No More Page 3 campaigner Jo Cheetham: Sexism in the media is less in your face, but it’s still there

No More Page 3 Campaigner Jo Cheetham: Sexism In The Media Is Less In Your Face, But It’s Still There No More Page 3 Campaigner Jo Cheetham: Sexism In The Media Is Less In Your Face, But It’s Still There
Jo Cheetham
Share this article

By Imy Brighty-Potts, PA

Jo Cheetham’s rise from obscurity began when she decided to take on The Sun newspaper – along with a group of fellow campaigners – to call for an end to their long-running page three topless models feature.

Growing up in Rotherham, she explains it was a class battle for her, as well as a battle against sexism. And the writer and academic has now written a book about the experience, called Killjoy: Taking On A Macho Media Empire And Winning.

Cheetham was one of the first to join campaign HQ (Jo Cheetham/PA)

It all started just over a decade ago, after author Lucy-Anne Holmes wrote to The Sun, calling on the publication to reconsider the ‘sexist’ and outdated tradition. The letter was ignored – but this sparked the start of a movement, with campaigners noticing during the 2012 Olympics, that the picture featured of medal-smashing athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill was tiny in comparison to the booby photo two pages in.


Facing abuse regularly, and disregard constantly, the campaign took the women backing it on a journey of self-discovery and personal change – while also ultimately winning their battle against the biggest newspaper in the country at the time (after 44 years of topless page three models, The Sun ended the tradition in 2015).

By this point, the campaign had garnered a lot of high-profile support, with one MP describing their achievement as a “seismic victory”.

Cheetham believed all along there would be a book about it one day.

“I said as it was all happening, that I was going to write a book about this, which is quite special at the time – normally that takes hindsight,” she says with a laugh.

“But I knew back in 2015 that I would write about this. We needed a bit of time to look back and see how ridiculous page three was.”

She acknowledges that knowing from the off that their actions were going to create waves is quite unusual, and many campaigners now may be eager to know their work will be worth it in the long run.


Right now, Cheetham is passionately supportive of efforts challenging transphobia in feminism, having campaigned alongside non-binary journalist and poet Yas Necati during their No More Page 3 days.

“It is so important to hear trans and non-binary voices. Feminism in its most distilled essence is about equality. If everyone isn’t invited, it isn’t feminism,” Cheetham reflects.

“The thing personally for me, that we must see change now, is basic safety. I want to feel safe on the streets, in bars.”

It’s something Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project (and one of the women Cheetham became friends with through campaigning), has been very vocal about.

“Laura is the kindest person, I don’t know how she does it, she gets so much hate. I met up with her recently and she is just so supportive. She wants to do anything to help anyone at any point,” the campaigner says, who attended her first protest in 2012, two weeks before her 32nd birthday.

While Bates continues to use her extensive social media platform to campaign, Cheetham has removed herself from the online world – despite the fact the No More Page 3 campaign’s roots lie in a Facebook group.

“Social media was massive. The team members didn’t know each other in real life, we were all contacted by Lucy [Holmes, the founder] in different ways all over the country,” Cheetham recalls.


“All of our planning happened via a private Facebook group, the way we got the message out was social media – it was one of the first campaigns to do that.”

But, for self-preservation purposes, she’s no longer using social media.

“I found it really overwhelming. It is a great tool for allowing people to discuss on their terms and spread messages, but then you have the dark side, the trolls, the abuse, and the Andrew Tates of the world,” she adds – referencing the misogynistic influencer who was recently arrested and detained in Romania on rape and human trafficking charges.

The No More Page 3 campaign received constant hate while it was happening, and Cheetham remembers how the women helped one another through the spew of negativity from the media and public.

“We were such good friends. We really supported each other – if you had to take a step back, someone else supported you. None of us had any experience with campaigning, we didn’t have any idea how you talk to the media or organise anything, and so it was such a bizarre situation,” says Cheetham.

There was a lot of joy, too.

“Lucy has this laugh you get told off for at school, we were hysterical most of the time, but we weren’t angry – we spent a lot of time laughing.”

Women are still, she believes, treated unfairly in the press, and constantly held to unfair standards. Take, for example, the commentary around Madonna’s post-cosmetic surgery look at the Grammys recently, with headlines such as ‘Plastic surgery isn’t feminist’, as per The New Statesman.

“I really do think anybody should be able to do what they want to their body, without commentary on an international scale, it is so patronising,” says Cheetham.

“I have a lot of friends with Botox, and if they had the money, some would get it all done – it’s individual. I love Dolly Parton as much as I love Mary Beard, plastic surgery and all.

“I think sexism in the media is less in your face than it was 10 years ago, but it is still there,” Cheetham adds. “There are so many messages like what Madonna looks like, about what she should do – it’s saying, ‘older women, know your place’.

“Consider what Jeremy Clarkson has said about Meghan Markle. He is just an angry bloke, angry with a woman living life on her own terms.”


She has high hopes for the next generation of feminists, however.

“The younger generations of girls and boys that I see, they are doing so well and won’t accept so much of the stuff we dealt with.

“My niece is 14 and her whole school is protesting the fact the girls aren’t allowed to play football at lunch on the pitch, but the boys are,” she says. “They stand up against it, they have so much self-knowledge and confidence.”


Killjoy: Taking On A Macho Media Empire And Winning by Jo Cheetham is published by Picador. Available now 

Read More

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2023, developed by Square1 and powered by