British Tabloid The Sun Ends Longstanding Tradition of Showing Topless …

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Page 3: a victory for the joyless.

LONDON — And so it came to pass, Lissy, 21, from Manchester will enter the history books. According to reports, it seems the newspaper has quietly dropped Page 3, which has brought readers a photograph of a topless woman every day since 1970.

Her unadorned appearance in last Friday’s edition of The Sun is expected to make her the final model to bare her breasts on Page 3 of Rupert Murdoch’s biggest selling newspaper. After many years on the attack, the naked female breast is now in retreat – at least in The Sun, which quietly published its final Page 3 girl last Friday. The daily display of flesh in Britain’s most popular paper has mystified the rest of the world since it was inaugurated in 1970, but it grew into one the most remarkable symbols of the nation’s odd affinity for innuendo, humor and smut. Or so Hollywood would have us believe. “It was simply a case of Irish readers wanting different things,” said Paul Clarkson, editor of the Irish Sun. “Ireland isn’t Britain.

Decades before Snapchat, sexting and emails marked NSFW, The Sun was bringing pictures of topless women into millions of homes, offices and building sites every day. Murdoch introduced the controversial images within a year of buying the tabloid, which boomed under his uncompromising stewardship, selling almost four million copies a day until the late 1990s. Page 3 girls—including Katie Price, Samantha Fox and Geri Halliwell, who later starred in the Spice Girls—would go on to became British household names.

From its inception to its apparent demise, the photographs have always attracted intense and widespread criticism, but Murdoch ignored the complaints entirely until late last year when the first cracks in his position began to appear. “Brit feminists bang on forever about page 3,” he said. “I think old fashioned but readers seem to disagree.” Four months later, the models have disappeared. The No More Page 3 campaign, which launched in 2012 with the tagline “boobs aren’t news”, got more than a quarter of a million people to petition the paper’s editor to “stop conditioning your readers to view women as sex objects”. It has become an eponym for “topless”, itself a polite evasion for the good-natured, winking-girly nudity which nearly half a century ago began to raise The Sun from the doldrums of circulation to its Himalayas. Campaign founder Lucy-Anne Holmes told BBC2’s Newsnight that its opponents had no wish to see Page 3 banned, rather they hoped for voluntary withdrawal. A soap actress wearing a bra and panties featured on the third page of the paper on Monday, while Tuesday’s first edition included two actresses in bikinis.

However, she said that it was a “step in the right direction” if they were no longer topless. “The Sun hasn’t suddenly decided that women say, think and do interesting and incredible things, it’s still basically saying women are here for decoration, but it’s a step in the right direction,” she said. Dylan Sharpe, The Sun’s head of PR, Tweeted enigmatically: “Page 3 will be in @TheSunNewspaper tomorrow in the same place it’s always been—between page 2 and page 4.” Harriet Harman, Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary, said the paper was not going to get away with quietly dropping the exposed models without a huge public response celebrating Murdoch’s climbdown. “It won’t be quiet—we will be making sure it is not quiet,” she said. Fine Gael Fingal County Councillor and champion of workers’ rights Keith Redmond tweeted: “Good work feminazis, you just made lots of fellow women unemployed because their work offended you. #NoMorePage3” A glance at the Sun online would have reassured him there will continue to be ample work for topless models on the website. But more generous to see it as part of fine British bawdy, which includes Max Miller and Barbara Windsor, as well as Bamforth’s gloriously tacky picture postcards, which enabled holiday-makers at the chilly British seaside to make the suggestion to their correspondents at home that freezing in Skegness gave access to sexual, and therefore other, liberties. The greatest exponent of the saucy postcard was artist Donald McGill, whose stage-army of mothers-in-law, fat women in swimsuits, filthy foreigners, priapic youth, drunks, lusty nurses and cosmic double entendres, was passed on to Pinewood’s Carry On franchise, whose 31 ludicrous cinematic capers made delicious play with a national preoccupation about sex, given impressive form by the repeated motif of Windsor’s almighty bust bursting out of a straining garment to a chorus of squeals from her screen-mates.

I can’t think it will lose them an awful lot of sales and I don’t think they’d have done it if they thought it would.” Tom Latchem, a former editor at one of Murdoch’s tabloids, told The Daily Beast it was clear within the News’s U.K. media empire that Page 3 would be immediately reinstated if sales plummeted. “This move has been in the offing for a long time. The idea of girls standing there in their knickers with some sort of pseudo-political quote – I mean it really is not the representation of women’s role in this country that I want to see,” Harman said. The normally disapproving George Orwell wrote a famous and enthusiastic 1941 essay about McGill, where he declared the images of inflated breasts and boggled eyes they attracted to be “obscene”, but added that “the corner of the human heart they speak for might easily manifest itself in worse forms, and I for one should be sorry to see them vanish”. If only the old misery had lived to report on Carry On and The Sun… In recent times, when an activist group wanted to bring the supply and demand for The Sun’s bawdy into disrepute, it needed only to name itself “No More Page 3”; it did not call itself “No More Oppressive Objectification of the Female Form”. Instead, her first day in charge featured nude model Rebekah Parmar-Teasdale and the caption: “Rebekah from Wapping.” She worked to strengthen the brand, adding a News in Briefs element in which the woman in her knickers shared an opinion about the day’s news.

For example, in February 2004, Zoe, 22, from London offered her support for the faltering Iraq War: “You don’t need to be an international diplomat to realize the world is better off without Saddam,” she said. In 2013, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton and Hove, wore the slogan on a (dry) T-shirt in the House of Commons to protest the pleasure that knuckle-dragging male sexist gorillas may take from such mammary displays as The Sun popularised. In the days before Carry On, Eugene Delacroix’s great 1830 canvas, Liberty Leading the People, has the personification of “liberté” storming the barricades with a breast exposed. Another great French artist, the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, made a famous bust of a magnificent African woman to advertise the anti-slavery movement.

Unfurling a red flag, and then unfurling one of her breasts, she said: “This is red… and so am I!” Last year, Iranian and Arab women staged a nude demonstration at the Louvre to protest Islamic fundamentalism. A 2012 YouGov poll showed that 86 per cent of Guardian readers were against Page 3, as they are against 86 per cent of almost anything you may care to mention or enjoy. So, too, did Harriet Harman and Clare Short, although since The Sun called the latter “fat and jealous” in an earlier anti-topless campaign, her position may have become only a revengeful, rather than theoretical, one. The eventual emergence of the nipple and the way that emergence, and now its disappearance, calibrate a more general national feeling will one day be a topic covered by PhD students.

Two years later, women took a real strike for equality when a nude Burt Reynolds, complete with objectified chest hair, was published as a centrefold in Cosmopolitan. Indeed, for 33 of those years, the dominant photographer was Beverley Goodwin, who imposed a style that, at least when compared to the squalour of internet porn – or Greer in Oz – might even be called chaste.

My own Sun-reading habit was never well-developed, but ten years ago when I started frequenting a favourite Chelsea coffee bar, I always had a sneaky look at the Neapolitan proprietor’s every-ready, dog-eared copy while waiting for my latte. In any case, the contents of Page 3 are only retreating behind the newspaper’s online paywall, where connoisseurs of the lightest and fluffiest of soft porn may still indulge themselves. In a failed denial-of-service assault, she invited the global sisterhood to flood my email with pictures of their “unsupported breasts” to reverse the (idealised) prejudices she claimed me to hold.

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