Guest Blog: Lisa Clarke – No More Page 3

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Hello, my name is Lisa Clarke and I am a member of the No More Page 3 Campaign team.

I still love saying that and have a little laugh to myself, a small pinch me reality check every time I do. You see I’m not some high achieving academic feminist, not a politician, not a middle class busy body I am instead a Nottingham born and bred mother of 2, a nurse of 20 years from a working class background and a marathon runner (I know that’s not relevant and I’ve actually only run one marathon but I’m rather proud of it and like to get it in wherever I can) and quite frankly I have no idea how I’ve ended up involved in all of this or why anybody thought I’d be any good at it.

NMP3_Lisa

The No More Page 3 Campaign was started in August of 2012 by Actress and Author Lucy-Anne Holmes. It was during the London 2012 Olympics that Lucy bought a copy of The Sun following ‘Super Saturday’ when lots of gold medals were won many by female athletes, she picked that particular paper because of its’ reputation for sports coverage. Whilst leafing through it she discovered that Page three wasn’t there and instead the page had been taken up by pictures of sporting achievements. Thinking the feature had been dropped as a sign of respect to the Olympians she was later dismayed to find it on page 11. The page 3 image was still the largest image of a woman in the paper that day, larger than the image of Jessica Ennis who had just won gold for her country. Lucy describes that moment as being a ‘huge slap in the face. A reminder that it’s a man’s world’. She wrote to the then editor Dominic Mohan, who never responded, and so she decided to start a petition and a twitter and Facebook page.

It was in the September that I signed the petition (link – http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/david-dinsmore-take-the-bare-boobs-out-of-the-sun-nomorepage3) myself. I can’t actually remember where I saw it or who shared it but having had my own feminist awakening about 6 months before that I was in the habit of following many feminist twitter accounts and was reading and learning with a hunger, all I could on the subject.

I signed quickly and then followed the accounts on twitter and Facebook, immediately getting involved in heated debates both on the campaign’s page and on my own wall. I was amazed at how controversial an issue this was, at how hard some people would argue for the right to keep this topless, sexy picture where they could access it easily with their morning toast or in their break at work. Despite this confusion about who it was that owned the boobs these days I found many likeminded friends locally and in the autumn of 2012 we organised local demonstrations in Beeston and Nottingham town centre collecting over 600 signatures.

Although I lamented the fact that I was so far from London where so much of the action seemed to be happening, I had never particularly considered getting more involved or thought that I had anything to offer, until in January of 2013 I received the email from Lucy which invited myself along with 5 others to join her in running the campaign. Considering how overwhelming it can be I still marvel at how Lucy managed to sustain NMP3 for so long with minimal help but for the first 6 months she did exactly that. By December she was burning out very badly and the campaign went very quiet. Her invitation to join her was from the heart, from a woman that had such passion but could no longer sustain it alone. As well as being bemused as to why she had chosen somebody like me with so little to recommend me, I was also struck by how easily this inspiring woman shared selflessly what must have very much felt like her baby, so completely, with people she mostly didn’t know at all, but share it she did and No More Page 3 HQ was born. We immediately began sharing the load of running the twitter account and Facebook page between us; we discussed strategy and lobbying and were alive with ideas. It was clear right from the outset that I had joined a team of women that were multi-skilled, filled with passion and who were going to completely change my life and change it they did.

NMP3_Legoland

Over the last 14 months I have had some amazing experiences I have driven cars overloaded with campaigners and a giant cardboard cut-out Lego page 3 girl from London to Windsor, I have chatted online and in real life with celebrity supporters, I have used skills I had no idea I could transfer from my day job and have learnt many new ones.

My years of nursing have allowed me to speak with compassion and understanding to supporters who are slowly dismantling their own experiences of sexism, sharing the unhappiness with their body or sadly sometimes sharing experiences of abuse connected with or influenced in some way by page 3. The teaching and speaking I have done at nursing study days and conferences has been swapped for standing up in a debate and talking with passion about why this icon of the sexist 70’s needs to go.

Strangely a dance class I used to be involved in teaching coupled with teen years spent in acting and drama lessons has set me up beautifully to concoct crazy 1970’s flash mob songs and dances, re-writing lyrics and highlighting the absurdity that this feature still exists.  I have joined team members and fabulously enthusiastic supporters from all walks of life to perform outside Sun HQ and on a west end stage to huge applause and fits of nervous laughter.

NMP3_FlashMob

I have added to this the joy of finding in myself a writer that I never knew was there. I have written several pieces for Metro, including this one about the campaign not being against nudity or breasts but against the objectification (link -http://metro.co.uk/2013/10/22/no-more-page-3-its-not-about-the-nudity-4156908/ ). I  typed with raging fire in the belly this blog for Huff Post about the comments found below Page 3 pictures on The Star’s website (link -http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/lisa-clarke/page-three-mostly-harmless-i-beg-to-differ_b_3034030.html ) and was utterly taken aback when within a few days of this being published the Star disabled the ability to comment below models pictures and deleted all the comments that were there. I believe it was at this point I realised how extra-ordinary people power could be. That a nurse from Nottingham, an inexperienced writer, could blog about these disgusting comments that reduce women to fodder to be owned, used and acted upon and that having been shared entirely through social networks of supporters this could actually bring about a real change.

The campaign’s momentum could so easily have been exhausted by now but thanks to the numbers of supporters growing daily, the growth too of HQ to a team now numbering 20, filled with diversity and skill and the conviction from all of us that what we are doing is important, long overdue and right we have instead blossomed.

NMP3_Nottingham

NMP3 is now a force to be reckoned with, it has the strong support of a huge number of groups, charities and organisations all of whom have their own reasons for wanting to see an end to page 3 (link – http://nomorepage3.org/orgsupport/ ) , it has the backing of over 150 cross party MPs (link -http://nomorepage3.org/letter-to-the-editor-signed-by-mps/ ) and an increasing number of celebrities. There is a sense of a mood change in society that people are beginning to see the sea of sexual imagery, particularly of women, that we face in our daily lives. Our campaign has been riding a wave of feminist resurgence that dominates the newspapers on a weekly basis. Successful people power campaigns have ensured a woman will stay on bank notes, that female genital mutilation will be discussed and looked out for in UK schools. The Co-operative has been persuaded to stop selling lads’ mags which lack modesty covers, HMV have stopped putting sexualized soft porn images alongside boy band and Peppa Pig posters and pop stars are writing open letters to one another lamenting the overt sexualisation of female singers in the music industry.

Whilst still at times being perplexing and frustrating it is such an exciting time to be a woman in the UK. Page 3 may to this day remain in place but the number of days it is absent is increasing, rumours have been circulating of a redesign of the page, Ireland have dropped it already and an attempt this week to link page 3 with a breast cancer charity has faced a backlash of negative comments from other newspapers, bloggers, other breast cancer charities and survivors themselves.

Popular culture is questioning, the next generation are listening and campaigning themselves for the world they want to live in as adults to be different to the one they have been forced to grow up in.

NMP3_ForestLadies

No More Page 3 has inspired me, it has inspired young and old alike and has even allowed crowd sourcing of funds to financially sponsor 2 women’s football teams including our own Nottingham Forest Ladies who now play with “No More page 3″ on their chests promoting what women’s bodies can do and not just what can be done to them.

I am honoured to be a tiny part of something really quite amazing that is happening so forgive me while I pinch myself again and, having recently spent my 40th birthday watching 3 plays in London inspired by the campaign, I wonder what new experiences the year ahead will bring, about how I will keep finding time to do my day job and if not about quite what I’m going to do with myself next.

I would like to share the secret here that I am nobody special; I am just a Nottingham lass with a bee in her bonnet. I want to tell you that you too can make a difference in whatever it is you feel passionate about, go for it, try, because you just don’t know what you are capable of.

I have no idea what is coming next and I love that, I am open to all ideas though because it seems if I put my mind to it I can do just about anything, who knew.

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