Why Page 3 Topless Models Should be a Thing of the Past
Why Page 3 Topless Models Should be a Thing of the Past
For over four decades, opening up Britain’s most popular daily newspaper to be greeted by a topless young woman has been normal, passé, nothing to pass comment on. Page 3 has proved popular among the Sun’s readers but it is not surprising that in the past few years there has been growing support for #NoMorePage3. So, the apparent retirement of the feature in mid-January was applauded by campaigners and it seemed like the movement had been a success until Thursday 22nd January, when the Sun claimed to have had a “mammary lapse” and reverted to type.
This change of heart from the bosses at the newspaper could be down to a number of different factors; from projected sales drops to just wanting to crush the celebration of anti-campaigners. Whatever the reason is for the renewed publication of boobs on the inside page is not important. What is important is that despite public support for #NoMorePage3 and widespread critical praise for the Sun’s decision, media bosses feel that the continuation of this printing practice is a joke, that the habitual sexualisation and objectification of women is something that can be ridiculed, that it is not important.
Now, don’t misunderstand my point. I think that boobs, breasts, tits, nunga-nungas, babylons, fun bags – call them what you will – are wonderful, beautiful and majestic. Of course we should celebrate the female form. If you’ve got it and you want to flaunt it then go for it, more power to you! Women should be able to have autonomy over their bodies and do what they like with their bodies, as it is a personal choice. I’m not advocating for the shaming of glamour models; there is an insatiable market for breasts and if that is your ideal career/hobby then that is ok and must be respected; there are appropriate platforms on which to fulfil this dream.
Essentially, my main grievance with Page 3 is that, quite frankly, boobs are not news. Did you know that roughly one in every two people have boobs? Ground breaking discovery for you right there! Yes, Jessica, aged 19 from Solihull, may have a gorgeously pert pair but are Jessica’s breasts really more important than actual current affairs that are happening in the world? Newspapers should be a medium through which to inform readers about the most topical issues of the day, they should enrich minds and broaden intellectual horizons through debate on current issues.
Furthermore, Page 3 objectifies and belittles the women photographed through patronising puns and poorly constructed biographies. The practice is reductive and through its status in a newspaper implies by association that the only way that a woman can make the papers and be relevant is if she can get her knockers out. This perpetuates the problems that young, impressionable girls have with body image and a fundamental sense of self-worth, as Page 3 insinuates that in order to have a voice in Britain’s most popular paper, women must be hyper-sexualised and ultimately silenced in order to be successful or desirable.
In turn, this portrayal of women as only being worthy of attention if overtly sexualised has filtered down through society. I am not blaming the Sun for the patriarchy or widespread misogyny, I am blaming it for encouraging a culture in which it is still acceptable to catcall and harass women with abuse of a ‘playfully’ sexual nature. Indeed, some women may enjoy the banter, even find it complimentary, but if it is not ok with just one person then the whole practice is unfair. Women deserve more respect than Page 3 and its products gives us.
Some people, in response to #NoMorePage3 suggest that a topless male model should be printed alongside the female image. However, not only is this argument invalid, as I shall explain, it is also deeply patronising as it suggests that campaigners to stop Page 3 are jealous that men get to ogle at a good pair of boobs and that the argument would be simply resolved by printing a topless man to satisfy the frustrated campaigners. This argument forgets the history of the liberation of women and the centuries of erotic fetishisation of the female form. It is ultimately invalid because it negates the way in which breasts are still somewhat taboo. Instagram has banned female nipples on its site, whilst male nipples are perfectly fine (an argument that has inspired the #freethenipple campaign). It is considered public indecency for a woman to be topless in public, whereas on a hot summer’s day it is not uncommon for men to stride bare-chested down the high street. These examples highlight the contradictory society that is Britain, which is complicated further by the practice of slut shaming.
As a culture, we’re quick to ridicule women who wear revealing outfits or are sexually liberal. The media often takes great pleasure in naming these women out as ‘other’ and highlights these practices as unacceptable.
And then there’s Page 3, which seems to do the opposite; a woman bravely baring her assets in the face of the inevitable backlash, and yet this ultimately fails. In a paper that loudly shames women for being sexually provocative or for not covering up a bit more, Page 3 broadcasts a hypocritical and inconsistent message which enforces patriarchy and illustrates that sexualised women are unacceptable through media stories but that they are just objects for media bosses to play with.
Ultimately, it is disappointing that the Sun has changed its mind, even as the paper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, has said that the feature is archaic and old-fashioned. The fact that bosses thought that it could be gradually filtered out is not only naïve but stupid as this has become such a topical and highly publicised issue that it will not go away gradually. The core issue and problem is the issue of habitual objectification of women and the misuse of an important and powerful media platform. Boobs are great. But the context is inappropriate and damaging.
In Britain, a nation of supposed gender equality, Page 3 is a clear example of how far we still have to go to achieve equality.
Madeleine is a final year student at the University of Exeter studying BA English with proficiency in French who has developed her writing and editing through her involvement with Her Campus Exeter. In her free time, Madeleine loves discovering new music in preparation for the UK festival season and searching for opportunities which can broaden her horizons, most recently this was volunteering as a teacher in Beijing, China, where she was immersed in Chinese culture and tradition. There are few things in this world that bring Madeleine more joy than glitter, velvet and sequins and her ideal dinner party guests would be Queen Elizabeth I, George Orwell and Taylor Swift. Currently, with graduation looming, Madeleine is exploring the idea of taking time out to travel the world on a shoe string before embarking upon a career in international humanitarian aid.