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Bread and Circuses: why Page 3 is even worse than you think

2012 October 10
The Sun spoof cover, saying YES! WE ARE RACIST AND FULL OF SHIT and similar.

Page 3, revered by its supporters as ‘a British institution’ and pushed by its owners as ’empowering’, has been the horsefly on the cowpat of the Sun newspaper for years. In my early teens, pre-Internet, a glimpse of tit from a discarded copy of the Sun was my first vision of a naked breast. I’m also fairly sure it was the exact moment that I decided that mainstream, unimaginative, plastic-and-makeup porn wasn’t for me, but I digress.

Other people have made better arguments (here’s one, and here’s another) than I could for why having a teenager with her tits out in the first few pages of a national newspaper might not be a particularly stellar idea. It’s objectification at its worst, and the empowerment argument neglects the fact that there are better, safer, and more rewarding ways to take your clothes off for financial gain if that’s what you truly want to do.

My argument against Page 3 is quite simple; if you don’t want to reject it simply because it’s in bad taste, insensitive, and chauvinistic, then reject it because it uses psychological techniques to manipulate your views into agreeing with whatever fits the Sun’s goals at the time. The Sun sees its readership not just as customers, but as bargaining chips and weapons.

Let’s take a quick look at a few examples of Page 3. The rather excellent Tim Ireland over at Bloggerheads, nemesis of Nadine Dorries, has been collecting these –  I hope he won’t mind me mirroring them here. Credit due entirely to him and anyone who might have scanned them for him.

Screenshot showing Page 3's News In Briefs blurbs

Now, it’s quite possible that these women hold these opinions. It’s quite interesting, however, that they coincide with the vitriol that appears in the The Sun Says portion of the paper, home of a much more blatant attempt to tell their readership what to think.

Think about this, though – what if these statements are invented by the paper? Then, what we have on our hands is a cheap attempt to use the many cognitive biases that sexual attraction brings into play to form an opinion in the undecided. This person is attractive; you’re naturally more inclined to agree with people that you find attractive; your opinion is swayed. All the time, you’re seeing it as just a bit of fun, just a silly piece of paper with a pair of breasts. Every day, this message hits home. Over time, it affects people – they think the way the Sun, and thus the Murdoch empire, wants them to think.

Yes, alright, I’ve strayed a bit into tin-foil-hat territory. The fact is, though, that this is having an effect on the Sun’s readership. How big an effect is arguable, of course, but it’s non-zero. Also, don’t forget that there’s a huge line on the role of these women – they’re being used as tools, to have opinions thrust into their mouths. Even the names are probably pseudonyms. They are there for no reason at all other than to be a pair of tits, and that shit is just not on.

If you won’t boycott the Sun because you hate the exploitation and objectification of women that it represents, boycott it because you value your own power of self-determination.

One Response leave one →
  1. robert permalink
    February 1, 2013

    I also hate The Sun and would never buy it. Parly because of its content and bias. I certainly don’t share any of their views. But mosly because I object to the power that it has to manipulate politics with its constant dripping of tawdry stories. I think all readers know they aren’t true but collectively over the months the image epitomised by 2 jags prescott enters everyones concious.,
    It’s a shame because the paper is really well written. I’m using newspapers as one topic to teach english writing in China this term and The Sun has great examples of journalistic style.

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