News instead of nudes: Bild gets rid of its Page 1 girls

Move coincides with fierce debate about the role of women in German society

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"I am the last!" declared Eva, a topless blonde, on the front page of yesterday's Bild, the mass circulation German paper.

Aiming to outdo its British counterparts, Germany's biggest-selling paper began putting nude or semi-naked women on its front page in 1984 in a drive to attract more male readers. The paper has since published more than 5,000 covers featuring naked women.

Yesterday, however, the paper proudly trumpeted the news of its conversion: "Bild abolishes Page One girl". The decision, it declared, was a gesture designed to coincide with International Women's Day, on Thursday. "It is perhaps a small step for women, but a big step for Bild and men," the paper said.

Yet the rigorous self-criticism did not end there. Bild also felt obliged to reprint a headline from its 13 May 1970 edition baldly claiming: "Women have less in the head than men." An editorial attempted to show just how much attitudes have changed: "This old headline is now completely embarrassing for us," it insisted.

Bild's front-page girls have been the bane of German feminists for decades. The paper said its decision to abandon front page female nudity was taken at an editorial conference on Thursday, and the policy change was agreed by male editorial staff because all the women on the paper had been given the day off to mark the occasion.

There was no suggestion that Bild would dispense altogether with photographs of nude or semi-naked women. But in future such images will be confined to the paper's inside pages.

There were claims yesterday that Bild's front page nudity ban was little more than a hypocritical publicity stunt. However, the move coincides with an increasingly fierce public debate about the role of women in German society, and evidence which shows they are widely treated as second-class citizens.

A report published this week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said Germany was the most unfair society for women in Europe, with those in full-time jobs earning on average 21.6 per cent less than their male colleagues. Only Japan and Korea have a bigger average wage gap.

The report also criticised the lack of women in senior management positions in Germany and said that – despite being governed by a woman Chancellor – it was lagging "a long way behind" in comparison with other developed nations.

Leading female politicians and business executives recently signed a "Berlin Declaration" calling for a compulsory 30 per cent female management quota in publicly owned organisations and major companies.

Button blouses, women chess players told

Chess may not be the most erotic of sedentary activities, but the game's governing body in Europe has decided to introduce a strict conservative dress code in an apparent bid to prevent women from using short skirts and "cleavage exposure" to distract their male adversaries.

The European Chess Union yesterday revealed that its new clothing regulations, which are currently being enforced for the first time at a championship in Turkey, allowed women competitors to open only the top two buttons of their blouses and wear skirts no shorter than 10cm above the knee.

Sava Stojsavljevic, a chess grandmaster and general secretary of the union, said a dress code was necessary to restore a sense of decorum to chess.