I’m a little embarrassed for Caitlin Moran this week, and quite a bit embarrassed for The Times newspaper overall. Let me explain…
So it’s week eight of my blog challenge to respond to my favourite columnist Caitlin Moran on various (largely) non-theatrical subjects of her choosing. You can read more about why I started doing this weekly blog here. As always, I encourage you to also read Caitlin’s original Times piece (the pull quote below is her words, not mine).
While I agree with 99% of this week’s column, in which you explain why most intelligent women find The Sun’s Page 3 offensive and inappropriate, I must ask: did you squirm at all while typing it? It’s farces like the dissolution and reappearance of Page 3 that, if I were you, would make me uncomfortable calling myself a Times writer – it certainly makes me uncomfortable as a Times subscriber.
To recap, on Tuesday 20 January, The Times ‘broke’ the news that The Sun was covering up at last. Media editor Alex Spence wrote: “The Times understands that Friday’s edition of the paper was the last that will carry an image of a glamour model with bare breasts on that page”.
Given that these two publications share the same address and proprietor, you’d have to assume that Spence knew what he was talking about, especially when he said that the change had been on the cards since said Rupert Murdoch had described Page 3 as “old-fashioned” in September. Spence went on to report that Sun editor David Dinsmore – though unavailable for comment in the labyrinthine corridors of Wapping – “is understood to accept that page 3 has had its day”.
Just two days later, with the headline “We’ve had a mammary lapse” festooned across its front page, blonde and bouncy “Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth” was back in situ with a wink and a smile and not much else. Two days after that, Murdoch himself took to Twitter and, despite previous comments, told off the “horrible elites” who “yak on” about Page 3, and assured readers: “Worry not, The Sun will always have great looking women – and men!” (Have we all missed those frequent shots of the lads’ crown jewels over the past 40 years?)
Yes, everyone, the joke’s on us. And on Times media editor Alex Spence. As a Times reader, my question is: Was Spence incompetent or complicit? Second question: where was the correction in The Times? Whatever the answers, I don’t like being so blatantly duped. Will you please write about that, Caitlin? Or would that column get spiked?
Turning back to Page 3
It depresses me that, if Dinsmore is to be believed (this time), the majority of Sun readers are in favour of Page 3. That’s 5.4 million people – and, staggeringly, 42% of them women – that I simply don’t want to meet, and certainly don’t want to be sat next to on my commute.
Newsflash: “Boobs are not news”!
I’m not a prude, and being quite well-endowed myself, have no problem whatsoever with breasts, but it’s about time and place and, ahem, positioning. As No More Page 3 campaigner Lucy-Ann Holmes puts it in four little words: “Boobs are not news”.
Do read Holmes six key points in full if you haven’t already. If anyone can seriously rebut any of them, please do let me know and I’ll be happy to hash it out at length. In advance, I’ve rounded up Holmes’ site and various press reactions to the “boobs covered, boobs out” publicity stunt below.
A B-cup solution
You also explain the point about context well, Caitlin:
“The reason a lot of women are down on page 3 is simply due to context. In 2015, there are naked breasts everywhere. We’re living in a boom time for boobies. No one is running short on tits. We’re up to our tits in tits. You can type ‘tits’ into pretty much any piece of technology you have and see some. And as far as I’m concerned, having porn in the porn-places is fine. Carry on. It’s just having it in a newspaper that looks weird, because it’s essentially demented admin. It’s incorrect filing.”
So what? So, it’s a free country, The Sun readers can read whatever they want, and Dinsmore, Murdoch et al can keep shovelling them whatever sexist, lowest-common-denominator tripe they like to keep their circulation figures up.
You and Holmes are still right, though: “boobs are not news”. And to that, I’d add, The Sun is not a newspaper. While apologising profusely to the Indian cashier at my corner shop, I actually bought a copy the other day, and several other tabloids that follow the Page 3 format. I couldn’t find a single example of what I recognise as news reporting in any of them.
In which case, here’s a simple filing and labelling solution: let’s all STOP calling The Sun and its copycats newspapers. Let’s call them something more appropriate: pornpapers or trashpapers or salaciousgossippapers or drivelpapers. And in the newsagent displays, let’s remove them from their positions on the bottom shelf and put them on the top shelf, alongside Penthouse and Hustler. That’s where they really belong.
Until next week,