Detecting hypocrisy: The Adventure of the (anti) Red-Top League.

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Activists opposed to the Sun‘s topless Page 3 have targeted supermarkets across Britain as they stepped up their campaign for an advertising boycott of the tabloid.

From guardian.co.uk, Saturday 3 November 2012

“Supermarkets are selling family values and yet they are advertising with a newspaper that encourages people to see women not as a human but as an object,” said Lucy-Anne Holmes, who set up the campaign in August. “We are calling for them to stop advertising with the Sun and send out a really positive message that they value their female customers.”

As much as it pleases me to see our good citizens exercising their right to protest, and putting social media to proper use; I’m troubled by Ms Holmes and her No More Page Three cohorts invoking the old saw of ‘Family Values’. The notion that Family Values are what Tesco, ASDA et al are selling is, in one sense, laughable. A 21st century public, at least superficially au-fait with the idea and reality of The Brand might sometimes be forgiven for not seeing the wood for the cut-price, flat-pak patio set; forgetting that the bottom line for business is just that, the bottom line. Supermarkets value their female customers, right enough, for as long as they can be persuaded to spend, spend, spend: a state of affairs which The Sun‘s kind of family values – right-of-centre, deeply-conservative and long-predicated on the objectification and stereotyping of women – can only serve to promote. Any kind of paradigm shift in gender relations would decimate their core customer base overnight and those exponents of big business too slow to respond would die. The Sun‘s continuation of the Page Three tradition, far from a contradiction of such values fits right on in and ‘disgusted from Tunbridge Wells’ types perceiving otherwise might perhaps be advised to try putting the telescope to their good eye.

And lest my own inevitable hypocrisy come back to bite me I can reveal you I’m no stranger to porn, Gangsta Rap, Bond movies and any number of media tropes than many a feminist would frown mightily upon. Hell, I’ll even admit to liking some of the former. And to me, in an age when the days of print media look to be numbered; a plethora of infinitely more dubious imagery is instantly accessible via everybody’s smartphone (often cheek to jowl with ‘reputable’ brands on their webpages) and said brands have their fingers in any number of unsavoury pies; this singling out of Page 3 appears variously, arbitrary, desperately headline-grabbing and an exemplary case of shutting the proverbial stable door. With so much popular culture nakedly (pun intended) influenced by the mainstreaming of pornography, The Sun and its Page 3 seems less an anomaly than the solitary ‘brand’ that wore its heart on its sleeve all along.

And here’s a thought for the mythical squeezed middle that Holmes and co will no doubt be counting on for the lioness’ share of their support: If supermarket customers are genuinely concerned about good values and respecting the rights of women, then they could do worse than to choose fairtrade foods and clothing, thus ensuring that – largely female – foreign workers whose efforts keep us in the bloated, wasteful style to which we have become latterly accustomed will perhaps be a little better-remunerated; better-treated, even.

For those wishing to support the No More Page 3 campaign, you can sign their petition here

and visit their Facebook page here

 

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