A woman wrote to her local Conservative MP this week asking if he would add his name to the list of MPs who support the No More Page 3 campaign. 150 names are on that list, and the number of male signatories so far looks like this: Labour 52, Lib Dem 14 and Tory...er...3. Frankly you don't hold out much hope for a male Tory MP, they overwhelmingly vote for tits in the newspaper. Still, nothing ventured.
Their typical defense is that the government works really hard to mend the damage done by four decades of public sexual objectification of young women by providing programmes to 'address body-confidence issues'. Hum. Some women are so jealous of those Page 3 models aren't they chaps? Women get so insecure when they see someone better looking than them! The issue of Page 3 is just a sort of little competition between the ladies isn't it.
Even so, the reply of Richard Drax MP to his female constituent in South Dorset takes his party to new heights of out-of-touch indifference:
'Thank you for your email of today regarding Page 3 girls in the Sun. While I understand that some people are offended at seeing naked breasts, this particular page is something of a national institution, providing the girls with a job and Sun readers with some light and harmless entertainment.
It certainly pales into insignificance compared to what you can see with ease on the internet and in the more graphic pornographic publications.
And, in most parts of the UK on a summer's day, finding ladies with their tops off is not a difficult task.
I certainly do not mean to underestimate your concern, but I think on balance Page 3 girls do no harm and the practice will no doubt die out on its own anyway.'
So Mr. Drax, I see you frame Page 3 as an issue which divides people between those who are offended by naked breasts and those who are not. What percentage of the population do you think are 'offended' by breasts? That sounds like a pathological disorder, are the psychiatrists' couches full of such people? It would be difficult to function normally with such a complaint, you'd think there would be professional help available. A government programme at least.
'A national institution'! I've heard that before somewhere...oh yes! It was Dominic Mohan's defense of his tits-for-profit publication at the Leveson Enquiry wasn't it?
Page 3 models are actually adult women, but in your world of girls and ladies, Mr. Drax, at least it's good to see that jobs for the girls is an important issue for you as a politician. Girls still face such barriers to being taken seriously and treated equally to men in the workplace don't they? What are your other policies in this area?
'Light and harmless entertainment for men'. Hear that girls? That's what your bodies are. What's that? Men's bodies? No, no, men's bodies are active and powerful, they do things, they help a man move through the world doing important stuff! And anyway, we value men more for being full human beings rather than just bodies, it's not the same. (The use of the words 'girls' and 'men' gives you a clue there).
Internet porn? Yeah, brilliant how the harm caused by Page 3 magically stopped with the birth of internet porn isn't it? All those young girls growing up before the internet who had to watch their dads ogling the tits of women not much older than themselves, all the schoolgirls who had Page 3 shoved in their faces by schoolboys or dirty old pervs on the bus, all the girls groomed with Page 3 by family members, all the women with a lifetime's experience of being humiliated and intimidated in public, at home and in the workplace by men openly leering over Page 3 and comparing them to it... all magically now unharmed because of the internet! And all the harm being done to girls and women experiencing those things today pales into insignificance because internet porn exists. We have a lot to thank internet porn for, it really does completely nullify the significance of other things doesn't it?
And interesting to note that by comparing Page 3 to internet porn you are admitting that we're in the same ball-park here. Are there any images of men in the press you would seek to justify by a comparison with what you can find on the internet and in the more graphic pornographic publications? Thought not.
'Finding ladies with their tops off'!! Oooh er missus! Peeking at ladies' bosoms! Sneaking around parks and beaches on hot days looking for ladies showing their titties! Nudie ladies! Give me that task any day, beats working hur hur! David-breasts-are-everywhere-these-days-you-can't-get-away-from-them-Dinsmore, you have a soul-mate.
'On balance' you say Page 3 does 'no harm.' So you balanced the 'Ooooh, girls' and ladies' titties, where's the harm..?!' viewpoint with ..er...what exactly?
I was expecting maybe the UN Resolution on the Status of Women your party signed this year - you know, the one that recommends representing women fairly in the press and not 'exploiting them as sexual objects and commodities.' Or your own government-commissioned Sexualisation of Young People Review which points out the link between the sexualised representation of women and 'the acceptance of aggressive attitudes and behaviour' towards them. That was in 2010, has David not got round to showing it to you yet?
Luckily your constituent provided some balance in her reply to your letter. Now you have more of the picture, I expect you must feel a little ashamed that you hadn't thought it through.
'Thanks for all the points you raise.
I'm afraid I don't have any more to add.
Of course, I respect your views, but hope we can agree to disagree.
That's a no then.