“So you’re telling me that I can still see The Sun, I can still browse it and I can still buy it but children won’t be able to see it?”
“Well, that’s disgusting. It is completely trampling on my freedom.”
Since we began campaigning we have heard similar versions of this old chestnut and we didn’t expect anything less when Co-op’s members overwhelmingly voted to place The Sun on the top shelf. Every article, every interview has to include this installation of fear by throwing its hands up and screaming that this is a denial of freedom.
So what is this freedom we keep hearing about?
Let’s look at this in reverse.
Who asked us whether we wanted to see words like bastard, sex scandal, sex victim, sex shock, sex romp, sex, sex, sex when we want a pint of milk in our local shop?
We don’t remember being consulted about that one.
Who asked us if we wanted our children to be bombarded with sexual poses, pouting lips and underwear under the guise of news when they want a Peppa Pig magazine?
Erm, no, nobody asked us about that either.
When were we free to decide if we wanted the largest and most widely circulated media image of a woman to be topless and sexualised?
No, we definitely never got asked that question did we?
Imagine if you received a letter asking you if all this was alright, if you minded exposing your child to material like this. Would you say you are happy about it? We seriously doubt it.
So, we never actually had the freedom in the first place. We never had the freedom to choose not to have this in our lives, we just had it.
We have now reached a tipping point where people are questioning what they are seeing and rejecting the idea that we must put up with it for freedom’s sake.
When we talk about freedom in these terms, we are really talking about a handful of people who own the media and their freedom to make money. We are really defending the rights and freedoms of those people who use the media to trample upon our own rights and freedoms.
Of course we do not want to censor free speech but freedom comes with responsibilities too. This may be a word that David Dinsmore has never heard before but it is something that parents have to consider in practically every aspect of their lives. It is also something that is considered on TV and radio because there is an appreciation that children can be affected but there is some missing link when it comes to newspapers. They seem to have an absolute freedom that does not exist anywhere else in society and parents cannot turn it off or as David Cameron so politely put it, ‘turn the page’.
The purpose of freedom of speech is deeper than us having the freedom to know if someone called John Terry a pig or to see and criticise Kerry Katona’s body one month after the birth of her baby.
It is not about a right to learn that Helen Flanagan has breasts and that those breasts look identical to those featured on the other 364 days of the year.
It means so much more than this.
It means the freedom to challenge and that is exactly what we are doing. The actions that Child Eyes and No More Page Three are taking are free speech. We’re standing up and freely speaking about the removal of our freedom to choose what we want to see from our media and in our shops.
The whole thing is about freedom.
We salute the Co-op’s members for being responsible and voting to preserve our freedom as parents not to have to expose our children to sexual and violent material for the purpose of making lots of money for a handful of people we will never know or meet.
By categorising The Sun as top shelf there will be a culture shift whereby we will no longer view it as normal to display soft porn in the eye-line of children and that we as a society will no longer accept this as news.
We don’t see how this can be stamping on anyone’s freedom. We think it is the complete opposite and that it enhances freedom since we would be able to choose whether our children see The Sun or not.
Parents who don’t fancy explaining sexual objectification and sensationalised, titillating sexual stories to their children in a shop may soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief when their children beg to go up the magazine aisle.
Even if this change to positioning of The Sun does happen, those who still want the freedom to generate profit for people in the ‘sex sells’ media still can. Adults will still be free to choose a version of free speech that covers crucial issues such as the shocking fact that footballers have sex and women wear underwear (or don’t in the case of p3) but this does not have to be at the expense of children’s welfare.