There are two nationwide petitions scrapping furiously for the nation's attention and support this morning.
One wants to 'Ban the Page Three Girl' from the pages of the Sun - you know, the topless photo of a pretty girl the paper runs five days a week (though not on Saturdays). The petition has been running for about a month, has attracted huge debate and coverage, not least here on The Huffington Post, but also in the Guardian, Independent, at the LibDem Party Conference from a government minister, on Facebook and Twitter.
The rival is Save Badgers from Culling, the move to stop a government-inspired move to kill wild badgers which may be inadvertently transmitting fatal TB to farm cattle. Despite having a high-profile champion in Queen guitarist Brian May, it has received grudging comment and coverage in the 10 days or so since it has gone properly public.
As I write, one of these petitions has raised 95,014 signatures towards its 100,000 target. The other has managed to scrape together 32,358 towards its ambitious peak of 1,000,000 names. Which one is which? Yup, you're right - the badgers are beating the boobs out of sight.
How can that be, the pundits cry, fooled just as those 32,358 signatories are fooled, by all the hysteria and shrill over-the-top support the stumbling campaign is getting from wide-sections of the wimmin who dominate the social commentary sections of the broadsheet media? The answer is easy to those who will hear it: NO-ONE. CARES.
I was first alerted to the No More Page Three Campaign on Twitter by my old friend and now brilliant Times columnist Janice Turner. I was her boss when she was Women's Editor of the Sun years ago. I liked and respected her and her opinions very much, and have always enjoyed seeing and hearing from her over the years since. She tweeted me, as an old Sun hand, apropos the new campaign to the effect of "Don't you think Page 3 is old hat and dated now?"
I responded on @neilwallis1 that "only women of a certain demographic" care about it, added that "ordinary women have better things to worry about". No, I don't think Page Three is out of date.
Janice then kindly re-tweeted my views, pointing out I was a former Sun deputy editor. The heavens opened - I was deluged with fury and outrage from an army of women all demanding like Janice that I explain who this "certain demographic" is while insisting they too were perfectly ordinary.
I sort of know I am making matters worse here, but here goes...
Overwhelmingly white, middle-class, aged late 20s-late 30s, university educated, work in academia, meejah, public services, know what macrobiotic means and how to use a fondue set, don't watch X Factor, go to Greece on their holidays, read the Guardian and watch Channel 4 News, suffer serious sense of humour loss at certain times... (add in all the other obvious ones I can't be bothered to list.)
My beautiful 28-year-old daughter advised me wisely "they also know what wheatgerm tastes like..."
They're the sort of people who would never dream of reading the Sun in the first place, and have no real idea of the people that actually do. Well, the Sun is a largely working-class newspaper that approximately THREE MILLION women choose to read every day. Yes, that is 3,000,000... not 32,358. The important word in that sentence is CHOOSE. No-one makes them, no-one forces them to hand over 40p that morning to purchase an item that contains Page Three. I've yet to hear an intelligent explanation about why the petition's 32,358 should decide whether three million are bright enough or entitled to choose their purchase for themselves.
Do those three million worry about Page Three? No, they worry about their kids' health, the rent, putting food on the table, work, their relationship, benefits scroungers, immigration, the telly, and a drink at the weekend.
I'm also baffled about the WHY of this petition? Why care enough about Page Three to concentrate on that to the exclusion of something in the world of sexual issues that really does need addressing.
Why aren't those petition signatories putting their energy into campaigning against, say, female genital mutilation? White slavery? Sexual stereotyping in the workplace? Forced marriages? Under-age sex and pregnancy? TxtSexploitation in schools? The list is endless - in my view, all these are far more important... but silence.
The very fact that government minister Lynne Featherstone mentions Page Three today in the same sentence as domestic violence is almost self-parody beyond words. You can't help but get the sneaking feeling that this petition is about making that "certain demographic" feel rather pleased with themselves, winning themselves a few headlines, preening themselves over nice self-congratulatory pats on the back from their peers and who they admire. "Gosh, look at how jolly brave and radical WE are!"
The other losers in this, of course, would be the Page Three girls themselves. The patronising way this "certain demographic" insultingly insist these young women are being exploited ("there there, you wouldn't know any better...") bears no resemblance to the truth.
Since the first on 17 November, 1970, there has been approximately 4000 Page Three girls. The original photographer Beverley Goodway would tell me, and I'm sure his successor the excellent Alison Webster would concur, that their most stressful task is gently fending off all the girls who dream of being Page Three girls but just aren't suitable.
The truth is that Page Three is an institution that has been there for more than 40 years, just like the leader column, the letters page and the cartoons have. If you buy the Sun you know its there. Women simply aren't offended by it. In truth, people see it if they look for it and many just don't. If you do, it's nice and the standard of the photography is always particularly high. I remember once asking Beverley Goodway (tongue in cheek, I have to admit) what made a good Page Three Girl. His serious answer "nice eyes and a nice smile - without them the best body in the world rarely works."
And why shouldn't a girl stuck behind the bread counter at Tesco, an office girl down the local council, the unemployed, find a new glamorous life via Page Three? Who are the 32,358 to deny them that? What arrogance.
No wonder the badgers are winning. Hope that one succeeds, by the way...
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