Interview With Lucy-Anne Holmes
On the 11th October, after her event at ‘The Exchange’, Canvas interviewed the founder of the ‘No More Page 3′ campaign, Lucy-Anne Holmes:
First of all Lucy, quite simply, Why do you think page 3 should be scrapped and how have you gone about trying to achieve this?
I think its time for page 3 to go because, well, its 2013 and women are equal to men, and when you show in a newspaper page after page of pictures of men in clothes, doing things like running the country and achieving in sport, and a massive image of a young woman in her knickers showing breasts for men, you are saying really that it’s a man’s world, that women are there for men and that they’re bodies are the entitlement of men, and don’t think we really want to be saying that in 2013.
So, yes, I started a campaign called no more page 3, last summer, and I suppose the catalyst was when I bought a copy of the sun during the Olympics, and I found that the largest female image, was of the page 3 image, even though Jessica Ennis has won her terrific gold medal. I found I couldn’t stop thinking about that, about what it said about a woman’s place in society, so I started an online petition, and a Twitter, and a Facebook, to see if I was the only one who felt strongly about it. I’m not the only one, because we’ve had a lot of support!
There are quite a large amount of similar images in society, particularly in ‘Lads Mags’. FHM has a monthly readership of over a million. What is it specifically about page 3 that you find so objectionable?
It’s the context; the context of this image of the passive, available woman in her knickers, amidst all these pictures of men, doing interesting things. I think it’s that context that makes it so powerful. And you have to remember it’s a family newspaper. It has a huge reach much bigger than any of the Lads Mags that you’ve mentioned. So… yes for me it’s the context that makes page 3 so objectionable. It’s a family newspaper: it gave away free Lego for two years throughout every school half term. So you’ve got this family newspaper with pictures of Lego on the front, and you open it up, and there’s this female in there. What is this telling children about women’s place in society? What does it teach little girls about where their value lies, what does it teach little boys about how to respect women. Surely that’s not right.
In your talk you mentioned specifically ‘Lad Culture’ as one of the problems. You don’t see a connection between Lads Mags and Lads culture?
I think what we’ve seen now is that lads culture has become sort of normalised. I know the NUS is doing a lot of great work to combat lad culture. In fact I came up here for an NUS conference and sat on a panel discussing lad culture. The Nus had commissioned had commissioned this report called ‘That’s What She Said’, and I found it really moving, actually, because it was interviewing young women, saying that, you know, they and all their friends had had instances of being out in a night club and had been inappropriately touched, there was a story about a young woman who was at on a bus while a group of young men just started firing rape joke after rape joke, after rape joke. So you know after being a victim of sexual assault, these things, it’s really not, it’s not nice if you like, but somehow we’ve allowed this to become normal.
In the same way as page three, I grew up hearing the expression: core, look at the tits on that. It’s the word “that” that I object to. You know, she becomes an object. But not just core look at the tits on that: “would you do that”, “I’d bang that”, “I’d do that”. This sort of violent way of talking about women, and it’s become mainstream… when you have that in a newspaper… in a family newspaper… in our biggest selling newspaper, you’re legitimizing it and saying its normal, and I think what we’re saying is, actually it’s not normal, its objectionable, and we’re speaking out about it.
Some people have objected to the university of Sheffield’s boycott (of page 3), arguing it takes freedom of choice away from the consumer, what would be your response to this?
Yeah, It’s Interesting… I probably need to look at the ins and outs, you probably need to talk to someone from Sheffield to get their response on that. I would say we keep hearing about this freedom of choice, but what about people choice not to be around these images, not to have to see these images… what about peoples freedom not to be around this sort of sexism, or soft porn if you like…
What I would say is that none of the universities who have decided to stop selling the Sun, it’s to show support for the period of time until the Sun decides to drop page three… it a very strong show of support…
In your lecture you mention online pornography, quite a lot. Do you think online pornography has rendered printed pornography redundant as a medium?
Quite possibly… I do think if a man really needs to see a pair of nipples while he’s reading a newspaper, then we do have the internet now when it’s so desperately called for. People are definitely getting their pornography online… obviously we know it’s far more violent than it’s ever been before. I’d say this campaign is obviously appealing to the Sun, and Page 3, we obviously we’d say is an icon of 1970’s sexist culture. But there is a whole other debate about online porn. I know that there a lot of discussion at the moment about putting controls to stop children accessing it, and that fair enough, but I do feel that there should be space for a positive dialogue about sex, at the same time, and I think we need to talk about sex honestly, and how all this porn is effecting the sex that people are having
How about the more violent or coercive ‘brands’ of pornography, do you think there need to be more checks against them?
For children to see?
(pauses) yeah really bad stuff, yeah. There is stuff that would be considered illegal, that shouldn’t be able to be viewed. (pauses) As I said, I don’t think everything is as black and white in sex, and in the online porn area. What I’m interested in, as I mentioned in my talk, is that, being a woman, 99% of porn is made by men, and what I think I’m very interested in is female sexuality being portrayed by men, and I’m really interested in what women think about that. Yes there is all this violent porn online, but how do we women feel about that. I know that some women quite like violent sex, but I know a lot of women don’t, and I speak to a lot of women who wish that sex wasn’t quite so violent. I think we need to have these sorts of conversations, because what we’re seeing is our sexually presented by another gender, and I think we need to get on that dialogue really; especially for young women who are kind of growing up now with these influences of porn and it is shaping how young people have sex together. I do know from speaking to young women that quite often it’s painful. I keep hearing this thing “I don’t know what’s wrong with me, it really hurt”, so how can we empower young women to say no, and to feel that they can shape their sexuality and the sex that they are having.
It’s interesting having spoken to actresses, porn actresses… and I spoke to one woman who’s a porn star, and she mentors young women in the porn industry… and she actually mentors them to stand up and say when they’re uncomfortable, and to encourage them that they can leave a shoot if they don’t want to do things, because there are very high levels of post-traumatic stress after leaving the industry… and she says people do that they don’t want to do. So she’s there, really empowering people, and I think interestingly there’s an element of needing that. If the porn stars aren’t wanting to do it, but then they’re actually doing it, then they’re suffering afterwards, and then this is having a ripple effect on the sex that young people are having, then what is that doing to them as well? I think there is a dialogue to be had.
Finally, the Sun has a daily female readership of 2.175 million. I page 3 doesn’t bother them, why should it bother you?
Well actually it does bother a lot of women that I talk to. It’s interesting that you quoted the readership figures because obviously that’s the reach, I think they sell about 2 million copies and then the reach is about 7 they say, and they do claim that there are a lot of female readers. I have to say, from having spoken to many, many female sun readers and partners of female sun readers… pretty much the majority of them don’t like the feature, and are actually quite grateful to hear that there is a campaign against it. I think page three has been there my whole life, I think a lot of people just accept that it is just there. They haven’t really questioned it because it’s in a newspaper. We don’t really question stuff, a lot of the time, that’s in a newspaper.
I think is interesting, is that there is a nurse, who’s in the team and she talks a lot about informed consent. She said when you’re with patients, and you’re going to do some sort of treatment, you need to tell them the risks involved. You explain the risks. I think the thing is with page 3 is when you but the paper, you’re being sold page 3. Every year they have a competition, a page 3 idol competition… where they encourage young women to take photos of their breasts and send them in, and say they could win the brilliant, life changing opportunity of being on page 3. It doesn’t say, on the flip side that Alex Sim-Wise, who is a former page 3 model has said that she wouldn’t recommend her niece to do it. She talked very openly about her experience of it. She said, what will happen is a man will say your very beautiful, I want to masturbate over you, and if she said anything vaguely negative back, they would straight away be like I you bitch, you whore, you’ve only got where you have because you’ve got you breast out.
So there the idea that page 3 is showing this shiny glamour model picture. But its not actually showing what happens behind it, it’s also not showing… we’ve got a list of over 40 charities that work to end violence against women. For example, Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid… I think we’ve pretty much got all the charities… End Violence Against Women’s Coalition… s that these images they all see the impact that these images have on certain people feeling that they have an entitlement to the female body. We’ve got half a million teachers now saying these pictures have to go, they’re having a negative effect on how young boys are seeing women… we really need to start respecting women. You buy the Sun, you see that shiny image and hear about the brilliant life changing opportunity of page 3, you’re not being informed, it’s not informed consent, you’re not being told that other thing.
Also, I have to meet a sun reader that would stop buying the Sun if they dropped page 3. Really, I haven’t, and I’ve spoken to a lot of them. What I think the Sun is forgetting here is that some readers really care about women: they really love their sisters, really love their daughters, really love their partners and they would do anything if it meant making the society that these women they love a little bit safer, a little bit kinder, a little bit more respectful… they would do anything, for these women they love, and if it meant forgoing their daily dose of breasts in the paper, they would do it. I just think the Sun’s not being honest; they’re not giving informed consent.
Lucy-Anne Holmes, thank you very much.