Claire Rush caught up with Lucy Holmes from the No More Page Three campaign and asked her why she felt so strongly about this issue.
Tell us a little about No More Page 3 campaign, Lucy?
I like to think that No More Page 3 is a polite yet tenacious appeal to the editor of The Sun newspaper to please stop showing the bare breasts of young women in his family newspaper.
I started it last summer after I bought a copy of The Sun during the Olympics and found I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that the largest female was the Page 3 image even though Jessica Ennis had just won her tremendous gold medal. It made me question what this was saying about a woman’s place in society, what it was teaching little girls about where their value lies, and what it was teaching young boys about how to respect women. From whichever way I looked at it I couldn’t see that these pictures were doing women any favours. I would wake in the night thinking about it. We live in a society where 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted, is it sensible to be showing women as being there primarily for men’s sexual pleasure? We live in a society where women are made to feel uncomfortable breast-feeding in public and yet we show teenage breasts for men’s pleasure in a family newspaper. Eventually I thought, could I feel all this passion for this issue and be the only one. So I started an online petition, and twitter and facebook page to find out. We now have 103,000 signatures and about 25,000 people following us on social media. 110 MPs, plus numerous MEPs and Lords have signed a letter of support. The Girl Guides have also publically backed the campaign. And I am now working with an INCREDIBLE team of 14 volunteers, committed to seeing women represented and given more respect in the media.
How do you feel women are depicted in the UK media? Is different from other countries?
Oh where to start? Women are predominantly depicted either as being there to sexually stimulate men i.e. page 3 of The Sun or they are pictured and then judged with ‘what was she wearing?’ features, or articles showing pictures of women with ticks or crosses next to them, or where circles have been drawn around some body part which dares to fall shot of the so called ‘ideal’.
This reiterates the idea that women are there for men, and are subordinate to them, and that ‘women should be seen and not heard’ in our society.
All in all, I would say that women aren’t respected in the media, in the way that men that.
I don’t know enough of other countries depictions of women in the media to really comment properly on them. I do know that many people from the US and Australia and other European countries such as Sweden have told me they couldn’t believe we had Page 3 in Britain, a country most of the world would assume should be leading the way in terms of equality. It would be lovely to think we could start really championing women and equality, at the moment we fall horribly behind in league tables for female representation.
What is the root of the problem? Why are women treated like this in the UK media?
Well, I hate to say it, but it’s still very much a man’s world. My whole life I’ve looked at the news and seen men with guns fighting and men in suits talking. The big decisions about how our country and the world is run are made by men. At the moment, there is only one female national newspaper editor and only 20% of MPs are women, out of the top 100 businesses only 2 are run by women. I could go on and on with these sorts of similar statistics. Apparently it takes 30% representation to start to see a shift in the favour of the marginalised group. We have a long way to go! If the people making the decisions aren’t women and aren’t considering the impact on women that their decisions have, then we have a situation, which doesn’t do women many favours at all.
Do you think the Leveson Inquiry is a disappointment for people who are campaigning against
I feel I was more disappointed than most!! The very fact that they had to censor images from The Sun, Star and Sport for the Leveson Inquiry should have caused a pretty seismic ‘something is very wrong here. We need to do something about it NOW’…followed by action. The very fact that we have to beg, campaign and protest about these images is pretty ridiculous really. Of course it was positive that how women are reported was covered and deemed unjust and dangerous. But really the time for action is now. The Internet has hugely changed the world we live in, children are getting sex education from online porn, 99% of porn is made by men, and studies show 88% of it shows acts of physical aggression towards women, newspapers should be doing all they can to create a culture that respects women, not showing them naked and reporting rape in a sensationalist or titillating way.
How has participation in the project challenged you as an advocate and an individual woman?
That’s a good question. I don’t know whether it’s changed me, so much as made me more myself. I am more confident to be myself. It’s the first time in my life that I have spoken out about something so truthfully and followed my instincts 100%. Prior to this as a writer and actress I was far more controlled by what publishers, or directors wanted from me. Now, I don’t have to compromise myself in any way. It’s been incredibly liberating, although on many occasions terrifying. The campaign has had me on the edge of my comfort zone and even beyond it many, many times.
As you look two or three years ahead, tell us your vision or dream for the development of the No More Page 3 campaign?
I really do believe that the Page 3 pictures will have stopped by then. The NMP3 team and I work so well together though, that I would love us to pour our energies into another project. We have spoken about setting up a charity and going into schools talking about objectification, rape culture and online pornography, and various other issues that we feel strongly about. I am especially interested in online porn and the impacts this is having on all of us! I feel that the female body and sexuality is nearly always presented by men and for a male perspective.
You are passionate about living a world without sexism. What are the simple things that we can do to contribute to this collective voice for change?
I think the gateway to change is speaking out about it. I read somewhere (I wish I could find the quote) that women’s voices have been suppressed for so long that when we speak up about issues of inequality it changes things. Just by speaking out we start to shift the status quo. If you don’t like to go in a shop and be faced with the images on the front of Lads mags, for example, tell the shopkeeper. If an incident of sexism offends you, talk about it, or post the experience on The Everyday Sexism project. If a certain issue upsets you, support a relevant charity, write a blog, start an online petition; it really can make a difference.
What are your thoughts on the NMP3 campaign? Are you supporting it? Why? Why not?