Murdoch’s missing mammaries: has Page 3 really gone, and if so, what does it mean?

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CW: Sexual exploitation, pornography

Last Friday’s print edition of The Sun newspaper was the last ever to include the notorious Page 3 feature. No longer will young women gaze out from the page with their boobs akimbo, waiting for the sweating fingertips of school caretakers to tear them out for office decoration. Well, as long as sales don’t dip.

It’s always been strange, to include topless women in a newspaper, and it’s obviously a relief to hear that the Carry-On-esque feature has finally been dumped. There were numerous (and obvious) reasons why it was offensive to women, and news that it will continue online is oddly comforting – it seems right that it should be lost in the tidal wave of porn that is the Internet. If readers of The Sun still seek it out in its new home, then I’ll be genuinely surprised. There’s just too much competition.

Has it really gone, though? Since it was dropped, page 3 (no capitals now) has shown model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in lingerie on one day, and Hollyoaks actresses Jennifer Metcalfe and Gemma Merna in bikinis on another. For me, the problem with Page 3 wasn’t really the nips (they just added to the bizarre-ness of publishing the content in a newspaper) but the fact that a page was dedicated to objectifying women, while the rest of the paper barely mentioned them at all. Unless they too were getting half-naked, or stabbed, or raped, or were Kate Middleton. Sticking a bra or a bikini top doesn’t really solve the problem at all, what you really need is for the media as a whole (not just The Sun) to make a conscious effort to look at women as whole people, capable of achievement and nuance. Not just a body to inflict lust or violence upon.

I’m not saying this as a criticism of the No More Page 3 movement. I’ve been a vocal supporter of the campaign, and I think they’ve done an amazing job in getting rid of the feature. It’s important to celebrate every victory and getting rid of Page 3, which has been around for 44 years, is certainly a relevant one. Celebrating every achievement in the battle for gender equality is also particularly important as it inspires others – how can you say it’s a waste of time to fight for change when change does actually occur? I hope my little sisters see the fruits of feminist activism and it encourages them to get involved. I hope too that in a wider way, people see that by signing petitions (the No More Page 3 one got 215,000 signatures alone), wearing t-shirts, writing letters, marching, Tweeting and everything else – you can get stuff done! You can make a crusty old billionaire stop putting pictures of topless young women amongst news meant for the general public. That’s awesome! Of course, there’s already been a weird backlash attributing the demise of Page 3 to ‘islamification‘ but unfortunately, there’s little you can do about the wave of racists currently scuttling out of the woodwork. That’s just part of the strange lurch to the right England’s doing because the economy went down the pan and people love blaming people who seem different to them. Hopefully they’ll emigrate soon.

We’ve got a running feature here on the blog called ‘Boob-free page three’ which looks at women that we admire. I thought about getting rid of it now that Page 3’s dead, but actually I think we still need it. Until women get equal representation in the media (both in terms of coverage and in terms of the way we’re judged), a little more female celebration can only be a good thing. One day, I’ll look at the most recent ‘Boob-free’ post and think, “Actually, I read the same piece on why Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s activism is an important extension of her mother’s political work in the Daily Mail the other day”, and I’ll never have to write another one again.

That’ll be a good day.

–  Jade Slaughter is editor of The Jar Belles and has written for The F Word, Parallel and Litro magazines. Follow her on Twitter: @msjadeslaughter.

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