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Does Banning Boobs on Page 3 Mean Anything?

If you’re a fan of bare breasts in the newspaper, your days in the sun may well be over – theirs certainly seem to be, if yesterday’s reports are anything to go by.

Though there’s been no official statement from The Sun confirming that nipples will no longer be featured on the paper’s infamous Page 3, the bikini-clad celebs in Tuesday’s print edition seem to signal the end of a very controversial era. Twitter blew up with opinions and congratulations, with the move lauded as a victory for women and feminists everywhere.

But how much of a win is it, really? And who takes away the prize?

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In covering up the models’ nipples, The Sun have missed the point. In using paparazzi pics of soap actresses on a beach, they’re still defining women by their bodies alone. In partially conceding to the No More Page 3 campaign’s demands, they’re still advocating a misogynistic representation of women in the media. Only without nipples – and real, consenting glamour models, to boot – it’s a whole lot worse. And a lot less fun.

Censoring nipples might please a certain sect of feminists but, on the whole, modern feminism has been moving in a different, more progressive, direction. Female sexuality, and women’s freedom to express it in any way that they want to without fear of judgment or reprisal, is being celebrated. Women’s bodies, which serve so many roles through their lives, are appreciated for being the multifaceted, multifunctional creations that they are. Banning bare breasts in the media counteracts that; serving only to shame the female body, at a time when we are working so hard to honour it.

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We need to be wary of branding bare boobs as bad. Pushing the naked female body out of the media limelight just makes it easier for female sexuality to be controlled and vilified. Hackers will continue to leak intimate photos of singers and actresses to the masses, safe in the knowledge that these women’s bodies can be used as weapons against them. As feminists, we’re used to the patriarchy pulling the wool over our eyes year after year; sadly, this so-called victory is little more than that.

The Sun will still feature topless models on Page 3, on a far more accessible forum – online. Naked ladies will be but a mouse click away for curious children, a demographic the NMP3 campaign seems hellbent on protecting. Today’s children are born into a world where technology rules. In the shadow of the endless possibilities in the digital press, print media has faced new challenges, with readership in decline. Will tomorrow’s generation be steadfast devotees to a tabloid rag, or will they be looking to the internet as their source of information and entertainment? We all know the answer to that.

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Seeing women kick ass in the name of feminism and progression is always a positive and exciting thing, which we should applaud and encourage. But we need to remain critical, especially when the benefits of the change are unclear. The mainstream media seem to think that, in meeting the expectations of one particular campaign, they can avoid our wrath when it comes to other, more pressing, concerns. If we cheer too loudly at this single concession, we may become implicit in allowing misogyny to spread, unchallenged, through other publications. Anyone familiar with the Sidebar of Shame will know how easily the press can demean, mock and shame women.

Time – and, more crucially, sales figures – will tell if nipples are kept out of the newspaper for good. For now, at least, women’s bodies in the media remain in much the same state: commodities, pushed from pillar to post – dependent on the demand for their parts.

Words by Nadia Henderson

Angelica is Founder and Editor-in-Chief at About Time. She's a big believer in brunch, business and the notion that time is how you spend your love. She's obsessed with time, but never feels she has enough of it. Follow her on Twitter @jellymalin to see photos of her smoothies.