On the newspaper stand, was a front page that showed a woman wearing just a pair of knickers with her arm across her breasts. Err, what? Isn't John Lewis a bastion of lovely things and being 'never knowingly undersold'? Had Waitrose left the partnership and been sold to a petrol station chain? Were they about to start stocking 'Nuts' and 'Zoo' amongst the houmous and Cath Kidston homeware? No to all of the above, it was in fact The Sun, a paper that staunchly defends the basic human right of every man, woman and child to see a pair of women's breasts every day.
I paused for a moment to consider what to do. Part of me quite fancied gathering up the papers in my arms and dumping them in the bin (wouldn't have been able to do that, too many coffee cups in it), part of me wanted to immediately tweet my anger (ooh, digital foot stamping, how very 'now'!) but then I thought actually I might just ask if I could talk to the manager to see what he or she thought. I asked at the counter and a manager was duly summonsed up who brought another colleague with her; we took a walk to the display and stood in front of it together.
Turns out that the image in question is to promote a campaign that The Sun have signed up to with the charity 'Coppafeel', founded by a woman whose breast cancer has spread and become inoperable. Coppafeel aims to encourage more women to check their breasts regularly, thereby increasing early detection rates and saving lives. Early detection would have prevented their founder from finding herself in the position she is today. I am well on board with the charity, its message should have greater exposure but the cynic in me can't help but feel that The Sun are using this as a means to justify their continued use of a full page image of a half-naked women to shift newspapers. And now they can put one on the front cover because, you see, it's about raising awareness of breast cancer. So that makes it alright, doesn't it?
Except it doesn't. Because in the course of the conversation between me and the two Waitrose partners (don't you love that they're all partners?), they described how they had been disconcerted when their papers arrived that morning as they do not stock magazines with those kind of images on the front - they know it's not what their customers want. They noted how the papers were displayed at child-height and we wondered quite how 'sexy Page 3 lady' was a vehicle for reaching out to women and encouraging them to check their breasts. It was billed as 'Page 3 vs Breast Cancer' - are they going to use their bare breasts to take cancer on? Are we going to be treated every 'Check 'Em Tuesday' to a picture of the breasts that Sun readers would most like to check? It just didn't sit well.
|Turning our back on Page 3 - thank you Waitrose x|
There are ways and means of getting your message across; as I found today a quiet word was more effective than shouting the odds or throwing papers in the bin. So if the team at The Sun really does support the Coppafeel campaign, really does care about the lives and bodies of its readers that are affected by breast cancer, really does want to make a positive difference, then I hope they find a different way to do it.
Soundtrack: Ain't What You Do - Fun Boy Three & Bananarama