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Page Three Free

My name is Tessa and I am signature 647 on the No More Page 3 petition. I could have been 412 except it took me two days to decide how I felt about the campaign.

When I came across it, Twitter was awash with comments to the tune of ‘Thank God this is finally happening!’ and ‘Yes!! It has to go!’; they were comments of genuine anger, frustration and relief that someone was taking the reins, but I couldn’t relate to any of those emotions and I wanted to work out why.

The Sun and its third page have never been a part of my life; my family don’t read it, my friends don’t read it, and I can’t think of anyone I know who buys it on a regular basis. I am not, and I am eternally grateful, a signature that represents someone who had to grow up with ‘boobs at the breakfast table’. If I’m totally honest, I liked the pun in News in Briefs and I’d never really dedicated any real or articulate thought to the concept of Page 3. Until last week, when two things occurred to me and I became signature 647.

The first was just a thought, the realisation that Page 3 might not affect me directly but if I think the world would be even a slightly nicer place without it, then that’s reason enough to sign. I didn’t need to feel extreme emotions about Page 3, it was enough that I thought that yes, actually, topless women shouldn’t really be in a ‘family newspaper’ now you mention it, I think I will sign your petition.

The more I thought about Page 3, the more I thought about the second thing, and the more my apathy turned to sage nodding that protest was important and the more that nodding turned to anger until eventually I was adding my name to the petition and thinking ‘OH MY GOD HOW IS THIS STILL ACCEPTABLE?!’

The second thing is the topless image of 18 year old Abbey Johnston published by the Sunday Sport. Now obviously The Sport is not The Sun (it’s much worse if you’re wondering); it bills itself as ‘the world’s FUNNIEST newspaper’ and a “tabloid for men” which hopes to gradually gain male readership as The Sun“feminises”.

In 2010 Abbey Johnston went on X-Factor with her best friend Lisa, performed a horrifying rendition of Shane Ward’s That’s My Goal and punched her friend in the face. The pair were obnoxious, rude, poorly spoken and looked like they lacked vegetables in their diet. If you’re feeling so inclined you can watch their audition here. Less than a month after the show was aired, Abbey posed topless for the Sport in a pair of boxing gloves under the headline ‘X-Factor brawl babe’s a real knockout’. Except she didn’t look like a knockout, she looked like an overweight, confused teenager without her top on. It was a picture that spoke a thousand words; words like ‘that right babe, you look amazing’, ‘yeah, get ‘em out love, men are gonna love this’ and ‘here’s 50 quid, could you just sign this quickly, it’s nothing important’. She’s wearing her grey tracksuit bottoms as though she’s just arrived and been made to take her clothes off, no make-up, no hair styling, no attempt to make the photos about anything more than ridicule. If you’re feeling so inclined you can see them here. The whole thing smacks of abuse, of a poorly educated young woman being taken advantage of, and a world in which she has been led to believe that the only thing she has of value are her naked breasts.

The Sport doesn’t pretend to be a ‘family newspaper’ and has its own controversial softcore female nudity policy, so its pictures of Abbey, though harrowing, were nothing particularly out of the ordinary. And that, frankly, is extraordinary. We live in a culture in which a young woman finds 15 minutes of fame (on a television show based on corruption, deceit and ridicule) and she is immediately approached to take her clothes off for a newspaper. AND SHE DOES. She does because a team of well-paid journalists convince her she looks sexy, because she was paid in exchange for her dignity and because she has grown up in a world where That’s What Women Do; they take their clothes off in newspapers for the gratification of men.

Now maybe it was Abbey’s dream to go topless in the Sunday Sport, and who am I to shame the men behind those pictures or question what she wants to do with her body; maybe she drew up a storyboard for the shoot and demanded to wear ill-fitting jogging bottoms. But that ‘dream’ was fuelled by a relentless torrent of images of half-naked women and the endless reinforcement of the belief that if she’s not sexy, she’s nothing, that appearing topless in a national newspaper is not only acceptable but the ultimate female goal, and that her breasts, not her mind, not her thoughts, not her talents, are what men want.

If nothing else (and it is so much else), the No More Page 3 campaign is a wake up call to look around and see what we’ve forgotten to feel furious about. A tabloid newspaper written for men, by men, deceives, and then openly laughs at a topless teenage girl and the world responds by calling her a ‘stupid slut’ in the hundreds of online comments the pictures received. ‘OMG I can’t believe she did that!!’ scream the comments; why wasn’t anyone actually screaming ‘I can’t believe they did that to her’? Why wasn’t I? Why did I turn away in disgust and think some angry thoughts and forget about it? I suppose because I didn’t think there was anything to be done, that was simply the way the world worked; and that’s why this campaign is so incredibly important, it shows us exactly how much can be done and demands we be the change we wish to see in the world. It proves that the internet is the most powerful resource we will ever have and we must start fighting against, not just complaining about, the things we don’t think are right.

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