It’s been half a year since Lucy Holmes started her Change.org petition against Page 3, tapping into a dormant anger that had been bubbling under the surface for what seemed like years. Page 3 was just one part of a background hum of sexism, like tinnitus, that women like me had got accustomed to; our friends, colleagues, and even ourselves were complicit in downplaying its harm.
Holmes’ petition copy isn’t polished, but its raw exasperation shocked many out of their stupor; causing readers to step back and realise, for a moment… bloody hell, it’s 2012, and the national press is still Benny Hill-ing about the place like it’s 1979! I signed the petition immediately, encouraging others to do so by writing about my own relationship with Page 3 here.
It’s easy to become disillusioned with feminism in the West; sometimes it can appear divisive or elitist, highlighting nuances – however valid – that leave little for activists to grapple onto. A movement as huge as feminism doesn’t tend to focus its attentions on a single thing for long enough to do anything about it, but the Page 3 cause was nicely binary: Do you agree that Page 3 is harmful? Yes? Sign! Sure enough, the flawed, yet full-of-heart petition gathered momentum and high-profile supporters. Here, I thought, was a totem we could topple together.
101 ways to be sexist
It’s naive to think we could end sexism by removing Page 3, as the media has found myriad creative and insidious ways to be sexist through choice of coverage and language too, but at the very least it would be symbolic victory; a bold green light to our contemporaries to keep fighting against the poor treatment of women in a so-called ‘modern’ society.
This is why I was disappointed when I saw left-wing opposition to the petition, often heavy handed, where simple criticism would have been sufficient.
Martin Robbins at New Statesman found the petition ‘sinister’, taking issue with what he saw to be prudish wording. He also questioned Holmes’ motives, partly by digging out a one of her past blog posts where she outlined a self-defined concept called ‘beautiful sex’ - and accused her of aligning nudity with misogyny.
Being sex and pornography-positive, whilst standing against Page 3
Despite disagreeing with Lucy Holmes’ ‘beautiful sex’ idea (we’re sex and pornography-positive here at The Flick), I felt it was important to stand with Holmes against Page 3, regardless of her opinions on a different point.
Robbins concluded his article by arguing that a cure for sexism in the media is, if anything “…more nudity in newspapers, not less.” But can the mainstream media be relied upon to curate a balanced diet of nudity and sexuality – particularly of the non-racist, non-heteronormative kind? (Incidentally, here’s an awesome take-down of Robbins’ article, by Glosswitch)
A photo in another article from New Statesman features anti-Page 3 campaigners holding up a board showing the differences in the ways men and women are portrayed in newspapers (men: clothes, women: practically naked) which neatly illustrates what happens when the mainstream media curates nudity and sexuality.
Women- that’s all you’re worth. Day after day…those images in front of your eyes. That’s all you’re worth to society.
LEGO ends partnership with The Sun – is this the end game?
I signed the No More Page 3 petition in the spirit of the moment, and I’m ashamed to admit I thought nothing would come of it. I was wrong.
The No More Page 3 campaign hit a sweet spot in timing; coinciding with the Leveson Inquiry and attracting many high-profile supporters such as Caitlin Moran and Alastair Campbell. Holmes and her fellow grassroots campaigners found, in late 2012, a world where it was no longer unfashionable – or simply futile- to speak out against Page 3.
Victory hasn’t found them yet, but it feels tantalisingly close. Back in February, Rupert Murdoch himself agreed on Twitter that Page 3 was old-fashioned (although missing the point as to why, but we’ll take what we can), journalists such as Erik Petersen have been working hard to keep this issue in the public arena, and significantly, LEGO yesterday severed their partnership with The Sun, in a move that has been linked to growing public concern over their association with Page 3.
I can’t think of a better reason to carry on campaigning. After all, it’s International Women’s Day tomorrow… can we make it our year, too?