No More Page 3

On Saturday 11th January 2014 I settled down with my family to watch the Jonathon Ross show. There wasn’t a particular guest I wanted to see, I just wanted to veg out in front of the telly. On this particular evening one of Mr Ross’ guests was Karen Brady, independent career woman and Alan Sugar’s right hand woman on ‘The Apprentice’. I just checked Wikipedia and in 2002 she became the first female Managing Director of a “top flight” football club (whatever that means). As she was introduced, I realised she was an outstanding businesswoman.

During the interview they mapped her career and I was impressed at what she had achieved. Then they discussed the contentious subject of No More Page 3; Karen is a regular columnist for The Sun newspaper. When asked what she thought of the feature she answered that it was “old fashioned and not relevant”. I was shocked, not at her opinion, but at the idea that Page 3 was ever in question! Like many young people in the UK I had grown up with this institution. Most 14 year old boys I went to school with spent many a lunch break devouring Page 3, ignoring the day’s big events.

Up until this point I had never questioned Page 3’s existence.

Page 3 is an institution which has been around for far too long. An archaic remnant of 1970s misogyny, I had accepted it as part of British culture, just as I accept the need to have a fry-up on a Sunday or a beer with a curry.

I am currently a 2nd year medical student, I steamed through my A-levels, have a great group of friends and am involved in one of the best student organisations in the UK. However, there have been times in my life when I have suffered crippling low self-esteem, something I accepted as a right of passage for any female. I now understand that much of this comes from the ridiculous standards set for young women (and men) in this society.

I am an intelligent, articulate young woman on my way to a competitive and highly skilled career path, yet I often feel inadequate because my hips are too wide, or my arse is too big, or my boobs aren’t acceptably “perky”.

What kind of society values the size of a woman’s breasts over their achievements and aspirations? How did we get to the point where this is a normal and acceptable state to live in?

Lucy Anne Holmes articulates this beautifully. I had the privilege to see her speak to a group of young sexual health advocates at the recent Sexpression Scottish Conference in Dundee. She recounted the British pride during the 2012 Olympics, the flag waving, national anthem singing, face painting pride that spread throughout the nation during those summer weeks.

On the 4th August Jessica Ennis Hill received her hard earned gold medal. She had been plugged as the face of the games and had lived up to that title. That morning, the biggest picture of a female in all of the national newspapers was of a topless model in the Sun. On the day we should have been triumphant as a nation, celebrating our golden girl, the biggest visual image available of a woman was one without any clothes on.

Many have, and will, argue that we shouldn’t judge the women who do these modelling jobs, and I completely agree. Like any job people may have their opinions; ticket wardens aren’t the most popular profession in the world. Personal opinions about the morality of the modelling industry, in any form, are simply not relevant to this argument. I want to stress that opinions about these models is not the issue here, topless modelling has its place, but this place is not in a newspaper. It would be far more appropriate for the work of these women to be displayed in a specialist magazine or an age-appropriate online forum.

I am definitely not a prude, loads of body parts, boobs included, are fun and great to look at. For me the issue is context, it is inappropriate as a feature in a national newspaper.

In a world where all genders are “equal”, why are women shown with their breasts on display when the nation’s males are depicted as successful, dressed in suits or sports kit?