by Asia Patel
On 24th October 2013, a motion was passed at a UEA Union Council meeting which identified the issues with The Sun and decided to boycott the newspaper from Union outlets. On 12th February 2015, I brought forward a motion which amended the original one to include The Daily Star as part of the boycott. It passed, but not without its fair share of controversy and debate.
Through the passing of the original motion, the Union had acknowledged the serious problems with The Sun, but the policy had been written in a restricting way which meant that other media also displaying similarly questionable content could not be included as part of the boycott. This is why amendments were made to the motion – to make them more inclusive and ensure that policies are not being selectively applied.
Of course, the argument against the motion came down to the idea of censoring free speech. This card is often played when boycotts are suggested. People seem to forget that just because you have a right to free speech, it doesn’t mean you’re exempt from criticism. This wasn’t an attack on students’ rights to saying or supporting whatever they want to support – if it was the motion would have been for a ban on the newspapers, not a boycott. Students are more than welcome to buy The Sun or The Daily Star and even bring it on campus but the Union is not supporting the degrading content that these newspapers publish. The Union is exerting its own right to freedom of speech by not providing a platform for The Sun and The Daily Star to influence people on campus.
As a bisexual feminist, I have absolutely no problem with naked breasts or sex workers – quite the opposite, actually.
As a bisexual feminist, I have absolutely no problem with naked breasts or sex workers – quite the opposite, actually. Everyone has the right to do what they want with their body and should not be shamed for their choices. The issue with newspapers displaying sexualised images of women is that normalising such content has dangerous consequences. As a scientist, I value evidence above opinions and the No More Page 3 website has no shortage of studies showing the outcomes of numbing the effects of sexualised images on society.
Evidence shows that exposure to content which objectifies women such as the images displayed on Page 3 encourage people to believe rape myths and condone violence against women. We already live in a society where rape culture is very much a prominent theme in most of the things we consume, where victim-blaming is the go-to response and Robin Thicke is dismissed as a bad musician rather than as a creepy misogynist. Anything that we can do to break down this derogatory attitude towards women is a step in the right direction to a better attitude and a better society.
The Union Shop only sold on average three copies of the Daily Star per day. You may argue that this won’t make a big difference, so what was the point in boycotting the paper? Small differences build up, like water through a leak in a roof filling a bucket. Just because you can’t see the change right now, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. If enough universities also boycott The Sun and The Daily Star, those three copies per day are going to stack up and make a noticeable difference to the sales of the papers and this is when change happens.
If the newspapers in question decide to stop publishing photos of naked women in an inappropriate location (i.e. a newspaper instead of porn) and if they also decided to talk about women regarding their achievements in the same way that men are represented, then perhaps the boycott can be lifted. Until then, we need to criticise these papers for what they are and hold on to this boycott to show that we won’t support The Sun or The Daily Star until they improve.