Breaking news out of the U.K.: It seems that The Sun will no longer be featuring topless women on Page 3.
The Times (also owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, which owns The Sun) made the announcement today, stating that “Friday’s edition of the paper was the last to carry an image of a glamour model with bare breasts on that page.” However, a Sun spokesperson called the news “speculation.”
This sweeping change — if it is to be believed — has come two years after The Sun’s Irish edition pulled the feature and following a whopping 45 years of protests, petitions and criticism from feminist activist groups in the UK.
While this seems to be a major win, I am holding out on celebrating just yet.
A simple examination of the statement’s wording leaves much to be desired. For starters, we all know that the definition of “bare” and “covered” breasts rests on the humble nipple. In this case, context counts more than content; the omission of a nipple simply won’t eliminate the paper’s sexism. Women can just as easily be sexualised with their nipples covered as they can with them on display. And pardon me for being pedantic, but “a glamour model with bare breasts on that page” (emphasis added) technically opens up an opportunity for a similar feature to run — on a different page.
Besides, The Sun‘s sexism runs much deeper than Page 3’s use of topless models. We need only to watch The Experiment (seriously, watch it, it’s incredible) to understand this. Or, just open today’s Page 3. It features candid shots of two bikini-clad soap actresses running on a beach in Dubai. Is this The Sun’s attempt to gently break in their Page 3 readers? Perhaps. Frankly, I’d prefer the models back; at least they had autonomy and the knowledge they were being photographed.
Lucy Holmes, founder of the No More Page 3 campaign (which, to be clear, is not against boobs, but rather the sole sexualisation of women co-published with the hailing of male achievements), appeared on BBC’s Newsnight to address the announcement. She said, “The Sun hasn’t decided that women say, think, and do interesting and incredible things, it’s still basically saying women are here for decoration.”
Holmes couldn’t be more correct. Whilst cutting the regular feature in print is a humongous step in the right direction, the last thing I am going to do is give The Sun a gold star. Before I begin celebrating, I am waiting to see where this goes: Will The Sun finally start portraying women as human beings instead of props? Will Murdoch reverse his decision if sales lag? Is this news even true? Time will tell.