Although page 3 of the British tabloid newspaper The Sun is something of an institution in our neighbouring country, it often faces accusations of sexism from some quarters. The newspaper now finds itself facing a petition signed by tens of thousands of people expressing their disapproval.
Since 1970, seven years after its launch, The Sun has published a picture of a topless woman on page 3 every day. Its goal? To compete with The Daily Mirror, a similar publication with a broad, traditionally working class readership and a penchant for publishing photos of pin-up models.
A petition to withdraw the picture on Page 3 has already received more than 80,000 signatures!
The exhibition of a woman’s breasts in a daily newspaper has drawn much criticism over the years. In 2010, two female MPs launched the parliamentary campaign ‘Turn Your Back on Page 3’, with the aim of enacting legislation which would make page 3 illegal. The campaign failed. The Sun has often stated in its defence that the women of page 3 pose topless of their own free choice. It also points to its policy of only photographing ‘natural woman’, who in its view represents a ‘national treasure’.
However, in September 2012, English journalist Lucy Holmes decided to post a petition online. The ‘No More Page 3’ petition is directed at The Sun’s editor-in-chief Dominic Mohan and asks him to stop publishing such images in a supposedly ‘family friendly’ newspaper. According to Holmes, page 3 serves only to make the objectification of women seem more normal. The petition has so far attracted 83,761 signatures.
“With the online pornography, it is now very easy for boys to access a material that shows them women always available for their pleasure. And it is a dangerous area where women are not equal to men”, she says.
Nonetheless, she distances herself from the MPs’ initiative. She does not oppose the idea that a woman can pose naked if she chooses to, but we have specialist and more regulated publications for that. As a feminist, Holmes reminds us that a woman should be free to use her body as she sees fit. Her objection is that The Sun is a publication which is readily available to children, and in being so can contribute negatively to the development of children’s ideas about gender roles.
Rupert Murdoch: “The page 3 is a statement of youthfulness and freshness”
As for Dominic Mohan, he responded to the criticisms last year, as part of Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press, commissioned after the phone hacking scandal that involved the mogul Rupert Murdoch (also owner of The Sun). He assured that page 3 was “a statement of youthfulness and freshness”, adding, “It is as innocent today as it was in 1970”.
Despite this, many other editors do not consider page 3 so innocent and have rallied to Holmes’s cause. The journalist explained to Opinion Internationale that in order to reach The Sun’s seven million readers, her cause needs a celebrity, a public personality who could use his or her voice to speak out against the nation’s highest selling newspaper.