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

gedhession Sun 25-Aug-13 14:56:09

I seem to recall that many of the models in Lads Mags, such as Lucy Pinder, Michelle Marsh, Abby Titmus, Sophie Reade and Keeley Hazell were immensely popular amongst readers and some of them, such as Keeley Hazell and Lucy Pinder, have become media personalities. Of course, some people will not accept popularity as a defense....

BeCool Tue 11-Jun-13 16:01:24

The Tesco FB page is rather fantastic today. When I get a spare minute I pop over and 'LIKE' all the comments re drop the lads mags.

MisterDarsey Tue 11-Jun-13 12:18:45

I've always thought it bizarre that pornography (which obviously includes lad mags) should be on open display in ordinary shops and newsagents. It's like the Emperor's New Clothes, with women customers and shop assistants expected to turn a blind eye to the fact that these 'Men's Interest' magazines are nothing more than w*nking material for men who don't like real women.

Using sexual harrassment law against them may seem far-fetched, but it's about time women's voices were heard on this subject. And trusting the shops to behave responsibly by (at least) covering up the magazines has clearly not worked.

zigzoo Tue 11-Jun-13 09:46:41

Starting today, UK Feminista, Object and the many organisations supporting our Lose the Lads Mags campaign will be putting the spotlight on Tesco. Why? Because as the UK's biggest retailer, Tesco has a leading role to play in setting standards for other retailers.

Tesco insists it is a 'responsible corporate citizen' (1). Yet stocking sexist, degrading lads' mags is at fundamental odds with corporate social responsibility. Extensive research shows viewing media that portrays women as dehumanised sex objects fuels sexist attitudes and behaviours. It leads people to become significantly more accepting of gender stereotyping, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, and rape myths (2).

Contact Tesco now and ask them to ditch sexist lads' mags.

Link here

GoldieMumbles Sun 09-Jun-13 17:54:15

"Goldie it was you who said this....."

Yes, it was. But one does not automatically lead to the other. Yours is an insinuation based in no fact whatsoever and, in my very strong belief, is patently wrong.

Please, present us with the facts supporting your assertion.

Darkesteyes Sun 09-Jun-13 17:45:15

Goldie it was you who said this.....

Copied and pasted from yr earlier post.....


Who is fighting that war? Soldiers - both male and female. Undeniably the infantry, giving their lives in the name of raising the standard of people's lives, are predominantly male and prodigious consumers of... lads mags.

GoldieMumbles Sun 09-Jun-13 17:43:03

"Oh and using the Guardian as your backup??"

If you have the results of a similar poll from another source that is without a vested interest (ie neither from a feminist organisation nor a lads mag publisher) I should very much like to see it.

GoldieMumbles Sun 09-Jun-13 17:40:37

...and that's down to them looking at lads mags? Would you have proof of that?

Or do you think that there may be other factors at play, perchance?

Darkesteyes Sun 09-Jun-13 17:38:11

One in eight soldiers commits violence on return.
A third of victims were wives or girlfriends.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18902195

Darkesteyes Sun 09-Jun-13 17:35:24

NO ONE should be being abused be they male or female. And those soldiers were in a position of trust which is even worse.

GoldieMumbles Sun 09-Jun-13 17:35:04

"I wonder if the woman mentioned in this thread is grateful enough to the soldier who attacked her for the fact that he is fighting for his country"

Not really typical, though, is it? I have no idea how many infantry we have but I'm betting in t he tens of thousands. Are they all violent towards women, then?

Are you suggesting it's better that they DON'T liberate the downtroddeen women of Afghanistan?

"A man abuses his wife because he sees her as beneath him a domestic/sexual servant with an opinion not worth anything. An OBJECT rather than a BEING."

What about the woman who, along with her partner, allowed the death of that 4 year-old boy? Is that down to "Women posing in a picture on the front of a magazine", too?

I mean, really?

Sausageeggbacon Sun 09-Jun-13 17:33:18

Interesting Darkest but the victims on the bbc were male which guess isn't the point you wanted to make.

One question re the Mags, the law states pornography but there is no legal definition of pornography so will they mean the description of Obscenity or are they expecting to create a legal definition within a case?

Darkesteyes Sun 09-Jun-13 17:27:41
Darkesteyes Sun 09-Jun-13 17:27:21

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22769080

Darkesteyes Sun 09-Jun-13 17:24:15

I wonder if the woman mentioned in this thread is grateful enough to the soldier who attacked her for the fact that he is fighting for his country confused

www.mumsnet.com/Talk/in_the_news/1768266-Serving-soldier-attacks-a-woman-and-escapes-jail-because-of-his-job

Darkesteyes Sun 09-Jun-13 17:20:57

Goldie most soldiers are excemplary. But please take a look at the ARRSE forum sometime.

Darkesteyes Sun 09-Jun-13 17:19:28

What would have happened if that woman on the bus had given up her seat to a white man instead of refusing to (which she did do) because somone may have told her beforehand that there were bigger battles to fight and to get a "sense of proportion."

Why cant these things apply to sexism as well as racism because both are abhorrent.
Can you really not see the connection? Women posing in a picture on the front of a magazine in an overtly sexual way reinforces the stereotype of a woman being seen as an OBJECT rather than a BEING.
A man abuses his wife because he sees her as beneath him a domestic/sexual servant with an opinion not worth anything. An OBJECT rather than a BEING.
Oh and using the Guardian as your backup?? Considering they recently had a woman write in to them who told them that her boyfriend called her vagina repulsive and their counsellor advised that the woman try to "work through it" with him( even though its patently obvoius to those with brain cells that it is emotional abuse) their reporting on womens issues is hardly exemplary. Unless its someone like Hadley Freeman or one of the other great young feminist writers who do articles for them regularly.

GoldieMumbles Sun 09-Jun-13 17:14:00

"Any less-than-outraged response, including "sense of proportion", is a kind of Stockholm Syndrome response."

What utter bullshit! Just because some (most, accoring to the Guardian poll) people don't give a damn, you think that anyone who disagrees with your pov is effectively a sheep submitting to the patriarchy? Dear God, how self absorbed is that?

"or Afghanistan where they are obviously second class"

Funny that should be raised. Afghanistan is a country where women have been treated like dirt for eons - centuries and possibly millenia. "We" are fighting a war there (whether you agree with it or not is immaterial) where one of the positives is the slow reconditioning of the people to begin eductaing women and giving the rights back to the local population after decades of terror from the Taliban.

Who is fighting that war? Soldiers - both male and female. Undeniably the infantry, giving their lives in the name of raising the standard of people's lives, are predominantly male and prodigious consumers of... lads mags.

So men, in their thousadns, fighting for the rights of women (to be educated and considered as something more than a chattel) who look at (I wouldn't use the wor 'read') lads mags. What a paradox! I'm minded of that 1990s game Lemmings where the little creatures stop doing what hey're doing, put their hands over their ears, shake their heads and promptly explode. This simply cannot compute! Men? Dying for women's rights? And looking at the evil to end all evils?

And do you know what? As a woman I am grateful to each and every one of them.

Are you?

garlicgrump Sun 09-Jun-13 15:00:47

Any less-than-outraged response, including "sense of proportion", is a kind of Stockholm Syndrome response. Women, as underdogs, should suffer most indignities while protesting the life-threatening ones.

It is not just or fair to accept that half the world's people should suffer to some degree.

garlicgrump Sun 09-Jun-13 14:58:29

the only response to all the different types of discrimination is outrage

Yes.

FasterStronger Sun 09-Jun-13 14:15:50

"a sense of proportion" yes women are treated as second class citizens in many different ways.

that's 50% of the world assigned a second class status at birth - whether it is in a country like the UK, were women earn less, or Afghanistan where they are obviously second class.

I think the only response to all the different types of discrimination is outrage. it is false to divide issues up as 'important' issues facing women and 'unimportant' issues.

I don't want only the important ones to change. I want equality.

GoldieMumbles Sun 09-Jun-13 09:17:50

"BLOODY HELL So women should count themselves lucky that they and their children are not being murdered by their spouse.
Because as women thats really the least we can expect????!!!!

WOW just WOW.

Point proven."

Are you being deliberately obtuse?Please tell me exactly where I say it's ok for children to be murdered? I'm saying quite the bloody opposite, for Christ's sake! OK, let me write it down in words of one syllable.

What is more important to more people:

a) women and children being killed on purpose or dying through neglect?

b) taking offense at the cover of a magazine?

There, does that explain in very clear terms what I'm asking? Or would you like me to break it down into something even more simple for you? I don't really see how I can but I'm sure you'll find a way to deliberately misinterpret what I'm asking.

Oh, and by the way, the little four year old who died of neglect - MOTHER and FATHER complicit. Rare, admittedly, but it's not all about what "we women can expect" (to paraphrase you).

This is what the public seem to ask themselves - including me - and when I do this I get what's called "a sense of proportion". Whether you like it or not, people do think like that. On the day that all of this was rolled out, the BBC Breakfast peeps ran a series of on the spot interviews with people in the street. One of them said they objected. Theother 4 or 5 said they weren't that bothered, including one woman who said thatthere are far more important things in the world to worry about. It was that comment that got me thinking and I found I agreed with her. It goes a long way to explaining the 67% in the Guardian who didn't give a fig.

garlicgrump Sat 08-Jun-13 23:54:22

Goldie, you seem to be saying that atrocities committed elsewhere are so momentous that concern about them should override concern about women's bodies being commodified for retail consumption.

You know the human mind doesn't work like that. You pretend that our concerns can - and should - be distributed according to the scale of immediate harm involved, meaning we mustn't be concerned about respect for women while people are dying in wars. It's a pretence designed to diminish or silence the concern you find uncomfortable.

Luckily, it doesn't work.

Darkesteyes Sat 08-Jun-13 18:14:32

BLOODY HELL So women should count themselves lucky that they and their children are not being murdered by their spouse.
Because as women thats really the least we can expect????!!!!

WOW just WOW.

Point proven.

GoldieMumbles Sat 08-Jun-13 18:09:25

"e.g. its a bit like saying that a woman who is being emotionally abused by her husband should put up with it and think herself lucky because the woman further down the street is being physically abused"

Actually, it's not.

It's a bit like saying that the woman who is offended by the front cover of a magazine should count herself lucky that she's not the woman down the street who has been murdered alongside her children.

It's the sense of proportion I'm getting at.

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