Boobs are not news: No more page Three.

Article published on March 18, 2014
Article published on March 18, 2014

The Sun is the UK’s most read newspaper. Since 1970, Page 3 has hosted a topless female model. The feature has been branded objectifying, misogynistic and damaging to men’s perceptions of women, and women’s perceptions of themselves. Finally society has said enough is enough. The ‘No More Page 3’ petition already has 184,000 signatures. Cafébabel spoke to Ceris Aston, founder of NMP3 Edinburgh

Cafébabel: Why do you think it’s im­por­tant to get rid of Page 3?

Ceris Aston: There are a fair few rea­sons. One of the things that gets me is a lot of peo­ple think it’s re­ally triv­ial. They ask, “If you’re a fem­i­nist fo­cus­ing on cam­paigns, then why this? Aren’t there more im­por­tant things to worry about?” The fact that peo­ple see it as so triv­ial shows how per­va­sive and dam­ag­ing it is. In the most widely read news­pa­per in the UK (12.4m peo­ple read the print edi­tion every week, Ed.), women are por­trayed as ob­jects with big boobs, whereas men can act, men can change the world, and women just have their tits out next to that- it’s a hor­ri­ble mes­sage. The fact that so many peo­ple don’t think it’s im­por­tant makes me want to do the cam­paign all the more - to high­light why these things do mat­ter.

I’ve spo­ken to so many women who say, “I pretty much spent my en­tire teenage years feel­ing un­com­fort­able, be­cause guys would be com­par­ing me to the im­ages on Page 3, feel­ing it was ac­cept­able to rate how good some­one’s tits were.” It’s been a re­ally dam­ag­ing force. If Page 3 is a sym­bol of the sex­ism in our so­ci­ety, then chang­ing it could be a sym­bol that so­ci­ety is chang­ing.

Cafébabel: Do you think Page 3 is a relic of a by­gone era when sex­ism was more wide­spread and in­grained?

Ceris: Yes- it comes from an era where it was seen as OK to be re­ally openly sex­ist. These days misog­y­nists say, “oh now they have these sex­ual ha­rass­ment things, peo­ple used to think it was a com­pli­ment if you pinched their bot­tom or called them gor­geous at work.”

Cafébabel: Do you think it cre­ates an ideal of fe­male beauty that’s not re­al­is­tic, putting pres­sure on women, par­tic­u­larly young girls? Could it be linked to the pro­lif­er­a­tion of eat­ing dis­or­ders in so­ci­ety today?

Ceris: I think so. One of the ar­gu­ments The Sun have used to de­fend Page 3 is that “it’s a cel­e­bra­tion of fe­male beauty”, but it isn’t- it’s the cel­e­bra­tion of a re­ally small sec­tion of fe­males, I guess 18-22 year olds, who have big boobs, are mostly white and slim and have fig­ures most women don’t have. I think it’s enor­mously dam­ag­ing to self-es­teem.

So for a lot of girls grow­ing up, there is this ex­pec­ta­tion from so­ci­ety that this is what a woman should look like and this is what a woman’s role should be- to be at­trac­tive and sex­u­ally avail­able. That’s the image given by Page 3. It’s very ob­jec­ti­fy­ing.

None of the rea­sons The Sun have come up with for re­tain­ing it are in any way valid- “a cheeky bit of fun”- it’s not fun. The Sun is a fam­ily news­pa­per- it’s some­thing peo­ple grow up with. Whether or not your par­ents buy it, it’s still there. I don’t think the “if you don’t like it don’t buy it” ar­gu­ment holds water at all.

Cafébabel: Has there been any in­di­ca­tion that The Sun’s ed­i­tors and own­ers are lis­ten­ing?

Ceris: Ru­pert Mur­doch replied to a tweet from a sup­porter, which was say­ing “Page 3 is so last cen­tury”, and he said “maybe you’re right- we are con­sid­er­ing a halfway house with glam­orous fash­ion­istas.” Well… they’re lis­ten­ing to the cam­paign. I’m not sure that’s re­ally what we’re en­vis­ag­ing as an ideal so­lu­tion, but we are being lis­tened to.

The Sun are run­ning Check’em Tues­days in as­so­ci­a­tion with the Cop­pafeel Cam­paign to get young women to ex­am­ine their own breasts for early signs of breast can­cer. Peo­ple are spec­u­lat­ing that the rea­son the Sun are doing this is be­cause they need to re­brand Page 3 as some­thing po­ten­tially pos­i­tive, be­cause it’s get­ting a lot of neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity. Cop­pafeel is a great cam­paign. I think it’s sad, though, that the only way The Sun could think of to high­light the cause of breast can­cer and early de­tec­tion was to use a teenage semi-naked woman in a sex­u­alised pose. It’s a cel­e­bra­tion of the boobs that suf­fer­ers of breast can­cer don’t nec­es­sar­ily have. It equates de­sir­abil­ity and fem­i­nin­ity with ‘per­fect’ breasts.

Cafébabel: How’s the cam­paign going in terms of fig­ures, no­table suc­cesses…

Ceris: Over 100 MPs have signed, there’s sup­port from MPs, MSPs, and Mem­bers of the Welsh as­sem­bly, quite a few celebrity fig­ures- even Rus­sell Brand re­cently sup­ported the cam­paign.

No More Page 3 has spon­sored Chel­tenham Women’s foot­ball team, which raises aware­ness for both the cam­paign and for women’s sport, which doesn’t get enough at­ten­tion.

Cafébabel: What do you think are the most in­sid­i­ous man­i­fes­ta­tions of sex­ism, Page 3 aside?

Ceris: Call­ing at­ten­tion to some­one’s gen­der be­cause it’s sur­pris­ing. In sport es­pe­cially, you hear “amaz­ingly it was a woman who achieved this”.

I re­cently saw a list of trustees for some big or­gan­i­sa­tion and it paren­the­sised the fact that one of these peo­ple was a woman. But it’s ir­rel­e­vant. So often gen­der is ir­rel­e­vant but peo­ple bring it in if it seems sur­pris­ing. If it’s still sur­pris­ing that women are in po­si­tions of power, then we’ve got some way to go yet.

No More Page 3 Poem by Sab­rina Mah­fouz

Cafébabel: Lucy-Anne Holmes said she started the cam­paign by chance using change.​org - she just de­cided to start up a pe­ti­tion, and then she was sur­prised when it re­ally gained trac­tion. Do you think the in­ter­net has an im­por­tant role to play in em­pow­er­ing so­ci­ety to change things and take on es­tab­lished in­sti­tu­tions, show­ing peo­ple things don’t al­ways have to be the way they have been?

Ceris: The in­ter­net’s a funny thing be­cause it can em­power us but it can also re­ally dis­em­power us. It’s a de­moc­ra­tis­ing force, be­cause, on Twit­ter, for ex­am­ple, it doesn’t mat­ter who you are, it just mat­ters if your voice gets heard, and it can.

The in­ter­net has a lot of po­ten­tial. It’s a way of gath­er­ing peo­ple who care about the same is­sues. I don’t know how this cam­paign would have hap­pened with­out so­cial media.

Of course, there’s also the risk of get­ting dis­tracted by lots and lots of pic­tures of cats!

Cafébabel: On the No More Page 3 site, it seems em­pow­er­ing for peo­ple to be able to tell their story and to see that other peo­ple have also ex­pe­ri­enced the same things. Peo­ple aren’t iso­lated in their own ex­pe­ri­ences.

Ceris: Yes, the cam­paign em­pow­ers peo­ple who have been feel­ing so un­com­fort­able about this for so long, but didn’t even think, “I can’t change it” be­cause chang­ing it didn’t even come into their heads. But then some­one stands up and says, “ac­tu­ally this has no place in a news­pa­per, it’s not news, it’s a young woman with her tits out to tit­il­late men- that’s not news,” and every­body else sud­denly agrees- “you’re right, it’s af­fected me for so long, it’s af­fected how I see my­self, how men see me, I don’t like it.” It’s amaz­ing when that hap­pens.

Sign the pe­ti­tion.

Join No More Page 3 Ed­in­burgh.

At­tend No More Page 3 Ed­in­burgh's event "Boobs Aren't News: media, power & page 3" on 2 April.