On the UN’s International Day of the Girl, members of The Girls’ Brigade England & Wales are backing No More Page 3!!
Below is the powerful and moving letter they sent to David Dinsmore, editor of The Sun.
We’re a group of women (aged 18 – 30) who are members of Girls’ Brigade England & Wales and we’re writing to ask you to remove the topless photos of women on Page 3 of The Sun. 120 years ago, Girls’ Brigade (GB) was created in Dublin by a pioneering woman, Margaret Lyttle, who wanted to see girls’ lives transformed from the inside out. In 2013, GB is a global Christian movement with members in 50 countries around the world and with just under 20,000 members in England & Wales.
Today is the UN’s International Day of the Girl; a day to celebrate the achievements of girls across the world, but also to highlight the persistent discrimination which half the world’s population endures simply because of their sex.
It’s also a day for us to dream of a better future.
We dream of living in a culture where girls and women are not objectified – where a woman’s worth and value is not solely measured by her sexual attractiveness but instead acknowledges her gifting, personality and talents.
We dream of living in a world where young women know their real value and worth from the inside out; where they don’t see their bodies as projects to be worked on as they diet/pluck/cut/shave/wax/tan to fit an unrealistic and narrow male-centred stereotype of what is considered to be beautiful.
We dream of living in a society where a national newspaper, like The Sun, depicts men and women as equals and no longer feels the need to display porn on Page 3 in order to sell newspapers copies.
David, you could help make our dream become a reality.
Have you ever wondered how it feels to be a girl or a young woman in the UK? Perhaps not. We’d love to share with you our own stories; but it won’t be an easy read!
Research and statistics show that a generation of young women in the UK are gripped by a self-esteem crisis. As you probably know, the government-commissioned Sexualisation of Young People Review found: ‘Exposure to the sexualised female ideal is linked with lower self-esteem, negative moods and depression in young women and girls.’
More recently, criminal law expert Professor Dionne Taylor argued that her research demonstrated that hyper-sexualisation has damaged the confidence, education and employment of young women in the UK. Psychologist Steve Biddulph in his book Raising Girls argues that girls are more depressed and stressed than ever because of the image-conscious culture they’re surrounded by.
But don’t just take our word for it. Using an online survey, we asked GB members (of all ages) to explain how they felt The Sun’s Page 3 had affected them. Around 70% of survey participants revealed that they believed Page 3, which you support and have allowed to continue since you became editor, has had a negative impact on their self-esteem. These are the GB members’ authentic voices:
- ‘Media images, especially Page 3, showing what girls “should” look like, make those who look “normal” feel inadequate.’
- ‘Page 3 provides girls of my age with the belief that they’re fat and not good enough and that they should change their bodies. It gives the impression that all that’s important about females is the shape of their bodies.’
- ‘Growing up, I believed that I wasn’t normal like everybody else. I believed I wasn’t skinny or pretty enough which led me to develop low self esteem. It wasn’t until I found my identity in Christ and realised that the women portrayed in the media were all airbrushed and that the ones deemed ‘perfect’ enough were still not ‘perfect’ – and this idea of being ‘perfect’ was not true and overreacted.’
- ‘It makes some of my friends feel that this is the way they need to look to be attractive and to have a boyfriend.’
David, these are the voices of real girls and young women who feel that their self-worth is being manipulated by a corporate world. Over the summer, you have defended Page 3 as a profit-making decision. Can you honestly defend damaging so many girls’ self esteem as a business decision?
Over the last month, we asked GB members in England & Wales about The Sun’s Page 3; overwhelmingly 97.5% of survey recipients say it’s time for you to lay it to rest. David, it’s great that you have taken some small steps already (ditching the patronising ‘News In Briefs’) but we think you need to go the full whack. As young women ourselves, let us share why:
- Page 3 teaches us to be ‘living dolls’ – For too long we’ve had the media, consciously and unconsciously, telling us that we’re too fat, or not pretty enough or haven’t got big enough boobs. We think girls and women are AMAZING… for so many other reasons than how we look – don’t you, David?
- Page 3 is sexist and unjust – Women are more likely to be treated as sex objects in The Sun than men, but treating anyone, regardless of their gender, as an object is unjust. The creation of a culture which reduces women to a collection of body parts is sexist and misogynistic and exists to limit us. We feel Page 3 perpetuates the myth that men are superior to women, by presenting women as vulnerable, sexually available objects which exist for men’s gratification. For example, only on rare occasions do you include any half-naked men in The Sun yet every day, women are portrayed with very little clothes on. Can you see the inequality of power in this David?
- Page 3 is patronising to our male friends – It suggests that men are only interested in current affairs if the news is printed next to semi-naked teenagers. We believe that men are capable of so much more then Page 3 suggests… don’t you, David?
We’re supporting the fantastic No More Page 3 Campaign because as young women, we’re increasingly concerned about the messages that Page 3 is communicating to our friends, family and communities. We don’t want to strive to be ‘living dolls’. We don’t want to feel pressure to conform to specific ideal of beauty. We don’t want to feel like our bodies are projects to be improved.
Instead we want to see women valued for who they are; not what they look like. We no longer want to be a self-hating generation. Instead, we have the hope of a new generation of girls emerging. A generation of young women who refuse to have their dreams and ambitions limited. A generation of young women who believe in themselves and recognise their true worth isn’t defined by their physical appearance.
In the past Page 3 has been justified as a ‘celebration’ of womanhood, but there are so many other aspects of femininity we’d love to see celebrated. We’d love to see men and women equally celebrated for their achievements, success and perseverance in overcoming difficult circumstances. In fact, we have suggestions about which women would look great on our alternative Page 3 – see attached. For example, equal rights campaigner Emily Davison (click here to see Emily Davison, Girls’ Brigade Alternative Page 3) who ‘exhibited determination and a strength of belief’ or Malala Yousafzai (click here to see, Malala Yousafzai, Girls’ Brigade Alternative Page 3) who ‘reminds us that all girls have the potential to change their world.’ And let’s not forget there are many ‘normal’ women across the UK doing incredible things every day like Mary Bucknell. Mary constantly helps people in her community – cleaning their houses and opening her home to strangers – and seeks no recognition for it.(click here to see, Mary Bucknall, Girls’ Brigade Alternative Page 3)
Let’s put Emily, Malala and Mary on Page 3 alongside other women whose worth lies not in their beauty, but their courage, their actions and their achievement. We hope of living in a culture which values people’s achievements, giftings and character over their physical appearance.
David, you really could help make our dream become a reality by making a decision to stop including topless photos of women on Page 3.
On the International Day of the Girl David, it’s time for you to reflect on the legacy that you’re leaving behind. It’s time to stop the objectification of women in the media and to start celebrating women for who they are and what they’ve achieved.
We appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. On behalf of boys, girls, women and men everywhere, we’d like to thank you in advance for saying ‘No More Page 3’.
Charlotte (22 from Plymouth), Claire (30 from Didcot), Katie (21 from Barnsley), Lucy (18 from Epsom), Rachel (21 from Derbyshire) and Sarah (24 from Newport Pagnell) – members of The Girls’ Brigade England & Wales.