Over the last few days there has been a bit of an online debate raging within the Lib Dems over whether we should be encouraging The Sun to get rid of the boobs on Page 3.
To be fair to the campaigners, it is important to get that distinction correct. They are not calling for a some legislative ban on bare breasts on Page 3, just urging Sun Editor Dominic Mohan to stop the practice of publishing the feature.
Either way though, I simply cannot support such a campaign.
The campaigners raise some important issues. For example, my excellent friend and colleague Sophie Bridger commented on my Facebook page that Page 3 “ tells its entire readership that viewing women as sex objects is normal, something you just do every day between the headlines and the sport. It’s not. It does not belong in a newspaper. It belongs in an adult magazine.”
In itself that is not an unreasonable point of view at all. However, nobody is forcing girls to appear naked on Page 3, nor is anybody being forced to buy the Sun.
The act of appearing in, purchasing, and looking at Page 3 is conducted by a collection of adults in full knowledge of what they are doing.
Not wanting Page 3 to be censored isn’t itself implicit support for the hyper-sexualisation and objectification of women, and it isn’t support of misogyny (something I have been accused of for sharing my view on this,) and it certainly doesn’t justify rape culture.
It just isn’t very liberal to campaign for the removal of items in a newspaper, just because you dislike them.
There are also some inconsistencies within the campaign. It focuses on The Sun’s Page 3, although they are by no means the only paper that run the feature. Campaigners say that this is because they created the phenomena and by removing it from the pioneer it would weaken the whole concept of Page 3.
Focussing on this one publication makes the campaign look ill thought out and anti-Mudoch, as opposed to pro-woman.
Campaigners also say that they focus on The Sun because it pitches itself as a family read. This simply shows how little interaction campaigners on this issue have with the tabloids. On weekends, the days on which children are most likely to see a newspaper around the breakfast table, The Sun does not publish pictures of bare breasts, specifically to make the paper more family friendly.
The campaign does not call the removal of equally sexualised images of men that appear in newspapers and easily accessible women’s mags either.
Ultimately this comes down to an issue of free press and free choice, and calling for the end of Page 3 just doesn’t seem very liberal.