British Tabloid’s ‘Page 3 Girl’ Is Topless No Longer

anastasios pallis

The Page 3 Girl, a feature of British tabloids for decades that allowed readers to turn the front page and stare at a topless woman over breakfast or on their commute to work, is getting covered up.

The Daily Star, the final holdout in the market, has been trying a nipple-free Page 3 since the beginning of this month — although women still figure prominently on that page.

“The Daily Star is always looking to try new things and improve,” Jonathan Clark, the editor, said in an emailed statement. “In that spirit, we’ve listened to reader feedback and are currently trialling a covered-up version of Page 3.”

Topless women on Page 3 have endured in British tabloids since the 1970s, and are associated with The Sun, the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper with a circulation of about 1.4 million. The Sun reveled in the controversy around the images. In the latter years of the feature, The Sun featured topless women with a small “News in Briefs” item quoting the young woman’s thoughts on current affairs.

The feature was largely a product of a belief that “the great consumers were men and they needed to appeal to men,” said Roy Greenslade, a former features editor at The Sun and now an honorary visiting professor of journalism at City, University of London. “I think women have kicked back in the last 20, 25 years.”

Still, for many years, it helped propel celebrities like Samantha Fox, Katie Price and Linda Lusardi to stardom, and many women submitted pictures to the newspaper in the hope of being featured, Mr. Greenslade said. Members of the newsroom staff would scramble to help appraise the latest submissions, he added.

Over time, the complaints of sexism became louder. Clare Short, a minister in Tony Blair’s government, proposed legislation to end the feature in 1986 while a member of Parliament.

When The Sun started covering up the photos in 2015, The Daily Star, then owned by Express newspapers, doubled down by giving its readers the option of receiving an image of its Page 3 Girl that day on their cellphones.

The Daily Star’s circulation has eroded over the last 10 years, from over 780,000 in April 2009 to just over 322,000 in February, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

This month’s test is probably less a reflection of changing mores than the ubiquity of scantily clad women online, Mr. Greenslade said.

“It hasn’t really changed the nature that women are objectified in these newspapers,” he said. “It has merely, I suppose, come down a notch by deciding to cover the nipples.”

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