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.
While this is a very minor story in comparison to many others shared here, I still feel it adds to the examples of why Page 3 is damaging.
I used to teach primary school children, in years 1 & 2, aged between 5-7. I remember laying out newspaper to cover a painting table, and ralising that I’d accidentally t page 3 of the Sun face up on the table. I removed it, and was careful from then on to always check the papers I laid out. Teachers shouldn’t have to spend valuable time making sure they aren’t accidentally displaying porn to children.
When I was in year 10 we were set work in a maths lesson that required us all to bring in a newspaper. All I remember was the uncomfortable feeling and the annoyance at the fact this gave the boys an excuse to be waving around topless models in a place that is meant to be safe. Girls that age, with all the insecurity they already have with their quickly changing bodies, should not have to have soft pornography thrust in their faces in a maths lesson. It’s outrageous and needs to end. When else would it ever be acceptable for half naked women to be displayed in the middle of a school lesson?!
I had a breast enlargement when I was 19 which I really regret now. Looking back I know now that I wasn’t small, I was a B cup and it suited my frame but I was obsessed with them being too small and ugly. The boys at school were constantly bringing in clippings from the sun and sport of topless girls and that was my only reference point for the naked female body and I didn’t look like that. I felt ashamed, boys would try to grab me or ask me about my breasts and I would go bright red, knowing that they knew I wasn’t big breasted and I was being taken the mick out of. I used to stuff my bra with socks, all my friends did too, we all grew up with the only boobs we ever saw being porno boobs. We all felt like ugly aliens and not normal. Another of my friends has also had a boob job, I think the rest of my friends would get them too if they could afford it. My breast enlargement had complications and I had to have corrective surgery twice in two years, I have bigger breasts now but lots of scars and my confidence hasn’t changed. Growing up a bit I have realised that women do not look like page 3 girls in real life, that my body was completely normal for a teenage girl, but I think it might be too late and the damage is already done. I am angry at myself for putting myself in such a dangerous and life threatening position and getting surgery because of something as stupid as seeing page 3 pictures everyday at school and not wanting a boy to look at me and be disappointed when I didn’t look like that. Now when I say to people that I have had a boob job they look at me like I’m a shallow bimbo, I’m not shallow at all, I feel like I was indoctrinated as a teen to feel unhappy with my body against my will and that my personality wasn’t strong enough and my self esteem wasn’t strong enough to resist what seemed like the only solution. I wish I had never had it done now. But I know that if I hadn’t I would still be as tortured as I did back then. I feel like it is a no win situation.
When I was in the first year of secondary school some building work was being done on the school and there was a group of builders who would talk to me and my friends as we came in to school each morning. They always read the Sun, and they started showing Page 3 to us and asking what we thought. Everyone seemed to be cool about it so I pretended to be too, but I felt embarrassed and humiliated because I was a late developer and the images made me feel totally inadequate. I realise now that probably everyone else felt bad too and we were all putting on an act to impress the older men. I also realise in retrospect that it was a turn on for these men to present a sexualised image to schoolgirls and watch their reaction. One of the reasons I felt unable to complain was that the pictures were in a newspaper and therefore condoned (or so it seemed) by society. I couldn’t risk being the only one to object.
In the Summer I walked a group of 20 children aged 10 and 11 from their holiday school ground to the shop to buy ice lollies. On our walk there was a pull-out page of a newspaper on the ground breast-side up. I couldn’t turn the page.
Boys laughed and pointed, and the girls shrank and appeared embarrassed.
I COULD NOT TURN THE PAGE.
The paper pullout was on the ground by a building site. I had to walk by that site to get to and from work. Everytime I walked past I would avert my eyes and my heart rate would pick up and heat would flush to my cheeks – out of fear and intimidation, because of the cat calls I would receive and for the 30seconds it took me to pass I would be under the scrutiny of 9 or 10 pairs of eyes as they undressed me as I walked by.