Why I never signed the No More Page 3 petition

The other day, while I was busy being snowed on outside a courthouse that had been locked to keep people like me out, there was apparently a development in the ongoing No More Page Three campaign. It had sort of passed me by, I’ll admit; the only news that day that came to my attention was the papal resignation (it’s alarmingly disconcerting to emerge from the toilet to discover the pope’s resigned. Makes one wonder just how unholy one’s urine is).

It seems, though, that Rupert Murdoch has alluded to modifying Page 3 to make it all fashionable or something, and possibly taking the boobs off the dedicated boob-page. This has breathed new life into the No More Page Three campaign, and it’s been everywhere once again.

I’ve tried to bite my lip on the No More Page Three campaign, being painfully aware of my burgeoning reputation as that feminist who spends too much time shouting at other feminists, and thinking it ultimately rather harmless and easy to ignore. The thing is–to use a figure of speech befitting the theme–the No More Page Three campaign has been getting right on my tits. At best, it won’t get much done, and at worse, its supporters will think this lack of things getting done is some sort of a victory.

Let’s start with a tweet from an online repository of jokes, many of which are sexist, ableist, racist, cissexist, heterosexist and any other form of oppression you can name (and probably some that don’t even have names):

Strangely, this tweet actually manages to Get It far more than vast swathes of the No More Page Three supporters. The Sun is a buzzing wasp nest of misogyny: itsjustahobby documented just a day’s worth of sexism in the top stories of their website alone. I find Page 3, with its large picture of boobs taken with the woman’s consent, actually somewhat better than all of the other pages of longlensings and body-shaming and gleeful rubbing over celebrities and their mental health, and so forth. That’s not even including the frequent bouts of overt racism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism that pepper its foul pages. The whole publication is absolutely fucking vile, and participates actively daily in outright harassment of women who have the misfortune of being famous, or poor, or brown, or whatever other excuse they can conjure to invade their privacy and pretend this is somehow in the public interest. Whether words or images, all of this is irrevocably harmful to both the individuals “exposed” by this pathetic excuse for journalism, and to society for thinking believing the propaganda in the Sun is anything other than hideous.

And when you think about it that way, you realise that the whole of the media is rotten all the way down: all of the tabloids stoop to the same low tricks as The Sun, and everyone else is complicit. They all revealed their true colours as they closed ranks against the findings of the Leveson Report. Combatting a single page of a single newspaper doesn’t even leave a dent in this apparatus. It feels almost like going after this one page legitimises the rest of the sorry mess by its omission to even address this.

Now, one could say this campaign is a transitional demand in ending the objectification of women. However, that’s ignoring the fact that objectification is itself a symptom; the problem of objectification did not magically spring from nowhere: it is a product of capitalist patriarchy. Sex sells. And to end that, one sort of has to absolutely rip this shit out at the roots and enact a global revolution, which is a bit of a big ask for liberal feminists. Even on its own terms, getting rid of that single page in a single newspaper won’t exactly do much for ending the objectification of women, because this shit is absolutely everywhere.

However, that’s assuming that No More Page Three is actually about objectification, which many of its supporters argue it is. I’ve read the text of the No More Page Three petition. I read it before deciding–with all of these criticisms already in mind–not to sign it. And it is just about boobs. It’s literally just about the presence of boobs and how they’re not on This Morning and other such stuff. I couldn’t agree with the fact that boobs shouldn’t be in a “family newspaper”, which is all that the text of the petition said, so I didn’t sign it.

And actually, if anything, we need more boobs everywhere. Diverse boobs. Parents breastfeeding openly, pictures of all colours and shapes of boob captioned “look, boobs, aren’t they pretty?” and boobs depicted like they ain’t no thing, because a lot of people have boobs. And not just boobs: cunts and cocks and bums and naked bodies in all their glory. Willingly shown. The human body is kept a mystery, and nobody knows what’s normal these days: the truth is everything and nothing. When I was young, I thought I had a weird cunt because it looked nothing like the narrow range of cunts society saw fit to show me: textbook illustrations and porn. It was only when I started fucking other women that I became sure there was nothing wrong with mine. The naked body needn’t be anything to do with sex (although it’s nice when it is), and it’d be lovely if we got over all our hangups about nudity and were just naked more, in film, print and in person.

But of course, this dream can’t be realised because of the aforementioned capitalist patriarchy which is in dire need of a smash and it’s very difficult to have that revolution in the buff.

Unfortunately, the No More Page Three campaign is not part of this revolution. It’s largely orchestrated and supported by those who would never buy The Sun in the first place, probably for at least some of the reasons I’ve already discussed (or perhaps for others, e.g. Hillsborough, phone hacking), and, due to the way businesses work, they really don’t give much of a flying fuck about people not buying the product continuing to not buy the product while also hating it. Asking nicely doesn’t really cut it. You need to be vicious and take action that’s a little more direct. Once I annotated a copy of The Sun that I found in a greasy spoon, highlighting sections which were particularly egregiously racist or sexist to the next reader who picked it up. It wasn’t much, but it was something which might have changed someone’s mind.

To me, No More Page Three feels like a synecdoche for the shortcomings of a particular flavour of liberal, bourgeois feminism. It’s something which is nowhere near enough and popular precisely because it will not rock the boat for those in power. And it’s a compromise I see no point in making.

71 thoughts on “Why I never signed the No More Page 3 petition”

  1. I don’t agree. I’m at school and Page 3 is used by boys to bully and intimidate girls and has been since I joined secondary school. They look at it and make comments about girls compared to it, laugh that we’ll never be on Page 3 or say we should be, leave it on our lockers or desks, talk about it aggressively what they’d do to the girls on it. It’s not the only thing that makes life hard growing up but it’s a big one. Boys see it so young and start bullying us using it so young. I wish you could spend just one day experiencing it and then tell me it should stay. It’s horrible and makes us feel completely shit.

    1. Genuine question: do you think this is due to the mere existence of the page, or do you think if the page were removed, the boys would find something else to laugh at?

      When I was at school, back in the Precambrian era, they used rude bits of the Bible in exactly the same way you describe.

      1. Not much of a response there, Stavvers. The fact is that boys are using Page 3 to misogynistically bully and intimidate this girl. Posing what despite the pre-emptive label is quite obviously a rhetorical question confirms my feeling that the reference in your final paragraph to the ‘shortcomings of […] liberal, bourgeois feminism] was more than a little ironic.

    2. @ Kit
      I couldnt agree with you more. Next time though, why don’t you flip it around? Next time the boys have the paper out and start to tease and mock, wack out a copy of mens health and sit with your girlie friends and laugh as loud as you can at the boys as they walk past. lets see how they like it?
      Or get a huge vibrator, wave it in their faces and ask them how on earth are they ever going to satisfy a woman with their prawny penis? Boys are just as insecure about their bodies as girls – so use their insecurities to your advantage!

      Personally id like to see it gone completely but lets face it – its probably not going to happen. SO if its going to stay, a review is needed. I am yet to see a page 3 girl with aa cup breasts- if page 3 is going to stay i would suggest banning implants / those that have had ‘work’ done, completely (just as the fashion industry has banned size 0). Natural boobies only in all shapes and sizes: including bigger ladies with rolls, curves & cellulite, skinnie mini’s with nipples instead of actual boobs – THAT IS THE WAY FORWARD! THESE ARE REAL WOMEN!

      Society will never change if we are constantly drip fed these unrealistic images of people (both male and female). Im a photographer – I know how much editing is done on editorials and it is just down right wrong and unnecessary!
      Natural all the way!!!!

    3. Really sorry you have that experience. it sounds truly awful. I went through similar stuff myself at school, in the far-away pre-smartphone days.

      But if Page 3 were to go… wouldn’t the boys just use Nuts/Zoo? Or some internet pr0n (goodness knows it’s easy enough to find)? As Stavvers says, Page 3 is a symptom far more than it is a cause.

      Anyway. Offering {{hugs}} to you in dealing with the foul-sounding little shits in your school. Ask them if they’d say the same thing to their own mothers or sisters. I’d like to say it gets better, but sadly objectification is pretty much impossible to escape 😦 At least when you leave school you usually have much more choice over the people you interact with! 🙂

      1. The boys would use something else but Page 3 is a really big thing and something you find out about young. Boys straight away use it to laugh at and bully girls and girls start to feel shit as soon as they know about it or at least me and my friends do. It’s in a paper which is different too I hate Nuts Zoo etc as well but having it in a paper which so many of their parents buy is really important in making it seem not just fine but like that’s what girls are for and how you should judge them. The shit we get is directly related to Page 3. Porn and things are bad too but I know how much crap girls take directly about Page 3. I’m sick of how it makes me feel. I hate myself when I see men staring at it on the bus which I do EVERY DAY. They stare at it then up at me or another girl. It’s there all the time. Since I’m anon I can admit to crying a bit writing this thinking about how it makes me feel. I don’t get how women can want to keep it when girls are getting so much shit from it and it makes our lives that bit harder.

        1. I hear you sister, And believe me, I don’t want to keep it, but rather, burn the entire newspaper it’s attached to to the ground. And then burn some more things that are also awful, like Nuts, Zoo, misogynists, etc.

          Oh, and also do some nice things that don’t involve burning, like giving young people a decent education in how to not be a complete arsewipe, like those lads in your class!

          I wish I could console you and say it gets better, but it just gets… different. The manifestations shift around, and it’s the same shit with a different stink. And this is why I keep on banging the drum of ripping out the root cause rather than focusing on just one manifestation of the problem, and I’m trying to fight this fight for every single one of us who has experienced any flavour of patriarchal bullshit!

    4. You’re doing a good damn job not punching them all in the face. As a vaguely grown-up I shouldn’t condone violence – so you didn’t hear it from me…

      I’m an older sister to a girl who’s just gone into secondary. She’s going to a comparatively better place because I went to a hellhole, not too far off what you describe, so I know how you feel, very much so.

      Everything else aside: I would hunt them down for you if it weren’t morally questionable/illegal, and, most importantly, know that one blissful day you’ll never have to sit in a class with any of their dumb-asses ever again. What these boys are doing is pathetic, and the strength you get from it in the end, you can ultimately use to get them right back with.

      Basically, this is their attempt to assert power and ~be grown up~. The only people who do this, are people whose opinions are worth exactly nothing. It’s like this machismo stuff, and trust me, guys like that get reaaaalll riled up when you totally don’t give a single crapola/when you make them feel small or childish instead:

      “No, I don’t even have to look like her and I could still kick your ass”/”I’m not like her, and even I think you’re pathetic”/”The only way that woman would know you is if she was your babysitter. You’re a basic little kid (a practiced and weary sigh)”, “And? You’re nowhere near as fit as (insert guy popular in your area of choice)” – if you ever decide to take the verbal route (although I would equally advocate the letting-it-wash-over-you if that works. Alas, gobby as I am, it never worked for me.)

  2. Spot on. The last two years of headlines like “75% of sick benefit claimants are fit for work” and horrific Sunprojects like “Shop a Scrounger” have done actual harm to a class of already marginalised people. The tits? Innocent of those charges. Nobody was beaten, put on the streets or driven to suicide while citing Page 3 as the cause.

  3. Ironically, looking at the content of The Sun they could probably use No More Page 3 in an advertising campaign in order to attract more misogynists to their paper.

  4. Sorry, but I don’t agree. I agree that we need to normalise the naked human body, but page three isn’t the way to do it. By exposing ONLY women (and cis, mostly white, young, conventially ‘attractive’ women) it just reaffirms patriarchal notions about objectification and desireablity. It doesn’t normalise the naked human body, far from it – it commodifies the female body. I agree, getting willies and non-pert, nubile and conventially attractive boobs on there would be amazing! It also would basically never happen, at least not in our lifetime. Compromising, and being realistic about what we can achieve – and taking small steps to achieve big goals – don’t mean we’re weak or ineffectual. Also, your attack on the Sun in general could be seen as grossly classist. Yes, they’ve done some problematic stuff, but calling for the destruction of a paper just because they don’t agree with your own middle-class liberal views? Um. Yeah. I’m an avid reader of your blog and mostly agree with your views, but I can’t agree on this. I hope you’ll take this comment in the friendly spirit of exchanging views and establishing a dialogue. It is, as always, good to hear your thoughts on these issues.

    1. Mate. It’s not classist to see huge problems with longlensing women and propaganda against immigrants. Seriously, what the hell? Please try to be less patronising to working class people.

      Also, do please find out the meaning of the word “liberal”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    2. This is such bullshit! Classist! WTF! The Sun is not a working class paper. There is no such thing as a working class paper. It’s a shit paper. It’s only classism and this reputation among middle class people that means arseholes who think they are better have to go to a shit broad sheet for their daily dose of misogyny.

      It’s classist to imply that The Sun is somehow linked to what it is to be working class at any deeper level than the fact that it is cheap and some people like to look down on it for all the wrong reasons.

      1. There is no such thing as a working class paper.
        Exactly. The Sun is an upper/middle-class paper aimed at working-class people. It’s written by upper/middle-class journalists based on what upper/middle-class people like to think working-class people read.

        1. Yup, the Sun has shit on the working classes for years (not always the case when it was the Daily herald,) Orgreave, the miners strike, Wapping, Hillsborough, Gotcha, Turnip Kinnock, the current hatred of the disabled and scroungers…it has never been a working class paper, and in large parts of the country is not even sold in working class areas.

    3. As a working class male, I’m going to take the high ground and assume that you *didn’t* actually mean that me and my type can’t be expected to read proper newspapers if they don’t have tits, propaganda and racism in them. I await your response clarifying what you did mean.

        1. Short for proletariat. Used in 1984 to talk about non party members. Also used as a slightly diminishing term for working class people, generally to define them as a lumpen mass rather than a group of people.

    4. A good friend works in market research. Their firm did some work with the Sun, including a weekend away at a holiday camp to which carefully-selected ‘typical’ Sun readers were invited, so that they could mingle with the hacks, and keep said journos in touch with the views/attitudes of the readership. My friend had to work on the readers’ panels/focus groups alongside the Sun lot, and reported that they were uniformly contemptuous of their own readers, calling them every name under the sun (no pun intended), “thick”, “chav”, etc etc etc. The message I got very strongly from what my friend said was that the management and writers of the Sun despise their readers.

      Just one anecdote, maybe. But still illuminating, perhaps.

    5. Hi there!

      Thank you so much for speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Your concern for the unwashed, chip-guzzling masses brings a tear to my eye.

      Oh wait, hang on…

      I’m working class. I’m also gay, disabled, a woman, on benefits, northern, poor, and the granddaughter of an immigrant. if I was distilled into liquid form I could vapourise most of Fleet Street.

      Your complete lack of concern for POC/BME people, people with disabilities, LGBT people, immigrants etc. , those hurt and targeted daily by The Scum, shows a lot about you and your priorities.

      My hard-working, deeply socially aware parents are (like virtually everyone I grew up around) nothing like the cardboard cut-out, boorish, uneducated cattle that The Sun (and you, apparently) think they are.

      Oh sure, we know you think that we’re exempt from having a conscience, as social justice is apparently restricted to “middle-class liberals”, but when you’re at the bottom of a big pile you get to know those who are down there with you.

      While the middle-classes grew fatter and richer from Thatcher onward, everyone “beneath” them struggled. It wasn’t accountants or city traders being wiped out en masse, was it? It was shipyard workers, miners, factory workers.

      In !recent times the disgusting decision to remove benefits entirely from hundreds of thousands of PWD, to scrap programmes that kept us in work, to state directly that we’re all lying filth, to remove aid to 20% of recipients (when the fraud rate of that particular benefit is 0.5%) was ignored entirely. If it was discussed it was “No smoke without fire, eh?” or “Well, our nanny’s sister’s husband’s dog walker knew a man who faked disability and got a free car!” But then, the Coalition, so beloved of the middle-classes, decide to means test something worth relatively very little, to families earning £80,000, AND ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE.

      The children of the underclass and working classes living in often abject poverty, and relying of food banks – silence. Disabled people being forced to live on £3,000 – £4500 a year (if they get anything at all) – nothing but applause from the chattering classes.

      Means testing child benefit, heating allowance and cold weather payments? OMG! THE SKY IS FALLING!

      Fuck you, and the rest of them. My parents likened The Scum to a gaudy comic, that presumed to know what the proles wanted and believed. The Fail, Torygraph and Vexpress were moulded as self-righteous , sneering counterpoints to those same fictional proles.

      We can look after ourselves thanks. Not only can we read and write, we’re also online, everywhere. Our presence helps to expose your bigoted belief that anybody espousing equality, social reform and justice, and dismantling of the patriarchy simply must be middle-class, because all the beer-swilling thicko working class types are on Facebook talking about Eastenders and football. Apparently if we don’t rite like dis an say how totly mint TOWIE is lol speshly them fit lasses, then we simply cannot be living in social housing, working in a call centre, or trying to make ends meet.

      Be careful. We’re everywhere. If the truth is too harsh then gb2mumsnet.

      No love, from a scruffy pleb who’s proud to be descended from such hard-working people.

    6. “I agree that we need to normalise the naked human body, but page three isn’t the way to do it. By exposing ONLY women (and cis, mostly white, young, conventially ‘attractive’ women) it just reaffirms patriarchal notions about objectification and desireablity. It doesn’t normalise the naked human body, far from it – it commodifies the female body. I agree, getting willies and non-pert, nubile and conventially attractive boobs on there would be amazing! It also would basically never happen, at least not in our lifetime. Compromising, and being realistic about what we can achieve – and taking small steps to achieve big goals – don’t mean we’re weak or ineffectual.”

      To re-iterate a good point.

      Somehow navel-gazing about how ~bougie~ and navel-gazing people are for trying to get rid of page 3 isn’t painfully ironic…? I agree with the original article for the most part (no, sexualised tits do not belong on newspapers, kthnxbai. Let’s -not- bullshit around that page 3 is anything – anything – about normalising women’s bodies rather than normalising aggresive hetero-masculine demand. Can you imagine the glorious outrage if a well-known newspaper introduced a gay man’s page 3?).

      I would say at least this campaign is something, and it is naive to expect to take one giant leap forward without any small steps. The overriding defeatism (‘oh why bother and take away this one thing when there’s this thing and that thing and those things…’) in the article and comments are self-defeating. I don’t think anyone seriously believes the end of page 3 would be the end of all sexism, ever. But it’s closer than an article talking about hypotheticals, surely?

    7. As some others have said, the problem with The Sun isn’t that it’s a paper which promotes working class views that are discordant with our middle class sensibilities.

      The problem isn’t page three, either (although it is a bit creepy to see a topless girl with a vacant expression supposedly espousing violently right-wing political opinions…)

      The problem with The Sun is that it is AIMED at the working class by middle- and upper-class troglodytes best personified in Kelvin MacKenzie.

      The Sun isn’t racist, misogynist and homophobic because working class people are like that

      The Sun PROMOTES racism, misogyny and homophobia in an abhorrent attempt contain and redirect the anger and hate of its readers, which would otherwise be righteously directed at the people who own it.

      This is a newspaper that regularly prints fabrications, deceptions and outright lies on its front page, and if you’re lucky will print a retraction on page 38.

      YEARS later, if you’re a Scouser accused of defiling your dead friends.

      There is no doubt in my mind that everyone involved with The Sun loathes the working classes.

      I’m not going to wave my working class credentials around; I live in the inner-city, where I grew up – but I’ve got a high-speed internet connection and I know words like ‘espouse’. You can determine where I fit into the class spectrum for yourself, if you like.

      (I’m like an enigma wrapped in a curly-wurly)

  5. I’m with Kt.

    I can understand disregarding “No More Page 3” as a not-particularly-important campaign. I can understand not supporting it because you want the Sun as a whole to be gone (along with Murdoch’s empire). And I agree that misogyny and objectification in the media are far bigger problems than just page 3.

    But there’s absolutely nothing to defend about Page 3, and absolutely nothing to say for the kind of male assholes who attack the women who object to Page 3, and I would like to see it gone.

    1. There’s also absolutely nothing to defend about the entirety of the tabloid media–as I noted above, the small mercy is the boobs on page 3 are, at least, consensually taken and not put in to invite readers to criticise. This is why I feel it’s so important to attack the whole of the problem rather than one small manifestation of it.

      Frankly, it’s the insidious stuff that’s more harmful, and we both know it.

      1. Eh. I think that attacking even one small manifestation of the misogyny in the tabloid media is a good thing, not to be discouraged/disparaged.

        Of course there’s bigger, more harmful things to attack. Still, I’d like to see Page 3 gone, and I stand with Clare Short against Dominic Mohan any day of the week.

      2. “not put in to invite readers to criticise” – I beg, severely, to bloody well differ. Did you read Kt’s comment, like, at all? Because it literally shows you how it works. Page 3 is a convenient tool and easy-access reminder of how to put non-page 3 women in their place. You think anybody goes to that page for, what, enlightenment on feminism? To care about ugly women, or fat women, or women of colour? Really? It does that exact thing by setting a societal precedent of what a ‘woman’ SHOULD be, inviting the reader to critisize every single female human being who does not meet their standards, and it normalises that expectation by its daily/accessible medium.

        The intent of the women may be consensual – I confess not to care for it, but that’s their damn choice – but it is the effect that we look at here. Intent does not magically absolve negative effects from one’s actions. Going “oh well she wanted to do it so everything’s fiiinne” is tantamount to sticking your fingers in your ears. If, as comments similar to yours stick to, -everything- is part of constructing a wall of patriarchy, I am truly at odds why anyone would object to kicking in a brick or two – just because it itsn’t the whole wall yet? Please, if you know a way to skip small increments of success, share with the class.

    2. From my point of view the problem with page 3 isn’t the boobs, but that seems to be all the petition is about. It’s not like putting the woman on page 3 in a bikini rather than having her topless is any kind of a victory for feminism.

  6. Ultimately my problem with the campaign is that page 3 is, as you say, an entirely consensual loop – it is created with consent and people buy the sun knowing that page 3 exists. If it offends you that much then the solution is don’t buy the sun. Titless tabloids are available.

    But if your problem is that you are worried that seeing tits might make some people think differently about women, or you are offended that people want to consume tits in this way – do you really think that getting rid of this one tit source will achieve anything? The campaign diverts attention away from the root problems – page 3 is a symptom of sexism, not a cause.

    Also implying that the sun is worth keeping without page 3 is pretty unforgivable, and perhaps a lot more harmful than page 3 itself…

    1. It’s not an entirely consensual loop though, is it? I don’t consent to the Sun being left open at page 3 in the supermarket café. I didn’t consent to seeing men and boys leering over page 3 whilst on the bus to school. When I found page 3 pinned up on the wall of an office at work just last month, I didn’t consent to that either.

      Because the Sun is sold as a newspaper instead of a porn mag, people read it *everywhere*. Children see it being read everywhere and can buy it themselves without question, whereas a reasonable shopkeeper might (and should) refuse to sell Zoo or a top-shelf mag to a child. Girls look at page 3–perhaps of someone else’s copy whilst on the bus–and see a message that they are objects whose sole value is in their appearance and ability to arouse men. Boys look at page 3 and see that women are objects to arouse them, not fellow human beings. Girls see page 3 and see an unreasonable standard of “beauty”. Boys see page 3 and infer that a woman who does not match that “beauty” standard is inferior and hence a legitimate target for abuse. Page 3 teaches girls and boys to judge a woman by her perceived fuckability, and it does so in a blatant, unequivocal way. It doesn’t have the excuse of being a style page or celeb gossip story; it is an undisguised, overt, and unmistakeable statement of a woman’s place in patriarchy, in a publication that one may find in the tea room at work and on the bus and everywhere. I don’t want my nephews and nieces to grow up seeing it and internalising its message.

  7. I want to get rid of Page 3, but whilst agreeing that the media is indeed sexist and objectifying through & through. The thing is, my two small daughters are largely blissfully unaware of this, but even they can’t help seeing the boobs on P3. They’re just so… obvious. And it’ll be obvious to them that men don’t have to be pictured in this way, for some reason, and that worries me. I don’t see why we can’t get rid of P3 *and* carry on fighting the good fight, for women not to be bullied and objectified by the media, and for all types of male & female bodies to be accepted. I don’t see how doing the former stops us doing the latter.

    Is that naive?

    1. Slightly naive: you’ll generally find boobs on other pages of the paper too, if it is the boobs that are the problem!

  8. I was at a cafe the other day. At the next table some middle aged w*****r was having a good old letch at page 3 in full view of my 11 year old son and daughters aged 5 and 9. How do I explain that to them? The page 3 girl looked no older than 18 and was posing porn star fashion. How do I explain that to my son or my girls? Don’t tell me it’s not important. Page 3 has become so normalised the man didn’t feel any embarrassment and made no attempt to hide what he was doing. How is that ok? That picture had nothing to do with normalising naked bodies…. it normalises young girls selling sex and being objectified. And it’s in a popular family newspaper, so of course it has more impact on how we see women than a mag specifically for that purpose. Kids see it at the breakfast table or in cafes. Consensual you say? Defining any part of the sex industry as consensual is dodgy ground. Like saying we’ve got a democracy when virtually every media outlet and news source tells us to vote Tory…. hardly an even playing field or informed debate.

    1. “Defining any part of the sex industry as consensual is dodgy ground.”

      You just revealed your biases right there. I am following a number of empowered, intelligent, feminist sex-workers on Twitter, who are perfectly clear that what they do is consensual, and that it is the rest of society that treats them really badly, not their clients.

      If your kids do see page 3, it might be a good opportunity to discuss some of these issues with them, because this stuff can be discussed in ways that kids can understand.

      Stavvers is NOT saying that page 3 is a good way to present a variety of bodies. She is saying that presenting bodies in all their glorious variety, and in a sex-positive way, and in a way that positions the person in the photo as a subject and not an object, would be a good thing. it is pretty obvious that page 3 doesn’t do that. She is just saying that it is by no means the worst thing about the Sun, and implying that it is just airbrushes out all the other crap that is printed in the Sun.

      1. ” a number of empowered, intelligent, feminist sex-workers on Twitter, who are perfectly clear that what they do is consensual”
        I’m not calling bullshit here and I would say that this is actually possible, but would you not admit that these women you’re following actually represent a minority among sex workers?

        1. I’m not calling bullshit here and I would say that this is actually possible …

          Ha ha ha ha oh wow THANKS SO MUCH for *deigning* to maybe, perhaps, tentatively, generously give us the benefit of the doubt and stretch your mind to include the remotest possibility that sex workers might not be stupid! You’re obviously an expert on the subject. Well done.

    2. I’m slightly puzzled by the bit about the man not claiming to feel any embarrassment. Would you prefer it if he did? If he furtively lifted the paper up and turned his chair a bit so nobody could see what page he was on? Would you be slightly happier with the existence of Page 3 and omnipresent tabloid misogyny if people would just keep it to themselves and have the decency not to consume it in public?

      Plus, what do you think he should be embarrassed about? Looking at porn? Looking at someone of age but still only quite young? Looking at someone of age but still only quite young while being middle-aged himself? Reading a fuckawful racist, sexist Tory pissrag, or just reading a marginally more sexist and classist page of a fuckawful racist, sexist Tory pissrag?

      Page 3 is objectionable, but let’s be precise and consistent about what we object to. The fact that people can consume sexist shite in public without being embarrassed about the nudity is really not the main issue.

    3. Oh son, watch yourself. There is a peculiar group within soi-disant feminism that dislikes any encroachment upon the sex industry being suggested as even the slightest bit ‘dodgy’: it’s all sunshine or else.

      As if somehow, it is impossible to believe both in people (not just women) who actively choose and enjoy sex-work AND in the fact that, as an industry, it has been built on the backs women – and continues to fuel sex-trafficking. And that frankly, on a personal note, I care more about the girl being sold than the grown-ass woman who sells her time willingly and without pecuniary pressure. The grown-ass woman just not need my help or my comments, and her issues with me are nothing – nothing – compared to being bloody trafficked, so it’s no skin off my nose to put emphasis on the ‘dodgy’ in the sex-industry than glaze over suffering with happy sex-worker stories for the sake of intra-feminist cookies.

      “Page 3 is objectionable, but let’s be precise and consistent about what we object to. The fact that people can consume sexist shite in public without being embarrassed [about the nudity] is really not the main issue.”

      Er…yes. What in the fresh hell?! Yes it is. If you feel no shame in something, you don’t feel that it is wrong, ergo if you shamelessly (and publically) read ‘sexist shite’ then you don’t feel it is wrong.
      That’s a pretty big issue. At least to, y’know, my womynly life.

      As for the nudity, that’s just a case of being in public. Like all other unsavoury things: nose-picking, butt-scratching etc etc. You can do it, man, if you like – but nobody wants to see it in damn public, and it isn’t a big boo-hoo violation of rights to ask you keep some of your junk private.

      “Would you be slightly happier with the existence of Page 3 and omnipresent tabloid misogyny if people would just keep it to themselves and have the decency not to consume it in public?”

      Yup. Hello: internet. Folks can keep their nasty opinions to their damn livingrooms, why in the hell should I want to hear it or see it?

      1. Nobody here has said that the sex industry is perfect, or that all sex workers do so consensually. Nobody. Yet the opposite view was expressed above by two posters, and Stavvers and others rightly countered this with facts.

        To say that the existence of a sex industry itself fuels trafficking is like saying that the invention of the printing press is directly responsible for Page 3. The sex/titillation/porn/kink industry has been around for as long as people have, and to condemn it *all* as being exploitative is wrong. Happy hookers or not, some of us work within the industry to make it better. Blanket condemnation from sex-negative feminists just marginalise us all and put those who really need the help into more danger.

        A few people appear to have skim-read the original blog post. Stavvers hasn’t ever said that the Sun is a good thing, or that only middle-class types are bothered about all the shit that surges out of it. On the contrary. What Stavvers is saying is that Page 3 is merely the booby tip of a racist, abelist, classist, misogynist iceberg.

        My own opinion is that there are many offensive things about Page 3, but bare tits are the least of it. Here’s a blog post about the News In Briefs speech bubbles – the bit where the Sun literally puts words into the mouths of whoever has her norks out that day. http://www.bloggerheads.com/page-3/

      2. “Oh son, watch yourself. There is a peculiar group within soi-disant feminism that dislikes any encroachment upon the sex industry being suggested as even the slightest bit ‘dodgy’: it’s all sunshine or else.”

        Exfuckingscuse me?

        Sounds like you’ve got your ass handed to you a couple of times in the past by people trying to fight against the whole “everyone who has ever taken a dirty photo on a camera phone is an enslaved victim of abuse” mantra, and it still stings a bit.

        A certain soi dissant group? Tell you what, I’ll spot you that if you can give me *one* active feminist sex worker who claims that it’s all sunshine and roses. Maybe they’re out there and I’ve just never met them. Or maybe they’re a strawman figment of people’s imaginations. Find one for me and we’ll find out, eh?

        Frankly, the big problem with Page 3 isn’t that it’s porn, but that it pretends it isn’t porn. It’s wank material for people who want to be judgemental about other people wanking.

      3. Yup. Hello: internet. Folks can keep their nasty opinions to their damn livingrooms, why in the hell should I want to hear it or see it?
        Out of sight, out of mind I suppose. Just don’t ever read up on Reddit or 4Chan. I don’t want people feeling ashamed to have nasty opinions in a family establishment and having them privately in their living room. I want them not having nasty opinions. The problem with Page 3 isn’t that it’s uncouth and vulgar like scratching your arse or picking your nose. It’s not just an “unsavoury thing” and I’m not sure why you’d be ok with it happening in private.

    4. You’re right, it is important to explain that to your children.

      What the wanker reading The Sun created was an opportunity for you to talk to your kids about sex and sexuality (especially if they started asking questions).

      Your kids are going to see sexuality sold all around them as they age. They’re also going to see it given away for free (characters in films, couples being romantic, people wearing skimpy clothing in hot weather…)

      I’m under no illusion that The Sun exists to foster these kinds of talks (it doesn’t), but there’s an opportunity there. You may as well take it.

    5. I’d like to preface this by saying that I often come across as very aggressive without meaning to be online and I just want to make it clear that it’s not my intention and I have a hard time figuring out why/how I sound this way when I don’t mean to be.

      Firstly, if you’ve not done sex work, you really shouldn’t be talking about consent within it. With regards to @somethingcompletelydifferent, I’m going to define sex TRAFFICKING as something different to sex work, simply because I’m sure many sex workers are aware of the differences between sex trafficking and sex work, even if Johns are not.

      Secondly, I get your discomfort with the guy letching. Feeling like you’re being made to be witness to someone else’s sexual gratification isn’t really cool and it’s totally understandable for you to feel discomfort with this. But I feel like you, and a lot of people here quite frankly, are missing stavvers’ point.

      Stavvers has not argued to keep Page 3. At all. The point is that Page 3 isn’t the entire problem. I don’t think stavvers is one of those people who says, “Well you have to care about EVERYTHING if you want to care about ANYTHING”. I think what they would appreciate is more of an effort on the part of the No More Page 3 campaign to address the problems of sexism in more than just Page 3. Start with Page 3 and work outwards.

      Thirdly, what are you supposed to say to your kids? Well, unfortunately I’m sure your daughters have already been exposed to sexism. Maybe not in the form of tits on display, but they already know very well there are different expectations/ideas/etc. that float around them because they are assigned/read female. Honestly I would use this as an education point to introduce them to the fact that… hey, sometimes the world is a really shitty place. Maybe that doesn’t seem ideal. We’d all like it if kids remained ignorant of how terrible the world can be, but I think it’s equally problematic for us to assume that kids truly ARE ignorant about this stuff. They may not understand Page 3 in all of it’s horrible socially contextual glory, but they get sexism and they’ve already been exposed to it.

      Page 3 disappearing does not solve the problem of the letching guy. He will letch about anything. And it doesn’t solve the problem of your kids being exposed to sexism. They will be exposed to it. That’s not an argument to keep Page 3, but rather to expand the focus and problematising of sexism beyond just tits hanging out.

      Because, at the end of the day, it’s not the actual tits that are the problem. If we, as stavvers said, embraced the human body in moe instances perhaps the breasts wouldn’t be seen as inherently sexual and therefore worthy of being put on a page for people to gawk at in the first place. What’s the problem is the sexism behind the idea. And that’s important to focus on and clarify.

      Because whether there’s “dodgy consent” or not with Page 3 girls, with strippers, with any worker in the sex industry, nothing positive has been gained by hiding them from public view or blaming the entire problem on them.

  9. I really can’t decide where I stand in terms of page three. I agree with you absolutely that the entire paper is as much of a problem. And I don’t have a principled objection to people taking their clothes of money. Friends in that industry are having perfectly satisfying careers. It had never really occurred to me to have a specific objection to the one page.

    But then my seven year old niece asked me why there were naked women in her Dad’s paper. And while I can make an age appropriate case to her about why she should ignore the rest of what she takes in from the paper, explaining that judging people based on their appearance is wrong, that there are all different types of people in the world and that’s okay, etc. I was at a loss with page three. Because men like it is all I’ve got. And that doesn’t really cut it.

    She seems to be getting a particular message about the world from page three that makes me uncomfortable in a way that I can’t entirely define. I don’t know why I think it’s more harmful to her than anything else in there, but it just seems that it is.

    1. Page 3 is like a flag planted in the middle of the print media declaring ‘THIS BELONGS TO MEN’. The problem with the No More Page 3 campaign is that it is complaining about the design of the flag rather than why it is there in the first place.

  10. Hi, sorry I’m off topic. I “googled” wanker and Brendan O’Neill and your blog came up.
    His little latest little piece: After the Cait Reilly case, we should seriously consider cutting welfare benefits to all 18 to 25-year-olds
    http://tinyurl.com/bqy7xpl Annoyed the hell outta me.
    I laughed when I read your description of him

  11. I’m not a Sun reader. Thats kind of due to P3, but for me P3 is a part of the wider problem, which is, not even the paper, but how society taken as a whole treats women (and not just women).

    So to me getting rid of P3 would be, as someone said, knocking a brick or two out of the wall – the problem is that in the media and society there all always people trying to portray the brick as the wall, always people who claim that the right thing is the wrong thing, and that a baby step towards equality is a bridge too far. Those people inevitably will, when Page 3 is got rid off, portray it either as mission accomplished, the end of the free press, or some other strawman.

    1. A good and unfortunately true point.
      That said, why give up on something because some people will want to put their agendas on it? Inevitably, we all try to work our biases, but at least action comes with an accomplishment at the end that hypotheticals simply don’t

  12. I take the point you’re making here, but not sure I agree with your conclusion. I’m a sun reader, and I don’t think it’s especially worse than other papers and media more generally in terms of sexism, though perhaps it wears it more openly. Having said that, I hate p3 more than the sexism in the rest of the paper primarily because of ‘news in briefs’ which is unadulterated misogyny. I don’t have a problem with nudity, and you’re probably right that we should have more breasts visible, not fewer (though perhaps not ones held up with Sellotape). What’s especially poisonous about p3 though is the implicit message that the more naked the woman, the more justified we are in laughing at her, or the more she is a valid target. I’m guessing ‘no more news in briefs’ would galvanise little support so I’m sticking with no more p3 as a compromise position for now. On reflection, perhaps I agree with you more than I first thought…

  13. I loathe the Sun and I loathe page 3. I’d like to see the Sun wound up and every last copy ground up for compost. But that’s the long game. In the meantime, getting rid of p3 would be a teenytiny start.
    Stavvers, have you read Clare Short’s book “Dear Clare”? It’s a collection of the letters people wrote to Clare Short when she was trying to get Parliament to ban p3 in the 80s. Some of them are very moving.

  14. Well, I’m going to have to disagree with this in some detail, so I’d better summarise first; your argument seems to be that Page 3 isn’t that bad in comparison to the rest of the Sun/media, and in fact isn’t that bad anyway because it’s ‘body-positive’ and the women aren’t coerced. The first of which (a) ignores the damage it actually does, and (b) could apply to pretty much anything feminists complain about short of rape, assault and denial of personhood á la Taliban, and the second of which ignores the straitjacket of restrictions on who can be a Page 3 model, restrictions which pretty much embody the entire misogynistic culture you say is more important than fighting Page 3.

    So, your argument gets going towards the end of Paragraph 6. You say that the rest of the Sun and the media is vile. True. Then you take a logical leap and say that going after Page 3 legitimises the rest of this culture. I don’t see that at all; if anything, the opposite is true. P3 has unironically been described as an institution, because that’s what it is; a prominent almost full page of objectification in the biggest-selling newspaper in Britain – a newspaper which can be found in schools, workplaces and cafes, as others have pointed out, where Nuts and Zoo might be banned or are at least less likely to be found. An institution that puts women firmly in their ‘place’ in this patriarchal world; tits out and smiling.
    To say that this is an anachronistic, egregious, influential example of casual and endemic sexism is to state an obvious fact, in my view. How on earth does that *legitimise* the rest of the nasty, insidious shit the Sun gets up to? It’s a shot across the bows, IMO. Getting the Sun to drop it would be a very public victory and a shot in the arm for feminism, and to mix metaphors even more, it would be one in the eye for those who claim that feminism is dead.

    Paragraph 7 – ‘this one thing won’t solve sexism’. No, of course it won’t Neither will any other single thing. When someone comes up with the One True Ring of feminist/progressive activity that will end sexism at a stroke, do please let us know. In the meantime, it’s probably worth trying to chip away at the wall.

    Paragraph 8 – ‘No More P3 isn’t about objectification’. Well, fair enough. I think the end is more important than the way the means are expressed, in this case. On the other hand, if you feel that publishing young, thin, white, beauty-standard-compliant women’s breasts is a step in the direction of celebrating all sexuality, that’s your prerogative, of course.

    Paragraph 9 – ‘We need to celebrate nudity more’. Again, if you think that a page which excludes all except young, thin, white, beauty-standard-compliant women, which it presents as blank canvases – nothing about these women as complex human beings, nothing which suggests that they have their own desires and dislikes, a page whose publishers attacked a woman who dared to criticise it on the basis of her looks and weight, is celebrating female sexuality or boobs, that’s your prerogative. I disagree; P3 is part of the massive corporate behemoth that commodifies sexuality on the one hand while making many women too inhibited to actually discover their own sexuality because they think they need to look (and act) like a certain type of woman.

    Final paragraphs – ‘This campaign is organised by middle-class people’. Um, OK. As I commented on your response to Kt above, this strikes me as quite ironic.

    1. It legitimises the Sun as the petition is an appeal to an authority – here the editor of the Sun – to please stop doing one thing. It’s negotiating from a position of weakness, raising a begging hand to a contemptuous man, and assuming that he and the Sun operate in good faith – all nonsense assumptions and ways of operation that liberal feminism holds dear.

  15. You know what I reckon would be an interesting experiment?

    A petition to replace or add to the photos of topless women with cheesecake shots of naked men.

    “We’re not against the appreciation of the naked form, we just think it should be equal opportunities. Female and Gay Sun readers want some eye candy too. Men should be afforded the opportunity to appear in News in Briefs to help their modelling careers.”

    I think watching people bluster and backtrack and try to justify why only topless women can do the job would work far better to undermine them than allowing them the chance to call everyone who opposes them ugly feminists who need to get laid.

  16. The original post is entirely correct is denoucing the entirety of the Sun as a fetid den of sexist/racist/homophobic/etc filth. However, what about all the men who buy this filthrag ENTITELY FOR THE BOOBS? You know, come for the tits, stay for the casual racism/sexism/that non-specific icky feeling you get after reading it that makes you want to go wash your hands immediately.

    If P3 was gone, then whilst of course the core readershoip would still want to get their daily dose of drivel, a significant element of casual readers might lose interest. In particular young boys, like the first poster describes; do you really think they’d continue to buy the Sun if it could no longer act as fuel for their tit-based harrassment of their female classmantes? I’ve experienced a similar phenomenon where I used to work on a lot of building sites as an archaeologist -the sun is bought purely for P3, used as a communal bonding exercise at tea break involving a detailed critique of boob flaws (that’s the focus y’see, not over-awed wonder at being allowed to look at these perfect boobs, but rather denoucnicng the svelte 19 year old as “rough”, “minging” , stating they would not “do her” etc). Maybe the sport gets a qiick glace afterward, then it’s left sprawed on the table. It would also impact upon children, as they’d be less likely to casually come across random photos of girls-in-pants-being-exploited at a tender age.

    So basiscally I’d have thought that removal of P3 would result in a fairly significant net decrease in the readership of offensive shite, no???

    I also disagree on princliple with an approach that basiscally says “if it’s not a perfectly argued feminist-theory compliant approach that will result in the removal of the entrirely of the problem, why waste our time?”

    1. Of course they’d stop buying the Sun. And they’d start buying the Star, which has even more tits, and is even more racist and sexist than the Sun (it’s owned by the same dude who owns the Express).

      Assuming this putative demographic exists and buys newspapers only for the tits, do you really think that they’ll stop buying newspapers only for the tits once one newspaper stops publishing tits?

      Even on a pragmatic level, NMP3 falls on its arse.

    2. ARE there people who buy The Sun just for the tits? Really?

      Because porn is pretty readily available in the UK.

      Maybe there’s a subgenre of really short men who like tits but can’t reach the top shelf in newsagents (but don’t like to ask), but I don’t think they’re exactly a huge demographic.

  17. I have to ask, though, in the absence of an actual (oh, yes please) pitchfork-wielding uprising from all women, everywhere, isn’t chipping away at them better than nothing? If this isn’t the middle ground and the extreme necessary to provoke meaningful change is impossible, what’s the alternative? Sign the petition? Or roll our eyes for ever?

    1. People are more than welcome to sign it, I’d just rather they didn’t pretend they were doing something. At the end of the day, it’s signing a petition which will achieve nothing.

      Ultimately, it’s a choice between honestly not doing anything, and kidding yourself and I’ve never been one for fairy stories.

    2. It doesn’t seem like the petition is about feminism though (going purely by the wording of the petition). Rather than asking The Sun to stop being sexist it seems to be asking them to do it without showing tits or, at best, to make the sexism a little less obvious so that kids don’t ask their parents about it and make them feel a bit awkward.

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