The Boy in the Newsagents

A few days ago I had what I like to call ‘a Page 3 experience’, and I posted an account of it on the NoMorePage3 Facebook page. This is it:

‘I was in London the other day and popped in to a local newsagents, which was one of those that has the newspapers displayed on the counter in front of you, next to the till. I was waiting to pay and in front of me were two children, seemingly brother and sister: the boy was about ten and the girl about thirteen. They were paying for some sweets, and as the woman put their money in the till I noticed the boy stealing a sideways glance at his sister. He then quickly turned over the front page of the Sun on the counter right in front of him, and displayed the Page 3 picture. His sister scolded him and the woman behind the till looked very disapproving, and the page was hastily closed again. The girl dragged the boy out of the shop, obviously angry with him. That incident sort of summed up why I support NMP3. The boy knew what he was doing was ‘naughty’ and also in some sense he knew he had power: he could annoy three women at once – myself, the shopkeeper and his sister, by doing what he did. Boys will always be naughty but the Sun provides them with the means and the permission to be naughty in a sexist way.’

The post generated so many negative comments along the lines of ‘You’re sexist for saying boys will always be naughty…’ that I thought I’d better explain my comments more fully.

In writing what I did I was very aware of the argument used against NMP3, that P3 does not ’cause’ bad behaviour, that people (men) would treat women the way they (some of them) do, with or without P3. In other words, P3 does not have a provable, causative, harmful effect, so we’re all wasting our time. My response to this is that images like P3 in the public space provide a background of acceptance for seeing women in a particular way, and therefore help to give (some) men permission to behave badly. It’s a ‘normalising’ image which makes it more difficult for women to feel like respected members of society. In telling my story I did not want to imply that P3 ’caused’ this boy’s behaviour, which is why I used the caveat ‘boys will always be naughty…’ to preface the particular ‘naughty’ that the boy was able to be that day. In retrospect I should have said ‘The Sun didn’t make this boy naughty but it provided him with the means to be naughty in a sexist way’. Which is what I meant.

The word ‘naughty’ by the way, was not supposed to be seen as a perjorative term: I use it as I would use ‘lively’, ‘mischievous’ ‘a scamp’ – in other words like most children are, or should be, as they go through childhood testing what’s acceptable amongst the adults around them. The boy’s behaviour was ‘normal’ – just the same as if he had hidden his sister’s sweets under the newspapers for example. The fault lies entirely with the Sun for giving him ‘permission’ to annoy his sister in that particular way. I was certainly not suggesting that only boys are naughty: of course girls are too, and a little girl in the same circumstances may well have hidden her big sister’s sweets as a joke. She is much more UNlikely to goad her sister with P3 though, and this is where the difference lies, and where it is relevant to single out boys for attention.

We debate all the time the subject of men’s treatment of women and why some men objectify or disrespect women and girls, and how that can lead to a greater acceptance of violence against them. So in my view, even though I did not want to come across as sexist against boys, the gender in this story is relevant. It is boys that grow up into men. Some attitudes start early and are conditioned by what is seen to be around and acceptable. Some people on the Facebook thread took exception to my suggestion that the boy knew he had power, and maybe in a short comment I didn’t explain this adequately. I said *in some sense* he knew he had power, because I don’t think he was necessarily conscious of it himself, but on a deeper level he was. In other words, something had already sunk in. He wasn’t deliberately being sexist but he knew what would upset his sister. He didn’t look so much at the image itself, but at his sister’s face to see her reaction to it.

For those people who have commented that this is all making a mountain out of a molehill, I might agree with you but for the fact that an innocuous little story about P3 in a  public space generated more adverse comments than I had expected, and even a little bit of hate. I had merely wanted to illustrate that (much like having P3 opened up in front of you on a train) a P3 experience is potentially always around the next corner, and can pop up when you’re least expecting it, or when you are not prepared for it. Just to recap – a 10 year old boy exposed a soft porn image in front of three females – an adolescent girl, a woman (me) old enough to be his mum and a woman (the shopkeeper) old enough to be his grandmother. I repeat, I am not blaming the boy or saying it was intentional, but that, simply, THAT’S WHAT HAPPENED. It would not have happened if there was not a soft porn image in the newspaper. The symbolic meaning of this is striking (to me), in a world where the visual plays a more and more important role in our lives, and symbolic meanings have impact. An undressed person amongst dressed people is a symbol of vulnerability, even without the sexual subtext, and will have more adverse impact on some people than others.

For myself, I am no longer personally affected by seeing P3 in a public place – followers of the campaign will know I like to get my camera out these days if someone dares to sit next to me on the train with a copy of the Sun. But I used to be; so I am doing this for my younger self, the one who did not dare to speak up, the one who felt bad, and humiliated, and sometimes even in danger. Without going into my own earlier experiences, I know that the woman behind the young boy, opening up the Sun to P3 as a joke, might be suffering from body dysmorphia or eating disorders, might have been left by her husband for a younger woman, might be taunted with P3 at home by her boyfriend, might be experiencing bullying on account of the size of her breasts, might be suffering from depression, might be a victim of sexual violence, might be a rape victim.

There was a time when that innocuous P3 experience would have caught me off guard and ruined the whole day for me. In today’s parlance it would have ‘triggered’ me. I would not have been able to write about it or risk sharing it with anybody else, let alone a group of strangers on Facebook. I am so thankful that I am stronger now, but on behalf of all those people out there who struggle with what P3- style sexist media triggers for them, I will continue to fight, and write, on behalf of this very wonderful campaign.

Please sign it here if you haven’t already done so:

 www.change.org/nomorepage3
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Dear Mr Cameron

Dear Mr Cameron

I note your views about the difference between soft porn in newspapers and the more hard core variety to be found on the internet :http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/nov/22/david-cameron-page-3?CMP=twt_fd. I agree with you that children need to be protected from the more extreme and upsetting subject matter that they can ‘stumble across’ whilst searching for other things, because they are children and some of these images can be traumatising, even to adults. Children are not equipped to deal with such subject matter and it is right to attempt to limit their accidental exposure to it.

However, I disagree with your views about pornographic images of women in newspapers, such as the Sun’s Page 3. Your assertion that parents can control their children’s access to these images has been proved wrong time and time again by all the testimonies from contributors to the NoMorePage3 campaign, the Child Eyes campaign, Page 3 Stories and the Everyday Sexism project. Women, and men, keep telling you that they cannot control their children’s access to Page 3 porn, because it is found everywhere that you would expect to find a newspaper – cafes, takeaways, hotels, public transport…I’m sure you’ve heard all this before. It cannot be emphasised enough that it is BECAUSE IT IS IN A NEWSPAPER that we have no control over it. We cannot demand that someone stops reading a NEWSPAPER! You yourself used the NEWSPAPER defence when replying to Caroline Lucas’s request that the Sun should not be available on the parliamentary estate while it continues to display naked women. OF COURSE you have a right to read all the NEWSPAPERS, anyone suggesting differently must be anti-democratic. So, just as a woman at work (even an MP) has no control over whether or not she views porn in her working day, so it is with parents sitting with their children next to a Sun reader on the bus, or in the cafe. The newspapers, and freedom of the press in a free society, are sacrosanct, and we as women and children are powerless against it.

As I said, I think you’ve heard all these arguments before, so let me try a different tack. If, as you yourself has said, parents should just ‘turn the page’ when children are around, there is some agreement here that the images are unsuitable for children, and potentially damaging. This is, after all, why we have the watershed on television, to protect children from subject matter they are not equipped to deal with. Parents who ignore the protection put in place by society, and let their children stay up all night watching inappropriate material, are widely seen as not doing their job properly. I would say that parents who buy the Sun, and leave it lying around the family home, are equally failing in their duty, but they can do this with impunity BECAUSE IT IS A NEWSPAPER. I know I keep emphasising this, but it really is the main point….

So, as I’m sure you can see, the problem becomes not just one of what your own children are growing up to find normal, but what other people’s children are internalising and learning from. You are aware I know of many recent reports charting the relationship between the sexualisation and objectification of women in the media and the legitimising and normalising of discrimination and violence against women. (See the UK CEDAW report on the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women of April 2013, the Bailey Sexualisation of Young People Review of 2010 and the Leveson report and recommendations of 2012 if you’d forgotten about these).

My argument against Page 3 then is not so much to do with the harm caused to children by accidental viewing of pornographic material. Page 3 is tame compared to what is available on the internet, and most children are not going to be severely traumatised by glancing at a pair of breasts in their neighbour’s newspaper on the bus. They are, however, likely to grow up with some strongly reinforced messages about what it means to be a woman, and what is valued about women, in the society they have been born into. This is damaging for all of us, but particularly women. The policeman who deals with your rape allegation, the jurors at your trial and the journalists who report on it are all to some extent conditioned by the norms of the society they grew up in, and if this includes a daily dose of scantily-clad, always up for it, tits-out-for-the-lads view of women, then this does not  promote equality for women within the law. The earlier in life this becomes your blueprint, the more danger there is of you being brainwashed, and that is what, for me, is the main problem with our Page 3 culture.

Here’s a little anecdote to end with …

During the NoMorePage3 43rd birthday peaceful protest in Brighton last weekend I was approached by two 10-year old boys. They asked me why I wanted rid of Page 3, and seemed genuinely interested in my reply. I told them about the inequality fostered by the oversexualised portrayal of women in the press, and a little about how that makes girls feel, and about the context of it being freely available in a newspaper. I spoke to them respectfully and they listened intently. Then, when I’d finished, they looked at eachother and smirked a bit. One of them then explained to me, carefully, as though to an idiot, that the Sun was CHEAPER than buying a magazine, and they were only schoolboys so they couldn’t afford to spend any more money on pictures like that…DUH! They departed, giggling, and I was left feeling like the idiot they’d taken me for. I think these boys’ sense of entitlement to a woman’s body at such a young age is deeply troubling, but it is the attitude engendered by Page 3 and its ilk, and in that sense is hardly surprising.

What do you think, Mr Cameron? Do you still think that parents can control their children’s access to newspaper porn? Do you still think it’s a problem primarily for children?  And at what age does it become ‘appropriate’ to objectify women?

I look forward to your considered response.

Yours respectfully etc etc.

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-dinsmore-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/edward-timpson-mp-make-it-illegal-to-display-porn-around-children www.childeyes.org @ChildEyesUK

A Lifetime of Page 3

When Page 3 first started in the 1970s I was just approaching adolescence. I remember it well (it was in black and white back then) . I was at secondary school and there was some building work being done on a part of the school that I had to walk past every morning on the way in. The group of builders working there would talk to me and my friends each morning and we were flattered to get this attention from older men : it made us feel grown-up. They always read the Sun and they started showing Page 3 to us and asking what we thought about that day’s model. Everyone seemed to be cool about it so I pretended to be cool too, but actually I felt embarrassed and humiliated. I was a late developer (still waiting…) and the images made me feel inadequate. I realise now that everyone else was probably also putting on an act to impress the older men, and may not have been comfortable either. I also realise in retrospect that it was probably a turn-on for these men to have the opportunity to present a sexualised image to schoolgirls and watch their reaction.

One of the reasons I was unable to complain was that these images were in a national newspaper, and therefore condoned (or so it seemed) by society. It was ‘normal’, so obviously I was the one who was ‘abnormal’ to be bothered by it. I couldn’t risk being the only one who didn’t like it…

Fast forward to a more recent experience : it was my fiftieth birthday and as a treat my partner booked a weekend away in the country. We were staying in a lovely old pub and on the Saturday night we were sitting in the bar having a drink to celebrate my birthday. There were several men in the room but I was the only woman. I was looking pretty good – it was my birthday : I’d made an effort! One of the men sitting at the bar was looking at the Sun newspaper. Suddenly he turned round to the room, displayed the Page 3 picture that he’d been looking at, and said, ‘Cor…you’d have to go a long way to find a woman like THAT…!’ He was addressing all the men in the bar (my bloke included), as if I didn’t exist. I had heard that women over fifty become invisible, but this was  rather too abrupt  for my liking. I’d only JUST turned fifty…! AND I was looking good that night…(I really had made an effort…). He, by the way, was probably in his late sixties, grossly overweight and sweaty : hardly a catch. But he felt entitled to assess, and comment on, the hotness of a half-naked young woman, PUBLICLY, in front of another woman, VERY rudely, because Page 3 allows some men to think they can do that.

When I was a young woman I felt too embarrassed about my developing body to kick up a fuss. Now I’m older I don’t care so much about kicking up a fuss, but I realise my opinions don’t count any more, because, whatever my other attributes and achievements, I am no longer in possession of a young pair of breasts…

SO! There you have it! It doesn’t matter about your age, or your circumstances… Whether you’re fifteen or fifty, there will be a Page 3 experience tailored to suit YOU!!!

If you haven’t signed the petition yet, here it is :

http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-dinsmore-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

Happy Birthday No More Page 3 !

I wrote this blog a whole year ago, to celebrate the first birthday of the NoMorepage3 Campaign and the diversity of its supporters. Whilst I would rather there not be the need for a second birthday, this year there is even more to celebrate. Signatures stand at over 200,000, the campaign has attracted support from many more politicians, including Ed Milliband, more and more groups and associations, such as the Girls Brigade and Mumsnet have added their voices, and the media coverage has grown and grown. On top of that, the Sun’s Irish edition has dropped the Page3 feature, and, despite increasingly desperate efforts at promotion such as the misguided CheckemTuesday feature and the failed World Cup giveaway, sales of the Sun have been decreasing all year.The NoMorePage3 Campaign has sponsored some fantastic women sports stars: Cheltenham Town Ladies FC, Nottingham Forest Ladies FC and Scottish mountain biking champion Lee Craigie all now wear NMP3 kit. Over the year lots of regional NMP3 groups have sprung up to capitalise on local support and bring fresh energy and ideas to the campaign. More than all that though is the raising of consciousness which has been achieved by this campaign: media sexism is a talking point again and is part of a bigger picture where women’s lives and voices are being listened to and debated. It’s a very exciting time and the NMP3 campaign has added hugely to it. Here’s what I wrote a year ago, with thanks to all you diverse and wonderful supporters out there, and to the team at HQ that work so tirelessly for all of us:

I have been following the No More Page 3 campaign for a year now, ever since its inception in August 2012. I have watched it grow from a few signatures and Lucy Anne Holmes all on her own, to over 115,000 signatures and a whole team of dedicated campaigners. I have followed the website, the blog, Twitter and Facebook, I have joined in many discussion threads and I have read many articles and blogs that the campaign has linked to or recommended. I have been to a flash mob, to an NUJ event on media sexism and a fantastic Stand up for Women comedy gig, and I’ve met lots of lovely people (that’s YOU, the nmp3 team…!)

It has been a fantastic year, to witness the growth of a movement, and to hear women’s voices, from all backgrounds and walks of life, all coming together to denounce the outmoded sexism of Page 3, and to do something about it. In the process this brilliant campaign has garnered the support of celebrities, charities, unions and the Girl Guides, amongst others, and has had increasing media attention. This subject is now well and truly on the agenda : thanks to the hard work of all involved, it will not go away!

So it AMAZES me that there are still people out there who characterise the campaigners as a group of hairy, ugly, jealous, humourless feminists… The one thing the group ISN’T is one-dimensional, consisting as it does of a huge range of people with different experiences and reasons for signing. So I thought it would be nice to celebrate the campaign’s birthday by making a list of all the different reasons for support that I have noticed throughout the year, and in that way celebrate the diversity of the people who have become involved in the campaign and contributed to it.

So – here’s my list. It is by no means a comprehensive survey, I’ve probably left some people out, and I apologise in advance for any lazy, inaccurate cultural stereotyping…  But here goes :

  • Teachers : ‘Images like this can be brought into school and they are partly responsible for an increase in sexual bullying’
  • Politicians : ‘Exploitation and early sexualisation of girls creates a problem for society’
  • Men : ‘We want the women in our lives to be treated with respect’
  • Women of colour : ‘It’s another expression of the white beauty ideal – it’s racist as well as sexist’
  • Breast-feeding mums : ‘The over-sexualisation of breasts makes it more difficult to breast-feed in public’
  • *even some* Sun readers : ‘Not bothered about the boobs to be honest, I mainly buy it for the football’
  • Feminists : ‘Unequal representation of women – men are usually pictured fully-dressed but women have to be half-naked’
  • Psychologists : ‘Sexual objectification leads to negative stereotyping and the risk of stereotype threat’
  • People of faith : ‘Sex is a private matter between consenting adults within a loving relationship’
  • Parents : ‘We don’t want our kids to come across these images in cafes, trains and other public places where people leave them’
  • The body-concious : ‘I don’t want to be reminded of my imperfections every day’
  • Women’s groups : ‘ Over-sexual representation of women can provide a context in which rape culture can flourish’
  • Social historians : ‘The Sun’s decision to provide soft porn in a newspaper paved the way for the re-branding of porn in lads mags’
  • *even some* Glamour models : ‘It’s not glamorous, it’s demeaning’
  • The working class : ‘Don’t patronise us with boobs in the paper!’
  • Prudes : ‘Disgusting!’
  • Guardian readers : ‘The whole paper is scum, get rid of all the other pages while you’re at it’
  • Artists : ‘Beauty is the human body as nature intended it, not the airbrushed, photoshopped version’
  • Health professionals : ‘Seeing over-idealised body shapes all the time can lead to problems such as depression and eating disorders’
  • Lesbian/gay/bi/trans people : ‘Heteronormative!’
  • Philosophers : ‘In an arena set aside for ‘news’ this is essentially a lie being told every day’
  • Young people : ‘Is that what we have to aspire to…?’
  • Older people : ‘It was bad enough when it was just the Sun, but now it’s the Star and the Sport as well’
  • Even older people : ‘Put them away love, you’ll catch your death…’
  • People who love sex : ‘It pushes the idea of a narrow male fantasy rather than celebrating female sexuality’
  • Family members : ‘I wouldn’t want it to be my mother/sister/daughter’
  • Foreign visitors: ‘You still have naked ladies in the NEWSpaper?? WE stopped doing that YEARS ago…!’
  • And then there’s me – I’m one of those humourless strident feminists. Well, somebody’s got to be…

PS If you haven’t signed the NoMorePage3 campaign yet here’s the link https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-dinsmore-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

The Sun and Schoolboys

The news last week that the NUT has given its public support to the No More Page 3 campaign got me thinking a bit about schoolchildren and their exposure to sexualised images. The wonderful Charlie Free on the Unfinished blog did some research some time ago into the Sun’s archives. She came up with some uncomfortable images from the eighties, where Page 3 was given over to a ‘Back to School’ theme, featuring topless models in school ties and straw boaters and other schoolgirl paraphernalia. (There was no outcry about this at the time, and subsequently we have heard many news stories about child sexual abuse in the eighties, with the accompanying platitude that attitudes have changed since then).

When I saw these pictures, first of all I was shocked because I REMEMBERED THEM! (They must have left a lasting impression, especially odd when you consider that I have never bought the Sun…) And second of all, I remembered my college graduation yearbook picture from 1981, so I went and dug it out. Here it is :

College yearbook picture 001 (582x800) My boyfriend at the time drew the picture of me, and helpfully added a caption cut out of the Sun’s Page 3, as a sort of joke I think… (We’re no longer together. Obviously). He doctored the caption slightly, by substituting a couple of words, to make it more applicable to me, but clearly the message is that this is supposed to be a schoolteacher we are looking at.

Here is the caption in full :

‘Helen’s in a class of her own! Huggable Helen is every schoolboy’s ideal Miss. And she nearly followed her parents into (…). But Helen soon realised that her classy looks score top marks in the Ooh-level ratings – and decided to turn to (…).’

College yearbook picture 001 (582x800)In the original version she clearly decided to turn to teaching, as she is now the ideal ‘Miss’ for all those schoolboys… It’s a shame the original Page 3 girl is lost because, judging by the Sun’s imaginative depiction of schoolgirls, we would be in for a real treat with the school TEACHER! I like to imagine her in a mortar board, possibly with a ruler in one hand and a naughty glint in her eye, dominatrix-style.

The message is clear – it’s ok for schoolboys to view their teachers as sex-objects. In the same era that the Sun was sexualising school GIRLS, it was giving the message to school BOYS that any woman in their lives was fair game for sexual objectification, even their teachers. Never mind that a woman was a professional, deserving of respect, it was ok to assess her on the basis of her breasts.

When we say that the depiction of schoolgirls (or teachers) would not be acceptable now because times have changed, we are acknowledging that the media reflects and to some extent reinforces cultural norms. Back in the eighties the captions attached to Page 3 ‘stunnas’ were bits of nonsense filled with bad puns, because even then you couldn’t just put a topless girl in the paper with no ‘explanation’. The captions served the purpose of making these pictures ‘just a bit of fun’ rather than ‘soft porn’. I am interested now, looking back, to realise how normalised these images  had already become to me at that stage in my life.

I realise I make a very unlikely Page 3 girl, what with that abnormally large hitch-hiking thumb, and the punk haircut, but that reminds me that this was, after all, the height of the punk era. It was a time that was full of exceptional and original female talent. Women like Patti Smith, Siouxsie Sioux and Poly Styrene were challenging the notion of what it meant to be female and in the spotlight. Bands like the Slits and Kleenex were uncompromising in their determination to be on a level playing field with the boys, and were defiant in their refusal to use sex to sell their music. Not everyone was a punk, but youth culture was rebelling against many of the stereotypes in society, including the role of women. Maybe it was all too challenging for Britain’s favourite daily paper, and Page 3 was then, as I suspect it is now, an attempt to keep women in their passive and man-pleasing place. Whatever the reason, I can’t help thinking that, even back then, the Sun was completely out of step with women, and WAY behind the times.

http://weareunfinished.com/2013/06/04/when-page-3-sexualised-school-girls/

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-dinsmore-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

Childish mistakes…

When you are a child, ‘adult’ things seem terribly serious and important to you, if not a little bit scary. One of those ‘adult’ things is the news. The news is so serious that the adults in your life can get a bit argumentative when they are discussing it, and they adopt that serious grown-up voice that indicates something is important. As a child you are not mature enough to join in, and anyway you know it’s not your place to have opinions, but you soak up the message that this is what the adult world involves : you know that one day, when you are properly grown- up, you yourself will be expected to join in and take it seriously. It is something that you aspire to.

When you are very little, and impressions are continually forming about the world around you, you can get things a little wrong or mixed up. Both my children for example believed for many years that Huw Edwards was the prime minister. Why else would he be telling the nation the news every evening? Who else would be qualified to do the job…? I only found out they believed this many years later, because of course they eventually realised their mistake and thought to tell me. Crucially they had not thought to tell me when they believed it to be true, BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED IT TO BE TRUE. And because they didn’t ask, they didn’t find out.

(I myself, growing up in Chester in the 1960s, believed for many years that Liverpool was the capital of England and the Beatles ran the country. I realise now how wrong I got that – the Beatles actually ruled THE WORLD…)

Anyway… the point is that children absorb an enormous amount of information in their everyday lives, some of which they ask you about and some of which they don’t. Some things can seem so obviously true to a child that they don’t think to ask or to question. And this is where the ‘news’ as a thing can have such a strong influence. Something that adults take so seriously and which is available every day, both in media and print form, can have the stamp of authenticity to it, can be seen as part of the establishment, even part of the government (of course, in some countries it IS part of the government, but that’s another story…) To a child then, this is like an officially-sanctioned part of the ‘truth’ of the society to which they belong : stories and images are legitimised by appearing on the 6 o’clock news or in the daily paper in the way that they are not when they appear in children’s programmes or comics.

To some extent of course this is also true for adults : things are taken more or less seriously according to the context in which they appear. Adults too are influenced by media, but it is even more pronounced in children, who have yet to develop sophisticated critical faculties.

The depiction of women in the media is problematic, not because we want to protect our children from sex (although we might want to do that as well), but because it tells a false story in a space which is meant to be THE TRUTH. This is a powerful thing. It can override the messages that children hear from their parents and teachers, partly because experiential learning is more effective than being told something. If a parent tells you that it is important to be kind and hard-working, but what you EXPERIENCE every day is that it is important to have big tits (remember – the newspaper makes this seem ‘serious’), then the big tits thing can win out. Similarly, if a teacher tells you in media studies (that’s if you’re lucky enough to get media studies in the first place…) that Page 3 and similar images are airbrushed and photoshopped and therefore unrealistic, but the boys in your school compare you to them every day, then once again the experience is likely to win out over the facts. How the images are EXPERIENCED on an emotional level can have dire consequences for girls, WHETHER OR NOT they understand analytically how and why these images exist.

Add to this the fact that if anything is repeated often enough it eventually takes on a kind of truth of its own, whether or not it started out as a lie or a joke or ‘just a bit of fun’. The act of repetition legitimises things, as advertisers know very well. In this way images such as the Sun’s page 3 effectively ‘advertise’ to viewers the wares on show and make them seem normal and desirable.

If we as adults respond as we do to advertising (and we do), then it becomes impossible to argue that children, with their developing minds, are NOT affected by what they see around them every day, and NOT at all influenced by it. We should be very legitimately concerned about what our children, and other people’s children, are seeing every day, and just how this might be shaping the adults of tomorrow.

My children eventually realised their mistake about who read the news, and I learned that I’d got it wrong about the capital, because subsequent experience cancelled out the false beliefs. This process is harder to rely on in the case of the depiction of women, because the images are getting more and more ubiquitous : where the Sun blazed a trail in re-branding soft porn, the Star and the Sport have followed, and the lads mags have contributed to the mainstreaming of porn by placing themselves squarely on supermarket shelves. At the same time there has been a failure to depict enough women in successful roles to counterbalance this increasingly narrow view of women’s worth; in fact, on the contrary, successful women are often judged on similar criteria to the ‘glamour’ models, so that they are reduced to their appearance or ‘hotness’ whatever else their achievements might be. This obviously serves to reinforce the message of what women are for, as seen in media images which are visible every day.

In short, we don’t want our children growing up in this media landscape, not because nudity is a bad thing, but because the depiction of nudity is almost entirely focussed on women : women who are very young, white, slim but with large breasts, and sexually passive and available. It is an image that is distorting and objectifying and very very limiting, but it is an image that now proliferates to the extent that girls growing up today might find that their early mistaken beliefs about the role of women in our society might never be corrected as they grow older.

 

http://www.losetheladsmags.org.uk/action_launch

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-dinsmore-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/edward-timpson-mp-make-it-illegal-to-display-porn-around-children