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.

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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

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

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?