Lucy Anne Holmes
Published: 8 November, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA
THE largest, most consistent image of womanhood in our national media involves a name, age, hometown, and readers across the country rating her breasts. You won’t remember her name, think about the implications of her age, or particularly care where she grew up – because it doesn’t matter, only her breasts matter.
Two months ago Lucy Anne Holmes bought her daily copy of the Sun newspaper, along with two million others across the country.
“Jessica Ennis had just won her gold medal,” said the 36-year-old actor and author, who has spent 10 years living in Kentish Town and seven years waitressing in Cafe Mozart in Swain’s Lane.
“The day after she won, it dawned on me that bigger than any image of Ennis in the newspaper was this huge image of a woman with her breasts exposed. It was a bit of an ‘a-ha!’ moment.
“All the images of men were of them running the country, speaking in Parliament. This was the largest image of being a woman in our national media. The No More Page Three campaign started from that, and it’s not about pornography, that’s a different issue entirely. It’s about media sexism.”
Eight weeks on and 50,000 people have signed the No More Page Three petition, which doesn’t ask for the page to be banned by legislation, but voluntarily dropped by the newspapers. Eliza Doolittle, Jennifer Saunders, Chris Addison, Frances Barber, Lauren Laverne, Graham Linehan and Caitlin Moran have all signed.
A quick flick through the country’s eight best-selling newspapers last week, showed page three was indeed the largest image of a female in any newspaper on three out of five working days.
“It’s having an effect on the nation that’s as powerful as advertising,” says Lucy. “It’s sending a message about women, our place, why we’re valued. It’s dehumanising, we are seen as dolls, without a voice, standing there naked for a man’s pleasure.
“With women paid 15 per cent less than men, would it not be better to use that page to advertise women’s contributions in this world that are not subject to a male erection?”
A look at 40 of the Sun and the Daily Star’s page three “girls” featured throughout last month shows four were still in their teens, and exactly half were aged 21 or under. A search of the Daily Star website’s “Star Babes” section – devoted to the Star’s page three “girls” – showed the most commonly used words below five randomly selected images was “fodder”, and, less surprisingly, “tits”.
On the day of writing this article, the website’s homepage showed a picture of Robyn Lambert, 19, from Milton Keynes. The word “fodder” was used to describe the teenager a total of 16 times.
The Sun’s website allows readers to turn the young women “360 degrees”, while the Star’s allows them to be rated out of 10. But the issue is that this doesn’t take place on pornography websites, but on national news sites.
Ms Lambert, now 20, said being a page three model made her feel “empowered and confident”. The Yorkshire business woman, who started up clothing website beworn.co.uk this year, models for page three part-time after entering a Facebook competition.
“I can see the logic behind the campaign, but it’s the editor’s decision to think about the impact of their newspaper, not mine,” she said. “I go to the shoot, it’s a great atmosphere, the image goes out, and then what’s done with it is not my responsibility. It could end up on a porn website or a newspaper.”
In October 1986 at a Manchester conference, Michael Gabbon, the original editor of the Sunday Sport, was asked if he would stop publishing images of topless women in his newspaper if they were proved to cause rape. He said it would depend on how many rapes.
In 2003, the Sun editor Rebekah Brooks openly considered scrapping the page because it could “damage” circulation among female readers, and in 1984 the Daily Mirror dropped its page three girl with circulation remaining steady.
Ms Lambert said she would rather girls aspired to being page three models than “anorexic fashion models”.
Ms Holmes said: “This campaign is not targeting fashion magazines for the same reason it’s not targeting lads’ mags – they are not mainstream newspapers. When you buy a fashion magazine, for good or bad, you know that’s what you’re getting.
If you buy a lads’ mag you know that’s what you get. It’s about context. When George Alagiah reads the news, in the middle of the wars and famine, does a quick pic of Carly, 20, from Birmingham and her breasts go up? No, and how out of place would it look if they did? It’s very outdated. Page three is the most blatant media misogyny out there, but there’s plenty that’s not as obvious. This is a starting point.”
In 1987 Conservative MP Norman Tebbit said page three was comparative to nude images in an art gallery.
“It’s not about nudity,” said Ms Holmes. “If there was a topless picture of a man as well as a woman, then it would really be just some nudity. But this is depicting only women in a certain way, and it has for 40 years. The fact is, if a national newspaper put up topless images of ethnic minority people every day, but not white people, regardless of gender, there would be an outcry because we would know they are being portrayed in an unequal way, that it is degrading.
“If the images were of a particular profession topless every day, regardless of gender, the unions would be beside themselves.
“But we are used to degrading women with page three. ‘Why change it’, people say, it’s been there for so long. But then again, so was slavery, and workhouses.
“Is that an excuse?”