British tabloid The Sun has quietly discontinued one of the most controversial so-called traditions of UK journalism: the Page 3 feature, which has published photos of topless models on the inside page of the "family newspaper" since 1970. Although the newspaper has not acknowledged the change, The Times reported that it understood that last Friday’s edition of The Sun was "the last that will carry an image of a glamour model with bare breasts on that page." A spokesman for the paper, which has a circulation of just under 2 million and is the UK's best-selling daily, tweeted that page three would be "in the same place it’s always been — between page 2 and 4."
The Sun has called female MPs criticizing page 3 "fat" and "jealous"
The apparent dissolution of Page 3 has been greeted with mixed reactions in the UK. Members of the No More Page 3 campaign — which has been a determined critic of the feature since 2012 — applauded the decision, describing the support they'd received as "truly phenomenal." UK politicians also celebrated the news, with Labour MP Stella Creasy commenting: "I know people kept saying ‘Turn the page, don't look at it if you don't want to see it' – it missed the point that it was having an impact on our society." The Sun has previously responded fiercely to criticism from female politicians, even going as far as to Photoshop one MP’s face onto a Page 3 girl’s body underneath a headline calling her "fat" and "jealous."
Not everyone in the country has been happy to see the feature go however, with glamor model and former Page 3 girl Jodie Marsh leading the backlash online. "I am very much a feminist. I believe women can do it all and have it all. Women who slag off other women are just jealous & insecure," tweeted Marsh. "The real oppression to women is in places where women aren't allowed to drive and are made to (or brainwashed into wanting to) wear a burka." Fellow Page 3 model Rhian Sugden added that it was "only a matter of time before everything we do will be dictated by comfy shoe wearing... No bra wearing... man haters."
Though of course there is also the argument that MPs should have far bigger things to concentrate on... (My boobs ARE big though, granted)— Jodie Marsh (@JodieMarsh) January 20, 2015
Page 3 has been a controversial subject in the UK since its introduction in November 1970, with The Sun's owner Rupert Murdoch reportedly outraged when the feature was introduced (he has since referred to it as "old fashioned," before adding that "some readers seem to disagree"). However, in the following year The Sun's ciruclation rose from 1.5 million to 2.1 million and the feature became permanent. Rival tabloids soon followed suit, and prior to 2003, several papers published topless photos of models as young as 16 and 17. The papers' usual defense has been that the features are "harmless" and "just a bit of fun," while critics have responded that the message to readers is that the "most important about women is the way they look and their sexual allure."
Despite the apparent end of Page 3, many have pointed out that The Sun still advertises topless Page 3 girls online and via social media, while the paper edition has simply switched to showing models in bikinis and lingerie. "The Sun hasn't suddenly decided that women say, think and do interesting and incredible things," said No More Page 3 campaigner Anne Louise Kershaw. "It's still basically saying women are here for decoration."