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The Sun battles breast cancer... with cleavage shots and glamour models

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We are certainly no strangers to The Sun’s seedy selling tactics and characteristic care taken with potentially explosive news stories; need I remind of you of the recent headline “Come n’ have a go if EU think you’re hard enough” atop a shirtless Putin during the Ukraine crisis?

However, I have to admit feeling my stomach knot into newfound levels of discomfort upon perusing the newsstand to see The Sun justifying Page 3 under the guise of raising breast cancer awareness.

While potentially appearing harmless enough to many readers (“how could raising awareness of breast cancer ever be a bad thing?”) The Sun’s seemingly benevolent support for breast cancer campaigners masks a breathtakingly cynical PR stunt and a much murkier agenda.

The growing support for No More Page 3 is no secret to The Sun. Many public figures have eagerly donned the now iconic white T shirt and the petition’s rapidly mounting number of supporters have forced discussions of responsible journalism and subjected a hitherto accepted feature of the newspaper to public scrutiny. This has confirmed an uncomfortable prognosis for The Sun; to maintain the dinosaur that is Page 3, they need to find ways to justify its existence by diluting or detracting from its primary purpose as soft porn.

Much like a man presiding over a crumbling empire, David Dinsmore has ignored the currents of change and the vocal cry of protest against The Sun’s archaic "institution", insisting that his readers want Page 3 and so he will continue to give it to them. However, this recent PR move betrays his fear at the resilience of NMP3 campaigners whose waves of supporters show no sign of ebbing; many universities now refuse to sell The Sun due to its Page 3 feature. What better way to detract from Page 3’s shameless exercise of male privilege in presenting boobs as news, than to argue that their use of naked breasts is a means of spreading awareness of breast cancer?

The Sun therefore has chosen to adopt a comically moral stance in its battle to save its best loved “news” feature from the blight of breast cancer. So this Tuesday became “Check ‘em Tuesday”, a newsworthy article accompanied by a buxom 22-year-old and a swarm of breast cancer puns.

While we all need to be vigilant and regularly check our breasts, I do question whether The Sun’s majority male readership represents the most at-risk group for breast cancer? I also question as to why the emphasis was on young attractive women and their cancer-free breasts, rather than on the survivors of the disease?

One of the reasons that breast cancer can be a doubly traumatic experience is that coupled with a life-threatening disease comes the stigma of not fulfilling the feminine "ideal" after surgery. The school boy emphasis on breasts as an integral element of femininity piles on the burden of insecurity and shame to women who have survived cancer and wear scars as signs of their strength. The need for women to fit into this visual framework is a message wholeheartedly espoused by papers like The Sun; the “beauties” they parade are barely out of their teenage years and The Sun seal of aesthetic approval is only stamped on slim, large breasted and, most commonly, white women. This message is shared beyond tabloids; Facebook recently tried to remove an image a Brisbane woman posted of her post-mastectomy body, yet remains laissez-faire with soft porn groups like ‘Rack of the Day.’

Ultimately, if The Sun really wanted to fight against the stigma of breast cancer or even broaden its limited aesthetic horizons, why did it not show an image of a breast cancer survivor rather than a buxom 20 something brunette? Sadly, as we all well know, the majority of breast cancer survivors are beyond The Sun’s limited age range and would not fulfil their visual criteria.

So, although I admire breast cancer campaigning in its multiple forms, I do not buy The Sun’s attempt at legitimising peddling its soft porn under the guise of spreading awareness. Breast cancer is a disease that will affect many of us, directly or indirectly, and is often rendered an even more difficult experience by our culture's overemphasis on breasts as being inherent to feminine sexuality, a message loudly espoused by papers like The Sun. Given that they would never show images of women who have undergone lumpectomies or mastectomies as they do not fit their restrictive view of beauty, The Sun has no right to use breast cancer awareness as a way to justify Page 3. 




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