For the last forty years it’s been as much a part of British culture as fish and chips or an evening at the dogs, but The Sun’s page 3 feature, in which young bare chested women pose provocatively, has been quietly shelved after critics led by Green MP Caroline Lucas branded it ‘sexist’.
The feature propelled stars like Jordan, Melinda Messenger and Samantha Fox into the limelight, earning some of its more popular models six or even seven figure annual salaries, but detractors argued that it must be scrapped as it was “disrespectful and objectifying,” and insisted that women must be “celebrated for their many achievements”.
As of yesterday the paper caved to the activists, displaying model Rosie Whiteley in her bra and knickers rather than topless. Today the page featured two Hollyoaks actresses running along a beach wearing bikinis.
Rupert Murdoch, the Sun’s owner, hinted in September last year that he was considering scrapping the feature, taking to Twitter to describe it as “old fashioned”, and asking followers “Aren’t beautiful young women more attractive in at least some fashionable clothes?”
However, according to the Telegraph he went on to accuse feminists of “banging on forever about Page 3” despite “never buying [the] paper”.
Page 3 has come under constant attack by feminists since the No More Page 3 campaign was launched in September 2012. In a measure of how puritanical British society has become, the campaign attracted 215,000 signatures for an online petition calling on Murdoch to ditch the feature, and inspired 30 universities to ban The Sun from being sold on campus until page 3 was cut.
The snobbery of the campaign’s supporters was laid bare by Harriet Harman during an interview on Newsnight in October 2012, appearing alongside Neil Wallis, a former Sun editor. Harman insisted “I’m arguing that women should be respected for what they can actually do in their lives and that girls should be able to have higher aspirations than just looking good with no clothes on,” to which Wallis responded “What you’re saying is that a girl shouldn’t have the right to aspire to be a page three girl”.
Harman snapped back “Well I wouldn’t call that aspiration.”
Nonetheless The campaign received widespread support from organisations including Mumsnet, Unison, the British Youth Council, the Royal Colleges of Midwives and Nursing, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales, Rape Crisis and Girlguiding UK.
The campaign lists six reasons to oppose the feature on its website, most of which centre on it being ‘sexist’. Number 4 reads: “Women say, do and think so many interesting and incredible things and should be celebrated for their many achievements. They are people, not things! Not ‘that’. The fact that we hear ‘look at the tits on that’ or ‘I’d do that’ is disgusting, disrespectful and objectifying. Page 3 of The Sun is the icon that perpetuates and normalises this horrible sexist ‘banter’.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas made headlines after being told to cover up a No More Page 3 t-shirt which she wore to a Commons Debate. The speaker reminded her of the Commons dress code, which prohibits clothing with messaging emblazoned on it. She complied, donning a jacket, but told assembled Members that she had asked the Palace of Westminster to stop selling The Sun until the feature was dropped.
A spokeswoman for the campaign said: “This could be truly historic news and a great day for people power. We don’t know the details for sure and there’s still lots to be done. But this could be a huge step for challenging media sexism.”
Labour politicians Sadiq Khan, Stella Creasy and Yvette Cooper have all taken to Twitter to tweet congratulations to the campaign. Creasy commented “*sounds klaxon* hey! anyone seen Page 3 recently @NoMorePage3? me neither…..bring on the 21st Century. #goldenarmy”, whilst Khan said “Proud to have supported the @nomorepage3 campaign – brilliant result on the #page3takedown”
However, there were already signs on Twitter that the puritans were still not satisfied, with some commenting that showing models in underwear rather than topless was progress. Twitter user Elena Cresci posted a typical comment, saying “Struggling to see the new #page3 with added bra as some sort of victory tbh”.