The Case for and Against Page 3
When I told one of my friends that I was interviewing Lucy-Anne Holmes, brains behind the No More Page Three campaign, his response was "ask her when the last time was that she got laid". Which was not only a fantastically witty bit of banter, but also a pretty good illustration as to why this battle is going to be a particularly hard one to fight.
Holmes grew up in a Sun reading household and, from the day her 11-year-old bosom began to make itself known, started to obsessively compare it to the perky headlights beaming at her from page three, that British institution of breast, every morning. The lifelong aversion to the feeling those pictures gave her eventually materialised into the campaign, started earlier this year, which already boasts 44,509 supporters.
I had a chat with Lucy to find out why she hates boobs in the news, then spoke to Alex Sim-Wise – journalist and ex-glamour girl – to hear a defence for the same boobs in the same news.
Lucy in her campaign t-shirt.
VICE: Hi Lucy. Now, we all know tits aren’t news, but surely neither is the cryptic crossword. What would you say to a Sun reader who didn’t want to let go of their early-morning titillation?
Lucy-Anne Holmes: I think they have to make the decision whether they’re happy for their newspaper to show women primarily as sex objects. But, to be honest, the main thing about it I hear from men is, "Actually, I skip that page really quickly because I feel like a bit of a pervert."
I guess people don’t really think about something until they’ve been asked to question it.
Yeah, there are even a few former lads’ mags editors who’ve come out saying, "I wish we hadn’t encouraged generations of women to believe that their worth is about the size of their breasts and whether they get them out."
How many people who have signed the petition actually read The Sun?
Quite a few. I love this idea that all the campaigners read The Guardian and are barging in on someone else's territory – it’s so ridiculous. I mean, it was me buying a bloody copy of The Sun that kicked this all off.
Are you worried that the campaign will just flop out, like Clare Short’s?
Well, back then, there was a particular group of Conservative MPs who just flat out ignored what she was saying. She had thousands of letters of support, including 12 from women who'd been attacked after their attackers had mentioned page three – i.e. "You should be a page three girl" or "You remind me of my favourite page three girl", but politicians refused to listen. I'm hoping we're in a different position in 2012.
What would you say to a page three girl who completely disagreed with your campaign?
I think I would say "If that’s your career choice, fine. There are plenty of places that you can do that, but do you think that women should be represented in the newspaper first and foremost as sex objects?" It's more about the context than the content.
But as the most widely read newspaper in the UK, wouldn’t you consider its content democratic?
I think that they're insulting their readers and their journalists in thinking that they need to have breasts on page three to sell the rest of the paper. The Sun should embrace its female readers, all its potential female readers and avoid alienating half the population.
Alex in a shoot from her glamour days.
VICE: Hey Alex. What are your thoughts on this no more page three campaign?
Alex Sim-Wise: Not good. Lucy Anne-Holmes just seems like a bit of a fantasist. She says she wants "beautiful sex", then goes to shame all these people she’s seen on the internet who she thinks are ugly. What kind of an attitude is that? It seems like a bullying campaign to me, and it smacks of slut-shaming really badly.
So you don’t understand where they’re coming from?
My opinion on glamour is complicated. I’d never condone it, but, at the same time, I think it has a place in society.
You’ve got a little sister. Would you be happy for her to do page three?
I've told her that it's not the greatest job in the world. But, at the same time, if she did do it, I wouldn't be against it. I'd just want to educate her so she didn't do anything she was uncomfortable with. There are definitely negatives from working in glamour. A classic example is that you’d get a message from a fan and they’d be like "Oh, you’re amazing, I want to wank over you." But if you turn around and say anything negative, they’ll be like, "You’re a bitch, you’re a whore, you only got what you have because you got your tits out."
Woah, they escalate pretty quick. Do you ever feel like the glamour industry is bad news for feminism?
Well, earlier this year I wrote a letter to The Guardian that did have a more contrite tone than some of the things I've written since. I'd started to read other articles by people who used to be in the business and I think the realisation that they were beginning to backtrack and apologise really shocked me.
Was your letter an apology?
A little bit, yeah. When I was a model, I read Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy, and that definitely made me think ‘Hang on a minute, I’m so part of this.’ But then, recently, I’ve grown more tolerant about everything. I know peope who've been pron stars and used to look down on them, but I realised I have no right to do that – it's just our morals and opinions are clearly different. I hope the people behind the no more page three campaign will eventually go through that same thought process too, at some point.
Do you think page three will keep going strong into the future, then?
Maybe not in its current form, but topless pictures have always existed – you only have to go to the Tate gallery to see that – so they'll always be a feature of our culture. But, whether that will be on page three or not, I don’t know.
Follow Rebecca on Twitter: @RebeccaCFitz
More stories about The Sun: