Last year I started a campaign appealing to the editor of The Sun to please stop showing the Page 3 pictures. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster since then, I’ve spent all my money, burnt myself out and been really quite distracted at family dos. Quite often when it’s just me and mum, at the end of one of these family dos, and the dishwasher’s going, she’ll turn to me and with a big sigh she’ll say, ‘but why are you doing it?’
And I’ll say, ‘Oh, you know, how it is, mum, I just fancied being told to f*** off a lot on twitter.’
Because that’s what you do when you’re British. You bat the serious stuff off with a bit of cussing sarcasm. You daren’t say the real reason in case you sound a bit Oprah. But something so flipping brilliant happened in the No More Page 3 campaign last week. The girl guides came out publicly supporting our call to end Page 3. And I’ve been really moved by the bravery and brilliance of these young women. So moved that cussing sarcasm won’t cut it today. I’m accessing my inner Oprah, you can call me sentimental, but I don’t think I’d really care.
If I had to honestly answer the question, ‘Why are you working on the No More Page 3 campaign until you’re near the point of exhaustion*?’
The answer from the bottom of my heart would have to be this:
Because I want to make life better for girls and young women. Better than it was for me. Better than it is at the moment. Women are amazing. Women are powerful, strong, magical and creative. Every single human life on the planet came from a woman. If that’s not powerful, magical and creative I don’t know what is.
And yet becoming a woman is a horrible experience for so many.
So many young women don’t feel powerful, they feel weak, ashamed and afraid.
Weak because everywhere the female sex is presented as being there for men. Page 3 is an iconic example of this. It’s like being slapped in the face and told ‘it’s a man’s world’ everyday for so long that you cease to notice it, you just accept it as a given. The Page 3 image doesn’t speak. She’s there to be seen (by men in a sexual way) and not heard. It’s a subtle silencing, a way of saying, ‘society doesn’t care what you say, it judges you on how you look and how sexy men find you.’
They feel ashamed because they don’t meet the narrow criteria of this ‘ideal’ that was decided in 1970 by a group of male newspaper employees. They hate their bodies, really hate their bodies, these vessels that will take them through life. There is no sense of wonder that they are women, with bodies capable of incredible pleasure, who can bring a life into the world and feed it. They want surgery, starve themselves or binge and make themselves sick. Because even in a family newspaper, that informs them about the world they live in, they are told how they should look in their pants.
And they are afraid because as soon as they start to develop they realize that by being a female their body is somehow public property for catcalling harassment and groping. ‘Nice tits, suck on this’ ‘No tits’ ‘Munter’ ‘Slut’ ’Whore’ they’ll hear at school or in the street. This is just the way it is. The newspaper has taught them that their bodies are there for men and then they’ll see online pornography, which will drum that notion in further. Like the daily Page 3 girls, the women in online pornography don’t speak either.
So we need to speak. If we don’t like the way the female body and sexuality is being represented, we need to speak up and protest about it, for these girls. I read something recently (sadly I can’t find the link) which said that women need to speak out. We’ve been silenced for so long historically that our speaking out powerfully shifts the status quo.
I dread to think how many girls will be curled up in their room tonight crying. And it’s for them I want to keep banging on about the damage of our Page 3 ‘cor, look at the tits on that’ culture. Because this sexist culture is limiting them. And it’s not helping boys and young men either.
It took me years and years to see through all the sexist rubbish I had absorbed and be able to look in the mirror and like what I saw, and to be able to confidently speak my truth without fear of not being pleasing.
But the members of UK Girlguiding, the amazing members of UK Girlguiding, have not just seen through this, they’ve spoken out, eloquently and en masse about it.
‘It is impossible to nurture your ambitions if you are constantly told that you aren’t the same as your male equivalent. It is disrespectful and embarrassing. We need to get used to the idea that women are not for sale.’
I’m not just inspired by them, I am blown away. Last week a young member of UK Girlguiding even went on the BBC Radio 4 Today progam and debated with such calm, reasoned assurance with a former glamour model.
Of course, it’s not just Page 3 that is limiting women. I agree, there is much more that needs to be done. But Page 3 is an icon of our sexist culture. And if we want equality, then it has to go. Other things need to go too, I agree, and if you’re thinking of starting a campaign to tackle one of them then please do get in touch. If I can help in any way, I will.
Let’s do what we can to make becoming a woman a beautiful and exciting experience for future generations. Let’s be brave, like these incredible girl guides, have shown us how to be. We can do it. We will do it. Enough is enough.
*It’s not just me who’s working till I’m near the point of exhaustion. I am part of an incredible team all doing the same.