No More Page Three
A few weeks ago I attended ‘The Naked Debate’ at Plymouth University and was lucky enough to witness Lucy Holmes, founder of the 'No More Page Three' campaign, wipe the floor with her opponents! Ably assisted by Jessica Horner a student at Plymouth University, it was a lively discussion. I was fascinated to watch Lucy use a technique called ‘flipping’ which I had read about only that day. It is the art of taking a common stereotyped presentation of women and ‘flipping’ it putting men at the centre of the image instead. This helps to point out the absurdity of the image and adds humour which of course is one of the best ways to tackle and subvert sexism. A brilliant example of this is how she began by talking about ‘scrotums’. Of course with a debate about page three you would have thought it inevitable that mention of ‘breasts’ or ‘tits’ would ensue. But Lucy ‘flipped’ this and challenged us to imagine being confronted with ‘scrotums’ in our daily newspaper. ‘Scrotums at the family breakfast table, scrotums on the bus, scrotums everywhere for our impressionable young people to see’.
Her fellow debaters supporting page three, Charlie Green a student representative on the Student Union and Phil Ives writer for the university magazine did their best to raise arguments but they really struggled! A member of the audience suggested that the debate was uneven because the supporters of page three knew less about the subject whereas Lucy has been campaigning for months and is more knowledgeable. In reality, of course because the use of semi naked women in our daily newspapers is indefensible there are no stronger arguments they could have used!
I managed to speak to Lucy after the event and we discussed how the whole issue can be narrowed down to equal treatment. If men and women were treated the same the debate would change completely. I told Lucy of this lesson I ran when I was teaching English in a Comprehensive in Milton Keynes about 20 years ago!
I was teaching a unit of an English Language GCSE which required us to compare and analyse broadsheet and tabloid newspapers. I was being asked to bring in a copy of ‘The Sun’ to discuss in small mixed gender groups 14 year old teenagers and I wasn’t happy about it! Without permission (if anyone had found out I would have been in great trouble) I purchased a soft porn magazine with pictures of naked men in various ‘tasteful’ poses and suggestive positions. I removed some of the pages and placed them inside ‘The Sun’ newspapers, I then placed them in the middle of the table and I wish I had videoed the response. The poor lads nearly died of embarrassment. The more confident ones in the class tried to brazen it out making jokes and the atmosphere became very animated. The girls found it hilarious and started laughing and there was a huge amount of nervous, uncomfortable laughter. Some boys got angry and took the images out, trying to cover them out or get them away. The girls got angry too and snatched the pictures back until one boy snatched up a picture and tore it to pieces so it wasn’t visible anymore. At this stage I intervened and we then had a brilliant discussion because we talked about how they felt. The boys admitted to their feelings of embarrassment and insecurity because they didn’t look like the men in the images. The girls explained that that’s how they also felt when they saw the images plastered over newspapers and other media. It was probably the best lesson I ever taught.
Who would have believed that 20 years on, yes 20 years on we are still having this debate. I’m ready to run this session again – let me know what you think?