It’s a pretty good rule of thumb, when wanting to test the sense of any life situation, to ask yourself: how would I explain this to a child? If you can’t communicate the logic of something in simple terms a kid can grasp, there’s a good chance it might be completely ridiculous. Extra light mayonnaise, for instance. Or why they let the contestants on Four in a Bed decide each other’s scores.
Now, I’d like you to think about how you would explain the existence of Page 3 to a child who has never encountered it before. Go on – have the imaginary conversation in your head. I’ll wait.
Tricky, isn’t it? Because when you stop to think about it, Page 3 is like an embarrassing old curtain pelmet from the 70s that everyone has somehow forgotten to take down. I like to think that when it finally ceases to be, just like smoking in restaurants, it’ll seem oddly incredible that it was ever A Thing in the first place.
The explain-it-to-a-child reason is just one of many being currently given by people signing the No More Page 3 petition on change.org. At the time of writing, it has over 17,000 signatures. It gained 6,000 just today. The campaign, an open letter to The Sun’s editor Dominic Mohan, was started by writer Lucy Anne Holmes when she noticed, flicking through its coverage of the Paralympics, that despite page after page of awesome achievements, the biggest image of a woman in the whole paper was still the semi-naked one.
“George Alagiah doesn’t say, ‘And now let’s look at Courtney, 21, from Warrington’s bare breasts,’ in the middle of the 6 O’ Clock News, does he?” reasons Holmes. The petition isn’t about restricting the freedom of the press. It’s not about condemning glamour models, or the people who like to look at them. It’s simply about asking, nicely, that they be taken out of the newspaper – because in case we weren’t all clear on this, boobs aren’t news.
Whether The Sun reports ‘news’ at all is a whole other debate, of course. But to write it off as an archaic, ignorant rag is to blithely ignore the influence it still has on a massive chunk of the population – not to mention anyone who ‘accidentally’ reads it on the bus. Page 3 is so entrenched a part of the mainstream media that loads of readers don’t even stop to question it. If we can’t change the whole paper, we can at least try to change this.
And while it’s heartening how strong and swift the response to Lucy’s campaign has been, it’s also been fist-gnawingly infuriating how many idiots still think “you’re just jealous” is an adequate comeback.
One argument commonly touted is empowerment. Or that the women who pose on Page 3 are actually exploiting the punters, as a sort of penance for being so easily pleased by a casual flash of mammary. Maybe they are. But rather than debate the endless intricacies of the power struggle, I want to ask: why does anyone have to exploit anyone? Can’t we just, y’know, take a break from all the exploiting for a while? If two wrongs don’t make a right, surely two exploitations don’t make a real advancement for either gender.
“It’s just a bit of fun,” is another classic. Of course! Fun! Like a naughty seaside postcard! Where’s the harm? The harm is in yet another generation of humans growing up to believe a woman’s worth is measured by how good she looks in her scanties. The harm is in giving these women fake ‘novelty’ opinions, to remind us that, obviously, you can’t be sexy AND interested in the fiscal crisis. The harm is in objectification being sold like a jolly joke over our morning cereal, to people who either can’t or don’t want to recognise it. There’s the harm. LOOK, I’m pointing at it, like a less amusing Where’s Wally.
Besides, isn’t it frankly insulting for a paper to think you only want to read the news if there’s a pair of bouncy breasts on the opposite page, like the proverbial spoonful of sugar, to take the taste away? If you want fun, folks, there are plenty of other places to find it. Go to a funfair. Have an ice cream. Or if you want, look at a publication that’s specially designed to have naked people in it. There are several out there, I’ve heard.
Then let Courtney, 21 from Warrington, put her jumper back on, so we never have to explain to a confused child why she’s there.