Today, I opened an email from Lucy Saunders of the life-modelling organisation called Spirited Bodies. The email contained an article by Lydia Slater in the Daily Mail about her experience posing as part of a group of about 30 men and women, most of whom had never modelled before, let alone in the nude.
I was one of those models.
I spoke to Lydia briefly before and after we modelled, so I was interested to see what she had written in the article I had received.
As she quite rightly reported, I had left work after being a victim of bullying, some of which had a sexist overtone. I had grown self-conscious and started to hate parts of my body. This was a tragic contrast to having always been someone who embraced her curves and angles, lumps and bumps, with a wink and a nod of appreciation as being mine and no-one elses. I hoped that the experience of being in a respectful environment with lots of other nude models might be a good way for me to see that my body, as well as each and every other body in that room, is beautiful and worthy of positive attention. A safe way to hopefully reclaim my body and maybe some of those appreciative feelings I used to have for my body.
It was as enlightening an experience as I had hoped. To begin with, I felt the artist’s eyes scrutinising me, flickering across my body, reminding me of my old manager’s perverted glances. I turned my back to my audience and leaned against the dustsheet covered stage. I felt a small tear trace down my cheek. I soon found myself in a meditative state of mind, only coming back to life while moving between poses. Nearing the end of the session, I was holding hands with a wonderfully large man who had a smiling open face; we got the giggles and decided that keeping eye contact was not an option.
I felt exhilarated and couldn’t stop smiling while we put our robes back on. I strolled around the sketches, feeling quite touched by how different people had conveyed their view of my figure so beautifully and in so many different ways.
Lydia had commented in her article that she didn’t want to perpetuate the idea that women’s bodies should be a certain kind of ‘perfect’, especially as she is a mother of two girls. So, reading through her article, I was more than a little confused (and personally a bit narked) by her comment about my involvement with the No More Page Three campaign and the contrast with this experience. She found it ‘ironic’.
This unfortunately demonstrates that she clearly didn’t research the No More Page Three campaign before making this facetious comment and possibly still had not grasped the concept behind Spirited Bodies. Otherwise, she would not have compared these two converging strands of my life in such a narrow-minded way.
The Spirited Bodies ethos is one of self-acceptance and discovery. As it says on the Spirited Bodies website, people who are involved often want to “face body issues and feel the warmth of human bonding”. It is particularly focused on female empowerment.
Page Three, however (no matter what some media-conditioned individuals may believe), is not about female empowerment. It is not a ‘harmless tradition’, a ‘bit of fun’ or something that can be ignored if you don’t like it. My photo of The Sun on a London tube that I lately posted on the No More Page Three facebook page, shows that it is something that must be jaw-clenchingly tolerated by the people who don’t buy it or wish it exists.
Page Three is the epitome of the UK’s sexual objectification of women. In a ‘family’ newspaper. An entirely sexist media stunt that started in the painfully sexist 70’s and quite frankly should have remained there.
In this light, it is quite apparent that my involvement in the No More Page Three campaign is perfectly in line with my involvement with Spirited Bodies.
I find it really disappointing that a successful female journalist could come across as so ignorant to the legitimate feminist issues that the No More Page Three campaign raises and that she would be so ill-judged as to make such a flippant comment about a petition with over 61,000 signatures backing it.
But maybe that is the unfortunate truth of it – as long as there are well-educated women making little jokes in newspapers, as long as there are 3 million women reading The Sun every day and as long as the male dominated media continues to brainwash women into believing that it’s ok or even good that the most prominent female image in their paper happens to be naked – if we can’t even get the women in this country on our side, we will continue to have an uphill battle trying to persuade the male-heavy media to rid our newspapers of page three.
That surely is the biggest irony, not my involvement in both nude modelling and feminist campaigning!
Please sign the No More Page Three petition: