Paloma Rao, LLB
A few weeks ago, Rupert Murdoch, business magnate and CEO of News Corporation, tweeted the possibility that his newspaper, The Sun, may soon follow the example set by its Irish edition in August 2013 where ‘traditional’ Page 3 content – topless glamour models – was replaced with more tasteful images of a covered model.
This had been the original idea behind Page 3 when The Sun relaunched in 1969, however the following year saw the first topless images published to celebrate the tabloid’s first anniversary. Even at that time Page 3 caused controversy, with the paper being banned in some libraries. However The Sun grew in popularity and is now, according to the ABC newspaper circulation figures, Britain’s most read daily; this February saw 2,048,977 copies of the paper sold.
Through his twitter page, Murdoch argued that although “readers seem to disagree,” he admits that he finds Page 3 “old fashioned,” sounding prepared to change this out-of date tradition. While I fully support freedom of expression in the media, I also support the “No More Page 3” campaign, which aims to get the editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore, to voluntarily remove this feature page. The campaign began two years ago and had 203,000 people join the petition. The Daily Mirror also used Page 3-style models in the 1970s, but stopped the tradition in the 1980s – most likely to do with a changing culture and the improving rights of women.
Firstly, one must bear in mind that The Sun, with such a large circulation and its classification as a “family newspaper” is read by a majority, rather than a niche, market. Thus, the issue here is not with pornography or explicit images, but more with the message that Page 3 sends out to the ordinary population. I’m sure we can all agree that children’s exposure to pornography should be as limited as possible. However thousands are being casually exposed to naked, over-sexualised female models through various forms of media, and Page 3 isn’t helping. What message does that send out to younger generations? The UK has the highest rate of eating disorders in Europe, with children as young as six being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Page 3 has a negative impact on body image and does not represent a variety of female beauty. What’s more, it encourages young boys to have less respect for women, seeing them as sex symbols rather than equals; in The Sun, menare usually doing sports, working, or achieving something more constructive than simply posing nude.
Surprisingly, sexual violence is at a 30-year high in the UK. Labour party leader Ed Miliband finally added everyday sexism and the objectification of women to the political agenda when he spoke out against Page 3 last September, calling it a “total anachronism.” It can be argued that the shocking reality of sexism that remains in our society, of course, is not limited just to Page 3 but extends to the media culture and representation of women as a whole. However, change must begin somewhere. When we live in an age where many assume gender-equality exists, should we not be fighting to teach our values to younger generations? You could say that Page 2 or 4 should consist of an exposed, seductive-looking male model. Sure, this might be a nod towards gender equality, but such a thing is still demeaning to both genders, where sexuality is prioritised before the actual news in a newspaper. Surely, then, it’s time that the third page of a major newspaper features something more culturally relevant to our society.