No More Page 3 — My letter to David Dinsmore, editor of The Sun
David, David, David.
Where do we start? I mean, you've had thousands of letters by now asking you to drop the Page 3 girls, so it's not like you don't realise the number of people who are not just ambivalent to the feature, but actively opposed to the message it sends. And it's not just those feminist activists you love bantering with on Twitter, it's people from all walks of life, up and down the country.
How did we get here? It's 2013, for goodness sake, are we really still portraying woman in the mainstream press as nothing more than eye-candy for men to ogle? Do we really think that is what they have to offer society? Do we really think men can't get four pages into a daily newspaper without some titillation? It does a great disservice to both men and women that you continue with what was already a dubious practise. Perhaps you are afraid that The Sun is actually being kept in business by bared breasts? Perhaps you lack the conviction in your editorial team to produce something people would read on a daily basis without a bit of softcore pornography thrown in? And let's be clear, this is pornography. It is not newsworthy, it is not being presented as art, it is clearly intended to arouse. Despite this, you continue to claim The Sun is a “family newspaper”. Perhaps you had a much more liberal upbringing than I did, but pornography has never been wholesome entertainment for children to enjoy with their parents as far as I am concerned.
Yet, so pervasive is The Sun, that many children know about Page 3 girls many years before they learn what pornography is. I remember pages with topless girls being laid out on tables in school when we were painting, before the teacher quickly turned them over. As a child, I didn't understand why there were naked girls in the newspaper (and back then they really were girls, as young as 16), but I knew it made me feel uncomfortable. I dread to think what effect it had on the girls in my class, being taught at eight or nine that their bodies exist to be flaunted for the pleasure of others. And I know you know about these effects. You've had the letters from women, from teenagers, from children, who have had Page 3 used to diminish their status, to objectify them, to make them feel like they were pieces of meat. How can you read those and claim with a straight face that it's “just a bit of fun”?
So why are you so intent on keeping them? Does it come down to something as simple as you just love breasts so much you think pictures of them need distributed 2½ million times a day? What possible contribution can it have other than to reinforce that women exist purely for the pleasure of men? To normalise the objectification of woman in society. To teach children growing up that this is acceptable? The only reason it is still accepted in our society is 40 years of your paper continuing to present it. If it were announced now as a feature it would quickly make a pariah of the publication and be withdrawn.
I'm not going to pretend I read The Sun, or that I would start reading it were the pornography removed, but as the most widely read newspaper in the country, you are in a unique position to send a message that woman are more than mere objects, that you respect them as people, not just a “great pair of knockers”. That you recognise that society is moving on from its patriarchal roots to one of inclusiveness and mutual respect. Will removing Page 3 solve the problems of misogyny and hatred millions of women face every day? Of course not. But it will help. It will make a difference. Why would you rather chase the tails of the direction society is moving rather than leading the vanguard? The voices speaking against you are growing in number, not diminishing, it would be a fool that ignores the change.
Please, no more Page 3.