Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Open letter to The Sun

Dear David Dinsmore,

I am writing this letter as follow up to one that my incredibly brave friend Sarah Perry sent to you. As yet, I don’t believe she has had a response from you.

I met Sarah through on online forum for younger women with breast cancer. I am 32 years old and I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost eight weeks ago. In fact, Sarah and I were diagnosed on the same day.

Today is Check ‘em Tuesday. It is also the day of my second chemotherapy session. I will spend over two hours having a combination of drugs injected into my body that will hopefully kill off my cancer. However, the drugs will kill off other fast growing cells within my body, and side effects include digestive problems. nausea, vomiting, hair loss, possible loss of fertility and increased risk of infection to name just a few. My months of chemotherapy sessions will be followed by surgery to remove part or all of my breast.

I have always been a supporter of the No More Page 3 campaign and feel that such an outdated, sexist feature has no place within a family newspaper. It tells women that their place and value in society depends on their age and looks and sends the message to men that women’s bodies are readily available for their consumption.

However, as a young woman whose body is about to undergo significant changes, of which some are temporary and some are permanent, due to the cancer in my body, I feel all the more strongly about your use of this disease as a way of justifying the continued existence of Page 3. I feel it is an insult to all women currently fighting the disease and those who have survived it to use this feature that has so long been there purely for the sexual titillation of men to promote ‘breast cancer awareness’. You have effectively sexualised this disease, which is as far from the reality as possible. It is a life changing, terrifying experience which involves gruelling treatment - a very long way from being ‘sexy’.

We know you understand the arguments against Page 3, Dave Dinsmore, and at heart you realise that it is an out dated institution. The No More Page 3 petition now has over 200,000 signatures and the campaign has support from an overwhelming amount of organisations and individuals. From the perspective of those who support the campaign, and are suffering through breast cancer treatment, it seems that linking Page 3 with breast cancer awareness is a last ditch attempt to try and justify its existence. After all, in theory who could argue with the promotion of breast cancer awareness? However, the use of topless models and the sexualisation of the disease is something that many others and I strongly disagree with. I find it abhorrent.

Let me make very clear that I have no issue at all with the charity Coppafeel and nothing written here is aimed at them. I was aware of Coppafeel long before your association with them, and I think Kristin Hallenga is an incredibly inspiring young woman. It was actually her story that persuaded me to go back to the doctors for the third time with the lump that I had found in my breast.

So perhaps instead of using topless models to promote breast cancer awareness, why not run stories on some of the incredibly brave women who are currently fighting breast cancer or who have survived it?  I can give you suggestions on where to start. The forum that I met Sarah Perry on has introduced me to some of the most wonderful, strongest young women I could ever have hoped to meet.

Raising awareness of breast cancer – how to check yourself, what to look for and not to be fobbed off by doctors when you find something concerning you is invaluable. All women need to learn this. I have learnt this the hard way.

I can’t help but feel that if you really cared about raising awareness of breast cancer, you would do it as a separate feature, without the involvement of Page 3. With this association, it feels that you have reduced breast cancer to a fluffy, sexy gimmick.

So please do carry on with your work with Coppafeel, however out of respect for the thousands of strong, brave women who have and have had breast cancer, please lift yourself and your publication out of the gutter, and leave the topless models out of it.

 Rebecca Swift

You can sign the No More Page 3 petition here.

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