When we consider the final success of the No More Page 3 campaign, the 200,000 plus signatories on the petition, and the wealth of its public support, it’s hard to believe that when Lucy Anne Holmes started the battle to take down the Page 3 dinosaur in August 2012, she was entirely alone.
Nevertheless, humbly armed with a blog, a Twitter account and the all important petition, she decided it was time for change – and with feminist activism flourishing over social media, it wasn’t long before she found thousands of online allies.
Honestly, I don’t know how people succeeded in these kind of campaigns before social media. Those women were amazing.
But in terms of the day-to-day running of the campaign, she did feel somewhat isolated. She called upon friends and family for favours, but without a core collective, she found that six months into the campaign she was burnt-out, drained and emotionally fragile. She had faced considerable backlash, at one point making her fearful of using Twitter, and she regularly felt out of her depth.
“I was doing things I’d never done before,” she explains. “Talking to all forms of media was frightening, and when I confessed that, people would say to me But you used to be an actor! They didn’t always understand that this was a completely different thing altogether.”
But most of all, she felt a heavy weight of responsibility to see the campaign through to its end.
“60,000 people had signed the petition by then,” she says. “I owed it to them, at the very least, to see it through.”
Exhausted, Lucy Anne decided the only way forward was to try and find a solid team, and she remembered a group of women that she’d been on former protests with. “We’d all stand together on rainy Saturday mornings protesting outside NewsUK,” she smiles. “We always had such a nice time together.”
On a whim, she emailed a few of the women asking them to form a No More Page 3 team.
“I got immediate emails back saying ‘YES!’,” she laughs. “And so, we started, and I can honestly say, those women are one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, not to mention the campaign. They breathed new energy into it, enlivened it. I started the campaign, but the rest was a shared effort, we voted on all decisions and we all learned such an enormous amount.”
She says the running of the campaign was totally different to facilitating projects under a traditional corporate structure and everyone chipped in without individual accountabilities – everyone was part of everything and all action was operated from a virtual office as the women were nationwide.
We all joked that being in the virtual office was our favourite place to be.
“We just loved being together, it was really special. We’d have meetings across the country – in the day, we’d strategise and in the evening, we’d just hang out, enjoy each other’s company, drink wine. I felt – and feel – good around them.”
The commitment of Lucy Anne and the team was considerable. They survived on no formal funding and used what was remaining after charity deductions from the sales of their t-shirts to pay for travel.
When she and I met just before The Sun announced the end of Page 3, Lucy Anne was happy but stretched. “This is all I do at the moment,” she’d said. “I’m up and down the country. There’s so much to do, it’s quite intense. But then you get inspiring emails like the one I had just this morning – a young feminist group who are working on some events which celebrate living fearlessly – and it just gives you energy. The young feminists are amazing. I didn’t have my own feminist epiphany until I was 30.”
At this time, The Sun were hanging on, but Lucy Anne was certain that change was afoot. In December 2014, Tesco, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer confirmed that they’d be addressing the way they displayed The Sun in store – only names and logos were to be visible, and they’d be out of eye-line. Lucy Anne recognised this is was big win, part of the shifting attitudes of how we view women in the media. “It was completely a people’s victory, though,” she says.
People were relentlessly writing, lobbying, informing the stores that they found Page 3 unacceptable. It’s inspiring that when people come together they can create such change.
These movements were soon to accumulate in the end of the tired, sexist feature and Lucy Anne had a feeling she and her team wouldn’t be too far away from victory. “It’s hard to predict what will happen and when,” she’d said just six weeks before the ultimate success of the campaign. “But it’s definitely a case of when rather than if. The Sun just can’t hang in much longer, it’s so outdated and discriminatory. The world can see that. I mean, The Mirror dropped these pictures in the 80s.”
The Irish Sun dropped their Page 3 feature in August 2013, claiming their readers didn’t want it anymore. Murdock insisted his readers did, and he was to hang on for over a year longer.
Towards the end, the paper were desperately trying to stay relevant, even interviewing Page 3 models for the first time in their history. Shortly after, in March 2014, the tastefully named CoppaFeel campaign was launched, confusing the sexualisation of women with breast cancer awareness. Lucy Anne says she and the team found that time deeply upsetting.
“The use of sexualised images of young women to highlight such a terrible disease was irresponsible and Breast Cancer UK supported us in that. We would hear sad stories that The Sun team were delighted that they’d apparently confused feminists. But if it was aiming to confuse readers into thinking the publication had some respect for women, it failed, because we saw a huge growth during that period. In fact, we got an extra 50,000 signatures as a result of it – it really wasn’t well received at all.”
After the success of the campaign and funding drives which have left them some money, Lucy Anne and the team are taking a break to consider the options for legacy projects. One of her key ideas is the Now’s The Time fund, a fund for women and girls which will serve to support, sponsor, educate, and inspire them across a range of activities and issues.
“Or we might give the funds to women’s charities – the UK cuts are crippling and it’s so sad to see organisations under such pressure to survive. They provide essential services.”
Lucy Anne is also working on her own creative projects. “I’m writing a book about my journey to feminism,” she says. “And then I’ll go wherever I’m needed, and the team will do the same. There’s always more to be done.”
Whatever’s next for her, the importance of the No More Page 3 campaign and the example it sets in terms of the potential for activism over social media is considerable.
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