It was 1971 when I first saw Page 3, I was twelve and flicking through the newspapers at home. It felt like a huge slap in the face. My next memory is the workmen at my school showing it to me when I was fifteen. This time it was like a punch in the stomach, but by then I had internalised its existence as normal.
Women of my generation could only live in relation to Page 3. It was part of my culture, the air that I breathed, and it would help to inform my life and my relationships.
My generation was the first – ever, in history! – that had to navigate a mainstream cultural landscape which sent us – every day! – a salient reminder that we were nothing but a sexual commodity for men. That was our backdrop, our wallpaper. We all developed different strategies to deal with it – you know, the usual stuff: denial, depression, pretence, competition. (I developed a hard, careless cool persona and went off the rails a bit since you ask).
Expecting a 12-year-old to deconstruct her culture’s messages is a big ask, it would be like asking a fish to define water. I was not able to stand back and think ‘Ugh! What kind of culture is this that allows sleazy old newspaper editors to abuse their position by paying young women to display their breasts publicly??!’
I think that now though. Really. What kind of culture would allow that?
In no other area of public society do we design things to cater primarily to the interests of adolescent boys. We don’t, for example, plan motorways to suit boy-racers. We don’t designate stretches of the M25 as race tracks and then shrug our shoulders and say ‘hey it’s just a bit of fun! If you don’t like it don’t drive there’.
So I look back and think Hey! My generation was part of a big cultural experiment, and it FAILED! It hasn’t made us a more laid-back, accepting, freely-sexual, ‘comfortable with nudity’ right-on society! LOOK! It’s made us into a body-anxious, insecure LAD CULTURE!! Depression in women has doubled since 1970. That daily ‘bit of fun’ didn’t work for us then.
Page 3 silenced a generation of women. It redefined a ‘feminist’ as a ‘prude’.
I don’t buy that though. And I am no longer silent. I have a teenage daughter of my own now and I can help her to be able to think the thoughts it was impossible for me to think in 1971. So now I am a feminist loud and proud!! And I am thrilled to have been asked to join the nomorepage3 campaign set up by Lucy-Anne Holmes.
I have watched this campaign become the biggest mobilising force for women (and men) to challenge the culture we have created for our children. Page 3 was the first, it is the most iconic, it is the public symbol of the culturally accepted objectification of women, so the success of this campaign would be the most powerfully symbolic victory. That’s why I’m on board.
But it’s also for the 12-year-old me. I wish she’d known back then that she’d be doing this one day.
Originally published on Britmums