Page free: A symbolic victory that shows how Britain is changing

 

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The Independent Online

Though the topless models never aged a day, time has finally caught up with The Sun’s Page 3. Rupert Murdoch’s paper quietly dropped the 44-year-old Fleet Street institution earlier this week, after thousands joined a campaign to end a feature of British cultural life that has – but for the odd break, after, for example, the death of Margaret Thatcher – demeaned women daily. The Page 3 girls remain online, uncensored, and the print version might return if sales drop off. But it already feels bizarre that a newspaper could hope to report on a demographic that makes up 51 per cent of the population – let alone appeal to female readers – while its format suggested that a substantial bra-size (and no bra) was the best way for a woman to catch the attention of an editor.

Credit is due to the No More Page 3 campaign, which has, over two-and-a-half years, gathered 220,000 signatures in support. But even the most dogged campaigners rely on a following wind from the public, and the broad distaste for Page 3 demonstrates an evolving mood. We may not yet have reached the moment when  all members of society – male or female – would happily call themselves “feminist”, but we  are a good deal closer to it than even a few  years ago.

It should take nothing away from the value of the victory to point out that it is, first and foremost, symbolic. Much of the press will continue to belittle women, even if the British national media is now nipple-free. That will not change until more women hold positions of power within it; and the same holds true for business and government. Equal pay; female representation on boards and in Westminster; these struggles for equality do not lend themselves to a social media campaign, though they are perhaps the acid test of feminism.

For now, however, there is plenty to savour in the latest piece of evidence that the tectonic plates of British society are shifting. Call it a titbit – but an important one.

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