MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Tue 04-Mar-14 16:19:47

Guest post: Page 3 versus breast cancer - a cynical ploy?

Today, The Sun launched their Page 3 versus breast cancer campaign - aimed at encouraging women to check their breasts more regularly.

The call to "check 'em" was accompanied by an image of "the most famous boobs in Britain". In this guest post, MN blogger Glosswitch questions the motives of Sun Editor David Dinsmore, and argues that raising awareness of breast cancer by parading 'perfect' boobs is misguided at best.

What do you think of The Sun's campaign? Do read the post and add your thoughts on the thread below.



Posted on: Tue 04-Mar-14 16:19:47


Lead photo

Page 3 versus breast cancer - a ploy to silence the critics?

Where do you stand on No More Page 3? Think carefully before you answer. If you are against boobs as news, there's always the chance that you're just against boobs. And if you're against boobs, you probably don't care about breast cancer sufferers. That, at least, seems to be the message conveyed by the front page of today's Sun.

Page 3 V. Breast Cancer screams the headline, accompanied a photo of the owner of “the most famous boobs in Britain”.

The contrast couldn't be clearer. All of you who've been supporting No More Page 3? Turns out you were on Team Breast Cancer all along! Unlike NMP3, the Sun likes breasts. It is breast positive! And while such positivity may reduce women to silent objects of the male gaze, it's better than making them desperately ill (these are, apparently, the only two options).

While I support the objectives of Coppafeel!, the charity involved in the Sun’s campaign, I have to say I'm wary of the Sun's motives. According to editor David Dinsmore “we thought we could do some real good with Page 3.”

The juxtaposition of “perfect” breasts – tits for the lads - sits uneasily alongside the need to recalibrate our ideas of beauty, strength and womanhood in the aftermath of illness. The impression I get is not that the Sun is working on behalf of breast cancer sufferers, but that their
suffering has been co-opted by Dinsmore in an attempt to silence critics of his own paper.

Many of the responses I have seen are, however, less than positive. The juxtaposition of “perfect” breasts – tits for the lads - sits uneasily alongside the need to recalibrate our ideas of beauty, strength and womanhood in the aftermath of illness. The impression I get is not that the Sun is working on behalf of breast cancer sufferers, but that their suffering has been co-opted by Dinsmore in an attempt to silence critics of his own paper.

This isn't the first time that breast cancer campaigning has made women feel uneasy. The "pinkification" of all things breast cancer-related hasn't always chimed well with those most in need of support.

Crass gender stereotyping is not always the most effective way to restore self-esteem. Ultimately, what is presented as a confidence boost can feel more like emotional blackmail. So you don’t want to focus on plump, pert tits when you’re recovering from your double mastectomy? Find the cutesy, girly merchandise nauseating? Well, maybe you’re just not feminine enough! Try harder! You should be grateful we’re still giving you the chance!

There can be a cruelty behind all this. Just when you need to be reminded that your identity is not contingent on superficial ideas of femininity, you are being asked to buy into the very stereotypes which threaten to exclude you. It comes across as a form of penance: hyper-girlify your illness and we’ll forgive you for failing to maintain the so-called “ideal” female form. Celebrate the “perfect” bodies of other women and we won't assume that sickness has made you bitter.

If The Sun’s collaboration with Coppafeel! does encourage more young women to check their breasts, there is a chance that it will save lives. On that score alone, I would say that it is worth any offence caused. Of course, in an ideal world cancer would not be used to defend sexist wank- fodder, but this is not that world. Charities need to grab what attention they can and one Sun front page will reach more people than a thousand leaflets could.

But the manipulation remains, as does the fact that this could have been done differently. Boobs are not news, breast cancer affects men, too, and looking after our health shouldn't be something we do only in response to titillation, objectification and body shaming. A culture which encouraged people to love their bodies, whatever their shape or size, wouldn't depend on “the most famous boobs in Britain” to persuade individuals to take care of their own.

By Glosswitch

Twitter: @Glosswitch

ummlilia Tue 04-Mar-14 16:53:10

I have seen a petition circulating on facebook today about this..

emcwill74 Tue 04-Mar-14 16:54:19

Until we have Wobble 'em Wednesday, where the Sun has a bloke on the front page cupping his scrotum in order to raise awareness of testicular cancer and the importance of checking for that, I cannot see this as anything more than a cynical excuse to get more naked female flesh on the front page to shift papers, and stick 2 fingers up at the No More Page 3 campaign. 'Don't like Page 3?' The Sun asks us, 'then you must be pro-breast cancer now!'

Stenduffy Tue 04-Mar-14 17:24:58

The Sun has slumped to an all time low. And I didn't think that possible.

Rooners Tue 04-Mar-14 17:28:04

Yes I can't imagine them putting a photo of someone who has had a mastectomy on page 3. If they did it would be met with disgust and derision by the largely uneducated readership of course.

What a load of (sorry) bollocks.

iklboo Tue 04-Mar-14 17:34:06

Since breast cancer can strike at any age and men as well as women I'm waiting for them to print a photo of a 70 year old bloke checking himself.

meditrina Tue 04-Mar-14 17:34:22

Check'em Lads is a testicular cancer charity and support group.

I am cross that The Sun has ripped off a charity's strap line.

ballsballsballs Tue 04-Mar-14 17:47:51

It's a cynical excuse to put a bare breasted woman on the front page.

And don't get me started on breast cancer being the only cancer worth curing...

BinkysMom Tue 04-Mar-14 17:51:53

I was shocked when I saw the display at my local Asda. Using breastcancer in this way in an attempt to salvage their page 3 is beyond offensive. I have friends who've lost their breasts to cancer. Page 3 has always made them feel like less of a woman by only celebrating women's breasts and nothing else.

StephanieDA Tue 04-Mar-14 17:52:13

The Sun really don't care about that other 80% of women who get BC do they? Is it because those women are over 50 and their breasts are no longer worth saving? Or is it because the Sun don't even realise that women who are not young, slim and sexy with large pert breasts actually exist? Otherwise, they would never do something so crass and insensitive would they.

ITCouldBeWorse Tue 04-Mar-14 18:00:38

Utterly pathetic. If they were showing some post mastectomy patients regaining their health and confidence, they might just about have a point.

Surely if David dinsmore gave a shit about checking for cancer he would be backing a campaign to get men to check themselves or a prostate cancer awareness campaign as his key demographic is men?

This just smacks of let's shut the little wimmen up when they complain about us objectifying women.

Givemecaffeine Tue 04-Mar-14 18:51:50

Excellent post. I have lost two close family members to breast cancer before they were 35, and I find the cover of the Sun profoundly offensive. I guess the only thing to be optimistic about is that it smacks of desperation, which means the No More Page 3 campaign must be having an effect.

kim147 Tue 04-Mar-14 19:06:51

There are so many cancers they could have chosen. Why not testicular cancer? That kills young men who are probably a large part of their readership.

But would he put a picture of a hunky naked man holding his balls on the front page?

Alljazzdup Tue 04-Mar-14 19:08:58

I am a breast cancer survivor. I have had a mastectomy. I am absolutely spitting feathers at this disgusting attempt by the Sun to justify the soft porn they offer up to the nation on a daily basis. Seriously what the hell has a sexed up picture of a topless model got to do with this devastating disease? How many of their so called target audience will read this? How many male Sun readers will just find it an excuse to ogle yet another pair of tits in public? Disgusting doesn't even cover it!!!

Darkesteyes Tue 04-Mar-14 21:09:35

I never got to meet my biological mother in law. She died of breast cancer in early May 1973...six weeks before i was born. She was only 46.
DH told me she was one of the first people in this country to undergo the reconstruction procedure.

What the Sun have done in disgusting. Its thanks to Page 3 and their ilk that women who have had to undergo treatments and have mastectomies are made to feel less of a woman.
I also saw a rather disturbing survey last year that said some patients were choosing not to complete their treatments due to fear of weight gain.
Just another way in which this "campaign" will not help.

Darkesteyes Tue 04-Mar-14 21:10:49

Sorry That should read DHs bio mum.

RandomMess Tue 04-Mar-14 21:13:22

I actually felt sickened when I saw it at the supermarket earlier, not sure why but probably all of the reasons quoted above - just some excuse to have a page 3 feature on the front page sad

SpinningFates Tue 04-Mar-14 21:56:36

Does being "breast aware" actually reduce mortality rates? Is there any evidence?

Creeping Tue 04-Mar-14 22:06:31

I think the association that especially young, pert, Page-3 girl breasts should be saved from breast cancer is lurking large with this campaign. Because we wouldn't want the guys having to go without, do we? It infuriates me.

weebarra Tue 04-Mar-14 22:06:31

Fuck that. I'm 36. I'm currently undergoing chemo and will have a bilateral mx in may. I have 3 children, 6,3 & 6 months. I also consider myself to be a feminist. I think what the sun is doing is nonsense. Breasts are great and useful things. They do not belong in a daily newspaper.

Creeping Tue 04-Mar-14 22:11:17

Plus my first thought when I saw the headlines was that "Check 'm Tuesdays" were an invitation for the lads to check breasts. Even the name of the charity "Coppafeel" is very unfortunate when it's associated with a display of seemingly willing half naked ladies.

I wonder how many girls will have to hear this slogan on Tuesday.

janmoomoo Tue 04-Mar-14 22:19:43

Couldn't avoid seeing this on the train this morning. Anyone who says if you don't like page 3 don't buy the Sun can forget it - you can't avoid it when it is on the front page and bloke next to you on the train is reading it.

This is blatantly using a truly worthwhile cause to justify their outdated, sexist and misplaced page 3 which should have been abandoned in the 70s.

Ever wondered why women with breast cancer/mastectomys feel so devastated and unfeminine? Could it be the perpetuation of the myth of the "perfect" body shape, promoted by the Murdoch press?

NiceTabard Tue 04-Mar-14 22:21:31

I was ranting on the other thread.

So much wrong with this.

I would have thought a campaign around testicular or prostate cancer would be much more effective, for lots of reasons.

Do they honestly think that women under 35 are the main consumers of page 3? That's just ridiculous. If they want to target breast cancer, then they need to do it with something that the target audience are very interested in. Hence, a male cancer teamed with page 3 would have been a better match.

Also, and as Creeping mentions. Coppafeel are I'm sure a great charity, who I imagine are advocating women checking their own breasts? The juxtaposition of Page 3 with the slogan "Cop a feel" is likely to result in a bad time for lots of young women. I can imagine it being used to legitimise causal assault "don't get upset love just checking you for cancer" and so on.

It's a really unfortunate combination. And it's targeted at young men (as they are the ones who look at page 3).

The whole thing is just awful.

kim147 Tue 04-Mar-14 22:21:46

I wonder if anyone at the Sun office actually said "You know what, this might be a bad idea. " And then suggested why it might come across as incredibly insensitive.

NiceTabard Tue 04-Mar-14 22:23:57

Deeply, deeply insensitive

Almost certainly promting casual assault

They're on form this week hmm

iklboo Tue 04-Mar-14 22:36:54

Any bloke trying to 'Cop a feel' with me would shortly be invited to 'experience an x-ray'.

NiceTabard Tue 04-Mar-14 22:41:44

I dunno, you know.

I didn't know what to do when I was 16, and I think even now I'd be too shocked to have an immediate reaction now. Unless he stood around waiting for me to gather my thoughts and get my brain into gear!

I wonder if coppafeel have given full consideration to having their name put next to page 3? It's asking for trouble, isn't it?

jtintom Tue 04-Mar-14 23:03:45

Thank God for social media and mumsnet today! Without a place to read other women's thoughts I think I would have exploded today with rage and upset at this appalling campaign, which has made breast cancer awareness into a titillating soft porn, Sun promoting event. There were so many other means of promoting Breast awareness than through page3. If the Sun was so concerned with women's health they would do more to cover women's sport. Ironically one of the reasons why women are put off sport is because of embarassment with their perceived body shape - so P3 really helps this of course. Ive also seen a EU report which named and shamed page 3 as a factor as to why breast feeding rates are so low in the UK as British women perceive their breasts to be too sexual to be seen feeding a baby. (Breast feeding of course reduces a woman's chances of getting breast cancer.) Coppafeel are really out of step with women's feelings here. Im so angry with them.

iklboo Tue 04-Mar-14 23:04:14

You are, of course, quite right. It's what I'd want to be able to say.

NiceTabard Tue 04-Mar-14 23:05:46

great post jtintom

Darkesteyes Tue 04-Mar-14 23:21:54

IMO things are actually worse with things like this than they were in the 70s and 80s. I dont recall it being on the front page back then and we didnt have Nuts or Zoo either.

fion Tue 04-Mar-14 23:32:06

Shows how desperate they really are. They are feeling under pressure to legitimise soft porn in the most pathetic way. I think it's time to celebrate. They have opened their kimono and shown us how cynical and vile they are to prey on fears and attempt to legitimise their 'harmless fun' and everyone is reviling what they see. Come on Page 3 and give it a rest. I predict the new editor of the sun, when the incumbent is kicked out, will announce the death of page 3 as part of their modernisation drive when they come into post. Page 3 is dead and this pathetic outrage is a nail in the coffin.

NiceTabard Tue 04-Mar-14 23:48:52

I looked at twitter, can the topic delete posts?

Cos on #titsoutfor--the--boys--breastcancer so go on Cop A Feel!!!! had no posts which were not 100% supportive

merrymouse Wed 05-Mar-14 00:24:33

I think coopafeel are a small charity and the sun gave them a huge amount of money so I don't blame them.

Its still a really tasteless idea.

penguinpaperback Wed 05-Mar-14 00:29:32

I have stage 4 breast cancer. It had already metastasised before my diagnosis when I was in my early 40's. I'm trying to see the positives in this 'campaign' but nope I think it's awful and it's a shame Coppafeel have been used to somehow justify keeping page 3.
It's too nudge, nudge, wink, wink jolly. 12,000 women are still dying every year from breast cancer.

gertiegusset Wed 05-Mar-14 01:25:09


Charltonangel Wed 05-Mar-14 06:04:16

Yes merry mouse, I think they can - they were certainly very busy deleting comments from their Facebook page as soon as people were posting them yesterday morning.

gedhession Wed 05-Mar-14 08:18:02

When I looked in The Sun I saw that they had asked the Page 3 models themselves to endorse the campaign. The one that sticks in my mind is the model who said her aunt suffers from it. Since virtually every celebrity endorses a charity these days I don't see why The Sun should use Page 3 girls to endorse a breast cancer charity.

Creeping Wed 05-Mar-14 09:14:56

Of course Page 3 girls endorse a campaign for breast cancer awareness. Who wouldn't!? I am not surprised that they wouldn't see that THIS campaign is tasteless and inappropriate, with possibly unwanted side effects of sexual harrassment and women wondering if their breasts are worth saving if they don't look like Page 3 girls' breasts, because they don't see the damage that Page 3 does anyway.

gedhession Wed 05-Mar-14 10:40:20

Well, for instance, the model on that front page, Rosie Jones, has a Wiki entry with links to her Facebook and Twitter account. Use them to send her a message and you might get a reply. I've already seen that models such as Courtnie Quinlan and Emma Kuziara have used social media to challenge the Ban The Sun and Lads' Mags campaigns at some UK universities.

Asagrandmother Wed 05-Mar-14 11:09:07

I can only agree with earlier. Comments. An all time low for The Sun.

higgle Wed 05-Mar-14 11:28:02

I can't get excited about this when the breast cancer charities prance about in pink and promote walks with fit healthy women wearing fancy bras. People I know who have had breast cancer find the pink brigade very upsetting.

kim147 Wed 05-Mar-14 11:34:20

10,000 people diagnosed with malignant melanoma - check your moles
2100 men diagnosed with testicular cancer - check your balls
Pancreatic cancer

They could run a campaign encouraging people to be aware of symptoms, to encourage GPs to be aware of pancreatic cancer, to encourage a lifestyle that might help reduce the risk.

emcwill74 Wed 05-Mar-14 11:42:40

A great blog post on it here

grimbletart Wed 05-Mar-14 13:02:55

Congrats. on the blog. So true and emcwill great blog post you linked to.

So glad Glosswitch has highlighted this. I started a thread on this in FWR yesterday but with hardly any responses on it I wondered if I had miscalculated the mood. sad

My working background gives me an insight into how this "idea" started.

Scene: blokes (mainly) round table in editorial conference….concerns about the growing backlash against page 3….what we need is something to counter this that these silly women (except they wouldn't have used such a polite phrase) will find difficult to criticise…chatter chatter, lots of stupid comments and 'ideas' chucked around..suddenly lightbulb moment..let's do something that show we 'care' ha ha….a breast cancer campaign..that will be hard to really criticise..the best they can do is tut tut as to really hit hard will make them look the baddies in this who care more about banning boobs than about breast cancer…..and whadya know. perfect excuse to show even more tits….cue lots of male back slapping…

Never mind of course that their statement that "millions" don't know about checking their breasts is a patent lie, that the number of breast cancer cases in women in their teens and early 20s (the demographic of page 3 girls) is so uncommon it is almost impossible to measure it on a rate per 100,000 graph, but by contrast the rate of testicular cancer in males is around 50 per 100,000 in late teenagers and 150 per 100,000 in men in their early 20s.

As nearly 60% of Sun readers are men wouldn't a better campaign based on young readers be "trap a testicle" rather than coppafeel? Or if they wanted to appeal to their older demographic then what about "prod a prostate'?

Or as their demographic is nearly 70% social class CDE - the demographic that is most vulnerable to lung cancer - then an anti-smoking campaign - a more deadly cancer than breast cancer - would have the potential to save far more lives.

But of course pictures of testicles, diagrams of prostate examinations or diseased lungs won't pull in the punters like bare tits will it?

The truth is the Sun doesn't give a flying fig about saving women's lives - they are a hypocritical bunch of cynical shysters.

PringleJess Wed 05-Mar-14 15:56:09

I read the article yesterday and it made me check my breasts.

Personally I think that if a newspaper/any media makes women check then it has to be a good thing. (Page 3 itself doesn't really bother me though)

I would welcome similar campaigns on other cancers/conditions

Creeping Wed 05-Mar-14 18:10:46

It's a case of does the end justify the means. I don't think it does. Sexism does a lot of damage to women as well. The combination perfect breast - breast cancer awareness is painful and humiliating for women with breast cancer. It also confirms once more that breasts are for sexual tittilation primarily, having an impact on breast feeding rates and the self esteem of women. And perhaps even on breast-checking rates, who knows.

There is no need at all to use Page 3 girls for a breast-cancer awareness campaign by the Sun. A campaign in the Sun without the association with Page 3 might be equally or even more effective in terms of getting women to check themselves, avoiding the negative side effects of humiliation and sexism.

fallon8 Wed 05-Mar-14 22:28:32

I have been treated for BC five times...what is the problem with the Sun? I regularly whip my top off to display my battle scars...I would quite happily do so for the Sun if the money was right and then it over to my local breast unit....I have no problem at all..a storm in a D cup

CaptChaos Wed 05-Mar-14 22:53:51

That's the point though, fallon8. They don't want your battle-scarred tits in The Scum, they want pert, unsullied ones. They have no interest in cancer, breast or otherwise, or they would be backing the Men United, Beating Bowel Cancer, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Checkemlads type organisations instead, all of which would be more pertinent to their readership. The level of cynicism employed by the hacks at The Scum never ceases to astound me.

Although it's lovely to see that Ged is back, emailing poor page 3 models still and still using his real name.

Microbe Thu 06-Mar-14 01:12:39

It should be renamed 'The Scum'.

weebarra Thu 06-Mar-14 07:26:40

Fallon - I'm having my mx next month and fall into the demographic of women the sun are aiming at. Maybe I should offer them my newly deboobed body if they really want to raise bc awareness.

gedhession Thu 06-Mar-14 22:57:51

Lovely? Is it really?

gedhession Thu 06-Mar-14 23:01:07

Well fallon , weebarra , send selfies of you boobs and bums and email them to a few select mags. You just never know your luck!

NumanoidNancy Thu 06-Mar-14 23:55:24

It wouldn't have been so obvious that it was just a cynical two fingers up at the NMP3 campaign if they had actually included a proper guide on what to check for, how to do it etc. They didn't.

emcwill74 Fri 07-Mar-14 08:10:52

There's a picture made by one of the BC charities where they've photoshopped 6 oranges to show what to keep an eye out for: inverted nipples etc that I've posted on my fb page before. The Sun, as far as I know, didn't show that, they just had Rosie with a hand on one of her boobs. How is she helping by doing this? I'm sure she thinks she is and someone on Twitter asked if the models had been thanked for taking part in this great inititiative, but thanked for what? What is Rosie adding? For me this is what exposes the cynicism behind the campaign as just a way of putting tits in the paper and pretending it's for a good cause. I've no reason to doubt Rosie wants to help fight BC and save lives, of course she does, why wouldn't she, but I fail to see how her pics do this in any way!

CaptChaos Fri 07-Mar-14 19:38:51

Dear lord, please don't send in pictures just in case they do take you up on your offer and the resident stalker finds you.

I didn't read the actual article, as I refuse to up The Scum's readership figures, but please tell me that as well as the cynical naked woman pictures, they actually told people how to self examine? Because then I could maybe suspend disbelief for a couple of seconds and try to see that they were actually trying to help?

No? Quel surpris!

terricotta Fri 07-Mar-14 22:53:16

I would like to see something, anything to raise awareness of testicular or prostate cancer. But I never do.

CaptChaos Sat 08-Mar-14 12:15:28

terricotta.... as I mentioned upthread, there is Man United. My DH is involved with them, as is Bill Bailey. Amazed that you haven't found it, if you say you've looked. If that doesn't appeal, why don't you start something for yourself? Men didn't raise awareness of women's cancers, not that breast cancer is a women's cancer, women did, with some stiff opposition from men who wanted tits to be playthings, so why do men think that women should do their awareness raising for them?

You could even get the Scum involved. Given that they want to save women's breasts from cancer, I'm sure they'd be happy to back initiatives to save men's testicles and prostates from it too, I look forward to the pictures for those campaigns on the front page.

gedhession Sat 08-Mar-14 13:37:28
kim147 Sat 08-Mar-14 14:08:04

Why don't you think you see awareness of testicular and prostate cancer?

Awareness needs people to make people aware. It doesn't just happen. Just like breast cancer awareness didn't just happen.

vesuvia Sat 08-Mar-14 14:41:03

terricotta wrote - "I would like to see something, anything to raise awareness of testicular or prostate cancer. But I never do."

That is a very sad indictment of the efforts of all those men's health organisations such as Prostate Cancer UK, Mowvember, Orchid, etc., which spend lots of money advertising their campaigns to improve men's health.

grimbletart Sat 08-Mar-14 15:04:46

People like terracotta who claim never to see awareness campaigns are people who go around with their eyes closed. Also funny that they expect other people to do things. If you (wrongly) feel there are no awareness campaigns about testicular or prostate cancer (obviously never saw the ones I was involved in years ago when I worked within medical research) then why not bloody start one instead of whinging?

CaptChaos Sat 08-Mar-14 15:05:31

How could I forget Movember? Every single male I know growing tashes to raise money and awareness for male cancers. Do you live on the moon, terricotta?

deepcastrato Thu 20-Mar-14 23:31:31

As a man who has lost both testicles, I am glad there are no campaigns where virile looking men hold their balls. It's bad enough struggling with thoughts of being less than a man and coming to terms with having an "empty sack".

dreamin Thu 27-Mar-14 02:12:29

Is The Sun paying you for the advertising you are giving them?

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