CW: Sexual exploitation, pornography
The Sun newspaper decided to poop in the face of activists like the Girl Guides, who had joyfully tweeted images like the below, and bring back Page 3.
The return of the feature struck a very weird tone. Newspaper articles reporting on the removal of Page 3 were almost unanimous in declaring the page outdated, so the Sun’s gleeful copy felt seriously off-aim, like when your dad tells a racist joke to your housemates. I wanted to take the Sun gently, by the hand, and say, “It’s 2015. You’re just embarrassing yourself.” But the paper doesn’t have any hands, it has only demon claws.
Rupert Murdoch, owner of News International, had this to say about the decision:
The hypocrisy of this statement is staggering. ‘Horrible elites’? Murdoch is one of the richest and most powerful people on the planet. The only person more ‘elite’ than him is probably Beyoncé, and even then probably only when combined with Jay Z.
Murdoch’s tweet is also incredibly patronising. The majority of Sun readers are working class and Murdoch’s attempt to appeal to them with use of ‘elites’ is pathetic. These middle class feminazis are trying to steal your boobs! Get back to Waitrose, feminazis! Now, I’ll (un)happily admit that the feminist movement has often been dominated by middle class women and issues, and that it’s something we as a movement need to work on. However, a) the majority of Page 3 models are working class women who are being exploited, and they’re being exploited to create wealth for Murdoch, one of the richest men alive. b) It’s incredibly patronising to assume that working class readers care more about getting tits with their toast than they do issues like gender equality – a lot of the signatures on the No More Page 3 petition are by Sun readers. So spare me the Marxist rhetoric, Rupert, because you’re full of shit.
Now, Murdoch is an old man and therefore some people might excuse this kind of embarrassing social media content on grounds that he doesn’t know what he’s doing (these people are generous and sweet, but should be kept away from vans and strangers). But what about the Sun’s head of PR? If you’ve been following the return of Page 3, I know what you’re thinking. Twat. It’s instinctive, because he was SUCH a twat in the wake of the event:
After experiencing a furious backlash against his Tweet, Sharpe has since apologised profusely. But how was he supposed to know how to interact with the public when releasing possibly controversial information? It’s not as if it was his job, or anything-
It’s one thing to bring back a feature because you think it will sell more papers, but it’s another to smugly shove it in the faces of activists who are offended by the feature.
The culmination of the above along with the original reasons I hate Page 3 (sexist, bizarre, inappropriate, etc) mean that I’m pretty cheesed off with the Sun. One thing that never fails to surprise me is how every woman I discuss it with has a story about Page 3 negatively affecting their lives, and yet the paper seems to think only a minority dislike it. When they brought the feature back, I mentioned it to a friend who had been asked back in her school days to bring newspapers into class for an English project. A boy in her class brought the Sun in, as it was his family newspaper, and the other kids, discovering that there was softcore porn inside, promptly took the piss out of him until he cried. The teacher confiscated the paper as it was deemed unsuitable for the children to see. I feel like these facts lead to the most obviously conclusion ever, but the Sun doesn’t seem to get it. I guess it must be my ‘horrible elite’ brain. Personally, I remember seeing Page 3 tear-outs decorating the walls every time I had to go to the caretaker’s office at school, or the DT technician’s office, and I distinctly remember thinking even then, “This is so inappropriate and creepy. Just because it’s in a newspaper, guys, doesn’t mean you’re not bringing porn into a school.” That’s the one of the problems with the Sun publishing the feature – it makes people think it’s normal. And it’s not! It’s super weird! People complained about everyone reading Fifty Shades of Grey on the bus – that’s how I feel about The Sun! Except Fifty Shades doesn’t try to hide what it is by sneaking in any news, sports or weather. Or plot.
Other people are angry about the return of Page 3 too. The move hasn’t left people disheartened, or wanting to give up, but instead they’re more willing to take action. A protest was planned last weekend, to take place outside of News International. I made plans to meet a fellow Jar Belle, LN, and went to join the demonstration.
As a short aside, while I was waiting at London Bridge tube station to meet LN, a man came up to speak to me about my Batman trainers. Not to tell me they were awesome (they are) but to tell me that I “should be wearing Catwoman trainers, not Batman.” Why? “Because,” He looked awkward. “You’re a…Catwoman?” It shouldn’t surprise me that I experienced a bit of sexism before even getting to the anti-sexism demonstration, but it did.
LN and I got to the demonstration and I was truly impressed with the activists there. It was freezing cold (I mean seriously, freezing fucking cold) but spirits were high and the group stayed out for hours. The paving in front of News International was quickly covered in chalk slogans, a move inspired by the Suffragettes, and biscuits were munched quite happily while the police looked on. I don’t know why they thought they needed three police officers and numerous security guards to protect the area from us (around forty peaceful people, armed with nothing but chalk and snacks) but whatever.
A very organised person handed out song sheets for a sing-a-long which I, as a tone-deaf and awkward member of society, just watched, and then there were speeches. These were fantastic and I highly recommend watching them (via Occupy News Network) – the fact that they were off the cuff is kind of insane. They prove that, given the opportunity, ‘normal people’ can speak just as eloquently and intelligently about political matters as any politician. We have a vast majority of privately educated male politicians who help to spread the belief that only they are equipped with the skills to discuss and deal with these issues, and the women who spoke out at the NMP3 protest show that actually, there are other people equipped with the skills necessary and there is an alternative.
The experience definitely made me want to get more involved in feminist activism and I hope to take part in future protests. NMP3 have planned to have a presence all this week (until Sunday 1st February) so head down there if you’d like to join in, and during March they’ll also be present at News International for Occupy Murdoch week. If you’d like to take part in other upcoming No More Page 3 protests, I recommend joining your local group on Facebook. The London one is available to apply for here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1527182234170629/?fref=ts