[Note from Ed. - this is a guest blog from Jo of the No More Page 3 campaign. And a bloody good one it is.]
Oh, Neil. Neil ‘The Wolfman’ Wallis. I want to be angry with you, I really do, but I just can’t be. You see, you remind me of my Uncle Mick, the one who does horrifically inappropriate, embarrassing things like calling nurses ‘dolly birds’ and asking women in Argos if they need a man to put up their shelves. You just constantly put your foot in it.
For example, on Channel 5 news, you stubbornly denied that Page Three could in any way damage the self-esteem of young girls, and weirdly referred to the Girlguides as ‘middle class, politically correct women’ whilst constantly talking over Becky Hewitt and Emma Crosby about the Guides’ ‘lovely website’ being full of ‘flower meadows and cakes.’ And when the No More Page 3 campaign started, you made a series of uneducated, sweeping statements about class distinctions and bizarrely wrote that we were ‘scrapping furiously for the nation’s attention’ with badgers. It was just weird, Neil.
See, I can’t help but think you’re a decent bloke really, who’s just lost the plot a bit. I’m worried about the people you’ve been hanging around with. I fear that you’ve lost touch with reality. Let me help you, Neil.
Firstly, describing the 94,922 No More Page 3 supporters as ‘overwhelmingly white, middle-class, aged late 20s-late 30s, university educated’ and insisting that they ‘work in academia, meejah, public services, know what macrobiotic means and how to use a fondue set, don’t watch X Factor, go to Greece on their holidays, read the Guardian and watch Channel 4 News, suffer serious sense of humour loss at certain times’ was staggeringly ignorant and way off the mark. Firstly, our supporters are extremely diverse - via the wizardry of social media I’ve encountered a real mix of them, including: young men who are ashamed of ‘lad culture,’ teenage girls who attend comprehensive schools, lorry drivers, dads concerned that their children will grow up to think that seeing a teenager’s breasts in a newspaper is normal, Sun readers who find Page Three an embarrassment but otherwise like the paper, vicars, teachers (I could go on, but I won’t, in case you become restless and start shouting at the computer about badgers again. They carry T.B. Neil, let it go).
Secondly, don’t you realise that by regarding the above traits as ‘middle class’ you’re presuming that ‘working class’ Sun readers (‘The Sun is a largely working-class newspaper’) are the antithesis: uneducated, reality TV aficionados who lack the sophistication required to pierce a bit of bread with a fork and dip it into some cheese? Really, Neil, you’re going with that? (NB: I’m not sure the middle classes have ‘done’ fondue since the ‘Abigail’s Party’ era, but perhaps I’m moving in the wrong circles).
Oh! But you don’t leave it there, Neil! You go on to hint that working class women don’t worry about Page Three! No! They have more pressing matters at hand: ‘They worry about their kids’ health, the rent, putting food on the table, work, their relationship, benefits scroungers, immigration, the telly, and a drink at the weekend.’ (Direct quote. Shhheriously.)
Wowzer. The way you get inside the heads of these working class women is staggering, Neil: William-Beveridge-meets-Cosmo, truly. It’s good to know that the poor are too busy wiping babies’ arses and opening tins of spaghetti hoops to think about ‘issues.’ They’re too busy slagging off immigrants down the pub to worry about a silly little thing like sexism! Those cheeky chappies, why won’t the politics and the activists and the bloody campaigners just leave them alone to their pie and mash and their Daily Mail invective?
Except that’s a massive load of steaming crap, Neil. You see, the thing is, I’m working class. I was brought up on a council estate in a damp, overcrowded house. We were so poor that my dad had to make a settee. I went to an abysmal comprehensive school, where the careers advisor encouraged my bilingual sister to be a dog handler and my English teacher told me that Icarus flew too close to the sun, turned into a sausage and fell into the sea. Every house I went to as a child had a copy of The Sun on the dining table. I know what The Sun is; I was brought up with it. I bet I’ve known more Sun readers than you have, Neil.
Let me share a few experiences of The Sun from when I was growing up:
1)1986 on holiday. I was six. My mum and I were forced to eat our sandwiches on the wall outside the Haven holiday camp café, because two men at the next table were holding up Page Three and loudly talking about how they wanted to ‘do that.’
2)1992 at school. I ran home in tears after a group of builders taunted me by saying, ‘You’ll be on Page Three when you’re older and your tits get bigger.’
3)1998 at work. A group of men in a pub I worked in compared my breasts to those of the model on Page Three, saying, ‘It’s difficult to tell – let’s give ‘em a feel, then we’ll know how big they are’, before trying to grab my breasts while I was serving a customer.
Just because my family were poor and struggled to pay the council tax, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t upset, angry, embarrassed and frightened on these occasions. I doubt you’ve ever felt threatened by someone double your age, weight, height and strength Neil but, let me tell you, worrying that you’ll never be able to afford purple sprouting broccoli really doesn’t enter your head while you’re terrified that somebody the size and bulk of a bus is going to assault you.
Stop patronising the Girlguides by dismissing their concerns. Stop insulting us by telling us to focus on ‘bigger issues.’ Stop pretending that this is a class war: it’s not. It’s an issue of respect, empathy and understanding and, to understand the issues that affect half of the population, you need to listen to women’s voices. Their actual voices, not just the ones you invent in your head as a result of too much Coronation Street and a steady diet of Jeremy Kyle. We have nothing against glamour models. We don’t object to people looking at top shelf magazines. We object to semi-naked images of very young women (printed purely for the sexual gratification of men) appearing in a ‘family’ newspaper alongside pictures of clothed men of all ages, shown to be actively doing things, achieving things, in opposition to the second sex. We object to these images appearing in newspapers that are seen on buses and trains, in workplaces, in public libraries, in schools. Because we want a basic semblance of equality.
I can’t be bothered to respond to your comment about us denying a woman ‘stuck behind the bread counter at Tesco’ the opportunity to find ‘a new glamorous life via Page Three.’ I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a biro than read that sickeningly patronising paragraph ever again.
Oh, but there is one more thing Neil: the name. I know you like going by ‘The Wolfman’ moniker but I’ve been thinking about it, and would like to suggest an alternative: ‘The Shih Tzu.’ You see, my friend Paul used to have a very stubborn Shih Tzu named Tinker who was tiresome, embarrassing and a bit ‘yappy’ and used to hide under the bed whenever it heard a woman’s voice. It has a nice ring to it – Neil ‘The Shih Tzu’ Wallis. You’re welcome.
You can sign the No More Page 3 petition here