Unless you’re living under a particularly misogynistic rock, you may well have heard in recent days about a campaign called No More Page 3. It will come as no surprise that I wholeheartedly support the aims of the campaign, which can be found here (follow on Twitter here). Please do sign the petition.
An article in El Pais today explains more of the background and gives a European point of view – original article here. I engaged my rusty linguistics brain and made a decent fist of translating the article, as below. Any thoughts or opinions on either the campaign or my distinctly average translation skills are welcome!
No more ‘Topless Girls’ in the Newspaper
One day in July, Lucy-Anne Holmes, an English woman in her thirties, saw The Sun, a Rupert Murdoch tabloid paper which is also the biggest-selling daily paper in Britain. The Sun on the day in question carried an article on the athlete Jessica Ennis, who had become a national Olympic heroine. Arriving at Page 3, Holmes was surprised; no sign of the classic topless girl which The Sun has carried for 42 years on its third page. “I thought the page had changed during the Olympic Games, or perhaps that the newspaper had decided to suspend the publication of the page as a sign of respect to so many visiting cultures during this period,” she says. But no. She arrived at Page 13, and here it was: a young woman in briefs, with her name, her marital status and her home town, as per usual. “I felt incredibly sad,” she relates. “Here was the largest photo of a woman in the entire paper, bigger than any of those of Jessica Ennis. And so it has been for more than four decades. I could not stop thinking that this picture of a woman, shown as a sexual object, was repeated day in, day out, in a family newspaper.”
From that point on, Holmes, who is an actress and the author of a book entitled The (Im)Perfect Girlfriend, began to write letters to the editor of The Sun, Dominic Mohan. Letters which, predictably, received no response and had little effect. But about three weeks ago, she decided to send her campaign viral. She recorded a video and uploaded it to YouTube, opened one account on Twitter and another on Facebook called No More Page 3, and organised a petition on the change.org site. The majority of signatures have been accompanied by messages such as “Page 3 is the main way in which women are objectified in Britain. It’s there, on the kitchen table, on the couch. Young boys seeing this paper learn that women are there to serve their sexual needs and women believe that this is their purpose.” Holmes identifies with these messages and talks of the challenges of adolescence, when they hear their peers talking about Page 3. “Until I was about 35 I didn’t realise the amount of hate I directed towards that part of my body. Since I was young I had seen these photos and thought: wow, my boobs are nothing like these girls’.”
The more followers the campaign gets, the greater the media attention it has generated, and there are those who think that this time might finally be the last time. In 1987, the Labour MP Clare Short raised a question in Parliament and failed, due to lukewarm support from within her own Party, but, more than anything, due to the deplorable performance of the Tories, who made sure they interrupted and ridiculed her during her speech in the House of Commons. However it was this campaign of ridicule that she was subjected to in The Sun newspaper itself, which baptised her Crazy Clare and Killjoy Clare, and spent months talking of “jealous” people, who must feel let down by their own imperfect bodies. When, some years later, Short resumed her campaign, the Murdoch newspaper even sent a gang of Page 3 girls to her house, like bailiffs chasing a debt.
Holmes is not put off by such history. “I’m not appealing to the government. I’m offering a platform so that people who believe that these images are harmful can speak directly to The Sun and its advertisers. If the government begins talking about this it will only be when public opinion has become so strong that to talk about it will win them votes. I also believe that social media is a great advantage. If in the end we achieve something, it will be in large part thanks to Twitter,” she says, while she asks that campaigning be “fun and creative”, not furious.
The question of advertisers is not a small one. Between the 29th October and 4th November, the campaign has mooted a boycott of the main brands, such as the supermarkets Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsburys, who are amongst the main advertisers in The Sun.
The paper’s editor, Dominic Mohan, defended the controversial Page 3 this year at the Leveson enquiry which is looking into illegal phone hacking. “Page 3 is a British institution, with 42 years of history celebrating natural beauty”. Another protagonist of this media scandal, Rebekah Brooks, had the opportunity to end Page 3 during her decade-long time as first female editor of The Sun. But far from binning the section, Brooks strengthened it. On her first day in charge, she laughed at the critics by placing a semi-nude model on Page 3 with the caption, “Rebekah, from Wapping”, the birthplace of Brooks herself.
But the precedents are not all discouraging. The German equivalent of The Sun, the tabloid Bild, spent 28 years putting nude soft-porn models on the front cover, no less. But last March the paper, which was the biggest selling in Europe, buried the custom. “It’s a small step for women but a big step for Bild and for all the men in Germany,” wrote the editor in his editorial, in which he explained that the decision was taken on Mothers’ Day, when more than 300 female employees of the paper enjoyed a day off and so the paper was made solely for men.