No more Page 3

My dad used to get The Sun. Page 3 girls were some of the first celebrities I ever realised were celebrities. I was a bit obsessed with them. Linda Lusardi. Suzanne Mizzi. Maria Whittaker. And, of course, eventually, Samantha Fox.

I used to stare at their photos. Not at their breasts – although I probably did a fair amount of staring at them too – but at everything: hair, faces, skin, make-up, teeth. They were so glamorous (they were glamour models, after all).

My mum didn’t buy women’s magazines, so I’m pretty sure the Page 3 Girls were the first images of women I was really familiar with. And, you know, they had no tops on. I can distinctly remember looking at myself in the bathroom mirror and posing like a glamour model. Turn to the side, boobs thrust out. Hands underneath the boobs to hoik them up (this is also how I came to mentally design my amazing hands-holding-boobs bikini top. I couldn’t believe no one had already thought of it. Jeez.)

When the America astronaut Sally Ride died recently, I saw lots of tweets from American women saying she was their role model when they were growing up. I’d never heard of her, but I’ve since learned she was amazing. I wish I’d heard of her when I was growing up, but I don’t remember ever seeing her in The Sun. Even if she had been featured, I doubt I would have noticed her – it was the pictures that leapt out at me. Particularly when they took up an entire page.

When I started writing this post, I googled Maria Whittaker because I remembered her being the Page 3 Girl I most wanted to look like (the women with the unfeasibly large boobs were always my favourites, because I had unfeasibly large boobs – or, at least, I thought I did – so they gave me hope) and I learned that she made her Page 3 debut in 1985 when she was 16. I stared at that for a long time, blinking. She was 16. She was in a national newspaper, topless, for men to drool over and say “Look at the tits on that.” That’s what she was there for. There’s no possible other interpretation. (Is there?) A sixteen year old. In a newspaper. For the sole purpose of sexual objectification.

Please go and read Lucy-Anne Holmes’ post for Bea. And then please sign the petition.

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12 thoughts on “No more Page 3

  1. I didn’t have time to leave a comment earlier, but thanks for posting.

    I started getting creepy dudes hitting on me when I was 12. Some of them were actually related to me. I never aspired to be like a pinup girl, though. That kind of attention has always seemed weird and unpleasant to me, and though I couldn’t articulate why, I knew in my heart that portraying women like this was wrong. I used to sneer at women who I thought were too stupid to get it, before I discovered feminism and realized how much we’ve all been taught to hate ourselves, and each other. The patriarchy exploits our very human need for acceptance and approval. It’s so cruel and twisted.

    My blog stats are through the roof now after I posted about this. It really warms my heart to see how many other people care. Let’s keep it going.

    1. Thank you. I didn’t have time to comment on your post earlier either, but it’s completely wonderful. Glad to know people are reading it.

      I suspect my interest in Page 3 was related to a) my insecurity about my looks and b) my need for attention from my dad, which adds another level of wrong, obviously. So sad.

      1. We’re all insecure about our looks, thanks to a steady diet of patriarchal beauty standards. What chaps my hide is that whenever we say so, we’re diagnosed with low self-esteem, as if our suffering is our own fault for being too delicate and sensitive and silly, and we’re just imagining this crushing pressure from society to Be Beautiful And Therefore Worthy.

        My dad openly hated all women. His attention was something I strove to avoid. I don’t know if that was a good thing or not. I do know that a sibling of mine took the opposite route, spent a lifetime trying to get his attention, and it was life-wrecking and ultimately unsuccessful.

        I’m mostly a hermit now. I like it that way. But I’ve put aside the idea that other people are weak or wrong because they need more social approval and attention than I do, now that I realize how unfair it is. All humans need attention and approval. The fault lies entirely with those who exploit this need, not the exploited.

  2. Page 3 always seemed so incongruous to me: you’re reading a paper and suddenly it’s BOOBS!, then on with reading your paper. It can’t be intended to be p0rn (right?!) so what it must be is a misogynistically-motivated undermining of women: men always being clothed in the paper (and when reading it) while women are naked, literally stripping away our power by making a half-naked woman the most prominient woman in the paper, forever, and thus reducing all of us to mere body parts for ogling.

    And of course, that age dynamic isn’t uncommon, which is just gross.

    I used to know some blokes who’d buy it (because they were Tories!!!), and what struck me was how little they even cared about page 3 (especially in an era of internet p0rn). The Sun might sell it as “look at these pretty young ladies!” but a lot of men are like, “Whatevs.” I’m sure part of the bill of goods of glamour modelling is being told you’ll be adored by legions of men, but even that turns out to be a sham. You’ll be looked at for a fraction of a second, possibly called a slut, then thrown away.

    Our national media should be better than that.

    1. They should be, but god knows they’re not.

      But, yes, completely agree.

      The weird thing for me when Lucy started this campaign was that I hadn’t given Page 3 a thought for years. I was aware of it, obviously, but even with Everyday Sexism, Gender Diary, Miss Representation doing such fabulous work, in my head Page 3 was sort of untouchable. Partly it was the ‘just a bit of fun’ bollocks I’ve been hearing for years, partly, I think, it was because I remember the reaction to Clare Short campaigning against it, but I really fretted about blogging about it (and I still have a pang each time I RT something) in a way that I don’t about other feminist issues.

      1. Oh, that’s interesting. To be honest, my first reaction was “Oh, does it really matter?” Because The Sun is such rubbish anyway, because I don’t believe in censorship, and because I’m far more concerned about stuff like the right to choose and how it’s under threat right now .

        But then I read Lucy’s post and was like, OMG of COURSE it matters! It’s this kind of casual, unchallenged sexism that feeds into a culture that treats women’s bodies as objects. It adds up to rape culture, and the fact that rapists have actually cited page 3 stopped me cold.

        There’s clearly a link between showing women as nothing more than bodies and men feeling entitled to perpetrate sexual violence upon us.

  3. I was looking through the signatures after I’d signed it (after finding out about it from one of my new favourite blogs Slave to the Passions) and saw your comment. And now I’ve just found this post. Here’s my take here. http://carons-musings.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/the-suns-page-3-has-seriously-outstayed.html. It has the story of how I was almost thrown out of a tea room for breastfeeding Anna when they had the Sun there for customers to read.

  4. Am I right in thinking that there’s still no right to breastfeed in England? We have a law here saying it’s illegal to stop a baby getting fed anywhere it’s legal for that baby to be.

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