The Sun has quietly dropped publishing pictures of topless women on page 3 after 44 years of the controversial feature.
Page 3 of The Sun today - part of a two-page tribute to Anne Kirkbride. pic.twitter.com/wFEWBSU262— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) January 20, 2015
Today's edition featured Hollyoaks actresses Jennifer Metcalfe and Gemma Merna running along a Dubai beach in their bikinis. Readers are advised to go online to see "Page 3 Lucy from London". The paper later printed a two-page tribute to Coronation Street actress Anne Kirkbride on page three.
The page 3 pin-ups were introduced by Britain's top-selling newspaper in 1970, less than a year after Rupert Murdoch bought the title, but the feature has sparked criticism that it makes the tabloid dated and sexist for featuring topless women among news coverage dominated by pictures of men.
The Sun's sister newspaper The Times, which is owned by the same publisher, reported that last Friday’s edition of the paper was be the last to feature “an image of a glamour model with bare breasts on that page”. The Sun has not itself commented on the news.
Excitement erupted after The Guardian reported that models with naked breasts were believed to have been dropped to be replaced by female models wearing a bra and pants.
It appears The Sun had already begun its new regime, as Monday's "Page 3 Girl" Rosie Huntington-Whiteley wore Marks & Spencer underwear rather than going topless.
Earlier on Monday, The Sun's head of PR Dylan Sharpe tweeted a cryptic message that added to confusion over whether a change had been made.
Page 3 will be in @TheSunNewspaper tomorrow in the same place it's always been - between page 2 and page 4.— Dylan Sharpe (@dylsharpe) January 19, 2015
Sharpe did not answer HuffPost's questions on clarifying his statement at the time of publication, and News UK, The Sun's publisher, did not respond to requests for confirmation. But later, Sharpe told the Press Association: "It is all just speculation, it is all wild speculation."
Asked why the feature did not appear in the newspaper today or yesterday, Sharpe said: "The Sun occasionally drops it."
Former Sun editor Dominic Mohan described the topless pictures as an "innocuous British institution" but critics, led by the No More Page 3 group, said they are they are demeaning to women when placed in a newspaper alongside news.
The No More Page 3 team posted this enthusiastic statement online when it heard the rumours:
AAAAAAAAAAAAA WE LOVE YOU!!!! WE EFFING DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Wow..we're hearing the Sun may have dropped Pg3. This could be truly historic news and a great day for people power... We don't know the details for sure and there'still [sic] lots to be done...
But this could be a huge step for challenging media sexism. And we are so incredibly grateful to all of you who stood up and said No More Page 3
You know when we said WE ARE DOING THIS...
Well, sources say we might have done it!January 19, 2015
We're still waiting for official confirmation - although the news has come from credible sources #fingerscrossed— NoMorePage3 (@NoMorePage3) January 19, 2015
Fans including comedian Sue Perkins tweeted their congratulations to the No More Page 3 campaign, which has long called for the paper to stop using topless women in its pages.
Goodbye Jugs - Hello Actual News!
Congrats to @NoMorePage3 and all those who campaigned.
HURRAY! xxx— Sue Perkins (@sueperkins) January 19, 2015
News Corp Murdoch boss signalled last year that he was considering dropping the feature.
He asked his Twitter followers: ''Aren't beautiful young women more attractive in at least some fashionable clothes?''
He went on: ''Brit feminists bang on forever about Page 3. I bet never buy paper. I think old fashioned but readers seem to disagree.''
Shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman today welcomed reports that the photos have been ditched, and said it would mean the Sun is "moving into the 21st century".
Harman, a vocal critic of Page 3, told LBC the move would mean that the Sun is "moving into the 21st century".
She said: "We do think that, in a newspaper that is about news, the idea of a girl standing there in her knickers with some sort of pseudo political quote really is not the representation of women's role in this country that I want to see."
The Labour MP said that while she has "always been against Page 3", she would not support a Government- imposed ban on the feature.
And she added that if the reported demise of Page 3 in the tabloid is correct, "it won't be quiet - we will be making sure it is not quiet".
Labour MP Stella Creasy, who has campaigned against Page 3, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "I know people kept saying 'Turn the page, don't look at it if you don't want to see it' - it missed the point that it was having an impact on our society.
"The sexualisation, the objectification of women in this way was basically saying to all of us that what mattered, frankly, were our breasts not our brains.
"Challenging that and saying the impact of just letting this stuff lie, of saying that somehow it's some great British institution like James Bond and moaning about the weather, that's not the world we wanted to live in any more."
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who also holds the women and equalities brief, said the move was "long overdue".
The Tory cabinet minister said: "This is a long overdue decision and marks a small but significant step towards improving media portrayal of women and girls. I very much hope it remains permanent."
It also received the backing of Liberal Democrat women's and equalities minister Jo Swinson - though she criticised the alternative content in today's edition.
"I am delighted that the old fashioned sexism of Page 3 could soon be a thing of the past.
"I welcome this apparent step forward from the Sun, but I would encourage its editors to consider whether parading women in bikinis is really a modern reflection of the contribution women make to society.
"We need to ensure that media representation of women reflects the great achievements that women make to business, to families and to society. I'd like to see us providing positive role models for young girls instead of suggesting that women's contribution is in how they look."