I first remember becoming aware of body image in my parent’s factory. I’m not sure how old I was, around 5-8, no older. I remember being in the paint workshop – it was at the back of the building, to the right as you came out onto the factory floor from the offices. I had been sent to give out payslips, something that my mum let me do when I had to go into work with her – inset days, illness etc. I would be taken to the factory; I just want to clarify, I wasn’t child labour or anything. I remember walking in through the sliding doors, smelling the difference between the workshop floor and the smell that the spraying machines dissipated around the immediate area. I walked in and looked about, searching for the two guys who I was meant to give the pay slips to – this was the first time that I’d noticed the row of half-naked girls blu-tacked to the doors.
I remember averting my eyes, throwing the payslips on a desk and hurrying back out of the door – I would have run, but this was the only rule of being on the factory floor: no running, at any time. Ever. So I hurried, looking down, trying to avoid tripping over. I was embarrassed, didn’t want to talk to anyone about it; I honestly had no idea why these naked women were on the walls, and I was too humiliated to ask.
After that I slowly started noticing more naked women dotted around the factory – the break area, cutting room… I think everywhere apart from in the offices. I started paying more attention to the women, their bodies and hair (or lack of), makeup… I don’t really remember if I had focussed on anything then. Not the way that I learnt to later anyway. No, but I did start to compare their bodies to what I saw in everyday life. Not me at first, I was too young, but the older women around me – my mother, her friends, and any other woman that I came into contact with. As I got older this criticism, for that is what it became, turned inward. I became angry that I didn’t look like them, that I couldn’t look like them.
The Page 3 girls, the glamour models, were just one standardisation that I compared myself to; just one idealised image that I didn’t fit. Of course there were fashion models, actresses… the media’s propagation of impossible beauty standards – but for me, my first experience of feeling inadequate was with glamour models. This was the catalyst, what fuelled my self-loathing and what eventually lead to my eating disorder.
Although my parents didn’t have the factory for all of my childhood, my mother went into admin for a building contractor where there is, still, a similar attitude towards displaying images of bare breasted women; it appeared that once I had taken notice, there was no way of avoiding it. Which is the problem right? You can’t actually avoid it in this country, all across the UK, the practice of displaying pulled out pictures of half-naked girls and displaying them in the work place is just common practice, simply because, the purchasing and selling of said item is common practice.
This attitude: the commoditisation of women’s bodies; the buying, the displaying; the normalised-sexualisation; and furthermore the limited and overtly defined parameters of beauty formulated by the newspaper, will not be rectified in the work place – there is only so much the individual can do in face of a wider societal problem, the solution needs to come from a those with wider control, those that print. I support the #NoMorePage3 campaign due to my own personal experience of the problems caused by a culture that allows this kind of sexual discrimination. For me, Page 3 spurred into action a voice in my head that resulted in bad body image, low self-esteem, and eventually, a long tiresome battle with bulimia, which is an ongoing struggle – it was and is avoidable: change the culture, change lives.