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News Not Boobs

Women’s rights issues have always been important to me as I’ve been very fortunate to have a wonderful education and the chance to talk and learn about things I feel very passionate about. However, I am under no illusion that we have a very long way to go until sexism, misogyny and male privilege become a thing of the past. This is evident in the publication of Page 3 in ‘The Sun’ newspaper which prints pictures of women with their boobs out daily, on a national scale, in something that is hailed as for all the family.

My desire is not to offend anyone or court controversy. My only wish is to speak honestly, from a place of passion and sometimes just to rant and be like ‘HELLO! DO YOU NOT REALIZE HOW CRAZY IT IS THAT YOU HAVE PICTURES OF WOMEN’S BOOBS IN A F**KING NEWSPAPER?!’

From a young age I’ve always questioned the roles women have been assigned, and was made even more skeptical when I was exposed to Page 3 at a young age. ‘Why is it okay for women to be seen like that but not men?’ I remember asking my mum as I awkwardly looked in the other direction when some dude decided to look at a young girl’s boobs on a bus. But like with everything, no-one really talked about it because it’s just become a norm in society – you watch some trashy reality TV, eat some carbs, and watch your family member fumbling around to change the page as they open the newspaper. I very clearly remember talking to my best friend about it when we were like 14 (the days of the now defunct Jonas Brothers come to mind) and I was really perplexed she didn’t see anything wrong with it, and that kind of put me off having any further discussion, as no-one seemed to give a toss. It was like it’s just the way things are, so why bother even talking or caring about it?

It wasn’t until I was 15/16 that I realized my voice as an individual (not just as a questioning bystander) really truly mattered, as I discovered the term for my thoughts and ideologies – feminism. I became editor of the school, and later college, newspaper; I started this blog; I challenged people’s casual sexism and stood up proudly for my beliefs, and I wrote a feminist story which went on to garner 100,000 reads online. Yet I still thought to myself that I have to do something that really takes on the remaining oppression of women in their representation in the media (I’m a former media student and so I annoy everyone by analyzing everything). I felt that I had to look into seeing whether I could use whatever stage I had (not that big, but it’s something), to help a campaign/cause which I truly felt passionate about, and figure out a way to be a better activist, learner and woman. And then I happened to stumble across No More Page Three and it was like “I’m not the only one who thinks this, OMG PEOPLE CARE!” It was all a very Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch circa 2005 moment.

I decided to pledge my support for No More Page Three as the message resonated with me as a young women as well as the very awkward (I still am) 14 year old girl I once was, who wondered why it was necessary to show women in such a way. I followed them on Twitter and kept up to date on Facebook with all their progress and boy has there been a lot as 126,000 people have come out and signed a petition to tell Sun editor, David Dinsmore, to kindly remove Page 3.

Now, I was proper happy that it’s had so much support yet my mood kind of deflated seeing The Sun being sold in the university shop when it chooses to objectify young women in such a way where they’re applauded not for their achievements in different industries, or the fact that they’re better doing than boys educationally, but instead to just allow men (the target audience) to leer at them.

This has a greater effect on society as some men come to view women as being sexual objects, only there for their pleasure, and while I am not in any way suggesting that The Sun promotes such behavior, you have to wonder where these men who harass women, come to think this is acceptable. Is it through being told that it’s okay to oogle and make jibes about a woman in a public place?

The fact that the only major representation of women in the most popular UK newspaper is a page dedicated to showing off her body, while all males are fully covered, speaks volumes. We need to be a strong community of striving women who inspire and lead each other to greatness. We need to have open and frank discussions with young girls about the fact that their bodies do not matter as much as their brilliant brains. That education should be the thing your most proud of, not trying to look like an airbrushed model who feels the pressure to constantly abide by what society deems ‘beautiful’ or ‘worthy’.

When I was younger I questioned why only women were featured. I’m not gonna be like “Oh yeah, put a fit shirtless hottie in there and it’s all good,” because in NEWSPAPERS you should have news, not nudity. The clue’s in the bloody title. If you want to see stuff like that, then go read something which is designed for that like all the ‘lad mags’…completely different matter that all the women magazines just promote romance essentially, while giving you a brief glimpse into a guy who you can only get by waxing your legs or you know, looking like Miranda Kerr and the ‘lad’ ones are filled with ideas about sex…yes, let’s stick the label that all women want is romance and men sex but I digress (…as usual).

I had a discussion about No More Page 3 at university. Some people were outspoken in their views and some not really that bothered and I respect it all, I may not agree with it, but I respect that people have differing opinions. One guy said that The Sun can hardly be seen as a family newspaper and said there was obviously a demand of it as men liked looking at that. I say give men a bit more credit. I’m sure that they’re quite able to read over what’s going on in Syria without feeling the need to stare at a nude women to help them in their understanding. Yeah, you read about Jimmy Saville one moment and then stare at a young woman’s breast on the next page. And again it’s this stupid assumption that men are the only ones with any sexual feelings – I like attractive men but I would prefer not have to see Fabio’s (I swear all male models are called Fabio) thingy while trying to better my understanding of what’s happening in the world.

At this discussion at university, which turned into a heated informal debate, it was said that freedom of press should be allowed and the editor should decide the content. I agree. It’s not about censorship, it’s about extending the same respect to women they show for men. And you know what? Not one person could tell me why Page 3 exists. Not one. I got told that women weren’t seen as sexual objects by featuring on Page 3 (not amused, dude) and if women wanted male nudity then they should call for it (missing the point a bit, mate), but no real answer was given as to why Page 3 is needed in 2013. It wasn’t needed when it started, but it certainly isn’t needed in an era where women are trying to break through the last of the remaining glass ceiling which is nearly shattered.

I could not buy The Sun and I could just ignore Page 3. Yet I can’t. I can’t ignore the fact that my fellow sisters are being told their bodies have more importance than their brilliant, smart minds. And I cannot simply stay quiet because I respect men too much to assume that they’re happy with being portrayed as sexual beasts who need to see tits before checking the footie scores. And I want to live in world where one day a young girl can look at the pages of the most popular newspaper and know she is respected just like the boys at school.

This has created a thirst in me in being an activist (I’ve got a long way to go) because we’re making a difference because it was something I didn’t think possible and now it may lead an ever lasting and positive affect for years to come. I’m looking into banning the sale of The Sun on campus to show we, as young people, support equality and proper representation of women in a newspaper. I don’t know if it will work but we can all make a difference somehow. I’ve realized that we can change the world however cheesy that may sound. You can sign the petition. You can look into stopping selling The Sun on campus. You could talk to friends and family about it or just do whatever you’re most comfortable with, in tackling this issue. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. YES, YOU!

After many years I spoke to my mother about it again and went off on a rant which was quite similar to what you read above. I have unlimited minutes so it’s all good. “It’s so unnecessary,” my mother sighed in resignation about Page 3. Turns out mum does know best.

Aroosa Raza is a university student who is like Mia Thermopolis minus the whole princess thing and quotes Friends for every event in her life. She’s published a story online with a badass brilliant lead and is a fan of boy bands of yesteryear as well as the belief that the Carlton dance should be mandatory on all dance floors. Her rants as well her stories can be at found at Watpad, Twitter and her Blog.

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