In response to Sun’s request for a naked photoshoot

10 May

Dear Matthew,

I am writing to you in response to the request that popped up in my inbox earlier this afternoon. I have also copied in Charity Comms, which deemed your request as relevant to charities that fall into the “women’s group”, “children” or “family welfare” categories. I do hope that you receive several replies from “women’s groups” and that said “women’s groups” tell you exactly what they think of you.

Picture 2

Let me recount for you a memory from my childhood. I recall a day out with my father in which we passed a man on a bench staring fixatedly at the highly sexualised image of a bare-breasted young woman in a newspaper. I remember how this sight provoked a feeling of surprise, disgust and anger but, given my young age, I could not articulate why. When my father and I returned home, I found my mother breastfeeding my younger sister. My immediate reaction was to fetch a tea towel to cover her bare chest, lest a stranger should ogle at her body in the style of that same repulsive man in the street. I think that is the day that I became a feminist. I wanted my mother, my sister and indeed women and girls in general to be seen by all as more than objects, mere pieces of meat, for men’s sexual gratification. Your newspaper, filled with men in clothes doing “useful” things, a single giant image of a girl in her pants, and, apparently, as of Tuesday, naked Real Women TM in “nude thongs” who can only “get happier” when men rate their bodies favourably, is, therefore, not one of my favourite publications. Just so you know.

Your request implies that women have psychological problems and that we are “overly negative” on ourselves when we “needn’t be.” I completely agree that many women have a much lower sense of self-worth than they should have. We are plagued by body dismorphia, eating disorders, shame and crippling insecurities. However, I would argue that having men publicly rate the sexual attractiveness of naked women does little to improve women’s self-confidence and self-worth. Rather, it does the exact opposite. Why do women, generally speaking, have such low body confidence? Because we are taught, you might even say brainwashed, from birth by the mainstream media, fairytales, toys, films, advertisements, adults, peers and so on that our worth is inextricably tied-up with male approval and that male approval is dependant on being beautiful, attractive and sexually available. We can escape this, not by having Sun Readers, Gok Wan, Dove or Boots tell us that we possess Real Beauty TM, but by severing the ties between our self-worth and our perceived sexual attractiveness. The “health feature” you plan for Tuesday’s edition of The Sun, on the other hand, reaffirms for many women that their very happiness and psychological wellbeing should be based on male perceptions of their naked bodies.

I would like to end my letter in a civilised fashion. However, I’ve had a long day at work, which was made longer by my outrage at receiving your shitty request. So, I’m just going to bid you farewell immaturely and, in a petty fashion, wish that someone who is more technically savvy than me photoshops a picture of you (and perhaps also Rupert Murdoch and your other misogynist colleagues) so that you appear naked but for a “nude thong”, ready to be rated by millions. I wonder if a Sun psychologist will tell you that this is an empowering experience and that you will “get happier” as a result. I think not.


88 Responses to “In response to Sun’s request for a naked photoshoot”

  1. southsidesocialist May 10, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    There is not enough facepalm in the world to deal with this.

    • NaturalWoman May 10, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

      Ha! Indeed. I’ll be interested to see if any “relevant charities” (which would they be?) take up the offer of “a plug”. Actually, no I won’t.

  2. Catherine May 11, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Your reply was spot on, excellent work!

  3. thenotsoquietfeminist May 11, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Reblogged this on The not so quiet feminist. and commented:
    I absolutely despise the Sun. They are a bunch of misogynistic cretins, and this proves perfectly why they are!

  4. Tony Britten May 11, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Well said Joanna. There are many men that would also like to see the end of Page 3, its soft porn, I have daughters and Grandchildren of both sexes and the world would be a better place if there was more love/kindness/forgiveness/grace and respect. With no page 3 pornography and the objectification of women. This view of page 3 is also strongly supported by CVM (Christian Vision for Men) and Sorted magazine. Its not just women that think this is wrong.

    • AnonyMou5e May 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      Utter bollocks – it is a small section of the male society exhibiting this. Religion should not come into this, nor should politics. You can simply say No, without unnecessary diatribe and belittling of all things male. You claim that women are subjugated and objectified, but then with the same vast brushstroke state that essentially all men are the same and view women in that lessened manner.
      I have to take issue with that – you seem to have a very close minded view on the whole situation.
      Personally, neither ‘side’ is right or wrong on this topic, instead common ground needs to be sought. Feminists have an admirable goal, but all too often mistake equality for positive discrimination – when for example will you address the fact that there are female only gyms, or female only insurance companies; if we look to genuine fair relations, shouldn’t this kind of bumptious overcompensation be rationed too?

      I don’t think page 3 is necessarily a brilliant thing, but one thing is for sure – that comic of a newspaper is written clearly with one or two categories of society in mind only – neither attracting those with originality of thought and education, or women (of all the spectrum). The Sun, as we all know, is little more than picture reading material for builders and plumbers, or stand in toilet roll for anyone else. If you want attitudes to change, alter the opinions in school, sit down and explain to girls and young women why it is all nonsense, and above all, promote the fact that only the brainless and ignorant buy the Sun – show the youngsters what a real newspaper is. Don’t perpetually rely on others to craft the message YOU want to send.

      • NaturalWoman May 12, 2013 at 8:39 am #


        I don’t believe I have belittled men or all things male at all, or suggested that all men are the same or view women in the same way. I’m not sure where you have got this idea from.

        I haven’t promoted female-only insurance companies anywhere on this blog, so I’m not sure why you have brought this up.

        I find your suggestion that The Sun is “picture reading material for builders and plumbers, or stand in toilet roll for anyone else” classist and offensive.

        “If you want attitudes to change, alter the opinions in school, sit down and explain to girls and young women why it is all nonsense” That is the aim of my post.

      • Nathan Wilkes May 12, 2013 at 10:00 am #

        Actually I think you need to get out more. A LOT of men want page 3 gone, me included

      • Chris ingram May 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

        Sadly you are the type of man who shouts, “wot about male equality” whenever they come across anything which tries to balance out the discrimination women face every single day. Such places and organisation are needed, and as ‘men’ control everything, you can hardly claim they are disadvantaged genrally speaking. That said, such arguments are juts a diversionary tactic, and does not do justice to the rest of your argument.

        The real problem is MEN!

        I argure that as a man who is most times embarassed to be of the same gender, due to the sickening macho bulshit that comes out of the mouths of most, the blindness they prefer to maintain when it comes to how their daughters, mothers, wives, girlfriends and female friends are treated in our society; and the acquiessence with which they enforce such macho neandelithic behaviours.

        Fact is by attacking women who have real justificatiion for feeling that all men are the same and standing back and not joining them in their demand for The Scum tabloid known as the Sun to be forced to stop page 3 and other grotesque attitudes towards women and girls; you pamper to the majority males with ‘chips on their shoulders’ whenever women stand up for themselves.

        Such attitudes betray the general ‘fear’ and ‘agression’ with which majority of men view women, and the ‘dislike’ they have for the female gender.

        I often here men say of course they like women, afterall ‘we shag them don’t we?” Ha , Ha, laugh, laugh,!

        They mistake sexual attraction for the physical with actually ‘liking’ the person.

        I dont think many men actually ‘like’ women and are not simply in ‘awe’ of them, and ‘threatened’ by them!

        Why else does our male controlled society and world do all it can to oppose, minimalise, objectify and control women using their biology as a tool against them.

        Proof? Women’s history has been obliterated from western society history and religion, whilst female role models have been re-formed into the sum total of their bodies and ‘marketted’ as a tool for male sexual gratficiation.

        Sorry, but, it may as well be the case that ‘all men are the same’ because a microscopic few do anything to address the misogyny that all female children grow up with having to face throughout their lifetimes!

      • NaturalWoman May 13, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

        WOW! Thanks :)

    • Doddy May 14, 2013 at 12:33 am #

      I never understand the feminist point of view, not sure whether it is trying to repress other women who enjoy a bit of extrovertness, or trying to attack men who enjoy a bit of titilation.

      Porn is available everywhere, online, magazines, videos, one newspaper hinting at it to grow a bit of niche readership is marketing. They are not marketing to you, nor are they oppressing or abusing anyone. They are certainly not forcing you to read or be photographed for the newspaper, so what is your issue?

      It’s like the gay marriage debate, if you are not gay and not planning to marry someone of the same sex then stay out, there need not be a debate. If you are not planning to read or be featured in a Sun article then stay out, you need not be so angry.

      • Jada M. May 14, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

        That’s a misunderstanding of feminism. Feminism isn’t about repressing women, in fact it’s about liberating women politically, socially, and much more.

        The issue is that the Sun is mimicking the degradation of women by reenacting it. They are asking men to rate a woman’s beauty while she’s in a thong. Doing so only aligns with social norms that beauty is physical, and patriarchal subjugation that renders women as objects to be admired by men. These viewpoints lead to more violence against women because they aren’t seen as equal or even human.

  5. scallopsrgreat May 11, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    Great response. I thought this was a wind up initially because it was so outrageously misogynistic. But it isn’t is it? These men really do think it is OK to do this.

  6. Hannah May 11, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Thank you! For the first time ever I have just realised why these “real women” campaigns make me so uncomfortable; they are usually also standing in their underwear & smiling like the ones that aren’t “real women” do.

  7. tammy May 11, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    For a long time women in the USA wondered how you could allow this.I always get the same response that we are just up tight prudes and there just breast. This is porno and men masterbate to these pictures. It is very upsetting to hear the women tell of having to see this on a bus or at work all the time.What is the depression rate in women in your county? I think you girls should get every group you can to back you up. This needs to end today.

    • NaturalWoman May 12, 2013 at 8:50 am #

      Hi Tammy. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m pleased to say there are plenty of groups in the UK fighting this sort of culture

      • jemima101 May 14, 2013 at 1:17 am #

        oh yeah cos just what we need is the american attitude to the naked body…

  8. John Samuel May 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Well said.

  9. anna May 11, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    What a fantastic response! I’d love to know if you get a reply from the Sun and what they have to say :)

  10. Nuala May 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    I had a bit of a play in photoshop for you

  11. Robert Beard May 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

    Just wanted to say I’m one of the men who would like to see Page Three abolished, closely followed by the rest of Murdoch’s abusive, exploitative empire.

    • lairdglencairn May 12, 2013 at 8:15 am #

      Agreed. Pity that the ‘models’ are not criticised for accepting money ect for baring their breast !

      • NaturalWoman May 12, 2013 at 8:46 am #

        Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! I haven’t mentioned the models as I don’t believe it’s my place to shame any other women for their choices, especially since one of my points is that girls are subliminally taught to seek male approval by striving to be beautiful and sexually attractive.

  12. Adaobi May 11, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Reblogged this on Utter Rubbish and commented:
    You’ve gotta love the Sun, dumbassery at its finest…It’s the categories that kills me – how the frell does this dren fall under Family Welfare, Children & Women’s Groups?! Come the frak on!
    Brillant response though…

  13. Caroline May 11, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    Excellent, thanks for sharing – an inspiring post! :)

  14. mhairi May 11, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    This is just vile, I would expect no better from the Sun, but Charity Comms should be severely rapped over the knuckles for this.

    Targetting women, children’s(!) and family welfare charities for what is in effect a solicitation to model for soft porn is just beyond disgusting.

    And as for that “please do not send this to anyone outside your charity” crap. Why do they feel the need to keep solicitations from journalists confidential? What the hell else are they sending out, that people arent publicising.

  15. Rin Simpson May 12, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    Wonderful! I’m so impressed you actually managed to write this – I would have been too busy frothing at the mouth with rage!

  16. Ian May 12, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    Well said!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Do Charity Comms check what they send out?

    • NaturalWoman May 12, 2013 at 9:50 am #

      Thanks! I’m not sure… if they reply I’ll guess we’ll find out what their policy is

  17. Hecuba May 13, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Excellent critique of Sun’s blatant contempt for women and girls. I await with pleasure seeing a photo in The Sun of Matthew totally naked apart from a tiny, tiny thong because males posing naked is oh so empowering to other males!

    Yes we women will certainly rate your naked body Matthew because this too is oh so empowering to men. Oh but wait – men know being publicly displayed totally naked is not ’empowering’ it is dehumanising for men which is why Sun doesn’t have a page 3 section of totally naked men for women to rate sexually.

  18. CharityComms (@CharityComms) May 13, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    CharityComms does not condone The Sun request that went out via AskCharity on Friday, and I’m sorry for the understandable offence it has caused.

    AskCharity is a free service provided by CharityComms that allows journalists to post requests to charities. We don’t vet the requests in advance as this would stop requests from going out instantly. Often journalists have tight deadlines so this would limit the number of opportunities for charities, and also make the service less efficient.

    During office hours we do look at requests as they go out – and will contact the media professional concerned if we feel the service is being abused, which is what we did in this instance. We have removed the request from the service and also the journalist from the system.

    AskCharity is a service that is greatly valued by charities and journalists alike and enables lots of charities to get media coverage they would otherwise struggle to obtain. Thankfully instances of abuse such as this are exceptionally rare.

    • mhairi May 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

      Thank you for clarifying and for removing the journalist, (and the media outlet he works for?) from your service.

      Why do you ask recipients to keep the communication confidential?

    • Ian May 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

      Perhaps you need to review your policy re vetting out of hours!! Just not good enough. Ian.

  19. finkmon1 May 13, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    /matthew barbour must die/

  20. T. Roll. May 13, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    Yawn… typical “I’m worth more than my looks”-style post, probably written by a fat chick.

  21. Rara May 14, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    Haha! Wish I had the skills to create that image :-D. God bless feminists!

  22. rami ungar the writer May 14, 2013 at 5:18 pm #

    I’m disgusted by this objectification as well. Women around the world are real, thinking cretures capable of great things, but many of my fellow men only seem to see women as sex toys. Honestly, it gets on my nerves.

  23. segmation May 14, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    Hi Joanna,
    If a Sun psychologist or any psychologist tells that this is an empowering experience and that you will “get happier” as a result, I think we would be a real sad world! Thanks for speaking out on this. I wonder what the Sun psychologist thinks of your blog?

  24. ckaztiyo17 May 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    I absolutely love this post. Spot on, truly worth reading and motivating. It made my day.
    Thank you :)

  25. Jada M. May 14, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

    I honestly thought that letter was spam it was that ridiculous!

    • NaturalWoman May 14, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

      Do you mean the one from Matthew Barbour at The Sun? If so, so did I at first!

      • Jada M. May 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

        Yes (sorry for the lack of clarification), I was like, gotta be spam, who would seriously ask this? Lol

  26. themodernidiot May 14, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    10 points for the Manic Street Preachers reference :)

  27. Orange (a/k/a David) May 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

    I wish the solicitation were more honest, I guess. That wouldn’t make it better, of course, just honest. The way I understand it, the editor really means:

    “Hi, I’m Matt. I want to look at naked women as do my journalist pals. We can pay you, if you’d like. We’ll tell all our friends about it so, you know, if you want to talk to them, too, that’s fine. Really, we like all naked women. Sometimes we’ll laugh, but that’s just because we’re getting happy. You shouldn’t feel ashamed. We should be ashamed … but we’re not.”

    Now that I think about it, that’s probably a deleted scene from Ricky Gervais’s Invention of Lying.

  28. erinorange May 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Great! Last paragraph sums it up perfectly!

  29. Jill London May 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Joanna I hardly know where to began except to thank-you for having the courage and patience to speak out, not only in your original post but in answer to some of the “individuals” who have commented here. There is so much ignorance and bigotry in the public at large regarding feminism, much of it bred of fear, and it is wonderful to hear of such positive energy here.
    It is so encouraging to hear from all you men out there who are equally outraged by the hush-up campaign (perpetrated by some men and women alike) to keep us all quiet about the unacceptable behaviour we witness on a daily basis.
    Hecuba – I agree, I’ve long said that if we must keep naked women on page 3 then at least have naked men on page 2 (though maybe we could drop the vacuous smiles for all concerned ;-))

    • deborahtd May 15, 2013 at 6:02 am #

      Thank you Thank you Thank you. Thank you for a reasonable, argument, a thoughtful response and a good hard kick in the ass at the end. What a bunch of bullshit that is. The fact that bare breasted girls are commonplace and accepted in British papers never ceases to amaze and offend me. And I am not offended by porn, by nudity, by sexuality. I am offended by pretending that it’s okay to objectify and demean anyone like that. This is just more of the same dressed up (or rather undressed) to look like something benign, or beneficial. It’s awful. Thanks for shooting it down.

      • deborahtd May 15, 2013 at 6:05 am #

        I should clarify: I am not offended by porn when and where it is not pretending to be anything else, and when individuals can choose to see it or not see it. Opening your newspaper is not a decision to view porn.

  30. Whisper Breath May 15, 2013 at 6:37 am #

    2013 or 1023… my goodness, the more the world changes the more some stay the same. Good response.

  31. linconconley99 May 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    very touchy points here. I don’t mind the usual porn but sometimes ugh, others can be way too over the line like Suns

  32. Himani Gupta May 15, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Thumbs up!

  33. Samantha May 15, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Firstly, I want to applaud you, then Chris Ingram up there in the comments (wouldn’t let me reply to him).

    Secondly, thank you for writing this.

    Third, I feel there’s another factor that’s kind of disturbing to me in the fact that they think having women rate other women is going to help the situation at all. In fact, I think that would also make it worse. The whole idea is just a disaster waiting to happen, as far as not helping any women in the process.

  34. northernmalewhite May 15, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    everyone agrees and says these kind
    of things but
    the sun and similar worthless dirt
    still sells
    so someone somewhere isn’t telling
    the truth
    or at least
    isnt that bothered


  35. bonixxnina May 15, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    Reblogged this on bonixxnina.

  36. Servant May 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Agreed… except, are you sure that feminism is the appropriate response? Culture is “hyper-sexualized”, unfortunately – a cause for many social ills.

    • NaturalWoman May 16, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      Women are cast as sexual objects in mainstream culture in a way that men aren’t. I think that warrants a feminist response, given feminism’s concern with the position of women in society.

    • hannahcanavan May 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

      How would feminism not be an appropriate response? In fact, I can’t think of anything where feminism would be an inappropriate response, seeing as its ethos is equality for the genders. Hyper-sexualisation is exactly the sort of thing that requires a specific backlash- it is the product of feminist viewpoints being ignored for too long, and it a change is well overdue.

  37. sarahwbartlett May 16, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    Thanks for such a clear and concise conversation of the issue. I still find it hard to believe, in 2013, that there are women who actively participate in /enjoy being subjugated to such degradation – and yet, there it is. I guess we can only keep posing the questions, sharing our views, and educating our own daughters, sisters, brothers and sons – as to what it means to respect yourself. I work regularly with women in prison and I can tell you, they get it. Enough putting women down already.

    • safia May 16, 2013 at 10:21 am #

      Your response to the Sun’s insulting request was intelligent, moderate and highly appropriate. What I can’t get my head around is the fact that this Tabloid is (I think) the bestselling daily in the UK. Not only are the naked images of women degrading, but the bias in most of their articles, eg, relating to ‘foreigners’ and ‘immigrants’ is sickening. I’m afraid I blame the cultural norms forged in Seventies TV shows and films such as the ‘Carry On’ capers. When something becomes ‘normal’, people stop noticing it. Oh, and don’t get me started on the Advertising industry’s use of the female body … Great post – keep up the good work.

  38. thisisnotalex May 16, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Bravo – this is brilliant, and everything I’ve ever wanted to say to them. Love your work!

  39. Amber R. Sesnick May 16, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    This is an excellently written response to a disgusting attempt at objectification. Well done.

  40. S.C. May 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    I have no problem whatsoever with nude art or photography. In fact, I often enjoy it, if I’m being totally honest. But the context is everything. Having men rate women’s bodies (presumably on a scale from 1 to 10) and then publish those ratings is pretty disgusting, even if it is for a charity. Maybe especially if it’s for a charity.

    • M.K. Hajdin May 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

      In a culture that oppresses women, female nudity cannot happen in a non-exploitative context. Whether you like something is a notoriously poor method of determining its level of oppressiveness.

  41. hannahcanavan May 17, 2013 at 1:41 pm #

    This is brilliant. I saw a similar article in the Sun yesterday (at the gym- I did not buy it!!) and it was a line-up of naked women with pseudo-doctors telling them if they were overweight or not. It was so stupid and there would never ever be a male version because there would be no boobs to look at. Women who take part things like this perpetuate the objectification of women, even though they may think they are helping the cause.

    • NaturalWoman May 17, 2013 at 5:27 pm #

      Saw that piece too Hannah – horrible! That piece was the one that the request was for.

      S.C. Completely agree: I’ve been called a woman-hating, body-hating, slut-shamer over what I wrote above, but it’s not about hating nudity or being a prude. Like you, I have no problem with nudity, just with the constant objectification of women and linking of women’s worth with their perceived sexual attractiveness.

      Thanks everyone for reading and for the supportive comments!

  42. M.K. Hajdin May 19, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    *standing ovation*

  43. bwcarey May 22, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    your daughter will be next, well lets not wonder why pornography online is the biggest online interest there is, or why violence worldwide is at the level it is, or why we pretend to cherish the welfare of children, we don’t, but as regards the photo shoot for the sun, imagine this, it’s true, a leading irish singer, his young daughter, early twenties, wealthy and has it all as they say, she poses for playboy, well paid i’m sure, most of the bits out there, she’s a miss world actually, and when daddy is asked what he thinks…i can’t go into detail, cause he sues quite a bit and wins, but he approves of men watching his daughter naked, i dont know what else to say, but the world reminds me of a place going madder by the moment.

  44. moodsnmoments May 24, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Well said.
    Very powerful and in the face. Women are and have always been objectified and then condemned for being meek in self-worth. The genes in women have been modified to get their worth from approvals (am not saying this is correct, infact we should overcome that) from these shallow men.
    Loved your letter. Hope he was shamed enough. congratulations on being freshly pressed.

    • NaturalWoman May 24, 2013 at 9:05 am #

      Thank you! Sadly, I don’t think the journalist was shamed. The Sun ran the feature last week and it was just awful (as is just about everything that newspaper does).

      • moodsnmoments May 24, 2013 at 10:55 am #

        it is sad that they ran it still but let’s be hopeful for a better day,someday. thank you for stopping by.

  45. theworldoutsidethewindow June 5, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

    Excellent piece, I agree completely about the media’s portrayal of the body. Also adverts and media over sexualise everything. As a parent I worry about protecting my children from all the unhealthy images and pressure to conform that they will be subjected to. My wife and I try to keep things in perspective for them and also try to tell them things as they really are and not as filtered through the mainstream media/entertainment industry agenda. Great article, and great response to the Sun..


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