Debate: Breast Intentions

Illustration by Anita Cheung

One of Britain’s most popular papers, The Sun, has been printing topless models alongside top news stories for decades. But recent discussion and campaigns have condemned page three as sexist and outdated. This week Big Debate asks, should there be an end to page three girls?

YES: Ruby Lott-Lavigna

If we lived in a world where gender equality was not such an issue, where equal paternity and maternity leave existed, where things like the LadBible (vom) didn’t exist, where there weren’t still cultures that heavily oppressed women – then Page Three would be, almost, fine.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where this is so evidently not the case. Many attempt to justify Page Three by claiming it’s ‘empowering’ – women ‘choose’ career of a Glamour model. Interestingly enough, it’s an issue that extends to all ends of the feminism perspective, embodying the controversial-ish ‘third wave’ feminism. The defence for Page Three is no longer ‘wheeey she’s got great tits’ but an entirely different rhetoric, frequently coming from women as well, surrounding its self around ‘choice’ and ‘power’.

The reason why these justifications don’t necessarily work has a lot to do with the society we live in. On the whole, people don’t intellectually engage with most of the things they do – this extends to those ‘reading’ the The Sun (If you can call it reading. I like to think of it more as mindlessly imbibing) and those who chose to become models. Growing up in a world when girls play with heavily made-up Bratz dolls and giant-anorexic-disproportionate Barbie dolls, the message of what women ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ look like is indoctrinated into us from a young age. The idea that women are commodities, to be viewed by their quality of breast to waist ratio is a repulsive idea promoted EVERYWHERE, even before we can even realise it. This is why the language of ‘choice’ is so out of place here – when you cannot escape a society that tells you to value yourself by your tits, you can hardly expect getting your boobies out as a free choice.

There’s also a big difference between being sexually empowered, and being defined wholly by your sexual worth. In the glorious 60s, where The Beatles counted as ‘pop’ music and a whole movement of sexual liberation occurred, there was a breakdown of the idea that sex was a disgusting thing – our perceptions changed, and women were liberated from a controlling idea that you were a whore if you did the sex. ERGO sexual liberation (good). Today, where almost entirely a male demographic look at pictures of women in their panties, seeing them as an object, an image, as opposed to a person, it’s just simply got nothing to do with liberation – in fact it’s the opposite, it’s hugely oppressive. ERGO sexual objectification (bad).

But not only is becoming a Glamour model not a free choice, the whole franchise of Page Three is extremely pernicious. To see women depicted as not only buying into a culture that commodifies them, but also as nothing more than a pretty face (…and boobs) you entrench the perception that this is where a woman’s worth lies. To every 14 year old boy or girl that picks up The Sun, they don’t read ‘men and women are equal’ but read ‘Getting your boobs out = good’. And because it’s in a paper, it is somehow legitimised: this isn’t a secret porn collection; this is sold in Sainsbury’s, next to Gardener’s Weekly. It’s perceptions like this that mean women feel expected to look good for men, that their self-worth lies in the certification of a man.

Getting rid of Page Three doesn’t mean you don’t like sex, or boobs. I think boobs are the bomb. But allowing Page Three to continue is promoting a lot more than pro- boobs. It’s dated, it’s moronic, it’s harmful, and ultimately, boobs ain’t news.


NO: Mike Brooks

Katia, 23, from Southampton, is a member of an elite club, coveted by thousands and admired by millions of men and women worldwide. And under attack. She is a Page 3 model for The Sun newspaper.

Who is Katia hurting? Women? Feminism? It is far too easy and frankly naive to suggest that Page 3 models are an active middle finger to the feminist movement, quite the opposite is true. It is an empowered and self confident woman who subjects herself to the scrutiny of approximately 8 million people on a daily basis, to all demographics. Katia, also a graduate, knows what the outraged feminist forgets. Page 3 is not a platform for ditzy, bare-chested objects to make a cheap buck, it is a nationally and internationally recognised platform which has launched many glittering careers. Leeds’ own Nell McAndrew, Yorkshire Woman of The Year. Melinda Messenger, appointed by the Duchess of Cornwall as a Barnado’s Ambassador. Marina Baker, Liberal Democrat local election candidate .Feminists fight for equality, respect and recognition, values which all human beings deserve regardless of race, sex or religion. The movement is immensely powerful led by highly intelligent, captivating women. Do they think that the progress or lack thereof they have made since the first Page 3 in 1970 is a result of a handful of women showing their breasts? I doubt it.

But does it belong in the national press? An independent and free press is the fruit of a free, democratic society. We should cherish and be implicitly grateful for the fact we live in a society where women are so free from oppression, instead of vilifying those who choose to push the boundaries of that freedom. Page 3 more than doubled The Sun’s readership over a five year period from 1970 and today it is Britain’s most read paper. 43% of the readers are female. Do these people buy The Sun for its cutting edge reporting on national and worldwide stories? No. Let’s face it, those publications with a “Page 3” are hardly at the cutting edge of intellectual reporting; their biggest stories are scandalous, arguably trivial and aim to provoke derision or outrage rather than informing and giving a neutral view. This is what the public want, reflected in The Sun’s seven million daily circulation. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it.

Lucy-Anne Holmes’ “No More Page 3” Campaign is founded on the belief that Page 3 has caused a drip feed effect of increased domestic violence, for which there is absolutely zero evidence, but a grabbing tagline all the same. She also says “[girls] see this as something to aim for, or something they fall short of”. Really? I have much more respect for women than to think they all want to be page three models. How insulting to feminism. She asks that “women be treated with respect, like men are.” Well, Heat Magazine’s “Torso of the Week” and the inevitable, irritating columns in women’s magazines like “The Most Annoying Things about Men” (Cosmopolitan) or “10 reasons why you should date an unattractive man” (More). Women’s magazines are rife with unflattering, unsolicited photos of celebrities not looking their best in bikinis, sending the clear message “It’s not OK not to be beautiful all the time.” Smacks of hypocrisy, don’t it?

I have no doubt that those who want Page 3 banned have nothing but good intentions, but why not pick a bigger issue on which to spend that energy? The proliferation in child prostitution rings for example. That’s a problem.

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