11.09.2011 11:30 AM

Let the Sunshine in (or out, depending on your point of view)

One of the feminist bloggers I link to, GritChik, has objected to the Sunshine girl tradition at the Sun, now in its fortieth year:

“So, a recent “Sunshine Girl” is headed to the pages of Hustler magazine. Must be a proud moment for her. I admit, I clicked the link in the article that took me to her November 4th appearance in the tabloid. And saw her posing in a barely-there bra and transparent panties.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude. And I believe that, at it’s best, nudity is an art form. At it’s worst it’s exploitative, degrading and damaging (to both men and women). We live in a hyper-sexualized society in which 3 year-olds are entering beauty pageants dressed as the Julia Roberts’ hooker character from Pretty Woman, complete with blonde wig and thigh-high leather boots. Girls, barely out of their teens (if we’re lucky), grace us from the cover of main stream men’s magazines with come-hither eyes and the suggestion that she would like you to join her in the bed she’s rolling around in.”

Way, way back at the dawn of time, when I was a journalism student at Carleton, Peter Worthington was invited to speak to us.  When it came time for questions and answers, I challenged him on the whole Page Three Sunshine girl thing, saying it (a) wasn’t necessary, given the abundance of similar stuff elsewhere (said stuff which is even more readily available now); and (b), it probably wasn’t something a lot of journos at the Sun would like to see continue.  Mr. Worthington was good-humoured about it all, and genially defended the feature.

The Sunshine Girl is no longer on page three, but she’s still around.  And the video of Mme. Bourbonnais’ recent visit is a real eye-opener, to say the least.

What do you think, Dear Readers?  Is GritChik right?  Or do you favour seeing more of Mme. Bourbonnais?

(Not that there’s much more to see, as you will see.)

52 Comments

  1. The late scholar Cleanth Brooks of Yale thought there were three great enemies of democracy. He called them “The Bastard Muses”:

    Propaganda, which pleads sometimes unscrupulously, for a special cause at the expense of the total truth; sentimentality, which works up emotional responses unwarranted by, and in excess of, the occasion;

    **********and pornography, which focuses upon one powerful human drive at the expense of the total human personality.

    The poet Czeslaw Milosz identified another enemy of democracy when, upon accepting the Noble Prize for Literature, he said…

    “Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterized by a refusal to remember.”

    Memory is crucial to democracy; historical amnesia, its nemesis.

    http://www.truth-out.org/bill-moyers-facts-still-matter67571

  2. Harith says:

    Hey, in some papers in europe they go full-on nude!

  3. billg says:

    GritChik’s attitide is that of someone telling someone else what they should or should not be doing based on what they believe. GritChik has no idea who Ms Bourbonnais is, how she thinks or what her goals are, yet, she can judge her from a picture based on own beliefs. Pose nude, pose with a bikini, dont pose…..like it, hate it or dont care, but, in reality its really none of your business, so, why try to make it your business.

    • GritChik says:

      I’m most certainly not telling Mme Bourbonnais what she can and cannot do with her body. She can go pose in the pages of Hustler for all I care. Oh wait…

      My point is, I think the Sunshine Girl feature is outdated and sexist. It does not belong in a paper that has a daily circulation well into the six figures. And that is what makes it my business.

      • Paul says:

        Maybe you could just refrain from reading the Sun then? Nobody is forcing you do do so, and the whole point of a free society is that others get to express things that you might disagree with or yes, even find “offensive and outdated.”

    • Jane says:

      I don’t think that is what Grit Chik implied at all. There was zero judgement for the models in her piece- no one, at least not myself, takes issue with a beautiful woman, naked or not.

      What her point seems to be, and I agree, is what is a scantily clad woman doing in a NEWSpaper? If you want to see similar or even more “interesting” similar imagery, the internet can happily provide. Canada is a smart well read country and we should be proud of our news publications. There is a place for news and a place for women in underwear. I just don’t think they should be in the same place.

  4. allegra fortissima says:

    To quote Alice Schwarzer, Germany’s most famous feminist: “As for me, you can swing naked from a crystal chandelier.”

    Some people are frothing? Take it easy. Like it, look. Don’t like it, dont look, and go to the next page.

    • heather says:

      I don’t know where you got that quote from (Oprah magazine, according to Google) but I’m pretty sure that the founder of Emma magazine would have advocated equality (where’s the Sunshine BOY?) and not simply ignoring the issue.

      But yeah, sure, “quote” a feminist who advocated banning pornography as a means of justifying the Sunshine Girl. Makes it easier to dismiss your argument.

      • allegra fortissima says:

        Nope, she gave Stern magazine a long interview – and a hilarious one, too. I don’t read Oprah, I leave that up to those who google her! The Sunshine Girl “pornography”? That’s too funny…

  5. Jan says:

    Even if you were to ignore the sexual politics, it is just plain tacky.

  6. TheSilentObserver says:

    One of the more balanced feminist critiques I’ve heard recently, I really respect that. However unnecessary and degrading the sunshine girl may seem, it is, along with Warren’s writings, probably among the least offensive material regularly published by Sun Media

    • Outsider says:

      My thoughts exactly. It is sad to see how the Sun has had to parrot the rabidly right, paranoid-to-a-fault rantings of Sun TY News. Certainly, the Sun newspaper has always been conservative, but once upon a time it put thought into it and could buttress its stance with reasoned arguments by serious columnists. Any time you thrust the insanity of Levant, Lillie, et al on the public, you are washing down your readers in half-truths and worse. Better off to keep the Sunshine Girl, Kinsella (not just because he is not a rabid right-winger; more because he at least puts thought into all sides) and the sports section, and junk the rest of it.

  7. Ken says:

    What became of Sunshine Boy?

  8. Joey Rapaport says:

    The more the marrier!

  9. James Bowie says:

    Just be thankful this is not the UK; the Sunshine Girl is not on the front page, and she is wearing a top. Canada deserves some comparative credit for the lack of bare-boobies at the off-license.

  10. Michael Erskine says:

    The circulation says it all. We may not like what the public wants to believe or see, but there are too many government interferences in society now. There are many reasons to intrude for the sake of society–but we need to work on changing people’s attitudes without always going for the ‘easy’ stick of big government. There are many things I agree with Warren and Gritchik about–but if the Sun’s circulation numbers keep going up a very large portion of society obviously feels differrently…interesting that the paper is strongly Conservative editorially–WK not with standing. The government has very little business in the bedrooms of our nation–or the pages of our press

  11. Joe the Guy says:

    Warren

    If it weren’t for the sunshine girl, i would have no reason to pick that paper up or even go to the website. Well, thats a lie…I do like your often contrary-to-the-Sun-way-of-thinking columns.

  12. allegra fortissima says:

    This was my “Sunshine Boy”, every morning, while I was enjoying a cappuccino and reading il Corriere della Sera. Shameless he is in all his glory:

    http://www.Leonardfrank.com/Worldheritage/Florence08.jpg

  13. Tyrone says:

    Will anyone defending the feature do the same after reading the comments on the Sun page that is linked to? Yikes.

  14. heather says:

    Private citizen engaging in legal critique of a company and their “editorial” choices – she can do what she wants.

    I don’t think it makes someone a prude to suggest that there’s an exploitative factor in the publishing of a Sunshine Girl. I think it makes you look like an asshole to overlook the argument and focus on petty name calling.

    But if that’s how you want to play this…I can quote wikipedia too. I think they also nail the definition of asshole.

    “The word is mainly used as a vulgarity, generally to describe people who are viewed as stupid or incompetent or detestable.”

    • Jan says:

      The presentation is just cheap. If they want to display women they could at least cough up for a real photographer, god lighting, hair, makeup and wardrobe. Maybe Hef could give Mr. P. a few pointers. The schmucks who get off on this deserve better.

  15. Torgo says:

    No one, especially not GritChik, is suggesting that we force the Sun to stop, or take any kind of governmental/legal action against them.

    What I think she is suggesting is that a supposedly reputable newspaper chain (and the journalists and publishers behind it) grow up and join the rest of us in the 21st century.

    Given the Sun and its readers/backers, this might be a little quixotic on her part, but I don’t see it as prudish or censorious.

    • GritChik says:

      If I had a prize to give, it would go to you. Thank you for getting it.

    • Torgo says:

      Hi Gord,

      With regards to Macleans and the Economist, well, I’d still consider the Economist a good source of news and opinion; Macleans, not so much, especially since they went down the Cosh/Amiel/Steyn road and gave us the ‘corrupt Quebec’ and ‘excessive Asians’ stories.

      But I would also criticize these (and any other news) magazines for any excessive or unnecessary display of skin and sexuality, especially when it’s mostly women who are shown in this way. The difference with the Sun is that it’s a daily and regular feature; Macleans doesn’t have a weekly lingerie model highlighted and the Economist doesn’t do a bikini report every issue.

      I would suggest that if the Sun wants its ideas and agenda to be taken seriously, it should drop the feature. Yes, there will still be stories about sex and pictures of models and actresses, just as there is in the rest of the media. But I don’t really see what half-naked women have to do with politics and news.

      • tom says:

        recent reports have come out that the Cbc has funded softcore porn shows online ..wheres the faux-outrage now? i guess the media cando whatever it wants as long as it is rabidly liberal/socialist

  16. Pomojen says:

    I love how the point of context is ignored and willfully misconstrued as prudery or that whether she is wearing a top has any damn relevence whatsoever.

    I have seen far more explicit and overt sexual material that I loved, that I detested or even – gasp- felt utterly non-plussed about. But none if it offended me. My reaction of “offense” to the sunshine girl is not about the extent of nudity, the sheerness of the underwear or anything else having to do with “taste”. There is some real tacky shit out there that turns me green from an aesthetic perspective but doesn’t make me feel marginalized or ever-so-slightly less human like sunshine girl does. And I am far more worried about my child seeing this objectification as ok than I am worried about him seeing lots if nudity. Again: More or less nudity is not the isssue. The sunshine girl is a problem for me because it demeans and lessens women.

    I don’t support plans to outlaw this stuff. Freedom of speech is important. I am fine to vote with my feet on this and not read the Sun. The sunshine girl crap is entirely consistent with most of the rest of the content that rag sells.

    • GritChik says:

      “And I am far more worried about my child seeing this objectification as ok than I am worried about him seeing lots if nudity. Again: More or less nudity is not the isssue. The sunshine girl is a problem for me because it demeans and lessens women.”

      Well put, Pomojen.

    • Jan says:

      Exactly. If you’re a woman and this is what you want do, its not a good idea to sell out to the lowest bidder. So you get into Hustler, there’s a real career dead end. There is serious money to be made – i.e. Victoria Secret – that’s the kind of publication to aim for.

      • ed says:

        I’m also put off by the Sunshine girl (notwithstanding the fact my friends mother was once one way back when). My main problem is the fact that as others have pointed out, it’s only a Sunshine Girl, meaning that the editors at the Sun think it’s okay to view the female sex as solely a sexual object. Worse though is that they always appear as some guy’s (usually their boyfriends) Sunshine Girl. Men submit their partners to this, like a trophy to show off half-nude. That’s the really awful part. If women want to pose for the Sun, I guess go ahead, but labelling them as their boyfriends Sunshine Girl exhibits these women as property, like a trading card.

        P.S. That the Sunshine Girl was moved from page 3 to the back pages years ago is heartening, only because the Sun is only giving people what they want in their eyes. The editorial decision to bury the Sunshine girl means a significant readership was moving in the same direction as GritChik. Moving the Sunshine girl was a half-measure meant to try and save a relic that probably made the old boys feel rebellious against the “consensus media”. It’ll peter out in time.

  17. JStanton says:

    Comedian Chris Rock nails it – ” a father’s job is to keep his daughter off the pole. If your daughter is stripping, you fucked up”.

    The sunshine girl phenomenon is merely exploitation of the vulnerable. Gord and others may get their jollies from gawking at cheeseilly dressed, vulnerable young women with few real opportunities, and delude themselves about how sophisticated they are, but they are simply perpetuating an abusive arrangement and should be ashamed.

    Standing against abuse of the vulnerable is not prudery, its human decency.

    .

  18. MCBellecourt says:

    I actually have a fond memory of the Sunshine Girl Page.

    Summer of 1981. I was working in Edmonton, and the great Phyllis Diller was in town.

    She posed as a Sunshine Girl that year, to the utter dismay of one of my co-workers. You should have seen his face when I plastered her pic right smack in the middle of the montage of Sunshine Girls he built on his wall while he wasn’t looking. He never did find out whodunnit…

    I also met her briefly. All-round funny, funny lady, and I’ve loved her for years.

  19. Steve T says:

    Please explain how a Sunshine Girl in a newspaper is any different or less appropriate than a tarted-up “sports personality” on TSN, or a television news anchor wearing a tight-fitting low-cut top and gobs of makeup, or quite frankly any one of a number of women in professional roles who dress in a way that clearly has more to do with sex appeal than the appearance of professionalism.

    The objectification of women is certainly a problem, but it seems disingenuous to focus on the Sunshine Girl as the only example. At least there is honesty about the role of sex appeal in her job.

  20. Dan says:

    News has been dead for about 15 years now. It’s been on life support since I was born.

    Even if we get rid of the sunshine girl, you still have to deal with the fact that Kardassian/Lohan/Spears/Jackson/Simpson are news. And if you get passed that, you have to deal with the fact that Trump/Palin are news.

    News is a business. And the marketplace doesn’t give a shit about news.

    If I wanted to sell papers, I’d have a sunshine girl on every other page, and a nice big sports section.

    And if I wanted to sell MY political views, I’d have an editorial on the other pages, and a commentary about unions in every sports section.

  21. billg says:

    After reading the comments its obvious, there are and always will be people willing to judge other peoples character based on what they read, watch and listen to….left or right. Guess we still have a long way to go. To quote a great MASH line…”ladies and gentlemen take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice”.

  22. Jaded says:

    I don’t like the idea of my 10 year old daughter looking at the sunshine girl. I believe the message it enforces can be unhealthy.

    • Mike Kaye says:

      I haven’t seen them all. But, I can’t say I’ve ever seen an “unhealthy” Sunshine Girl.

    • pomojen says:

      I don’t like the idea of my 5 year old son seeing it either. It’s unhealthy to have beliefs that support certain groups of people being objectified. The idea that he might want to look at half/ fully naked women (or men – who knows) one day disturbs be not in the least. The idea that he becomes accustomed to seeing people objectified bothers me quite a bit.

      Also noting your point re: unhealthy and judgements expectations about feminine beauty. I hear you. Lots of eating disorders and needlessly damaged self esteem has come of our cultural obsession with variations on a narrow theme of what is considered beautiful. I’d like to take it a step further though and challenge the notion that personal value hinges on outer beauty, judged by any standard you’d care to pick. It is a false and damaging premise to begin with. One that the Sunshine Girl promotes regardless of the personal health of the models.

    • Michael S says:

      I don’t like the idea of a 10-year old reading the Sun, as a child of that age should be reading something far more advanced.

  23. Mike in TO says:

    Personally, I miss the days of the Sunshine Boys. There you had gender equality and good looking men.

    • The Doctor says:

      A friend of mine was a Sunshine Boy back in the day, and we haul out that old photo every once in a while at parties to take the piss out of him. It’s great fun. Classic Patrick Swayze-era cheese.

  24. NancyH says:

    I don’t see her appearing in the pages of the Sun as a major issue. If a woman wants to appear there, scantily clad, fair enough. If many men (and I suppose a few women) want to look at that, fine.

    The idea of objectification? Sorry, not really buying it. These aren’t the 60’s; women have a great many options now. Some are going to choose to use their beauty to manipulate men. I think it’s dumb… but it’s mostly dumb on the men’s part, not simply our part.

    No, what I think is sad (and only one commenter above alluded to this) is that she feels the need to have pumped up her breasts with silicone/saline. They look unnatural, almost creepy. And yet it’s clearly a look a lot of guys like. Sad.

    If GritChik had hit that angle, I’d probably be marching with her. As it is, this beautiful young woman has chosen to mar her beauty with unnecessary surgery. That’s what I am most sad about, not what publications she chooses to pose for.

    However, I would say one thing to all the men above. (And note: I’m mostly on your side; I don’t think we need to be prudes, or prurient). My question to them, including Warren, is: Would you be equally content if your daughter was doing this? If not, why not? Why then does someone else’s daughter matter less than yours?

  25. Pomojen says:

    Woops – wrong thread. Supposed to be attached to the comment about the 10 year old reading something more advanced than the Sun. Sorry!

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