Dear David... An Open Letter to the Editor of the Sun

"I once worked in a company where I was the only female on a floor of men. They would look me up and down, laughing. They would bring in, put it on my desk open at Page 3 and ask if I looked like the topless woman pictured."

Dear David,

What a year it's been for the Sun.

There was your energetic campaign to strip "warped...paedo star" Jimmy Savile of his Knighthood (the one where you urged "outraged readers to get involved and back us"). Then there was your high profile crusade to "Protect our Kids from Internet Porn" including strident headlines like "Stop Porn on the Net Corrupting Adolescents' Idea of Sex". And of course your outrage at the topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge causing "anguish" for the royal couple.

But then of course there was also your poll asking readers to vote for which celebrity has the "Best Boobs", your titillating, objectifying portrayal of murder victim Reeva Steenkamp in a full front page bikini shot the day after she was murdered and your online readers' debate headlined "Teen sex: are girls too easy?"

And of course, just over the page from the outraged headlines about 'sick paedo' Savile sticking his tongue into a 15-year old girl's mouth etc., were the teenage tits on page 3. Which, apparently, aren't such a concern when it comes to influencing adolescents' ideas about sex and a woman's role in it.

Well it's been a pretty big year for us here at the Everyday Sexism Project too. We've received around 40,000 women's stories of their own daily experiences - experiences of being treated like second class citizens, made to feel like objects, harassed, groped, grabbed, beaten, assaulted and raped. They're not easy stories to read, but I'd like to share just a tiny fraction of them with you today David - I thought you might be interested in these ones in particular, since they mention Page 3. You'll notice that I'm not making assumptions or allusions here about the potential of Page 3 to influence and incite harassment and violence against women - I know that's a bit of a sore topic for you - so I'm just including here a few of the many stories where it was directly involved. You'll notice how many of them are from girls and very young women.

"Working in a small restaurant staffed mainly by 16 year old girls, the manager tells everyone to gather in the back room, he holds up page three and declares that this is our new uniform."

"Sitting on a bus - middle-aged chap sitting next to me is looking at page 3. I notice that he saw me notice, and blush. He says "What do you think of that?" I mumble "I don't think I'm the target audience." He openly looks at my chest. "I wouldn't worry - with tits like yours, they're not going to ask you to pose." I was 14, and wearing my school uniform."

"I once worked in a company where I was the only female on a floor of men. They would look me up and down, laughing. They would bring in The Sun, put it on my desk open at Page 3 and ask if I looked like the topless woman pictured."

"Currently studying architecture at uni. Went on a site visit as part of my course. Got asked why I was there by one of the construction workers, when the rest of the group were guys. I simply said that I was there because I, like the rest of the group, were training to be architects. The response I got was "with tits like yours?! Nobody will pay any attention to what you're saying they'll be looking down your top. Give up now, you'd be more successful as a page 3 model love"."

"Just had to endure a tube journey next to a Sun reader who flashed his page 3 at me, called me sweetheart & spat."

"At 16 years old I tried to inform my Modern Studies class that Page 3 was unacceptable. One boy said "women are only here to please men". Get home to discover that another boy from the class had posted a picture to my Facebook wall, with the caption: "Feminist I hear? You don't even know the definition of a real woman." The image was of a man pushing a woman against a wall. It read: "Real women deep throat and let her man go balls deep up the poo chute and don't expect a proper relationship."

"I remember seeing Page 3 for the first time in my own home when I was a young girl just entering puberty. I can still feel the burning shame, humiliation and shock I felt then. I remember thinking 'Is this what women are? Why is my dad looking at this? Does he look at me in the same way? Why doesn't my mum say anything?'"

"I have big boobs. In the 90s I had to put up with endless older blokes approaching me jabbing at my chest and singing the "See it all in the Sun!" TV jingle."

"In my 10-year-old daughter's class they are learning about news and newspapers. All children were asked to bring a newspaper in to school. More than half of them brought a copy of the Sun, and consequently spent the lesson gawping at page 3. This is what teaching children about news and newspapers amounts to in Britain in 2013. What did they all learn about the role of women in society? At school. At the age of 10."

"Sitting in a cafe minding my own, bloke finishes his lunch, picks up tabloid, turns to page 3 and waves it about, trying to catch someones eye, ranting to whole cafe about "these tarts, slappers ha ha ha all women are like this really.""

"My job involves me having to attend a wholesale fruit and vegetable market in east London every Saturday. There are pictures of nude models and page 3 in many of the huts; and I'm constantly being called 'beautiful', 'princess', 'sexy', 'gorgeous' and being wolf whistled at. This morning one of the men followed me to the toilets and demanded sex. It was one of the most intimidating things that has ever happened to me."

"When I was 15 I was reading aloud in English. I asked what page to start from and was told page 3, and the male laddish teacher added 'you should be on page 3'. I was a geeky kid and already ashamed of my body. All the class laughed. I never forgot it."

"I'm 16 and have been receiving sexist comments from older boys since I was about 13, in school and out of it. They shout "rape!" if they're in a group walking down the corridor and see a girl, loudly rate girls out of 10 while we walk past, look at Page 3 and compare girls to it if we walk past, discuss girls' bodies, it happens literally every day ... Why can't the editor of The Sun spend one day in a school and see what girls have to put up with in the culture they help create I challenge them to do it and still think Page 3 is harmless."

I'm sorry to send you such a long letter David, and so many stories. You're probably sick of reading them. Just imagine how we feel having to live them.


Laura Bates