Imagine if the New Zealand Herald featured a topless young woman in every single issue for men to ogle. Some might be thrilled, of course, but overall I'm sure there'd be outcry of massive proportions, plus a general sense of EH?
So it's sort of unbelievable that in 2012, Britain's most widely read paper does just that. Anyone who's lived in the Motherland will know the Page 3 girl 'tradition' - a topless woman displayed daily and prominently on the third page of every issue of UK newspaper The Sun. As a child in London, I remember we all knew that in between pages 2 and 4 lived boobs. Even if we did have no idea why.
Lucy-Anne Holmes knows why. The writer and actress recently started a No More Page Three campaign that's presently stirring enormous debate in England. "They are in the newspaper," she explains in The Independent, "because in 1970 a group of men, in a male managed media, in a male run country, decided to put them there. Possibly they didn't think how women would feel about being represented like this, nor did it occur to them that women read newspapers...
It is quite incredible now that this happened really. But it did. And even more incredibly, it still does."
Addressing The Sun editor Dominic Mohan directly in a YouTube video, Holmes says: "Dominic, stop showing topless pictures of young women in Britain's most widely read newspaper. Stop conditioning your readers to view women as sex objects." She goes on to say that Page 3 affected her self-esteem growing up because her breasts bore no resemblance to those in her brother's copy of The Sun. "It took me until I was 35 to go, 'why have I hated my boobs?'" she says. "Oh, because I've been comparing them to this image in the paper that is purely for the gratification of men."
No More Page Three is using social media, a petition and the press to drive its message. It isn't the first attempt to abolish Page 3. Before Holmes was Labour MP Clare Short, both in 1986 and 2004. The reward for her efforts was a spiteful attack by The Sun, which ran a story headlined Fat, jealous Clare brands Page 3 porn.
Like any controversy, there are smart and rational arguments - like this piece in UK magazine Stylist by columnist Lucy Mangan. "Supporters of Page 3 argue that the pictures are 'wholesome' rather than 'sexy'," she writes. "If this were true, of course, the paper would show bowls of muesli set on gingham tablecloths instead of young ladies in their knickers... The pictures are there because they are (if mildly) sexy, because sex sells, because there is still a belief that men have the right to - um - stimulus at all times, and because any other considerations are of less account than the pursuit of money and erections."
Then there are offensive and patronising arguments - like this Huffington Post article by former Sun editor Neil Wallis, claiming the only people who dislike Page 3 are: "Overwhelmingly white, middle-class, aged late 20s-late 30s, university educated, work in academia, meejah, public services, know what macrobiotic means and how to use a fondue set, don't watch X Factor, go to Greece on their holidays, read the Guardian and watch Channel 4 News, [and] suffer a serious sense of humour loss at certain times." (Because breasts are humorous? Really?)
My 2 cents' worth? Nothing that makes a large group of society deeply uncomfortable, yet for others is just a 'bit of fun', is worth keeping around.
Not. A. Thing. Including the opportunity for men to gawp at breasts in a family paper over their morning eggs. Get rid of it.
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What do you think? Is Britain's Page 3 feature outdated and offensive or just a bit of fun?By Rebecca Kamm @rebeccakamm Email Rebecca