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Leveson, the government, and women’s equality

3 Dec

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Below is Lord Justice Leveson’s section on ‘Representation of women and minorities’ taken from his recent report (Pg 662) in response to Eaves, End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW Coalition), Equality Now and OBJECT/Turn Your Back On Page 3’s submissions and evidence given to the Leveson Inquiry in January 2012.  Women’s groups welcomed his recommendations and his acknowledgement of the harmful impact this imagery and content in our tabloid press has on women.

  • You can read our response to his report here.
  • To get a background on our witness statements and submissions given to the hearing please click on the links: Eaves witness statement | EVAW Coalition submission | Equality Now statement / submission | OBJECT/Turn Your Back On Page 3 statement / submission.
  • You can also watch the women’s groups give evidence here (starts at 1hr 5mins).
  • Please also read Eaves, EVAW Coalition, Equality Now and OBJECT’s recent report ‘Just the Women’ which follows up on Leveson evidence here.
  • Check out our new website ‘Everyday Media Sexism‘ which is a joint project between Eaves, EVAW Coalition, Equality Now, OBJECT and Everyday Sexism.  We ask you, the public, to post your personal testimonies and evidence of media sexism across the board up on to it.
  • Great media stories on Page3/media sexism, Leveson and gender equality here, here and here.
  • Leveson also referenced the No More Page 3 petition which is now close to 100k signatures.

It is abundantly clear from this wealth of evidence of the overt sexism and misogyny which pervades our tabloids (and media) on a daily basis, and it’s the governments duty to end this discrimination and push women’s equality to the top of its agenda TODAY.

Please send this blog post or any part of this evidence to your MP at www.writetothem.com and demand that your MP addresses this TODAY.   Also, please make it clear to them that you will not allow this treatment of women and girls to be passed of as ‘freedom of speech’ and really, if they’re playing that card, what does it say about them and our society?

Leveson’s Report:

8.9 Object, the human rights organisation, gave comprehensive evidence to the Inquiry of what  it described as “the sexual objectification of women and girls, and the mainstreaming of the sex and porn industries in the media and popular culture”.  Its evidence focused on “Page 3 imagery”, namely imagery found in The Sun, the Midweek and Sunday Sport, and the Daily and Sunday Star, of young (almost always white) women with bare breasts, sometimes  entirely nude and in sexualised poses. Anna Van Heeswijk, representing Object, described “a gradient of extremity running from the Sun to the Daily Star to the Sport”: although Page 3 imagery is limited to page 3 of The Sun, it is found on many more pages in the Daily Star and yet more still in the Sport. Indeed, The Sport contains a self-explanatory “nipple count” which often numbers over 100.

In each of these titles, the posed photographs of topless women may be accompanied by stories including ‘up-skirt’ photographs, and extensive advertising for sex web cams, pornographic DVDs and ‘escort agencies’.

8.10 Ms Van Heeswijk considered there was “no marked difference between the content which exists within… classified pornographic materials and the contents within some of these mainstream Page 3 tabloids”.  This may be putting it high with regard to The Sun, but it would be hard to disagree when looking at the coverage in the other titles. The front page of the Midweek Sport from 16 November 2011, for example, contained a full page photograph of a glamour model in a small red bikini, with her legs akimbo. Beside that photograph was a headline, “Top 50 Glamour Babes Ever – 8 page topless pullout”. To the top right of the page was a headline, “Pippa’s Amazing Bum Pic – Shock New Photo Inside”. To the bottom left was a censored photograph with the headline “Jess Goes Topless – Jungle Babe Bares Boobs – Uncensored”. At the very bottom of the page was the headline, “Two Free XXX Sex DVDs for every reader”.

8.11 Ms Van Heeswijk argued that this type of material should not be on sale alongside other daily newspapers, but should be limited to the ‘top shelf’ alongside pornographic material. She noted: “Page 3 imagery is already prohibited in the workplace under sexual harassment legislation (set out most recently in the Equalities Act 2010), and it is restricted from broadcast media before the 9pm watershed. It would therefore be logical to recommend that Page 3 images which are considered unacceptable in the workplace, and which would not pass the pre-watershed test for television, should not be displayed in newspapers which are sold at child’s eye level with no age-restriction.

These recommendations would allow for consistency in media regulation when it comes to keeping harmful materials out of the mainstream and away from children.”

8.12 It is hard to argue against that in respect of some of the material contained in the Sport at least, but the regulation of the sale of explicit print material does not fall directly within the scope of this Inquiry. Of greater potential concern to the Inquiry is the degree to which the images may reflect a wider cultural failure to treat women with dignity and respect and/or a practice which, intentionally or not, has the effect of demeaning and degrading women.

8.13 In respect of Page 3 imagery, there are a range of arguments. There are those, like Object and the recently formed internet group “No More Page 3”, who argue that the persistent representation of topless young women on the pages of national newspapers is inherently degrading and demeaning. By contrast, there are those like Mr Mohan, who argue that Page 3 is “neither harmful nor offensive”, and satisfies the demands of a readership.  Somewhere in between are those who argue that Page 3 is simply an anomaly: out of place in the 21st century where a woman is just as likely as a man to purchase (or edit) a tabloid newspaper, or lead the country.

8.14 The arguments between those who adopt each viewpoint will continue. But for the purposes of this Inquiry, the interesting point is that it was not Page 3 per se which gave rise to the core complaints made by women’s groups. Instead, it was a general attitude which was found throughout the pages of those tabloids which contained images of semi-naked women (referred to as ‘Page 3 tabloids’), and of which Page 3 was only one example.

Object, along with other organisations such as Turn Your Back on Page 3, Eaves Housing for Women, and the End Violence Against Women Coalition argued that Page 3 imagery was part of a broader culture of objectification and sexualisation of women in those newspapers. Ms Van Heeswijk wrote: “This pervasive objectification and sexualisation of women is not restricted to the portrayal of the Page 3 models or to the Page 3 type feature. Rather, to varying extents, it influences the way that almost all women are portrayed in Page 3 tabloids, including female celebrities.

Examples include an article in the Daily Star on the size of “15 year old” Charlotte Church’s breasts (“She’s a big girl now… Child singing sensation showed just how quickly she’s grown up after turning up at a Hollywood bash looking chest swell”). This is juxtaposed with commentary of outrage against the satirical “sting” Brass Eye documentary’s “Paedophile special” (Exhibit 4). More recent examples include a feature in the Sport commenting on the genitalia of a female newsreader which it describes in derogatory terms. (Exhibit 5)”

8.15 Both of the examples given in that passage support the broader points made by Ms Van Heeswijk and others. First, the unfortunate juxtaposition of the article expressing outrage at a satirical programme on paedophilia and an article commenting on a 15 year-old’s breasts exposes a hypocrisy in relation to the sexualisation of young girls and women that is seen beyond the Page 3 tabloids: some have commented on the awkward co-existence of the Daily Mail’s support for “traditional values” with the Mail Online’s “sidebar of shame”. Second, the article commenting on the genitalia of a female newsreader supports the view that some Page 3 tabloids apply a demeaning and sexualising lens beyond those who choose to appear in their pages with breasts exposed: even the most accomplished and professional women are reduced to the sum of their body parts.

8.16 Object’s submission to the Inquiry gave examples of the sexualisation or demeaning of women from articles in The Sun, the Daily Star, and the Sport over a single week in November 2011. The articles exhibited demonstrated the “gradient of extremity” from The Sun through the Daily Star to the Sport, but all three titles contained what can only be described as objectifying material.

All three included numerous articles with no other purpose except to show an image of a scantily clad or topless woman: see, for instance, The Sun’s articles ‘Jess takes the plunge’ and ‘Celeb beauty gets ‘em out’. All three titles included articles with no purpose other than to attach a photograph of, and describe in derogatory language, a woman’s breasts or bottom: see the Daily Star’s article about “getting a massive pervy eyeful of [a celebrity’s] pert ass”, or the Sport’s article ‘Jugs and Jury’. All three contained large scale advertisements for pornography and/or escort services. And all three included articles which appeared to eroticise violence against women.

8.17 This final category of article was forcefully criticised by the End Violence Against Women Coalition and Eaves Housing who both argued that there was a tendency in parts of the press to trivialise and/or sexualise violence against women. One of the examples identified from The Sun was an article entitled ‘Bodyguards for battered Towie sisters’ reporting acts of serious violence upon two sisters, accompanied by a picture of one of them in an erotic pose in her underwear.  A similar example from the Sport was an article, adjacent to a photograph of a large breasted, topless model, about a man who had committed a sexual offence by groping a woman’s breasts.  A further example from the Sport involved a comment piece expressing the writer’s desire to have sex with a celebrity, but joking that the only way that would happen was if he raped her.

8.18 The evidence as a whole suggested that there is force in the trenchant views expressed by the groups and organisations who testified to the Inquiry that the Page 3 tabloid press often failed to show consistent respect for the dignity and equality of women generally, and that there was a tendency to sexualise and demean women. That failure is particularly clear in the pages of the Sport, which is, in my view, hardly distinguishable from the admittedly ‘softer’ end of top-shelf pornography. But it exists to a lesser degree in the Daily Star and The Sun. For The Sun, at least, it is a failure of consistency, rather than a general failure to show respect for women. The Sun has campaigned admirably against domestic violence, rape, and size zero models.  But it is clear that those campaigns have, perhaps uncomfortably, sat alongside demeaning and sexualising representations of women.

8.19 Importantly, these criticisms of the Page 3 tabloids do not derive from the fact those newspapers contain an image of a topless woman on Page 3 (or not only from that fact). They are criticisms for which evidence can be found on a reading of all the pages in those newspapers as a whole. They are also supported by the response that the tabloids have made to those who have criticised Page 3.

8.20 When Clare Short MP campaigned against Page 3 in the 1980s she was described by The Sun as “fat”, “ugly” and “jealous of beautiful women”.  When the Rt Hon Harriet Harman proposed legislation to ban Page 3 in 2010, she was described as a “harridan” and a “feminist fanatic” on a “furious rant”.  Similarly, when ex-Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone MP raised the issue in Government, she was described as a “battleaxe” and her proposal to limit children’s ability to purchase newspapers containing topless women was described as a “potty plan”.  Describing the female critics of Page 3 as fat, ugly, jealous, feminist fanatics, harridans, and battleaxes goes some way to proving their point.

8.21 Thus far, these criticisms have been considered at a level of some abstraction; it remains necessary to bring the debate back to the terms of the Code, and to the considerations foreshadowed in the introductory observations to this section. The article, ‘Bodyguards for Battered Towie Sisters’ may well infringe clause 12 of the Code as currently drafted, but the majority of the material discussed under this sub-heading probably does not. The impact of discriminatory or prejudicial representations of women in the Page 3 tabloids is difficult to judge. There is credible evidence that it has a broader impact on the perception and role of women in society, and the sexualisation of society generally,although submissions from Sunday Sport (2011) Ltd refer to the range of academic opinion on the issue. Suffice to say, that this Inquiry is not the place to analyse, let alone reach conclusions on these matters.

8.22 That said, these are important and sensitive issues which merit further consideration by any new regulator. What is clearly required is that any such regulator has the power to take complaints from representative women’s groups. Consideration should also be given to Code amendments which, while protecting freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, would equip that body with the power to intervene in cases of allegedly discriminatory reporting and in so doing reflect the spirit of equalities legislation.

TURN YOUR BACK ON PAGE 3!  STAND UP FOR EQUALITY! 

#sunsexism NEEDS YOU!

10 Oct

The Sun sexualising violence against women

 

Turn Your Back On Page 3 (TYBOP3) would like YOU to help with providing photographic evidence of sexism you see in The Sun.   Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to put money into Murdoch’s pockets; you can just snap using your mobile phone or camera whilst passing through/past a newsagent etc. or when a copy is left on the train, in a café or any other public area.

The reason for this is to expose the context in which Page 3 exists.  Page 3 isn’t an image placed innocently in the UK’s most popular family newspaper; it is a sexist image placed within a sexist newspaper in what is still a hugely sexist society.  In this context Page 3 begins to appear far less ‘innocuous’ – as editor Dominic Mohan would have us believe – and instead starts to appear far more sinister.

The very fact that there isn’t a male equivalent is concrete proof of this from the outset, although we are certainly not campaigning for more diversity!  What we are calling for is Sun readers and current defenders of Page 3 to recognise what The Sun really thinks of women – and to care enough about this that they too turn their backs on this sexist British ‘institution’ once and for all.

Please snap the evidence, however blatant or subtle it is and upload it onto Twitter (you can find us @tybop3).  It doesn’t matter whether we crossover with our evidence, what we need is YOUR analysis and feelings towards it.  Whether it’s The Sun being hypocritical, stereotypical or just plainly misogynistic, we need to know!  All we ask is if that you use the hashtag #sunsexism when posting so people have a point of reference for evidence.

Together if we expose it we can eradicate it!

Please click here to read TYBOP3’s and OBJECT’s submission to the Leveson Inquiry which exposes the harmful way in which women are treated and presented across the red top tabloid print press.

Patriarchy the corrupt crook!

26 Apr

We learnt yesterday at the Leveson Inquiry that:

“According to official documents, Jeremy Hunt spent five days in the US holding meetings with News Corp at the same point Rupert and James Murdoch were first deciding whether to bid for Sky, reports the Guardian’s David Leigh and Vikram Dodd.  Almost immediately after Hunt’s trip, James Murdoch visited David Cameron in London, and privately told him that News Corp had agreed to switch support to the Tories in the upcoming election. Hunt then became culture secretary in the victorious Tory government.”

And we expect these crooks to get rid of The Sun’s Page 3 and clean up the tabloid press’ misogynist culture in general because we’re asking nicely?

We need to get our thinking caps on, folks!!!  The words ‘bring.down.the.corrupt.patriarchy’ spring to mind!

Turn Your Back On Page 3

12 Jan

Women’s organisations (Eaves, End Violence Against Women Coalition, Equality Now, Object and Turn Your Back on Page 3) who gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in January 2012 have warmly welcomed the ‘Leveson Report’ (29 November) and called for all parties to get behind Leveson’s model for a new independent regulator.

The women’s groups said that Lord Leveson’s recommendations “open the door” for government and media regulators to tackle the “endemic sexism” found in our tabloid press.

Key issues in the report:

-       Lord Leveson says there is evidence to show that the “Page 3 tabloid press often failed to show consistent respect for the dignity and equality of women generally, and that there was a tendency to sexualise and demean women”, in particular the Sport.

-       He agreed with the key recommendation of the women’s groups that “what is clearly required is that any such [new] regulator has the power to take complaints from representative women’s groups

-       Lord Leveson also said that consideration should be given to Code amendments which would give the new body power to intervene in cases of allegedly discriminatory reporting and reflect the spirit of equalities legislation.

-       Lord Leveson said that an article highlighted in the women’s groups’ evidence, ‘Bodyguards for Battered Towie Sisters’ (The Sun) may well have infringed clause 12 of the Editors Code as currently drafted.

Francine Hoenderkamp of Turn Your Back On Page 3 said:

“It is a victory for women that Lord Justice Leveson has recognised the harmful impact that the Page 3 tabloid press has on women’s inequality – of which this overt sexist and misogynistic portrayal of women is perpetuating and fuelling.  If the tabloid press insists on continuing to treat women in this way it is up to the government to ensure there is a sufficient regulatory body in place that holds them to account.”

OBJECT and TYBOP3’s submission (http://tinyurl.com/cq8ymok) focused on the sexual objectification of women in our red top tabloids, providing a snapshot of the sexist and misogynistic content that permeates our daily press.  This, within the context of what is still a grossly unequal society is deeply problematic.  This overt sexist portrayal of women within the UK’s mainstream press is perpetuating and fuelling this inequality by, at best; encouraging negative attitudes towards us and within us, and, at worst, acts of violence committed against us.  All of which grossly limit our choices, stall our progress and violate our human rights.

The Sun is the UK’s most popular newspaper and the existence of the 42-year-old ‘Page 3’ within it symbolises the acceptance and normalisation of sexism in our society and a government that doesn’t care about changing this.

Whilst our politicians continue to turn a blind eye to this mistreatment of women within the press they are turning a blind eye to sexism in general.

We cannot let this happen.

We need to demand that the government stamps out sexism in all its forms and eradicating the tabloid press’ blatant, persistent sexism and misogyny would be a good place to start.

To get involved write to your MP, join the Facebook group, and/or send a photo of your back (age, name, location optional) with the campaign slogan on and a brief explanation why you are protesting to turnyourbackonpage3@hotmail.com.  Or simply post it on Facebook or tweet us @tybop3.   Together we will show the government that we are united in the fight to end sexism in all its forms TODAY.

Turn Your Back On Page 3, stand up to misogyny!

Turn Your Back On Page 3, stand up for EQUALITY!

“Miss Representation”: Official Trailer

12 Jan

‎’In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality–and not in her capacity as a leader.’  

Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, MISS REPRESENTATION uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film explores how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in influential positions in America and challenges the media’s limiting and often disparaging portrayals of women, which make it difficult for the average girl to see herself as powerful.  For futher information, visit the website.

‘Rough sex’ to blame for women’s PIP breast implant tragedy

11 Jan

The Sun reports that ‘rough sex / tight bras / excessive squeezing by amorous husbands’ were to blame for this tragedy that women and girls are now facing regarding their ruptured implants. If it wasn’t disgusting enough that the vile, profit-hungry, misogynistic Harley Medical Group and Transform aren’t removing, nor replacing, women’s faulty, ruptured implants, The Sun (who played a major role in this tragedy by making women and girls hate their breasts in the first place) goes one further, fetishising this tragedy and turning it into a joke.

If you know someone who buys this newspaper, please urge them to stop.

Does Page 3 get YOUR back up?!

22 Jul

How YOU can help

“The back image that accompanies the campaign is fundamental to the political message we aim to get across. A play on words, one might imagine it as though the women are turning their back on the camera, refusing to be treated like sexual objects; the symbol embodying the slogan.”

 TYBOP3 needs you! In order to show a visible, collective and united opposition to Page 3 sexism we are asking backers to send in an image of themselves with the campaign slogan ‘Turn Your Back On Page 3’ written on their back!  We will be collating the images for various art / activist projects with a possibility of the image becoming the campaign logo and/or the official campaign t-shirt in months to come … so get creative! : )

You can either:

a) Paint a t-shirt or any other item of clothing with the slogan written on the back!  Feel free to get creative!

b) Paint your flesh!  We envisage a wall of backs with as infinite a spectrum of body types as possible. By including people excluded from Page 3 on the basis of sex, age, race, body size/shape etc. we challenge and highlight the sexist, racist, ageist, unhealthy and narrow-minded nature of Page 3 (although we are certainly not campaigning for more diversity!) and by doing so overtly display the defiant message that we are not against nudity and celebration of the human form – if it is indeed in ALL its forms – but we are against this one-dimensional, pornified portrayal of women and girls that is detrimental not only them but to men and society as a whole.

c) Or for any clever graphic designers out there you could superimpose onto the back of ANYONE or ANYTHING!  Look at our wonderful Lego piece (in response to Lego advertising in The Sun!)  Inspired? ; )

Express this message in whichever way you choose – and be as artistic as you want!  You could include anti-Page 3/sexist imagery, statistics, your own personal feelings, write it in your native language etc.  All we stipulate is the campaign slogan ‘Turn Your Back On Page 3’ is written somewhere on your back!  Get creative, be free!

Also, if you’re happy to, please include a very brief quote as to why you’re protesting (name, age, location are optional) and please post images on the facebook page http://www.facebook.com/turnyourbackonopage3 or tweet us @tybop3 using the hashtag #turnyourbackonpage3.

For more examples of the back image, click here.

Turn Your Back On Page 3!  Stand up to misogyny! Turn Your Back On Page 3!  Stand up for EQUALITY!

And don’t forget to write to your MP TODAY at http://www.writetothem.com

A (rotating) snapshot of 21st Century Britain.

16 Nov

Is this what one calls a progressive society?

The Sun: women who pose in their underwear & topless are ‘mucky’.

2 Apr

So now we have The Sun calling Heather Mills’ nanny ‘mucky‘ because she has had pictures taken of her in her underwear and topless!

“Sara Trumble, 26 – seen proudly posing in undies but who also had TOPLESS snaps taken for a portfolio”

The hypocrisy of this misogynistic newspaper is absolutely astounding.  Not only do they label this woman ‘mucky’ for being photographed in this way, but they also put the word ‘topless’ in capitals, as if to emphasise this ‘muckiness’ further and to also suggest that it’s something to be ashamed of.

They also manage to sneak in a topless photo of Heather Mills taken from the soft-porn movie she once appeared in for which they labelled her ‘depraved’.  (See previous blog).

Page 3 models:-  The Sun is overtly ridiculing you.  Please turn your backs on your evil oppressors once and for all!

What’s The Point? Sexism is the point.

25 Feb

(Left to right:  Abi, Fiona, Helen, Sarah, Simone & Monique but no Sammy).

I was honoured to be invited to a meeting with a group of vibrant young women of the YMCA in Southend on Sea to discuss the ‘Turn Your Back On Page 3’ campaign as part of their ‘What’s The Point?’ project; – a project to raise political awareness in young people, which includes meeting MPs, campaigning, visiting parliament and eventually creating a booklet outlining the agendas of the main parties which is to be distributed in school and colleges.

The group – although open to boys – comprised of 7 very lively and very opinionated girls;  Sammy, Helen, Fiona, Abi, Sarah, Simone & Monique, all aged between 20 and 23 and from very different backgrounds, however, like a large proportion of the nation the girls felt disillusioned about politics and wasn’t sure which way to turn in the next general election.

My mother always stressed to me the importance of voting because, in her words, “there was a time when women didn’t have that right, so you mustn’t take it for granted”.  But what are you meant to do if none of the parties represent your own values & beliefs?  Out of respect for my sisters of the suffragette movement I most certainly would never waste my vote but that doesn’t mean to say that the party I do end up voting for will be the one I believe in and respect.  However, political impact doesn’t have to begin and end with your lone vote at election time.  You can make your voice heard in other ways and part of my discussion with the girls of the YMCA was to highlight the importance of grassroots activism; that is, action taken by ordinary citizens where-by you raise awareness and build public support in order to influence legislative change.  And of which, if it is something an MP feels strongly about, he or she will add support to it.  Such is the power of this form of political expression, two very important laws (thanks to Fawcett, Eaves & OBJECT) were recently changed because of it, and the great thing is – anyone can do it!

The Turn Your Back On Page 3 campaign was borne out of the blatant sexist attitudes and behaviour that I was subjected to growing up, which I believe is the direct consequence of our pornified society.  Page 3 is at the heart of this degrading, yet accepted culture, and I felt compelled to do something about it.  Since starting the campaign I have made friends with, and joined forces with like-minded activists and regularly converse with MPs and visit parliament to debate the questions and issues raised in it.

The girls from the YMCA personally related to this and all told their own stories of how they had been in the past, and are currently affected by sexism.  This ranged from being physically attacked by a member of the opposite sex, to succumbing to the pressures of beauty regimes (“you’re not looking after yourself” was a comment made by one of the group’s boyfriend’s if she chose not to wear make-up), to body issues such as feeling insecure about one’s own breasts, which this particular group member linked to seeing Page 3 when she was 11 years old.  The same girl also added;  “you never see glamour models photographed having one breast larger than the other”, which – of course – most, if not all women actually do have, and that was something I, myself, had actually never thought about.

These young women may not have questioned any of this before as they might have thought of it as ‘normal’, but by the end of the discussion, because of consciousness-raising, they recognised the sexism underpinning their experiences and wanted to do something about it.  The talk had, to my delight, fired them up and by the end of it proclamations such as “I’m never buying The Sun again” and “let’s grow our armpit hair for when we get our backs photographed!” were being made!  Quite radical statements to be hearing after an hour’s meeting!

Quite simply, this shows the importance of grassroots activism:  spreading the word, influencing, empowering and ultimately, progressing and I thank the girls at the YMCA for inspiring me and welcome them aboard the journey for the fight for gender equality.

“Whether you come from a council estate or country estate, we need strong, smart and competent young women to stand up and take the reins”.  (Michelle Obama)

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