Katie Pollard, 20, is studying Natural Sciences at University of Nottingham and is a GB leader in both 1st Smithies and 30th Nottingham GB groups. Katie shares with us why she is demanding ‘No More Page 3!’
A few weeks ago, Caroline Lucas MP stood up in parliament to begin a debate on media sexism wearing a T-Shirt which read “No More Page Three” in large, black capitals. She opened with the point that objectification of women in the media is fuelling a culture which normalises violence against women, quoting some alarming statistics, but was quickly stopped and told to cover up. She obliged, but pointed out 'it strikes me as an irony that this T-shirt is regarded as an inappropriate thing to be wearing in this House, whereas, apparently, it is appropriate for this kind of newspaper to be available to buy in eight different outlets on the Palace of Westminster estate.'
The newspaper she was referring to was The Sun, the widest circulating British newspaper, which, Monday to Friday, features an image of a topless woman on page 3, posing and smiling at the camera. Dominic Mohan, the ex-editor of The Sun, thinks this image represents “youth and freshness” and supporters of page 3 often say it is “a bit of harmless fun” and “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it”, so what’s the problem? Well, it turns out, there are lots of problems with page 3, one of which is that The Sun is a newspaper, not a lad’s mag or an age-restricted film, a newspaper, which gets left lying around in cafés, doctor’s waiting rooms and on public transport. This means that many people, children included, see page 3 without ever buying The Sun, meaning people who would never choose to view these images are being exposed to what is really soft porn in a newspaper.
This newspaper is read by around 7.5 million people every day and the tabloid is renowned for having a weighty impact on the views of its readership – having a particularly well-known influence on the results of general elections.
So, what does this influential source of information tell society about the role of women? In printing these images, The Sun, and other papers with a similar feature, is saying we are only to be valued for our appearance; that we are worth nothing more than the sum of our parts. That would be degrading enough, reducing women, with all our talents and skills and expertise, to a pair of boobs. But the harmfulness of these images does not stop there. The sexualised nature of these images gives the reader the impression that the page 3 girl is sexually available, and feeds the toxic notion that all women should be. This problem is seen throughout the media, for example, the music video for the No. 1 song this week (Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke) features a man singing “I know you want it” over and over again to a topless woman, while she stands and says nothing.
It would be naïve to think that these images do not have an impact on the way we think. Government research has shown that there is a link between the consumption of images which portray women as sex objects and the acceptance and normalisation of sexual harassment and aggressive behaviour towards women. As a student I see this far too often – male friends on campus make jokes which are often sexist, sometimes violently so; student-focused websites and Facebook pages like UniLad post rape jokes that get dozens of “likes”; walking to or from town, anytime of day or night, comes with the bonus of having men shout “compliments” from their cars; going to a nightclub as a group of girls is not really feasible.
This happens, in 2013, in Britain.
In fact it happens so often that The Everyday Sexism Project, a website set up last year to collate women’s routine experiences of prejudice and harassment, now has over 35,000 entries and has gone worldwide. The project recently made a short film on street harassment, as that seemed an all too common theme of the many tweets they received, which is at once both heart-breaking, for the culture we have to live in, and heart-warming, that women feel like they have a place where they will not be ridiculed for complaining about their treatment. A place where they are not told to lighten up, it’s only a bit of fun. A place where they are not told that catcalls are just a compliment. I believe it is time to join together and speak out.
So, in a country where, each year, up to 3 million women experience violence I think it should be a priority to try and break down this culture where rape is made into a joke and violence against women is trivialised? I believe this starts with getting rid of the casual objectification that is page 3, so does Caroline Lucas MP, Lucy-Ann Holmes, the founder of the No More Page Three campaign, and 106,000 other people who have signed her petition, not calling for any kind of censorship or legislation, just that the new editor of The Sun remove this out-dated and harmful feature. Last week, 1.3 million members of UNISON, the UK’s largest union, added their voices to this campaign for change, along with MPs who have signed the petition, universities that have voted to remove The Sun from their campus shops, organisations like The Girl Guides, Women’s Aid and the End Violence Against Women coalitions who have all publicly backed the movement.
So that’s why I’m saying No More Page 3, will you?
What do you think?