Rupert Murdoch’s Sun Tabloid Drops Topless ‘Page 3’ Girls After 44 Years

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Dropping Page 3 is a mistake,’ says former glamour model Nicola McLean.

Feminists are rejoicing at the disappearance of bare breasts from the British tabloid The Sun — though the newspaper is not confirming whether the decision to ditch its infamous “Page 3 girls” is permanent. Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper has ceased publishing topless “Page 3” models after 44 years, an apparent response to changing attitudes and a feminist-led campaign to end the British tabloid’s controversial feature.

British newspaper The Sun has ended a 45-year tradition of picturing topless models on page three, scrapping a daily feature denounced by women’s rights groups since the tabloid launched it in the early years of Rupert Murdoch’s ownership. The U.K.’s top-selling newspaper has carried bare-breasted British glamor models on its third page on weekdays since 1970, alongside an often implausible quote referencing a topical story. After 45 years of softly pornifying the nation’s morning routines the UK’s bestselling paper will no longer feature the naked breasts of a young woman – quite often a teenager – in its opening pages. Dylan Sharpe, head of public relations for The Sun, posted an ambiguous message on Twitter last night which read: “Page 3 will be in The Sun tomorrow in the same place it’s always been – between page 2 and page 4.” “They’ve woken up today with the news that they don’t have a job and then you’ve got campaigners happy about this I just find it really upsetting,” she said. “I don’t believe that Page 3 is outdated. But pressure on Britain’s best-selling paper had intensified in recent years, with a campaign drawing support from politicians, trade unions, universities and a breast cancer charity, among many others.

Labour Party lawmaker Stella Creasy said she was glad to see the end of a feature that told women “that what mattered, frankly, were our breasts, not our brains.” The Times, also owned by Murdoch’s News Corp., reported that The Sun had decided to quietly drop Page Three girls and that the tycoon had signed off on the decision. A No More Page 3 campaign — launched in 2012 with the tagline “boobs aren’t news” — attracted more than a quarter of a million signatories to a petition asking the paper’s editor to “stop conditioning your readers to view women as sex objects.” While the newspaper has not confirmed if the change is permanent, the campaign late Monday said it “could be a huge step for challenging media sexism,” adding: “We are so incredibly grateful to all of you who stood up and said ‘No More Page 3’.” Instead of the usual topless girl, Tuesday’s page three of The Sun featured two British television soap actresses running across a beach in their bikinis.

It’s hard to fathom that in 2015 a publication would choose to print such pictures, even if it had scrapped the nasty, mocking ‘News in Briefs’ two years ago (the ‘joke’ being that a topless woman couldn’t possibly have anything to say about, say, the economy. Of course no one was planning to murder the Sun and its hapless models, but some campaigners wanted it banned or confined to pornography shelves and starved of advertising.

Page 3 was an anachronistic relic which sent a toxic and demeaning message to men and women alike: men are in the paper for their achievements, women for their bodies. Introduced a year after Murdoch took the helm, the photos were part of a vein of British popular culture in the 1970s that also relished jokes with crude sexual content. Like millions of Muslims, they claimed Page 3 caused them offence – a “claim” which in English law nowadays is sufficient reason to invoke curbs on freedom of speech. This isn’t about whether women should be able to ‘choose’ a career as a topless model, but about the context: is a newspaper an appropriate place for the pictures to be published?

The paper retaliated with a crudely doctored image of Short’s head set on an overweight topless woman’s body, under the headline: “Fat, jealous Clare brands Page 3 porn.” It also parked a busload of topless models outside Short’s home. Lucas said it was ironic that her teeshirt was deemed inappropriate while The Sun, with its racy page three, was available to buy from eight outlets in the parliamentary buildings.

A YouGov survey last year revealed that a full 86% of Guardian readers wanted Page 3 stopped (by whom?), against two thirds of Sun readers who wanted it retained. Of course a single group wasn’t going to change decades of culturally engrained stereotypes, but they have a started an important national dialogue that seems to be leading in the right direction. The space will still feature a picture of a woman; the only difference is that now she will be allowed to wear a bra, which sends the slightly strange message that it was the model’s nipples that were the problem.

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