'Healthy girls' of Page Three: Sun editor's claim ridiculed

Feb 9, 2012
Nigel Horne

Dominic Mohan's defence of Page Three girls as 'healthy role models for women' is laughable

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ANY HOPES that the editor of The Sun, Dominic Mohan, might prove himself a "new man" and bring the Page Three Girl to an end, have been dashed.

At his reappearance before the Leveson Inquiry this week, he defended the tabloid's daily photo of a topless model as "an innocuous British institution". He even argued the feature "promotes natural beauty" because the girls are "healthy role models" compared to those skinny things you see in the fashion magazines.

According to The Sun's own report on his second appearance before Lord Justice Leveson, the editor put up a "passionate defence" of the paper. He said that with its campaigns against domestic violence and for greater awareness of cervical cancer screening, The Sun did not deserve its sexist reputation.

"The Sun is occasionally boisterous and often cheeky," Mohan claimed. "The alchemy [wossat boss?] of successful tabloid journalism is achieving the balance of seriousness, mischief and wit that makes the conversation with readers sparkle."

Nice try, Dominic.

As Viv Groskop argues in today's Independent, the "healthy role models" defence must surely be the most imaginative – and most entertaining – in the history of Page Three.

Mohan is arguing, she says, that Page Three should be viewed "in the context of the wider range of women's issues" the paper covers. "Page Three, it turns out, comes under the remit of 'stuff to do with women'. Come on, love, we've included one of your lot in the mix, haven't we? Look, there's a picture of one of you!'"

The truth is, says Groskop, Page Three should have been dumped 20 years ago. "The only reason it has limped on is because Rebekah Brooks wanted to make a statement about not being soft as a woman editor."

As Media Watch pointed out before Mohan's recall, it was Rebekah Brooks (then Rebekah Wade) who was editor when The Sun responded to Clare Short's efforts in 2004 to get Page Three banned by calling the Labour minister a "killjoy" and saying she was "fat and jealous" of the topless models.

As The Guardian reports, when Mohan was asked at the Leveson Inquiry about that 2004 piece, he responded: "It's not probably something I would run now, no."

And, of course, that is something Mohan definitely would not have said seven months ago when Rebekah Brooks was still his boss, having advanced to become chief executive of News International.

But she's gone now. The feminist lobby whose complaints about the tabloids' use of "sexualised" images led Lord Leveson to question Mohan on the subject should not give up. As Groskop concludes in her Independent article, "Page Three has only one place left to go. Tits up."

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