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Sunday 25 January 2015


'No to Page 3' campaign was pathetic and utterly deluded

Feminists obsessed about topless models and failed to see the real scandals

SINGER: Former Page 3 star Samantha Fox

You'd be well advised not to tangle with Jodie Marsh, star of reality TV, businesswoman and bodybuilder, who began her career as a glamour model and who is forever grateful to The Sun for making her a Page 3 girl. Samantha Fox (singer); Linda Lusardi (actress and TV presenter); and Katie Price (multi-millionaire self-publicist) are among the many Page 3 girls who feel the same.

Jodie Marsh has 610,000 followers on Twitter because she is combative, fearless, smart and amusingly sticks it to puritanical feminists. She swung into action when The Times announced that The Sun had ceased featuring topless models and the feministas leaped around cheering and claiming credit for it.

"Glad that @TheSunNewspaper p3 gone", tweeted Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party. "Women expect to be equal in C21. Not posing half naked. Well done Clare Short & 1000s of women campaign." There was a host of triumphant articles about victory for the 'No to Page 3' campaign that's been running ineffectually for years.

"So-called 'feminists' really annoy me", tweeted Marsh. "Telling girls they shouldn't do page 3 is not being a feminist. Women should do whatever they want." And in what should have made the 'No to Page 3' campaign think but almost certainly didn't, she aimed at it a killer tweet asking if she could "humbly suggest that you now put your time & effort into something that actually matters like campaigning against FGM . . ."

Got it in one, Jodie. British feminists failed to take a timely interest in female genital mutilation, honour killings, forced marriages and sexual grooming of minors in Asian ghettoes, pointed out to them by the brave Yorkshire Labour MP Ann Cryer. Page 3 and its "objectivication of women" became the rallying point for feminists.

Harman (popularly known as Harriet Harperson/Harriet Harpy), Polly Toynbee, Clare Short and their kind deserve the credit for making many traditional feminists like me embarrassed by the label. Puritanical, self-righteous, self-consciously high-minded, humourless and a banner-waver for the nanny state, Harman bangs the equality drum relentlessly except when it suits her to make exceptions. It was she who forced her party to introduce all-women shortlists in safe seats, yet she seemed strangely content when an exception was made that brought her husband into parliament.

Jodi offered a compromise: "Dear pretend feminists I have reached a compromise re Page 3: If I stop shaving my armpits and don't wear any make-up can I still do it?"

Nipples arrived in Fleet Street in 1938, when the 24-year-old Hugh Cudlipp, appointed editor of the comatose Sunday Pictorial, decided on a revolutionary approach to welcoming spring.

"I briefed the photographer meticulously. I didn't want gambolling lambs. I didn't want a tortoise . . . clawing a path through the daffodils in Regent's Park.

"I didn't want crocuses in St James's Park or any other park, and I didn't want bloody ducklings . . . I told him what I did want and it arrived on my desk Saturday morning, a fragrant study at an orchard in Kent of a comely, smiling model stretching her arms toward the sky through the branches of an apple tree in full blossom. The top half of the lady was also in full blossom; young, burgeoning womanhood, innocent but topless."

Cudlipp was 56 when, in 1969, the company he chaired sold the ailing Sun to Rupert Murdoch, who said privately that what he wanted was "a tearaway paper with a lot of tit".

I was never a fan of Murdoch's mean-spirited and often bigoted Sun and it was a shame that it dragged down that once decent paper, the Mirror, but once I grew out of priggishness, Page 3 didn't bother me. Heterosexual men are hardwired to get excited by breasts, the models were girl-next-door types and those that went on to become famous did so because they were viewed with affection as well as lust. And how, in this age of an internet full of readily accessible graphic porn, anyone could stay upset about topless, smiley women baffles me.

However, the fact of the matter was that time had moved on and because of the internet Page 3 was no longer much of a draw. As ex-editors like Rebekah Brooks and Kelvin McKenzie have pointed out, had it not been for the 'No to Page 3' campaign, Murdoch would have got rid of it years ago. Last September he tweeted: "Brit feminists bang on forever about page 3. I bet never buy paper. I think old-fashioned but readers seem to disagree."

Inevitably, the feminist victory roll resulted in The Sun on Thursday reporting that they'd "had a mammary lapse", showing us a topless, winking Nicole from Bournemouth and apologising "on behalf of all the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us."

"This is a small victory for norks everywhere," tweeted Jodie. "I am happy."

For commercial reasons, Page 3 girls will soon be wearing skimpy lingerie. Did not Murdoch tweet: "Page 3 again. Aren't beautiful young women more attractive in at least some fashionable clothes?" No doubt the campaigners will be vexed about that too.

For me, Jodie Marsh summed it up. "This is a CLASS issue, not a women's rights one", she said.

And so it is. Just like they disdained the vulgar seaside postcards that George Orwell defended, it's the toffee-nosed who are looking down on the plebs and finding ideological reasons to condemn their taste and ban their pleasures.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards