I found myself rushing from the Spirit Level of the Southbank Centre on the second day of their WOW – Women of the World Festival 2014 to make the Page 3 panel talk. Slightly annoyed that I would be missing out on the ‘Art Will Change the World’ talk, but boy was I glad that duty had the sense to call out to the better part of me.
Thankfully luck was on my side as I settled into an inconspicuous seat comfortably just as the panel of six were being seated. Eleanor Mills chaired the debate, the broadcaster, journalist and chair of Women in Journalism , she had the air of friend’s mum very friendly and endearing though you knew she had a non-nonsense side just waiting for right moment to erupt. Quickly taking control Mills made sure the audience were aware of the order of things, instructing the panel and ourselves from centre-stage of the need to cover ground comprehensively but civilly, thus ensuring that reasonable time is set aside for questions at the end.
Mills contribution to the talk, walked a very measure line between her role as an award winning journalist and columnist, with a particular championing of the empowerment of women, economic and social and that of a female Editor who opposed The Sun’s page 3 back in late 2013. However her opening statements saying that she is and will always be a “champion of free speech defenders”, who make up much of the opposing side to the campaign calling for an end to The Sun’s Page 3 model, and that she was “not affiliated with the Page 3 campaigning” unconsciously brought to my mind a light sway in argument in favour of Page 3. Even now a couple of days later I find myself in agreement with her stance that “feminism is not about banning or restricting choices”.
Laura Bates, journalist and founder of the Everyday Sexism Project followed Mills, in what almost seemed like a pre-planned segue. She opened her argument by saying that ‘the campaign against Page 3 is not about censorship or a ban on press freedom”, but one that wants to help The Sun, by extension the wider media, realise that page 3 is nothing short of a sexist phase of life that they should strive to dismiss from the public sphere. Or to put it simply “boobs aren’t news” as she summed up the campaign aims. Her role as an opposer of Page 3, journalist and champion of equality rights and sexual liberation led her to recall some of the real-life events shared with her by contributors to the Everyday Sexism Project. One particularly harrowing tale was that of a young woman raped after being shown the page by her attacker who then continued to verbally abuse her in view of and connection to the open page 3 of The Sun. While other tales would cut any mother, sister, brother, father to the quick ranging from young solitary girls on the bus being shown the page 3 model by lecherous old men to young schoolboys comparing and verbally insulting schoolgirls and the Page 3 models themselves.
Katie Price aka once glamour model Jordan turned Businesswoman, Author and The Sun columnist of astute self-promoting fame demurely followed Bates rapturous remarks, the only way she knows best – by being awesome. Now I must confess I was not a fan of Katie Price before this talk, though I did admire her a little for the way she conducted herself in regards to her family being what I would term as a true Essex native, cheeky yes but honest true and down-to-earth, reminding me of my great friend from Witham, Essex. Her fumbling with the iphone, self-ingratiating remarks let ripples of warm involuntary giggles flood the packed auditorium. Reducing the warrior-esque sense of urgency and anger I felt peak up during Bates address. For her part Katie Price in her meandering tour in the life of Katie Price from model to page 3 model to glamour model and buyer of larger tits did come up with great remarks to add to the argument in defence of Page 3. One of my personal favourite being “As I understand it the debate always sees Page 3 as cheap but in fashion when a topless model is paraded on the catwalk or photographed by a top photographer it’s seen as Art”. For her Page 3 was the enabler of a fantastic journey that helped her created her own “empire of creations” through hardwork and determination.
Lola Okolosie, of Go Feminist, Black Feminists and a Guardian contributor to provide the “Black, British feminist voice in the discussion” as Mills put it. Though Lola’s voice was the one I was most looking forward to, hoping she would be the voice of reason in this interesting but altogether very myopic discussion on Page 3 and Women Equality and Liberation. Sadly though she didn’t say what I yearned her to, though in the course of the entire WOW -Women of the World Festival I did get my very wish on the ‘Feminism and Privilege’ talk later that day. But that’s fodder for another blog post. Reflecting back on Lola Okolosie’s contribution to the debate what I did engage with was her role as a teacher of adolescent boys within an inner-city all-boys school, who as she argued were the most affected long-term by Page 3 and it’s other over-sexualised freely viewable mediated forms of women as sex object. Sharing her classroom discussion with students she was able to colourfully and bravely recount how the majority of these young boys some aged as young as 12 and others as old as 15/16 were “bloody butchering” the female body. The violent aggressive language the used in connection with the Page 3 models. The boys’ viewpoint that “she isn’t really real”, Page 3 being just an image of a person without feelings and that women on the whole are but a collection of parts that range in importance from arse, tits and face caused a saddened gasp from the auditorium, dare I say it too, I’m certain that I noticed Katie Price’s face tilt in resigned apathy. Okolosie summed her position in relation to the question ‘Does Page 3 Make the World a Better Place?’ succinctly, as she ended for her “No Page 3 does not create a better world, it has had a definite impact on the world” not necessarily for any good at all.
Martin Daubney of Loaded fame, (he was the longest running editor since it’s creator) took the microphone next. While I confess it was great to get a fresh male perspective on the discussion, particularly from someone who has admittedly has had a large impact on how women are portrayed and received by men, in the UK erotic still-image scene much of what he said was lost amidst his almost unanimous opposition by the audience. However he did not do himself any favour by doing what most (famous) journalist do best, using tantazilizing and controversial news items, anecdotes and barbed comments to prick the audience into a frenzy of voiced disagreement. As he listed the way in which he had impacted on Page 3 within the UK and international scene, from working on The Sun to launching the Page 3 online website, he made a point to refer to his part in the Channel 4 documentary Porn on the Brain. For those who keep abreast of such news, you ma remember how Daubney famously changed his attitudes to Porn since hearing how schoolchildren convinced him of the over sexualisation of their youth through the prevailing amount of images pushed at them, yet he still stands in support of Page 3. But in my opinion he did come up with a great point though in challenge to the Page 3 campaign as he pointedly thrust in the faces of the raising voices of anti-Page 3 campaigners in the audience who took offence to his use or twitter troll messaging to colour their campaign – “If you hadn’t have gotten involved, Page 3 would have died a natural death due to the internet. But now it will live on, fighting for it’s right as an institution. You have guaranteed the survival of Page 3”.
India Knight the Sunday Times journalist, author, one time The Sun journalist and just all-round cool book-lover as identified by her Tumblr, rounded off the by now thrice interrupted opening remarks. I found myself admiring this robust, confident woman who cut to the quick of the debate putting forth her viewpoint with such conviction even though as she remarked “the problem with going last is that you want to respond to what others have said before you”. For her Page 3 was nothing short of an annoyance, not something she could hate outright or be disgusted at, rather she just wished it would go away. In her view, which I wholeheartedly agreed with, there were far more important issues to fight for than the end of Page 3 such as equal pay for men and women and the end to sexual violence. She is cool with porn and with making Page 3 an effective platform for cerain kind of ambitious world, she admired working women like Katie Price. However what she could not admire was the inclusion of an outdated Page 3 in our society, as it smacked of an other world. One that is currently being torn down like old pebble-dashed walls almost weekly in the mainstream media, I talk of course of the 1970s once the home of cheeky sexual lib. jokes, Page 3 and all sorts of Carry Ons but have recently been revealed to show the murky sordid reality of institutionalised sexism, abuse and violence particularly towards women. But this still did not excuse the campaign by what she viewed as the “liberal, middle-class left leaning” who were pushing their ideals on people.
- Catcalling during Martin Daubney’s opening remark, re-focusing his remarks about the trolls who have now joined the ever-growing anti-Page 3 campaign to say simply “this happens with all organisations/campaigns”
- India Knight telling it like she see’s it.
- Laura Bates letting Martin Daubney know exactly what stalled the debate in regards to Anti-page 3 campaign, not the trolls but The Sun’s use of Breast Cancer charity Coppafeel to legitiamise their images of topless women on page 3. Hiding behind what she clearly (and rightly) states is “a life and death situation for people”.
- Katie Price causing a strong ripple of gasps and groans as she inadvertently championed Lesbian rights in relation to viewing Page 3 too and making up part of its audience.
- Katie Price ending the argument with an ace point – My best quote of the talk , see below.
List of speakers:
- Eleanor Mills
- Laura Bates
- Lola Okolosie
- Katie Price
- Martin Daubney
- India Knight
“Nah I’m just listening to the whole of the talk. I actually find myself agreeing with little bits of everyone’s arguments. But can I ask a question to everyone? Does anyone here go topless on the beach?”
-*Queue almost 50% of the women in the audience raising their hands outstretched to the sky*-
(marking themselves as liberated au-naturale warrior women of the highest order – no doubt)
“So what difference is being topless on a beach, a public place to doing it on a paper and getting paid for it?”