In a BBC Radio 5 Live interview last week, Nick Clegg declined to back “the campaign to ban page 3 girls from the Sun,” on the grounds that the state should not dictate the content of newspapers. But the campaign in question- entitled Take the Bare Boobs Out of The Sun but better known by its twitter handle “@NoMorePage3” – ISN’T calling on the government to ban page 3. It is appealing directly to The Sun’s editor Dominic Mohan to stop printing it, on the basis that it simply isn’t appropriate to “show the naked breasts of young women in a widely read ‘family’ newspaper” for the purpose of the reader’s gratification.
Unfortunately, Nick’s comments have been understood by many as meaning that he is opposed to the campaign.
They have caused confusion, consternation and anger, not least because Nick’s comments have been used by The Sun to undermine fellow LibDem MP Lynne Featherstone, who backs the campaign (and who, along with Jo Swinson MP, was responsible for establishing the Body Confidence Campaign.)
Whilst encouraging my twitter followers to tweet Nick about this, and urge him to back the campaign, I’ve met a few counter-arguments based on myths which I feel desperately need to be debunked.
1. The campaign is illiberal. NOT TRUE. In appealing directly to The Sun’s editor, the campaign and its supporters are urging “Britain’s most widely read newspaper [to] stop conditioning your readers to view women as sex objects”; it is not asking for state censorship.
2. This is a ‘nanny state’ campaign for people who think that page 3 models need to be protected. NOT TRUE. The fact is that it is simply inappropriate for so many reasons to “show the naked breasts of young women” for titillation purposes in a newspaper in 2012 – let alone a “widely read ‘family’ newspaper.”
3. Page 3 is about celebrating women’s sexuality. NOT TRUE. Sexuality should not be confused with objectification: treating a person as a commodity, or as an object for use, such as sexual gratification.
4. Page 3 is ‘just a bit of fun’. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. The objectification of women is a real problem, the scale of which is now finally coming to light, in part thanks to the everyday sexism project. It has received hundreds of reports of actual sexual abuse. We know that girls are being used as weapons in disputes between rival gangs, and NHS figures show that hospital stays due to eating disorders affect mainly young women, aged 14-16, and are on the rise. Of course, not all the blame can be pinned on one newspaper, but Page 3 is *the* singularly most important symbol of this culture.
The cessation of Page 3 would send a powerful message throughout our society that the objectification of women – of anyone – is ‘not ok’.
Nick Clegg should join fellow LibDem MPs, such as Lynne Featherstone and Tom Brake, and sign the “No More Page Three” petition immediately.
* Daisy Cooper was the Liberal Democrat candidate for Suffolk Costal at the 2010 General Election.