7 Days Remaining

Wednesday 24th
posted by Morning Star in Features

This isn’t the ’70s any more, so why do we still permit the overt sexual objectification of women in the Sun, asks Lisa Clarke

Tits, jugs, bazookas, boobies, the puppies, jubblies, melons, baps … I wonder if Western society has as many words for breasts as the Inuits (we are told) have for snow?

There are similarities after all, perhaps in our level of obsession — are Inuits obsessed with snow? — and some days it certainly feels like we are surrounded by them.

As a society we have seemed keen for some decades to perpetuate a somewhat juvenile attitude towards them, particularly among the male of our species — “ha, look at all the boobies,” giggle, guffaw etc.

In itself it seems somewhat harmless and perhaps it would be if it weren’t for the inescapable fact that they are in fact attached, on the whole, to women’s bodies and the reality that said women are actually whole people.

No, really — thinking, feeling, fully functioning contributors to our society. Just like men but with a few anatomical differences.

If you’re a British resident you could perhaps be forgiven for your confusion on this matter, given the fact that for four decades our best-selling newspaper has deemed the existence of “the tits” to be of such national import that it has seen fit to place a topless picture* of a young woman just inside the front cover, every day.

*You’ll notice that I didn’t just say it places tits there every day. This is because they are, as previously mentioned, attached to a woman. For further clarification please see paragraph 3.

Page 3 has been described as harmless, as a British institution, as a pivotal part of the Sun newspaper. 

As a feature it heralds from the 1970s, the ’70s being an era in which some women had to seek the signature of a male relative in order to open a bank account or obtain a mortgage, a time when Benny Hill was on our TV screens alongside The Black and White Minstrel Show and On The Buses and a decade when Jimmy Savile was a national favourite on the radio.

A lot of things have quite rightly moved on since then, some of them perhaps by accident but many because we have since recognised them to be offensive, discriminatory and contributory to the derogatory treatment of certain sections of society.

They are wrong — and yet in 2014, some 44 years later, we still accommodate the overt sexual objectification of women in a news publication.

Is there a reason for the longevity of Page 3?

Society may have made strides forward but there is no escaping its increasing sexualisation in all areas.

Perhaps this is the reason Page 3 has escaped the critical eye of so many for so long. Among movies, adverts, billboards, magazines and music videos, does the ongoing existence of Page 3 really matter?

The No More Page 3 campaign thinks it does, and with over 215,000 signatures on our online petition, the support of over 60 charities and organisations and over 160 cross-party MPs we have an increasingly loud voice on the matter.

While all sexual objectification may be an issue both collectively and individually, the additional issue with Page 3 is one of context.

Among serious news stories and seas of images of men, generally fully clothed in suits or sports wear and featured for their actions, talents and abilities, the largest image of a woman will be one of her posing in her pants for the sexual gratification of men.

No matter what your feelings and thoughts about access to porn online or in magazines, and the availability to individuals who may chose to seek them out, there is a resounding difference between this and an image in a newspaper that makes access to the sexualised female body as much of a given as the provision of a crossword or the weather forecast.

It is difficult given our complex culture to make definitive connections, but how much does this portrayal of women in a newspaper feed into the mindset that allows female bodies to be viewed as open to public scrutiny and comment?

How much does it reinforce the type of attitude that sees women to this day shouted at, sometimes explicitly, on the street, or manhandled in pubs and clubs as though a woman’s body is not her own and consent is not a necessity?

However, without going too deeply into it all, it would seem sensible surely to most human people in 2014, that perhaps the time has come to give column space and coverage to women in the same way that we do men — for the stuff they do.

Lisa Clarke is a member of the No More Page 3 campaign team.