Page 3 – why a ban doesn’t have to come from legislature

By Holly Moorhouse, Warwick finalist. 

The Page 3 debate has come to the forefront as of late, after heavy campaigning from MPs, feminists, charities and the many individuals who would just rather not have to see a woman in only her knickers whilst having their morning coffee. This has then equally caused a lot of backlash from those who love the Sun and its casual objectification of women, which has led to a kind of stalemate, where those in charge of the Sun are stubbornly not changing their position, despite being well aware that a large proportion of society have agreed that Page 3 is an outdated, unnecessary and potentially harmful institution.

Before I dive into my thoughts about Page 3, I should probably point out that I am very much opposed to Page 3, the reasons of which I will give below. This is largely because a lot of the support for Page 3 has been poorly vocalised by a group of people who seem to argue for Page 3 largely because they quite like seeing semi-naked women without the guilt or difficulty of having to look at porn. The petition to keep Page 3 on change.org is a particular eye-opener, with one of the arguments being that it helps to ‘educate boys about sex’ (I won’t even go into the poor spelling and punctuation). I’m really not sure how this helps to educate boys how sex works or how to respect their partner, and I’m pretty sure that good sex education will always be a better alternative. This is why a proper, well reasoned debate on Page 3 should be so interesting, and I am open to changing my opinions if the arguments are persuasive enough. Having men and women stand up and talk about why they believe Page 3 should continue will be the most effective way of understanding all the viewpoints and the best solution, in a calm, controlled and productive manner. However that’s probably enough of my excitement about why this event will be so fantastic, and more on what I actually think about this issue.

So why should we remove page 3? Some argue that Page 3 is an institution, serving a large number of working class men and causing minimal harm, actually going against the norm of the ‘lads mags’ to allow natural, healthy looking models. Whilst there is no direct and proven link between the existence of Page 3 and the issues regarding the objectification of women, it plays into the wider societal problems women face, be it the gender pay gap, groping on the tube or even just the men who wolf whistle at women as they walk down the street. The Sun has an approximate circulation of 2,500,000, meaning that it is incredibly difficult to go without seeing the newspaper on trains, in cafes and in your local shop.

Given that most people would admit that society tends to overly sexualise or objectify women, be it in Miley Cyrus’ latest music video, lads’ mags or the adverts which photoshop women, it is hard not to concede that there is then a harm with a person of any age seeing a woman being displayed not because of her intelligence or achievements, but simply because her body fits a criteria which society deems ‘sexy’ enough to display nude. It is probably also important to recognise that there really isn’t much harm in dropping the feature, for the only real harm is that The Sun may lose a few readers who read it purely for Page 3. A lot of the Sun readers are loyal and unlikely to change newspapers, so it really is a minority who they would potentially lose.

The next question is then how do we go about getting it removed? There seem to be two obvious ways to achieving this: getting the government to ban it or encouraging those in charge of The Sun to drop the feature. Whilst the former does have its benefits, the latter brings about the most long term, positive change. Why? Because rather than the government simply enforcing a blanket ban regardless of people’s opinions, this educates people as to the reasons why Page 3 is harmful, and then the actual decision to drop the feature comes from the editors of their newspaper, as opposed to a government who is often considered ‘out of touch’ with the average reader. It is far more effective to bring about social change if everyone understands the problem in the first place, including the editors of the Sun. This method also means that it is likely to the amount of opposition and backlash to a minimum, allowing a smooth transition where everyone is (relatively) pleased, or at least understanding, with the outcome. Rather than the editors blaming this on a group of ‘white middle class feminists’ (the actual words of Neil Wallis from Channel 5) getting their own way, it now becomes an editorial decision, which is far harder to argue against.

In the end though, it all amounts to the same outcome, and given the harm I believe Page 3 causes, this can only be a good thing. Once Page 3 no longer features in the Sun, a  ban has still technically been achieved, whether it has been reached through government legislation or through consumer pressure. There is no room for such an outdated and unnecessary feature in a daily, and family, newspaper, and the sooner it is removed, the better. The debate on Tuesday 29th October is going to be incredibly insightful, as it is important that all opinions on this issue are heard, and so that we can ensure that the best outcome possible should be achieved.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and are not representative of the views of Warwick Debating Union.

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