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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

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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.

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