Today marks the fourth day since The Sun last published a Page 3 girl, displaying her areola and smiling coyly at the camera. While many on Twitter rejoiced at what is reported to be the death of the newspaper’s 44-year-old topless tradition, many women were displeased to see a lack of nipple on Page 3. Claire Hubble discusses why the end of Page 3 marks a positive step towards gender equality.
The thing is, there isn’t anything inherently wrong with an autonomous adult human being standing in their skivvies, unashamedly displaying their physique in a newspaper. If that particular individual chooses to display their body and there’s a publisher willing to print it, what’s the harm?
Problems arise when the only body we see on the third page of Britain’s most read newspaper is the same: always female, always young, always busty, always baring a toned tummy and slender thighs. This image is often the largest one of a woman in the entire newspaper – larger than female politicians, sporting stars, musicians or scientists.
More often than not, the only images of women in the paper are of young, scantily-clad, glamorous women, as No More Page 3 campaigner Kate Hardie and lighting technician Andy Lowe demonstrated in their experiment last December. The pair created a collage of pictures of men and women published by the Sun over several months in 2014. Displayed side-by-side, the difference between the representation of men and women in the Sun is striking.
“The men are nearly all active, doing things. Not posed. The women are passive. It’s all about how they look. When I look at the men’s side, I see real life,” said Hardie. “When I look at the women’s side, it doesn’t seem real. It’s all manufactured.”
This idea of women as passive objects for male consumption fuels the current state of gender inequality. Although Page 3 alone isn’t responsible for the prevalence of sexual violence in our culture, it supports a paradigm of a male-dominated society. A society where more than 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and 85,000 raped in England and Wales every year and victims are too often blamed for dressing provocatively. Do we really need one of our most popular daily papers to encourage the idea of women as consumable objects?
This representation encourages the cat callers, the bloke who thinks it’s okay to grope your bum in a nightclub, the one who repeatedly asks for your number at a bus stop, the guy who scares the daylights out of you by bibbing his horn in a car full of his cackling mates.
For all the ladies moaning about the end of Page 3, I ask you this: do you enjoy feeling too scared to walk home alone at night? Do you feel flattered when a group of builders comment on your “great rack”? Or do these experiences make you feel intimidated and pissed off that you’re not given status in society as somebody who happened to be born with a Y chromosome?
While the demise of Page 3 by no means signals the end of objectification, by taking the posed, pouty girl in her pants out of the paper, The Sun are freeing up room to discuss all the interesting things women say and do every day. While The Sun’s Page 3 will live on on the paper’s website, it’s now no longer mixed in with the day’s news. It exists online, for those who are avidly seeking photos of semi-nude women.
There’s nothing wrong with women posing in their pants for a living – it’s a well-paid industry few of us have the assets to break into – but these images have no place in a national newspaper and it’s fantastic that Rupert Murdoch has finally acknowledged this. What’s one big step for “comfy-shoe-wearing”, “man-hating” campaigners is a small, but nonetheless encouraging, step for the equal representation.