Written by Julie Balloo

In The News

Tired of being under The Sun

A fervent supporter of the No More Page 3 campaign, Julie Baloo is far from impressed by The Sun’s recent “mammary lapse”.

I’ve long despised the outmoded concept of a topless Page 3 in a tabloid newspaper, especially one as widely read as Murdoch’s The Sun, so I was overjoyed to be part of the wonderful Lucy-Anne Holmes’s No More Page 3 campaign. Admittedly the team at her headquarters have done all the hard work, I have merely signed the petition and spread the news on social media.

However, last year I wrote a play for Fluff Productions, an all-female theatre company that wanted to raise awareness and much-needed funds for this wonderful crusade. My play was a satirical piece entitled Cock and Bull…The Rise of Excalibur. The topless female model was replaced by a young bloke with an ever enlarging penis (prosthetic, I assure you). The brilliant cast and director made sure my effort was a successful comic riposte to Page 3 and the whole project was very well received. I made sure the male model enlisted compassion from the viewers and tried to make the piece as thought-provoking as it was comic. The audience could see just how utterly ridiculous this tired old tradition really was.

So when I saw Lucy-Anne on Newsnight last Monday announcing ‘unofficially’ that The Sun had published its last topless photo in print and the dinosaurs had finally been fossilised I felt proud; so proud and utterly victorious, akin to I imagine (at least a fraction of) what thousands experienced as they kissed strangers and danced around Trafalgar Square on VE day. We had defeated the invader – we had won the war!

At last, Britain has grown up: we are moving in the right direction; women are going to be treated with respect and young girls will inhabit a world where they are valued for more than just looks. Women won’t be chased off the tube late at night by a drunken bloke waving a photo of someone else’s breasts in their faces and demanding, “Get your tits out too” as actually happened to me many years ago.

This elation did not last long. When I read on Thursday that it was all a ‘joke’ by The Sun, I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach and winded to my very core.

And when I saw the paper’s head of PR Dylan Sharpe’s tweet – “I said that it was speculation and not to trust reports by people unconnected to The Sun. A lot of people are about to look very silly…” – I experienced many negative emotions that were eerily familiar. There I was again, that gauche little girl walking across the playground past the sporty boys as they shouted out names and laughed at my appearance, mocking my physicality, big nose, skinny legs, and flat chest. I felt bullied. I felt that I was just ‘a woman’, existing only for the pleasure of men; that me and our whole gender were merely playthings. I was back on stage in the 80s, just introduced by the male compere and, before uttering a word, blasted by men shouting, “Show us your tits!” Here we are 30 years later and seemingly going backwards. Even though I know there are thousands of decent men and boys on our side who loathe this state of affairs as much as I do and have voiced much needed support, I still felt utter despair.

But I’m not giving up. The team at NMP3 is not giving up. The fashion company that makes the NMP3 t shirts have had hundreds of orders since the tabloid’s latest announcement, and thousands of people – women and men – have added their names to the campaign. Girl Guides and elderly women are all coming out in support and I am more determined than ever to see this campaign through to the end.

I don’t want any glamour models to be out of work. Hell, I’m a DD cup and in my younger days flaunted it like a good ‘un, but this outmoded excuse for a tabloid wank has truly past its sell-by-date.

The Sun keeps saying it’s only giving readers what they want, so if that’s really all they want and the paper is truly worried they won’t buy it without tits to ogle, then perhaps they should just cut all the articles – the sports, horoscopes, recipes, the crossword and the telly reviews – and put tits on every page. But this is not about the readers; it’s a little game this rag is playing with women, daughters, mothers, wives. However, we are not mice to be toyed with by Murdoch’s fat cats.

We terminated cigarette advertising in the press after 100 years to protect young people from getting a habit that could lead to death, now can we get rid of near naked women so young people can grow up in a world where women aren’t sexualised and disrespected? We can – and let’s not wait 100 years!

Right now, this quote from playwright and novelist Simone Schwarz-Bart kind of sums up how I feel:

“The sun never gets tired of rising but sometimes a person gets tired of being under the sun.”

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Written by Julie Balloo

I am a former standup and now write stories and stage/radio scripts. My long- time collaborator is Jenny Eclair.