On Saturday an unusual thing happened. The Sun (almost... in a round about way) acknowledged our existence.
You see for the last seven months they have done a rather sterling job of pretending we're not here at all. I mean, okay Rupert Murdoch replied to a supporter but he didn't acknowledge us and other than sending out an ex-deputy editor to trawl out the same old, old arguments in favour whilst stating, quite without irony, that he would never take it home because his wife didn't like the children seeing it (I kid you not). The current Sun staff have been deafening in their silence towards us. Then yesterday a supporter sent us this...
Ohhhh interesting we thought... I mean some might think they were knowingly getting this wrong here and distorting the position of those in opposition to Page 3 to make us seem prudish and in favour of censorship... Surely not? They would be outraged if any politician behaved in such an underhand way.
However, they are talking to us... I mean we assume it's us as they seem to be referring to a "sisterhood" and whilst we bloody love our sister supporters who stand shoulder with us we also have many, many supporters who wouldn't necessarily identify themselves immediately as feminists and we have thousands and thousands of male supporters, fathers, grandfathers, brothers etc who simply want to see women shown some respect.
Add to that those running the country who feel that Page 3 has become a national embarrassment http://nomorepage3.org/letter-to-the-editor-signed-by-mps/ a list which is growing day on day because they seem to think (and we agree) that we are really rather better than this. We did after all just stage the Olympics?
Of course there is a real, proud element of sisterhood in our group support http://nomorepage3.org/orgsupport/ including some groups who support victims of rape, sexual assault and violence and backed up by groups trying desperately to promote positive body image or women in sport against the backdrop of this overt sexism. All of these groups have their own very serious reasons for asking for the end of a "National Institution" which objectifies, sexualises and belittles women's place in society.
So yes, many are joined in solidarity with the (give me strength)... "Pretty Tunisian girl" who firstly isn't a girl... she is in fact a 19-year-old woman and who is not trying to look "pretty" or provocative in any way but is posting her own topless pictures of herself in an effort to promote her own bodily integrity and ownership, in a culture which seeks everyday to remove that right from her in multiple ways.
So why, the Sun asks, if we support this young woman, do we "look down our nose at Zoe 24 from Coventry"
Wow! Erm... where to begin?
Well firstly... WE ARE NOT LOOKING DOWN OUR NOSE AT ANYBODY! Not 24-year-old Zoe, not 18-year-old Suzy, none of them. Whilst indviduals will have their own reasons for supporting, the campaign has never been against the glamour models in any way. We support all women's choice to do what they choose with their life and if they make an informed choice towards the glamour industry we have no issue with that. The issue with Page 3 is about context and the choice of where these pictures go is not made by the model it is made by the editors who for 42 very long years have somehow felt it appropriate to put these post watershed images just inside the front cover of a national family newspaper.
Well here Mr Mohan,/Mr Murdoch/the Sun is the thing.... We in the UK don't live in a culture that reinforces to women that their body should be covered and limits their freedom of choice or movement in numerous ways. What we live in is a culture which limits women everyday by reinforcing, through images like Page 3, that they should be of a certain size, shape, colour. A culture where the biggest image of a woman in the press is one of her standing in just her pants, exposed and posing provocatively. Not in a publication with other similar images or one with similarly sexual images of men, but in a newspaper with men in suits running the country or playing sports and the contrast is glaringly obvious. What is reinforced everyday, in the homes into which this image infiltrates, is that a woman's place in society is to decorate it and be sexually available to men. It isn't freedom of speech. These women are not given a voice and the young women in these homes learn that the most important thing about them is not what they think or feel, not what they may be capable of, their talents or abilities but above all else their appearance and their sexual availability. It's hard to see therefore any decision to go into glamour modelling as one that isn't strongly influenced by this constant reinforcement, particularly for those who may have watched the significant men in her life looking at Page 3 and commenting on the models throughout their upbringing.
No, No More Page 3 supporters do not look down their nose at the Page 3 girls at all, but what about the newspaper in which their pictures are showcased? How much are these women paid for their work in comparison to the profit made? How are they respected when the "News in Briefs" mocks them and suggests they can clearly have no intelligence if they are attractive or choose to pose naked? How do the Page 3 fans show respect to these women when they go online and rotate them 360 degrees like cattle paraded at market or comment and refer to them as "wanking fodder"? How does the Sun choose to represent a young women who after years of Page 3 conditioning is so utterly depressed about how the size or shape of her breasts isn't "normal" that she turns to her GP who recommends surgery on the NHS? So appalled is the Sun about this that it then has the young woman pose topless in its paper, un-airbrushed (unlike the Page 3 models) to ridicule and mock her, perpetuating a torrent of abuse against her which litters everybody's Facebook and twitter feed. Sorry... who was looking down their nose at who... I forget.
Who used these images to mock, ridicule and belittle Claire Short when she tried to stand up for the 100s of women who had written to her in support of her plans to ask for a ban on page 3, including the 12 women who had told her they had Page 3 mentioned to them whilst being raped. Who supported Seth MacFarlane's ridicule of Hollywood actresses by printing pictures of all the breasts he had mentioned including some from rape scenes that were depictions of true stories? Who is it that 'respects' victims of assault by running the story with a picture of the victim posed in sexy underwear completely undermining the seriousness of the crime?
You can see my confusion... I think if we are looking for those happy to look down noses at women you will struggle to find them in the sisterhood or anywhere amongst all of the 89,000 who have signed the No More Page 3 petition. The easiest place it seems to find it is sadly amongst those publishing these images in the mainstream who have been quoted as saying these women are "as stupid as they look", amongst the Page 3 supporters who have said if "slags want to pose naked we should let them" and who refer to those of us who want an end to this as ugly, fat or with crap tits because they can only assume our motivation must be jealousy.
So yes, we do rather love the bravery and importance of what Amina Tyler is doing (that's her name by the way Mr Mohan/Mr Murdoch, perhaps you couldn't find it on the internet?) but seeing as you ask we think Page 3 is totally different in the context of our western culture, well to be frank in any culture. None of the European journalist, American, Australian, Mexican people understand it and many of your own readers seem so embarrassed by it that we watch them skip straight to page 4. You see... it is so terribly old hat isn't it?
We are so much better than this.