Like it or not, The Sun is the most popular paper in Britain, reaching over 12 million readers a week, and is the world’s highest circulating English language newspaper. That’s quite a success story and suggests the paper wields a fair amount of clout. So it’s rather depressing that The Sun still thinks the most important thing about a woman is her boobs.
I don’t know how many people buy the paper for the boobs, but whichever way you look at it, readers of The Sun are getting a bit of soft porn next to their news every day. There is no other reason for having a gratuitous picture of a topless woman in a newspaper, not one.
Nobody cares whether Rosie from Redcar is cheering on the England team or not, and if Katie from Kettering really cares about the starving children in Africa she’d be preparing food parcels, not getting her kit off. And while promoting awareness of breast cancer is undoubtedly laudable, using glamorous topless models to do it is insensitive at best.
Page 3 has been gracing the nation’s breakfast tables for 44 years. Some people think this makes it something of a tradition that hasn’t done any harm, but not everything that’s been around a long time is harmless or a good thing. Female circumcision is not a good thing. Neither was slavery or locking up gay people.
In 1970 women were routinely paid less than men, often had to leave their jobs when they got married, could not get a mortgage, credit or loan in their own name and had no protection against sexual discrimination in work, education or training. Hardly the sort of environment we should want to let linger.
And yet it is still hanging around like a bad smell. I won’t go into all the reasons why we should put an end to publishing bare breasts in a newspaper, because they have already been set out perfectly by the No More Page 3 campaign. Even Rupert Murdoch, the lucky owner of The Sun, recently asked on Twitter ‘aren’t beautiful young women more attractive in at least some fashionable clothes’?
Murdoch might hold the power, but things don’t change if you wait for the big people to change their minds, and every little bit helps. Which is why I want to see an end to Page 3 in the family-friendly cafes in my home town of St Albans. Of course, I can’t stop people reading The Sun, but I hope I can stop it being readily available for viewing in places I go with my 5-year-old daughter.
I’ll admit I am terrified about protecting her from the impact of all the sexualised images that will increasingly bombard her as she grows up. I can’t hide all of them, and it probably wouldn’t be wise to do so, but there is something particularly distasteful about being able to get a daily fix of boobs along with the news. If she does see it and asks why that lady has no top on, there is no answer other than ‘because men like looking at her’, not a great message for a young, impressionable girl.
So I don’t want to see The Sun when I go out for coffee, certainly not in places that actively promote themselves as family friendly by providing toys, books or having special children’s menus. I can’t see how it would damage business to stop providing The Sun, or cutting out Page 3, which was the solution arrived at by one local café. If customers are that desperate to have tits with their tea they can bring their own copy and, hopefully, take it home with them to peruse at their leisure.
My local ‘campaign’, if it can be called that, was launched by accident when I noticed a copy of the offending newspaper on a coffee table next to a box of toys in one of my favourite local cafés. I had a very civil conversation with the manager about it and decided to try and encourage other mums to support me via a local Facebook group.
I have since discovered just how much apathy, intransigence, opposition and downright hostility there is towards my suggestion that The Sun is not a suitable paper for a family-friendly establishment. But I’m going for it all the same and taking inspiration from the national No More Page 3 campaign. I plan to write to as many local cafés as I can think of asking them to remove The Sun or at least Page 3 and I’ll post updates here. I hope you will join me. In the meantime, please sign the No More Page 3 petition.