THE BLOG

David Dinsmore, You're Selling Papers but You're Selling Women Short

23/08/2013 11:05 BST | Updated 22/10/2013 10:12 BST

Dear David Dinsmore,

I heard you on the radio. I heard you say that Page 3 is a good way to sell papers. I heard Dominic Mohan, the newspaper's former editor, tell Leveson that Page 3 is an 'innocuous British institution,' like tea cosies, rainy weekends and seaside rock. He said that we shouldn't look at Page 3 in isolation, but within the wider context of the women's issues covered by The Sun. After all, we know the statistics, David; that one in four of the women you know will be sexually assaulted. That one in four of the women you know will experience domestic abuse.

Of course, The Sun, Britain's most widely read newspaper, discusses these issues. On The Sun's website a quick search for articles including the word 'rape' yields 6,444 results; 'sexual assault' is mentioned in 2,695 articles and 'domestic violence' in 869. But 'boobs' are referenced in 6,742 'news' stories, 'babe' features 10,902 times. The word 'sexy' appears in 18,726 places.

So, David, let's position Page 3 within the wider context of women's issues covered by The Sun:

  • Although two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner, The Sun online features nine times more articles written about bikinis than domestic abuse.

  • There are 195 articles discussing 'sexism,' compared to 339 about 'nip-slips.'

  • The Sun's website contains 961 'news' stories about thongs; almost three times the number of those written about childbirth.

There are 124,917 articles about 'men,' but only 33,287 about 'women.'

So, you see, David, I don't understand why you keep telling us to focus on 'bigger issues' than Page 3 and media sexism. I was perplexed when the former Deputy Editor of The Sun, Neil Wallis, told us to turn our attention to 'more serious matters, like FGM.'

How is this possible, when The Sun's 120 news stories about female genital mutilation are buried beneath the 6,742 articles about 'boobs?'

Do the maths, David. You are selling papers, but you are selling women short. Your newspaper churns out an endless stream of words and images that reduce women to a series of trussed-up body parts, printed on the page for men to mock or to masturbate over, before throwing them away. The brilliant articles that you do publish about violence against women, about sexual abuse and rape, about the health and wellbeing of half our population are undermined and overwhelmed by the stories and images that infantilise and sexualise women, turning them into sexy babes, girls, totty.

To remove Page 3 would be to displace the most overt symbol of sexism and objectification from not only The Sun, but from popular culture itself. It's the first step, a huge symbolic step, towards addressing the unequal representation of men and women in your newspaper. It's your responsibility, as editor, to look beyond profit margins to see the bigger picture; to see how your choices and your actions affect and shape the lives of the women you know, and the millions you don't. You have the opportunity to make a positive change.

Take the first step. No More Page 3.

Yours,

Jo Cheetham