A Storm in a D Cup – a Rapid Response



This article was first published on the morning of  20th January 2015, after The Times – The Sun’s sister paper, announced that the ‘page 3’ feature of the tabloid would not appear in the print version of the publication. Two days later, on the 22nd January, The Sun published the feature again. Proving, that Murdoch is once again capable of providing the public with the greatest marketing ploy there is, deception. However, the articles content is still valid, regardless of whether mammories continue to be present on the newstands. It also highlights the problems of ‘rapid response’ design history, what is news one minute is outdated the next. The Rapid Response galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum have to deal with this on a daily basis, as objects which are only at the beginning of their ‘lifecycle’ may soon be outdated, considered a fad or design blip. But surely that’s the fun of it all?


Today it has been announced that soon the only tits that will be seen on page 3 of The Sun newspaper are to be of the ornithological kind. Although a feathered great tit is unlikely to make the opening pages of the tabloid, since the 1970s the more pruned kind have been gracing the red top.


Throughout the feature’s lifecycle, it has been applauded, admired and accused for making men twitch. Bare chested girls became a regular feature in the paper when it launched in 1970, when the newspaper changed format and size into a compact tabloid. The ‘No More Page 3’ campaign, founded in 2012, is the only activist movement that has caused disruption at the Victoria and Alberts museum’s Disobedient Objects exhibition, with curators having to remove ‘sex work is work’ badges that were added to a campaign t-shirt.[1]


As I write, the head of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign, Lucy-Anne Holmes, is speaking on the radio about how the campaign’s triumph has changed society. Is the image of a bare-chested woman in a national newspaper – with an average readership of two million – a design that has changed Britain?  What makes those who may be black or white go red all over may be a feature that has caused controversy, but it is not solely responsible for creating a culture of misogyny in Britain. Let’s just clear up that I am not suggesting that page 3 should remain (although it will still be in the Daily Star, just in case you want some paper boobies) but it has been used as a device that has created a problem out of something which is only the tip of the iceberg.


Page 3 has only acted as a mediator of presenting the image of a woman as a sex object to those purveyors of ‘the male gaze’. The commodification of the body is not new. Some would say that the baring of a woman’s breast should be as normal as a man without a shirt; areolas are only taboo on the female body. The news comes only months after the most famous ‘page 3 girl’, the glamour model Katie Price, underwent surgery to reduce her breasts back to their original size. 2014 saw a new appreciation for large, oversized buttocks and, I cannot lie, this may be a reason why the removal of breasts and ‘No More Page 3’ gained momentum – they’re old news. Rupert Murdoch stated in September last year that the feature was, ‘old fashioned’ and this may be why. Kim Kardashian broke the Internet without even looking over her shoulder; Nicki Minaj admitted ‘I got a big fat ass’ in her hit song Anaconda. As tastes change different body parts will be valued as being of more worth than others previous.


There is nothing wrong with a woman consensually baring her chest for money. Yet, many are viewing the removal of the images as vitally needed for social change, despite the content of The Sun conveying stories and ideas in a tone that is much more degrading and offensive to women. This is perhaps because a visual analysis and change of image is more accessible than an analysis of content. The ability to convey complex ideas with a single image is the reason that graphic design and visual communication are everywhere today. Social media sites, such as Instagram, have changed the way we communicate, no longer do we have to read long status updates of each others experiences, we can watch it in a three second clip instead or through a heavily filtered snap.


Could this be another reason why the campaign against The Sun gained momentum in recent years? It is not only what is viewed as most sexually attractive, attributes objectified by cultures, but how. The simplified language of the newspaper is akin to the reductive words that even the most eloquent and lucid of tongues are subject to when reducing and containing their ideas into 140 character tweets.


The campaign has only been able to exist and gain a mass following with the Internet and although the newsstands may no longer be groaning under the weight of a full chest, page 3 will remain as an online feature. Considering the wealth of pornography on the Internet, these images, innocent in the grand hierarchy of sex work, may serve as a gateway drug to more hardcore and disturbing images of women. Yes, the paper may have done this already, media no longer exists in solely material or immaterial formats, The Sun has been advising readers to go online for more content for years now. However, page 3 existing online removes nodes in the network. Within a few clicks the visitor to The Sun homepage will be able to view images of other girl-next-door types in much more compromising positions.


So how do we change and create a new culture, if removing the page 3 feature is not going to change the world? Be nice about the birds, it’s the bees that are the problem. Solving issues of sexism, misogyny and the idea that the body is an object needs to start at a very young age. There’s still a lot of work to do in changing the way the media appropriates the female body, and perhaps now the campaign against page 3 will develop into an entity with more ideological tract and gravitas. As for the glamour modelling, new environments need to be created so that this is a safe and acceptable choice for anyone who chooses to go into the industry. The images on page 3 may be changing, yet primarily the language of The Sun needs to be amended if anyone is to believe that a shift in society is to occur.

 Georgia Newmarch


[1] ‘@GavinGrindon @ChristinaMcMc’, Twitter, 8.26am 15 Nov 2014

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