The No More Page 3 campaign is one year old today so I'm writing to ask you to finally take action and remove Page 3 from your newspaper. I'm writing as a parent, because I know the damaging effect that Page 3 had on me as a young girl and I don't want that for the young girls of this generation.
I want to talk about your influence on young boys and girls, in your position of editor of the most highly visible newspaper in the U.K. Parents always hope that their kids will encounter positive role models as they are growing up, and we rely on those in positions of power - the elders of the society if you like - to take responsibility for the messages they send to the younger generation about appropriate behaviour and values. Those who have power within the media have an especially profound impact: we have never before lived in an era where the media has such far-ranging power not only to reflect the values of the culture, but to create them and promote them.
The role-model you are currently offering young people is that of the bully.
The Page 3 feature was introduced in 1970, so just as feminists were changing laws on basic human rights for women - such as the right to take out a mortgage alone and the right to equal pay for equal work - the Sun slapped us down publicly and reminded us that we were only bodies, and our role was to serve. Your newspaper humiliated us and reduced us to sexual entertainment for men. That's the act of a weak and threatened bully. Were women getting too powerful for you?
When bullies are challenged on their behaviour, their typical response is 'I was only joking!' or 'It's just a bit of fun'. The reason bullies do this is to compound the initial insult and turn it back on the victim: it is their response that is 'wrong', not the behaviour of the bully. This is playground culture and a recognised technique of the bully who takes no responsibility for his actions. Bullying went unrecognised in the early Seventies - it wasn't even a subject - but we've done a lot of work on it since, and now we know it when we see it.
For 43 years you have bullied women. You have served up bare-breasted young women daily for the sexual titillation and arousal of your male readership. You have belittled and dehumanised one half of the population to entertain the other half. And even worse, you have sold it as liberation and empowerment for women, when we all know that in the exchange between a male viewer and a sexually objectified image of a woman, it is the man who is empowered. It is always the person wearing the clothes who has power over the person who is naked. Always.
You know this. But you did a very clever thing by calling sex work 'glamour modelling', you sold young women the idea that exposing themselves and selling their bodies publicly was a powerful and glamorous thing to do. You exploited young women's very natural desire for male approval and attention by providing them with a quick and easy way to get it. You were the first to make people famous for doing nothing, the first to promote the 'reality' culture - real girls! Just being naked.
The role-model you are currently offering young people is one of discrimination, sexism and misogyny.
In devoting nearly a page of your newspaper to a young woman showing her breasts, you send the message that women's main value is not in their intelligence, their achievements or their minds, but in their desirability as sexual commodities.
My generation struggled with this, and we have passed on that struggle to our daughters. In the decades that you have been selling young women's bodies unashamedly to the public, the power of social conditioning has been proven by the very fact that you have young women today queuing up to take their tops off for your newspaper.
The role-model you are currently offering our young people is one that is sleazy, seedy and exploitative.
You are like the dirty old man on the street who hisses to the beautiful young woman walking past 'Hey love! You could do really well doing topless modelling. Show us yer tits darling, I can make you rich and famous!' There will always be young women that buy that, young women who are naive enough to believe that selling their bodies is the path to self-esteem. So many women believe that now because you have made it normal. These women are like those with eating disorders whose bodies are so fucked up they no longer recognise natural hunger pangs; in this case women no longer recognise normal feelings of revulsion, they have lost the natural instinct to say 'Piss off!' to the dirty old perv who is trying to exploit their vanity so he can cop a look at their tits.
You have normalised the sexual exploitation of young women, you have made pervs feel normal rather than sad and pathetic, and you have managed to make a whole generation of young women believe that the sexual attention of pervy old men all over the country is something to aspire to rather than run a mile from.
You are currently demonstrating a role-model to our young men that offers them explicit permission to leer at women, treat them as objects of sexual gratification, judge them on their bodies alone and dehumanise them. You model profound disrespect and contempt for women as fellow human beings.
This is your legacy. You can change that David. You have only just started the job, you would be forgiven for what you inherited, it's not too late. You can become a good role-model for our young people.
Please stop Page 3.
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