Sex & the ‘C-Word’: “Check ‘Em Tuesday” and Tabloid Bad Taste

Another day at Literally, Darling – oh, and another boob problem. Ah, we do like talking about boobs here, don’t we?

This week, I’m not here to talk about my own tatas; it’s time to speak about against my least favourite British tabloid newspaper and their latest advertising cancer campaign. I’m aware that the majority of Literally, Darling readers don’t live in the UK, so here’s a bit of the backstory: The Sun is a tabloid newspaper that boasts circulation of over 2 million copies per day in the United Kingdom, coming in at the second most popular news source behind the Daily Mail. It is reknowned for cheap holiday offers, punny headlines and ‘Page Three’ models. For those who aren’t aware, ‘Page Three’ is a feature including a topless female model on the third page of the paper. Current affairs, it seems, can wait.

The Sun has had its fair share of notoriety in its time; most recently, it was this headline that made, erm, headlines. The Sun decided it would be a grand idea to use its Page 3 feature as a launching pad for a breast cancer campaign – called “Check ‘Em Tuesday” – backed by the breast cancer awareness charity ‘CoppaFeel.’ To introduce the campaign, the front cover image of Tuesday’s paper was a large picture of semi-naked, well-endowed glamour model Rosie Jones.

In a piece about the campaign on its website, the Sun asked readers to “cop a feel of their boobs, before posting photos of them on Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #checkemtuesday.” You’d be forgiven for thinking this campaign was a very thinly disguised attempt to get women to contribute to the collective wank bank that the Sun have put together over the years. The hashtagged photos is, essentially, a collection of close-up cleavage shots and semi-nudes which seems to defeat the purpose somewhat. Are we raising awareness here, or giving desperate young men another source to flick through and sneak off to the bathroom with? I can’t help but feel the campaign serves two purposes.

But if this campaign compels even one extra woman to check herself – if it encourages women to seek help, or even saves lives – then for all my huffing and puffing, who can really argue? I commend The Sun for raising awareness, especially if people are listening to the message. My critique is in the campaign itself. Cancer is a sensitive issue for many millions of people, so I don’t feel it’s unjust of me to claim that combining an awareness campaign with a sneaky ploy to get more women to ‘get their tits out’ leaves a bad taste in the mouth. 

Every day, the Sun uses women’s breasts as tools to titillate (sorry) their lechy gang of male readers. Every day, a doe-eyed, big-breasted page three girl stares blankly at the reader. News of world conflicts – if the Sun, famed also for its emphasis on celebrity ‘news’ rather than intelligent discussion of current affairs, deems this worthy of column inches – sits next to swollen boob jobs and nipples in full technicolor. This fact in itself doesn’t detract from the validity of campaigning for women to check their breasts for cancerous tumors, but admittedly the visual juxtaposition of sexualised, objectified glamour models and cancer is somewhat jarring. Asking women to become more aware of their bodies, whilst simultaneously objectifying them (as part of the campaign itself), is simply not an appropriate endeavour for a trusted national news source. So while there might be a lot of good that comes from this campaign, one can’t help but question the skewed logic that it exhibits.

Also, just supposing one of the balding old farts who run the Sun are reading this, here’s a memorandum: there isn’t anything sexy about cancer. It is quite clear that soft-p*rn aspect of the “check ’em Tuesday” campaign is nothing more than a distasteful distraction to the sensitive subject matter, as though it were necessary to throw a bone to the gaggle of beer-bellied yobs who comprise the majority of the Sun’s readership. If marketing is an issue and you’re going with the “sex sells” mentality, then consider that maybe more women would be lured into buying your trashy tabloid if there was a shirtless firefighter adorning the front pages for a change. Just FYI.

Here at Literally, Darling, we’ve had our fair share of boob banter. A lot, as it so happens. But we’re not posting pictures of our naked nunga-nungas every time we do. Boobs don’t have to be sexualised. The Sun could make a point of spending less time focussing on getting the angles right in the boob images and more time on the real, vulnerable women who are diagnosed with cancer on a daily basis. Lest the Sun forget, more than half the world’s population live with the resulting physique of two X-chromosomes, so for that percentile of their readership, it’s simply a crass and superfluous distraction to an important issue. Let’s talk about cancer, for a change, and leave sex out of it.


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