Two weeks ago, I wrote of my support for the No More Page 3 campaign, while denouncing any attempt by the University of Leicester’s Students’ Union to ban The Sun from sale. I argued that this ban was contrary to the methods of persuasion through reason that the No More Page 3 campaign seeks to encourage.
As of June 25, The Sun has decided to remove its News in Briefs column from Page 3. This column saw that when eager readers flicked to Page 3 (panting as they did so) they were greeted by that day’s topless model and a short opinion column attributed to her. To some, this feature may have seemed a noble idea, in that it gave the models a chance to express their own opinions in a newspaper where only 20 per cent of bylines go to women. Yet, to the more critical thinker, this column represents a very nasty joke at the women’s expense.
I have argued in the past that the column is not actually written by the women themselves, and maintain that it instead exists as a patronising ventriloquy. This is a difficult position to argue from. Many contend that this assertion is actually an insult in itself: “What, because pretty women bearing their breasts are too stupid to be capable of expressing an intelligent opinion?” Well, actually, yes, that’s exactly the joke The Sun‘s editorial team are making.
Originally, the News in Briefs section was a mere restatement of the paper’s editorial stance, with the girls echoing The Sun‘s editorial message concerning the Iraq War or public spending. However, over the years, this joke evolved into a much more insidious jibe towards the models. Readers are invited not only to ogle the pretty smile and the naked breasts, but also to laugh at how the model couldn’t possibly have said that. During her various appearances over 2010, Peta offered insights into myoglobin, trade unions (more specifically the Tolpuddle Martyrs) and French literature (citing Theodore de Banville). This would mean that Peta is either: a) an expert in cell biology, political science and French literature, or b) that she is not the author of the words attributed to her. Such is the joke. This isn’t an attack on the Page 3 girls themselves, I just doubt that they know all the facts that they are supposed to have said. (If I’m wrong, then what are they doing wasting their time modelling for The Sun?!)
Removing the joke represents an ever-so-slight move forwards for the No More Page 3 campaign. Unfortunately, it seems the move will upset both members of the Tory party and the Prince of Wales. The Conservative Party’s ‘Breakfast Club’ (which features both ministers and backbenchers) had a tradition where new members would read out the News in Briefs section in the voice of the Page 3 girl. How very dignified and modern of them. Speaking of symbols of modernity and enlightenment, in 2010 Prince Charles told The Sun how much he liked the News in Briefs section, saying that “I’m so glad Page 3 girls are interested in my views. I roared with laughter when I read it. We should arrange a reception with the Page 3 girls.” It really is a great shame the removal of the insulting and sexist joke will spoil both the Breakfast Club’s and Prince Charles’ fun.
Despite this advance, no feminist victory over Page 3 can yet be claimed. The Sun‘s new editor, David Dinsmore, announced on LBC radio that he had no intention to remove Page 3 from the tabloid, arguing that the page was “part of British society”. For too long, Page 3 has encouraged infantile views towards women, treating them only as sexual objects or silly jokes to amuse men. In contempt of the No More Page 3 campaign’s efforts to persuade the public about Page 3 (having recently published an article on why Page 3 should have no place in a tabloid) The Sun‘s editor David Dinsmore is adamant that the page will stay, telling BBC Radio 5 Live “We did a survey last year and found that two thirds of our readers wanted to keep Page 3. What you find is people who are against Page 3 have never read the Sun and would never read the Sun.” This appears as an interesting “check your privilege” argument against the feminist and No More Page 3 case. Having won this small battle against Page 3, it is up to the campaign to address The Sun‘s claim.