Update: At the time of writing this post (Jan 20) it seemed Page 3 had come to an end. Today (Jan 22) it seems that this wasn’t the case and that it continues to exist. Sneaky.
It seems that The Sun newspaper have discontinued the tradition of including a topless woman on Page 3 (update: no, they haven’t.) There have been some odd reactions to this with the main one in my Social Media timelines being comparisons between this and Charlie Hebdo.
Let me just say this: Comparisons being made between the apparent recent victory of the No More Page 3 campaign to the attempts to stifle religious criticism by extremists who murdered cartoonists and members of the public in Paris are bizarre and really rather naive. It is important to recognise the different between saying “I do not think it is appropriate to have semi-naked women in the a national newspaper” to “no newspaper should print photos of naked women or else”.
The discontinuation of Page 3 is cause for celebration but also, I think, reflection.
I had issues with the way supporters of the No More Page 3 campaign expressed their support and in the past I have highlighted these concerns, I’ve always been worried by people who claim to have the best interests of women at heart but demonstrate this by painting certain groups of women as bad women or the problem. In fact just voicing these concerns got me labelled as “an attack dog for the menz” by one supporter of the campaign which was quite bizarre.
A free press is vital, yes, but semi-naked women inside a newspaper isn’t topical and it is a very old fashioned view of the contribution that women can (and do) make to world news. This doesn’t mean that women who pose naked or semi-naked are somehow unworthy, or the cause of the issue and it is sad that some people who supported the discontinuation of the Page 3 in The Sun newspaper often conflated these points. In fact, acting concerned on behalf of women who pose naked and insisting you are protecting them from being objectified can often disempower that woman and her choice to pose naked which turns you into the one objectifying her.
That said, Page 3 is not the only way in which women are routinely objectified in newspapers or wider media and the discontinuation of soft porn on Page 3 of The Sun makes only a small contribution to the tackling of this gigantic problem. The No More Page 3 campaign has at times demonstrated how easy it is for people to fall into the trap of forgetting that there is still much more progress to be made beyond the campaigning against Page 3 and objectifying women who have made empowered decisions about their own body out of concern for them.
I also think it is important to have a good understanding of where censorship begins when it comes to the banning of pornographic magazines and other media. Such actions have already happened as a direct result of spin off campaigns from the No More Page 3 campaign and that is cause for alarm. There is a thin line to tread here and you’d better take great care if you decide to walk it.