I’ve been dithering a bit about supporting the No More Page Three campaign. I completely agree it should go tomorrow, no question. But to be honest it doesn’t impinge on my life very often, so I can’t get as worked up about it as I know I should. I used to work in a busy newspaper office where there were piles of the Sun and the Star splayed here and there, with those huge bland breasts staring up like blind eyes. Nowadays I only come across one of those papers while I am picking up fish and chips, and then I try to turn over two pages at once so I don’t have to goggle at some poor teenage girl’s swollen, exposed chest.
Every now and then, though, I do get confronted with the very ugly reality of these soft porn images. Once when our tyre blew out on the motorway I got the shortish straw of driving with the AA man to get a new tyre (the other straw was to supervise four children on a motorway verge, so maybe mine wasn’t that short ;)). Off we went to a garage where I was really brought up short with shock when I turned a corner into one of those dark places where they do heavy car things, and saw a wall of naked women (page threes tacked up on the brickwork) with a naked girl calendar in the centre. I had to edge backwards until I couldn’t see this display before speaking to the mechanic. I couldn’t really bear to be in the same room as these images of women, naked, vulnerable, and apparently ‘gagging for it’, while trying to have a sensible conversation with a man. And how can it help men at work to have such images around the place? Or do they just become so desensitised to women displayed as objects that that becomes the norm, and any dressed female is a freak?
I found that garage encounter very disturbing. And, when that idiot David Cameron says, ‘oh, you can just turn the page’ – he’s right, you can, but why should a paper be allowed to print a picture which makes so many of us, not just women, feel uncomfortable and ashamed?
Anyway, David Cameron’s idea of turning the page gave me a brainwave. In my own small way, I’m going to hit back against publications that are inappropriate. Though, thank goodness, my daughters have passed the age when they ask me, ‘why has that lady got no clothes on?’, I still hate the idea of them living in a world where demeaning women is done so casually and accepted so easily.
I’ve decided I will turn the page myself, on images I consider inappropriate for display in a supermarket or newsagent. In fact, I will just turn them right over so you can only see the back of the mag. The girls and I were in Sainsbury’s yesterday when I announced my new campaign and started turning over the usual suspects in the men’s mag section. There weren’t many, to give credit to Sainsbury’s, just really one image of Rita Ora that was a bit questionable. ‘That’s not a rude picture,’ the girls remonstrated. ‘Rita Ora always goes around like that. ‘Maybe so, but I, for one, don’t want to see her flesh while I’m shopping,’ I replied primly. ‘Well, what about these magazines?’ said Child One, pointing to one with a large picture of man’s naked, conker-shiny torso on it, his six-pack defined enough to double as a toast rack. ‘Somehow, I don’t mind that magazine so much,’ I laughed. ‘That’s not fair,’ said both girls. ‘You’ve got to be consistent.’ ‘Ok then,’ I conceded, rather cursing the fact that I’d brought up logical and fair-minded girls who didn’t want to objectify anyone. ‘Turn him over too.’ They did so – only to find another, smaller, naked torso on the back. ‘So what should we do now?’ they asked, rather enjoying the fact that my campaign was coming up against so many obstacles five minutes into its inception. ‘Hmmm,’ I said. ‘Just choose the one you like best and put him on top,’ I said.
Ok, ok, I know it’s not the perfect solution. But it’s early days. And please, if you’re shopping and see inappropriate images, just turn them right over. I think supermarkets particularly, who ought to be worried about alienating their women customers, will sit up and take notice.