Thursday, November 8, 2012


The Future of "Page Three Girls"

Bitch Magazine investigates the latest attempt to say "whyyyyyyy are there randomly topless white women in The Sun every single day, not that breasts aren't super-great?"

However, the latest ‘No More Page 3’ campaign, launched by U.K. feminist Lucy Holmes, seems to have captured the British public’s imagination in an unprecedented way. Her polite request to Dominic Monahan, editor of The Sun, to stop showing “the naked breasts of a young woman in your widely-read “family” newspaper” has gained 52,000 signatures and has sparked a flurry of support on Twitter, Facebook, and across the blogosphere. Both women and men are signing, with comments ranging from the concise—“Because women contribute to society in many ways that do not involve a man's erection” to the poignant “Because I want my daughter growing up in a world that respects her for ALL she is, instead of treating her like meat”. Although the lack of diversity on Page 3 has largely gone unaddressed, it’s also worth mentioning that The Sun has always promoted the most prescriptive version of ‘sexiness’ imaginable—a white, slim, able-bodied, cisgendered young woman served up for male consumption. Of the thousands of women who have modelled for Page 3 since 1972, only four of them have been black.

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My parents never bought tabloid newspapers or allowed them in the house, so it was years and years before I realised Page 3 girls were still a thing. I remember flicking through a copy of The Sun in a friend's house and being horrified that there was this naked teenager right there. I somehow never became desensitized to it (thanks, parents!).


Most definitely not a fan of Page 3, but the condemnation of bare breasts as not "family-friendly" really doesn't sit well with me either. The Daily Mail's headlines (including one the other day about the "blossoming" Obama daughters) are just as harmful, no (consenting) boobs required.

cecil hungry

@wallsdonotfall Wellllllllllll... I get what you're saying, but these bare breasts are so obviously sexualized and for a specific reason (boners) that I think it's a fair point. As opposed to, say, National Geographic.


@cecil hungry @cecil hungry I agree with you, the whole thing is absolutely a fair point. But I like the signers' reasons much better than Holmes', at least as they're stated here. My problem with "stop showing topless pictures of young women in Britain’s most widely read newspaper, stop conditioning your readers to view women as sex objects" is that it puts too much emphasis on toplessness as the cause of objectification, when just slapping a bikini on the models wouldn't do much good with the same copy and framing.

(TL;DR: can't we just get rid of gross newspapers everywhere?)


@wallsdonotfall - Can we start putting near sexualized dudes in there too? And also, to feature women (and dudes!) of all different shapes & sizes?

Cuz, on one hand, I totally agree that it is unfair to *reduce* women to be objects of sexual desire, and the way they do it is icky. On the other hand, maybe we could do something that's like "Oh, this is an all bodies positive way for us to enjoy the sexual eye candy aspect of people, but if we feature ALL KINDS of people, from ones that look a lot like you/what you're into, and these are people who aren't that" we can still enjoy oogling (I am very pro oogle!) BUT we can make it less creepy and "You should have to look like this!" and instead encourage that both men and women deserve the chance to look at sexy naked people, and that all kinds of people can be naked and sexy, not just ones that look anatomically impossible.


@leon s
And then guys realize they don't want to look at sexy naked guys, and stop buying the magazine out of self-righteous homophobia, and the magazine dies?

Yesterday, I was greeted by a male friend's male friend, and was inappropriately touched while my friend got a handshake. My friend must've noticed my discomfort, because he randomly announced he'd noticed that "people of the opposite sex touch each other differently in greetings" and "I now hug my male friends, but I notice it makes them uncomfortable".

It seems like he doesn't want to admit/combat men making women uncomfortable, so he makes men and women equally uncomfortable. However, a person with a woman's experience is always likely to feel more vulnerable to his hugs, because having a woman's experience is being reminded your body is not your own. This feels like the same situation. Now everyone's being displayed pornographically in a nonpornographic setting, but only women will continue to hold the mentality that this is what they're there for.


@Inkling - Yeah both points are pretty right on and probably true. I have to admit, I love Steven Soderbergh movies, he's one of my favorite directors and biggest inspirations as I try to get back into film....

....and, I still haven't seen Magic Mike, and I rarely ever go to movies in theatres, but I bet if it was a male stripper movie, I'd have been more likely too.

I think maybe in some ways it's too late for me / other adults? I think if like, maybe young lads were made to feel comfortable around the things that make 30 year old straight dude Leon uncomfortable, maybe they would grow up and not be so horrible about it?

I don't know. You're totally right on the second point, and...I just don't know how to fix it. Maybe, like what I was saying about music the other day, there is no safe way to still be able to enjoy looking at some women in an appropriate, respectful, non-demeaning context withouot reducing them and making others feel comfortable, and well-intentioned lady-adoring dudes like me have to give up some small things we enjoy (looking at semi-nude or nude ladies) in order to increase something we find even more important (not making ladies in general feel uncomfortable/excluded/demeaned).

EDIT: I don't mean this is an "Oh, woe is me, poor privileged straight white man has to give up a minor enjoyment!" kind of way. If it is making women uncomfortable, I fully stand by it needing to go, regardless of how I individually may feel about it - a fair society shouldn't make some people feel negatively for the benefit of others, even if the others had only just intentions, the negative outcome is more important than the intentionality. Just kind of discussing the larger end-goal point, wondering aloud if there even is a way to have our sexy cake and eat our equality too.


@leon s Uh -- it IS a male stripper movie?


@purefog - Oh, sorry, I meant "If it wasn't" - I was trying to highlight that I can talk all highbrow and forward thinking etc on the internet where it is just 'in theory' and ideas and what I know in my heart is true & right (straight women like hot guys dancing as much as straight men like hot women dancing!) there are still some things, because of cultural indoctrination and all, that are harder to get past the gut, and that I hope we figure out a way as a culture to get rid of all the bullshit indoctrinations so future generations of leon-type-dudes are like "wait, you're telling me that in the 2010s, some straight dudes skipped enjoying a good movie because the male nudity made them uncomfortable? that is lame and unbelievable."


@leon s
Well, yes, you may. Just as I am not disrespecting myself when I wear short skirts, it is possible to respect a woman while finding her sexually appealing. Women who sell sex, for example, enjoy both responses.
I'm not sure why there's the disconnect there? There's no objective disrespect in featuring a naked woman. It's the context. The context is a newspaper, that is not outstandingly about body-acceptance, sexuality acceptance, or feminism. It's the idea that a topless, white, thin girl is the lowest common denominator for a newspaper that is read by more than straight men looking for sexual arousal. Does that make sense?
Finally, it's not about making the men feel uncomfortable with nude men. That's never going to be as socially relevant as making women feel that they are only the worth of their bodies. One has to do with a jolt of homoerotic boundaries-testing during breakfast, the other with the value of one's worth for the rest of one's day/month/life.

The Lady of Shalott

I'm glad to see that one of the commenters pointed out that Canadian Sun newspapers also contain "Sun Girls"--but Sun girls are always clothed (albeit scantily), and frequently non-white. Not that it's a step in the right direction (a better step would be, you know, not having half-nekkid girls in the newspaper every day), but anyway: not just for the UK!


@The Lady of Shalott
Cansplaining! May it never stop!


@The Lady of Shalott Cansplaining!
It wasn't until I heard about this campaign that I realized the "Page 3 Girls" were topless. I had always thought they were in bikinis and whatnot like "Sun Girls" here.
I do not buy the Sun. Page three is not the only reason, but it's a big one.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll DANG! I didn't refresh!


@gobblegirl Aren't there Sun guys too? Except they are always wearing more clothes. There used to be. Or maybe it was just in my mind.


@The Lady of Shalott Canadian papers opted to add "SUNshine Boys" instead of losing the girls. Also, the girls are wearing clothes. Sexy clothes, but still clothes.


@Megano! No, they did at one point have a "page 7 fella" but it didn't really take.


Perhaps to be serious, it IS interesting to me that the Sun has had this, um, "feature," which I would be quite astonished to find in an equivalent U.S. paper. Like, perhaps, US News and World Reports, can you imagine that paper having something like this?


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll From a quick look at The Sun's website, I suspect that it's more like a hybrid of the NY Post and a checkout-aisle gossip mag. But British tabloid culture is weird and powerful so maybe it's treated like a serious newspaper regardless, I don't know. Brits, can you add more?


Though even the NY Post, right, that would be hard to imagine regularly including a topless teenager?

Help us, British persons! (Or a non-British person who has lived internationally, that would be even better!)


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll The Sun is a very, very shit newspaper, and most people wouldn't consider it serious. (I am talking from a middle-class Guardian-reading perspective, so am possibly the wrong demographic - some people probably do - but, yes, my view of it is pretty much just, "racist, sexist, poorly-written trash".)


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll @Verity I strongly suspect the immense shitness of the Sun is the main reason this campaign has never got much traction in the past. Since it has no paragraphs longer than a sentence, no MP or broadsheet journalist will ever read it, or at least admit to it; the attitude is very much, 'Let the proles enjoy their knockers! They don't have many joys in life, bless 'em'.
(If non-British persons want to check out the 'quality' of the British press, or British people want to be filled with the burning bile of righteous anger, I recommend the excellent Tabloid Watch blog. You can filter posts by 'sun' and 'page 3'.)


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll @Verity it is utter shit, but unfortunately that doesn't stop it having "the tenth-largest circulation of any newspaper in the world and the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in the United Kingdom" according to wikipedia.
it has huge political power, in that whoever it backs in a general election usually wins. worst of all it is owned by murdoch.
so depressing.


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll No it's absolutely not serious in the sense that it's a trashy newspaper and a bit of a joke. But it does also have very high circulation so is important in that sense. I'm sure David Cameron has regular briefing meetings with the political editor of the Sun to make sure they are on side. On the other hand, nobody of any influence reads it. Maybe if you are Simon Cowell you read it just to see what they are saying about you but otherwise it is seen as, as Questingbeast has it, one for the proles. The Daily Mail, on the other hand, is pernicious and read by people of influence (even if they are only reading it "ironically"). I will read it on a plane (they give it out sometimes on BA). Not that I am a person of influence you understand. But I am reading it ironically. And also in international airspace which is less damning than reading it on British soil. It's sort of like how eating standing up doesn't count.


@questingbeast I think this is a really good point - it's easy for people not to take it seriously, as it's not a "proper" newspaper.

Thanks for the recommendation; I do love righteous anger. (See also: http://ifyoulikeitsomuchwhydontyougolivethere.com/)

@solidl Yeah, it's really depressing.


So I guess what you all are saying is that there is no U.S. equivalent?


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Fox News? Rupert Murdoch owns them both and they both masquerade as news-delivery mechanisms. No boobs on Fox News but it can only be a matter of time.


There is nothing worse than diving into an empty seat on the train to nab a copy of the Metro, only to discover that it is in fact The Sun. Ugh.


@Melusina Agreed! That is the worst, although the Metro is pretty brainless too, but nowhere near as bad as the Sun.


Page 3 of the Sun makes me ill. And what made me the illest, was accidentally catching sight of it once and seeing a girl I used to teach riding to when she was about 6. Gave me the proper heebie-jeebies, that did, seeing her half naked in a newspaper.


what ever happened to being sex positive? if you're mad at men start your own media empire and publish page 3 boner boys, don't just be a party pooper and take away what other ppl enjoy


@Joshie Is a NEWSpaper really the place for sexiness though?


@pleasepleasedammit C'mon, now! It's not like there's ANYWHERE ELSE AT ALL IN THE WHOLE DANG WORLD he can see boobies! After all, women are NEVER sexualized! Ladies never go topless on beaches! Porn doesn't exist! Actresses never take off their tops in movies! We are living in an impoverished, boobless world. Thank god for the Page 3 girls or no one would EVER be able to get a boner. :(


The thing that makes me most uncomfortable with Page 3 (And the vast majority of British men's magazines, actually, but specifically Nuts and Zoo) isn't the nudity but the attitude towards the women.

There's a quote from another article that kind of sums it up for me:

"The ‘saucy postcard’ captions of the past – captions that at least made some reference to the girl’s own personality or life – were replaced with bizarrely incongruous editorial comment - the ‘News in Briefs’. One infamous caption has ‘Danni’ responding to the discovery of the Higgs Boson with: “I’ve often wondered how quarks and other sub-atomic particles gain mass” – the ‘joke’ being that a woman with big boobs would know anything about physics. Other captions promote crude propaganda, turning the women into mere editorial avatars: “The axe should fall next on those silly politically-correct council jobs,” Natasha, 21, allegedly opines. It’s these dehumanising subtexts of mockery and puppetry that make Page 3 so sinister."

It's incredibly weird.

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