Artwork created by No More Page 3 HQ'er Jo Harrison for the campaign.
Last night I, along with millions of other page 3 critics, held my breath as I awaited confirmation of the news that the Sun had finally, after 44 years, dropped the embarrassingly outdated and hideously misogynistic renditions of barely legal teens with their breasts out. Yes! Triumphant fist pumps abound!
Well, maybe. There is definitely much to celebrate, and yet, well, let's not hang up our bootstraps and sit back with a pinacolada just yet. The Sun has taken one tiny step away from making women into sex objects by plastering boobs on their 'news' sheets, but they've only 'progressed' to a slightly less offensive, widely accepted option of using 'scantily clad' women to sell a product.
After a year squirming under an increasing tide of criticism (including linking to a breast cancer charity, a move that garnered the No More Page 3 movement 50,0000 extra signatories), the Sun finally and quietly conceded that the days of bare breasts in the UK's most popular 'family' newspaper have had their day. The very same newspaper that stated page 3 was incredibly popular with its readers and would be staying indefinitely. So the decision to drop the feature is pretty flippin' good news. Not because it's good to repress female sexuality, but because this at least gives us a chance to reframe it away from the male gaze, a way that celebrates all female and male bodies, not just young, very slim, mostly white ones. The success of the No More Page 3 campaign is evidence that if enough people get together under the banner of "F*ck this Sh*t" then we can engineer actual real change.
But just before I ran down the street under an arc of imaginary fireworks, singing the Mary Poppins Sister Suffragette song at the top of my lungs, I was informed by the Today programme that although page 3 as we know it is gone, the third page of the paper will still be displaying 'nearly naked women' and the reason for the 'quiet drop' is to enable its reinstatement should sales drop significantly. HOLD UP.
There's a double-edged sword to all this swapping topless breasts for scantily-clad breasts malarkey. On the one hand, the Sun's attempts to shift units by giving readers a morning dose of titillation with their cornflakes will be rendered useless. There are already pictures of scantily clad women everywhere you flippin' well look. The Sun's sexualized images will be relegated to the denizens of the normal, every day, internalized misogyny we are used to. Ha! In your face the Sun...sorta...
We've got the problem of Murdoch sneakily wielding his poisoned scythe at the No More Page 3 campaigners by slicing through the core of their campaign: 'Scantily clad women aren't news' doesn't quite roll off the tongue in the same way as 'boobs aren't news' does it? Slimy so and so's.
Taking the bare boobs out of the Sun is a momentous step in the right direction. But let's not dance in the street just yet (maybe just a few fireworks and a glass of bubbly?). We're not done people.
- 'Between 40 and 50 per cent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work'
- 'Violence affects the lives of millions of women worldwide, in all socio-economic and educational classes. It cuts across cultural and religious barriers, impeding the right of women to participate fully in society'
- 'Laddism is rife on campuses - 37% of women and 12% of men say they have faced unwelcome sexual advances, and rape and sexual assault jokes were commonplace'
- Frequent exposure to media images that sexualize girls and women affects how girls conceptualize femininity and sexuality. Girls and young women who more frequently consume or engage with mainstream media content offer stronger endorsement of sexual stereotypes that depict women as sexual objects'.
- 'Research links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and women.'
Because as long as women are objectified and presented purely as objects to please men, we have work to do. As long as female sexuality is hammered and crowbarred into a tiny, miserably restrictive box, as long women are sexually harassed in the workplace, as long as violence against women continues to be globally endemic, as long as casual sexism pervades everyday interactions and as long as 'lad culture' and sexual harassment on campuses continues, there is still so much work to do.