PARENTS

No More Page 3: A Step Towards A Better World For Our Daughters

14/08/2014 16:56 | Updated 22 May 2015

As a mother of two girls, I couldn't help hissing a happy little "yessss!" (accompanied by fist pump) when I read the recent statement from the Royal College of Midwives in support of the No More Page 3 campaign.

This is what they said:

"As a professional organisation and union whose members are 95% female the RCM is very happy to support and endorse the No More Page Three campaign.

"All news outlets including The Sun should be promoting positive images of women and not those that demean and objectify.

"This is not simply an outdated view of women, it is one that should never have existed in the first place.

"The fact that a newspaper is still peddling this insulting view in the 21st century beggars belief.

"We ask The Sun to stop, and stop it now and to use their significant reach and influence to a better end for the benefit of women, not their detriment."

No More Page 3 began with a petition, back in Autumn 2012, created by Lucy Holmes and her compadres. Now a full-blown campaign, the aim was then, and still is now, a "polite request" to the editor of The Sun to scrap Page 3.

Of course, Page 3 is part of a much bigger culture which embraces the objectification of women – one which our little girls will grow up with, one which will teach them that the most important thing they have to offer is what they look like, one which has the power to greatly affect how they behave, and greatly batter their egos.

But this campaign is targeting Page 3 specifically because of its vehicle – a very widely read daily 'family' newspaper, which is not only not confined to the top shelf, but can be accessed by children all around the country, on the kitchen table, on trains and buses, in cafes, in waiting rooms, in bus stops.

Every day, there The Sun is, its pages flitting to reveal a pretty girl's boobs in all their glory. And those boobs are being revealed to people – some very young and impressionable people – who perhaps did not seek them out.

'Perhaps' is an important word there. Lisa Clarke, a member of the No More Page 3 campaign team, wants to know why The Sun refuses to scrap Page 3 while at the same time actively enticing children to open the newspaper.

Indeed, The Sun has been previously criticised for running promotions targeted squarely at children. A father began a petition last year against the paper giving away free Lego toys. He said: "My kids started on at me, saying 'I wanna buy The Sun'. It sowed a seed in their head that The Sun is linked to toys, but I don't want my kids to see a naked woman in the newspaper."

More recently, Lisa was outraged by a competition run by the paper to win One Direction tickets. "I have a 12-year-old daughter," she said, "and she's not into One Direction, thankfully, but I couldn't believe it. This is actively encouraging young, impressionable girls to buy and look inside. It's like they're saying: 'You can have this... Oh! And you can look like this.' It's like grooming."

Despite attracting support of MPs across the parties, David Cameron is adamant that Page 3 should not be regulated (actually, the campaign is not even asking him to do that). While he believes the internet is a place where children should be protected from pornographic imagery, newspapers and books, he says, are physical objects which responsible parents can keep away from their children, should they choose to.

It seems that quite a lot of parents do not choose to, or perhaps manage to, incidentally, as this comment on the No More Page 3 website (from a mum) illustrates:

'In my 10-year-old daughter's class they are learning about news and newspapers. All the children were asked to bring a newspaper into school. More than half of them brought a copy of The Sun and consequently spent the lesson gawping at page 3... What did they learn about the role of women in society? At school. At the age of 10."

A father offered this: "I find the cosy, girl next door, apparently unthreatening nature of The Sun's page 3 a more insidious danger than pornography. In general, pornography is identifiable, restricted and you can choose to use it or not use it. The availability and supposed 'harmlessness' of page 3 infantilises and demeans women. My daughter is 14 and genuinely upset when she sees such casual objectification of women... she is regularly shocked by the contents of newsagents' shelves."

No More Page 3 has received terrific support from parents so far.

"It's not just mothers, we've had loads of support from fathers, too and they don't want this," Lisa says.

"Children are bombarded with a sea of sexual imagery of women and it affects both girls' and boys' views of the way things are, or should be.

"The Sun was the leader and instrumental in these swathes of images. More than 40 years ago, it took a photo of a half naked woman, put it in a newspaper and re-labelled it as 'glamour'. Before that it would have been called pornography. It normalised the objectification of women – particularly young, slim white women."

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) joins a growing number of organisations which endorse the campaign, including (to name but a few) the National Union of Teachers, the National Association of Head Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Unison, The British Youth Council, UK Girlguiding, the British Youth Council, and the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers.

"It's brilliant whenever any organisation joins us," Lisa says, "and the campaign really feels like it is picking up momentum.

"The RCM is really significant. It tirelessly works to encourage young mothers to breastfeed, but one of their obstacles is the way that women's breasts have been overly sexualised.

"I'm a nurse and I have worked in neonatal units and given people breastfeeding support. Time and time again, I have encountered (in particular, young) mothers who saw their breasts as purely sexual things. It meant that they, and their partners, felt like breastfeeding was tantamount to paedophilia.

"Just think of the women you hear about who are asked to cover up when they are breastfeeding in cafes. Yet, there might be a copy of The Sun on a table next to them. It's apparently acceptable for supermarkets to cover their shelves with sexual imagery of women, yet if a woman in the cafe right next to those shelves reveals a nipple while feeding her child...? It's absurd."

At the time of writing 127,670 people have signed the petition asking The Sun's editor David Dinsmore to scrap Page 3.

That's a significant number, but I think there should be more.

Approximately half of the UK's population is female.

And a significant amount of the entire population have children.

Approximately half of those children are girls.

The only thing we have to ask is, do we want this for our daughters? Doesn't a future in which your amazing teenage girl – full of promise and hope for whatever she is destined to be in her life – cries and folds in on herself because she thinks she's too fat, or her boobs aren't big enough, fill you with complete horror?

Does the thought of some bloke in a van shouting comments about your daughter's chest as she walks to school make you want to punch his lights out? As I write, that bloke in the distant future might currently be four years old. Which also begs the question, do we want this for our sons?

The scrapping of Page 3 would be just a small step towards the world I'd like my daughters to live in – but it would send out a message.

David Cameron's justification incidentally, regarding Page 3, is this: "In the end, it's an issue of personal choice."

Really? I don't think my daughters are getting much of a choice, as it goes, Mr Cameron – and I rather expect neither are yours.

Even if Mr Cameron isn't going to ask David Dinsmore to, you know, get with the bloody times – we can!

If you want to add your voice to the No More Page 3 campaign...

Sign the petition here.

Like the Facebook page here.

Follow on Twitter here.

And subscribe to the blog here.

Like I said, a small step – but you just can't argue with the campaign's catchphrase: Boobs aren't news.

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