In what might be one of the smartest PR moves this year, The Sun have seemingly waved goodbye to the topless female models that for over four decades have been the most notable content of page three. With little fuss or fanfare, the paper has begun showing images of women in underwear, or swimsuits. No less for titillation, just with a little less, well, tit.
By making no formal announcements The Sun has managed to avoid admitting they bowed to pressure from campaigners and their supreme ruler, Rupert Murdoch. Clearly, sacrificing that no doubt big selling final issue was worth it. However, as you’d expect, this change has not been fully supported, by readers of the paper, models and beyond. The news has been dominated by the support for page three coming from women who have modelled for the paper, with the basis of the argument often being that the models themselves did not feel forced or pressured into modelling for the paper. Personally, I never doubted that those women who modelled for The Sun felt confident enough to appear topless and in many ways I admire them for that. So, what is the real issue with page three?
Page three presented a sexualised image of a woman, there for the enjoyment of the reader. She, her image at least, became property of those who wished to view it, and those who did not. It is surely the responsibility of a national newspaper to present a less narrow minded and obstructive view of female sexuality? A woman is not merely her ‘assets’, her appeal should not be judged simply on her appearance. It is worrying, and possibly dangerous, to present sexual images of women in such a simple way. One singular form of beauty, one point of interest, nothing further.
I suppose, my point with The Sun, and huge amounts of media and advertising in general is stop pandering to the simplest of human traits. Treat us with more respect than just assuming we can only be driven by sexuality. Man or woman, we are all so much more than our sex, gender and sexuality.
EDIT: The Sun launched page three once again today, confirming that they are masters of PR. By engaging a public debate in how possibly great page three is they now feel justified in continuing this “great tradition”.