No More Page Three – CoppaTory on International Women’s Day

My local MP is a Tory so I thought I’d give him a timely reminder on International Women’s Day that the Conservative party aren’t all that appealing to women…

In particular they are lagging behind other parties in voicing their support for No More Page Three Page campaign. Given women make up over half of the electorate they might want to start thinking about what they can do to show they care.

I’ll be sending Greg Clark this letter tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted on his response.

Dear Greg,

Happy International Women’s day 2014!

I’m sure you receive lots of letters from your constituents – but you may remember that I wrote to you about the representation of women in the media – in particular The Sun. Thanks again for your detailed responses and for writing to Maria Miller on my behalf.

I’m writing to update you on some troubling and exciting developments for the No More Page 3 campaign- which, you will remember, is asking editor David Dinsmore to drop topless models from the newspaper (rather than asking government to support a ban or press censorship).

You may be aware that on Tuesday this week The Sun launched a joint 6-month-long campaign with the breast cancer charity CoppaFeel! The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of detecting the early signs of cancer, especially for young women (and men) through self-checking.

This would have been a very welcome shift in The Sun’s attitude towards women, and representation of them. Unfortunately, as you may have seen, The Sun has strongly linked the campaign to its topless Page 3 feature. As you can imagine this has been hugely upsetting for many women and men, in particular survivors of breast cancer, those who have undergone mastectomies or reconstructive surgeries, and their family and friends. Many commentators have noted that the headline on the front page (alongside a full page image of topless model wearing just her knickers) ‘Page 3 vs Cancer’ was highly provocative, unnecessarily confrontational, and an attempt to reframe the public debate to suggest that if you are anti Page 3, you must be pro breast cancer. Clearly this is not the case. Indeed, some breast cancer charities have released statements condemning the insensitivity of the campaign, and the sexualisation of breast cancer. 

You may also have noticed the overwhelmingly negative response to The Sun’s campaign from both national media, including the Telegraph, the Independent, the Guardian and the New Statesman, and social media platforms such as Mumsnet (who have recently announced public support for the No More Page 3 campaign), as well as across local and national TV and radio.

If you have a spare moment I would urge you to read No More Page 3’s statement on The Sun’s ‘Page 3 vs Cancer’ campaign:http://nomorepage3.org/news/the-suns-check-em-tuesday/.

I suspect The Sun’s motives – unlike Coppafeel’s which I am convinced, though perhaps misguided, were nothing but altruistic – were not entirely noble! It seems to me that they are attempting to leverage public support for the ailing Page 3 feature by co-opting breast cancer awareness. 

Unfortuantely for David Dinsmore this has backfired rather spectacularly.

– Since ‘check ‘em Tuesday’ the No More Page 3 campaign has seen an unprecedented and sharp rise in signatures – over 19,000 signatures have been added since Tuesday.
– At the time of writing to you the petition has reached almost 156,000 signatures. 

You may be able to confirm this, but I understand No More Page 3 supporters now outnumber the Conservative Party membership.

As I mentioned in my last letter, several Conservative MPs have signed a letter of support for the No More Page 3 campaign:

Amber Rudd, Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye
Andrea Leadsom, Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire
Caroline Nokes, Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North
Claire Perry, Conservative MP for Devizes
Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton
Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon
Jane Ellison, Conservative MP for Battersea
Julian Brazier, Conservative MP for Canterbury and Whitstable
Margot James, Conservative MP for Stourbridge
Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green
Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire
Nicola Blackwood, Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon
Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes

While this is great, you may be interested to know that of all the main parties, Conservatives lag behind in their support of the NMP3 campaign. 13 Conservative MPs have signed the letter of support, compared to 112 Labour MPs. The decision to voice support for No More Page 3 is of course a personal one, and I wouldn’t want any of your Conservative colleagues to sign the petition if they didn’t agree that Page 3 is sexist and Britain would be better off without it.

I do wonder, though, if there is a connection between the Tories’ ‘women problem’ and their apparent relative lack of interest in campaigns such as No More Page 3. I’m concerned that you have underestimated the strength of feeling on this particular issue.

I hope you don’t mind me saying that although I think you have been an excellent local MP for Tunbridge Wells, I’m afraid I probably won’t be voting for you come election day. I feel incredibly disconnected from your party, and although I think you’ve achieved some good things for equality during this government, it comes across to me that the Conservatives don’t care all that much about women. 

That being said, congratulations on being reselected as your party’s candidate for Tunbridge Wells in the next election. I do wish you luck in your own campaign. I’d be interested to hear more about your position on the fair representation of women in public life, and I hope to see a stronger commitment from your party about what it will be doing to address its own problem of women’s underrepresentation.

Kind regards,

Lizzy Woodfield
Constituent
No More Page Three Campaigner

If you would like to sign the No More Page 3 petition you can find it here:http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-dinsmore-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3 

If you would like to add your support by signing the letter, you can find details here: http://nomorepage3.org/letter-to-the-editor-signed-by-mps/.

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What does the future hold after Check ‘em Tuesday? I’m feeling pretty confident it’ll be No More Page Three.

What exactly is The Sun trying to achieve with the Page 3 vs Cancer campaign? I think, aptly, there are three certainties:

1. To raise awareness about the importance of the early detection of breast cancer.

So far so good. We can all agree this is a fantastic thing to do, and I hope The Sun continues to use its influence to raise awareness of other cancers too.

2. Feeling rattled, The Sun in turn wants to rattle the No More Page Three campaign. By not-so-subtly putting it out there that if you are anti-page three, you must be anti-breasts and that must mean you are also pro breast-cancer. Because who can argue with breast cancer awareness?

Well I say cheap shot Mr. Dinsmore. Even for you. If it wasn’t deadly serious, this false dichotomy would be laughable. Fortunately, Mr. Dinsmore underestimated our intelligence as well as the strength of feeling behind the No More Page Three campaign. Supporters, on-the-fencers and non-supporters alike have seen this for the cynical and offensive move that it is.

3. Coppafeel’s motives are thoroughly altruistic, but David Dinsmore’s are at best partially so.

I question why Coppafeel allowed its campaign to become so inextricably linked to Page 3. I can’t help feeling that they were probably pushed into it during a blue-sky thinking brainstorming session with a bunch of Sun execs.  And just for good measure they produced this (rather unsettling and unconvincing) video too.

Kristin’s powerful testimonial about her cancer diagnosis and the genesis of her charity is clumsily interspersed with footage of smiley topless Page 3 models in their knickers. I can almost hear a pushy producer behind the camera telling Kristin ‘Ok if you could now just say something about Page 3, y’know, something like they’re the most famous boobs in Britain and what a great opportunity this is for you.’  ….This is of course just my imagination. But I don’t think I can be far off the mark….

I am disappointed that a breast cancer charity is working specifically with The Sun’s seedy, sexist Page 3. My own view is that this aspect of the decision (insofar as Coppafeel would have been given any real choice) was poorly judged on their part. There is no doubt the partnership itself and campaign imagery has caused offense.

I’ll admit it took a while for my disappointment to give way to understanding. Coppafeel has secured a huge amount of coverage for their good cause and I’m glad more women will have checked their breasts this week than did last week.

My anger, cynicism and exasperation is entirely pointed at David Dinsmore and The Sun.  But my admiration, as ever, is reserved for the No More Page Three campaign. They have dealt with this campaign curveball with dignity, kindness and yet more determination.

What does the future hold after Check ‘em Tuesday? Incidentally I hear from HQ that the petition is flying. I’m feeling pretty confident it’ll be No More Page Three.