‘Sun’ decision to drop Page Three in Ireland reflects well on ‘cultural differences’
Opinion: Catholics and feminists find themselves on the same side on this issue at least
News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch: not running a charity. Photograph: Reuters
Attention is being paid to a story concerning the print edition of a national newspaper. How quaint. It’s as if we’ve all suddenly rediscovered an interest in falconry or chariot racing. In a largely unexpected – and entirely welcome – development, the editor of the Irish Sun has announced that his paper will no longer carry photographs of topless women on Page Three.
Acknowledging that the feature would still appear in UK editions, Paul Clarkson, editor of the paper, argued that his organisation strived “to cater for our own readers’ needs and reflect the cultural differences in Ireland”. For broadsheet elitists such as this writer, the news was a little like hearing that some grand movie star from the 1940s had passed on. Good grief, is she still alive? Well, not any more it seems.
Open the paper at the offending page and you felt yourself being cast back to an era when casual racism was deemed hilarious, sexual abuse of children was routinely overlooked and newspapers felt the need to provide working men with masturbatory stimulants.
Since its inception in 1970, the feature has always kicked up a degree of controversy. It may be true that a few women forged decent careers on the back of their appearance on Page Three. Yes, the human body is a wonderfully natural thing (and all that guff). Consider what Geoff from accounts gets up to during his regular 11 o’clock trip to the facilities and it will, however, prove hard to argue that soft pornography does not demean and degrade the women depicted.
When British MP Clare Short began the most famous of many campaigns to abolish Page Three, she was depicted as a sort of eccentric loon from a more puritanical planet. Campaigners were, while debating on television, placed in the same cage that housed such rare beasts as atheists, gay-rights activists and opponents of the royal family. All those views are now allowed in the mainstream. Some part of the Murdoch Empire has even acted on the question of nipples in newspapers.
But why this part? Many commentators have, over the past week, noted that the campaign against Page Three has been much more vociferous in the UK than in Ireland.
A few months ago the British Girl Guides got on board and sent a letter to the Sun’s editor, Dominic Mohan. “We know that the Sun is a family newspaper,” the missive read. “Anyone can pick it up, turn to page 3, and think that it is normal for young women to be treated as objects. We feel this is just wrong and has to stop.”