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The Sun will no longer be sold in LUSU shops, after LUSU Council voted in favour of boycotting the publication in support of the No More Page 3 campaign. LUSU also intends to put pressure on the WHSmith shop on campus to stop selling the tabloid newspaper, which regularly features naked women on its third page.
The motion to boycott The Sun was passed almost unanimously by the Week 2 session of Union Council. The motion resolves to halt the sale of The Sun in LUSU shops until Page 3 has been removed from the publication. Other newspapers which regularly feature images of topless women are also included in the boycott.
In an amendment to the motion, VP (Welfare and Community) Tom Fox is also mandated to write to the editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore, officially declaring LUSU’s support for the No More Page 3 campaign. The campaign has gained the support of over 130,000 people in the UK. High-profile supporters of the campaign include writer Caitlin Moran, comedian Chris Addison and singer Eliza Doolittle.
LUSU Councillor Lizzie Houghton – who proposed the amendment to the motion – said she was “pleased” that the motion was passed. “The motion puts us in line with other student unions,” Houghton told SCAN.
Fox, meanwhile, said that he was “really glad” the motion was passed. “I was not concerned that the Council would vote against [the motion] – we have a very progressive Council – so I knew it would go through,” Fox told SCAN. “There was a lot of good discussion too.”
Fox was keen to highlight that this was a boycott, not a ban. “I think with the No More Page 3 campaign, there is some misunderstanding that this is the kind of campaign that stops people from reading The Sun – this is a boycott, as opposed to us trying to stop people from doing what they want to do.” Fox pointed out that students can still buy The Sun from outside of the university campus and bring it onto the campus if they so wish.
“This is not a ban,” Houghton affirmed. “A ban would imply censorship. It is not that you can’t publish these pictures, it is that you shouldn’t.”
“As a responsible union we will not be selling these publications.”
LUSU has also resolved to run a campaign which dissuades other retailers on campus – including WHSmith – from selling The Sun and similar publications. Fox is less than optimistic about this aspect of the campaign, however. “I’m not going to lie, I don’t think it is something that can be easily done,” Fox said. “But we look at the No More Page 3 campaign and it’s got a lot of people backing it; a lot of big names, a lot of MPs.” A possible disagreement between students and retailers over the No More Page 3 campaign is not without precedent – during Michaelmas Term Warwick University’s student union faced a long campaign in trying to get their campus Costcutter to remove The Sun from its shelves. Fox, however, emphasised the influence Lancaster University has over the staff who work in the retail outlets on campus, and suggested that much of the campaign would be taken up by speaking to the University management.
One final aspect of the motion commits LUSU officers to “educate the student body on why Page 3 of The Sun is the wrong representation of women in public media, and what they can do to combat it.” The Sun sells relatively few copies from LUSU shops, but LUSU officers have argued that the motion is as much about changing mentalities as it is about hitting sales of the publication. While Fox said he believed there is increasing pressure on the editors of The Sun to remove topless women from Page 3 as a result of this campaign, he told SCAN that “the question has to be asked whether this message is reaching the readership of The Sun. People need to be educated and this can sometimes be incredibly difficult.”
Regarding the education of students, Fox believes this is a necessary aspect of the motion: “I think it is something people kind of take for granted – sexism is something which has been ingrained in our society for a long time, and people say things like “I know sexism when I see it” but they don’t.
“We know it does sound patronising but it’s all for a good cause and we’re all doing it for the right reasons.”
“A little education never hurt anyone,” Houghton concurred. “I would prefer there was too much education than not enough.”
No More Page 3 is a national campaign started by Lucy-Anne Holmes in 2012. The campaign recently commended the actions of the Irish version of The Sun when it began featuring clothed models on its Page 3.
“I think it is outrageous that in modern 21st century Britain the main image of a woman in one of Britain’s leading newspaper is one where she has her boobs out.” Houghton said in praise of the No More Page 3 campaign.
“[Page 3] is not a national institution; it is a national embarrassment.”
“If we’re a Union which goes against things like rape culture and everyday sexism then we need to be against things like Page 3 and we need to be making that kind of point,” Fox said. “A lot of people may say it is not something which affects students that much but I think as a Union which tries to make the university a safe environment we need to bring up points about this.”
The possibility that The Sun and other similar publications will not bow to the pressure of the campaign could mean the newspaper is permanently boycotted by the Union. However, Fox is optimistic that this will not be the case. “I think we’re seeing a turn,” Fox said. “I think society as a whole is seeing a change in this kind of thing. Feminist groups are really increasing membership and we can see that the No More Page 3 campaign has over 100,000 signatures. I think you have always got to be optimistic in these situations.
“I personally hope that it does succeed, and there is definitely room for that.”
“I imagine it will not happen this year or next year,” Houghton told SCAN. “But the tide is changing.”