When I moved to the UK from Sweden to start university about ten years ago, I had played sports pretty much every day of my life. First football then ice-hockey since the age of 5. From about the age of ten to the day I moved to the UK at the age of 20, I had spent as much time I could in an ice rink. Me and my friends fought against stereotypes about female ice hockey players and stigma about women and physical sports all the time. We fought for time on the ice, funds for tournaments and new kit. We fought to do well, to excel at a sport we not only loved and enjoyed but that was an important part of who we were. Playing a male dominated sport is character building and I was immensely proud of myself, all my team mates as well as the opposition for growing a sport against a backlash of opinions and stereotypes.
Being an athlete was a large part of who I was when I went of to a new country to start University. I have always loved football and in the absence of an ice hockey team near by, I was excited to take up football again. And I was excited about the prospect of living in a country that breaths football, where i knew I would be able to talk about it, watch it – read about it. When you move to a new country, you never know what newspapers to read, which ones are on the left, which ones are on the right, and most important to me at the time – who has the best sport section. So I looked around and I asked around. The unanimous answer was that the Sun was my best bet for good sports coverage. My hall mates read it, my classmates read it, everyone seemed to be reading it. I can still remember the SU shop that day when I picked up my first copy and flicked through it. My first emotion when I came across page three was embarrassment. As someone from a different country, a country that is by no means perfect but has long since moved pornography and naked pictures to top shelfs or behind dark plastic, I remember being embarrassed about taking it to the til. I also remember wondering why it was there at all? In Sweden sports is also massively linked to notions of masculinity and women often reduced to half time entertainment, but this was just here in the open. I flipped through it to look at the sports. Second disappointment was that the sports pages were just as lacking in female sporting achievement as the ones at home.
That paper that day was an introduction to how my new country valued not only women in sports but women in general. Reduced to naked breasts on page three of a magazine by and for men, not for me. I bought the Sun that day. I read the sport section with the paper neatly folded, the naked breasts secretly tucked away where no one could see them. And I think I did a few more times whilst at uni “for the sports coverage”. But as I matured, learnt more about who I was, learnt about the bigger picture, I decided to never again pick that paper up, never to pay for it. I love my new country, it has a lot of amazing qualities and I am proud to have made it my home. But I will never accept how page three still makes me feel when I look at it. How I remember how it made me feel that day, like I should be the one embarrassed, like I don’t belong in the sport section but naked across page three. Some people refer to Page Three as a British institution. It is not, it is a stain on this country’s reputation that has the ability to make a optimistic 20 year old female athlete newly arrived here feel like absolute shit. Page Three has no place here.