Earlier this week, we were led to believe that finally - after more than forty years - The Sun "newspaper" (and those scare quotes are 100% necessary) had dropped their misogynistic Page 3 feature. For my overseas readers, Page 3 is a feature in which almost every day (except Sundays, because... reasons), a young, attractive woman is presented topless for readers' entertainment. Until 2013, the photos were accompanied by a "funny" piece called News In Briefs, in which a quote supposedly far too intelligent to have been spoken by a glamour model is attributed to her (eg. Rosie, 19, from Middlesex: "I worry people are addicted to their Smartphones. Such high-tech gadgets can severely disrupt your precious work/life balance. In the words of Greek philosopher Socrates, enjoy yourself - it's later than you think."). These soundbites almost always featured a quote from someone else - usually a man and usually someone stereotypically thought of as being of superior intelligence - the joke being that the women with their boobs out were there for titillation (pun intended; I love a good pun) and were certainly not being celebrated for their brains, Although News In Briefs is thankfully no more, the topless photos - along with crass headlines focusing on the girls' physical features - remain.
Such an attitude towards women is frankly something that should have been consigned to history a long time ago. 2013 was far too recent to have ditched such a swipe at women's intelligence - it should have disappeared decades earlier. We live in a world in which women are making great strides in the fields of medicine and science. We have women taking prominent roles in government. And yet we also live in a world in which female celebrities are shoved on the front covers of ghastly magazines, with red rings of shame around their thighs and headlines proclaiming: "Celebs Battle With Cellulite!" In other words, we're making great leaps forward in equality, but there are sections of the media that are utterly determined to pull us back. The Sun is right there at the front, clutching onto the kind of sexism that should have been left in the seventies.
After all, what does Page 3 say about The Sun? That they genuinely feel there's nothing wrong with sticking a topless woman in a provocative pose in a supposed "family newspaper" and, up until 2013, deliberating poking fun at her intellect whilst they were at it? What possible reason could anyone at the paper really give for the need to keep a topless model on page 3? If readers are so desperate to see boobs, there are plenty online (The Sun helpfully keeps photos of its topless models on the Page 3 section of their website, because they're nice like that).
But then, this is a "newspaper" who have proved time and again that they're not above making up lies and printing them as news (Hillsborough, anyone?) and their hideous use of misogynistic language in any article on women is well known. If there's a chance to reduce a female to nothing but a sex object, there to have her physical features picked over like bones by a vulture, then The Sun has never been known to miss it.
Even when reporting on the murder of Reeva Steenkamp, The Sun chose to present her in provocative pose.
But just when we thought that The
Scum Sun couldn't prove their lack of respect for women any further than they have already, they decide to "pretend" to get rid of Page 3, only to bring it back later the same week, along with mocking comments aimed at the hundreds of thousands of women and men who've signed petitions to scrap the feature. As someone wisely put it on Twitter this morning, it was akin to bullies in the school playground, promising to stop picking on you, only to start again - worse - the next day.
How did the "family newspaper" choose to announce their decision to keep the outdated feature? With a banner on the front page, saying "We've had a mammary lapse..." They went on to mockingly "apologise" to media outlets who'd reported on the apparent decision to drop Page 3 and referenced people "talking and writing about us" with the sort of pathetic pride you'd expect from a bratty teenager, rather than a supposed news outlet. Recognising that those who are vocally anti-Page 3 would be upset by the feature's return, The Sun's PR manager also decided to send prominent campaigners an unsolicited photo of a Page 3 girl on Twitter, not only proving that he has the maturity of a pre-pubescent school boy, but also shooting into flames the ridiculous "don't like it, don't read it" argument.
The Sun's childish, flippant disregard for people's genuine concerns as to how women are represented and discussed in the UK's number one selling paper (and yes, I'm genuinely ashamed about that fact) pretty much sums up their attitude towards women in general. We're there to be mocked, judged or perved over. That's it.
And of course, with their U-turn, comes celebration from some of Twitter's seedier underbelly. This morning I witnessed one man tell an anti-Page 3 campaigner that "there's nothing more vile than feminism." Because wanting to be treated with an equal level of respect to that which men enjoy is appalling. Hoping to be judged on something other than our looks is just disgusting. How dare we?!
Unfortunately, as I've blogged about before, some people have an incorrect (and frankly, ignorant) view of what feminism is; they think it means we hate all men and want to be seen as superior.
It's about, as I mentioned above, wanting to be free to have the same opportunities as men and to be treated with the same level of respect. It's about not wanting to be judged solely on our looks, or to be looked down on if we engage in activity that men are free to do at any time. And that's it. We don't hate men. We don't want to be superior. We just want a bit of respect. We want to open a newspaper and not feel that we're being portrayed as simply a pair of tits and no intellect. Would The Sun ever have a full-frontal male nude shot on Page 3 every day? And if not, why not? Why would it be wrong to portray a man in that manner, but perfectly acceptable to reduce women in such a way?
With their pathetic U-turn on Page 3, The Sun have done nothing but stick their fingers up to feminists that they think are humourless spoilsports who need to get back in their place. They've proved, even more than they already had, that they don't view women as worthy of equal respect. And in doing that, they've proved that their "newspaper" is not worth the ink it's printed with.