PPC compared the breast size of two Lib Dem councillors in my hearing that he was influenced by Page 3”

    As a Lib Dem PPC, it may be more likely that he’d been drooling over pictures of Christina Hendricks’ heaving (and allegedly surgically enhanced) chest, as officially endorsed by Lynne Featherstone. Who knows? I actually believe (though obviously cannot prove) that the level of men’s interest in breasts would be exactly the same as it is, with or without 44 years of Page 3.

    http://jezebel.com/5596375/christina-hendricks-body-is-a-role-model-according-to-official

  • Ruth Bright

    I think that’s the problem, most people who buy the Sun and I think it’s about 2.5 million a day – men and women – don’t find the photo’s demeaning in the slightest. Not everyone who buys a newspaper wants to be loaded down with the news, they just want the headlines, sport, glamour, updates on soaps, gossip etc- that’s why they buy tabloids. Not sure what your implying by bringing race into the argument, surely the Sun will have used black and asian models on page 3 as well as white.

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 8:54pm

    Stuart – this does not have to be either/or. We can increase representation of women in the party, alongside supporting a grass-roots campaign which is trying to change culture through reasoned argument.

    David – For consistency, all figures are from year end 2013. According to ONS 61% of people accessed internet on the go, and 83% of households had internet access at home in 2013, numbers which are only rising. Only 5.5% of people in the lowest income bracket have never used the internet by the end of 2013, which was only 3% more than the middle income bracket. Between July and December 2013 the Sun’s readership was made up of 31% “ABC1 demographic” (middle class) and 68% “C2DE demographic” (working class or non-working) (readership data collected by the Newsworks). Whether you cut it by class, income or internet usage it is possible, but highly unlikely, that all Sun readers are without access to internet – whether at home or via a mobile device – on which to access soft core images if they so wish. This is not about class, and it never has been. It’s about gender equality and respect.

  • Alice Thomas 25th Jan '15 - 9:04pm

    Malc – I believe Ruth’s point is that questions asking for “proof” that Page 3 is damaging to women would not be asked if Page 3 contained demeaning images of another group, such as a racial group. (You may be interested to know though that only 4 non-white women have appeared on Page 3 in its entire history that I am aware of – 3 black women, and one of mixed white and filipino heritage – which is why I do mention race in my article.)

  • We wouldn’t require evidence? Oh dear. Let’s imagine a scenario involving race then.

    A group of black people, X, do a thing and like being photographed doing it. Another group of black people, Y, think that thing is demeaning and want it to stop. We are asked to determine whether that thing should stop or not, and you say we shouldn’t require any evidence to make our decision? Astonishing. I’m genuinely amazed that people guided by liberal principles should think in that way.

  • Alice Thomas 26th Jan '15 - 7:45am

    MBoy – I was explaining the argument not agreeing with it.

  • Ruth Bright

    “Were a daily newspaper to carry a daily picture where a black person was portrayed in a demeaning way”

    And here we start to come to some of the issues with what peoepl consider “harm” what way would you consider portraying an ethnic minority to be equivalent to how demeaning you consider page 3 to be?

    As to the PPC making comments, I imagine he was not influenced by page 3 at all. He was probably just a pig, I find the symbiotic relationship between the Sun and its detractors to be very unhealthy. The Sun does not have even a faction of the influence its critics or its editorial staff claim.

    I hope both groups recognise this and are just being dishonest when they claim it does, otherwise their perceptions are dangerously skewed.

    Alice

    “supporting a grass-roots campaign which is trying to change culture through reasoned argument”

    Well I think you are being over generous with the use of “reasoned argument” that would tend to involve evidence of the impact and proposals why an change proposed was better, in terms of impact. As has been pointed out above the NMP3 argument has been evidence and argument light. A former colleague of mine commented the other day “it seems to have more to do with puritanism than feminism” she certainly used to (I assume still is, but don’t know) be very concerned with serious feminist issues but this all feels like a lot of hot air.

    Pave 3 is trashy cheap and far past its sell by date, the NMP3 campaign come across as vacuous and whiny, so it appear they are perfect partners. I just don’t understand why anyone else is bothering themselves with it.

  • No-one seems to care about the poor models trying to earn a living.

    There are people working in lots of professions I disapprove of, journalists, estate agents, some lawyers, almost all politicians ,one could go on. But my disapproval of them doesn’t extend to appropriating the right to preventing them earning a living. Because they are bad for society.

    How very illiberal and authoritarian, prudish and puritan some Lib Dems are!

    Or is there no intention to ban them? In which case thanks for offering your opinion but please don’t be insulted if it is ignored!

  • @Alice
    “only 4 non-white women have appeared on Page 3 in its entire history… which is why I do mention race in my article.”

    Well that’s four times as many ethnic minority Page 3 girls as there have ever been ethnic minority Lib Dem MPs (and he lasted less than 10 months).

    All you seem to be demonstrating here is that Page 3 is a good deal less sexist and racist than the Liberal Democrats. Anyone for a “No More Lib Dems” campaign?

    As for whether the images are “demeaning”. The word means “to lower in status, reputation, or dignity”. If the models enjoy what they are doing and are appreciated by the “readers”, the only sense in which the images are demeaning is that the likes of NMP3 keep attacking them.

  • “You may be interested to know though that only 4 non-white women have appeared on Page 3 in its entire history that I am aware of – 3 black women, and one of mixed white and filipino heritage – which is why I do mention race in my article.”

    Evidence based policy?? Pshaw!

    I can assure you, Alice, as someone who has read the Sun daily for many decades , and of course very much enjoyed and appreciated the delights of Page 3 during that time, that there have been many more beauteous yet unclad ladies of a commendably diverse ethnicity than you erroneously claim.

  • Jane Ann Liston 26th Jan '15 - 10:49pm

    Well done, Alice.

    It has been claimed that the Page 3 models are well paid. Does anybody know how much, and how that amount compares with other modelling work?

    I recall that in ‘Valley of the Dolls’ a young woman with breast cancer kills herself, rather than have a life-saving mastectomy and be ‘disfigured’, i.e. no longer an attractive woman. It seems to me that the Page 3 feature is reinforcing the message that to be an attractive woman you must have perfect beasts. But 1 in 9 women nowadays have breast problems that could well mean they no longer have 2 nipples or even 2 breasts; the figure is set to increase to 1 in 3. I would be very much afraid that young women especially would avoid seeking treatment, like the character mentioned above, because they would no longer fit the popular definition of ‘attractive’.

  • I don’t read the Sun. Have never read it. I suspect most of the people who are campaigning against page three haven’t either. It just seems like a pointless argument full of slightly snooty “would you let your servant” style hyperbole about something that is no more damaging or relevant than saucy postcards.

  • P.S
    It’s also worth pointing out the government and TV are obsessed with telling people how much exercise they should take. what to eat and drink, BMI and have even encouraged schools to give dietary advice to minors. Do you suspect that basing public policy on dietary fads and weight paranoia may add much more to poor self image than page 3.

  • Alice Thomas 27th Jan '15 - 12:14am

    Simon – apologies yes, 4 black women and one woman of other ethnic heritage – see this article from 2012: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/21/page-3-sun-sylvia-barrie

    The intention is not to ban, which would be an illiberal external change, but to encourage the Sun to change its own attitude and therefore its publishing choices.

    As stated in several comments and in the article I have no problem with women making a living by selling their body, or pictures of their body, as long as they are consenting adults and as long as there is a market for it. They can just do it in one of the myriad of places that will pay them for it which are not the pages of a national newspaper.

  • Shirley Campbell 27th Jan '15 - 5:27am

    “The image says that a woman’s only value comes from her ability to be sexual and decorative, and that if your body doesn’t fit their mould, you cannot be either – it literally tells young girls they are worthless.”

    Yes, it does and it continues to do so.

    I am no longer a member of the LibDem organisation and, as such, I feel that I should not comment on LibDem policies; however, I read the LibDem rhetoric and am oft , when my innate liberal sympathies are challenged, to “draw my sword” and take on those who purport to further the cause and passage of “liberal thought and practices”.

    Sir Nick Harvey, little old Shirley Ann Campbell has managed to secure an enquiry into the conduct of certain members of the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary; little Shirley Ann Campbell, a girlie dismissed as of no consequence by your staff of six.

  • Shirley Campbell 27th Jan '15 - 5:37am

    La, la, la, la, la, my comment is “awaiting moderation”. La. la, la, la, who cares? Why bother to comment, la, la, la, la, la?

  • JohnTilley

    Perhaps play the ball not the man?

  • Alice

    I think most people on here (with a few exceptions) don’t like page 3 and would have no objection to a campaign to get the Sun to change its format to no longer include it. The strongest objection I have is the nonsence of claiming there is identified “harm” then the vacume of evidence. Much as I object to claims for more survelance powers for officials with the argument “they will make you safe” there is too much reliance on anicdote .

    Also if you are wondering why there are so many people assume you are advocating a ban (which, to be clear I understand you are not) is that spurious claims of “harm” have been used by governments over the years to gradually move to ban things.

  • Psi

    When it comes to newspapers playing with balls she be kept to the Sports Page.

  • Alice

    As someone else pointed out elsewhere a better article than the one you link to is:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/11357671/The-campaign-against-Page-3-kept-it-going-a-decade-longer.html

    You need to ask yourself what you are trying to achieve? Is it the end of a tasteless part of a news paper or is it publicity for a few self-promoters? Page 3 is anachronistic and under normal circumstances would make most people uncomfortable that it still exists in a mainstream newspaper. As soon as people start demanding something is ended and some of them demand “bans” then it becomes more interesting and people have the “what do you mean I can’t” response.

    Hare coursing in 1996 had tiny attendance and the organisers were planning to cancel the events within two years, after Labour were elected in 1997 and there was talk of banning hunting with dogs suddenly the attendance at the events shot up until the hunting ban came in. Had it not been for the talk of “banning” things that was seen by some as an attack on them, the sport would have died out sooner. Basically no one wanted to watch that but it was turned in to a totemic issue against “oppression” which gave it life.

    So while some people feel excited about having a a cause they can express moral indignation at and politicians like the air time demanding “something should be done about it” gets them, the response most likely to see the back of it is a role of the eyes. If you want people to think some thing should stop demonstrate that it is boring (the Sun would hate to be considered boring), if you want a business to change its behaviours the show it is profitable to do so.

    A spat on the internet about page 3 and an occasional comment from some politician keep the issue interesting and profitable for the Sun so I have to query the motives of those involved.

  • I agree with Psi, in addition to that this thread has long sinced established that the “harm” being done is not directly effecting Alice, who doesn’t read the Sun. As such, Alice has a prescriptivist approach that, regardless of whether she calls to ban the publication or not, is targeted at a single business.

    If she could universalise her argument to make a rule as regards all publications (and gender neutral) it might seem more fair, but really Alice makes up one half of a false dichotomous battle that keeps Page 3 going and ensures publicity. As such, articles such as this ensure the existence of Page 3, a page in a newspaper that I doubt many of us have thought about since the last time it was brought up on LDV.

  • Perhaps a more obvious reason to axe page 3 is that people are not buying the Sun in anything like the numbers they were. It has lost three-quarters of a million readers in the last 4 years.
    Compare that to the 20p ‘ i ‘ which has reached almost a third of million from a standing start in the same period.
    Perhaps this is because the ‘ i ‘ is cheaper, but it may also because more people (men as well as women) now actually prefer a more egalitarian attitude to the portrayal of sexuality, at least in their family newspaper. I would challenge those arguing for the retention of Page 3 to say whether they think the latter is a bad thing! Surely it is a good thing, and we should all welcome any movement in this direction, however small on the part of the Sun?

  • The No More Page 3 campaign may not have called for state censorship but it was still censorious in spirit. That doesn’t sit well with liberalism.

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