It was here for over 50 years. Then, one day in 2015 it disappeared. Just as all of the ardent activists rejoiced in celebration, it came back, only for it to disappear again a few days later. Today, Page 3 (a daily photograph of a topless woman appearing on Page 3 of The Sun newspaper) no longer frequents the pages of one of the UK’s most distributed tabloids. Indeed amidst the confusion, Page 3 it seems, has moved online with fans being offered the chance to see ‘Nicola, 24, from London’ on The Sun’s website, should they so wish. Alongside colleagues at Copenhagen Business School (Dr. Lauren McCarthy and Dr. Glen Whelan), I have been exploring the role of the ‘No More Page 3’ movement in causing the demise of the Page 3 ‘British Institution’, conducting discursive research into the social media settings within which debate and dissent around such topical environmental and social issues is increasingly harboured.
Fresh from discussions at the Social Issues in Management track at the Academy of Management in Vancouver, we have gained a range of international perspectives on our research. We focus upon the study of nonmarket actors, most notably feminist activists, who use a corporate Facebook page for their campaign (No More Page 3) to remove topless women from The Sun daily newspaper on the grounds that such images perpetuate negative gender stereotypes. In our case, what we find interesting is that it is not the newspaper itself that is targeted (although activists have lobbied The Sun newspaper for some time), but it is the Facebook page of a retailer that stocks the newspaper, The Co-operative, that becomes a target for the activists. Therein, the feminist activists reframe responsibility for gender objectification as a Co-operative issue, casting the organisation as the responsible agent within the No More Page 3 debate.
Positioning the sexual objectification of women in mass media as an entrenched social institution (Bingham, 2014; Leveson Inquiry, 2012), we observe the ‘institutional work’ (Lawrence & Suddaby, 2006) actors engage in to disrupt Page 3, one element of the larger institution. We also include the voices of online citizens who argue against the activists and aim to discursively maintain Page 3. In doing so, we identify three levels of argumentation within this ‘work’, imbued within micro (individual level) meso (organisational level) and macro (societal level) discursive practices. Together the on-going back and forth of these discourses, as part of institutional work processes, succeed in turning the corporate-run Facebook page of The Co-operative from a ‘corporate arena’ of citizenship into a ‘public arena’ of citizenship (Whelan, Moon and Grant 2013) where large-scale social and ethical issues are debated, far-removed from the corporate’s aims, roles or objectives. The corporate actor does not delete or moderate this ‘work’ but allows the discussions to occur, whilst refusing to comply with either of the groups’ wishes. We propose that the corporation here engages in a form of ‘suspended discourse’ (Dansou and Langley, 2012), which arguably acts as a form of institutional maintenance since The Co-operative continues to stock The Sun newspaper and implicate itself in No More Page 3 debate.
As we shape up our research for publication, our interest in ‘fourth wave’ feminism (Cochrane, 2014) and the power of social media in opening up discursive spaces for debate and deliberation continues to gather pace. For further details or comments on our research, please contact Dr. Sarah Glozer, School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London: Sarah.Glozer@royalholloway.ac.uk
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