Thank you for your reply to my letter asking if you would add your name to the
petition to David Dinsmore, Editor of the Sun newspaper, asking him to stop
showing topless Page 3 images of young women in his newspaper.
It was a disappointing reply for several reasons.
You mentioned being offended by seeing naked breasts as a problem for some
people – I think I may not explained the issue fully enough for you.
Although a part of the problem with Page 3, this is not the main reason that
women object to the daily portrayal of a topless young woman in a ‘family’
newspaper. The bigger concern is the safety of women and girls in our society,
and the fact that Page 3 daily conditions men to see women and girls first and
foremost as commodities to use for sexual gratification and then discard. Page
3 gives permission for a mindset which is harmful to women and compromises our
safety. These are sexualised, post-watershed, top-shelf images, available in an
unrestricted daily newspaper. They encourage, promote and reinforce a ‘lad’
culture which is sexist and misogynistic.
You refer to more graphic images being available on line, but this is not the
same. This has to be sought and is not delivered to you daily by a paper boy /
Existing legislation prohibits topless calendars from the workplace as they are
recognised to be humiliating and degrading to women, and therefore constitute a
form of sexual harassment. And yet topless Page 3 images are permitted at work,
as they are permitted on student campuses, trains, buses, tubes, pubs, cafes,
takeaways, parks, streets, waiting rooms – in fact everywhere in the public
space, including the homes of young girls where it is especially damaging.
Seeing men in public looking at Page 3 and hearing the inevitable lewd, obscene
and objectifying comments humiliates me as a woman and makes me feel less safe,
and has done throughout my whole life. The Sun takes the shame out of leering
at women publicly, normalises it and teaches young men that this is an
acceptable way to treat women and girls.
Research has shown that after looking at sexualised images of women, men are
significantly more likely to answer ‘yes’ to the questions ‘would you ever
consider having sex with an underage girl?’ and ‘would you ever consider
forcing a woman to have sex?’ Research has also shown that sexualised images of
women are seen as ‘objects’ by both men and women, and that this view then
extends to women in general.
I feel angry that if a young girl walks past a group of men, she is more likely
to be sexually harassed if they are looking at Page 3 at the time, and I think
that the physical and psychological safety of girls and women should be
prioritised over ‘a bit of fun for the lads’.
Page 3 overwhelmingly exploits one group: young, white British women, and
presents them as sexually available commodities. These women are sold the lie
that this is ‘glamour’ modelling by middle-aged male newspaper editors.
‘Glamour’ elicits admiration, whereas Page 3 is demeaning, and therefore
elicits a mixture of lust and contempt. Young women’s susceptibility to the
flattery, sexual attention and approval of men should not be exploited in a way
which effectively bars them from every other worthwhile career (including
lingerie and fashion modelling). The only career that Page 3 modelling provides
a real gateway to is the sex industry.
A good friend was exploited this way at the age of seventeen and can never
escape the images of her as they are readily available for anyone who wants to
search for them online – for ever. Every job she goes for, she knows that the
person interviewing her may search her name online and find these images.
The internet wasn’t even invented when she did them!
Women in their teens and early twenties are too young to fully appreciate the
impact modelling for Page 3 will have on their future lives. And yet, the
percentage of teenage girls whose ambition it is to become ‘glamour models’
gets bigger every day, as they see that their society approves most of those
women who are willing to take their clothes off. This is a huge waste of the
potential of our young women, and I feel that a national newspaper should not
be presenting such a role model to them every day. You imply that Page 3
modelling in some way helps employment. Is that what you would wish for your
daughter as a career?
Page 3 is sanctioned public bullying of women, as is made apparent by the Sun’s
response to any woman who objects to it. Women are effectively silenced by the
fear that we will be seen as jealous, ugly and prudish, as the Sun tells us.
I have experienced sexual harassment from men throughout my life – from wolf
whistling and men shouting obscenities at me from cars to being pinned against
a telegraph pole by a drunk paedophile. I was eleven when all these things
happened for the first time. Let me repeat that – eleven. Oh and all these
things happened in broad daylight in busy places in the Poole area.
The Sun also campaigns against domestic violence, and yet provides, in Page 3,
an effective daily weapon for abusers to use against their wives and partners.
As we know, dehumanising people makes it easier to abuse them.
These are my reasons for signing this petition, which is simply asking David Dinsmore
to voluntarily remove Page 3, it is not asking for a ban. I believe in freedom
of the press, but I oppose discrimination against one group of human beings.
How is the Sun still getting away with this in 2013?
I would also challenge your assertion that it is not difficult to find
“ladies with their tops off” in most parts of the UK on a summer’s
day. I spend a lot of time at the beach in the summer and even then (unless on
Studland nudist beach) it is quite unusual.
I know you are extremely busy, so thank you for taking the time to read this,
and I appreciate you considering the points I have raised. Your support would
be very welcome.
I look forward to hearing from you again.