There are plenty of reasons to despise The S*n –– as a Liverpool fan, one that has been going on since the year I was born springs to mind – so far be it from me to try to narrow the focus. However, you may be familiar with the campaign ‘No More Page 3’ (and its Twitter feed, Tumblr and petition). It’s a great campaign with a great cause: get naked models out of the news section of the most-read national daily paper in the UK.
I’ll get back to the cause itself in a minute; for now, I would like to direct you to some secondary reading, a blog post by a fellow going by the name Fles entitled, simply enough, NO MORE PAGE THREE. In it, he outlines the difficulties being a man who publicly supports the cause as he is met by disbelief or ridicule simply for wearing the T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan in public.
It’s a great post, and I strongly recommend it, but it’s not the post that I want to write about. Scroll down the page to the comments, and what you see is painfully predictable; women saying how great it is that he’s spoken out on the issue and stood up for his beliefs, and men accusing him of insincerity, sycophancy, or even gender-based self-loathing.
What a stupid attitude. One doesn’t have to have a pair of breasts to be offended by the media feeling the need to shove one in your face in every situation.
Look, I’m no prude. I have no problem with erotic imagery in public places – in fact I often quite enjoy it – and even think we Brits could stand to be a bit less uptight about it. My problem is the context in which we find it.
The name ‘Page 3’ tells you straight away how deliberately it is placed. Anybody who’s been involved in the production of any printed publication knows that the odd numbers, the right-hand pages, are the most visible and you place your impact stories here. Page 3 is nearly the front-most of these pages, but it is thinly sheathed by that outer leaf, lending it an air of taboo. That front page is analogous to lingerie, implying that the newspaper, like a woman, can be allowed a veneer of intelligence and engagement with current affairs, but actually we male consumers cannot wait to tear that away and get to what we really want, the real purpose of woman, visual and sexual artifacts for our amusement.
This idea is emphasised by the horrifically offensive News in Briefs, the nipple tassles added to the picture to disqualify it as pornography. Let’s take an example from 2010:
As it so happens, the good prince later read these comments (great S*n reader that he is). So what did he think? Did he praise Danni’s insightful views on post-Enlightenment society? Was he pleased that modern youth was so engaged with cultural issues?
No, of course not – he “roared with laughter”. And this is obviously the intention – the paper described it as a “royal seal of approval”. I’m not saying that these women may not have nuanced and interesting views; what I’m saying is that they are deliberately phrased in such a way that they encourage the reader to think that. I doubt that anybody, save maybe an academic, would respond to Prince Charles’ views on architecture with a reference to the Enlightenment – the humour is intended to be derived from the supposed disjunct between an intelligent viewpoint and an exposed chest.
So far, fine, you can see why women might be offended by the suggestion that they can’t be both intelligent and erotic, but why should men care? First of all, shame on you: the denigration of women is something that we should all take seriously, regardless of whether or not we have a vested interest. But, since you asked, this is not just an insult to female intelligence, it’s an insult to intelligence full stop. I am certainly offended by the idea that in order to maintain my interest while reading the news I need to have a semi at all times. I am offended by the suggestion that I find a woman’s opinions so laughable that they must be encased in comedy and relegated to a tiny paragraph alongside the ‘real’ news. I am offended that such a major publication should seek to please me while at best ignoring – and at worst alienating – my female (or gay) friends or relatives simply under the mantra of ‘sex sells’.
So kudos to Fles for wearing his No More Page 3 T-shirt in the shops, kudos to all signatories of the petition regardless of sex and gender. And for those who would bemoan the disappearance of Page 3 as viewing material out of fear of those who it has offended, think but this and all is mended: it’s the 21st century. Go to Google Images and type ‘boobs’. Seriously. Getting rid of Page 3 is not a ban on sex; it’s simply another step towards society taking all women as seriously as men.
- Lego’s page 3 girl stand (theage.com.au)