2 months ago today I wrote an article in Bea saying, ‘I’m thinking about starting a campaign.’
Shortly afterwards I did start that campaign. It’s called No More Page 3 and is appealing to Dominic Mohan, the editor of The Sun to please stop showing the Page 3 images. There are now over 47,000 signatures on the petition. I have been on Woman’s Hour (where I accidentally said something libelous) I nearly went on Newsnight (but was dropped at the last minute because they got Harriet Harman to talk about it instead) I have received words of encouragement that made me cry – I’ve also been told to fuck off and had my boobs insulted more times than I can remember and had to contact the police because of a death threat.
So it’s been quite a couple of months.
And because it’s Bea, and Bea feels like a cosy cardigan on a chilly day, I thought I’d say hello and fill you in with what’s been going on. Because quite a lot has been going on. Blimey, it’s been going on since the very first day when I set up the online petition and twitter and Facebook group.
I remember sitting at my dining room table, swearing as I tried to upload a photo for the Facebook page header (there’s been a lot of swearing whilst trying to do things with photos on computers, and best not get me started on the videos) My niece was working on a laptop opposite me. Suddenly she pushed her chair away from the table and gasped.
‘What?’ I asked.
‘I’ve just put the petition on my facebook page,’ she whispered. ‘Everyone’s writing stuff.’
I looked at her screen and we watched in silence as this stream of comments unfurled. My niece is a 20 year-old student, the comments went something like this ‘are you joking?’ ‘don’t buy it’ ‘I want tits in my face everyday’ ‘I want tits everywhere everyday’.
I had felt so passionately that when the largest female image in the most read newspaper in the country is of a young woman in her pants it doesn’t send out a very respectful message about a woman’s place in society. It doesn’t encourage girls to grow up thinking that they have a voice that society wants to hear. It says ‘what society values most about you is how sexy men find you in your pants when you’re about 20’.
I’d been waking in the night thinking about these pictures being the paper, coming up with more and reasons why they shouldn’t be there. But this onslaught of comments from young men, who’d grown up in the lads mag era with Page 3 as the norm, was sobering and I worried that people who did agree with the campaign would feel too shouted down to speak up. We carried on working at our separate computers for hours, my niece patiently responded to all the comments, and by the time she had finished many of the same men were telling her she had wonderful thoughts, that the cause was noble and wishing her luck. We got 122 signatures in the first day from sharing the petition on twitter and facebook. We were shattered, then suddenly a lady tweeted support, saying she was a journalist and interested in writing about the campaign.
It’s been like that for two months, flurries of attacks about the campaign, punctuated by wonderful unexpected voices of great support, all the while people signing the petition and leaving their various reasons for doing so.
In the early days I was struck by how honest strangers were when they found the campaign on social media. Numerous men confided how they’d had problems with porn and felt that a society where Page 3 was normal was often damaging to how men related to women. Another man told us how he was sitting with his 7-month-old daughter and feeling emotional, thinking what an important job we were doing. I received messages from support from concerned teachers. Women of all ages told me how insecure and uncomfortable these pictures made them feel. Women who’d been raped told me, in terrifying detail, about their attacks. I exchanged messages with a mother whose 11-year-old daughter had been sexually assaulted by a 14 year old boy on a school trip. The lady has 4 children and she’s worked for years with young people. For a long time she’s been concerned by the way very young men often relate to very young women. While the ‘fuck off you flat chested munter’s carried on so did these stories. And people started to write blogs, passionate, funny, heartfelt accounts of how they had always hated these pictures being in the newspaper. Some even performed protest poems. So many asked ‘what can I do to help?’ Chris Addison and Caitlin Moran tweeted support, so did Alastair Campbell, who was approached by a supporter who had set out a great case for the campaign. (Oo and as I’ve been writing this James Corden has tweeted in suppport) Page 3 girls from the past and one from the present have agreed with us too.
Sometimes we’ll get a tweet telling us that women will lose their jobs if The Sun drops Page 3. I hope this won’t be the case and I honestly don’t think it will be. One thing we know about Murdoch is that he’s a business man. And Page 3 is a brand. I’m sure he’ll create a topshelf mag All The Page 3s, ‘where every page is a page 3’ and it will employ more women. This campaign has never been anti glamour modeling, just anti it being in the context of a newspaper. Is it right that children grow up looking at the most widely read paper in the country seeing men in clothes doing things and one massive image of a young woman standing there in her knickers?
Obviously we’ve still got a long way to go and such is the nature of a campaign, you never know what’s coming next, whether it be a well written attack or an interview with a journalist that leads to an impromtu protest outside Sun HQ. Currently it’s interesting how the Conservatives don’t seem interested, except for one MP, neither do the ‘family value’ supermarkets, who’d never show the Sun’s Page 3 in one of their adverts but will happily show their ads there. But so many supporters are appealing to them, letting their thoughts be known, that I don’t think they can continue brushing off the issue indefinitely.
I really believe the pictures will be dropped from the paper. I’m not sure how it will happen, perhaps it will be pressure from an advertiser, or perhaps someone will state their case so well and so publicly that it will cause more and more Sun readers to say ‘oh yeah, it’s not really on, is it?’ and then News International will acknowledge it’s 2012 and time for women to be granted the same respect as men in the newspaper.