I got the bus into town today It’s a hot October, and I feel the heat. So there’s me, dressing for the weather. Jeans and a t-shirt. I’m 30, I’d not put any make-up on and my hair looked somewhat explosive. It has a habit of doing that. And frankly, when I’m hot and overtired, the last thing I want to do is spend any time prettyfying. So I was somewhat – irked, shall we say? – when somebody decided to exclaim “nice tits, sweetheart!”, at me.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate my boobs. They fed Isaac pretty well, and they’ve always been pretty good at holding my top up. But maybe this is just me – I’d always kind of hoped they weren’t what defined me. I’d much rather be known for being a good listener, or the music I like, or my faith, or what books I read. Because that’s what makes me me. My boobs are just – well, extras, really.
And that experience today has crystallised for me why I passionately support the No More Page 3 Campaign. Because we can’t live in a society that claims to be equal whilst condoning sexism with our silence. And make no mistake, catcalling is sexism. It’s singling people out for objectification because of the way they look, rather than because of who they are.
I worry what sort of message we’re sending out to our girls. We tell them they can do anything, achieve anything. We tell them to believe in themselves, that they’re just as good as the boys. And then in a family newspaper, we fill the pages with story after story about men going out and doing something- politicians, sports stars, celebrities – where the women mostly feature because they look good in knickers.
I panic, because I’m involved in studying the way that cultural norms lead to abuse. And when we’re allowing this “soft” objectification – and it’s not only the Sun, either – how many newspapers run headlines on a celebrities’ baby weight rather than her hard earned achievements? – we pave the way for a society that says objectification is ok.
I also think of a friend of mine. She’s 21 and absolutely beautiful. She’s clever and witty and funny and has a smile to die for. And yet she’s afraid to go out at night because of the way she’s treated by young men. And then she gets home and she looks in the mirror and she cries, because they’re seeing the outside, and they don’t give a stuff about the inside.
And that could be any of us. Page 3 seems harmless, but it’s marketing young girls as sexual objects instead of valuable humans. And if you think I’m making too much of a fuss, you’ve probably not experienced the fear and terror of sexual abuse There’s nothing quite like having your very identity reduced to what you are to other people and how they can use you. And no, I’m not saying that if you like page 3, you’re going to go on to abuse girls or women. That’s nonsense. I am saying though, that when we allow objectification, we begin to allow humanity to be reduced to what use you are to other people. And that’s not a good thing.
If you’ve not come across them, please go and check out the No More Page Three campaign. And get involved – if not for yourself, for all those girls who don’t want to look in the mirror, because they can never match up to what they believe a woman should be. For all those scared of going out at night. For all those abused and oppressed and depressed. For all those who believe their worth to be determined by others.
For all of us.