Guest blog: Lose the lads' mags - or risk legal action

(171 Posts)
JessMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 29-May-13 11:12:44

Brand new legal advice shows that displaying and selling magazines and papers with Page 3-style front cover images can constitute sexual harassment or sex discrimination in the workplace. This means that employees who are exposed to such publications, as well as customers, could take legal action against retailers.

In this guest blog Elizabeth Prochaska, barrister at Matrix Chambers, explains the laws which underpin the latest campaign to rid our shop shelves of lads' mags.

What do you think? Let us have your thoughts on the thread - and if you blog on this issue, don't forget to post your URL. Also, please do share on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

"As you might have seen in the papers this Bank Holiday, campaign groups UK Feminista and Object have launched a new campaign to Lose the Lads' Mags. The campaigners joined forces with a group of lawyers to warn high-street retailers that they risk legal action if they continue to display lads' mags, such as Zoo and Nuts, on their shelves.

As regular Mumsnetters will know, lads' mags have been the target of several high profile campaigns, including Object's Feminist Fridays, Mumsnet's Let Girls be Girls and Shelve It! The Government-commissioned 'Sexualisation of Young People Review' in 2010 found: "a clear link between consumption of sexualised images, a tendency to view women as objects and the acceptance of aggressive attitudes and behaviour as the norm. ... Exposure to the sexualised female ideal is linked with lower self-esteem, negative moods and depression in young women and girls."

The evidence shows that lads' mags normalise the objectification of women. As the government review found, they promote attitudes and behaviours that underpin discrimination and violence against women and have a negative impact on the self-esteem and aspirations of women and girls. Extensive research has revealed that viewing media which reduces women to sex objects leads people to become significantly more accepting of gender stereotyping, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence and rape myths.

Following the Mumsnet campaign, some retailers agreed to put lads' mags on the top shelf so that children are less likely to be exposed to the images. But many retailers continue to display lads' mags prominently and employees of the shops are required to handle the material, regardless of where it is stacked. So what can the law do about it? The law respects the right to publish pornographic magazines and the campaigners are not calling for the magazines to be banned. The campaign is focused on the protection against sexual harassment and discrimination found in the Equality Act 2010.

The Equality Act consolidated all the UK equality laws, including the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, in one piece of legislation. It makes sexual harassment by employers unlawful. It also prohibits providers of services, such as newsagents and supermarkets, from harassing their customers. Sexual harassment is defined in section 26(2) of the Equality Act to mean 'unwanted conduct of a sexual nature'. The person's conduct needs to have the effect of violating another person's dignity, or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. There is no need for the employer or shopkeeper to intend to degrade or humiliate a person and the subjective perception of the person who feels degraded is taken into account when deciding whether or not the conduct constitutes harassment.

There have been successful legal cases brought by female employees who have felt degraded by their male colleagues viewing pornographic images in the workplace regardless of whether or not the men intended to create an offensive environment. UKFeminista and Object have evidence that customers and shop employees are unhappy being involuntarily exposed to the pornographic images on the front covers of lads' mags. The lawyers supporting the campaign argue that shops that require their employees to handle these magazines and display them on their shelves risk creating a degrading environment that may lead to claims under the Equality Act. If a woman does bring a claim, it will be up to the courts to decide whether she was sexually harassed in the circumstances of her case. In the meantime, retailers will be thinking hard about heeding the call to lose the lads' mags.

You can join the campaign here: www.losetheladsmags.org.uk

Mens Health has a naked torso male on the front. Somehow that's okay??? But women in swimwear is not!!! confused

Dare I suggest that women are sexiest about their own kind!!

cocolepew Wed 29-May-13 20:44:02

Mens Health is a magazine for,*men*.

radioeggs Wed 29-May-13 20:49:17

"Mens Health has a naked torso male on the front. Somehow that's okay??? But women in swimwear is not!!!"

That's a silly point isn't it? I have never in all the times I've been to the swimming pool seen men in a full swimsuit.

Also it is the matter of context too and whether it is sexually suggestive. Another point to consider - rape. Voyeurs, flashers, sex-pests, harassers, rapists, etc are overwhelmingly male and their victims are overwhelmingly female. This factors into whether an environment feels hostile or degrading or not for somebody.

So naturally you wouldn't find that offensive, degrading, sexually discriminating, or otherwise distasteful to you then?

But well observed. So are lads mags. Well men under 25 anyway.

radioeggs Wed 29-May-13 20:56:53

Haplesshacker "So naturally you wouldn't find that offensive, degrading, sexually discriminating, or otherwise distasteful to you then? But well observed. So are lads mags. Well men under 25 anyway."

I think you seem to be missing the point about gender equality.

"Also it is the matter of context too and whether it is sexually suggestive. Another point to consider - rape. Voyeurs, flashers, sex-pests, harassers, rapists, etc are overwhelmingly male and their victims are overwhelmingly female. This factors into whether an environment feels hostile or degrading or not for somebody."

If as a women you feel 'threatened' by doing some shopping in a store that sells these magazines. I'm surprised that you manage to step outside the door.

I've been more scarred out on a Friday night with a pack of drunk baying women jeering and clawing at me. But I'm not going to suggest banning alcohol.

I'm not sure if this debate on here is really about protecting children, or about some women's own insecurities about their own self image. The former I support. The later. I don't give two hoots about. As for feeling 'threatened' by a picture of a woman in a bikini. Get over it.

One thing I have noticed is that no comment has been made regarding my M&S or high street reference.

I've said it before. I agree with keeping lads mags to the top shelf. However I will add that all the 'gossip' mags should also be up there. Most kids can read ya' know!!

radioeggs Wed 29-May-13 21:05:35

"I'm not sure if this debate on here is really about protecting children, or about some women's own insecurities about their own self image"

So this is the scope of your understanding of the issues is it?

Do you understand what harassment is?

"So naturally you wouldn't find that offensive, degrading, sexually discriminating, or otherwise distasteful to you then? But well observed. So are lads mags. Well men under 25 anyway."

I think you seem to be missing the point about gender equality."

I get gender equality. But I'm not the one who won't go into some shops that have magazines of half naked men on the cover. I'm fine with it.

TheFallenNinja Wed 29-May-13 21:06:36

Out of curiosity, what's with the quoting radioeggs?

radioeggs Wed 29-May-13 21:09:08

?

""I'm not sure if this debate on here is really about protecting children, or about some women's own insecurities about their own self image"

So this is the scope of your understanding of the issues is it?

Do you understand what harassment is?"

Oh god yes. I do!!

As I said. The debate on here seems to revolve around a few different viewpoints. The 'feminist' one. The protecting the children one. Which I'm all for. And the sexual harassment one. Which in this case, is probably the weakest basis of the argument. You will get more 'general' support for this 'mission' on the basis of protecting children. The case regarding harassment from a magazine picture comes across as a bunch of loony left, feminist claptrap. Though I suspect that more media coverage would be give to this, because of that. But general support. Nope.

radioeggs Wed 29-May-13 21:21:03

"The case regarding harassment from a magazine picture comes across as a bunch of loony left, feminist claptrap."

In workplaces you no longer get the pin-up calendars - it is now completely accepted that they are inappropriate - by people across the political spectrum (apart from weird, backwards, creepy dinosaurs).

TheFallenNinja Wed 29-May-13 21:21:08

I was wondering, but I think this all looks different on the big screen, I usually use the app and haven't had much of what I've said quoted back to me to specifically disagree with that point.

Hey Jo

TheFallenNinja Wed 29-May-13 21:21:29

Hey ho even smile

radioeggs Wed 29-May-13 21:24:13

"I usually use the app and haven't had much of what I've said quoted back to me to specifically disagree with that point."

Are you talking about the M&S point or are you talking about quoting? confused

TheFallenNinja Wed 29-May-13 21:27:23

I'm wondering if your computer is automatically quoting back to me what I have written?

radioeggs Wed 29-May-13 21:29:46

I dunno - it all looks normal at my end - I'm only quoting points I'm addressing - maybe somethings weird at your end

dawnofthedame Wed 29-May-13 21:35:58

The Government-commissioned 'Sexualisation of Young People Review' in 2010 found: "a clear link between consumption of sexualised images, a tendency to view women as objects and the acceptance of aggressive attitudes and behaviour as the norm. ... Exposure to the sexualised female ideal is linked with lower self-esteem, negative moods and depression in young women and girls."

For the sake of young people I think that action should be taken now to move these lads mags to the top shelf instead of normalising these sexualised images and exposing staff and customers to it. Either shops needs to take on some social responsibility and respond to the campaign, the lads mags need to redfine themselves as more mainstream media and 'tone down' a bit, or just be honest about what they are and put a plastic cover on it on the top shelf like all the other adult content.
Dumb & Dumber: Sexual Inequality & De-intellectualisation of The Nation - my response to The Lose the Lads Mags Campaign

TheFallenNinja Wed 29-May-13 21:37:18

Oh Well

I await the first claim to go to court, I guess that will set the ball rolling on the banning of stuff.

Next time I'm out shopping I'm going to ask the female members of staff if they feel subjectified, harassed, or otherwise threatened by these magazines.

It's an interesting debatable topic. Believe it or not I am not a masoginistic (sp) dinosaur. I did most of the cooking when I was with my girlfriend, and opened doors etc. However common sense needs to prevail with topics such as these.

I read an article today that the latest garden advert for IKEA with the gnomes getting broken was up in front of the ASA because 50 people. Yes, 50 people!!! Had complained about the 'violence' in it. Really!! The ASA over-ruled the complaints. Some people just have too much time.

On the basis of protecting the kids. Yep, stick the lads mags up high. But to ban them? I reckon it would open up the whole debate as to where the majority of adult (and by that I don't mean porn) magazines should be placed.

radioeggs Wed 29-May-13 22:24:56

"Next time I'm out shopping I'm going to ask the female members of staff if they feel subjectified, harassed, or otherwise threatened by these magazines."

I doubt if any woman would be comfortable talking to a random man about feeling sexually harassed or threatened - they'll think you are a pervert, pisstaker or mug with delusions of chivalry - you'll probably be dismissed. Try sending your girlfriend in instead if you want more chance of a truthful response.

But I have contacted Tescos and said that I do feel uncomfortable, on my behalf and because of my small children. I was told I shouldn't feel this way and that I was wrong to feel this way.

So why would women admit to how they feel when they are told their feelings are invalid?

And if its not enough for you to accept that the women on this thread dislike lads mags why will you suddenly say "oh OK, women who work in [supermarket] dislike these magazines, I now accept they are sexist" .

What you are trying to do is suggest we do not have the right to point out the sexism in these magazines. You do not believe and won't accept we are offended and belittled by them.

I can only promise you, I am. They fuck me off and I don't want my DCs growing up thinking its ok to reduce women to tits, arses and male playthings.

Opening doors and doing some cooking doesn't make you a feminist hero.

KaseyM Wed 29-May-13 23:55:39

What Sauce said. I think a lot of women feel under incredible pressure to act as if they're cool with it, for fear of looking prudish. I know I've felt that in the past and have pretended to be not bothered when really I have been.

Also, you can tell us till you're blue in the face that we aren't really bothered by this, or that we shouldn't be bothered, but what can I say? I'm a woman & I hate it. That's the truth of it.

One very early memory I have is as a girl walking into a car mechanic's and seeing a page 3 calendar on the wall. I didn't know anything about feminist theory, objectification, censorship whatever. All I knew is that I hated it and didn't want to go back there. So, there's your proof that it affects kids, right there.

Darkesteyes Thu 30-May-13 01:12:22

The ex manager of our local Superdrug stopped selling Scarlet magazine a few years ago but was happy to continue selling FHM.
Double standards.

The images on these 'lads' mags are very offensive. It is not a matter of how much flesh is on display necessarily it is the way that these are displaying women as sexual objects, often holding their (to my eyes) unnaturally large and round breasts or with ridiculous little stickers over their nipples making them look almost 'comical'.

Why is this acceptable in a shop?

If I were a man (I am not) and I were to walk into work, at a university lecture theatre or an office or factory floor or just about any work place and saw numerous images of men clutching their buttocks or testicles and leaning over in many different ridiculous poses I would imagine that I would find this very offensive and upsetting. If this were the case every time I walked into work I am pretty sure I would consider this as harassment.

With our country still reeling from the appalling news of the sex gangs of Oxford and Rochester and other news of murders of girls and women I would have thought as a country we would want to make a safe environment for children (both girls and boys) to grow up in.

By presenting children and adults with offensive images of women on a daily basis we are not as a nation providing a safe environment.

"If a part of 'grooming' is defined as 'making a behaviour seem normal', then our society puts a grooming tool into the hands of every potential abuser, in the form of mainstream tabloid newspapers displaying images of young women as sexually willing objects."

www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/stephanie-davies/the-cases-of-lee-rigby-an_b_3342074.html

The only reason that supermarkets and shops can get away with putting this crap out for all to see is because most people do not complain. It does not mean most people don't find them offensive. We live in a democracy and the majority of people in this country are female (50.8%) but even if we were not I wonder why we put up with this crap!

I hope this campaign will succeed. If it does not I hope that many more people both female and male will make a point of telling places that sell these magazines that they don't want them on display.

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