Feminists of all Genders, Please Sign Here – No More Page 3

There is a very interesting feminist campaign happening at the moment and it feels like its time has come. I’m writing this post to urge you to support it.

What feels like hundreds of years ago a British member of parliament Claire Short made public her opposition to degrading pictures of women in the press. In particular page three of The sun which had become synonymous with topless women. As soon as you opened the paper you were confronted with a thrusting pair of bosoms, sometimes implausibly large and cosmetically enhanced or photoshopped. It led the way for female nudity to be used in a titilliating manner in newspapers. Not porn mags, but NEWSpapers freely available to all and seen by children on a daily basis. The Sun still has page three in 2012.

Claire Short was vilified by the popular press and even some of the quality newspapers couldn’t resist the urge to poke fun at her ‘uptightness’ at wanting to spoil some ‘harmless fun’. The mauling she got was appalling. I can do no better than repeat her own words given in an interview to The Independent newspaper in 2004:

“In 1986, I stood up in the Commons to introduce my 10-minute rule Bill to take pornographic pictures out of newspapers. I committed to this proposal in early 1986 when Winston Churchill, the then Tory MP for Davyhulme, and the grandson of the wartime leader, introduced an Obscene Publications Bill.

It was a terrible Bill. It listed a series of images that would be treated as obscene whenever and wherever they were printed, a list which included scenes of horrific violence as well as a variety of descriptions of sexual activity. Its effect would have been to endanger much war reporting, many illustrations in medical textbooks and much sex education material.

I responded with an unrehearsed speech opposing the Bill, but saying that we could introduce more tightly drawn legislation, for example, to remove the degrading images of women as available sex objects that were circulated in the mainstream of society through the tabloid press.

The speech led to an avalanche of enthusiastic letters from women and my decision to introduce a Bill to remove such pictures from newspapers. This has led to a healthy debate about the difference between sexual openness and pornographic degradation, but also to a vicious campaign of vilification of me by The Sun.

This campaign was renewed with great vigour after I left the Government in 2003. A woman journalist asked me at a lunch whether I was still opposed to Page 3. I said I was, and this led to busloads of Page 3 girls parked outside my house all day in the hope of setting up embarrassing photos, and mock-up pictures of me as a very fat Page 3 girl.

They even sent half-dressed people to the house I share with my 84-year-old mother in Birmingham and had people hiding in cars and chasing me down the street in an effort to get embarrassing photographs. I deal with such attacks by not looking at the paper, but it is oppressive to have a double-decker bus plastered with Sun posters outside the front door from seven in the morning. In the afternoon, I rang the police to ask whether traffic restrictions applied to The Sun, and they were eventually moved on.

It is hard not to conclude that The Sun sets out to frighten anyone who might dare to agree that such pictures should be removed from newspapers. It was suggested to me after The Sun’s 2003 campaign by a Westminster journalist of long experience that The Sun’s attacks should be seen as an issue of privilege; an attempt to bully and intimidate an MP to prevent them from raising issues in the House. The Clerk of the House, whom I consulted, agreed there was an issue to raise; however, the Speaker did not agree and I did not take it further.

My own conclusion about the Page 3 phenomenon, and the subsequent proliferation of pornographic-style images across the media, together with the offensive burden of offers of pornography and Viagra that have to be cleared daily from our e-mail systems, is that we need to push back this ugly coarsening and degradation of our society. I bow to no one in my respect for John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, but I do not believe that inappropriate sexually provocative imagery, plastered across society, is an example of liberty. I also find it very sad that the degraded Sun has been courted so strongly and shown so many favours by Tony Blair and the spin merchants at No 10.”

Reading that still makes me want to spit feathers. Now in 2012 another campaign has sprung up to stop the daily degrading pictures of women in The Sun. And at the time of writing it has almost 17500 supporters. Will you be one of them?

If you want to stop this practice which demeans both women and men, and sends confusing and mixed messages about feminity, about what real women are, about respect for women, to our youth of both genders then I urge you to sign. Simply click this link and add your name.

The campaign was started by Lucy Ann Holmes and you can follow and support her on Twitter here . And here’s a video for you from Lucy herself. You might also be interested in Role Models for Women, Does it Matter?

Thinking of expanding your training business? I can help you. To find out more, click here.



Posted on September 18th, 2012 by

5 Responses to “Feminists of all Genders, Please Sign Here – No More Page 3”

  1. M.K. Hajdin says:

    Thanks for posting this, and reminding us of the utterly vicious treatment inflicted on Clare Short.

    I have only one minor quibble with your headline:

    Women are feminists.
    Men, if they are decent people, are feminist allies. They are most welcome to join us as allies. But only women can be feminists.

    That distinction is important, because of the vulnerability of women’s movements to being taken over by the dominant male cultural paradigm.

    • Jane says:

      Interesting point. Shared by this guy: Brian Klocke of the National Organisation for Men against Sexism has argued: “Although I believe that men can be pro-feminist and anti-sexist, I do not believe we can be feminists in the strictest sense of the word in today’s society. Men, in this patriarchal system, cannot remove themselves from their power and privilege in relation to women. To be a feminist one must be a member of the targeted group (ie a woman) not only as a matter of classification but as having one’s directly-lived experience inform one’s theory and praxis.”

    • Eleanor Howse says:

      I find this opinion both sad and outdated. Telling somebody their gender excludes them from a movement, particularly when it is hoped that the views of the movement will become the social norm, is counter-productive, hypocritical and sexist. I want an equal society, not a female-dominant one. It is a great shame that you so much doubt the strength of your own gender when challenging “the male-dominance paradigm” as you put it, and also the ability for women to thrive in a society which does not oppress men for their benefit. These kinds of views are alienating young women of my generation (late teens/ early 20s).

    • Jane says:

      Thanks Eleanor for taking time to respond. I assume you are responding to the first comment and the quote I replied with. I did not say I agreed with that statement. I agree with you, it is a response from a different era but interesting all the same. It’s not my view as you can see if you read any of my blog posts; I am pro gender equality, pro addressing the imbalances in society but we won’t do that without both genders being active in challenging it. I am not much in favour of women only groups within organisations either to promote gender equality as that doesn’t really change much and alienates men who feel ‘got at’. You might be interested to look at http://www.changingpeople.co.uk/2012/are-women-only-groups-in-the-workplace-good-for-your-career/ Cheers, Jane

  2. M.K. Hajdin says:


    It’s about time Dominic Mohan was held responsible for the years and years of horrific bullying and misogyny he perpetrated on Clare Short.

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