"Page 3 v breast cancer"
March 9, 2014 8:29 AM   Subscribe

The Sun's page 3 has been featuring nude women since the 1970s. Last week the British newspaper teamed up with CoppaFeel, a young charity for breast cancer awareness, to inspire women to touch their own breasts. The headline reads "Page 3 v breast cancer", next to a model in a pair of underpants who barely covers her breasts. Readers are encouraged to ‘Check ‘Em Tuesday’ and post pics on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #checkemtuesday.

While some applaud the newspaper for putting an important women’s health issue on the front page, others are against the sexist representation of women and concerned it could trivialize breast cancer.

Not only due to the titillating images on page 3, The Sun's readership is still mostly male. So does this campaign exist for women?
posted by travelwithcats (53 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite


posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:36 AM on March 9 [7 favorites]

I don't understand how they think this campaign is going to persuade women to do anything. If you're a newspaper reader or just plain haven't been living under a rock, you know what breast cancer is and that self-exams are a thing, and god knows most women never look like Page 3 models even in their 20s. I get that CoppaFeel is specifically trying to get younger women into this, but--yeah, uh, my breasts never looked like that. Actually, CoppaFeel's own website's front page seems much less sexualized than the affiliation would indicate. It feels mostly like the depressingly ordinary case of a generally okay organization affiliating with some scummy people in the hopes of getting some free publicity in exchange for some image rehab, and coming out looking the worse for it.

There's a lot of profiteering off of breast cancer awareness, and I'll happily fault The Sun for that, but not CoppaFeel, because I have to say, getting diagnosed at 23 and then turning almost immediately right around to try to start a charity is something that takes some serious gonads.
posted by Sequence at 8:48 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

Perhaps they should run a similar campaign for men who btw can also get breast cancer.
posted by srboisvert at 8:53 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]

So does this campaign exist for women?

posted by Sticherbeast at 8:57 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]

I'm always blown away by the fact that a mainstream daily newspaper in the UK has topless models. The fact that it's a conservative paper makes it even more weird.
posted by octothorpe at 8:59 AM on March 9 [10 favorites]

I'm very sick and tired of this "save the tatas" sexist bullshit. I saw a car sometime last month with that phrasing on a bumper sticker and I glared a bit at the driver and looked in their rearview to see just what this "bro" looked like. It was a girl. Doubly disappointed there.

I mean, I get it, it's a quick way to make a statement, while trying to be funny so the seriousness of the issue isn't *too* serious (because you know, why worry about things like death when there's TITTIES!) (and I say this a very very very strong breast man).

Yeah - this whole trend is ridiculous and the sooner it dies a flaming death the better, I think. Are the people spreading these messages actually contributing to the cause of reducing cancer (breast or otherwise?) or is it just some stupid joke they can put on their car for funsies while doing nothing but "raising awareness" because we clearly didn't know about breast cancer.

Sorry - I think we should worry less about the boobs and more about the women one whose chest those boobs rest, and may not rest if necessary to save their lives.
posted by symbioid at 8:59 AM on March 9 [19 favorites]

The fact that it's a conservative paper makes it even more weird.

Women's places are in the kitchen and on page 3, dontcha know. Seriously though, there's this weird conservative sexualization fetish (I think someone did a thing with Bill O'Reilly popping up bikini clad girl's images under the banner of "scandal" just so they can show some titillating flesh).

I saw some pro-USA conservative girls in bikini calendars a couple years ago (propagated by the women, in fact, as if they were being empowered (as opposed to those poor oppressed Muslim women who have to wear Burqahs (sterotype, yes)) Because the two alternatives are flaunting it and covering it 100%, of course. It's just like the sexist/knight in shining armor trope - both go hand in hand. "Open the door for a lady/she's a whore if she looks even faintly attractive, but how dare you make her not be attractive for my sexual gratification, but how dare she be a slut and wear what she wants..." It's ridiculous and there's a reason we had Women's Lib and it's not to please the page 3 readers, that's for sure.
posted by symbioid at 9:04 AM on March 9 [10 favorites]

I'm always blown away by the fact that a mainstream daily newspaper in the UK has topless models. The fact that it's a conservative paper makes it even more weird.

The Sun's not conservative, it's populist. Tits are popular. Hence tits.
posted by Thing at 9:12 AM on March 9 [6 favorites]

IRL, Sun readership is ~41% female.

A more interesting demographic skew, I think - apparently the Brits have explicitly quantized class with a forthrightness that would shock many Americans, on the scale ABC1C2DE where A is upper middle class (rich are omitted), D is unskilled labor, and E is non-worker. The Sun is ~68% C2DE (skilled laborers, unskilled laborers, non-workers) while the UK population is ~45% C2DE.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:17 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]


Well, why would I expect an outlet like The Sun to approach the subject in any other way?
posted by droplet at 9:20 AM on March 9

I'm not sure about the involvement of the sun newspaper but I did hear an interview with the charity founder on the radio a couple of days ago. She had suffered cancer herself, and had not been aware of the correct way to check her breasts. By the time she was diagnosed she had a secondary infection, which possibly could have been avoided with early detection.

Her argument was that all current breast cancer campaigning in the UK is aimed at middle-aged women. We live in an age of highly targeted marketing and the messages are, apparently, not being heard by women in their twenties. I've no idea if young women are sufficiently at risk to warrant targeting, or if this campaign is well designed and will improve survival outcomes. But lets not forget that the readership here tends to be well informed and well educated. I expect we have an above average understanding of health topics, and maybe spreading that message on the pages of a glorified comic/gossip rag is one way to help.
posted by samworm at 9:30 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

The Sun's not conservative

Depends what you mean by conservative; Thatcher-loving, capitalist, Murdoch-owned is a good enough approximation for me.
posted by Segundus at 9:44 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]

CoppaFeel, a young charity for breast cancer awareness, to inspire women to touch their own breasts.

Is there anyone who is not already very aware of cancer?

My cynical take: CoppaFeel is a young charity for putting a six-figure income into its CEO's pocket. Just like so many other so-called charities.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

Not only due to the titillating images on page 3, The Sun's readership is still mostly male.

Although I hate The Sun with a passion, that's a slightly disingenuous thing to say: according to most assessments I've seen (for example, here, from 2012) almost all papers have a greater number of male than female readers. According to that graph, The Sun has a greater female readership as a percentage than either The Independent or The Times, and because its readership is so much larger, that represents a much larger group of people.

I'm not sure that I'd describe 57%-58% as "mostly", either.

Only The Daily Mail has a noticeably greater number of female than male readers, and that's been the case as long as I remember.
posted by Grangousier at 9:55 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]

five fresh fish: "Is there anyone who is not already very aware of cancer?"

Being aware of cancer, and performing regular self-exams for cancer are two different things. As a male, I don't have much to say on breast cancer. But while I am very aware of prostate cancer, I haven't exactly been taking the issue too seriously.
posted by tybeet at 10:01 AM on March 9

I've no idea if young women are sufficiently at risk to warrant targeting, or if this campaign is well designed and will improve survival outcomes. But lets not forget that the readership here tends to be well informed and well educated.
Yeah, no. I'm well-educated enough to know that women in their 20s should be concerned about skin and cervical cancer, not breast cancer. To the extent that they should be thinking about breast cancer, they should be thinking about prevention, which means things like establishing healthy eating and exercise habits and not drinking too much. But CoppaFeel is sexy, and there's nothing sexy about saying "hey, don't drink too much, don't smoke, eat lots of veggies, and if you're pale, embrace your naturally pale skin." And since women have value only when we're sexy, they're not going to give sensible advice that will actually reduce women's cancer risk.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:03 AM on March 9 [4 favorites]

BTW, if anyone is curious (I was), this is what page 3 looks like (NSFW, obvs).
posted by tybeet at 10:07 AM on March 9

Well, the fellas also have Checkemlads and the Christmas "Check Your Bauballs" campaign (which I was initially puzzled by, because I thought it was some tortured pun referencing the Bauhaus, but then I realized "bauballs" = "baubles").

It's not equivalent to the (gross) message that I agree gets sent with the various "save the boobies" campaigns, but there does seem to be a bit of a theme here of convincing people to grab themselves in their suppose unmentionables. No self-exams, please, we're British?

In any case, The Sun remains a fucking abomination in too many ways to count, and this does nothing to change that.
posted by scody at 10:17 AM on March 9 [2 favorites]

five fresh fish: The founder of CoppaFeel is a 28-year-old with stage 4 breast cancer, who got it at 23, who is at least herself of the belief that she could have caught it earlier if she'd been more aware of what her body was supposed to be like. And you really think this exists to make her rich?

I mean, I'm agreeing that the campaign may not be very effective, but accusing her of being self-interested in this seems ludicrous.
posted by Sequence at 10:17 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

So does this campaign exist for women?

Sure. Being a page 3 girl is something a lot of young women fantasize about.

I know that wanting to be viscerally attractive to millions of men has a bad rap these days, but let's not pretend there isn't a huge demographic there.

In addition even if nary a woman ever saw or heard of the ad it would still be important. Men need to be aware of women's breast cancer as well, to encourage and support their loved ones. The most common types of breast cancer happen to women, but they affect everyone.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:30 AM on March 9

Y'know, you can put up as many breathless outraged posts as you like on this topic and it will never change the fact that most men are enormously fond of tits and that fondness is easy to monetize. Men like tits. And getting even the most knuckleheaded amongst them to become dimly aware that breast cancer may decrease the pool of gawkable boobage may be the only way to reach them.

But these constant laments about how men need to stop looking at women or lusting after them is just continuing nonsense. Never going to happen. It may not be your oh-so-advanced human nature, but it is human nature, and most people are not oh-so-advanced.
posted by umberto at 10:42 AM on March 9

The 'No More Page 3' campaign has been gaining a lot of ground recently via Twitter and other channels. It's hard not to see this as a cynical ploy to silence it - that's certainly how the campaign organisers see it anyway.

Sure. Being a page 3 girl is something a lot of young women fantasize about.

Yeah, sure, Page 3 exists because it's a great career opportunity for women. Urgh. Strangely enough, ex Page 3 model Katie Price was speaking at the Women of the World festival yesterday and was talking about how little the models get paid (while also defending it).
posted by Summer at 10:45 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]

But these constant laments about how men need to stop looking at women or lusting after them is just continuing nonsense

I'm not seeing anyone say that at all. I'm seeing an argument that an issue like breast cancer might not be best served by linking it with Page 3, as it may then become only about the tits and not the illness.
posted by billiebee at 10:46 AM on March 9 [6 favorites]

Nobody said men need to stop being sexually attracted to women, umberto, but making men's sexual preferences central to a women's health issue is tasteless in the extreme.
posted by milk white peacock at 10:46 AM on March 9 [25 favorites]

Also, I hate Page 3 with a passion, but I sort of wonder if this might not be the worst thing in the world. As in, (tragically) Page 3 isn't going anywhere soon, and in the meantime if a few men are forced to confront the fact that breasts and the women who own them can get sick, it might humanise the tits somehow?
posted by billiebee at 10:49 AM on March 9

Might be worth mentioning that recent studies have shown no overall benefit and possible harms from routine breast self-exams, and the U.S. Preventative Task Force, the Canadian Task Force on Preventative Care, the National Cancer Institute and others don't recommend it, based on randomized trials, e.g. this one.
posted by kevinsp8 at 10:57 AM on March 9 [6 favorites]

What would have been really impressive is if they had shown a woman who had dealt with breast cancer, either having had re-constructive surgery or not. THAT would have given more of the message they are pretending to have meant.

It's also where I thought this was all going when I read the title. Some sodden disappointment there.
posted by Dynex at 10:59 AM on March 9 [8 favorites]

The charity founder notwithstanding it really reads like 'we need to be aware and do something about breast cancer because if we don't there will be fewer breasts around to fetishize, oh and I guess fewer women as well, but you know BREASTS!. As if those lumps on the front are the only, or the most improtaint thing in the goddamed universe. You don't have to be enlightened to see the scumminess of the situation, but people may have to remove their heads from their ass.
posted by edgeways at 11:01 AM on March 9 [3 favorites]

In reading about the organization's founder, it seems like the medical issue was not that she didn't notice the lump in her breast, but that doctors dismissed it as "hormonal" for a long time. The logical next step would therefore be educating doctors that even young women can get breast cancer, no? Not fetishizing breasts some more?
posted by jaguar at 11:07 AM on March 9 [5 favorites]

It sure looks like a transparent attempt to whitewash page 3 with the glow of a legitimate anti cancer organization. I'm happy for the charity, whose profile and donations will pick up, but I share the discomfort others have expressed with the continued specialization of all these breast cancer campaigns.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:25 AM on March 9

Re: "mostly".
Yeah, should've used "generally" to avoid confusion. Sorry, my bad. I didn't want to link too many details, but I've seen the numbers, and 57% is the majority.
posted by travelwithcats at 11:29 AM on March 9

Anyway, I avoided linking to the newspaper or the charity directly, because both are suspect.
There was an interview with the founder of the charity on the BBC radio, where she said that she had in fact discovered the lump in her breast herself and had experienced bloody discharge. She then went to see a GP, who told her off by saying it was probably hormonal. After the first visit, she was on a multi-months trip to China and upon her return to the UK visited a different GP, who didn't even examine her and again suspected it was hormonal (she was on hormonal birth control). This took place 6 months after the initial visit at her GP's, and it took her a 3rd visit to be referred to a breast clinic where it took another 3 weeks or so before they actually did an ultrasound. By then (8 months in) she was diagnosed with breast cancer which had spread to her spine. (You can listen to it here on BBC Woman’s Hour, direct link to the podcast, interview starts at 2:50)
The way the doctors treated her is awful, no patient should be ignored like that.

So yeah, the intro on the charity site ("This is Kris, our founder. She has advanced breast cancer. She didn't check her boobs.") is not exactly true.

The Sun quotes the following stats from their own poll:

18% of women check breasts every other week

43% of women check weight every other week

19% of women who found something wrong with a breast left it, hoping it would go away

65% of women think there is not enough done to help encourage checks

9% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they would definitely see a doctor, compared to 51% of over-45s

23% of women are absolutely confident they would notice a change in their breasts

Carry on.
posted by travelwithcats at 11:29 AM on March 9 [1 favorite]

It's worth remembering that Rupert Murdoch made his fortune by going around the world, buying up failing newspapers like the Sun, and putting pictures of naked women in them.
posted by JackFlash at 11:55 AM on March 9

19% of women who found something wrong with a breast left it, hoping it would go away

9% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they would definitely see a doctor, compared to 51% of over-45s

I'm not really sure that's a bad outcome, though I guess it depends on what "left it" and "something wrong" mean. I suspect most women would interpret "something wrong" as "newish smallish lump," and waiting to see if it did go away, for a month or two, is likely a decent course of action, because breasts do change over the course of a month and the big disadvantage studies have found to breast self-examination is overdiagnosis and unnecessary biopsies.

If "left it" means "pretended it never happened," that's different, and not great -- and that's certainly the interpretation we're supposed to pick in order to laud the Sun.

If "something wrong" means, as it did in the organization's founder's case, "lumps that remain after six months plus bloody discharge," I suspect more women would see a doctor than is reflected in the poll. Again, though, we're left with the sense that "Something must be done and the Sun's boldly stepping in and taking action!"
posted by jaguar at 12:21 PM on March 9

Or, really, "Something must be done to save these silly women from themselves!"
posted by jaguar at 12:22 PM on March 9

Yeah, the poll is not enlightening. The article it came from didn't say how many women they asked, how they did it, where they found them or what the exact phrasing of the questions was.
posted by travelwithcats at 12:25 PM on March 9

CoppaFeel is a "breast cancer awareness" charity that tries to get women under 30 to regularly check their breasts? Hasn't it been established that this does more harm than good? So they are, like, the opposite of a charity.
posted by Justinian at 12:52 PM on March 9

You're thinking of mammograms. CoppaFeel promotes self-exams, not mammograms.

My understanding is that self-exams are suggested at any age, while mammograms are suggested after a certain age.
posted by dragoon at 1:11 PM on March 9

I believe it is both; There have been several FPPs about recent data suggesting that self-exams are ineffective and lead to unnecessary anxiety and procedures.
posted by Justinian at 1:23 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

It looks like the NHS is recommending "being breast aware" (which is a really stupid name for a campaign, in my opinion, but anyway), which seems to advocate generally knowing what "normal" means for your breasts but not doing formal exams.
posted by jaguar at 1:51 PM on March 9

Yes, that's right. Don't ignore changes or problems but there is no evidence for the efficacy of what CoppaFeel or others are advocating. All that money could be better spent elsewhere, perhaps in developing better treatment.
posted by Justinian at 1:58 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

Yes, that's right. Don't ignore changes or problems but there is no evidence for the efficacy of what CoppaFeel or others are advocating

I disagree. How exactly do you know what is your own "normal" without regularly feeling them - self-examining them, if you will? As "changes or problems" don't just manifest in how your breast looks, but also in how it feels, how else apart from the occassional self-exam is a woman going to pick up something that might be a lump or a cyst or a blocked gland? Monthly is just advised because it helps rule out hormonal variables. Of course women are advised to keep an eye over a period of time and not panic about things that might be benign, but I don't see how awareness campaigns are useless in detecting issues early and therefore contributing to effective treatment.
posted by billiebee at 2:06 PM on March 9

As linked above, the US and Canadian official recommendations are not to do monthly self exams, and that's been the case for over a decade. The NHS seems to have not gone quite that far, but the effectiveness of regular self-exams has pretty much been disproved.
posted by jaguar at 2:17 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

(I mean, I can know what's "normal" for my knees or my eyes or my cardiovascular fitness, for example, without examining them every month. Paying attention to changes is not the same as regular self exams.)
posted by jaguar at 2:19 PM on March 9

Yeah, I mean it's not really a matter of personal opinion, billiebee. It's science and statistics and evidence. And the evidence says what it says.
posted by Justinian at 2:21 PM on March 9 [1 favorite]

I'm not actually advocating monthly self-exams as such. I'm not totally getting what the difference is between "you should generally be aware of how they look and feel" and "to do that you need to feel them every once in a while". Maybe it's just semantics - I guess I'd call that examining them but I don't mean it in a formal way.
posted by billiebee at 2:40 PM on March 9

I would assume that showering would cover it, I guess. Or paying attention when putting on a bra. Noticing discharge, puckering, lumps, or pain wouldn't really require anything other than that.
posted by jaguar at 2:45 PM on March 9

Yeah we hashed that around in the last thread, it is pretty subtle and unclear.
posted by Justinian at 2:45 PM on March 9

On the one hand, maybe some people here are right: knuckle-draggers gonna knuckle-drag, and if raising awareness means making it titillating, then ugh but if that's what it takes...

On the other hand, STOP IT JUST STOP IT. What's best for women? I think pandering to gross attitudes is probably really damn low on that particular list.

I think there's room to be humorous or cheeky in awareness campaigns. But it has to be done reallllllllllllllllly carefully, and it feels like this wasn't.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:15 PM on March 9

There are all kinds of people out there, including people who read Page 3 of The Sun - and many of those people will get breast cancer. Statistics may show that self-examination of the breasts isn't effective as a diagnostic tool in breast cancer, but statistics can take a flying leap on that score, as far as I'm concerned. The argument is that too many benign breast lumps are found that way - translating to a waste of money, time, and medical resources to check out benign anythings.

Well, excuse me, but I'd sure rather my daughter or granddaughter (or son) get a false positive and undergo tests and biopsies that are unnecessary than to miss the one that is necessary.

Maybe I feel that way because my grandmother found her own malignant lump back in 1963, or maybe because the husband of one of my best friends found her malignant lump while making love to her (perhaps men ogling these "tits" will go home and pay closer attention the the "tits" of their sweethearts), or because there can't be too much education or examination for breast cancer - regardless of whether you call them "tits" or "breasts" - or even if you don't discuss them at all.

Back in 1963 they didn't know about the role that genetics plays in breast cancer, so no one told my mother or myself or my sister that we could carry a gene that puts us at greater risk for breast cancer since my grandmother had it. Today they also know that where there's breast cancer there's also likely to be ovarian cancer, or at least an increased risk of OVCA, which is another demon all its own, presently affecting my adopted daughter and terrorizing all of us who love her.

So YES, I don't care how many nasty pictures of boobs are splattered all over the newspapers of the world - if it encourages a bit of exploration and examination and results in a catch here and there - hallelujah. The disease stinks - why not do all that can be done to stop it?
posted by aryma at 9:56 PM on March 9 [3 favorites]

I'm always blown away by the fact that a mainstream daily newspaper in the UK has topless models. The fact that it's a conservative paper makes it even more weird.

I think its worth pointing out that what is defined as conservative is not necessarily consistent form culture to culture. American conservatives (and liberals) may have defined positions on many issues, and the same may be true in the UK, but those defined positions may not be the same from country to country and issues which are hugely significant in one country may not be that big a deal elsewhere. So abortion appears to be a huge divide in US politics but is not in the UK. Being Christian appears to be fundamental to being elected in the US, but is not a requirement in the UK and UK politicians go out of their way to avoid introducing religion into debates or into the wider political environment. The conservative German approach to industrial relations will be different from both the US and UK.
posted by biffa at 3:48 AM on March 10

This thread is providing me with excellent ammo against a dude on Facebook defending Page Three, so many thanks to all who commented. (Said dude is, of course, white, male, Oxford educated and single.)

To me, the central question appears to be: Is The Sun going to market itself as a newspaper or a lad-mag? Currently it says "Newspaper" on the masthead, much as the names of totalitarian states tend to include the word "Republic". If it's news, then it needs to not be porn. If it's a lad-mag, then it can fuck off and join its hairy-palmed bretheren on the top shelf.

The breast cancer campaign is just a threadbare attempt to legitimise decades of unapologetic disservice to women.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:15 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

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