Page Three

My Dad runs his business from home, and when I was younger there always used to be one or two people working (repairing pianos if you're curious) in the back shed. I remember one chap especially. He had large white trainers that were done up so tight their toes always strained upwards - towards his belly; which looked like Golden Syrup just about to fall off a spoon. He was balding, and the light smattering of hairs he did have on top of his head were always trying to escape upwards. He had fingers like bundles of chipolatas that he would use to smoosh his glasses back onto his face at regular intervals. He was a very animated speaker but, in fact, a very sedentary person who would trundle around in an office chair to save from getting up.

His most defining attribute, to my young self, is that he would buy Kinder Eggs like you would normal eggs - by the dozen. He was living with his parents at the time and working a good job so I guess he had cash to splash. I was there a lot, naturally, after school or on days off - just helping to eat all that chocolate and make plastic toys. Eventually there was a whole bin-liner full of Kinder toys, imagine that.

Anyway, you would not guess what his newspaper of choice was? . . . That's right! It was The Sun. (For those of you that don't know The Sun - it' a family newspaper that always has a picture of a topless girl on page three) I used to peruse The Sun whilst consuming delicious chocolate shells in fast-forward -om-nom-nom-om-nom-nom. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this newspaper wasn't impenetrable like others, it was easy reading, I could easily educate myself about affairs of the world. I developed a clever knack of flipping the pages so I could casually skip Page Three, or I'd work backwards from Dear Deidre (hilarious) and skip over looking at 'the boobs'. Then when no-one was around I'd have a good look at 'the boobs', read the caption and absorb the overall ambience of the page: the smiling girl in the news.

What did this education give me? A horrendous, stomach-grinding fear. Sometimes I would lay awake, feeling sick with worry that my boobs wouldn't turn out alright. Maybe one would be bigger than the other or they would hang like cushion covers missing their glorious plump. It was terrifying. I won't ask you to imagine the feeling because you know it exactly - it's the feeling of things being out of your control. It's that long shallow breath you take when you don't know if the money will come through in time to pay the bills. It was a fear I couldn't quantify and that I knew I could only resolve years down the line, when the anticipated tits would appear. This is a worry any pre-teen can conjure up but the presence of The Sun cemented it in my mind, it was how I knew that tits were important. I could almost cry just thinking about it - that I was so deeply worried.

Of course I could see boobs other places if I put my mind to it, if I searched them out: which I did. And bums. And willies. And fannies. And my friend did quite a satisfactory re-enactment of Ken and Barbie on their honeymoon. The Sun was different though because I didn't seek it out, I didn't tip-toe into adult territory for a stealthy glance: it was presented to me. I felt the weight of expectation - my chest suddenly was of such gravitas, it had social standing independent of me - it had more social standing than me. It was a make-or-break area. Shit-a-brick . . .

The reason I'm telling you this is because I'm 25 now and I want Page Three gone by the time I have children. It is quite obviously backward and embarrassing. There is a brilliant petition (sign it if you agree) and campaign happening now. I'm behind all the actions completely and I'm going to chase the cause until change happens. Shall we do it together? Maybe you could help? - Make a blogpost or Tweet or do a mucky Facebook all over your friends.
What do you think?


  1. Took my 8 year old to the hairdressers the other week. He picked up some bum rag of a newspaper. I was cringing inside that it might be said paper with said content. It wasn't,but still, the vulgarity of it hit home. :(

  2. Oh well done! I really think more and more people are realising how rubbish it is - we could actually make a change.

  3. Great post! I completely agree. Thanks for the link to the petition!

  4. Oh, I'm afraid I disagree! I personally find those pictures of naked women retrograde, vulgar and slightly repulsive - but what newspapers publish is their own business, isn't it? If I don't want to be confronted with this clichéd, plasticky image of a woman, I can simply buy another newspaper...
    As a child, I sometimes glimpsed page 3 models in the newspaper at my grandparents' house, but I also saw naked women at the swimming-pool, in paintings at museums, in photography books... To be honest, Diane Arbus' pictures fascinated my young self far more than globe-breasted women in newspapers.
    I don't agree with censorship, and having a variety of images is a good thing, in my opinion - even if some of those images aren't to my taste.

  5. We'll just have to agree to disagree - that's a horrible phrase but I can't think of another. It's my feeling that The Sun's got it so wrong - the boobs seem so out of context in a paper that says it's a family newspaper. I'd be happy with it just being put under a different category to news - they're really bad at news after all . . . really, really bad. I do think that what newspapers print is more than just their business though - world happenings and ladies bodies do not belong to them - they have to be shown and reported responsibly. I don't know how this responsibility can be instilled but censorship certainly seems too strong a word.
    It's so good to hear different opinions, especially so well put. I think you're right about having a variety of images but I think what's equally important is how the images are categorised, presented or accessed. Context is what makes things provocative.

  6. So well articulated Jo (this post)... I made my boyfriend read it because it expresses a feeling I know so well. He thought it was great too. I cringe when I see this stuff in places like the supermarket and the service station where the men and women and boys and girls of the world should be able to buy a litre of milk without sleaze and plastic surgery related expectations being forced upon them. This stuff is very harmful to women.... I work in family violence and it all contributes to the socialized expectation of ownership of women that abusive men have.

  7. And yeah it's critical that naked women are portrayed responsibly. That means in empowering ways (poses, scenarios) and with a variety of healthy and natural looking bodies. It's important that women aren't sexualised more than men. It undermines focus on other aspects of their identity. Nothing wrong with female sexuality, but it's so often confused with exploitation. Ok rant over :)

  8. A wonderful rant! And in two parts. Interesting especially because of your job. It's so good to hear different views, It makes me feel more confident to talk about it in real life - to ask people their views and to be able to articulate my own. There are so many easy barriers - 'it's meant to be lighthearted' etc that you have to get past to get people to really think about it.

  9. It can definitely be scary to challenge people... but if something doesn't feel right for you it's so very important to do it. We do have a right to expect better things. Anyway good on you again. You've obviously got an excellent head on your shoulders :)