Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Updated with responses from Jodie Marsh: This woman with breast cancer has a few things to say about Page 3

Yesterday was supposedly #BlueMonday - the most miserable day of the year. But it wasn't a Blue Monday for me. I went for a check up at my hospital, following breast surgery on Monday last week.

My left breast has cancer and it had to go, so following a gruelling 18 weeks of chemotherapy, on Monday last week I had a skin sparing mastectomy, and reconstruction using muscle from my back (Latissimus Dorsi) and an expander implant. I was under general anaesthetic for 8 hours, and in hospital for 4 nights.

Yesterday's hospital appointment was to check my wounds, replace my dressings and remove the drains coming out of my breast and back. Healing and recovery all appears to be going very well so far, and I was over the moon.

Then last night the news hit that The Sun appears to have made a decision to axe the use of topless models on Page 3. Those of you that know me know that I am a strong supporter of the No More Page 3 campaign and have previously written an Open Letter to The Sun (the perspective of a 33 year old woman with breast cancer on the use of topless Page 3 models for the #CheckEmTuesday campaign) as well as some follow ups (they can all be found here if you're interested.) So I was even more over the moon when I heard this news. There'll still be women in just bras and knickers on Page 3 so it's not job done for the campaign, but it is a significant milestone step.

So I tweeted a happy tweet!

It got retweeted a bunch of times, including by @NoMorePage3 and so I got the inevitable stream of tweets/Facebook comments from, putting it nicely, idiots. ("Get a life", "Oi, get ya baps out", "You'd look better topless. Just saying", followed by a retweet with the addition "You wouldn't.") Someone called Megan was so mean to me that her tweet was removed and her account temporarily suspended by Twitter (her account is now back but protected so only followers can see tweets). I never saw whatever it was she put to get reported and suspended but I guess it wasn't very nice! For the record, I don't care. I genuinely don't care what people on the internet who don't know me, but who will campaign for Page 3, say to me. I've got bigger things to worry about - I have cancer!

Anyway, today there's obviously loads of discussion about Page 3. I wanted to make some points from my own perspective. This doesn't cover anywhere near everything there is to be said about Page 3/No More Page 3 - it's just some observations from a 33 year old woman with breast cancer, who had a mastectomy and reconstruction a week ago, and who, to prevent future risk of cancer will be having the other, "non-cancer" ,breast removed later this year once cancer treatment has finished.

I'm not jealous or insecure
First of all, I'm not jealous of other women's breasts. Speak out against the sexualisation and objectification of women in the media and you are quickly labelled things like "whiny, jealous bint." Today Jodie Marsh, who is speaking out against the No More Page 3 campaign, is saying women who have been campaigning against Page 3 are jealous and insecure.

(By the way, the campaign isn't trying to ban anything.)

No, I'm not jealous, or insecure. The only strong feeling I have about my own breasts right now is the desire to stop them from killing me. That's why I'm happy for a surgeon to take a knife to them. Clearly Jodie loves her breasts, and has a lot of money and a career because of them, but I'd hazard a guess that if she was diagnosed with breast cancer herself (and I obviously hope she never has to go through that), that given the choice between life and death, she'd have hers lopped off too. No, for me this isn't about jealousy or insecurity. It's about physical, as well as mental health...

What matters about breasts is that they are healthy
Remember this from the Sun last year?

The Sun tried to tell us that "Scientists say the perfect boob is all to do with the "nipple meridian" - the amount of breast above and below the areola"

Erm, no. The "perfect boob" is one that is healthy. Take it from me, that's all there is to it. If you haven't got breast cancer then you've got perfect boobs.

Topless Page 3 images have a negative impact on women's self esteem and mental health, which in turn can have a negative impact on physical health
This is true in lots of ways. I am going to address one in particular here. When I wrote my original open letter to The Sun, I was contacted by women who thanked me for speaking out, because years and years of Page 3 images in The Sun had made them feel that insecure about their own bodies that they had either delayed or avoided going to see a doctor about a concern such as a lump, due to embarrassment about removing their clothes to be examined by a male doctor. Or, they had found going to a doctor to have breasts examined an embarrassing, uncomfortable or even traumatic experience. As in the example above, The Sun is telling women on a daily basis that their breasts and bodies should be a certain way (based entirely on how they look) and if they aren't then there is something wrong with them.

Using topless Page 3 models for a breast cancer awareness campaign was unnecessary
The Sun tried to use breast cancer awareness to justify the use of topless Page 3 models. I asked numerous times, why can't The Sun raise awareness of breast cancer without topless models (like all the major charities and our own NHS do), and despite receiving a response from their Head of PR, Dylan Sharpe, I never actually got an answer. Because there is no answer. You don't need photos of glamour models to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Page 3 could be used for better things
At the moment it seems that topless images on Page 3 are being replaced with images of women in bras and knickers (which kind of defeats the argument that now that Page 3 doesn't have topless models, women have lost jobs. Surely not? Surely for now they'll be doing the same job but just with a bra on?). From my point of view this is still unacceptable. It is still just using the most important page of the newspaper (Dylan Sharpe himself told me it was the most important page of any newspaper) to objectify women. If The Sun really wants to make a change, why not use Page 3 to focus positive things, to celebrate women for a wide range of achievements, to promote better health, to inspire, to campaign (for example, Jodie Marsh herself speaks out about issues like Female Genital Mutilation - wouldn't it be great if things like this were getting the publicity they need on Page 3 rather than young women in their underwear, there for no other reason than to look "attractive" (I put that in ""s as it's a very narrow definition of attractive that Page 3 represents. Young, slim, large breasts, usually white.)

Anyway, there is so much more to be said about Page 3, but I will leave it here for now myself, as I just wanted to make a few key points about health.

Update 21st January 2015

I tweeted a link to this post to Jodie Marsh to ask her what her thoughts were. I got some replies. Here's a copy of the tweets in our conversation and also with my friend Louise.

I honestly don't know if Jodie avoids questions / points (not just mine, but other people's too, as well as the basics of the No More Page 3 campaign) or whether she doesn't understand them. But anyway, here you go....


  1. Amazing post! I have been backing this for ages!

    As a person compared to women in page 3, ect, i formed bdd and have self esteme issues. I'm so happy the sun has dropped!

    Good luck -you are beautiful!!



  2. That was brilliant, thank you! Thanks for writing. :)

  3. Thank you for reading! :) x

  4. Fantastic post, thanks for taking the time, and thanks for joining the conversation on Twitter too. Great stuff.

  5. Sarah, this is a wonderful post. Good for you!! Here in the United States, women are objectified and sexualized. Ironically, our culture is prudish about some things (we tend not to put pictures of topless women on our newspapers) but yet, television is filled with images and content that encourages sexualization of women. Keep on fighting!