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Not keeping Quiet

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It seems it is somewhat of a shame that Paul Connew has never been given the honour of being editor of The Sun as if he had we would not be having to talk about page 3 in the present tense, or so he tells us in his guardian piece on Friday. Paul would have got rid of the "Page 3 girls" because they are an "anachronism" long past their sell by date. He would not however have wasted precious time and energy campaigning against it as that would be "tedious" and "disproportionate" as "The problem with is not that they are a corrupting influence on young minds, or that they turn men into rapists; it is simply that they are past their sell-by date".

In short Mr Connew is of the opinion that if we all just kept quiet the really not very important problem of page 3 girls would just go away.

I'm always made to feel immediately uncomfortable when any issue around page 3 is discussed by referring to the "Page 3 girls". I think the term in itself is problematic. It may have been appropriate at one time when indeed some of them were in fact under 18 but given that they are all of age they are in fact all now "women" and professionally speaking they are "models".

There is a very good reason why the current campaign for an end to page 3 doesn't focus on the models and that is because it is not a campaign aimed at or against glamour models, glamour modelling or pornography. What No More Page 3 aims itself at is the bizarre editorial decision made in the 1970's, to make a feature of the breasts of very young women in a daily Newspaper. Paul no doubt has a problem accepting any socially sweeping consequences of this decision, not really surprising given his career choices and gender. Why would he be aware? In contrast as a 39 year old woman who grew up with a Sun newspaper in the house daily, as a mother of a teenage boy and girl and a now insider of the NMP3 campaign it wouldn't surprise you to hear that I do have quite a different slant. My experience of the effect on personal body image and understanding of my own sexuality has been reinforced numerous times in the words of supporters. The incidence I would struggle to remember or list (as they are so numerous) of sexual harassment and common sexual assault on the street, at work and in bars is not unusual either. Mine is of course anecdotal evidence and although I see it mirrored time and time again it could be easily dismissed as invalid were it not for the fact it is backed up by evidence presented in numerous studies and government commissioned reports. These reports obviously don't point specifically to page 3, but refer to all sexualised and pornographic images and the effects of exposure. Given the accessibility of The Sun's iconic page however it could very much be used to argue that page 3 is more than an out of date, harmless embarrassment. The effects on female mental health and young women's aspirations is well documented along with the evidence of a reinforcement for boys and men of a sexist and derogatory view of women which in tern makes harmful behaviour towards the opposite sex more likely. The reason no doubt that the campaign enjoys the support of so many charities and groups fighting domestic and sexual violence against women.

Page 3 we hope may soon be consigned to the same, "did we really once think that was ok" archive to which we consigned Golly Wogs. It may, with time join the other unhelpful symbols which were once supposed harmless until we realised they undermined and misrepresented an entire section of society. It does seem massively naive however to assume that any of these changes would have occurred because people quietly waited for something to go away. Change happens because people start to speak up and ask for it. Awareness is raised, blinkers removed. Generation on generation in its own way has chipped away at the status quo of female objectification in the media and on Page 3. More recently this shift in the moral zeitgeist has gained momentum but make no mistake Mr Connew we have reached where we are today not because people were quiet but because they spoke up, they found allies and the whispers grew to shouts.

No More Page 3 has never asked for parliamentary time or legislation, it does not affiliate itself to a particular party, it enjoys the support to those with the common sense and insight to realise the time has come for change. We love Caroline Lucas for having the gall to stand up and speak out about media sexism, she is a hero and of course we do, but we love her no more or less than any of the other brilliant people who have added their voice to ours. It's getting quite difficult to ignore isn't it, but be warned - we will not be quiet any time soon.