Bizarre Addendum: Upping the ante on the No More Page Three Campaign

Addendum

In another bizarre and insulting vegetable themed (or fruit – tomatoes are fruit right?) turn of events, The Sun, who featured Ms Flanagan as their topless cover and page 3 model last week has suggested that a ‘very small brown wrinkly object’ found by a woman in a carton of Lidl passata…stay with me…. is almost certainly Helen Flanagan’s brain.

Apparently Helen’s brain is unused and worn out, and has been missing since the mid 90s.

 https://twitter.com/serotoninjunkie/status/380776388866764800/photo/1

You are really scraping the bottom of the passata carton with your insults, The Sun.

 

Upping the ante on the No More Page Three campaign

In June I wrote a post explaining why I was optimistic about the future of the representation of women in the media. I am still optimistic, but last week was a tough week for women.

The No More Page Three campaign continues to gather pace. Every day more and more people add their voice to the campaign by signing the petition urging The Sun’s editor David Dinsmore to remove the sexist and degrading feature from his publication. Last time I counted it was around 118,000. This is impressive.

A summer of successes

MPs and Councillors are steadily adding their names to the letter of support for the campaign. The campaign enjoys support from some most notable organisations including: The National Union of Teachers, UK Girl Guiding, The National Association of Head Teachers, The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Unison, The British Youth Council, Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid and the End Violence Against Women Coalition. The list goes on.

The campaign, which celebrated its first birthday over the summer, is truly finding its way into the mainstream, and you don’t have to look far to seea  celebrity, a comedian, a festival goer, a runner, or the lead singer of a band proudly sporting a No More Page Three t-shirt.

In amongst, and arguably, as a result of these very many successes – The Sun in Ireland dropping the feature must be counted as one of the biggest so far – are some troubling and retaliatory developments.

Upping the ante

Last week The Sun published a partially nude photo of Helen Flanagan on their front cover, inviting readers to turn to page three for the full uncensored view. Later in the week they compared their Swedish page three model to a swede (of the root vegetable variety)- drawing the obvious conclusion that they would much prefer to bed the Swede – who has a pert bottom and bulbous breasts, rather than a swede, which is skinny on top and round on the bottom. Errmmm Seriously. This is all kinds of offensive, no?

The Sun is upping the ante, so we, as supporters of the No More Page Three Campaign must too.

Some practical suggestions from the No More Page Three Campaign:

1) Write to retailers who stock The Sun to ask whether they are happy to sell discriminatory soft porn publications.

2) Write to David Cameron and your own MP expressing your concern over the increasingly sexist representation of women in The Sun. The campaign has provided an excellent template.

3) Complain to the Press Complaints Commission citing point 12 of the Editor’s Code.

4) Indulge in some pesky direct action, like slipping one of these flyers into a copy of The Sun near you…

Enjoy!

Open letter to the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP

I have written to my MP, Greg Clark. Many thanks to Pippa, a NMP3 for supplying a template letter.

Dear Mr Clark,

THE SUN NEWSPAPER

 I am writing to you to outline my concerns about the representation of women in The Sun Newspaper. I have had concerns about the paper for a number of years, but I feel compelled to write to you as my member of parliament now.

You will be aware of the No More Page 3 campaign*, which is rapidly gaining pace and public support across the UK. However, I am writing to you today because some of The Sun’s editorial decisions taken last week seem to be deliberately inflammatory and at odds with the commitments your government has made to eradicate sex discrimination and promote gender equality.

 If you were in the UK last week, you will no doubt have seen that The Sun featured a nude woman on their front cover. I saw this nude image at the Co-op store on Silverdale road, then again at High Brooms Station. I saw it several more times on the train to Charing Cross. In fact, I sat next to a gentleman who was studying the harder-core version of the image on page 3 at length on my train journey into Charing Cross. It was rather hard to avoid. I imagine as the Sun is stocked at your workplace, the House, you were unable to avoid it too.

 The following day, The Sun ran an article comparing a woman to a vegetable. The tempting invitation to imagine “bedding her”, references to “tiny panties”, “seedy nightclubs” and “pert bottom, bulbous chest”, are demeaning, insulting and specifically urge the reader to view her as a sexualised object.

Charities that work to end violence against women such as Rape Crisis and the End Violence Against Women Coalition have voiced their concern over The Sun reinforcing negative stereotypes of women in this way. I am in agreement with Caroline Lucas MP, who most eloquently represents my views and the views of many women I know, when she points out that sexism, such as the sexual harassment I encounter when I jog in Tunbridge Wells, does not happen in a vacuum. We have to recognise the wider, detrimental impact sexual objectification of women in the media has on our society.

In my view, these articles by The Sun – which I feel are becoming more extreme since the beginning of the No More Page Three campaign – are not only offensive but amount to unlawful discrimination as set out in the Equality Act 2010:

1. Discrimination against women – they are clearly being treated less favourably than men; and
2. Discrimination against campaigners for standing up to discrimination against women; and
3. Harassment against women and campaigners trying to stop this type of misrepresentation.

Your boss David Cameron’s stock response of “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it” is crass and ill-judged. You will also be aware of the Everyday Sexism Project which Laura Bates initiated. She has recently written a letter to the editor of The Sun citing examples of harassment and discrimination directly involving The Sun (but without the victims ever buying it or wanting to read it). If you have not read Laura’s letter I would urge you to do so.

 I do not buy The Sun out of principle. I find it extremely offensive. But I have personally been badly affected by page three of the Sun, and similarly, nude calendars, while working in a male-dominated environment in a previous local government job.

You will remember the Prime Minister signing the UN Resolution on the Status of Women on March 15th 2013 on behalf of the British people. The resolution promotes balanced and non-stereotypical portrayals of women with a view to eliminating discrimination against women and girls. In particular, may I draw your attention to Section B subsection (vv) which refers to the role the media can play in the elimination of gender stereotypes. In the context of Page 3 and The Sun’s other discriminatory articles about women, it is hard to understand the benefits of signing a resolution of this kind when the State demonstrates such reluctance in upholding its recommendations.

Can your government seriously continue to defend The Sun, which is so blatantly sexist and discriminatory? It is freely available in supermarkets, newsagents and garage forecourts (and the Houses of Parliament) and it is easily accessible to and in full view of children. Don’t forget, its current daily circulation figures stand at 2.2 million. Is the unregulated exposure of soft porn to children on this scale an oversight or negligence?

I am asking for your support in asking the editor to remove the Page 3 item from The Sun newspaper. Please do not miss this opportunity to recognise and act on the groundswell of opinion about Page 3 across the country, and in particular within your constituency.

 I look forward to hearing from you, and may I take this opportunity to congratulate you on your 10k run for the Hospice in the Weald at the weekend. Perhaps we will meet at another run in the area. I will be one of the women proudly sporting a No More Page Three t-shirt.

 Yours sincerely,

 Lizzy Woodfield (constituent)

 *No More Page 3 is a campaign appealing to The Sun newspaper to please stop showing the topless Page 3 images. It has public backing from Girlguiding UK (over 500,000 young members) the British Youth Council (over 220 youth organisations) the NUT, ATL, NAHT (combining over 500,000 teachers, lecturers and Head Teachers) Unison (our largest union, 1.3 million members) and The National Assembly of Wales. In addition to this over 118,000 people have signed an online petition, 138 cross-party MPs have signed a letter of support, as have a host of charities including Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid, End Violence Against Women Coalition.

 

Seriously??Ms Flaningan

Shouting back at the #SexistWhiteVanMan

Because *apparently* punching someone in the face is illegal, the way I deal with street harassment from the what-I -call #SexistWhiteVanMan, is to note down the name of the company and email the managing director.

This doesn’t have the instant excitement of administering a sharp biff in the face (I haven’t done this, btw, but I have been tempted and I imagine – if fist is correctly arranged-  it feels good). Nor does it give you the feeling of general satisfaction and superiority you get from calmly responding with some sort of intelligent, witty, and thought provoking remark.  But complaining in writing can be effective. And it feels good too, in its own way.

Today I was leered at by a not so charming window cleaner. He was leaning out of his van window at the pedestrian crossing I was waiting at on Trafalgar Square. He was too close to my face and I felt unnerved. Happily for me, the van was plastered in the company’s logo and contact details. Silly man.

Here is the email I sent to the MD of the window cleaning company:

Dear Mr. Tanner,

As managing director of Crown Support Services I wish to make a complaint to you about one of your employees. I assume he was an employee of yours because he was in the passenger seat of a van branded with your company logo and information.

Today at about 9:30 I was waiting at a pedestrian crossing near Trafalgar Square in central London. (Presumably) a Crown Support Services employee was leaning out of the passenger window of one of your vans and leering at women (myself included) who were going about their business. I found this intimidating and unpleasant. I do not expect to be harassed in this manner on my way to work in central London. This reflects badly on your company.

I would like to know what your company policy on sexual harassment is, and what steps you, as managing director, are taking to ensure that your employees know that harassing women is unacceptable to you.

I look forward to your response.

Kind regards,

Elizabeth Woodfield.

 I was pleased to receive this short-but-generally-satisfactory response, just minutes later:

Dear Ms Woodfield,Thank you for you email – I do appreciate you writing to me as I would not like to think any of our employees behaved in this way.

I will investigate your complaint further and discuss this with the operative concerned, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Kind Regards

Darren Tanner

I don’t know what will become of the  Crown Support Services Sexist White Van Man. But if he does indeed receive disciplinary action, I hope he will think twice before harassing women from his van again.

Accurate and funny portrayal of the Sexist White Van Man

Accurate and funny portrayal of the Sexist White Van Man by Will Poulter

Schools against Sexism (just don’t tweet about it, please)

I had the great pleasure of attending the UK Feminista Summer School at my beloved University of Birmingham this summer. It was a thought provoking and tiring weekend, and I learnt an awful lot. The speakers were a formidable and influential bunch, and, really, who doesn’t love a spot of feminist celebrity spotting?!

One session that has particularly stayed with me was the Generation F panel talk, where I heard from young feminists about, among other things, their experiences of sexism at school, and their exciting campaigns. We discussed the worsening problem of sexual harassment in schools. We discussed the inadequacies of sex and relationship education. We heard from teachers concerned about the way girls were being treated by boys in classrooms and corridors.  And we heard about the UK Feminista Schools Against Sexism Pledge. I was positive and fired up by the end of it.

Undeterred by the sexual harassment I and my friend encountered when walking across campus after leaving the summer school (doh!!), and high on UK Feminista-ism when I got home I tweeted to the head teacher of my old secondary school. I asked him if he would sign the Schools Against Sexism Pledge. The pledge commits head teachers to:

  • Support girls and women who are experiencing sexism and violence
  • Teach equality, consent and respect
  • Develop policy on gender equality and girls’ safety, and demonstrate this commitment publicly

Not altogether unreasonable, or controversial I’d say.

I mentioned – cathartic, #everydaysexism stylee – in the tweet that I had been sexually harassed and groped during my time at school. I’m not ashamed of this. And incidentally, I think you would be hard pressed to find many girls that haven’t experienced sexual harassment at school. 

I thought nothing much about not getting a reply. I didn’t particularly need or expect one. I get annoyed sometimes when people ask me to sign pledges and petitions.

But what I was not expecting was that my old head teacher would block me.  This is bad Twitter etiquette surely? 

When I queried this with the school I was rapidly sent a private message telling me that if I had a grievance about something that happened while I was there that I should contact the school, rather than tweet it. I had obviously spooked them. This was not my intention at all.

I didn’t have a ‘grievance’  I wished to bring against my school. But truth be told, I am pretty aggrieved now:

  • Talking about sexism in schools isn’t something they should shy away from. It won’t make them look bad admitting it goes on, and for publicly taking steps to address it.
  • Sexual harassment and groping isn’t something I shouldn’t tweet about (they really should check out @everydaysexism – tweeting about sexism changes the world folks!)
  • Telling someone not to tweet about something kind of makes them want to tweet about it even more… And blog about it too.

🙂 

 

 

An open letter to David Dinsmore

Dear David,

To land the job as editor of The Sun I suspect you must be relatively savvy. You know a thing or two about how to market a product. You know all about consumer behaviour, I’m sure. I think it goes without saying that you know the adverts in your newspaper play a role in influencing your readership- what we choose to buy, eat, and drink. Where we spend our weekends. Where we go on holiday. This is just advertising 101, right?

But the biggest advert in your newspaper is found on page three, and David, it sells the idea that women are sexually available. I’m afraid that it sells the idea that women are to be laughed at, and gawked at. Compared against each other. Rated. And hated. And dare I say it, David? Masturbated over.

I am just not OK with that. And I don’t think you are either, not really.

I kindly request that you reconsider whether or not you are comfortable with the implications of advertising bare-breasted young women on page three of your newspaper.

Yours sincerely,

Lizzy Woodfield. 

On Project Guardian

Public transport. This subject has been on my mind a lot of late. Partly because I’ve just renewed my Young Person’s Railcard for the last *sob* time (yes, you can do this on the day before your 26th birthday, hurrah!). And partly because I’ve just come back from an epic round trip to the Midlands to see my friends to celebrate said birthday.

But mostly because the British Transport Police has joined forces with the Everyday Sexism Project to tackle sexual offences on public transport in London.

Project Guardian is great news, and is already having an impact, with reports of a 26% rise in victims coming forward.

Why we need #ProjGuardian in Birmingham, please

Barring a massive trainfail, forced proximity to a crotch was never particularly an issue for me in Birmingham, as it is in London. For me it was the men who deliberately target you when you are alone, or unable to shout out to anyone, who were the problem.

It was the man who sidled up to me at a deserted bus stop in broad day light and tried (and maybe succeeded- I don’t know) to take a photo up my skirt. It was the man that sat next to me on an empty bus and wouldn’t let me out unless I ‘gave him a smile.’ Most frighteningly it was the group of men who surrounded my best friend in the (now-to-be-avoided-at-all-costs) underpass that links two of the main stations in the city centre and assaulted her.

If you are reading, BTP, this is why we need Project Guardian in Birmingham too please.

David Cameron is the biggest tit in my newspaper.

Addendum

I felt the need to make an addendum to my blog of last Sunday.

In my post I tentatively suggested the tide was changing. I questioned whether The Sun would dare to mock Caroline Lucas in the way they had done Clare Short a few years ago.

The Sun, as far as I can tell, has stayed quiet on the subject.

But maybe I should have been more worried about how Caroline Lucas would be treated in the House of Commons, by some of her fellow Members of Parliament. And not just any old MPs. David Cameron. Our Prime Minister.

Image

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22972683 

After DC’s disdainful, patronising and mocking response to Caroline’s question on whether  he would join her in seeking to remove The Sun (while it contains images of topless women on page 3) from the parliamentary estate given the Government’s own research shows a link between sexual objectification of women in the media and the acceptance of harassment and violence against women in society…I have come to one conclusion:

David Cameron. You are the biggest tit in my newspaper.

On sexism in the media

If you think it’s OK to demand that a stranger shows you her breasts, you’ve probably been told from somewhere that you can get away with this. That this is normal.

Sexual objectification, I think, is the reduction of somebody’s worth and role in the world to that of an object for sexual pleasure. It can happen at a societal level, and it can happen between individuals. Here’s an example: It happens everyday in our national newspapers, like on page 3 of The Sun newspaper, where the largest image of a woman is that of a topless one, and it happened when a boy of about 17 or 18 shouted ‘GET YOUR TITS OUT’ at me from his friend’s car when I was out running.

Now, I wonder if these two are linked- either directly or indirectly… because as Caroline Lucas said in a speech in Westminster Hall last week:

“… none of that is happening in a vacuum. We have to recognise the impact of wider culture, and today I want to focus on just one aspect of that: the objectification of women in the media. Women have been degraded, belittled and served up as sex objects in some of our daily newspapers for many years, despite the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women repeatedly identifying the links between the portrayal of women as sexual objects and attitudes that underpin violence and discrimination against women and girls”

Of course, I can’t be sure that there is a direct causal link between The Sun’s page 3 and to the irritating street harassment I was unlucky enough to encounter on that particular day last month. But it strikes me that if you think it’s OK to demand that a stranger shows you her breasts, you’ve probably been told from somewhere that you can get away with this. That this is normal.

Caroline is right. These things aren’t happening in a vacuum. And The Sun’s page 3 is playing a small, but significant – and I think symbolic – role in telling people ‘it’s OK to treat women this way’.

I am hopeful that one day, in the not too distant future, the UK media will have been re- calibrated a bit. I look forward to the time where people think what used to be on page 3 was rather extreme, instead of now, where if you’re against page 3 you’re considered by some to hold extreme views.

I’m optimistic. I think we are making progress. Look at the appalling way Clare Short (former MP of the constituency I lived in in Birmingham) was treated by her fellow Members of Parliament and the media when she put forward the idea of legislating against the page 3 phenomenon in the British press. She was laughed at and bullied. The Sun superimposed her face onto the body of a topless model. They called her fat and jealous.

Last week Caroline Lucas wore a No More Page Three campaign t-shirt to the Media Sexism debate at Westminister Hall. I’ve no doubt she will have received all manner of offensive tweets/emails/letters afterwards, but I think the tide is changing.

carolinelucas(1)

Short1

Would The Sun dare to treat Caroline Lucas in this way now? I don’t think so. Do you?