I am not a campaigner. But I felt such passion for this issue, passion that burnt like a fire in my chest, that I felt I had to do something about it.
During the Olympics I picked up a copy of The Sun to read on the train. The Sun was shining and Britain was a place to be proud of. I noticed that there were no bare breasts on Page 3, or on Page 5. "Wow," I thought. "They’ve dropped the boobs while the Olympics are on, possibly for editorial space, or perhaps as a mark of respect for all the different cultures visiting Britain."
I felt very pleased they’d done this as I carried on reading. But then I got to page 13 and there she was, a beautiful young woman in just her pants. And it made me feel incredibly sad. Hers was the largest image of any woman in this issue. Much larger even than those of Jessica Ennis who had just won a team GB gold for her tremendous hard work.
As one of our change.org petition signatures says, ‘Boobs aren’t news’. Indeed, so why are they in the newspaper? Well, they are in the newspaper because in 1970 a group of men, in a male managed media, in a male run country decided to put them there. Possibly they didn’t think how women would feel about being represented like this, nor did it occur to them that women read newspapers. The thought process must have been ‘men like boobs, let’s put them in.’ It is quite incredible now that this happened really. But it did. And even more incredibly it still does.
The page 3 girl image is there for no other reason than the sexual gratification of men. She’s a sex object. But when figures range from 300,000 women being sexually assaulted and 60,000 raped each year, to 1 in 4 who have been sexually assaulted, is it wise to be repeatedly perpetuating a notion that women are sexual objects? When I heard the 1 in 4 statistic I thought it sounded too high. But then I thought about my own circle of female friends.
I myself was sexually assaulted in my 20’s. I stayed at a friend’s house after a party and woke up with a man touching me very intimately, and masturbating over me. I spoke to a friend about it, who then told me she’d been raped on a first date. Recently, I’ve been asking my friends outright for their stories; most have been sexually assaulted at least once. I think these figures hugely under estimate the scale of the problem.
What saddens me is the effect this 'women as a sexual object' culture has on young people. The Sun is our most widely read newspaper. Men across the land buy it, it lays on breakfast tables, it sits in living rooms for the TV guide, it’s found on trains and buses. Our sons and daughters see it. For the sons, they learn that it’s ‘normal’ to say ‘cor, look at the tits on that’ and for the daughters, they see this as something to aim for, or something that they fall short of.
Many fathers have signed the petition, alarmed by how disturbing this is for their daughters. But many fathers continue to buy and read The Sun, slowly but surely conditioning these daughters that they love, that they are sex objects. I spoke to the father of a young woman I know recently. "I hear you’ve started a campaign," he said. "Yes," I responded. "I won’t be signing it. I think there should be more tits in the paper," he laughed. His daughter wants to be a glamour model. He doesn’t know yet. I think he’ll hate the thought of his ‘little girl’ being ogled in these photos and the violent comments of ‘yeah, I’d like to bang that’ that you so often hear. But judging by the comment he made to me, it is no surprise that his daughter is choosing this path.
I have nothing against these beautiful glamour models. Nor do I believe that people will stop buying The Sun if these images are removed. Page 3 is a brand now. I feel quite sure that Murdoch will create a 'All The Page 3’s' top shelf magazine, thus increasing his revenue and giving more girls work.
But I firmly believe that these images shouldn’t be in a ‘news’paper, and to quote another of our signatures, that ‘Page 3 is the biggest thing normalizing sexual objectification in our country.’ Now, you might not agree with me, but I hope you agree that it’s time we looked at this decision that was made in 1970 - a far more sexist era - and whether it should still stand today. All I am asking is that women be treated, and represented, with respect. Like men are.