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Rebecca Gill Headshot

Unusual Suspects Want to Ban Page 3

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On Monday Dominic Mohan was recalled to the Leveson inquiry where he defended Page 3 as a "British institution". Unfortunately he missed the all important word 'was'- it was a British institution - and not a particularly good one at that.

Platform 51 commissioned a nationally representative poll over the weekend which showed that almost twice as many women would support a ban on topless pictures of female models appearing in daily newspapers as would oppose it. In a country where many people feel uneasy with the word 'ban', these results are certainly striking.

The word and the question can conjure up ideas of banning all pictures of naked women in national newspapers even when they may be justified in the context of an article such as a feature on how to check for breast cancer. Those who oppose Page 3 are unlikely to be concerned with this - what people are concerned about are images presenting women as nothing more than sex objects.

It is easy to assume that it's just women who feel uncomfortable with Page 3, but that isn't the case - almost a third of men said they would support a ban too.

One of the charges levelled against those who oppose Page 3 is that they are being prudish or don't get that's it's just a bit of harmless fun. Strikingly, when Clare Short dared to first raised the issue of a ban on Page 3, 25 years ago, The Sun's response to her concerns was to accuse her of being "fat and jealous."

Thankfully these results suggest that things have moved on since then. It is in fact the group in society that is usually considered to be the least prudish and uptight that shows strong opposition to Page 3 and would go as far as banning it; the research shows that many more young people, both men and women in the 18-24 age group are in favour of a ban than 45-54 year olds.

From our work with women and girls in Platform 51 centres, we know that provocative, titillating images of women like those on Page 3 can make them uncomfortable, negatively affect their self-esteem, limit their aspirations and expectations and can have an impact on how some men treat them. We know from working with younger girls and women that these images can have a big impact on them growing up.

There is also a concern that children have access to these images unfiltered and unmediated and the impact this has on how girls view themselves, and how boys view girls. Whilst there are organisations like Platform 51 who support girls and women to build their confidence and self-esteem, it would be easier if these images were not there in the first place.

These serious objections to Page 3 are perhaps well rehearsed. But what our polling shows is that many people, far from viewing 'institutions' like Page 3 as harmless fun, in fact see Page 3 as an outdated 'institution' which is, frankly, a bit embarrassing and needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

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