The ‘Page Three’ feature of The Sun newspaper has long been a controversial topic. Who hasn’t heard of the ‘No More Page Three’ campaign, which aims to shut Page 3 down because ‘boobs aren’t news’, fuelled by the argument that Page 3 objectifies and over-sexualises women, exploits young women and has no place in a newspaper.
However, Page 3 seems to be heading in a slightly different direction now – it’s joined forces with breast cancer charity Coppafeel in order to raise awareness for breast cancer and to encourage women to check their breasts more regularly.
The campaign, called ‘Check ‘Em Tuesday’ has been met with a lot of criticism, with Twitter uses blasting the idea. One user said: “This appalling campaign by the Sun newspaper in the UK is trivialising & demeaning to women”, whilst another said “I’m disappointed at Coppafeel for allowing themselves to be exploited by The Sun, in their desperate attempt to improve Page 3‘s image.”
Let’s just examine those angry claims for a moment… Launching a widespread campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer, encouraging women to check their breasts, drawing attention to how important it is for you to know your own body and the changes that it may go through – what could be more empowering? Encouraging women to check their own bodies for signs of a potentially fatal disease certainly doesn’t seem ‘trivial’ to me. It’s not as if the paper’s gone with slogans like ‘Don’t worry your pretty little heads about cancer’ or ‘Cancer isn’t sexy – check your breasts.’
Also, I don’t think for a moment that Coppafeel is ‘allowing themselves to be exploited’ – Coppafeel founder Kristin Hallenga has said of the campaign: “We’ve got six months in The Sun to increase the number of people who check their boobs and to increase confidence in noticing any changes – at the moment only 23% feel confident they’d notice changes. We’ll repeat our survey at the end and see how much things have changed.
“It’s still our message, but now it’s on Page Three. At the moment there’s a lack of knowledge and a lack of awareness, but that’s where we come in. There’s lots of work to be done. This is an opportunity for us to reach a huge new audience we’ve never reached before, and that’s why we’re doing it.”
Read more in Cosmopolitan’s article on the subject.
Does that sound like a woman who is being exploited to you? Kristin is just 28 with stage four breast cancer, who has devoted her life to raising awareness of breast cancer for other women. Of ‘Check ‘Em Tuesday’, Kristin’s message is “My breast cancer is incurable, I’m fighting to make sure that yours isn’t.” That is not the voice of a girl who has been naively duped into partnering a charity with a sinisterly sleazy newspaper feature. That is the voice of a woman who has been sharp enough to recognise that by associating with ‘Page 3’, the controversial nature of the page itself would be enough to draw attention to her aim.
Even those who loathe Page 3 and everything about it will be talking about this partnership, which means they will be aware of the importance of women checking their breasts, which means the campaign is already working, whether they like it or not. There are an estimated 5 million female readers of The Sun, 625,000 of whom are at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Kristin aims to reach at least 10% – which means 63,000 women could be saved by this campaign.
One Twitter user made an incredibly valid point: “Sun’s ‘coppafeel‘ page 3 girl inspired campaign to fight breast cancer. When ‘sexism’ saves lives – what is a good feminist to do?”
I think this Tweet encompasses a lot of the resentment towards the campaign – too many people have been swept up by the ‘Bare breasts objectify women’ notion and are immediately against the idea that Page 3 could actually be a good thing. We can’t defend a woman breast-feeding because breasts are perfectly natural but then in the same breath criticise glamour models. Personally, I have no objection to Page Three. Who am I to tell a woman she can’t do what she wants with her body? Who am I to say that breasts are offensive? Who am I to slam a woman’s career choice? Well I wouldn’t be a feminist, that’s for sure. If ‘Page Three’ was an all male feature, with photos of topless, attractive men modelling between pages of ‘actual news’, then somehow I don’t think it would attract as much opposition. But that’s besides the point.
If ‘Page 3’ is something that gets people talking, and has decided to use their popularity/scandal factor to raise awareness for a good cause, then I for one am all for it. This is something that could save tens of thousands of lives of mothers, daughters, friends, sisters, grandmothers, aunties, girlfriends, wives – and that is not something I’m going to protest against just because boobs are being used to do it. After all, if it’s about boobs, why not make it relevant?