You’ll recall we signed the petition on account of yer basic feminism, yer basic objectification of yer actual women. It boasted, back then, something in the area of 10,000 signatures. Since then it’s been in The Guardian, The Independent, The Guardian again, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Telegraph, another bit of The Telegraph, The Telegraph again, some glossy magazines for the women, the trashier corners of the telly, a respectable bit of radio, and all over the blogosphere, picking up a fair bit of celebrity support along the way. Celebrity support’s apparently vital in any cause nowadays and while I weep for the continued shallowisation of the species I have to concede it has its uses, as the Great Danes at Burt Ward’s Great Dane sanctuary will tell you. They’d be out on the streets were it not for the intervention and awareness-raising of one of our most beloved former Robins. Chris O’Donnell, you’ll notice, has been notably silent on the issue of that particular breed of dogs and their particular assortment of problems. For shame.
But I digress. With these efforts combined the petition has hit more than 53,000 signatures. That’s an impressive chunk of people – enough, if laid end to end, to wrap your lower intestine three times around a double-decker football pitch. But the time for smugness is not yet upon us. First, there’s the question of size and scale. Even at 53,000 we’re still up against the millions of Sun readers who are firmly pro-boob, the millions more who aren’t interested and the handful of powerful people who’ll actually make the decision to get rid of the legendary newstits. And then there’s the question of momentum. The signatures built slowly to about 5,000 then raced away to 40,000 as the right-on publicity kicked in. But there appeared to be a slowing down as it approached 50,000, and there my knees began to wobble. There’s a chance we’re not far off saturation point. And here we’d hit the problem in the very bones of petitions: that a massive coming together of like-minded people can be dismissed as a minority interest dying on its arse, that 53,000 signatures is simultaneously awesome and a bit shit against the millions who haven’t bothered signing.
With that maybe in mind the organisers have opened up a second front, going after The Sun’s advertisers and threatening to boycott any company that goes within an inch of Rupert Murdoch’s exploitative lady lumps. There’s an amount of sense there. Back when your beloved Zero signed the petition I rambled something along the lines of how money’s the thing, how as long as The Sun is making money from other people’s nipples they’ll keep printing them, how the impact of keeping Page 3 has to be made worse than the impact of losing it because no one at The Sun gives a rat’s tit about gender politics. The boycott aims to do that, making The Sun toxic to its advertisers and hitting Murdoch in the only place he has any feeling left. In theory this looks to be a decent move. And yet my knees are still wobbling slightly.
Maybe it’s the maths. You’d assume only a share of the 53,000 would step up to the boycott, and the problem of numbers and impact gets bigger as the numbers and impact gets smaller. The demonstrations accompanying the boycott have drawn crowds so small the companies in question might reasonably have thought they were being picketed by the Jimmy Saville fan club. It feels like we’re in trouble here. And yet if the campaign dies on its arse now we’ll only have ourselves to blame for not getting sufficiently stuck in. Here I hold myself accountable. I, like you, didn’t join the boycott although I, unlike you, did mean to but sort of forgot about it. Bit embarrassing really, what with this being a do-gooding activist blog.
However, in spite of its modest size and the absence of you and I it seems to have done something. Following the boycott, the campaigners have been promised meetings with bigwigs from Tesco and Morrison’s to talk about the whole newstits situation. It’s entirely possible, of course, that this will amount to the responses they’ve already had from the likes of DFS and Lego, saying they appreciate them getting in touch but on this particular occasion they’re going to do bugger all about it. But it’s also possible, if the publicity holds and the stink of newstits honks the place up a bit, that this will shift things along a little. If The Sun can be made to look like the creepy little sod it is maybe people won’t want to play with it any more.
Meanwhile, my faith restored, I’m going to be re-impressed by 53,000 signatures, ram another reminder through my email, Twitter, Facebook and offline contacts, and write to my MP asking them to get stuck in. And I’m going to give optimism another bash. After all, great oaks from little acorns grow. Sometimes it’s best not to think about all the other acorns that just stay small and acorn sized.