Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Is the tits off page three campaign a bust?

Observations from a former tabloid journalist who has breasts.


There's a new campaign to get the tits off page three of The Sun, details of it have crossed my desk several times in the past couple of days. It's nothing new, the arguments have trundled on since the first time The Sun showed a picture of a girl without her vest one, but this one does seem to have more momentum. 

Of course, The Sun isn't the only organ to show naked knockers. Among others, The Daily Star - where I worked for a couple of years - does too. 

I didn't meet any of the women who featured on page three, although I did write about them, putting words in their mouths from time to time. I do know they aren't exploited - they get well paid for their work and the pictures are, arguably, tasteful. If you've got great tits and a flat stomach, here are far, far more exploitative things they could be doing to earn a coin. 

During maternity leave for Boy Two I read the paper regularly and was doing so while breast feeding him. His big brother, then two and a half, sidled over, looked at me, looked at the paper open at page three, then pointed at the picture and said: "Mummy." Slightly cute, but then again...

Another time, I was meeting someone for lunch in a Glasgow pub and passing the time by reading my paper. Presently, I realised that several other customers, all men, were watching me looking at the page with the big photo of the boobs. It was a horrible feeling.

I have no idea whether men buy red-top tabloids because, with their news, sport and horoscope predictions, they get a glimpse of perky bosoms. Perhaps once, they did. These days, though, it's easy to get much more full-on flesh-showing pictures anywhere, even on your phone.

And supposing the boobs were banished, what then? Do you think that the images of women that appear in a newspaper would be selected on gender neutral values? Not on your nipples. Photos are often selected for their sexiness - the show of curves, cleavage or bottom. Whole stories stand or fall on the relative attractiveness of the person they are about.

The other factor in this equation is the utter truculence of a newspaper man or women who is being told what to do. They hate it. Journalists believe they know better and hell mend anyone who tries to suggest otherwise. 

Tabloidpersons are, perhaps, particularly prickly. They know what The Reader wants, don't they? They also know - I remember it well - that it becomes extraordinarily tiresome to face the regular criticism by, frequently, those who have never read a copy of the paper in their lives. 

Inasmuch as you would be badly placed to pass judgement on Lanarkshire or Leeds if you'd never been there, not having read the paper should disqualify you from comment. 

And yet. And yet.

It would be rather excellent if breasts lost their special cachet and were treated with the same so-what as an elbow or a nostril. I used to have really large breasts and one of the reasons I had an operation to reduce them was that I hated the fact that utter strangers felt that it was OK to comment on them. Or even, oddly, to point out to me that they were big. 

Then I learned from flat-chested chums that their lot was just as bad. Blokes consider it's hunky dory to make ironing board and fried egg jokes and expect the recipient to find them funny. 

If I thought that we could reduce the female breast - after all, hardly a rare object - to something much more ordinary by banning page three pictures, I'd be at the head of the campaign. Sadly, I think that if it helps, it'll only be by the smallest of margins.

Still, though, the world has changed a lot since 1970 when the first busty bare babe bounced into The Sun. Of course, it's time for a change. I'm just not sure that this campaign will achieve it. 














14 comments:

  1. I think it would but it would take time and it would render the whole topic non-discussable. (Did I just make up a word?)
    In the same way that it became politically incorrect to talk about people in racially disparaging terms, it would become less and less acceptable to have tittie posters on office walls, (if that still happens), staring out from Page 3 or just open for general crude discussion. It might not stop people having the thoughts, but if it stops them from opening their mouths and embarrassing other people, it's a culture change I would welcome.

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  2. Absolutely - it would be brilliant, wouldn't it?

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  3. I know what you mean - but I don't think it will ever happen. Anyone who gets behind a campaign like this will just be labelled a prude. And men will never stop being fascinated with boobs.
    I too am overly blessed (and have considered surgery) and hate the fact men think it's ok to talk to my boobs or about them when they hardly know me. Even on my wedding day, my cousin's letchy husband came up to me in my white dress and said I was "well stacked". Bugger off!

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    1. It is horrid isn't it? And if you call them out on it, the men just look baffled that you might be upset by their comments.
      If you're considering having surgery - just do it. One of the best moments after my op was jogging past a load of white van men and none of them saying anything!

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  4. I like boobs me.

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  5. Seeing boobs in a newspaper doesn't worry me at all, and I do actually consider myself a tad prudish. I used to work in an office of a factory full of men with nude calendars and all these newspapers that feature naked and semi naked girls. I wouldn't pose like that myself but if they want to make a living doing it then they should be allowed to. While men have a hole on their bottom, there will always be call for naked women in tabloid press and calendars. The Sun is famous for Page 3 and I very much doubt it will be well received should people start campaigning against it.

    CJ x

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    1. I agree with you on all points CJ, but I wonder if it's time for a change in attitude. When page three began, homophobia was acceptable.

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  6. Attitudes are changing everywhere, Ellen, but don't we women like to see male strippers, don't we oggle at a six pack on the beach, or Martin Shaw in my case... It isn't going to happen. There have been feminists throwing their weight about for years trying to get top shelf tabloids banned but it's a big business and these models don't do it for nothing, far from it. I would never campaign about something like this myself, as in my opinion there are far more important issues that need fixing in this world.

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  7. If people want to look at boobs, they will look at boobs - whether or not it's printed in a newspaper. I personally don't see what all the uproar is about. Boobs are perfectly natural. I sunbathe topless on holiday. Like Crystal - I ogle men with six packs (esp the ones with the little vertical line below their belly button, which leads to...)!

    I've always felt small in the breast department and agree it is offensive when people point it out - but that's just bad manners - nothing to do with page 3! I take no offense to seeing other womens boobs (even if they are nicer than mine). I just don't really see anything wrong with it. If you don't like page 3 - don't look at it! lol.

    Aside from which - if you take away the boob pics, people will be wanting more and buying more lads mags with minge pics! And we shouldn't just be saying "men" with reference to likers of page 3. I expect there are many lesbians, or even just appreciaters of the female form, who like looking at page 3 too. xx

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  8. Seen as you can see boobs on your iphone, they don't really need to be bouncing all over red tops any more ... its an ambiguous situation, especially as there are plenty of women willing to take their tops off and get well paid for it! X.

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  9. I thought I left this comment the other day, but it was by 'phone, so hey ho, obviously not! Funnily enough, I picked up a copy of the /sun for the first time in few years, in a cafe, the other day and the page 3 pic took me by surprise. Obviously it's always been there, but it just struck me that in this day and age I didn't expect to see it. It just seemed pointless and passe.

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  10. I think all intelligent men and women should get behind this campaign. Just like the Fawcett Society's "This is what a feminist looks like" campaign, it is important to use the term "feminist" and say when things like this are wrong.

    I think what this underestimates is the drip, drip, drip affect of undermining women in the media. Each change is a hard battle. Each change takes time, will have ridiculous idiots calling you a "prude" or whatever. Doesn't matter. Every battle is a step in the right direction and that makes every battle important. Don't just give up because it's a small thing, use it as a stepping stone to something bigger.

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  11. Yeah page 3 does seem ridiculously anachronistic these days but still, I am sure it is one of the reasons many men buy the Sun so I can't see it being banned any time soon. Plus lots of reality tv 'lovelies' I am sure will love the 'exposure' of being on Page 3.

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