After 44 years, The Sun drops Page Three

Congratulations are in order for our UK sisters!

The BBC reports that “Friday’s edition of the Sun was the last that would carry images of topless women.”

The No More Page 3 campaign, founded by writer and actor Lucy Anne Holmes, has been going strong since 2012, lobbying the current editor of The Sun, David Dinsmore to remove the completely outdated, embarrassing, sexist, and unnecessary “Page Three,” which featured photos of topless models. The petition garnered over 217,000 signatures. It reads, simply:

We are asking very nicely.

Please, David.

No More Page 3.

George Alagiah doesn’t say, ‘And now let’s look at Courtney, 21, from Warrington’s bare breasts,’ in the middle of the 6 O’ Clock News, does he, David?

Philip and Holly don’t flash up pictures of Danni, 19, from Plymouth, in just her pants and a necklace, on This Morning, do they, David?

No, they don’t.

There would be an outcry.

And you shouldn’t show the naked breasts of young women in your widely read ‘family’ newspaper either.

Consider this a long overdue outcry.

David, stop showing topless pictures of young women in Britain’s most widely read newspaper, stop conditioning your readers to view women as sex objects.

Enough is enough.

Thank you.

While this achievement should most certainly be celebrated, what’s really incredible is that it took this long and took such persistent activism, over so many years, in order for a page that ensured, in the words of Lucy Hunter Johnston at The Independent, “the most prominent pictured woman in The Sun was wearing only her pants” to be dropped. The message was clear, Johnston writes: “men are in the paper for their achievements, women for their bodies.”

According to an interview with LBC, Clare Short was the first MP to speak out against Page Three, back in 1986. She was attacked, vilified, and threatened for doing so. She brought in a bill to remove it and the response was “sneers and giggles,” followed by The Sun going after Short, starting “a really vicious campaign of vilification” which included sending Page Three girls to stand outside her house. The Sun endlessly ridiculed her like a bunch of childish, sexist, entitled, little boys (weeeeeird!), printing “stories” like, Short says, “20 things you ought to know about crazy Clare!” and publishing “horrible pictures of [her].” But, she says, “once they start in on you, you either crumble or you fight back.” On the flip side, of course, she received thousands of letters of support from women who were also tired of the overt disrespect and degradation of women Page Three conveyed.

When the interviewer asked Short about the “former Page Three girls who’ve come out today and defended it, defending what they did” she responds, simply “Well, they would wouldn’t they. They have to. There are some ex-Page Three models who say ‘I now regret it’ and ‘I wish I hadn’t,’ now that they’re older… But if you’re still doing it, you’re going to have to say it’s a good thing, aren’t you?”

We’ve heard this song before, have we not? Sometimes we call it “false consciousness,” sometimes we call it “the backlash,” and sometimes we call it “marketing.”

Wait! Is this third wave feminism, an advertisement for Your New Exciting Career In Porn, or your basic, decades-old, sexist attacks from unoriginal anti-feminist men? Confusing! Also, come on now. Men wear comfy shoes and no bras at all, yet have been dictating “everything we do” since forever. How do they manage! Anyway, Rhian, all the cool girls wear sneakers and Chelsea boots.

But back to actual feminist arguments — Short says it’s a small step, but a symbolic one, and I have to agree… Despite the fact that today’s Page Three featured this image:


Also, The Sun will still have topless “Page Three Girls” online.

So what we know is that The Sun doesn’t get it, nor do they care to. They see women as objects, they enjoy objectifying women, they profit from the objectification of women. End of story (for The Sun, in any case.)

That said, feminist activism forced change upon them, even if the change is insufficient. And the reason they were able to force change was, in part, because they had such widespread support, but also because they were tireless in their efforts.

The fact that there are no topless breasts in The Sun shouldn’t strike us as all that revolutionary because, really, can you even believe that, up until this week, the U.K.’s largest circulation newspaper essentially ran porn? Also, objectification isn’t solely attached to nipples. We still can and do sexualize women who are wearing lingerie and bikini tops.

Even Holmes herself agrees that this decision doesn’t really signify a change in attitude, in terms of those behind the publication, saying, “The Sun hasn’t suddenly decided that women say, think and do interesting and incredible things. It’s still basically saying women are here for decoration, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

But it is a hard-earned success. One that serves as a good reminder that feminist activism matters and does effect change, that the tide is turning, even if The Sun isn’t fully on board, that we should celebrate even the small achievements, that we have sisters all around the world who want change, and that we need to keep up the work.

Solidarity, sisters!

Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist from Vancouver, BC. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including The Spectator, UnHerd, Quillette, the CBC, New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and is now exiled in Mexico with her very photogenic dog.