Dear Mr. Dinsmore,
Am I being naïve to suppose that you will read this letter or that it will matter at all to you? Probably. Considering that 135,708 people have signed a petition asking you to do away with the daily degradation in your newspaper that is Page 3 and still you have not responded, I very much doubt that this one letter will make you change your mind. But I’m going to try.
I’m writing to you, David, as a sixteen year old girl who is quite frankly appalled and confused by the fact that in 2014 your newspaper still insists upon retaining a feature which is infinitely demeaning and belittling to women all across the country. Why on earth, in a society which is ostensibly intolerant of sexism, do you think it is in any way appropriate for the biggest image of a woman in your newspaper to be the topless one on the third page? Maybe it doesn’t seem that big a deal to you, but I can tell you that as a girl growing up in a culture which increasingly judges and values women for their bodies and nothing else – a monstrous culture which you are feeding – Page 3 is representative of the enemy; the enemy which is determined to reduce half of the population to mere anatomies, designed simply for other people’s pleasure. That is not what we are, David, and I’m sure you know that; I’m sure, instead, you think that Page 3 is just a bit of fun; harmless, but it is so far from that.
Why is she there, on Page 3? Grinning coyly out at your viewers, a brief sentence in the corner telling them what Keeley’s views on politics are; a condescending attempt to pretend that she’s not just there for her breasts, but in fact – shockingly – has another dimension beyond the physical. Please. If you were really interested in talking to young women about politics and current affairs you would interview them; that would be news. Instead, she is there for the sexual gratification of men. Soft pornography on the third page of the largest circulating daily newspaper in the UK. Maybe now you begin to see my problem? Harmless, to me, seems inappropriate. This feature is conveying a message that the primary place of a woman is as a sex object – to be looked at, an idea which is significantly harmful for everyone: it tells women what they can and cannot be, whilst conditioning men to objectify them. Imagine now, David, that a young child were to get her hands on your newspaper. Imagine how in her innocent mind she may feel confused, perhaps even embarrassed, to find herself staring at a pair of breasts in a newspaper, but how as a result of this she may come to see this as normal, accepted; expected, even, of her gender. I know, children aren’t your target audience, but can you explain to me why your newspaper thought it was suitable throughout half term to give away free Lego with your newspaper – effectively inviting children towards a publication containing soft pornography? I don’t know if you have children – daughters or sons – yourself but I would very much like to know if you think it is beneficial for the present and future of this society to be bringing up its younger generations on such sexist, demeaning, harmful views of women.
Innocuous was the word your predecessor, Dominic Mohan, used. Page 3 is innocuous. In and of itself, perhaps. Keeley volunteered to take her clothes off and pout provocatively towards the camera; no one forced her- that much is true, but consent by the model is not the end of the matter. Once published, a feature such as Page 3 has the power to influence everything. No, it is not the reason for gender inequality, sexism and misogyny, but it is a contributory factor which perpetuates these problems and thrives amongst them. In The Independent, founder of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign, Lucy Ann Holmes, wrote, “When figures range from 300,000 women being sexually assaulted and 60,000 raped each year, to 1 in 4 who have been sexually assaulted, is it wise to be repeatedly perpetuating a notion that women are sexual objects?” The objectification of women leads to violence; it is as simple as that. Once you dehumanise a person by reducing them to a mere body, what have you got then? An inanimate object with whom you cannot relate; an article for which you can feel no empathy. It is this resulting mentality which creates a culture conducive to the violation of women’s rights. Can you see now, David, that it is not just the opinions of your readers that you should be concerned about? Page 3 affects everyone. It affects the girl who is taunted and jeered at by her male peers in school, whilst they thrust your newspaper in her face and criticise her appearance. It affects the woman who wore a vest top to work because it was hot but then faced being advised by her ogling male colleagues to become a Page 3 model. And yes, it affects your readers too; the men who buy your paper – contrary to your shallow perception of them – to read the news and yet find themselves awkwardly staring at a pair of breasts on the train; immediately flicking past because they are not so crude. Whether we choose to buy into the culture you are creating or not, its negative influences have repercussions in all of our lives and damage our society as a whole. So telling us not to buy your newspaper is not good enough, David, and frankly it never will be. As long as Page 3 exists, we all have a long road ahead of us.
(‘Who is concerned by Michael Gove’s out-of-touch, somewhat despotic approach to reforming the education sector and thinks that it would be entirely for the better if he were to resign – as soon as possible.’ There you go – the political view of a young female; use it in your newspaper if you like; no photo attached).
(Sign the No More Page 3 petition here: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-dinsmore-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3).