‘What’s the hottest part of the Sun?’ runs the age-old joke about Page 3, where every day beautiful, slim and bare-breasted women pose for the ogling masses. It normalises the objectification of women in a paper selling over seven million copies every day. This may have been fine in 1970, but now?
The women on Page 3 have had everything removed from them, except their appearance and a pair of frilly knickers. When we see this picture we aren’t asking ‘what films does she like?’, or ‘I wonder where she grew up’, we are purely and simply interested in the size and shape of her knockers.
Perhaps I am being a little harsh, for the editors at The Sun are kind enough to give the model the chance to voice an opinion on an aspect of the day’s news. But they quite clearly don’t write this little tid-bit. Oh how we chortle at the thought of a dim-witted blond reeling off a bit of Nietzsche to explain the psychology of the political mind. And what do their employers say? “They’re as daft as they look!” So not only does the occasional bigot who buys the paper think they’re just a pair of tits, but their employer does as well.
But they’ve got a great job. They don’t care, so surely there’s no issue? Well actually no. Of course I respect anyone’s decision to go and bare themselves in public. The issue is that these women affect people’s judgment of all women. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it”, one friend helpfully told me. But this doesn’t apply to The Sun, because people buy it as a ‘news’paper, and, even women who don’t happen to spy today’s serving of meat have to be on the receiving end of opinions of people who do.
Women who protest are “jealous”, as Clare Short found out in 2007. By voicing her opposition she showed herself to be ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ (according to Nicola, 21 – read the article it’s quite shocking). And to prove it a brigade of stunning models in bikinis was sent round to the MP’s house. Since when has this been acceptable behaviour? But really how could Short not be jealous – reaching the height of beauty, being wanted by men and appearing in The Sun is the epitome of female success. Isn’t it?
Clearly seeing a slim and successful woman (they are) in a prime position in a national paper has an impact on young girls. Breasts and waistlines are undoubtedly important aspects of a woman’s sexuality, I imagine in much the same way as a man’s penis. I’m sure it would make me uncomfortable if I saw my girlfriend or wife gawping at a naked picture of a man sporting weaponry equally large and malformed as Page 3 ‘beauties’ breasts. Imagine if we were told that this was all that women wanted. It was the ‘ideal’. Now tell me ‘don’t like it, don’t buy it.’
Page 3 is of course not the only place where one can look to see women objectified. Top-shelf magazines such as Nuts and Zoo, as well as internet pornography, are obvious examples of where you might go. I, however, have no problem with them.
If you look at page 2 in The Sun you will find some of our most talented and intelligent women, perhaps debating at the UN, or at the Despatch Box in the Commons. On page 4? Well it’s not unusual for the Sun to be uncovering a horrific story about domestic abuse. Or perhaps it’s double-page spread about paedophilia. And this is where the problem lies. Turn the page over in Nuts and all you’ll find is more boobs. You buy Nuts, you know what you’re getting. The Sun is plonked down daily on the kitchen tables of families all over the country, purporting itself as ‘news’. I can only imagine what my mother would have said if I’d been flicking through Zoo aged six. But apparently it’s fine if it’s The Sun.
You still don’t think Page 3 culture dominates our view of women in society? Then why was Jessica Ennis, one of our most respected female role models, dressed up in tight leathers for a GQ shoot? Why, last year, did Cameron tell Angela Eagle to ‘calm down, dear’ in a debate in the Commons? If we see our most talented women as the sum of their parts and treat our most successful female politicians like the dim blonds in the paper then what hope do average women on the street have?
If you want breasts then that’s fine – delve into the darkest depths of the Internet. Just please don’t let them near the rice krispies.
Disagree? Check out ‘In defense of Page 3’.