The author of this piece has asked to be kept anonymous.
It was 8.55am and I was relieved to have arrived at reception with five minutes to spare. I felt feelings of excitement and trepidation; with budding aspirations to be a writer and journalist, securing work experience at the biggest read family newspaper in the country was a massive deal – especially as my previous journalistic endeavours had remained in my local Essex Chronicle. As I smoothed out my newly pressed trouser suit and pinned back my flyaway hairs, I felt the image of professionalism, ready to start my first day of work. The receptionist assured me that a Reporter was on his way to collect me. With that I waited.
‘Hello love, sorry for keeping… my Christ, aren’t you a pretty little thing? Can I offer you a drink?’ Considering the fact that I had already had four lattes to pass the time, I thanked him and declined.
As we got into the lift, a series of standard questions ensued. He seemed surprised that I wanted a degree from King’s College London: ‘I doubt a Russell Group university would offer a hairdressing degree,’ but I was quick to correct him that English Literature was my chosen subject. Of course, he didn’t mean it (or that’s what he assured me); I should learn to have a sense of humour rather than being so sensitive, he said.
It was when I admitted that I was born and raised in Essex that his eyes returned to their previous, opportunistic readiness: ‘Wheyyyyy we have an Essex gal in the office? Shame, I expected you to be caked in fake tan and eye lashes. You don’t even sound like you’re from Essex! Regardless, you will fit in perfectly on the Showbiz desk. Rewrite this Cheryl Cole interview in Heat if you will. Make it seem as if we did the interview. Thanks love.’
Simultaneously flustered and disheartened at my position, I asked if I could tour the other departments – a choice that did little to salvage my enthusiasm. Sport seemed full of boisterous footy fans, the News Desk yielded such basic grammar that my own sixteen-year-old intelligence felt insulted and finally… we came to Page 3.
I could not believe my eyes at the room of ‘journalists’ enlarging, shaping, and photo-shopping the topless glamour model photos to portray a picture of sexuality and seduction. I remember thinking for a split second how unusual it was that I could not hear more vulgar, derogatory comments being made about the images – I suppose that if your job was to airbrush and edit a woman’s naked body every day, all day, the novelty wears off in time.
Needless to say, my judgement had been made too soon. Sure enough, a voice hollered: ‘Her tits are bigger than melons’ and ‘Who hired her? Her face looks like a horse. Can we edit out her face?’ My fears had been confirmed.
‘Whose that?’ questioned one of the reporters, turning to me. ‘Just the work experience girl,’ replied my mentor, ‘She’s from Essex you know.’ Why my birthplace was of such amusement continued to baffle me. ‘Wheyyyyy an Essex girl!’ was the unsurprising response as he persisted: ‘Well, I hope you enjoy your time. When you decide it’s time to get a boob job then don’t forget to contact us… just joking love! Got to have some work banter to pass the time in the office!’
BANTER. A JOKE. Of course it was. I should learn to get a sense of humour right? It’s only harmless! That’s when I went to the loo and cried.
It was then and there that it dawned on me. Until that point I had been a naïve sixteen year old believing that sexism was a thing of the past. I now had experienced first-hand that the media is dictated for and consumed by men. We breed a culture that thrives on propelling the view that women are commodities for male entertainment. It was no wonder that The Sun was one of the most widely read newspapers in the country – it was certainly not relying on its grammar or news coverage, but its vulgar headlines and naked women. Why is an image equivalent to those found in ‘lad mags’ available at child’s-eye level? An image that feeds our young boys that this is women’s purpose: to be a man’s play-thing and object. An image that feeds our young girls false ideologies that sex sells and is a wise move if one wants to be successful in a culture of patriarchal hierarchy. As I contemplated these harsh truths, I wanted to shout at my colleagues that these pornographic, derogatory images are not harmless, nor are they just ‘banter’. I wanted to answer back to the room of misogynistic men that I did have a sense of humour, but there is quite frankly nothing hilarious about the exploitation of my gender. These images compound on real women’s wellbeing, safety, behaviour and education. I wanted to question why these ideologies were still prevalent in the 21st Century. I wanted to say all of this, but felt powerless to do so at the age I was.
I finished my work experience in silence and walked out the door vowing never to return. Five years on, nothing has changed: The Sun continues to be produced with the Page 3 image. This is the first time I have spoken about my experience, in hope that someone will listen. If a naked woman’s body can be used as such a vital component to media consumption, it is about time that a woman’s voice should become the vital component to stamp out media sexism. That’s why I am shouting back and supporting the @NoMorePage3 campaign. Its #TimeForChange don’t you think?
To read PBG’s statement of support for the No More Page 3 campaign, click here.
To sign the No More Page 3 petition, click here.