Lucy Anne-Holmes, heroine of the No More Page 3 campaign

Lucy Holmes has been spearheading the campaign to pressurise The Sun to drop the bare boobs from its Page 3. Sarah Edmonds speaks to Lucy about her inspiration and challenges

Sarah Edmonds, 21 January 2013

As I pick up the phone to call Lucy-Anne Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign to "drop the bare boobs from The Sun", I'm half expecting a no-nonsense, hard-line activist to pick up. So when Lucy answers in a soft, hushed voice, I am surprised until she explains she is babysitting for a friend's children who are asleep in the next room.

Reading newspaper.jpgPolitical campaigning was never a career aspiration for Lucy; although, judging from the success of No More Page 3, she is better at it than she could have ever imagined. The petition has amassed 61,874 signatures since August and attracted considerable media attention - quite an achievement for a 35-year-old actress and writer from Brighton who has never been involved in a campaign before.

It all began when Lucy bought a copy of The Sun during the London Olympics and, after reading about Jessica Ennis' victories, turned to Page 3 to be confronted with a massive image of a topless young woman. The juxtaposition of a female athlete celebrating her medals with a Page 3 girl presenting her naked breasts was the turning point for Lucy. This was the moment her obsession with Page 3 began and she decided to follow in the footsteps of Clare Short by attempting to petition Dominic Mohan, editor of The Sun, to drop the boobs.

What will kids think when they see lots of pictures of men doing stuff and then this huge picture of a woman standing there in her knickers, showing her breasts

Lucy's break as a writer came when she started a blog detailing her disastrous love life; the blog landed her a book deal and she went on to write four novels. Lucy's novels - romantic comedies - spawned the No More Page 3 campaign, which is in many ways a personal crusade. She says: "I started writing quite openly about my messed up life. I was curious as to why I was lumping so much hate upon myself. I used to say 'I hate my bum and I hate my boobs'. If I ever did anything wrong I used to say 'God, I'm a twat'," Lucy laughs before continuing, "I thought: 'why am I doing this, why am I concentrating on this hate?'" Lucy uncovered the answer to these questions in her childhood. She grew up in a 'Sun' house and remembers her older brother and his friends ogling the bare breasted Page 3 girls at the same time as she, an 11-year-old girl, was developing. When her breasts made their arrival she couldn't help but feel her body had failed her. She didn't look like the girls on Page 3 - what man would want to look at her?

As I speak to Lucy, it is hard to imagine her as the self-deprecating, insecure woman she describes. She seems confident and not afraid to tell others what is important to her. Throughout our conversation, the passion she feels for the campaign seems to take over and she pauses momentarily to check she's making sense and isn't "wittering on" too much. It is clear the campaign is personally significant to Lucy, but she also feels concerned about the difficulties young women face growing up in a society where it is acceptable to publish naked breasts in a 'family-orientated' daily newspaper; "in a newspaper of all the places!" she says, still shocked at the notion. She continues, "What will kids think when they look through a family newspaper and see lots of pictures of men doing stuff - running the country - and then this huge picture of a woman standing there in her knickers, showing her breasts."

The campaign is less about the topless women themselves than the effects of Page 3: low self-esteem among young girls, eating disorders, the desire for plastic surgery and, most alarmingly, that young women appear to be accepting much higher levels of violence within relationships. For Lucy the campaign is about encouraging respect for women and inspiring girls to be more than just a "walking pair of tits".

With support comes criticism and Lucy has had her fair share. She is commonly told: "you've got shit tits" and "get a life"

Lucy doesn't have children but is extremely close to her family and friends; she speaks with admiration of her 20-year-old niece who helped her to start the campaign and describes with glee the moment a friend's three-year-old daughter stood on a chair to announce "I'm a feminist!" Lucy has also found strangers to be just as supportive as those close to her. The encouragement she has received is outstanding and she is both grateful and surprised by it, whether it is going out to spread the word and collect signatures or creating poems and songs, "There have been moments where I feel a bit tired and someone is attacking me, and then I read or hear something amazing and it's incredible." These messages of support obviously mean a lot to Lucy and when she recounts them to me the emotion is clear in her voice: "I had this email from this man saying: 'I'm sitting here with my seven month old daughter thinking about what an important job you're doing' and that made me well up... I'm getting a bit teary here."

440px-Murdoch_at_World_Economic_Forum_2009.jpgWith support comes criticism and Lucy has had her fair share. She is commonly told "you've got shit tits" and "get a life", which she says is weird not only because it sounds so juvenile, but because she actually really enjoys her life. It's probably this positivity that ensures Lucy doesn't let the insults worry or distract her; in fact she seems to have overcome the insecurities she felt as a teenager measuring her breasts against those she saw on Page 3. "When I look in the mirror it's just me," she says, "my body and face have taken me through life - I'm friends with them. So I find the criticism interesting but it doesn't really upset me."

The campaign is about being able to live in a world where sexual objectification of women is not the norm and newspapers value women for their minds

No More Page 3 has already attracted media attention from The Guardian, The Independent and The New York Times but Lucy recognises she still has a long way to go: "It's just a ripple and it needs to get bigger and bigger." I ask her how she envisions the campaign ending. Using her acting skills, she puts on her best Murdoch voice to say: "Murdoch could just pick up the phone and go: 'Come on, we are better than this...we've got a paper with enough going for it that we can lose the boobs and not affect sales...why don't we start showing that we respect women?'" Lucy has come so far in so short a time and is not going to give up easily on something that has become so important to her. She wants to shift the way society looks at women - to put an end to Dominic Mohan's Page 3 (which he described at the Leveson enquiry as a "celebration" of "youth", "freshness" and "natural beauty") and make the world a more respectful place for women.

No More Page 3 has not escaped criticism from commentators, some of whom see it as a white middle-class smear campaign against readers of The Sun, but the interesting thing about Lucy is that she is not a fierce political campaigner. Like Lucy's demeanour the campaign is sensitive. It's not about aggression or jealousy. It's about being able to live in a world where sexual objectification of women is not the norm and newspapers value women for their minds and the things they say and do, rather than how they look.

First image of a man standing in front of a wall and reading a newspaper uploaded by Flickr user Garry Knight. Photograph of Rupert Murdoch at the World Economic Forum 2009 obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

Comments From You

Elisa // Posted 04 February 2013 at 19:32

I think if I was a man to whom the Sun was marketed, I'd be quite offended at the idea that I would choose my news provider according to whether or not it also showed me bare boobs every day... Also Lucy Holmes rocks

jillyc // Posted 04 March 2013 at 13:15

Hi, I am 53 and since the 70's I have felt so much like lucy. Back then you had pic's of women with there breast out, absolutely everywhere via... pubs; the work place; men reading the sun paper on buses; in cafes; park benches etc etc. I remember sitting on buses next to men with the sun news paper open on page 3 and feeling very uncomfortable, infact it was almost a daily event. I was just sixteen, how was a young girl ment to feel under the circumstances.
It wasn't that I minded or even now mind anyone looking at naked people, it's just there is a time and place. A man sitting next to a young girl on a bus looking at boobs, was and still is not the place and just plain wrong, particually as we know men are turned on by the visual.
Unfortuately back then if you past any comment against it, alot of men would resort to name calling; say something to belittle you; try to under mind your view or something similar, so you often just shut up and learnt to with it. It was the norm for men to have naked pic's around them, even when in the company of girls, teens and women.You could expect to walk into any work place back then and find a pic of a naked girl, even when women worked there to.
I use to wonder how men would handle it if they had to; sit next to women on a bus looking at willy pic's; walk into a garages, pubs, shops with willy pic's on a wall and deal with the constant in your face pic's that girl and women dealt with then and now on a daily basis. But they didn't have to and still don't because 'they had and have choice' and thats what use to and still does make me angry about page 3 and paper that show half naked women, for there suddenly there infront of you and through no choice of your own.
They are at eye level in shops which they shouldn't be and just recently I was sat in a cafe with my 9 year old grandaughter when a group of men walked in, sat down at a table and proceeded to open news papers with boobs and half naked women on. They gave no thought to the fact they were in the company of others and because it was the norm to them, it didn't even cross there minds there was a child present, and that is very sad. So Lucy keep up the fight because the end of page three has to happen, and it's only really there these days to get one over on femminist, after all it was brought about by 70's men with a similar mentality to that of jimmy saville; need I say more!

anais // Posted 05 March 2013 at 01:41

Lucy Holmes is awesome! However, I was struck by the sentence, "...young women appear to be accepting much higher levels of violence within relationships." Much higher levels? Why should any level of violence be acceptable?

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About the author

Sarah Edmonds

Sarah is a postgraduate journalism student living in South London. You can find her tweeting at @_SarahEd.

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