At the start of the week I was feeling all empowered; shaking my bits at early morning Legs, Bums & Tums class in the style of Sport England’s brilliant ‘This Girl Can’ campaign. If you haven’t yet seen it, you should. Here’s a campaign that says all women can. We can love our bodies – no matter our shape or size or colour.
And then the unthinkable happened. Later that day, I rejoiced with so many others in the news that The Sun had finally got rid of its embarrassing feature in which topless women are put on display for everyone to look at.
After months of campaigning, it seemed like the No More Page 3 campaign had finally achieved its objective and that we could now turn our attention into correcting the plethora of other ways in which women’s bodies are judged, harmed or discriminated against.
Then on Wednesday, like a pubescent teenage gatecrasher at a feminist victory parade, The Sun declared it had had a “mammary lapse” and the ridiculous page was back sporting another barenaked lady.
Well I for one was fuming. Not just because of the calm-down-dear-smarmy-adolescent way in which the newspaper went about ‘mocking’ all those who had dared to think this was the end of page three (ha, we fooled ya!), but because… well… page three is Just. So. Awful.
When I think of page three, I imagine the men of Britain thinking to themselves “phwoar”, in a Carry On-esque way as they ogle the latest offering in Britain’s largest-selling daily.
Seriously, what century are we actually living in?
And then there are the women who love page three – glamour models like Jodie Marsh, who thinks the institution is a perfect example of women’s liberation and equality with men. She basically urged “pretend feminists” to pipe down and turn their attention to causes that “actually matter” such as anti-FGM campaigns. I’m with you there, Jodie, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive. You can simultaneously want to end FGM while sporting a No More Page 3 campaign t-shirt.
I also agreed with Jodie when she tweeted this: “And remember ladies, you should be PROUD of who you are and PROUD of your body, no matter what shape or size. Women CAN do it all.”
But here’s the thing… If you really think that the motivations for keeping page three for the powers-that-be at The Sun are women’s equality and freedom, then you’re deluding yourself. If they wanted women to celebrate their bodies – “no matter what shape or size” – then they’d have women of all shapes and sizes featured. But the page three girls all come from the same cookie-cutter beauty mould, from where I’m standing.
Newspapers are powerful. They are capable of influencing public opinion, of winning or losing elections, of hailing people as heroes one minute and the scum of the earth the next. In this broken world we’re in, newspapers have a huge responsibility.
That’s why I want to see the end of page three – not because I’m a Christian prude – but because I don’t want my future daughters to live in a world in which it’s seen as acceptable for them to be judged on their bra size, for them to compare themselves to the naked pictures in a family newspaper. I don’t want them to think of their bodies as inferior.
Because I don’t want them to think: ‘This Girl Can’t.’
So many of us underestimate the effect that a low sense of body image has on how we carry ourselves and how we think about our value. A crippling sense of low self-esteem can hold us back from being the amazing women we can all be.
That’s why I care so strongly about seeing the end of page three. It’s just one of many, many ways in which women are judged on how they look. This view of women’s bodies is pervasive and creeps into the workplace, the media and the Church. While it may seem harmless to many, the effects of these images can manifest in all sorts of ways.
The sad thing is, it seems most people don’t care enough. Despite having gone on for months and received a significant amount of publicity, the No More Page 3 campaign hasn’t yet even reached 250,000. And yet each day nearly two million people are buying The Sun.
This is a David vs Goliath battle. But we know who will win in the end.