In what may be a victory for feminist campaigners and stiff upper-lipped Britons alike, reports that The Sun has dropped topless female models from page 3 are doing the viral rounds today.
‘The Sun has got its top on... page 3 covers up after 45 years,’ its sister paper The Times proclaimed this morning, citing anonymous sources who said the tabloid had decided to drop the feature quietly, with the last topless issue last Friday (or at least try to anyway – doesn’t look like that’s worked).
‘Page 3 of The Sun is where it’s always been, between pages 2 and 4, and you can find Lucy from Warwick at Page3.com,’ a spokesperson for the red top said (aren’t we clever?).
Whispers of the 44-year-old feature’s imminent demise started in September, when The Sun’s owner Rupert Murdoch tweeted page 3 was ‘old-fashioned’, and the paper dropped the patronising ‘News in Briefs’ element in 2013. The octogenarian, whose late mother and daughter (both Elisabeths) were apparently not impressed with it, reportedly signed off on the decision himself.
Page 3 again. Aren't beautiful young women more attractive in at least some fashionable clothes? Your opinions please.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) September 10, 2014
It could well be a canny business decision on The Sun’s part. Why would anyone buy it just for page 3 given bare breasts and more are freely available online? And it gets a flood of publicity, which obviously won’t all be good but may well encourage its long-time fans – many of whom took to Twitter to blame, er, ‘Sharia law’, to go out and buy a copy.
But while the No More Page 3 campaign, whose petition ‘asking very nicely’ for The Sun to ditch the bare breasts has garnered more than 217,000 signatures, was giddy with glee this morning, others are not so sure.
Model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was splashed across page 3 in her underwear on Monday, while a paparazzi shot of two Hollyoaks actresses Jennifer Metcalfe and Gemma Merna in their bikinis on a beach was in the paper today.
As one poster in feminist Facebook group C*ntry Living pointed out, ‘The only statement this makes is that, yep, women's nipples are totally obscene, but women's bodies are entirely up for public consumption.’
The Sun is by no means the only tabloid to feature skimpily-dressed celebs. (Daily Mail sidebar of shame anyone?) But it is the focus of feminist campaigning at the moment and its decision shows it still values women’s bodies over their brains, and smacks of hypocrisy. The negative headlines aren’t going to go away – and that can only be bad for business in the long run.