For 3 days, hundreds of readers and feminists were pleased to find the absence of topless models on Page 3 of The Sun newspaper. However, its return has sparked both a fervent backlash targeting The Sun as outdated and speculation as to whether it was all merely a publicity stunt.
Since 1970, The Sun has featured images of women bearing their breasts on Page 3. Many of these models have had successful careers and would argue that exposing themselves on the pages of a newspaper empowered them and gave the confidence that they never had. Whilst this may be true, what should be addressed is the hypocrisy of many of those who are against Page 3.
In the 21st century, nudity is pretty much everywhere and more often than not, promoted, celebrated and marketed. With the existence of sexual imagery present on television, music videos and the internet, is Page 3 not just a part of an already well integrated aspect of British culture? Many people may flinch at the sight of women exposing their assets on Page 3 but will watch the latest music video featuring sexually explicit images of a female singer utterly unfazed. Arguably, many elements of existing culture are just as demeaning as the images of topless women on Page 3. The issue is therefore not with nudity itself but whether something like Page 3 should be banned or censored when it is up to the discretion of the reader to view these images or not. Crucially, if Page 3 were to be banned, other similarly offensive material would need to be banned or censored also, including the current existence of men’s magazines featuring naked men. The problem with this is, once a ban has been placed on newspapers and other media on content considered offensive, the power falls out of the hands of the people to make a conscious decision to view what they want.
Moreover, the women who choose to feature on Page 3 have not done this against their own will. For many of these women, this is a smart career move. Models such as Jodie Marsh and Samantha Fox have made successful careers for themselves through their appearance on the pages of The Sun. The existence of Page 3 cannot be said to be encouraging inequality for women. In many ways, the opportunity to earn money and have a career, whether through going topless or through working in an office, is far more equal than banning or not allowing women to earn money in this way. Furthermore, whilst the images can cause offense for some, The Sun is not an obligatory piece of media that people have been forced to purchase, view and read. If you prefer your newspapers without topless pictures of women, try The Guardian or The Telegraph instead.
The images themselves do not objectify women. It is the attitudes of the reader that can potentially cause these projections of inequality and degradation of women. Furthermore, we must also congratulate The Sun for a hugely successful publicity stunt, which in many ways exhibits general smutty journalism far more than the images of topless women they have brought back to the pages of their newspaper.