Why the ‘if you don’t like it; don’t buy it’ mantra doesn’t wash with me: response to Greg Clark MP

I was very pleased to receive a response to my letter about page 3 of The Sun from my MP, Greg Clark. Greg made some familiar and valid points about the importance of a free press, and consumer choice. But, like many others, Greg misunderstands the aims of the campaign. I wrote again to Greg to clarify the aims of the No More Page Three campaign, and to express why the ‘if you don’t like it; don’t buy it’ mantra doesn’t wash with me.

 

Dear Greg,

Many thanks for your considered response to my letter about my concerns over page 3 of The Sun. I very much appreciate you taking the time to consider this issue, and I’m grateful to you for forwarding my letter onto Maria Miller.

I fully appreciate your reservations over issues of press censorship and consumer choice. My letter focussed on the possible legal implications raised by the practice, but I wanted to write again to clarify a couple of very important points about the aims of the No More Page Three campaign, in case I had given you the wrong impression.

– Unlike previous campaigns, the No More Page Three campaign is not seeking a ban on the practice.

– The petition, which you can find here: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-dinsmore-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3 is asking David Dinsmore (editor of The Sun) to remove the feature – voluntarily.

I too feel very strongly that freedom of the press is something we must protect. There is a fine balance to strike, but I feel passionately that it is also the place of government to act to challenge sexist, harmful and discriminatory behaviour, wherever we may see it, including in our newspapers.

And indeed many members of the government are already acting on this. The campaign has the support of many MPs, members of the House of Lords, and Councillors – you can find a signed letter here: http://nomorepage3.org/letter-to-the-editor-signed-by-mps/. Your conservative party colleagues Amber Rudd, Andrea Leadsom, Caroline Nokes, Claire Perry, Gary Streeter, Jane Ellison, Julian Brazier, Margot James, Mike Freer, Nadine Dorries, Nicola Blackwood, and Sarah Wollaston, have all signed a letter to The Sun’s editior.

If your reservations about the No More Page Three campaign were informed by the (common) misconception that further regulation or a ban is sought, then I hope I have reassured you. I also hope that you may now reconsider whether this is a cause you could lend your support to.

I am pleased and not surprised to hear that page 3 makes you less likely, rather than more likely, to buy The Sun. However, I must admit I am somewhat envious that you find page three easy to avoid and cannot remember the last time you saw it; I wish I could say the same.

Unfortunately I believe that for many of your constituents this is not the case. The Sun has a circulation of about 2 million copies a day, and as well as in homes, it is often found in workplaces, cafes, and on public transport.

You will be aware of the Everyday Sexism project, which has received around 40,000 women’s stories of their own daily experiences of sexism. If you do not follow this project yet I would urge you to do so. I have spoken to many people who tell me that they had no idea how widespread incidences of sexism, harassment and assault were until they began to follow the project. Many men in particular have told me that they now see sexism every day, when they wouldn’t have even noticed it before, and are much more likely to challenge it.

I would again draw your attention to the letter Laura Bates (founder of the Everyday Sexism project) wrote the editor of The Sun: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/laura-bates/open-letter-to-the-editor-of-the-sun_b_3794513.html

The project has received many entries- from women and young girls – about negatives experiences directly involving The Sun’s page 3. None of these women or girls exercised consumer choice by buying The Sun. I have left out some of the more graphic and upsetting examples, but here are some – please be warned that they contain strong language – :

“Working in a small restaurant staffed mainly by 16 year old girls, the manager tells everyone to gather in the back room, he holds up page three and declares that this is our new uniform.”

“Sitting on a bus – middle-aged chap sitting next to me is looking at page 3. I notice that he saw me notice, and blush. He says “What do you think of that?” I mumble “I don’t think I’m the target audience.” He openly looks at my chest. “I wouldn’t worry – with tits like yours, they’re not going to ask you to pose.” I was 14, and wearing my school uniform.”

“I once worked in a company where I was the only female on a floor of men. They would look me up and down, laughing. They would bring in The Sun, put it on my desk open at Page 3 and ask if I looked like the topless woman pictured.”

 “Currently studying architecture at uni. Went on a site visit as part of my course. Got asked why I was there by one of the construction workers, when the rest of the group were guys. I simply said that I was there because I, like the rest of the group, were training to be architects. The response I got was “with tits like yours?! Nobody will pay any attention to what you’re saying they’ll be looking down your top. Give up now, you’d be more successful as a page 3 model love”.”

“Just had to endure a tube journey next to a Sun reader who flashed his page 3 at me, called me sweetheart & spat.”

 “I remember seeing Page 3 for the first time in my own home when I was a young girl just entering puberty. I can still feel the burning shame, humiliation and shock I felt then. I remember thinking ‘Is this what women are? Why is my dad looking at this? Does he look at me in the same way? Why doesn’t my mum say anything?'”

“I have big boobs. In the 90s I had to put up with endless older blokes approaching me jabbing at my chest and singing the “See it all in the Sun!” TV jingle.”

 “In my 10-year-old daughter’s class they are learning about news and newspapers. All children were asked to bring a newspaper in to school. More than half of them brought a copy of the Sun, and consequently spent the lesson gawping at page 3. This is what teaching children about news and newspapers amounts to in Britain in 2013. What did they all learn about the role of women in society? At school. At the age of 10.”

 “Sitting in a cafe minding my own, bloke finishes his lunch, picks up tabloid, turns to page 3 and waves it about, trying to catch someones eye, ranting to whole cafe about “these tarts, slappers ha ha ha all women are like this really.””

“My job involves me having to attend a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in east London every Saturday. There are pictures of nude models and page 3 in many of the huts; and I’m constantly being called ‘beautiful’, ‘princess’, ‘sexy’, ‘gorgeous’ and being wolf whistled at. This morning one of the men followed me to the toilets and demanded sex. It was one of the most intimidating things that has ever happened to me.”

“When I was 15 I was reading aloud in English. I asked what page to start from and was told page 3, and the male laddish teacher added ‘you should be on page 3’. I was a geeky kid and already ashamed of my body. All the class laughed. I never forgot it.”

“I’m 16 and have been receiving sexist comments from older boys since I was about 13, in school and out of it. They shout “rape!” if they’re in a group walking down the corridor and see a girl, loudly rate girls out of 10 while we walk past, look at Page 3 and compare girls to it if we walk past, discuss girls’ bodies, it happens literally every day … Why can’t the editor of The Sun spend one day in a school and see what girls have to put up with in the culture they help create I challenge them to do it and still think Page 3 is harmless.”

 While I respect that you may not agree, I hope you understand and will bear in mind that for supporters of the No More Page Three campaign the easy and well-rehearsed, but ill-informed, mantra of ‘if you don’t like it; don’t buy it’ is not at all satisfactory. This simply does not apply to a great many people – including the young daughters and sons whose parents buy The Sun.

 With kind regards,

Lizzy Woodfield

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