It's time to speak up for the thousands of women who feel disempowered by Page 3

The Sun sends a message that the most important thing about women is how sexy men find them in their pants when they’re about 20

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The Independent Online

Last August I posted a (recorded delivery) letter to the editor of The Sun newspaper asking him to please stop showing the bare breasts of young women in his family newspaper.

I have yet to receive a reply to my letter. But I have learnt that over 104,000 other people agree with me, as do 113 cross party MPs, and a stonking support group which sadly I can’t name as it’s currently embargoed. And half a million members of UK Girlguiding. (They wrote to The Sun too. They haven’t had a reply either). So, a lot of people are bothered about Page 3.

Well, last week, The Sun responded. Kind of. Nicole, 20, a glamour model tells us in the paper:

"Rather than being anti-Page 3, my hope is that more women see that everyone has choice. I wish critics could follow me around for a day, then they would see how empowered I am."

It's great that Nicole feels empowered and happy being a glamour model. I would hate her to be unhappy in her career and I totally agree that it’s her choice. But I want to speak up for the 100,000s of women who feel disempowered by these images being in the newspaper.

It’s time to speak for those who feel disempowered by a newspaper that feels the most important thing about women is how sexy men find them in their pants when they’re about 20. I want to speak up for the schoolgirl who wrote to The Everyday Sexism Project pleading with the editor to spend a day her school where pictures of Page 3 are held up by boys in the corridor to rate the school girls breasts by comparison as they walk past, or who have to wear trousers for fear of inappropriate touching in dinner queues.

I want to speak up for the Girl Guides who want their young members to grow up in a world where ‘they are judged for who they are not, the way they look.’

I want to speak up for the women who have grown up hating the way their fathers, grandfathers, brothers and partners talk about the women on Page 3 and for the women who feel they’ve failed because they don’t fall inside the narrow parameters of female desirability concocted by a group of male newspaper editors in the 1970s.

I want to speak up for mums and dads and aunties and uncles who don’t want to have to explain to their children why there’s a picture of a naked woman in the newspaper.

I want to stick up for the young teenage girls who walk down the street and are told ‘nice tits, suck on this’ and call out the newspaper that legitimises the publication of ‘nice tits’. It’s not harmless, empowering fun. It’s harmful. As Caitlin Moran put it, “it’s like a tiger in a nursery’.

Nicole has got lucky and glamour modelling has made her happy. But I’ve heard from many glamour models who didn’t feel empowered and who regretted their decision to do nude modeling at a young age. One young woman who signed our petition said: ‘I was unhappy with what I was doing but was considered ‘cool’ by many and ‘fit’ by men. My agency practically bullied me into things I didn't want to do’.

Or as this young woman who wrote to us: ‘I honestly wish I never did it now. I don't think I was in the right state of mind, I went it feeling confident in the way I look and came out the other end feeling I needed surgery and procedures to alter myself. I am working on getting back to how I was before, but its hard.’

Alex Sim-Wise, former Page 3 girl explains, ‘you’d get a message from a fan and they’d be like "Oh, you’re amazing, I want to wank over you." But if you turn around and say anything negative, they’ll be like, "You’re a bitch, you’re a whore, you only got what you have because you got your tits out."

The campaign has never had a problem with glamour modelling or glamour models. We want all women to feel powerful and in control of their careers. What drives this campaign forward, what gives it the energy and the incredible support that it has, is the fact that our biggest daily newspaper - which has such incredible power and cultural significance - thinks that a woman’s biggest life aspiration should be taking their clothes off for the pleasure of men. That’s what The Sun does. It holds a competition every year encouraging young women to enter. Page 3 Idol it’s called. It’s billed as ‘brilliant’ and ‘life changing’.  It might be for the individual girls who the men decide are exactly the right shape to sell their newspapers. But overall, it’s a damaging and sexist anachronism

Everyone has a choice, Nicole says. But they don’t. The rest of us have no choice about living in a society that says ‘shut up, girls, and get your tits out.’

Now then, Dominic, we’ve heard what Nicola thinks. It’s time to hear what you think.