For the last few months, Carys Afoko has been closely monitoring the Sun’s annual ‘Bust In Britain’ contest - in which the newspaper crowns the nation’s ‘cleavage queen’ who will win £5000 and a photo shoot in Ibiza.
But Afoko isn’t hoping to spot her own picture on the double page spread. Instead, she’s praying for a glimpse of one of the men or non-binary people she has persuaded to submit their own selfie to the competition.
“[I] can’t believe it’s still going, it is so old fashioned, seeing it made my heart sink,” says Afoko, who is executive director of Level Up, a feminist organisation launched in January. And then she had her lightbulb moment: “When I looked at the terms and conditions, there weren’t actually any gender restrictions,” she explains.
The aim of Level Up is to build a community of likeminded people who work to dismantle sexism in the UK. Instead of calling on the Sun to halt ‘Bust In Britain’ they decided to have a bit of fun.
“It is such an old-fashioned idea of beauty they are promoting. They say they are looking for the best breasts. But actually what they mean is - if you’re skinny, if you’re white, if you’re young and if you’ve got big boobs. Then you’re beautiful,” says Afoko. “Let’s bring the Sun’s competition into the 21st century.”
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By getting men and non-binary people to take snaps, she hopes to challenge the Sun’s ideas of beauty and even dreams one of them might win first prize.
Let’s bring The Sun’s competition into the 21st century...'
It is interesting that many of the men struggled with taking a “sexy” selfie, Afoko says. “They got very self conscious and felt exposed. It took a few conversations to get them to do it. We were seeing men feel like they are an object, like women do.” The men were also required to submit a caption with their picture. And they did not disappoint.
Noah, 30, a carpenter from Bristol, says: “My mum thought it would be great to enter the competition as she has always been proud of and a huge supporter of my fabulous moobs.”
Dewi, 30 from London, says: “Britain needs me to win this photoshoot in Ibiza. The pictures would provide a massive boost to public moral and be an invaluable bargaining tool in Brexit negotiations.”
Josh, 30, a gardener from London says: “I love my chest. It does a great job of keeping my heart and lungs from sliding out, or sticking to the clothes of people I hug. When I’m crowned Bust of Britain I will feel so confident in my body.”
Farook, 32, community food grower, from Walthamstow says: “This is about feeling good about oneself, regardless of gender, race, class or any other dividing label and showing it!”
Eighty-five-year-old Lloyd, from Macclesfield, says: “My wife thinks my chest is my most redeeming feature even after 60 years plus of being together.”
While Simon, 26, a photographer, from London says: “I used to get made fun of for having moobs in gym class, but now I’m very happy to say that my girlfriend is very complimentary of them.”
So what are they all hoping to achieve? Afoko says: “One of the challenges is that while we are all silently rolling our eyes or not buying the Sun, we aren’t making it clear these attitudes to women are increasingly a minority view. Most people in Britain have a slightly more modern idea about what is beautiful.”
“No media outlet is perfect,” she concludes, “But the Sun is completely behind the curve on this. Why is a paper with such a huge readership still perpetuating these views? We want to say all chests are beautiful.”
This isn’t the first time the Sun has been called out on the competition - in 2016 they faced a backlash on Twitter, with a handful of men posting images of themselves.
If you want to submit your own selfie to the competition, fill in some details and upload your snaps on their website. You have to be over 18 years old and the competition closes on the 28 April.