Public pressure has forced tabloids in other countries to change, slightly, their practices. In Austria, a free paper, Heute, alternates between scantily clad women and beefcake men. The Irish Sun began covering its nudies up, a bit, with swimsuits this August. Since March 8, 2012—International Women’s Day—Bild in Germany moved the topless or semi-nude photos from page one and instead prints them on the inside of the paper and online. It also asks readers to vote monthly for their favorite. So far, though, no tabloid in Europe appears to have eliminated the soft porn altogether.

Tobias Frohlich, a Bild spokeman, said “erotic photos are an element of boulevards. Not all the women are naked. It’s not a must to have them naked, but it helps.” He added that he found many of the photos of Bild girls far less offensive than, say, Miley Cyrus and her tongue or her twerking. “You see such photos all over the place,” he said. Both Bild and The Sun ran large photos of Cyrus.

Cheetham called the “sexualization” of women and girls in the media a “huge problem,” adding that the page-three feature is part of it. She wrote in an email:

When girls are raised, surrounded by images of pouting, waxed, oiled-up teenagers posing in thongs, and this is celebrated in the national press, why shouldn’t they grow up thinking that it’s desirable to behave in the same manner? It’s extremely hypocritical that The Sun published an article slamming the behaviour of Miley Cyrus (in an article that included the words ‘put it away ladies’) on the page that followed a full size colour photograph of an eighteen year old posing topless in a thong.

Cheetham said her organization has received thousands of letters from women who have told stories of being beaten or raped by men who have mentioned page-three girls as they were in the act. In another letter, a middle-school-aged girl said she dreaded walking down the school corridor because “boys regularly hold up page three and rate the girls’ breasts out of 10 as they walk past,” Cheetham added.

For now, No More Page 3 is targeting The Sun because it has the largest circulation in the UK and because it advertises itself as a family publication. But Cheetham said that the group intends to expand.

“After we win this campaign, we’ll turn our focus elsewhere,” she said.

 

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Alison Langley has more than 25 years experience in journalism as a reporter and editor. Her stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Guardian, The FT and The Independent. She currently lectures in journalism at Fachhochschule Wien and Webster University Vienna.